#A to Z Theme Reveal

April is nearly here. For me, that means spring and the end of winter, it means birthday month for me and youngest daughter, and it means the April A to Z Blogging Challenge.

Choosing a theme each year for the blogging challenge has usually been a chore. This year I have tried out several ideas and rejected them, because they required extra time in addition to the writing that I actually have started and want to continue. But wait! I can combine what I am already doing with the A to Z and maybe accomplish both at the same time. First, here’s what I am already working on.

My great grandmother was an amazing woman for her time, feisty, brave, resourceful and independent. And she was a writer. I have her story and will be magnifying her tales of midwestern life in the late 1890’s up to her death in 1954. I have to call it fiction because she leaves room in her story for imagination of the times and circumstances, but it is historical fiction. Hers is a story of family, of faith, of women’s place in society, of handling hardship and sorrow, even of living through pandemic times. I am proud of her and love her story. I think you will too.

The A to Z Blogging Challenge consists of a post every day in April, excluding Sundays, following the alphabet in some way – twenty six days, twenty six letters. Short stories from my great grandmother Alzie’s life will make up my daily posts and I’ll get the alphabetical thing in there somewhere. I look forward to any feedback from readers, because that has been my favorite part of the A to Z in all of the years that I’ve participated. The challenge has been a great tool to stimulate creative ideas, and to develop a consistent writing habit so I recommend it to all writers or readers who want to do something interesting in April. Follow this link (http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com) to learn more and see for yourself.

My favorite April picture from a print at youngest daughter’s house. Creator unknown to me, but I would gladly give credit if I could. Cute.

Waving Goodbye

It’s kind of a rule with some, that you wave goodbye until the people leaving can’t see you anymore.

It’s 2020, the year of the pandemic and other notable events. Our “pod” as I’ve come to label it, has been decreased by four significant persons. With that comes the strangeness of loss, and of uncertainty. What is life going to be like with all these changes?

Our small community consisted of my mom, my brother Dennis and his wife, their two children, myself and the husband. It expanded when my sister-in-law’s parents moved into a newly built house down the street. My brother designed it as a retirement home for him and his wife- for “someday”. But for now it was going to be convenient for Mary Pat’s parents to be close, so she and Dennis could help them when needed.

Unfortunately, it was Mary Pat who needed the help. Breast cancer returned with a vengeance. It has been only eight months, and now she is gone. It has been a difficult last few weeks. Both sides of our families have gathered to help and to mourn. Houses have been full. Schedules have been disrupted, and it was hard. She was at home when she died and we were with her. It was a little like waving goodbye until she could no longer see us.

Our pod also included a trio of women who we call “the sisters”. They have become like family to us over the last 25 years, included in our family reunions, our weekly sabbath gatherings, and countless festive occasions. Michelle is the elder sister, being almost 94. Judith and Susan are in their 60’s now, adopted as young children from Vietnam. Retiring from their daycare business led them to buy a house in a warmer climate and they have been planning their move for months, it seems.

Our “pod” plus a few extra visiting family members.

Nevertheless, there has been a lot of stressful preparation during this last week before their trip. They left this morning, with another one of my brothers driving a Penske truck loaded with the things they needed to set up housekeeping. Moving is always a big, stressful affair, especially when you have been a long time in one place. It is safe to say that the week’s work has left us all tired and a bit emotional. We are praying they have a safe trip. We waved goodbye this morning.

I know I will recover, but right now I am somewhat disoriented. There has been so much to do in so short a time. I didn’t feel like writing even if I’d had the time, which I didn’t. I move toward simple tasks, with clear cut goals that take my mind to a different place for a period of time; organizing a closet, doing a puzzle, cleaning the kitchen, taking a walk.

Life in 2020 has not been what any of us expected, and certainly not what I expected for my family. It has been an exercise of faith, and like most exercise, it has been strenuous. It doesn’t always feel good while it is happening, but there is a sense of it being worthwhile and useful. I have felt God’s watchfulness and his care in many ways. He has listened to my questions and complaints, and received my anger, confusion and exhaustion with great patience. I have felt loved.

