a brewing storm

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I agree with Ruth when she said, “…everyone who is walking on this big rock of a planet has a storm brewing, a storm raging, or a storm calming around them…” I have been in storms, I’m currently in a storm and another is around the corner.”

They sometimes come out apparently from nowhere. Last Sunday the phone rang at 10:45 pm.

“Mom, please start praying, for the next fifteen minutes please pray. A mega tornado is heading our way, we’re worried about Global first, we have three families in the storm shelter there.”

Tupelo

10:45 call to pray

I was worried about them and glad that I said, “you will always be grateful for a basement, Em, when they purchased their home in Tupelo, MS also known as (tornado alley). We have a tornado alley in Illinois also. I remembered back to my childhood when a family friend made it downstairs in the nick of time with her baby. The only thing that remained in the house was the basement!

But relationship storms always hit the hardest and hurt the most. We almost weren’t at our foster daughter’s wedding because of deep wounds and pain. I lost my best friend in life for thirty years because of saying the truth in love to her. Only recently she reached out and told me that she has forgiven me. However, the restoration process may never occur on this side of heaven. Six years ago my mom was very ill with Althezimers disease and passed away after a difficult illness. Right now my dad is struggling. We have had major mental health issues in our family. Sadly, it is a storm that keeps on giving.

I survive the storms currently and on many days I see the sun shining through. And even sometimes I get a glimpse of a rainbow.  It can only be attributed to one person.

Jesus is the rock on which I stand.  When I am slipping, slipping, slipping in the mire. He grasps me with his hand and when i press my fingers between his I can weather the heavy,heavy rains, sleet and hail that pummels my relationships. 

Though I walked with God for many years it is a more recent phenomena. I attribute it to abiding in his word, writing out my prayers and worship music. I am not the same person I was a year ago. My heart is squishy and tears come fast… tears of joy and yes… tears of agony. Many of you, my friends, I am convinced know that cry that comes straight from our gut, that ravages our souls.

It sometimes can be soothed by a mother’s hug or a husband’s embrace but I have found those moments lately where I’ve commented out loud, “Jesus, thank you for giving me that sign of your deep, deep love for me.”

Right now he’s giving me a signal to close… to send this out to you unedited or revised even though I know that I spelled Althezimers wrong. Leaving with how I actually wanted to start.

One of my favorite verses:

This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil… Hebrews 6:19 (NKJV)

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This morning the phone rang at 7 am. Dave was already up and meeting with his ‘Bible guys’ and I had thought, I might get to sleep a little longer, one of the most exciting things about being retired, but no… my daughter seems to love to talk before dropping her kids off at school and her workday begins.

I cleared my voice, and pulled off my CPAP before answering. “Hey Em, on your way to work?”

“No… almost out the door. I want to tell you something funny? You know I’m turning 38 next week.”

“Yep, our crab apple trees are almost blooming— they always remind me of your birth. Is turning 38 funny to you?” I thought to myself, gee whiz, my oldest is close to 40. That makes me feel…

She interrupted as usual, “No, but I feel like every day lately I’m turning into you and dad!”

“Just yesterday John just called me, Little Nanc, and this morning I told myself, I almost don’t want to go to Colorado next week because I’ll miss my peony bush blooming and it just makes me so sad inside.”

For the record, I’ve always had trouble getting Dave to cross the Illinois/Iowa border for fear that a bush would bloom without him present.

“Oh Em, that is a very, very serious problem you’ve inherited. But you can work on it because you are living in a state that has flowers most of the year, come on.” I sighed, loving that she is pretty much all her daddy’s girl. I suddenly asked, “Why did John happen to  call you Little Nancy?”

“Well, I don’t think I should say, you might get mad.”

Hmm…did you trip and roll your ankle? Did you put on something and attempting to squeeze your bod into clothes you should no longer be wearing? Did you sigh and moan looking for something in your junk drawer that was precious to you? Did you scream, hurry up, we’re going to be late and this family is never late!

I said, ” Come on honey, you’ve got to tell me?”

“Oh, I’ll tell you eventually, mom— I tell you everything. Love you, gotta go.”

“Love you too.”

In the background, I hear,

“Samantha, and Juliette — grab your backpacks, we’ve got to leave, NOW— You both need to realize that this family is never late !”

As I walked to the lake I smiled happily, humming, “cat’s in the cradle with the silver spoon— she’s grown up just like me.

Em’s tree, partially blooming will be all set for her birthday. Oh how I love this girl.

…going back, please

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I just want to, okay?

I want a time machine just back to when we could easily move my dad from place to place. When our little grands were littler and things just felt so black and white and not as confusing. To when we at least had one of our daughters living close, to a time when wearing masks seemed laughable.

That time machine would also go back several years to when refugees were easily brought to our country, and people desperately wanted to work with seniors who needed help navigating their final days on this planet. For two years we have been in caregiver crisis mode. My dad, Bob, is pictured with our daughter and girls only two short years ago before Christmas. He had had a big fall the summer prior to this picture, but only needed help in the morning, and at night in his home where he still lives independently.

That all changed this past fall. He went down after rolling his ankle, had surgery with pins and plates on his birthday, and a horrible rehab experience that didn’t allow us to visit for eight long weeks. His memory, his cognitive abilities are now so diminished. It has been so very hard. In the midst of this he has lost two extraordinary caregivers, one young man from Uganda and then another wonderful woman from the Philippines. After his hospitalization we have had a parade of people come and go for about three months. We have been living in caregiver crisis.

I can’t understand why our care organization can’t get someone steady and faithful to work with this sweet man who just needs help getting up and down from his chair to his walker. Our caregiver from Uganda was deported. Our caregiver from the Philippines blamed herself for his fall … she was not at fault. We begged and pleaded. All we want is a person to live with him faithfully, and treat him with respect and dignity.

And I am exhausted.

And I just want to see my kids and grands who live in other states (now that we have shot #2).

I know everyone says that refugees are complicated and difficult to bring into our country. This is true because our past administration drastically cut the numbers allowed. Many say that people from our country are out of work and we need to employ them first. I agree in part, however, from my perspective, it doesn’t seem like too many people want to care for needy 96 year olds either.

