Wednesday, September 14, 2011

I've Moved! Don't Let Me Lose You!

My blog has now moved to be part of my website at . Please click on this link: to see my new look. PLEASE go ahead and sign up either for the RSS feed or by email. I appreciate all of you and don't want to lose anyone.

Again--my new address is

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Anniversary Thoughts

My husband Steve does two things consistently that would keep me desperately in love with him even if he were an inconsiderate slob. (Note I did not say “abusive.” That’s too far over the line for me.)

Last Saturday we went to the dedication of a new church building in Bedford, Indiana. The old one, where Steve’s family always worshiped, burned two years ago. Steve spoke on “Beauty for Ashes,” and compared the building and the church to the phoenix rising from the ashes to be better than ever. He did a great job and I was very proud of him.

And true to form, later, he said to me, “I’m always proud to have you with me. You were the best-looking woman there!” And he says it with such pride and confidence that, amazingly, I know he really means it.

The second thing is that he says I am so much smarter than he is. He doesn’t say it in that way people sometime have of saying it so you’ll disagree and compliment them. Instead, he slides it into conversation as a matter of fact. “I love being married to a woman that’s smarter than I am,” he’ll say, giving an account of something we’ve done together. And he gives advice to young men: “Marry a woman that’s smarter than you, like I did. You’ll never regret it.”

Now these are clearly his opinions, not necessarily fact. But his believing them so devoutly are two of the most endearing characteristics of my husband of 46 years today.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Alert: New Blog Address

In case you're wondering why I haven't posted anything recently, it's because I moved and didn't give you my new address: .

From now on, you will access my blog through my new website,

This is a part of my new website makeover that includes link to my new blog. You can go there and sign up again (sorry for the bother)to get my Musings.

The focus of my blog may be changing soon, too, but it will still be in the same location: While you're there, check out the new website, too.

Hope you'll still come along for the journey!

Thursday, August 04, 2011

The Culture of a Marriage

I’ve known very well many couples who have been married to each other for over 50 years and many couples who are very sweet to each other; those two characteristics do not always go together. As one of my own relatives said, “What’s to celebrate about being married to him for 50 years?”

The culture of some marriages is to argue, to disagree, to fight verbally. Some "break up to make up,” as the song goes, and for a few people that seems to work. Not us. We like our disagreements to be resolved quickly and fairly. We understand that one of us must have a better position than the other and we just have to figure out which it is. (The fact that it’s usually me does not always go over well….) Often we simply agree that it doesn't matter.

But there are some pleasant accommodations that come with a marriage that’s lasted almost 46 years, as ours has. And here’s an example.

Tuesday we each had morning appointments. Steve left before I did. I knew I wanted a few items from the grocery store, so I looked in the refrigerator to see what he needed. Often I’ll tell him I’m going, but I didn’t call him since he was at his appointment and I thought he’d be out all day.

When I got home, Steve had been there a few minutes and was leaving again. As I started putting away what I’d bought, I had to laugh. I put a half gallon of skim milk beside another new skim milk, a quart of half & half beside another new one, and my two bananas joined four that hadn’t been in the fruit basket earlier that morning. Each of us had gotten a few different items as well, but there were noticeable duplications because we each thought the other wouldn’t have time to go to the store.

But here’s what I think is so funny: neither of us has mentioned it! I’m sure he saw the extra bananas and by the next morning the extra milks. But why bother to discuss it? There was a time in our lives that one of us would have said, “Why didn’t you tell me….and saved one of us some time?” But no longer.

Yes, being semi-retired may be part of it, but mainly it’s that we’ve reached an understanding. There’s no use complaining about—or even discussing—something that can’t be changed. Grace and mercy are so much easier to live with than condemnation.

But we’d both agree that there’s a lesson to be learned here. I’m sure the next time either of us stops to pick up some groceries, we’ll call the other one first!

Tuesday, August 02, 2011


I began this post by pondering some of the small everyday things we all deal with, skipping across a shallow stream of my shortcomings and those of others. Then my pondering got away from me and I began to drown in the deep waters.

Why do people leave lights on in a room no one will use all day?

Why do people leave cabinet doors open?

Why do people leave toys strewn around when the child won’t return for days?

Why do people drop or spill something and not clean it up?

Why do people wear worn-out shoes and clothes when they have better in their closets?

Why do people bemoan gaining weight and keep eating too much?

Why do people cling to people who destroy them?

Why do people give in to temporary pleasures and sacrifice long-term joy?

Why do people give up on life?

Why do parents desert children?

Why do people bring children into the world when they cannot care for them?

Why do people make promises they know they cannot keep?

Why do people fall for promises that experience says will not be fulfilled?

Why do people read the Good Samaritan story and then turn from those in need?

Why do people seem so put together and then fall apart more than others?

These are just a few questions I’ve pondered lately. I may have more later. For the questions about my own behavior, I have ideas of what the answers might be. For the others, I’m clueless. If you have any answers, please comment below!

Monday, August 01, 2011

So Far, So Good

Last night I visited my friend in the ER and today in ICU. She is still sedated so I'm not sure how she's doing. The nurse was optimistic that she'd be back on her feet in a few days.

I talked to another woman who has mentored her far longer than I have. She is equally concerned and was actually at the apartment when the police arrived. God has obviously put her in this girl's life, too.

I fear my friend will be angry at me for sending help when she was willing to give up. But I know this gives me more chances to talk to her about her brother Jesus and God her Father. Now she will have a chance to have the love and the family she never had.

What can I tell her about the loneliness of her life? I can offer her a loving church family and my friendship, but she also needs the friendship of peers who are good influences. I know many loving young adults who will gladly embrace her as a friend if she'll only let them in. A lifetime of being let down is hard to overcome.

Any suggestions out there for how I can convince her of God's love and acceptance and forgiveness?

Sunday, July 31, 2011

What Can I Do?

I have a new friend, but I won’t give her name because if she’s still alive I don’t want to embarrass her.

She was raised “in the system,” meaning that the welfare folks were always in charge of her life. She was in orphanages or group homes most of her life.

When she was once enrolled in a junior high, she was only there two weeks before she was kicked out. During that time, she organized students to stuff all the toilets with paper and at an appointed time to flush all at once. What another person might fantasize about, she actually did! As I told her, it took lots of leadership skills to make that happen in just two weeks with kids she had not previously known. So much for that school experience.

The only time she was in a foster home was the best time of her life. I wonder if that foster mother ever realized that. For her last year and a half of high school, she lived with a widow who was a good cook and good gardener and who taught her many things about an ordinary life.

But she has yet to live an ordinary life. For a while, she worked at a factory and “made good money.” But when the opportunity to go to college arose, she took it. Beset by health problems, she was constantly having to drop college classes, so she didn’t graduate until she was almost 26. She registered for Steve’s class four times before she actually completed the course. That’s how we met her.

Last week she turned 27. She is holding down two lowly jobs, trying to figure out how to repay all the college debt, and desperately ill. Two months ago it was pancreatitis; she doesn’t know what it is now. A friend took her to the emergency room, and she was so sick she didn’t even know what hospital she was in.

I called her Friday night, when she was in the unknown hospital. She sounded awful—speaking in a low, strung-out kind of voice. Her voice is husky anyway, but this time she was hard to understand.

I called her back Saturday morning around10:30. I asked which hospital she was in and she said she was home.

“Did they discharge you?” I asked, unbelieving. No, she just walked out of the hospital and got a cab home. She needed to go to work because she needed the money. I reminded her that she needed to stay hospitalized long enough to get well so she could work, but she dismissed the idea.

I called her again at 2 and she said, “I just feel so bad about everything.” I asked if she was in pain or feeling bad mentally and she said mentally, feeling bad about everything that had happened (whatever that was.) She said things couldn’t get worse and I assured her they could. I reminded her that she had two jobs with people who understood when she was sick and didn’t fire her.

I called again at 3 and she was no better. I kept asking if I could come get her, or just go stay with her a while, but she said no. Now I think I should have gone anyway.

Around 5, I looked at her FB page and saw a picture of a handful of pills. A friend had commented, “Antibiotics?” and she’d answered, “Antipsychotics!” That’s her kind of humor, so I thought maybe she was regaining balance. I left a message for her.

Around 9, I went to FB to see if she’d responded and her page was GONE. Her name is there when I look it up, but the page will not show up. I texted her to ask what was going on. I texted her again this morning but no answer. I called several times this afternoon. I went to her apartment and talked to people there when I couldn’t raise her. I called her workplace but because it’s a weekend got no answer in the offices. I texted her again that I am worried about her.

I had talked to the apartment manager and gotten his number, so I called him and asked him to go to her apartment and check on her. He said he is not allowed to do that. He also said someone saw her walking down the street last night. I doubt it, but I have no proof.

Now what recourse do we have? None. We have to wait till she’s not responded for 24 hours before we call the police. At least that’s what they say in the movies and tv.

