Friday, May 31, 2013
A friend recently loaned me a book by Debbie Macomber called God's Guest List (Howard Books, 2010). In the book, the author talks about the list of 30 people she had assembled as those she wanted to meet. Along the way, she said that some of those who had been on her list were a bit of a disappointment. So, through prayerful consideration, she made a new list, but this time she allowed God to fill in the blanks as to who would be placed on that list. Her book lovingly and eloquently tells about the significance of the people on that second list in her life, people who were placed as "guests" in her life by God. Reading the book made me think of the many wonderful people who have and continue to be guests in my life, placed there not by me, but by God. They are people with kind hearts, loving actions, wise words, strong faith, joyful optimism and abundant hope. What would my life be like without those special people in my life? I believe that my life would be much different and likely not as rich. I'm grateful to the guest list God has given me. How about you?
Thursday, May 30, 2013
I love to read. If I don't have at least one book around me, I feel restless, as if something is dreadfully wrong. Recently, a friend told me of a 90-year-old man who reportedly reads a book a day and has done so for years. I can't compete with his prolific reading abilities, but a book is my great companion every day. Now that we've gotten beyond the Memorial Day weekend, that unofficial start to summer, I will find every opportunity to read in the sun porch, at the beach, in my big comfy chair, in bed, at the kitchen table, on the couch. My summer reading list has been started and my list of holds at the local public library is ever-growing. The long, lovely season of summer is just made for quiet reading time, time to ponder and time to simply be.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
While taking a walk one recent evening, I passed by a house where I could hear a lawn mower buzzing nearby. Upon closer examination, I could see a young boy busily pushing the lawn mower around the house's back yard. Standing in the front yard, his hands in his pockets, was what must have been the boy's father, watching that the lad was mowing properly and safely. I guessed that he must have been supervising a Mowing 101 class that evening. I recalled being the young one mowing the lawn so many summers ago, with my dad's watchful eye to make sure all was well. We had a yard of multiple acres and my dad favored mowing at least two acres of it (although it felt more like 200 from this child's perspective). Dad taught me how to use the lawn tractor so I could cover the big front and back yards while he and Mom did the hard work of pushing the small mowers to trim around our many trees, fences and posts. It took us two days to complete our front and back yards. No sooner would we finish and it would seem as if we would have to start the process all over again. It's no wonder that I take such delight these days watching others mow our lawn from our condominium's sun porch. I fear that I wouldn't recall enough from my own Mowing 101 days anymore to want to tackle that task ever again.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
As I admired the delicate blossoms of her red bud trees, my friend Mary lamented that their blooming cycle is a "flash in the pan." So true! How we wait so long to have blossoming trees, only to have their showy beauty last for only a short time. Now is a fragrant, beautiful time of year when the lilacs, flowering crabs, red buds and magnolias are in bloom. A driving rain, a gust of wind, however, and the entire spring scene changes and the blossoms fall to the ground in little mounds of spent petals. Although their beauty may be short-lived, I bask in the loveliness of mid- to late-May, when all is green, pink and white and the scent in the air is enough to make you never want to leave spring.
Monday, May 27, 2013
It's Memorial Day and my mind goes to the sight of American flags flying high from poles, carried with honor in parades and placed at grave sites to remember those who have served our country so valiantly. In addition to contemplating our beautiful American flag, my mind goes today to another type of flag. Grandpa Joe always called bearded iris "flags." Today, as we celebrate Memorial Day, I see that other type of flag unfurled and beautifully growing in yard after yard on my daily walk. Those I saw today are half dark purple and half even darker purple, joined by those that are half yellow, half brown. I've always loved iris. Their bright beauty and delicate fragrance are sure signs of late May. My mom always grew iris at our house and she learned along the way how hardy and prolific they can be. One year, while dividing the iris rhizomes to encourage more growth, she discarded bits and pieces of some of the rhizomes into our field, only to find iris growing there the next spring. So today, I celebrate and appreciate flags of all sorts. Happy Memorial Day.
