Thursday, May 25, 2017


Remember those ads from long ago--the ones with a skinny guy getting sand kicked in his face, and then he uses whatever the ad writer is pushing and becomes a hunk that crushes all opponents?

Or the one that makes me cringe--an overly-endowed female who morphs into a sylph by drinking/eating/imbibing some mysterious chemical substance?

Before - and - After

We're in a season of Before and After right now--I have peony bushes with buds as tight as can be, and behind them, full-out blooms beginning to droop.


Another part of my life is focused on garage sales--two being held the same weekend--one at my Ohio daughter's house, and one in Fort Wayne to benefit my church's food bank. I've been sorting, searching high and low, and hauling stuff out of closets for possible donation. Some empty spaces are visible now. Who'd'a thought?


A different kind of Before & After occurs when I start to make a quilt. Fabrics, either yard goods or precut strips and squares, start out looking like--well, fabric. They have no shape or suggestion of what they'll become. Add a pattern, a good pair of shears, a sewing machine, and a little muscle, and you get a quilt.

Life is full of these transformations--the Before and the After.

People often date their lives by transforming events: "before mom died" or "after I was married." The underlying assumption is that we are changed by an event--the person we were before is different from the one we are afterward.

That notion is evident in our social and political history--after World War II, before the 1960s, before Viet Nam, after 9/11. . . . 

Have you always been the same person? Or did you, like most of us, have transforming events in your life?

Some people call them defining moments--those times when we recognize who we really are. Not sure I always like the person I've become, but that means there's still something else to work on.

Have a blessed week.

My writing desk, after
an extensive cleaning session.

Thursday, May 18, 2017


James Herriot, veterinarian, writes:

"As a child, I was fascinated by dogs and had a burning ambition to be a dog doctor. . . ."

His schooling began in the 1930s, when veterinary medicine concentrated on large animal practice: horses, cows, oxen, the mainstays of animal husbandry on farms of that era. After finishing his education, Herriot went to Yorkshire to practice. And never left. He spent several decades with larger animals; only later could he concentrate his practice on small animals, especially his beloved dogs.


A doctor I know who has been practicing about 25 years counted medical people among her relatives. Along with her early passion for science, she was encouraged to follow her dream of becoming a family practice physician.

A long-time friend recalls his early struggles to settle on a profession. In his teens he was unsure whether medicine would be his life's work (college chemistry decided that question); or perhaps the church. Following college he and his friends enlisted for military service because the U.S. was in the midst of the Korean Conflict. By the time my friend returned from duty, he had decided to study law, and has practiced successfully for 60 years.

I've known more than one member of the clergy who came late to a call to serve God's people through the church. One had been a teacher; another worked in U.S. government offices; a third was a homemaker and teacher.

What is a calling? How do you recognize it?

Dictionary definitions include: an inner urge; a strong impulse. And, an occupation, profession, or career.

Most likely, we all experience some kind of inner urge or strong impulse. It may be for a season--a calling to excel in academics, sports, the arts in our schooling.

It may be for a longer time--such as what parents feel during their children's growing-up years: a need for a good job that helps pay the bills, a sense of the support required for a spouse or child, a safe home for the family.

The sense of a calling may change with our maturing:

--nurturing a young family
--care-giving for older family members

--working at charitable events
--sharing our skills without pay

--directing a large project as a career
--volunteering our skills to benefit a community or organization

You may be one of the lucky, or blessed, ones who hear a distinct call to be/become/do something that is just right for you. If you don't hear that clear voice calling, think about the activities you're drawn to. Are you a leader? Or an assistant? Long-term, short-term? Like to work alone? Or prefer to be part of a group?

What I believe is this: if it's something that you've always wanted to do--no matter what happens--then do it. Here are some further thoughts to ponder: Don't expect it to be problem-free. Don't expect other people to encourage you; or admire you; or help you through tough times.

A calling is for the long haul--the good, the bad, the ugly, the indifferent, even the impossible. Find the Good, as Heather Lende says. 

Thursday, May 11, 2017


As we near the annual Mother's Day celebration, I've been thinking about women who have been "mom" to me throughout my life.

There's first, naturally, my biological mom, whose name was Doris. I was her third child, but the only one who survived beyond a few months. From her I learned several important lessons:
   --put yourself in the other person's place
   --be friendly
   --don't hurt another person's feelings
   --share what you have
   --take care of your belongings

Life for my mom was not easy; she was divorced in a time when such action was frowned upon. She had to work to help support herself and me. We often had to make-do with whatever we had because we couldn't afford another whatever-it-was. I didn't know any of this when it was going on. Much of it became clear when I had children and experienced first hand what it meant to do without or make-do. My mom died when I was 15.

