Thursday, July 20, 2017

SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES.....


Guy Lombardo, Canadian-American band leader from the 1930s on, wrote "Seems Like Old Times." It was a love song of its time--1946--when love affairs ended and all people were left with were memories.

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This post is not about a sad ending to a love affair. It's about wonderful remembrances that come around when I experience certain iconic phenomena. Such as:

A 1955 Ford 4-door hardtop convertible 

[The pictures I searched don't do it justice. Hardly any of them were 4-door and only one or two had the hardtop convertible feature; and those had only 2 doors. ]

This was my second car--the first was a '49 Ford that served me well for a couple of years before my dad got the itch to trade it in for this classic beauty. Mine was gold and black. Had dual carburetors and rattled windows all the way down 6th Street in my hometown.

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Any library, anywhere



This picture reminds me a lot of the one in my hometown, where I spent a lot of time from age 8, when I was allowed to receive a library card and take out two books at a time. During the summer, I walked to the library, checked out my two books, read one on the way home, and read the other one that night. Next day, back to the library. (Clearly, this is the beginning of my addiction to the written word--still reading in the 50-book challenge.)

Nowadays, I can take out an unlimited number of books--oddly, I almost never check out more than three at a time. I want to read them all before I return them.

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Carpenters working on houses



Any time I see a house being built, I think of my dad. He began building houses shortly before I was born, and continued as a builder until his death forty-some years later. In the early days, he did everything--dug the foundation, put in plumbing and electricity, installed a furnace, finished the house inside and outside. The only thing I know he never did was plaster the inside walls.

For many years, we never lived in a finished house because Dad built the house to a near-finished state and sold it, using the money he got to start another new house. In that way he was a practical man, as well as a creative one.

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Fresh-baked apple pie






My mother learned to make pie crust from her mother, my Grandma Jenkins. I don't recall that they used lattice, but this picture looked so delicious, I knew it was the best illustration for one of the juiciest memories I had growing up.

Mom never used green apples--Granny Smith hadn't invented them yet, apparently. Just thinking about Mom's pies makes my mouth water.

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These icons trigger strong happy memories for me . . . but they don't make me wish I still lived in the old times. For instance, I don't want to give up my car (going on 18 years old)--I'd miss power steering, power brakes, a/c and reliable heater, the magic of defrosting windows (front and back) at the touch of a finger on a button. Creature comforts have their appeal.

My childhood library had steps (similar to those in the picture)--nowadays I can still do steps, but I appreciate a hand rail. The library I patronize has a long L-shaped ramp, plus shallower steps (with handrails). There's even a button to push when I don't feel up to pulling open the heavy doors.

I do wish--if I could go back to old times, and if it were possible to have a do-over--I do wish my father had made a better end to his life--he died resigned to die; and to my knowledge never accepted death. I found that sad, especially as he and my stepmother had found a church home 20 years before his passing.

My mother's end-of-life experience was spent in a hospital for six months (this was in the 1950s, when that was possible). I saw her every day . . . she was lucid, interested in life (mine, the nurses', friends' and family's), and she sneaked a cigarette if she had a visitor. She could still laugh and smile, even as she lay dying. What a legacy to live into!

Memories make "old times" come alive for a few moments, or hours. They're where I visit, but never live. Memories show me how far I've come, how much I've learned; they make me smile at the young, naive girl I was, or shake my head in wonder at near misses.

No regrets here. Just memories of times long gone. Celebrate your memories. They're who you are, and why you are.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

SNIPPETS

So many happenings in the last couple of weeks that I decided to do short takes on several subjects.

[BTW--did you know several means "more than two or three, but not many; of an indefinitely small number"? Surprised me! I thought several meant more than four or five. And please don't ask what many means. Just look it up. You won't be much better informed, though, after you do.]

