No Pressure

20161128_201112Thanksgiving came and went quietly……….. quietly. It drifted in with a thick damp fog and passed with the same stillness. I spent a contented few days at home curled in the warmth of blankets and hot drinks and woolly projects and seasonal movies. I felt very still myself and for that I was thankful.

The past few Thanksgivings have seen the Oldest Child make the trek down from points north. We would fill the days with traditional dinner and movies or football, and the weekend with fun events.  This year, however, she is in a new home and spent a happy weekend with friends and busyness and running here and there, and I was happy for her to be able to do the things she wanted to do.

Long ago I went through a time when obligations took over the holidays. There could never be any variations in the plans, and no matter what may have been going on elsewhere, I was not allowed. There was only one place where I spent holidays. Looking back, I’m glad to have been where I needed to be, but now, with my grown children, I want them to know that they ARE allowed.  They are allowed to make the best holiday plans that they can. If travel comes up – I want them to go. If a binge of parties are offered, I want them to accept.

I’m lucky, because I know I am invited.  I know there is always a place for me if I want to jump in, and for that too I am thankful. I also know that if a time comes that I want to travel, or take advantage of invitations, or, as was the case this year, stay quietly at home and catch up on some much needed rest, that I am allowed.

20161128_200813I love my girls; I love spending time with them and I love spending Holidays with them, but we all live busy lives and the one thing I don’t want is for our special days to be clouded by a cloak of obligation that could easily morph into a burden.  How Blessed are the times we spend together because we truly want to be with one another! How fortunate that as my adult children gain in years and experience that we also grow in friendship!

Living from the heart – living from a place of love is really what I wish for all of us this Holiday Season.  I hope your days were joyful and blessed. I hope that the places you went or the people you were with were met heart to heart. I hope the days to come will be magical.

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Season-ing

20161106_083553The season is upon us. Halloween is past and Thanksgiving is only a week away. The November super moon has had it’s moments and we are moving toward winter and the solstice. Have you ever thought that it’s odd that winter begins only when the days start growing longer?

It’s been an odd Autumn where I live. I’ve talked about the weather this year – from hot to cold and back again. We’ve had our first frost,

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and yet we’re in the middle of another warm spell as I write this – 78 today again before dropping into the 40’s this weekend. The trees, while turning little by little, seem to be really struggling this year and many have just turned brown. Some had color until that first frost a few days ago and some still do but the grass is still green. 20161115_132126

20161107_180457I’ve had this little Christmas Cactus for many years now. It never seems to get much bigger (I probably need to re-pot it) and it has always bloomed for Thanksgiving instead of Christmas. It has also never had more than one or two blooms per year. Back in the summer I managed to remember to look up the care and feeding of these little plants and come August, I stopped watering it. I didn’t put it away or do anything unusual with it besides the lack of water. Just before Halloween it suddenly sprouted little buds all over it’s wee self.  Although it is not impressive by many standards, I felt like this year it was a gold metal winner. 20161112_234711_001

There’s not much going on for the holidays here on This Side. Thanksgiving promises to be a quiet and restful long weekend. I have Friday off work, as well as Thursday, and I will be staying close to home. I’m afraid I’m not one of the Black Friday shoppers. Years and years ago I tried it once – but it didn’t take and I’ve avoided it ever since. Good luck, though, to those of you who are brave enough to get out there. I admire your stamina. Christmas will be spent with the Oldest Child in her new home and should also be a lovely time.

Here’s hoping we can all be Grateful and Happy for the Holidays and always. We’ve still got a few weeks to go, so let’s be kind and respectful to one another. Let’s enjoy the sparkle of the lights and the beauty of the carols and the Peace of a peaceful season.

Grateful

It’s Veteran’s Day here in the US – Remembrance Day in Canada. After this tired, angry, spiteful election,  this is a good day to remember what it’s all about.

We live in a fought-for nation. Both of my parents were veterans of WWII. My father reenlisted, even though he had already served his time in the US Army. My mother enlisted in the WAC’s and served her time in London (during part of the Blitz) and France. Thousands upon thousands of young men and now women have laid down their lives for us since the whole idea of a United States began. We were, and still are, a GREAT NATION though it may have been hard to see it in the last few months.

