“…my baby you’ll be.”

As a tag-on to my blog post yesterday when I was discussing my mom and how all our moments are precious, an interesting thing happened. We took our older dog, Poca, to the vet. She is now 14 years old. The past couple of years she has had some health issues like infections, problems with her hips, and getting her to loose weight. We have conquered the infections, she is now 42.3 lbs and the vet is pleased with her weight. We were there to have labs run to ensure she is still doing well enough we can continue all the meds that keep her walking due to all her hip problems. She has some lumps and bumps and the vet aspirated and tested them – they are all non-cancerous and just old-lady issues. LOL. But, the most exciting thing was she was finally healthy enough to get her shots. Which means we can finally get her licensed! Pretty exciting! The vet said we are on borrowed time because Springers are usually in the 12-year range. So we are grateful she is with us, is happy, and does not act nor look like a 14-year-old dog. Maybe because she is chasing our 1-year-old puppy around? LOL. [And we weighed him at the vet and he is now 71.5 lbs and will be a year-old on Sunday].

The two of them hang out together all the time, even napping at my feet while I type away on my computer. They have really bonded and it is so sweet. And we felt so blessed by her vet’s visit yesterday, and how healthy she is, and how she will be with us for awhile longer. She truly is the heart of our home. She is the sweetest dog we have ever had and we are blessed she is a part of our lives. Miss Poca is my baby and I love that dog!

And last night, I received a call that my eldest son was in the ER for heart issues. Now, I know he is all grown up and a husband and father, amongst the many hats he wears, but my thoughts immediately brought me to my preemie infant, laying in my arms, for the first time. Five weeks early, weighing in at 8 lbs and 20.5″ – too big for the oxygen mask and preemie bed they had all ready for him. The only boy born that day. I was immediately thrown back 34 years. And my heart clenched in my chest, for the second time in two days. I felt like it almost stopped. Sigh. There are sayings I have heard far too many times that go something like, “No mother should ever bury her son.” and “No child should die before their parent.” So many thoughts like that went through my mind. As I listened to my daughter-in-law, being so calm in a scary situation, my heart started to thump more normally. I was ready to leap from my chair and jump in my car, trust me. But they were releasing him, so I calmed down. But dang, it was almost as bad as sending him off to war. It was almost as bad and when the phone would ring and it would be from a foreign country, and it was me, knowing it was him calling from the arena of war. Sigh. My office was so wonderful because they knew if a foreign call came in, they gave me space and silence. So kind of them. Having a child be at war is a scary time!! Being a parent is rough stuff. For me, it is far harder than taking care of an ailing parent. For me, it is “flesh of my flesh.” This person lived INSIDE MY BODY for 9 months. (Yes, I am totally pro-life). He is a part of me, and holds a part of my heart no one else holds. Each of my children holds a piece of my heart, even the ones who did not live long enough for me to properly mother into this life. (Each miscarriage hurt and it still aches). So when he was sent home, with a cardiologist’s referral, I felt a little better. And as I promised, I texted him this morning and told him to be careful. The smarty pants replied with, “I’m filling my thermos and getting a Red Bull.” Ugh. Part of the issue is he is not supposed to have any stimulants…like caffeine or Red Bulls. So he was teasing me. In his usual way. But I know he was scared, as his dad and I were, as his wife and kids were, and I know he is paying attention. So that is a good thing. Parenting is rough stuff, my friends, rough stuff.

       

“I’ll love you forever,
I’ll like you for always,
as long as I’m living
my baby you’ll be.”

(“I’ll love you forever,” by Robert Munsch).

 

“…but this is not my home.”

I visited mom last night…well, late afternoon. She lives in an assisted living home. They eat dinner about 4:30pm and are, seriously, in bed for the night by 6pm or so. They all insist on getting in their PJs about as soon as they take their last bite of dinner. There are five residents there, including mom. She has been there almost 2 years. And she seems so very happy to be there.

Mom has bonded with one of the other ladies who lives there. The two of them are a hoot. They often sit in their chairs, next to one another, and hold hands. It is so sweet. But they love to laugh. They crack each other up. Recently mom was singing and dancing around the other woman’s chair, making her laugh. Life for mom there is good. She is taken care of; she has people her age to hang out with; the food is very good; the home is beautiful and always so clean; mom is always clean and dressed; she goes 2-3 afternoons a week to a senior center. I mean, I could not wish for a better place for her to be living.