I am mainly worried that she died without Jesus. I have had ample opportunities to talk to her, and I kept trusting the Spirit to guide me as to when to speak. I didn’t want her to think I was her friend just so I could convert her. I love her for herself, but I so want her to know Jesus as her Savior and friend and God as her father. She never knew a father’s love, and I desperately want her to rest in God’s embrace. Will I get another chance?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Adult Bullies: Do You Know One?

Last week my husband and I went to see the movie “Horrible Bosses.” I can’t recommend it, but it had its moments. Any movie with Kevin Spacey, Jennifer Aniston, and Jamie Foxx has to have some notable parts. Kevin Spacey made an absolutely repulsive, vindictive boss; actually, so did Jennifer Aniston. (Just thinking about that part might make you want to see it.) All three terrible bosses were incredible bullies, leaving terrified and furious employees in their wake.

Our newspapers are full of information about Diana Frey, the ousted president of the Cincinnati Organized and Dedicated Employees union who is accused of embezzling $757,000 from the union she led.

It seems that her most significant characteristic was being a bully. She went her own way without reprisal for so long because she intimidated everyone she worked with. Now the judgments against her are great and she’s required to get a job to start paying back what she owes. Who would hire such a person? Maybe another bully who appreciates her achievements? Either that or someone with the compassion of Christ himself.

I’m reminded of dealing with a bully in the workplace and writing a story about it for Mean Girls Grown Up: Adult Women Who Are Still Queen Bees, Middle Bees, and Afraid-to-Bees, written by Cheryl Dellasega. At the time, I didn’t realize I was being bullied; I was just confused. Here’s the story with names changed to protect the guilty.

I was excited about transferring to fourth grade and looked forward to teaching with Lucy, having heard so much about what a fantastic teacher she was. I couldn't wait to collaborate with her. I thought we'd really hit it off.

My relationship dream was quickly shattered because Lucy soon made it clear she did not intend to share anything with me--ideas, equipment, space--nothing. We had to share students because the students changed classrooms for some subjects. I even tried to share what I'd read or done, hoping that if I shared ideas so would she.

The more I got to know her, the more astonished I was at the high regard in which students and parents held her. In fact, her comments and questions in faculty meetings often brought sidelong glances and even snickers from the other teachers. Unfortunately, I, too, was guilty of being amused by her responses.

"I need to talk to you in the teacher's lounge," Lucy said one afternoon, tightly.

Meekly, I followed. Closing the door, she turned to me, eyes blazing. "I cannot believe the way you treated me in the faculty meeting yesterday!" she began. "When I asked about the transparencies with that machine, you looked around and rolled your eyes! That was so hateful!

[I now admit to being guilty as charged. I guess you had to have been there…]

"I just can't take it anymore! You thrust yourself into this grade against my wishes [she had told the principal she would be delighted to teach with me] and then are so pushy and arrogant about all your ideas. Always telling me something you've read or something you're doing--and wanting to copy my ideas as well. And you're always yelling at me!

"I can tell you I've had it! You constantly humiliate me in front of the students. Even when we weren't teaching the same grade, you would rarely speak to me in the hall. I'd be leading a class down the hall and we'd meet you and I'd say, 'Hello, Mrs. Boyd!' and you'd just give that little tight-lipped smirk and go on. One day a child even asked, 'Why didn't Mrs. Boyd speak to you?' and I didn't know what to say!"

At this point, I started to say that I usually speak to people the first time I see them for the day and after that just smile as we meet--that it seemed artificial to me to speak jovially at every hall encounter, as she did. Fortunately, I sensed that it was not the time for rebuttal. I stood there in silence, trying to look humble and contrite.

As she continued her barrage, I realized that when our students were changing classrooms, her holding up the exchange for five to ten minutes each day must have been intentional--a control move!

Finally, I simply apologized. I explained that I bore her no ill will--had, in fact, looked forward to teaching with her. Trying to word it differently each time, I apologized again and again--for intruding, for being unfriendly, for being overbearing, for existing.

When we finally left, both exhausted, I had no idea what would come of our situation. As it turned out, that was only one of several similar confrontations. And with each one I learned more about the multitude of actions that offended her and how to get along without giving in to her bullying techniques. I learned to quietly make one point in each conversation and let it go at that. "I only shared ideas in hopes that you would share ideas with me--not that I thought mine were better than yours."

I also learned that sometimes Lucy was right. "I don't mean to be yelling at you,” I said. “I forget to leave my classroom voice behind." And I had to examine her accusations to be sure I wasn’t guilty of being a bully myself.

Teaching with her improved my prayer life, for I could not solve the problem alone. And my prayers were answered when our enrollment increased and God sent an angel in the guise of another teacher to join us. She was the oil for our troubled waters, for she loved us both and we loved her.

We eventually taught fourth grade together for ten years, with a better relationship each year. I understood why so many teachers had left that position, but I refused to be driven away by Lucy, the oldest fourth grade bully I'd ever known.

Which is worse, a playground bully or a psychological bully? What experiences have you had with adult bullies?

Monday, July 25, 2011

2011 Northern Kentucky Women's Outpost

Today was the last day for the 2011 Northern Kentucky Women’s Outpost at the Peace Bell in Newport. This has been an amazing series of local women giving testimony as to how God has worked in their lives.

Today’s talk was by Cathy Halloran, a breast cancer survivor who gives God the glory for her survival. She started a nonprofit, Chicks and Chucks, that serves local women who are fighting cancer. She is an incredibly funny gal who emphasizes in her talk two intensely unfunny subjects—cancer and faith in God. If you have a chance, don’t miss Cathy Halloran.

The Outpost committee is a group of women who are truly sold out for Christ. I cannot say too much about all their hard work to get together these groups of women six times each summer to hear testimonies. Coordinating singers, scripture readers, refreshments, emcees, and speakers is a huge job, and they do it extremely well. Kudos to all who made the 2011 Outpost such a success!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Mother's Daughter

My mother has been dead for over two years, but today during church I was struck suddenly with the loss of her presence, her wisdom, her humor. Steve preached on the afterlife, and my reaction had nothing to do with that. I listened, making application only to myself without lingering on our loved ones who have passed on.

Our final song was one I’d never heard or sung before: “I Want to Stroll Over Heaven with You.” Suddenly I could see my parents, my dear father who died in 1984, and my vivacious mother, strolling over heaven together. So many times around dusk in the summer, after chores and dinner were over, Mother and Daddy would stroll around the farm or the yard together, talking about their day. After his death, she often talked of how much she missed Daddy and was looking forward to being with him again in heaven.

Singing that song gave me such a vivid picture of them together, looking as they do in pictures I have of when they were first married—in the prime of life and bursting with joy.

I made such a scene—fumbling for a tissue, blowing my nose—that two dear young professional women came to me after church, hugging and wanting to know if they could help. I tried to tell them what had triggered the tears, but simply started crying again. I managed to reassure them that my tears were not of sorrow, for I am so glad my parents are reunited. But I also have times that I miss them very much. I’m sure heaven is so wonderful that there’s no concern for what’s going on down on earth, but I would dearly love for them to know Finn and him to know them.

The other reminder today was as I finished a book I thoroughly enjoyed: The Lives Our Mothers Leave Us, by Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan’s daughter. She interviewed 23 prominent women “of a certain age” about their mothers and their relationships. I purchased it as part of my effort to read others’ books about mothers as I am writing about mine. As I read it, I was struck with so many similarities in mother-daughter relationships everywhere: Linda Bloodworth Thomason’s mother being unwelcome to marry into the Bloodworth family, but then becoming the favorite (that’s Steve and my mother!); Anjelica Houston living with a “constant feeling of foreboding…What’s going to happen next?” (my childhood with my mother); and Julianna Margulies statement that “if you want to have a relationship with your mother, you have to accept who she was in the past and move forward.”

I’ve been reading on this book for over a week, but the other statement that made me weep today was from Cokie Roberts: “When I am being my very best self, I am being my mother’s daughter.”

In our family we have often joked about when I am “my mother’s daughter,” and it usually deals with one of her less desirable characteristics, such as getting upset over a small matter or trying to arrange everyone’s day, week, or life. But the Cokie Roberts quote struck me as true also; my best self is also when I’m like my mother.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Signs of Finn

We all have special signs of spring or fall that we look forward to. Any visitor to my house today would see signs of Findlay.

The magazines have been pulled from the basket beside the rocker in the kitchen and strewn over the floor. In the living room is a shoe horn he got from our bedroom and tossed aside while I read to him. In the hall is a large plastic envelope that he enjoyed pulling by its string fastener. The small kitchen items from the children’s play area in the kitchen are by the door, window, and refrigerator.
These are sweet signs, showing the curiosity and short attention span of a 15-month-old. He’s wonderful at entertaining himself, so I can just go along for the ride. At times, he talks in his own sweet gibberish, and I feel compelled to answer with a series of “Really?” or “I guess you’re right” or “You don’t say!”