Refugees are trying to escape desperate situations— crave steady work, and have made the difficult decision to leave their beloved homeland. Many are ready, willing and able to offer companionship to the elderly, and hopefully our new administration will open our borders very, very soon. Many of us also want our country to wade into the murky waters, and offer a clear path to citizenship for the people in our land who have come illegally also.

On Friday, I met a new caregiver for my dad. She came to the states as a refugee during the genocide in Rwanda. I haven’t heard her entire story yet, but has worked with another older person for ten years who just died at age 109. The woman she cared for out lived her own three children. When I met with her she was still grieving the loss of her American mama.

By her words and countenance I could tell she was tender, respectful— full of love. I only pray that she will stay with my dad until the Lord takes him home.

PS If any of you are interested in helping with the refugee crisis there are many organizations that so this wonderful work. I am partial to these two: World Relief and my daughter-in-law works for Lutheran Family services. Check them out to learn more.

Spring Wildness

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SPRING—Geese.

Honking geese,

Hissing geese,

Red-tongue waggling geese.

I take aim with my laser pointer. The pair does not exit to water. Anger, springs.

I use words. Go to the island. That is your home. You are not welcome here. You are messy; you do not listen. You never fly south. You terrorize.

Now up close, I raise my wings, become large.

One sits solidly on the bank, but the other, raises up to his enemy,

Me.

Still determined I press forward eye to eye we face off.

I shoot the laser in his evil goosey eye,

He does not blink.

My arms grow weary. I fold them in front of me in praying surrender, and start to back away.

The two geese switch positions quickly,

As I continue to stare, I know there is only one reason they would switch positions.

Eggs,

Five fat eggs will be hatching,

Mama and Papa fiercely protect—

Spring, on Pine Lake.

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open

sailors’ delight

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We sat. Together, shoulder-to-shoulder, we faced west; knitting my left hand in hers, she squeezed.

 

“Why so sad, Nancy? Red sky at night—,”

 

I finished her words, “sailors’ delight.”

 

Mom smiled, her eyes luminous. “You’ve got that look honey, like we’ll never be back, or be in this moment again.”

 

I shifted uneasily on our bench on the pier. The water lapped softly, the road was quiet, and I noticed the glow of the sunset on my sweet mom’s face. The two of us, an intuitive pair, could always sense the struggle in each other.

 

 

Earlier, when we had taken a walk down our favorite lane, I had noticed an uneven gate and mom’s struggle with balance. So much so that I had called my younger sister, who was coming up next, warning her not to let mom drive alone with her young kids in the car.

 

My heart sank.

 

All was not well

 

“Mom, you know I always feel this way the night before I leave, like I’ll never get back… ”

 

“Honey, you know I always watch every sunset up here. When you watch it from home, you’ll know that I’m watching the same masterpiece.”

 

I withdrew my hand still gripping hers and put it around her left shoulder. “I could do this forever with you Mom— forever.”

 

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I have spent countless dusky nights on the pier up north. That was the first time I remember thinking how fleeting our earthly lives actually are. Sadly, it was also the first time I sensed my mom beginning to say I love you always, but I won’t be on the journey much longer. My strong mom’s memory and physical strength brought way to many falls and dark days. There were moments to treasure, listening to hymns cozied next to me, her agitation disappearing like the sun under the horizon line.

Sadness… right now, the missing is too much today.

We didn’t venture up to Michigan together ever again. But every time the sun sets and I take the time to open my heart, I remember my mom splashing in the giant lake waves, the sweaty July bike rides, and her walking– the long slow walk to her small white cottage nestled in between the oaks.

 

 

 

more white stuff ???

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Really?

I have forever been a snowgirl, but when they predicted another snowfall for today, I felt the weariness grow heavy in my chest. I had to travel to my 95-year-old dad’s place because his nurse from the VA was making his monthly visit, and I didn’t want to get caught slipping and sliding in my new car. When did I become such a snow baby, rejecting the beauty and thinking only of my convenience and safety?

This afternoon after arriving safely back at home, I decided to research big snowstorms in Chi-town. I remembered a big one when I was in 7th grade; I thought it occurred in March because I remembered it was after a school vacation, but I was wrong about the date; it happened in January after Christmas vacation (yes, that is what we called it back then, not Winter break). I was so glad to get back to school because I could once again gaze at my crush, the guy that every girl at Emerson Jr. High oogled over.

The snow began to fall at 5 am. My dad was off to work in his car, which he took to the train station to get to the loop. We left for school in our quilted nylon jackets, rubber boots, and snow pants. I know, I know– my dress and coat always looked ridiculous with the bulky snow pants under. I so wanted new boots with fur on the inside, but nooo– rubber boots on top of my loafers were my mother’s preference; they were called galoshes. I did rock my fake-fur, white hat that had pom-pom balls attached to the ties. It always reminded me of a Hostess snack cake called a Sno ball (a small cake covered in marshmallow adorned with coconut crumbs). But that day, I remember feeling grateful that my mom insisted on the winter gear, even though a few days earlier it had been a record 65 degrees in the Windy City.

We made it through the blizzard that Wednesday morning, and I was able to get a glimpse of my crush 1st hour and then 9th at a distance between the netting in gym class. I was just the skinny geek that he occasionally caught staring at his muscular biceps in his gym uniform. After school, we trudged home in the drifts that were already higher than our boots. I didn’t know it, but I wouldn’t see my crush again until the following week. In the 60’s school never was canceled because if busses and trains were working, they figured our legs could make it a mile at the very least. But this snow was very different and accumulated fast.

My dad did make it via the train out to the burbs, but one and only car was buried up to the roof when he got to Edison Park. I do remember my mom pacing that night. My dad called before he left to tell her he’d walk, which he liked to do occasionally. But that night, he didn’t get home until about 10 pm. Of course, my dad tried helping an insane driver get out of a snowdrift. She abandoned her car like the thousands of other drivers and truckers on the city streets. When I think about the fear that my mom endured that night, my stomach gets upset; a cell phone sure would have been handy.

Enjoying!

By Friday morning, our suburb and Chicago stood still for the first time in many years. Neighbor helped neighbor with shovels. The article I just read told of pregnant women being taken to the hospitals on sleds, bulldozers, and snowplows to give birth. We took our sleds to Jewel to get milk, eggs, bread, and, you guessed it— toilet paper, of course. Helicopters brought medical supplies to hospitals, and Dr.’s and nurses stayed and fought sleepiness and fatigue to render care. Hmm…this story is starting to feel eerily familiar.

