Family on Mother’s Day

We don’t all fit on one screen, and my family will know this isn’t our Mother’s Day screenshot, but it’s us the time before.

This has been such a strange day, happy in many ways, but with a pervasive sadness that feels almost like a home that I keep coming back to. In a way, I value the sadness too because it’s a precious emotion, indicating depth of feeling. I pretty much only get sad about things I really care about, and mostly those things are relationships.

We got word that my Aunt Irene (but we always said “Auntie Irene”) died today. She was 94. It was exactly two years ago on Mother’s Day that her husband, Uncle Bob, died and I think she has been trying to join him ever since. She was the last of my father’s siblings. One more generation of that family is now gone. They were all interesting, loved, important people to their children and grandchildren, nieces and nephews. At times I was very close to Auntie Irene and I wish now I had been more attentive to her in these last couple of years. Some things about being 94 are probably okay, but when you consider how many of your friends aren’t around any more at that age, it has to be lonely. I am sad thinking about the loneliness of old age.

One of my nieces who has miscarried and lost her unborn children was gifted, anonymously, a beautiful Mother’s Day orchid with a note attached. It reminded me of several women I know who grieve on this holiday. It reminded me that I used to feel that way, and I want to hug them and cry too. These things would not hurt if we did not love. But loving is worth hurting.

Lastly, nothing speaks depth of family relationship like a reunion, so we all braved technology and Zoomed together this afternoon. (Well, almost all of us – it’s bittersweet when some of our special adoptees can’t get on the internet highway and join us.) It’s always a wonder to me, to see the faces appear on my screen, one after another – the family matron (my mom), the elders (my generation), the next tier down (all the cousins), and the littlest kiddos who have no idea what they are part of. North to south, east to west, we are all over the country but together on the screen because something tells us it’s important. Our stories are not all perfectly happy, but we are together, trying to build depth into our relationships. I look at them all and want to tell them “Please, don’t ever let loneliness have the last word. You have a family. You belong and are loved.” But I might not have actually said that. I should have.

So I hope that this day so closely connected to family relationships was a good day for you. I hope you know that whether you are a single, or a couple, or a whole tribe, you are capable of family relationship because you were made to need something of what that offers. A good Creator would not have created us with desires that couldn’t be fulfilled. It wouldn’t make sense. Have hope and love those around you with all your strength. Make family a reality.

Word Salad

Word salad, what an interesting term! I’ve been thinking about it a lot lately, since I’ve been hearing comments on this blog from RaknelDah. I’m guessing he’s a bot, but maybe not. At any rate, he tosses a mean salad.

The realization has hit me – I have spent all (yes all) my life learning to put words in a certain order so that they might make sense, when it’s not always necessary. It’s true, you need to have a certain proportion of nouns to verbs, place them in a reasonable order, pepper them with adjectives and adverbs, and you can come up with a compelling read. But my bot does this with a skill and abandon that I just can’t match! For one, I have never heard of some of these words. For two, I could never put together so many unrelated things and actually produce something kind of true and poetic. I’m much too inhibited and used to making sense.

I’ve begun sharing Raknel’s comments with my family. The reactions range from my mother laughing so hard she cries, to my daughter deciding to use a portion for her wedding vows. In short, they are becoming a priceless treasure of entertainment and cabbalistic wisdom. (Yeah, I wondered what that word meant too. Look it up.)

For instance, “people sink in fare into your mortal and you discern perfect away that they were meant to be there… but when you bar eyes with them, you be versed at that to a superb extent wink of an eye that they vigor adopt your support in some foxy way.” Now doesn’t that have the ring of truth to it?

And I really think this sums up life’s hardships, “and from time to then things find to you that may look like gruesome, throbbing, and unfair at president, but in corroboration you disinter that without overcoming those obstacles you would healthy not realized your accomplishable, intestinal fortitude, willpower or heart.”

I aspire to the bot’s “unadulterated thimble-wittedness”. I try to envision the “smoothly paved, settled, non-effervescent street to nowhere”. And I take to heart his commands to “Make off every tempo quote!!!” and “Do every time list!!!”