My next mom was my mother-in-law, Vira. She and I just clicked. Her house was where we often met on Friday or Saturday night for pizza--she and I made it while the guys talked in the other room. We were on the same wavelength, Vira and I. If she needed a utensil for use at the stove, I was handing it to her as she turned to ask. She was creative with fabric, liked to read, collected recipes, all of which I related to; and she played bridge with her lady friends, which never appealed to me. (Mainly because I couldn't get my head around the rules and nuances of bridge. Still can't.) She died when I was 27.

Years later I met Treva, one of the pillars of the small country church my family attended. She had one daughter, but apparently longed for a larger family. So she "adopted" all the 30-somethings in that church--boys and girls--as her own. No matter how downhearted we felt during the week, a Sunday morning of Treva's love and acceptance put things right again. Treva lived long enough to see me into my 50s.

By that time, I'd reconciled myself to being the mom, and not having one of my own in the flesh. Then I reconnected with Aunt Virginia, my mom's youngest sister, and the last of the 10 Jenkins children. 

Aunt Virginia had two little boys--who naturally became grown-up men--but she never had little girls of her own. All my female cousins and I were happy to help her out. For several years my oldest daughter and I made an annual trip to Illinois for a weekend with Virginia and "her girls." We visited cemeteries where our great-greats were buried; we shopped at Walmart; we ate one meal out so we could visit with some cousins who couldn't come to the house; we admired Virginia's garden, and ate whatever produce was ripe and ready. Virginia lived a long life, and I was in my 60s when she died.

What is it that defines a "mom"?

Think of the people you know who've adopted children--are they any less a mom (or dad) because they aren't the biological parent?

Think of the women (since we're talking about moms today) who never married, but who spent their lives in service to children, young people, and adults: teachers, nurses and doctors, social workers, day-care people. . . .

Here's a partial list of characteristics I associate with moms:

--they care
--they want the best for you
--they laugh or cry with you
--they think of you often (you know this because they tell
   you they do)
--they have wisdom, in spades, from years of living longer
   than you have
--they share: ideas, advice, money, material goods, their physical help
--they let you make your own mistakes (they made theirs, and 
   learned from them)
--they let you go when they'd rather keep you safely with them, and 
   they keep you when you've no place to go

Make yourself a list. It will be based on how you've come to know the woman or women you call "mom."

Then take some time each day to give thanks for "mom." 

Thursday, May 4, 2017


It's May, right?
The month that follows April, right?
And April showers bring May flowers--right?

In my little corner of the world, April showers bring May showers.

Pick a week--any week--and I'll tell you we had at least three, maybe four, straight days of rain.

So--when life gives you lemons, you make lemonade, right?

We got rain. We're gonna do rain today.

Note to self: Buy cute boots today.
Rain songs:

     Singin' in the Rain

     Rainy Days and Mondays

     Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head

Thank you, Pollyanna, for positive thoughts.

     Into Each Life Some Rain Must Fall

     Come Rain or Come Shine

     I Get the Blues When it Rains

Advice from a naturalist

     September (in the Rain)

Worth thinking about

     Rainy Night in Georgia
     Rain, Rain, Go Away

     Cats don't sing much (I'm told), so no songs.
     But this is a strong statement about faith, dontcha

When all else fails, make a cuppa something hot and bring out the books. Or movies. Or board games. Or . . . .

Enjoy your rainy days--whether they come in bunches or are few and far between. And while you're at it, sing a song or two. For those who can't carry a tune in a locked trunk (you know who you are), don't fret--you'll probably be alone anyway.

Thursday, April 27, 2017


Thursday’s Child:
Some years ago, Liz Flaherty quoted William Martin's poem "Making the Ordinary Come Alive" and I saved it to read over and over. In searching for the poem to share with you today, I came upon this short meditation by David Lose on his blog, “. . . in the Meantime.” I hope you enjoy what he says.

David Lose:

I don’t have a lot to say about the following poem. Sometimes that’s the only fit response when you encounter sheer wisdom. There is nothing to say, just a great deal to ponder.

William Martin’s counsel isn’t only for parents to children, I believe, but for all of us. For how can we give or ask for that which we haven’t experienced ourselves. And so before we can invite our children to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, we ourselves need to practice that discipline.

A meal cooked by a friend. The quiet fidelity of a spouse. A warm fire to banish for a moment the chill of winter. A good book. A shoulder to cry on. A hand to hold. Crocus – soon, we pray! – bursting through the snow. A quite (sic) moment to rest and reflect. A poem that makes you sit up and take notice.

Each of these is a small, even mundane thing. Yet each also has the capacity, if we are open to it, to usher us into an experience of grace, when God’s goodness presents itself not as a prize to be sought but a gift to be received. May it be so with our children…and with us.

Make the Ordinary Come Alive

Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is a way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples, and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.

[Thank you, Liz, for sharing this poem.]

Thursday, April 20, 2017


Spring is a natural time to think in terms of growth. . . . Trees, shrubs, perennials, annuals . . . all nature seems to sing and get in on the chorus.

Recently I took stock of what's going on in my life and was surprised to find I'm branching out! Here are some examples:

Reading--one of my several hundred favorite things to do, reading. I've mentioned in these posts many of the books I read. In branching out, the books I'm choosing come from a different set of shelves. Autobiography, biography, and memoir have always interested me; now they're near the top of any list I make. Mary Roberts Rinehart, who wrote mysteries in the early 20th century, wrote and published her autobiography in 1931, when she was 55; it's called My Story, and tells much about her family's daily life in the late 19th century and early 20th. As a journalist, she was able to go to the front in World War I; at one point she went into No Man's Land, unheard of for any reporter, male or female.

Jill Ker Conway's grew up on a sheep ranch in Australia, earned a scholarship for a college education, and in later years became the first woman president of Smith College in the U.S. The Road from Coorain is the first of her books, a fascinating account of growing up in a different culture.

My current companion at breakfast/lunch/supper is The Boys in the Boat, an account of the Washington State rowing team who went to and won a gold medal in the 1936 Olympics in Berlin. Much good historical information there, when the world seemed poised on the edge of another world war.

Fiction authors I'm sampling include: Charles Todd, Raymond Chandler, Dashiell Hammett. Read a page or two of a couple of new writers but didn't like the present tense voice of the narrator--not sure why this is so, but I'm much happier with stories told in third person and past tense. (Perhaps another characteristic of dinosaurs.)

Movies and TV--I've mentioned before that I don't watch network TV; but I do share a Netflix account with one of my daughters and also have access to Acorn-TV and Amazon Prime movies. With these resources, I can sample shows long off the regular air. Now they are available on my laptop at any time I choose. And I can watch one episode after another, not waiting a week for the next one; or I can hopscotch around from one show to another.

Mysteries and thrillers are my favorites--Grantchester; The Murdoch Murders; Broadchurch; Endeavour; Inspector Lewis. As you can see, my tastes run to British/Canadian series.

Plants--My Ohio daughter gave me an orchid for Christmas--first one I've ever owned or tried to keep alive. So far, so good! A friend at church told me how to care for orchids, so yesterday I went to Home Depot and bought potting mix--not soil, because it compacts too much, but a loose mix of bark-like stuff that is similar to what orchids prefer in the wild. This is definitely branching out for me--my houseplant experiences are limited: philodendrons and herbs.

So, you say, what's the point of all this branching out?

Trying new things, finding new resources, being open to different ways of doing things are all positive steps to keep us alive and growing. Think of it as fitness for the mind. Some people do puzzles--word, number, jigsaw; some keep a meticulous check book or inventory their collections; some challenge themselves with new projects to make from wood or metal or cloth. Some take a class--fitness, genealogy, foreign language, art . . . a limitless number of pursuits to try.

Branching out means you won't grow stale. This benefits the mind, which influences the body. Recently my eye doctor told me there's nothing I can do to change eye pressure advancements, but physical exercise is helpful all the same because it keeps the body healthy. I'm all about that.

I have to admit--making an effort to branch out takes energy, consumes time, and may cause you to make some mistakes. Here's a tip about mistakes (posted recently on a white board at the Y): "If you stumble, make it part of the dance." I like that!

Here's to branching out!

Thursday, April 13, 2017


On March 20th, just three and one-half weeks ago, I read on my calendar that we were experiencing the First Day of Spring. But I didn't find much to fill my senses at that time.

In the week past, I have seen and smelled and experienced completely the meaning of Spring. Here we go:

I am going to try to pay attention to the spring. I am going to look around at all the flowers, and look up at the hectic trees. I am going to close my eyes and listen. Anne Lamott, American novelist and non-fiction writer


You can cut all the flowers but you cannot keep spring from coming. Pablo Neruda, Chilean poet-diplomat


No winter lasts forever; no spring skips its turn. Hal Borland, American author, journalist, naturalist


Behold, my friends, the spring is come; the earth has gladly received the embraces of the sun, and we shall soon see the results of their love! Sitting Bull, Hunkpapa Lakota holy man

Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush. Doug Larson, columnist and editor in Door County


Wherever you are, enjoy Spring!