Mom has Alzheimer’s and it is getting worse. Yesterday was a bad day. At least the part of the day I was there! I am not sure why. She apparently had a good day, and after we left she had a good night. But when we were there, she cried. She kept asking us to take her home. When we told her it was her home, she very clearly looked at me and said, “I may live here, but this is not my home.” And my heart just clenched. This is such a hard disease.

This is mom and I the day she moved in with us, about 4 years ago. We have both aged a lot in those short years. Mom no longer cares if her clothes match; she prefers slippers to shoes; she does not bother with make-up or even her watch anymore. She sort of just floats through the days. Her hair has always been an issue with her. Always fussing with it, and pushing her hair off her face, fighting the same cowlick that I inherited from her (I quit fighting it and just part my hair on the side…quit the whole bang thing). Not anymore. She even tried to wear her PJ top as a sweater, because it was so soft, not realizing they were pajama tops. Sigh. I hate Alzheimer’s – I really do.

Trying to take care of an elderly family member can be a real challenge. I took care of my paternal Grandmother the last months of her life, in our home. She had her own bathroom connected to her bedroom (it was a mother-in-law suite on the first floor). She had medical care coming and going every day. But she was not a burden. She still had her whits about her. She was in her late 90s and her body just got tired, but her mind was still sharp. Three days before she passed away, she asked me for her dentures, because she did not want to die without teeth. She said that old people who die without their teeth look weird. LOL. And sure enough, in three days she had passed away. With her teeth. LOL. Taking care of a parent with Alzheimer’s is a completely different thing. As I sit and type this, I am in tears. I know my time with her is dwindling. I know she is not going to be with us much longer. My head knows this. We all die. But this is mom. Mummy, as I used to call her. (British, you know).

That’s me and mom when I graduated from high school. 1974. (And now you can figure out how old I am! LOL!) I could not wait to move out. Mom and I have always had a rough relationship. And she really didn’t know how to be the sort of mom you could crawl onto her lap and cuddle with. I never doubted she loved me – I know that with absolute certainty. But we just did not get along. I got along with my grandmother, and felt like she was more of a mom to me, than my mom. And I think it is just because we are wired differently. I am conservative; she’s very liberal. I am pro-life whereas she is pro-choice. I am devoutly Christian, whereas mom never had a relationship with God – at least none she has ever spoken about or demonstrated. She only went to Church when someone took her with them – she has never gone alone. Ever. And there are just so many reasons why we are like oil and water. Despite that, I love her dearly. She is funny, and always the life of the party. Stubborn and resolute in all her opinions. Doggedly so. And last night, she was not herself. It was an Alzheimer’s moment that really struck deeply. She woke in the morning not sure of day or night, insisting she wanted to go to bed. She had a decent day, and then we visited. Sigh. Maybe she just saved all her angst for me and my husband. But she told us, through tears, more than six times, to take her home or not leave her there. It was so out of pattern. And it rattled me.

This morning, she has had her hair done and she and her roommates are in rare form, laughing and giggling their morning away…sigh. So I guess I can chalk it up to an Alzheimer’s moment. Nonetheless, it reminded me that time is precious. We are all here for numbered days, and we are all getting closer to that last day. We need to make the moments count. I love you, mom.

Me and Mom 2014

“…correct our thoughts, cleanse our minds…”

 

Evening Prayer

O Christ our God, who at all times and in every hour, in heaven and on earth, art worshipped and glorified; who art long-suffering, merciful and compassionate; who lovest the just and showest mercy upon the sinner; who callest all to salvation through the promise of blessings to come; O Lord, in this hour receive our supplications, and direct our lives according to thy commandments. Sanctify our souls, hallow our bodies, correct our thoughts, cleanse our minds; deliver us from all tribulation, evil and distress. Encompass us with thy holy Angels, that guided and guarded by them, we may attain to the unity of the faith and to the knowledge of thine unapproachable glory, for thou art blessed unto ages of ages. Amen.

Through the prayers of our holy Fathers, Lord Jesus Christ our God, have mercy upon us and save us. Amen.

Into thy hands, O Lord, I commend my soul and my body. Do thou thyself bless me, have mercy upon me, and grant me life eternal. Amen.

