FMF: A Marvelous Thing

This is my Five Minute Friday submission. I’m sorry, I don’t write very fast. I rather like to think about what I’m writing and that takes time. The prompt was SHARE.

When I was a child, to share meant letting others eat some of your cookies, or use your toys. You didn’t have to give them away, but you did have to peacefully watch while someone else enjoyed them. I guess that’s still what it means to me but it has become more of a “show and tell” experience for me. It is now about sharing moments of joy, or sorrow. It is about sharing experiences, doing things with others. It is about sharing moments of importance, in the hope that someone else will enjoy them along with me.

For instance, I came across a red maple tree today. It has been vividly green all summer. Now it is suddenly and perfectly red. This is a marvelous thing. The science is behind it all, I know. But even without the science, it is just a marvelous thing to look at and enjoy. I share it with you.

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“Up North” Rain

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Heavy rain! The stream did an overflow on both sides of the newly fortified culvert. More water than expected!

This month I am joining with Five Minute Friday (FMF) Link-Up. It’s a group of writers who write for five minutes following a weekly prompt given Thursday night. This week’s prompt is RAIN, and I know a thing or two about that…

 This is Wisconsin. It rains here, and how! Last Sunday it was a downpour outside as we headed to church. As a car left from the early service we got their space right by the door, but in spite of that we got soaked going in. Everyone in church was wet and shivering.

This is a frequent occurrence in the northwest part of our state. You’ve heard that Washington state is cloudy and rainy and I think Wisconsin is equally so. The small streams and rivers in our town have flooded several times lately and washed out roads making them impassable. The stream flowing through the wetlands on the property where I live swelled and nearly covered the footbridges. Even though one bridge had recently been fortified, the stream rose high enough to make new paths on either side of the culvert. It is wet and has been for the last few years, killing trees that are close to the water.

In spite of it all, I like the rain. Wisconsin is usually green and cool because of it.

As the pastor said last week, “Look out the window at that rain. In three months it will be snow coming down like that!” We have that to look forward to. It’s Wisconsin… just sayin’.

One Reason for Being Here

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This is not the first time I’ve come in Mom’s room and found her horizontal surfaces covered with stacks of old letters, poems, pictures and memorabilia that she’s sorting through. She puts items that go together in zip lock bags ready to be offered to the person most likely to be interested in them.

 

“Do you think anyone will want to read these letters? They have a lot of family history in them, but I don’t know how to contact any of the people anymore.” 

It’s habit with me to think of Google for anything I don’t know and I suggest she plug in some names and try it. She pulls out some faded black and white photos on thick cardboard with finely scalloped edges. They are Christmas cards from three different years picturing a family.  In one, parents, four children and dog are sitting, close together, on the floor in front of a fireplace. The room is darkened and light from the fire is glowing on their faces and casting shadows behind them. The father and his son are wearing suits and two of the girls have matching dresses. The mother is in shadow except for the top of her face and she is smiling. She wears glasses. They all look peaceful, happy as they gaze at the flames.  Handwritten below is “A Merry Christmas from the G. Wesches”.  I wonder who was taking such artful pictures back in 1950. 

Another one has the children lined up in order of height and age and this one is signed by the parents and the names of the children are listed. They are Harold, Geraldine, Patricia and Alice Jean. I pick up my smartphone and plug the name Harold Wesche into the search bar. Mom explains that these people were not relatives but the family of a local doctor in her hometown. The doctor made house calls and impressed her as being such a kind man – and one who sent cards to his patients at holiday time.

 The search engine comes up with over 100 records of this name and as I look at them I find one who is 82 years old – that would be about right. The website gets to work collecting and verifying information on Harold. I know they are going to charge something at the end, and that we are not going to buy anything from them, but the small paragraph they give us for free does help Mom remember. He is the Harold in the Christmas picture. She remembers more.

There was one summer that this family vacationed at Meyer’s Log Cabin Resort on Round Lake. Mom’s friend Donna was asked to come with the family to help entertain the children. They let Gwen (Mom) come along to keep Donna company. This was quite a treat for both Gwen and Donna to have a week at the lake. The Wesche children were cute kids too, so it was not an undesirable responsibility.