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Best news: My oldest and youngest daughters--from Arizona and Minnesota, respectively--came to visit last week. On Saturday my Ohio daughter (middle of the pack) came to my house and the four of us traveled about 20 minutes to a splash park for the 10th birthday party of a great-grandson of mine. The day was absolutely gorgeous: 75 degrees, sun, plenty of breeze. The kids played in the water and the adults (so-called) hung out in the pavilion (one of several--see above definition) and caught up on news. 

The rest of the out-of-towners' visit was spent in cooking, eating, shopping (not my gig), and watching great stuff on PBS.org and Netflix. We crammed in as much fun and talk as we could. When they left Monday at noon, my house felt very, very empty. 

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Although I've become a "weather-induced shut-in" (we're talking heat and humidity here), according to my youngest daughter, I manage to do my regular shopping for groceries and other necessities. Recently I decided one necessity was new fitness clothes for walking. She and I agreed that just wearing the uniform for the job makes us more excited about working out. (I consider walking "working out"--otherwise, I'd never work out.)

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Saddest news: Our local library sustained considerable damage by fire in a recent disaster. The fire was determined "intentional." Within a few days a suspect was in custody. The actual destruction occurred near the circulation desk, which includes all videos/DVDs/CDs; the rest of the three-story structure sustained smoke/soot and water damage. Much reconstruction required. And probably most of the books will have to be replaced.

The good thing is--the library has four buildings within a two block area: the main building, which was damaged; an annex, which houses the Bookmobile and storage for books, and provides adequate space for the monthly book sale by the Friends of the Library; a teen library (now in use as a place to pick up books on hold from Evergreen Indiana); and the genealogy center, which has some of the adult collection of books--items returned that were checked out before the time of the fire.

The big question is: Why? We may never know.

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To leave you with a happier thought, here's a healing quilt finished for a co-worker of my Ohio daughter.





Have a blessed week!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Some days, nothing seems to jell.

Thoughts start out with promise--I can blog about that!--then after a few sentences . . . nothing.

Or I'll get on a roll in my morning journal--one thing leads to another, ideas pour in, jostling each other to be heard, waving their arms and shouting, "Me! Me!" I write them down, I develop several of the ideas. And then . . . when it's time to grab that idea and tease it into shape, it turns fickle and won't cooperate.

So today's post will examine some random thoughts.

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I can tell you about my last three months of reading. April, May, and June were good reading months. 

     April: 14 books--3 non-fiction, the rest mysteries
     May: 20 books--2 non-fiction, the rest fiction
     June: 15 books--3 non-fiction, the rest mysteries

From those 49 books, I wrote down 20 words I needed to look up. Depressing. I thought (erroneously, as it turns out) that English majors, no matter how long ago they studied, would be nearly as word-savvy as, say, the 10th Merriam Webster. Not true, alas.

Some samples: anaglypta; exigent; moiety; megrims; exiguous; cynosure; glacis, rodomontade . . . .

These weren't from scientific tomes or technical works. They were from novels or non-fiction general reading. Honest.

Sadly, the context of the words I didn't know gave me no clues. 

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Here's a happier subject. I think.

I've been noticing how people greet each other. For instance:

"Hi, how are ya?" (casual)
"Hello, lovely to see you." (more formal, but friendly)
"How are things with you?" (interested, but not nosy)

Do you adjust your greeting for the greetee? I certainly do. My main circles are church groups, a few family get-togethers, and one-on-one visits with friends. Plenty of variety for various greetings.

For the flip side: How do you respond when people say, "How are you?"

"I'm well, thanks. How are things with you?"
"Could be worse."
"About half." (This one is reserved for only those closest to me. They expect honesty. And if I feel about half, I'll say so.)

The worst answer in the universe has to be, "I'm fine." But it certainly stops the asker from continuing a conversation about health, wealth, happiness, or anything in between. (Maybe that's the point.)

I learned about asking and answering questions about one's health from my relatives. My Aunt Dessie, who often had health problems, always answered, "I'm better, honey." I never heard her say she was well, or fine, or could be worse. Just, better. (She lived to be 94.)

