The Other Side of Thanksgiving

If I had remembered to take pictures at the right time, I could have shown you my beautiful table, decorated and set for our Thanksgiving meal. But I didn’t and through that I realized there is an “other side” of Thanksgiving.

That side is as much a part of the good memories I hold as seeing that perfectly cooked turkey, the smorgasbord of pies ready to be served, or that plate full of food artfully arranged. The other side is seen here…

and here…

and here.

It is experienced as I wash dishes with help from guests, wipe counters clean, search space for an extra chair at the table, empty garbage, and wipe a spot of gravy off the floor (okay, it was really cat throw up but that’s not the point).

The other side includes that kind of relaxed, awkward time after eating when no one is quite sure what to do so they do this…

or this…

or this…

The other side is dear, but also a little stressfull as the number of people in the house swells, the kitchen counters are crowded with supplies, refrigerators are full of leftovers and entryways look like this.

Those necessary inconveniencies of travel, trying to keep rested over a long weekend, trying to connect in meaningful ways with each loved family member and guest – all are parts of almost every Thanksgiving I can remember. They are the other side that is maybe not so photogenic or talked about.

I think I love the other side too – the mess, the chaos, the spills, the broken dish, the menu item that gets forgotten in the fridge, the cat that dips its paw in my guest’s water glass.

Thanksgiving is a singular, memory making holiday with two sides. It might even be my favorite. All this goodness makes it easy to say “thank you family!” And “thank you guests!” And most of all “thank you God!” for another great Thanksgiving.

Autumn and Family

A past Thanksgiving in the place that is now my home.

I’m not sure I can blame it on the season, but there is something about fall that makes me miss my family in far away places. Sitting here at breakfast with the husband, I even miss our  family members that live down the street. Maybe I’m thinking longingly of Thanksgiving gatherings. Maybe it’s the thought that the long winter is coming and we should see people now, before travel gets risky. Maybe it’s because life is so obviously changing for all of us and I feel the need to KNOW how it’s affecting everyone.

We do a lot of sitting and talking. Good stuff.

Mom and I were sitting in her living room, doing our sunrise chat one day this week. She brought up the fact that many of our southern family members had moved recently. They were in houses she had never seen, so she didn’t know how to picture them at home. We started reflecting on how much better we know someone if we have visited them in their home – or at least we think we know them better. We know where they sit to relax, where they stand to talk on the phone, where they let their cat in and out, where they set the table for a meal. We know a lot of things, if we’ve been there. 

This topic is also on my mind because it was just a year ago this summer that we moved.  For quite a while friends and family didn’t know where to picture us. Even scarier, we didn’t know where to picture us. We were kind of floating and fitting in. A year into being Hayward residents, I feel like we are gradually setting our stamp on our home. There are beginning to be ways that it reflects who we are, our interests, our activities and priorities. As that happens, I feel the need to be known.

I am grateful today, for all the times I’ve been able to visit friends and family in their homes. I’m grateful for the times I’ve been able to host them in my abode. Those sharing times add to my awareness of their personalities. I know the ones who find minimalism comforting, and the ones who surround themselves with ALL their treasures. I know who is handy with tools, who loves creative touches, and who spends most of their time outdoors. I love knowing these things.

 And since this is Saturday sabbath, I have to consider that God is leading me to think about what I consider my “real home”. What will I find there and in what style am I getting ready to decorate it? From what I have seen of God (who I believe came up with the idea of home and family), the good things here on earth are meant to show us, in a small way, what he will let us experience in the future. He is such a hopeful God. 

I know not everyone is comforted by their knowledge of family togetherness. Some have never known a family. Some would like to forget what they know of family.  If that’s you, I want you to know that when it is done God’s way, family is wonderful. My family experience is not perfect – no one’s is, but even the hard and sad times have purpose. They create a holy longing for the perfection that will come when God makes bad things good again. I think it’s that simple, maybe. Just sayin’… 

Thoughts on Extended Winter

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I am thumbing through the photos on my phone – the ones taken out the living room window.  They are mostly black and white because those are the only hues out there most days, snow and not-snow.  The “Charley Brown” pine tree, sorry little thing, is my yardstick on which the snow level creeps up and up, storm after storm.  We have lost all sight of the shrubs planted around the condos. Everyone’s attention is being drawn to the heavy snow loads on their buildings, and guessing how many warm days it will take to melt the huge snowbanks. It is snowing again today.