I hear you, Mary Pat. You weren’t afraid and I won’t be either!

This is one of my favorite pictures of Mary Pat that was handed out at her memorial. It is testimony to her faith in God’s goodness, and mine as well. When you know God is good and in charge, there is no need to be dominated by feelings of fear. The crazy weirdness of 2020 becomes opportunity to exercise faith, grow stronger in trust, and remain hopeful. That’s where I’m at. I will not be afraid, just sayin’…

Small Stories Series

Life produces many small stories. Being small doesn’t make them “less than”, except maybe in word count.

Static Electricity (or What Is That Doing Out Here in the Field?)

I will start by saying that I don’t have a clothesline so I dry our laundry inside with an electric dryer.

It was about a week ago in early spring, so early that neither Mom nor Dennis, the husband, had been outdoors much. We were a month into the COVID 19 pandemic and tired of it already. Snow had just melted and the fields were bare, but it was a warmish , breezy evening.

We had just finished a “tea party” with family and weren’t quite ready to quit having fun. In a rare burst of energy the husband decided he wanted to walk down past the barn and to the pond to see whatever could be seen. Off he went.

Mom and I had the golf cart out for the first time of the season and we headed out past the pond to tour the wetlands and meadow. It was exhilarating, partly because the wind was still chilly. We did one big circle and headed back. I could see the husband had passed the pond and was making his way toward some neighboring condos. He had been in one of those “do it myself” moods so I decided to get Mom home first and then come back to see if he was tired and wanting a ride.

We had just crossed the bridge when I saw something on the ground ahead of us. It didn’t look like debris and it hadn’t been there when we passed by earlier. It looked like clothing of some sort.

Coming closer, I thought it looked like underwear! How strange, I thought.

And closer still, it was underwear, and in fact, it was MY underwear. What!?

I swerved over and snatched them up, and once again I noticed the husband in the distance, his pant legs flapping wildly in the breeze. There was no other way those panties could have made their way out into the field except he must have had them. They must have been stuck inside his pant legs and the wind had shaken them out as he walked. He never noticed them stuck in his pants and never noticed when they left either. His “do it myself” mood had started earlier when he had taken his shower and had chosen his recently washed and dried pants to wear. Let’s just say he’s not a real careful dresser. (But I would so have noticed if someone else’s underwear had been stuck inside my pants…)

For a minute it looked like Mom might fall out of the golf cart, laughing as hard as she was. I figure with the pandemic and all going on, God knew we needed some comedy and decided putting something common in a very uncommon place would fit the bill. (At least it was some of my prettiest underwear…)

Yep, right out there in this grassy field…

Give Me a Hand

I realize that I completely dropped the ball (and the story) after the big build up about my surgery. The truth is I haven’t felt much like writing since then. Everything in life has become a one handed task, which makes typing pretty slow. But, it’s now time to complete the record. I just wish someone would give me another functioning hand…

For the record: (typed with one hand)

On the 14th of October, after weeks of anticipation, I had surgery on my left hand to relieve arthritic pain in the thumb joint. The hospital experience was very good, almost amazing. The only thing missing, in retrospect, was a detailed explanation of the process from the doctor. She came in to put a mark on my hand and was out again in less than 30 seconds.

I left several hours later with the hand wrapped in a bulky splint and totally numb due to a nerve block. The block took care of the pain for nearly 24 hours and then I began taking the prescribed pain med.

That first week I had far less pain than I had expected. It was similar to the way my thumb felt before the surgery. I even began using that hand for simple stabilizing tasks, even though the splint made it impossible to hold things. I remember one time when I was trying to get comfortable in my recliner and used both hands to push myself back. There was a significant jolt of pain that took several minutes of recovery time. After that I gradually became more aware of an annoying burning sensation under the many layers of cotton padding and elastic bandage.

