Friday, October 25, 2019

Get Busy Living

The other night I watched Tyler Perry's "The Family That Preys Together." Kathy Bates was incredible in it, as she is in most everything she does. She was a middle-aged woman who was diagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's and decided to live life to the fullest by taking a trip across country with her best friend.

One night into the trip, she wakes up crying unable to be consoled. It is then she tells her friend about the diagnosis. That powerful scene hit me very hard, not only because of my mom and what we went through, but also because I am heading into higher birthday numbers.

I sat and cried after the movie ended. I began thinking about my life, what I may have accomplished, and what good I can do with the time I have left. I'd been journaling a lot and writing things I want our children to see when I'm gone. Writing, to me, is a powerful way to share what I can't say sometimes or what I want to impart upon people who I may not have reached in other ways.

I did get caught in a self-pity party though. My bones are aching, my hair is thinning, my body is spreading into a different version of itself. I see lines on my face that weren't there before, and I tire much more easily. Fear crept in and made me realize that I've lived most of my life already, and that the remaining years won't be as long as the former. Wow, talk about a downer!

I spoke to someone who helped me to look at life right now in the way it should be viewed. With eyes wide open, heart full of love, ready to embrace whatever the coming years offer. In the movie "The Shawshank Redemption," Morgan Freeman's famous line is "Get busy living, or get busy dying." Yes, that is a wonderful way to view the years. I can choose to ponder the aging process, worrying over every small change that is occurring, or I can beat it at its own game by a renewed sense of passion and purpose every single day.

My father got busy living no matter what curve ball was thrown his way. When he couldn't refinish large furniture projects any longer due to health issues, he began to make small crafts instead. He told me he didn't want to die in a rocking chair, doing nothing. And he didn't.

Age is just a number. And when that number gives you the willies, or makes you pause for a moment and say, "Wow, I can't believe I'm almost _________ years old," we can console ourselves by thinking about our blessings. We can give ourselves powerful self-love with positive self-talk. I still have hair, my body works great, I am able to walk and enjoy the outdoors, I get a great night's sleep and enjoy naps. I work with my hands, I can hear great music, read excellent books. I can talk with loved ones and good friends. Our lists can go on and on.

Today I'm choosing to stick out my tongue at a birthday number. Maybe even thumb my nose at it. After all, the most fun part of getting older is getting away with a few things we weren't able to do a few years ago. We are now the outspoken ones. So let's get busy living!!

Monday, October 21, 2019

A Day With My Son

If there's one person I love spending time with, it's my son, Matt. He is the type of guy that has patience, understanding, a sweet disposition, and usually a lot of positivity. Yesterday we took a small trip to Living Treasures animal park, and then a state park in our area, Kooser.

Since we are both animal lovers, we took a lot of time at the animal park. We bought carrots and bagged, crunchy animal food. We had cameras ready and a beautiful day ahead of us. We stopped for lengthy visits with animals all over the park. And it was a good time of day because we were greeted by some very furry, very hungry creatures.

Our next stop at the state park was for picture-taking. It was then I noticed my son as if seeing him for the first time. How he lined up his camera shots perfectly. How he was never in a hurry to see the next thing, but was content to be in the moment, enjoying what visions awaited him through his camera lens.

 In the hustle bustle of life, I am used to seeing people hurrying to the next thing and the next, eager to get their fix on the prize of the moment. Matt seems to want to live in the moment. I have seen his photographs in the past, some of which are almost prize-winning in my opinion. I'm grateful that he has an eye for beauty in nature. I'm thrilled that he has a heart for God's creatures.

Sometimes when we are together, we have long talks about this and that. And some days we are content to be quiet in the moment. Every mother has a sixth sense about their child though, and I realized something was bugging him after our day was over.

I wanted to fix everything he talked about. I wanted to say life is fair and everything turns out perfectly each day. But life isn't fair, and at times, it's less than perfect. But if there is one thing I can say to him, it would be: Don't change who you are through the bad times.

It's easy to get caught in a web of anger when we are in a bad spot. It's easy to almost have a personality change and become something or someone we aren't usually. But if we continue to smile through the rough patches, believe in the best, don't compromise our beliefs in bad moments, and keep a positive outlook when times are less than perfect, I believe we can chase away the old devil.

He runs from the good and just dances with glee when we are morose and bitter. Let's show him who's boss and Who we believe in--God and the good in humanity. Let's, as parents, pray for our children, calling favor, faith, and blessing over their lives. Let's not give in to fear and doubt, but let the moments that define us be ones of light, life, and the knowledge that we are in the Best hands!

