Wednesday, October 27, 2021

The Yellow Rose is Blooming

The Yellow Rose is Blooming

It is October. My garden is spent. The weeds are taking over. But a few days ago, before the weather turned cold and wet, I harvested the last of the tomatoes. Enough for a salad. A very small salad. 


It occurred to me then how we sometimes miss seeing the beauty of the flowers for the weeds. Sometimes we focus on the thorns instead of the buds or the fruit. 


For the past seven years now, the last week of October has been like that garden for me. My husband died on October 29, 2014. 


We had just talked with our middle daughter, Danielle, three days earlier. It was her birthday. It has been my tradition to call my children on their birthdays and recount to them their birth story. That particular birthday in 2014, for the first time in a long time, Tom and I were not on the phone together. I wished Danielle happy birthday and then told her the story about the day she was born. After we spoke, her dad talked with her and told her how proud he was of her. It was their last conversation.


I have continued to call Danielle on her birthday, but that last week of October…actually the entire month has been hard for me. I couldn’t enjoy the flowers. My heart was pierced by the thorns. 


This year feels different. I haven’t dreaded the month coming. I haven’t felt sick. (One year I actually suffered from what can only be described as emotional exhaustion.) It has been seven years since Tom walked out that door. Seven years since his accident. It was Danielle who pointed out to me recently that seven years is God’s perfect number.


I looked back at my blog posts for these past seven years. October is laden with the tragedy of Tom’s death. It is time to clear the garden. It is time to enjoy the flowers.


So I am dedicating this post to “My Yellow Rose.”


The Mother’s Day before Danielle was born my father-in-law gave me a yellow rose bush. We planted it by the fence in our back yard. We watched as it grew larger…fuller through the summer…as did my tummy. By mid-October, the rose bush produced a single large bud. 


I told my husband, “The day that rose blooms is the day I’m having this baby.”


The baby was due the first week of November, but I held to the notion that the date didn’t matter. I was certain the rose and the baby would arrive at the same time. Tom thought I was being silly. He was rather nonchalant about it. This was, after all, our second child. He read a book on delivering a baby. He was prepared, he assured me, for whenever the baby came.


I woke up on October 26 fully aware of the labor contractions beginning within me. Tom calmly walked to the kitchen to make coffee while I dressed. 


“We have time,” he told me. 


I made sure our four-year-old daughter, Allison, was ready to go to my parents' house. 


I looked out into the living room as Tom walked toward the back window. Suddenly, his coffee cup clattered to the floor.


“Becky, grab your bag!” he shouted. “The yellow rose is blooming.”


I did not say, “I told you so.” No gloating. No rolling of my eyes, even though I had been certain the rose would bloom the day our second child arrived. Our sweet Danielle was born that sunny, October day. Ever since, she has been known to the family as “our yellow rose.”


When Danielle decided to enter the mission field shortly after college, Tom and I looked at each other.  Our yellow rose was blooming.


When Danielle married Tim, we smiled. Our yellow rose was blooming.


Danielle is now the mother of four flowers of her own. She is a woman comfortable in her own skin and willing to take on every challenge that comes her way. Our yellow rose continues to bloom.


I have been blessed with three beautiful daughters. Beautiful inside and out. They are constants in my life. They are a reminder that weeds and thorns and pain may come our way, but the flowers are still there. It is important to celebrate them. We all have events that interrupt life and cause us pain. But if we seek them out, those roses are still blooming.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Of Fire and Air

Of Fire and Air

Through the years I’ve dabbled in many arts and crafts. I learned to throw pottery on a kick wheel in college. I’ve painted with watercolors, acrylics, and oils. I learned to sew. I’ve created images with needlepoint, cross-stich and embroidery. When scrapbooking was the rage, I was "all in" on creating scrapbooks for people I love. One Christmas a few years ago, I built dollhouses for my three granddaughters. Along with my oldest daughter and my mother, we made furniture for those houses.


All of these arts and crafts satisfied some desire in me to create. They all gave me joy. They were often gifts to others. 


And…they were all “hands-on.”


When a friend invited me to a demonstration class on glassblowing, I was intrigued. The invite suggested we would enjoy light refreshments and get to make something.

I had seen a snippet of someone glassblowing on a PBS documentary. I couldn’t see how we would be able to make anything, but I went. The project, he told me, was an ice cream dish. 


Glassblowing. I didn’t know what to expect. Well, that isn’t all true. I knew it would be an extremely hot venue. 


We watched with others in the group as our instructor told us how the large furnace in the middle of a line of furnaces reaches a temperature of over 2000 degrees F. We sat on the bleachers across from the work area as she retrieved a glob of the molten glass from a smaller, hotter furnace by reaching in with a long, hollow rod. (I’ve since learned it is called a punty.) She twisted and turned the rod to keep the glass from dropping to the ground the way you turn a spoon of honey to keep it intact until you spread it on a biscuit.


