Monthly Archives: March 2011

We left Reno, Nevada and headed west toward Redding, California. The morning was cool, but with the promise of getting warmer. We were so excited to go, since neither of us had ever seen the Redwoods before. We hadn’t thought of doing it, but Jim (my boss) brought it up, and when we found that it was something we would have time to do, we made the decision to go for it.

As we drove along from Reno to the California state line, the land was brown and lifeless in the late March sunlight. Just a short time out of Reno, we crossed the border into California, and it was like going from one planet to another. The air was warmer…I had to take off my jacket. Then, I noticed that everything was becoming greener and very fresh smelling. You could tell that you were in California.

The route we traveled, took us over the mountains. When we left Susanville, California, the temperature was a very comfortable 68 degrees. Then we went up into the mountains, and while the roads were clear and dry, the snow was higher than the car. The trees were a tall and green pine (or some such, since I’m no expert), but definately not Redwood…yet.

By the time we arrived in Redding, the transformation was complete. The trees had leaves, and the grass was green. The air was warm and we didn’t need a jacket when we went for a walk. We even saw the Sundial Bridge, which is a very unique foot bridge. It was such a beautiful day. Perfect really. Awww, this was it. The reason we go to a warmer climate in March…to feel the coming summer, if only for a few days.

Every year Bob and I take a vacation to go to the National Bowling Tournament. This year it is in Reno, Nevada. Every year we go with the hope of Bob’s team doing well. Some years are great and some…well not so good. But, no matter how they bowl, we always have a good time. Bob and I have made it a tradition to take the whole week even though he only bowls two days, and then only for a couple of hours. We have had the opportunity to go a number of places that way, and still give him the chance to bowl in the tournament.

It is a very exciting thing to come and bowl in nationals. They make a big production of it by bringing the bowlers out in a big procession, set to music, and with everyone clapping and cameras snapping pictures. Then the practice begins. After 10 minutes, the National Anthem is played and the competition begins. This year has not proved itself to be a hot year for Bob, so far, but there is hope until it is over. He came in with a 212 average, so bowling badly really hurts the team.

So far, it looks like this year will be one of those years. There has not been a lot of cheering going on…anywhere in the bowling stadium. The scores are all pretty low, and everyone is trying to figure out what is wrong and how to fix it, but that doesn’t dampen the spirit of these men. At the beginning of the final game of the team event, it has become very obvious that there is not much hope for a good showing, but even though they are discouraged, they continue to encourage each other, and have a good time. That is just how these guys are. And there is always tomorrow and the doubles and singles event. Hopefully they will have a better showing then.

I have been thinking about a situation that happened to me a few years ago, and while I have moved on, the shock of what happened still comes to mind sometimes. A good friend of mine passed away, and left some things to me and several other people in her will. Now, I know that many people would think that the only thing I care about is the things, but that is the least of it. In fact the things mean very little in the scheme of things. What brought this to mind again is the trip we made to visit her grave, which we do as often as we go to Reno.

What has bothered me over the years is that her children, chose to keep everything, and not honor her will at all. It was such a selfish act, and not because of the things, but because her final wishes were not honored. Oh, I’m sure they thought that they just couldn’t part with their mother’s things, but they didn’t belong to them. They stole from their mother!! Stole her right to have one final say in her own life. Stole her right to leave a bit of herself to her special, beloved friends. And, they stole their own peace of mind, because I know that every time I see one of them, she quickly looks away, because she feels guilt.

My friend had given me other things through the years, you see, she was an artist, but she told me that I was to have my choice of her paintings when she passed away. I knew it was in the will several years before she died. And it was brought up by her daughter right after she passed, but then it was dropped. There were some paintings that so reminded me of her sweet spirit, but I would never have deprived her daughters of all the paintings. We could have easily come to a workable agreement, but I was never given the chance to be generous toward her children. I received occasional correspondence from the attorney, who told me that there was nothing he could do about their refusal to honor the will, but nothing more. I don’t think of myself as a greedy person, but I do feel awful because my friend was robbed of her final say. She had been so happy when she told me she had put in her will to give me the paintings.

I just can’t believe people could be so cold, as to steal from the dead! It doesn’t matter, I suppose. At least not to them. But think of how they would feel if their children did that to them. It puts it in a very different light, doesn’t it. Please, when your loved one makes a will, do the honorable thing…honor their wishes.

Lately I have been thinking about what my life is all about. What my goals are. What my purpose is. When I leave here, I don’t want to think that I didn’t really do much with my life. I want to know that because I was here, someone had a better life. That something I did changed a bad situation to a good one. That someone’s life was easier because of me. I don’t want to think that every part of my life was spent selfishly on my own desires. I don’t want everything I do to be about me, but rather I want it to be about what I contributed. Don’t you want to feel that way too? I read a poem recently written by a fourteen year old boy with amazing insight. It went like this:

It was spring but it was summer I wanted; the warm days and the great outdoors.
It was summer but it was fall I wanted; the colorful leaves and the cool dry air.
It was fall but it was winter I wanted; the beautiful snow and the joy of the holiday season.
It was now winter but it was spring I wanted; the warmth and blossoming of nature.
I was a child but it was adulthood I wanted; the freedom and the respect.
I was twenty but it was thirty I wanted; to be mature and sophisticated.
I was middle-aged but it was twenty I wanted; the youth and the free spirit.
I was retired but it was middle-age that I wanted; the presence of mind without limitations.
My life was over but I never got what I wanted.

How often does this play out in real life? Well more than we think would be my guess. When we are always waiting for the next big event to come along, we miss the here and now. We really need to live our lives on purpose. Decide what we want our life to be about and focus on that goal, doing the things that it takes to get to that goal. I don’t mean to say that we need to always be driven, but if we can look beyond the desire for the dramatic that occupies our minds, and try to make a difference each day, then maybe our lives will be something we can be proud of when they are over.

Shai & Caalab in the Whee ChairIn my living room is an unusual chair. It is an office chair, but it does not sit at a desk. Someday, I suppose it will be taken away, but for now it serves to remind me of some happy memories. The chair was one that was given to me by my boss (don’t tell him I used that word, because he hates that word…so it will be our secret, ok). It was intended to go downstairs to my office, but it just never got there.

You see, my 4 little grandchildren found out that the chair turns around, and…well, it was my fault really…if they were fussy, we would put them in the Whee Chair, and turn it around like a merry-go-round. Within minutes the fussy grandbaby was squealing happily, “Whee, whee!!!!” Hence the Whee Chair. It was a great way to entertain them. There were many times we would have more than one of them in the chair, and even the occasional fight over who got to be in it. We finally had to make them take turns.

As time went on, the kids learned to maneuver the chair themselves. Rarely did a day go by, since I have had the great blessing of being able to see my grandchildren almost every day, that one or up to three little kids weren’t squeezed into that chair, begging to be spun around. And rarely was once or twice enough, so it was a relief when they were big enough to do it themselves too. Had it not been for that, we might have been worn out a lot.

Yes, it’s funny the things that kids can find amusing, given the chance to use their imaginations. So, the Whee Chair still sits in my living room, although it no longer provides rides for children. I suppose one day I will reassign it to another location in the house, but I think that day will make me a little sad, because it will be the closing of the childhood days chapter of my grandchildrens’ lives. Not that those days aren’t all but over now, since my youngest grandchild will be 13 in September, but rather it will mark the point when I accept that those days have come to a close.

In thinking of my grandchildren starting to drive, I am reminded of my own experiences in learning to drive. My dad was such a patient man when it came to the teenage driver, and I don’t know how he did it. I remember teaching my girls to drive, and all I can say is…I was somewhat less patient than my Dad. But my girls survived, and became good drivers. Now it is their turn. It is a task I do not envy. I know I will also play a part in letting my grandchildren drive, and I hope I will do ok.

I will never forget some of the training my dad gave me. Dad didn’t feel like a person had all the training needed to be a good driver unless they can parallel park. Now as you know, many people have lots of problems parallel parking, but I can honestly tell you that I do not, and it is due to the training my dad gave me. We were driving one day, and he had me drive around until he found what he was looking for…a good sized pickup with a big steel grill guard. It was down town in front of the America Theater. And so we began. I backed into the parking spot…bumped the truck…pulled forward…backed up again…bumped the truck…pulled forward…and, well you get the picture. I can’t tell you how many times I bumped that truck, but I parked and re-parked in the spot for at least 30 minutes, and by the time I was done, I could parallel park. It seemed a crazy plan, but it worked.

I remember a trip we took to New York to visit my sister, Cheryl. Dad was driving around Lake Superior, and after many hours of driving, he had a stiff neck. He asked me to drive while he laid down in the back. That, of course, left my mom the supervise, and she was, well a little nervous about it. It was a foggy evening, and that only served to increase the tension. Every time I got over about 20 mph, my mom would grab my leg and tell me to slow down, and when I say grab…well, I mean pinch!! She didn’t mean to, but she did. We finally got out of the fog, to my great relief. Most of the time Mom did ok, but I’ll pass on the fog driving with her, if you don’t mind.

I will always remember the driving lessons I learned…some of them with a bit of a smile on my face, because I can still imaging how funny it must have looked to anyone watching. Thanks Mom and Dad, and to my kids and their kids…well, all I can say is try to keep a good sense of humor.

There are a lot of people today that have an irritable habit. Now I know that you are probably thinking that you could name a few very irritating habits, but I’m talking about an Irritable Habit, meaning that something irritates them, and they are irritated the rest of the day. I have the definite ability to fall into that category, if I’m not careful, and I’m sure you do too. Something makes us mad early in the day, and while it didn’t even begin to be something that should have affected the rest of our day, we couldn’t get it off of our mind.

Sometimes, we allow those little irritations to define who we are. In fact, it can feel like being possessed. This is because we have allowed ourselves to dwell on things that haven’t gone our way. Sometimes, we even think that people do thing to irritate us on purpose. We get to where we can’t seem to say a nice thing to anyone. Our attitude becomes sarcastic and mean. Before we know it, anything and everything makes us mad. You see, irritation can become a habit. After a while we don’t even remember how it all got started.

If we can begin to understand that everybody deserves a little understanding, and that they probably didn’t mean to irritate us in the first place, we might learn to forgive and move on to happiness. I had someone tell me the other day that a person I know to be very blessed, is always irritated. How sad is that? This person has so much going for them, and yet the people who mean the most to them are under the impression that they aren’t happy. Now that…is truly sad.

I have never thought of myself as a Type A personality, and in reality I’m probably not even close, but as is the case with many people, I can find myself having trouble relaxing. There is just so much to get done in a day, and not enough hours to do it all.

Sometimes, I just can’t seem to give myself permission to slow down, until I drop. And of course, when I do sit down, I usually doze off. It’s like the minute my body isn’t in motion, it is just done. And yet, after 20 or 30 minutes, I feel like I need to do more. So, I often find myself still up at midnight or later. Probably because I tried to fit too much into my day…again.

People today, especially those who, like me, are cramming too much into a day, really need to learn to relax. I know how hard that is, believe me, but it is so important. Being overworked leads to stress, which leads to a multitude of health issues, so I am working, not on getting caught up, but on better planning of my day. And maybe, just maybe, on taking the occasional moment to do something just for me. Learning to relax…at least a little.

I was thinking tonight about the next generation. Oh, I know, everyone thinks I’m going to complain about their dress, or attitude, or some other such thing, and while I would agree that those things can be annoying sometimes, that isn’t what I’m thinking about tonight. What came to my mind is the simple fact that at some point we will be passing the baton to this next generation.

Many people would cringe at the very thought, and when I think about some of the kids I see, I might have a tendency to join them in that. But we really can’t judge the kids by what they are today, because tomorrow, when responsibility hits them full force, they will change in a moment, just like we did. There isn’t one adult today, who can honestly say that their parents liked the way they dressed, the music they listened to, or the friends they had. They might have liked some things, but not all. And what parent hasn’t made mention of the dreaded next generation and scowled.

Well, just as we were that dreaded next generation and we changed into the establishment of today, so they will become the establishment of tomorrow, and they will look at their children and their friends as the next generation. And they will hope that as they changed into responsible adults, their kids will do the same.

As we did, most kids will grow into responsible adults. If we can instill in them the values we were raised with, and couple that with love and a respect for their feelings, most kids will blossom into adults that we can be very proud of. Kids are looking for approval…from someone. Now I don’t say to pretend that you love their clothes or music or attitude, but when they do something worthy of praise, don’t forget to praise them for it. If you don’t give positive reinforcement, they will act out to get your attention. We can’t be absent from their childhood and expect them to be great adults. We must love and encourage our kids, and most importantly keep their lives in prayer, because that is the most important thing we can do for them.

I was watching the news tonight about an American family that had just found out that their daughter was among the casualties of the tragic earthquake and tsunami a little over a week ago. Taylor Anderson, an accomplished English teacher who had been living in Japan and teaching English to young students there, used what precious time she had to escape, to make sure her students were safe. It was a brave and selfless act that cost her her life in the end. She was the first American known to have been killed in the disaster.

Losing their daughter was probably the single worst event in the lives of her family, but to add to the tragedy of that loss, is the fact that, as often happens in the aftermath of a disaster, information can get mixed up. Taylor’s family had been told that she had survived and was safe, only to find out later that they had been misinformed. A devastating turn of events. Almost impossible to believe.

I know how this family feels, and my heart goes out to them. My family also experienced a similar devastating situation of misinformation. My Great Aunt Gladys was one of the victims in the 1989 crash of United Airlines flight 232 in Sioux City, Iowa. Our family was also told that she had survived, and it was even on television…but it wasn’t to be. Somehow her purse had arrived at a hospital with another woman, so they thought it was her. We couldn’t believe it, and even continued to watch the reports, hoping against hope that they had been wrong.

Losing a loved one in any kind of disaster is unbearably hard, but when you are told they made it, and then find out they didn’t…well, it’s like losing them twice. It is no one’s fault, of course, and those people who have told someone their loved one is safe, only to have to tell them they were mistaken, are torn to shreds too. It is devastating to all involved, and my heart goes out to each and every one of them.