Play dishes in the stair well by the back door and ark animals in the rocking chair. Could putting them behind the posts of the rocking chair have anything to do with his visit to the zoo yesterday? Our zoo doesn’t have many animals behind bars, but there are a few. Of course I interpret this as brilliant and perceptive.

There’s the changing pad on the guest bed with diapers and wipes nearby—also signs of Finn’s presence. And the spilled dirt on the floor where he pulled a stem of my airplane plant a bit too firmly.

But now he’s gone home for the night with his sweet and loving daddy, and the house seems a bit lonely without his energetic little figure roaming around, investigating and commenting, squealing and laughing. I can’t get too nostalgic, though, because he’ll be back to do this all over again tomorrow!

Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Adoption Language

Many times people who haven't adopted a child aren't familiar with the acceptable language of adoption. Sandra Glahn's post gives excellent tips for talking about adoption.

You can also read a story about our daughter Kelsey, whose adoption was always discussed openly and positively. We are grateful that her birth mother chose the gift of life for our precious daughter, now thirty and a mother herself.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

Good Intentions...

“I’ll blog every couple of days on our trip,” I thought, and once again I was quite wrong! We had a lovely trip to London and Northern Ireland (and even a few hours in Ireland) but we went so hard from morning until night that the blogging never happened.

But this post is not about our trip, though being with all of our children (including their spouses, of course) and grandchildren for eight days was marvelous. I’m thinking today of good intentions. I intended to blog about my trip.

I recall once when Gina, our daughter-in-law, was asked to describe herself in one word. Her answer: “well-intentioned.” I love that, because it is true of not only Gina but everyone in our family! Our children and their spouses are people of a strong faith and we all have the best of intentions but of course don’t always follow through on them.

For example, the morning after we returned from functioning for eight days in a time zone five hours earlier than ours, Steve pulled everything out of the garage and the storage closet in order to clean and reorganize. His intentions were good, but in no way jibed with my own! Fortunately, with age I try to look at people’s intentions rather than their actions. My initial anger cooled in just a few minutes because I knew it was a task that should have been done long ago. I fumed a bit inwardly (and, I admit, slammed a couple of doors much harder than necessary) but just tried to get my part done as quickly as possible.

Of course my own life is a tribute to Randy Travis’s song, “Good Intentions.” One of the times I was most guilty was when we were selling Steve’s old reel-to-reel tape player. I offered the buyer our old tapes, then said, “Oh, and there are more upstairs!” and gave him those as well.

Those were the tapes of Steve’s high school basketball games that he was saving for posterity! He had pulled them out intentionally, so why on earth did I think cleaning out old stuff included those tapes? Forty years later, I still feel sadness and guilt over doing that. It’s a tribute to him that he never brings it up, even when his high school basketball achievements are discussed.

But the most common time that my good intentions backfire is when I finish my husband’s sentences, correct something he says, or suggest a shorter route to our destination. I don’t mean to demean him; I intend to be helpful! But my good intentions aren’t sufficient. I need to think ahead more and keep my impulsive thoughts to myself. As Archie Bunker used to say to Edith, “Button your face.”

And, from a more serious source, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell. All kinds of animals, birds, reptiles and sea creatures are being tamed and have been tamed by mankind, but no human being can tame the tongue. It is a restless evil, full of deadly poison” (James 3:6-8.)

What an indictment! James makes it clear that no human being can tame the tongue; only God has that power. I obviously need to pray more and speak less. I must take seriously James’ admonition to be “quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry” (James 1:19.) Good intentions aren’t enough. As I get older, I can see improvement in being slow to become angry, but the other two are still daily challenges for me!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Writing Day

This is my Writing Day. For years I have tried to eliminate anything but writing from this day, at least from 9-5. If I went to Zumba, as I did this morning, I’d start earlier so I’d get in my full day of writing. Steve would be in classes at NKU and I’d apply myself diligently.

Now Steve is retired. He has great intentions of leaving me alone on my Writing Day, but things come up—small things, certainly, but concentration-interrupters. They are always prefaced by “I hate to bother you on your writing day…,” which is very sweet.

This morning, one of them was to invite me to go with him to lunch on the river at a nearby marina, going, of course, in the convertible. It’s a beautiful day, so I measured my priorities and decided husband should come before writing, especially since my upcoming deadlines are in July, August, and October.

Turns out the marina is closed on Monday and Tuesday, so we picked up sandwiches and drinks at Subway and took them to the park by the river. Delightful!

I could tell he thought I was rushing it a bit to leave only 15 minutes after we’d finished eating, but he said nothing. Then, since our icemaker is non-functioning AGAIN (another sad story), we needed to buy ice en route home, so we went to our little “old Kroger,” as opposed to the super-duper Kroger Marketplace. He said he needed tomato juice and bottled water, so he got that and I got the ice and a couple of things. We agreed we would each check out and meet at the car.

I waited almost ten minutes for him to emerge from the store, and meanwhile I began to fume. That only lasted a few seconds, for I figured out long ago how to spend random moments such as this. I began praying again for some in special challenges right now—our friend who is trying to keep three jobs in order to pay her bills, our friends whose loved ones died and they are deeply grieving, a marriage that is in danger because the husband has fallen back to some of his past destructive habits. Those kinds of prayers can keep me occupied for a long time!

When Steve finally emerged, I chose to say nothing about the long wait. I’d figured he’d thought of dozens of other items, but evidently not.

Often even when he has a good excuse for something, he won’t say so because he disdains people who always make excuses. Fortunately, this time he said immediately, “Well, you might know the two things that would slow me down at this store—one, a person.” He grinned.

Surprised, I named a talkative friend of ours and, sure enough, that’s who he had run into. She had fallen playing tennis and was bruised and battered all over, even to a broken rib. A sad story that needed listening to. (And after all, he is the listening guru!)

Then there was some difficulty at the checkout, and someone’s groceries had to be unbagged and refigured before he could get through the line.

So he had good reasons, and I was sorry to hear of my friend’s misfortune. I got some perspective on my wait, and gained appreciation for my good health and good husband. And since I hadn’t written a blog post lately, I now had a plan for when I finally arrived at home. Waiting on the Lord (Psalm 27:14)is always in order, and sometimes waiting on our spouses works that way, too.

Friday, June 10, 2011

49 years later...

When in high school, there are few indications of what a person will be like 30 or 40 or 50 years later. Will the compassionate person still show kindness to all? Will the talkative one still talk a mile a minute? Will they still be complaining about their mothers? Will the homecoming queen be as beautiful as ever? Will the nurturer have lots of children? Will the academic one have advanced degrees? Will I still be a little jealous of this or that one? (We didn’t have any rich ones, so there’s no wondering if the little rich girl is still spoiled.)

In the first week of June, last year and this, some of those questions were answered. I’d occasionally seen one of my high school girlfriends, because she still lives in our hometown. The others I hadn’t seen since 1965, and had not even stayed in touch with all.

The compassionate ones still showed concern, offering to bring food or to cook while here, cleaning up after themselves and others. We all talked, but no one monopolized. The most common comment was, “Well, getting back to what I was saying about…,” because every comment triggered a sharable thought from one or two. No one complained about mothers, for only one is still on this earth. That daughter, however, has moved closer and not told her mother she's now two miles away and not twenty. There was talk of mothers, though, lots of it. Their quirks, their remembered comments, their personality traits, their faith.

The homecoming queen was still beautiful, especially on the inside. (We admired her cloud of white hair, keeping just the right amount of curl as we remembered. The rest of us admitted to coloring our hair--no longer anything to be ashamed of as it was for our mothers.) We were surprised to discover her hidden talents. As one said, “Who would ever have thought she’d be such an Earth Mother?” Her four children, ten grandchildren, and two great-grandchildren keep her busy, as she cooks for all every Sunday and helps out in numerous ways in between. Her faith sustains her through all the trials connected with many children and aging parents and the death of her mother. Her husband cares for her nonagenarian father daily, a blessing to the whole family. (Though I admit to a little resentment that my peer is a great-grandmother! I don’t see myself in that category.)

Four of the five of us are still married to our original spouses, married back in the days when marriage preceded living together and having children. One has no children, but she and her husband nurture friends and the children of friends and cared for her mother for years.

Some have had adventures, domestic and foreign. Some have quietly raised families faithful to the Lord, serving in their parents’ paths. From VISTA volunteers to teachers to nannies, all have served others in some way. I am proud of all of us, for the lives we’re living and for the faith we show in our conversations. “That was surely God at work!” and “I don’t see how people make it without faith in God” were common responses. I don’t recall our being all that spiritual in high school, but we’ve come around to it, following our own parents.

