Pressing Matters

Anyone who knows me knows that I am not a big keeper of things.  In part, it is because I have moved nineteen times since college.  Sooner or later I would ask myself, “Why am I moving this again?”  Off it would go with the donate pile.

In another part, I’m not emotionally attached to many things.  I tend to keep things that are useful and things that evoke memories.  No need for duplicates.

In part, I was raised in a ‘no-clutter is good clutter’ environment.  My home might appear sparse to others, but it feels neat and orderly to me.

In part, I don’t like dust and things collect dust.  Related to the no dust part, I don’t have a regular cleaning schedule to keep the dust at bay. (I am not big on a structured life either.) When I am expecting company or can’t stand it anymore, I dust. Fewer things mean less dust.  Less dust means less cleaning.

Who cares and why am I telling you this? 

Today, totally randomly, I was sorting through a hanging shoe caddy.  At least that is what it’s called on the internet.  I may have used it for shoes at some point, but now it stores a totally random mix of things.  Things like small purses, hats, winter gloves, a scarf in case I travel to a cold environment (I live in Florida), an extensive collection of voltage converters that harken back to my days of international business travel.  I would forget to pack them and buy the correct converter upon arrival in my destination country.  Hence the collection.  I hope to do more international travel, so they are keepers.

If you are still with me, here is the kicker.  I found a travel iron and a travel steamer.  Seriously, WHY do I still have them?  WHY did I ever have them?  I might have used them a handful of times when traveling for business.  That was the 1990s.  They are heavy and messy as I recall.  Again, WHY?  Any hotel I would have stayed in for business would have an iron and an ironing board in the room or an onsite cleaning service for pressing clothes.  HOW have they survived at least five moves?  Travel with me they did.

Now when I travel, my clothes need to roll up for packing and emerge wrinkle-free.  And if not, oh well!  I’m on vacation.

Both the travel iron and the steamer are now in the donate pile and on their way to the resale store. 

Bon Voyage!

p.s. If you are looking for some deep meaning behind this post, it is merely a silly observation about how my day started.  A good laugh at oneself to start the day is good for the soul.

p.p.s.  I am not advocating everyone live by my philosophy.  It’s what works for me. 

Taming Monkey-Brain

Monkey-brain – annoying thoughts running through your head at night and keeping you awake.  

Monkey brain prevents you from falling asleep or going back to sleep after a comfort run in the middle of the night.  There are natural supplements, over-the-counter sleep aids, and prescription drugs available for taming the monkey.  I stumbled on a new method – planned procrastination. 

Recently, I was mulling over issues related to the two condos I own.  (I know, a good problem to have.)  Neither issue can be addressed or solved for several months.  Worrying about what might happen in the future was a waste of a good night’s sleep.  With solutions months away, I could see many sleepless nights ahead.

So, I assigned the worry for each condo an arbitrary date on the calendar.  One is put off until April 1st.  Yep!  April Fool’s Day.  I may be able to resolve the issue sooner.  If not resolved by April 1st, I will assign it a new date.  The second issue cannot be addressed until sometime in May.  No need to worry about it now.  May 20th is soon enough to assess the situation and take action.

It worked!  When bothered about either issue, I remind myself that I don’t have to think about them until a preset date in the future. 

Planned procrastination – a natural remedy for monkey-brain. 

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Knock on Wood

(A collaborative effort of Ryan Dex and Aunt Mary Sue.)

Illustration by Eden Rodriguez

“Eew!  Who farted?”

Buck let out a low bark as if he knew Abby was talking about him.  Seven-year-old Abby turned around, pinching her nose, and stuck out her tongue at Dylan and Buck in the back row of the SUV.

“Crack the windows Dad, Buck ripped a good one.”  Dylan patted Buck on the head and whispered in his ear, “Way to go, boy.”  Dylan went back to scrolling for new soccer tricks on Tik Tok.

Dylan’s Dad unlocked the windows.  Zoey cracked the one on her side of the car, rolled her eyes, and used the book she was reading to fan the smelly air away from her.  Abby put her Ipad on the car seat, wrinkled her nose, and got as close to the open window as she could with her seatbelt on.  Dylan’s mom opened her window all the way and pretended to adjust the side mirror as she stuck her head out.

Once the air cleared, Abby asked, “How much longer till we get there? And where is ‘there’ today, Mom?”