And so goes the winter in Wisconsin. It is much as I imagined it would be. I am amazed that people lived here for ages without modern heat and shelter, and I suppose some still do. I have my own childhood memories of our family around the oil stove in the living room, and ice building up on the insides of the windows. How different it is now. Our two-bedroom condo is often too warm. We walk around inside in our bare feet, and even our car is warm and ready to go in the attached, heated garage.

It’s been a winter of doctor’s appointments. I think that’s what we did in January, although my memory doesn’t serve me well when the days and weeks are all so similar. February was marked by the big international ski race held in our area, followed by my aunt’s health crisis and several days in the hospital with her, followed by my own winter cold/flu and ensuing isolation. March has brought a return to the time change – we “sprang ahead” an hour this morning. When it stops snowing we will have a couple hours of playing in the snow, plowing out and shoveling.

While we are experiencing winter, the larger experience has been learning to live with “our” changing health status.  Because of this diagnosis the husband has received, Lewy body dementia, we are constantly surrounded by the fight to understand and reverse the disease. No detail of his bodily condition has gone unexamined, and since his way of processing his thoughts is to talk about them, we are all kept aware of each day’s change or lack thereof. He is very aggressive, or proactive about his condition and spends much of his time looking up research papers and discussing them with his brother. We discuss how it wears on us and colors our days, but there is very little else for him to put his thoughts on. I have some understanding of his preoccupation and can’t say that I wouldn’t be searching the same way if I were the one with LBD.

I am trying hard to save some attention for the many blessings that come along with winter isolation. There have been good conversations with Mom and my Uncle Wendell and Aunt Lois. They are my elders who hold much of the family history in their memories and are happy to discuss it.  I’m also very thankful for the many faceted relationship with my youngest brother and his family. They are my closest friends who share activities and meals, joys and sorrows, concerns and silly moments. I am often comforted with their words and aware of us having thrown our “soul anchors” in the same deep waters.

It helps me to write about my new life, and although the words don’t often appear here in my blog, they are being written. There will be a time and a place for them.  I have much encouragement in my writing life, having joined a group of writers whose theme is hope, always hope. The snowbanks are high and it may be June before they are completely gone, but spring is coming. Change is the unchangeable characteristic of the future and keeps me curious and ready to experience more. Bring it on, just sayin’…

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Introspection

The world has gone a bit surreal, and I’m not quite sure where to place myself in it. Thirty one years ago I left Hayward, Wisconsin for life in Florida. It was a completely new life in every way. Now I am back, but again it is a new life in nearly every way. The actual “work”of moving is done so now I have time to think about what has happened. Introspection is a mixed blessing.

We arrived last night, like we have for many vacations over the years, after a long drive, suitcases in tow, with plans to catch up with family members and visit childhood haunts. The surreal part is that we won’t be packing up again in two weeks for the trip back to Florida. We will stay here and see the seasons change, make new friends, start new routines, and settle in. Instead of calling Mom every morning I will meet her in the kitchen as we get our first cup of coffee.  Instead of cleaning my own house and taking care of the oneacrewoods, I will be looking for ways to help others with their homes and yards.

For months, this change from one life to another has seemed so far off and so slow in coming that it was hard to believe it would happen at all. “If you ever get here…” Mom would say. I would reassure her that the “challenge of the week” would be met and that we were making progress, but honestly, I had moments when I cried and felt like I couldn’t do it.  The most valuable thing I learned from it all is that I should not spend a lot of time looking at the large picture – it can be too daunting viewed as a whole. One day, one step at a time is all that I was designed for. Each small accomplishment should get its full measure of satisfaction and celebration. One by one the hurdles got crossed and now I am sitting at the end of the course wondering how I got here. Once again, the passage of Time has created a miracle, a change.

