Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Giving Thanks

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.― Melody Beattie
With the approach of Thanksgiving, our pastor’s sermon not unexpectedly touched on being thankful and the importance of cultivating a grateful spirit, and about how important gratitude and thanksgiving are in our relationship with God. She also talked briefly about the remarkable story of John Kralik, who, in the midst of a life that seemed to be falling apart, resolved to write 365 thank you notes–one a day for a year. It took him a little more than a year to actually accomplish this, but he did, and it changed his life.

She gave us a homework assignment at the end of the service. She asked us to choose a thank you note from an assortment in a basket and use it to thank someone.

During the 5 years that the Mollywog was an integral part of in our lives, I regularly took her to the aerobics class with me (if I was able to go), which meets 3 times a week, and I took her for a walk during the first part of the class.

Shortly after she died in early September, I went to California, and when I came home, I decided I was not going back to the aerobics class. I had weights, I was already walking for exercise, and I thought I could do without going.

In October I went to the County Health Department’s satellite clinic to get a flu shot, and I saw Kathleen, a woman who is also in the class. “Oh,” she said, “We miss you so much. Please come back to the class!”

What she said touched my heart. So I did. And I am glad I did. I seem to have gotten over whatever it was that made me not want to go to the class after the dog died, and I am once again enjoying the hour I spend there 3 times a week.

I am very grateful to Kathleen for that word of encouragement, and so she got the thank you note. I have also sent cards to a few other people thanking them for their involvement in my life.

I believe this might be a very good habit to keep.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Light Shining Bright

This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
This little light of mine
I’m gonna let it shine
Let it shine, let it shine, let it shine

Our pastor’s sermon on Sunday was about saints. She quoted the story, of which there are several versions (which leads me to think that perhaps the story was created to prove a point), about the little boy (or girl) who explains that a saint is “someone who the light shines through” after seeing beautiful stained glass windows in a cathedral.

Even if the story is not a true story, it is true. That is exactly what a saint is--someone who the light of God shines through--and it could be the man next door, or the Sunday School teacher you had as a child, or your very own father.

On Wednesday I bought a birthday card for my dad’s 93rd birthday on Monday. I thanked him for being a wonderful father and for the wonderful memories he left me. I wrote that I sometimes wished I could be daddy’s little girl again, and go fishing with him, or have him take me to school on the bicycle, or hang out with him in the garage while he worked on a car, or even making sure he had exactly 5 ice cubes in his iced tea. I put $10 in the card and sent it to my sister to buy some treats for him when she saw him on Monday. I would have told him all of that when one of my siblings called from the small party they were planning for him so I could sing Happy Birthday to him.

Yesterday morning, my youngest brother went to the group home where Dad was being cared for to wheel him to the hospital, which was within easy walking distance. Dad had an appointment with the eye doctor.  As they were getting him ready to go, my brother said Dad just stopped breathing and he died. Just like that. He died.

If he had agreed to the pacemaker the doctor wanted to implant a year ago, he probably could have lived quite a bit longer, but he refused. He had spent years visiting people in the nursing home, and he did not want to end his days as an invalid because of other medical problems but kept alive by a device. Knowing he was refusing treatment was hard to accept at the time, but now I see that it was a good decision.

I remember telling a friend in September how important it was for me to make the annual trip to California because I never knew for sure when our Dad was going to die and every visit could be the last one. This time it was the last one.

I have hundreds of picture of him at various stages of his life and with various family members, so picking a couple is rather hard.

I especially love this picture, which was taken in 1970. 

He had a very mobile face and the knack for making crazy faces and making everyone laugh. He was so much fun.  

And another side of him in a picture taken in 2008: 

He read the paper. He didn’t just skim the headlines, he actually read all of the articles and did the crossword, and although he never bet on a horse race, he loved horse racing and he picked the horses he thought might win at the area race tracks, depending on the time of year.

He was the song leader at church for many years, and he loved the old hymns. And even though he could not remember what he had for breakfast, he remembered the words to those hymns.

Hey Dad, you're "gathering with the saints at the river that flows by the throne of God" and it was a glad morning yesterday when this life was o'er for you and you got to "fly away to a land where joy shall never end." You're there now! Someday I'll be flying away myself and joining you and Mom and Nathaniel "in the sweet by and by..."

I love you!

