Tuesday, January 24, 2023

Strengths and Weaknesses

Finding Strength...Embracing Weakness

I’ve considered writing this post for a number of years, but I keep putting it off.

I can be a procrastinator. 

 

I’m joking. Actually, the post isn’t about being a procrastinator. It is about coming face-to-face with our personal weaknesses. And our strengths. The beginning of 2023 seems to be an appropriate time for a bit of self-assessment.

 

I’ve long contended that what is our weakness is also our strength. As well, what is our strength may also be our weakness. 

 

Consider honesty. My late husband was honest. Most people consider that a strength. It is... but Tom’s honesty could be brutal. For instance, a Chinese family invited us over for dinner one evening. They prepared a treat just for us: a Japanese style baked fish complete with scales, eyes, everything. Tom took one look and stated, “I’m sorry. I can’t eat that. It looks too much like bait to me!”  

 

When I kicked him a warning shot under the table, he looked directly at me and said, “Why are you kicking me under the table?”

 

The thing is, as people came to know Tom, they came to appreciate his honesty. There was never any second guessing what he really thought. 

 

Here's another example: A perfectionist may drive his or her peers nuts by seemingly taking forever to get a job done, but if I ever need brain surgery, I hope the doctor is just that… A perfectionist.

 

The kid in school always asking questions is the one who grows up finding answers. 

 

I think you get the idea.

 

So as for me as a procrastinator? 

 

I consider myself more of what I call a “muller-overer.”  Don’t judge. I know that’s not a word. It simply means I tend to put a lot more thought into the choices and decisions I make than meets the eye. Yet, I don’t put off life threating decisions. I am ever mindful of time boundaries. 

 

But I don’t make decisions lightly or act in haste, either. I have thought about the problem, story, or situation from every angle I before I act. 

 

Even then, I try to wait until I am sure the time is right not only in my eyes, but in God’s eyes as well. 

 

While I may not write as fast as others in the writing world or finish a project as quickly, I’ve come to appreciate the notion that putting something aside, thinking it through, and waiting for the right time yields success with satisfaction. 

 

How about you? What is your weakness? How might you recast that weakness as a strength?




 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 17, 2023

The Ones We Treasure

Last week I wrote about how to live a grand life: live simply, love deeply, play hard, sleep soundly, and forgive freely. You might think this week’s offering is a mere extension of that blog entry. It is not. It is about my mother. 

Quite simply, my mother has already mastered those very elements of living life fully and embracing each day with the joy I noted in last week’s post.

 

So, no, I’m not highlighting those pieces again. This week I am celebrating the woman who has had the most influence on my life. My mom. 


This week my mother celebrated her ninety-first trip around the sun.

 

Last year we had great plans for a big party. COVID reared its ugly head and that celebration had to be modified. Greatly. It turned out to be a fun and memorable day, even if most of the family was present via zoom.

 

We tossed around a few ideas for this year’s recognition of GG’s birthday (GG stands for great grandma…which she is eight times over.) My oldest granddaughter, Nora, who is by the way, named after my mother, came up with the perfect plan. 

 

Little Nora wanted to take GG to LaPinata, a
Mexican restaurant. So we all made our way to the local venue Sunday evening. The atmosphere was festive. The food was delicious. The company was excellent. 

 

And the guest of honor? GG reveled in it all. We laughed and shared stories and ate the evening away. The servers plopped a sombrero on Mom’s head and a bowl of ice cream big enough to serve at least four or five in front of her. They sang in Spanish and we all joined in on the final Ole! 

 

My mother’s story is one of faith, hope, and love.  It is the story of a woman who deeply cares for others. Hers is a life worth celebrating. And emulating. 

 

Happy Birthday, Mom! 

 

If you missed last week’s post, you can find it here: The Art of Being Grand

If you want to read how we managed to have a great quarantined celebration last year, click on this link: C is For Celebrate

 

Finally, take a minute today to call or text or send a note to someone you love. Don’t wait until the birthday moment to celebrate those you treasure. 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 10, 2023

The Art of Being Grand

The Art of Being Grand


If you ask me, my life is pretty grand. 


I have many reasons to cite. I have a warm house in which to live, a loving family, a church I enjoy, friends, and food. I have some other exciting life changes I’ll share in another post. 

