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America, the Resilient

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It’s been awhile since I last posted an article. I, like everyone else, have been in a state of confusion and incredulity. It seems like the world around us it falling apart, and lately in America (although it has spread to other countries), people are in an uproar.   

  Is America doomed? The land of opportunity and dreams, which is 244 years old, has been through a lot this year, as have all countries. This is the land, which many millions have uprooted from their countries to try to reach their aspirations. America, where millions have given their lives, not only for their citizens, but for other countries’ citizens as well will eventually pull through. It will be a bit battered and bruised, but it will survive. How can I know that it won’t crumble as other countries in the past have? I know because this is a special place with a special purpose. It was founded on Christian beliefs and principles and set apart by God. Some see it as a place to seek their fortune or to escape danger, but there is even more to this land.

“The true destiny of America is religious, not political – spiritual, not physical.”  Alvin R. Dyer

This country was no mistake. It was foreordained. Some people have cited fault with the founding forefathers. These same people have judged men that they never knew personally, that lived in a completely different era, with today’s criteria. As with every civilization that ever was, things evolve over time. Societies start out rough, maybe even barbaric and hopefully become better, not worse. It took bravery and courage by some exceptional and free-thinking men to form America. But there were things in America’s earlier days that didn’t reflect this country’s intended base beliefs.  Slavery, displacement of Native Americans, Japanese internment. Racism against African Americans, Mexican Americans, Native Americans, Asian Americans, Muslim Americans, Jewish Americans, Eastern European Americans and Irish Americans and more. There have always been unjust and selfish people in the world and in most civilizations, dating back since the beginning of man. This is because it has not so much to do with class, politics or nationality, but it has to do with good vs. evil. There is always going to be bad mixed in with the good as long as there are people. In order to overcome this, it takes law abiding, smart, patient people who can go through proper channels to make changes, be willing to serve, and who truly care about others.

“Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.” John F. Kennedy

How can we improve our country? It won’t be through violence, riots, erasing history or through lawlessness. That only destroys and divides a nation. It begins with people desiring to make a difference for the good of all the citizens. What will have the most impact? People who give of themselves by volunteering and getting involved in communities. People who are there for their families. People who hold down jobs and contribute. People who love and honor their heritage, but also see the bigger picture as part of the American family. We really have no control over what heritage we are born into or where our ancestors come from. We only have control over our behavior and love for our fellow man.

Whether you are an elected official or a registered voter, whether you spearhead a community project for girls and boys, or are a volunteer at a senior center you can make a difference. Whether you are a teacher to many or an involved parent to one, you make a difference. A free democratic country is like a family – imperfect, but as good as the people who make it up. The integrity isn’t just the leader’s responsibility, but every citizen of that country.

Some people that live in America have a problem with America, for whatever reason. They don’t seem to realize, that if they left America to go to another country, they would still find problems. There are still imperfect politicians who make laws, there are still criminals and corrupt people, and even more so in some other places. Because the biggest component missing in many lives is what truly changes lives. A belief in God and a respect for others. God can change more lives than all the anger and the more and more we push God out of our country, the less and less we will recognize America.

“Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out dark; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.”  – Martin Luther King Jr.

I love America. It is still a country with amazing opportunities, amazing people and great diversity. We can still reach for the stars and stand up against injustice, become united and fight against evil by living good lives and loving each other. We can be an example to those oppressed in other countries and make our progenitors proud. The good can overcome and make us all one. May God bless America.

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Finding Peace In a Pandemic

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     2020 has been a difficult and very unusual time in history. We’ve gone from our routines and freedom, sprinkled with a false sense of security, to a place of uncertainty, isolation and anxiety. Life can seem reminiscent of a horror movie as we now hear of and for some, experience financial strain, illness and even death.

     It would be easy to focus on the depressing and negative things we are hearing daily regarding this Covid-19 Pandemic, especially for people who are dealing with the death or hospitalization of loved ones. We need hope and something positive that we can take away from this. Why? The lessons right now are all around us. Things that can transform us as people and make us and our lives better. Surprisingly, we don’t have to look to hard to find something positive that only could have happened under these circumstances.

    Our world is becoming more united once more. People everywhere, in every class, race, religion and country are dealing with many of the same concerns and fears.  Think back to September 11, 2001. America was devasted as the attacks against us ultimately resulted in over 3,000 deaths. Not only did we become stronger and more united as a nation during that time, but people from other countries offered assistance and support. We remembered what was important to us. Just as it was back then, so it is now, that people naturally reach out to others more during difficult times, much more so than during calm and happy times. They empathize and sympathize and want to help. We also can see and recognize real heroes; the healthcare workers, the mail carriers, the truck drivers, the grocery store employees and other essential business people. I and other people are no longer just asking them where an item is, but verbally thanking these people, who are putting their health at risk as they tirelessly serve us and keep us fed and taken care of.

    Another important thing that I’ve noticed is that families are reconnecting. When you are caught in the hamster-wheel of life, it’s hard to look to the side, notice what’s around you or even get off. The Pandemic forced us to stop. We brought our families into our homes, closed the doors and reintroduced ourselves to each other. We have learned to re-focus on our family members, and also on the safety of others as we stay our distance. Families are once again the priority; not school, not work, not sports or extra-curricular activities. Parents and children are talking, playing games, cooking together and writing and facetiming other family members. Letters are being written, siblings are texting and skyping and grandparents are on the minds of grandchildren a little more than before.

     We are learning other things as well. We used to laugh at and watch shows about preppers and hoarders. It’s true, they might be a little extreme, but many people were definitely wishing they had more than a few days of food and supplies in their pantries. We have learned that having at least a few weeks, if not few months’ worth, of food available is not a bad thing. Putting a few extra cans of food, bottles of water or an extra package of TP in the cart once in awhile might prove useful in the future. It may never be for another pandemic, but what about a time when you can’t work, a natural disaster, or just for a friend in need. Some people are also learning to cook for the first time and thinking about gardens. Self-sufficiency brings feelings of peace and security.

     There is something else that seems to have made a resurgence-prayer. As is often the case when society becomes prosperous, we become complacent, lazy or just pat ourselves on the back and forget where our blessings really come from. Prayer is forgotten, church attendance declines and people can become a bit calloused and cold. Unfortunately, it can take a harsh wakeup call to remind us that we are dependent on God, and to remind us secondly, that other people are more important than things.

Jeffrey Holland recently said this;

“When we have conquered (Covid-19) and we will- may we be equally committed to freeing the world from the virus of hunger and freeing neighborhoods and nations from the virus of poverty. May we hope for schools where students are taught – not terrified they will be shot-and for the gift of personal dignity for every child of God, unmarred by any form of racial, ethnic, or religious prejudice.”

     I was walking around my backyard, escaping the confines of our house. I strolled the freshly mowed lawns, the recently trimmed fruit trees and came to my flower garden area. I saw a beautiful burst of yellow and orange from my once dormant daffodils. I felt a glimpse of hope, and appreciation as I looked at them and the yard I and my husband are stewards over. I felt God’s love and reassurance. It seems that in this world, sometimes happiness and hope are at times dormant, and that is when we can exercise faith and devotion, which awakens our commitment and love to God and to His other children.

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A Year Unlike Any Other

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    Was I dreaming, or is this really happening? That’s usually my first thought lately when I wake up each morning . Sometimes a few coughs or a tickle can make me overthink. Do I feel a tightness in my chest? What is that cough about? But then, I get up, get moving, take a shower and I realize that I am just fine, at least for now.

    This is definitely history in the making, and the Pandemic of 2020 will always be remembered. The Corona Virus, or COVID 19 has us experiencing some things that we have never experienced before. Never in my lifetime have we been urged, or forced for some, to stay in our homes for extended periods of time. It has been about a week now here, but it already feels longer than that. In other countries like China and Italy, quarantine, lockdown or social isolation, has been going on longer. We are used to having the freedom, especially in the United States, to go about and do as we desire every day of our lives. It is difficult socially, emotionally and definitely financially. But the alternative ramifications if we don’t isolate ourselves could be devastating, especially for the older population and for those with compromised immune systems.

    People with children at home are feeling the stress, challenged and perhaps confined as they strive to keep kids busy and happy. But for those all alone, it can be very difficult as this isolation goes from days into weeks. People who are already alone a great deal of the time and rely on social activities or regular visits from family or friends may be feeling depressed or extremely abandoned.

    Even though I have a husband to keep me company, I found myself feeling lonely and sad yesterday. I realized that I needed to find purpose and do something that might help, if even in a small way.

I began with writing my two elderly aunts who are alone. One is in a care center which is on lockdown. The other is in her own home, but all alone. Getting communication from loved ones is paramount right now. An email, text or especially phone call, so that you can hear someone’s voice has the potential to lift one up and help to put this temporary situation into perspective.   We don’t have control over many things regarding the circumstances this virus has placed us in, but we can still have control over our attitude and our smaller, personal world.  

A hobby that I have is making soaps. I’ve heard that some seniors are low on basic supplies because they are afraid to go out, or unable to do their shopping. I took a box of extra soaps to the senior center, which is collecting such products. I dropped the box on the back steps and give them a call to let them know of the delivery. Hopefully these pretty soaps will be enjoyed and useful to the seniors.

I also am trying to get in touch with a local care center to see if any of their residents would like an email pal. This might help with the loneliness I’m sure they are experiencing on lock- down.

These are just a few ideas that I’ve had and I’m sure that you have your own that you can implement for you and those around you. We just have to be creative and think outside the box, but we can still help others and enrich our own lives while we are limited in our socialization.

  1. For right now, we need to stay at home with as little exposure to others as possible. Fortify ourselves with exercise and healthy eating, and of course practice hygiene such as hand-washing.                      

2. We need to communicate with friends and family through email, phone calls, and texts.                      

3. We need to be creative and stay busy within our own space. Clean out closets, read, do those projects you’ve been putting off for years, like possibly learning a language or start a new hobby. A rare opportunity to not feel guilty about doing the things we want to do within our own home, without distractions.

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   This too will eventually pass, and many lives will be saved through our diligence, maybe even our own life. God is still in charge and He is mindful of us. We must not forget Him. Pray. He can help us and others, through us. I stopped writing for awhile and then I thought about you. My writing helps me and hopefully will lift someone else out there. Be assured that you are not completely alone or forgotten. Stay healthy and happy.  

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Friends I Haven’t Met Yet

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I was in the store I frequent the other morning chatting with the clerk who has become our friend. He is someone with a friendly, sunny disposition who is a bit older than myself.

Me: “Ken, you’ve been here awhile. Do they have you working full time now?”

Ken: “Just about! But it’s ok because I like getting out of the house and I love our customers! They are the best.”

Me: “I can appreciate that. I’m a people person myself and thrive on interacting with others.”

Ken: “Yes, I love people.”

The Lady behind me: “It depends on the people.”

My question is, so does being friendly depend on the people that we come in contact with or on us? Perhaps both. Of course, we certainly need to be polite, careful and safe. Some people may not respond to friendliness or may not reciprocate a friendly comment. That’s ok, and in those instances, it may be best to retreat and respect their boundaries. Other times, I’ve noticed that some people are grateful for an interchange and a human (or humane) encounter.

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 For me, for the most part, I find that I really like most of the people that I meet. Maybe it’s the sweet little town that I live in, but the people here tend to be  open and kind. It may be different in the big city, although I’ve been to New York a couple of times and was surprised by the friendliness of the people.

Something interesting that I’ve found is that instead of letting our preconceived impressions always stop us, sometimes, it’s ok to be brave and proceed. Some of my best friends in life have been what might be pinned as “crusty” people. People who’ve had a hard life, or have lost that trust in humanity and respond with sarcasm, cynicism, and perhaps a little bitterness. A woman that I knew, I’ll call her Candy, was such a person. She was tough, had a challenging home situation, smoked a lot and did not care for insincere or phony people. I was asked at church to visit her on a regular basis and was a little nervous. What I ignorantly envisioned might be beneficial to her, became my blessing. Candy was a talented cook, quilter and sang tenor in the choir. She was also a gardener, hard worker and always welcomed me with open arms.

I visited her for a couple of years and had the privilege of spending her last months with her before she passed of lung cancer. We were able to express our appreciation for our friendship and she left me some of her cookbooks, which I now treasure. Afterwards, we became close with her husband, who did not let a lot of people in his circle. The evidence of God’s love for each of His children continued as we spent time with Candy’s husband, until he too eventually passed.

    We are so limited in our vision regarding others. In our fast-paced world, we usually just barely get to scratch the surface of someone’s character and personality and can’t or don’t invest the time required to get to dig deep enough to really know someone. But in quick meetings, we can certainly give them the benefit of the doubt.

In the store, after the woman said, “It depends on the people.” I saw something in her that I recognized-that hurt and cynicism. That suspicion. I responded to Ken (but mostly her), that all we can do is look for the good in people. We talked a bit and Ken finished ringing me up and as I left, I wished her a good day and as she wished me the same, our eyes met and we smiled. I felt an understanding between us that we were momentary friends and that it was a sweet golden moment.

It’s true, that in today’s society, we have to be cautious and a little wary. That can sometimes cause us to be defensive and suspicious. We need to remind ourselves that friendliness, in a safe setting, brings back humanity into society and can lift others, and ourselves out of a dark world.

