Looking Out

“It has shown me that everything is illuminated in the light of the past. It is always along the side of us…on the inside, looking out.” 

Jonathan Safran Foer

It has been a glorious day in the hill country of Texas.

Michael and I walked the dogs and came home to start cleaning up the yard. I learned last year the window to do this type of work is pretty narrow.

The thing about doing yard work is my mind if free to think–I don’t have the ability to work and filter thoughts. The result is all kinds of random memories float unbidden in and out of my consciousness.

Today thoughts of my dad hung out with me as I pulled weeds and examined the surviving plants and shrubs. As I dug out clusters of weeds I remembered clearing off his huge desk top.

I was probably five or six years old and I thought I was such an excellent helper. As I looked over his desk, it was obvious, he needed some help.

The focal point of the desk was a large dark glass ashtray. This was where I’d start because it was always over flowing. I knew from my frequent visits this office was the meeting place for sales people, people with questions about supplies, and anyone in need of help figuring out what was needed for a special project. I knew many of those conversations were at least two or three cigarettes long which explained the condition of that ashtray.

With the focal point polished and replaced in its prominent position, I’d polish the glass top and begin repositioning papers. I’d dash around the desk, placing neat stacks next to the next neat stack, carefully making each stack the same height as the next while aligning all edges perfectly to the edges of the desk.

It was a work of art and I was so proud.

I learned years later my hard work created even more hard work for my dad. What appeared to be unorganized was actually carefully and very personalized paper placement. It took him days to find things after my surprise cleaning visits.

The most amazing thing about this memory is I realized just this morning my desk top has ALWAYS looked exactly like my dad’s–before I showed up to help him out–minus that big ashtray.

I’m thinking I may need to wave the white flag at some of my decluttering attempts.

“When the remembering was done, the forgetting could begin.” 

Sara Zarr

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Work Is More Than a Four Letter Word

“No man needs sympathy because he has to work, because he has a burden to carry. Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.” 

Theodore Roosevelt

Lunch seems to be the common thread of my stories lately.

Lucky, aren’t I?

Today Michael and I had lunch with a former coworker of mine, Kathy Willer and her husband, Denny. Interesting thing is Kathy and I worked in the same NE Iowa community for the same radiologists but at different facilities. Kathy worked at Schoitz Memorial Hospital. I worked at St. Francis Hospital. Even though we were only a few miles apart our work environments were very different, each hospital had its own specialty and way of doing things. Looking back it’s a little bit comical and a little bit sad.

As radiologic technologists we technically worked for the hospitals. In reality we worked for the radiologists. Because the radiologists covered both hospitals, the staff knew each other and saw each other at different professional meetings and always at the annual Christmas party. We were a very diverse group of people–as you can see from the picture of the St. Francis crew I’m re-sharing today since both Kathy and I forgot to take a picture today.

Today’s lunch was a walk down memory lane for both of us. We said things like–“I think it’s been over 30 years since I saw and talked to you.” Or “I retired after working 42 years in imaging.” WHAT! Is that even possible? How old are we anyway?

As we talked and laughed it seemed like it was just a few years ago we were both balancing our work and home lives. Who would have thought when we started our careers the changes we’d see in the field of medical imaging. We saw the first CT and MRI images, watched ultrasound grow from B-mode/M-mode scans to 3 and 4D imaging with incredible flow studies, marveled at the advances in invasive radiology procedures, advances in nuclear medicine and the birth of PET scans, and all the incredible advances in radiation therapy.

We were both so fortunate to be a field where we could grow beyond our wildest dreams professionally and be surrounded by people who grew from coworkers into friends.

Thanks, Kathy and Denny for a wonderful leisiurely lunch.

I am smiling, I am humbled, and I am grateful.

“Motivation comes from working on things we care about. It also comes from working with people we care about.” 

Sheryl Sandberg, Lean In: Women, Work, and the Will to Lead

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Sherrie’s Cherry Bars–Resurrected

“No one who cooks, cooks alone. Even at her most solitary, a cook in the kitchen is surrounded by generations of cooks past, the advice and menus of cooks present, the wisdom of cookbook writers.” 

Laurie Colwin

Baking was not something I had time to do when I was working. It was just to time consuming.

After I retired I started baking chocolate chip cookies. For two reasons–I knew how and I love cookies–especially chocolate chip cookies.

Today I wanted something different.

Somewhere, deep in my memory, I remembered some cherry bars one of our students made when I was working at St. Francis in the radiology department. I knew I had the recipe somewhere. In my mind’s eye, I could see the handwritten recipe–

It took some time–mainly because I had to read and remember every other recipe I came across  in my slow search. What should have been a ten minute deal ended about an hour and half later. It looked exactly like I remembered it.