 

But one of the “grand” parts of my life is that of being a grandmother. I have been blessed to have five grandsons, three granddaughters, and two granddogs.

 

Kiwi at the window
Yes, I said granddogs. Since they are both female, I
often refer to Bailey and Kiwi as my “granddoggers.” (At least I think it sounds a bit
like “granddaughters” no matter what anyone else thinks.) 


 

I recently had the opportunity to dog-sit the youngest of my granddogs, Kiwi. Kiwi is part Black Labrador Retriever and part Australian Shepherd. 

 

Kiwi is not a lap dog. (No matter what she thinks.) This puppy is strong, energetic, and big. She also has a big heart and loves her granny deeply. And I love her. 

 

It’s been a long time since I entertained a pet for a sustained period of time. My last dog was Max Lightening the Wonder Dog. Max for short. I always thought he was the best dog ever. 


Kiwi is five times bigger with five times the energy. Walking that puppy on a leash? Lets just say you get a workout. But size and energy aside, Kiwi is as sweet as both Bailey and Max.

 

I wasn’t totally on my own, though. My fiancĂ© was available for part of Kiwi’s stay. (I told you there are some life changes I’ll share later.)

 

Mike loves dogs and Kiwi was no exception. The man showered her with toys. “Tuff toys” that proved to be not so tough in the mouth of a much tougher puppy. 

 

It snowed while Kiwi was here. I feared she wouldn’t want to go out in the cold, white stuff, but she fooled me. She not only wanted to go out…she wanted to stay out. 


She ran and bounced and played in the snow. If I managed to catch her leash, she tugged and pulled and dragged me across the yard. I couldn’t help but laugh. It turns out laughing at her antics only served to fuel the fire in her to cover every inch of my backyard with her large paw prints… with me in tow. 

 

All in all, though, my week with Kiwi as my houseguest was a great reminder of the power of pets…particularly dogs. 


We can learn a lot from dogs. They can teach us to be better humans. Dogs love unconditionally. Dogs live life fully when given a chance to run freely. Dogs play hard during the day and sleep soundly at night. They protect those they love. 


Dogs forgive us when we fuss at them to stop chasing their own tails barking as loud as they can…while we’re talking on the phone. (Notice I’m not mentioning any names here.)

 

My week with Kiwi taught me to live simply, love deeply, play hard, sleep soundly, and forgive freely. 


And that is a life that is truly grand.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tuesday, January 3, 2023

2023: A Word for the Year

 2023: A Word for the Year

 

Last year, I chose "RESET" as my word for the year. The word challenged me to change, adapt, adjust, and revise. 


It meant I needed to start over and charge forward.

 

The onus was on me. 

 

After struggling to apply the word in every area of my life, I finally decided the task was too daunting. Instead I to hone in on my writing. I attended a wonderful writing conference and wrote a split-time short story now published in an anthology called Ohio Trail Mix. In addition, I  completed three other projects  in a pile I have called “unfinished business” for the last two years


I ended the year feeling that although I hadn’t hit the RESET button in all areas of my life, I had made great strides in understanding myself as a writer.

 

December was on me. I knew I needed to consider a word for 2023.  It was a struggle.

 

Then at church on January 1, 2023, the word “reNEWal” popped up on the screen with the word NEW in capital letters. I thought I had found my word for the year. 

 

I hadn’t. I prayed over the possibilities. I hesitated to choose another word for the year that began with “RE-“ For some reason, it seemed we could all benefit from any of those “R-E” words:

 

Renew, Rethink, Revise, Revisit…you get the idea.

 

I started typing the list of words beginning with the letters R-E. As I worked through the list I could see the benefit of claiming any of these, yet I resisted. And in case you wondered…RESIST could be defined as my word. Quite often.

 

I tend to resist change. For example, I balk at learning new technology. I refrain from shopping for a new phone. I don’t even subscribe to cable television.  

 

Sunday evening, after church, I started drafting the list of areas where I falter or balk. It is those places where I  try to do things my way and resist what God has planned for me.  Only as I started to look at those areas  where I resist most did I discover my word for 2023.

 

YIELD

 

I grew up in a farm community. “Yield” for farmers often references the amount of produce the land can give.

 

Most of us think of “yield” as to “give in” or “relent.”  Or perhaps to “submit” or “give way to.” It is similar to when we come to YIELD sign while driving. 