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Our Secret

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    The other day at the gym, I saw this handsome guy. He caught my eye because he was so confident, yet not arrogant. Several people walked by him, recognized him and started talking to him. He seemed friendly and at ease, never putting them off, even though he had previously been focused on his workout. His intense eyes were blue… no green, and they were strong, yet kind.

     After he finished in the weight area of the gym, he came over and got on the elliptical machine next to me. He said with a smile, “Do you come here often?” We talked and I thought about what a good listener he was, and certainly understood why people liked to talk to him. After about 15 minutes we finished at the same time, and left together.

    The car ride was mostly quiet which gave me time to think. Here was this handsome, strong, confident, smart man and he was with me. He was all mine. Presumptuous you might say? I knew with certainty, because he has been mine for over 36 years.

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     We’ve been through good times and bad, through poor and not so poor, through dark hair, silver hair, thin hair and no hair. We’ve lived in 14 different homes together; had 3 children together and we’ve watched them grow and helped them through their trials and struggles. They’ve given us 6 wonderful grandchildren (so far) and those grandchildren hold our hearts. We’ve had dreams. Some dreams have died and some have been realized.

    Some people may wonder if true love exists anymore. I’m here to testify that it can. It is a rare and sought-after encounter, and while many people can find it, very few can hold onto it. True and lasting love, is kind, unselfish, and both compassionate and passionate. Both parties are on the same page, have the same relationship goals and put each other first. It is the kind of love that keeps you going and pulls you up when you don’t feel that you can do it yourself. It makes you feel young, keeps you interested and feeling twitterpated after shiny exteriors have begun to tarnish. Others still have this love, but are separated temporarily by death.

       It’s like a secret that two people share and that no one can understand unless they also possess it. It is personal and precious. It keeps us from looking at others or from letting others in on the secret. We have friends and loved ones, but this is something exclusive. A simple look between us can speak volumes. In our younger days, occasionally people had tried to break us down. Women flirted with my husband and I was approached by men, but we would without question let them know they couldn’t even get to the front door of this fortress.

    Yes, his eyes are sometimes blue and sometimes green. They change. He does still make my heart flutter when I see him as if it’s the first time. We still flirt and say things to each other that used to make our kids roll their eyes, but they don’t anymore. They know that what we have is to be desired, cherished and kept alive and that we both want it with all of our hearts. That’s our secret.

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Pursue Your Passion

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    I find it very interesting that in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), one of the key principles is that emotions play a strong role in health. It’s believed that certain emotions can influence certain organs and that all organs have an interconnectedness with each other and with overall health.

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It is also believed that the life energy or vital force (known as chi or qi) can be affected by being positive and by doing things that you are passionate about. How exciting is that? It makes sense doesn’t it? Have you ever seen people’s health suffer when they are in a stressful job or a job they dislike. Or when someone retires from a career that they love, that drives them, and then their health declines.

    So, with that in mind, let me ask you a few questions just to get you thinking.

  1. What are you passionate about? Is there anything that interests you intensely or that you gravitate to when reading, learning or talking about?

2. When you talk to others about this do you feel emboldened, revved up, excited and happy?

3. Are you able to keep a healthy balance or is it more like an unhealthy obsession?

     This doesn’t mean that we are stuck with one thing, never to vary our interests. These things can change over time, or we can add to them. As we learn and grow, we can again be re-charged by a new discovery. Some lucky people turn these passions into careers and have the blessing of not only doing what they love, but creating a living for themselves. At the very least, with your knowledge you can possibly help others. It may be that you are passionate about cheese. You can learn all that you can about cheese, teach others about cheese, perhaps get a job at a great cheese company like Glanbia or Tillamook, sell your Cheese Boards, or open a grilled cheese food truck! Whatever you do with whatever passion, it’s all yours and while others are dreaming about smoked Gouda, it is your reality.

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Maybe you’re not sure what your passion is or haven’t found one yet. Some people have hobbies, but that may not be their passion. I used to like to sew when my kids were young, but that was more out of necessity and frugality. I certainly wasn’t passionate about it. For you, it may be something that you didn’t realize, like fishing, makeup, cooking, running, traveling or pubic speaking (haha).

Another benefit, is that there is no age or time limit. Some may think, Oh, I’m past my prime, I can’t pursue this passion or dream. There’s no sense in doing that. My thought is, as long as you are still alive, you most certainly can and should! We may be older, but we are not done. You owe it to yourself, and to others, to keep life exciting and full of passion. It’s what keeps us ticking and learning.

Find things that light up your mind and heart. Finding your passion will bring new life to you, and that has to be good medicine.

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The Perfect Outfit

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I was in seventh grade when I got it. My mom bought me an outfit that made my heart patter and made me feel grown up. It was a red velveteen set, with a knee-length gaucho pant/skirt and a vest with cap sleeves and wooden toggle buttons. I had seen it in a store and it was finally on sale. When I showed my mom, she actually liked. After she made the purchase, I only wore it on special days. No other girls at school had a set like it (Imagine that?) When I finished wearing it, I would hang it up carefully or we would occasionally take it to the dry cleaners. It was so very red and I felt like a fashion model when I wore it. It made me rather warm when I wore it, and it made me perspire but, hey, that’s the price that you pay for glamour.

In high school “Gunne sax” dresses were all the rage. Finally, my junior year, I was able to get one for a prom. It was a pastel yellow color with white lace and I felt very feminine and delicate in it. I’m sure I danced to songs by like “Three Times a Lady”, and “Stairway to Heaven” would be the last song because it was long, but very hard to dance to. Proms were simple back then. You’d go out to dinner at a nice restaurant and then go to the dance and then go home. There were no all-day dates, no $1000 dresses, and no hotel rooms.

    My wedding dress was a one-of-a-kind custom-made dress satin dress. That’s because I bought the 6 yards of material and made it myself. My husband and I paid for our wedding and we were on a very tight budget, so I said I’d make my dress to save money. I sewed for hours and hours, putting lace on the sheer sleeves, and made the veil myself. It had a train and although it wasn’t fancy and it had some flaws, I was proud of it and I guess it was ok because it worked, and we were married. I still have it, and it’s a bit raggedy now, but I can’t seem to part with it.

Three decades ago, maternity clothes were made to hide baby bumps and they were not flattering. They usually were tent-like with big patterns and big bows to draw your attention away from the obvious. These outfits weren’t glamorous (like a red velvet gaucho set), but I still was happy to wear them because they symbolized the thing I’d always dreamed of- motherhood. It took us a couple of years and a doctor’s help to finally get pregnant, so when it happened, I happily wore those outfits until those sweet babies came.

Some people feel that clothes are just a covering or that enjoying them is shallow. Clothes are definitely not the most important thing, and don’t define a person, but clothes can be significant because they are an expression and at times a representation of a person. I remember how when we had our senior graduation trip to Disneyland, we were forced to wear dresses and the boys had to wear shirts and ties. We were not at all happy, and yet it helped us to behave at a higher level. We felt respectable and so we acted respectable.

I imagine there will be more outfits to pick out for special occasions, like for anniversaries, graduations and marriages of grandchildren. In my later years, my last outfit won’t be selected by me, but probably by my daughters with tears, but with good memories… and they will know what I would’ve picked.

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Chowder and Fish Tales

    Food makes me happy. Good food makes me happier. I admit, maybe a bit too happy, because I think about it a lot. The thing about food is you can’t just eat it once a month and call it good. As a wife and Mom, I’ve spent a good many hours of my life contemplating food. I sympathize with those people, whether woman or man who have this responsibility. If you break it down, figure 10 hours a week (which may be conservative) for shopping, planning and preparing. That’s 40 hours a month and 480 a year, or drumroll please, 17,280 hours over the last 36 years! That doesn’t even include time spent eating. For many, eating and helping others eat is not just an afterthought.

     So, it’s easy to understand, and some of you can relate, why it’s just a part of us now and why cooking shows are so popular. Food and eating are both cheap entertainment, necessary and something we can share with those we love. Food can be fun as well as delicious. I love being creative with food as well; charcuterie boards, making animal and face pancakes with the grandkids, making tamales with my family, having BBQs, potlucks, family chili cookoffs (our son won the prize) and even trying to make sushi with the whole family. There’s something so gratifying about a family member saying “Wow, Mom (or Grandma) that was so good!”

   My husband and I consider ourselves foodies with discerning tastes. We take food seriously and always have thought our paying job should be as secret tasters in restaurants, but nobody, as of this writing, has hired us for such. We especially like to try different foods and restaurants and cannot plan a trip without considering the local offerings. Even if it’s just camping, we are planning a menu and nobody is starving.

   When we went to the beautiful state of Alaska, we had to try the fresh seafood. When we went to London, we had to have the fish and chips and meat pies. In Jamaica, of course the jerk chicken, and in Belize, the conch. It’s educational as well as a tasty experience.

   Years ago, we traveled down the coast of Oregon, which is one of our favorite travel destinations. We decided to liven it up by making a competition out of it- you know, like the TV shows. Only nobody knows who we are, cares about our opinions, and the winners get absolutely nothing out of it. Being the coast, it would of course be a clam chowder competition. In every town we would sample the chowder and declare the winner and champion.

We traveled down from the top of Oregon and tasted clam chowder in Lincoln City, in Newport and Florence. We love these towns and there are great restaurants along the way. One of our favorite places is in Newport and it’s overlooking the ocean. It’s called Georgie’s. It has great food and I love their Fisherman’s stew. We also like to go to the family friendly restaurant chain called Mo’s. It has good chowder served in a bread bowl and you can order it with a serving of bay shrimp put on top. If you go to the Oregon coast, you also have to stop at Cannon Beach, which has a street with great shops, restaurants and is walking distance to the beach.

   We continued along and tasted some good chowders and also some very bland, pasty, floury chowders. Then we ended our trip at the bottom of Oregon in a town called Brookings. Even though it was the end of the state, we decided to complete our tasting by going in a little place at the marina. I’m afraid I don’t even remember the name of the place. We also ordered fish and chips. To our surprise, they had the best tasting chowder and also fish and chips out of the places we tried, which was only about 6. Also, to our surprise, they were excited when we announced that they won!

   Sometimes even with simple ideas, comes unexpected results and great times. By looking for the good, doing something we both love and also by involving food it turned into an unforgettable vacation.

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Time For a Power Outage

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    I was in line at Costco the other day, with stuff in my cart, along with many other people in line. Some people had their carts full and I had to chuckle at all of us. It had only been a few days since the holidays, after all the shopping hubbub, and here we were, back at the store again. Obviously, our life-sustaining supplies had run out and we were all scraping by. That’s amazing, considering that a few days previous, we had so much food around that we didn’t know what we were going to do with it.

You may sense a bit of sarcasm. That’s because I have enough food in my pantry to live on for months, but for Pete’s sake! If you get a craving for Costco’s vanilla ice cream (which is divine!) or you can’t live without a rotisserie chicken, then it’s worth the arduous 9-minute drive. Actually, only 4 minutes for me.

I admit it, many of us are a pampered bunch. We live very differently than people lived 100 years ago, or even 30 years ago. Inventions and innovations have made us a society of convenience. For those of us who reside in cities, there are stores all around us. We don’t even need to go to a store. We can get on the internet and have products, and even food delivered right to our door. Some people can even just speak to a box named Alexa and order things.

We have forgotten how to be self-reliant. When there is an electrical power outage the stores are full of people, and the shelves are soon empty. Power outages are good reminders and good drills. We have all experienced them from time to time and they can be inconvenient, but rarely are they more then just a few hours. One time we experienced one for 10 days.

When our kids were young, we lived in a little mountain town in the Sierra Nevadas. The town was at the bottom of two mountains and separated by two rivers and the roads were twisty and on big ravines. It was remote, and in the winter it would snow. This one particular storm took out some power lines which resulted in the power being out. As usual, we joked about it and presumed that it would be out for hours. We were fortunate because we had a wood burning fireplace, so we were able to keep warm, by closing a few of the rooms and living mostly in the family room with the fireplace. We also heated up pans of chili and soup on the fireplace. Hours turned into days, and because of the snow, people were unable to leave the area to get to stores 30 minutes away and trucks were unable to bring food to the town. The little local market was empty. We stored our food from our fridge and freezer in the snow. Fortunately, it was a close-knit community and people helped those around them and made sure everyone was warm and fed. A few days turned into a week and a week into 10 days. Not all of the food could be cooked on a fireplace, plus the food was defrosting faster than we could eat it. We shared as much as we could but we did some lose food.

The good things that came out of this was according to the kids, it was an adventure! We would use lanterns and flashlights in the evening. We told stories and played games and of course, there was no TV. We gathered together in the family room and spent time together. We learned that we could make it on the basics and we were forced to slow down. True, after about day 5, it wasn’t as much fun, as laundry piled up and food went bad, but fortunately we have always tried to have extra food on hand for such an emergency. After that, from time to time, my husband and I would scheme, and he would trip the breaker and we would moan, “Oh no, the power is out!” The kids would then cheer, we would get the lanterns and flashlights out and we would have a fun change of routine, for that evening.

