Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tossed in the Wind

I write this tonight with a heavy heart for my friend, Kathy, who lost her husband this week. I hurt for her and in putting myself in her position, the following was written. I warn you now that it is heavy.
Tear apart a team of two and what happens? One goes on to a better place and one is left behind with a hole
        In her heart
                In her world
                        In her life
                                In her home
                                        In her mind
                                                In her physical being
She has lost her soul mate, best friend, lover, support and playmate.
It hurts deep, real deep; deeper than the lungs, below the rib cage, in every fiber of her being, rips through her heart.
She misses him terribly. She’s scared. She’s lonely. She feels guilty.
She wonders how it was for him in those last minutes here on earth - What he felt, what he thought, what he prayed.
She tries to imagine her future without him but can’t get past catching her next breath.
Her children and grandchildren also miss him, their lives now changed. But they will go on after a time, live their lives, raise their family as she did, and the grandchildren will grow up and move on.
But she is stuck, left behind to make her way on her own. She will do it but she has no idea how. How long will she have to endure without him?
Each morning she awakes to an empty bed, no warmth, no smiles, no “Good Morning.” She’ll make her own breakfast and sit at their table alone seeing his space and wish he was there.
Food has no taste; she tosses it in the trash. She feels sick like something plunged inside her and is pulling her guts out. Her face is pale, her eyes withdrawn from this world. She can only deal with her own world, inside her head, her heart, her being. She can only handle one moment at a time. Her world is black and grey and white –there are no colors.
Her mind replays over and over and over the plans they had for the future, plans they will never fulfill. Memories of days gone by flood her mind like an uncontrollable rushing river.
Tears fall unknowingly at first before she breaks and lets out an agonized anguished sound.
Rest in peace, Wayne.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Country Rides

I enjoy riding in a car. The everyday back and forth to work has its moments, like when I see the sun rising, its brilliant orange-red splendor lightened by pink shades higher up, or the glitter of a full moon lighting up the western sky in the early morning. I am reminded of what great artwork God creates.
But a ride in the country is peaceful for me, never boring. I love to look at barns – old, new, rickety, freshly painted, red, weathered, grey or white. It doesn’t matter. There is something about a barn that calls out to me.
Seeing tractors or farm machinery reminds of a farmer out in the field toiling to grow a crop. I picture him out there alone with his thoughts during the day, in the sunshine, watching the soil turned and tilled, changing colors in front of his eyes, pretty patterns creating artwork in the earth.
Then there are the cows in the field grazing or grouped in a circle, their heads all facing inward, their tails swiping away flies. I love to see horses, their heads bowed to the ground as they get their nourishment, a tree nearby, and a wooden or barbed wire fence around the area. Sometimes they are just standing still, their coat shining in the sun, their manes blowing gently in the breeze, their tails swishing back and forth. To be able to stand on a fencepost and feed one an apple or some grains would be such a treat.
I wonder if all these wonderful feelings I have about farms and the country come from memories of my childhood. Sundays were known for rides to the country in our family. My parents would take us for rides on the pretense of “finding a farm to buy”. It was probably just a cheap form of entertainment because I doubt my parents really ever considered living in the country.
Jeff and I especially would get excited about this. To us, living on a farm with animals and lots of space to play would be like Heaven. I never have lived on a farm, never really lived in the country, but being in the country is still very peaceful for me. When I camp, I feel about as close to living in the country as I probably ever will experience. At my age, I don’t have a desire for a lot of property to maintain or the responsibility of farm animals. But as a child, this was unfathomable bliss.
My grandparents also would often take one or two of their grandchildren for a ride in the country. One ride with my grandparents stands out in my memory. For some unknown reason I had a fear of pigs. My grandfather decided that he would help me overcome this fear. While we were out riding, he saw a farm with pigs in the field near the road. Unbeknownst to me, we got out of the car to look at the animals and they were PIGS. I remember him helping me to stand on the fencepost to get a good look, and then when I realized what type of animal they were, I let out the loudest wail possible. I was scared to death. Thanks Grandpa for trying but it didn’t work. Now, maybe because of that memory and knowing how much my grandfather cared about me and how he tried to help, I have an especially warm feeling towards pigs. I can look at them now while they are in the fenced in areas of fairs and say how cute they are, although I really don’t like their smell.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Congrats to Andrew - Spelling Bee