Looting and anger boiled up in the poorest sections of our city. Folks were getting desperate and probably pretty hungry. Chicago didn’t have enough equipment to remove snow, and trucks came from Iowa, Wisconsin, and Michigan to help our city. O’Hare finally opened after five days allowing weary travelers to get home to their families. By the time the pandemic, oops, the storm, was cleaned up, 60 people had lost their lives and an estimated $150 million in business losses. People compared the snow disaster to the Chicago Fire… until now. Everything pales in comparison to this worldwide year-long nightmare. 

And my memories are of some irritation at my school closing, remembering the sleds to the grocery, my bickering sisters, and my mom and dad who could get through any storm together. This has been a year of such pain and sadness, but thanks to modern technology, we could at least glimpse those we love on our little and large screens. We had access to the best minds in the world, giving us up-to-date advice in real-time. And where would our country be without our medical community risking their lives every day to care for us and those we love?

As my beloved church begins to open (masks, social distance, of course), as Dave gets his final vaccine next week, as I recover from a severe sinus infection, as I finish up this post, I feel the slow spreading of joy from my fingers to my toes.

I can take this measly little snow and the last throes of this scourge in our world. I will continue to trust in God.

He’s got this.

He’s got us in the palm of his hand. The crocus is blooming still in my yard, And Spring will soon light up Chicago.

After the snow melted the next day they are still alive!

knowing FOR sure

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John 14:13— And I will do whatever you ask in my name, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it.

FOR SURE I don’t think I could take another step in this world if I didn’t have this promise from John 14. This amazing book from the B—I — B— L— E (so do some of you hear me singing it?) Yes, that’s the book for me, I stand alone on the word of God, the B— I— B— L— E.

Christ Followers know that this book is laden with promises and because luckily I have a good memory and luckily I see quite a few in my rearview mirror, I can say this FOR SURE, if we ask in his name, he does it.

FOR SURE, some of you are saying, “Yeah right, Nancy, you’ve got to be up to your tall tales again!”

“Nope, I’m not lying. His track record is perfect in my life.”

He even knows before I ask.

You may be asking, “Why should I even have to ask, if he knows?”

“It’s because Jesus wants our Father God to be glorified with the answer, that’s why.”

Now you are maybe sayin’, “Nancy, didn’t you pray about the PANDEMIC?”

As a matter of fact, I did.  This is how God has answered my prayers in the past and even today.

HE  says, “YES, NO, or WAIT.”

 

And I have learned from experience, that whatever I think is right, is not always right.

One example I can think of is that I always prayed that God would find the right person for my daughter Emily, also a Christ-follower, to marry. It seems so silly to me when I think about it because I assumed she would find the love of her life, as I did when I was in college. She actually did follow in my footsteps and found a great boy who was an extremely good-looking, intelligent, and athletic guy.

They were perfect for each other, or so I thought. I’m pretty sure I loved him too. And after 4 years of being together and breaking up on and off, just like I did with Dave in college,

I thought the deal was sealed.

But God had another plan and the answer was — NO, not him but another. Seven more long years of waiting. And guess what? “God has been glorified in that wait, and her husband mystically appeared on the last raft trip held on the Snake River in the Tetons.

This was after another bad breakup, I might add.

I know, some of you are still wondering about the PANDEMIC!!! I am too. But thank you God for my first dose of the vaccine. After my second dose and another two-week WAIT, I will still have to travel through the ‘no mask’ states on my way to Colorado. So my plan is to double mask, bring food in the car and run in rest areas and really wash my hands—hard, and run back to the car. I know I might seem a tad paranoid. But I don’t think I can ever see a refrigerator truck again, without letting out a long, sad, slow sigh.

Yes, I believe in God and he and I both believe in science. And right now his answer to the PANDEMIC seems to be WAIT.

Does he ever answer YES? A resounding yes to that, and so often I can’t begin to tell of the ways. A  few weeks ago I asked him if I should resurrect my blog and begin to tell some stories again. A resounding yes came with the invitation to be a part of this very special community of writers… some who I knew from Two Writing Teachers and some who are becoming new friends. Thank you for blogging and commenting.

 

SNIP, SNAP, SNOUT…THIS TRUTH-FILLED TALE IS ALL TOLD OUT.

 

XO

Joyful girl…God said, “YES”! Emily on her wedding day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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coffee clutch

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A new day, a new beginning—yesterday had ended in an unexplainable sorrow of not being understood in a place where normally I feel understood. Today was new, sunny, and promising as I started my scripture reading with my spill-proof coffee mug in hand.

 

I read what I wasn’t prepared for; I couldn’t have predicted it coming up in the text on my sunny, sunny day.

 

Jesus had just explained to the disciples what he would face on the cross, and spunky Peter had the nerve to take Jesus to the side and challenge his words.

 

Jesus responded with, “Get behind me Satan (he actually called Peter, his disciple Satan— ouch, that hurt as I scrawled it in my notebook).” HE continued, “You do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.” (Matthew 16:23)

 

And that is me, in a cracked nutshell. I care about me, me, me… most often.

 

I play the game outwardly of caring for Dave, our kids, my friends who hold my same opinions, and our country, but they are mostly “merely human concerns.”

 

How do I turn this around? So I ask God.

 

He responds, “Well, at least today you are reading and listening to me. But quite often, Nancy, I feel like I’m just a big check on your ‘To Do’ list.”

 

“You’ve got my attention, God… is there more?” Secretly fearing the get behind me Satan remark that he said to Peter, I press on and read more of the passage.

 

“Nancy— give me a break! In your journal, you just wrote get behind me Satan, two seconds ago, after clicking on Facebook to get more gossip for your cause— glad you remembered something from my word, though.”

 

His sarcasm pinched, “Sorry, God. I went to bed last night, still angry.”

 

“Forgiven—I almost forgot, you asked if there was more. There is. Sadly, there’s a whole lifetime of sorry and trying to turn things around. But I want to let you know this—I love you with the kind of love that you’ll never know fully on your planet. Guess what?”