We can drink pre-bottled water, eat pre-peeled oranges, stay in our cars while we bank, microwave premade meals and do just about anything on our phones, which do more than a computer from the 1990’s could do. We can start up our cars with a push of a button, wash our hair with waterless shampoo, clean our floors with a small robotic cleaner, and in the summer turn on our automatic sprinklers. We should have so much time on our hands, that it’s ridiculous. We all should, but we don’t. We are busier than ever and life is not simpler. But once in a while, we need to bring the simplicity back. I think that’s why people love camping so much, it’s simplicity and where you make do and it’s all right, because you’re all together… and maybe that is why we loved short power outages. We look back on those times with fondness. They are sweet memories and all the trips in the world to Costco can’t replace that.

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Resolutions? How about these 5 doable things instead?

    Somehow the very word resolution stirs up anxiety and stress in my mind. If I don’t accomplish my resolutions for the new year am I a loser or am I lazy? What if I only accomplish part of the list? I used to make resolutions when the calendar rolled around, and would usually work on them for a couple of months and then they’d fizzle out. I’d get busy with other things or else gradually I’d just forget about them. Then I’d feel bad because they fell by the wayside. The thing is anytime that we make a positive change it’s a good thing because we are changing course for a better direction. As we not only accomplish goals, but also attempt new goals, we evolve in a good way, even if the goal is only met partially or for a while because any success drives us on and improvements are made. Our mindset is a positive one.

   I’ve come up with a list of some things we’ll just call good ideas, instead of resolutions, that might spur us on in 2020 to make some changes and also that are doable and not overwhelming.

  • Instead of saying you’re going to lose 25 pounds, why not just start with 5 lbs. or even just cut back on sugar, red meat or soft drinks. These goals are doable and will help you feel better and have more energy. Who knows- these small changes might be a catalyst to more improvements.

  • Watch less television. It can definitely become a habit to relax after dinner, or even during while watching TV. That is fine, but why not read a book once in a while or write a letter, or go for a walk. These choices can be relaxing as well and help you accomplish something at the same time.

  •  Tell a loved one that you love and appreciate them. Everyone likes to hear that they make a difference and that they are loved. As the days roll into weeks and months, a busy life can get out of control and it can be easy to take it for granted that they just know it.

  • Take that college class that you’ve wanted to for years. I recently took a college class that didn’t have any credits, and was just for 6 weeks, but I enjoyed it very much and I met some very nice people as well. It got me out of my comfort zone and jumpstarted my brain.

  • Every day or just once a week if that is more realistic, write down 5 blessing that you are aware of in your life. Pick different ones every time. Gratitude makes us focus on positive things in our life and that our life isn’t so bad after all.

This week’s article is short and sweet, but it is written with the intent that instead of feeling overwhelmed by a new year, you can feel excited and hopeful. You are awesome and have made it this far in life. Instead of thinking what you haven’t finished or started, think about what you have accomplished along with the challenges in life. Every day is a fresh start and you’ve got this!

Let me know what one of your goals is for 2020 or suggestions that you might have for doable goals 😊

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The Perfect Gift

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It was almost the day of the 6th grade Christmas Gift Exchange. My mother took me to the store so I could select something that I could give to a classmate. She told me to pick out something under a certain dollar amount that would appeal to another 6th grade girl. Something that I might like if I received it. I wanted it to be cool, not a dorky gift and so I put a lot of thought into it.

The next day arrived and I placed my gift with the other gifts and waited impatiently for the fun to begin. The time arrived and numbers were drawn and the boys were to give to the boys and the girls were to give to the girls. It was all so exciting! I tried to imagine what I would select and how the girl that got the gift I brought would react. I couldn’t wait to see the look on her face! The gift that I brought would probably be the envy of all the girls.

I held the gift that corresponded with the number that I drew and noticed another girl opening the gift I brought. She was also excited and as she opened it, she smiled and squealed and was delighted with the gift and thanked me. I likewise tore open the wrapping on the box I held and opened the box. I took out the gift and stared at it. It was an orange with cloves stuck in it. An orange. Cloves poking out of an orange. Perhaps this was just part of the gift. I looked back in the box. Nope, just the orange-with cloves in it. What was I supposed to do with this! I couldn’t even eat it! I kept my poker face and smiled and searched for the person responsible for this. I saw who it was. A girl whose family was struggling and she was very quiet. She looked shyly at me and I thanked her and smiled. Our kind teacher walked over and said what a thoughtful, homemade gift that was and it had probably taken a long time to make.

In my selfish and limited 6th grade perspective I obviously did not get it. I missed out on an opportunity to help a classmate feel good about herself and that she and her gift were enough. Thank goodness my parents taught me to be polite and considerate enough to hold it together and not say negative things. But I didn’t realize it at the time that a $5 gift really wasn’t significant in the scheme of things and that people are always more important than things. I had so much more to learn about Christmas.

Like many, I thought that wood, plastic or fabric would make me happy. The funny thing is, that on Christmas day, for many kids, no matter how many gifts are under the tree for them, when that last gift is opened, there is a feeling of disappointment. It’s kind of a natural feeling because the buildup is big and then the finale, in our minds, is over. What we forget is that the good feelings of Christmas can last all year, if we learn that it really is better to give than receive and that giving of ourselves makes both the giver and receiver happy.

One of my favorite Christmas memories, is when our kids were about 11-14. We decided that our Christmas needed more meaning and we would make homemade gifts for each other. After the kids were done moaning, we got to work. We were all sewing and woodworking and putting time and thought into each gift. We helped the kids with their projects and they learned new skills. When the gifts were opened everyone appreciated each gift sincerely and the kids beamed with pride with what they had accomplished. It was a simpler, yet special Christmas and we were able to just enjoy the moments and being a family.

As parents, we may feel relief when we finish the shopping, wrapping and cooking. Children may feel relief when they realize that they were able to avoid the naughty list. But relief, is different than peace. True peace at Christmas and at any time will only come when we understand and recognize what Christmas is really about. That we celebrate Christmas not because a baby was born. There have been many, many wonderful babies born. We celebrate Christmas because of who that baby was and what He has done for us. That over 2000 years later He is still remembered for doing something that we could not do for ourselves. That the sacrifice that only He could make in the Garden and on the Cross enables us to be forgiven. His great gift of love is so miraculous and great, that no other could have given it to us. This gift is for everyone and one size fits all. It’s a priceless present. It’s the most perfect gift.

“Look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else.” —C.S. Lewis

Thank you for reading my blog and allowing me to be part of your year and your Christmas! I love writing this blog and expressing my thoughts and feelings, and hope you will also share your feedback and thoughts on my articles. Have a wonderful Christmas and I look forward to the New Year with you…

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They Don’t Stay Little Forever

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When you hold that tiny, soft sweet baby for the first time, you can’t possibly realize how much of your heart and life will be wrapped up in that 7 or 8 lb. bundle. At that moment, you don’t picture a 30-year-old woman or man, nor can you envision the worries, prayers, experiences and love that the future will bring.

They quickly grow and age and with each year the concerns and victories also grow in proportion. When they are children, you cry for them on that first day of school, as well as the injustices and heartaches they go through. It might be unkindness to them, a broken arm, or someone not recognizing their genius or that they obviously deserve the lead role in the play.

As they become older kids and teenagers, you feel their independence blossoming as they voice their opinions and disagreements with you. You start to notice and realize their time at home is ticking away and it really is a temporary arrangement as they slowly break the emotional grasp that you have on them, one finger at a time.

I remember how we tried to teach our children to work and appreciate what they had. Before they were old enough to get jobs, they had chores and we raised animals. Sometimes it was more of a hassle and battle to bottle feed calves, take care of ostriches (yes, ostriches!) goats and chickens and mow lawns. Some people would say, “Wouldn’t it be easier and cheaper just to buy the eggs or beef, rather than raise it?” We’d respond that it would, but we weren’t raising animals, we were raising children.

With 3 kids, 3 ½ years apart, the teen years were exciting and we stayed up late many a night, waiting to hear their car drive up and their voice come into our bedroom and say, “I’m home!”, at one minute before curfew. When they began dating, our worries increased and we tried to convince them on the merits of arranged marriage. We are grateful that they were pretty good kids.

When they had heartbreaks, our hearts were broken too. That’s not to say we weren’t glad some of their heartbreaks were gone, but we knew they were in anguish and we felt it. Some of their experiences caused us tears as well and we would plead to Heavenly Father, who in reality knows and loves them even more than we do. We knew that, but, it’s still difficult. It’s just that you can’t fix everything like when they were little, nor should you. We knew they had to learn to fix some things for themselves.

Along the way, you learn just as much from your children, as they do from you and marvel to think how you would be lacking without them. They become adults, and the relationship continues to evolve. You realize you have more in common than you think, and they reluctantly realize that too. You become friends and time together is still precious. The worries do not cease.

Then. If you are fortunate, they give you something you never imagined would be so wonderful- grandbabies. Little people who idolize you, make you feel young and needed again and make you laugh. It’s heavenly.

Whether your children are doctors, teachers, or in prison, whether they live across the country or in your basement, whether you are best friends with them or can’t ever see eye to eye, they will always be your babies, your posterity and your miracles. Our children and grandchildren mean everything to us. We may have given life to our children, but they have controlled, taken over, ruled, added meaning to our lives!

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Forgiveness is the Key

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Betrayal is a strong word because it evokes strong feelings. Feelings of pain, anger, shock, isolation, disloyalty and even revenge. Nearly everyone, at some time in their life has experienced betrayal on some level. It can start as early as childhood and if experienced firsthand enough, can make one leery and distrustful. It might happen in the home, school, the workplace, at church or among close friends.

When we are betrayed, deceived, double-crossed, backstabbed, cheated on or thrown under the bus, it can be devastating . We can feel emotionally blind-sided and shocked because the worst betrayal is by people you are close to. People that you love and trust. As you recall the person or experience, even years later, it awakens those dark, bitter memories that you try so hard to bury.

We have all wondered how could they have done that to us? They had always (or should have) made you feel safe. Or at least that you could trust them. Did you really mean that little to them? Are they monsters or just plain evil? Some people may be evil and do evil things. But in many instances, people simply make dumb mistakes, use poor judgement or act selfishly, and that includes our ourselves. If you think about everyone being betrayed or deeply hurt at some time, then we might conclude that we have at times, been the perpetrators.

I used to think that forgiveness was absolving the guilty of all wrongdoing, that forgiving was “giving in” and excusing their behavior. I don’t think that anymore. It doesn’t mean tolerating someone’s bad behavior over and over. I think you can call someone out on their behavior, and even ask for restitution if needed, prevent it from happening again, and then, let it go. Let go of the hatred, bitterness or sadness.  When you gain your voice and have the strength to do that, it is more liberating to address it and then release it. You become the more mature, and capable person and the actions don’t have to hang over your head, or theirs, endlessly. I know of two separate people who both left abusive relationships. They had to wade through devastation, anger, tears and insecurities, as they made themselves safe. Amazingly, both of these people found gradual healing and light at the end of their tunnel, as they both forgave and released all of the negative feelings. Because they were able to do this, they were able to focus on their new lives, instead of the past and their children were able to also.

We too may have betrayed, deceived and lied to someone in our lives. We’ve caused heartache, confusion and worry. If you believe in a Savior, then you know the reason He came to earth, the reason He suffered in the Garden of Gethsemane and hung on a cross was to pay the price for every person who was imperfect. That means everyone.

When someone is offended, it’s often the case that they spend many nights mulling it over in their mind, or obsessing about it and losing sleep over it until the offense snowballs into a mountain. Meanwhile, the offender is not losing sleep over the matter, and they probably haven’t given it a second thought.

Letting go of other’s hurtful actions, is moving forward and living your life. It is about loving yourself and not letting the misdeeds of others control you. It is about trusting Jesus and knowing that He already paid the price and the past doesn’t have to resurface over and over again. It’s true, betrayal is a strong word, but forgiveness is stronger.

Fred (Mr.) Rogers said, “Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love. Like all of life’s important coping skills, the ability to forgive and the capacity to let go of resentments most likely take root very early in our lives.”

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A Grateful Heart

“Gratitude turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity….it makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow.”  —-Melody Beattie

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   When older people are asked what they want for a gift, they often reply “nothing” or “I have everything that I need”. Younger gift-givers may be frustrated at that response. The fact is that with age, indeed we may have all that we really need but, also, with time comes a gratitude for what we do have. We realize that people have become more important that things, cherished memories more important than money, and the beauty of the world, more precious than diamonds. An eye-roll may occur from a young person when Mom, Dad or a grandparent may tell them that all is needed is to know that they are safe, or happy, or kind, or that they remember God in their lives. No watch, necktie or bottle of perfume can replace that.

You realize that a spouse, child or best friend can never be replaced or bought. Having someone to experience special, or even mundane, moments with is really what makes life meaningful and fun. Sharing a laugh, a secret or special occasion with that person is the icing on the cake. Occasionally you will find yourself just looking at that person with appreciation and admiration. Sharing a heartbreak, tragedy or injustice with that person can deepen that relationship even further. That’s when you feel their devotion and loyalty. Deep down inside you know that your days together are limited, at least on this earth, so if you are wise, you cherish each one.