I finally got curious enough to look underneath it all. It was uncomfortable to the degree that I thought a re-wrap might help. The incision appeared to be healing well but there was a single spot of inflammation farther up the thumb that looked like it had a very thick suture drawing it in. “What on earth is that?”, thought I. That is definitely the place that hurts.

Sorry if you find this too graphic. I’m a nurse so I’m immune.

To be continued…

Family, Festivals, Fire Trucks

10- 5-2019

It is blustery, rainy and cold today. The electricity went out mid morning. My brother is visiting and we had planned an early breakfast outing to Delta Diner but gave it up after thinking on it. The weather wouldn’t keep the place from being busy, but it would mean we would have to sit in the car waiting for a table. We always have to wait there.

This is October, month of Cranberry Fest (today) and Apple Fest (all weekend in Bayfield) and the area is hosting people from all over. Some just come to see the fall colors which have not disappointed, in spite of rainy weather. Hayward is a destination. For us, family is the draw.So, we gathered one by one in Mom’s living room while it was still dark.

I’m first. Like Mom, I usually can’t sleep much past 5:30 so I get up, dress, make a cup of coffee and peer out towards Mom’s condo. She turns on her outside light when she’s up, just to signal that she’s alive and okay. Today I managed the short walk in the rain with my cup of coffee and the umbrella, my coordination challenge for the day.

Dennis, my brother, was next, raincoat and hood in place. Somehow he had managed to keep his toast from getting rained on, and he graciously chose the wooden rocker, saving the recliner for his older brother. Gary came out of the guest bedroom a few minutes later and we sat, three siblings and Mom, talking about life and the world. I’ve come to love these times, whether we are two, three, four or all six.

Deciding we would be happier making our own breakfast was fairly easy. The night before we had gone to a notable fish fry at a resort in the area. I say “in the area” when it was actually as much as 20 miles away. It was so busy the host couldn’t even determine what the wait time would be. We left. It was not a total waste of time because the drive was beautiful, and we did find another fish fry, as good or better, and were seated immediately. I’m learning that life is like this when you live in a tourist town – be it in Florida or Wisconsin.

The rain and wind continued even later as we sat around the table. We had finished our blueberry pancakes, eggs and sausage, and fruit salad when the place went dark. Strangely, we had been talking about things like the power grid going out and how we would handle that. It seemed appropriate for us to think about it more.

The husband and I are back home now, wondering why there is a fire truck and more than usual commotion next door. It is a blustery, rainy day – a good day to stay home, which I intend to do. Just sayin’…

Dinner and a Show


Dinner on the deck

We are still at Smith Meadow, and tonight we had our first dinner guests. The menu was my secret recipe Macaroni and Cheese with a salad, watermelon and raspberry cream cheese pie for desert. Brother Dennis and sis-in-law Mary Pat came out to join us (they brought the pie)(and it was good!). This was such a treat for Dennis because he misses out on family dinners now that he isn’t comfortable at the condos.

It’s mighty hot here, for Wisconsin anyway, and we ate outside on our deck which was cooler than in the trailer. It was early enough that the mosquitoes weren’t bad yet, the meadow was half sun and half shade, and the birds were having their final sing for the day. It was remarkably comfortable. We didn’t hurry it.

Family selfie

As we were finishing we heard a tractor approaching and, sure enough, it had a rake attached to prep the downed hay for baling. The surprise was that it was driven by a 15 year old young woman (in a dress), a Mennonite farm girl working to make hay with her dad. I didn’t get a picture of that huge rake and tractor as she ran it around the meadow – a missed opportunity for sure. We watched in awe, and clapped when she left. She acknowledged with a smile and a wave. She was one of eight children from the farm adjoining our land. My brother said he wouldn’t be surprised if she came back with the baler before it was dark.