This little piece of paper is special for several reasons:

  • It is written by the original baker, Sherrie–a young woman who was a radiology student decades ago.
  • The little added note on the top of the page telling me it’s from Sherrie was written by another co-worker–Jackie–who later became a student and then a fellow radiologic technologist.
  • These cherry bars are just as good today as they were all those years ago. The only change I made today was using two cans of dark cherries in syrup instead of cherry pie filling.
  • Memories come in many different forms. Today I walked down a little side road off of my memory lane. My sense of smell and taste were quick to appreciate this treat from a day many decades in the past. It was and is such an unexpected treat.

If you have the time to do a little baking–give ’em a try.

“Cooking is at once child’s play and adult joy. And cooking done with care is an act of love.” 

Craig Claiborne

I am…

B…simply being.

~Peace~

Time Travel

“Childhood is the one story that stands by itself in every soul.” 

Ivan Doig, The Whistling Season

Memories.

I’m so surprised at how unexpected things can stir up such powerful ones.

My latest trip down memory lane was sparked by three little bowls I found at an estate sale. As I held them I was immediately transported back in time to Aunt Marie’s house in Omaha.

In my mind I saw myself standing in the little kitchen in front of the large farm-style sink, drying dishes. The person who dried the dishes had to put things away. It became my job because I was the tallest. Little did I know then just how much I should have enjoyed that title! Putting dishes away was not an easy task nor was it something you could do quickly.  This was especially difficult due to the fact all the other kids in the neighborhood ate earlier. This meant we could hear them all running and we were being left out. The pressure was on me because no one could go out until we were all done.

To begin the process I had to duck in order to open the wide white cabinet door. Once open I was always amazed at the stacks and stacks of mis-matched china. My twelve-year old know it all mind could not grasp why anyone would choose to have all those different types, colors, and shapes of cups, saucers, and plates.

Today I realize and appreciate the fact that this massive cupboard held not only the original family china but pieces of sets from every family member who had died or moved away from Omaha.

As we got older, my sisters and I visited Marie when we could all get away for a long weekend. Looking back, it’s disappointing to me my young adult self did not have the insight to ask more questions about family and get details about that treasure trove of dishes. Now the dishes are gone as well as those incredible story tellers.

But, by the grace of God, I have physical reminders of Marie. Several times during the day I get to hold each one and thank God for her and for all she did for my family.

I pray she can hear me because I cannot imagine where any of us would have ended up without her.

“I do not miss childhood, but I miss the way I took pleasure in small things, even as greater things crumbled. I could not control the world I was in, could not walk away from things or people or moments that hurt, but I took joy in the things that made me happy.” 

Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

Youth Dew

“Songs and smells will bring you back to a moment in time more than anything else. It’s amazing how much can be conjured with a few notes of a song or a solitary whiff of a room. A song you didn’t even pay attention to at the time, a place that you didn’t even know had a particular smell.” 

Emily Giffin, Something Borrowed

Encouragement can come in strange shapes and forms.

I went to a program at the library this morning. I fell into line behind the other late arrivals. As the woman in front of me passed through the automatic door the air currents caught her perfume and floated it into my path.

Estee Lauder’s Youth Dew–I’d know that signature scent anywhere. The second it made contact with my olfactory senses, I saw the face and heard the voice of my Aunt Eve.

Interesting this childhood memory would pop so vividly into my Friday. What a spiritual boost for me and for my work.

I smiled.

I could see my family sitting around the dining room table in Heaven asking each other who they should send to encourage me and boost my spirits. Silly question because they’d all know who to send. That choice would have taken less than a millisecond. They knew Aunt Eve had a special spot in my heart and we had some history. As usual, in short order and in a style all her own, she got her message across loud and clear.

Thanks. I love and miss Y’all.

The gift of encouragement

Should be given each day–

Pass it out freely

And in gentle ways.

There’s no  need for ribbons

To make it look grand–

Just the simple encouragement

Of a kind, helping hand. 

~Joan Stephen~

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

Christmas Touchstones

“We’re so caught up in our everyday lives that events of the past, like ancient stars that have burned out, are no longer in orbit around our minds. There are just too many things we have to think about every day, too many new things we have to learn. New styles, new information, new technology, new terminology … But still, no matter how much time passes, no matter what takes place in the interim, there are some things we can never assign to oblivion, memories we can never rub away. They remain with us forever, like a touchstone.” 

Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore

Memories of Christmas past find their way into my head this time of year.

I bet you have some of the same ones crowding into your mind these days–

  • Growing up in Iowa, every year we prayed for a white Christmas. One of my favorite memories is the year the forecast called for no snow. As I walked into Midnight Mass late that night, I prayed for snow. As we turned to leave the church that very early Christmas morning, the doors opened onto a scene of white. Snow had been steadily fallen for some time, covering the trees and the ground with snow that looked like crushed diamonds. The air was quiet and calm–the silence enveloped us all in a blanket of peace. This is my favorite Christmas moment.
  • Today was the last day of school here in our neighborhood. I had to laugh, remember leaving school for Christmas break and telling everyone we’d see each other next year.
  • Getting ready for our school Christmas program and getting to wear my Mom’s red lipstick. I felt absolutely beautiful.
  • Going to Midnight Mass with my family and resting my head on my Mom’s shoulder as we sang Silent Night together.
  • The year my mom died, we went to Midnight Mass, came home to eat chili and open presents. This year when we woke up Christmas morning, we discovered we all had new gifts under the tree. I still don’t know where all these gifts came from but they were an extra special boost to three kids spirits that year.
  • As a young adult, singing Silent Night with my friends and co-workers before we left our neighborhood bar and headed home for the holiday. Because of the memories I have about this song, Silent Night always makes me cry.
  • Remembering that first Christmas with family and friends after moving far from home. That first Christmas back home taught me the true meaning of Christmas joy.