Awesome multi-colored peacock at the park!

My favorite animal yesterday. An albino wallaby! I wanted to take him home...

Great shot before a small bridge at Kooser.

I just love a babbling brook.

The eye of the photographer.

My son's family friendly YouTube channel:

Monday, September 16, 2019

Pick Yourself Up

I remember thinking there were things I would never get over; things I would never forgive myself for doing--for the mistakes I made, for hurting another person. Times I may have passed up a golden opportunity, or not done the right thing in a given situation.

I used to get lost in this trap--the trap of "I'm the worst person there is." Or, "I will never get another chance or a good break, or be able to change, grow, or learn from my mistakes."

Let me tell you something: That is a lie! A total untruth! It is a trick from the enemy to keep us down, keep us riddled with anxiety and guilt. The real truth is there is not ONE of us who is perfect; not one of us who don't make daily mistakes whether on the job, perhaps in raising our kids, in something we said to another person during the day that just flew out of our mouth that we wish we could take back.

Perhaps we have made poor financial decisions. I think there are many of us who got ourselves into a pit of bad money mistakes. Is it the end? Doom and gloom? Nope, and I'm here to tell you. Many years ago, financial burden put me and some others into bankruptcy. I felt like an idiot, not worthy, very down on myself. But one day at a time, I worked my way out of it. I kept at a good job. I didn't spend anything unnecessarily for a very long time. Oh, I would treat myself to an occasional goodie, but there were things I had to miss for a few years knowing I wanted to be on the other side of this issue.

I began tithing. I read about giving ten percent of my wages to my church and I did this in earnest. Even at my lowest, things began to work out. When I tithed, God took care of ALL of my needs. Not just a few, but every one of them. Maybe I wasn't rich, but I was able to pay my bills, and have a little left over to enjoy some of the small things in life.

How much easier it is to say poor me. But you are not poor, you are rich in the love of God, rich in the blessings surrounding you. What do you have? Maybe you have your health which is truly everything. Perhaps you have children who adore you. Or you have friends that you can share a healthy laugh with every once in a while. You have a home, small luxuries that to others would make you seem wealthy. You have breath in your lungs, the ability to walk, work, and play.

Maybe you haven't met the love of your life yet. Or maybe you feel time has treated you unfairly and others get all the breaks. I learned a lesson with this as well. Instead of jealousy, I began to choose to be a person of compliments and encouragement. I knew that some of the very things I was envious of, could be mine too if I worked hard enough at it. Maybe with baby steps, or in very small ways, but as long as I was doing something toward my goals, perhaps writing, then I could reach small successes too.

If I wasn't willing to put out the work, how could I expect any glory? If I wanted what others had but wasn't willing to put the time into the very things I desired?  I never knew what sacrifices those people might have had to overcome to be who they are.

Even if we make one small change when we wake up tomorrow. We decide this will be the day we ____________.  This is the day we take a step toward a good goal and a new outcome. This is a day where anything, even a miracle however small or large is possible. Because it is. Believe in yourself, but believe in a God Who can direct you to the life you've always dreamed of.

Heavenly Father, thank you for the person reading this. I'm hoping you direct them to the words they need to hear; Words that are not mine, but Yours. Give them courage to take a step in the direction they are meant to go. Give them Your favor, peace, unconditional love, and blessing. In Jesus name.

Sunday, September 8, 2019

I'm Still a Glitter Princess

Have you spent an afternoon lately with small children, perhaps your grandkids or nieces and nephews? Don't you come away from that time exhausted, yet feeling younger and remembering what it was like to pretend, to wish, to dream, to believe in the unbelievable?

Yesterday my niece Elena wanted an inexpensive pair of fairy wings in a dollar store. On the ride back home she said, "Auntie Kar, there's a little glitter on your seat." When we got out, not only did she have glitter on her face and hair, but the back seat of my car sparkled and glittered as well. And my heart sparkled too.

I, too, remember what it was like when I was young being a glitter princess; loving all things sparkly and pretty. For I was a girly girl type; a child who loved make believe, pretend, and lands faraway. My mom used to call me a pack rat stating that she always found glittery items in my drawers and in my room. I hoarded these pieces as if they were magical. And they were.