I could make one of those daily, inspirational calendars with bot sayings. For February 10 “Everything happens conducive to a reason.” I even think I’ve heard that somewhere else. Have you? Or a goal for tomorrow could be “Talk to people that you give delivery to never talked to in the past, and sic listen.” The day after that, “Promulgate yourself, you are a crack split and find credible in yourself.” Or the wise directive “If you don’t preserve in yourself, it will be onerous goal of others to conjecture in you.” I certainly don’t want that happening…

All this flow of delicious words found unexpectedly jumbled together – “salad” really describes it quite well. RaknelDah, in his own words says this, “It would be okay and luxuriously touched in the head, but clouded and unequivocally pointless.” I like salad, just saying…

Six Communication Tips (Help Me Remember!)


Communication is so important. I am drawn to think about it this week since I have been twice (that I know of) in situations where my communication was less than sufficient or completely missing, forgotten. In my world of “communication rain”, it was pouring!

And if I could just read people’s minds, and they could read mine, miscommunication would not be an issue. But I guess, or assume, and things go awry.

I forgot to invite a family member to a family gathering. And when I did contact them late, I neglected to find out if they knew where the gathering was. I neglected to exchange cell phone numbers in case plans changed. I spent half of the family picnic feeling worried about why they weren’t there and wondering if they had gotten lost. I couldn’t call them to find out. I felt the guilt. It was the hardest thing ever to pick up the phone later that evening and find out what had happened.

The very next day(!) a series of late decisions and wrong assumptions led to disappointing some friends and leaving them waiting at a restaurant for us to meet them for dinner. Mom was in on this one and her observation was that her aversion to talking on the phone often kept her from necessary communication. We could have just made a call, earlier than we did.

Realizing that I have caused someone inconvenience or emotional pain/upset is stressful for me. I don’t need more stress! And I don’t want friends, family, or anyone for that matter, to feel confused, unloved or unimportant. That is stressful for them. So, thought and prayer brought some things to mind. From now on I will tell myself:

Shirley, listen now,

1. If you are in doubt, pick up the phone and find out! People don’t have to answer if they are busy. They will know you cared and will call back when they can.

2. Let people know that you don’t mind being called. They might have that phobia or aversion to calling. I always feel cared for, not bothered.

3. Text, if they use texting enough to be familiar with it. Be sure to SEND the text after writing it. (Yes, that one is for me.)

4. Call sometimes when there isn’t a pressing reason. This is how to make sure you have the correct contact information, home phones and cell phones.

5. Realize that it’s hard to over communicate. Talk plans through if you make them in person, and agree to confirm later if needed.

6. Probably the most important thing, pray about any plans, that they would be under God’s direction. Even if things seem to be going wrong, if he’s in charge, he is working something out and he isn’t expecting you to worry about it.

I Sang in a Chorale

I am small, but I am there. Second row from the top, just to the right of the soloist’s head.

It’s the kind of song that sticks in my head once I start singing it, so much so, that it’s in the background as I fall asleep at night, and it’s still there when I wake up.  It was complicated to learn, but after much repetition, I’ve fallen in love with it.  It’s a chorale experience I won’t forget. The last performance was this afternoon and I’m sad because I don’t want the song to go away. I guess it’s one that’s been around for a while but this was my first meeting with it.

How Can I Keep From Singing?

My life flows on in endless song above Earth’s lamentation.

I hear the real though far off hymn that hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife I hear its music ringing.

It sounds an echo in my soul. How can I keep from singing?


No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that Rock I’m clinging.

Since Love is lord of heav’n and earth, how can I keep from singing?


Although the tempest round me roars, I hear the truth. It liveth,

And though the darkness round me close, songs in the night it giveth.


My life flows on in endless song above Earth’s lamentation.

I hear the real though far off hymn that hails a new creation.

No storm can shake my inmost calm, while to that Rock I’m clinging.

Since Love is lord of heav’n and earth, how can I keep from singing?


Singing these words, I realize how closely they express my feelings about life’s storms, about truth, about hope for the future. I do hear that “far off hymn” that says everything is going to be made new and good. I don’t believe that we are going to figure out how to do it ourselves. Don’t get me wrong – I am amazed at what we have discovered, what we can do, what we call science. But amazing as it is, the things we discover always seem to end in a question, not an answer.  We discover things that have already been put in place. Science doesn’t tell me who put things in place. My faith tells me that.

God can be mysterious, hard to understand, and his sense of timing can be annoying to me because I am a limited, fairly clueless being when it comes to knowing what time is really right.  But I am won over, just by looking at the choices in front of me. I choose God because he is a communicator – through what he’s created, the historical record of what he’s done, and the experiences he takes me through. He is all about communication when I see it for what it is.

