Thursday, February 28, 2013

You're Old

A tiny little person with whom I was having a chat recently declared, "You're old."  At first, I thought she was looking at someone else as she said it, but I quickly realized that she meant me.  You know you've crossed the bridge into adulthood when a five-year-old, with conviction, determines that you are old.  Her slightly older brother then asked me if I was 90.  He admitted to wanting to live to be over 1,000 years old.  I recall being their age and thinking that anyone over 25 was "old" (50 years of age was downright ancient), but it was astounding to realize that I was now at that tender age to be among the oldsters myself.  Then, I thought about the many illnesses I have experienced in my adulthood, illnesses that could have ended or at least altered the quality of my life.  There were many times when I sincerely wondered if I would get to the point when I would consider myself old.  So, I chuckled at the little cherub's honest observation and decided that I had blissfully arrived after all.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

He Takes the Cake

I know a man who, on the surface, would seem to me to like working on cars, riding motorcycles and hunting.  And perhaps he does like to do all of those things.  I have no idea.  But what I learned recently was what a passionate and talented baker he is.  When he talked with me about what he bakes, I could hear the great passion in his voice for his creations and the tremendous talent he possesses in making complex treats that are almost too beautiful to eat.  Then, I saw one of his cakes and was amazed by the many dimensions and facets to it -- a colorful, meticulously done, three-dimensional scene that included elaborate cookies as part of it.  I encountered another man recently who had made beautiful and delicious cakes for his mother's birthday party.  Larry and I tasted his creations, which were moist pound cakes heaping with frosting and bisected by various delicious fillings.  What I learned from both of those men is that we all have passions, talents and gifts that bring out the very best in us.  Sometimes, those talents are a surprise to others, but not to those who possess them.  Those talents are part of their being, and I am blessed to witness them living and sharing their passions.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Paper Cut Season

My skin is so dry this winter, mainly the skin on my face and hands, those areas that get exposed to the elements.  I slather on some great fair trade lotion made with coconut oil as often as possible and I carry a tin of herbal salve in my purse to lubricate my hands, but my fingers still get dry and prone to the sting of paper cuts.  My hands seem to perpetually be covered with little bandages to protect and heal those cuts, which usually are located in inconvenient spots, such as the tender web between my fingers.  I'll know it'll officially be spring, not by the calendar, not by the sky, not by the temperature, but by the volume (or lack thereof) of paper cuts!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The Road More Traveled

I attended a meeting earlier this month to hear more about the next phase of four-lane highway construction taking place near our community.  It's taken several years, but the old two-lane state highway is becoming a four-lane expressway with many a roundabout to help you get off to slower-paced travel on two-lane roads and city streets.  The next phase of development will go past the property where I grew up and cut across miles of private land, changing the way we live with and traverse our countryside.  The meeting room was packed with interested and concerned parties who listened to the various speakers explaining the construction route and timeline.  I have lived in this community all of my life, save time away for college and brief stints in Colorado and Madison.  What happens in this community and affects the people who live here resonates deep inside of me.  Once the new highway construction is all done, we will adjust and probably forget what it had been like before the four-lane wonder, but that evening, the road more traveled had some concerned citizens sitting straight in their chairs, listening intently to the effects of change on our lives.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Make Me Laugh

We hadn't read the notice in our last cable bill, so it came as a surprise when about a dozen of our channels turned to static about a month ago.  We called the cable supplier, only to find out that those 12 or so channels had been converted from analog format to digital.  We still have old televisions.  I just can't seem to part with them until they truly bite the dust.  It seems too wasteful for my tastes.  Therefore, our old TVs weren't going to pick up the digital channels, only the analog. So, Larry arranged with our cable provider to get two converter boxes and remotes.  We're now able to watch more channels than we've had in a long time, including the additional channels offered by our local ABC and PBS affiliates.  One of the ABC channels features old television shows from as far back as the 1960s and 1970s, such as "The Bob Newhart Show," "I Dream of Jeannie," "The Dick Van Dyke Show," and "The Odd Couple."  One night, we caught a bit of a current-day situational comedy and then turned channels to the old sitcoms.  I have to admit that while today's shows are entertaining and interesting, the old shows felt like an old pair of jeans and a sweatshirt.  They were comfortable, familiar and cozy.  The jokes were more predictable, to be sure, but the shows reflected a purity not seen on television these days.  I found myself laughing, really laughing, and enjoying every minute of it.