Dylan’s mom picked up her trail guide. “We are headed for Hatlem Creek.  It’s an important source of freshwater for the lake we live on.  We’ll be following an old logging road.  Dogs are welcome, Dylan, be sure Buck is on his leash.”

* * *

As they got out of the car, Dad asked, “Do you have your Ipad, Abby?  There are eleven different ferns in the wetlands.  See how many you can find and take pictures to identify them later.  Look low and high.  Some grow on trees.”

Abby tilted her head back, sighed, and rolled her eyes, “Okay, Dad.”

“Mom is looking for the endangered Michigan Monkey Flower as well as the Canada Anemone, Jack-in-the-pulpit, Starflower, and Cardinal flower.  I’ll be looking for the red-shouldered hawk.  Zoey, see how many other birds you can identify.  Dylan, you and Buck search the creek for trout and salmon.  Supposedly they spawn here.  Any questions?”

“Is there a prize for the first one to finish?” Dylan asked his Dad.  

“First prize is a blue ribbon, as usual.”

Dylan and Buck followed the edge of the creek.  Each footstep made a sucking sound as they sank into the muck.

“Shh, everyone, be still,” Zoey said.  “Hear that shrill whinnying?  That might be a Pileated Woodpecker.”

Drawn by the sound, Buck pulled on his leash, trying to get to a dead tree lying on the forest floor.  A bird was fluttering its wings, trying to get loose from the wire attached to a sign on the fallen tree:  Hunting In Season Only.

“Over here!” Dylan signaled his family in the direction of the sound.

“It’s a Pileated Woodpecker; it’s hurt.  Stand back.  We don’t want to scare the poor thing any more than it already is.”

“How do you know it’s a Pileated, Zoey?” Dad asked, squinting into his binoculars.  He traced the dead tree standing nearby from the base to the top.

“The size of the bird and the flame-red crest give it away.  Pileatus is a Latin word meaning cap.  This is a male.  See the long grey bill and red feathers from the back of his bill to beneath his eye?  That area is black on females.”

Dad handed the binoculars to Abby, “Start at the top of the tree.  Notice the large rectangular holes as you move down the trunk.  Those are the Pileated’s feeding holes.  They love carpenter ants, and these trees are full of them.”

Mom handed her scarf to Zoey.  “Wrap the poor thing in this, and we can take it to the animal shelter.”

Zoey cradled the bird on the drive to the All Animal Veterinary Center. 

“Here’s my phone, Dylan.  Doc Jan is on speed dial.  Call her and let her know we are on our way.”

* * *

At the animal clinic, the veterinarian, Jan, wrapped the bird’s wing immobilizing it in its natural folded position.

“We’ll keep an eye on this little fella.  He’s lucky you found him when you did, or he might have damaged his wing beyond repair.  Pileated woodpeckers mate for life.  The female is probably missing him.  When he’s ready to go back home and forage for himself, I’ll let Zoey know.  In the meantime, he will get plenty of his favorite foods:  ants and grubs.”

* * *

Two weeks later, the family piled into the car and drove to the veterinary center.  Dad parked the car, and Zoey went inside to pick up the woodpecker.  It was pacing back and forth in a small temporary carrier.

On the trip back to Hatlem Creek, Abby was singing the names of trees and shrubs she identified along the roadside.  Buck sang along with Abby, or at least that’s what Dylan called the howls coming from the back seat.  Mom was answering emails on her phone.  Zoey kept the bird carrier covered to keep the bird calm.

After Dad parked the car, Zoey led the way to the area where they found the bird.  She stopped suddenly, held up her right arm, signaling the family to stop.  She turned her head to look behind her, finger to her lips, “Shh!”

“Hear the ‘wuc wuc wuc?’,” she whispered?  “That’s a Pileated warning sound.  Let me take it from here.”

Zoey stopped next to the fallen tree where they found the bird.  Dad watched with his binoculars as she opened the carrier and urged the bird out.  The Pileated took two steps, then flew to the top of the tree and landed alongside a female.  Both birds drew back their heads and started pounding away at the tree, looking for lunch.

Dad’s Cane

Have you ever given something away then experienced feelings of deep regret?  When that happened to me recently, I was reminded of a quote often attributed to Mother Teresa.

A couple of weeks ago, when I returned home from my morning walk, my neighbor John and I engaged in a conversation about walking outdoors.  John is in his nineties and is concerned about his balance and falling.  His four-pronged cane, while stable, gets in the way while walking.  Think about it.  Most people using a four-pronged cane are moving at a crawl.  When walking for exercise, a one-legged cane is more appropriate.

