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.

A Different Kind of R & R

It often means rest and relaxation to others. Not to me. I can’t even rest and relax when I’m asleep.  My R&R is responding to randomness.

Randomness has a couple definitions, some of which I apply to my life and some, not so much.  The one I like is “random is often used neutrally to describe that which is done or occurs by chance but also suggests that one is receptive to the possibilities of the unexpected”.  I often have to make decisions about going places and doing things that are not my usual routine. Truth is, I don’t know what my usual routine is anymore.   Something unexpected is always happening, it seems, and those are the things to which I love to respond.

I have four younger brothers and a couple weeks ago the oldest of them called.  He lives in the same state as I do, but it’s been years since we devoted much time to each other.  We are more often at family gatherings with crowds of other people to divide our attention.

“How would you like to help me drive up to Wisconsin?  I’m taking a truck and trailer up to get some equipment and I thought it would be a time for us to get in a good talk.” I had to agree that 30 hours of drive time would amount to a pretty good talk.

In my mind I’m tallying up the things I would need to reschedule or back out of.  “Well sure, I think I could do that but let me have a day or so to work on it. I’ll let you know.”

Road trip!!!

And that’s how things get started.  After telling several people what I was considering doing I had to call him back to find out why we were doing this in the middle of winter, trying to get up and back between blizzards.  Also, was I actually going to be asked to drive the truck with the 30 foot trailer or was I just going along to keep him from falling asleep?

The truth is, I love family adventures more than any other kind.  Should I not take any opportunity to get to know these people with whom I share genetic material? And how better to get to know them than to actually be doing something with them?  Appalachian hikes, trail rides on horseback across Florida, camping across the country and picnicking at 12,000 feet  in the Rockies, cruising with everyone for a 50th anniversary – all these things started with a somewhat unexpected idea, to be rejected or embraced. Thankfully, most of my family is of the “bring it on” nature.

My randomness is by no means purposeless or unplanned.  Just unexpected.  In fact, planning and anticipating is at least half of every adventure for me.  Sometimes it takes weeks, and other times it gets pulled together in hours.  There’s a lot of variety.  Because of all this I have actually forgotten how to be bored, well, almost.  The brother I planned on starting the trip with tomorrow morning has already called to delay our departure because of unforeseen circumstances BUT it wouldn’t surprise me at all if he showed up at the door, ready to go tomorrow morning.

There are really two reasons this lifestyle works for me.  One is that I do need a lot of variety, whether at work or at play. I have very few routines and don’t do them very consistently. I love surprise!

The other reason is that I don’t claim to have control over my circumstances, so it never disappoints me when I don’t.  Those circumstances are in the hands of God, whom I look to kind of like a writer and director of a big story, and the only one who has read the whole script.  When I get up in the morning, I’m not always sure where my part is going to be played out but I know the director is going to direct me.  After all, he’s given me a part in the story because he wants me there.  What seems random to me is in no way random to him.  He is the ultimate planner and takes care of all the details.  I just have to respond and follow directions. There is a lot of peacefulness and freedom to have fun in that.  And sometime tomorrow I will probably be having fun, somewhere on I-75, talking with my brother.  Just sayin’…

My four brothers lined up in back.  On the left is the eldest one with whom I will soon be reacquainted.
My four brothers lined up in back. On the left is the eldest one with whom I will soon be reacquainted.

Where did the time go?

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The town of Hayward, Wisconsin where my family lives is about four hours from a major airport so I have become  familiar with the shuttle service, Northwest Travel. This morning at 6 am, I climbed into the van with Dave, the driver, for the ride to Minneapolis. It was dark dark. Dave had just made it home at 10 pm the night before, having made the same run.

We talk from time to time about the area were driving through. Most of the drivers are retired people with a history in Hayward and we usually find we have people and places in common.

I’m grateful my mom packed cheese and crackers and apple slices which she thought would make a good snack on the plane. They are breakfast for me and are gone in the first half hour. The flavor of the smoked Gouda mixed with the sweetness of apple is so right for fall and the quiet darkness of the trip.

It was a busy time, this last ten days. The routines and tasks were different from my usual so in that sense it was a vacation, and a refreshment, not my usual work.

I got along fine with the one outfit of clothing that I wore. Mom and I made a trip to the thrift shops and at $4 a bag I was able to put together a nearly awesome northern wardrobe. I recommend the no pack method to anyone brave enough to try it.

I enjoyed spending time getting to know my neice and nephew as teenagers. I stayed with them a couple of times when they were much littler. Now they are homeschooling, driving, babysitting others and doing their own cooking and shopping. Times change. Missed my brother and his wife but so glad they were able to take a much deserved anniversary outing.