Our beautiful, innocent children hold the key to simplicity and joy. After a few hours playing "school" with my other niece, Elizabeth, I feel smarter and ready for a college degree. It doesn't matter that it has been years since I've been to school. Elizabeth is a tough teacher and she won't tolerate any misbehavior in her "class." So I sit as a model student and learn all that I can from her. What she doesn't realize is that I am learning. The lesson is one of sweetness, simpleness, and patience. The lesson isn't something I can glean from a book, and I can only get from truly being in the moment with her.

Our world is full of cynicism, intolerance, and anger. News media and social media blast so much anti-everything campaigns that I want to run away for a while.  Isn't it refreshing that once a week or so, I can run away with two little girls who hold my heart with their simple innocence? I can come away from that time a much "better me."

Friday, August 23, 2019

The Birthday Slice

We have a crazy tradition in my family. Whenever someone has a birthday and is ready to cut the first slice to "wish upon," Mom would always come up beside us and grab the knife to guide our hand as if one of us would chop a finger off. It got to be a running joke in our family, and with our mother now gone, we have still carried it with us.

Mom was fun to tease, and even with dementia, she mostly kept her sense of humor. I loved my mother's laugh--for she had an infectious, addicting laugh when something struck her completely hilarious. She would almost lose her breath, and the most adorable sounds would come from her.

My mother always said in a good-natured way: "You guys will have lots of stories when I'm gone." And, "I hope you laugh always when you think of me."

As I approach the last year of my fifties which I can hardly believe, I think strongly of my mother and all the years she made my birthday special. She made a chocolate cake with chocolate cream cheese frosting that me and my father adored, but my son and brother never liked. The pages of the cookbook that she used for this recipe is so encrusted with dried cake batter, I feel you could pop it into the oven and bake it!

She drew cute stick-type figures on many of my birthday cards, and always had something humorous to say. The envelopes of the cards were always adorned with my name spelled out and little sayings:

K is for kisses, lots of them or  kitties or kindness or kandles (oops)
A is for always loving you no matter what
R is for remember the good times and laughs
E is for ever be who you are and know that God loves you
N is for never change my darling

And another:

K is for Kan't think of a thing to say
A is for Ahhh
R is for Rot Roh
E is for Empty brain, lol
N is for Never stop laughing

One year in my mid-thirties, Mom pulled off a little surprise birthday party for me. She gathered some of my best friends and I had no idea about it. I kept joking that day that she ordered a male stripper to dance at my party, so my dear adorable ten-year-old step son got into the spirit when he heard me say that. He was gone for a few minutes and then popped into the living room with no shirt and a towel wrapped around his waist. He did a little dance and then whisked the towel off to reveal his shorts underneath! What a wonderful laugh we had!

Birthdays have always been great especially because of my mom. And I can't help but miss her terribly as my special day approaches tomorrow. During her last years with dementia, she still would try to bake or make something for us. One year all she could think to do was boil eggs, and she placed a little food coloring in the water as the eggs boiled to turn them pastel. I actually thought it was kind-of a sweet genius idea. Her cakes no longer worked because of some missed ingredient, but Dad would stoically eat them and freeze a few slices which were always left over.

Tomorrow for my birthday we will gather at my parent's old house where my brother and his family now live, and I will look around, smile, and remember some of the most fun times growing up, and how very special my mother made me feel. And as the family sings "Happy Birthday" to me, I will picture Mom standing next to me with a glorious smile on her face, and feel her hand guiding me as I make the first slice on the cake.

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Karen's Crocheted Purses

Because of the random act of violence that touched our lives the other day with my vehicle, I was unable to attend a "Christmas in July" show that I had been looking forward to. I've been crocheting handmade purses as something I love to do. Crocheting has become such a passion and comfort to me. Ever since I lost my parents a few years ago, it has been a way to bring a little peace into my life.

Several people have asked if they could view my purses and I have chosen to place them on my blog site for anyone who may be interested. Each one is different from the other. Each has a tag with a Bible verse chosen especially for it.

Remember: these are made from the heart with love. Some have double pockets and button closure, while others are single-pocketed. But each is embellished with some fun decorations and different stitching. There are some that can certainly be given to a child as a gift. Or you may purchase one as a gift for someone, and one for yourself. If you decide to do so, I will give a discount for two or more purchased together.

You may reach out to me if you are interested in one, at my email:
Or certainly as a private message in Facebook also. I will mail any of them with no shipping cost to you if you live in the U.S. And there are special circumstances where I may be able to get one to you if you live nearby.