I offered to let John use a cane that I have been hanging onto since the 1990s.  It’s been tucked away in a closet collecting dust.  Why not give it a new life and lend it to someone who needs it?

I remember buying the cane in New York City while on a consulting job.  My father was recovering from a knee replacement.  He wouldn’t use the cane given to him at the hospital.  I thought he might use a stylish cane that didn’t shout, “Old person walking here.”

I found a fancy haberdashery in mid-town New York.  The store interior was lined with hats, humidors, blotters, pen sets, brief-cases, canes, and items that you would find in executive suites.  The cane I chose is made of fine wood with a silver handle.  It is not your average rehabilitation cane.  It says, “Man of sophistication walking here.”

Dad’s Cane

Satisfied with my choice, I returned home with a gift I hoped would keep my dad a little safer.  The cane was way too long for him; my dad was not a tall man.  No worries.  My brother was visiting and was able to cut a few inches off the bottom.  It was just the right size.

I doubt my dad ever used the cane.  Eventually, my mother used it after her knee replacement surgery.  My dad’s sister used it when she needed it.  Then it came back to me.  I’ve moved it several times to my various homes.  Every time I see it, I remember the story and think of my dad.

Now I was offering Dad’s cane to John.  John is several inches taller than my dad.  I knew right away that the cane would be too short for him.  But he looked at it and said,

“My son-in-law can fix anything.  I’m sure he can find a way to make the cane longer.  Can I pay you for it?”

At that point, my heart was in my throat.  It suddenly dawned on me; I was giving away more than a cane.  The cane evoked an emotional reaction I associated with my dad.

“No, you can’t pay me for it, but if you decide not to use it, I would like it back.”

The rest of the day, I was sorrowful about giving up the cane.  I felt I had lost something of value.  By the end of the day, I remembered that the cane is just a thing.  It was serving the purpose it was made for, keeping someone safe.  I remembered the generous and giving spirit of my dad.  I remembered that I could not give away my memories; memories are mine to keep.

I’m no Mother Teresa, not even close.  I try to live a life of service. I write checks to various charities.  I volunteer my time.  I didn’t fully understand what it meant to give until it hurt until I offered a stick of wood to someone I barely knew.

After a day of mourning, I didn’t think much about it.  A week later, John was at my door returning the cane.  He and his son-in-law realized that altering the cane wasn’t the best solution.  John did find he liked the style of the handle. It made the cane more stable than round-handle canes.  John shopped online, found a cane with the style handle he wanted, and ordered one suitable for his height. 

Once again, Dad’s cane did the job it was meant to do.  It taught me the meaning of true love, give until it hurts.

With Great Privilege, Comes Great Responsibility

The following is not meant to make a political statement.  It is me, thinking out loud in an attempt at self-understanding.  It is me, acknowledging that I have lived a life of privilege, and with privilege comes responsibility.

Privilege

Privilege comes in many forms.  There has been a lot of chatter about white privilege.  Some people acknowledge it; some deny it; some never think about it.  As a white woman, it has been my experience that those who deny the loudest tend to be the most privileged:  wealthy, white males.  That is not to say that all people fitting that description are deniers.  Fortunately, most of the white men in my life are enlightened and aware.

The thing about privilege is that when you have it, you may not even be aware that you have it.  Once you are aware, it’s hard to ignore it.  For example, the following are privileges of my skin color that I take for granted:

  • no one follows me around while shopping because I might be a shoplifter
  • no one crosses the street because they are afraid of me
  • no one locks their car door when they see me in the rear-view mirror or crossing the street
  • when stopped for speeding, chances are, I will get a warning, especially as a white-haired, white woman
  • the list goes on; you get the idea

Opportunity

I have always been aware that the opportunity to attend a university and graduate debt-free came at the expense of my father.  He was a World War II veteran living with a war-related 100% disability – he was legally blind from malnutrition.  Three years in a Japanese prison camp, with little to eat, will do that and much more to you.

In the recent past, someone helped me connect payment for my education to an entitlement program.  Officially the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, the G.I. Bill was created to help veterans of World War II and their dependents.  Through limited research on my part, I became aware of how the GI Bill was designed to favor male veterans with white skin.  I found the following at https://www.history.com/topics/world-war-ii/gi-bill

Although the GI Bill extended benefits to all veterans regardless of gender or race, it was easier for some people to collect than others. In many cases, benefits were administered by an all-white Veterans Administration at the state and local level.