One day the parents took the children with them on an outing. Donna and Gwen were given the day off to do whatever they liked at the resort. They decided they would take a boat ride. They went out into the middle of this fairly large lake and felt very adventurous.

This story interests me because Meyers Log Cabins was less than a mile from the farm where Mom and Dad went to live after they were married six years later. I grew up visiting my friend Barbara Meyer and swimming in Round Lake at that resort. I have never heard of Mom’s experience there and she said she would not have thought to tell me of it if the Christmas pictures had not been found. She is still trying to pull out the end of the story from the memory bank. 

“I don’t know what we did but it might have been something that made us feel a little guilty. I think it had something to do with hot dogs. Maybe we took more of them than we should have…” I laugh, because Mom still loves hot dogs.

“Do you think it might not be good to dig through all this stuff, all these memories from so long ago?” she asks.

I tell her I think it’s okay, and the truth is I think it’s a gift to remember stories from the past. It’s an opportunity to think of people, to wonder about them, and especially to mention them in prayer. It is never too late to care, to look for someone, to possibly even get in touch with them and tell them a story.

So, if Harold Wesche or any of his family reads this story, Mom wants to know if you’d like to have these pictures of your younger self.  If not, I will keep them to remind myself of one of the reasons I am glad to have come back to Wisconsin to do life with Mom. I want to hear more stories that I’ve never heard before.   

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Up North: September Challenge

Okay. I’ll admit I’ve been a little quiet about our new life “up north”. I think it’s a mild form of shock, if there is such a thing. I can hardly believe I’m really back living in Hayward, thousands of miles from Florida, on my grandfather’s farmstead, in my Mom’s condo.  I’m trying to find a place for myself (and the husband) up here and it takes a lot of introspection. Introspection wears me out. “Worn out me” tends to revert to endless games of spider solitaire (confession time), jigsaw puzzles (hours spent here), thick paperback novels (three in the last two weeks), and occasionally, just sitting and looking out the window. Anything except writing.  After all,  these are stereotypical retirement activities and am I not retired now?

Haha, no, not really.

There is plenty to do up here – real work, including writing. For my own sake, I need to exercise some discipline and record the journey (that is, life) in this new place. Writing should be a daily activity, a joy, a relief, a healing outlet and a way of sharing. Thirty days hath September, and each one shall be recorded in some fashion. If I can do it in April, (A to Z in April) why not now?

In defense of jigsaw puzzles, I need to explain. Each time we finish, Mom says “Did you take the picture? Of course, I do, although I don’t always post them here or on Facebook. There is almost always a puzzle in progress in this house. We know the kinds we like, the kinds we agonize over and won’t choose to do again. We have different methods of hunting for pieces depending on the puzzle. We have special Styrofoam boards on which to lay out the pieces, and we now bag up the edge pieces separately when we put them away. These are the fine points.

The value in all this puzzling? I can think of three benefits. First, it does make us think about so many things. Color, shape, texture, direction, recognition all have to register and be in operation to get a puzzle from a pile of pieces to a picture. Secondly, no matter what stresses we have been immersed in before or after, the time spent doing the puzzle is a break. We concentrate, get engrossed. It clears our minds and emotions.

Thirdly, probably most important, it is time spent together. We don’t always talk, but often we do. All kinds of things come up as we sit there, knowing that the other person is not in a hurry, not going to rush off somewhere. We probably don’t solve any world problems, but that’s not to say we couldn’t. Who knows?

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So here is our last puzzle. We liked it because there were no parts so hard that we got stuck. We were always finding pieces, 1,000 of them to be exact.  We will probably be doing puzzles more as the days get colder and there is less to do outside. We have a whole stack of them waiting, thanks to our friend Sandy who traded with us.

I’m just sayin’ there are a whole lot of worse things we could be doing with our leisure time, here “up north”.