None of us lives more than five hours from where we grew up, and all are happy with where we are in life. We enjoy friends, family, and faith. What more could anyone ask?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Funeral Poem

Today the body of my dear friend Linda was laid to rest in a beautiful, park-like setting. Her spirit--her true self--left earth very early Monday morning. I ache for her husband, whose mother died three hours before Linda; I ache for her children, who didn't appreciate her until the last two months; I ache for those of us who will think, "Oh, Linda will want to hear about this!" and then realize that our time for talking together is past.

But I do not hurt for her. I am happy for her, for leaving behind the eleven years of fighting cancer, for her release from pain, for her reunion with dear ones gone before. On the day she died, she kept calling the names of deceased family and friends, some whom she hadn't mentioned in years. Was she seeing them beckon her to them? I'd like to think so.

Steve's funeral message was lovely--very much centered on Linda, whose life was centered on Jesus. He ended with this poem by an anonymous author, a poem I'll save to share with others as needed.

When I come to the end of the road,
and the sun has set for me,
I want no rites in the gloom-filled room,
Why cry for a soul set free?
Miss me a little, but not too long,
and not with your head bowed low;
Remember the love that we once shared,
Miss me, but let me go,
For this is a journey that we all must take
and each must go alone.
It is all a part of the Master's plan,
a step on the road to home.
When you are lonely and sick at heart,
go to the friends we know
And bury your sorrows in doing good deeds,
miss me, but let me go.

Go in peace, dear Linda.

Sunday, May 22, 2011

A Guest Post

We had a lovely week with grandson Knox, but I'm been working in the yard ever since our return from Lafayette. Josh and Kinley arrived safely in London and are having a grand time.

I haven't written anything except an update for Linda's CaringBridge page. I did have a guest post, however, on author Mary DeMuth's blog yesterday. You can read it here.

I especially enjoyed reading people's comments. If you choose to comment on it, perhaps you could return here to comment so I'll be sure to read it.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Modern Inconveniences

Travel these days is so uncertain. I guess it’s always been that way, come to think of it. We don’t deal with ill winds or tribal attacks, or scurvy or our horses wearing out. We no longer have to wait weeks or months to hear of a safe arrival. But we do have to deal with security measures that irritate as well as protect and with engine problems, whether it’s auto or airplane.

Josh and Kinley were at the Indianapolis airport yesterday in time for their 6:40 pm flight to London via Boston. First there were delays, and then they were no longer in line for a runway and then they were told that it was too late to connect in Boston to Heathrow so they’d have to wait another day to leave! So he put in a call, and Steve and I went back to get them. They even had to retrieve their luggage yesterday and start all over today!

So—disappointment and blessings, all mixed together! Kinley’s sadness about leaving school early was all about missing the talent show. She didn’t miss a minute of it! She performed with her three friends and also participated in a “flash mob” number of teachers and some students that was a surprise for the rest of the school. She did great in both.

We got to spend some time with Josh and Kinley that we’d otherwise have missed. Steve took them back to the airport (about 1 hour 20 minutes drive) and I picked Knox up from preschool. After a trip to the Dollar Tree, Knox’s “favoritest store in the universe,” we are playing knights and practicing with squirt guns on and off. There is no limit to this child’s imagination.

And through it all, praying without ceasing. Praying for safe journeys, good connections, competent airline personnel. Praying for wisdom in influencing my precious grandchildren. Prayers of thanksgiving for my children and the people they married. Prayers of thankfulness for husband who shows no limit to his willingness to help his children. He constantly demonstrates on an earthly level the limitless love of our heavenly Father. How can our children not follow the lead of such a godly man?

So I kind of got away from the inconveniences of our modern conveniences, but that isn’t important, anyway. People are what matter—to me and to God. And, as my great-uncle Zach used to say, I got a “good ‘un.”

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Ingredients for an Exhilarating Weekend

Being with family is both exhilarating and exhausting! My brother and his wife visited us for five days that were warm, loving, peaceful, and enjoyable. In the middle three days we mixed in their daughter, another brother and his daughter, all our children and grandchildren, and my husband’s sister and husband.

Knox, age 4½, and Findlay, age 13 months, stirred constantly. Kinley celebrated her tenth birthday on Saturday, midst much Hawaiian hoopla.

On Saturday, along with various colleagues, connected friends, and former students, we all celebrated with Steve his retirement with a dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, China Gourmet.

On Mother’s Day we folded in our son-in-law’s mother and husband and brother and fiancée. All the mothers had children there, and the husbands and children prepared our Mother’s Day feast. Delightful!

My brothers and I intensely missed the fourth generation that used to be at our Mother’s Day celebrations—our third year without our mother, and much longer without Steve’s and my sister-in-law’s mothers.

There’s something about family celebrations that needs four generations. We need the Aunt Mae to wait on or the Grandma to pamper. We need the pictures with the youngest in the lap of the oldest.

So now we’re the oldest, but we’re not yet ready for only lap pictures. We can all still assemble on the lawn for one of those stilted, “everyone look at the camera when it starts blinking” pictures made with the camera timer. We can still play with the children in the yard or on the floor; we can still stay up well past midnight playing Scrabble or Boggle or Quirkle. (Guess our family has a thing for games ending in le.)

So we must relish these times, remembering Mother playing in the yard with her children and then her grandchildren, adding our own memories with our children and grandchildren. This is truly a terrific time of life for us—schedule flexibility and enough body flexibility to enjoy a multitude of activities and events.

Praise God from whom all these blessings flow!

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Thoughts on Friendship

Friendship is a treasure in most circumstances. Some friendships are draining; some friends always seem to take more than they give. But true mutual friendships are rare and valuable. Such is the one I share with this certain friend.

Sunday night I stayed at the hospital with my friend who is dying of cancer—ovarian, now liver, lungs, and who knows where else it has spread. Her body has changed immensely from when I first knew her thirty years ago, and her left leg is swollen to three times the size of mine. (And mine aren’t skinny!)

But, as usual, I left refreshed and encouraged because of spending time with her. We talked about important things; we shared trivial stories. All work together to form the patchwork of our special relationship.

We prayed together at “lights out.” We prayed together again before I left. It’s almost redundant, for I "pray without ceasing" for her—for a miraculous healing, but especially for comfort from pain and a peaceful spirit. True to form, after I prayed for her, she prayed for me in precious detail.

She knows God is in control, but she also is pragmatic enough to know that people have free will and God will let them mess up their lives if they choose. She worries about her family and what will happen to them when she is gone. Her concerns are valid; I cannot conscientiously dismiss them. Instead, I ask how I can help them after she is gone. She doesn’t know, but she’s thinking about it.

Her continued mental sharpness is amazing. She knows all her doctors, their specialties, their idiosyncrasies. She had some red spots on her shoulder and diagnosed it herself to the nurse, who agreed. When the doctor said it was probably that (of course I don’t recall the word), the nurse told him that my friend had diagnosed it immediately. The knowledge comes from fighting cancer and dealing with doctors for eleven years; the remembering it surely is a gift from God.

During the eleven years, her husband has had open heart surgery and knee replacement, among other illnesses, so their finances are depleted and beyond depleted. Friends have rallied to their cause, and I could assure her that we’ve collected the thousands needed for her funeral.

When I told other friends that we’ve reached our goal, they immediately said that they still wanted to contribute because her husband can surely use any surplus when she’s gone. When I told her that people were still wanting to give beyond what was needed, she immediately said, “Oh, getting more would be great, because there might be someone else who needs the money.” So typical that she’s always thinking of others and how she can ease their lives.

She told me about shopping for my birthday gift six weeks ago. She shared funny stories about her mother, also a beloved friend, who died six years ago. We talked about everything from getting rid of mattresses to grandchildren. I got the information to use for her obituary. There were no holds barred in our conversations.

We don’t know if she has hours, days, or weeks. I did note that she needs her pain meds long before time for the next dose. All I can do is keeping seeing her as often as possible and thinking of things to make her laugh. Laughter is one of God’s great gifts that she still enjoys to the fullest, so I’ll try to keep that in good supply.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Does My Life Show My Values?

Today I added a funeral to my full calendar—the funeral of someone I never met. But he was my friend Dee’s father, and I wanted to see her and to pay my respects.

Bill Saelinger, age 90, had ten children who surrounded his casket at the beginning of the mass. His wife of 65 years was there, with 30 grandchildren and 20 greats. The tributes given to him were impressive. Because he had to leave school after only eight years in order to work on the family farm, he stressed to his children the value of education and thus fathered a doctor, a lawyer, a pharmacist, a physical therapist, and several registered nurses.

This is impressive to me because I’ve always taken education for granted. My father and his siblings and five of my mother’s siblings had college degrees, some advanced. We were a family of teachers, not from pressure but by choice.