Tractor and baler (shielded cab with AC of course…)

Sure enough, more tractor noises approached, preceded this time by an SUV driven by a mom with her four children in the back. The tractor and attached baler came next driven by the father with his one year old son on his lap. They start them young.

It didn’t take long for the family to leave the car and come sit on the deck with us. The children were such happy, farm savvy, healthy looking and enthusiastic young people that I kind of fell in love with them, quickly.

The eight year old boy saw the baler stop and immediately announced that his father had put too much hay in and had clogged the baler. He ran out and rescued the one year old while his dad crawled under the baler to fix things. He also gave his opinion on how many bales the meadow would yield and he was right. He had already been around enough hay fields to be knowledgeable.

The little guy would rather be riding the tractor with dad.

The girls sat next to me and conversed while we watched the field get processed. They were surprised when I told them many children don’t know what a farm is all about and think milk comes from a supermarket. We talked about cows, coyotes, their toy room, and how nice it was that their grandpa and grandma lived next door. Janessa, who is five, was the most talkative. She could have played Laura in Little House on the Prairie, if she had been an actress. But how much better to live the life and not have to pretend.

The baler got fixed, the field cleaned up right good with three big bales and a smaller one. The show was over. Our new friends got in their Suburban and went home. Night fell and the fireflies came out. Dinner and a show, but much more interesting and fun than the usual outing by that name… just sayin’.

My Elephant

Part of my problem as a writer is that I often feel like a minor player in someone else’s drama. Even if they don’t write their own story, I feel like I’m stealing if I write about it.


In searching for reasons why he was diagnosed with Lew Body Dementia just weeks after his retirement, the husband has wondered if he is supposed to share his experience with others. Could it be he is meant to encourage others in some way, even though he is pretty sick about this whole thing? He actually says he might start a blog, or write stuff down as he thinks of it. For several reasons, I think the chances of him writing anything are slim.

For one, he has a history of brilliant ideas that never see action. I don’t see his diagnosis changing that.

Reason two – he doesn’t have experience expressing feelings. He has them, but they don’t usually bother him or beg to be shared. He would like to share things now, but they end up coming out in long, convoluted histories of his life journey accompanied by tears, and a tone of desperation and sadness. He’s doing it a little better now, but the first couple of weeks were tough and any compassionate person who had time to listen patiently ended up crying with him and giving him a hug.

Reason three is simply that writing is work and work isn’t something he’s looking for. Too much mental work makes his head spin.

It’s true that my story has a lot to do with his story but, of course, I tell it from a very different perspective. He reads what I write. I wonder if I will be able to write what I really think or will I change the narrative because of the effect it might have on him?

Interestingly, the two things that have helped the husband and I know each other better in the last few years are our “together” prayers and my blog/journal. I guess in each instance I tend to be more open, truthful and informative. In each instance he feels less threatened by my words because they aren’t spoken to him – they are conversations with God or my readers. He listens better. And the same goes for him when it comes to telling God his thoughts and concerns – one might as well be honest. I learn things about him that he doesn’t think to tell me.

It certainly isn’t that I don’t want him to write his own story, from his own perspective. I do. But not writing about this part of my own life has been hard. The vague feeling that I couldn’t write about this big thing happening to us, has made me not write much at all. Somehow, when there is “an elephant” in the room, so to speak, writing about anything else takes second place to wondering about the elephant and what it’s going to do next.

That elephant is on my mind most all the time. I might as well write about it. Probably have to. Just sayin’…

One Reason for Being Here

20180904_1813045661508336183345620.jpgSeptember 4, 2018

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.   







Reviewing 2017

This is long. You don’t have to read it if that bothers you. Quit anytime. I needed to write it to remember a crazy year – it’s for me. 