 

But for me, YIELD means something more. It means trusting God with my life. Fully. Completely. It means giving up what I want for what He intends for me.


I have a verse from the Bible I wrote out last year and placed on my kitchen counter. 

 

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct your path.

Proverbs 3:5

 

Trust. Yield. I'm giving up “my way” for  “His way.”


So YIELD is my word for the year. What is yours? 

 

 


 

 

 

 

Monday, December 26, 2022

A Restful Moment

A Restful Moment...

Because We All Need One About Now

The hubbub of the holiday season will soon be over. We breathe a bit easier now that the big family meal is over, the gifts have been opened, and the wrapping paper is bagged and put out to the curbside. 

A few weeks ago, a fellow writer sent me a gentle story of a trip to the shores of Lake Michigan. A warmer season. A restful moment when the real treasures are found in spending time with someone you love and taking time to discover something new and wonderful in the blue waters of the lake. 

I invited Bill to share this bit of writing with my readers today as a gift...a sweet reminder of sunshine and water and the amazing creation God has given us. Enjoy!

 Petoskey Stones

by William Morrow



A lazy red sun greets Jane and I as it rises over the hilly countryside surrounding our motel breakfast table – certainly a good start to a morning looking for Petoskey stones.  After breakfast it is only a short drive to the rocky beach on Lake Michigan.


Why would anyone want to look for Petoskey stones? Its lure runs through beachcombers, tourists, and locals, all coming for the mysterious stones located mainly in the Petoskey area on Lake Michigan.  They even have “State Rock of Michigan” status.  Come with me to the shore.


The eye is quickly drawn to the aqua-green shallow water, the lapping waves constantly breaking.  Ten feet or so from shore a lone sea gull perched on a jutting boulder preens herself.  Done, she skims over the deeper blue waters, changes course, and heads toward the far western shore where white cottages and houses nestle themselves into the hillsides. Beneath are portions of a quaint city – storefronts, a church, a taller building.


Meanwhile, we notice a short couple approaching from the parking lot.  The wife’s face is thin making a nice fit for her light metal glasses.  Her quick smile and slightly pitched voice reflect warmth and friendliness.  The husband, stockily built, is wearing waders and clutching a blue plastic cup in one hand.  He wastes no time getting into the water; however, his wife lingers to talk, giving us tips on finding Petoskey stones, volunteering that her husband makes jewelry from the treasured stones, and promising to give us the first one she finds on this day.  


So, we set out on our own to look for the precious stones that have a hexagonal pattern with eyes and a dark center radiating out to a white outline.  Perhaps the best tip that the wife has given us is that the stones show up most clearly when they are wet.


When a novice like me starts looking, it’s hard not to get sidetracked among the myriads of rocks on this beach in all shapes, sizes, and colors.  The crashing waves only accentuate their beauty.  Some of the yellows look like a smooth biscuit, the black one’s glisten, and the white one’s are washed clean.


Further down shore the husband is hard at work. His approach reminds me of ducks looking for food.  Once they hone in on a prey their bills go under water and their fannies bottom up.  The husband’s approach doesn’t exactly measure up to the duck’s but there are similarities. He is almost knee deep in his waders, and he, being short, doesn’t have to bend far to get a good look at the lake’s bottom, and like the duck, he keeps on looking, lifting those heavy waders up and down again and again.


Fifteen minutes hasn’t passed before the wife happily returns with a Petoskey stone for us that isn’t much bigger than a chocolate kiss.  In fact, it is even shaped like a chocolate kiss, but true to the lore of Petoskey stones, many look like ordinary stones.  This one is a perfect example, gray with tiny white specks and one side darkened.


Like the husband, I waste no time in getting to the water.  The moment I dip the stone and pull it into the sunlight, white veins radiate to form hexagonal patterns and black eyes stare back at me as if to say “I told you I was a Petoskey stone.”



Meet William Morrow:


"
In my freshman year of high school my English teacher told me that I should be a writer.  I dismissed that thought, especially when I went to college and got a bad grade in English composition. Next, my career in warehousing and transportation had nothing to do with words.  In mid life I felt God was speaking to me about words.  I again enrolled in college and after ten years of night classes I got a degree in English Language.  Then I tried teaching writing fundamentals at a junior college and discovered that teaching was not for me.  Lately I’ve only written small pieces like this one.  When I retire in two years, I hope to write a book."