Our instructor retrieves
a glob of molten glass
from one of the smaller furnaces

I watched in awe as the molten glob of glass began to take shape from the mere act of continuous movement and the force of gravity. She put the glass on the tip of the rod back into the fire a few times to keep it the right temperature. Each time, when she removed the molten blob, she utilized the natural force of gravity and the turning of the rod across a frame attached to the bench where she sat to get the glass the size and shape she needed for her project. 

Turning the glass on
the rails attached to the bench.


When the fiery hot glass was finally the right length, she retrieved a large cherry wood ladle from a bucket of water and put it under the glass project as she continued to roll the rod back and forth across the frame. The wooden ladle had to be wet to keep it from bursting into flames from the hot glass.


This is when glass began to take on a new shape. She blew ever so lightly on the other end of the rod. We watched as this hot matter inflated. After a few more steps, she finished her project and it was time for us to try it.


Yep, that's my air filling that glass ball.

We didn’t go near the furnace. We did roll the rod holding the molten glass, hold the cherry wood beneath the glob of hot matter, and we blew lightly to inflate the glass. To make the bowl shape we had to suck in a bit of air so that the inflated bulb came back in on itself to create a bowl shape. 


The experience was different than anything I had ever done before.

It took a while for me to fully digest what I encountered. 


We took a glob of molten matter and using the force of gravity, fire, air, and movement, we made glass bowls. Without ever touching them.


This was a first for me. It was fun and informative, yes. But by engaging in this ancient art, I found a new sense of appreciation for the creative minds God has given us. 


It reminds me of how God formed Adam from the dust of earth. How he breathes life into all of us. How he created everything from nothing. Like glass, we take on many shapes. We are described as “vessels.” And while it’s true our hearts can be shattered, we can also let the light shine through us.

If you live in the Cincinnati area and would be interested in learning more about glasswork, contact Neusole Glassworks in Forest Park. You can click on the link. It's pronounced "new sole," but for me? I think it's pronounced "New Soul."

Update: Here you go! My friend, Tom, picked up our bowls. Made even sweeter with Homemade brand Butter Pecan Ice Cream! Yay!

Tuesday, October 12, 2021

  Brain Breaks Yield Big Rewards

Last week I suggested six fun things to do to take a break from your to-do list. Taking a break will actually help you get more done in the long run. If you missed that post, here’s the list.


1.         Splash in the water.

2.         Build an obstacle course with the pillows and cushions from the couch for you and the kids.

3.         Stand on your head.

4.         Have a paper airplane contest with your spouse or a friend.

5.         Sing at the top of your lungs.

6.         Laugh out loud.


This week I did more playing than writing. I did however manage to work on my latest novel. I was shocked at how much more I wrote in less time. I think it was due to the brain breaks I took. For this week’s blog post, I decided to share an excerpt. 


My lead character is a wounded warrior (Will) who has returned to his hometown and opened a tool and die business. Business is growing. Will knows more about the manufacturing than he does about running the business…but he’s learning. And he’s about to get some serious help in the office. Here’s the excerpt:


“Mr. Morganthaler?” 

            Will looked up to see a young, red-headed woman poking her head around his office door. “Yes?”

            The girl walked in. To Will she looked to be about fifteen years old. She crossed the room and dropped a paper on his desk. “I hear you’re hiring.”

            “Well, uh, Miss uh…” Will stood and picked up the paper she offered.

            “Shepard. Carra Lee Shepard,” she told him. “But most people call me Carly.”

            Will scanned the document. “You graduated from Longneck High? You aren’t by chance related to the sheriff are you?”

            “He’s my dad.” She seated herself in the chair opposite Will’s desk.

            Will relaxed and sat back down in his chair. “I thought all he had was a bunch of boys.”

            “Four boys before he and mom finally got it right.” 

            Will had to smile. The girl had spunk. “Okay, let me look this over.” He leaned forward and studied the resume. “Associate degree in business management. Impressive. Where is this college?”

            “It’s a business college near Indianapolis. As you can see, I graduated with honors.”

            “I do see that.” Will put the resume down and picked up the heavy metal paperweight on his desk shifting it from one hand to the other as he twisted his chair from side to side. “And you want to work in a small company like mine as my secretary for minimum wage?”

            “No.” Carly leaned forward. “I want to work for a growing company in Longneck as the office manager for a decent salary. As you can see, I’ve projected my starting salary based on your company stats and what I can bring to it.”