My mother taught grade school with only a high school diploma. It was not the traditional “one-room schoolhouse,” but instead was a more “modern” version, having three classrooms plus a lunchroom. Of course the lunchroom was merely a room with tables where students could go to eat the lunches they’d brought from home. This was in the 1940s, and the superintendent felt she knew enough to teach the children math and how to read and write.

In 1984, my father’s Tuesday funeral was attended by high school students who had been in his biology and chemistry classes the previous Friday. Last year, my daughter taught her ESL high school classes on Tuesday and had a baby Wednesday morning. I taught elementary school 34 years; my husband is retiring after 42 years of college teaching. Our son is a college professor; his wife teaches elementary school. We don’t talk about how we value education; it’s just the way we live.

A generation that didn’t have an education values it and passes that value on to their children. The dedication to education may lessen through the years as each generation gets accustomed to the privileges of education. They are still educated, but they don’t talk about it. And we can look around at later generations who decry the need for a college degree.

I see the same effect with Christian families. When people who were not reared with Christ as the center of the home find Jesus, they are on fire for the Lord and work diligently to keep their children strong and faithful. But through the generations, some of that energy and enthusiasm wanes as the Christian life may appear to be simply a routine to go through. Children don’t always have the commitment to Christ and the Bible that their parents or grandparents had. Perhaps the older generation doesn’t talk about it enough; we just live it and hope the younger generation catches on.

Just as Bill Saelinger talked about the importance of an education, we need to talk to our children, both young and adult, about our commitment and why Jesus is important to us. Perhaps our parental theme verses should be Deuteronomy 6:6-7: “These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”

From personal experience I’d add, “And as you ride in the car,” for those are times when parents and children often have the most significant conversations.

What do we talk about to our children? If your child or grandchild were asked what is most important in life to you, what would the answer be?

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

God's Mysterious Ways

Another friend is dying. I remember my dad telling me, “It seems like everyone I love is dying,” and he was younger than I am now. Linda is only 56 and that is too young. Her children and grandchildren still need her.

I first knew Linda as a relatively new mother, struggling to get two toddlers to church. At that time she had no spiritual support from her husband. Her mother was a gem, a true saint of our congregation, who died only five years ago. Linda’s father lived a couple more years, and it seems highly unfair that this daughter who cared for them so sweetly would not live at least as long as they did. But we all know life is not fair--nor is death.

Daryl, her husband, for many years has been her faithful companion—helping, listening, interpreting, running interference, giving moral and spiritual support. He isn’t in good health, either, having had open heart surgery and knee replacement during the eleven years Linda has fought ovarian cancer.

In 1998, Linda wrote in a journal passed among our sisters, “If anyone would have told me eight weeks ago what I would be doing tonight, I might have been as doubtful as Abraham’s Sarah. I probably would have laughed! When I finish this journal entry and my tea, I will be having a Bible study for the first time with my best friend and husband, and he suggested it! God really does work in mysterious ways!”

Linda called yesterday morning from her hospital room in tears over a doctor’s words. This woman reprimanded Linda for requesting blood transfusions and physical therapy, saying that Linda needed to decide if she wanted to waste time and resources in the hospital or go home to be with her family for her last days. She is not one of Linda’s regular doctors and obviously doesn’t know what a fighter Linda is. Then she offered to pray with Linda, and Linda thought things were looking up. But the woman addressed her prayer to Allah, and Linda, who has had many challenges with a Muslim son-in-law, was appalled.

Eleven years of doctors and chemo and complications have depleted their meager funds, but Christian friends have filled the gap. This time the contributions are for her “end of earthly life” arrangements, and she is immeasurably relieved that Daryl won’t have that burden. Friends from nearby to hundreds of miles away responded generously when they knew of the need.

More and more, I see that there is no discounting the power of prayer and Linda's determination. Another doctor later yesterday said Linda might still have months. Linda asked me, "Where is that luncheon on April 30?"

I had feared Linda had a reservation elsewhere, but perhaps not. I think I'd better get in those luncheon reservations.

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Best-Laid Plans

Days simply do not always follow the plan I have in mind. I’m sure others have noticed the same problem.

My day was set: Zumba class at 9:30, facial at 10:30, write the rest of the day. But my daughter got conjunctivitis and needed to be driven to the doctor, along with baby Finn because his dad had a job interview—nothing to be trifled with.

Fortunately, her appointment was at 9, and even with stopping to pick up her prescription, I left her house at 10:05 and decided to go straight to my 10:30 appointment. I felt sure Elaine wouldn’t mind taking me early.

But, strangely enough, as I got to the street leading to my house, en route to Elaine’s, my car suddenly seemed to get a mind of its own and swerved in, heading for home. At first I was so aggravated, fuming to myself over the extra minutes it would take. And what could I do at home for 10 minutes? Nothing productive, I thought.

And then it hit me. Perhaps I was supposed to go home for a specific reason. I became excited with the anticipation of what I’d find at home.

Sure enough, there were three urgent calls. Two were for Steve—the car repair person and the president of a board he’s on. The other was my friend Linda, who could hardly talk for weeping, but making clear that she wanted to talk to me.

Hurriedly I jotted down the numbers Steve needed to call, checked to be sure I had Linda’s hospital phone number, and left. I was a bit stunned at finding three messages that all ended with, “…so if you can call me as soon as possible….”

In the car, I called Linda and learned of the thoughtless doctor who had upset her. At Elaine’s, I called Steve to leave a message and, almost miraculously to me, he was between classes and actually answered his phone!

After my facial, though not looking my best, I suppressed my pride and headed for the hospital to visit Linda. She had settled down somewhat, but still struggled—with pain, with alarm at the doctor’s harsh judgment, with concern that the doctor had said to her, “You are not the only one suffering through this. Your family and friends are, too.”

Linda said to me, “No! No one else is suffering for me. I have it all. How could she say that?”

I said, “Perhaps she means that your family is suffering at the thought of what they’ll do without you. That’s a different kind of suffering.” She hesitantly agreed.

Already there with Linda was our close friend Marcia. Marcia and I got to chat as the nurses worked with Linda, finally getting her into a chair for a while.

We eventually had a few minutes to talk, and I gave Linda a list of friends from out of town who had sent money to help with her “end of earthly life” expenses. She was overwhelmed at the names of people who long ago had left our congregation to move across the country or just to attend elsewhere. She’d touched all those lives and had no idea how much.

As one friend wrote to me, “She will never know (until she gets to heaven) how she has impacted so many families and lives. Here she is battling for her life and Dale and I get a card in the mail from her welcoming us to our new home last week. Always putting others in front of herself. What a testimony/example!”

So now I review the day and how it turned out. I got to help my precious daughter, to spend one-on-one time with grandson Finn, help Steve get his car fixed sooner, visit with friend Marcia, encourage Linda’s husband Daryl, and spend time with my dear Linda. All great and positive experiences—so it’s a good thing God planned my day and not me!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Three Days in March

I am rarely around children for extended periods of time, especially without other adults present. But in the last two weeks, I spent three days with three different children.

First was Knox, age 4 years + 6 months, at his house. He is all boy—playing with cars and transformers, bouncing around on the jungle gym, wanting to ride his Big Wheel but legs not quite long enough to reach. A nap is not a consideration. We talk about his preschool. He loves to sound out simple words and to recite his newest Bible verse from the prophets. (If you haven't seen his video, do click here.) We read lots of books. Precious little boy.

Second was Victoria, age 4 months, at my house. She smiled a lot, cried only when hungry, and took a 3½ hour nap. I even took her with me to meet with my little in the Big Brothers, Big Sisters after-school program and to Kroger and she was well-behaved.
Precious baby girl.

Today is Brianna, age 3 years + 9 months, at my house. She’s all about the dolls left from 25 years ago, distressed at the missing arm of one, delicately dressing another. She delights in showing me how strong she is, taking the toys upstairs, and how smart she is, for she excels in counting and her ABCs. We talk about her preschool. We read lots of books and she loves the play jewelry box.
She is entranced by the little drawer in our kitchen table where we keep napkins, and goes through several, requiring additional withdrawals from the drawer. Loves watching our squirrels. Takes an hour nap. She said, "Since you are Finn's grandma, you could be my grandma, too." Absolutely! Precious little girl.

These experiences have helped me in various ways—to remember how time-consuming children can be for their parents, to see how children have a different view of things, to see how little effort it takes to bring a smile to a child’s face, and to recognize my own joy in the interactions.

I pray that God will give me opportunities to serve him through serving others, so I grudgingly take these opportunities as they arise. Then I am blessed by the giving far more than I bless.

But I do need to make clear that once every three or four months is all I’m available!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

"Have you been to the new Target?"

“Have you been to the new Target?” seems to be the conversation-starter of the month. Our location in Campbell County, Kentucky, just across the river from downtown Cincinnati has always been an ideal location for access to downtown plays and athletic events. We, however, have always had to go several miles to big-box stores of any kind. With a population of 87,000, it’s surprising that stores have been more likely to close here than to open.

So I hear people talking about going to the new Target, which is only five minutes from our house at our usual interstate access point. The buzz about that exit started a little over a year ago when a super-Kroger opened there. The only thing that will exceed the excitement over these two will be if the Kroger gas station ever opens. That will truly transport us all to bliss.

So why does everyone get so excited about store openings? Novelty, of course, but also convenience. We get something we need. We all are so rushed about everything, always behind, never catching up on all we have to do. So saving time—and now, gas money—is appealing.

I’m reminded of the conversation on the road to Emmaus, when Jesus joined Cleopas and his friend.

“Are you the only one visiting Jerusalem who does not know the things that have happened there in these days?” Cleopas asked Jesus. Obviously Jesus was the novelty of the day, and his teaching as well as his crucifixion were paramount in people’s minds. So why else were people so interested in Jesus—and so disappointed at his death?

Because people got something they needed. They needed hope. They needed the assurance of life eternally. They needed to be involved in something greater than themselves, and Jesus met that need.

And just as the disciples on the road to Emmaus did not at first recognize Jesus, we often do not initially recognize what we really need. We have the same needs today as those who were contemporaries of Jesus.

We need hope. We need the assurance that this is not all there is. We need to be involved in something greater than ourselves and our own limited interests.

Jesus finally revealed himself to the two disciples, and it’s time we reveal ourselves to our friends and family who do not know Jesus. More and more, I realize that others do not feel the peace and contentment that comes with knowing Jesus. I want to share “the joy of my salvation,” as David referred to it in Psalm 51. If you don’t know Jesus, Psalm 51 is a good prayer to start with.

As I consider my friends and acquaintances, I see certain people that I would approach to know more about Jesus if I were becoming interested in following him. Some that are regular church attenders would not necessarily be chosen, but those who glow with the love of Jesus and the joy of serving others stand out in my mind. So I want to live my life so that I am that person to others.

What question can I ask that will be as engaging as the one about Target, but that will get to the heart of knowing Jesus? I welcome your ideas.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Aging Gracefully

The Ides of March! Unlike their foreboding implication, I welcome March 15 each year, because I know that spring is not far away. In spite of the present grayness and gloom, I know that sunny days are ahead.

The seasons are so unlike life. We always know it won’t be long until green newness arrives everywhere. But life isn’t like that. When we feel gray and old, we look forward only to getting older. Lately I’ve been thinking of the phrase “growing old gracefully.” On one hand, I’d like to be put in that category; on the other hand, I prefer to age kicking and screaming against the injustice of it all as I slowly lose abilities I always took for granted, such as a good memory.

I find myself analyzing people’s wrinkles—does she have more or fewer than I do? Which of us looks older? I wonder if she’s using face cream or if she’s just letting it go. Such pondering reminds me of a couple of conversations I had with my mother who still had lovely skin at age 85.

I stood by her bed, holding her hand as we waited for her to be picked up for surgery.

“Your skin feels so dry,” I said. “Do you want me to rub your face with my face cream?”

“Oh, yes! Please do,” she said.

As I gently stroked her face, I thought of the instructions she’d given me since I was a teenager about how to apply face cream. That’s beside the point now, I thought, but I was wrong.

She said, “Now be sure to rub in upward motions. An Elizabeth Arden clerk told me long ago to rub upward when applying face cream in order to avoid wrinkles.”

I looked at her in amazement that it would still matter to her at this point--and that she thought she was telling me something I didn't know. Smiling, I said, “Well, it’s obviously worked for you. Your skin is beautiful.” And it was. Though she was 22 when I was born, we had about the same amount of wrinkles.

She survived that surgery and months later was still in rehab. The bright sun came through the window and shone directly on me as I stood by her bed.

Peering at me, she said, “Honey, you need to use some cream on your face. You’ve got lots of wrinkles.”

Thanks, Mother! I thought.

But I said, “Oh, I do, Mother. But unfortunately I inherited the Bradley skin instead of your beautiful smooth skin.” All true. In fact, following her earlier advice, I probably spend more a year on face creams than she has in a lifetime.

She lived Psalm 73: 25-26: “Whom have I in heaven but you? And earth has nothing I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. “

Did she age gracefully? I guess she did, for she maintained a lively spirit no matter what her physical condition. If that’s what’s meant by aging gracefully, I’m all for it. I don’t want to be seen as one who is getting older and not wiser or one that focuses on aging rather than on life.

Last week I heard a woman about my age say, “I don’t look in the mirror any more. I don’t want to focus on wrinkles; I’m too busy for that.” I like that and am inspired to have the same philosophy.

There’s a great post on the HOPE blog that has excellent points about aging. Thanks, Ingrid, for great insights.

What are your thoughts on getting older?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Goldilocks Finds "Just Right"

I’ve walked for exercise for years, getting up early enough to walk before going to school each day. I enjoyed the solitude for my prayer time whether outside (preferrably) or on our treadmill (grudgingly).

When I took early retirement from teaching (notice I was not retirement age when I quit!), I started Pilates classes and loved it. The classes were 75 minutes long, twice a week, at 8:30, and gave a great start to my day. After about a year, the place closed for remodeling.

For a while, I used Pilates tapes, but that is not the same! No instructor to say, “Raise those hips higher!” or “Tighten those abs every time you breathe in or out!” Then when the exercise center reopened, the classes changed to once a week and a time that wasn’t convenient for my schedule.

Back to the Pilates tapes and DVDs, but not the same. I’d alternate Pilates and walking outside in good weather and the treadmill in bad.

My rheumatologist said I should be walking in water rather than on land—that it would pay off for my joints down the road. (But what road?) For over a year, I went to the YMCA twice a week to walk in the pool. Hated it. But at least I could get in my prayer time that way. I canceled my membership when I left town for the summer. I decided that was a road I’d accept when I came to it.

Then a new Pilates place opened nearby. Fabulous! Caring, capable instructor, classes that fit my schedule. I was back in gear. Pilates twice a week and walking at least three other days.

Then last summer’s mission trip to Malaysia interrupted my Pilates schedule, and by the time I returned and contacted my great Pilates place, one class had been dropped and the other was full.

Yikes! So I signed up for Pilates classes in Cincinnati with a great Groupon offer. Went five times and felt inadequate four of them. The first time was a snowy day and I was the only person there. Great! Essentially a private lesson. But the other times I was surrounded by beautiful young bodies who could lift and balance and raise and lower in ways that I could only dream about. Oh, I could do what they did 7 or 8 times, but not 30 or 50! They were kind to me, but I felt so inept that I didn’t sign up for more classes.

Then I read in our local paper about Curves/Zumba classes. Maybe that’s my answer, I thought. So I took their free week and learned the machines at Curves. As I’d feared, I was surrounded by dear, white-haired ladies who were very encouraging and sweet and saying things like, “That thirty seconds on that machine is a long time!” I wasn’t sure I wanted to associate myself with that age group.

But finally came the Zumba classes, and I think I’ve found my niche. There isn’t a gray hair in the class except for the instructor’s ponytail, obviously premature. Now I must admit that I think it’s because most of us use a little L’Oreal or Clairol help not to be gray, but that’s part of the point: these are women who haven’t given in to aging in any way they can fight. These women move and stimulate me to do the same.

I love the energy required to keep up with the Zumba moves in between time on the Curves machines. I feel like Goldilocks—it’s not too hard, not too easy, but “just right.” Finally!

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Writing About My Mother

Mary Onezima Ralph Bradley, my mother, was the quintessential hostess, graciously feeding groups from class reunions to business meetings to elderly illiterate cousins and lonely parolees. She didn’t just feed them, but incorporated their problems as her own. She was the Southern version of The Matchmaker, but she matched jobs to the jobless, income sources to the penniless, living water to the spiritually dry. Her home was a haven for the downtrodden, some for hours, others for years.

She was a woman of passion. She was passionate about everything that really counts—her faith, her husband, her children and later their families, her extended family of eight siblings, dozens of aunts, uncles, and cousins, and her friends. She was passionate about education and constantly demonstrated the term “life-long learner.”

But she was passionate about trivia as well: setting the table, adding ingredients to a recipe in the correct order, addressing an envelope, weeding the garden, answering the phone, moving a chair from one place to another, placing a book on the coffee table. All were fodder for her particular passionate perspective.

Above all, she was passionate about Jesus Christ.

But she was also a human being and flawed. During the first 80 years of her life, she had a quick temper and a sharp tongue to go with it. Stories of her temperamental responses have become family legend, but she managed to live through them and grow by them. And her growth jump-started the development of the rest of us as well.

I have written a book telling of my mother’s exploits and how both she and we grew from them—socially, spiritually, emotionally. I continue to work on this book as events prompt additional memories. Each chapter ends with a recipe of one of her special food items that was mentioned in the chapter. Recipes include such Southern favorites as Fresh Coconut Cake, Fried Okra, Blackberry Cobbler, Pork Barbecue, and Fried Green Tomatoes. Can’t you feel your arteries clog, just reading the names of the foods she so beautifully prepared?