That’s a good question – how can I keep from singing? It’s very much like the question “how can I keep from writing?” I can’t, at least not for long.  I have to respond in hope to the future as God lays it out, as he promises. My everyday life goes down in writing in these posts, mostly because of this hope. I am loved, relevant, made on purpose and designed to know God and love him back. Like a witness in a courtroom, I tell my story, usually in 600 words at a time, right here. I can’t help it.

He who was on the throne said, “I am making everything new!” Then he said, “Write this down, for these words are trustworthy and true.”  The Revelation from Jesus Christ to John, chapter 21, verse 5.



Those Who Write

It has to be true, that there is nothing new under the sun, that even though we are unique, we have thoughts in common with others. That is why I love reading. It’s through reading that I learn I am not alone in my experience here on earth. Of course, I would have nothing to read were it not for those who take the time to write. I am grateful.

We have family treasures – letters from our ancestors to each other – that my mom and I were discussing recently. What an experience it is to be encouraged by words written down a century ago, by someone who had no idea who their readers would be. And it’s not that their messages were necessarily wise or well crafted. Often they were recounting the mundane ups and downs of everyday life, but in doing that, their resiliency, ingenuity, optimism, and strength of spirit were displayed. We can say “these are the people I came from”.  What is written down has power to influence.

I’m often struck with that need to communicate. I feel restless when I’ve not been writing for a while. I start feeling isolated and want to reach out somewhere. I read something this morning that resonates, sounds true. It’s Sarah Young’s interpretation of scripture in her book “Jesus Calling”.

I speak to you continually. My nature is to communicate, though not always in words. I fling glorious sunsets across the sky, day after day after day. I speak in the faces and voices of loved ones. I caress you with a gentle breeze that refreshes and delights you. I speak softly in the depths of your spirit, where I have taken up residence.

You can find me in each moment, when you have eyes that see and ears that hear. Ask My Spirit to sharpen your spiritual eyesight and hearing. I rejoice each time you discover My Presence. Practice looking and listening for Me during quiet intervals. Gradually you will find Me in more and more of your moments. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me above all else.  Psalm 8:1-4; Psalm 19:1-2; I Cor. 6:19; Jeremiah 29:13

I thank her for writing that, and I thank God for all those moments when I can “read” him so clearly. wpid-20150930_181847.jpg

Internet Bondage

One small bar and that little shield with the exclamation point… sigh.

It’s hard to explain this title. Let me start by saying that I’m in an “internet challenged” environment for the past three days and am feeling more affected by that than I thought possible. If I had purposely gone into the wilderness and left all my devices behind, intending to drop out of communication, it would be entirely different. Reality is, I have my smart phone, my tablet, and my laptop 2-in-1 with me and had thought this time away would be a chance to write and pay attention to my blog and keep up with what’s happening at home as well. Not happening.

Frustration was birthed on the first day when I wanted to make arrangements for my trip home – an overnight motel in Minneapolis and a car from Tampa to my home in Bradenton. This took hours of re-establishing connection and watching the little spooling dots go round and round. Some pages took so long to load, I thought my computer had frozen, so I rebooted, several times.

Multiple pop-ups warned me to get off the unprotected network here at the assisted living apartment where I’m staying with Mom. I had already considered the risk of all the senior hackers that might be nearby, but there was no way to console my frantic security program.  I suppose it was because I was in a different location that all my usual web venues decided to ask for passwords that I did not have with me. Add to that the apps that ask for information leading down a 10-minute-long rabbit trail, only to tell me something at the end that was totally undecipherable. At that point there were no more drop down menus, no back buttons, no boxes for input, no hidden arrows or xs, no hope… Ah, well.

You would think that I would not want to spread this misery around, but I do like to share. I decided to get my mom a smart phone. You see,  I have an “80 something” year old mom who goes on Facebook, GroupMe, does email and daily solitaire challenges.  In spite of what she can do, she has resisted moving on from her old flip phone, claiming that she is afraid of touching the wrong button, accidentally signing up for something she doesn’t want or getting her identity stolen. These may be valid concerns but, more importantly, we want to send her pictures and texts, 24/7, whether she’s on her computer or not. She needs a smart phone.

