Thursday, June 22, 2017

SUMMERTIME . . .

Did you notice yesterday was the "longest day" of the year? We all know it's still only 24 hours, but because it was the Summer Solstice, it had the most hours of sunshine here in the northern hemisphere.

Did you do anything special to honor that special day? 

It may not be a national holiday, or a religious obligation, or even a red-letter day on your calendar. But it's the last time, for 364 more days, you'll have that much sunshine. 

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In my family, summer birthdays dwindle to one per month in June, July, and August. We gear up again in September with three, then a little break till December, January, February, and March.

This summer we have a big celebration for the 10th birthday of one of my grandsons. It's a water splash hoopla, and everybody and his dog is invited. (I'm pretty sure about the dogs.)

That's going to be my major event for summer. Two of my out-of-state kids will be back for the party and a few days' visit with me. And I'm sure a good time will be had by all.

After the party I'll have a couple of months to regroup before I have to be responsible, in charge, or available. Kinda nice to have a vacation from regular life!

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Hope your summer is just what you want it to be! 







Thursday, June 15, 2017

PEACE

We're already halfway through 2017, but I've chosen a word to live by to finish out the year. That word is PEACE.

Over 40 years ago I taught freshman composition to college freshmen. Our course started with a descriptive essay; continued into compare-and-contrast; and toward the end we advanced to the extended definition. It was one of the hardest to teach and one of the hardest to learn.

The extended definition essay attempts to go beyond the dictionary's pared-down list of meanings and asks the reader to enter into the writer's concept. We used examples from our lives, from books, from whatever experiences we could muster.

One way to define a concept is to tell what it is not.

My trusty Merriam Webster lists these things about PEACE:
- absence of war or strife
- freedom from quarrels and disagreement
- to remain silent 


Another definition of PEACE refers to an inner state of calm; tranquility. My favorite tea mug bears this legend:

- peace does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble, or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.

Still another way to look at PEACE deals with our actions; here's a quotation from the late Henri Nouwen, Dutch Catholic priest, professor, writer and theologian:

- Did I offer peace today? Did I bring a smile to someone's face? Did I say words of healing? Did I let go of my anger and resentment? Did I forgive? Did I love? These are the real questions. I must trust that the little bit of love that I sow now will bear many fruits, here in this world and the life to come.

And Mother Theresa:

-If we have no peace. it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.

------

Peace be with you.




Thursday, June 8, 2017

DON'T BLINK PAST THE GOOD NEWS!



A few days ago I thumbed through the weather on my phone--youngsters may go directly to messages and emails, but I bring up The Weather Channel for the day's forecast. (Also the weekly forecasts, and eventually I troll through the 15-day forecast.)

The front page of TWC shows various wallpaper--right now it's hot air balloons against a blue-blue sky--and I get the date, time, current temp, high and low for today. Then I notice a few teasers, stories about who's having the most rain/snow/hail/heat/you name it.

And I began a quick scroll...but had to stop and back up. What was that headline?

Good news???

Yes! "Good News: Favorable Pattern Flip on the Way."

I witnessed a miracle! Good news on the weather report.

On the next page came the various videos: "Stunning Tornado" - "Man Fights with Bear" - "Scary Sight Out of Plane Window" . . . I didn't watch any of those. I was still dazed by the notion that "Good News" had been reported.

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We've all heard the thinking behind news reports--good news doesn't sell newspapers, or keep viewers entertained. News agencies are motivated by sales, entertainment value, and keeping the listener/viewer from touching that dial.

And yet . . .

My current reading is Heather Lende's Take Good Care of the Garden and the Dogs. Sounds nice, doesn't it? A feel-good kind of book? 

First chapter--2 1/2 pages in, Heather Lende is riding her bicycle on one of the first spring days and is hit by a truck.

She's medevaced to Seattle (she lives in Haines, Alaska) for treatment, rehab, and continuing therapies for nine months.

Okay, I hear you saying, so what's your point? It's not a feel-good story?

My point is this: The premise of the book isn't how nearly fatal the accident was; it's about the community effort that contributed to Lende's recovery.

Here's a quotation from the jacket:

"Family and friends cooked her meals, revamped her house, and got her back on her feet. Hers was a singular event, but the truth is, by the time we reach a certain age, most of us have been hit by a truck in one way or another. Lende shows us that our responses to those setbacks have everything to do with faith."

We can appreciate the magnitude of community effort when we learn Lende has a husband and five children. 

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Of course there's this sticky wicket--my good news may not be your good news. 


Bird Food
Take our rain (please!). We've had more than our share lately. Farmers are either replanting or not planting or considering other lines of work. Lawn care businesses are trying to schedule mowings between the showers (I expect to hear them out at midnight one of these times). Kids' sports get rained out. Ditto picnics, outdoor gatherings, weddings. . . . But maybe you need rain where you live. It's only early June but you might have flowers that can't seem to get enough to drink.

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Maybe what I'm driving at is this: If we don't have bad news, how do we know what good news is?

If we never have disappointments, do we recognize fulfilling events?

My little eye-blink that nearly missed "good news!" on the weather report caused me to back up and read more slowly. Made me think about how we react to good news--and to bad news. 

I wish there were more good-news stories out there. But I'm finding there are plenty of them, if we look for them.

Maybe that's the point--we have to look for good stuff. It may be small stuff. Really small stuff. And then we need to celebrate it, remember it, share it with friends and family. Good stuff can grow by being shared.

Have you had good news today? I hope so. It may be on your phone, in your newspaper, hanging out in your mailbox. . . . Keep looking.



Good news?





Thursday, June 1, 2017

JUNE!


Did you turn your calendar page this morning? 

We are now in the 6th month of this year 2017.


Merriam Webster online says:

Origin and Etymology of june
Middle English, from Anglo-French & Latin; Anglo-French Juin, from Latin Junius
First Known Use: 1598

So now you know.

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Somehow, June snuck up on me...I was paying attention, really I was: A few weeks ago we had April, and then a few days later it was May, and though May had 31 days, they slipped through the cracks and here I am in June. And it's a short month!

Yes, I know you understand what somehow means--as people, um, mature, time seems to go faster. 


Before you carve that on stone tablets, ask some elementary school/middle school/high school kids about how fast time goes. School's out at most schools in my neck of the woods--and they're saying they can't figure out how time got away. Uh-huh. Apparently happens to everybody.

You'll probably be able to come up with some folks who think time has stopped for them. But for the rest of us, time not only marches on...it purely races down the track.

Welcome to June!

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Here are some thoughts on June to entertain you:


Spring being a tough act to follow, God created June. 
--Al Bernstein

There are moments, above all on June evenings, when the lakes that hold our moons are sucked into the earth, and nothing is left but wine and the touch of a hand. 
--Charles Morgan

There are two seasons in Scotland: June and Winter. 
--Billy Connolly

There's something I love about how stark the contrast is between January and June in Sweden. 
--Bill Skarsgard

How did it get so late so soon? Its night before its afternoon. December is here before its June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon? 
--Dr. Seuss

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My oldest daughter has made a family calendar for us several years now. Each month has pictures from family archives plus a quotation. Here's the one for June, 2017:

     If a June night could talk, it would probably
     boast it invented romance.
          --Bern Williams

Whether your June nights are romantic or just plain vanilla, enjoy!


The surprise of the Surprise Lily never grows old!

Thursday, May 25, 2017

BEFORE & AFTER

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.















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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?

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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.

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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. . . . 

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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

DO YOU HAVE A CALLING?

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.

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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.





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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.

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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.

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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

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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

A MOM BY ANY OTHER NAME...

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.

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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."