And I may actually write about some of them this month. The plan is to share life, the small and the significant, the joy and the pain, the awe and the awful… here it comes. 

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

Story

Why is it so difficult to write? Life right now is not a single thing that can be described in a post or series of posts. It is made of rabbit trails and randomness going off in many directions and not making much sense. It won’t stand still and be examined and written about.

I know if I could view it from way outside I could probably guess where it’s all headed and see some patterns, some sense that escapes me in the moment I’m living. It takes all my concentration to keep focused on the enjoyment of the moment – because I know being present won’t last forever. And there is always something to enjoy, because God is good and I see evidence of it in so many ways. But I do hope that the inspiration to write comes soon. I want to write. I want to tell my story to myself, if to no one else.

On Having a Library

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Books by old, dead guys (no disrespect meant), some still wrapped in cellophane…

Many times, when not tending to the urgencies of my life, I turn back to the job of paring down, preparing for the coming stage when there will undoubtedly be less space. This week I came to an important conclusion which I hope will help me. I had to ask myself the question “do I want to have a library, or do I want to read?” Some clarity is needed here, because they are not the same.

Over the years, the husband and I have moved six times. Each time our library has grown with our changing interests, filling boxes and boxes of books, taking a lot of storage space. We have seldom done anything to diminish the load. We did sell our Encyclopedia Britannica set when it became apparent that there was better, more current information available on the internet – that’s about it.

I went through a period when my primary furniture interest was bookshelves. I bought them with visions of having a real library in our home, where shelves lined the walls and comfy chairs begged us to sit and read. That didn’t happen, but we did end up with bookshelves in every room but the kitchen (actually there were shelves for books in the kitchen too, sorry).

I have come to some useful observations, one being that I have not read a majority of the books I own. They are not interesting enough for me to want to read them NOW. They are “someday” books, waiting for whenever. The most embarrassing example of this is the set of classics we bought, again with the Encyclopedia Brittannica, in our second year of marriage. Quite a few of them still have the cellophane wrappers around them, having not even been opened in 40+ years. I know I’m probably missing out, but I seldom get the urge to read Socrates, or even Freud. I don’t know what’s wrong with me.

Another useful observation that gives me some direction for the future, is that a lot of my pleasure in books is that I like to look at them. Even the ugly ones, old and tattered, please me when they are lined up on the shelf in just the right way. I could pretend that they speak of my eclectic, intellectual interests, but no, I like their color, their geometric forms, their two or three word messages printed with a variety of interesting fonts looking at me down the row. And for my visual pleasure I probably need only five boxes of books, not thirty-five.

You see, the important question came clear to me yesterday, as I took another load to the used book store. The question is, do I want my own personal library, or do I want to read? The answer is that I want to read. But with few exceptions, I don’t want to read what is in my own library. I want to read the book I heard about on the radio, or the book one of my daughters wants me to read with her, or the book that tells me how to cope with life here and now.  I want to read it slowly, note the parts I like, maybe write down some quotes, and then I want to give it back so I don’t have to cart it around and dust it for another 40 years. If it’s one I think would be valuable to read again (and if it looks pretty) it will go in one of the five “keeper” boxes.  Just sayin’, it’s time to lighten the load.

 

One of the things about retirement that I’ve noticed is that a lot of my retired friends have asked for recommendations of good books. I’ve had to think of my favorite reads and be able to name them. I’ve also been looking for good writing. As my interest in writing grows and I wonder how I might express things I want to write, I look for books that captivate me, stir my desire to be moved by words. When I read, I’m also thinking “Do I want to write like this?”, “yes or no?”.

 What have been your favorite, most valuable reads? Whose writing inspires you?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things Y

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This pelican has nothing to do with the post subject but posts are better with pictures and I’ve always wanted to use this one.

Yes.

I have spent many years being very fond of the word “yes”, except for a brief period around two years old when I was probably practicing “no” more than “yes”. It has been not only a joy to have said yes to many things but it has been the source of adventure that has made life rich. It is hard to go through life without any regrets, but I can’t think of a single “yes” that I would take back if I could. (Perhaps that’s just the blessing of selective memory? Perhaps. ) You know the results of the things you say yes to. The times you answer “no”, you always wonder… what if I had said “yes”.