I think there is future value in looking back. I’m examining whether I was the person I wanted to be in the past year. I usually ask myself, as opportunities come up, if I’m making the decisions that are consistent with my goals, but I actually anticipate this exercise of looking at those decisions in bulk at the end of the year. The bigger picture is helpful to me. It places me in time, and feeds into the resolutions for the new year. Especially as aging takes place, the things that did or did not happen can inform my ambitions for 2018.

I started 2017 in Seattle with Esther, my daughter. I heard the compline service  at St. Marks cathedral for the first time and was impressed with simplicity, with introspection while listening to sacred music with others who were also responding with respect and appreciation. Last January was also the introduction to eating differently as we searched for answers to health problems. I am keeping a lot of what I learned about food and will continue to eat differently in 2018.

While I was out west, my mom and husband were keeping things together at home in Florida. After my return in January there were pressing issues – the renter who could not pay, the friend who broke his hip, therapy for a hand injury, and the endless yard work. There was also fun doing things with Mom. We visited her old haunts in Brooksville. Another time, we joined brother Ron and his family in River Ranch for an outing.

Early in February, Mom was scheduled to make her way back to Wisconsin. We combined the trip with a visit to daughter Julie in Greensboro, NC. She had moved there in December and none of us had seen her new abode. Brother Bob came down from Wisconsin to help with travel.  At the end of our time in North Carolina, we visited the fabulous Biltmore House in Asheville. Mom and Bob went from there to Wisconsin while Julie and I drove back to Greensboro. I spent a week with Julie, meeting her coworkers and seeing what everyday life was like for her.  I flew back to Florida and in one week February was gone.

I stayed close to home in March. Brother Dennis and his family spent time in Orlando and we did join them there for an overnight and another visit to River Ranch. Some friends parked their RV in our yard for a week and I was able to do some fun entertaining with them. We finally got free from the tenant who was several months delinquent in her rent. Always on my mind was the need to simplify our lives, pare down our possessions, and work toward the sale of our house and a move. No date was attached to this, but it had been our prayer that we would live closer to family in the future. My focus was to move toward readiness. I fixed things, painted things, cleaned out and donated things.

April, the month of Esther’s birthday, and mine, left me feeling sad. I went on a solo kayak outing just to feel that I had marked the day. Sitting out in the middle of Lake Manatee, talking on the  phone with Esther and later with Julie is how I will remember celebrating. My writing life has been marked by the number of years I’ve been able to do the April A to Z Challenge – this year was the third.  Later in the month Julie flew down to do some veterinary work for a friend. We wanted to spend more time with her, so we rented a car and drove her back to Greensboro. And it was May.

We spent that first week in North Carolina and it was eventful. One night we were in a violent windstorm that wreaked havoc on the property where Julie lives. Julie and I did a day hike at Hanging Rock and I’m hoping we’ll have many more days like that one. We spent a long day working at a horse auction and I’m hoping there won’t be a lot of days like that for her. Dennis and I did some touring. The sad part of our trip was finding Julie’s cat Rodgey, killed on the road. I don’t know if it’s easier to go through sad times together, but it is bonding.

The last half of May seemed dominated with doctor’s appointments, watching the news about terrorism, and dealing with the discovery of termites in our house. On the 27th, we left our abode while it was tented, and stayed at a friend’s house on Longboat Key for two nights.

It was June. After the tenting I spent a week working in the part of our house that we don’t live in. It has been rented out for several years without us being over there to fix and maintain, so it needed work. We are tired of being landlords of our three properties. I think God heard me thinking that. We had listed our rental condo with a realtor and got an offer to buy. That was so exciting!

The second week I left for my fourth trip to Cambodia, the first solo flight for me. Julie came also and we shared accommodations. We had a wonderful time with our Cambodian friends and the rest of the team, doing some of our usual activities and a few new things too. I actually took a hike in a jungle! I didn’t feel well on my return flight on the 17th, so it was an ordeal.  While I was traveling the offer on our condo fell through and it went back on the market.