Sunday, May 26, 2013
The weather was so fair that as evening came on, I could no longer stay inside. I had to go out for a good, brisk walk in our neighborhood. The scents of flowering crab trees and freshly mown grass, the bird song and the friendly hellos from people lounging on their porches and patios made me glad I had chosen to get some exercise rather than to plant myself in my chair on such a fine May evening. The best treat during my walk, however, was when I chose to look up at the sky and saw that the clouds had swirled and swirled around into puffy white polka dots all above me. I don't recall ever having seen such a cloud formation, yet there they were, cloud polka dots. They reminded me of a summer formal dress that my mother made for me when I was a state officer with a Masonic group called Rainbow Girls oh, so many years ago. The dress was sweet with little puffy sleeves and a gored skirt. I'm sure it was a nightmare for Mom to sew, but as usual, she never complained. Her sewing skills amazed me then and continue to amaze me today. The dress was made of white dotted Swiss fabric. I ran across a photo of my young self in that dress not too long ago. Not a worry line or gray hair to be had, only a fresh face looking at the camera with happiness and anticipation of the exciting life ahead. Pleasant memories, all because of a dotted sky.
Saturday, May 25, 2013
At this time of year, I have a taste for spring. All I want to eat is asparagus and rhubarb and more asparagus and rhubarb, until I've had my spring fill. While at dinner with friends recently, I learned that they have a huge asparagus patch at their new home. The patch yields so much that they are making arrangements to sell some of their bounty locally. I will be first in line to buy the beautiful green stems. Larry and I will eat asparagus until it is out of season. My taste buds also go to rhubarb at this time of year. At the same recent dinner with friends, we talked about the various ways to prepare rhubarb, listing everything from rhubarb crisp and pie to sauce and bread. Throughout the entire conversation, my mouth watered. At a recent function, Larry and I had the opportunity to purchase slices of pie. While there were many delicious choices to be had, we both found ourselves eying the rhubarb custard pie. We slowly savored every morsel, interjecting a long "mmmmmm" in between every bite. Spring is in its full glory right now. What a wonderful season to appeal to all of our senses!
Friday, May 24, 2013
Today would have been my beloved mom's 87th birthday. She and I always relished having May birthdays. May weather is usually comfortable, not too cold, not too hot. The earth is greening up and blossoming. And as a kid, it meant that summer was nearly here. Since I grew to adulthood, Mom and I frequently shared our birthday celebrations with a shared dinner and cake. We discontinued giving birthday gifts to each other at one point and chose instead to share experiences because we saw giving memories to each other had a greater pull than giving things. So, as May moves quickly along, I celebrate it as Mom's month and today as Mom's day. Today and always, I will relish all of those shared May birthdays and precious shared experiences that continue to enrich my life.
Thursday, May 23, 2013
I read a great online article by Deepak Chopra, MD about the importance of following one's bliss and I immediately thought of my husband Larry. A few years ago, he left a position he had held for over 17 years to embark on a new journey where the risks and rewards fell solely on his shoulders. He has steadfastly worked seven days a week on his new venture, riding the rollercoaster of self-employment, especially during The Great Recession. Regardless of the difficulties and occasional setbacks, he looked me squarely in the eye the other day and said that he wouldn't quit his venture for anything. He is truly passionate about it and is doing what he loves. For some, doing what one loves can be a vocation or avocation. For Larry, I believe he's combined them both into a state of bliss. Who could ask for more?
Wednesday, May 22, 2013
After months of black and white in the landscape, I am thrilled that the grass is green, the trees are leafing out and the dandelions are in bloom. Yes, that's right, I'm happy that the dandelions are in bloom. As a child growing up in the country, we enjoyed the dandelions. Our yard was huge, as yards tend to be in the country, so we never, ever thought about raking leaves, fertilizing the lawn or spraying weed killer on the dandelions. They were simply part of spring and summer and they looked happy, with their bright yellow faces. One recent Sunday afternoon, while my husband Larry and I were out for a drive, we passed by a country house with a big yard absolutely filled with dandelions in bloom. Larry commented that the sight was spectacular. The artist in him appreciated the vibrancy of the bright yellow against the bright green grass. I rarely can make myself chop off a dandelion. And if I feel moved to remove one, I do so without toxic chemicals. I remove weeds with a spray bottle filled with white vinegar. But, after seeing what looked like a painting awash in vivid yellow against a green field on that lovely Sunday afternoon drive, I'll hesitate to whine about the dandelions or make any attempt to remove them, for they are a beautiful sign that we have survived yet another Wisconsin winter and spring is finally here.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
It was a lovely spring evening, birds singing, sun shining, and Larry and I were on our way to a nearby retreat center for an evening function. As our car ascended the hill on the winding road, I could feel my pulse slow and my breathing deepening. We weren't on our way to an actual retreat, but somehow, my body was reacting as if it was. The event was to benefit Durward's Glen Retreat Center, nestled high in the hills outside of Baraboo, Wisconsin. An energetic and enterprising group of volunteers rolled up its sleeves to save the restful, beautiful spot from developers a few years ago and were now actively generating funds to sustain it. The event focused on the theme of an evening in Paris. From French wine to French country music to French cuisine to the pastries and prayers of a French Sister, the evening spirited us to a place a half-world away. Although we were among some 75 other adults in the lively, chatty atmosphere of a single room, that enchanting evening was my very definition of retreat.
