The Olden Days

“We are all the product of things we’ve never seen and people we never met. In fact, if just one little detail had been changed in their lives, we may not even exist!” 

Melanie Johnston

I think my sister, Sue, gave me this multigenerational picture of our mom’s family. It was probably taken at the family homestead in Duncombe, Iowa.

Pictured are my great grandmother, my grandfather, my grandmother, and my aunt Charlotte in the lower right. I believe Mom’s in Grandpa’s arms.

It’s a great picture but the sad part is no one is identified. Even more sad is the fact there’s no one alive to share the story behind this gathering.

As I studied it, I noticed Grandpa’s bibs look fresh, the buttons shiny. Grandma’s dress looks more special than the usual house dress. The little girl crouched front, probably Charlotte, has on a wide collared dress and her hair has a fresh looking side part. That little baby, the little soul I think is Mom, has on bright white socks with tiny black shoes. I don’t think this is every day wear on the farm. Knowing the McDonalds, I’m thinking they’d just come from Sunday Mass.

Unlike the trips to visit my dad’s family, I remember making the trip to Fort Dodge to visit my mom’s family often. It was a trip I looked forward to even knowing the odds were high I’d be carsick before we made it out of Tama county. Even riding in the front seat didn’t guarantee an uneventful drive.

Looking back with my adult eyes and experiences, I think we visited my mom’s family often because Mom was very homesick. She’d lived at home with her family until she was 27 years old. Shortly after she married Dad, they moved to Indiana because Dad had a been offered a factory job in Kokomo.

Dad had been in the army during World War II so he was used to being far from home–a distance I think he grew to prefer. For Mom, it wasn’t so easy. She’d never left home. Moving from Fort Dodge, Iowa, to Kokomo, Indiana must have seemed like she’d gone to the moon.

It wasn’t until I moved to Denver from Iowa I began to understand how hard it would have been for my mom to leave her family and move far from home.

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My cousin, Donna, often told me how important she felt going with my Grandma to visit Mom, her best friend and Aunt Vivian, in Indiana. As my Grandma often did, she and Donna took the bus shortly after I was born so they could meet me and help Mom and Dad. I don’t think it was long after their visit my parents moved back to Iowa.

It wasn’t until I retired I realized how hard it must have been for my mom to give up her successful bookkeeping career in order to stay at home and raise her children. In my little kid conversations with my Gram, Gram told me having babies was my mom’s dream. Gram said since Mom was a little kid, she’d told her she wanted to have five children. The biological clock was spinning fast for a 27 year old woman back in the 50’s. Mom’s prayers were answered but I think it took its toll on her health and her marriage. In the end, she had only three surviving children–all girls.

It wasn’t until I moved to Texas I realized how isolated Mom must have felt after leaving her home and being far from family and friends. She didn’t drive–a mute point considering the fact we only had one car. Long distance phone calls were expensive, especially for a growing family. In those days, just getting private time on the party line was tricky. Even then a truly private conversation was not guaranteed. Family call night was Sunday after eight. Mom would wait by the phone for Gram to call. As I type I see myself pushing my way next to the phone receiver so I could hear and talk with Gram. Heavens! I was such a pushy kid. I wonder if Mom ever had a private moment to speak with her family? In the 50’s and 60’s, only other way of communicating was by mail. I can see her sitting at the kitchen table, smiling up at me as she filled her fountain pen and signed off her cards and letters. I wanted to write, too, but she patiently told me the fountain pen was much too fragile for a heavy handed child. I’d beg to lick the stamps and she’d finally give in so I’d stop my constant begging. I’m sure my zealous licks over moistened the little stamps making their adhesive power more than questionable.

It wasn’t until I began questioning myself and my past I realized my mom had had her own questions. For a long time, the only book that’d been on her bedside table was the book entitled, You Are Important. Because it’s small and easily hidden, after she died I stashed it away in my room, where it survived the purging that would come when my stepmother arrived on the scene. This book has been part of my library, complete with the spelling graffiti one of us put on the front cover and other pages throughout the book. I’ve thumbed through the pages many times but it wasn’t until last year I saw the passages Mom had faintly underlined.

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It wasn’t until I became more aware of my own mortality I realized how frightened Mom must have been knowing she’d be leaving her children. It’s only been the last few years I became aware of the fact I’d never thought about Mom’s illness as an adult. I’d conveniently sidestepped it by keeping my ten year old point of view. It was this awareness that made me realize I had some serious thinking to do.

“At night, I think about these things. I’m pleased with what I know, but now I think much more about everything I could have known, which was so much more than anything I can learn now and which now is gone forever.” 

Daniel Mendelsohn, The Lost: A Search for Six of Six Million

I am…

B…simply being. 

~Peace~

Reset

“When someone tells me to ‘just relax,’ I wonder why they don’t hand me a book?” 

Richelle E. Goodrich, Slaying Dragons

Over the past month or so, I’ve had the gift of time.

Not only that, I had time to do whatever I wanted.

What I wanted to do–what I always want to do, given the choice–is read.

That’s exactly what I did.

I read or listened to the audio version of: Becoming, Where the Crawdads Sing, Nine Perfect Strangers, Ordinary Grace, and several of C.J. Box’s stories featuring Game Warden, Joe Pickett. If you haven’t read any of these great books, grab one soon.

I was in my personal heaven.

The added bonus–I was in my own very special place. In all the years I’ve been in this spot, it always resets my mind, heart, and soul.

I arrived in my valley needy and possessive of my time.

I knew this trip would drag up some grief. My little family had totally changed since we were there last. I knew I would need to secure some alone time in order to acknowledge those losses.

I was able to do that.

I visited the cows for Duffy and I walked our walks for Ruby.

I cried.

The best part is I felt both of those special souls beside me every single day I was there.

I didn’t recognize the power of the gift I was given until I’d been home for a few days.

I am grateful I had this time in my special valley.

My thanks to all who helped guide me along the way.

“The fact is, inner peace isn’t something that comes when you finally paint the whole house a nice shade of cream and start drinking herbal tea. Inner peace is something that is shaped by the wisdom that ‘this too shall pass’ and is fired in the kiln of self-knowledge…” 

Tania Ahsan, The brilliant book of calm: Down to Earth Ideas for Finding Inner Peace in a Chaotic World

I am…

B…simply being. 

~Peace~

 

 

 

Reading

“Reading is escape, and the opposite of escape; it’s a way to make contact with reality after a day of making things up, and it’s a way of making contact with someone else’s imagination after a day that’s all too real.” 

Nora Ephron  

The picture featured in today’s story is one of my hometown library.

I loved this little library.

Seeing it brings back one of the few memories I have of going somewhere with my mom. As I type I can feel her holding my hand as we start up the stairs on the day I was finally old enough for my very own library card.

To a little kid those stairs seemed to go on forever. I had to take a deep breath and plant my feet firmly in order to pull open the heavy entry way door. I learned you had to move fast so the wind didn’t catch the door and slam it shut on the back of your legs. I also became aware there was a definite learning curve when it came to getting through this door successfully on very windy days. You had to build up your momentum by running up the stairs and continue moving as fast as you could, using your free arm to build up power while pulling and swinging your way into the dark and cool foyer.

Seated in front of the door was the librarian–the keeper of the books. She had the ultimate power to okay the books checked out. I remember several times when she did not approve of my book selections. Then, as now, my genre of choice was murder mysteries. Being an avid reader, it didn’t take me long to read through the Nancy Drew series. After that, some of my book choices did not meet the approval of Madam Librarian.

Thinking I’d come up with a grand plan, the next time I visited, I told the librarian the book I wanted to take home was for my mom. She hesitated in stamping the due date on the inside cover of the book and looked up. I see her unblinking eyes looking at me through her glasses. The silence stretched into forever. I shuffle my feet. Finally, looking down and closing the ink pad, she slowly shakes her head. Her voice was low but firm. She told me she was sorry but my library card only worked for me. If my mom wanted to check out a book, she’d have to use her own card.

My love for books, libraries, and bookstores continues today. I love my e-readers but there is something special about holding a hardbound book in your hands after spending quiet time walking along and between shelves and shelves of books.

What a great gift, having time to spend a hot summer day with a chilled glass of wine, a dog or two at my feet while I enjoy the companionship of a great storytellers.

“The best moments in reading are when you come across something – a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things – which you had thought special and particular to you. Now here it is, set down by someone else, a person you have never met, someone even who is long dead. And it is as if a hand has come out and taken yours.” 

Alan Bennett, The History Boys

I am…

B…simply being. 

~Peace be with you, my friends.~

 

More Treasures

“The greatest treasure in life is the possession of time.” 

Sunday Adelaja, How To Become Great Through Time Conversion: Are you wasting time, spending time or investing time?

I found another treasure in my little used bookstore.

It’s the small book pictured above and it is packed with things that make me sit back and think.

Finding books that were gifts to others always tugs at my heart and makes them very special to me.

I always wonder if the person gifted the book actually had the time to appreciate it?

These are the books that become immediate treasures for me because I now have the time to scour the pages and share what I find with others.

In some type of odd unspoken ceremony, I’ve become the surrogate recipient.

There is only one page ear-marked in this little book which makes my choice of what to share first very easy.

Heart Of My Heart

While striding on life’s pathway

fill up your days with cheer

just laugh at rainbows, small or great, 

to banish every fear.

Hold tight to what life offers

content with all you do

for all adventures help create

the treasure that is you.

~Kris Ediger

I am…

B…simply being

~Peace~

Books

“Some people won’t dog-ear the pages. Others won’t place the book facedown, pages splayed. Some won’t dare make a mark in the margin. Get over it. Books exist to impart their worlds to you, not to be beautiful objects to save for some other day. We implore you to fold, crack, and scribble on your books whenever the desire takes you. Underline the good bits, exclaim “YES!” and “NO!” in the margins. Invite others to inscribe and date the frontispiece. Draw pictures, jot down phone numbers and Web addresses, make journal entries, draft letters to friends or world leaders. Scribble down ideas for a novel of your own, sketch bridges you want to build, dresses you want to design. Stick postcards and pressed flowers between the pages.

When next you open the book, you’ll be able to find the bits that made you think, laugh, and cry the first time around. And you’ll remember that you picked up that coffee stain in the cafe where you also picked up that handsome waiter. Favorite books should be naked, faded, torn, their pages spilling out. Love them like a friend, or at least a favorite toy. Let them wrinkle and age along with you.” 

Ella Berthoud & Susan Elderkin

Yesterday my friend Mary Beth told me she felt books found you.

I completely agree.

My favorite books look pretty battered. I love them and make every page mine. I don’t dog ear books, though. For some reason that’s not okay–BUT I do love to find books that other people have dog eared. Those pages I look at closely. What had someone else found so note-worthy?

Occasionally, our local library has books for sale. That type of sale has my attention immediately.

My first purchase was a little book by Ted Menten called, Gentle Closings, How to Say Good-bye to Someone You Love.

Today as I walked into my office that little book caught my eye.

Yes, I need to be reading about my healthcare but I noticed I’d flagged a few pages. I had to see what I found.

It was even more noteworthy today.

   “…In time I became a storyteller. Then I became involved in a process called closing, which is the way the living and the dying say “good-bye” and “I love you.”

   All of this just happened. I am not a doctor. I am not a psychoanalyst. I have no degrees on my office wall. I haven’t even got an office. I am simply a storyteller who goes where the stories need to be told, and where I can learn new stories. My training was all on the job.

   The children, and later their parents, taught me everything I know. The nurses and the doctors shared their expertise with me as well. Everything I experienced made me re-examine everything I had ever thought or believed. 

   Since we are traveling together, I thought I’d share what I’ve learned with you. You don’t have to believe what I believe, or question what I question, or even come to any of the same conclusions. We’ll just walk together and talk things over. 

   I believe that there is a supreme being, a creator, because when I look around at the wonder and beauty of life, I can find no other reasonable explanation. 

   I like the idea of prayer. I think it is more sane to talk to someone else than it is to talk to yourself. (At first I had a problem with unanswered prayer until little Susan, age seven, explained to me: “That’s simple. God’s answer was no.”)

   I like ghosts and reincarnation, too. A mystic once described my grandmother as an aura that followed me and protected me. That seems right enough; it’s what she did before she died. I support recycling, so I suppose it is only natural to accept reincarnation. I might like to come back as something really special and magical like a butterfly or a teddy bear. 

   Heaven is a good idea, too. I like reunions; I like all that hugging and kissing and tears of joy when old friends get back together. 

   I believe that loves gives the best return on investment. 

   I believe that truth is like a straight line–the shortest distance between two points. 

   I believe in second chances, and third chances, and fourth chances. 

   I believe that listening is essential to loving.  

   I believe in grief and sorrow and tears flowing like Niagara Falls. Tears mean something. They mean we’re alive and feeling. 

   I believe that death is a friend, a fabulous dancer who will twirl me away in my last waltz. 

   I believe in taking the time to say good-bye and not putting it off until another day. Because more than anything, 

   I believe in love.    

~Ted Menten~

I am thankful this book reached out to me today.

It is exactly what I needed.

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

 

 

My Love of Books

“I looked at the book lying on a table. Though not a great reader myself, I knew that those who were – even Nora – could grow testy when one came between them and their books.” 

Susan Higginbotham, Hanging Mary

After we retired and sold our house, like many newly retired people, we had to downsize. Becoming full-time RVers meant our living space would be very limited. Our work was definitely cut out for us–both Michael and I had to be very selective in what we brought with us.

Since I was a little kid, books have always been my passion. Over the years my personal library had grown with all types of books. Some of my books had been beside me–literally–for decades. Letting them go was tough. My books were more than just things–they had become my counselors, my teachers, and often times, my fastest modes of escape.

Slowly over these past two years, I’ve started to re-grow my library. Funny–many of my “new” books are copies of my favorite old books. I’ve been lucky to find so many at used book stores or on-line. My newest source I discovered yesterday–my local Goodwill Store. It’s not set up in any type of order–in order to find books you are looking for you must have the time to bend, stoop, re-arrange, and shuffle other books aside in order to see what treasures await you. For the short amount of time I invested, I was rewarded with some great books.

As I was putting my books away today, I discovered one had a note written on the inside cover–this unexpected message touched my heart. I need to think about it and share later.

“Providence has delivered me of every worldly passion, save this one; the desire to acquire books, new or old books of any kind, whose charms I cannot persuade myself to resist.” 

John Henry Newman

I am…

B…simply being…

Love you all. God bless.

~Peace~

 

Another Trip to the Library

I have a great library. Now that I am retired, not only do I have more time to read but I can choose HOW I read. I can read a new book or I can re-read a book that has become a traveling companion. These select few are special and I feel as though they are “old friends.” Some have traveled with me for many years. Not only do they share their printed words, but they magically pull up memories of what was happening in my life the first time I read them. I can see where I was, who I was with, see my notes and highlighting, and physically feel what was going on in my world at the time. Oh the power of books! I am blessed to have some very big hitters.

Simple Abundance, by Sarah Breathnach, is one of my favorites. My first copy was a gift, making it very special. This book has been around for a long time, very popular in the early 90’s. It was one of the books read by a group of women I met with once a week for years. I’ll always remember the night one of the leaders of the group talked about the book, explaining what she liked about it and shared different readings with us. She had passed her copy around and we all wanted to know where we could find our own copy. She said she had a surprise for us–and handed out a copy for each of us.

The book is set up to read an entry a day. I’ll share the beginning of what Sarah wrote for January 5:

Many women today feel a sadness we cannot name. Though we accomplish much of what we set out to do, we sense that something is missing in outlives and–fruitlessly–search “out there” for answers. What’s often wrong is that we are disconnected from an authentic sense of self.   Emily Hancock

I think many of us are searching for our authentic selves. As I give my thanks for my blessings today, one of the things I am grateful for is being able to share my search with you.

God bless you with love and peace.

I am…

B…simply being…