July was marked by a trip to Knoxville and Pigeon Forge for Dennis and I. Okay, so we had to listen to a sales presentation for a vacation rental, which we resisted. Julie drove over to meet us and we had another Appalachian mountain hike and an interesting weekend in a hotel room with Tess, the dog. The next week I had a new therapy done on my painful thumb joint. I had read a lot about stem cell therapy, which I couldn’t afford, and platelet rich plasma (PRP) therapy, which I could afford – barely. I can’t say that it has helped but in the process I discovered a new brace which has enabled me to continue using my thumb.

Other tasks in July included talking with a realtor about selling the house, two more offers on the condo, doctors and dentists visits, reading, and writing. In anticipation of a move I have been going through all my photos and condensing, keeping only ones that have people and places that I recognize (where do all those others come from?! I don’t know…) I also returned to the project of converting my parents video cassettes to digital form.  I finished the month by having some broken cement in our driveway removed and replaced with gravel. I only mention that because it caused such a fuss.

In August, Dennis and I tried really hard to walk on a regular basis. I also did a lot of biking in our neighborhood – sometimes 10 to 15 miles at a time, which I tracked on my health app. We notice that it is harder to keep active. I had a lovely time getting reacquainted with my gastroenterologist (liver ultrasound and colonoscopy) and also had a good report from my retinal specialist. After a lifetime of very little doctoring, I can finally thank Medicare for all the new professionals I’ve met recently. The aging process has started to make a difference in our lives, yes it has.

And I probably won’t ever forget the huge wasp nest on a tree in front of our house that grew and grew until we had to get an exterminator to take care of it. Interesting.

On August 21st Dennis and I flew to Seattle. Back in June, Esther had suggested that it was time for us to meet Ryan’s parents. We were glad to know more about Ryan since he has become important in Esther’s life. The week went by way too fast, but we had a memorable and productive time visiting the Bruels on San Juan Island in Puget Sound. We went whale watching among other things.

On August 31st we closed on the sale of that condo! Relief.

September was pretty much taken up with having a hurricane. Irma kept us nervously watching and preparing for days. When it finally hit, we weathered it on mattresses on the floor in the safest part of our house (bathroom) with my cousin Mark and his wife Kathy. Again, bonding through adversity.

Another interesting development in September – we invited a homeless young man to temporary shelter in our house. With the hurricane, one of his friends needed a place to be safe and also came to stay. Is it true that things happen in threes? Another young man we had known for years was also homeless and in desperate circumstances so we also gave him a place. Three guys, in their 30’s, struggling to get/keep jobs, living in their cars – the beginning of a learning experience for us.

Clean up after the hurricane was exhausting – the debris, the mud, on our property and the property I oversee for a friend – and expensive. On the 17th I took Kathy and Mark to the airport in Tampa and continued on to a needed vacation with Julie in Greensboro. I got there in time to help her host a visit from Dennis’s brother and sister in law, Ron and Deanna. It was also Julie’s birthday week so I got to help her celebrate. And it was a rest for me to get away from the mess at my beloved “oneacrewoods”.

On October 1, my brother Ron came up from Lake Worth with his bobcat on a trailer.  He cut up and removed the huge kapok tree that had blocked our drive since the hurricane. After a month, we were finally able to see a possible end to the disorder.  It made a big difference and I was so thankful for his expertise.

For the next couple of weeks we dealt with the ups and downs of our three house guests. I could probably write a whole book about that, so it obviously won’t fit in here. We were also anticipating a visit from Esther and Ryan. They came that last week of October, during which we kayaked on the Rainbow River , toured downtown Sarasota, and had interesting conversations about Esther’s Airstream which had mysteriously gone missing from her driveway a couple days before they left.

November. Pressure washing our house, it took weeks with only hired help Joe and myself. Selling furniture – our couches disappeared from the living room. The thought that we might move became more real. House guest drama – we all thought they would be “on their feet” after six weeks but they had nowhere to go, so we extended their stay. We even decided that they could stay alone while we went up to Wisconsin for Thanksgiving. Dennis and I flew to Minneapolis on the 22nd. Julie also flew there that night and we met and rented a car for the drive to Hayward. It was a good gathering but maybe a little smaller than other years. We left on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving to fly back to Florida.