Thank you kindly for stopping by to look at my little passion. May God bless you, Karen

This one is called "Butterflies are Beautiful." It has a thick brown and tan yarn, wooden button closure and single interior. There is a butterfly and hand-crocheted rose and leaves on the front. It is a smaller purse with a single handle. Bible verse: He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
  Price 15.00

This one is called ""Charcoal Charm." It is made from a thick, soft dark grey yarn and has a double interior pocket, pretty silver charms and a tassel at the bottom. The Bible verse is: Search me, O God, and know my heart.
Price: 20.00

The red and black one is called "Key to my Heart." It is made from very soft thick yarn and has silver and rhinestone embellishment, a double handle and a closure. The Bible verse: My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message.
Price: 15.00

This black and white purse is called "Summertime" and has button closure, soft yarn with a close single stitch, pretty rhinestone embellishments and a twisted black and white handle. It is about eight inches long and about nine inches wide. Bible verse: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Price: 20.00

This one is called "Blue and Blingy." It is a deep blue color with some black entwined. It has several fun embellishments on the front, and a deep blue butterfly on the back. Double handled and button closure. About seven inches long and wide. Bible verse: Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace.
Price: 20.00

This is "Cheery Cherry." It is a fun purse that perhaps a young girl may like, or if you are young at heart. The yarn is soft and thick. It has button closure, double handle, a lovely hand-crocheted rose and leaves and some small black rhinestones near the top. It also has a crocheted white chain which runs through the middle. Bible verse: Surely he has done great things. Be not afraid, O land; Be glad and rejoice.
Price: 20.00

This soft purse is very special and called "Alzheimer's Awareness." The purple butterfly is in honor of my mom who had Alzheimer's. The yarn is extremely thick and fuzzy. It has several purple baubles adorning the front, a closure, and a twisted black and purple handle. Bible verse: Behold, I will create new heavens and a new earth.
Price: 20.00

This is my ode to "Harry Potter" called "Owls and Magic." It is a double interior smaller purse with thick, soft brown yarn and antique-looking owl embellishments. Bible verse: Good will come to him who is generous.
Price: 20.00

This black purse is one of my favorites. It is called "Elegance." It is closely single-stitched and has feather boa embellishment around the top and handle. Lovely rhinestones adorn the front. It is a medium size purse. Bible verse: By day the Lord directs His love; at night His song is with me.
Price: 25.00

This smaller purse is called "Happy Heart." It has a small double handle, thick yarn and wooden button embellishments. It also has a coppery sequined heart on the front, and a butterfly pin on the back. Bible verse: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.
Price: 20.00

This light and airy bag is called "Simple Scholar." I think it would be good to carry a book or kindle as it is very lightweight. The brown yarn is glittery and it is embellished with some fun baubles and a heart button closure. Bible verse: Surely the Lord has done great things.
Price: 10.00

This smaller purse is called "Tawny." It is double interior, button closure, and stiffer yarn with pretty antique-looking charms. Bible verse: Give thanks to the Lord for he is good, his love endures forever.
Price: 10.00

This is another of my favorites called "Wedding White." It is a smaller purse with a double interior, cream colored yarn and faux pearls and double handle. Bible verse: And do not forget to do good and to share with others for with such sacrifice God is pleased.
Price: 20.00

This purse is called "Springtime." It is a little smaller in size, but the length is fairly deep. Has small roses, button closure, and two handles. Bible verse: Those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
Price 15.00

This charming purple and black purse is called "Pleasantly Purple." It is larger and has a great small stitch and heavier yarn. It has rhinestone baubles and an antique looking rose closure. Bible verse: And my God will meet all your needs according to His glorious riches in Christ Jesus.
Price: 15.00

The next one is my first Americana colored purse. "Three Cheers for Red, White and Blue." It is a double interior purse with a red button closure and rhinestone embellishments. Made with a thick yarn, it is two handled and a medium size. Bible verse: Submit to God and be at peace with Him.
Price: 20.00
This is extremely soft purse is called "Summer Love." It is tan and cream colored with a single interior, wooden button embellishments and closure and a single handle. It is about medium sized.
Bible verse: Blessed are the peacemakers.
Price: 15.00

This smaller purse is called "Loving Hearts." It is about 5 inches by 5 inches with a double interior, brass buttons on the front, and wooden buttons on the back. Made of a very soft, thick yarn.Has a long twisted red and black handle. Bible verse: The one who blesses others is abundantly blessed.
Price: 10.00