Saturday, February 23, 2013

For the Birds

My dear friend Betty has a love of animals and birds.  Betty has adopted stray cats and rescued struggling dogs.  Although she's not out and about as she used to be, attracting new four-legged members to her animal family, she is still attracting birds to her lovely front and back yards.  Just recently, she told me about getting two spent Christmas trees delivered by men from the village in which she lives.  She uses the castaway trees to provide shelter to the many songbirds that visit her birdfeeders.  One is placed in the front yard and one in the back near the feeders until spring arrives.  Thoughtful friends and neighbors keep the feeders filled so that the birds always have dinner.  Betty said in a recent phone conversation that she was watching the birds darting in and out of the old Christmas trees to her feeders and back again as we talked.  Such an act is kind and loving to her myriad winged friends, but it also provides Betty with great joy as she spends her afternoons in her comfortable chair positioned in the living room window.  Betty's tender heart for God's creatures is, thankfully, for the birds.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Pure Artistry

I really enjoy rubbing elbows with experts, listening to the knowledge they can so easily impart about their fields of expertise.  You see, I'm not an expert about anything.  I'm a generalist, so I know little bits and pieces about several things, but not a lot about any one thing.  Recently, as I listened to my husband Larry converse with others in the arts, it underscored my belief that he is an expert in his field, and the way he conveys and uses his expertise is pure artistry.  I then thought about the clinicians with whom I work at our local hospital and how, after years of education and experience, they have a wealth of information about health and wellness, disease management and prevention, surgical procedures and diagnostic tests.  I also thought of the elementary school physical education teacher I watched recently who imparted knowledge to his students with finesse about how our bodies work, always keeping their interest and harnessing their tireless energies.   All of these folks are experts in their fields, in my viewpoint, who have worked hard to earn such expertise and now use it to contribute to the greater good.  What a gift to us all.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Icy and Dicey

I was so grateful that it was a weekend when the weather decided to be icy and dicey a few weeks ago.  Instead of having to venture out, I could stay put and watch the elements from the coziness of our home.  There have been years when I've used such days to do my spring cleaning, even if it's January or February on the calendar.  On that recent day, however, I used it as an opportunity to read from the stack of books by the big easy chair, make a healthy meal, exercise indoors and kick back for a day of rest.  It was a glorious day because I didn't need to be out in it.  If the weather was lovely all year long, I think I'd feel inclined to be active 100% of the time.  Living in a part of the country where we have distinct seasons with sometimes extreme weather, I consider such inclement days to be gifts, maybe even rewards for choosing to live where such weather fluctuations must be endured.  On that day, icy and dicey meant a perfectly lovely weather forecast to me.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hot Water

After years of limiting this pleasure to when I'm at home, in recent months I've been publicly asking for a mug of hot water when going to a restaurant.  I always thought it was such a silly thing that I hesitated to ask for it in public, thinking that others would raise an eyebrow at my odd request. However, I've found that after mustering up my so-called courage to identify my beverage of choice, others have admitted to the same.  And there is even evidence found on several reputable websites that drinking hot water may be beneficial to one's health regarding de-toxification, digestion, regulating body temperature and staying hydrated.  I'm not a coffee or tea drinker. I like to drink water, but I prefer warm or hot water to cold.  On a cold winter day, I find it comforting to snuggle up under a cozy blanket with a good book and to simultaneously warm my insides with one or more mugs of plain ol' hot water.  So, now that I've admitted my proclivities, I'll request that mug of hot water without embarrassment the next time I find myself asked by a friendly server what I'd like to drink.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Idle Chatter

