June Journal: Week 3

Life in the northwoods of Wisconsin, one week at a time, in the brief but beautiful summer.

The geese, always the geese…

June 12

I felt tired today, and with an attitude that I can’t quite find a name for. It made me a little less smiley everywhere I went, quieter, maybe a bit sharp in my inner talk and resigned to having to hold it in. No sense in letting impatience, crabbiness and frustration show when it would only make things worse.

Church, family brunch in the party garage, and then my friend Gwen and I got on bikes and rode the trails for 10 miles. That was the best part of the day. That, and the moon which I noticed as I was pulling the blinds shut before sleep.

June 13

Still tired. Still crabby (under cover). I wonder if this is my way of having Covid…. although it seems I would have at least one other symptom. It can’t be Covid this week because I have too many medical appointments for myself and others – precious appointments that we’ve waited forever to have.

At the follow up visit to my foot doctor I told her how the heel pain wasn’t changing all that much and she gave me a few more suggestions. She liked my new athletic shoes. I knew she wanted to see them but I wasn’t sure which shoes to show her. I have clean ones and dirty ones that I wear most of the time. In fact, I probably change shoes four or five times a day, trying to protect my sensitive feet outside and trying to protect the floors inside.

It’s laundry day. Not that I consistently do laundry on Mondays, but that I consistently do it when the baskets are full and there’s no more clean underwear.

Over at Walmart I discovered that I could edit the part of pictures that I wanted printed. Eureka!! For twelve more cents I got a better representation of Simba, one with a head. Mom and I made a collage of family pets for the reunion. We are quite the animal lovers.

June 14

Big accomplishments today were returning a book to Delores, checking the garden, cleaning the garage, and moving furniture in the living room. Dennis is having trouble steering his walker – the path from the recliner to the bathroom has to be wider.

Fenced, mulched, watered and growing.

June 15

After watching an ad for apple cider vinegar gummies (can’t remember why this interested me) I decided to take some vinegar the last two mornings. I didn’t dilute it very much today and it about tore my throat out. I thought that was why I felt kind of sick with a bad headache.

Dennis had been waiting for days to get in to the chiropractor so I took him in the afternoon. I wore a mask and didn’t stay in the room with him but waited outside. Went to Walmart after and picked up a home Covid test.

I HAVE COVID, after more than two years of avoiding it. And it would have to be now, on the day I have a massage scheduled. Wonderful.

Here comes the ‘Rona virus I never wanted to have.

Spent the rest of the day cancelling my life for the next week or so.

The good thing is that after testing, Mom is negative for the virus. She has to be able to keep her appointment on Friday or she won’t be seen until January 2023!

June 16

Second day of headache, even though I’m throwing everything I’ve got at it. The fever is making my eyes hurt. Had I been well, both the husband and I would have had doctor’s appointments today, skin checks. I would also have seen my client at the Resource Center.

I got my SoloStove cleaned out and packed in its case for the bonfire night at church, which I won’t be going to. Emailed around to find another keyboard player for Sunday worship, which I also won’t be going to. Cancelled a visit with my cousin from Indiana which would have been on Saturday.

Spent a lot of time going back and forth from my recliner to the bed, trying to sleep/rest. My neighbor brought chicken soup for us.

Dennis doesn’t seem to have any symptoms and I hope he doesn’t get it. I try to spend as little time around him as possible, but meals are hard. I didn’t want to cook supper so asked him if he wanted a shake. He looked disappointed and didn’t answer for a while, then said “You know I don’t really like steak all that much any more.” We got that figured out to our great relief and satisfaction.

June 17

I slept pretty good last night. The headache has changed and is no longer continuous. It’s now periodic sharp stabs of pain in the temples, and somehow I prefer that. I’m coughing now and still have a low grade fever. I have little interest in productive activity – it’s the recliner and the bed for naps.

Den (brother) took Mom to EauClaire for her appointment with the eye specialist.They did a biopsy and won’t know for several days whether basal cell carcinoma is confirmed or not. They did tell her that this surgery takes a hospital stay and it is not something to look forward to, but might be necessary.

