The Religion of Kindness

“My religion is very simple. My religion is kindness.” 

Dalai Lama XIV

Michael and I have spent a lot of time these past few weeks in waiting rooms.

Our waits have yielded good results and we are thankful.

I don’t think everyone in those places we shared experienced the same good results. Many of the most senior patients seemed to be waiting alone or with an aide after being dropped off by an agency bus. Each little person seemed alone and sad–which made me sad as well. How did our society get so busy we’ve forgotten our elders?

I had time to study some of those faces. Their expressions have stayed with me this week. I couldn’t help wondering how they’re doing. At the end of the day, did they have loved ones to talk with about the tests, the results, the future, and their fears?

These experiences and memories were good reminders for me to be kind.

My heart asks you to be the same.

The Test

Oh, yes, I’ve reached those golden days

You hear so much about;

I don’t feel any older yet, 

But will one day, no doubt. 

The sky is still a lovely blue, 

The rose is just as sweet. 

Each day is like another chance

To make my life complete. 

Sure, there’s hardship, sorrow and pain,

Who thought there wouldn’t be? 

But now I know it’s just a test

To find the worth in me. 

~Betty Irean Loeb

I am…

B…simply being. 

~Peace~

Thank you, Michael Hibdon, for sending me pictures of our lovely pansies and violas. I was so proud of you yesterday as you helped the little elderly people who waited with us in clinic. God bless you. I love you. 

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.

IMG_3346

 

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.

IMG_1826

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~

Bridging the Gap

“Sorry.

Sorry means you feel the pulse of other people’s pain as well as your own, and saying it means you take a share of it. And so it binds us together, makes us trodden and sodden as one another. Sorry is a lot of things. It’s a hole refilled. A debt repaid. Sorry is the wake of misdeed. It’s the crippling ripple of consequence. Sorry is sadness, just as knowing is sadness. Sorry is sometimes self-pity. But Sorry, really, is not about you. It’s theirs to take or leave.

Sorry means you leave yourself open, to embrace or to ridicule or to revenge. Sorry is a question that begs forgiveness, because the metronome of a good heart won’t settle until things are set right and true. Sorry doesn’t take things back, but it pushes things forward. It bridges the gap. Sorry is a sacrament. It’s an offering. A gift.” 

Craig Silvey, Jasper Jones

Sunday I spent a few hours sitting between these two beautiful people. Something about them makes me think of my mom’s family which means I was in a very magical place Sunday afternoon.

Pinky and I did not always have a good relationship.

Our conflict began many years ago over a dog poop incident. Yes. You read that correctly. Dog poop.

He had cautioned me very nicely not let my dogs relieve themselves in his yard. Well, when a dog decides to make that stop it’s not always easy to pull them away. I explained to him I was very careful with my dogs and I’d pick up after them. Okay. He was not happy with that answer but he accepted it.

The next weekend I was out walking the dogs and was so happy when both dogs walked by Pinky and Mary Lou’s yard.  What I did not know was Pinky had stepped in a “gift” left by a dog whose owner looked a lot like me. She did not pick up. He had tracked that little present into his RV and all over the freshly cleaned carpeting before he’d realized it.

As I walked by I heard a very firm voice ask me to stop. It was Pinky and he was angry. I was so confused. We hadn’t even stopped in his yard. I had no idea what he was talking about but there was no doubt he was very angry with me. I tried to defend my self but he was not listening to my excuses. He had seen me and that was all the proof he needed.

I walked quickly home and told Michael I would be keeping my distance from Pinky. For many years Pinky and I went out of our way to avoid each other. His wonderful wife, Mary Lou, went out of her way to visit with us and loved me just like nothing had happened.

About four years ago I heard a knock on our RV door. I wasn’t expecting anyone so I peeked through the window. I was shocked to see Mr. Pinky. I went into panic mode trying to think if I’d done something wrong? Michael wasn’t there so I couldn’t send him to the door. Pinky had already seen me so I had to answer the door.

I slowly opened the door and he began to speak to me in a strong but kind voice. He told me he did not want to come in but he had something important to say to me. He cleared his throat and straightened his back and looked me directly in the eye. That eye contact never broke as he asked me to forgive him for getting so mad at me all those years ago. He told me he had problems with a bad temper all his life and it wasn’t always easy for him to control it. He knew he had made a bad judgement about me because he had been watching me. He knew I was not the kind of person who would leave a mess behind. He paused to rest his voice before asking me to forgive  him.

No one before or since has made such a sincere apology to me. We both had tears in our eyes as I thanked him for the beautiful apology and told him I forgave him. We shared a very clumsy hug, each sniffling a time or two, and he headed down the stairs and home.

We have been the best of friends since that day. There isn’t a day that I don’t think of these two beautiful people and thank God they are in my life.

Sunday Pinky sat beside me and asked me questions no one else has since I retired. He touched my arm and asked me if I missed my work? He’s one of very few people who have asked that question. It touched my soul. We talked more about retirement. He told me he’d retired once but went back for twelve more years because he didn’t believe retirement was good for people. He said people need to be busy and both he and Mary Lou are both busy. He asked me about my home state of Iowa and what the summers were like there. How did he know I’d been feeling a little homesick? How comforting for me for him to take the time to listen to me talk about home. All our conversations were done with steady eye contact. As I think back on our talks I realized just how uncommon that is today.

It was an exceptional day and I will carry it in my heart forever. As I sat with the two of them I had such a strong feeling my family members had come to spend the day with me as well. Thank you, Pinky and Mary Lou, for being a part of and for adding so much to my life. I love you.

“What people see you do may not be remembered; what they hear you say may be forgotten; but how they feel your intervention in their times of need will forever be remembered.” 

Israelmore Ayivor, Leaders’ Watchwords

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Last Time For Everything

Using a fake ID at a college bar

Getting caught with a girl in the backseat of a car

Running out on the field for the senior game wearing number 17

There’s a last time for everything

Like a George Strait cassette in a Pontiac

I tell ’em Super Cuts, let’s leave it long in the back

Wearing the tux at a high school gym

And she’s wearing your class ring

There’s a last time for everything

Last call, last chance

Last song, last dance

Sometimes you just don’t know when that’s gonna be

Hold me baby, give me a kiss

Like tonight is all there is

Cause there’s a last time for everything

Throwing the ball with the first dog you ever had

Spending all day on the lake with your grandad

Watching Glenn Frey sing “Already Gone” at the Forum in LA

There’s a last time for everything

Last call, last chance

Last song, last dance

Sometimes you just don’t know when that’s gonna be

Hold me baby, give me a kiss

Like tonight is all there is

Cause there’s a last time for everything

Kissing goodbye on her porch and driving away

Introducing her as your fiancee

Getting woke up at 5 am to see if Santa came

There’s a last time for everything

Biscuits and gravy at momma’s house

(Last time for everything)

Spring break on a fold out couch

(Last time for everything)

Little Jimmy on the Opry stage

(Last time for everything)

Hearing Prince sing “Purple Rain”

(Last time for everything)

(Last time for everything)

I’d heard this Brad Paisley song many times before I really listened to the words.

I don’t think anyone would debate the fact music has this insanely sneaky ability to side step any and all self-protective barriers we’ve constructed over the years while erasing any concepts of time. Usually this happens when I hear an old song–one that was popular during a certain time in my past. This song took its time with me–waiting until I was comfortable with the melody–then certain phrases began to catch my attention.

I was not ready for the barrage of memories the lyrics pulled out of my unsuspecting mind. Each time I hear it, the words bring into sharp focus another new old memory.

Pretty powerful stuff.

What’s my latest trigger? “Biscuits and gravy and Mama’s house.”

It made me think of the last time my sisters and I planned on going to Omaha to my aunt’s house for Thanksgiving. We were all so ready to go see everyone. The Tuesday before the holiday an early snowstorm moved in and made travel unsafe–at least I thought it’d be unsafe. Had I known it’d be the last time we’d all be together for Thanksgiving, I would have taken any risk to be there.

As we prepare for this Thanksgiving, take a moment to look around, treasuring those seated at your table. Our world seems to be spinning faster and faster. In a blink of an eye, things change. This really could be the last time for many things.

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~  

 

Sunday Dinner

“You can kiss your family and friends good-bye and put miles between you, but at the same time you carry them with you in your heart, your mind, your stomach, because you do not just live in a world but a world lives in you.” 

Frederick Buechner

I’ve been thinking about family lately.

I think turning 65 is pulling at some heart-strings.

For many years every Sunday my sisters and I would get together for family dinner. I’d cook and we’d sit around. We’d share our stories of what happened to us that week, play cards, and drink some beer.

It was, by far, the most under appreciated time of my life.

As we begin our weekend, let’s all make a conscious choice to take time to appreciate those you love. Absorb every single moment, tucking those irreplaceable times safely away in that place you put all those special memories. One day these every day occurrences will give you comfort beyond measure.

“I may not always be with you 

But when we’re far apart

Remember you will be with me

Right inside my heart” 

Marc Wambolt, Poems from the Heart

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

 

 

 

Donna Dee

I loved my cousin, Donna Dee. Not sure why, but I am missing her today.

She was ten years older than I and I knew she was the coolest person on the planet. She told me things no one else would and she always had stories about my mom. She’d often tell me that the two of us were very special; just like my mom and her, she and I were ten years apart in age.

Donna was the daughter of my mom’s oldest sister, Charlotte. That’s the two of them in the picture I’ve posted today. Donna lived with my Grandma most of the time when she was growing up. Because of that, she spent a lot of time with my mom before my mom married my dad. For me, going to Gram’s was the best place on earth. It was the place where I felt the most special and the place I got to be around my three favorite people, my Grandpa, my Gram, and my cousin, Donna.

Donna taught me all the things every little girl needed to know. Some things, I’m pretty sure my mom wished she’d waited a little longer to show me. She had so much wonderful big girl stuff. She taught me how to roll my hair in those painful brush rollers and gave me hints on how to get those little pink pic things to really hold the rollers tightly to your head. I learned how to “tease” my hair and fell in love with the smell of hair spray. She showed me how to use lipstick, telling me how important it was to blot–that final blot was what helped the color last so it wouldn’t smear when you kissed your boyfriend. That always made me giggle–me–a boyfriend.

I loved having all those kiss marked kleenexes around us as we talked. Almost as much as I loved being with Donna–the one person who always knew how to make me feel like I was cool, too.

There was only one time when she did not share. I’d found a little bar of square chocolates on her dresser. To my kid eyes, they looked like someone had shrunk a Hershey bar. See what I mean, she really had super neat things! I asked in all the ways I could think of–please, please, please, could I have just one piece. She would NOT share. Well, I said to my young self, I’ll just wait until she leaves. I’ll only take a couple–she’ll never miss them.

She did miss them.

She never told on us kids–she did this time. Man, I thought, this must have been some really special stuff. First, she wouldn’t share and now she told on me–I mean–us.

My Dad came over to my sisters and me, asking us who had taken Donna’s chocolates? Not me, I said. I was feeling very put out because she did not share. PLUS, they tasted terrible. I’d thrown a lot of it in the trash.  So, really, since I’d thrown it way had I really taken them?

His look focused on me for a few more seconds–I was thinking, rationalizing it all in my head. I stood my ground.

“Okay,” he said, shaking his head and chuckling, “The truth will come out soon enough.”

Very early that morning, the truth indeed came screaming out as one stubborn little kid barely made it the bathroom. Man, I thought, that must have been some seriously bad chocolate! It was then they told me I had eaten EX-Lax, medicine, not candy. Geez Louise, no wonder it tasted so bad.

Oh, the lessons we learn. It was a very very long time before I asked anyone for chocolate.

I am…

B…simply being…

Love and peace, Y’all.

 

 

Gratitude

My post yesterday focused on the book, Simple Abundance.  As I mentioned last night, the main purpose of this book is gratitude and how being thankful for your blessings is important and by being thankful can actually draw more blessings into your life.

I believe that this was a set up for today.

Today was very interesting for many reasons. My to-do list went quickly–score one–all my chores were completed fairly successfully. I stayed focused–score two–no small feat these days–I was able to make actual human, verbal contact with everyone I contacted–score three.

Attached is a picture of the first of the gifts that came my way today. This first surprise came by way of our great mail carrier, Debbie, who handed me a package from my sister, Sue, and her husband Al. They had visited us last month and they sent a thank you PACKAGE. Not just an email or a text or even a posted thank you card. This was a box filled with treats. They sent us Kona coffee, a bag of the same shortbread cookies they had with them when they visited–both Michael and I LOVED them, a red velvet cake mix with everything you need to make it, and a new apron to add to my very limited apron supply–something I was consistently whining about when they were here.  As precious as these gifts were, a bigger bonus was the handmade thank you card. Not just a card but one that included a handwritten letter to both Michael and I. A letter thanking us in detail about different parts of their visit all while singing praises for our new little house in the hill country of Texas–score four.

Later this afternoon Michael came home from visiting one of his oldest friends. In his hand when he walked in the door was a bag filled with more gifts.  Dayne, and Dayne’s wife, Donna,  shared fresh squash from their garden, a great smelling candle, and a handmade quilted hot pad. Special. Thank you–score five.

All of the above things are precious to me beyond measure. I am grateful.

Thank you, God.

I am thankful for the fact that I have a wonderful family–the family I was born into and an extended family who has me accepted me without reservation–score six.

I am blessed.

I am…

B…simply being…

I love y’all. Peace.