When Bitter is more than Sweet

It’s a bittersweet day at the Rhoads house.  After 8 years of having Alma’s family closer than/better than neighbors, they move into town today.  Of course we support their decision and wish the best for them.  At the same time, I’ve been crying for days now.  It’s like losing Alma all over again.

How do we deal with these times of bitter change that don’t feel sweet at all?  I ask because boomers face more and more difficult changes as they age.  Knowing we traverse an expected transition does little to ease the angst, however.  Surely something moves the sweet into the bitter?  I mean, I’d love a sweetbitter experience over a bittersweet any day of the week.

So what helps?

  • Of course, counting blessings tops the list.  I am grateful we enjoyed so much time with these precious ones.  And hopefully out of sight doesn’t mean we’ll be out of their lives!
  • Crying helps.  Wait! What?  Yes, it’s okay to grieve loss.  I feel Alma very close these days.
  • Self-indulgence is permitted.  One day I have got to give up sugar again, but I still comfort myself with little treats.
  • Find new interests.  We’re working on that.  Easier said than done, because while we are a pair, we are still two very different people.  Writing helps me a lot.
  • Figure out how to survive without help.  Really?  Alma did 90% of the upkeep, and we see no viable solution here.

So, three out of five isn’t bad, is it?  The only problem is that we’ve been mired at this stage for months now.  How long do these transitions last?  Is there ever really a cure for a broken heart, broken dream, broken life?  We wear smiles.  We stay busy.  I write a lot.  But underneath the veneer little changes.  The bitter still outweighs the sweet, and this day more than most.

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Flag Down

flag downThe midterm elections lie inches away in my calendar timeline and I, for one, cannot wait. The cacophony of ads every time I turn around hurts my ears. He said, she said…and precious little corroboration for anyone’s claims. The vitriolic nature of discourse dim my hope for our nation. I fear it will soon be flag down, for good.

Now I’m not a political pundit.  Trust me on that.  Still, I think two simple words shade my voting tendencies.  I think two simple words will determine the outcome of this election for many of us.

Kavanaugh.  No matter where you fell on the Kavanaugh spectrum, the Kavanaugh spectacle made me sick.  Literally.  Have we sunk so low as a nation that judicial confirmation hearings look like an episode of Jerry Springer rather than an august deliberation?  And none of the participants in the debacle seem bothered by that? I fear for my country.

Word two: Caravan.  A mob of Hondurans march to cross our border. Again. And our response is…what?  Do we welcome them with open arms or arms fully loaded?  I hear little discussion on how to meet and greet these folks, but this only serves to highlight the tension surrounding border control.  Am I the only one who sees a problem here?  No matter where you stand on humanitarian immigration, I think we can all agree that should we accept thousands at a time we might as well switch our national language to Spanish. Habla espanol?

we the peopleI don’t know about all y’all, but I’m a two-word voter this election.  Kavanaugh.  Caravan.  You don’t have to sit on my side of the kitchen table to agree…these are two defining moments for our nation.  And our response to them will change the course of our nation. We the people better be figuring it out, because I don’t see a lot of answers coming out of either side of the aisle in DC.

Are You a Bible Wrecker?

bible 4I know people with pristine Bibles.  I am not one of them.  I am an inveterate Bible wrecker and it makes the Word of God come alive for me.  Worse yet for all you pristine Bible lovers, I plan on never mending my ways.

Of course I bean with underlining my favorite passages as a child. I then proceeded on to color coding.  I chose word topics and using colored pencils and highlighters, colored verses with or about those words.  That very soon led to personal indexing.bible 2

Threading ranks as my second favorite form of Bible wrecking.  I find a topic of study, and cross reference one verse to the next and so on throughout the Book.  I found I needed to add the starting and closing verses to the Bible’s concordance in the back to be sure I could find it at a moment’s notice.  Indexing is key for me, because nothing is more frustrating than knowing I have a scripture somewhere in a book of 66 books.  I started running out of space for indexing, and had to get creative.

bible-1-55894952-1539785010836.jpgThen I started adding quotes and reference material by way of inserts.  I began with typing them onto thin tracing paper, but with the advent of computers, quickly resorted to using regular copier papaer.  I learned the hard way not to use rubber cement as a medium for insertion.  It eventually dries out and the insert becomes a nuisance.  Worse, it discolors the margin as it dries.  I now favor a high quality paper crafting glue.bible-5.jpg

I finally starting adding Washi tape to highlight books since my Bible had no tabs.  Word of warning: Don’t wait to do this.  It’s hard to cover over notes in the margin.  Since my Bible is starting to fall apart, my next new Bible will have Washi tape inserted at the start.

