Saturday, December 15, 2012

Partridge, Pear Tree, Turtledoves and Tittino

Day 1 and Day 2 of 12

I have neither a partridge in pear tree nor two turtle doves.  And I would not consider either to be a fabulous gift. In case you had any ideas.
But it is symbolic of the "counting down" toward Christmas..

If you have been tracking with me for any time, you know two things. I am motivated by a set number of days or projects. October - 31 Days to Being a Real Writer. November - 30 Days of Gratitude. 12 Days of Christmas. I don't always fulfill each day, but I like the concept.

The other thing you know is that I have been absent for a time. There have been many factors. The biggest one is that sometimes my gift is shut down by difficulties.
Sometimes, the frustration that comes from a 3 year unresolved challenge has been responsible.
And other times life is just painful beyond words.

Let me tell you about one of the best men who ever lived...
 Giambattista Andreassi and his family moved from Italy to Brady's Bend, PA  when he was eighteen months old. He lived the rest of his life in a ten mile radius of his first home. He married Joanne, a woman from the same town.

People called him Tittino or JB or Greaser or Papa or Dad. I called him Uncle John. He called me Bessanne.

Every person who crossed paths with John Andreassi is better for it.  I never heard him say a bad word about anyone. Never. Truly.
And it would shock me to find anyone who had a negative word about him.

In 1951, John and Joanne bought a tiny house and three oil wells.  They added on to the house, raised seven kids there. They bought more oil wells. John worked a second job. Joanne was a substitute rural mail carrier.
They were never featured in a national magazine or on a reality show.
Not glamorous by any standards.

He loved this country and was fond of saying that in the United States a person could be whatever he or she wanted to be - all it took was hard work. He certainly knew about that.  
In time, the oil company grew to the point of being able to sustain his family. But that meant being willing to answer calls and make repairs at all hours and on any day. No customer went without gas because he was tired or it was a holiday. Not even the year he was called out on Christmas and his kids sat and waited for his return before opening gifts.

He was a devout Catholic. Many times, in the face of tragedy or heartbreak, I heard him say, "Whatever the Lord wants - that's how my life will be...whatever the Lord wants." And he lived those words.

Still, if you ask me the first thing that comes into my head about Uncle John, it is this: He loved his family so much. You might say, "Of course he loved his kids- what good man doesn't?" And he did love his kids, and their spouses, and his grandkids.
But it was the depth to which he adored Joanne-ee (his name for her) that sticks in my mind.

My Aunt Joanne was a wonderful lady. I spent at least one week every summer at the Andreassi home, and she treated me like one of her own. I loved her dearly.
She had an abundance of gifts and graces. Being easy wasn't one of them.
But John thought she was the best ever. For him, there was no one like Joanne-ee.  It was evident to all who knew him.
Five years ago, after she passed very suddenly, I stood beside her casket with my arm through his, and he said, "Look at her, Bessanne - isn't she beautiful!" Others have told me he said the same to them on different occasions.
Her passing hit him hard, took a bite out of his spirit. But he never complained, never bemoaned his fate, never cursed fate.
He went on living.
He had a family he loved.
His integrity and kind spirit had fostered a great and wide circle of friends and business acquaintances. He had obligations at the Sons of Italy club in Brady's Bend.
He went on living.

Last summer his garden had 103 tomato plants. He had learned to make homemade pasta noodles and sauce - that had always been Joanne-ee's job. When he entered the hospital in late October, there was one batch of sauce left to make.
Instead, on November 26, he went to be with Joanne-ee, with his parents and brother.

He left a giant hole.

It has been hard to write. Impossible.
I knew this had to be the first blog I wrote, but the words were hidden under grief and tears. Not just mine, but the grief I see on the faces of my beloved cousins, the sadness I hear in their voices.

But we are counting down to Christmas...and he would want us to go on living.
We know he is where he wants to be. With Joanne-ee. With the others he has missed so much. With the Savior whose birth we celebrate.

Our hearts are torn open...but he would remind us that our lives are in the Lord's hands.
And he would urge us to go on living.

Ten days left in the countdown.
Finally I am able to write again.

Thanks, Uncle John. Give Aunt Joanne a kiss for me.
We'll see you both later.

Time to go on living.

Day 3 brings French hens - no idea what to do with them!

We will talk tomorrow...