 

My shoulders sagged, “Now what?”

 

“Every single day, I look forward to coffee and talking.”

 

I murmured, “I love it too, more and more each day.” I added, “See you soon, on my walk.”

 

“See ya, Luv ya— I know you get that sixties talk. Remember I’m with you—”

 

“always— even to the end of the age,” I whispered.

 

too fast

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I read fast. I write fast. And I’m finding this year that I talk way too fast.

And it has become one of my biggest problems because of sheltering in place this past year because Dave, my shelter buddy, is slow to speak and sometimes annoyingly decides not to speak to me at all.

This happened yesterday, and for some of the teachers in the room, you need a bit of background info. We both just turned 65, so in our state, we qualify for the vaccine. Illinois is notorious for county control, and there are many, many counties. Our county is still trying to get with the program. We are second from the bottom with shot #1. Dave and I go to Dr.’s in opposing counties, and I think my Dr. recommended me for the Covid vaccine before Dave’s did. So I promptly signed up with a personal code and am going Saturday to a hospital in a different county; I guess county doesn’t matter when a hospital administers the vaccine.

So Dave is silent and has seemed upset for two days. I volunteer to keep checking Walgreens for him. He says he doesn’t want to keep checking.

Yesterday we skied together, and he is out in front as usual. Dave is so competitive even at 65; I muse as he trots up each hill like a mountain goat. I go up with my legs in V formation so I don’t slide back to the bottom; I forgot who taught me that crazy technique.

My right ski gets stuck going up the hill in an icy drift, tangled up with roots and weeds. My left ski keeps sliding, sliding… until I’m almost doing the splits.

     I yell, “Hey, you up there— stop!”

No response.

Typical Dave, ignoring me because he’s mad.

He’s at the top now, and he begins to kick and glide. I’m stuck, and he’s having so much fun, probably hysterical at my predicament. I take my right ski off, pull it out of the drift, take off the other, walk uphill, crashing into the ridges on the side for some traction, sinking about a foot with every step.

I reach the pinnacle, jam my feet into my bindings, seeing Dave about 100 yards ahead. He stops, turns, and looks in my direction.

     Cupping his gloves, he shouts. “You okay?”

     I reach him, stop and spew, “I’m sick and tired of you never listening to me, you being so jealous of me because I’m getting the shot, and you being Mr. Expert skier and all of that.”

     “I’m jealous? I always listen to your blah, blah blah. it’s my best strategy with you. ” And tell me, when didn’t I listen?”

     When I yelled, “Stop when you were going up the last hill.”

     “If I had stopped, I would have slid backward; I wasn’t at the top yet, you know? He paused, waiting for my response.”

 I smiled. I hadn’t heard this amount of words from him in two days.

     “Why? What was wrong? Were you stuck in your ridiculous herringbone you continually try to practice? Small steps are always better— you know that.”

I looked at his warm eyes and tender heart. I took a good slow look.

     “Sometimes I go on and on because you don’t say anything back to me.”

     “That’s usually because I’m thinking, that’s all.”

I knew that was maybe part of it, but the larger part was about me. I want a fast response and immediate attention, like the whole universe, revolves around me.

Dave just walked into the room asking me if he could borrow my space heater for a bit to warm up his snowblower, which wasn’t starting.

     I looked at him and said, “Sure thing.”

    “And Dave…”

    He responded. “What, Nancy?” 

   “You’re a good guy.”

   “No, I’m not.”

  “Yes, you are.”

  “No, I was jealous.”

  “The shot???

  He nodded.

 “I knew that’s what it was all about. I know everything.”

 

 

“I think I can, I think I can…”

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I want to take that “dare to care” that Ruth encouraged me to do,

But I feel so safe,

On cozy Tempur-Pedic with blankets

Warm and secure

I pull my comforter down under my chin

and

 Spy snow… drifted like sand dunes

Outside— glimmering, radiantly

Beckoning me to

Unfurl my covers that protect

My heart,

My mind,

My soul,

I take the leap,

Click on the Zoom.

I’m tethered to my girls

with frayed cords that bind us

as we

abide

 in

HIM.

For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.

Matthew 18:20

Bookish Encouragement, by Ruth Ayres

An Ode to Miss Grace and Scandalous Teachers Everywhere

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She could be explained in one word: CROCHETY. She moved faster than anyone I knew, rapping her cane on the desk of a sleepy 7th grader, or hitting the blackboard in rapid succession so we would look up at her flowing cursive that she had just scratched. Her white ponytail bobbed as she read dramatically from Dudley Randall’s “Ballad of Birmingham” or selected poems from Rod McKuen’s Stanyan Street and Other Sorrows.

We called her Grace when we talked about her behind her back because 7th graders usually talk about what they perceive as whackos. Even the craziest among us didn’t dare to disturb when we entered her hallowed kingdom. She demanded our desk be free of debris, just a #2, a pink eraser, and multiple sheets of notebook paper. We dared not touch our grammar books under our chairs because she believed in what was called ‘Transformational’ grammar back then. Grace didn’t believe in doing rote exercises in comma placement or tense. And believed if you were a reader you were also a writer. And that all of us were sojourners and that many of us were at best only average or below average at that point in our lives.

One day, I was writing a mystery in class and got brave enough to raise my hand after she was done writing what literature we would read that night for homework.

“What, Miss Olson (she never called us by our first names)?”

“I’m not sure about how to punctuate this conversation.”

She ran up close, I feared she would be making an example of me any moment.

“What’s underneath your chair, Olson?”

UMMM, my grammar book?”

Bamm— her hand came down flat down on my story.

“Not that, that’s not a real book. I’m talking about #44.”

Shocked I muttered, “You mean my Nancy Drew?”

“I just finished #45. I think you’ll even on that first page she will be blabbering about something to someone. I know you can figure it out, Olson.”

All heads were pointed in my direction as she made a quick getaway to her chalkboard. She turned and rapidly looked in my direction. I will always remember her wink and her toothy grin.

PS In the winter of that year I was happy with a C- on my poem entitled Toboggan Run and forever will remember her comment on the top, With a little work this could be a dandy!