And of course the precious (can’t really think of another word for it) time with mom and dad, sharing some of their routines, talking. We laughed over lots of things, got stocked up on jigsaw puzzles for the coming thanksgiving holiday, and last night we cried over a sad movie. More memories, and hopefully we will be able to remember them, although you never can count on that.

Thankful for life, for the ability to travel, for the opportunity to share simple things. Thank you, once again.

Things Men Talk About

a man to man discussion
a man to man discussion

This morning  I asked my dad to tell me some things about his dad, my grandfather.  I had been thinking about how much I remembered my grandmother smiling, talking, laughing, working, but very little about my grandfather.  I wanted to know what his sense of humor was like, what his frustrations were, what mattered to him.  Strangely, my dad could not think of anything specific to tell me, but he was willing to think about it and get back to me.

As I retreated to a chair in the corner to empty my inbox (groan, 3000 emails 20 at a time…) dad and my husband started talking.  This has happened before because the two of them have some things in common that they like to discuss.  Of course I am not saying that these are the only things men talk about – I am not privy to much of that, nor do I want to be.  Here are some things that they love to talk about:

– it starts with my husbands plans to fix my daughter’s situation getting hay for her horses, talk turns to trailers to haul things

– machinery, specifically things that have been used in the past and abandoned out in machinery graveyard

– machinery, how it was transported to far away farms

– machinery, at what age they learned to use it

– machinery, near accidents that people had with it

– hay, machinery used to make it

– hay, how much faster it could be made as machinery improved

– combines (as if you could not guess, a combine is a machine)

– straw, and what they used it for

– machinery, how a tractor was made from a truck and what it was used for

– rocks (?) and how you get them out of fields, presumably with a machine

This conversation lasted at least an hour and they both enjoyed having a chance to talk and share stories.  And I realized as I listened from my hidden vantage point that I was witnessing something important about men, and their differences from women.  I’m not sure exactly what that was but it has something to do with machines… just sayin’.

Change, bring it on…

I have to say that things have begun to change for me already, but  that will continue.  Since last August I have been following an inner directive to be free for helping  my immediate family should they need it.  There are extended times in the ordinary progression of life when everyone  is on the young side, fairly healthy, moving forward and enjoying independence.  And then there are those other times that are not all those same things.  If the family is like a wagon train heading across the plain, there are times when they need  to circle the wagons.  That’s a bit of what I feel.

Time is not a limitless commodity. I want to make conscious decisions where I spend my time and who I spend it with.  As much as I love and appreciate my present friends and my community, I kind of arrived here out of financial necessity.  And time spent here has been good, but I am also blessed that I love to spend time with my family, every one of them.  They are all people  I would choose to spend time with, lots of time. Instead, it’s  been limited to a week here and there while on vacation, a reunion every few years, sometimes a holiday celebrated together.  I am ready to choose a closer connection.

That being said, I don’t really know where I’ll be a year from now.  Hey, but until I’m ready to do it, I don’t have to worry about where I’m going.  I just have to get ready to go somewhere.  The husband and I have made great progress toward this – at least I’m proud of us. Every week we get rid of some of our “stuff” that would not be worth taking with us.  We are both thinking about our present jobs and how our work would continue in a different place.  I jumped the hurdle of signing up for my social security benefits yesterday (believe me, it was a mental/emotional HURDLE).  I am scaling back on commitments I make and not jumping into new ones.  I am waiting to see what God will do with my readiness.  And there is a peace in not knowing the timing but just doing one thing at a time as the possibilities become apparent.

steps toward change
steps toward change

 

F for Fingers

fingers that play (to the beat)
fingers that play (to the beat)
fingers that work (and take a beating)
fingers that work (and take a beating)
adjusting and healing
adjusting and healing
steering in the right direction
steering in the right direction
keeping the truck on the road
keeping the truck on the road
um... oh well, you know
um… oh well, you know
learning
learning
providing diversion and entertainment
providing diversion and entertainment
keeping up with events on the news
keeping up with events on the news
etching an award for a deserving teacher
etching an award for a deserving teacher
ready to type the next post
ready to type the next post

Fingers – think of all they do. Think of what life would be like without them… Think of how awesome it is that they obey orders that start way up in your head without you even having to think about it.  We are wonderfully made!  Have you ever really looked at the hands and fingers of the people you love? These are fingers from my family and friends doing what they do for fun and for making a living.