It seems like there are a lot of unpleasant surprises lately and it makes me wonder what we are doing right that makes the family such a target.

June 18

I am determined to be more normal today, and it is working. A beautiful morning outside where I had my breakfast on the patio. Mom came over to sit with me a while and we caught up on each other’s news of the last four days since I’ve been isolating. She doesn’t feel real well and thinks she has Covid too, even though she had a negative test a couple days ago. She told me that if she dies of Covid, we should wait and have her memorial during the family reunion in August. That way she would have some people at her event. Always the practical one… At this point there is no reason to think she won’t be alive and well in August.

I picked flowers. This is what June looks like in Wisconsin.

Grass is getting tall and wild chives are blooming.
Daisy time
The second variety of lilacs, late bloomers
And the iris and hawkweed.

June Journal: Week 2

The geese, again. Look how big the little ones are getting.

June 5

Today was Pentecost Sunday where, in the Bible book of Acts, the promised Holy Spirit was sent to empower all Jesus’s followers. It was a pretty wild day, and a very important occurrence – like the birthday of the first church. The husband was quite disappointed not to hear anything about it in church, and it seemed a little strange to me too. Especially since it is the only biblical holy day that churches remember anything about now. Hmm… Fortunately we heard a message about being merciful in our judgments which seemed to be something we could apply to the situation.

Six of us had family dinner tonight (or supper if you’re from the farm). We don’t do this every week, but often enough that we are starting to think of ourselves as the BlueBloods of Hayward. Our table isn’t as big and we have nothing to do with law enforcement or running our town, but we do eat and sit around talking after. We have our own brand of less dramatic drama and it suits us fine. The critical conversation was about making gravy, which as everyone knows, is not the easiest thing to do.

June 6, 2022

I panic now that it is getting to the end of dandelion season. Lilacs are also turning brown on the edges. Next thing will be daisies, then black eyed Susan, then goldenrod and no more summer. But I need to not give precious time to dreading winter, when it’s June!

All that to say it was great weather today. Things are up in the garden, even though some of it is barely visible. We were out to the “meadow” and got a trailer load of wood chip mulch which I started spreading to keep weeds down. One of the boondockers staying at Denny’s watched me in the garden for a while and came over to say how sorry he was to see me working so hard. I felt sorry for him having nothing fun to do except watching me. The garden is my fun spot, and when it stops being that I will stop doing it.

I took the husband for a wheelchair ride on the paved driveway. He needs to get outside and he doesn’t think of doing it himself. He doesn’t try to walk far anymore.

June 7

I really wanted to get out in the garden again and finish unloading the mulch. Instead I went to town with a list of things to buy. Filled the car with gas and although it took my breath away, I will probably soon be remembering when a full tank only cost $76.

I bought some stepping stones and intend to make a platform for my SoloStove fire pit. It’s a project – more on that when I get it finished, if I do.

I was at Walmart and only beginning the list when I got a call from the husband. He needed some help in a delicate matter. Left with the decision of whether to finish the list or come back later, I went through the checkout and rushed home, although the speed of doing things at Walmart is hardly ever described with the word “rush”. The place is nearly always a zoo during the summer. I went back later.

Before I could get out to the garden, I got a call that my clients at the Resource Center were waiting for me. I thought their appointment was on Wednesday. Rushed over there.

I did finally get to the garden and stayed so late that the only thing I could think to make for supper was a Super Shake. Banana, avocado, yogurt, milk, peanut butter and dark chocolate syrup got stuck in my bullet blender. I could not get the container free from the machine and had to put it all in the refrigerator to wait until more muscle was available.

June 8

Early morning excitement. Denny was able to get my shake out of the blender. I had it for breakfast.