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

No storm clouds at the moment

Monday's child is fair of face
Tuesday's child is full of grace
Wednesday's child is full of woe
Thursday's child has far to go,
Friday's child is loving and giving,
Saturday's child works hard for a living,
But the child who is born on the Sabbath day
Is bonnie and blithe and good and gay
My birthday was last week. Just out of curiosity, I looked up the date I was born to see what day of the week that was. I was born on a Monday. The nursery rhyme popped into my head, and I was disappointed when I actually looked it up that I had mixed up the characteristics that go with the specific days. I had the skeleton of a post in my head about what it meant to be “full of grace;” which is Tuesday’s child, not Monday’s.

How does one become full of grace?
Am I full of grace?
What does "grace" mean?

Okay, so Monday is "fair of face." But then I got to thinking about what “fair” means. The immediate thought that popped into my mind was that “fair of face” describes someone who is pretty or beautiful -- referring to how physically attractive their face is.

I may not be beautiful in the generally accepted sense but I am not a homely person either—I mean I do have a pleasant-appearing face—so I suppose “fair of face” does apply to me in that respect.

But I think “fair of face” does not have as much to do with the looks one is born with because of the combination of genes that have come together at their conception as it does with what one actually does with the face they are given.

I really like the analogy to weather of what the faces of us Monday folks might look like:

Fair: generally pleasant weather conditions: sunshine (perhaps a few clouds here and there) and no extremes of extremes of visibility, temperature, or wind.

I would much rather see a “plain” face with a smile or a happy expression than an “attractive” face with a snarl.

Yesterday I visited a person from our church who is recuperating in the hospital from a major abdominal operation. The surgeon removed a tumor the size of a softball from her colon. I have a feeling there may not be good news for her in the future. But, she was alert and cheerful and a pleasure to visit. As I was leaving the hospital thinking about this  marvelous 91-year-old woman and how amazing she is, I know I was smiling, Just then a man came into the lobby, looked at me, and smiled.

Fair of face is how I try to arrange the parts of me that make up my face as I go about my day. I think I do a fairly good job.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Second and Third Thoughts...

Armadillos had just started moving into Missouri when we arrived here (almost at the Arkansas border) in 1981 but were not very common. Now they are expanding their range even into the northern part of the state. How they manage this is a wonder because their habit of jumping straight up when they are frightened gets them into trouble, with deadly results, when they try to cross the road. The vehicles on the highways take a terrible toll, with dead armadillos along the road a common site. How their range can expand when so many of them are killed is a wonder.

Now we do have armadillos on our land. Several years ago, a mother raised her 4 babies in an old culvert near the house. We had no idea she was even there until one morning Richard went to get in the truck and baby armadillos were running around sniffing the tires. He had to scare them away so he could leave.

They are usually nocturnal, but in the winter especially they are out and about in the daytime looking for food – they eat grubs, worms and other insects that live in the ground, which is why they can be such nuisances.

They have never bothered us. Not really. They weren’t around when we had our garden, and the only flower bed we have now has bulbs in it, the soil is rather terrible, and we never do anything with it. They have never bothered it. If I want annual flowers in the summer I plant them in big pots.

We find the occasional hole in the ground. So what?

We don’t really have a lawn either.

Well now I am having second thoughts about armadillos. Third thoughts even.

Richard replaced the clay and hard scrabble he dug out to bury the dog with good compost, top soil, and potting soil and made a frame for a raised bed so we can plant some flowers on her grave. That night some “thing” rooted around in there.

The soil is too new for worms or grubs, so it hasn’t been back, but will I come out some morning to find the bulbs I have just planted for Spring uprooted? I’m putting a wire cage around it. We’ll see.

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Gone Forever

There are moments, little fleeting moments in life, like bubbles: you want to catch them and hang onto them forever, but you know they’ll only pop. I wonder couldn’t we bottle those brief, perfect memories, preserve them forever, like scent. Then, when disillusioned, or sad, or tired, we could uncap their precious contents and allow them perfume our disenchantment away?  Reluctant Memshaib
There were two messages on our digital answering machine that I wanted to keep forever. One was from my Dad, when his mind was in better shape, being silly and sweet, and the other was from my sister, mispronouncing my name on purpose. Both of these messages brought smiles whenever I heard them.

So there I was pressing the delete button to get rid of the telemarketer hang-ups and recordings. It’s not nearly as gratifying to hang up on a recording – the recording keeps right on going after you break the connection on your end. I often don’t answer the phone until I know who it is because I don’t feel like listening to the recorded spiel that starts with "Stop what you're doing right now..." and ends with “If you want to be removed from this list forever press 9”. Yeah. Right.

And I continued pressing “delete” button until all the messages on the machine were gone.

All of them.