PSS A month later I got the good news from American Girl magazine that they would be publishing my poem in their next issue. My tidy mom even said she liked it, right before it went in her circular file. Oh, how I wish that I had it still. One scandalous teacher can make all the difference in one little girl’s life. Miss Grace was mine.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

K.B , Em and Dad

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Both are my girls. I am rooting for them in so many ways. They have both have chosen the difficult path, not a smooth-salted highway, but a wandering, unpaved, not knowing- where- you’re- going adventure. One is the daughter by birth and the other daughter of my second heart birth.

“Wha…. what does she mean by that, you inquire”

“Well, I did have to be reborn to loving this girl who came to live with us at age eighteen.”

The guy in the middle, he loved me through it all; the mess, the stress of me being me.

Both of my daughters are also of the King and they thankfully depend on him for EVERYTHING. They choose to love and follow him and admittedly reach out for him in the midnight hour, sorting their lives fraught with challenges and decisions. They’ve learned their lessons well and quite often taking a hard path.

The girls open his word, they abide in the message he gives— journaling in their writing spaces they start their days of family, work, loving, and becoming a disciple of Christ.

 

not Fancy nancy

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Fancy Nancy could never be used to describe me— but Anti-Fancy-Nancy could. I grew up in the SIXTIES where Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons, Father Knows Best, and channel 9 reigned supreme.

Girls, you haven’t lived until the magic finder has chosen you to do Bozo buckets. Sadly, I only got to bucket # 2 and missed # 3, definitely not fancy moves.

Sorry for the digression. Bozo wasn’t a fancy clown—but I loved him and my childhood so much, I just had to share with you. In school, I loved Dick, Jane, and Sally but hated Think and Do. Dick and Jane weren’t very fancy, but Sally looked like my little sister with her curly locks and little kitty, Puff. So she was pretty fancy— until she made a mess.

My kindergarten teacher was mean but definitely fancy with her sharp colored nails and wicked, pouty red lips. I wanted her to like me, but she didn’t.

My first-grade teacher taught me the word, LOOK, the first day of school. I will always remember the moment I could read. My classroom was wild and crazy and, we loved to finger paint each other. My teacher was simply dressed, single and kind. I loved her, and she loved me. I believe she loved all her little children, especially when we’d settle down for a story reading for us in her special fancy voice.

My second-grade teacher, a glamorous beauty, looked like Jackie Kennedy. I wanted her to love me, but she didn’t. At least she didn’t send me to the office like the boys who came back to the room, every time buckling their belts after the paddle. They didn’t look very fancy trying to tuck in their shirts after either.

My third-grade teacher was grey-haired and very, very… (I know you’re guessing feeble, but she wasn’t). She was so slender that you might fear the wind would knock her down, but she would never have let it. She had an old fancy microphone in her room, taught us all how to get up and speak like a reporter, and also taught us to sing like angels. Every one of us led our class in daily song-time. It was the year of me learning, “New Math,” as she called it. She taught it like a champ. I understood numbers for the first time in my school career when she introduced the new way. Numbers and my tiny teacher became fancy to me.

But then I moved.…

to the scariest and prettiest teacher of my life. I think even the principal had a crush on her. That was the year I was introduced to the “We pick it” “We eat it “club, which wasn’t explained until my name went up on the chalkboard and my new class-mates burst into hysterical laughter. After that, I became a pariah on the playground. I thought it was because of my not-fancy blue glasses I had been wearing since I was little, but sadly I know know what, “We pick it, We eat it” means. My new school did “Old Math” and I was hopelessly confused; of course, that didn’t help. Confusion is not fancy.

With my fourth grade teacher, joy flooded my world again. This teacher was really older than dirt. It was her retirement year, which I didn’t find out about until the last day of school. She wasn’t fancy in her black skirt, white shirt, and oxfords. But her love was so fancy. Every student was her favorite. Every life mattered. And when I struggled, she persevered. I mourned not seeing her again after that year. I missed her fancy script and her fascination with writing famous quotes on the board.

My life and school kind of went like that every other year; it kind of went like that. Thank goodness I had my not-fancy mom to rely on. She only got a little fancier with a dash of lipstick and a change from her pedal pushers to a skirt before my dad came home from downtown Chicago. He may have liked a little fancy because he always whistled and gave her what we used to call “juicy kisses”.

I would have never expressed it in words, but I yearned for a mom who always wore polished red nails, mascara, and pancake makeup. I wished she had gone to the beauty parlor for the sprayed up bouffant hairdos of the day. And believe me, I tried whenever I could to get away with mascara in Junior High until one day when I got home from school with it running down my face because someone had said something mean.

And then she’d say, “Honey, when are you going to learn that your natural beauty is the best and that glow from inside of you shines so bright.”

I tried to be Fancy Nancy until my college years. I had a little help becoming un-fancy from Goldie Hawn, Carol Burnett, and the total peace, love generation moving forward.

 

 

 

Turning the page to Medicare this birthday, my only regret is not using sunblock when it first came out. But I am proud to say; there has never been a day that foundation has creased my cheeks or neck.

The day I got married almost 44 years ago my mom, made me get my hair done at the beauty parlor (the irony of this makes me giggle). The stylist rolled, set, and sprayed my hair. I promptly went home and took a shower and did my own, without the spray. My mom shook her head and realized some of what she had emulated had rubbed off. She had paid the stylist good money for no good reason. Her little girl had learned her lessons well.

PS I taught school for 40 years. In my final year, I had a student named Nancy; we were kindred spirits, not liking the girlie—the fancy. But inside there was lots of fancy love.
PSS Opening up my blog header that I have had for ten years is pretty- paisley fancy. A feast for my eyes that I never have tired of…Word Press doesn’t even offer it any longer. It’s only SIXTIES fancy!

gimme a break

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The spider infestation made its way into our bedroom. On Sunday I saw one round mark on my forearm. On Monday Dave felt several itchy places on his head. On Tuesday, my guy who does everything the right way went on a cleaning frenzy in-between stretches of watching news programming our national crisis. Tuesday night we both slept like rocks. Wednesday I noticed many mysterious bites on both forearms. I washed my t-shirts, sweatshirts jeans.

That wasn’t hard because I’ve rotated my comfy pants, my comfy jeans, and the same two t-shirts from last March until yesterday. Oops— I forgot the soccer pants I wore almost every day of the summer. My jeans are now too tight, so if I was really being honest I’ve worn my pajama pants day and night for about a month now. I’ll put those in the washing machine too.