Saturday, November 24, 2012

SURPRISE, Scaring people, and 30 days of Gratitude

Day 14
Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I still like to surprise people by staying out of sight - fine, call it hiding if you must - then saying BOO when they come close.
It is silly, but always brings a laugh. From me anyway. And people fall for it over and over. Perhaps they think I will grow up some day? HA!
Life is full of surprises, isn't it?
Lots of bad surprises, challenging ones, debilitating ones.
You've had those, haven't you?
So have I.
But then there are the sweet surprises...
Big surprises like a healthy baby when pregnancy seemed unlikely. An unexpected check when the bank account was empty. The return of an estranged family member.
Small surprises like a kind note from a friend. An unseasonably warm and sunny day. One more bloom from the rose bush.
It is of great interest to me to note that the more gratitude I have, the more likely I am to stumble on nice surprises. Coinkydink? Nah.
Try it for yourself.
Gratitude opens a door, and draws happy thoughts, new friends, renewed energy, all sorts of things that brighten your life.
Just for today, do your best to smile, say thanks for all the blessings you have, be kind - you will be surprised by the effect it has on your world. One of the surprises may even change your life!
November is a month of gratitude...will you join me?
We will talk again tomorrow...

SURPRISE, Scaring people, and 30 days of Gratitude

Day 14
Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but I still like to surprise people by staying out of sight - fine, call it hiding if you must - then saying BOO when they come close.
It is silly, but always brings a laugh. From me anyway. And people fall for it over and over. Perhaps they think I will grow up some day? HA!
Life is full of surprises, isn't it?
Lots of bad surprises, challenging ones, debilitating ones.
You've had those, haven't you?
So have I.
But then there are the sweet surprises...
Big surprises like a healthy baby when pregnancy seemed unlikely. An unexpected check when the bank account was empty. The return of an estranged family member.
Small surprises like a kind note from a friend. An unseasonably warm and sunny day. One more bloom from the rose bush.
It is of great interest to me to note that the more gratitude I have, the more likely I am to stumble on nice surprises. Coinkydink? Nah.
Try it for yourself.
Gratitude opens a door, and draws happy thoughts, new friends, renewed energy, all sorts of things that brighten your life.
Just for today, do your best to smile, say thanks for all the blessings you have, be kind - you will be surprised by the effect it has on your world. One of the surprises may even change your life!
November is a month of gratitude...will you join me?
We will talk again tomorrow...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Words with Friends, Cancer and 30 Days of Gratitude

Day 13

One in three...1 in 3. Strong odds. And not good when the subject is cancer.
Today, my dear friend Nancy finished 30 days of radiation for a recurrence of ovarian cancer. She had endured chemotherapy during the summer.
Cancer is ugly. The treatment can be ugly as well. But today was the conclusion of treatment.  Today, at the end of this game, the score stands: Nancy- 2, Cancer- 0!
Certainly reason to celebrate and be grateful for God's provision.

I don't know how it feels to have cancer. But, twice, I have walked this road with Nancy.
So I do know the power of prayer.
I know the comfort that comes from a note, a call, a meal, a hundred other gestures.
I have seen how touched Nancy has been by this kindness from friends and church family.

As a writer, I spend much time reading, being moved by the words of other writers, seeking inspiration in every situation, every normal moment of the day.
Sometimes that comes from best-selling authors, from obscure authors, from the Bible.
Sometimes it comes from a conversation I hear, a life I glimpse for just a moment.

Very often, inspiration and strength for the day comes from friends who may or may not know it.
Today, from Barb - Struggling is God's way of getting us to pay attention, since we are more alert when we're needy. It's quite humbling, really. 
And from Tricia - Life is hard Beth, isn't it? And then, it is suddenly wonderful....

Today was a day of celebration - for that I am grateful
Words from beloved friends sharpened my focus. For that I am even more grateful.

What sharpened your focus today?

November is a month of gratitude...will you join me?

We will talk again tomorrow.