I do enjoy Bible journaling and art journaling, but I use other versions for that pleasure.  When Alma died I found it hard to hold thoughts in my head, and focusing on short phrases kept me in the Word.  I had a wide-margin version of the Bible I already used for that form of meditation and worship, and focused on that medium of study.  I am not an artist, but the whole point is that you don’t have to be.  It’s a form of personal meditation, and I am chagrined to share my simple artwork…but it illustrates the point.  Just do it and stop worrying about perfection.

Being a Bible wrecker offers me a creative outlet and a way to express what the Word means to me.  It also prepares me for sharing intentionally at a moment’s notice.  I hope it makes me a warrior for the Word, not to use it as a weapon, but as a way of zealously defending the King.  Last but not least, it seasons my life with all the benefits of a life with Christ.  Peace, joy, and strength keep me going through this season of loss and change.  The Rock and His Word never fail.  Yup.  I plan on being a Bible wrecker ’till the day I die.  #noregrets

 

Harbingers of Fall

fall medicareThe harbingers of fall change as we grow old…or do they…as my friend Tim would say.  As a child, fall signaled stomping through crunchy leaves littering the sidewalks.  Later I cherished quaking aspen and epic watercolor scenes painted against the skyline.  Now fall’s glory is reduced to the mountain of Medicare offers I receive as unsolicited mail. Sad harbingers of fall, indeed.

How many noble trees sacrificed their lives for this growing mound of rubbish I’m accumulating?  I feel guilty, though my only complicit act was one of aging.  Yet somehow they died because of me and I feel sad. I mean, do people think I’m reading all this?  Is someone being paid to create and send trash?  Let me just say this:  STOP! End the insanity already.

medicare 2First of all, Medicare should be simple enough for failing minds.  Any plan requiring a syllabus the size of a Sears catalog and a magnifying glass is too complicated.  Second, I can’t afford it.  Looking at the proposed monthly premium I need to fork over, I’d better be getting sick on a regular basis to justify the expense.  Third, get your act together.  Half of Congress acts like they are doing me a favor by making me choose a Medicare plan, and half acts like I’m taking food from their children’s mouths by being alive enough to use it.  Sheesh!  I hear a lot of talk about abolishing Medicare altogether.  Just push me over to the side of the road when I get sick and let me die already.  Oh wait.  That’s what old folks homes are for.

Responsible legislation has become an oxymoron in this day of partisanship and lobbying interests.  Mind you, I hold the AARP in this category as well.  I remember a time when all sides sat at the table and hashed things out to a reasonable compromise, but then, I’m almost 70.  I fear our children and grandchildren have few memories of accord in the political arena, and that, my friends, is the tragedy.  Without a living memory of what Congress was supposed to look like, our hope of a return to sanity grows dimmer every year.  What can I do about this mess?  My electoral mandate is a draining of the swamp.  Strict term limits.  There will always be opportunists and self interests, but limiting the amount of damage they do is a step in the right direction.  Will government die with inexperienced politicians?  Look at our constitutional inception with farmers, soldiers and inexperienced statesmen at the helm.  I think they did a pretty good job!

In the meantime, I plan on getting back to my roots.  I’m bobbing for apples, on a hunt for some good crunchy leaves, and going for long scenic drives.  I choose to set my own harbingers of fall, and I like mine better!

What is YOUR Comfort Margin?

I like spring of course. Who doesn’t? Milder temperatures and fresh balmy breezes never fail to intoxicate the senses. Now that’s comfort! But here’s the thing. It exists as a mere eyelash in time. Blink twice and suddenly it is H-O-T.  I’ve come to the uncomfortable conclusion that my comfort margin may not exist.

fall leaves
Cancelled this year. Sorry, folks!