As Christmas draws near, set aside a little extra time to be with those you love. When I look at my list of remembered things, I don’t see any gifts mentioned. All those special memories revolve around time spent with people–people I’d give anything to have the chance to spend time with today.

As some of us still search for that perfect gift, stop all the rushing. Pack away your phone and give those you love those extra moments of your undivided attention.

That is the gift that will be remembered–always–and most likely get better with age.

“When we recall Christmas past, we usually find that the simplest things – not the great occasions – give off the greatest glow of happiness.” 

Bob Hope

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

 

The Sorcery of a Name

“A name can’t begin to encompass the sum of all her parts. But that’s the magic of names, isn’t it? That the complex, contradictory individuals we are can be called up complete and whole in another mind through the simple sorcery of a name.” 

Charles de Lint, Dreams Underfoot

This is such a tricky time of the year.

So many emotions come bubbling up to the surface when we are least expecting them and least prepared.

What I once called the season of magic is now a little more haunting.

Memories steal into my mind when my guard is down–before I’ve had the chance to reinforced all my weakest check-points.

I know I am not alone.

I’m thinking one of the most beautiful gifts we could give each other right now is the gift of time. The gift of an evening filled with conversations about those we are missing this holiday season–whether this is the first or the sixtieth. A time filled with names that are rarely–if ever–heard these days. An evening where names and stories are shared without the guilt often associated with those things judged to be well past the appropriate time frame of grieving.

The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.” 

Lois Lowry, The Giver

I am…

B…simple being…

~Peace~

“Names are a way to keep people in your mind” 

Maggie Stiefvater, Lament: The Faerie Queen’s Deception  

 

 

 

Yesterdays

“My yesterdays walk with me. They keep step, they are gray faces that peer over my shoulder.” 

William Golding

The thoughts that came into my head this past week surprised me.

Most of them spurred on by a collection of odd dreams that weaved in and out of my rather drugged state. Others came all by themselves, unbidden, following the breadcrumbs left by their predecessors.

Most of the faces I saw were from my very early career in radiology and their visits left me feeling all kinds of emotions.

I couldn’t help wondering what it’d be like if we could all work together again as the more adult, more mature versions of our younger selves? It makes me shake my head and slowly smile.

We were such an interesting collection of people–some very young, eyes wide open as they saw the unexpected and learned, others a little older, pushing to establish themselves in a small but demanding department, and the older, established few who saw the world of medicine changing all around them, unsure where they would fit in.

I was one fighting for my spot. As I bounced around in my search for new territory, I was not always very kind nor was I anywhere near as smart as I thought I was. I know–all surprising, right?

Many of the old familiar faces visited me this week–thank you. It was haunting and blearily lovely.

 “When we are tired, we are attacked by ideas we conquered long ago.” 

Friedrich Nietzsche

I am…

B…simply being…

~Peace~

Shorthand

“They talked in the shorthand of old friends and shared memories.” 

Dee Henderson, Before I Wake

This summer has been special because I’ve had the chance to reconnect with old friends. It has been wonderful.

Friendships are interesting and sometimes complicated. My friend, Mary, had to talk with her grand-daughter, Charlotte, this past week because Charlotte’s friend next door was not being very nice. Those early childhood friendships can be hard for young minds and tender hearts to understand. Thank heavens Charlotte had Grandma Mary to help her understand how friends treat each other. Lucky me for being part of the friendship example Mary used in her story. Charlotte was so surprised to hear we had been friends for over 40 years and had text conversations every morning.

Looking back on my life, I have memories of many different friendships. Some were brief and superficial–like those summer time friends I met on vacation or at the pool. As summer ended that connection faded as the new school year began. Other friends I met along the way became part of my life for a year or two. We shared common interests and goals–as those interests changed so did my circle of friends. It wasn’t always easy but it was all part of growing up. I was lucky, though. There were friends I met along the way who became part of my life. Many became my family of choice–there beside me when I needed that level of support. I cannot imagine where I would be today if they had not been there for me. As we grew up and started our adult lives, it didn’t matter how much time passed or where we lived–we knew we would always be there for each other.

Thanks, Jodi, for letting me use your photo in my story today. I Wish I could have been there with you guys–next time. By the way, you all look marvelous. I love you.

“While they talked they remembered the years of their youth, and each thought of the other as he had been at another time.” 

John Williams, Stoner

I am…

B…simply being…

God bless.

~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~