I try to pray this prayer at night, as I am going to bed. At the very least, I commend my soul and body to God. And sometimes I fall right to sleep. As I have gotten older, I can sleep in a minute in my recliner. Sometimes it is in the middle of the day! (Gasp! I am old enough to nap without knowing it!!). But there are days when, exhausted, I crawl into bed and nestle down into my new mattress and pillow, and just lay there. Wide awake. Ugh. I have been using essential oils for about 7 years now. And I love using lavender. I love wearing it, and putting it on my pillow, and defusing it. My dog hates it. Absolutely hates oils. (Except for the cedarwood/vanilla combo I got for my husband. Go figure). So instead of diffusing lavender, or using it at all, I now take “ImmuPro,” which is a supplement that contains melatonin (from Young Living Essential Oils). Yay! It helps, a lot. Most days. It just helps me drift into a deeper sleep, and builds my immunity, too (win-win). Last night, not so much.

As I laid there last night, there were so many things going on, that I could not relax. I get up several times a night anyway (another old lady thing) and last night it was accompanied by text messages. Sigh. I have an iPhone. On the app for your timer, you can set bedtimes and wake times. And when you set the bedtime, you get reminders to go to bed starting at about 15 minutes before your set time, and your notifications are held until your wake time starts. (And my alarm is birds chirping. I love it! No jarring alarm for me!). Last night, out of concern, I was checking texts that had been held for my sleeping time. Stupid me. LOL. Looking at a backlit screen does not induce sleepiness. And so, as I laid down for the zillionth time, I began to petition God for everyone who has asked me to pray for them, for people who I know are going through rough times, for happenings in the world (Kobe Bryant’s death, along with his daughter, Gigi, and 7 others was on my heart). And I thought of the Impeachment thing, and then all sorts of political issues came to my heart. I thanked God for President Trump’s words at the March for Life – they truly moved me. And then I started thinking of other issues, when all of a sudden, the Lord spoke. Loudly. And I stilled. I distinctly heard, “Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21). And then I started pondering that statement. I mean, what did that have to do with all my prayers? After parsing through it, it had everything to do with it.

What belongs to Caesar? What belongs to God? Are we giving justly to both? Well, and what is it we give? Time-treasure-talent are the three things mentioned consistently at Church. Am I giving all three to both areas? Well, I dutifully pay my taxes: I pay sales taxes and I pay income taxes. I pay all the taxes I am asked to pay. Do I offer my talent or my time to my government? Not really. I used to. I also used to work for the government. I used to be involved in politics and elections, even working the polls. I stumped for candidates. I held signs, had them in my yard, and attended gatherings, meetings, and fundraisers. I felt like I did my part and then some. To my God? I have volunteered for years. Volunteering is what brought me from an intellectual understanding of my faith to a religious understanding, and an emotional and direct commitment to God. My husband felt called to the diaconate and attended Seminary for four years. His ordination brought our volunteerism onto a new level; a new plane. We both reveled in it. Being that close to the altar on a regular basis is good for the soul.

As I thought more and more about rendering what is due someone, I thought about character and honesty. We were founded, in this country, on a central idea of individual freedom, freedom from religious persecution and imposition (the government may not impose a religion on its people, which is what “separation of Church and State” means), and to protect individuals from tyranny. The Founders were escaping tyrannical rule and wanted to protect American citizens from that same experience. We have developed laws, to protect people and institutions from each other, and for each other. We have the three branches of the government, so they keep an eye on each other and prevent one or the other from going rogue. The laws we operate under were developed for the good of the people. And in kind, it is our duty, as good citizens, to obey these laws. We are a representative republic, and there are safeguards against mob rule (the electoral college is one of those protections) and we elect people to represent us in governmental functions such as drafting laws. And then we ratify those laws. (I wish everyone would watch Schoolhouse Rock and their series on the government! Just thinking about them I am singing, “Conjunction junction, what’s your function?”  And, “We’ve got a 3-ring government…” LOL).

If I render to Caesar, I am being a good citizen. I invest my time and talent into making my country better. I volunteer for others. I may even seek public office. But even that is largely volunteerism and should not be thought of as a professional career (we are supposed to be citizen-politicians, not professional politicians who never work for a living, except as politicians. It was never intended to be that way – yay for the idea of term limits). And we obey the laws on the books. If there is a law you disagree with, you work to have it rescinded. Roe v Wade comes to mind. Some of the tax laws definitely come to mind (yeah, I’m a flat tax person). But you never ASSUME someone else will take care of it. That is the very definition of being “sheeple.”