 

A to Z Challenge: The B word

Birthday (not what you were expecting?). The one day of the year when a person should do something bold, rejuvenating, uncharacteristic of normal activity, all in an effort to offset the fact that another year has come and gone.  I have no idea what to do this year, except I’d like to avoid eating being the focus.  I’d prefer activity at little or no cost – the perfect combination – with a token of remembrance of some sort. Other years it’s been kayaking, or an epic hike or bike ride.  So far there is nothing on my schedule for that day except semi-annual AC tune up by the Cool-It Man. I don’t know what I was thinking when they called.

one more memorable birthday NOT
one more memorable birthday NOT

I was doing something memorable on April 2 thirty-two years ago. It had to do with “birthday” as well, but not my own. On that day our family went from three to four in number. As much as we could, we were trying to keep you (you know who you are) from life-long April Fools jokes, and there you were a few minutes after midnight, cooperative as usual. Today my heart celebrates you and EVERYTHING you have added to my life. All my love and Happy Birthday (!!), Mom

While it is day…

I’ve heard this phrase used in various settings to show that every minute of life is unique. Every opportunity comes once, and there never is another quite like it. And some things must be done while it is day because the night is coming when you won’t be able to do it anymore.

I think along these lines every time I am together with family, as I am now. My parents are with me at my home in Florida and I am very aware of the limited time for the special project I’m working on with my mom. I am finding out who she is in different ways than I have used before. I am interviewing her. I am writing her memories of being a child, a teen, a young married woman.  I am realizing that just because I have known her all my life, doesn’t mean that I know her. She had a life before me that figured heavily in the formation of who she is now. As I hear of those years, those events, I see a story that is more compelling and inspiring than I knew. I became a part of that story and I feel a strong connection to it.

As mom and I sit and talk there are times when the details of the story aren’t clear any more and we wish for someone else who might have been there.  My mom has a brother who came down to visit us one day. He was closer to her in age than her other siblings and he knew many of her stories, having lived them with her.  His perspective was different and added extra color and depth to the family narrative. Another of her brothers passed away a week ago and I can’t help but wonder what he would have added. Did anyone ask him to tell about his life? Did he leave any of those details for others to know?

Our experiences make us who we are. There are reasons we think the way we do and react to life in certain characteristic ways. Many times I have had friends or acquaintances who I considered to be difficult people, until I heard their story. I’ve known some very remarkable people and wondered where they got their courage or their ambition, until I heard their story. Knowing the story is so helpful in loving and having compassion on others.  The stories need to be told if we are to become peacemakers, helpers of each other.

Do you have a living parent that you think you know? Or a husband/wife? Or even a child? As we look at life’s experiences through our own mental window, it is possible to entirely miss what is happening in someone else’s inner world.  Don’t be too sure you know them.  Don’t think it doesn’t matter. Don’t be slow to ask. Do it while it is day. 

They Left

Crying lately, sometimes outwardly, mostly inwardly. I think it helps. Crying maybe leaves room for hope because I have never been able to cry forever.

Today my so ordinary life has been putting the furniture back in place. The air mattresses are deflated and rolled up. The sheets and towels are washed. The extra dishes are back in the cupboard. All my secrets have been exposed, like the rolls of cat hair under the sofa, the disorder of my physical, mental and emotional worlds.

I love to have family visiting in my home, so why didn’t I end up with a home that had room for visitors? Didn’t God know? That’s silly. He knew we needed a few things to be inconvenient/gross/dangerous in order to bond. In order to make memories. I hope they remember how much I love them. How good it was to know I could still put the kayaks in the water and paddle a ways. How good it was to know I could still survive a little sleep deprivation. How good it was to become more familiar with their ways, their sayings, their pastimes, their clothing, They were easy keepers and I loved every minute. Maybe they will come again if I don’t make them sleep outside in a tent, and if the dog next door doesn’t bark all night. But we would have figured all that out if they had stayed longer than three nights. We would have.

A small inward cry as I miss them.

Till Death Do Us Part

Forty-one years ago we said those words, the husband and I.  I think we had a better than average understanding of what that meant, and here we are, still not parted by death or anything else. I cannot speak for both of us, but for myself, I have learned many useful things about marriage. And about men. And about the husband in particular.  

The most interesting thing is that we are still changing, and there is more new stuff to learn as that happens.  For our anniversary we are going to start a program called Prepare/Enrich (prepare-enrich.com) and our first task is to answer online questions about ourselves.  After all these years of living with the husband there are still things about his early years that I probably don’t know. And there are things about my early years that have formed my ways and views that I might not be aware of either. I am warned that there are about two hours worth of this questioning to wade through before we start the next part of the program. 

The next part is called “dating”, something we haven’t done regularly since being married.  Actually, it’s going to be double dating with a mentoring couple, and it’s supposed to be fun.  This whole concept is intriguing to me because it sounds very personal and potentially helpful.  It’s not a roomful of people at a marriage conference where no one knows what you’re thinking, it’s just the husband and I with two other people kind of like us but capable of objectivity and insight into our natures (because they get to see our two hours worth of answers from the online portion). We’ve never worked on our relationship intentionally like this before (yeah, it’s about time…) but like I said, forty-one years and we still haven’t killed each other.  Isn’t that what it means when you say until death do us part? 

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