My dad’s silly message and my sister, clearing her throat and saying “Lalana…”

(The correct pronunciation phonetically would be "Lay-law-knee")

When I e-mailed my sister to tell her how upset I was, she told me about her daughter, who also lost two important messages she wanted to keep when she switched to another mobile phone.

One message was from the man who later became her husband, asking her out on their first date.

And other was Grandpa singing happy birthday to her. Sooo sad…

But, you hafta move on.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Importance of Gorilla Tape

It's only a car.
If money can fix it, it's not a problem.
Tom Magliozzi (1937-2014), Car Talk

I had about an hour to rehearse what I was going to say when I walked in the door after going to town to the exercise class and to pick up the mail:

Honey, you’ll never guess what happened…
Honey, I have sort of bad news…
Honey, there’s a slight problem….

But I needn't have wasted my time. As soon as he heard me come in he wanted to know...

What was that horrible noise I heard when you were leaving?

Oh. Well. That was me sideswiping a tree and tearing off the driver’s side mirror. It’s dangling by the cable. It’s a clean break and I think it can be put back in place with some kind of adhesive.

Fixing something like that is rather expensive, but one of the upsides of driving a 23-year-old car is all it takes is a bit Gorilla Tape to hold it in place until he gets around to applying the adhesive and I’m good to go…

Thursday, October 05, 2017

In which I go to a reunion...

Time keeps on slippin’ slippin’ slippin’ into the future….
Next week it will be a month since I left on my vacation, and plunging almost immediately back into the daily routine has distracted me from finishing what I wanted to say about the trip. Richard teases me that his ADD is catching and that I am becoming more like him… easily distracted.

As the plane started to hurtle down the runway on the leg from Dallas-Ft. Worth to Los Angeles, the young man sitting next to me made the sign of the cross, so I knew he had some sort of spiritual foundation. I believe God put him next to me because it would have been a rather miserable flight otherwise.

A young couple with two young children was sitting directly behind us. The girl, who was about 3 years old sat behind me and kicked the back of the seat off and on for most of the flight. Her little brother, who was maybe 18 months (or younger), began to scream and screech almost as soon as the plane left the ground. This was not the regular crying of a tired baby but more like a temper tantrum, and it lasted for most of the time we were flying over Texas (Texas is a b-i-g state). One of the parents ended up camping out in the bathroom with the screaming child until he finally fell asleep.

I couldn’t seem to get my tray table unfastened from the back of the seat, and so my seat mate showed me how to do that (I am badly challenged mechanically), and he showed me how to work the entertainment console on the back of the seat, even though I never did use it because we ended up talking most of the rest of flight. Over the sound of the screaming child we talked a lot about faith, and God's provision, and how God takes care of us. He was one of the most inspiring seat mates I have had on the many flights between here and the West Coast.

I stayed with my sister. I received instructions on how to use my smartphone (about which I am still mostly clueless), I visited our dad just about every day...

went on some outings with my sister, saw sea creatures...

  and beautiful flowers…

 and then I went to the reunion.

A neighbor from down the street who I had lost touch with was there. My boyfriend in the 7th grade, who I did not recognize at first, was also there. Some of the people I most wanted to see did not come, so I was a little disappointed about that, but it was okay. During most of high school I felt like Pluto circling around the bright shining inner circle, but there were actually a few people who did remember me after 50 years.

Each place setting at the table had goodies we would remember from our childhood in the 1950s, including red wax lips and candy cigarettes (which I didn’t appreciate too much).  Folks had a good time with those wax lips.
As a back story to the reunion, there was a large Japanese American population in the city where I grew up, and so there was a large minority of Japanese American students at the high school. After the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, many of the grandparents and parents (as children) of the students I graduated with had been rounded up and sent to internment camps, one of which was at Manzanar.
Nobody talked about it. I didn't find out this had happened until I was in college. Three of the students in our graduating class made a documentary film, "The Manzanar Fishing Club,"

about some of the men, women, and children who were confined there and found ways to sneak out, either under the barbed wire that surrounding the camp or hidden in vehicles that were part of work crews, and go fishing. One of the social studies teachers at the high school, Mas Okui, was in Manzanar as a child when he was 10 years old, and he was interviewed in the film. He was at the reunion and spoke about it.

One of my Japanese American friends from school sent me the DVD to watch last year and I brought it with me so I could pass it on to someone else at the reunion. But before that, I showed it to my sister’s family. I was surprised to learn that the grandparents of my niece's husband were in Manzanar and that he had gone to school with the granddaughter of another individual who was featured in the DVD. It was connection I never expected.

One would like to think that would never happen again in this country. One would hope.