And we come to my experience of God speaking, loudly, to me. I mean, it stopped my wandering mind; it stilled my prayers. He wanted me to see where I need to place my efforts. I need to be equally aware; I need to participate, but I also need to let a lot of the angst over things legal, or civil, go. I need to trust in the laws, in the workings of the legislature. And knowing I have helped my government by my participation, then I need to sleep. And I need to give my fervor to God, and God alone. Yes, be a participating, good citizen, but be a Christian good citizen. Watch out for others with a Christian perspective (again, Roe v Wade and “Thou shalt not kill”) and protect those who cannot speak for themselves; who have no voice. Give those issues over to Caesar that belong there. But also, give to God what is God’s – my heart, my fervent prayer, my love, my actions. They all belong, ultimately, to God alone. If we all could figure this our for ourselves, everything would fall into place. The world would be much more peaceful. Perspective. Godly perspective. Pray on it; think on it; seek guidance on it. But be active with your due rendering.

“Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (Matthew 22:21)

 

“Something old, something new…”

Have you ever seen something and in your mind you are immediately taken to a memory? Well, it has happened a couple of times since we have lived in Alaska. I was raised in Southern California. To be honest, rain was a big deal. Wind was a big deal. Because pretty much all the days run together. There are slight nuances that tell you it’s fall or it’s winter, but generally, one day looks like the other, all year long. Those little breaks are huge and I was always laughing at this one particular news/weather show, on Channel 7 (ABC), with all the excited talk of its “Doppler 7” sensors and weather predictors. What did they need all that for? It’s sunny almost every day. LOL.

I was raised on classic movies. My mom could tell you the most amazing fun facts about movies and movie stars. She gave me her collection of Shirley Temple memorabilia and some original cartoon books of Annie from her childhood. She was an amazing resource about all of it, including who was married to whom, who was related to whom, and who was fooling around on whom. LOL She loved musicals. When I was a child she was in the local musical theater troupe and I loved spending days watching rehearsals and being back stage. It reminded me of Doris Day and “Please don’t eat the daisies”!! My 3 sons were raised watching the old classical musicals, too. The shot above is from “Singing in the Rain.” I adore that movie. In this scene, Gene Kelly flips switches and turns on fans and lights to create the perfect backdrop to sing to Debbie Reynolds. And then this happened:

Okay so it’s not pink but the way the clouds were, brought me right back to “Singing in the Rain.” It’s funny how our minds do that, isn’t it?

“Singing in the rain, just singing in the rain. What a beautiful feeling, I’m happy again…” (Are you singing in your head??). LOL.

Last night, I attended a meeting for local politics and politicians at the state level. We listened to updates from the Capital. It was annoying, at best. And I found myself swirling back in time to the past few days, and years past when I was active in politics, and all the attacks on common sense. At least to me, it’s common sense!

  • Don’t spend more than you earn. (Duh! Pass the budget!)
  • No taxation without representation.
  • The 2A protects us against governmental tyranny.
  • Treat others as you would like to be treated. (Remember manners???)
  • Speak with dignity and respect towards others; carry on meaningful civil discourse.
  • “Train up a child in the way he should go, and he shall never depart from it.”
  • Abortion is murder and it is wrong. Always. “Thou shall not kill.”
  • Clean up your dog’s poop in public, and in your yard. Use a leash and carry bags!
  • Don’t spit. It’s so disgusting to see or step in.
  • Pull up your pants; tuck in your shirt; get a hair cut; shave. (I have sons).
  • Show respect to your elders. Offer a seat for the handicapped, elderly, or women.
  • Please follow the recipe. (For my family!)
  • Tell the truth always! Character counts.