            Will put the paperweight down, leaned back in his chair, and crossed his arms over his chest. “Okay, tell me why I should hire you. My last secretary worked part-time for minimum wage.”

            “And she left.”

            Will looked up. He studied the woman before him and shrugged. “Fair enough. You know bookkeeping?”

            “Yes, and I have a good handle on technology as well as dealing with employees.”

            “Too bad you’re shy.” Will grinned. He uncrossed his arms and leaned forward. “What do you say we give you a trial period? Say a month? I’ll pay you hourly and if you work out, we’ll talk salary.”

            “Hourly for a month? No. I have other options.” Carly stood to leave.

            Will sat up. “Two weeks? I mean I can’t commit until I see your work, right?”

            “We settle on a salary now and I work on a two week probationary period. And as we grow, my salary and benefits grow. Deal?” Carly stuck out her hand.

            Will looked into the girl’s eyes. “Deal.”

            The young woman shrugged off her corduroy jacket and threw it on the back of the chair.  “Let’s get started.”

            Will looked at the now blank screen of his computer. “Okay, let’s get you set up.” He took her on a quick tour of the factory before showing her the desk and computer she would call her own in the office next to his. He told her to familiarize herself with the files located in the reception area, showing her the employee files, work orders, contracts, and invoices. He didn’t know what else to ask of her. Not yet. 

            “Uh, I think the papers and stuff you probably need to fill out is in one of these drawers. You know, the forms for withholding taxes and all that.”

            Carly looked around. “Of course. I’ll take care of everything.” 

            Will slipped back into his office unsure if he was still in charge or if he had just handed the company over to a twenty-something-year-old bulldozer.


Well, there it is. What do you think of Carly? Personally, I like her. 

By the way, I’m glad she has a connection to the Sherriff’s office. Someone is up to something in Will’s business. He’s going to need all the help he can get. I love to hear from my readers.


Tuesday, October 5, 2021

Playtime For Grownups

 It seems I’ve spent a great deal of time in 2021 on a path of renewal. 


In June, my blog called Filling the Tank was about renewing our relationships after many months of social distancing. If you missed it, you can read that one by clicking HERE


Then in the July post on Finding the “Write” Path, I revealed my own writing journey and the renewed vision of what I need to do after identifying writing as my gift and teaching as my calling. If you like, you can revisit that post HERE.


In September, my post, actually called “Renewal” looked at simple life experiences such as a walk in the woods that served to breathe new life into my being. That post is HERE.


You would think that topic would be exhausted. Not so. 


Renewal is a day-by-day activity.

Renewal is a choice. It is intentional. 


If you are like me, you keep a to-do list. I often prioritize my list. But when my list grows long and I can’t complete everything, I move items to the next day. Sometimes, those things keep getting moved and never completed. I’ve often shared this gem, “The things we leave undone make us tired.”


Tired does NOT in any way, shape, or form build a sense of renewal. 


But our lives are busy. We have so much to do and so little time. 


I recently reread the account of Martha and Mary when Jesus comes to their home. Martha busied herself preparing food and serving. After all, she had company. Big time company. Everything needed to be just so. Right? I get it. She had a to-do list and felt overwhelmed. I’ve been there. 


What is her sister doing? Not helping her, that’s for sure. Mary is sitting at the feet of Jesus listening to his every word.


Martha goes to Jesus and says, “Hey Jesus, come on. Tell Mary to help me.” Well, maybe not exactly like that, but you get the idea.


Jesus doesn’t do it. Instead, he explains to Martha that Mary is doing exactly what she should be doing. And he basically tells Martha that she is distracted and worried and troubled. Not what you want to hear from Jesus. You can read the whole story for yourself in the Book of Luke, Chapter 10. It’s in verses 38-42.


We call it prioritizing. But we aren’t always good at it. We often place “things we need to do” over “relationships we need to build.”

Like Martha we get caught in the day-to-day stuff. We tell ourselves we’ll take time later for a little relaxation and renewal when we check all the boxes on our list. Those things that really matter and give us strength and energy get moved to the next day’s list of chores along with the ironing. (Not the best example since I probably only iron once in a blue moon, but you get my drift.)


So what can you…uh…we do about it? Here is a rather radical idea I gleaned from someone a long time ago. 


Look at your to-do list. Cut one item from it. Make an appointment with yourself for that time slot and play. Yes, I said P-L-A-Y. Not a computer game.


Splash in the water.

Build an obstacle course with the pillows and cushions from the couch for you and the kids.

Stand on your head.

Have a paper airplane contest with your spouse or a friend.

Sing at the top of your lungs.

Laugh out loud.


Trust me, these work. I’ve done every one of them at some point in time.


Above all, thank God for the gift of play. Ask him to renew your spirit day-by-day.