This purse is called "Pretty in Pink." The yarns are glittery and soft. It is a larger purse with one interior and a braided handle and button closure. A little girl's dream. Bible verse: When you are kind to others, you help yourself.
Price: 15.00

This black and gold one is called "Pittsburgh Spirit." The yarn is thick and soft. About medium sized with a butterfly button closure and some cute embellishments on the sides. Bible verse: Give thanks to the Lord for He is good. His love endures forever.
Price: 10.00

The next two photos are the same purse front and back. It is called "Peace and Love." It is smaller and made with charming blue hues, cream, browns, and greens. It has button closure and sweet charms on the front, with a sequined heart on the back. Smaller double handle. Bible verse: Peace I leave with you, my peace I give you.
Price: 15.00

This little bag is called "Blue Elegance." It is about 8 inches by 8 inches and made with a very soft thick blue and black yarn and has feather boa trim and lovely rhinestones on the front. Single interior and single handle. Bible verse: For I know the plans I have for you declares the Lord.
Price: 20.00

The next one is one of my favorites also. It is very large and is called "Sparkly Fluff." The yarn is thick, black and white with a tassel on the bottom and rhinestones on the front. Single interior and double handle. Bible verse: My grace is sufficient for you.
Price: 25.00

Another one that is great for a little girl is called "Soft as a Cloud." It is thick, soft blue and yellows. Has blue and yellow rhinestones and a sparkly blue butterfly. There is an extra pocket on the outside. Double soft handle and single interior. Bible verse: A gentle response diffuses anger.
Price 10.00

The next one is pinks and wooly yarn. Double interior and button closure with sparkly embellishments and pink sparkly butterfly. "Cotton Candy." Bible verse: Give thanks to the Lord for He is good.
Price: 20.00

This large bag called "All about the beach" can be used to carry your suntan products to the beach. Single interior with beach-themed baubles and wooden button closure with a single handle. Bible verse: Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.
Price: 10:00

If you need a closer photo of any of them, or the dimensions, please let me know. I truly appreciate you stopping by!
Many thanks!

When Forgiveness Touched my Life

In a very deep sleep, the sound of a loud "Bang!" awoke me from outside my window the other night. Tires squealed quickly away, and I had time to think as I lay there in a comfy, drowsy state, hmmm, someone must have hit a deer... before I drifted off to sleep again.

A minute or so later the house telephone began ringing. My eyes popped back open and a feeling of dread crept over my body. What's going on? Who would be calling at 12:30 a.m.? Was this related to the sound I'd heard?

My husband awoke and we stared at the phone. It was an unfamiliar number, so we didn't answer it. Hubby made a quick bathroom trip, and I swore I heard someone knocking at our front door.

"Jim!" I said, picking the phone off the cradle, ready to dial 911 at a moment's notice. "There's someone at our door now!"

My husband is recovering from a hip replacement. He grabbed his cane and snuck quietly down the stairs, peeking out the front door. "It's the neighbors," he said, and opened the door.

As I stood there, so many thoughts ran through my head. Has there been a tragedy at their house, is someone hurt, etc. I was unprepared for what I heard next: "Someone broke your wife's car window and we called the cops."

For the first time in my life, a senseless act of violence touched my life. The back window of my car was shattered and thousands of tiny shards of glass glittered throughout the whole vehicle all the way up to the dashboard. Two of my tires had been flattened and the metal blade of a box-cutter type of knife stuck out of one of them. I wanted to vomit, scream, run away. I wanted to cry. I wanted my mother.

Isn't it enough, Lord, that Jim is recovering from surgery? Everything is up in the air now and we have too much to handle. This too?

From what we've discovered in the last few days, there have been random car break-ins and vandalism to vehicles in our town. Nobody has come close to catching the offenders.

I've been thinking back to a time that touched my parent's lives back in the early eighties. They owned a small Mom -and -Pop store in our little hometown. One late night, somebody had broke their large front window, gone into the store and stolen several items. When Mom found out the next day, she didn't develop a "poor me" attitude or even get angry. In typical Mom fashion instead, she wrote a large sign and hung it on the front door as several people helped place boards over the broken glass.

The sign read: If you are hungry or in need of anything, please stop in and talk with me about it. I would be glad to help you out. Please don't steal from us.

The thought of that sign and my mother's attitude came to me as I tried to make sense from the senseless. Something else came to me as well. My mother was a firm believer in second chances for people. She tried to look at the good in everyone. She had such compassion in her heart for the underdogs of this world and tried to reason that "Everyone has a story."