I learned about home improvement, about hiring painters and contractors and overseeing projects. I learned about getting medical and financial records in place and ready for a move. I learned about selling and buying trucks and what goes into the making of a good trailer. I learned I had friends. I learned that hard things become easier when I pray about them and decide to trust that I’ve been heard. I learned that some things must be waited for and are beyond my control. I learned that having even one concrete task that I can do is a comfort and a blessing – get busy and do it – then look for the next thing.

The house in Florida has not sold yet, but we joke around saying we are homeless, because the house is empty and our “things” are in storage. Instead I’m going to remember that my goal was to be with more of my family and that has come to be.  If “home” is where my people are, I’m not homeless. Instead, I’ve come home.

 

More to come, because this is going to be interesting, a new page. Just sayin’…

Battling Winter, post #3

A Walk in the Woods

When you can’t ski, you walk. There are trails for every kind of travel in the snow including snowmobile and fat tire bikes. It’s the biking that I don’t get. Riding a two wheel bike fast on a narrow trail through a forest of trees, rocks and other natural hazards? Why not just relax by walking blind folded through a mine field – same difference. But winter hiking is good.

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The straight rows of pine provide an easy trail for Mary Pat, Dennis and Scruffy. I’m last in line, taking pictures and catching up.

There are trails very close to the family farm and my brother and his wife go hiking there a lot. After a day of work, when they need some exercise, they dress up, take Scruffy their dog, and walk the loop by Hospital Lake. Part of the trail goes through a planted pine forest, along the edge of the lake and returns to the parking lot. It’s just the right length so Scruffy doesn’t freeze his feet. (Isn’t it weird how some animals can stand on snow and ice and not get frostbite?)

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An eye catching little ornament on a tree that seriously needs something.

There are a lot of outdoorsy people in this area so the trail is well traveled. In a bow to the season, someone (or maybe more than one person) has begun decorating trees along the way. It’s fun to find the variety of ornaments, although I felt really sorry about the Teddy Bear. It looked more like he was being tortured.

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After a walk, I might have cold feet, cold fingers, nose and cheeks but there is a core warmth that is sustaining. Breathing all that cold air makes me feel … healthy, I guess.  As I climb back in the car and the heat kicks in, there is such a feeling of calm and peace and “put me to sleep right now”.

Because it gets dark so early, these walks often coincide with the most beautiful sunsets. Really, I could not stop taking pictures because it was changing every minute or so and I wanted to capture it.

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Times and Travels: Vashon Island Get-Away

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On the way to Vashon on the ferry. Mt. Rainier faintly in the distance.

I come from a place where you hardly ever call anything an island. People tend to laugh if you call it anything but a “key”. Here in the PNW there are lots of islands around and in Puget Sound. People will laugh if you call the place we went to this morning Vashon Key.  It’s an island.

We rode the early ferry from West Seattle to the dock at the east side of Vashon.  The ferries are part of the transportation system and very well maintained and operated. Cars, buses and semi-tractor/trailers were lined up on deck for our 20 minute trip across the Sound.  It’s Friday, so there isn’t a crowd like there probably will be on the weekend.

This was the morning that Ryan Bruel was scheduled to receive the keys to his new property. But first things first – breakfast at Cafe Luna in the town of Vashon.  The signs on the way warn travelers that this is a rural area, although I’m not sure what danger that poses. The small town has a library, numerous businesses, a grocery, some artist shops, a school – pretty much what is needed is what is found there. I imagine there has to be some degree of self-sufficient mindset for a person to live comfortably on an island.

At Café Luna we ordered breakfast burritos, fresh quiche, hot from the oven and our latte’s. Esther walked around the corner to her favorite bakery for a Bob’s Burger.  The food and the atmosphere were good introductions to the island.

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Ryan’s cabin is midway between Vashon and the ferry dock, so we back tracked and pulled into the drive marked by the mailbox with the red butterfly. The roughly 3 acre property was owned by an elderly man until it got to be a project he could not keep up with. It is mostly forest, except for the drive and the clearing where the cabin, garage, and small studio sit.  I’m sure the buildings were built back when there were few codes to follow, and there have been additions and remodels since then, none of professional quality. This is to say that there are quaint surprises in many rooms of the main cabin.