In an era of rampant racial and gender discrimination, African Americans and women struggled to receive higher education or loans. In some southern states, they were steered to menial jobs instead of college.

Even if an African American received tuition money, their choices were slim since many colleges were segregated, especially in the southern states. African American veterans in the North fared somewhat better but still didn’t receive higher education in numbers anywhere near their white peers. College choices for women were also slim since men almost always received enrollment preference.

The discrimination didn’t end with education. Local banks in the south often refused to lend money to African Americans to buy a home, even with the government backing the loan. And many of America’s new, suburban neighborhoods prohibited African American’s from moving in. As a result, many African Americans remained in the cities as whites flocked to the suburbs.

Responsibility

Here is the self-understanding mentioned above. 

My education is even more of a privilege than I knew.  It is a privilege granted to some, denied to many by design.  Education opened opportunities for me not available to those without the privilege of an advanced degree. 

I have a responsibility to work toward a world in which opportunities are available to everyone, not privileges assigned to some. 

This is an invitation to acknowledge the responsibilities that come with the privileges and opportunities afforded to you.  Let’s make the world a land of opportunities accessible for anyone open to accepting them.

That’s the Way the Ball Bounces

(A collaborative effort of Ryan Dex and Aunt Mary Sue.)

Illustration by Eden Rodriguez

“Dylan, come in, please.  I need you to do something for me,” his mom said through the screen on the sliding glass door to the backyard. 

Dylan was practicing his soccer moves for the next day.  It would be the last game in the regular season.  Dylan played center-midfield in his summer league, and the team was counting on him to help secure a spot in the playoffs.

“Dylan, I need you to watch your sister Abby and her friends Cami and Mia for a couple of hours.  I have a Zoom conference call for work this morning.  Why don’t you take them to the park?” 

“Why can’t Zoey do it?  They like her better than me, and besides, what do I know about girls?”

“You have two sisters, one older and one younger.  You know more than you think.  Besides, Zoey has to work at the animal shelter today.”

“Why can’t the girls stay home and play in the yard?  You can keep an eye on them from the office window?”

“You’re fourteen, and I need you to help out now and then.  You can practice your soccer moves and watch the girls at the same time.  Remember, they are only seven. Keep your eye on them and make sure they stay together.  I will pick you up after my call, no later than noon.”

“Can I take Buck with me?”

“You’ll have your hands full, watching three girls.  Buck would have to stay on his leash, and that would drive him crazy.  Besides, I could use the company while everyone is gone.  Buck stays with me.”

Dylan rolled his eyes, tucked his soccer ball under his arm, and grabbed his cell phone.  “Let’s go, girls.”

Abby, Cami, and Mia followed Dylan the five blocks to the park, giggling and whispering all the way.  Cami and Mia had a crush on Dylan.  He had grown taller over the summer and was tanned from fishing and swimming in the lake behind his house.

“He’s so cute,” Mia said to Cami. 

“Mm Mm,” was all Cami could say. 

“Get real!” Abby said out of the side of her mouth.

I look like a mother duck and her ducklings. Maybe I can pretend they aren’t with me, Dylan thought, trying to ignore the girls. 

Once they reached the park, the girls went straight to the swings.  Each girl tried to swing higher than the other two. 

Mia leaned back.  “Look at that cloud.  What do you see?  I see a poodle.”

Abby and Cami agreed, heads back, their feet pointed toward the sky.

Dylan sat in the shade under a tree and played Among Us on his phone.  He looked up now and then to make sure the girls were still in sight.  He thought about Buck.  Buck would love it here.  Maybe I can bring him next time.

The girls moved to the climbing wall and jungle gym area.  Dylan put his phone in his pocket and followed them.  This is a disaster waiting to happen, he thought. 

Dylan started practicing tricks with his soccer ball splitting his attention, making sure he knew where all three girls were at all times.  He was super close to learning how to do the V-pull. 

Dylan’s phone beeped.  One of his friends sent him a text.  We need U at practice.  Why are U at the kiddie park???

Exactly, Dylan thought, then he heard his mom’s voice in his head.

“You are the big brother.  I am trusting you to keep an eye on the girls.  It’s a big responsibility. I’m counting on you.” 