Yesterday was the Struthers Elementary School spelling bee in which my grandson, Andrew, represented his fourth grade class. When I arrived, he was sitting on stage in the front row, his leg crossed over his knee, looking like a teenager trying to appear calm and collected. Knowing him as I do, I could see the anxiety in his face and body.
Andrew in his first spelling bee
It brought back memories of how scared I was when I had my chance in the spelling bee. Although I was a good speller, I couldn’t calm my nerves, could see all those faces in the audience staring at me, and had stage fright. Being in the spelling bee is not like when you are up there with a group of people singing. You are now alone in the spotlight in front of a microphone. If you make a mistake, everyone knows it, no hiding from it.
The teacher in charge of the spelling bee was giving them directions on using the microphone, the direction they were to walk to and away from it, and explaining that they need to speak loudly and clearly, state the word first, then spell it, and re-state it to let the judges know they were done.
 Aaron’s teacher allowed him to leave class to watch his twin brother. She knew how badly he had wanted to be standing up there in the bee. He has been helping Andrew study words up until just before leaving for school yesterday morning. He wanted Andrew to win so much and I bet Andrew tried to win it for his brother as much as for himself.  I wonder if Aaron was feeling sour grapes because he was not up there, or if he saw how scary it really is to be up there, or whether he was silently spelling the words with the kids, counting how many he knew or when he would have been out of the event.
Aaron in the audience

When the spelling bee started, each child walked to the microphone and gave his or her name after making the needed adjustment in height to the mike. As the event transpired each speller had their own persona and attitude. One little girl appeared very confident and whenever she went to the microphone, she had a big smile, straightened her back, then spelled her word. She looked like she felt this was in the bag and she was going to win the bee.
Another girl held her hands tightly behind her back each time she went up and appeared scared to death. One boy spoke with an accent or a speech impediment and his R’s were not pronounced clearly. I thought he had misspelled his words but the judges knew his speech patterns. Some students hurried to the mike, spelled their words as quickly as possible, then almost ran back to their seats.
The teacher who announced the words could have done a better job enunciating. I personally would have spelled words wrong because I misinterpreted what she said. When one child asked for a definition of a word, the definition given was so difficult to understand that even the parents in the audience groaned after hearing it. Just tell the student an explanation he will understand. Remember, these are only third and fourth graders here!
I learned yesterday that I have forgotten the spelling of some words that never used to be a challenge. I also learned two new words from this bee:  frond and droll. I thought the announcer said “drool” so I would have been out.
 A word that got one boy dismissed was “marshmallow”. I smiled to myself when it was given because it one of the words in the title of this blog. I have seen many people misspell this word when doing a search for my page. I never realized it was that hard or could be spelled so many ways, but it is.
It was Andrew’s turn to take his first word. He was the fourth child to spell. He walked up calmly enough to the mike which was almost directly in front of his seat. He made a slight adjustment to its height, said his word, then spelled it correctly. Karin and I both let out a quiet sigh of relief. Each time it was his turn, I think we both stopped breathing and said a prayer for him.
He made it to the third round but missed on the word, “shawl.” He spelled it shale which is understandable, since we have been seeing that word all over the paper lately. To be honest, I doubt that Andrew ever heard the word shawl.
As he walked to the back of the stage to sit with the other children who were out of the bee I saw his body almost crumble. It portrayed his disappointment at missing the word and being out of the bee. I saw his face contort and thought he was going to cry. I tried to catch his eye to give him a smile or a thumbs-up to let him know it was okay but he was not ready to look up yet. After a few more students also followed behind him quite rapidly I think he felt better. The third round was a big elimination round in the spelling bee.  