I don't know what kind of homes the people who vandalized my car have come from. Perhaps they never knew love or any form of human goodness. Maybe they never knew God's goodness and mercy, but I decided to feel mercy in my heart toward them. "Father, forgive them," I said. "Please bring them to justice, but help them to realize that what they are doing in our town is wrong. They don't realize that these acts are happening to folks who may have terrible struggles already in their lives. Help them to care and to have a conscience."

Letting go of this has been the best thing I could have done for myself. Yes, I feel uneasy right now, and I will certainly be more aware of the goings on around our neighborhood. But I'm choosing life over death, love over hate, forgiveness over anger, and mercy over bitterness.

Monday, July 8, 2019

Letter to Myself

Dear Karen (Age 8),
     I wanted to write to you and let you know that it will be okay. I know some things seem a little blurry to you right now and even a bit scary. Your mom might not be as calm as you'd like, as loving, or even might seem a bit different from other mommies. It's okay.
     Did you know she had a very bad childhood? Did you know that her daddy was a mean guy and he hurt her mama sometimes? Did you know that her mama yelled at her and her siblings because she was so overwhelmed she didn't know what to do?
     Did you know how much your mom loved her sister? And when her sister passed away at Easter time, it just about broke your mother's heart? Whatever weak thread was holding her fragile mind together snapped. And she had lots of problems after that.
     Did you know that your mom is going to be fine though? She will return to you whole and healed in a short time. You will be stronger for it, Karen age 8. You will develop a heart of compassion toward the people in this world who have all sorts of issues because you understand what it's like to be with someone whose mind has been touched by pain.

Dear Karen (Age 13),
     I know this isn't how you pictured your new life moving to a nice, new home and beginning adolescence. You didn't do anything to "deserve" the curvature of the spine. It wasn't your fault or the fault of anyone. Bad things happen sometimes. Yes, it is a very frightening time. You are going through all sorts of weird things in the hospital to make you better.
     Did you know that your mom will be extremely strong while you are going through this? Did you know she will show a bravery you didn't think her capable of? Did you know that your daddy will make you laugh and keep things light because that is how he handles stressful situations?
     Did you know that this hospital time will give you a heart of love toward other people that have health problems and those who are scared and sad? Did you know that you will use this time to be braver and stronger in the future and that you will someday work with people in an office who always tell you just how much you've been there for them?

Dear Karen (Age 17),
     You're a teenager now. I know that sometimes your mom doesn't act like you can be independent, but give it time. Did you know how much she worries for you since you had the major back surgery? She is frightened that something could go wrong, or that you will hurt yourself? Remember, that is her issue, not yours. You will grow to be very independent--more than you realize. You won't have to live with the fears and doubts that others have put on you. Just keep your eyes focused on the Lord and remember what He says about you.

Dear Karen (Age 30)
     You've had some issues and made some bad choices in life. Even though some people bring these mistakes up, they do not have to define who you will still become.
     Your first marriage in your early twenties brought a good family into your life even though your husband wasn't the man he said he was. It is again, not your fault. You are still worthy even though he made you feel as if you were not. You are beautiful, loved, and whole. Don't let what he did affect who you are in the future. Love your sons, be a good mother. Love your parents, be a good daughter. And realize that the hurt you have gone through will once again mold you through compassion and you will love others with your own words one day. Yes, your dream of writing will come true. Believe.

Dear Karen (Age 55),
     It's been a while since I've written to you. You have all the tools you need to be a loving daughter as you watch your parents aging and their health, failing. You are stronger than you know--not that weak little eight-year-old girl who was scared of her own shadow. You are a child of God, and a child of the two most wonderful parents! Everything you have been through in life has brought you to this moment; a moment you've dreaded as you say goodbye to your mother and father.
     Did you know that you will be okay? I promise. You will be a comfort to others who are grieving. You will know how to talk to God and pray for those who are hurting as much as you have hurt during this time.
     Did you know that there will be moments, wonderful moments where you will feel not only Mom and Dad near you when they are departed, but the presence of the Holy Spirit so strongly in your heart that it feels like it could burst from love?

P.S. You can do all things through Christ who gives you strength. You are strong and courageous. You are a child of the most High God. You need not have fear and doubt and let discouragement put you down. You will rise above all the things that others told you that you could never do. You will do them and excel. You are no longer a little fearful child. Every difficult thing that you've gone through in life has brought you to this moment. It's your moment to shine.