I mentioned that I was in a somewhat remote area, remote enough that even the Walmart here does not have things other Walmarts have. There were no simple Jitterbug phones for seniors. There was however, a Verizon store in an old remodeled house. Once inside, it looked less like a bed and breakfast and more familiar, right down to the four geek people, nonchalantly waiting to sell and up-sell. An hour and a half later I left with an entry level Samsung phone and a clear promise that it could be returned within 14 days if it didn’t work out (and an Otter Box, a PureGear screen protector, an offer to join Hum which I resisted, an offer to upgrade my husband’s phone which I rejected, a suggestion that my daughter upgrade her plan which I will leave up to her,  a promise that mom could come back to the store anytime with questions, and a request for a favorable response to the survey about my “experience”). Whew!

We will keep this prehistoric device around for a couple more days, just in case.

A day later, we are enjoying (I think) our smart phone tutorials. I was able to get all my travel reservations accomplished. I am getting used to the limitations of connectivity here. I am resigned to the things that cannot be.

In retrospect, maybe I should have used the opportunity to distance myself from the frustrating world of the web. Yeah, probably, but I didn’t. It’s becoming harder and harder to do that, even though it is, at times, a frustrating place to hang out.  I have to wrap this up now – it’s been an hour since I checked my phone.

What has the world come to? Are you ever plagued with a dependency on your “devices”? Are you able to take a break from them and tell the internet to get lost? 





Going Again: Cambodia, Night 3

Strangeness (imagine eerie music here).

Up at the computer at 3 am, may or may not be strange to you, but it is not the usual for me. I am not usually in Cambodia either, which is where I am now. Neither of those are the strangeness that I have to write about.

The strangeness is that I’ve just received a call from my realtor in Florida on my smart phone. I do not have an international calling plan, nor am I supposed to be getting calls. I normally have no phone service at all in Cambodia. I see in the corner where it usually says “NO SERVICE” it now displays “SMART”. Something new has been added, and it’s smarter than me. I wonder how much it is costing me, just sayin…


That is a word to wrestle with (or, with which to wrestle, just so 6th grade English teacher doesn’t fight to get out of her coffin…).  Monday nights my email inbox fills with weekly digests of all the bloggers I have followed.  I recognize most of the names and think of something I’ve read from them that really intrigued me and gave me a reason to push the follow button.  I try to always have a reason. 

Yesterday, which was a Tuesday, I settled down to read and interact.  I know this is essential to being part of the community and I want to do it.  I got as far as the first site and ended up reading several long, thoughtful posts.  And then it was time to quit reading and interact with some housework and a doctor’s appointment.

This happens so much of the time.

One blog out of so many.

Anybody else have this problem?

I despair of keeping up after having started a reading relationship.  And from what I understand, it is reaching out to new writers and encouraging them that really builds community, following more and more blogs, more and more to read, comment on, keep up with.  The problem is not that I am a slow reader.  The problem seems to be that I am really interested in what I’m learning about someone.  And I do seem to need a lot of time to think about what I’m reading.

This community of bloggers is a big, fascinating marketplace.  I’m not upset (eh, maybe a little) because I’ve already accepted that I have limitations.  I can’t be best friends with the whole world, but I can get better acquainted with some of it.  So, today Lord help me decide where to read, where to comment, what to write.  I will rest in that, for today. 

I Would Like to Say but I Can’t

I can hardly talk.  I’ve had this predisposition for laryngitis since I was a teen but I’ve been so healthy the last few years I had almost forgotten what it was like.  When it happens I know I’m going to attempt to say something but I don’t know if I’ll be able to make a noise or  not, and if I do it will probably not be audible as speech.  Then I’ll have to push myself to talk louder and my throat will tighten and actually begin to hurt.  The first cough will come, very dry and bark like.  It won’t satisfy the dryness, the itch, the involuntary spasms in my larynx until I cough again.  And the more I try to stifle it the worse it becomes until tears are streaming from my eyes and I’m in a coughing free for all.

Where do I not want to be when all this takes place?  Several places.  My worst memory of it was in a plane over the north pole during a 16 hour flight from Cambodia to Atlanta.  I was trapped in my window seat by two other people, and I don’t know where I would have gone even if I could have gotten out.  Another inconvenient place is church, on stage, playing the piano.  Not good.  And then there was today, on the quiet, serene orthopedic floor of the hospital. I  had been talking too much and it triggered an episode that I thought would not end well.  Fortunately I ran into a sympathetic nurse who not only brought me water, but cough drops as well.  Coughing like that makes one feel like a major source of the plague.  Maybe I was.