Monday, May 20, 2013
There's a small stretch of road linking two entrances to our local state park that draws me into it every chance I can take. The paved road is perhaps a mile long, sheltered on all sides by trees. In fact, the trees are so mature that their canopies lean across the road, touching each other. I enjoy this favorite drive of mine at any time of the year, but I particularly like it in the spring when the trees are barely budding and there are so many shades of green to be seen that one can't even describe them properly. So on a recent day when the sun was behind the clouds and the subtle shades of green were starting to pop, I found myself just needing to drive that stretch of paved road. I drove a little slower than normal so I could observe the spring beauty. As I concluded my drive and looked back in my rearview mirror, the sight of it all still took my breath away.
Sunday, May 19, 2013
While driving through rolling Wisconsin countryside the other day, I came upon one of those quintessential Midwest farmland scenes of Holstein cows leisurely passing the time in a field of green. The vibrancy of the black and white cows against the bright green grass and the bucolic, calming nature of it all almost made me pull over to the side of the road long enough to take it all in, as if carefully studying the details of a painting in a gallery. I feel fortunate to live in an area where such a pastoral scene is more the commonplace than the unusual, but that particular day, it was a special gift to see our beautiful world operating at a slower pace. At that moment, everything seemed right with the world.
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Today is my silver anniversary. Twenty-five years ago today, I had surgery and learned that I was now a breast cancer survivor. I was a young woman, not even out of my 20s, when that news came to me. The realization of such a diagnosis would change my life forever, playing a major role in my choices, my decisions, my beliefs and my values. At that instant, I realized that I was no longer immortal. Everything was finite, but the question was what was I going to do with that finite amount of time as a breast cancer survivor? Since then, I've defined myself in other ways and because of other circumstances, but the role of breast cancer survivor is still an important one for me. Now, with graying hair and a few laugh lines, I am grateful for the medical professionals who helped me to be able to live those 25 years. I look forward to the next 25 and being able to say that I'm celebrating my golden anniversary.
Friday, May 17, 2013
A dear friend told me that, as a little girl, she used to ponder "Should I be somewhere else?". It was the beginning of her desire to explore new places. Her work has allowed her to live in several states, in both small communities and big cities. She appears fearless and possibly even blase when it comes to picking up stakes and starting a new adventure in a new place. I was amazed that she could articulate her desire for exploration so early in life, especially when it didn't appear to have been fostered by her family. I have always thought about such grand adventures, and even did extensive traveling with my parents at a young age, but my adult roots have been firmly planted in primarily one place. There's safety in that one place in that people know you and they are more prone to do business with you simply on a handshake. Yet, as I think about my friend making yet another big move, I celebrate that she looks at being "somewhere else" with such anticipation and joy.
Thursday, May 16, 2013
I watched a video online recently about the benefits of surrendering from our preconceived notions, anxieties and fears. I seldom like to surrender fully because I value having a sense of control, but when I do surrender to that sweet place, I allow life to do its thing and I only have to use my energy to go along with it. I've realized lately that I have been moving intentionally and with my whole being into that new, sweet place. When I surrender the sense of control that I usually carry on my shoulders and mind, the weight of it all lessens and often completely disappears. Because of that intentional action on my part, amazing things have started to happen. When I don't force things to go a certain way (the way that I think it should go), a better way makes itself known. When I see life as a series of curvy paths, the straight lines no longer look as attractive. When I leave myself open to serendipity, a new way of seeing my life unfolds. It's truly a state of sweet, sweet surrender.