When I was very young, I said “yes” to God, which was about the only thing I had a choice in. Kids aren’t aware of all the choices they have because they don’t really seem like choices. Should I obey? Should I lie? Should I hide? But the chosen answers do start the formation of character.

As a young adult, I’m glad I said “yes” to the hard work of schooling, to marriage, to employment opportunities, to children.

I’m glad I said “yes” to travel experiences in a faraway part of the world. I’m glad I spent time camping on the Appalachian Trail. I’m glad I said “yes” to riding a horse across Florida.

I’m glad I said “yes” to all the beginning conversations that ended in long time friendships. I could really have missed out there. I’m glad I stretched myself to come alongside some who were in need. I’ve been repaid for those “yeses” as they have given me a sense of purpose and a chance to share burdens with others without going through the hardship myself – vicarious learning.

I’m glad I said “yes” to writing – years of corresponding with friends and family, years of journaling, and years now of this blog. It is my record of life.

To be fair, the word “no” is not bad just because “yes” has been good. “No” finds its rightful place more often now and it feels more like wisdom to say it. I am only content in saying it because of all the times I’ve said “yes”. (No, I don’t want to go waterskiing. I’ve done that and I have no desire to have my arms pulled out of their sockets today. Thanks.)

There is a whole world of “yes” out there, still to be explored, no matter who you are or what your circumstances.  Think about it.

 

What unregretted “yes” pops into your mind as you read this?

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things X

X it out – Delete!

I am on the 60th page of 139 email pages, 10 emails per page. I glance at the senders, select all, and delete. I do this about every week, trying to clear out my mailbox before I get the message that they aren’t accepting any more emails.  This is one of two email address accounts that I have. And don’t get me started on paper accumulation from snail mail.

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Tremble, tremble…

I am watching closely as my WordPress media gallery gets closer and closer to full capacity. I had fun deleting photos once last year – many of them weren’t important by themselves – until I realized that they were also being removed from my posts, where they were important. Time to upgrade, they tell me.

My Verizon cloud is full, they want money. My JustCloud is past full and they want money. They won’t even let me see what’s in that to determine if I want anything. My iCloud is full and messaging me regularly. Delete. Delete. Delete. XXX.

It’s true that some of these storage accounts were ones I didn’t ask for. They came with “the device” but I’m finding that the weight of them is stressful.  I keep looking for the place where I can unsubscribe and be rid of them but I don’t find that option, oddly (or not).

Many times I write, think, write, think, then delete and start over. I’m thankful for the X and how it stands for the freedom of crossing out and starting over. I’m often thankful for the things I did not write/say. The X usually turns out to be a better way.

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One of my handiest (and most often used) keys.

There’s a big spiritual side to this concept too. Everything we feel bad about, are angry about, grieve over, and struggle with can be and will be X’d out. Our responsibility for these things can be lifted. We can’t get through life without some of this baggage – God knew it. He made a way to delete and sign on a different plan which he pays for in perpetuity. I signed up and can tell you it works as described, and I’m really starting to like this analogy. The next thing, someone will be marketing the God Ap, or maybe it’s already out there, I don’t know.  We people just can’t help ourselves.

Back to taking things out of my life – I made a big trip to the donation center again yesterday. Less is better, and now I have less. If I ever have to move I want it all to fit in one trailer and done.

Where does the concept of deleting, X’ing out, find itself useful in your life?

#AtoZChallenge: U

Up. I give up.

I’m sorry. U is my least favorite letter. There is no favorite thing that starts with U, not for me. I thought of stretching my theme but it would seem disingenuous (a word I like, by the way) to write on a subject that isn’t a thing or that isn’t really FAVORITE.

Instead I am giving one of my favorite quotes – one that I think is encouraging to all of us who are not famous or greatly influential. The letter “u” is used 12 times. See if you can find them all.

Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

From “Middlemarch” by George Eliot

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