Thoughts on Extended Winter

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Mystery in the Meadow

20181219_1138041622788714238647754.jpgThe pile had been growing for a couple of seasons. Downed trees from the bad storm a year ago, a  whole summer’s worth of fallen limbs, old pallets that he didn’t need – he’d hauled it all out to the meadow behind the barn. It was dry and ready to be torched. That was the one of the things on his list now that the weather was cold and the ground was wet from snow that had melted.

It wasn’t that kind of melting that meant spring. It was only December, the month of cold and early dark. He was thinking of the burn pile and other chores as he did a routine walk through the meadow and surrounding wetlands. It was a favorite winding down time near the end of his work day. He skirted the barn, crossed over the small creek and around the pond and surveyed the pile.

It looked different somehow. He had been out with his machine and pushed it up around the edges, but some of the larger logs looked oddly placed. He strode over and walked around the pile, trying to remember just how he’d last seen it. There was no doubt that something had changed.

20181219_1137183118489201353298995.jpgComing around the side away from the barn and out of sight from the path, he saw what was left of a small campfire about ten feet away from the pile. That was new. Someone had been here long enough to enjoy sitting around a fire.

Had he forgotten giving someone permission to use the meadow? It was his private property and although he allowed some friends and local residents to walk the paths around the wetlands it was hard to imagine any of them hanging out for any length of time, not in the weather they’d been having recently. And there was just something not quite right about that pile…

He was just about finished circling the perimeter when he noticed it. A gaping hole in the side opened into the interior of the piled up brush.  Kneeling down and peering in, he was amazed. There was enough room in there for a couple of people to roll out sleeping bags. The sides and top had been supported by pallets and piled high with tree trunks and brush. The whole pile had been re-engineered into a shelter, and a pretty cool one at that. It was empty, thank goodness.

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He couldn’t think of anyone who could have done it, and remarkably, without being seen. Maybe kids? There were lots of them out on Christmas break, probably bored and needing something to do. A vagrant? It was a bit drafty but definitely better than no shelter at all, and there was plenty of dry wood left to burn to keep warm.  What really bothered him was the thought of how he could have set the thing on fire with someone hiding inside. Not a good thought…

He sure wasn’t going to wait out there until someone showed up, so he decided to leave a note. He snapped a picture with his phone and went back to the house for paper and pen. The note went something like this:

“Hi. Whoever built this, please call me. You’re not in trouble. This is really cool but I am concerned about your safety. I was planning to burn this and add to it, and I did not know about this. Thanks. Dennis, Property Owner.”

He finished it off with a phone number and tacked it to a log inside the entrance where it couldn’t be missed. Now to wait.

 

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To be continued…

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.

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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’…

Those Who Write

It has to be true, that there is nothing new under the sun, that even though we are unique, we have thoughts in common with others. That is why I love reading. It’s through reading that I learn I am not alone in my experience here on earth. Of course, I would have nothing to read were it not for those who take the time to write. I am grateful.

We have family treasures – letters from our ancestors to each other – that my mom and I were discussing recently. What an experience it is to be encouraged by words written down a century ago, by someone who had no idea who their readers would be. And it’s not that their messages were necessarily wise or well crafted. Often they were recounting the mundane ups and downs of everyday life, but in doing that, their resiliency, ingenuity, optimism, and strength of spirit were displayed. We can say “these are the people I came from”.  What is written down has power to influence.

I’m often struck with that need to communicate. I feel restless when I’ve not been writing for a while. I start feeling isolated and want to reach out somewhere. I read something this morning that resonates, sounds true. It’s Sarah Young’s interpretation of scripture in her book “Jesus Calling”.

I speak to you continually. My nature is to communicate, though not always in words. I fling glorious sunsets across the sky, day after day after day. I speak in the faces and voices of loved ones. I caress you with a gentle breeze that refreshes and delights you. I speak softly in the depths of your spirit, where I have taken up residence.

You can find me in each moment, when you have eyes that see and ears that hear. Ask My Spirit to sharpen your spiritual eyesight and hearing. I rejoice each time you discover My Presence. Practice looking and listening for Me during quiet intervals. Gradually you will find Me in more and more of your moments. You will seek Me and find Me, when you seek Me above all else.  Psalm 8:1-4; Psalm 19:1-2; I Cor. 6:19; Jeremiah 29:13

I thank her for writing that, and I thank God for all those moments when I can “read” him so clearly. wpid-20150930_181847.jpg

Story

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

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

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things N

Notebooks

20170415_215151It’s not just that I like paper. I like it when it’s many papers bound together with an interesting cover and preferably a divider with a pocket. I have a lot of notebooks. It’s almost like I panic if I don’t have something I can write on – something that’s not a receipt or a napkin. I love the look of a blank page with nice blue lines that are begging me to make a mark on them.

One of the things I do when visiting in a new city, even if the store I’m in is just the grocery, is visit the aisle where they sell notebooks for school or business. Every area of the country is bound to have a different type or size of notebook and they are hardly ever expensive, so I buy one (or two. Okay, sometimes I buy three.)