November 29th I got a call from brother Dennis, the one who owns an award business in Wisconsin. We had just been with him for Thanksgiving. He had an emergency. A large shipment of awards needed to be  picked up in Memphis TN and delivered to Orlando FL in the next two days. I had nothing else planned so was on a flight to Memphis the next day, and by Friday night I had accomplished the mission. I felt really good that I was still able, not just to consider doing it, but to get it done. I can still drive and I am still up for adventure.

In December I spent a week washing clothes, getting the house in order, and continuing to prepare for the need to move. All the while I was getting the impression that winter was beginning to wear on my Mom. We had seen it during our Thanksgiving visit, and communication afterwards made it even clearer. Mom was having to decide about trying out an assisted living apartment. It would be a huge move emotionally and I felt she needed support and help. My husband felt he wasn’t ready to fully retire and spend the winter in Wisconsin but I was able.

On the 13th of December I flew back to Minneapolis and took the shuttle to Hayward. I have relearned the things I had forgotten about Wisconsin winters – snow, below zero temps, driving hazards, skiing, the whole Northwoods vibe.

Mom has decided she owes it to herself to see what assisted living is like. She looks forward to not having to cook for one, not having to clean, having a warm place to walk and not having to be alone if she doesn’t want to be. I want to help her find furnishings for the new apartment and get moved in before I go back to Florida. December ended last night.

I look back on the year and about the only thing that is clear is that life, as we have known it, is going to change. It will probably change a lot in 2018. There are a lot of uncertainties as to where we will be and when we will go there. I am so glad we have put uncertainties in God’s hands instead of insisting on trying to figure it all out. If we can resist the temptation to worry and do what becomes possible and necessary day by day, we will get through another year just fine. One of the best things Dennis and I have done in the last few years is to remind ourselves of how much we depend on our relationship with the one who knows the future, Jesus Christ. We do it by talking with each other and to God – kind of like a daily conference session – in prayer.

It is additional benefit that what we say to God teaches us a lot about each other. One striking aspect about aging is that we are changing a lot in a short period of time. We are suddenly adjusting to empty households, physical limitations, changes in how we are valued at work, changes in how we spend our time, changes in how we relate to all the important people in our lives. It is an important time to find common ground again – something that we may have lost in the busy years before retirement. Our prayer time does that for us. God knows that, we feel his pleasure, and we feel peace because of it.



#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things M


a happy wave of nostalgia


I know, another collectible. It seems all my favorite things are either practical things or occurrence that I encounter every day or they’re something I collect that has no practical anything about it.

I have been drawn to marbles since grade school when playing “odds or evens” was all the rage and challenging a friend to “10 down last” was a way to possibly win his or her best marbles from them. I remember having my marbles confiscated by the teacher. There were cat’s eyes, steelies, purees, and crackles both in regular size and boulders.

We all had marble bags. Marbles were like money, and you could be both marble rich and marble poor in the space of one afternoon. I used to hide my marble bag in various places to keep it away from my brothers, and as I got older and the craze died off, I lost track of the last hiding place. I still wonder if it was inside the huge old upright piano that my mother finally gave away. That’s where I look in my dreams (yes, I occasionally dream about grade school and marbles).

The digital age has pushed marbles into the antique/thrift shops I’m afraid, or maybe it’s just where I find them because I don’t shop in toy stores anymore. I have a small velvet bag of my favorite marbles just to remind me of how much fun they were, and I’m going to get them out and play with them the next time my young friend Gracie comes over. I’m sure it will be something new for her.

I kind of want to know – is there anyone on earth who has not made a marble pyramid with Elmer’s Glue for their mom for Mother’s Day?