Then it begins. I dream of fall. I yearn for fall. Will fall ever arrive? I conjure up memories of brisk air and a landscape contrived by a Master painter. Wait for it…Wait for it…When it finally arrives it seems all the more glorious for having waited a lifetime. Wait! What? Blink twice and it becomes another eyelash in time. Who forgot to pay the Power bill this year? My glorious fall suddenly devolved into a sodden mess and I’m a basket case.

After a great deal of annotated analysis (I am, after all, almost seventy) I finally realized my problem. My perfect number is 72. My comfort index is an eyelash, not a sturdy one-inch ribbon. I feel content at 71-73, which I’ve proven exists as a figment of the imagination. I need to cultivate a wider ribbon of comfort. That’s my goal this year. I want to add a degree on each end of the comfort index for a wider margin of comfort. What’s the measure of your comfort of index?

 

Flame the Fire of Joy

After a full week of algebra and schoolwork with pedal to the metal, we enjoyed an afternoon of bowling yesterday. Yes, we left mowing undone. We left a small mountain of wood unsplit and unstacked.  My work area held a manuscript for book three needing to be imagined and a blog post to write. Yes, we were out an out slugs. Instead, we chose to follow Grand Poppy’s sage advice: “We keep the fun,” and loved seeing the joy explode out of the hearts of our two scholars.

Children grow up. I know, it’s hard to believe since it happens one baby step at a time. When parents turn around and suddenly realize the children have grown up without them, a ginormous opportunity remains forever lost. Enjoy time with them now to avoid the bitter ashes of feeling cheated later.

Living in the moment doesn’t mean we work less. We work faster, with more focus.  We love intentionally. We create pockets of time from which we extract these memories to cache away as joy for another day. Here’s the thing: It doesn’t always happen at a bowling alley. Amazing, right? Share popcorn over a movie, snuggled in an afghan. Play a rousing game of Mexican trains and for goodness sake, let the silly train whistle drive you crazy. Bake some cookies. I’m full of these little ideas. I could go on all day long, but I think you got my drift already.

We country folk who heat with wood like to say it’s the only form of energy that heats you twice: once when you cut it and again when you burn it.  These romps from routine hold the same promise: warm the heart in play, and remember the warmth for years to come when the eagles have flown the nest. Best of all, the flames of joy burn clean with no ashes to sweep from the hearth. Boy, howdy! That’s a win/win for ya’! What price joy? I have no answer for that.

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Are You a NonSleeper? Read This

I think it’s time we review sleep, or the lack of thereof, once again.  I promised you further chapters in my ongoing dilemma of to sleep or not to sleep and how it might translate to your life.  The lack of sleep affects you and everyone around you.

Of course, the symptoms of sleeplessness live on your face: bloodshot eyes, raccoon circles that belie every pleasant expression.  It also seeps out in unintended crankiness when least expected.  I find those effects less disturbing than these: 33% of all people everywhere suffer from missed sleep.  That’s how many billion of us?  And are these the ones mucking up our Facebook news feeds with angry chatter?  All of these billions of us have a 13% higher mortality risk.  Yup, say goodbye now, because numbers never lie, lol.  Last but least, 77% of us cranky non-sleepers become addicted to medications.  Not okay.

Remedies abound.  To recap an earlier post: Yes, I take melatonin, employ a nightly ritual, practice slower breathing, wear lavender like it’s my new fashion accessory.  If a simple one-size-fits-all remedy existed, its billionaire owner would have just bought the island of Shangri La.  That said, I confess I am intrigued by claims that DoDow users fall asleep 2.5x faster.  My first thought: faster than what?  Their perceived prior insomniac versions of themselves?  After researching claims, I headed over to Amazon to see what the battery-driven gizmo runs.  A hefty $59.  Wowsers!!! Realizing its effectiveness relies on my ability to breathe on the command of a blinking light and that I am hopelessly uncoordinated, I am reluctant to drop that large a chunk of change.  I mean, I can’t even clap in rhythm to a song, so how am I ever to learn how to breathe like that?Middle aged woman in the night with insomnia

I really am hoping some friendly reader will try it out and personally let me know how it works.  Perhaps I need one of those ubiquitous GoFundMe accounts to finance its purchase.  Either way, gentle reader, take heart.  I am still one of you non-sleepers and I feel your pain.