(Your 58 year-old self)


Sunday, June 23, 2019

Darn Good Escapism

My obsession with good movie and book series has always been something that has given me a reason to smile--to take the blues away at times and give the necessary escapism needed in our otherwise crazy lives. My family and I have always said, "It's another reason to live," when a new book or movie in a series that we love is coming out. 

I began with Star Wars in the late seventies, the simple tale of good vs. evil, and all the wonderful small story lines connected in so many neat ways.

I graduated to Lord of the Rings in the early 2,000's, an obsession that continues to this day. Another simple tale (though fraught with danger, peril, complex storytelling), but basically good vs. evil once again, and the love of amazing, honest friendship, or "fellowship" if I may add.
 There has been my love of the Outlander book series, and now the television show that is cast each year. Good, evil, love, hate, great writing and so many characters to adore

I'd fought against anyone however telling me how much I would love the Harry Potter series. I used to think it was a childish ripoff of Lord of the Rings. After all, how could simple teenagers hold my interest, though I do like young adult fiction: Twilight series and Hunger Games.

Wizards and magic, indeed! A silly boy with a scar! Humbug! These characters seemed hollow and so unreal to me that I made fun of them whenever possible.

Until... Last year I watched my young niece and her mom talking about the Harry Potter movies, buying little knick knacks from them, and appearing to bond over a darn good tale. In order to find out what all the hoopla was about, and to find something to get closer with my niece, I borrowed the books from a friend.

Let's just say I wish I'd read them slower. I am in the last parts of the seventh book. I am about to discover secrets that have been kept throughout the series. J.K. Rowling has my complete attention and devotion. Not a stereotypical book. Characters are as 3-D as they can be. They are written with such complexity, yet in simple, understandable language. I admire her incredible writing. I admire the fact that Potter mania is everywhere. For it is here, now, in me too. I consider myself a major fan. Though I can't wait to see what happens, I almost want to put the book aside and savor all of the mystery just a bit longer.
Here's to great heroes and villains and all the characters in between. For giving us years of excitement, adventure, and a reason to live!

Friday, June 14, 2019

For All the Dads

I can't help but smile today. I smile because my daddy is close in my heart. As Father's Day approaches, I remember this man, this very good man who brought laughter and goodness to the world and made it a better place.

Dad was a model son. If his parents had need of him, he dropped everything and ran next door to where they lived. No matter if it was something minor, my father always let them know that they were important. He cared for them into their golden years and respected them with a son's adoration.

Dad would do this with my mom as a good husband through the years. For her needs were always first to him. He loved her until death parted them, and even then, I felt his love surrounding her up to the time she joined him a short while later. Their marriage lasted over sixty years and was a shining tribute to all who knew them.

Other fathers who are in my heart today are some of the men who I appreciated through the years. There was my father-in-law, E.G., a man who broke into tears when we were reunited years after his son left our marriage. There was Matt's father, Mark, who was protective of his little boys and showered them with kisses and affection. There is my brother who adores his own little girls and would do anything for them. And my husband who especially appreciates his good relationships with his children in their adult years.

Some of us may not have known the love of a good father, or husband to our children. We may have found that an uncle, grandfather, cousin, neighbor, or dear friend made an impression in our lives with their goodness. As Father's Day approaches, let's hold a special thought for these gentle men who garnered respect in our lives through their actions and kindnesses.

To you, Dad, I close my eyes right now and envision your handsome face. I see you blinking with two eyes because you never could wink. I see your paint-stained pants with every color under the rainbow splashed over them. I smell the scent of marigolds in your hands. I hear the sound of your laughter and the timbre of your words--your magical, nonsensical words.

I hear the Emperor Waltz in the background. I can picture you now, Dad, conducting your invisible orchestra. I see you and Mom dancing and twirling in my mind's eye as the crescendo peaks. I feel your warmth radiating through everything you touched--your beautiful hand-created crafts.

I miss you, Dad. I hope you visit my dreams again soon. I thank God for allowing any special moments of closeness with you even now. Happy Father's Day with every ounce of love I have.

Your little Tenya.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Nostalgic, Creepy, and Wonderful (A Mother's Day Tale)

As always, the last turn on the winding country road as the top of the old, wooden roller coaster peeks out from the trees, gives my stomach a jolt of excitement. I'll never forget when I was a little girl, how the sight of that coaster, the sound of it whooshing and whomping along the track, and the laughter and thrill screams from countless people who rode it, alerted me to the fact that our family had just arrived at Conneaut Lake Park. And just as it had many times before, the coaster didn't fail to disappoint.