These days, a well-written book about an interesting person is not enough. Publishers want writers already to have a platform—meaning followers on a blog, speaking engagements, and other connections that will help to sell books. So before I can submit my book, I must work on my platform. Right now my platform is so small I must balance on one foot to stand on it.

People tell me they read my blog, but I need readers who will sign up on my blog as a follower. I need to speak to women’s groups or church groups or parent groups wherever they’ll have me. I’m working on updating my deplorably obsolete website. My precious little Findlay is not even mentioned on it, and he’ll be a year old next month! Thus an excuse to post a picture of little Finn Byers with his doting cousin Knox. And to ask my readers to sign up as followers of my blog. Thanks, dear friends.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Ajalon Acres

In the summer of 1970, my parents and I walked their 50-acre farm, looking for a good building site for their dream house. We settled on building in a low-lying area rather than on a rise. They wanted cozy more than majestic, and it worked out well.

They finished building in the summer of 1972, the summer our first child, Joshua, was born. Mother had dithered quite a bit about a name for their place, and once she adjusted to Josh’s name (“Why would you give him an old man’s name?” was her quick response on hearing of the birth of her first grandchild), she knew what to name her home.

In Joshua 10, the story of Joshua’s commanding the sun to stand still so they could finish defeating the Amorites had always been one of Mother’s favorites. Mother’s paraphrase of her beloved King James Version sounded more like today’s NIV: “On the day the LORD gave the Amorites over to Israel, Joshua said to the LORD in the presence of Israel: ‘Sun, stand still over Gibeon, and you, moon, over the Valley of Ajalon.’ So the sun stood still, and the moon stopped, till the nation avenged itself on its enemies…. The sun stopped in the middle of the sky and delayed going down about a full day. There has never been a day like it before or since, a day when the LORD listened to a human being. Surely the LORD was fighting for Israel!”
So she named her home Ajalon Acres, and her father was quick to make the interpretation, in case anyone had missed it: “Since Joshua is her first grandchild, he will surely always be able to get his grandparents to stop whatever they are doing to accede to his wishes!”

So we were all grown and gone by then, but she constantly had new audiences, from relatives to paying B & B guests, to listen to the story of why her farm was named Ajalon Acres.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Reflections on Aunt Evelyne

OK. Enough about husbands.

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about my experiences with my Aunt Evelyne who died on February 1. She was an unusual person with an extremely strong personality. In retrospect, I see that in many ways she shaped my character.

My mother was the fourth child and Aunt Evelyne was the fifth of nine. I am very sad for her sisters, for I know they loved her and seemed to easily overlook her faults. They saw that her intentions were the best, no matter how people felt blasted by her strong personality and determined nature.

Frank Harmon came to preach at Old Beech Cumberland Presbyterian Church in 1943 and was sought by all the girls there as the most eligible bachelor around. Aunt Evelyne was the one he picked to marry, so he was a few years older than she.

My favorite Aunt Evelyne story took place during the Carter administration. She called Aunt Carleen around 2 am in high dudgeon. “I figured out the simplest way to balancing the budget and world peace, and I called the White House and they wouldn’t even let me speak to President Carter!” she complained. Aunt Carleen, ever the sane and level-headed oldest sister, was greatly irritated at being awakened for such an irrational tirade.

I visited her for a week every summer from the ages of 9 to 14. My parents would take me one way and I’d ride the Greyhound bus the other. Since Uncle Frank was a minister, they moved every few years. The first few years I visited her in Dyer, Tennessee; later I visited them in Cookeville, Tennessee.

She would plan special activities when I was there, such as picnics in the park or swimming somewhere—creek or public pool. Nothing was extravagant, for I’m sure they were on a tight budget, but the church manse was always nice and Aunt Evelyne had it well-furnished and decorated.

She treated me as one of her children, even to assigning me chores when I visited. I recall once when my dusting did not meet her expectations. She said, “Hasn’t your mother taught you how to dust?” I was very offended that she would blame my mother for my short-comings. I saw no reason to remove every object from a table in order to dust it, but for her I did. She made me responsible for her sons at times and I didn’t always meet her expectation. She’s the only person besides my parents who ever spanked me.

Sometimes we would go for rides and Uncle Frank would start as the driver. But she criticized his every move and speed, finally simply saying, “Just pull over, Frank. Just pull over and let me drive!” This happened so often that I wondered why she didn’t drive to start with.

She taught me how to sew. She bought me some green and white fabric for three yards for a dollar and a pattern. She supervised as I cut it out and stitched it on her machine. I was so proud of that dress! After that, I made many of my own clothes for years.

She had a reputation in the family for serving food in the smallest possible bowls. When we sat to eat at her table, serving bowls seemed actually to be cereal bowls but maybe they weren’t. Daddy always said he left her table hungry because there didn’t seem to be enough food to go around.

Her other memorable characteristic, also based on frugality, was the Christmas gifts she would give. My mother’s siblings and their spouses drew names each Christmas for next year’s gift to give. Then everyone lived in fear all year that Evelyne had drawn his or her name because Evelyne’s gifts were usually from some church bazaar or bargain basement. The one I recall the best was when she gave my dad two enormous paintings of “Blue Boy” and “Pinkie,” framed in gold and white papier-mâché. My mother insisted that they hang in our dining room for years, vowing that she treasured them because they were from Evelyne.

When one of her sisters and her husband invited her to their 50th wedding celebration, she refused to attend. “Why would anyone want to celebrate being married that long?” she asked. When she and Uncle Frank had been married 50 years, she forbade her children or siblings to honor it in any way.

At every age, she was still a force to be reckoned with. She told me once of going into the kitchen at her assisted living residence to show the cooks how to season their food correctly. Shortly after that I was given a change of address for her, and I wondered if there were a connection.

The last few years, she was in one assisted living home and Uncle Frank in another. She was going to remain married to him till death parted them, but they were parted quite a bit by living across town from each other.

She was buried in Dyer next to her stillborn baby girl. We were unable to go, but my cousin and brother gave me a complete report. The present Dyer preacher preached it, reading many of her favorite scriptures. Of course he didn’t know her. Everyone was very sad and told stories about how wonderful she was. As one of her sisters said, “Evelyne planned trips and made us go all kinds of places we’d never have been if not for her!” True—to visit distant cousins in Missouri or the covered bridges of Indiana, for example.

Uncle Frank did not go to her funeral. That’s understandable, I guess, since he’s 92 and it was 450 miles away. But I thought their children would not want him to preach her funeral, because he’d be sure to say, in his most sonorous tones, “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, I’m free at last!” But not according to his children. In spite of everything, he maintained a strong love for her and is grieving her passing.

So I guess I got back to love and husbands after all.

Monday, February 14, 2011


I wrote this poem for Steve over 25 years ago and it's truer now than ever.

I didn't want you to rescue me.
You didn't fit my plans for my life.
I wanted to climb my own mountains,
slay my own dragons,
break magic spells all by myself.

Then there you were--awkwardly fitting armor,
lacking in gentlemanly graces,
moody, even childish, in your demands on my life.

And I succumbed, yielding to your persuasive powers,
drawn by your presence,
intrigued by your demands.

How can I be so happy in
being what I never planned to be,
doing what I never intended to do,
in a place I never wanted to be?

Now you move gracefully in your armor--shining white,
your graces far exceeding my own,
your concern and sharing overwhelming me.

I would never have chosen this path on my own,
Would never have turned this direction
without God's guidance,
prodding me
drawing you to me,
guiding us, as we

Climb mountains,
slay dragons, and
break magic spells

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Proverbs 31 for Men: A Husband of Noble Character

Jon Acuff gave his take on a modern version of Proverbs 31, which reminded me of my own version for men, so here it is.

A husband of noble character, who can find? For his worth is far above diamonds.

His wife trusts him completely and is confident of his love.

He brings her good and not distress all the days of his life.

He looks for wood and tools and works with eager hands.

He is like transport planes, bringing his food from afar.

He rises while it is still night to provide food for his family and his workers.

He considers a business and begins it; from his earnings he reinvests his money.

He exercises regularly to keep himself in good physical condition.

He sees that his trading is profitable; he labors late to finish his business.

He works to keep the yard mowed and trimmed; he sees that the cars are maintained well.

He gives money to the poor; he takes food and clothing to the needy.

He is not afraid of bad weather, for his roof is secure and the storm windows are tight.

He buys good clothes for himself and his family so they always look appropriately dressed.

His wife is known in the city where she is respected in her own profession.

He does his job well and has the respect of his peers.

He is strong in following the Lord's will and he is always optimistic.

He spends time teaching his children and shows wisdom in dealing with his friends and extended family.