Maybe I can do both?

Dylan looked around to see if he recognized a mom or an adult to watch the girls while he joined his team.  Not finding anyone, he wondered if he could convince the girls to watch the soccer game so he could keep an eye on all three and practice.

It took a little convincing and some whining from the girls, but Dylan talked them into watching one 20-minute period then back to the playground.

Fifteen minutes into the period, Dylan noticed one of the girls missing from the sidelines.  He signaled his coach to replace him and asked Abby where Mia went. 

“She got bored.  I think she wanted to go back to the climbing wall.”

Dylan’s heart dropped as all of the bad things that could happen ran through his head. He grabbed Abby and Cami by the hand and ran across the park to the playground.

“Slow down.  We can’t run that fast,” Abby shouted.

As the climbing wall came into view, Dylan slowed down.  He saw Mia sitting at the bottom of the wall rubbing her knee.  Dylan was relieved to see Mia but worried about what happened to her.

Out of breath, he yelled, “Stay right there, Mia.”

Mad at himself for not following his Mom’s instructions, Dylan tried not to yell at Mia for running off on her own.  He knew it would be his fault if anything happened to the girls. 

Some big brother I am.

Mia looked up at Dylan, “It’s just a little scrape from one of the rocks on the wall.”

“It’s almost noon.  Try something a little tamer till mom picks us up.”

The girls went back to the swings.

Dylan’s phone beeped again, “On my way, see U soon.”

“Mom is on the way.  Who’s ready for lunch?”

When Dylan’s mom arrived, she noticed his team practicing on the soccer field.

“Do you want to join your friends for the end of practice?”

Dylan slipped into the front seat of the SUV, “No, I’m good.”

After lunch, Dylan put his soccer net up in the back yard. “Are you girls interested in playing three-on-one?”

Dad’s Cane

Have you ever given something away then experienced feelings of deep regret?  When that happened to me recently, I was reminded of a quote often attributed to Mother Teresa.

A couple of weeks ago, when I returned home from my morning walk, my neighbor John and I engaged in a conversation about walking outdoors.  John is in his nineties and is concerned about his balance and falling.  His four-pronged cane, while stable, gets in the way while walking.  Think about it.  Most people using a four-pronged cane are moving at a crawl.  When walking for exercise, a one-legged cane is more appropriate.

I offered to let John use a cane that I have been hanging onto since the 1990s.  It’s been tucked away in a closet collecting dust.  Why not give it a new life and lend it to someone who needs it?

I remember buying the cane in New York City while on a consulting job.  My father was recovering from a knee replacement.  He wouldn’t use the cane given to him at the hospital.  I thought he might use a stylish cane that didn’t shout, “Old person walking here.”

I found a fancy haberdashery in mid-town New York.  The store interior was lined with hats, humidors, blotters, pen sets, brief-cases, canes, and items that you would find in executive suites.  The cane I chose is made of fine wood with a silver handle.  It is not your average rehabilitation cane.  It says, “Man of sophistication walking here.”

Dad’s Cane

Satisfied with my choice, I returned home with a gift I hoped would keep my dad a little safer.  The cane was way too long for him; my dad was not a tall man.  No worries.  My brother was visiting and was able to cut a few inches off the bottom.  It was just the right size.

I doubt my dad ever used the cane.  Eventually, my mother used it after her knee replacement surgery.  My dad’s sister used it when she needed it.  Then it came back to me.  I’ve moved it several times to my various homes.  Every time I see it, I remember the story and think of my dad.

Now I was offering Dad’s cane to John.  John is several inches taller than my dad.  I knew right away that the cane would be too short for him.  But he looked at it and said,

“My son-in-law can fix anything.  I’m sure he can find a way to make the cane longer.  Can I pay you for it?”

At that point, my heart was in my throat.  It suddenly dawned on me; I was giving away more than a cane.  The cane evoked an emotional reaction I associated with my dad.

“No, you can’t pay me for it, but if you decide not to use it, I would like it back.”

The rest of the day, I was sorrowful about giving up the cane.  I felt I had lost something of value.  By the end of the day, I remembered that the cane is just a thing.  It was serving the purpose it was made for, keeping someone safe.  I remembered the generous and giving spirit of my dad.  I remembered that I could not give away my memories; memories are mine to keep.