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Bought these three beauties in Seattle at a Target store.

I have small ones for my purse because I might need to write something down at any given moment and must be prepared.

I have a notebook by my bed because I might get a good idea before falling asleep and I know I’ll forget it by morning.

I have notebooks where I record the books I read and notebooks where I journal.

I have a notebook of quotes that I like.

I have notebooks to keep track of my house and what’s in it.

I have a church notebook in case I think God is telling me something while I’m in a service.

I have notebooks by the phone and notebooks for the grocery lists.

And finally, I have a stack of notebooks, mostly gifts, just blank and waiting for me to need them for something.

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My stack… Okay, ONE of my stacks.

My calendar that I use most is like a notebook. I buy the same kind every year and use them like a journal. There is a lot of stuff in them. I am always referring to them when I wonder what I was or wasn’t up to on a certain date.

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I love these city datebooks – just the right size. 
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This was such a cool calendar but it’s for last year 2016, so it will be my next purse notebook.       It has lines. It will work. 

 

I am glad that I write in my notebooks, but there is a strange phenomenon because of the habit. Once I’ve written something down, I often put it out of mind. That is why I like to go back and read my notebooks from years ago.  Sometimes when paging through an old notebook I say to myself, “who wrote this?” It looks so foreign that I wonder if someone else used my notebook. It’s a pain to have to figure out if I was quoting someone or being original. For this reason, I have a final tip for all notebook lovers. When you write, be sure to put the full date of your writing and credit those you quote.

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My present favorites.

Do you carry a notebook?

 

Where in my mind am I?

I was very tired last night.  I fell asleep in the chair watching tv and decided it was crazy to waste sleepiness on a chair.  I would go to bed where I so often wish I was sleepy and am not.  I got ready for bed and got in, turned out the light.  As I was lying there and my body was getting numb to it’s surroundings, as I lay quietly behind my closed eyelids waiting for sleep, I suddenly could not remember whether I was in the chair thinking about being in bed, or in bed thinking about being in the chair. Weird things happen in that space between awake and asleep.

The worst part was, I had to get up and go write down what it was like because I knew I’d forget it if I didn’t.  By then I was wide awake again and stayed up too late like usual.  The mind is a crazy place, just sayin’…

Anything like that ever happen to you?

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It started here, in my chair.

Well, Imagine That!

It is cold chilly here in Florida today. We get a few days like this every year and although I like to be able to go outside without breaking into a sweat, I often use the temperature drop as an excuse to stay inside more.  But as I’ve written, I’ve been riding my bike lately and have actually been knitting a hat to keep my ears warm during my morning adventures.  I’m going out, cold weather or not.  I am encouraged and inspired by a blogger I’ve started following at www.bikelikecrazy.com.  My five miles in the sunshine doesn’t measure up to her daily 10 mile commute to work in snow and ice (yes, she does that).

I’m also thinking a lot about my imagination, which needs exercise as much as my body does.  It is a good thing to be totally present in the here and now, which is where I feel I have been for quite a long time.  Doing life, dealing with its circumstances and spending time with the people accessible to me, has been my focus.  Writing about life takes time and imagination, and has not been my focus.  I haven’t been writing.  The few things I’ve cranked out have been a struggle and I’ve not gotten much satisfaction from them.  I’ve told myself that this is probably a stage to be expected.  I should not be upset with it, but I should expect it to pass.

So, in my imagination I am writing a book, a very satisfying book.  It begins with people living ordinary lives, but with a sense of calling or higher purpose.  This sense carries them through difficulties of all kinds, and grief unspeakable at times.  This sense frames their everyday activities in a meaningful way.  It makes them examine every relationship with others with a keen eye as to what might be happening. The enduring quality of this “sense” means it is picked up by their children, and their children’s children.

Some of this I do not have to imagine because it is contained in the diaries and personal letters of my ancestors.  I am thankful for their attention to recording what they experienced. The things they have written have made a difference to me – one person, many generations later.  The thought that one person in the future might be encouraged by something I write is reason enough for me to be diligent.  My imaginative effort does not have to include fame, book deals and sequels in order for me to want to do the work.  However, it also doesn’t hurt to imagine those things since they are pretty safe there and it gives me practice not fearing them.

Someone in times past was inspired to write “now to the one who can do infinitely more than all we can ask or imagine according to the power that is working among us”.  I think that inspiration came from a God who wanted us to imagine not just mediocre, impoverished imaginings, but big, creative and challenging ones.  Practice in doing that is what I need, and a good time to do it is while I’m on my bike.

I’m putting on my hat and getting to it. WIN_20160207_120517

Mind – a four letter word…

I happened upon lindaghill’s Stream of Consciousness Saturday with the word “mind” as a prompt. http://lindaghill.com/2015/08/21/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-august-2215/  I have not linked to something of this kind before so we’ll see how it goes.

What it brought to MIND was the way people around me seem to be in fear of losing theirs.  One example is the husband, who is always shaking his head over something he’s forgotten he did.  He makes notes at work so he can look back and remember.  He looks at the notes and can’t believe he wrote them.

So I forget things too, and I have to say I forget things more than I used to.  Sometimes I am talking and I know what I intend to say but I can’t think of the word I want to use.  I can try to say the thought in a different way, but I want that one word.  I know I’ve used it many times and it is a friend of mine but it won’t come out.  I used to never remember the word for this awesome flower, hydrangea, and I would mull it over for a couple hours…” what is that word, what is that word, I think it starts with C, no J, no G, no…” and then I fixed the problem by calling it water flower because I can associate water with hydro and  *presto!* it pops into my MIND.

And I have trouble remembering what kind of dog Charlie is.  I can always remember terrier but not the specific kind.  Conquered that too, it’s Wheaten.  And he is the color of wheat so will I forget it? No, it just takes me a couple seconds to remember what to call his color.  He is not a Beige Terrier, or an OffWhite Terrier.  I’m confusing myself.

And so what if I remember to lock the door but leave the key in the lock on the outside.  I don’t know how a person does that but I’m sure it’s because I get distracted with all the things on my MIND.

I have had several clients with Alzheimer’s  and that is indeed something to fear.  Whatever it is that messes with their minds is really an enemy and I have deep compassion for people who lose family members to that disease.  My mom always says that she hopes if she gets it she won’t be upset because she won’t remember being any other way.  I hope if I get Alzheimers I will do it in a happy way, and everyone I am with will be like meeting a new friend every time I see them.  That would be lovely.

Hey we all forget. And we forget more as we age.  But we don’t forget everything and I’m praying about it, thinking that it’s just one more thing under God’s control.  If I’m his servant, then I’m his problem and he can figure out what to do with me.  I don’t MIND.

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Maybe you would like to do a SoCS post? If so, here are the rules and the link to use is in my first paragraph.

1. Your post must be stream of consciousness writing, meaning no editing, (typos can be fixed) and minimal planning on what you’re going to write.

2. Your post can be as long or as short as you want it to be. One sentence – one thousand words. Fact, fiction, poetry – it doesn’t matter. Just let the words carry you along until you’re ready to stop.

3. There will be a prompt every week. I will post the prompt here on my blog on Friday, along with a reminder for you to join in. The prompt will be one random thing, but it will not be a subject. For instance, I will not say “Write about dogs”; the prompt will be more like, “Make your first sentence a question,” “Begin with the word ‘The’,” or simply a single word to get your started.

4. Ping back! It’s important, so that I and other people can come and read your post! For example, in your post you can write “This post is part of SoCS:” and then copy and paste the URL found in your address bar at the top of this post into yours.  Your link will show up in my comments for everyone to see. The most recent pingbacks will be found at the top.

5. Read at least one other person’s blog who has linked back their post. Even better, read everyone’s! If you’re the first person to link back, you can check back later, or go to the previous week, by following my category, “Stream of Consciousness Saturday,” which you’ll find right below the “Like” button on my post.

6. Copy and paste the rules (if you’d like to) in your post. The more people who join in, the more new bloggers you’ll meet and the bigger your community will get!

7. As a suggestion, tag your post “SoCS” and/or “#SoCS” for more exposure and more views.

8. Have fun!

Learning through the 2015 A to Z Challenge

There are two aspects to what I’ve learned. The first is about the value of a writing challenge. Without the challenge I probably wouldn’t have learned that I can write six times a week for four weeks on my blog without dying, not even close. It’s this kind of discipline that I will have to ascribe to if I ever want to write, oh, a book perhaps… You don’t know until you try, and now I know I can do this and probably more.

The second thing of note came through the theme I chose, that of recording family stories. Memory alone can not be relied upon to preserve a record of meaningful events. Some things have to be written down in a record or they will be forgotten or remembered wrongly/imperfectly. Reflecting on things as they happen also helps cement events and lessons learned in one’s mind. That’s why this reflection I’m doing now on the challenge is helping me. I’m giving what I’ve learned some structure and planning how to use it in the future.

And speaking of the future, one realization that makes me sad is that I do not remember ever sitting down and having a one on one conversation with any of my four brothers when we were young. I find that really strange, since we enjoy talking with each other now. We lived our lives watching each other but I can’t recall the challenges they went through growing up, nor do I think I shared my ups and downs with them. We were only two years apart from each other. Was that difference so much that we couldn’t identify, or was I just too busy and wrapped up in myself to notice them. Now I am eager to record some of our conversations, the subjects of them and what we thought. I’m sure this will prove interesting in the future as our thinking evolves and we ourselves change and grow (old).

And of course it goes without saying that I respect and am thankful for the community of writers that I’ve met, whether seasoned in the craft or new to it. What we do together and for each other is important. Thank you all.

To all of you who moderated, administered the rules and checked up on us – you did such a good job!  It really helped to know that you were watching and reading, as well as doing your own writing.  You rock!