Time is of the Essence…










Twinsie and I are planning our annual trek to see our dad and his bride, Hertha, 90 and 91 respectively.  We all look forward to this annual visit with our dad.  When his second wife passed away, we’d been fairly estranged from our father for over 20 years, so it was a renewal of friendship that we hadn’t planned on.  There are good, solid reasons to choose a spouse over your children, but that doesn’t mean Regret doesn’t play with your head, the dangerous devil.

That first summer, we helped him pack his house and give to our step-monster’s, um, I mean, stepmother’s children what they had wanted, who were nothing but gracious to our dad.  Dad’s wife had a hard time with his youngest girls, and no matter how hard we tried, and in the beginning we tried very hard, it was clear they had moved on and left us behind.  Hard to swallow, but again, it was a great lesson in our lives, and it helped strengthen our moral and spiritual muscles. But, then she passed away, and suddenly we had an opportunity to be with our father again.

It was very weird for us.  Twinsie is so much more open, hers is truly a heart of forgiveness, and I was much more reserved.  The first day and night we were together, they both wept for what was lost, and he for his wife.  I was dry-eyed, and focused on being a “Martha” while Beckie was “Mary”. I wished I could have summoned up her graciousness and sat at his feet, but I couldn’t.

Truly, I was not ready to jump into the deep end. I soon came around, but not without a very deep discussion with our dad late one night.  I was cautious, but I also had questions, and I’m a thinker, not one to rush into anything without thinking about risk and reward.  Both twinsie’s and my relationship with my dad is new, it’s not the old one anymore, and that is not a bad thing.  But, still, I wish for the innocence sometimes, the bright-eyed, blind eyed innocence.

Reconciling lost years, lost opportunities for him to be with our children as they grew, that took time, but it was surprisingly one moment, where I feel the spirit of Dad’s wife helped me.  I am a Martha, I am.  Oh, I’m a Mary, too, but I need to be useful.  I like to heal things.  One thing that concerned Twinsie and me was that dad would get hungry.  So, I began making food for us to eat, and to freeze for him to have later after we’d gone.  Twinsie got busy in her Martha mode and helped dad organize his wife’s things to give to her children or donate.

One afternoon, they were off to donate things and  I was making my spaghetti (it was no less than 100 degrees with 100 % humidity outside, not exactly spaghetti making weather, but it freezes well) and I was looking for a pasta pot.  I began to really look at the organization of my stepmother’s kitchen.  There was exactly what I needed, exactly where I’d expect to find it.  There was order.  This is something I believe saved my father.  Order.

I spoke aloud in the silent room, I said to her in heaven, “I see you here, and I respect what you gave our dad.  I cannot relive 20 years with you and him, but I can move forward from here, and I just wanted to say, thank you for taking care of him, and bringing order into his life.”

Such a sense of peace came over me.  In my heart, I understood more about the changes that had taken place in our lives and why.

The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree as they say, my hubby is so strong and such a rock for me.  I’m emotional (so is he, a real softie) but he is so steady as I constantly try to work out my need to heal the world — he is my balance.  I know my father has this in him, and my step-mother was his balance.  I began to heal with opened eyes, and a receptive heart.

We can go back home, my friends, the people will have changed, the place might be overgrown, or different, but the heart can reconcile it all, if it’s open to it.

I’m sure there will be more blogs about our trip plans.  Right now, I’m looking at a place to rent on the shore, so we can ride the Jersey waves every morning.  Nothing like it for us Midwestern girls.  But, the best is sitting with our dad and Hertha, even though now there is trouble lurking, dementia creeping into Hertha’s beautiful mind.  There is much for the Marthas and Marys to do, and we don’t want to invite Regret to the table, in fact, only Faith and Love are welcomed there.


Sister, Sister, Sister, Twin, Photos from our mother’s private funeral. And she smiled from heaven.

Cookies, Prognosticators, and Golden Doodles

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Yesterday, Eugene and I were supposed to go to a Doodle Romp at a doggie park about an hour and a half north to meet up with some friends who have goldendoodles from the same breeder.  We all met on The Paw Pad Goldendoodle Facebook page where we post pictures and videos and talk about our doodles.  It’s doodle heaven, I tell you.  Through the months and years we’ve become good friends, and I’m not sure who we are more excited to see, the doodles or the people.

That was the plan.  I didn’t sign up for the potluck at church because Eugene and I were headed north to the romp, but then came the prediction of rain.  Due to arrive the exact moment we were due to arrive.  Ominous green patches and blobs pulsed on the radar screen on everyone’s phones.  We watched, we texted, we waited, and finally, we decided to postpone.

By this time, I missed church, potluck and a meeting, I was still in my jammies, Eugene was snug on my lap, and the rain never came, not there, not here, not anywhere we could see.  Darn the forecasters and the green blob on the radar screen.  Life was easier and much more predictable actually when we went places by looking at the sky instead of a cell phone.  Instinct would have said, it was windy and chilly, and had the feel of rain, but it wasn’t raining, and if we’d sat on the stool in the kitchen, and dialed the number of a friend, and found out it wasn’t raining where she was, we’d all have popped the pups in the cars and met up.  But, we counted on that green blob to be right, not our instincts.

So, I spent the day in my jammies, crushing candy and passing through several levels, eating all the left over cookies and drinking Pepsi, ice-cold, from a bottle.  By the end of the day, I was stuffed, sluggish, feeling sick, and even discouraged, because I played the last level no less than 30 times and could not beat it, darned Candy Crush. Worse, I missed an opportunity because of a green blob and some prognosticator who is mostly wrong.

This is the thing, you can’t predict the weather.  You can get all those fancy models and watch that weather, but the weather has its own ideas, and we should trust our instincts, or even better, not worry about getting wet.  I’m not saying that the latest and greatest aren’t good, the prediction of tornadoes and hurricanes have most certainly saved lives.  It’s the everyday opportunities we lose out on because we went with the weather man instead of the weather.

In the end, some people would say that staying in my jammies with Eugene on my lap, eating cookies and drinking Pepsi all while crushing candy would be an outstanding way to spend the day.  For me, it left me wanting, and no doubt a few pounds heavier.


Maintaining Friendships Just Ain’t Easy…Spider Monkey’s Nipple Biting Notwithstanding.

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It’s not easy getting ten people into one selfie, in fact it’s almost a miracle.  It’s not easy to get five couples to commit to a monthly dinner, either, and that’s a miracle, too. For literally years we’ve been wanting to have a monthly dinner with our many church friends.  We wanted to have more social opportunities outside of church.  The problem was we just never did.  It was daunting to figure out how to invite all the people, how to organize the group, get commitments from them, find a place to accommodate us all, make reservations, consider everyone’s pocketbook, and schedules — and so we were overwhelmed.  And it never happened.

Then one day five couples were in the same place at the same time in their lives and we decided, let’s just start a monthly dinner to try it.  Each couple hosts a different month.  Hosts of the month choose the date and place (if they don’t have time to cook, they choose a restaurant and make ressies for 10, and we all go on our own dime), then if someone can’t come, the hosts get to choose another couple from church to join us that month.  Thus far we have not had anyone cancel, but we found it was easier to do this than to sell our house and buy one with a huge dining room that could accommodate more than 10 people at a time, which is to say, if we’d waited to do this church-friend-wide, we would still not have done it.

Last night it was our turn, and the spaghetti was amazing (if I don’t mind saying myself) as was a another pasta dish I made for my brother-in-law who can’t eat tomatoes.  And as I predicted yesterday, we said grace, we ate, we drank, and we stuffed ourselves on those homemade cookies.

We shared stories that made us laugh until we cried.  Though nothing was funnier than when my hubby told everyone that the spider monkey that his father once had as a pet bit him in the nipple.  This was not news to me, however, it was absolutely hilarious to hear him tell it to a bunch of friends.  It’s that easy to be with these people, that comfortable.  No worries, except that his wife will write about it in her blog. And one gal confessed to almost wetting her pants from laughter.

We are all so different, coming from different places, and listening to stories of our hometowns and our dreams and our weddings and our marriages, our children, our walks in faith, and the smell of manure and how it affects us (some of us like it.)

Yes, we Lutherans know how to eat, drink, and be merry.  We hope one day that our monthly dinners will grow to include all the people we love, younger couples, single friends, and old friends.  For now, we are thankful that we finally have made a start. Finally.

In the meantime, I’ll be working on those selfies, we definitely see that the future will hold more than just 10 people. I can do it, I know I can, and I look forward to the opportunity.



What’s for Dinner?


We are having dinner guests tonight.  Much as these family members gathered together many, many years ago, with most of them now departed, we are having “family” of a sort to dinner tonight.  And each will sit and bring a spirit or two from their own families to the table.

We are who we come from, as I wrote in an earlier post, and so, it’s fun to see who our friends bring to the table.  Whose mannerisms are those, and who taught you to hold your spoon like that?  Did you all say grace before eating?  Who was the one to say it?  Did you drink wine?  Or did you drink water from a metal pitcher from the old Kelvinator Fridge?

We are having pasta night.  Simple, flavorful and filling fare.  My spaghetti I learned from my mother-in-law, it’s a Bohemian style spaghetti recipe, believe it or not, that she got from her mother-in-law, Lucy.  Over the years, I’ve switched some of the dry spices to loads of fresh, I’ve been tweaking it a lot, and hubby says it’s better than his mother’s (sorry, Mom) and every wife loves to hear those words!  Seriously.  My mother-in-law is an amazing cook and she taught me everything I know, I love her so much for that.  But, it’s still nice to leave her in my culinary dust every now and then.

Maybe that will be the talk of the evening, and evoke the images of a new bride and her mother-in-law making their own pasta, hanging it on hangers around the house to dry, and then simmering sweet and sour spaghetti sauce for hours, and about an hour or two in, start dipping in crusty french bread until we’re too full to eat at supper time with the pasta.

Other stories might be that some never learned to cook, or went to culinary school, or their idea of cooking is picking up something on the way home from work?  Maybe it was frozen pot pies and Daddy’s Famous Hot Dish that was often the fare of the day at our house growing up, and slugged down with an ice-cold Pepsi.

For who they are and from whom they came, our guests will be engrossing, we will laugh, talk — we will share, we will be full and satisfied.  Then, I’ll bring out homemade cookies, and ice cream with all the toppings, and like children, we will indulge even though we are stuffed.

So many memories are made and stories told at a supper table by candle light.  So many spirits from years gone by join us, they live inside us, and their stories come alive as if they are sitting right there next to us, slurping up a spaghetti noodle in one full sluuuurp, with little splatters of sauce landing on shirt and chin. It will be a lovely meal, with laughter, and deep discussions, some disagreements and some “aha” moments all around a table of friends and spirits.  And Grace will be spoken at the table.

You’re the One that I Love, Whooo hooo hooo, Honey!

I don’t know how this fabulous encounter came to be, though, it looks to me like John happened to be at her show and this was an impromptu reunion.  Let me tell you, it thrilled me to death to watch!

Both of these people have publicly gone through hell and back with health issues, grief, loss, poor choices and have been the subjects of real or made-up  fodder for the tabloids.  There is something endearing about the joy in which they sang this song together.  Fighters, believers in times that were once good and can be resurrected, no matter how much pain they have faced along the way from those two young kids in the movie Grease to these middle-aged kids on stage.

I get a sense that better things are yet to come, we can still do what we always have in a new way with new vigor and a stronger sense of ourselves.  Yah, this video spoke to me in a very real way.

Then I see this on Facebook.  I loved this post about the Pity train.  Then, immediately following, I read an update about someone wishing others would quit whining. I even said out loud after singing “You’re the One that I love, WHOO WHOOO HOOO, HONEY” at the top of my lungs.  “WHAT ARE YOU DOING?  Whining about whining?” It KILLS ME!  Don’t they know they are riding on the pity train???


I don’t want this blog to be negative, it’s about the truth, and sometimes negativity is truth, and it’s hard to turn your cheek all the time when all you want to do is give them a good boot to the behind, and say, GET OFF THE TRAIN!

I know there are negative people, I used to be one.  I’ve darn near been the conductor of the pity train.  What I found was, being negative creates negative situations, and brings negative people to your side, and pushes those with hope away.  It’s like the Zombies that everyone except me is obsessed with.  Negative Zombies will kill every positive person in their way, sucking the goodness from them.  My negativity was turned inward and was self-loathing, I didn’t feel worthy of joy, which makes staying on the pity train so much easier, I simply didn’t believe I was worth more.  A  stint with a counselor helped ease that pain, and then my faith took me the rest of the way, not that I still don’t sometimes fight the zombies trying to suck my positive feelings right out of me.

As I think about the negativity that has surrounded John Travolta and Olivia Newton John, real or imagined, I consider them warriors, and easy enough with themselves to let it fall off them and entertain others, and even themselves.  You can’t say you didn’t smile as they sang, right?

For a minute, I hope all the people who saw that video, and who are riding the pity train, will see themselves in both, and recognize the joys of a single moment, it’s hard to practice self-pity when you are living moment to moment, and looking for the joy in each.  I speak from experience, one moment in a day of difficult times, one happy positive moment, can change everything.

Rock on, John and Olivia, we’ll be rocking out with you, one moment at a time.

I am going to clean my dishwasher now.  Who knew that something that gets things clean needs cleaning?  Have a good day.

The Power of True LOVE

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I read a blog today by one of my favorite bloggers, Otrazhenie, http://otrazhenie.wordpress.com/ about true love and it has inspired me.  It’s a poem that speaks of the joys of true love.  Many people are reblogging it because it’s a beautiful poem with all the dreams every person dreams when thinking of finding their true love. Even those guys who are macho, even they dream of love like this, and when they find it, though, they may act dismissive, they know it’s the real deal.

The poem is warm, romantic, it evokes images of soft sheets, gentle touches, and endless understanding.  I commented on her blog, and I said, this is all true, but is only half the story.  That true love is tested, and it is tested often, and it’s when it’s tested that we actually know it’s true love.

My husband and I believe with all our hearts that we have true love, go ahead, ask him.  He’ll say, “Yes, yes we do.”  We actually talk about stuff like this.  We completely are about the love we have for one another and from there for our children, and for our siblings, and friends, and co-workers, and the familiar strangers we meet everyday, and on and on.  We feel from this genesis of love, grows a world of love with God in the center, of course.

But, it’s been sorely tested through aging and sick parents, through tough economic times, through child raising, through spiritual struggles — like the pull of the moon, because it pulls us each in different directions at its whim, and we are separated emotionally, and lying side by side, back to back, in silence that seems to last forever, but we lie there, and we get up and move through the day, the week, the month, until we work out what pulls us away. Then come back renewed and talking and excited, and we’ve created a new chapter and maybe some new rules, because we are always changing separately and together and there is always a sense that we’re stronger together, even though there are battles to be fought alone.

And when you find that peace you are looking for in each other’s arms simply because they loved you enough to wait for you to come back to them, that’s when you know true love truly is true love.

If I were a poet, I would add a stanza or two of the beauty of arguing through it till you get to it again.  I’d add a stanza about the distance that life just brings into any relationship, and how hard you work to close that gap.  I’d even add a stanza that true love is not just between two lovers, but exists between a mother and a daughter, a sister and a brother, and with a friend, in any relationship between two people (and I would argue, between my dog and me, too).  True love is exactly what the words suggest.  A love that has tested the truths of this world, fought the battles of it, and survived it.



Dreams. Closed for Business.

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There is a business near us, we walk or drive by it nearly everyday.  It’s a beautiful restaurant with big,  huge windows near the river.  When you look through the windows you can see the stools and tables all set with salt and pepper and napkins. You can see the care that was given to the settings, and the furniture, with a big, beautiful well stocked bar.

Rick and I had sat in that restaurant and watched one of the fiercest storms come through town.  Trees bending to the ground, leaves flying, it was crazy windy and hailing — scary and enchanting — all at the same time.  Then, the storm was over and the sun reflected over the water running in the streets, and the birds were in a frenzy to grab any worms and checking on nests and their babies or eggs. People stepped outside to check on their cars, with some picking up branches here and there.  And we watched it all through those big windows.

This place made good drinks, had outstanding wings, and was pleasant.  You were met by the wife of one of the two brothers who owned it, and we chatted for a while.  “Tell us what you like, we’ll make sure to have it.” She’d say.  Eager to please.  One of the brothers would come out of the kitchen and ask how things were.  Even the bartender, maybe another brother, would come over and ask if our drinks were up to par.  Truth was, it wasn’t the best restaurant in town, but it wasn’t the worst.  It was good, honest food at a decent price.

Then, one day, the doors never opened again.  It was as if they left the night before, everyone calling, “Have a good night, see you in the mornin’!” and disappeared.  We didn’t see any headlines about restaurant owners disappearing into the night, or about alien abductions.  But that was what it was like. A few weeks later there was a small note in the business section of the online newspaper that the restaurant was closed.  Nothing more, nothing less.

A year later the restaurant with its tables set and ready, bar still stocked, stands exactly as it did the day the door was locked for the last time. It’s a sad commentary of our time maybe, or some people would say it wasn’t meant to be, or wasn’t good enough for the competition in town, but you know, to those brothers and their wives, it was a dream.  Well thought out, honest.  Who knows what they spent to get it started?  Who knows what really happened? They just couldn’t make it.

I don’t get why they didn’t come by and get their salt and pepper shakers, empty the bar, stack their stools in a corner.  Maybe even pots and pans still hang from the ceiling in the kitchen like ghosts.  I see the tables and stools and the booths all ready for their next guests, as if they still had hope someone would come.


Pearls or Grains of Sand?


A pearl or a clump of sand?  When a piece of sand or some other irritant gets under the mantle of an oyster or a clam, it produces the same substance it uses to make a shell and covers the irritant with it.  Thus a pearl is made.

For writers, thoughts are like that irritant, and we writers ruminate about them, think, mull them over like an oyster  or clam does a grain of sand, and sometimes –hopefully — all that mulling and thought produces a pearl. Truth is, some will be and others will be that clump of tiny grains of sand, and in some real way, they are interesting, too, to someone.

Almost everyone has dropped a quarter into a tin at a seaside tourist town where you can pop open an oyster and find a pearl — yes, they say, A Pearl is found everyday! GUARANTEED!  But, more than likely, well, it’s happened enough to me anyhow, it’s just a clump of tiny grains of sand.  Bummer.

So, when we blog, the second someone opens our  page, they are dropping a quarter into the tin, and are hoping to walk away with something that will be iridescent and beautiful.

When I read the blogs I follow, sometimes it’s a clump of sand and sometimes it’s a pearl, but what is most interesting is that the blogger is still writing it anyhow, and moreover, it’s the reader who decides whether it’s a pearl or a stone.

But what if that thought, those feelings stay inside us forever?  I think this is the real question for a writer, not having the guts to take the plunge and write, we will never know if all that is inside us are pearls or stones, or better, which ones are pearls and stones, or maybe all of them are a little bit of both depending again on the reader.  And if the stone stays inside us, it can become like a kidney stone or a gallbladder stone and cause so much pain, until finally, it is released. Who needs that agony?  Is it easier to handle than the scrutiny of a reader?  I say sometimes, but not most the time, so therefore it’s worth writing about.

I’d rather someone say what a waste of a quarter, but be intrigued enough to come back another day, because one pearl is found everyday, and we as writers have to open up for the reader to find it.

Now, I have no idea if this metaphor has been used a million times, or if this is something brilliant that I’ve come up with.  My guess, it’s the former, but guess what folks?  I’m writing it, and tomorrow a pearl could be forthcoming, and it will be brilliant and beautiful to someone.