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, December 21, 2022

The Sound of the Season

 The Sound of… 

 

           You thought I was going to write about the Sound of Music didn’t you? I watched that memorable musical a few nights ago, singing along with Julie Andrews at the top of my lungs. 

 

           But no, this post is about Christmas music. 

 


    I love the sounds of Christmas. I once had a collection of record albums filled with Christmas music. As a teen, I played them over and over throughout the season. Now I simply ask Alexa to play Christmas music and she obliges. 

 

    Music is the universal language. As Alexa played Silent Night, I was reminded of a story that took place in World War II. I don’t remember all of the details, but in 2002, Hollywood came out with a movie based loosely on the true story.

 

    It is reported that during that horrific war, a ragtag team of American soldiers and a similar group of German soldiers, came upon each other in a mountain hunting cabin near the front line of combat. A woman in the cabin and her son, Fritz, had taken refuge in the cabin. The woman fed both groups of soldiers offering what she had as well as the rations they had. She insisted they all leave their weapons outside. 

 

    The soldiers, knowing it is Christmas, honor this sort of civilian ordered cease fire. As the story goes, one of the American soldiers began singing Silent NightSilent Night is a German Christmas carol. All of the soldiers join in as the snow falls outside. 

 

    Indeed, music is the universal language and Christmas music is the language of the season. It is filled with two words: peace and joy.


    I've often thought how wonderful it would be if we could set aside our differences and join together in song.



 

    This month, I had the opportunity to attend two school concerts. The first was an orchestra presentation and the other, last evening, featured the school choir. My oldest granddaughter performed in both.

 

    I enjoyed both programs. The music was beautiful. Yet there was something different.  I couldn’t put my finger on it at first. I had to mull it over a bit. There were no songs about Rudolph or Santa. Neither evening ended with Silent Night, either.

 

           Yet, as the students performed, the auditorium was filled with sounds of peace and joy and love. Music is indeed the language we all understand.

 

           And need. 

           

           I hope your season is filled with the songs...peace...and joy...of Christmas.


      By the way, if you want to learn more about that snowy night in Germany and the woman who orchestrated that memorable cease fire, Check out Fritz Vicken. After the war, he lived in Hawaii until his death in 2021.




           

 

 

Tuesday, December 13, 2022

The Scattering of Christmas

A Scattered Sort of Christmas

 

We see images on television of people coming down the stairs to open gifts on Christmas morning. Some people do that, yet in reality, many open gifts on Christmas Eve. 

 

And if you are part of my family, you open gifts whenever you can get people together.

 

Take this Christmas. Most of my family opened Christmas presents during our “ThanksChristmas” gathering in November. Most. 

 

My mother wasn’t feeling well so she was not part of the festivities. Instead, she sent her gifts for everyone to my house. 

 

It wasn’t a lot of heavy lifting. My mom gives everyone money for Christmas. It’s her version of “one size fits all” and takes joy in her claim “No one ever returns it.”

 

Yet because she wasn’t here, we had to make other arrangements for her to receive her gifts. 

 

My middle daughter, Danielle, and her family stopped by my mom’s house on their way back to Wisconsin to give her their presents after Thanksgiving. 

 

This past Saturday, my oldest daughter, Allison, and her family brought GG’s gifts and a breakfast casserole to my house for a Christmas brunch. Yes, many people know my mother as GG. It stands for Great Grandma, a title she’s held for over twenty years.

 

Allison and her crew took the money GG had given them and bought what they wanted. Instead of  merely telling her what they did with the money, they wrapped everything up and brought it all to my house so GG could see them open gifts from her. It was fun.

 

Soon to come: my youngest daughter, Kendall, and her family have a special treat in mind for GG. It’s a surprise. (It isn’t Christmas yet, anyway.)

 

It’s good we are flexible enough to celebrate a rather scattered Christmas. But isn’t that the way of the true gift God gave us? 

 

We talk about Christmas in terms of the birth of Jesus. We sing carols to celebrate the notion that God would come to earth as a baby, live a life as we do, and ultimately offer himself as a sacrifice on the cross to account for our evil doings. 

 

Our evil. Not His.

 

The true gift of Christmas is a daily celebration of God’s sacrificial love for us. And it is scattered throughout the year.

 

By the way, if you missed the post on ThanksChristmas, You can check it out HERE.