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Most of the day had been filled with the sound of saws, saws that were taking down two trees in our neighborhood. I had mixed feelings as I heard the saws doing their work, for I love trees and I never like to see one come down. But these two trees were old and dangerous. Limbs had been breaking off and dropping from them for some time. With each heavy wind, one would keep an eye on those trees, fearing that one or both would fall and cause damage. Despite the concern over the trees, there was also a fascination -- and a grief -- as they were brought down. Neighbors came out of their homes, some seated on lawn chairs in their garages, to watch the process. I have no idea how old those trees were or how many storms they had endured or over how many children they had provided shade to play outside, but they are now gone. All that is left are their trunks, soon to be felled and the stumps ground. The neighborhood will be just that much barer without their big presence.
Tuesday, May 14, 2013
My friend Ellen invited me recently to take a little road trip to a botanic garden. It was spring and she wanted to see (and smell) the cherry blossoms. So, she picked me up and we headed out on our spring blossom quest. If one word could describe what we encountered, I'd have to say it was "heady." The nearly translucent pink magnolia, the serviceberry heavy with small white flowers, the deep-pink redbud, and the light pink cherry trees were all in full blossom that sunny day. The forsythia bushes and some daffodils were showy in their yellow-ness. The bergenia were starting to bloom, as were the Virginia bluebells. The little white Dutchman's breeches were swaying in the gentle breeze. The magenta checkered tulips hung their beautiful heads. The summer snowflakes, little white bell-shaped flowers with green dots on the edges, were so beautiful and delicate that I just had to gently lift up one of the little bells to fully appreciate the intricacy of its architecture. For the first time in a while, I have been allowing myself time to be, to just be. That day, I allowed myself to stroll ever so slowly and carefully study the colors, the textures, the shapes, the scents of each flowering plant and tree. I was reminded of the beauty that is around us all of the time, in particular during this favorite season of mine. When I slow down, I receive a most amazing gift. It is then that I see beauty and all that is there for me to enjoy.
Monday, May 13, 2013
My husband Larry and I spent a recent Sunday afternoon attending the opening of a photography exhibit depicting natural scenes from our area as viewed from the lens of a 19th century photographer and that of his current-day counterpart. Comparison images of "then and now" scenes were printed large and mounted next to each other. Some of the images showed very little change between the past and present, while for others, the changes were profound and vast. As I strolled throughout the gallery studying the photographs, I was reminded of how impermanent life is. Everything changes with time, even if very little over long spans of time. But, change occurs nonetheless. I appreciated the artistic eye of both photographers and their desire to capture moments in time, knowing that the scenes will have changed the moment after they clicked the shutter.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
In celebration of Mother's Day today, I was invited by our pastor to speak for a few moments during the Sunday worship service. I chose to limit my own personal remarks and, instead, to read from Stillmeadow Sampler (J.B. Lippincott Company, 1959) by my late mom's favorite author, Gladys Taber. Mom loved Mrs. Taber's words and so do I. Her writing was gentle and delightful, capturing a bit of reminiscing and a bit of ordinary, everyday life. Mom frequently lightly marked in pencil her favorite passages in Mrs. Taber's books. While this particular passage wasn't so-marked, it spoke to me because it so reminded me of my mom and her own gentle, kind, soft-spoken, though lots of fun, spirit. What I particularly enjoy about Stillmeadow Sampler is that it starts with spring, my favorite season. It wasn't hard for me to find what I believe was just the right passage about May, Mrs. Taber's mother and how moms and daughters can be friends. Although it has been two years since I was able to celebrate Mother's Day with my dear, late mom, I felt her gentle, lovely spirit as I read those words at church today, knowing that with her, every day was Mother's Day, and confident now she will forever be in my heart.
Saturday, May 11, 2013
One recent day, I opened up our mailbox to find a cardboard box from a national bookseller. Inside the surprise box was a treasure, a book titled Following the Path: The Search for a Life of Passion, Purpose, and Joy by Joan Chittister (Image, 2012). There was no note to identify the sender. I pondered who among my family and friends would be so perceptive and kind as to think of me by mailing such a meaningful book. Within a day, it dawned on me who that someone might be and fortunately, the mystery was solved. The title of the book immediately pulled me in and I sat down to read the first chapter. I have been engaged in a life search for a while, but lately, that search has intensified. Reading the book has brought me to tears, made me smile and caused me to read passages aloud to my husband Larry. Throughout, I've had numerous "aha" moments. I decided that once I finish the book, I'm going to immediately re-read it to capture any nugget of wisdom I might have missed. Meanwhile, I'm listening for that small, wise inner voice that will guide me on the next leg of my life's path toward passion, purpose and joy. I'm listening hard.
Friday, May 10, 2013
I normally eat smaller, healthy meals and I stop eating after dinner so I can get in my evening walk and then relax before bedtime. One recent evening, we ate a larger meal and we ate later than usual. Such a departure from my regular schedule caused me to wake up in the middle of the night with the heavy feeling that I had somehow swallowed a basketball. After tossing for an hour, I finally got up, moved to my favorite comfy chair in the living room, and with the sun porch windows open to give me fresh air, I read while wrapped up in a quilt. At 4:23 a.m., my reading was interrupted by one lone bird who decided it was time to sing. Soon, he or she was joined by others and soon after that, there was a full bird chorus. I turned off the light and sat in the darkness, surrendering to the early morning birdsong. I soon realized that the basketball in my stomach had gone away and I fell asleep in my comfy chair. When I awakened a couple of hours later, the birds were still singing, though in the daylight, I didn't react as much to the intensity of their song. That one lone bird singing away in the darkness was all I needed to feel better. I couldn't help but wonder how often I allow myself to be that one lone bird singing in the darkness, bringing hope and centering to another. Lesson learned.
Thursday, May 9, 2013
I love the tradition of May Day and May baskets. Our doorbell rang early on May 1 and who should be standing there but our friend Charlene with a May Day gift for Larry and me -- a beautiful purple pansy wrapped in a purple bow. Later that morning, my friend Kitty emailed that she had some perennial plants to share. When I arrived at her home, I found that she didn't just have a few plants to share with me; she had enough to fill two large bags. At this time of year, especially in the northern climes when we seem to wait forever to get our hands dirty in the warm soil, May Day surprises, such as those we received this year, are especially welcome. On that particular May Day, nothing could have been nicer than gifts of blooming posies and plants that gave me an excuse to finally get out my garden trowel.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
An eloquent woman I know began her banquet remarks recently with comments about the search for balance in our lives: work vs. play, career vs. family, communicating via technology vs. engaging in face-to-face discourse. It seems that the faster the pace of life races, the more we agonize over how to put on the brakes. With so many demands for our precious 24 daily hours, I believe that we try to accomplish too much in a day, me included. Each of our days moves at lightning speed anyway, giving way to months, years, decades. Is it really necessary to live as if we are racing to the finish of each of those days, cramming as much as possible into our precious time? Where is the joy in that? Lately, I've been focusing on achieving that fine balance in my life, listening carefully to the messages of my inner voice. When I relax and decrease the expectations I have for myself, my time takes on a new and more valuable meaning. I give my full attention to those few things on my to-do list, elevating them to the importance they deserve, without distraction. It's a little too early during this growing season to stop and smell the roses, but I am stopping to hear the birds sing and watch the trees bud. Nature has her own balancing act. I have much to learn from her.
Sunday, May 5, 2013
Our friends Mark and Gloria invited Larry and me to their home one recent Sunday evening to play a new word game. We began by being given a certain number of tiles, each bearing a vowel or consonant. Then, we were faced with the challenge of having to make words with the tiles, assembled in crossword puzzle fashion. Whoever managed to do so first was deemed the winner of that round. My husband Larry, who normally shies away from playing games, has an uncanny tendency to win them. That night, he didn't disappoint. While we each took our turn at winning, Larry's achievement involved more complex words, such as squids and sneezes. It's not always easy to know what to do with a "q" or a "z" tile when you find them in your midst, but Larry managed well. At one point, I had five "i" tiles. At first, I thought it was great having so many vowels, but I quickly found that I was at a loss for words, struggling to use so many featuring the same letter. But, it didn't matter if I won or not. The joy was in being together, sharing stories and laughs with good friends, and playing a simple word game around the kitchen table. I'd spell that as FUN.
Friday, May 3, 2013
While taking a late afternoon walk at our beloved Devil's Lake last Saturday, I couldn't help but feel as if everyone was singing a joyful song. The frogs sang. The birds sang. Our hearts sang. Spring was finally in the air and we were all filled with joy. The very next day, my friend Charlene and I sang an a capella rendition of "Jubilate Deo" (Sing Joyfully) at church. Truly, there are so many reasons for singing joyfully. For me, spring is the season of hope and rebirth. The earth is awakening and somewhere deep in myself, I am awakening, too. What are your reasons for singing for joy this season?