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Kitchen – all

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Vintage decoupage knife block coordinate with vintage wall paper

The realtor and some helpers were there taking away some of the old appliances, and removing layers of old carpet. There were newspapers between the layers dating from the early 1990’s.  It will be a cabin suitable for camping and will provide years and years of interesting renovation projects for Ryan and Esther.

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Small loft areas adorn both ends of the main cabin, accessible only by ladder. Curious little spaces (with questionable usefulness since bathroom vents into this one…)

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Ryan and Esther, in the last moments of their comparatively restful life before property renovations

Codes now will prevent them from building new structures on the property but they can fool around quite liberally with what is already there. The separate studio is a sturdy one room log cabin and even though it has only one chair in it at present, it stirs my imagination in all kinds of interesting ways.

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the log cabin studio – how could you not be inspired to write here?

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complete with minimalist decor…

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One of many ancient guardians of the property

The forest around the clearing has numerous giant, old growth trees.  There is also a protected wetland and a green algae pond. The predominant ground cover is blackberry bushes. The clearing has been recently cleaned of growth but I can envision how fast it will come back and become wild again.  For people who have been living in the city, working at tech jobs in stressful environments, the Vashon Island get away is going to be an adventure of a whole different sort. That’s what they’ve been wanting.

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The lovely mystery pond – nobody knows what’s in there.

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things A

For this year’s A to Z Challenge I’m being Julie Andrews and going on about my favorite things. I suppose there are people young enough to have no clue who Julie Andrews is or when she did this. Seriously, you need to watch “The Sound of Music”. It’s part of classic movie knowledge. Remembering your favorite things will keep you from being afraid, and who doesn’t need some of that these days…

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A is for my favorite chill busters, afghans. I like the word, to begin with, because it’s just a crazy combination of consonants that I always have to think about before I spell it. I even make it crazier sometimes by spelling it with more consonants – aphghans. I can do that, right?

Here is why these particular knitted or crocheted coverings are favorites for me. They are made by hands that I love (mine or others) and they are making use of scraps instead of wasting them.

My first afghan was a high school graduation gift from my Aunt Helen. She made countless numbers of afghans, quilts and doilies for people and always had something she was working on. She didn’t waste yarn, and she didn’t waste time. I took this afghan off to college with me and everywhere else since then. It is the multi-colored one in the picture with this post. It is still in great shape, and because of all the colors it has something to add to almost any décor. It is bordered in green which is my favorite color. Auntie Helen is no longer alive, but I have this beautiful thing from her that helps me remember her. Partly through her influence I have also loved to knit and crochet and I have hopes of being as productive as she was.

This afghan is an example of how a physical thing can represent more than just the physical. It can stand for values like thriftiness and hard work. It can be a gift of time and effort, showing love.

What gift have you received that has become special to you in this way?

Second Verse, Same as the First…

Four generations of sons

Today, walking around in the yard, I met a jet black cat with one long white tooth visible on one side of his closed mouth.  I had seen him other times and to this point he had always made himself scarce when he saw me noticing him.  Today I stretched out my hand and spoke softly and he immediately turned and approached me.

Years ago, as I remember it, our neighbor who was doing yard work, came to us to report finding a batch of feral kittens.  He knew there were die-hard animal loving children in our household and figured we would help solve his problem. He was right, of course.  We raised this batch and my daughters named them after famous people.  One that became a favorite of Julie, my oldest, was Hamlet, Prince of Denmark.  He was Hammy, for short, and continues to live with her today.  His unique characteristics are that he is small and compact for a male cat, has a sociable nature in a cat-like way, and is mostly black with a few crazy white marks.

In shape, size and nature today’s kitty was a match for Hammy and I wondered what genes they might share and if they had both started life in this same neighborhood.  The tooth was a little unnerving but other than that this little guy was fun to pet.  I think we have a bond going and I am calling him Snaggletooth.

The theme continued later this morning as Mom and I were conversing about our family relationships and how they also do replays.  My dad often told stories of his early years at home and the influence his dad had on him.  Even as he married and went out on his own, his dad was always involved in some way, giving feedback and support.  Interestingly, my dad also has a very similar relationship with one of his sons.  And taking it one step further, that son has a very close, remarkable similar relationship with his only son.  And by now, it is almost beyond surprising, that this third generation son is very much the same with his fourth generation son.  The sons may not have always agreed with the fathers (how rare, right?) or the fathers with the sons but there developed a high degree of compassion and appreciation in each case.  After a few generations of repetition these things start to jump out and be noticed.