Today there were a few things I felt I should do for Lois and Wendell in Stone Lake. They are 90+ and I know I don’t pay enough attention to them. I am the only one brave enough to cut Lois’s hair and she basically can’t be seen through her bangs at this point. The other thing needing attention was their. landline phone. It was already nonfunctional for a couple weeks and there was a work order out to the company to check it but Wendell had forgotten to tell them that their emergency alert system was connected to that line. It was going to take another ten days until the scheduled repair. Several of us were uneasy with that.

My phone calls to the company got me thoroughly acquainted with their robotic algorithms, punching every option there was hoping to get a real person who could listen to my explanation. I did finally get in line to speak with a rep, with an estimated wait time of 170 minutes. (Thinking to myself, “isn’t that about 3 hours?! Can they do that?”). Don’t ever sign up for service with Century. Link. Just don’t. You’re better off with no phone and no frustration.

The purple oxalis, which endured being inside all winter, loves the cool, rainy weather. These water droplets looked like jewels glued to the leaves and practically begged me to take their picture.

June 9

I finished a good book last night, after some obsessive reading. I woke up feeling the house was cooler than usual and suddenly remembered some windows I had left open. Actually, I had forgotten to go out to check doors and windows and had left the patio open too. And a few minutes later, Mom came in. She saw our lights on way early, and the garage door open, and had tried to call me twice with no answer. She was relieved to find no carnage of any sort (axe murderers abound…). I noted how reading late into the night can disrupt routines. Embarrassment, yeah.

It occurred to me that the problem with Wendell’s phone service might be his equipment, so I went to Walmart and got him a new landline phone. Mom and I went back to Stone Lake to see if that solved the problem. It didn’t.

Stopped to see Mary and Jerry to see their house one more time before they leave it forever. So many parties, so many memories… Ended up buying some of their left over garage sale items. I took a bunch of her fabric which I will now have to figure out where to store. I couldn’t help myself. My mind thinks I still sew, Out of touch with reality I guess.

I went to return the good book to Delores and found out she had tested positive for the virus, not a good thing. I am also starting to feel a little garden sore.

June 10

Found out yesterday that my son-in-law, Ryan, got accepted to the cutting edge trial for treating lymphoma! Such excitement! My phone keeps blowing up with notifications. We are happy to see treatment beginning today, and relieved, and thankful

Today was shower day for the husband. We were both exhausted when it was over. He was cleaned up. I was sweaty. But it has to be done, doesn’t it? Actually, I’m examining that question carefully.

I felt pressure to be in the kitchen in the afternoon, having invited two lady friends for supper and promising Delores some chicken soup cure. But the whole time I was hoping there would be time to finish up the project off the patio with the paving stones.

Last year I spent a lot of money on a retractable awning over the patio. I decided that I didn’t ever want to see that awning go up in flames or melt from the heat of my occasional outdoor fires in the SoloStove. So the platform of pavers sticks out a few feet into the lawn, out from under the awning. I had an hour to work before supper, and had already dug out the sod. I lined the hole with sand and set the pavers. It looks like it’s been there forever. I can’t wait to have a fire now.

My simple soup supper was good. Bread and soup and watermelon, but it does sound a little strange now that I see it in print. It was the conversation with Mom, Misty, and Barb that proved most interesting. I have found two more individuals that someone could write a good book about, if they could just spend enough time with them.

June 11

It’s 6 pm. The sun has finally come out after a normal Wisconsin day of clouds, coolness, and unpredictable sprinkles. I went back and forth between the husband and Mom, reading aloud, listening to a good message about humility and un-called for judgment, and eating. Mom had donuts from the bakery. Dennis wanted vegetables and cheese, and we are going to finish with soup left from last night.

“Garden sore” has turned into “heating pad sore”. I fell asleep in the recliner instead of biking with Gwen. I need a rest.

The evening is more than lovely and I have ended the day with a fire in the SoloStove, on the new pavers. No one else, just me and the cat, Shadow.

I am reading another book and will probably stay up too late. God knows my obsessiveness. He loves me anyway.

June Journal

It’s lilac time. Lest you think we overdid it,,, we shared with others.