Monday, November 12, 2012

Cuisinart, Irritation and 30 Days of Gratitude

Day 12
Jumping back into the blog pool after missing two days. The only person who chastises me for missing days is, well, me! The world of blogging, and the world in general, keeps turning if I tune out for a couple days.
Yeah, grateful for that.
And Cuisinart Customer Service did not hear from me today. Very grateful for that.
Here is the back story. I have a Cuisinart coffee maker - Grind and Brew to be specific. A year or so after purchase, it became impossible to remove the grinder for cleaning. Actually, it toyed with us for some time. Minor struggles one day, no struggle for two days, huge struggle one day, repeat. Finally it just wouldn't come out at all. I called Cuisinart to register this frustration, albeit with no expectation since the machine was more than a year old. To my surprise, the representative offered to send a replacement machine at no cost! It seemed likely this was a known issue Cuisinart was trying to correct. "Trying" being the operative word.
The new machine is just over a year old and - you guessed it - the grinder won't come out.
This has been coming on, as it did last time. But today was not a day to mess with me.
Several people I love are struggling with illness. So many other folks I know are hurting - emotionally, financially, in relationships. Lots of pain all around - and in my face today.
So no, I wasn't in the mood for a stubborn grinder. I was very determined to get that sucker out. VERY determined. Pulled. Grunted. Pulled harder. Unplugged the pot and put it on the floor. Tried sliding a knife under to pry it off. Pulled with both hands. Said unpleasant things.
Then I noticed the dogs were sitting in the doorway with the "someone is in trouble" look on their faces.
And suddenly, I was grateful.
Grateful for the wisdom of dogs.
Grateful I didn't have to look up Cuisinart's phone number, wait on hold, have my anger multiply with every minute of being on hold.
Grateful for a matured spirit that tells me coffee pots aren't worth the energy anger requires.
Grateful for a willingness to relax, use ground coffee, buy a new coffee pot soon...and know that none of that will change the world one way or the other. It just isn't important enough to matter for more than a minute.
How about you? Have you had a moment like this?
I hope so. Very freeing. Light-bringing. Soul-opening.
November...a month of gratitude. Will you join me?
We will talk again tomorrow.

Friday, November 9, 2012

Struggling, Remembering and 30 Days of Gratitude

Day 9

The bright sunshine reminded me that today I can be grateful for the abundant grace and mercy showering my life daily.

Good thing, because I am not feeling much gratitude today.
At all.

Have you been there?

I know...people recovering from  a hurricane...people with end stage disease...people in warzones...many people with bigger problems.
I KNOW. I do.

But the situation with which I have been struggling for 3 years is pressing down hard. I am weary to the bone.

Have you been there?

Every day I wake up with hope of resolution. Sometimes it lasts most of the day before disappointment sets in. Other days, like today, I find out very early about another delay, another setback, no resolution.
It isn't the worst problem in the world. But it is sucking the energy out of me.

Have you been there?

So I make myself breath properly.
I look at the blue sky.
I pet my dog.
I am delighted to unexpectedly cross paths with a dear friend.
And I hold as tightly as possible to this knowledge: Whatever report a day brings, Jesus can override it.
Eventually - in HIS time - all will be well. This too shall pass.

I am grateful for that - and for the grace and mercy sustaining me until then.
Gratitude in spite of circumstances...
Have you been there?  

November...30 days of gratitude. Will you join me?

We will talk again soon...

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Michael Jackson, Change..and 30 Days of Gratitude

Day 8

Two days after the fact, and the noise is slowly beginning to subside. Over-enthusiastic people whose candidates won, Chicken Littles whose candidates lost. Madness.

So now what? We all go back to sitting around waiting for politicians to fix things?

Today I am thankful for the ability to affect change in my home, my church, my town, my nation.
How about you?

You want change? So do I. But I am not content to sit around and wait.
Is that what you want?
Waiting for politicians to change has failed us miserably. Yet, we continue to do it, don't we?

And it must stop. Now.
We have the power to change our world. In fact, we are the only ones who have the power.
For that, I am very grateful.

I'm going to make a change for once in my life
It's gonna feel real good
Gonna make a difference, gonna make it right

We complain about jobs going to China. What if we stopped shopping at places like Wal-mart that sell primarily Chinese goods? What if we take the time to seek out products made in the United States?
We make a difference every time we buy Made in America.

We complain about the state of our towns. What if we make more of an effort to patronize local businesses - you know, the ones that are owned by your neighbor... the businesses that pay taxes locally, the neighbors who spend their money in the same grocery stores and gas stations you do...the neighbors who send their children to local schools and sit behind you at church?
We can make huge differences in our local economy, one purchase, one meal at a time.