In our everyday busyness, doing those things that seem to have such perceived importance, my husband Larry and I don't make lots of time to just sit and chat.  However, one recent Saturday took us out of town for the day where we found we had leisurely time together over lunch and again at a coffee shop.  This unstructured time was a gift, for it provided us with the luxury of idle chatter.   At first, we were quite quiet, collecting our thoughts, but then, we gave way to sharing funny stories and observations and then talk about deeper subjects, things that mattered.  I promised myself that day that we'd carve out more time for such meaningful pursuits.  Our normal lives still get in the way of such unstructured time, but we're working at it, for in the end, memories of accomplishing my to-do list will quickly fade, but not so the time spent with my loving husband leisurely discussing funny stories, observations and deeper subjects.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Lovin' Louis

My Grandpa Joe loved the writings of Louis L'Amour.  He seemed to really resonate for some reason with literature, TV shows and that part of the U.S. that represented the Old West.  Grandpa collected Mr. L'Amour's Western novels and often could be found with his nose buried in one of them.  Just recently, I read a quote attributed to Mr. L'Amour:  "There will be a time when you believe everything is finished.  That will be the beginning."  I don't know why he wrote that quote, nor have I fully researched it, and frankly, I don't really care.  What I liked was that those words held personal meaning for me.  We've all had or will have those times when we sense one chapter in our life closing.  We reconcile those endings, perhaps even grieve them (depending on how traumatic the ending is), but you will know when everything is finished and that there is something new to come.  As Mr. L'Amour wrote, "That will be the beginning."  In checking out some of Mr. L'Amour's other quotes online, I found that I appreciated his thinking again about enjoying our way along the trail, not the end of it, and taking time to examine what we want in life, making it happen without excuses about our past.  I just may have to be like my late grandfather and pick up a Louis L'Amour Western novel every now and again to see what other wisdom he may impart for my life. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sound Check

My husband Larry is a booking agent, representing a large number of musical, dance and theatrical performers.  We had the occasion to attend a concert recently that was presented by one of his clients.  We arrived early in order for Larry to have conversations with the musicians and their manager, so we took in a portion of their pre-concert sound check.  I have never witnessed a sound check before, but was impressed with the elaborate and interesting process.  I marveled at how each person, whether musician or technician, knew his or her job so keenly that the process was seamless.  Each person operated independently, but cooperatively, recognizing that their cooperation would result in a high-quality finished product in which they could all be proud and satisfied -- the concert to take place that evening.  They called out cues to each other in a language with which I was unfamiliar.  Their ears were sensitive to the things I couldn't even discern.  On top of it all, the lighting check was taking place simultaneously, which was also an elaborate and well-orchestrated show created in time to the music and to the mood of each piece.  The next time I attend a concert, I'll have a greater appreciation of all that is involved in creating a seamless, beautifully presented show and all of the individuals who lend their expertise without overshadowing one another to make every element exceptional.

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Shades of Blue

A thoughtful friend on Twitter responded to one of my recent blog posts about true-blue friends with the following thought-provoking post:  " hard to know whether we have a true blue or a variant of another kind.  Is time the only litmus test...."  His comment made me think of the friends I have who are all shades of blue, representing a spectrum ranging from azure to royal to navy.  As I've thought about his post, I've come to believe that time does play an important role in determining the quality of a friendship, for time and familiarity certainly help establish a meaningful and lasting bond.  But some "new" friends can also be empathetic, faithful, responsive and true.  So, perhaps equal in importance to length of a friendship is the depth of that relationship that comes from a shared experience, something that transforms the individual and the friendship forever.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Going Home

I'm not accustomed to driving in rush-hour city traffic at the end of the work day.  Many people do it effortlessly each day and night, but not I.  My daily commute is driving a few blocks west of where I work into my driveway and then into my garage, a commute that takes all of five minutes.  One recent weeknight, however, I found myself in rush-hour traffic, flowing with the crowd to get out of the city onto the four-lane highway and back home again.  The zipping in and out of cars from one lane to the other is a foreign experience for me that was made just that much more treacherous because of a sleety-snowy mix dumping heavily from the sky.  All I could think was how much I wanted to go home, to be home, to arrive there safely in one piece.  I prefer to be spared that white-knuckle experience again.  I'm meant to live and work in the same community with that exhausting, five-minute commute.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Be Mine