June 1

June started on a Wednesday. Our usual morning trio was increased to a quartet since cousin Kim is up from Florida for the week. Mom has been getting up early to see the sunrise, which is now around 5:15, but it has been less than spectacular. There are too many trees and houses in the way of the horizon, and it is either too cloudy or completely clear, neither of which make a great sunrise.

I thought a lot about my daughter and her husband who left Seattle in the afternoon to fly to Bethesda, MD to investigate a cancer treatment trial. At this stage it is still an adventure for Ryan, well, except for the stress of decision making and waiting for other’s decisions to be made. The opportunities come suddenly and they had only a day to get mentally prepared for this trip. I pray that it will be productive and that they will feel well cared for.

I spent an hour in the afternoon with a young mother. She was happy to sit on the couch and talk, forget studying anything or counseling of any kind. She was without the children or their father and hardly knew what to do with a whole hour to herself. I prayed for her not only to myself, but also with her after asking her permission. I don’t think she is often in conversation with God because talking to him brought tears, good ones.

June 2

Read to the husband this morning. Besides our Bible passage, and a spiritual growth book, we read the first 7 days of “Sac Prairie Journal”. It totally inspired me to write this month. Life is 99% average stuff so a writer just cannot afford to wait until something explosive happens to write. I’ve known that but the confirmation was good. This author feels the same way I do about the woods, and I should quote him. Yes, I will.

My biking friend couldn’t keep our date to meet for a ride in the afternoon, and I was tempted not to go at all. But thank God, I went anyway and was glad I did. I went on the CAMBA trails at the hospital, and I mean ALL of the trails. It was an 8 mile ride. I didn’t go fast and furious, and I often go alone just so I won’t have to match anyone else’s pace. I stopped and took a picture along the creek. It was a lovely day and I managed all the rocks, bumps, bugs and wind in my face without having any spills or times when I had to walk up a grade.

June 3

My calendar says “Patty will clean house.” This was a birthday present from my Mom who gets her house cleaned by Patty every other week. I have a bad case of “cleaning before the cleaning” syndrome, especially since my house smells somewhere in between a nursing home and a kennel. Having someone from the outside come in and deal with my mess takes a little getting used to, but the payoff is having clean floors and a whole lot less dust. Worth it.

I biked the same trails this afternoon with Sue, but this time it was harder and I didn’t make it up a couple of the grades without stopping. I’m tired from yesterday. Sue, a physical therapist, said I just needed to learn to use my gears. I’m not sure the bike has gears that low.

June 4

Saturday, the last day of the week. I wear my loose, crazy pants to remind me not to do things that aren’t restful. Did a lot of reading today and took Mom in the golf cart to all our favorite places on the farm – Mary Pat’s spot overlooking the pond, Scruffy’s gravesite in the silo, the lilac hedge and the peony bushes and the perennial garden. We drove slow and savored it all while we talked.

Later I went back to MP’s bench and just sat, looking at the water reflections, the clouds, the sunset.

The Canadian geese families were wary of me for a few minutes but later decided I wasn’t dangerous and let their young charges march up to the wildflower field to snack. I say march because they stick together almost in formation. I am amazed at how fast they can waddle. They must eat a lot because they are getting big, fat almost. The two adults spend most of their time upright, looking around on guard duty. They seldom duck down to nibble anything. I’ve seen how fast they can get their brood back in the water at the smallest threat. They know how to do family.

On guard

It is so peaceful – I long to share the quietness of this scene with others.

