family · Grief · Life

I Remember Mama

I’ve had times when I wanted to throw in the towel. One tiny bit of advice carried me through those better than any other.

Children are a lot of work. Large families have a unique set of challenges.

For instance, when a family grows from two to three children, mom doesn’t have enough hands when walking to the library with the children. She can hold the hand of one child on her right and the other on her left, but where does the third child go?

When a family grows from three children to four children, they can’t all ride in one car, unless, I suppose, they have a bench seat in the front, which we didn’t.

When a family grows from five children to six children, they can’t fit into a mini-van. Driving a 15-passenger van is overkill, but there aren’t many choices or 12 passenger vans out there.

I had eight children. My mother-in-law had thirteen. Thirteen!

One of the first times I went to their house, she took me by the hand and we walked to their large vegetable garden. I still remember the feel of her hands, calloused and strong. She worked so hard. She earned those hands.

She was a hugger. My own mother was not a hugger. Sometimes huggy people feel awkward to those of us who haven’t always had those outward displays of affection. But it seemed such a natural extension of who she was.

Basically, she was amazing and made everything look easy.

One day I asked her when I was struggling with my two or three or six children — “How do you do it?”

In her sweet, sweet way, she said, “Oh, Sally, you just do.”

You just do. Those are hefty words to live by.

And honestly, I have failed at just doing sometimes too many times.

Still, that simple exchange was one of the most unforgettable conversations in my life.

She passed away this week.

But I remember Mama.

Mama (R) with her mother (center) and brother (L)
Blather · Life · poetry

Research

The following blather is brought to you by “Stream of Consciousness Saturday.” This is the day of the week I give myself permission to write more than 23 words.

Last Saturday, I promised a reverse poem (one that can be read top-to-bottom or bottom-to-top). Good golly, I stared at my scribbles too long. And then, came up with a reverse poem that’s too short and a little awkward. But, oh well. Here you go:

History is boring
Some people actually think that
All those dates and foreign-sounding names matter
And eccentric people worm their way into
Those stories where the world changes
I find history fascinating

Meh — not the best, but I’m going to check the “Done” box and move on.

I spent a few hours yesterday in the research library.

I wrote a post called The Negative Split not too long ago. I think I research in negative-split mode.

I got to the library a few minutes after my scheduled appointment. (Yes, we have to schedule appointments at the research library now. And wear masks.)

I had given myself two hours. For the first 45 minutes or so, I leafed through photographs, not really finding anything I wanted. Or maybe I did. A few new names, therefore a few new rabbit trails. (Side-question for you: What could the nickname “Dell” be short for, for a man in the late 1800s or early 1900s?)

The librarian left to find a few more boxes for me. I feel a little bad. She’s new on the job, and I kept saying Joe (the former librarian) did this or brought me that. Comparison to a predecessor has to be the worst.

Anyway, she brought me some boxes that Joe had never brought me. Suddenly I was lost in old correspondence and organizational reports. I looked at the clock and saw that I had been there well over my two hours.

“Let me just look at one more thing,” I said to the librarian. I was in my groove — researching faster and stronger than I had been at the beginning.

“Do you think you have a photograph of this?” I asked her about a specific place in town. She started hunting.

I kept reading.

And searching.

And wishing time would just stop long enough that I could pursue these many lines of inquiry.

I snapped a photo of a bit of correspondence because it had made me laugh out loud in the quiet of the library.

“Yours till Pancakes are a thing of the past.”

I could have spent the next three weeks looking for the pancake story that inspired that closing sentiment, but I’ll almost bet it’s an inside joke between two men that I will never know. Plus, it was way past time for me to go.

But if I had those three weeks to spend, who knows what other little stories I would have uncovered?

And I would have had great fun doing it.

You can count on it.

elderly · Life · people · Writing

Out of the Hole

First, let me just say HOLY COW!! WRITING ONLY 23 WORDS IS A CHALLENGE!!

There. Got that off my chest!

I was thinking about Sabbaths and how we need to take breaks — regular breaks — from hard things. There’s discipline and then there are nutso compulsions. I work at a gym, so I see a lot of those people who are very disciplined about their training, but I also see people who compulsively overtrain to a point where it’s pretty unhealthy.

Writing 23 words is not unhealthy. It’s hard, though! But I decided that I would be disciplined about it six days a week and on the seventh I would blather. Uncontrollably blather. And use Linda Hill’s Stream of Consciousness (SoCS) writing prompt as my excuse.

Today’s prompt: “out of the box.” This isn’t really an out of the box story, but it’s the first thing that came to my mind so I’m going to run with it.


Over the last few weeks I have found myself.

I know that sounds ridiculously pop-psychology 1980s, but when you’ve lost yourself and found yourself again, it’s kind of amazing.

For my regular readers, remember when I wrote this post: What’s Your Goal? I was incredibly frustrated by someone trying to help me by asking me about my goals. I was too lost in the darkness of a deep forest of I-don’t-know-what to even understand that question.

Fast forward to maybe two weeks ago.

No wait — in the intervening time — about 9 months — I took on some new duties with my job. I’m helping bring some senior programming to the facility where I work. To do that, I’ve been working with a woman who has been running a senior program at another location. This past Thursday, January 5, was the big day of inviting seniors in for an Open House.

Like I said, leading up to it, I’ve been meeting regularly with a woman who has been doing this job elsewhere. We’ve discussed rooms to hold events and places to store materials. We’ve discussed personnel to be involved and practical safety issues for the population we’ll be working with. It’s all been so good.

Then the lightbulb went on a couple weeks ago. I was talking to one of my daughters about it, about a few ideas I had. Specifically, I said, “We should have a ‘Bird’ month of programming. We could have one of the artists lead an art project involving birds. We could maybe build some birdhouses, We could have someone speak on backyard birding and ways to attract birds.”

I was on a roll and getting excited as the ideas started to flow. “We could go out birding. We could get out the badminton nets if people wanted to hit the birdie back and forth.”

“Mom,” my daughter said, “this is what you do.”

And she was so right. I’m an idea person.

That free flow of ideas had been so stuffed in for so long, for so many reasons.

Not everyone likes idea people. One of the people I work with is an idea-shutter-downer. “Stay in your lane,” she said to me when I made suggestions.

Truly I have been clogged.

Out of the box may not be the right term for what I’m feeling.

Maybe out of the dark forest. Or out of a hole.

I feel alive again. The Open House was a HUGE success.

What’s my goal? To use my unique giftedness to serve other people. I LOVE doing that. Now I have an outlet for it with the senior programs where I work.