Our local public library has a display case for rotating exhibits.  The one this month featured vintage Valentines.  Although I had a long to-do list, I allowed myself several minutes to carefully look at and read each Valentine, their quaint sayings and colorful and predominantly red pictures drawing me in. I thought of Valentine's Days of long ago when children would purchase packages of sweet little greetings to share with everyone in the classroom.  I never thought to save all of the Valentines I had received during those elementary school years, but I believe the one library case exhibitor must have done just that.  It was during those elementary school Valentine years that I learned that x's and o's stood for hugs and kisses (or is it kisses and hugs?).  It was then that I learned that giving a Valentine brings just as much joy as receiving one.  Alas, today, I buy cards for only one Valentine, my very own King of Hearts, Larry.  After seeing the great display at the library, it made the selection of Larry's Valentine just that much more fun, searching for just the right card that asked him to "Be Mine."

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Not the Remotest Clue

I admit that I'm not mechanical in the least bit.  That's one reason why owning a condominium is preferable to me over home ownership.  I'm just not handy.  I have no desire to put on a tool belt.  But, my lack of mechanical abilities really shown recently when the television remote control stopped working.  I replaced the batteries, making sure I had them in the correct positions, but the remote still didn't work.  Then, Larry changed the batteries and I still couldn't get the remote to work.   So, we decided that perhaps we needed to go out and buy a new universal remote control that can be used on most televisions.  The TV with the remote problems is older, so I figured that perhaps the remote was just wearing out.  Wouldn't you know, but the minute Larry touched the remote, inserted the batteries and tried it just one more time, it began to work properly again.  I haven't the remotest clue how that happened.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Rise Up

I arrived first one recent early morning for a motor coach bus to take my work colleagues and me to an out-of-town meeting.  The sky was pitch and the temperature cold.  I was chilled to the bone, my eyes heavy-lidded from arising so early. I desperately tried to warm up and wake up.  As I moved to the big window in the hospital's waiting area to see if the bus was in sight, I looked over to the east and that was when my eyes opened wide and the warmth of what I saw took away any chill I might have been experiencing.  The sunrise was so amazingly beautiful.  The deep red horizon against an inky sky was so magnificent that I alerted all of my colleagues, who came rushing up to the window to catch a glimpse of the sight themselves.  One colleague told me that she has taken many photos of sunrises over the years as she leaves work after the night shift.  Another talented colleague described what she saw, committing it to memory so she could replicate it in one of her paintings.  For a few moments, we were all drawn together, not just as colleagues but as admirers of nature's beauty, a beauty that nearly took our breath away.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Three-Part Harmony

In honor of the love theme in February, my good friend Charlene and I decided to sing a musical selection about love during Sunday service at our church.  We chose "The Gift of Love."  Singing with Charlene is always great fun, as well as a bit challenging, because we choose to sing our selections without accompaniment.  Our Saturday morning rehearsals took on a new, fun twist recently when Charlene's musical husband, Rex, lent his full, bass voice to transform our two-part number into three-part harmony. Consequently, at yesterday's Sunday service, our duo turned into a trio.  What a joyful musical experience! Singing is an expression of love and gratitude for me.  I'm grateful to Charlene and Rex for making that musical experience even lovelier.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Whiff Will Last Me