Of course, not all of these went through my mind – I threw in extras for your enjoyment. LOL. But the point is, there is so much going on in our governments – both locally and nationally. And it is not pretty. But very, very few people do anything about it. Even though the thoughts above ramble through our minds as we witness all this junk happening, everywhere. We write, we post on social media, yell at the TV, and maybe we might even vote. People call for term limits all the time. Someone pointed out to me that we already have term limits – it’s called elections! Quit voting in the same person over and over again. Vote them out! And as I sat around our meeting, that encompasses our quite large geographical area, I looked at 18 people. 18 people out of thousands of registered voters! My deja vu comes into play because I have seen these same faces around tables for the past few years. Same people. Meetings and meetings. And where is everyone else? Why is it we are not energized to help usher in change, when it is so apparent it is needed?

Today was the March for Life in Washington, D.C. and our President became the first sitting President to attend and speak. His speech stopped me in my tracks. The words he used normally do not come out of a politician’s mouth on the national level. Things like, “All life is precious, ” and, “We are all made in the image of God,” and, “Every child born in a family is loved…” and on and on his amazing words went, that I found myself weeping. For joy. For hope. For the babies who have no voice. And I prayed they were not just words. And I applauded with the crowd. Just look at the thousands and thousands of people who stood for the sanctity of human life. I am humbled. I am stunned. I am overjoyed.

If I only see 18 people, so be it. I am praying it can be, in a small way, like the fabled knights, who are willing to take on what comes their way. And we may not have the numbers who were in DC today, but we are showing up. If all over America, people would just show up. Especially in November, when the future of this country is at stake. The entire House of Representatives, all 435 seats, are up for election. Let’s make it a wave and take this country back. Stand for Life. Stand for our right to bear arms (2A). Stand for freedom of all speech – even if we disagree with what is being said (1st Amendment). So much is on the table. Honesty, integrity, character, faith. It is huge in our history. And if 18 people can help motivate an electorate to show up and cast their votes, yay for us!! And trust me, in a state as small (population-wise) as ours, every single vote counts. We have local officials who have one by a single vote – I am not joking. Remember when people lined up around the block to vote, and we had to choose a good time so we could get in before the polls closed? Remember anxiously watching returns? Remember the excitement when your candidate won or a law was passed you agreed with? Or people lost you wanted to lose, or a law was shot down by voters? We have the right, the privilege to vote. So many people in countries around the world do not have a say – they have no voice. You do. Do not let it be silenced by corruption or your lack of gumption to participate in the process. Please, just participate! And in the future you can remember that you let your voice be heard….

“It’s the simplest things…”

It’s funny to me how the simplest things can totally change your day. I have been planning to surprise my husband by making his mom’s green chili recipe. He loves it – I really hate it. I am not a green chili person. But I finally pulled it off. It is in the crock pot, doing its thing. I was able to get it into the crock pot in time for a 5-hour cook. Yay. I could have used my Instant Pot, but I wanted the scent to permeate the house, so he would be that much happier when he walked in and smelled it cooking. Now I just hope it tastes as good as it smells. (And it is Whole 30 compliant – win/win).

The next exciting thing is that I got a frother today. A frother? Yep. We are struggling through our first Whole 30 this year. One of the things we do not eat is dairy on this program (not to mention no sugar). Well, I am one of those people who like milk and sugar in my coffee and tea (my British roots showing) and I have been introduced to Nut Pods. Nut Pods? Little boxes of deliciousness disguised as non-dairy, fat-free, sugar-free creamers (you can even cook with them). Oh yasssss….so yummy. Now, personally, my favorite creamer is hazelnut. I love to eat hazelnuts. I like them in all sorts of concoctions. But the Nut Pods? Yuck. Tasted like coconut milk and my brain and taste buds were in shock. I also tried vanilla, and it was nice and smooth. I complained to a wonderful Whole 30 coach, who was the Whole 30 Coach of the Year 2019, Jacob Heath Henriquez (www.jacobheathhenriquez.com) and he suggested I froth it, and heat it, too. Oh my gosh. It rocked my world. I heated the plain Nut Pod, frothed it, and added it to my coffee! Bliss!!! Tomorrow morning, I will try the Hazelnut again, because it’s Hazelnut! I may have to graduate to one of the fancier frothers that heat your milk, too! (It’s on my list at Amazon! LOL! Plan ahead!). But also, with the plain Nut Pod, I did not miss the sugar! Little victory!!

   My Frother and the Nut Pods!

Now I know it might seem weird to have frothers, nut pods, and green chili get me all happy, but on top of that, a print I ordered arrived. And I was able to frame it (planned ahead), set it on my table next to my chair, and have my frothed coffee, all in one afternoon!! I can pray in some sunshine (rare because it’s been snowing for two days) and smell the green chili surprise for my husband. Sometimes life is just that good, simple, and full of blessings!!