“Hugh observed that nature was as necessary to some men as opium to the opium eaters… Opium eaters of a different kind. Perhaps – though it is not to say that nature is escape, because every nature lover knows that all is not soothing peace close to the earth, but rather that there is manifest always a ceaseless war, the endless struggle to survive, the marks of which are everywhere to see at all seasons. No, this kind of opium eater has about him a core of inner strength no one else ever has. Something there is that marks his kinship with the earth, something that makes itself manifest in the lingering of an eye upon a bird, the way his body takes the winds, something that rises to quicken the pulse in mid-winter at the thought alone of spring. The necessity of nature to him is stronger even than he; take him away from nature, and an essential part of him will shrivel and die… Nature is the kind of opium that quickens every sense a man has, that enriches and enlivens his appreciation of the earth on which he lives, and to which he ultimately returns as a part to its whole.”

from “Wisconsin Country, a Sac Prairie Journal” by August Derleth

This time of year the sunsets are more interesting than the sunrises, but you have to be up till 9:30 pm to see them

Zarf: Okay, what?

The last post of the 2022 A to Z Challenge is always welcome in my world because posting for 26 nearly consecutive days is truly a challenge. My Z word today doesn’t have a direct link to my theme of relationship building, but then most of the other words weren’t direct links either. But here’s the final, true thing – because relationship with others and with God are the most important things in my life, almost everything in life becomes indirectly linked to those priorities.

I attribute many things which others call coincidences, or serendipitous moments, to God and his desire to give me a smile, a laugh or a touch of some kind. I happened to be looking at this scene in Julia’s kitchen on the day that I was searching for a post on Z.

Zarf, the little metal handle and the ring attached to it at the bottom. Top left corner, some extra zarfs, or maybe zarves. I don’t know.

A few minutes later I came upon the word zarf and realized I was looking at one and never knew what it was called. It brought to mind the many times Julia had made an espresso or latte for me and how I had enjoyed holding my zarf while talking with her.

I don’t know how it came about that someone initially roasted a coffee bean and soaked it in hot water. It seems that ever since coffee has had some kind of crazy hold on civilization. I’ve read a lot of stories about pioneer days in our country, how they were ALWAYS making coffee on their cookstoves or over their campfires. If you had nothing else, you had coffee, and maybe biscuits.

Our family has many people who enjoy coffee, and more than a few who might be called fanatics. Some go for the fancy, expensive kind from the shops that abound in our towns and cities. Most are content with a cup of plain, good tasting brew. I have to admit that coffee is a standard, a hub of our social gatherings. That is the indirect link to relationship building.

Mmm, hmm.

Rarely do any of us refuse a cup of coffee and a donut, or a homemade cookie. This beverage accompanies the best of conversations. Some of us feel secretly linked by our love of coffee. Coffee rituals abound. We have our favorite cups and we have signs on our kitchen walls, clever coffee quotes on our T-shirts. It’s okay. It’s even fine if someone wants to drink tea instead of coffee, as long as they don’t tell anyone what’s in their cup.

So, here’s a toast to that hot, fragrant, brown drink in the clear glass held by a zarf, and to the many relationships furthered by “coffee time”. (And to the end of the 2022 A to Z Blogging Challenge!)

Yard Work: Joining in Builds Relationship

This one is short. I’m getting tired but there’s only one more letter left!

They say it – the family that works together, stays together. (Did I get that right? Maybe not.). At the very least, the family that has built lasting, enjoyable relationships always wants to help each other with their yard work.

Whether it’s digging up dandelions, collecting dog poop, putting markers on redbud trees so they don’t get cut down, or pulling out vast amounts of invasive English ivy, I have done it. In my daughter’s yards. Happy to help.

After all, when I am visiting the girls during their busy work weeks, I am free during the day and looking for things to do. They are usually distressed by yard work that they haven’t been able to get done. I love being outside so it seems a win/win situation for me to be working in the yard.

It gives me a chance to take part in improvements they’ve done over the years. I get an odd sense of “ownership” in saying “I planted that flower”, or “I trimmed that tree for you last summer”. I think they would say they have loved that part of my work ethic too.

To build a relationship well, I am willing to join them in work that needs to be done. I might need a day or two to be on vacation myself, but that gets old pretty quick, and I have always found other people’s work to be more fun than my own (although I love my own yard work too).

At the end of the day, it is so satisfying to be relaxing in a nice yard that’s had a little love, and to be enjoying it with the people I love. Sweet, just sayin’…

Xenophile: Sharing Passions Builds Relationships

I was delighted to find this word describing a common trait that I share with my daughters, one which has been built especially into my relationship with daughter Julia. Both of my girls have traveled and experienced foreign cultures and love doing that, as do I. We love exploring, talking to people and learning how we are all similar, and how our lives are different. That’s basically what a xenophile is – a person who loves foreign people and their cultures.

Me, dressed for riding the tuk tuk through the city.

The foreign part of the world that I have the most experience with is Southeast Asia, Cambodia in particular. I have taken four trips of about two weeks each time and have made many personal friends, most of them in PhnomPenh. I was so moved by the people and their way of life that I had to take Julia there, so she could experience it too.

Julia loves these kids, they love her too.

While there, our mission was to spend time with the staff and children of Asia’s Hope, an organization providing stable homes for orphans and at risk children. In a country where it is common for people in poverty to “sell” a child into slavery of one kind or another, in order to make ends meet, Asia’s Hope is committed to finding these kids and rescuing them. They are a Christian organization and want to teach children that God loves and values them, even when other people don’t. They place 20 to 25 children in a home with indigenous house parents who will raise them to college age and beyond. They will live out biblical principles and equip the children to be leaders in their own country. It is a beautiful model and it works.

So, the love part – what won me over? I can list a few of the many, many experiences that did the trick.

– arriving at the Phnom Penh airport late at night and finding the house parents and dozens of the kids waiting to greet us, grab our bags and put them in vans and get us to our lodgings.

I’m in there, the only white haired person you can pick out…

– being invited to their homes for meals highlighting their cuisine but also giving us something familiar (they learned fried chicken and spaghetti quite easily).

Their preferred “table”. They were kind enough to make sure we had chairs.

– visiting in their asian style kitchens, while the moms, cooks and older girls cooked on charcoal grills while squatting on the floor (so amazing!)

– playing games with the children outside, sitting with them inside while they overwhelmed us with laughter and hugs

– enjoying outings to the city market where each child thoughtfully chose how to spend five dollars on something they needed with no complaining or arguing.

Of course I am not in this picture because I am taking the picture.
With PE4 after a successful shopping trip. I made it into this picture, again the odd one with very white hair.

– watching them enjoy a rare trip to a pizza restaurant where dozens of wings and pizzas disappeared, again with nothing but smiles and happiness.

Pizza night, and I am given a flower for my hair…
Oh, and there was birthday cake for all to share.

– hearing their delight in learning English words and phrases, and more laughter as they listened to us trying to learn Khmer words from them

– experiencing firsthand their simple, strong faith and how content they are with so little

– and over the years, seeing them learn and grow, graduate high school and go on to university (so rare in their country).

My contact list has almost more Asian friends than American ones and my Facebook messages are filled with pictures from those beautiful friends in that exciting, culturally different but much loved country. I am suffering from xenomania. I am a xenophile.

Whale Watching: Something Different Builds Relationship

We had traveled north from San Juan Island in a boat that comfortably held the seven of us. We went at a good clip past numerous islands with rocky outcroppings, our guide pointing out landmarks here and there. We crossed into Canadian waters, into the Strait of Georgia and slowed as we drew near a gathering of other boats. We were whale watching, and our guide had heard via his radio that there was a sighting. A known pod of orcas was close by. It was an exciting adventure for us, one we won’t forget.

What does it have to do with building relationships, you might ask? A lot.

A few years earlier, youngest daughter met a man worth getting to know better, she reported. I think they must have been at that stage when a couple starts wondering whether their parents might like each other, and wouldn’t that be nice if they did. His parents had been watching the relationship develop between their son and our daughter and were evidently as curious about us as we were about them. They invited my husband and I to visit their home on San Juan Island in the Pacific northwest. I had been to Seattle before but I had not been north to Vancouver or Canada at all, and I had never been whale watching. On one of the days of our visit they arranged this great outing with a captain friend who knew how to give a great ride.

Our kids have family instincts. They naturally gravitate toward close, happy family units. It matters to them that, if at all possible, the people who are important to them, like each other and are capable of getting along and having fun together. This weekend was the perfect test.

We had a wonderful time, and in learning a little about Ryan’s parents, I was also learning things about Ryan. In learning more about Ryan, I was also learning things about my daughter Esther. My husband and I were building relationships with Esther, with Ryan and with his parents as we spent time together doing interesting things over that weekend.

I’ve also had a wonderful time meeting Julia’s in-law family. Getting to know and like them was interesting for many reasons, particularly because her mother-in-law and I are both named Shirley. We both played piano, we were both in a caretaking role for our mothers. We both had severe arthritis in the same thumb, had both been wearing a very distinct, not common brace for years and she was able to encourage me to get the surgical fix that she had just successfully gone through. I think there were other similarities that I can’t remember now. It was uncanny. It created a nice start to our relationship, which has continued.

Our relationships with both of these families was very important to us and our girls as they went through the stress of planning and holding weddings during the pandemic. Talk about bonding experiences… weddings will do that, and in such a memorable (and nice) way.

One way of staying close to my adult children has been getting to know the people in their lives. It started in play groups when they were very young. It continued through the school years when I wanted to know their friends, their teachers, who they played music with, who was in their youth group or on sports teams with them. And now, look where it ended up – watching whales in the Strait of Georgia. Two good words that both begin with W. Isn’t life interesting? Just saying…

Veterinarian: Building Relationship through Work

It’s such a long word, that I will shorten it to “vet” for this post – not to be confused with veteran though.

I think a good addition to the holiday calendar would be a “Take Your Parent to Work” day.

After living with my daughters for years into their teens and more, it was easy for me to view them in light of their history. I remembered all their intermediate steps of growth into maturity, but didn’t always remember to view them in the present, as someone would meeting them for the first time. That’s why it was such a pleasant surprise to see them at work. It added a new dimension to our relationships to be able to view them as respected professionals with awesome people skills. (Of course, there is still a little motherly bias in my evaluation… it’s allowed.)

My daughter the large animal vet started working in a practice right out of school. She often had to drive to farms, haul equipment into the barns, keep her own digital records, handle phone calls on the fly, and more without any assistance. When I would visit for a few days I got to ride along as vet tech. This was an interesting pastime for me, having been a people nurse for years and finding that there are a lot of similar procedures. As I have written back on day S, I also love saving animals when possible.

Oh the things I never thought I would see. Foals being born, horses castrated, goats getting C-sections, llamas, cows, pigs getting diagnosed and treated. There were calls in the middle of the night, and times when different equipment was needed for emergencies that helped me understand the stress of the work. I heard Julia giving good news to clients, and bad news, handling both with diplomacy and compassion.

She works with a larger group of doctors now and often has an intern to help, so I don’t ride along anymore. I do hear the stories though. It’s now easy to also see her as an adult professional, as well as a daughter. I think it’s a very important perspective for a parent to have and I’m thankful.

Different professions create differing opportunities, of course. I remember when daughter Esther started in retail sales when she was 15. I would go to pick her up sometimes and watch while she handled sales in a busy clothing store (I am so compulsive – would straighten clothing racks while waiting!) She had stories of shoplifters and irate customers that were hair raising. With amazement, I have watched her climb the career ladder as she mentored others and stepped into the role of consultant. I don’t get to go to work with her, but I can, and do, ask questions. I want to know the role work plays in her life. I want her to talk to me about work when she needs someone to listen, and to reasonably expect me to understand. It adds much to our relationship.

And a lot more has happened in the last 8 years!

So here’s the question. What do you know about your adult children at work? Did you ever take them to your work when they were young? Our work is a big part of life. Knowing something about each other’s work life is a huge part of “knowing and being known” and that is what relationship is all about.