With age, comes the gratitude, not of the glitz and glitter of the holidays, although it’s still fun,  but of other’s faces and their reactions. The enjoyment as young ones are excitedly waiting in anticipation for their own new memories and happy moments. The wonderful times with family all crammed in the same house together in a loud and happy exchange. The ooohs and ahhs as the holiday dinner is placed on the table because no one can cook like Mom or Grandma. The joking and teasing with Grandpa. The traditions that are built together that make your family special.

All around us we can find things to be thankful for. A rainbow or mountain scene cause us to slow down and just stare and try to take it all in. What can equal an amazing sunset or sunrise? We may try to take a picture of any of these spectacles, but we can rarely capture the majesty and awe in these moments. We might even feel that these beautiful moments that we occasionally witness, are made just for us by a loving God.

As we contemplate the day to day comforts and conveniences that many of us enjoy, we also become aware that not all people have access to these blessings. A bathroom, running water, 3 meals a day and a full pantry, things like several jackets to choose from or shoes that fit.  A group of people to call family and knowing you can count on them. Of course, the list could go on and on and when we recognize this, is when we want to share. We share almost apologetically in gratitude. Our time, our love, and our material things.

No matter our age, we are infants in our understanding and are blessed to have a patient and kind God in Heaven who wants us to learn to be grateful and to share with others all year long. The more we are grateful, the more blessings we will become aware of. I realize there are exceptions, but for many of us, no matter how lacking our lives may seem, they would be a dream come true, for others.

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Brother, Can You Spare Your Time?

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I read about an elderly lady who was so lonely, abandoned and in need of help that after being homebound for 7 years, she finally wrote a note and managed to put it on a neighbor’s door. In the note, she wrote how she was lonely, scared and needed help. It was a heart-wrenching story that had a happy ending because the neighbor who was a young woman, responded. Many people who read about it, including me had their heart touched thinking of how sad and alone this elderly lady must have felt. I’m sure it evoked the same feelings in other readers wanting to reach out to someone as it did for me. Many times, we are moved to want to do something, and for most of us, if it is convenient, we are happy to do so. Putting money in a red bucket as we walk by, filling up a grocery bag with our cans of food when the boy scouts come to collect, or donating clothes and household items when we need to make room in a closet, makes us feel a little better about ourselves. While these things are indeed good, there is another option that may benefit all involved.

Most of us have volunteered at some time in our lives. Around the holidays especially, It seems easy to volunteer and our icy hearts melt a bit. But often, just like the seasons change, the novelty wanes and our hearts may cool off as the holiday season ends and winter sets in. Life gets busy and the warm fuzzy commercials end. As we get older, our funds may be limited, or it may be more difficult to get around. We may not feel as valued or needed. The reality is as we get older, we actually have so much more to give, money aside.

 As we age, we gain an understanding. An understanding about people and how everyone is precious and important. That there is some good in the majority of people we come in contact with. We understand how 30 minutes out of our day occasionally will not destroy our schedule or detract from it, but may make a big difference in the lives of others. In fact, we may find that we want to volunteer for longer periods of time. We also come to understand that by giving of ourselves, we acquire true fulfillment, happiness and grow in character. We start to understand what’s really important.

For many, as we age, our tight, busy schedules begin to loosen up a little. Although time is precious because we have less of it in the long run, we realize that taking a minute to smell the roses, laugh with a child or read a good book might now feel like the most worthwhile event of the day. Meetings, conference calls, and evaluations might become less important. For many, jobs finally become simply jobs and our focus on important things like people, kindness and expressing feelings comes to the forefront of our mind. Yes, we may become a little more forgetful, but that’s simply because the excess thoughts fall out and we keep the more important things in mind.

We’ve got skills. We can be great volunteers because we’ve got the experience. Over the years, through our lives we’ve made mistakes, we’ve insulted, we’ve embarrassed, we’ve overlooked and we’ve hurt and been hurt. We’ve said time and time again how if given that opportunity again we’d do it differently or better. We have handled businesses, managed employees, taught procedure and practiced diplomacy. We are a bit polished up and have wisdom to help us.

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Whether you are around the age of 55, or nearer to 85, you are at a fabulous age! Whether you are able to run marathons, or can just lift a pen you can help. You have been preparing your whole life for this moment. You are ready and capable to help someone, to be a good influence and/or to make a difference. You know more than you ever have and instead of feeling washed up, you should be excited! There are opportunities in store for someone like you.

I am fortunate to belong to a church that values all ages. Many of our leaders, both men and women, are in their 80’s and 90’s. They volunteer many hours in church and humanitarian service, in teaching, in community service and working with the youth. In my mid 50’s, I sometimes whine about being tired or inconvenienced, then catch myself. I look at the elderly people around me and to their example. They’ve got health problems, new hips and new knees, their sight might be fading, but their vision is clear. They see what is important. They are strong in spirit and don’t complain. They are an inspiration.

Volunteering isn’t as big of a sacrifice or commitment as one might think. It’s not necessary to give up every episode of Wheel of Fortune or Bingo Night. When we volunteer, a wonderful thing happens, we seem to have the time we need to meet our other responsibilities. It works out. Also, studies show that seniors who volunteer are happier, enjoy a broader sociality and live longer! As we help others, our lives become enriched and we feel needed.

If you are unsure, here are a few places to start;

  • Your local Senior Center has many opportunities. They would love to have you volunteer serving lunch, quilting, entertain, help with Home meals delivery or many other choices.
  • Care and Assisted living centers are happy to receive volunteers and have different things to do. You might teach a class or lead in a sing-along. You can help write letters, help with fun activities or just visit or read with someone.
  • You don’t even have to leave home for this one. Write On is a website that has various ways to become a pen pal to people who need you. The Elderly, shut-ins, and kids are just some of the choices.
  • Homeless shelters or Women’s shelters are always in need of some help. Whether it be fundraising or assisting in some way, this is a very worthwhile cause.
  • Animal Shelters welcome volunteers with open paws. They are always in need of help in the way of answering phones, emails, walking dogs and fundraising. You might even find a new furry friend.

A good way to start is with a small assignment. This prevents us from becoming overwhelmed and guilt ridden. We can always increase the amount of time or amount of responsibilities. If we have to quit or cut back, it may cause us to feel discouragement and less likely to volunteer in the future. We know our limitations and situations. When volunteering, it’s good to have boundaries and to pick our own schedule. When we communicate our desires and limitations, we feel more in control and feel less resentment and the person who is in charge also has a clear idea of what to expect from us.

However you decide to share yourself and your time with others, know that it is valued. There are so many needs in each community that there is never a shortage of opportunities. We just have to search, inquire, and then get ready to shine and recognize that only good can come from giving of ourselves.

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Teacher, Can You Help Me?

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“Class, may I have your attention, please?” We’ve all heard that in our lives as students. It conjures up memories of all those teachers that we spent days and even years with; some good and maybe a few, we’d rather forget. Some teachers are inspiring, and life changing, and some of them are in the wrong profession. People are not perfect, and come in a wide variety. If you’ve ever seen the cute movie, Matilda, you may find it relatable, albeit a bit exaggerated. The movie is about a smart, resilient girl named Matilda. She loves a sweet, kind teacher named Miss Honey, but there’s also Miss Trunchbull, an exceptionally mean, unmerciful teacher that everyone fears. Matilda’s parents are also selfish and show no real love or affection for Matilda. It’s a traditional good vs. evil, but something that some children might identify with and understand. The movie shows how one person, Miss Honey , goes the extra mile to help Matilda and ends up changing her life.

I had many more kind teachers than mean ones growing up; Miss Wilde, Mrs. Nurse, Mrs. Peterson, Mr. Sando were just some of the great teachers that I had. The teacher that sticks out in my mind most of all was Madame Boyce. She, of course, was my French teacher, in high school. I initially wanted to take Spanish. At registration I stood in that line to sign up for Spanish, but my friends talked me into taking French instead. So, I signed up for 1st year French class with Madame Boyce. I liked the class and her from the beginning. She was so nice and patient and always had a smile on her face. She genuinely seemed to enjoy teaching and being with the students, taking the time to get to know them. She planned fun activities and would tell interesting, animated stories. Once we made crepes and she even had a party for us at her house (back in the days when that was possible).

     My friends and I took French for 3 years, partly because we didn’t want to leave her. During those 3 years, she married and then she became Madame Hively and we were so happy for her. She was a classy lady, and being treated respectfully by such a person made me feel a little classier. We in turn, treated her with respect. She recognized the worth in each of us.

Today, teachers have a whole new set of challenges and problems to deal with. This world is much more complicated and it can be very difficult to be a teacher in today’s world. Some schools are like a war zone, and many times teachers don’t have the respect or support they deserve. They spend countless hours at home grading, developing lesson plans and activities. They often spend their own money on things to enrich their students experience. I admire teachers even more today and am proud to say our son is on that journey to become a teacher. He puts his heart into teaching and desires to influence for good and make a difference.

Children spend many hours at school. Usually between 6-7 hours a day, and around 175-180 days a year. That’s over 900 hours a year. Some of these hours are spent outside the classroom, at recess, at lunch, in restrooms etc., but a great deal is still spend with the teacher. When you can find teachers that work with parents, as a team, communicate and help to reinforce social skill and manners, it is such a blessing and help. Sometimes teachers are taken for granted as long as all is going smoothly. When it is not going smoothly and parents and children don’t feel validated, it certainly is noticed and makes for a long year. It’s been awhile, but I remember that we tried to show appreciation for the good teachers that our kids had in school. Teachers that recognized our kids as individuals and worked with their personalities and challenges. Not every child learns the same and thank goodness for teachers who realize this and are willing to bend a bit and accommodate.

I continue to take classes to keep my mind sharp and enjoy learning from the experience and wisdom of those teaching. It keeps me growing and challenges me to improve myself. I’ve often said that for me, most of the activities, sports, dances and even friends from grade school and high school are a blur by now. But surprising to me, it’s my teachers that I recall. The teachers made a lasting impact on me. They cared about me as a person and expanded my mind and world and are still remembered and important to me. They helped to begin my awakening and the gradual splintering of my thick, introverted shell. They helped me to see a bigger world out there and possibilities that I might be able to achieve.

Teachers are definitely unsung heroes and I just wanted to take a moment to recognize them. Of course, at times in our lives we are all teachers to some extent. Whether with our family members, neighbors, at church or at work, we have teaching opportunities. It is an awesome responsibility and blessing to help others grow and to feel important.

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My Father’s Adventures

In honor of upcoming Veteran’s Day and my father who is 93 years young and a veteran of WWII. War veterans are everyday normal people, who becomes heros at war risking their lives for others. My dad helped drive amphibious landing crafts and was only 17 when he went to war and served on the USS Lanier. He was also present during the signing of the peace treaty. To me though, he’s always been just dad.

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I vaguely remember living in my birth place of Southern California. I remember our house somewhat; the four bedrooms, the detached garage, the strange but pretty outer space flowers (passion flowers) covering the chain linked fence. I remember the gas pipe, improperly running over the sidewalk that the nicest girl in my class tripped over at my only birthday party. We had all grown accustomed to stepping over it. I remember singing and dancing to “Proud Mary” using a pretend microphone with my cousin, who was 8 and a couple of years older than I. I remember the remodeled kitchen that my mom was so proud of shortly before my dad got his idea to open a restaurant 450 miles away in Sacramento.

My dad was prone to spontaneous ideas and once he got one, it held on like a bulldog. My mom was not exactly a little submissive shrinking violet, but I believe she picked her battles and also got worn down. They actually moved from Colorado to California years before I was born. His mother joined them and moved in with them a few years later. She lived with us for over 30 years. My mom’s family was back in Colorado so it was a very difficult, emotional move for her. I think my dad was relieved they were all back there.

We 4 kids were spread out in age. My oldest brother was 13 years older than I, the next brother was 10 years older and the youngest boy was 4 years older . My oldest brother served in the air force, and was in boot camp preparing for deployment when the US pulled out of the Vietnam War. Since the two oldest boys had graduated by the time my parents moved, they had no desire to go and chose to stay behind. That was hard for my mother and although we were only 7 hours away, whenever there were visits in the future, there were also tears when departing.

Mom and Dad, Grandma and the two remaining kids left to fulfill Dad’s dreams and fortune. Dad had been a cook at Denver General Hospital in their early years of marriage while my mom was a nurse there. My mom had 8 siblings and she was close to them and very close to her mother. My dad had no living siblings, only his mother, who depended on him a great deal. I never thought about how challenging it may have been for my mom to have her mother-in-law live with them for decades. At age 7 or 8, I only knew that both of my grandmas loved me, and at that time in my life, that’s all that really mattered. They were old school Hispanic little ladies, complete with the no nonsense outlook on life and the accents. My mom’s mother, Grandma Helen was a little more modern, wearing slacks and polyester blouses and was the best cook around. When she came she would make homemade tortillas and wonderful meats in simmering sauces. Grandma Celsa was very traditional, making all of her own skirts and blouses out of cotton and wore little black witch shoes and a black hairnet, even with her silver hair. She was not a good cook, but she could often be found on the couch crocheting beautiful doilies.