“…despite every disfigurement…”

The snow is gently falling. It has been just fluttering snowflakes all day long. It is almost impossible to capture on my iPhone. The flakes are big and are just wafting like feathers to the ground, slowly accumulating into little drifts here and there. I cannot fully explain the peace and quiet of a snowy day. It calms my soul.

I recently joined a Book Club here in town. A friend invited me and the first book was, “Hillbilly Elegy” by JD Vance. I finally finished it today, in time for our review on Saturday. We will be meeting at a lovely little place called, “Crema Coffee House,” which happens to be so close to my own house, I am looking forward to it. It looks like a French Chalet and they make everything from scratch. Their coffees are amazing! It is a wonderful gathering place in our community.

Today as I contemplated my reaction to “Hillbilly Elegy,” I also pondered my life and what I see in my own “rear view mirror.” The weird part for me is the author was born in 1984 and could be my son. His memories are of my generation as his parents, and my parents as his grandparents. I totally related to his place and time, insofar as what he was experiencing, when. HIs auto-biography takes place in Kentucky and Ohio. He was the first in his family to go to college (the Ohio State), and the first to go to an Ivy League school (graduated from Yale Law School) and he is now a practicing attorney. We diverge in our memories from almost the first paragraph. It was an interesting read from a social anthropologist’s point of view, but I found his suppositions and conclusions often hard to accept. The book created a pall of misery around me and I was very glad to close the back cover this morning.

For my own memories, we diverge because our parents came from such different places and my timeline is considerably longer. His interpersonal relationships with family members saddened me, especially with his mom (and lack of dad, for the most part). I have such strong memories of joy in my life and childhood. It was when I grew older and had children of my own that I realized much of my childhood was staged for the photo-op, much like my parents marrying in the Church of England, because it would make a good photographic backdrop. Yeah. My parents divorced when I was 21 years old, after 26 years of marriage. The day my dad left is a day I will never forget. Ever. And as JD Vance explained in his book, he never wanted his children to experience all the ugly parts of his life. He does want them to know that even if there is ugly, family is family and they’ve got your back. HIs family is huge – filled with aunts, uncles, and cousins, in full hillbilly style. They all parent each other’s children and he drifted from one relative’s home to another; most of his life living with his grandparents – Memaw and Papaw. Me? My parents immigrated here from New Zealand. Both are only children. I have no aunts, uncles, or cousins. My paternal grandparents made the move when it was announced I was on the way. My maternal grandparents visited once, when I was 16, and stayed for about 5 months. (It was wonderful and I am so glad I got to know them – it explains my mom so much!!) But my life was starkly different from his.

As the snow continues to waft down (and yes, it is already dark and that view is out my front door), and my laundry is dutifully running in the room next to me, I keep thinking about how God works in each of our lives and how divergent we all truly are. I was speaking at length to my HS buddy, Beth, today. We’ve been friends since we were 14 years old. And we were talking about her life, and all the negative things she has suffered through. Trust me, they are real and she has every right to be angry and unforgiving – to a point. I understand it and as I was listening to her, I kept going back to JD Vance’s epiphany of sorts when he realized the myriad of emotions surrounding his mom did not include forgiveness. He was holding on to so much. Beth is, too. And I once was, as well. But I learned I needed to let it go, or it would eat me alive.

And at the heart of it all is how we treat others. In my memories, as a child, I feel only happiness and joy. I experienced life-lessons and times of heartache, as we all do, but the over-arching emotions are happiness and joy. As I reached adulthood and marriage and parenthood, I came to understand why my brain chose those emotions to relate to my childhood. I now understand more of what my parents were all about, and I chose to let it all go and allow my mind to settle on those emotions. Realization is harsh; reality usually is harsher than fantasy. Children often create happiness where there is none. And I am okay with that, as an adult. JD Vance is still juggling plates as he wrestles with his present while trying to reconcile his past. And to some degree I have days when there are too many plates in the air. I tried to let my friend see that holding on to some of the poorer aspects of our lives colors the here and now. Why allow others who hurt you in the past take up space in your present? It is a useless endeavor.

People are people and they are not perfect. Carrying around the past as something that is negative, affects everything in our present. JD Vance has a lot of baggage. He works to do good for others, and to help others who are considered less fortunate, or who are hillbillies just like his family is, and was. He reaches back into his past to enlighten his future and I think because he is so aware of who he is, he will ensure much of his misery stops with him. I think that is a lesson we can all learn from. Still and all, with the pall of sadness that was this “Elegy,” it sorted of ended on a happy note with his wife, a new home, and their baby son. But the overbearing misery and desperation made this such a hard read. The next time, I would like to suggest something much more fun! Choices of reading material may color my book club membership in the future! LOL! What JD Vance shared will stay with me, I think, for awhile. And I will always try to be forgiving, and letting God handle the really hard stuff.

“A place can’t save you…”

We are now at that place, mid-winter. We have had some major snow storms. We have had winds that have literally made my eyeballs hurt when I have walked outside. It was -21 on our back deck and with the wind chill, we set a record for -51! Good heavens. (I know it is not as bad as a friend I have in the UP of Michigan. They get SNOW. They make us look like wimps. And this is Alaska! LOL). The sight above is about 10 miles south of where we live, and one of my husband’s favorite places to fish. That look is accomplished with sub zero freezes. And it is so glorious! I truly love the look of a deep freeze. It makes grocery shopping and pumping gas a little tricky! We have not really suffered too much, to be honest. But we are getting weary of the cold, Alaskan winter! People are all talking about how many more hours of sunshine we get everyday!

You have to be different to live in environments that do not have sunshine and roses all year long. Especially when daylight is limited, or in over-abundance! My life, until well into my fifties, was spent in sunny Southern California. I grew up close enough to the beach to walk to it, when I was a child. We slowly moved inland and south. But the beach was never too far away. In my teens we could take the “Beach Bus” down to the shoreline daily for $5 round trip. Something that we took for granted. My grandparents had a house up on a hillside in Englewood. You could smell the ocean on clear, sunny, breezy days of summer. They never needed an air conditioner. We would just open the windows and the breeze cooled us off. And there was always their swimming pool! Paradise to a kid! But somehow, it was not enough. Green, wild, mountains, nature was always calling to me. Ironically, when I got my first job, I signed up to give a portion of my income to “Save the Whales” complete with bumper sticker and coffee mug. I’d get regular reports from Alaska. I was 16. Who knew?

And although a Pacific Paradise was fun to grow up in, it just never fit me. I have so many friends who cannot ever imagine the climate in Alaska. Their bones would ache; they would hate the dark and the cold. I get that. My mom grew up in New Zealand and I was always drawn to how green it was. She often commented, “And it rains all the time! You have to pay for that green somehow.” And I often relate that to the summers here in Alaska. They are glorious. And we get them from all the water we get during the winter, in the form of snow. So when we are up to our knee caps in snow, I try to think of the summers.

And we live for summer. LOL. The sun is up for hours upon hours – so many hours that we have black-out shades and curtains. Our plants grow insanely large. Have you heard about the State Fair here in Palmer every year? They have pumpkins that weigh thousands of pounds or 30-lb cabbages. I kid you not. I have started growing Dahlias and I am so hooked on their complicated, and sometimes very simple, beauty.

             

There is the Tartan on the left, and the Richard’s on the right. Those are just two examples of some amazing Dahlias. I love the variety that is all things Dahlia. You get the tubers, which are labeled, but the surprise comes when they bloom. The labels quite often are wrong!

All of this is helping me work through the season. The dark side is winter; the light side is summer. But together it is our full year. Up here we have very short springs and falls. The longest sections are the most extreme. And funnily enough, it is a template for our lives, too. I have spent the longest portions of my life in extremes; extremes in weather, in faith, in life. And this portion is by far my favorite. I can breathe. I can relax. I can focus. Just visiting my old stomping grounds gives me stress! I realized, as soon as we pulled up to our new home (7 years ago) that I was home. It took me 56 years to find it. My prayer for you is you find your spot, too. Sometimes we compromise for the wrong reasons. My husband and I always wanted to leave California, but stayed for so many reasons. Once we chose to leave, it was so hard, but at the same time, the right decision. A long time coming, but for us, perfect. And when you realize you are where you belong, the pieces all fall into place. But don’t forget, you are who you are!!!