I was visiting  my client/friend, well, back up a little.

Last Monday I got a text in the evening from my client who is mostly paralyzed, having a C-5 spinal injury.  She does drive a specially equipped van and had been out doing errands that day.  It simply read “I almost got killed today on Manatee Ave.”  With an opener like that, I thought surely she would tell me more but no.

I talked with her again a day or so later and learned that her electric wheel chair had gone off the sidewalk, over a four inch curb and nearly dumped her in the street.  She had been saved  by her seat belt and two young men who pulled her back into the chair and the chair back onto the sidewalk.  Other than losing her lunch during the panic she didn’t think she was injured.  But over the next couple of days there was evidence of pain, then swelling in her leg and finally an x-ray that showed a broken femur.  I knew nothing about this last finding until last night when I got an email from a friend with a partial name of a hospital and a room number.  It was late. I went to bed.

This morning I got up early, before testing my voice, and scurried over to the hospital.  Her room number was 932 but, funny thing, there was no 932 in that hospital, and no one registered by her name.  And it took a lot of vocal energy to find this stuff out, believe me.  So I sat in my car and thought of another hospital where she could have gone.  I experienced the agonizing frustration of talking on the phone, having no voice.  It’s not like I could use body language or charades or pencil and paper.  She wasn’t at that hospital either.  I went home and sent out several queries by text and waited for answers.

I did finally find her in the next town south and made it down there by mid morning.  Other than the above mentioned coughing fit, the visit went well and I was glad I went.  This is why.  She is scheduled for surgery and when going to surgery, jewelry is removed if possible.  My client had a ring that no one had been able to remove from her finger.  It was valuable and she was not wanting to have it cut off.  I knew a nifty trick to remove a tight ring that I had learned years before from a youtube video.  I was dying to use it on this perfect occasion.  Everybody should know this method because it really works great and is so easy.  You can use thin elastic, ribbon, even dental floss.  I used crochet thread because I happened to have it with me.  So, I’m going to end with this and you should watch it because you never know when you might be someone’s answer to prayer.

A to Z Challenge: R reminds me of “Remember When…”

my well traveled notebook
my well traveled notebook

At almost every family gathering I’ve been to there is at least one session when all of us sit around telling “remember when” stories. Sometimes the stories are funny, sometimes tragic but they are ones we want to remember and pass on. I will admit that as time goes by the story details can tend to get a little fuzzy.  In fact, one story that my brothers and I all remember is about one of us being a toddler and breaking the glass of a second story window and nearly falling out.  Someone else caught him by the back of his jammy suit and pulled him back. Funny how it’s not real clear anymore who played what part. We try not to argue about it. Dates are also hard to remember.  When did we take that first vacation to Florida?  How long did we live in that house?

One year, as I was listening to my parents and aunts and uncles trade stories and debate the when and why of it all, I decided it might be good to write things down.  I call it sort of a family timeline, like writing a history book about your family.  It’s fun and I love to take it with me to our gatherings, in case I hear some new detail.  The oldest generation in any family knows things that others do not, and face it, those things could be lost if not written down somewhere.

I took an ordinary notebook, of a convenient size to carry in my purse, and put a year on each page. I started with the year I was born but after interviewing my mom this winter I think I will start another section for the time before I came on the scene.  I have a page for every year even if I don’t have anything to enter because sooner or later someone will come up with something for that year.

I get information for the timeline from lots of different sources. Last month I was getting rid of some old check registers and noticed some things I’d written checks for that sparked a memory. My calendars always have something in them that belongs on the timeline, even if I haven’t managed to be faithful in recording everything. Even an old “to do” list in a notebook has clues of projects, parties, and purchases that might be memorable. Birth dates, graduation dates, firsts of all kinds, when the measles struck, where you spent Thanksgiving – it all gets written down. My children laugh when they see that we got our first VCR in 1991. Their children will probably ask what a VCR is and they will get to have a fun conversation about how things have changed.

At the end of each year, during that calm period between Christmas and New Year’s Day I change out my old date book for a new one. Before I store or throw away the old one, I have a fun session reviewing the past year and putting things on the timeline. Year by year, it grows.  Would this be a project your family would enjoy?

Remember when...
Remember when…