Why, you ask? Because I can go to the grocery store without fearing for my life. Because my children and grandchildren are given the right to an education. Because in the most desperate of times, I can still find something to eat. Because if I want it, there are people who will be sure I always have a place to sleep. Because I can walk into any church I want and raise my voice and my heart to the God I believe in. These are the basics. These are the things that we expect, and deserve, and HAVE.

Today we remember those who made it possible. All we have to do is resolve to be worthy of the price they paid.

No matter your beliefs, no matter who you voted for – or even if you voted, no matter the outcome, I believe it is our job as Americans to live the best life we can. All those quotes we love to frame and hang on our walls? Now’s the time to start practicing.

Become the change you want to see.

If you have a choice, choose Kindness. 

Love is the Greatest Gift of All. 

And remember  – the bottom line is how we treat each other. It matters.

 

One Horse Open Sleigh

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Approximately 28 years ago my Aunt gave me a sleigh. Not such a strange gift at the time since I had horses and lived in Wyoming where the winters are snowy. This little sleigh, a “cutter,” had belonged to my great-grandfather Koenig, from Freeport, Illinois.  For a few years the sleigh got some use but then there was a move and there were no more horses and it was carefully covered and stored away.20161102_092141 For a brief time I considered trying to sell it, because my children would simply be storing it also and probably selling it anyway. I came up with a better idea.

A few years ago I contacted the Stephenson County Historical Society to see if they wanted it for part of their collection in the local museum in Freeport, and they said, “Yes, thank you.”  My only problem was that I had no way to get it to them. After a bit of back and forth, they were able to find someone willing to make the five hundred mile journey to come pick it up and today my beautiful little cutter sleigh finally went home.

Along with the sleigh, I sent my great-great-grandfather’s bible,20161026_191030

My other great-great-grandfather’s tin plate and fork that he carried on the boat when his family emigrated from Germany in 1842,20161030_101647

My great-grandmother’s silver dresser set,20161102_145058

A copper and wooden nut tray made by my grandfather and a set of his 1916 field guides.

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I had a family who saved things and many of those things have fallen to me. On my mother’s side I can trace roots back at least five generations and I have little bits and bobs from each one. While I don’t still live in the same town or any of the same homes, it’s a comforting thing to know who and where I come from. I have lots of things for my children and I hope that they will appreciate their rich and interesting history as much as I do.

I admit I was a little sad to see the sleigh and the other things go, but how can I be unhappy when ultimately they will be taken care of and cherished for years to come? Years ago my family was a part of Freeport, and these things were a part of them. I have memories of the place and the lifestyle and some of the people that my children will never know. I’d like to think that someday they will make journeys to that lovely little town and learn even more about their history because it won’t be many generations before it is forgotten. Things are just things in so many ways, but some things have stories to tell and are worth preserving.

Do you have cherished items in your life? What do you tell your children about them?

Debatable

I watched the candidates go at each other the other night at the “town meeting.”

downloadCan we please just start over? I’ve never felt so discouraged. For years it’s seemed like it’s made little difference beyond the cost of gas and groceries who was elected. In my quiet little middle class life the days go on pretty much as usual. I know! I know! In the bigger picture who we elect has a profound impact –  but honestly, this is the first time I’ve ever really felt like serious damage is about to happen, and I’m worried for my children and grandchildren.  But that’s enough. I don’t really want this to be a political space.

In the meantime – I’m happy to say that my Youngest Child got away with a near miss from Hurricane Matthew. She lives just two blocks off the beach in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. We spent a tense weekend waiting to find out just what the damage would be. The YC had evacuated inland a bit and after watching the news and some powerful videos,

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Photo from ABC News

we were both pretty convinced her house had been flooded. Happily for her, by late Saturday she discovered that though the water had come close and the streets were a mess, she was one of the lucky ones.  The same good news came from nephews and a niece, and various friends. Many prayers of gratitude.

20161006_073656Here in the Middle we are on our usual Autumn roller coaster. (Is it Summer? Is it Fall? Is it Summer?) Today I wore a sweater for the first time this season.  Yesterday it poured down rain and the temperatures dropped into the 40’s and 50’s. In another day they will zoom back up into the 80’s, only to drop again a couple days after that. This is Fall In The Midwest.  As you all probably know by now, I’m a lover of cold weather, so each chilly day is a smile-maker for me.

Hope you’re having a good week, too, filled with lots of blessings!

 

 

Changes

September 11th.  Autumn has drifted in again, taking its time to present us with the brilliant yellows and reds of leaves instead of flames as it did fifteen years ago. Not quite deciding, the days go from warm to rainy, back to warm and then turn chilly until we are grateful for each pleasant day. Snow has already fallen on the high peaks of the Rockies.

Fifteen years ago the change in weather came as a great relief. After the events of that awful day people moved about with strain and sorrow in their faces. The change in weather gave validation to churning emotions and thoughts. “You’re right,” it said. “Things are different.”world-trade-center

The leaves fall all around us like the bright confetti of a ticker-tape parade. They surround us with color and joy and the promise of new life to come. It’s hard to imagine that the gray, lifeless debris that fell from the towers that day could possibly hold the same promise for the souls of the departed, but perhaps it did.

Fifteen years is enough time for the babies to become active teens. It’s enough time for the teens to become fully functioning adults and perhaps have babies of their own. It’s enough time for not only our own lives to change, but our nation and world as well.

But it’s not enough time to forget.oneworldtradecenter

Falling things, be they leaves or debris, mark endings and beginnings. We’ve all changed, but let’s remember our promise not to forget. Let’s make all our fresh starts count.

 

Taking Care of Ourselves

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I tend to think of myself as a fairly unruffled person. Nine times out of ten, when I say something doesn’t matter or isn’t important it actually isn’t, in the sense of rocking my world or my psyche or my mood or even my day. I’m inclined to give things that disturb me their fifteen minutes of fame in my awareness, then I want to put them down and move on. Sometimes I’m surprised when an issue continues to habitate my mental space and I need to take a deeper look to get it sorted out.

Like everyone, there are things that instantly piss me off and things that can sit and simmer for a long time but usually a few minutes to a couple of days is all I’m willing to invest. I really do make a conscious effort not to dwell, dredge, or feed the negative energies. That said, neither am I an overwhelmingly joyful person. I may be missing the boat, but my personal happy space floats on the bay of calm contentment. Please don’t mistake that for “settling.”

I believe joy is something that comes to us in moments and afterwards we live in the glow of it for a while until either the next joyful moment – or trauma – shows up.  It’s in the glow that we find space to catch our breath and relax and rejuvenate and my happiness lives in the quiet peace of knowing everything’s OK for a while. It’s there that I’m able to take care of myself. I write a little and knit a little and watch the endless shows that nature provides. I just saw a fluttering of yellow leaves puffed out of the tree line by a wayward breeze. The other morning I felt the seasons begin to shift. I give myself this time, and to me it’s sacred.

I do other things for myself. I see a chiropractor now and then. I try to eat well and take my vitamins. I try to recognize my strengths and limitations, but mostly I try to live in that balanced zone between being too busy and doing nothing at all; between over-the-top excitement and the depths of despair. My happiness is that place where I’m able to move through my days with a graceful serenity and it happens quite often.  It happens at work when I can do my job at a steady pace without being crowded. It happens when I make good food choices so that I’m not being bullied by cellular gastronomy pushing and pulling me in a thousand directions and moods. It happens when I’ve gotten enough rest and can stay clear on my boundaries and limits. It happens when I give myself enough time to ponder the issues and events that are going on around me.

Does anybody do that anymore? Ponder?  In our world of designer tea and guided meditations, does anyone ever take the time to just sit and think about something to discover how they actually feel about it?  Here’s my thought: we (I) take hands full of pills – prescriptions, vitamins, herbs and supplements – and they are fabulous aides to our health and well-being, but how often do we Just. Take. Time?  Time to smell the roses. Time to dance. Time to love, to breath, to laugh, to sleep.  Ecclesiastes 3 tells us that to everything there is a season and a time. It’s a gift we shouldn’t refuse.

I’m an advocate of time. Can’t afford it?  Don’t have it? Can’t find it?  I get that. It’s hard and usualy there isn’t enough, but it’s out there and sometimes the cost of a little time is a lot less than the cost of doctors, therapists and yes – even suppliments.  I know there are a million ways to approach this whole discussion, but I believe, with my whole heart, that we might discover that a little bit of time here and there is almost as good as chicken soup.

Can you find a few extra minutes in your day and if you do, can you keep from filling them up? Can you find room to take a breath? I hope so and I hope you find healing in those moments of quiet.