Sometime along the way, something must have been exposed to spiders. Because even though I don’t see them, I know they are coming up to visit and nibble in the middle of the night.

Come on…gimme a break!

I’ve endured a 95 year-old-dad with a shattered ankle, a 10 week (no-see-HIM) rehab horror story, 3 children in far off places that I can’t go and see, and 4 grandkids that I haven’t snuggled for too long now.  I’ve led large Zoom Bible study groups with no training with only a wing and a prayer. I’ve only crashed, burned, and been locked out about every other session but for this 60 something girl, it feels like a heart attack just waiting to happen. Am I getting too dramatic here? No, no I’m not

Gimme a stinkin’ break already, would you?

Spiders and all other nasty things like COVID-19, and a sad and very divided country.

Please, oh please, you can gimme just a little break, I know you can …

We need some love around these parts of Illinois and could people just start saying a few please and thank yous again, I know we’re wearing masks, but I’m sure in 1917 they still made a point to be kind to everyone. After all, it makes our world go around. Thank you by the way for letting me vent. So if you don’t give a break I’ll just take my own and I’ll be back after a time.

 

breakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreakbreak

 Hmmm…Thank you that I can take my next breath— others can’t today.

Thank you that people love me because— others aren’t so sure that they are loved.

Thank you for shelter— others who live close to me are couch-surfing, or worse.

Thank you for my sometimes disagreeable family—  I have a friend without one living relative.

Thank you for crip clean air, a hint of miraculous flakes falling, and water I can drink from a faucet—others have to escape fires, 844 million do not have access to clean water.

Thank you for the free press, public education, freedom of religion, and the right to vote— all people across the world don’t have many of our freedoms.

My list, God,  is still incomplete. But at least now, with this break, I can breathe again.

Thank you, Ruth, for the encouragement to write our hearts.

Thank you for writing SOS Magic posts,  friends.

PS I know many of you keep gratitude lists…

PSS Now is a great time to start, if you don’t!

 

 

 

one little word (written last week)

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Today the word finds me and an unusual word it is, but a personal favorite. For years, actually, I’ve loved it.

Drumroll, please do it with me… (bang your hands like drums on your desks for three seconds and finish by putting your hands together, stretching your hands to the sky, and saying WOOSH as you bring your hands down to your sides). Some of you may be tried this for the first time!

My kids in my classrooms, from kdg- 8th grade did this every time we were about to learn something new. And I sometimes do it on my own in my cozy office alone—but not lonely with my wall of books and my favorite girl, Apple, under my fingertips.

Today I should have been driving and focusing, but I started wondering when my word would find me; then suddenly it was there, a word I haven’t talked about probably since the day I retired.

My word for 2021 is THREE. It is an unassuming number, a little lonely even though it is surrounded by two and four. I remember as a young mother, I couldn’t wait until Emily and Jeff graduated to age three. Young mothers of today don’t like three much more than two and my grandchildren were affectionately called ‘threenagers’ by their parents (my grand’s were smart and sneaky at the age of three).

“But why then three, Nancy?” you might ask.

It’s hardly distinguishable in spelling from tree.

It’s so simple, not even pretty in different fonts.

 

But girls, I happen to think of the beauty of the Three Little Pigs, Flicka, Ricka and Dika, Moe, Larry and Curly, The Three Little Peppers and How they Grew, Nancy, Julie and Carol (my sisters)—to name a few.

Writers!!! Let’s not forget BEGINNING, MIDDLE AND END. We teach it, we love it, we treasure it.

But , wait a minute here is the main reason for my choice:

This is why I’m devoted to the #3. I know you are all trying to guess.

“Nooooo… it’s not SOLID, LIQUID AND GASSSSSSS.… ” GLAD YOU DIDN’T GUESS THAT”

“NOOOO… IT’S NOT THE BATTLE PLAN FOR CORONAVIRUS, face covering, physical distancing, frequent handwashing.”

… drumroll for at least three seconds…

Father, Son, and Holy Ghost

and “no, they didn’t take the last train to the coast”  Bye, Bye Miss American Pie

These three will be my everything in the year 2021 and after.

If you don’t know them, you may want to check them out because my God, three in one he is faithful,—moment to moment to moment

in the hard, and in the joy, he remains the same…

THREE IN ONE.

PS I’m adding this today… so many weeks of 2020 have been horrific, but storming the Capitol will go down in history and my Triune God has been stalwart in my search for meaning. This morning I pulled up a greatly respected author’s blog. She is masterful in her writing. It is long, but worth it.  In Days Like These…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

young in my OWN mind

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in my mind,

I am eighteen,

just discovering love for the very first time,

in my mind,

I am the word fearless,

x-country skiing my favorite Rocky Mountain peak,

in my mind,

I am fit,

long and lean, and blonde in all seasons— a Breck girl commercial

in my mind.

 

instead,

reality swooped,

faster than I could say Jack Robinson

this morning—

I pulled up my new ski socks and new ski pants, as I sat on my old hope chest in the bedroom

Outside,

I laced and zipped my new boots

latched them into my new Rosi skis

while I desperately held onto my new poles in the icy new Illinois snow, sparking in my sloped back yard,

OHHH NOOO,

sliding fast— my stiff knees forget to bend,

My old brain,

remembered—

Too late

how to snowplow,

down I crash into icy pellets.

in my mind, I think

I’m a part of Medicare—sixty-five,

hooray!

laughing all the way,

enjoying every moment of our back yard wonderland,

glimpsing the love of my life, around the bend, not hearing my pleas for help

and I’m only slightly annoyed

that he is rediscovering our long-lost ski passion a bit easier than me,

who does the inside Nordic Track every day of my life

he nears,

my heart quickens

He drawls, stifling his need for hysterical laughter. Need some help there, little lady?

Yep, take a picture, please?

For your blog?

Yep,

PS Love that Dave so loves me and so gets me after all these years.

PSS Our first snow this year teaches me so much today. Mainly, I definitely can’t look at myself as an expert and at least for a while, flat terrain will be my best friend!

Hard to get up in my skis…had to get out of them and then stand by then I was happy!