 My son and I put our heads together this year for a Mother's Day jaunt. Not the usual type of mother/son duo, we enjoy things of a more eclectic nature. Last year Matt took me to haunted Hillview Manor for a daytime ghost tour. It was a wonderful old building with incredible architecture and the feel of ghostly happenings in many of its crumbling corners. How could we top a trip of that nature?

We arrived at Conneaut Park yesterday as the rain began clearing. Though the park hasn't opened for the season just yet, we were permitted to walk along its paths, reliving the feel of a bygone era and our own youth. We parked at Hotel Conneaut since we had reservations a little later for the Mother's Day brunch.

With both of our camera's in hand, we headed off into the heart of the park. I had been watching several of the Facebook pages that had to do with this incredible place. The Devil's Den, a favorite dark ride of ours, seemed to have a wonderful guy as its operator/caregiver. For you see, if you have a true love of all things historical to do with an amusement park, you become its caregiver of a sort.

"Devil's Den Tom" is appropriately named. A fun, approachable fellow, whose knowledge of his ride and history of many of the others is above what we expected.

Matt and I settled in for many tales that Tom told us of his years of upkeep on the Den. He also is a certified ride inspector, so he is aware of safety issues and history of many of the rides throughout the park. We received one of the most awesome gifts from Tom, as he toured us through the Devil's Den in walk-through fashion. Never before had either Matt or I had the chance to go through a ride with a true first eye view of what goes on behind the scenes. It was a dream come true for both of us--and a way to feel more connected to a beloved place that has been a part of our family for many years.

Just standing outside the old dark ride, the scent of motor grease and old wood rises on the slight breeze. If you close your eyes, it takes you back to childhood, to school picnics, to simpler times. You remember your parents and their love; you remember the sense of belonging. You remember small vacation trips that were some of the best of your life. You picture the clack, clack, clack of the cars as they begin the journey through the doors of the old spook house, awaiting whatever ghouls and ghosties are ready to dole out at any moment. If you rode with a parent when you were young, chances are that they held onto you tightly showing you that there was nothing to fear. It was all good clean fun.

A little later, after a sumptuous meal, Matt and I strolled through the remainder of the park at our leisure. The silence in Kiddie Land seems alive with what awaits in the new season. Upon searching in nearby woods, I found the beginning and ending of an old jungle cruise ride--one I hadn't seen in years. A rickety bridge stretched over mossy water; the now defunct station where we once stood to board the pontoon boat that would take you around scores of natives and wild animals was abandoned and off-limits.

The carousel stood boarded up nearby. No way to see the lovely stallions, stately lions, tigers and bears! (Oh my!) But when we walked around the back of the building, a small loose board stood slightly ajar. I peered into the darkness and called Matt over. Like something out of "Mr. Dark's carnival," we could see the ghostly outlines of the carousel beasts. No music, not the stir of a breeze or dried leaf. But the feeling of observing this was something magical. For it felt as if we stumbled upon a secret--one only we were privy to at this moment.

Other parts of the park lie in wait for the amazing volunteers that will sweep through as they finish getting it ready for another season. Though I know we will return once it's opened, I found that this day of reliving precious memories and moments with nobody else present, helped me to truly treasure a unique place that my parents loved, my brother loved, I loved, and my son loved.

Here's to you Conneaut Lake Park to many more years for new families and old to walk through your midway, to enjoy the treasure of family time and make memories of their own.

 Park sign near the hotel. All painted and ready for a new season.

 Wonderful old kiddie land auto ride. I'm sure they are the same ones I rode as a child!

 The awesome dark ride! So many other parks have gotten rid of theirs.

 Matt might be standing around a little longer waiting for the ride to open.

 The exit platform to the Jungle Cruise ride from many, many years ago. So cool.

 I've never seen this little treasure. The original bridge to the Jungle Cruise ride. Oh how our family loved this one back in the day!

 How cool is this? Though I'd never walk across, it just screams of another era. Oh the stories a bridge could tell.

Part of the park near miniature golf.

Hotel Conneaut in its grand splendor! Hoping for many more years at this glorious historical place.

Thank you, son, for one of the most memorable Mother's Days ever!

Devil's Den Facebook page: /

The park's Facebook page: