Monday, June 14, 2021

A Promise to my Father

 







(Photograph: Uncle Peppy, my father's brother.)

As Dad's life began winding down, it was more important to me than ever to find out all I could about him. Though there had been countless stories told, perhaps I'd missed something. One thing I wondered about for years was the relationship he and his brother, Joe, (Uncle Peppy), had and why we didn't see his family. There had been speculation that an old rift had torn the family apart. Though I saw my uncle several times, and always enjoyed his visits, his children were always strangely absent. Why?

One of Dad's favorite stories was that his brother bought him a Lone Ranger watch when he was a little kid. Uncle Peppy (Joe) was considerably older and not around while my father was a youngster. But somehow he knew that his little brother loved that radio show, and the greatest gift Dad ever received was that watch. Then through the years when I was a child, Uncle Peppy would stop by and my father just beamed when he was around. They resembled one another and talked non-stop.

The only time I saw my father cry was the day he found out that his brother Joe passed away in early 2000. I didn't know how to console him, so I gave him space and let him grieve in his way. Though our family was never affectionate, we all knew how much we loved one another. Sometimes even in silence.

 I began to think about my uncle's family. Why hadn't we been close with them? Uncle Peppy's visits were always fun and pleasant. But my cousins, well, that was a different story. Why didn't they come on these trips with him. And more importantly, where were they now? Would I be able to find them? Would they even want contact with my family?

I remembered the married last name of Uncle Peppy's daughter and I found her oldest daughter on Facebook. She would not know me, but I carefully reached out, conveying how important it was for me to contact this side of the family. We wrote emails back and forth for a while. I told my father about hearing from her and he was absolutely thrilled that I'd found someone from their family.

Unfortunately Dad became very sick about that time and passed away shortly after. I'd promised him that I would continue reaching out to find if any of the others might be interested in hearing from a cousin they had probably not seen since the 1960's. 

To my surprise, the oldest son, Ron, wrote back to me. I couldn't have been happier to hear from this cousin I barely remembered. But would he be as happy as I was? Or would old family differences get in the way? I soon found out. Our emails were engaging and when we spoke by phone we had a lot to chat about. We shared photographs back and forth. I met some of his children through Facebook as well.

This past Saturday, something wonderful happened. I met my cousin Ron! He came for a visit to my home. He was an amazing, intelligent, warm man. I couldn't stop staring at him because he reminded me so much of our grandfather. His voice was similar to his dad's, and I could see "Mattia," our last name, written all over him. We enjoyed several hours of great conversation. We learned things about our families and past that helped put some of the puzzle pieces back together. Oh how I wished I could call my father and tell him all of this...

When you've lost someone you adored, as much as I did with my dad, you look for anyone and anything that reminds you of them. When you find it, you embrace it or them, with everything inside you. Not alone any longer, there is family and though you never knew them, you do now and you forgive any past hurt or divisions that kept you apart. You go forward with the knowledge that there are more of you... pieces of your past that connect you to those you loved and you go on so much better than before.

Here's to our visit, cousin Ron! I will never forget it, and I truly look forward to reconnecting many more times!

All my love,

Karen


Me and cousin Ron!


My brother Rick got to meet our cousin too!


Sunday, April 25, 2021

Visit to My First Home

 



Heart pounding, palms sweating. Anxiety I wear you well.

Steps on the sidewalk of my youth; where chalk drawings are now faded, hopscotch blurred in chalky memory, but uneven pavement still tries to trip me. Yet I do not falter.

Closer now, I feel so big—so tall. I wasn’t this size before. Eleven is little, small, tiny, not this giant I have become. Everything is dwarfed because I am older. Yes, there was a patch of dirt where two girls made a mud pie. The countless journeys on bicycles, as if they were cars; stop on red, go on green. My house now is before me.

Dad had it built for my mother. This is where hopes and dreams were going to come true. Right next door to his mama and papa, the properties touched and merged almost magically.

The hedges are gone. They used to catch my clothing, and the rose bushes with their thorns reaching out their slender tendrils—the scent intoxicating from every color imaginable. Gone now too. Four O’Clocks, pinchy bush Dad called a Fitzer. But there is the huge picture window and the porch, yes. One, two, three steps. I am standing where I haven’t stood since 1972.

Tears flow freely. I knew they would. Oh mom and dad, I feel you here but you are not. I loved you here and that lives on. She welcomes me; the lady whose home it has been for many years, a smile on her face as tears make hot trails down my cheeks. And then I enter.

Our front room—living room. Lots of living went on here. Dad sat by the window in a recliner, and Mom preferred the couch across the room. I liked the floor, sitting cross-legged watching Gilligan’s Island, Mannix, The Carol Burnett Show, and more. They talked, laughed, sang, and taught me about life in this room of living.

Our stone fireplace is still there with small cracks and crevices—the place where heaping wrapping paper was placed after a big Christmas morning. Stuffed, waiting for my father to light it later that night while I watched for sparks to spit from between the screen. I touch it, the cool feel of the grey stone and my Dad is there too.

We walk into the old kitchen, now the new one, so updated and lovely. She decorates beautifully; we lived a little plainer, but I see the back door that led down, down, down steps to play with my cousins between the two houses. The walkway made of bricks out there and the coolness of the old grape arbor, now only a single- stemmed vine. And my grandparents are there.

I turn back into the kitchen and see where Mom stood many hours cooking, baking, making magic. Her appliances are in the same spots and though the cupboards are changed, I see them turn to light wood once again. And my mother is there.

The basement is next and it is here that I see the most changes. Once only a cellar made of cement floor and cement block walls painted light green, there is paneling and flooring and different rooms—no longer the wide open basement to roller skate around and around. Yet one thing remains untouched. Dad’s little work shop, spare room, he called it. His shoemaker supplies were in there, and I can smell the old leather and polish. In there the old cement blocks are untouched and yet I touch and feel the coolness under my hand and it warms me. The floor is where my dad stood, and I take his hand in my heart and he squeezes back so gently.

When we take the stairs to the second floor, they creak in all the right spots. I can’t imagine the sounds that were such a big part of life now bringing me to life again and sharing their secrets with me. Little girl, they whisper, you’ve come home.

To the top of the stairs I see my old playroom. It is a craft room now, lovely and perfect but it was perfect in my time too with dolls, games, child’s vanity set, record player, view master, colorforms, Barbie, and Beautiful Crissy. And then there is my bedroom.

The sliding closet doors with the wood grain are still there and they used to look like scary faces to me as a child, but now they look happy and they approve of my arrival. I make peace with them and give away all the scary thoughts I held so close—I give away a portion of myself—the sad little girl, and a new butterfly emerges from her cocoon and she flies free.

The bathroom is fairly unchanged, and yes, it is our old tub but it looks amazing. And it’s the one place I feel a chill run through me as I picture the day Mom fell there and had the cardiac arrest; but I also feel a good chill as the thoughts bring me to her Near Death Experience and amazing good life. No, your life didn’t end here, Mom. In many ways, it began.

We are in my parent’s bedroom next and there is a huge butterfly on the wall—a decoration which practically bowls me over with its meaning. Mom, you loved butterflies. They were special to you. I stand where I used to watch my mom and dad sleeping; making sure they were there, making sure they were breathing. It’s a good room, filled with sensory memories—a jewelry box of my mother’s that I loved looking through and her Evening in Paris perfume; Dad’s little cedar chest of army medals, Lemon Pledge. Mom sang Bushel and a Peck to me in this room, and Little Lamb. She called me her shining star.

Down the steps, my hand lightly grazes the wrought iron railing; I used to play with the bottom part that moved and now I reach out and slide it up and back and I am eleven all over again.

My visit is almost at an end as I wander through the back yard. It looks so small to me, and the big tree is gone, and nothing is the same. But my eyes wander to the flower bed where beloved pets are laid to rest. My heart cracks as I honor them with a prayer of thanksgiving for the comfort they brought.

I say goodbye and whisper I love you to my house that is no longer my house. But I will always love you and treasure our time there, good and bad. I say goodbye to Mom as she disappears into the wind and the swaying flowers; and then Dad, as he follows her where I cannot go. My grandparents blow a gentle kiss and they, too are gone.

My peace is made, and it’s taken fifty years. Fifty years in the blink of an eye. But I am changed, I am better.


Thursday, April 15, 2021

How a Childhood Obsession Encourages Others

 


     None of us ever dreamed that an obsession from my thirty-two-year-old son’s youth would end up saving lives. He’s not a firefighter or policeman. He’s not a surgeon or EMT. What is it about his passion for playing claw machines that led to helping others?

     Ever since he was about four, my shy son Matt fell in love with being filmed by a video camera. His dad would record fun moments spent with he and his brother, and little Matt could watch himself on the television screen for hours. When they began spending time in arcades, their father taught them how to play a crane game also known as claw machines. Matt couldn’t believe that you won an actual prize—usually some sort of stuffed animal—if you played well enough. With their wins recorded for posterity, the boys and their dad bonded over watching their moments of victory captured on film.

     To my dismay, however, as he got older, Matt started getting really good at these games. We had boxes and bags filled to the brim with stuffed animals and small prizes spilling out of them that we packed in our attic and all available spaces. To Matt, they were like trophies of his special wins. It became difficult for him to part with them. To a mom, they were unnecessary clutter.

      I watched Matt become a little more shy and withdrawn as he headed into his early teen years. He didn’t make friends easily, and one day he came home from school and told me that he felt invisible. None of the kids seemed to pay any attention to him. He felt like he was always in the background. My heart broke when he added, “Mom, what am I good at?”

     I panicked at that moment. God, please help me give him the right answer. What is he good at? He didn’t care for sports or music. All he really loved was arcades and playing those goofy claw machines. “You’ll find out when you are a little older, honey,” I said, hoping this would be sufficient.

     At seventeen, Matt got his first job and began saving up for a dream of his—to own an actual claw machine! The day it was delivered, my son began quickly learning the ins and outs of the workings and mechanisms. He found ways to program it and decided to film himself talking about his journey to the claw machine.

     A few years later, Matt decided to put the videos he made onto YouTube. It might be fun to see if anyone actually watched his series which he called—of course—“Journey to the Claw Machine.” To his surprise, he began to receive comments and likes from people everywhere. It seemed that his new “fans” were just like him—all ages with a passion for winning prizes from an arcade game!

     As time passed, Matt grew to over a million followers on his YouTube account. He became partnered with them, and decided to do this for a living. He added in other arcade games and even miniature golf with friends and the videos quickly took off.

     In about 2013, a young girl reached out to Matt in a personal letter. She told him how much she loved his silly style of arcade adventures. She was his biggest fan, she said, and wanted to meet him one day. She told him that she had been a “cutter” and also had thought on several occasions of taking her life. Finding Matt was as if someone threw a life preserver to her to hang onto and find positivity. After she met him at a fan meet and greet, she made her own video: “I was on the brink of suicide. Whenever I was down, his videos gave me a sense of comfort. Just knowing he was out there. Not only is he talented, but he has a huge heart. He reminds me there is more to life than what stresses me out. And whatever I’m going through, it gets better.”

     Matt knew something about depression. There were relatives in our family who were clinically depressed. There seemed to be no escaping the blues. He’d had his own times of overwhelming sadness, darkness, and insecurity. He understood where this girl was coming from, and then others began reaching out to him as well.

     Matt, you’re the reason I can handle another day . . . Matt, if it wasn’t for watching your videos, I don’t know if I would still be here. You gave me a reason to live . . .

     During the pandemic year, Matt once again struggled with his own issues. He recently wrote on his page: “It’s been a crazy year and still continues to be kind of crazy. I just wanted to post this and say that if you are feeling down, or not yourself, then you are not alone. It’s ok to feel this way and take some time to care for your mental health. I’ve taken a little time today myself to reflect and watch some older videos and I got emotional, not gonna lie, because there’s been plenty of days in the recent months where I haven’t felt like my true self, like I did years back in those videos. I always try and put my heart, soul, and passion into every video I do for you guys and I apologize if there’s times where I haven’t seemed like myself lately. I’m not ashamed sharing this—we’re all human and we have struggles, even people that don’t seem like they do. I always try to be real with everyone. More importantly, if I can help people going through similar struggles to help them realize they aren’t alone, then I feel like I’m doing something good for others and using my platform for something positive. Thanks for understanding everyone. Matt”    

     One of the responses he received was this: “About two years ago, I was in a very dark place. I was on the verge of taking my own life. I hate to think about it. I hated myself. I hated what I did. I hated everything. Nothing was fun. Everything was just meshed together in dark disarray. Then I found you. Your videos. I saw this grown man just having the time of his life. The way you carried yourself. How silly you could be and just simply not care. Envious, is the best word I could describe, but you showed me that I can truly be myself. I can have fun and enjoy myself. So I went to the arcade. I felt awkward. Weird. But then I hit a jackpot and it was like all my emotions just leaped out of me. I was going crazy and nobody seemed to even watch. In that moment my life was saved. I’m not trying to sound philosophical or anything. I’m just saying that you can truly find happiness in the little things. Now I go to the arcade regularly with my little brother. I am I a good place and you are a reason why, so thank you Matt.” 

     To answer your old question, son, I think we found something you are really good at. You are certainly not “invisible” any longer. You are seen by over a million viewers! What you have is a God-given gift. May He continue to bless your journey as you encourage others.

     On a side note, the young girl from a few years ago informed us that she recently became an EMT.

 

      Matt gives away a lot of his wins, or sometimes he specifically wins something for others. This makes my heart happy:


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ix4mdXqv_BI&list=UUMe8Y3zO7_la3uHaWR3OVrg&index=5









Friday, January 15, 2021

Bushel and a Peck: Hope, Healing, and Unconditional Love




 

My mother told me that she’d had a secret name for me. She called me her ‘Shining Star.’ Like a blazing trail of light, I was always the one thing Mom could come back to. When she knew nothing else, she still knew me. She said I’d been like a beacon of hope to guide her home. It was a title that rooted my love deeply for my mom. I could see the patterns of her life now. It became clear that she’d never been weak. My mother had only wanted to be loved . . .

 Mom’s mental illness stigma made my early life anything but ordinary. But my father’s quiet courage helped to guide us through. Later, from strong businesswoman to Alzheimer’s, my mother would leave a legacy of lasting love, and Dad, one of incredible strength.


It took me four years to write this novel, but a lifetime to live it. Though sometimes I look back now and feel there was never enough time with Mom and Dad, I know that my parent's lives and their love carry on in me, my brother, and son.

This memoir is deeply personal to share, and it isn't just another journey of Alzheimer's though there are many wonderful books on the subject from my fellow authors. This is a story of how one man loved one woman unconditionally enough to go through hell and back, and how a family's faith allowed them to glimpse times of miracles. It is my own story of insecurity, fear, anxiety, and tears. It is God's love poured into me so much that I pray it overflows into you as you read it.

Thank you for allowing me this little bit of self-promotion as I share my book with you. If you are blessed by it, I would truly love to hear from you. My email is scoutfinch15003@yahoo.com


https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1944938303/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_taft_p1_i0?fbclid=IwAR15DEv2Q8CMk7unr3wIP-15wDQWzOTToO3liMybwgY08CN101-nv7CyhBo



 https://www.amazon.com/Bushel-Peck-Healing-Unconditional-Memoir-ebook/dp/B08T243T5M/ref=sr_1_2?dchild=1&keywords=karen%20malena&qid=1610752671&sr=8-2&fbclid=IwAR1TJleeABOW-qDgHEG7mix3ymsyjsuZqjGGZzevCgx8PfuX1z2UQyAsuZY







Saturday, January 9, 2021

Healing Hands

 




The phone rang at the small dental office where I worked. “We need you to come in for an x-ray. There appears to be a spot on your lungs.”

I clicked off the portable phone with shaking hands. The dentist looked at me across the patient we’d been working on. As the only employee- dental assistant and receptionist- my duties were numerous. I knew that my boss didn’t like me to get personal calls. But I think he could tell by the look on my face that it was something very serious.

Fear grabbed hold of me. I had no words. I had to finish the patient’s procedure while my stomach cramped and clenched with terror. I tried not to let my hands shake as we continued working.

I imagined the worst right away. I’d always been a glass-half-empty sort-of person. News always meant something bad. But this—a spot on my lung. It had to be cancer.

So many thoughts assaulted me at once. I’m only thirty-eight. My son is ten. I can’t leave him now. He needs me. What about my parents? We were such a close family. What would this do to them?

After we dismissed the patient, I told my boss about the phone call. I excused myself from the office for the rest of the day. I had to find answers.

I drove three blocks to my physician’s office. I barely noticed the brilliant hues of the red and gold fall leaves on the trees lining the streets. People walking along the sidewalks blurred as tears stung my eyes. Though Thanksgiving would soon be approaching, I had nothing to be thankful about.

I’d recently had minor outpatient surgery. Everything had gone well and I’d been on my way to complete recovery. It seemed odd that the doctor called me now after I’d had all the pre-testing and x-rays done over a month before. Nobody had informed me of any issues and I’d been cleared for the procedure.

When I walked into the doctor’s office and informed the receptionist I was there, she told me to wait a few minutes and they would call me back shortly. I tried picking up a magazine to browse through or tried smiling at the others seated nearby. Nothing worked. I could feel fear choking me.

New x-rays were taken and I waited for the doctor in an examination room. It didn’t take long for him to bring in the new films.

“Here it is,” he pointed out. “A spot on your left lung.” He compared it to the x-rays taken one month before.

The words hung in the air until I had the courage to ask, “What can it be, doctor?”

“Well,” he said, “it could be an old scar from pneumonia you may have had at one time, or it could be cancer.”

Cancer: a word that changes lives. It would certainly change mine.

I left his office that afternoon completely baffled and fearful. Further tests would have to be scheduled.

I called my mother that night. “First of all, I refuse to believe this,” she said. “Also your doctor was too harsh. I want you to have a second opinion, honey. I’d like you to see my doctor. She’s good and also very compassionate.”

Mom also told me about a pastor she had recently met in the little antique shop she owned. “He was a good man,” my mother said. “We got to talking about so many things the day he was in the store. He told me incredible stories of healing. He said he had been given the gift of healing hands. I’d like to call him for you if that’s okay.”

Though I’d been a bit skeptical as I waited for further tests, I knocked on the door of the pastor’s small home. He invited me in, and we sat and chatted for a while. Pictures of Jesus hung on the wood-paneled walls: Jesus comforting little children and the sick. Jesus, please comfort me too, I thought. Bibles and inspirational reference books lined bookshelves. A sense of peace enveloped me.

 I wanted to clear my conscience before he prayed. There were issues that recently bothered me and had given me great guilt. As I spoke, I felt cleansed and a sense of great relief.

He anointed my forehead with spice- scented oil that reminded me of the incense our church used during special seasons. He placed his hands on my head as he prayed. I could feel the depth and power of the healing words as he spoke. There seemed to be a warm sensation going from his hands right through me. When he was done, I thanked him. He asked me to stay in touch.

During the time I had to wait for the scheduled tests, I kept busy with something I enjoyed: raking fall leaves into huge piles on a crisp afternoon. My mind felt free in the fresh air. I’d been reading my Bible daily like a warrior getting ready for battle. I prayed bolder prayers and began to think a bit more positive. The fear that had engulfed me was replaced by a sense of calmness. The touch of the pastor’s hands had given me hope.

My mother’s doctor met us at the local hospital the day of my tests. She was a tiny lady with a big personality. “I’m going to be around,” she said to me and Mom. “I want to see the results of the scan immediately.”

Afterward, when we sat in the waiting area, my mother’s doctor came into the room with a perplexed, but cheerful expression. “I don’t know what the other doctor saw,” she said. “There is absolutely nothing on your scans.”

Relief flooded me. Mom and I thanked her for the wonderful news as we hugged one another and cried happy tears.

Later that night as I was praying, I remembered something that a friend had said to me a few months earlier. She’d called me one day and said, “Karen, I don’t know why you are supposed to hear these particular words, but God said everything is going to be okay.”

They had been cryptic, but comforting words at the time, and as I thanked my heavenly father that evening, it came to me: I’d already been healed from that moment.

It was easier to think positively as time went on because I’d become a more powerful prayer warrior. When others had issues in their lives, I gave them Bible passages that had comforted me during my own fearful time. I shared my story to bless others. Scriptures were no longer words but living truth. No longer fearful and negative, my life was filled with true thanksgiving.  It was the best Thanksgiving ever.

 

 


Monday, December 14, 2020

The Tree That Could

 














Old friend, you've been a wonderful companion. You've given so much more than you take. Is it any wonder my heart is broken that I may have to lose you?

Oh, I know what you're thinking: It's just a tree . . . But what a tree! When I first moved to the neighborhood fifteen years ago in the spring, glorious pink flowers cascaded throughout the slender branches. Bees buzzed in the floral extravaganza, birds perched nearby awaiting nest building times. Squirrels sat sentinel observing the lookouts where many nuts and goodies would soon be stored.

When the pastel blossoms fell as my friend made ready for leafy growth, they spread like a flowering snowfall along the driveway and porch. They paved a lovely path toward summer and all that grows. I made another friend, a male cardinal, who waited in the lower branches of the tree's embrace. When I called out that the seeds were ready, he would fly down and land upon the sundial I use as birdfeeder. He would chirp his thanks, and then the next morning, he would return singing a heavenly song that felt it was meant for only me.

Near the fall, the crisp, hard crab apples formed and then fell from you. Deer snacked through the night, awaiting the cover of darkness, their private time for family. Then the season of the snowfall and that precious tree never looked more robed in splendor. I stood in awe many many moments, my thoughts swirling with the snowflakes and listened to the silence.

Knotholes adorned your trunk; so many creatures took warmth in the shelter of your arms. Nests were built again, critters scampered and scurried as you loved them well.

Little by little, I am losing you. Large parts of who you once were came crashing down. Though you never would harm any of us, I knew it was time--time for the tree surgeon. But did he offer a ray of hope? Perhaps might I not have to lose you? You've been the tree that could. The miracle tree. You bloomed in winter once when my spirits needed to believe. You are my friend. And I will take care of you until you whisper your final farewell.









Monday, November 2, 2020

Heart Choices (An election story)

 




I don't know your story and you don't really know mine. I don't know what's in the deepest recesses of your heart, nor do you know what is in mine. Yet I do know that we are children of the same Father God. We are His. We are blessed by Him, loved by Him, and cared for. We may know great sadness, even despair, but out of great pain, He can bring amazing joy.

What goes on behind closed doors we can only imagine in our neighborhoods and towns. We see with our eyes, but don't really open our hearts. We hear with our ears, but the truth is under the surface most of the time. I've judged others and so I have been judged. But it's time for a change of that hardened heart of mine. Is it time for yours too?

Not all of us will be voting for the same party at this election. Not all of us believe that Covid is as frightening as somebody else does. We make fun of what we don't understand and talk about what is different from us. I am as guilty as everyone else. I look, but I do not see sometimes. I do not see what is inside that person who is so very different from me; that person who makes different choices than I do, or holds different beliefs. 

I want to set my heart right. I want my soul to shine when I speak and in my actions. I want to be quick to ask for forgiveness when I've done wrong, and quick to forgive even if it is something from many years ago. I want to leave a legacy for my children of a life well-lived, even a life that has changed for the better with each passing year.

I want to view the world through the eyes of a child but not to live childishly. For there is a difference you see. My heart must be simple, moldable, the clay through which the Father can work. No matter who wins this election, or who comes out on top, or if I believe what is said on every single political commercial, I want to live right. I want to trust that our United States will go on and thrive. I want to believe that in God we trust and that He is always in control no matter who sits on any political throne.

Let's be the change. Let's stop the hate and the bitterness; the indifference and the anger. Be the change that you want your children, grandchildren, nieces, and nephews to see. Be the light and love. Do it with a simple heart of childlike wonder.


Friday, August 21, 2020

I Gained So Much More

 



In the early 1980's, I married very young. He was charming, handsome, and funny. Everything a girl could hope for. He loved my family, and they loved him right back. Some things began to happen three years into the marriage that began to concern me. The day he told me he was leaving me, I felt as if I ceased to live. I couldn't eat or sleep well, and my self-esteem plummeted. I knew there had to be something wrong with me. Maybe if I had been prettier, skinnier, more affluent. 

My family was hurting right along with me. My little brother had adored him, and my parents couldn't get over the shock. Time passed, as it does, and I lost touch with his family.

Several years later, I found my ex in-laws once again. My father-in-law cried when we saw one another. We spoke for a while, and then I began to get together with them and my sister-in-law occasionally. It was as if time hadn't passed. These people were still family to me, and I found out that they felt the same way about me.

I was invited to dinners over their homes. I visited with my mother-in-law when she was in the hospital. When my father-in-law passed away, I grieved. I stayed with them through their sad time and if possible, grew even closer.

It's been several years now. My life has changed drastically from that twenty-one-year-old girl. I have a son, a new marriage and have lost my own parents more recently. But one thing that has remained is the lovely friendship I've retained with my dear first sister-in-law and mother-in-law. At 93, Mum is an amazing woman. Beautiful, soft-spoken, gracious, and generous. Any time spent with these two is precious to me and I come away from our visits, a better person.

I wouldn't have known them if I hadn't been married to the man who left me so long ago. Though I never see him, I don't miss what I never had. But what I did have was so much more. I was blessed with people who loved me unconditionally. People I was able to love in return and show my true self. I was blessed with relationships that I would never have had otherwise and kind words, prayers, meals, gifts, conversation and laughter.

God can turn any situation around. He can make a masterpiece from disaster. He can give love back to someone who felt as if they would never matter to anyone again. He showed me more beauty with these family members through my life, than I may have had if I'd never known them.

I gained the kindest friends from something that was meant for harm. I gained so much more from the callousness of another. Never think that God won't give you beauty for ashes. His trade off is so much better than the original pain that we feel. 


Monday, June 1, 2020

Masterpiece from Messes




Sometimes that old devil tries to remind me that I'm not that good at anything. Cakes that I put effort into fall flat. Bread dough doesn't rise, and the new recipe I tried for dinner has hubby looking at me with less than joy on his face.

Same thing with craft projects. If I'm drawing, I erase enough times that a hole ends up in the paper. When gluing items together, I look at the finished product and then it tumbles like a house of cards. Crocheting is an area I'm especially sensitive. I've watched countless tutorials on how to get that perfect edge and still, I look back after a few rows and I've got a distorted rectangle. Is there nothing I'm one hundred percent perfect at?

When I write a blog, short story, or even get lost in putting a book together, I plunge forward, so happy that the words are flowing and everything I want to convey is smooth and mistake free. But let's face it: nothing is without flaws. That's where I got the inspiration for today's blog.

Can we possibly make a masterpiece of some of the messes we've made? Figuratively as well as literally? I've messed up in life enough times, fallen short as mother, daughter, sister, friend, and wife. Yet people seem to forgive me and still love me. I was short-tempered with my mom during her battle with dementia. I still remember times that my actions or words hurt a friend or my husband. I feel that my son had the worst parent in the world when I think of dumb things I did.

Can I take all that and offer it to the One who can make a better me? Sure I was short with Mom. It wasn't easy. I hurt so much inside missing the woman she once was. Yet there were other times that I forgave myself and found kindness and patience--more than I ever would have imagined. As a mother, I see the good young man my son has grown into, and despite any flaws in my parenting, he makes me proud and happy. Words that are said unkindly can't be taken back, but I have learned to be a person to ask for forgiveness quickly. Or to say I'm sorry; I want to do better. Then I work on those areas that are most difficult.

So, when a craft project, drawing, crocheting, or other creative things come out less than perfect, what if I step back and take a look at them? Can I see something else in the pattern perhaps? Something I hadn't even thought of? I turned a distorted lap blanket into a cozy pillow cover for my couch. I was ready to throw out a month's worth of work until I saw something different.

Satan, not today! Today I'll focus on what I've learned from my mistakes. I'll be a better woman, wife, mother, friend, sister, and worker. I'll crochet my little heart out and if something goes awry, it will become something even better! Just like me!


Wednesday, April 29, 2020

The New Normal










Yesterday I did something I've probably never done. I've taken naps before; sometimes on days when exhaustion sets in from overworking, and these virus laden days certainly. But when our alarm went off at five a.m., and Jim left a little before six, I went back to bed for four hours! I couldn't believe I'd slept that long.

Unfortunately that wrought havoc on my nighttime schedule. I tossed and turned for the longest time at bedtime. I had aches and pains that kept me up, thoughts that decided to sneak into my mind, and songs that played on their endless soundtrack of craziness.

I'd like to tell you I'm used to our new normal but there's a part of me that wants to fight it with everything within. I want to whip the old face mask off, shake some hands, hug some folks, and gather with large masses of people. It's the nonconformist in me. However good girl wins for now, and I obey being diligent, washing hands, wearing my gear, and sanitizing everything in sight.

I've been writing more than usual, and that is a good thing. I never would have had this much time otherwise. The writer's block that closed the creative center of my brain for the last three years is finally gone and I'm back in the saddle so to speak.

What other things do I do? I've been cooking better meals and baking more. I watch movies I wouldn't have had time for. I exercise a little each day, or try to get outdoors in the fresh air as much as possible. I crochet, clean closets, look through memorabilia and otherwise think deep thoughts. Some of this hasn't been too bad I guess.

Bird songs are clearer, flowering trees are prettier, the air is cleaner; appreciation for nature is sacred right now.

I hope that you are getting used to your new normal, but let's not love it, let's just like it a little. Because time will pass, jobs will return, business as usual, and we may lose a bit of the newfound joy and passion we discovered on this journey.