Some answers reveal the person's emotional status: "I'd be great if my kids/dog/garden/truck/husband would just . . . ."

The one that wrings my heart, though, is the answer to my question about a friend's recent surgery.

     Me: How are you getting along now?
     Them: Pain level, on a scale of 1 to 10, is a 12!

Sorry I asked.

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Here's my last random thought for the day:

     This is July 6th. The year is definitely half over. 
     Remaining days before Christmas: 172.

The only reason this concerns me at all is that ideas about Christmas gifts have heretofore appeared early--usually during June and July. Some years I've seen gifts that were just right for someone in the family, and bought them before school started.

This year my idea bank is empty. 

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Hope you're having good summer reading, that your health is in top form, and you're not stressing about Christmas holidays yet.

Have a blessed week!



Thursday, June 29, 2017

SEASONING

Many years ago my mother-in-law, Vira, was invited to a kitchen shower for the daughter of a friend. Vira was a creative woman--she went to the grocery store and bought a variety of spices for the bride-to-be. Then she asked me to write a little poem to go with the gift.

I was flattered to be asked, but--! I was no poet. My ability to write in rhyme was along the lines of "The cat and the rat sat on the mat." I had to decline the invitation to write a poem.

Then Vira said she had come up with a couple of lines--what did I think of this?
     "Of all the seasons of the year,
     you'll find the most important here."

I thought it was just right, and I told her so.

That little rhyme has stayed with me lo, these many years, and not just because seasoning is important to good cooking. Seasoning, I've come to believe, is what makes life itself worth living.

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If we do a little virtual time travel, we can see how the years and events have seasoned us.

Childhood--if we were fortunate, we had good homes, enough to eat, clothes to keep us warm in winter, and plenty of love. We learned lessons at home, at school, and in the neighborhoods we lived in. Who we would become had its start in these early years.

If we weren't so blessed, what we did experience helped make up our adult self.


Adolescence--teen years are often fraught times. Adults say it's all about hormones. The teens themselves say life is unfair, or nobody understands, or even, why bother? But with guidance and love (always love), teens begin to metamorphose into the adult self. Without the love and caring, though, the process may take longer.

The sufferings of adolescence determine how we see ourselves and others, how we solve problems (or not), how we get through difficult or traumatic times. Lots of seasoning going on in this period.

Early adulthood--many of my generation married shortly after high school, or four years later, after finishing college. If they started their families right away, they soon learned a lot of life lessons--priorities being a biggie. 

As the children grew up and left home, parents found themselves again--all grown up, with a life still ahead of them. A career, perhaps; community involvement; or eventually caregiving to older adults.

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What makes me think about the seasoning that life provides is my refusal to say that I'm aging. (The A word is definitely on my list of no-nos.)  And let me say right here--I'm not pretending that I'm not getting older--moment by moment, actually--no, not pretending that. And I definitely don't want to remain young forever. (This is reinforced every time I hear a bunch of little kids running, hollering, and having a grand old time. My energy levels don't match up! And as we seasoned folk are fond of saying, "There's a reason God gave children to young parents.")

But I like knowing that all the experiences I've had, from childhood on up to yesterday's shopping trip, have in some way altered me--have given me a different perspective--have explained something I never understood before. In short, my experiences have seasoned me.

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When I cook, I seldom use salt, but I do use pepper. If I'm making a recipe that calls for unusual spices--curry powder, cardamom, white pepper, cumin, savory--I welcome a chance to try something new, or that give a little zing to a favorite dish. Fresh herbs often give a lift to a plain lettuce salad. Seasoning keeps meals from drifting into the area of hum-drum.

As most cooks will tells you, a little goes a long way. Season with caution, until you decide you like it.

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We can't always distribute our life experiences cautiously. We take what we get, when we get it.

But we do have the choice of how we react--do we rebel? Reject? Can we "find the good," as Heather Lende says? Can we even embrace the experience, and the life lesson, and come out with more than we expected?

Many choices, with seasoning. Savor yours.






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.

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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.