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When we moved to Sacramento the plan was to open a Mexican restaurant. An old friend of my dad’s had talked him into coming, promising that he could work for my dad at the restaurant, and they could make it a success. We rented a little two-bedroom house that also had a renovated garage. My parents of course got a bedroom, my grandma and I got a bedroom and my brother got the renovated garage, which he liked. One thing my brother did not like was me. I was the bratty, spoiled little sister to him and he was ornery towards me. I recall a time when a friend of my dad’s brought a monkey to the alley outside of the restaurant to show him. My dad said to me, “Come outside I want to show you something.” I went outside and although curious, I did not want to pet it. My dad insisted, and while he pulled my hand towards the monkey, I pulled it away. The monkey did not like that. He jumped on my leg and sunk his teeth in. I screamed, ran down the street with a monkey on my leg and my dad stood there with his mouth wide open. The man got his monkey and my dad drove me home, telling me not to tell my mom. My brother told me that I would probably get rabies from the monkey and die.

I lived through the monkey ordeal and the dream of the restaurant turned into a nightmare. The restaurant was in a poor location and the “friend” began bringing his cronies to the restaurant after hours and they would steal the food. It wasn’t long before my parents were in financial trouble, the man was fired and we moved. My mom went back to her old job as a nurse, which she loved and my dad was a custodian for the schools. I’m sure that finances were always a worry, as every few years my dad would have a new adventure, but I never knew about the money situations and never felt that we were needy. We eventually moved to a suburb in the country and we had a backyard that was about ½ an acre. My brother and became involved in our schools and extracurricular activities . My friends joined 4-H and I decided I would like to try too by raising a sheep. I got a cute little lamb and went to the classes and fed the lamb as was recommended with the specific food. The lamb grew and would be ready to take to show in a couple of months. My dad had an idea. If he could help fatten up the lamb, then my chances would surely be better to do well at the fair. He got a trailer full of rice hulls that could also be used in the garden. The sheep ate to its heart’s content and within a few days, it was so bloated it looked like a wooly balloon. Then it died.

Then there was the goat incident. Ah, the goat incident that is famous in my family’s folkloric. Dad thought it would be a good idea to bring home a goat to raise. Well, he brought the rather large goat home; my mom saw it and was so angry that she ran after the goat with a hammer. I remember her running around the yard chasing that goat, the goat running away bleating, and my father running after my mother. I think that time, my brother and I stood there with our mouths wide open. My mom did eventually calm down. The goat became “Martino” and went on to other escapades. One time the neighbor phoned us to let us know that Martino had come into his open sliding door, entered their house and was lying on their bed. I had to bring him home. For some reason our neighbors never treated us quite the same.

Time marched on as it does and I eventually graduated. A few years later, I met the man of my dreams, whom I am still married to. We visit my dad who is 93, as often as possible. He lives back in Southern California, near my older brothers. His mind is still sharp, and is the life of the party at the care center. My mom passed on about 5 years ago, exhausted no doubt. It was surprising and gratifying to see my dad take care of my mom sweetly and kindly the last few months of her life, as she battled cancer. I’m sure he was feeling appreciative of all she had put up with over the years. Every love story is different and individual. My parents’ story surely was and my dad wouldn’t have it any other way.

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The Monsters We Create

Almost everyone has heard of the story “Frankenstein”. Most people know that Frankenstein is actually the name of the creator of the monster and not of the actual monster itself. It’s a story set back in the late 1700’s, that was probably a shocking story for those days, especially coming from a woman author. My take on the story is that an arrogant young doctor decides to play God and create a being from deceased people’s parts. What he doesn’t anticipate is the pain, anguish and destruction the being and others will experience because of his ego.

For me it was an interesting tale, but at the same time frustrating and sad. To me, Doctor Frankenstein brought about a lot of heartache on himself by poor choices. Instead of coming clean at the beginning, he lied not only to those whom he loved, but also to himself and continued to make matters worse. Things escalated until irreversible tragedy resulted.

I soon began to see a similarity between this classic story and how we at times create our own monsters. What at times starts out as a lie, indiscretion, addiction or character flaw can turn into a run away monster which can ruin lives. We might think ourselves above the consequences, entitled or that we are justified in our actions. Little things may turn into big things that spiral out of control. Prisons are full of people who believed they were free to do as they pleased or that were searching for something to make them happy. C.S. Lewis said; “Human history is the long terrible story of man trying to find something other than God which will make him happy.”

My sweet husband and I knew of a wonderful young man who had his whole life ahead of him. He became engaged and soon afterwards found that he had terminal cancer. It was devasting not only to him, but of course, to all of us around him because he was such a ray of sunshine. My husband went to visit him one time and mentioned about another man who had an affair and had thrown away his marriage and family. The young man said to my husband that he wouldn’t trade places with that other man for anything. Even though he faced death, he had his life in order, his integrity, and felt at peace.

For most people rules and boundaries are simple and they recognize that is what keeps them safe. It is better to stay far away from dangerous situations then try to repair the damage done later.

  The Fence or the Ambulance

‘Twas a dangerous cliff, as they freely confessed,

Though to walk near its crest was so pleasant;

But over its terrible edge there had slipped

A duke, and full many a peasant;

So the people said something would have to be done,

But their projects did not at all tally.

Some said, “Put a fence around the edge of the cliff’;”

Some said, “Put an ambulance down in the valley.”

But the cry for the ambulance carried the day,

For it spread through the neighboring city,

A fence may be useful or not, it is true,

But each heart became brimful of pity

For those who slipped over that dangerous cliff;

And the dwellers in the highway and alley

Gave pounds or gave pence, not to put up a fence,

But an ambulance down in the valley.

Then an old sage remarked, “It’s a marvel to me

That people give far more attention

To repairing the results than to stopping the cause,

When they’d much better aim at prevention.

Let us stop at its source all this mischief,” cried he.

“Come, neighbors and friends let us rally:

If the cliff we will fence we might almost dispense

With an ambulance down in the valley.

Better guide well the young than reclaim them when old,

For the voice of true wisdom is calling:

“To rescue the fallen is good, but ‘tis best

To prevent other people from falling.”

Better close up the source of temptation and crime

Than to deliver from dungeon or galley;

Better put a strong fence ‘round the top of the cliff,

Than an ambulance down in the valley!

-Joseph Malins

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Family ties, or Slipknots?

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I can remember when I was a girl, and later a teenager, we would occasionally have relatives come to town for a visit. One Grandmother already lived with us, but my other Grandmother would sometimes come from Colorado. An aunt and uncle might even join our get-together. Beds and rooms were given up, hospitality was paramount. The TV was off and the focus was on being together. It would be a fun time with card games, laughter and reminiscing about old times. Fantastic smells from the kitchen soon emerged as the traditional meals were prepared. I can still feel the hugs from my aproned grandmas, and hear their voices in my head. It was a loving and fun gathering.

My grandmothers have both been gone over 30 years, my mom almost 5 years. 7 out of her 8 siblings have also passed. I long for those relatives and the happy chatter that would fill my parents’ house.

Family ties have always been important to me. A few years ago, my sweet husband and I went to visit the one remaining aunt and her daughter in Colorado. We had a lovely time and even though it had been decades since we were together, it was as if we just picked up from where we left off. My aunt reminded me so much of my mom I just kept staring at her. I was so glad that we went.

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I reconnected with another aunt (by marriage) through Facebook a couple of years ago. We message each other every once in a while, and I got the crazy notion to just descend upon her in Texas. It had been 26 years since we’d seen each other. When I messaged her about it, I was unsure if she was keen on the idea and I thought maybe I had made a mistake. As she realized that I was sincere though, she became very excited and said that she just didn’t know if I was serious or not.

As the time came, I sat in the airport a little nervous. Was I crazy? If things didn’t work out between us, or if we felt awkward, we were both stuck in an uncomfortable situation for 3 days. We had our own lives now, and our paths hadn’t crossed for so long, perhaps we were just two people connected by my uncle, her husband, who was gone now.

The Uber dropped me off at a place that my aunt and I agreed on and she would drive me the last 30 minutes to her house. When she pulled up, we embraced and as I heard her familiar British accent, I knew everything would be all right. It was my Auntie and even though I had grey hair now, I was still her niece.

The next few days were spent enjoying each other’s company and meeting some of her southern friends at a social. They were lovely, friendly ladies and my aunt was definitely a force there. I was also able to help her with a few things and I never tired of her telling me stories of my grandma and mom. I recorded some of her stories, so I could share them with my family back home. She’s a wonderful storyteller and had me laughing into the night. Here’s a lady with a British accent, living in Texas and can do a wonderful impersonation of my Hispanic grandmother. All done with great respect and love.

Sometimes we procrastinate reunions with relatives or other times a distance is created by disagreements or misunderstandings. It can be very emotional and upsetting, and may feel easier to just ignore it. A void is felt and no matter how many friends you might have, rarely do they replace family. Unless your family is made up of toxic people, it’s hard to leave behind and to quench the yearnings for them that you might have. There are experiences and traditions that define only your family. Whether born into it or adopted, your family belongs to you and always will. It’s common for us to say we need to go visit a family member and decide to “do it later”. We’ll do it when there’s more money or more time or when it’s more convenient. The sad thing is with some families, the time they end up getting together is at a funeral.

What if I had decided it wasn’t really necessary or important for me to go visit her? Or what if my aunt had decided she was too busy for me. We both would have missed a wonderful experience, not only with each other, but in reconnecting with our past. Reconnecting with loving memories and a history that makes us family. Here I am, old enough that I am a Grandma, but still loved calling her Aunt, and it made me reflect on my nieces and nephews (on both sides) that are all grown, but still call me Aunt. I appreciate that and I appreciate them. It’s like we are in a cool club and I get to be part of it.

Whatever our income or social status or situation, when we scrape away all of the outside layers and years, what life really amounts to is our relationships with others. Make that call or write that letter. There is someone that you would love to see and reconnect with and someone who would also love to see you.

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Hold On, I feel Change Coming!

“Life is what happens when you are making other plans.” That is what an elderly lady used to tell me about 20 years ago when we were raising 3 young kids. Back then, I dismissed it as a cute saying. Little did I realize then just how true the saying was. I’ve thought about those words many times and have even shared them with others. When you are young and your kids are young, you think life will turn out pretty much as expected, so when upsets and surprises happen, it can throw the train off the track, so to speak. It jolts you and is confusing. This is not what you had planned! What are you supposed to do now? Well, one thing I’ve learned, is that life is unpredictable and full of surprises.

 We weren’t put here to just live a preprogrammed status quo life. How would we learn anything? Honestly, when have you learned the most valuable lessons in life? Hasn’t it usually been during some of your most challenging times? We learn compassion when we are sick and to appreciate our health. We learn frugality and how to prioritize when times are lean. Although difficult at times, we learn so much when we have children; patience, maturity, unselfishness, unconditional love. We learn empathy when we experience death of a loved one. Through change and trials, we also learn to truly appreciate the good in our life and the calm times.

Some lessons are very hard. I always admired my husband’s parents’ relationship. They were very much in love and supportive of each other. My parent’s, although in love, were not demonstrative towards each other and so the first time I saw my in-laws cuddling, I felt like I should look away. I was seeing something I was not used to. They joked with each other and held hands and were affectionate. They enjoyed traveling together and we knew that when Dad retired, they would have many fun years traveling and enjoying snow birding. Mom was only in her 60’s when we started noticing changes in her behavior and her memory. Dad took care of mom and dealt with her Alzheimer’s for a long 15 years. It was a difficult, scary, emotional time and little by little mom left us until she wasn’t Mom anymore. We tried to help and my husband in particular, was a great support to Dad, but towards the end, Mom had to go to a care center. Dad would say, “This is not what we had planned.”

We remembered Mom’s sense of humor and her love of people. That nobody was a stranger and how much she loved her children and grandchildren. We also learned a lot through this. To be empathetic and sensitive to both Mom and Dad. How to treat Alzheimer patients and how to be grateful for every day together and every day with these healthy bodies and minds. Our children and grandkids learned how to continue to treat Nana and Papa with love and respect and not fear. They also learned how to treat people that might be a bit different. We often wondered why Nana remained for so many years, especially after she was not mentally here. I can only surmise, it was for us to learn and love more fully.

Change doesn’t always bring such sad experiences and a difficult degree in education. Sometimes life can include a swerve that you did not see coming and it turns out to be a life-changing but happy and exciting adventure. When we suddenly moved in 1995, both of our families thought we were crazy. It turned out to be a great experience, a good business move and acquired whole new group of friends. We’ve experienced another beautiful part of the country, 4 distinct seasons and have learned how to cook something delicious called funeral potatoes! Our children’s education became better and more challenging.

I believe every different area has different pros and cons. Especially from state to state you can notice a difference in the character of each state. In the previous state we lived, there was an air of friendliness and acceptance of people, whatever their walk of life. In Idaho we’ve benefitted from their work ethic and willingness to help out a neighbor. I love that with each move you can grow and experience new perspectives that can be enriching and can lend to opening up your world.

Often times the very changes that we fought, end up changing us as a person. We see things and people more clearly and gain wisdom through them. Many people say, “If only I could relive ages 20 or 30 with what I now know.” Or else people might say that even though life has been difficult, they wouldn’t change a thing because of what they’ve learned. Or maybe it’s not so much about changing us, but about refining us and making us the person we were always meant to be.

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But, It’s All Good Stuff!

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I can’t help it, I learned from experts. My parents grew up during the depression and WWII. They learned to be frugal and to hold on to things that might prove useful later on. This legacy was carried down by my brothers and myself. Hey, you never know – you might really need that Costco nut container! It’s heavy duty plastic and could hold…. well, good stuff. That piece of fabric, that wooden box, or for the guys, a motor or animal head might come in handy someday.

I have a closet (or two) with tomorrow treasures and unfinished craft projects. Things I intended to finish. Some of these projects are from the 90’s. Why? Will I really ever finish them? It’s like storing something in your fridge that you don’t really love until you eventually throw it out. You feel guilty trashing these things, but realize deep down in the recesses of your soul that nobody else would want them either.

Back in 1995, we moved out of state which forced us to simplify and get rid of a lot of junk excessive appurtenances. Moving is a great way to purge things you realize that you can live without and don’t want to drag with you or pay for another moving van. After selling and giving away many things, we rented a dumpster, which at the time I believed to be way too big. It turns out, we actually filled the dumpster full. How could we have stored a whole dumpster full of stuff in our house thinking it was important?

I have a few theories. One is that we don’t want to be wasteful and that’s good. The opposite problem of hoarding that we see at times, is how disposable our society has become and also how convenience-minded. As an older generation, some things just make us shake our head. when we see things like pre-packaged hard boiled eggs or little packages of sliced cheese and lunch meat selling for twice the price of fixing it ourselves. Or buying a newer version of the same phone every year when they come out.

Another reason we have so many things, may be that society makes it very easy and affordable to grab every kind of convenience and latest fad imaginable. Shopping networks come right to our front rooms. If you have a Walmart or dollar store near you, then you are set for every holiday, birthday or any need imaginable. 100 years ago, people thought sliced bread in a bag or a light bulb was a wonderful convenience. Now I can purchase anything; dia de los muertos cookie cutters, a scarf in any color or a clock in 12 different styles, and yes, sometimes I do. Stores today no longer house basic canned goods and produce. On our way to get what we need, we find aisles and bins of what we may want.

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Perhaps that is why I sit at a cluttered desk, as I type. With so many doohickeys that I hardly have room to work. Pictures, stationery, bottles , souvenirs, etc. are not just necessary things to have but can also have emotional ties that make it impossible to part with. With the many things we can accumulate, it can become overwhelming and add to our stress and difficulty to move on. I do notice when I take the time to declutter and simplify, I feel a bit liberated.

Recently we’ve been able to fly a lot, but it is on standby. We have learned to travel light, simply because we have to. I’m talking only one backpack or one carry-on, even overseas or even on a cruise. I’ve learned that I can get along fine with a lot less than I used to and it’s actually easier. I can actually fit quite a bit in one bag. I take the essentials, wash clothes if I need to and if an emergency arises, I’ve always been able to find a store. I don’t envy people fighting with suitcases the size of a fridge or keeping track of a luggage ensemble. It’s a bit liberating and has taught me to not worry so much about stuff but enjoy the experience.

I suppose the things we accumulate throughout our life are a history of us. Like ancient civilizations they tell a story of what we did and what was important to us. Hopefully ours won’t just be a history of televisions and cell phones.

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The Perfect Workout

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Exercise isn’t what it used to be. I think maybe it might be my shoes. Or perhaps I don’t have the right water bottle, but whatever it is things have changed. My feet and hips did not use to hurt when I exercised…20 years ago. Another thing that’s changed are my exercise clothes, or more specifically, the way my body looks inside of them. After 50, things started shifting for me, and well, sliding a bit.  I suppose if I upped my game a bit, and worked out more, I probably could look more fit. You know, there’s this lady on Pinterest who is 80 and she’s a bodybuilder. She looks phenomenal. Such an inspiration and something to aspire to. I’ll have to try that when I’m 80.

Sometimes we have to trick ourselves into exercise. It might be walking a few extra aisles at the grocery store (which could be expensive) or doing the yardwork yourself, instead of hiring someone. I was talking to a friend, who knows a lady, who allows herself to watch TV only when she’s using the treadmill. This way she isn’t sedentary, sneaks in her exercise and also doesn’t watch too much TV. That would be fine, but where would I set my ice cream bowl while I’m doing that?

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Seriously, I know exercise is important throughout life, and especially as we age. Studies show that it is beneficial for our brain, bones, circulation, and muscles. It decreases the risk of dementia, prevents osteoporosis, increases cardiovascular strength and improves muscle mass and balance. Most of us know this, it’s just a matter of making time to do it, and finding the motivation. My sweet husband and I used to go to the gym most mornings early, before work. We would do our own thing, and meet up after. One time, after meeting back up, my husband came back looking somewhat defeated. He said that he was minding his own business, using the weight machines and in the same area he briefly glanced over and noticed an elderly gentleman using a machine also. As he quickly looked back, (it’s rude to ever stare at someone at a gym), he thought to himself, Good for you! You go guy and keep it up. I want to be like that when I get old. It took him a few minutes, and a double-take to realize it was his reflection in a mirror. You know you’re getting older when you don’t recognize yourself in a mirror.

Maybe the gym isn’t for you. Really, it is rather amusing that people pay money to walk, run and lift heavy things. That’s because for some, that’s the only way they will exercise. There are plenty of other ways to move our body that don’t require a membership. My honey and I like to go walking on this convenient trail by our house. It’s a pretty walk and we enjoy coming across other walkers on the trail (we live in a friendly town where everyone says hi). We also like kayaking, ping pong, gardening and playing soccer in the backyard with our grandkids. When we’re on a trip, we love snorkeling, hiking and 4-wheeling. These activities are more like play, rather than exercise, and we’re more likely to do them for a longer period of time. Also, being outdoors is so much more invigorating and a boost for the mood. With winter around the corner, it can be a bit more challenging as the weather changes . There are always classes to find or even just simply walking the mall. I have friends who find their winter exercise by skiing or snowmobiling.

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There are programs for seniors that promote and provide exercise. Here in the states, it’s the Silver Sneakers program. You must be over 65 and enrolled in Medicare to take advantage of this program. It provides limited access to participating gyms and tailored classes for that age group. People I’ve talked to seem to enjoy it and benefit from it. The side benefit is that it also provides socialization (and from what I hear from friends, even love connections).

It’s great to try new things, which can take the boredom out of exercise. I didn’t do my first 5k, until after I was 50, and although I mostly walked, I loved it. I also now love Yoga and Tai Chi. You do have to know your limitations too. Not long ago, my granddaughter brought over a new gadget to show us called a hoverboard. She’s only 7 and her sister is 5, but they both are quite good on it. I thought, “How hard can it be?” I did it twice for a couple of minutes and kept my balance! I felt pretty cool. Well, my sweet husband walked in the door, and I said “watch this!” It was a fast and sudden wipeout that caught me off guard.  Yea… my shoulder still reminds me that the Hoverboard is NOT for me.

Whether you choose a full-out Zumba class, golf, biking, swimming at the Y or just a daily walk around your neighborhood, we can all benefit from exercise. With people living longer, we have to try and keep healthier and active to improve our quality of life. The perfect exercise for you will be the one that you will enjoy and actually do on a regular basis. Maybe someday we will be the 80-year-old featured in Pinterest. Hover board is optional and not recommended.

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Miracles Have Not Ceased

It would be close to 25 years ago that we witnessed a miracle. I have always been a believer in God and Jesus Christ, but I guess I thought back then, that maybe miracles were just something that you read about in the scriptures. Something that happened to others.

At the time we were living in the beautiful Sierra Nevada foothills, interacting daily with the stunning, lofty Ponderosa pines, the scattered oaks and the rolling green hills. Up country a short distance, the terrain became rougher, rockier and higher in elevation. While hot on summer days, up country could cool off considerably, especially at night. We received a phone call from our congregation alerting us that during a family reunion, a little girl had wondered off. This function was being held up country, at the home of the leader of our church. It was his niece, as I recall, and she was only 2. There was a lot going on, with a lot of people and children. It was a heavily wooded area and after a short while, they became very concerned. As a church group, we began fasting and praying for her safe return. Also, groups of people began searching, including local search and rescue, and helicopters.

The afternoon and evening seem to come much faster than usual and as darkness fell, concern and hopelessness grew. How would a little 2-year old fare against the temperatures in the 30’s, rugged terrain, and wild animals which were often seen? The searching continued, but there was no sign of her through the night. As everyone awoke that morning, she was on our mind and we hated to think of the anguish that our friends and their family must be going through. What started as a joyous family reunion, appeared to be ending as a terrible tragedy. But morning didn’t let us down and we soon became aware that she had been found in the early hours! What an indescribable reunion took place with her family. There were many tears of happiness shed by them, and by our community. But that is only part of the miracle.

The little girl shared her experience about a nice lady who stayed with her through the night and talked to her. There was no one around when the girl was found, but later on when looking through family pictures, the lady was identified. It was a relative, who had been deceased for many years.

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In this world it can be easy to become jaded and negative as we deal with crime, illness and sadness. Life is difficult for all, at some time or another and we all face trials. The tv and newspaper inform us of tragedies, and accusations against many, that weigh on us until we feel numb. If they could report more positive stories, instead of negative, would that change the mood of our world? Surprisingly, I have heard the word “miracle” on the news at different times, so I know that it’s possible. I realize now as I’m older, that miracles do indeed happen in our time. Most of the time they are so special and have an air of reverence, that people might not share them with many. Some miracles are of a huge magnitude that they are reported. Some are so regular and even daily that we don’t broadcast them. Such as a beautiful sunrise, a person becoming healthy, or a reconnection of two sweethearts after 50 years. Or, the birth of a tiny baby.

Our daughter was expecting, which caused concern, because her other two babies had arrived early and she had to be on bedrest. This time was no different, and at 24 weeks she began having contractions. She went to the hospital, where doctors monitored her and gave her the magnesium and things helpful to stop contractions. The contractions continued and the doctor had us all in to discuss the possible complications that would come with a baby that only weight 1.5 pounds. We prepared ourselves, but at 1 minute apart, the contractions stopped. We couldn’t believe it. Our daughter went home only to be readmitted in a couple of weeks, same scenario. Once again, she got to 1 minute apart with contractions, and then they stopped. The doctors kept her in the hospital this time, hoping to keep that sweet little girl in there as long as possible. She was able to go 9 weeks longer and at 33 weeks she was born at 4 lbs 9 ounces. The NICU nurses said she’d have to stay 7 more weeks, until she would’ve been full-term. She gained quickly, and only 1 week later, at over 5 lbs, she went home. Of course, there’s a lot more to her story of kind people helping during a difficult situation and a few more miracles involved.

We’ve experienced other miracles. Like the time my husband’s appendix burst and adhered to his intestine, stopping the toxins from going elsewhere, until he could get to the hospital and have his surgery. Or the time when we had decided to move to a city and placed our house on the market. It stayed there for months, with no action whatsoever, so we took it off the market. When we prayed and decided on a different place to live, that week we were contacted by some people, who just saw the outside of the home, and made a full-price offer. Or the times we’ve been prompted to do something simple, like slow down on a road, check on a child, or call a friend, which made a huge impact.

Some people don’t believe in miracles. They like to explain them away or maybe it’s just that they don’t recognize them happening in their life. I’m grateful for the miracles that I’ve seen and that continue to happen in my life. They bring me hope and make me aware of God’s love for me.

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Watch Your language!

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A Long time ago, there was this dog named Lassie. Maybe you remember her. She lived for a time in a black and white world (later full color), where life was simpler and happy. She was highly intelligent, loved and cared for people and never used profanity. This show ran for nearly 20 years and survived 4 cast changes, which can be instant demise for many a show. Families would eagerly await the next episode and would enjoy it together. There were other shows like “I Love Lucy”, “The Wonderful World of Disney”, “Little House on the Prairie”, etc., that were all top-rated shows and were uplifting, clean and left you with a good message.

Times have changed. In the 1960’s The Andy Griffith Show and Mayberry R.F.D. were top rated shows on television. They contained no profanity and no sexual content. Total, these 2 shows ran approximately 11 years. By 1976, with the show “Happy Days”, there were 2 sexual references per hour, and very little profanity. In 1996, “Beverly Hill, 90210” had 8.5 sexual references per show and more profanity. A study done in 2010, by the Parents Television Council found that from 2005 to 2010, profanity had increased by 69%. That was 9 years ago and we know that sexual content has now increased dramatically, as it becomes more difficult to even find a show that’s suitable to watch. The scenes leave little to the imagination and many parents or grandparents either end up diving for the control, others turning off the tv entirely or some unfortunately deciding, “Oh well, that’s the way TV is now, and the scene will be over soon.”

A classic movie, “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid”, was rated R way back in 1969, because of the few profane words that it had. Now, a PG-13 movie, has more profanity and sexual content then Butch Cassidy or John-boy Walton ever dreamed about. I love what famous western author Louis L’Amour said, “I’ve written all these stories without pornography, without any obscenity. I grew up among sailors and miners and lumberjacks and the roughest kind of men in the world. But I never found it necessary to use all that in the stories. I can make them real without that. I think that much of that kind of writing is a cover up for lack of real skill.”

I’m definitely not against a good romantic movie. I am a hopeless romantic myself, but I like to be given enough credit that I can imagine a few things without having to be shown play by play. One of my favorite movies is “An Affair to Remember” from 1957. It has got to be one of the most romantic movies ever made. I wasn’t born when it first came out, but I’ve surely enjoyed it many times throughout the years. It is classy, charming, dramatic, suspenseful and a tear-jerker on top of that. It had everything except explosives, monsters and computer graphics. I don’t remember any expletives, and yet I could feel and share the emotion that was taking place in the movie. They were able to convey that with a great story and great actors.

It’s my opinion that Networks and Media Streaming Services that constantly produce shows filled with profanity and sexual content don’t have the creativity or originality to produce quality shows. They might dismiss it as, “Ratings show that’s what people want.” That’s just the majority of what they are producing now, and people want to watch something. Surely, ratings indicate that wholesome productions such as Hallmark Movies and other uplifting shows don’t require the garbage placed in so many others, to receive good ratings. Even though these shows are simple and predictable and what some might describe as “Hokey”, they offer viewers a happy break and escape from stress and the dark things we must deal with in today’s world. When Networks feed us trash, they are discounting us and missing an opportunity to feed our minds, souls and teach us something.  More shows such as “Planet Earth”, “The Potato Peel Pie Society” and channels such as History and Discovery would be appreciated.

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There’s a story told, about a parent who one evening brings out a plate of cookies for their family. The cookies look delicious and everyone takes one, but right before they take a first bite, the parent discloses that they contain a special, secret ingredient that they might want to know about first. It’s not a big deal, because it only contains a little amount of the secret ingredient. The family hesitantly questions what it is. The parent says, “oh just a little dog poop. No big deal.” Of course, the cookies didn’t really contain dog poop, but the point that this parent wanted to get across, is that just a little of something bad is still not edible or desirable. A lot is even worse.

People used to read literary classics, memorize and recite poetry, and learn languages. They would do things that enriched their lives and vocabulary. I hope that we and our posterity are not destined in the future to expressing ourselves with just a few choice expletives. I hope we won’t settle for rubbish. No, I’m not a prude. I just believe that Hollywood often sells us short and feeds us trash and we often times surrender to and digest it until it becomes a part of us. We are smarter and more civilized than that, and we ultimately are the ones with the power. It just takes a click of a button.

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Who doesn’t love a bargain?

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Truth be told, almost everyone loves a bargain. There are times, of course, for some people, when it’s worth it to pay the extra cost. But for the most part, even for those who are well off, there’s just something about getting 2 for 1, filling up your punch card, or getting 25% off of an item. I mean, if you have to buy something, don’t you want to get the most for your hard-earned money? Teenagers might cringe at Grandma reminding the clerk about her 10% discount, but hey! She waited a long time for that…

Of course, seniors are indeed on a fixed income, and most seniors welcome discounts. But whether you are a senior, a student, young marrieds with kids, or someone with teen-agers, a penny saved is…well you know. So, after learning to look for these deals in our society over the years, from the time we are young, it has conditioned us to be experts by the time we reach the golden years.

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Once you get the hang of it and use the discounts, getting into the movies for less, getting your groceries for 5% off on a certain day, or receiving a discounted haircut (this could be risky), or a hotel room at a better rate, feels good. Honestly, not many people would say, “What the heck? I demand to pay full price!” Oh, sure, there’s a few, who may be in denial and argue that they certainly are NOT a senior citizen! The rest of us, for the first while, are pleasantly surprised. We feel a bit pampered and valued. It’s a bit like someone empathetically stating, “Oh hey, I recognized that you’ve lived and experienced a lot. You’ve given, now it’s your time!” or “I see you are older than the rest of us. You get a break because you will never be young again- and because you have to spend your money on crap like pain relievers, Prilosec and shoe insoles.”

I don’t know if a discount really helps though because when I go into a store and see other great sales and clearance items, I’m like a fish on a hook. It doesn’t matter that I already have 4 pump handsoaps in a cupboard, or a certain snack or herbal supplement at home, if it’s a good deal, I’m likely to buy it. You just never know, right? Also, If something is geared towards my grandkids, I’m especially vulnerable! With good reason. There’s always a party or birthday around the corner. I of course have to hide the purchases from the kids. That could explain why I’ve found gifts near Easter, that I hid around Labor Day, that were meant for Christmas!

Just don’t insult me with “senior” discount meals that offer 20% off, but as you examine it, you realize the portion is 20% less. That is not a discount. That is basically a kid’s meal. You might as well put it in a small paper bag with a prize for old people. Maybe throw in a pill cutter, or wrinkle cream.

 I suppose it’s not really the discount itself that matters. It’s more the recognition and appreciation about a lifelong contribution to society….ok, and also about winning a small victory. As you age, sometimes it can sometimes feel like less victories are obtained. So, when someone gives us a little one, let’s take it and be glad.

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What Shall We Learn Today?

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You don’t give yourself enough credit. You know more than you think you do! Sure, there are some downsides to aging, but have you considered the knowledge that you’ve gained along the way? It’s inevitable that as time marches on we all gain from experiences and hopefully learn while on our journey. That’s what enriches our lives and can also enrich the lives of others as well. In my journey, which has been shorter than some of my wiser , more mature readers, I’ve learned and continue learning on my education. Others who are older, might consider me an ignorant pup, and that’s ok. That’s the perks that come with each decade. I am not here to teach, but to learn and to share, and I’d like to share with you some of my life’s lessons. They are not numbered in any order of importance, just observations.

Enjoy and appreciate the beauty around us.

There was a time when people spent a good part of the day outside. They worked, farmed, gathered and raised their food and so much more outside that was necessary to sustain themselves. In our modern times, people can (and sometimes have to) stay in their house or a building for days on end. It’s easy to run out of time to get outside. Nature offers so many benefits that can fortify us throughout the day. Besides the obvious benefits of Vitamin D (which so many are lacking now) clean air and exercise, there are also less obvious benefits such as stress reduction, mood improvement, and new studies indicate eye improvement. We are so blessed to have this beautiful, diverse world. To me, there is something so therapeutic and calming about taking in our surroundings, whether it’s the ocean, mountains, desert or even, just our backyard.

Every day presents an opportunity of some kind.

I always welcome the beginning of a new day. Even if the previous day was awful, the next, fresh day brings hope and light to us. It’s an opportunity to make things right with someone, to improve job skills, to try and go a day without any negativity, to brighten a stranger’s day or even to do something simple, like finally cleaning out the garage (which you’ve been putting off for months…or years). A new day offers new possibilities and new starts. I remember telling my youngest married daughter to never go to bed while angry with your spouse. She said something that I thought was profound. She said, “I disagree. I think at times it may be better to go to bed angry. Nighttime is often when we are stressed, tired and short-tempered. After a hard day, it may be better to go to bed angry and when you wake up to a new day, you may be softened and see things differently.” I have thought about this, and see the wisdom in this. This brings me to another observation.

We learn just as much from children and young people as they do from us.

I cannot imagine our lives without our children and grandchildren. We have all learned so much together, mostly about love, and life has been so much better surrounded by them. I remember a son-in-law worrying that he might not love his soon-to-be second child. It’s hard to explain to someone that whether it’s a 2nd, 3rd, or 20th child, your love continues to exist and grow with every new day. Of course, when his next child was born, he fell in love all over again. It’s wonderful how that works.  The marvelous thing about grandchildren, is that you have learned what really is important and what isn’t along the way. Grown children have often looked at their parents in disbelief as their parents spoil and love and forgive grandkids for things, they themselves never got away with. But perfection isn’t a prerequisite for parenthood, and we learn as we go. It is interesting how our own parents become smarter to us and more appreciated as we go through many of the experiences they have already gone through. We also come to learn at how fleeting those precious years with our younger children are. Fortunately, you realize that although the housing arrangements may change as they leave, the sweet association doesn’t have to.  I love watching our kids raise their kids and how kind and patient they are. They are all good humans raising good humans. The sweetest reunion is family coming through the door, hugs and kisses and the sound of, “Grandma, Grandpa!” We feel younger when we are around them all and they are so appreciated and loved.  

To stay young, we must continue learning and progressing.

Henry Ford said, “Anyone who stops learning is old, whether at twenty or eighty. Anyone who keeps learning, stays young.”  Life is about always learning and progressing. It can be through reading, studying about places and traveling, learning a foreign language or the language of the computer. It can be studying about gardening, politics, cooking or relationships. Whatever it is, learning rejuvenates us and motivates us and we can share our findings with others. To quit learning, is to give up on life. There’s always something to learn, we each have a desire to learn, and as we cultivate it, it brings meaning to our life. It can also enlarge our circle of friends. I was invited to join a book club, and I was hesitant. They were all very smart ladies. What if they hated my comments? What if I was too busy? What if I felt uncomfortable? What if, what if, what if? I decided to give it a try, and I loved and continue to love it. Not only is it bringing friends into my life, but it has brought back my love of reading and has helped me to just slow down for awhile and enjoy a book. I love learning, and can be found researching many topics. After 2 attempts, I haven’t given up on learning Spanish, if someone wants to teach me!

Lastly, we are all in this together.

It’s easy in our society from a young age to be competitive and that can be healthy and necessary for life. But, it’s a balancing act along with compassion, empathy and charity. I appreciate the people I associate with of all ages, who are so kind and caring. I teach a Sunday School class with 5 and 6-year old children. They are so sweet and caring. They are smart and know the answers, but they are also so considerate not to embarrass someone. They also are ready to encourage someone as hugs abound and also kind words. It’s very inspirational to me and reminds me that it’s never inappropriate to be kind. It’s always important to remember that almost every person that you come in contact with is dealing with something. If we remember this, it will help us to be more patient and understanding. Little things can also go a long way. I’ve often noticed older ladies in stores and restaurants, looking lovely, and I try to compliment them when I see them. I also thank Veteran’s for their service, which is heartfelt and I can’t imagine the things they’ve been through. It just takes a minute. I likewise, have been the recipient of kindness. That grouchy clerk may just have received some tragic news before you dealt with him. Or that driver who just cut you off, may be in a hurry to get to a loved one. Or he may not. It doesn’t matter. It’s a struggle every day, because we too are dealing with things.  We can only try to do a little better every day and know this, you are not alone.

I’d love to hear about the things you are learning on your journey. Leave a comment so we can learn from you!

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One Scoop or Two

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One of my earliest memories, is hearing the sweet, warped strains of “Mary Had a Little Lamb”, or “Pop Goes the Weasel” on a summer day. No, it wasn’t from my mother’s loving voice or a favorite toy. This favorite melody came from a speaker attached to an ice cream truck! I would hear it and jump up from whatever I was doing and beg Mom for a nickel and a dime and head outside. I would run as fast as my 6 or 7 year-old legs would carry me to the multi-colored truck, waving my coins, hoping the ice cream man wouldn’t overlook me and drive away. I felt so important as I gave him actual, real money and made such grown up decisions such as whether I wanted a drumstick, missile or push-up pop.

When I was a bit older, my Dad would occasionally invite me to go to a drugstore named Thrifty.  Thrifty had a wonderful ice cream counter with a glass window showcasing the ice cream in cardboard tubs. There were many interesting flavors, but my dad would always get Pistachio, and I would usually get Mint Chocolate Chip. It was such a simple pleasure, and all the kids at the counter would be staring wide-eyed at the ice cream with their fingertips on the glass, waiting to be handed their own treat. Creamy goodness and sweet memories for 5 cents a scoop.

As a teenager, I would go with friends to an ice cream parlor called Farrell’s. It was noisy, filled with families, kids and colors. This place, was “THE” place after movies and occasionally, someone would order something called The Zoo, which was a huge silver bowl of many scoops of ice cream and little plastic toys. The waiters would put the bowl on a stretcher, run around the parlor as a siren sounded and present the zoo to the lucky recipients! It was pure fun.

You may be thinking, “Oh wow, an article on ice cream?!” Yes, in part, but for me ice cream is more than just a treat made out of cream, eggs and sugar that we eat after dinner occasionally. It can turn everyday life into a celebration. It rarely is brought out during tragic times, or funerals. It is brought out to emphasize happy times and although best eaten with others, can also turn a quiet, lonely evening into something just a little better.

I remember starting out our marriage with both of us working in an ice cream parlor/restaurant called Leatherby’s, that his parents had purchased. Rick was the manager and I was a waitress, complete with a pinafore and striped blouse. The floor was a blue and white checkerboard, and even back then, it had a nostalgic atmosphere and served the best made-on-the premises ice cream. Some creations contained 32 ounces of ice cream and people loved receiving these very special, over-the-top indulgences. Later in life, I remember fresh peach milkshakes my sweet husband and I would make as young marrieds with small children. I recall my husband began making luscious homemade ice cream at our family celebrations. He would make vanilla, Rocky Road, Strawberry and an amazing recipe called Swiss Milk Chocolate, which contained malt powder and grated pieces of chocolate. Our 4th of July, Memorial Day or birthday celebrations might have the whirring sound of the ice cream maker, accompanied by children laughing, running around and hoping to lick the ice cream paddle. These were good times surrounded by good food.

Ice cream isn’t just for the young, but it is for the young at heart. We once went with our 3 children to visit an elderly couple, that we had become friends with. They had relocated to another state, and we had the opportunity to go visit them. It was in the middle of winter, snowing, and it was 10 o’clock in the morning. When we arrived at the Greenwood’s home, Mr. Greenwood ushered us into the living room, where his wife, lay on a couch, unable to sit up because of health reasons. After the greetings, he happily exclaimed, “It’s time for ice cream!” We looked surprised, and the kids looked delighted. He scooped up our bowls, and the potentially serious visit turned into a party at the Greenwoods.

Perhaps you aren’t crazy for ice cream. Maybe it’s a get together around your grandmother’s lasagna, or your husbands barbecue ribs. If you are like many of us over 55, on a restricted diet, it may be over a salad, tofu casserole (heaven forbid!) or simply sugar-free lemonade. Whatever our situation, we need to remember the simple pleasures of life. We need to keep inventing excuses to enjoy life and to enjoy each other. Our society today promotes seclusion and exclusion. With the conveniences of internet shopping, cell phones and cyber education on everything from college to replacing a spark plug, also comes the danger of isolation and loneliness. We must work extra hard to keep sociality and relationships alive. I feel a block party coming on… or a call to that neighbor who seems to be lonely. A little pralines and cream, might be just the ticket…

S.H.’s Basic Vanilla Ice Cream Recipe (contains raw eggs)

2 eggs

1 cup sugar

2 – 3/4 cups half-and-half

1 Tbls vanilla

1 cup whipping cream

In a lg. bowl, beat eggs until thick and lemon colored. Beat in sugar until light and fluffy. Stir in half-and-half, vanilla and cream. Pour into ice cream machine canister. Freeze in ice cream maker according to directions. Makes about 3 quarts.

Life Should Never Be Boring

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When we moved from the Sierra, Nevada foothills in California 25 years ago, we moved from the country, to the country. In California, we had 3 acres, an orchard, garden and chickens. When we moved to Idaho, we settled in a very small town, very small-population around 650. It was different terrain, but also beautiful, in a different way. We built our dream house at the base of a mountain and was surrounded by farms. It was no longer sheltered, with hills and countless pine trees, but fields as far as the eye could see, and amazing sunsets and rainbows. The kids had room to roam, with our 19 acres and also the foothills. We again had an orchard, garden and chickens, but could not stop there.

     We tend to be a bit restless and don’t do things on a small (or maybe even a normal) scale. Anyone can buy or even build a henhouse. We built a miniature western village for our animals. Little buildings that resembled old-time saloons and hotels. We also wanted to give our little feathered ladies incentive to lay eggs, so my husband put up a large Colonel Sanders sign on the henhouse. We would get baby chicks from time to time and when they grew, there would always be a rooster or two to terrorize the girls, and challenge them as they tried to collect eggs.

     Next door to the chickens, lived the cutest baby animal in the world, in my opinion. We loved the Pygmy goats and when they were young, they were fun to watch, with their acrobatics-jumps and twists mid-air. If my kids (human) would bend over, the kids (goats) would jump on their backs. They were only pets, as Pygmy goats are so little, it would be very difficult to milk, unless you were laying on the ground, or putting them on a table. Plus, you wouldn’t get much milk. We eventually ended up giving them away to a neighbor because of their incessant bleating, especially if they saw us. After a month, the neighbor scolded us, saying, “You didn’t tell me how noisy they were!”

     One year, our youngest daughter decided to raise a rabbit to show at the fair. She joined 4H and went to meetings for months to learn how to handle and show her beautiful reddish-tan Rex rabbit. The day of the fair arrived and we sent our daughter out to get her rabbit. She ran back in the house and exclaimed, “He’s dead!” We both stared at her, and each other in shock. Upon further examining, he must have died of old age or a heart attack. Our daughter later confessed she was kind of glad because she did not want to show it. No, she did not kill it.

     Our son, Jake often went exploring in the hills, which he loved to do. One time he came upon a wayward sheep, which had obviously been out there a long time, because the wool was so overgrown, that the sheep could barely move or see. Jake got the ATV and with the help of his little sister, went back to rescue the sheep. They were so excited! They took the ATV, pulling a tiny lawnmower trailer behind it. When they returned, there was a HUGE upside-down sheep on the trailer, unable to move or escape. The kids looked very triumphant and victorious. We eventually talked the Ag teacher into taking the poor, starving thing to care for it and shear it. He said the sheep was only about 20 pounds underneath all that wool.

     There was the time my husband and son went out shooting 22’s in the hills. They happened upon a pile of junk and proceeded to look for some targets, to shoot at, but instead discovered something else. They returned home with a big box of black and white puppies someone had dumped there! Unfortunately for the previous owners, the box had an address label stuck to it that gave their name away, and we knew them. My husband called and the woman answered and was so shocked and embarrassed to find out that her son, who was supposed to deliver the dogs to the pound, had just dumped them to perish. Later that day, we saw the same boy outside the local market, Clarks, trying to give away puppies.

     Children need things to keep them busy, and we decided to purchase some drop calves to raise big enough to sell. This is a commitment because you have to get up early to bottle feed them. This was during school, so we would wake our 3 kids up at 5:30, mix the formula, fill the huge bottles and take them out in the cold to feed those rambunctious calves. Someone said to my husband, “How do you get your kids to wake up at 5:30?” My husband replied that we had them in bed by 9:00. The same person asked “Well, how do you get them in bed by 9:00?!” You know what my husband replied, right? “Well, I get them up at 5:30!” The calves were strong, wiggly and seemed to always want the bottle that wasn’t theirs. It was frustrating and messy. Our rancher friend told us, “now you know why we ranchers have such colorful language!”  Some asked why we were now raising calves. We told them that we weren’t raising calves, we were raising children.

     By far our most adventurous endeavor was when we got the Ostriches and Emus. We had a friend in California who raised the big birds and made a lot of money selling the eggs. My husband built a big, tall pen. We purchased an old horse trailer and Purina Ostrich food from a feed store in Burley. Yes, they had Ostrich food. We bought 2 hens and 1 rooster and covered their head with a hood, so they couldn’t see and put them in the trailer to bring home. It was so crazy and fun to see those big, prehistoric-looking birds roaming that big pen in our field. They were docile most of the time, except breeding season, and we would pet their fuzzy necks and stroke their feathered back which came up to my chest. I couldn’t wear sparkly jewelry near them, because they would go for it. They are fascinating creatures, although not very bright. Although they tower at about 8 feet tall, their brains are about the size of a walnut. When they were in breeding and laying season, they were aggressive we had to be creative and smarter than an ostrich, which isn’t hard. To retrieve the massive eggs, my husband would simply walk into their pen, with a sheet of plywood in front of him, hiding his body. The birds must’ve thought, hmmm, there is a sheet of plywood walking through my pen because they did nothing. My husband would grab the egg and get out of the pen, without incident. We hatched some darling big chicks, had people drive by slowly to catch a glimpse of the ostriches, had the FFA and pre-schools come by on field trips, but alas, we never made any money from them. We did have a heck of an omelet party with our friends, as one ostrich egg equals 22 chicken eggs.

    Our emus, were more skittish than the ostriches, and not quite as fun, but their eggs were beautiful, a dark bluish-green color and about half the size of the ostrich egg. One time it had snowed quite a bit and the snow drifted and collected by the emu pen. Unbeknownst to us, the emus climbed the snow mounds right over the fence and escaped. We received a phone call from a neighbor telling us that she saw some big birds out by the highway. My husband jumped into his truck and started chasing and attempting to herd the emus, which, by the way, is impossible. They dart and are very fast. He finally gave up and knowing he couldn’t just leave them, got his shotgun. He was soon joined by a sheriff, who had obviously been called about some erratic driver chasing dinosaurs out in a field. He stopped Rick and asked what was going on. Rick explained that there was no way to herd emus and that he would have to shoot them. The officer surely would have something to say about that. He paused and said, “Can I shoot them?” Rick offered his gun and the officer, declined and said, “That’s ok, I have my own” and went and got his own shotgun out of his car. Well, I guess it’s not every day you can shoot a 80-pound bird. I would like to hear the story he told that day.

A Bit Tattered, but More Appreciative

    When the announcement was made about a new, aggressive virus strain that had descended on the world, we were as confused and skeptical as anyone. We knew that every year a different strain of the flu arrives and takes its toll on the most vulnerable. We had taken our turn, like most, with each flu and have obviously weathered all of them, with little difficulty. I do remember that the H3N2 flu of 2018 was particularly hard on me, and it caused me to cough for 4 weeks solid, but usually flus are just a weeklong inconvenience. Although the numbers are hard to estimate, the death rate for seasonal flus, hovers around 12,000 to 60,000 each year in the U.S. The mortality rate is around 0.1%. The Coronavirus is said to be 10 times more lethal than the seasonal flu.

    My husband tested positive for Covid on November 21. I tested positive 4 days later, the day before Thanksgiving. We are generally healthy, are on no medications and exercise daily. I was a bit concerned for my husband; who’s lungs were compromised when living in Chicago during one of the coldest winters on record. Although that was 40 years ago, he still has a chronic cough that lasts for months, every winter. On November 20th, our quarantine began. Our symptoms started out slow, with both of us experiencing very similar symptoms, but mine occurring a few days after Rick’s. We both had a headache, which came and went for days, we had foggy brain and foggy vision, almost appearing like the house was smokey. After a few days, our sinuses went from perfectly clear, to instantly clogged and inflamed in a matter of minutes, stayed congested for days, and then again, instantly cleared up. We had slight nausea and we were exhausted, without the energy to do anything, except sit in our recliners watching tv. We both had no fevers, although many people do. Trying to read was a chore, as I couldn’t focus my brain or eyes. We also had severe body aches. We discovered that the aches were where injuries had taken place in the past, so his aches were in different areas of the body than mine. We both lost our sense of smell and taste, which 3 months later have not fully returned.

     The worse part was the inflammation in our bodies, and breathlessness. We would feel short of breath, which would result in coughing. For any of you with asthma, you know how that feels. As we suspected might happen, Rick felt the chest tightness worse and was prescribed Steroids for his lungs and antibiotics to prevent Pneumonia. We also tried many supplements and home remedies. After 3 weeks, we felt 75% better, although still worn out. Now at 12 weeks, we feel 90% better, hoping no organs were impacted long term.

Several of our kids have gotten Covid, with symptoms no worse than a mild flu. Then, as the hope of a vaccine was in sight, around the 1st of January, both of our fathers were infected. although states apart, my dad in California, and Rick’s dad living here in Twin Falls. My dad, age 94, was in great health when he got it, no underlying conditions, except high blood pressure, which was fine with medication. He was mentally sharp, the life of the party at his care center, living there since 2014, after my mom passed away. One day he had to leave the protection of the care center to have some dental work done. Within days he was complaining of cold-like symptoms. He didn’t seem bad at first, and unfortunately, my brothers could not see him, due to restrictions. They called daily to check up on him and was told he was doing fine. After a week, he wasn’t answering his phone. My brother, Jim, contacted the facility and to find out how dad was doing, only to be told, “He’s fine”. Jim wanted to speak to the director and called several times, with no response. Finally, the director called back, after leaving work, and said dad was doing fine. Within hours, the care center called to tell Jim that our dad had been taken to the hospital, non-responsive, in kidney failure and with pneumonia. Dad regained consciousness, and rallied for a week, and then left this world to be with his sweetheart. My brothers couldn’t visit him, until the day he was passing, when the hospital called to tell Jim he should come to say goodbye. He rushed over there but by the time he arrived 10 minutes later, Dad was gone. It seemed like a cruel trick. There could be no funeral, just a small gravesite service with only a few people and a priest, that was face-timed so I and my oldest brother could “attend”.

    During the same time, Rick’s dad, who is 85, also took a turn for the worse and was hospitalized, with severe inflammation, excessive blood clotting caused by the virus, and trouble breathing. His oxygen levels were down and so he was put on oxygen, blood thinners, antibiotics and steroids for his lungs. We were so fearful that we would lose both dads at the same time. I strangely felt a little cheated, because I wasn’t able to grieve my own father, and now had to be more concerned with my father-in-law. I felt guilty and was so glad when he started showing improvement and was finally released from the hospital, very weak and still on oxygen. After 4 weeks, he is still on oxygen at night, but much better.

Sometimes I am angry or depressed with this Covid experience. I am an impatient person and so the whole lockdown, illness and quarantine, restrictions, and especially my father’s death frustrates me. I try to look at the positives that have also taken place. My husband and I have enjoyed being together, did in no way get sick of each other and finished a lot of projects including, remodeling our kitchen, building a murphy bed, and decluttering. We’ve taken boxes and boxes of stuff we thought we needed, but realized we didn’t, to Goodwill. Another positive is that our world has become smaller, but sweeter with our family. We have cooked some masterpieces and I’ve learned how to play Chess!

     The other night I had a dream. I was with my dad. My brothers and their wives were standing in the background watching. I realized in the dream that we were there to say goodbye, as my dad would be leaving. He and I embraced and clung onto each other, softly crying. I could smell his flannel shirt and feel the texture of it. We eventually released our grip, and I kissed him and told him that I loved him, and he awkwardly said it back, like he had learned to do in the last 5 years. As we parted, I could see the tears in my family’s eyes as well, and felt the love. I was sad in my dream, but I was not sad when I awoke, because I got to see my dad again and finally say goodbye.

Many are having similar experiences. My heart goes out to you and know that you are not alone and we will get through this. Keep loving and learning.