We rage about government assistance programs. Is there any way we can affect change in this area? Well, we could continue to make and/or repeat nasty remarks about "those people" being lazy and good-for-nothing and unproductive members of society. We could continue to assume we know why they need help. We self-righteously declare that we would never be in a similar situation.

But what if we started a grass roots movement in our towns to understand, to determine the best way to help? I hear people say we should simply stop all government assistance and let churches and social groups pick up the slack. What if we were so successful at helping people climb out the hole that assistance become unnecessary for many families?  We can do that - one coat, one meal, one GED, one job at a time.

As I turned up the collar on my favorite winter
This wind is blowin' my mind
I see the kids in the street with not enough to eat
Who am I to be blind, pretending not to see their need?

We rage even more rabidly about services like Planned Parenthood. We throw nasty labels at women, assuming we know exactly how they feel, what their circumstances are.
What if we reached out, held out our hands instead of holding nasty signs? There are pregnancy resource centers in many towns. Most of them are privately funded. Have you ever donated money or time?  
Signs will never change anyone's mind. Legislation will never change anyone's mind. Love can change minds, one young woman at a time.

A willow deeply scarred, somebody's broken heart
And a washed out dream
They follow the pattern of the wind ya see
'Cause they got no place to be that's why I'm starting with me

You might be thinking these ideas are simplistic. I'm sure they are.
You might be saying, "Who is this hippie who thinks each of us can change a small part of the world?"
Maybe you are right.

But what if we can make changes?
What if turning our great nation around is up to us- not politicians, not corporations, not Wall Street but US?

Gratefully I say:
I'm starting with the man in the mirror...I'm asking him to change his ways
And no message could have been any clearer
If you wanna make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that change  

November - 30 Days of Gratitude. Will you join me?

We will talk again tomorrow...

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

My ruler...Whining...and 30 Days of Gratitude

Nov 7

Today is rather direct.
I am thankful to live in the greatest country in the world.
But I am more thankful for a secure future. Not because of who occupies the White House. Not EVER for that reason.

I believe my life is in the Hands of One far more powerful than any human being. I believe He always has the best in store for me. I believe He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, and has all the resources I need to live an abundant life. No man can take that away.

How about you?
If you are a Christian, I am wondering why you are bemoaning your fate this morning? Why are you whining and being a sore loser?
If you are a Christian, the President does not control your life.

If your beliefs don't line up exactly with mine, there is still good news.
YOU alone control your destiny.
Not your family. Not the hand you were dealt. Not your current station in life.
NOT the government. MY GOODNESS - not the government.
I am grateful that I can CHOOSE where my attention and efforts go.
I can CHOOSE my attitude.
I can CHOOSE where my life goes.

You can too. Do you believe it?
If you don't like your life, change it. Determine your own destiny.

Gratitude opens doors.
Gratitude clears your path.   
Gratitude is a multiplier of everything good in your life.

And be very sure that lack of gratitude does just the opposite.

I give all praise and honor and gratitude to the God who made me and saves me.
He has made me GLAD.

I hope you are or will come to be full of gratitude.
Not "because" of spite of everything.

November...30 Days of gratitude. Will you join me?

C'mon - get HAPPY!!!

We will talk again soon...

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Van Morrison, Sugar, and 30 Days of Gratitude

Day 3

Today I am grateful for laughter. And Trick or Treat. And college football. And good music.  And ice cream.
All which made my day better, in spite of some darkness.

This week has been filled with no resolution to my ongoing issue, daily 100 mile trips with a loved one who is receiving radiation, visits to another hospital to see a beloved uncle, images of Hurricane Sandy all over the news, political nastiness...bad vibes all around.

But I laughed with several family members today - always a good day, even in a hospital!

And my Nittany Lions won again  - always cause for celebration.

And how can anyone not dance, even in the car, when this comes on:

Well, it's a marvelous night for a moondance with the stars up above in your eyes...
You know the night's magic seems to whisper and hush
And all the soft moonlight seems to shine in your blush

See, you're smiling, aren't you??  

And goblins and Super Heroes and ghosts and skeletons came to my door this evening for candy, leaving giggles as a trade-off. One kind of sugar for another!

AND I still have almost 2 quarts of the best Butter Pecan ice cream in the world. More sugar!! Strict rationing is in effect as it must last until March. But even a spoonful is wonderful!

This hasn't been the best week. 
Gratitude is still my choice.
How about you?
Will you choose gratitude in spite of, rather than because of?

November - 30 Days of Gratitude...will you join me?

We will talk tomorrow...

Friday, November 2, 2012

Spewing, Smoldering and A Month of Gratitude

Day Two of  a Month of Gratitude

If you have been tracking with me for any time, you know I am waiting for resolution to a long-standing issue. LONG-standing.
There was reason to hope the resolution would come this week. Every day waking up with hope. Every day disappointed.
The delay this morning hit me hard because now we must wait until Monday. I was intentioanlly wallowing in my frustration, verbalizing, acting out...

And I heard the whisper in my ear...GRATITUDE?
Deep breath.

So, on Day 2, I am thankful for the acquired ability to control myself!
Acquired ability. My natural wiring likes to wallow and/or act out. That circuitry has been reinforced by people close to me. "I can't help it - that's just how I am" was something I wore proudly.

How about you? Is your natural inclination to spew, stomp, show your frustration loud and clear?
Or maybe you are inclined, instead, to stew? You appear to handle things well, even tell others they should not get so upset. But inside the anger is smoldering, just waiting to explode.

Acquired ability.
Years of prayer, meditation, steps and missteps, concerted effort.
And here is the hardest part: accepting the responsibility. Understanding that much of our emotional turmoil is self-inflicted.

Initially, I didn't like that much.
How about you? Are you excited about taking ownership of your emotions? 

You should be. Owning your emotions is one of the most freeing choices you can make.
Freedom from the results of immediate spewing. Freedom from the delayed results of smoldering. Freedom for loved ones. Freedom.

I am not perfect. Self-infliction still occurs - like it did this morning.
BUT I recognize it quickly. I pull myself out.  
My world is drastically better for it.

How about you? How would your world change if you owned your emotions? Dealt with them quickly and honestly?

I would love to hear your thoughts.

November - a month of gratitude. Will you join me?

We will talk again tomorrow...

Thursday, November 1, 2012

30 days of Gratitude...Join me?

Well, October is passed us. I participated in a writing project in October, and while I did not write every single day, it was a worthy venture. I learned much, including that I am, indeed, a REAL writer! On days I didn't write, there was a noticeable hole. 
Writing is not just something I enjoy - it is something I must do. Like singing, writing is an extension of my soul. Good lesson.

Now birthday, Thanksgiving, my birthday, the start of Christmas madness, and did I mention my birthday?
Gratitude is a resounding theme for this month. You may have seen other writers dedicating their blogs to 30 Days of Being Thankful. Add mine to the list.

On this first day of the month, I am grateful for the reinforcement of just how much writing means to mean.
How about you?
I hope you will join me and think about gratitude for the next 29 days.

We will talk again tomorrow...Until then, ponder these words from hymn writer Martin Rinkart:

Now thank we all our God,with heart and hands and voices,
who wondrous things has done,in whom this world rejoices;
who from our mothers' arms has blessed us on our way
with countless gifts of love, and still is ours today.


Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Christmas planning and 31 Days to Being a Real Writer

Day 23.

That's right - October 23. So quickly.
We are already being bombarded by Christmas commercials and merchandise. UGH

Remember when you knew you would just DIE if you didn't get that toy, game, electronic gadget?
Remember when you knew you would just DIE if someone in the office gave you a gift and you didn't have one to give in return?
Remember when you knew you would just DIE if you didn't have the right clothes for the Christmas Dance, the Christmas office bash, the party at the wealthy church family's home?  

Yeah, I remember too...silly thoughts

But here is what I know to be true: No matter where we live, we all pass people every single day who have desperate needs. We learn to look through people, to steel ourselves. Sometimes we tell ourselves they are lazy, comfortable in their "entitlements" and beyond help.

And know this: behind every adult we scorn for not pulling his or her own weight, there are almost always kids.
Innocent kids. With no voice.
Maybe they don't attend your child's school. But they exist somewhere within your reach.
Do you really see them? 
Do you have any idea how desperate life can be when one or both of your parents is a substance abuser, or a child abuser?
Do you ever stop to imagine how hard life is when your single-parent works two jobs, still can't put food on the table, and is never around just to be Mom or Dad?
Do you have any idea how much you wouldn't care about spelling or algebra when you didn't have a blanket on your bed, or a coat to wear, or breakfast?

No matter what your feelings about "entitlements" are, NO child deserves to have a lousy life.

Think about it. 
What would happen if every one of us redirected 25% of our Christmas spending?
What if we choose not to buy for the relative who has everything?
What if we choose not to participate in Secret Santa, choose not to buy a co-worker another coffee mug or Starbucks gift card?
What if we choose to limit what our kids found under the tree (is it REALLY necessary to have every device Apple makes??) and, as a family, shopped for a kid who may not even get an apple.

You're right...some people spend their assistance money unwisely.
THAT ISN'T THE FAULT OF THEIR CHILDREN. Yes, I am yelling about that.

Kids need coats. They need decent clothes - more than one pair of jeans, more than 2 shirts. They need shoes that fit and don't have holes.
Mostly, they need to know someone - anyone - cares.    

Are you foolish enough to not consider the societal impact of a kid with no coat, insufficient shoes, nothing but junk food? 
Those kids become teenagers who learn how to take what they don't have. Those teenagers become adults lacking in education and job skills...and the cycle repeats.

Opportunities abound. Coat drives, mittens/gloves/hat trees, Angel trees with all the information you need - sizes, favorite color, coveted toy.
You won't need to look far. It won't be hard fact, it may be the most fun you have during this Christmas season!

What if we all decided to be grateful, then be generous?
What if we teach our kids to understand how blessed they are, then SHOW them how to be generous?

What if you changed ONE kid's life? And your co-worker changed ONE kid's life? And your church changed 200 kids' lives?

What if we start a revolution of kindness and caring in our towns?

You say, what if it doesn't matter? 
But what if it does?

Will you join me?

I would love to hear your ideas!

We will talk again soon...

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Hibiscus, Road Blocks and 31 Days to being a Real Writer

Day 16

I moved my plants indoors last week.  Now the hibiscus is dropping its leaves.
The first year I had the tree, the dropping alarmed me. Hibiscus is temperamental anyway, and I thought  it surely must be dying. Now I know better - so the leaf shedding is simply annoying as I attempt to get them off the floor before the cat eats them or the dog crumbles them trying to decide if they are a new toy.  

The leaves will continue to drop until the tree is completely bare. Think Charlie Brown's Christmas tree. It will stay that way for a month or so, then slowly...slowly...the leaves start to come back.

I also separated and transplanted some African Violets. A bit concerned about those because they were my Grandma's. She died in 1984, so these plants are at least 30 years old.

So when I started writing this piece, the focus was a bit melancholy. Boo hoo that's me, feel like I am dropping all my leaves and being stuck in new places waaa waaa.
I generally form ideas in my head, roll them around awhile, then start to write. But somewhere between walking past the plants on my way out to do errands and returning to my computer two hours later, the focus changed.

Maybe, just maybe, leaf dropping is what I need. New soil inspiring new root growth is what I need.

I feel like the Grinch when he discovered Christmas doesn't come from a store!  

There are dreams running through my head constantly. Big dreams. Visions I have for my life. Changes I am determined to make.
How about you? Have you thought about your dreams lately?

There has always been something that I can put in my own way. Long ago I acquired a skill for putting junk in the way to block my path. Then I can point to the block and say, "See, that's why I do or do not _____."  Blame the junk in the way. Easier than correcting the problem.

You probably don't do that, do you? Didn't think so.

It feels like the storm I have been navigating for three years has killed every leaf I have. Maybe it has. Maybe my branches are soon to be bare. Maybe I have been uprooted and dropped in new soil.
Maybe SO WHAT??

Maybe I need to stop  worrying about the leaves that are dropping and think about the new leaves.  Stop worrying about moving out of the old pot and grow some new roots
A new level of fitness.
New business ventures.
New eating habits.
New levels of spiritual maturity.
New ways to help others.
Lots of new roots seeking different nourishment.
Lots of new leaves which I will never see as long as I am focused on keeping the old ones.
I am not like a tree. I can choose to hang on to the dead leaves.   
So can you.

So what will we do? Hang on to the leaves? Mourn their falling?
What if we gather and dispose of them? Not worry about whywhywhy they are falling or how we can stop it or what happens next?