Glad I didn’t fall into our lake today…brrrr!

i confess, i never loved ritual—before…

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For many years I looked at ritual as an opening hymn, the first scripture reading, responsive reading, the pulpit scarves adorning our pastor in different church seasons.

My dad liked the ritual.

So did my mom, especially around Christmas. Swedish potato-sausage, Limpa bread, herring, cardamon coffee cake, and warmed cinnamon & cream were poured into her steaming mug only in the winter. I liked her food rituals a little better than our church rituals.

And that is precisely why, I who viewed myself as a non-conformist, decided to go to a church in a movie theater in the late seventies because it was the non-ritualistic alternative. It was so new, so unique at the time. Folk music, mixed in with rock and an occasional jazz number, ministered to us at weekend services. We were a new church devoted to making the ‘seeker’ relaxed. Drama, media, and an occasional ‘Church Lady’ imitation encouraged us to invite friends who were far from God along for the ride every single Sunday.

And we don’t miss church except when we were traveling, for almost forty-four years now.

Hmm, has going to church a ritual now?

Little has changed about our Sunday mornings. Church at 9 o’clock, brunch at 11. The Bears at noon and a simple Sunday meal.

Hmm, are these things rituals now?

Maybe that is why I feel so disgruntled in this year in which my church rituals went crashing to the ground.

A few weeks became almost a year. I seriously grieved not being able to sit next to Ryan, a Down Syndrome adult. He is the most loving person I know.  Ryan runs to the main church doors each week ahead of his dad by at least three minutes. He finds aisle L, puts his coat on his chair’s back, and greets every person with a handshake and a smile. He is a loyal Bear’s fan, and that has been so hard the last few years.

He is the first to stand as the worship team enters the auditorium. He sings with our worship team, a change from the early days when we usually sat and listened and only sang one chorus.

Occasionally, now as part of our music, an old hymn will flow from the team’s lips upfront. The words come back; it is truly is “well with my soul,” I think.

Mixing the old with the new is becoming an established ritual at our non-traditional, seeker-friendly church. When Ryan doesn’t know the words to the old music, concern grips my heart because my own children know all the words to “Good, Good, Father and Our God is an Awesome God,” and several Christmas carols but don’t know “What a Friend we have in Jesus or Trust and Obey.”

What kind of mother was I anyhow? I left the ritual of knowing hymns untaught!

Back to my friend Ryan. This boy loves to shout, clap, and say “Amen” before a prayer from the stage is over. He has an internal sense when the message needs to end, or the prayer is getting a little long, and the sixty-something lady near him needs to head directly to the restroom. Ryan feels safe in our church rituals and those he’s adopted.

The truth of the matter is our church, our so-called non-ritualistic culture, has changed and actually grown up in so many ways. And now I recognize how rituals and specific routines bring strength and comfort to my soul.

Yesterday we missed our first Christmas Eve service ever. Well, we actually saw it on-line. But I couldn’t hug my friends and family during our rich tradition of singing “Silent Night” and hugging and telling people we loved them during the last verse. It was hard watching even on our new giant screen with our new sound system. I’m balking at my new, self-proclaimed ritual, of my steaming cup of Starbucks sitting on my duff in my lazy-boy during worship.

I fear this new ritual of becoming a lazy-girl.

Because relationships are the most important ritual at my church. Dave can sometimes fit the bill, but my Joshua girls aren’t in the room because they celebrate with their TV’s. And it hurts to the quick that we can’t hug our life-long friends, our kids, and our grandchildren.

Come on, come on— I’ve learned enough during this pandemic. Facebook, Instagram, Twitter does not satisfy my ritualistic need to hug and hold. Even though I’m an introvert by nature, I will never, ever, take gathering for granted again.

For the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to a shot, that ritual that will make me 94% sure I won’t get COVID 19! And I never want to have that new ritual, of a stick going up through my nostril to my brain.

And I hope all of you are standing up right now and saying, AMEN.!

PS just because I feel never done… Here is a link to our church…awesome Willow. Our motto in this season has been, “Apart but not alone.” We are doing Zoom groups, and this pandemic has opened up the entire world to get involved here, even if you live out-of-state. https://www.willowcreek.org/

when routine falls apart

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Oh, how I love Jesus, oh how I love prompts from Ruth. If I didn’t have this pair, I would be a pile of mush on our hard frosted ground today.

I started my blog two years before the end of my teaching career. At that time my mom was struggling with early Alzheimer’s. We noticed a few things, but my dad didn’t want us to worry my sisters and me,; he certainly wouldn’t use the dreaded word.

I kept praying that they would both be okay until I retired.

Writing sustained me; my friendship with God, relationships at church, and teaching part-time at Judson brought me through to the other side after my much-loved career as a teacher-coach and staff developer came to an end.

For some reason, I’m feeling a need for a timeline today—

2014— I retired before I was ready, maybe. Two weddings and a funeral happened that first summer. After the weddings, which my mom sadly could not attend, my mom passes away… a blessing! My mom went to heaven, no longer slowly losing her memories, and sense of self.

2015— The focus now is on my dad, four years older than my mom, sorting out meds, selling their homes, and buying a condo. Now he’s the priority.

2016— Our church becomes a conflict zone this year. I lose my job at Judson, deciding I can’t afford the time and money it takes to get my Ed Doc, disappointment reigns.

2017— Back at Judson teaching in a new undergrad program that I loved but couldn’t commit to fully because of the time involved. We were in the midst of an exhausting rehab down to the studs of our new/old house with a lake view, feeling like we’re living in heaven on earth despite the time.

2018— Our beloved pastor resigns, who built our church with disturbing allegations that took two more years for us to digest and accept. He still has not admitted his mistakes publicly, but most of us realized that our church was never about one fallible person. God was and continues to be the head of our church.

2019— My dad falls, discovered by me 24 hours later, barely alive. He has a fantastic rehab experience, but PTSD symptoms plague me, especially when I drive to his place. We decided to put a caregiver in place; however, I continued to see him sometimes to do groceries, meds, and Dr. appointments.

2020— My dad has multiple falls, and we put 24/7 care in place, but I am still there often; in late summer, he twists and shatters his ankle, September 23, on his 95th birthday. At age 95 he has his surgery— pins, and plates and eight weeks of rehab followed.