Further on in our talk Mom’s early childhood came up.  She had a younger brother who was born last in the family and spent a lot of time with her.  They were often together as children and she would pass the time making up stories to tell him.  Their mother died when they were still young adults which added another layer of closeness to their brother – sister relationship.  As she talked about it, I noticed how much it sounded like the way I feel about my youngest brother.  Another comforting familial replay…

I’m not sure what all of this means, except that awareness of family influence and nurture might cause us to think more carefully about our parent – child interactions.  Seeing patterns over such a long time period might give new meaning and strength to biblical references about blessings or cursings that last to the third and fourth generation, or longer.  Just saying, it is interesting and food for thought.

Pact with my Children

To My Children: Putting Words Toward the Pact

There are various kinds of promises people make to one another in moments of devotion or need that are significant to their relationships. Some are of their own making, others I believe to have been modeled by God and meant to be carried on. One of those is the pact that parents make with their children – probably more like a covenant since it is more of a unilateral promise. I believe that God extended to me an unconditional love guaranteeing his care, his forgiveness when needed, his support, membership in a spiritual family that I can’t quite comprehend, and all the other benefits he is able to provide. He knew I would have trouble feeling the depth of his commitment to me, so he came up with an idea to help me experience his side of the covenant. He gave me a family.

When you children came along I began to love you immediately. I watched you grow and studied your natures and found you fascinating. I loved being with you. There were hard times and disappointments but none of that lessened my desire to work toward your highest potential and greatest good. I saw what God was trying to show me through our relationship. The trouble was, I was not God. My performance falls so short of his, and my understanding is never going to be complete in this life. But he also enables me to have his help. His help often comes from a spiritual, unseen world that many have trouble believing in and accepting. But I believe it and do not need confirmation from those who haven’t experienced that other world.

I promise as much as is humanly possible to love you, my children, without end. Nothing depends on your ability to return love perfectly because I know you are human too. I will try to listen to you, understand your messages, not be quick to conclude or brittle in my responses to you. Whatever you are going through, I want to be a safe place for you to express it, to examine it, and to process without it becoming “all about me”. God will help me do this.

Others will love and support you, but none of them will be quite like me because I am your mother. It doesn’t mean I will always care for you as when you were little and needed so much direction and teaching. It will be more like a friend who is putting you as a high priority when you need physical help, financial help, supportive time, care when you are sick, and all those things we all need even as adults. I am here to go through life with you. I am held responsible for that, right behind my responsibility to God, and then to my husband. I am told in scripture that this will bring me purpose and fulfillment in life and so far that has been true. In all its stages, being your mother has been my favorite career.

I will grow in my understanding of what God is doing among us, but I’m just saying, I think I’ve got this right.

For Gwendolyn with no middle name… on Mother’s Day

Mom, I am so blessed to have you as my parent. Thank you so much for:

  • my family unit of which you are the hub, the one around which we gather
  • your style, the objects you surround yourself with and hold dear, even though they sometimes come from garage sales
  • your availability, our early morning talks
  • your love of coffee and willingness to share it with everyone
  • well, hey, your love of food in general, and the way you make it a part of every good gathering of people (cinnamon roll queen…)
  • your total lack of complaining. I don’t know how you do it.
  • for not giving up on people or things too easily.
  • for helping Dad when he needs it.
  • for continuing to be curious about relationships, about technology, about faith
  • for making me feel special by sharing things with me that you probably don’t tell anyone else
  • for taking responsibility for your own feelings and not putting guilt trips on other people
  • for taking independent action when it’s needed, for being brave and willing to offend the right people at the right time
  • for loving books and being a reader
  • for your devotion to solitaire challenges and keeping your mind sharp
  • for faithfully reading my blog and liking my posts. I write for you most of the time.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mom. I will always love you.

Not about to win any contests but we are beautiful to each other, and that's not a small thing.
Not about to win any contests but we are beautiful to each other, and that’s not a small thing.