Togetherness. Extreme Togetherness.

It’s been an extremely big day for me.  When Bill retired, he became my chauffeur and wanted to ferry me places. We started spending a LOT of time together, so much so that I hardly drive and rarely spend a day without him. Togetherness. Extreme togetherness.

But a glorious new day has arrived! When he departed for a weekend retreat without me, suddenly I am driving myself. Yay! I remember how! I get the bed to myself. I had no idea what that felt like. And I get to have a girlie night. Woo hoo!!

Having these two munchkins for a night brought extreme joy. We played with play dough. We watched a movie. We made dinner and dessert together. We made jewelry. Crimp beads were a challenge, but they caught on quickly. Pawing through my stash was more than than raiding a cookie jar. And my, how they giggled.

Something tells me Bill has a ministry here, and I should explore other opportunities for him.  As a mother of three sons, I waited my whole life for this night, and it did not disappoint.  So so thankful for these two little girls!

This easy recipe is great for girls.  Spray a muffin tin.  Lay crescent roll into the tins.  Add 1 tsp crushed pineapple and 1 Tbsp cherry pie filling.  Pinch the tops together.  Bake at 375 until  browned and done.

Anatevka

Forty-one years is a long time to live in one place.  These days people change jobs and homes and marriages with less stress than this one life-changing decision is causing us.  We are planters, not hunters, by nature; yet we feel anachronistic when we look at the picture-studded walls depicting the epic saga of a life lived all in one place.

As we bravely look 70 years of age in the face, we wonder: Is it time to move?  A practical mind urges us to move.  Alma took care of the ten acres, and with him gone, it’s a burden for Bill.  Finances suggest the wisdom in staying put.  Zero debt is pretty compelling.  Town living is expensive.  Chronology pushes us to move.  How many more years do we have without a major illness forcing us out?  The heart begs us to stay.  All our memories of Alma lie buried within these four walls.  Our home is perfect for family dinners when all the clan comes home to be together.  In the end it will probably be decided for us, because it’s not all about us.  We have Alma’s widow to consider.

I feel like a roulette wheel, spinning round and and round and where will I land?  Nobody knows.  At least nobody living and breathing on this earth.  Pragmatic by nature, I lean toward moving while it’s our idea and we can do the choosing.  The question is simple:  Is there life beyond these walls?  Would anyplace else ever be so sweet?”  Yes, I’ve been humming Fiddler on the Roof.  My biggest fear is ending our days in a place that feels like a motel where we’ve overstayed our welcome, with no home to go to.

We’re setting apart a time for prayer and fasting before we decide, because we simply cannot see far enough down the pike to make a wise decision.  This much I do know: I don’t want to feel like I’m loading a few earthly possessions into a cart and trudging into the unknown.  If I must leave my home, I want to be excited and passionate and already imagining a new life.  But I’m a planter.  Something tells me this isn’t going to go well for me.

Tales that Tell

The Common Princess is online! I’m still pinching myself!!  The book took shape several years ago, when I couldn’t find Christian literature for girls that took them into the Word.logo jpeg

It got put on the back burner after a few kind by firm rejection letters.  It wasn’t until Alma’s death sapped my usually boundless energy, with my soul somewhere between a desperate dawn and a lonely sunrise, that Aaron prompted me to dig it out and finish it.

There exists tell tale signs about all of us.  How are we known? Writing became a natural-flowing form of expression for me at a young age.  By junior high I’d found a love for paper and pencils and words.  Not being a Pearl Buck, I let it remain an avocation and thus enjoyed a daily journal all my life.  It took darkness and the light of my son’s confidence to draw me back to the flame.  I want my tell tale sign to be a teller of tales that stirs the imagination.kingdom

This allegorical tale is, I hope, compelling enough to draw girls into the story line, and rich enough in scripture to immerse their hearts in the soul of the King.  I offer a free 46-page set of journal prompts and worksheets available for download via email upon purchase of the book.  All girls are princesses when their Father is the King of the universe.  Entitling them to that destiny is my calling and desire.  I hope you’ll like it and recommend it.