He gives attention to each child and his wife and does not spend too much time on selfish activities.

His children rise up and call him blessed, and his wife praises him, saying,

"Many women have good husbands, but you are the best of all."

Charisma is shallow and good looks don't last, but a man who fears the Lord is to be praised.

Let him prosper in what he does and let the church praise his good works.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Sacred Days

Wednesday mornings are sacred to me. That’s the day some of my youngest friends come to visit—moms and babies—from 9:30-11. The young mothers and I eat, laugh, talk, pray, and study the Bible. The toddlers play in the playroom under the volunteer supervision of my friend Fay. I’ve missed various events because I do not cancel this get-together unless the weather keeps them from coming or I’m out of town.

But this week we are double-booked. Steve is hosting his MasterMind group (all speakers) from 8:30-11:30. This is the group for which I usually serve a sumptuous breakfast and light lunch.

So we’re squeezing it in. When the day of the week registered with me, I was not gracious about it. “But you know the girls come on Wednesday mornings!” I said, though I probably should use the word wailed.

“There was no other day this month that we were all available,” he explained. I waited for an apology, but that seems to have been it.

The disgusting thing about Steve’s being so understanding when I do dumb things (burn the soup when we’re only having soup, forget to give him a message, total two cars in two years) is that then I feel compelled to do the same for him! I wanted to rant and rave, but I remembered all the times he showed compassion when I’d messed up. I couldn’t do it. All I could do was help figure out where to put each group so they would least disturb the other. Talk about frustrating! Living with a compassionate person can really limit my opportunities to explode.

So the additional day that is sacred to me—Tuesday, my writing day—is now complicated with preparations for the MasterMind group tomorrow. Steve’s getting the groceries, which helps tremendously, but there is still much preparation involved. How can I offer ordinary food to John, who is recently divorced and living on fast food? How can I offer mundane food to Joan, a terrific gourmet cook herself? So I’m preparing stuffed French toast tonight and fresh basil/mushroom frittata tomorrow morning, hoping they turn out well. But I also know that if they don’t, everyone involved will be gracious and forgiving.

That’s one of the many great things about having friends who are trying to live for and like Jesus. They just keep forgiving and loving—prompting me to do the same.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

A Short Rant About Emails

So I just have to complain about the tacky way people write emails! Perhaps texting has something to do with it, but that’s no excuse. Here is one I received yesterday from someone I only met once. I sent him some additional information about one of the people killed in Tucson. He wrote:

thanks for the infor
I heard on the new as well the he was a member vs. minister
but what a hero he was in saving the life of his wife as her shield
God bless all the families invovled

Now sometimes I get a short, uncapitalized, unpunctuated email from someone who is giving a quick answer to a question. I can handle that. I can even accept no spacing between paragraphs—or no paragraphing at all. One long paragraph does not offend me. But how much trouble is it to hold down the Shift key? Or to touch the period key?

When I was a child, my maternal grandmother wrote each of her children every week—at least the 7 or 8 (out of 9) who were away from home. I still can picture her handwriting sprawled across the lined paper. She only had a fourth-grade education, but her letters were easy to read because she used capitalization and punctuation. Her spelling left a bit to be desired, but sounding out her words made them perfectly understandable. I wish I had some of those precious letters to keep.

Meanwhile, I am trying to be more careful about my own emails—at least reading them over before I hit Send. I don’t want to be guilty of removing the speck from my friend’s eye while I have a plank in my own!

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Temptation and God

Today our Sunday school class topic was Job, the first two chapters. The whole scenario of Satan's taunting God and God's response has always been a puzzle to me. It says way more about heavenly and hellish beings than I'll ever understand.

And then the teacher connected the story to I Corinthians 10:13, where Paul says "God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." He made the point that that scripture has been misinterpreted, such as using it to comfort a parent at the death of a child. He waxed quite eloquently on all the situations where it had been misinterpreted.

So, though I was a visitor and knew no one in the class except Steve, of course I had to speak up. It seems to me that such tragic circumstances are the times we are most likely to, as Job's wife prompted him, "curse God and die." These are the times we cannot pray; we cannot hold up under the weight of our grief, and who is there to blame but God? That is the temptation we need help to resist. I've noticed that Job did not curse God, but neither did he take his problems without protest. He complained and bitterly so! He questioned why God would do this to him, a righteous man.

And so can we. It's not as though God doesn't know we feel that way. He just wants us to talk to him about it. He yearns for us to confide in him, to talk to him until our trust in him is restored. As Mother Teresa said, "I know God won't give me anything I can't bear; I just wish he didn't trust me so much."

So trust is a mutual arrangement between God and man. That's where our closeness to God grows and develops so that we can withstand the storms that come our way. It's OK to complain, to doubt. Just don't give in to doubt. As the father said to Jesus when he wanted his son healed, "I do believe! Help me overcome my unbelief!"

When tough times come, God will help us to overcome our unbelief. That's my opinion of the meaning of I Corinthians 10:13.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Needing a Mediator

This morning in Job 9, I read “If only there were someone to mediate between us, someone to bring us together,” and I was reminded of a difficult situation when I was teaching fifth grade.

I was excited to move from third to fifth since I felt I got along better with older students. And I did. Even students (such as my daughter’s closest friend) who didn’t like me much in third grade enjoyed my fifth grade class.

I looked forward to teaching with the other fifth grade teacher, having heard so much about what a fantastic teacher she was. I couldn't wait to collaborate with her. We were about the same age and each of us had a son, a daughter, and a loving husband. I thought we'd really hit it off.

My relationship dream was quickly shattered because she soon made it clear she did not intend to share anything with me—ideas, equipment, space—nothing. We had to share students because the students changed classrooms for math, science, and social studies. I even tried to share what I'd read or done, hoping that if I shared ideas so would she.

I noticed that she did not come to the teachers' dining room but stayed in the lounge at lunchtime. To give us some time together, I started bringing my lunch and joining her two days a week. Soon she started staying in her classroom for the duration of every lunch period.

The more I got to know her, the more astonished I was at the high regard in which students and parents held her. In fact, her comments and questions in faculty meetings often brought sidelong glances and even snickers from the other teachers. Unfortunately, I, too, was guilty of being amused by her responses.

"I need to talk to you in the teacher's lounge," she said one afternoon, tightly.
Meekly, I followed. Closing the door, she turned to me, eyes blazing. "I cannot believe the way you treated me in the faculty meeting yesterday!" she began. "When I asked about the transparencies with that machine, you looked around and rolled your eyes! That was so hateful!

"I just can't take it anymore! You thrust yourself into this grade against my wishes and then are so pushy and arrogant about all your ideas. Always telling me something you've read or something you're doing—and wanting to copy my ideas as well. And you're always yelling at me!

"I can tell you I've had it! You constantly humiliate me in front of the students. Even when we weren't teaching the same grade, you would rarely speak to me in the hall. I'd be leading a class down the hall and we'd meet you and I'd say, 'Hello, Mrs. Boyd!' and you'd just give that little tight-lipped smirk and go on. One day a child even asked, 'Why didn't Mrs. Boyd speak to you?' and I didn't know what to say!"

At this point, I started to say that I usually speak to people the first time I see them for the day and after that just smile as we meet--that it seemed artificial to me to speak jovially at every hall encounter, as she did. I didn't know what she meant by "tight-lipped smirk," but decided I'd better use a mirror to analyze my smile. Fortunately, I sensed that it was not the time for rebuttal. I stood there in silence, trying to look humble and contrite.

Finally, I simply apologized. I explained that I bore her no ill will—had, in fact, looked forward to teaching with her. Trying to word it differently each time, I apologized again and again—for intruding, for being unfriendly, for being overbearing, for existing.

I prayed about the situation. My family was aware of it; friends outside of school were aware of it. I hesitated to mention it at school because I didn’t want to be guilty of gossiping or complaining. I tried being kind and interested—“heaping burning coals,” as Solomon (Proverbs 25:20-21) and then Paul (Romans 12:20) advised, but to no avail.

I didn’t know what to pray. That she would move to another grade? That she would change? That I could figure out how to placate her? That she’d fall down the three flights of stairs to our rooms? Surely not.

Instead, I simply prayed for God’s help, and he soon sent it in the form of a beautiful young woman as our co-worker and unofficial mediator. Cathy’s gracious and loving nature toward each of us bridged the gap and we actually, over the years, became friends. We were never close enough to joke about the earlier years, but we were close enough that when I left she wept and said how much she would miss me. Amazingly, I realized that I would miss her, too.

So when I read today that Job was wishing for a mediator, I immediately thought of sweet Cathy and what a blessing she had been to us. And Job’s words were prophetic, for today we all have the greatest mediator of all—Jesus Christ, mediating for us with God. I couldn’t help but wonder if there is a situation where God might expect me, too, to be a mediator. And then I remembered a time he did put me in that role. I’ll write about that another time.