Andrew after receiving his award

Andrew's good friends, Trey and Nick were also contestants
Maybe next year, we will see both Andrew and Aaron in the spelling bee together. If not, we at least know that both of them are good spellers and have a good start and a good command of our language.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Cold Day, Warm Soup

Today Ken and I made wedding soup, a fact in itself that is nothing to write about. But for me, every time we make it, I feel a sense of family closeness.
The recipe we use is a handwritten copy that my mother-in-law, Dee, wrote in one of her final years.  Seeing her handwriting on the page and imagining her writing it as carefully as she could evokes many emotions. This copy of the recipe was written while she was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. As I look at the curves and scrolls, some misspellings, words jumbled together, and some scratched out, I can only imagine what she dealt with during those years.
With blind faith a few years ago, Ken and I tried the recipe, not knowing if she had copied it correctly from her original recipe book. Throughout her years, Dee would write any recipe she liked in her blue spiral notebook with the lined pages. There was no particular order to the notebook, no sections for appetizers, main meals, breads, pies and desserts. Whenever she found a recipe she liked, whether it was given to her by a friend or family member, heard on the radio, or gleaned from a magazine or the newspaper, she would write it on the next free page of her notebook. Those recipes were always available when she or any of the family needed them. That was until she rewrote her recipes in a new notebook, then to our dismay, threw away the original.
As I follow those directions written by her hand I feel like she is here with me. She taught me how to make many meals and was a patient teacher. I remember back to times when she spent the better part of a day making wedding soup with her daughter, Barb, and my daughter, Karin.  I had never actually made it with her or before she passed away. But I enjoyed the fruits of her labor along with the stories she would tell about making it. She often made a double batch of croutons because we enjoyed eating them even without the soup. Sometimes they would also bake rolls to go with it. We would all gather together to enjoy the bounties of their labor.
Ken helps me make wedding soup now. Like Dee, he enjoys cooking and trying new recipes. Spending time in the kitchen together, we have reminisced many times about things Dee liked to cook. As the soup and its steam warm up my kitchen, my life and my heart are warmed by loving thoughts of her. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother-in-law.  She laughed often, took a lot of ribbing from her family, and created a wholesome feeling among us. She was the glue that held our family together.
Memories are made of simple things, kind acts and time spent with those we care about. Take time to create a memory today,

Monday, January 9, 2012

“Help Me.”
Two simple words handwritten on a small cardboard sign she held with both hands at chest height close to her body. She stood close to the corner of a busy intersection near the mall.
She was a smaller sized woman wearing a winter coat and a red hat who had the look of a slightly crazy person. What kind of help does she need? Should a person stop and ask? Would the answer entail a lengthy go nowhere conversation? Am I even able to help her? Do I have whatever it is she needs? Is she really a con artist?
What brought her to this point that she would chance her safety by standing on the side of the road where cars have to stop when the light is red? Yes, many people will see her here. If several make a monetary donation it could add up to enough to help her or con them big time; that is if it is money she needs.
There are so many people that need help.  A few weeks ago at another light near the mall, a man stood wearing work boots and holding a sign offering to work for money. Someone ahead of us got out and gave him money. Last summer we saw a man at the end of an exit ramp holding the same type of sign. We made a donation to him. I wish we could help them all.
The light turned green and we drove away.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

A New Page in a New Year

Happy New Year to all my readers! Thank you for taking the time to follow my blog.

Another New Year is here. It is like turning a page in a journal and discovering a clean sheet of paper; like finishing a chapter in a book, ready to start the next one. It gives us hope of better things to come and a way to put those things from our past we want to forget behind us.

Many people make resolutions at the beginning of the year, myself included. Over the years, I should have lost mega pounds, finished lots of projects, and learned a lot of stuff. Resolutions are good if you can stick to them. For me, it is a mark of a failure if I don't so I am better off not making them. I am not beating myself up over that. As long as I am trying to be a better person, live a healthy life, and give back to others, I can be happy with myself. I now realize that no matter how hard I try, I will NEVER be perfect. (I hope Ken is not reading this because I would hate to burst his bubble.)

Although not a resolution, one goal that I have for myself this year is to get something I have written, previously or in the future, published. I am not seeking fame or fortune, I just want to see myself improve with each writing so that I get to the point that someone believes it is worth publishing. With this goal in mind, I have to discipline myself to go back and edit, edit, edit; I have to pick up my dictionary or thesaurus to get just the right word to make my thoughts stand out; I have to do research; I have to expose myself to more and pay attention to things. When I am humming away with my best writing is when I have made myself more aware of my surroundings, letting my mind question everything, paying attention to details, and looking for the next new thing to appear before me.

I have a lot of work in front of me to achieve this goal but the satisfaction I will feel once I do, will be well worth it. Wish me luck.

Thanks to all of you who encourage me and who let me know when you enjoy one of my blogs. Those words spur me on.