Updates: Relationship Building Necessity

In our family, we are not like lots of mothers and daughters who keep their relationships up to date by calling each other every day. I have often marveled at that since I don’t like phoning all that much. A big part of our infrequent calls is that we are all quite busy, and even if we would want to chat for a minute, the chances of us wanting it at the same minute would be slim.

However, all of us have this strange, inner warning system that tells us when it’s been too long. It’s time for an update. We will text to find out a good time to talk on the phone. Or sometimes we will just text for a long time, which leaves a nice record of what was said that can be nice to review. Often we will group chat with the girls’ husbands too, which always adds some hilarious twists. We do care about knowing each other and being known. I definitely give credit to that practice for our generally good relationships.

This need to periodically get updates has spread to our extended family. My four brothers, their wives and children cooperate on a Zoom call every couple of months. It’s a little challenging to schedule since we are in time zones from the east coast to Alaska, but we usually manage to hear from everyone.

We fill up more than one screen when we all participate.

Sometimes a half hour update is not enough for us so we plan a reunion. Spending more time together is what is needed to keep some of these relationships fresh and current. Four or five days of eating together, talking, walking, sharing fun experiences and being in the same space always adds to our understanding of each other’s lives. We always build some new memorable moments. I don’t think any of us ever wants to miss one of the reunions. (I could be wrong about that but no one has ever told me otherwise.)

It’s been four years since our last reunion, so everyone is excited about doing it this summer. We are reviving a number of items from past times, one of which is the family newsletter. This is the gold standard of updates. Every family is asked to summarize what’s been going on since we last met and submit it to the volunteer “editorial board”. And if they don’t take time for that task before the publication date, the board gets to make something up for them. As a writer, that’s one of my favorite jobs.

Lots of my friends and acquaintances notice and remark about how our family is such a close-knit group. Our habits of getting together, doing things together, staying knowledgeable about each other’s lives and having regular updates have made it possible. We are building good relationships for ourselves now and hopefully teaching the next generation ways of continuing to build relationships for the future.

How long has it been since your family had a reunion? What would it take to do it? Worth thinking about…

Tents, Togetherness: Relationship Tools

Tents, togetherness and relationships. Makes perfect sense.

We’ve spent a fair amount of time living in tents, my daughters and I – enough to be thankful we have houses to live in most of the time. Tents probably wouldn’t be much of a thing if we didn’t want to be outside, where it sometimes gets cold and rainy. They allow us to spend time with people in places we might not normally get to visit.

Some tents also provide gathering spaces bigger than our houses, and we’ve done a few of those also. Small tents give us intimate space with a few people. Big tents give us casual space with many, many people. Both are useful and available in a variety of styles, and a frightening array of prices.

I’ve had a fascination with tents since I was a small child. My father set up a used army tent for me, in our yard, for one of my birthdays. I spent a good deal of time in it that summer. I’ve gone on to own three or four tents and they were all dear to me. Some of them leaked but I loved them anyway.

Tents are a relationship tool, but I’m not saying there is a guarantee the relationship will be good. But you and others will be together, like it or not.

There I’ve about said it all for tents and togetherness. Here are my illustrations from my own experience.

Tents in our backyard in Florida served as extra bedrooms for people who got very little sleep. This one was big. It also leaked.
The one on the right is my “other” tent, ready for occupancy at the bottom of the Grand Canyon. Requires being horizontal.
In Cambodia I attended many large gatherings in tents. They know how to put on fancy events in them.
Yeah, this is snow. It is the food tent at the Birkie International ski race in my hometown. It was not very warm inside, but better than being outside.
And talk about togetherness! Happening here.
A tent allowed us to gather, during the pandemic, for my sister-in-law’s memorial service. Technically, we were outside.
In 2020 I rented a wedding tent. It did keep us fairly dry in the downpour, at night. Another pandemic gathering outside.

This spring (if it ever arrives), I want to put my tent up by the pond behind the barn, and listen to the spring peepers. Probably no one will join me but I will strengthen my relationship with nature, or frogs and mosquitos… All good.