I could only bang on windows at Rehab. We  FaceTime on his iPad. it is a  pitiful time. When I see my dad at his surgeon’s office, he doesn’t recognize me and thinks he is getting shrapnel removed from his foot in the Army hospital in England. He is right back on the battlefield.

My entire being tells me he has lost cognitive ability.

He is disheveled, wearing someone else’s too tight pants. His hair looked like Albert Einstein, his eyes wide saucers, and he smells like ****! The Dr. is also disturbed because rehab sent him four weeks too late for the first cast removal— now he has a pressure sore to treat.

I am heartsick, knowing it will be weeks before he can walk. I want to blame this new rehab, but I know that nurses are stretched with COVID-19’s protocols.

I can’t sleep. I can’t think straight.

but writing helps

My dad finally made his way home two Fridays ago. There is a lot to yay and nay about.

But at least the first week he walks.

The second week, he acted like he didn’t remember anything about walking. His whole body stiffens up, and he screams out like he is fighting in WW2 again. I think it is because of multiple caregivers that he doesn’t trust yet.

I looked up Ruth one day amid my mess and realize that I’m crying out for the SOS that writing brings. I want to share my stories again on my blog. God led me home to where I started. in my writing journey. I’m done with writing curriculum, done with writing books and querying for now. I feel so satisfied being back in the fold.

Today I desperately wanted to write about cues in my life, but this is what happened instead. I am in the midst of remaking my life in a way.  God knows I’m a work in progress. And he leads me from moment to moment if I take the time to listen to him.

Maybe next week I’ll do cues. But for this moment, processing this through writing gives lifts my soul.

Thank you for your SOS Ruth and friends.

XO nanc

 

when life is…

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When life is hard and I’m getting pecked, make sure Petosky encircles my neck.

It’s not as sweet as Ruth’s favorite librarian who kept her in books and cookies, but my Petosky needs to be there. I haven’t been wearing it lately, because it doesn’t exactly match my pajama pants and T-shirts that have been glued on my body for almost ten months. I don’t go to in-person church, I don’t get to travel to see my grandchildren, I only go to Jewel to wait for my groceries, to Rehab windows, and finally now to my Dad’s condo. Only me and his caregivers are the lucky people to see him.

My Petosky is my Mo-Joe. I need it. I need it today when I meet a new caregiver. Another one bit the dust yesterday— fired by the organization. All of it makes my head turn at funny angles and my eyes drip with the unhappiness of it all

My Petosky? It’s my touch-stone because it reminds me of God’s love, my roots, my passion, my people, and how I need to keep on polishing every day.

Maybe your asking… “Why polishing?”

Petosky stones, glorious in the sparkling waters of Lake Superior are dull and ugly taken out of the waves of frigid water. They need to be polished with sandpaper or a rock tumbler to look glorious again.

In my life when I touch my stone it also reminds me that God is polishing, or sanctifying me continually. I should be looking more and more like Jesus every single day. No, I never will be perfect until heaven, but I need to continue to strive, continue to confess, give thanks, and worship moment to moment in my daily life. 

Life is so jagged, there are so many ways to fail and fall. I need to look up and grab my Lord’s hand and hang on, pressing into his gentle but firm guidance as I navigate caregivers, groceries, and grief in all seasons. 

He is my ultimate Petosky stone—the ROCK in which I stand.

love nanc xo

PS Thank you SOS girls, thank-you, Ruth! Your S.O.S. came in the nick of time for me.

 

reading love, writing love

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We were after magic, Diane, and me. We’d find the location that we wouldn’t be bothered by younger sisters, twin brothers, and meddling mothers. In the summer we roamed our neighborhood for a sturdy oak or my apple trees that hadn’t dropped their loot. We’d spread an old blanket, and feast on our latest library finds. Our authors included Louisa May Alcott, Eleanor Estes; moving on to Betty Cavanna and Phyllis A. Whitney as we entered our tween years. We parallel read, occasionally sharing an awesome scene. We munched on cheese and crackers, drank Tang at my house, and sneak pop at Diane’s.

School wouldn’t have probably placed us in the high reading groups because our Think and Do Books were always messed up by our teachers’ big red checkmarks indicating our comprehension indeed was poor. We also balked at writing the formula bound book report, I resorted to copying the back flaps and turning those in. But sweet Diane would have never cheated like that. Believe it or not, I didn’t get caught cheating until 6th grade. The teachers seemed to conspire every year to ruin every book by making us write about it. But at least we had CHOICE and I could read All -of- a- Kind Family, even though my family wasn’t Jewish.

But there were great times in school during the late sixties. Once we were told we all needed to write a play from a scene in a book we had read or write an original play that would be performed. Diane and I loved that assignment. We wrote two scenes together and our teacher accepted it and even pronounced it SATISFACTORY.

Reading was our life and poetry became a fast love in Junior High and beginning High School because not many authors wrote books about Hippy love (all of us curious), racial protest, Vietnam, or black armbands; I guess it was deemed inappropriate for tween eyes. It was almost like we were expected to go from childhood to War and Peace in the summer of 8th grade.

So what were we to do? Magazines of course. We devoured Sixteen and Glamour for many years. We were lucky if everyone once in a while there was a short story. I resorted to sneaking my mom’s  Good Housekeeping because they always had a short story; sadly—today, they do not.

The summer of 8th grade, when Neil Armstrong landed on the moon, we had a stupendous idea! We spent two hours a day writing in my dad’s supposed ‘at home office’ (which was really just a storage spot for winter clothes and coats). We used at least a pound of yellow legal pads and finished writing our first book, between the winter coats, finishing before the end of the summer. The masterpiece was titled Summer Camp Love just because we loved going to summer camp. We composed together, argued about scenes and sentences, and alternated the handwriting part when our hands cramped up.

Oh, I wish I had those pages. I loved our sweet friendship— our reading and writing life together.

But those good things, those things I  loved about my childhood continue on inside me forever.  An SOS invitation arrives and words are breathed out and that particular happiness of shared reading /writing love springs from the deep and I am so grateful.

P.S. because I really like them… funny to me how easy it is to recall details from fifty years ago and I can’t remember where my cell phone went this morning.