My good friend Kitty and I drove through "ice fog" and hoar frost-laden trees yesterday to find spring.  We were on a mission to attend Wisconsin Public Television's popular Garden Expo in Madison.  This annual mecca draws thousands of eager Wisconsin gardeners who are just itching to dip their green thumbs once again into the warm soil.  Some, like Kitty, are knowledgeable and experienced, while others, like me, are just grateful to think about the gardening that we don't really do, but that we fantasize about doing.  One of my favorite things at the Garden Expo is the large flower garden placed in the center of the exhibition hall.  After months of seeing snow white and pine green, I get to feast my eyes on red tulips, yellow primroses and purple hyacinths.  This year, I just had to tuck my nose into a hyacinth and take a deep whiff of its heady, sweet scent, enough of a whiff to last me until spring.  So, in a rather un-ladylike position that would have appealed to a contortionist, I took a deep breath of spring sweetness, only to find that I wasn't alone.  My making a fool of myself encouraged at least one other to do the same.  It'll surely be a while before spring arrives in Wisconsin, but at least for yesterday, I could breathe in the warm perfume of hyacinths instead of a shock of cold, Wisconsin winter air.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Criss-crossed Tracks

When the moon shines brightly on the snow, I like to look out of our bedroom window into our backyard and view all of the animal tracks that criss cross the yard between the big spruce tree and the row of arbor vitae.  How many little animals, I wonder, are finding shelter under those evergreens, burrowing in to stay warm and out of the elements?  Some are tiny tracks made by little feet, while others are bigger and heavier.  When much of our snow melted away in January, I lost sight of those criss-crossed tracks and I missed my evening gazing at them.  If I understood correctly that December and February are the snowiest months of the year in Wisconsin, we'll likely have more snow cover soon and more tracks for me to spy. 

Friday, February 8, 2013

This Little Light

My good friend Donna and I have taken on the task of creating a time and talent survey for our church.  The survey provides our church members with the opportunity to indicate the ways they would like to serve our church community and beyond with their own unique talents and gifts.  A few weeks ago during Sunday service, the children sang "This Little Light of Mine," admonishing us all with their light little voices, cheery faces and cute gestures to illustrate the song, that we should let our own lights shine.  Over and over that Sunday, through song, through scripture, through the words of the sermon, we were reminded that we are each given amazing gifts and talents that are uniquely our own and that it is a blessing and a privilege to contribute our talents to the greater good, regardless of how small or large we believe those talents to be.  I believe we're all called to be lights in the world, simply by letting our own little lights shine.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Party Season

Winter can be a long, long season and cabin fever can set in with few symptoms to warn us that it's coming on.  I'm thankful that in our small community there are so many great events scheduled throughout the winter months, from concerts and fundraisers to lectures and parties.  All of these gatherings stimulate our minds, connect us with others and warm our hearts, despite winter's cold.  My husband Larry and I take in as many of those great activities as possible, for they bring us such joy.  In summer, we all tend to go our separate ways to outdoor activities and vacations, but in winter, we gather again and again because it's party season!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

In God's Time

I really need more patience and I need it right now.  Whoops -- I guess that's not exercising patience very well.  It seems that everywhere I read lately, there are reminders to exercise patience, the latest of which was featured in our church bulletin:  "Everything happens in God's time, not ours."  As a child, I was always living in a state of self-imposed urgency.  Everything was important and it was important right now.  As I've gotten older, age and a few bumps in life's road have given me a tad more wisdom and even patience.  But, this year, I am working to heed the words of our church bulletin even more. I'm striving to remember always that I may have wishes, desires and plans, but there are times when I need to let go, be patient and allow plans to unfold, perhaps in much more desirable ways than I could have imagined for myself.  Whenever I feel impatient these days, I recall those three powerful words:  "In God's Time."

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

A Little Time Alone

I read a quote recently attributed to James Russell Loveall:  "Solitude is as needful to the imagination as society is wholesome for the character."  How I agree with Mr. Loveall.  When taking a Myers Briggs Personality Indicator Test one time, I found that I was nearly equal parts introvert and extrovert.  While I derive great energy from being with others and crave those experiences every day, I need time to myself, too.  That quiet time alone, without the stimulation of television, radio or internet, is when I do my best and most creative thinking.  In moments of solitude, my breathing levels off, my body slows down and my mind clears so that each thought is a complete picture, not interrupted by the static of disruptions.  As our lives get busier and busier and media messages are all around us, even held in our hands these days, we need some time to just be alone and unplugged, time to think, time to be.  That is a gift that only I can give myself and it is one I plan to enjoy unwrapping more often this year.

Monday, February 4, 2013


While waiting for my husband Larry to get home late one recent and very windy evening, I attempted to stay awake in the chair.  Despite my best efforts, I kept falling asleep, regardless of what was on TV or which of the five books by my chair I tried to read through heavy eyelids.  I knew that I'd doze, but I couldn't go to bed and fall into deep sleep until I knew Larry had blown home safely amid the gusts.  I had to laugh.  Although I've never been a mom, I felt like one that evening, desperately trying to stay awake until my loved one had arrived home.  My mom used to do the same thing when I was a college-age teen.  That's how Mom discovered Saturday Night Live.  The show was new at the time and it was truly a departure from anything my parents had seen before on TV.  Mom got hooked on SNL, enjoying the crazy skits and fake commercials, while watching the clock to make sure I blew home safely.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Sneaking in a Snake Story

Two of my good friends have been urging me to write about my growing-up years and the unique and often unusual experiences I had with a father whose occupation involved educating others about the value and virtues of reptiles and amphibians.  So, here's a story for you.  When I was eight years old, my father was lecturing about reptiles in schools in the panhandle states, with most of his time spent in Texas.  My mother and I continued to live in Wisconsin so I could have a stable elementary education.  Whenever there was a school break, however, we would join up with my father wherever he was lecturing in the U.S.  That particular Thanksgiving, Mom and I flew to San Antonio, Texas.  Lyndon Johnson was our President at that time, so we took in the usual tourist sites, including President Johnson's boyhood home.  We saw The Alamo.  We lollygagged poolside at our motel.  We visited a Methodist church where Mom and I attended a Sunday School class. We also spent a day hunting diamond-back rattlesnakes on the ranch of a teacher whom my dad had met while lecturing in a school.  To me, this was a common type of childhood experience.  It was always a mixture of "normal" and "extraordinary." Our home was always filled with college students studying various levels of biology degrees, television and newspaper reporters, learned people in the field of herpetology, all wishing to talk with and learn from my dad.  Our "vacations" were spent thinking, talking and looking for snakes.  It was all so matter of fact that it never seemed strange to me at all.  It was just what we did and the sweet memories make me wish those days had stretched out even longer.  Do you wish to hear more snake stories?  Just let me know!

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Undreamed-of Gadgets

Some 65 years ago, the author Gladys Taber was writing about gadgets and her concern about the effects of innovations and inventions yet to be dreamed of.  She saw our human frailty in that once we have one wonderful gadget, we tend to crave even more, always wanting the next wonderful thing.  We pad our nests with luxuries, thinking that they will somehow buy us happiness.  When Gladys Taber wrote that happiness isn't found in the push of a button, she couldn't have imagined that some 50 years later, the world would be at our fingertips, perhaps not at the push of a button, but at least with the swipe of our fingertip on a small, hand-held screen.  I'm not against our amazing technology, for I benefit from it, but it is disturbing to me that the minute you buy a piece of technology, it's outmoded and the advertising engines rev up with even more ferocity to convince you that the next latest thing is what you really need to have, not the thing you just purchased.  How do we find a happy medium in an increasingly consumptive and changing society?

Friday, February 1, 2013

Superbly Lit

We're now into February and I can't see any Christmas lights anymore.  Some happy souls in our community kept up their Christmas trees and outdoor Christmas lights through most of January.  I'd drive by those homes just to make me smile.  At our hospital where I work, I'm in charge of the healing garden, which is brightly lit for Christmas from early December all the way through January.  With the change to a new month, we've turned off the fairyland blue and white light display.  As in previous years, some of my hospital colleagues lamented the return to a dark garden, for the lights provided a cheery welcome and farewell to employees working their shifts around the clock.  But, now that February is here, we're looking beyond the short month to the return of Mother Nature's light and the promise of spring.