I’m no Mother Teresa, not even close.  I try to live a life of service. I write checks to various charities.  I volunteer my time.  I didn’t fully understand what it meant to give until it hurt until I offered a stick of wood to someone I barely knew.

After a day of mourning, I didn’t think much about it.  A week later, John was at my door returning the cane.  He and his son-in-law realized that altering the cane wasn’t the best solution.  John did find he liked the style of the handle. It made the cane more stable than round-handle canes.  John shopped online, found a cane with the style handle he wanted, and ordered one suitable for his height. 

Once again, Dad’s cane did the job it was meant to do.  It taught me the meaning of true love, give until it hurts.

Table for Two – Chapter 12

T-Squared Energy Connections

Endings and Beginnings

Stuart and Sara – May 1975

“Stuart, I think we should have a bar-b-que at the farm Memorial Day weekend?  All our friends want to see us while we’re home.  We can catch up with a lot of people in a short amount of time. What do you think?”

“We don’t have a lot of time to pull that off, Sara.”

“We’re right here at Table for Two.  I’ll talk to Carol about catering side dishes and desserts.  When I spoke to Tom last week, he mentioned he has a hog ready for roasting and is looking for an opportunity to fire up the pit.  Gram and Gramps are always up for a party.  If the weather is bad, we can move to the barn.”

“Tell me about this dream job at the University of Michigan, Stuart.”

“I am joining the Department of Human Genetics to study the effect of environmental pollutants on human genetics. My initial assignment is to study the effects of atomic bombs dropped on Japan during World War II. The university negotiated with the U.S. Energy Research and Development Administration to become a U.S. laboratory.  I’m excited to get started.  I will miss Hartsburg and the weather here.  What’s happening with you, Sara?”

“I told you I was promoted to assistant director of the Equestrian Assisted Therapy Center at Gull Lake. I will still be in Michigan.  When I go back, I will move into the carriage house.  The Center converted it into apartments for management staff.  I love the commute; out the front door, turn right, and hop on the golf cart.  Did I tell you staff is furnished with golf carts to get around the property?  I won’t be spending as much time with clients, which makes me sad. I will be learning a lot more about running the business.”

“I think Sunday is the best day for the bar-b-que.  What do you think, Stuart?”

“Sounds great.  After you clear it with your grandparents, I’ll talk to Tom.  Do we need a headcount for Carol?”

“I will talk to her.  We can make our best guess based on the usual crowd.  I’m sure Carol will let us put a notice on the counter inside to let people know about it.  I’ll talk to my family and call Irma.  She is the best word-of-mouth advertiser in town.  You tell your friends and family, and that should cover everyone.”

Dean and Tom – June 1975

Dean drove out to Tom’s farm.  The winding dirt road always had a calming effect on Dean.  Trees lining the path formed a canopy of shade and provided a crayon box of greens too numerous to count.  Dean stopped his truck when the barn came into view.  He took in the vista and a deep breath.  The air smelled cleaner, at least until the farm smells wafted in. 

Tom waved from the barnyard as Dean drove up and parked next to Tom’s truck.

“Welcome back.  How’s that AG degree coming?” Tom shook Dean’s hand.

“It’s coming along.  I wish I could speed it up.  Studying agriculture in the classroom isn’t as satisfying as putting in a good day’s work.  How is the arm working out?”

“I’m getting used to it.  I still have to think about how to do things.  I am grateful to have this prosthetic.  Your dad and I are working on designs for different uses.  What looks good isn’t always efficient, especially for farm work.”

“Are you going to see Carol while in town, Dean?  At the bar-b-que over Memorial Day weekend, It looked like you two are getting serious.”

“I thought I might take her to see Jaws.  I’ve heard it is quite a thriller.  We’ll see if she is still talking to me after that.”

“I still can’t get over Daniel’s horse Secretariat winning the Triple Crown.  It saved the Tweedy farm.  I wonder what Daniel will do with his share of the winnings.”

“Rumor has it, he plans to invest in something locally.  I’m sure he’ll tell us when he is ready.  What is on our task list today, Tom.”

“There are fences to be mended in the north pasture.  That’s a good place to start.”

Dean and Tom worked side-by-side to repair the fenceline.  They had a rhythm when working together that didn’t demand verbal communication;  each man knew his role. The stillness and silence enabled the two to get lost in their own thoughts.

On the ride back to the barn, Dean asked Tom, “Now that the Vietnam War is over, I wonder how the guys coming home are adapting?  Hartsburg has been a great place to re-enter society.  I can’t say the same about elsewhere.  The protests are over, but people are not kind if they know you served in the military.  I can’t wait to finish classes and graduate.  That’s why I’m taking summer courses.  The sooner I can join you, the happier I will be.”

“I’m looking forward to that day too.  Next on our list is cleaning the water troughs.”

Gladys and Jerry -October 1975

“Jerry, will you stop at the store for diapers and formula on the way home?  I can’t believe how much of this stuff we go through with two babies.”

Gladys hung up the phone and picked up Cara. “What are you fussing about, little one?  You’re clean and fed.  Maybe some tummy time is what you need.”

Gladys lay Cara on the quilt Aunt Irma made.  The design featured a map of the world.  A big star marked Cara’s hometown in Vietnam; another marked her new home, Hartsburg. Cara arrived from Vietnam as part of Operation Babylift.  Toward the end of the Vietnam War, children thought to be orphans were air-lifted to countries around the world.  Cara and Alysa, the first daughter Gladys and Jerry adopted, were born one month apart. 

Jerry arrived home with diapers and formula in hand.  “Have you given any more thought on how to celebrate the girls’ birthdays.”

“As much as I want to raise them as twins, I think they deserve their own birthday parties.  However, since they will never remember their first birthday, we may be able to get by with one celebration this year.  What do you think?”

“I agree.  This house is a bit small for a party.  I’ll stop by Tale for Two tomorrow to see what dates are available.”

“Cara means precious jewel in Vietnamese, and Alysa is Greek for princess.  I’ll get Aunt Irma working on a theme that includes both.  Let’s keep the guest list small.”

“That might be tough, Gladys.  The people of Hartsburg feel they have adopted the girls, and we are the caretakers.  Good luck with keeping it small.”

“Maybe the townspeople would like to plan and pay for the party.  That could be their gift to the girls.  We have enough toys and clothes to open a store.”

Jerry met with Carol to book Table for Two for the birthday party.  Carol offered to work with Irma to plan the celebration.  On Saturday, November first, the town of Hartsburg gathered to celebrate with two of its youngest citizens:  Cara and Alysa Taylor.


T-Squared – In astrological charts, the t-square configuration is a dynamic pattern that links and inter-locks energies. It can be seen in the major events, challenges, and themes that are encountered in life.

The Survey Says

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). The idea is to write every day and reach a word-count goal. By the end of the month, the writer has the first draft of a novel. I don’t believe a novel is the best genre form me. I don’t use or need enough descriptive words to add the details a novel provides the reader.  However, I would like to use the structure of NaNoWriMo as the motivation to write something.

I am looking for a project for NaNoWriMo, November 2020.  I have narrowed it down to four possibilities.  I would like to hear from the people who actually read my posts.  

Loose Change

Pennies, nickels, dimes, and quarters collect at the bottom of a purse, in the cup holder in the car, in a pants pocket, or in a jar on the dresser.  Loose change doesn’t mean much until we need it.  There’s the penny used to avoid breaking a twenty or the coin collection that pays for a vacation.  Loose change collects and eventually turns into something meaningful. 

COVID-19 has required all of us to make changes.  We may be working from home for the first time, learning how to Zoom for meetings, deciding between various school formats, trying out new exercise routines, missing celebrations of milestones, changing vaction plans, craving human contact, and finding new ways to entertain ourselves.  

Change can be hard, especially if it is forced on us.  I personally thrive on change and will create a new path just because I can.  Even for me, with no end in sight for this pandemic, I am ready for change.

If we could go back to the way things used to be, would we?  For me, the answer is, “Not entirely.”  But that is a different blog post.

Our children are missing their freshman year of college, senior year of high school, first day of kindergarten, school dances, sporting events, debate team, music, theater, all of the extra-curricular activities and milestones that seem so important at that time of life. 

Rather than mourn what is missing, why not take this opportunity thrust upon us to increase our tolerance and appreciation for change? 

What if we could teach our children that change is a gift?  It can be uncomfortable and loose, like the change rattling around in a jar.  It is also an opportunity to explore new ways of doing things, problem-solving, creating a new path to follow. 

Small changes can lead to bigger changes. Being able to adapt and change are skills that will last a lifetime and make our futures more interesting than we can imagine.

What if we begin by changing the meaning of COVID?