Let's do that. Are you in? Will you join me?

We will talk again tomorrow...after more leaves fall
BP :)

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Father Hopfko, My Dog's Faith and 31 Days to Being a Real Writer

Day 14

If you have been tracking with me for any amount of time, you know I have been working through Father Thomas Hopko's 55 Maxims for Christian Living. The project began because it occurs to me that what non-believers or unchurched believers see in those of us who regularly attend church has a lot to do with their choice to stay away.
So I am traveling through Fr Hopko's list, looking at my life and at what I see in others.

Today we look at #4: Say the Lord’s Prayer several times each day

In the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus is warning against grandiose prayers which attempt to draw attention to the pray-er. He gives his Disciples a simple verse to use instead.
It is truly a perfect prayer. Covers all the bases beautifully.

But when was the last time you recited it slowly, really listened to the words?

Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed by Thy name
Hallowed is an uncommon word. Jesus is telling us that the One to whom we pray is sacred and unlike any other, not to be trivialized or used for any purpose we contrive.  God and our belief in Him are not tools we can use against others.
Excellent word for current times.

Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven
Pastor Rob spoke this morning about the Kingdom of God being a state in which God's will is carried out as it should be, in the way God plans. He went on to mention that every part of creation lives within the Kingdom of God, except human beings. Everywhere else in the Universe, every other species of plant and animal, bows to the authority of God, except humans.
Think about it.

Give us this day our daily bread
I am watching my dog sleep beside me right now. She has no concern about not eating tomorrow. Her belly is full, she is ready for bed, and thoughts about tomorrow will not ruin her sleep.
Wouldn't that be a great way to live?

Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us
Okay, this is a tough one. What we should read in these words is "forgive me in the very same way I forgive others"...and that seems harsh. We like grudges. We cling to hurts people have put on us. We want forgiveness but don't want to forgive.
Except it doesn't work that way.

Lead us not into temptation but deliver us from evil
Pretty much sums up my cry each day. Keep me out of trouble, rescue me when I wander off the trail.
Seems that Father Hopko is on to something here.
I am making a commitment to reciting this prayer at least three times every day for the rest of October.
And listening to the words as I say them, either in my head or aloud
Will you join me?
Who knows...we might start a revolution as a result!

We will talk again tomorrow...

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Pruning, Perspective and 31 Days to Being a Real Writer

Day 13
Beautiful Saturday. Great day to do yard work.
I am grateful to have a lovely yard and the physical ability to maintain it. That is a huge blessing and I know it.
Yard work is a pleasant way for me to enjoy the sun, play in the dirt, enjoy having the dogs running around me.
Spring clean-up is nice because it signals the beginning of nice weather. Summer maintenance is tolerable because the gardens look so nice when they are clean and weed-free.
October chores are different. Pruning, separating perennials, moving some plants inside...none of that says "FUN" to me.

Perhaps it is because the season is ending. Cutting the gardens down to nothing and knowing they will soon be covered with snow gives me no satisfaction. Necessary change of seasons blah blah. It still isn't fun.

That is the mindset I had when I headed out today.
Somewhere in the sun and clippings and barking, my perspective changed.

Certainly the clean, albeit bare, gardens look better than they did filled with brown leaves and dead stems.
So maybe I am like that too? No maybes about it. I need to be pruned and I look better when it is done.
How about you?

Isn't it interesting that when plants are growing wild, we prune them to get the growth under control - and when plants aren't growing, we prune them to encourage new growth.
Pruning - the all around cure.

It works the same way for me.
Sometimes I get out of control. I know, it's hard to believe! My plans, thoughts, energies become scattered.
Pruning is necessary, lest I become like the vinca in my back flower garden - spreading in every direction but producing no flowers, growing in places I don't belong.

Sometimes I get lackadaisical, content with mediocrity...or worse, full of myself, counting on my own strength.
Pruning is necessary, lest I become like my Wandering Jew - stems that hang down and look healthy, but are thin and nearly dead at the root.

How about you? Do you need pruning to stimulate or control?

I am diligent about weeding. It is one of my favorite activities when I am having a blank moment while writing. So imagine my surprise when today's pruning revealed weeds. Big ones that have been there for some time.    
The past three years have been a period of tremendous pruning for me. I often ask God (or demand or scream about) what else I possibly need to give up or learn.
Then another branch comes off and I see a weed.

How about you? Do you learn more in periods of loss? Yeah, most of us do.

I still don't like pruning. There are thorn pricks in two fingers and one thumb is sore because a hard stem shoved itself under the nail. OUCH.
But, at least I have a better perspective. Which is good because I am only half done.
And it seems likely God has more pruning to do on me. Seasonally, just like my flower gardens.

You too, maybe?

We will talk again tomorrow...

During the month of October I am participating in the 31 Days Challenge hosted by the Nester.
And if you want to be sure not to miss any of my posts this month,
you can subscribe to get them emailed to you daily for free!

Friday, October 12, 2012

Missing Grandma and 31 Days to Being a Real Writer

Day 12

On this date 28 years ago, I awoke and prepared for work. The day was much like this one...sunny and crisp.
I was living with my grandmother, as she had congestive heart failure and had suffered a stroke several months earlier.
Thursday had been an unusual one. Grandma wanted to make City Chicken and an apple pie. She called my cousin Kathy and my Mom to invite them for supper. She hadn't wanted to cook for months. The meal was delightful, and she enjoyed the company.
Friday morning I checked on her before getting in the shower. She seemed fine.
By the time I was done showering, she was congested, not breathing well at all. If you have been in the presence of someone with CHF, you know the distinctive sound that is made when the patient can't a frantic hiccup...gurgling...a sound I can still hear. I started for the phone to call 9-1-1. She shook her head and motioned for me to come to her side.
I called my aunt who lived across the street. She called for the ambulance, then came to be with us.
For the next few minutes we held her hands, watching her slip from this world to the next.

I was nearly 25, and she had been one of the most significant people in my life. I had lived with her for five months, knowing this would happen at some point, but not really accepting it.
What I had no way of knowing is that 28 years later I would still think of her daily, still hear her voice, still seek her help, still miss her every time I watched the Pirates.

"The Surge" - that's what medical professionals call a day like we had on Thursday. In hindsight, it made sense. October 10 is my grandfather's birthday. In 1984, he had been gone for 31 years, and I'm sure Grandma missed him terribly. I will always believe that as Wednesday Oct 10 passed, she willed herself to have one more good day. On Thursday she cooked, baked, saw several members of her family. And on Friday, she gave up. She was ready to be done with sickness, ready to be with her beloved Joe, just ready.

Grandma despised the condition of her body after the stroke. Unable to walk well, little use of her right/dominant side, spending much of her time attached to an oxygen tank. She wasn't silent about her unhappiness. At the  age of 24, I sometimes took that personally, felt she didn't appreciate my help. Now I understand that it must be difficult to depend on a person whose diapers you once changed.

I didn't take advantage of that time to ask her questions about her life, questions about Grandpa, questions only she could answer. I didn't sit with her as much as I could have.

But there was a lot of sweetness. Listening to her visit with friends. Turning to see her smiling as she listened to me sing old hymns while I cleaned or cooked. Saying, "I love you, Gram" before I went upstairs to bed and hearing her say, "I love you, too, Honey."

Hard to believe it has been 28 years. Seems like a minute...and a lifetime.
It's like that when we miss someone, isn't it?

I think about the depth of my grief at that time. I think about how my perspective has changed.
Death no longer frightens me.
You might read that and think death doesn't faze me, doesn't alter me. Of course it does. I don't want people I love to die. Passing of loved ones rips at my heart, but it doesn't shake my foundation. 
Death is not the end that I thought it was in 1984. Do I wish I could sit down to a meal with Grandma, Patty-Jo, Christopher, and other loved ones who have passed? Yes, of course. Would give anything for that chance.
They aren't here to touch, but they aren't gone either.

And what I know for sure is that as we stood at Grandma's bedside watching her go, my grandfather was on the other side waiting with glee.
As we stood at the funeral home, as we wept at the graveside, she was at the banquet table of God, celebrating as she never had before.

In the past three years, as I have traveled through a dark abyss, I have often felt my grandmother very near. I have heard her voice telling me to take another step. I hear her saying everything will be fine.
I know all this will pass...this valley, this difficulty, indeed this life. I know I will see her again. I do know.
Until then, I will continue to miss her.
And each night I will say, "Goodnight, Gram" and I will hear, "I love you too, honey."

We will talk again tomorrow.