8 Days of 8

Have you ever noticed how quickly time passes?

I was just standing here thinking that I’m pretty sure I’m the luckiest person to ever walk this planet. My Little Bit is singing Christmas carols while he’s playing with his cars. He plants a smile on my face daily and makes my heart sing. Lately, I’ve been trying to savor the sweetness and simple-ness of our days.

Several of my friends have kids that are older and doing teenage things, like driving. Oh my. Not sure I’m ready for that much time to have passed yet.

Why is it that childhood goes by so quickly? Doesn’t seem like that long ago when I held him as a newborn. Now we have only 8 days of age 8 left. There’s only 9 days until age 9.

I learned a long time ago to embrace the moments we are living. These. Now. Even the days with all the time-takers, the endlessly busy days, and those commitments that seem to creep in and appear on empty calendars while we sleep. For me, time is something I try to put bear hugs around to keep it from slipping by too fast. It’s like grabbing for the fringe of Father Time’s robe and trying to talk him into taking just a few steps backwards.

My husband and I survived lots of pregnancy difficulties and some losses. When I was finally able to stay pregnant, we were graced with our miracle boy. If you’ve been through infertility, you’ll understand the vow I made to myself to never take one second of being a momma for granted. And, I don’t.

Our days are filled with learning, playing, couch forts, puddle jumping, nature hikes, play dates, field trips, and time with friends. I take tons of pictures. We play the piano and sing. We celebrate the changing of each season. We watch sunrises, sunsets, cloud shapes and rainbows. I take pictures of him with a sign on dates we find significant or just for fun. We make crafts and read books. We laugh. We breathe. We notice. We savor.

Every year that has passed has been great. I have loved every single one of them. Each time that we add another year to the birthday candles, we have lived the past year well. I definitely welcome 9 with open arms.

As for the moments we are still in, I’m wrapping my heart around them as we celebrate the last 8 days of 8.

Oops! Embarrassing!

Do you ever do anything completely embarrassing? Like, you want to crawl under a rug and hide? 

Well… I did that today, as a matter of fact! I started a story called Written Words and I forgot to make it a Draft. It was barely started and nowhere near finished. When I went back to add to it, it said “Published”. 

Hmmm. I’m used to picking up my paper and pencil and starting where I left off. This blogging stuff is definitely different. Oh well,  I guess that’s not the last time that’ll happen. 

Now you have a small taste of the next story. Thanks for bearing with me while I finish it! Ha! 

As they used to say on tv, stay tuned…

Guess I’ll crawl out from under the rug now! 

Jessica

P.S. It’s finished! Yay! 

Written Words

Don’t you just love a great story? 

Seems like our lives are filled with many stories, kind of like all the different categories for movies. We’ve got the comedies, where we double over in belly laughs. Then, there’s the horror type, like those days the sewer backs up when twenty people are about to ring the doorbell! Of course, we all seem to have the drama type of movies, which are just a part of life, I guess. 

Then, we have the verbal stories. I come from a long line of story tellers. My grandma Wilma can tell some good ones. I have many memories of her telling us stories and our laughter filling the entire house. Her sons, my dad and his brothers, can cause uncontrollable laughter with some of their tales as well. 

There’s nothing like seeing the expressions and hearing the details of something that someone is so excited to tell you about. When people start telling stories, I grab for a pen. Call it the writer in me, I guess, but I try to write all the stories down that I can. Time is so fleeting and it seems like once one conversation ends, another begins. That makes it easy for words to get lost. 

My grandparents did something so amazing for Christmas in 1993. They put some of their memories into writing and folders, and gave them to my parents, aunts, and uncles for presents. Talk about a timeless gift. In my opinion, you can’t buy a better gift. They did it for eleven consecutive years. 

We are still at my folks house for our Thanksgiving holiday, and yesterday I got all of those stories out and have been reading them. I started with one grandma wrote in 1994 called “4-H”.

She tells about going to the Iowa State fair and having her first birthday there in 1920. While at the fair, her parents saw their first introduction to 4-H. After they returned home, her mother, and two others started the first 4-H in Mills County Iowa. She goes on for several pages, telling about growing up in 4-H, their projects, and adventures. 

In some of the other folders they tell about their births, family roots, elementary school days in rural school houses, times with family and friends, barns, fishing, high school days, college days, and even their first home. 

What a legacy. As I sit and read through them, I am in awe. If they had bought my parents small appliances for Christmas those eleven years instead of writing stories, I wouldn’t know that snow was sifting in around the window and on the bed where grandpa was born a December day in 1920. Or that when he was a kid, he had a collie dog named Jack. Each summer he took the sheep sheers and trimmed him leaving a mane and a tuft of hair on his tail. He said they had quite a few fooled thinking Jack was a lion! 

Grandma lives pretty far from us now and I don’t get to hear her stories very often anymore and we lost grandpa a while back. When I think about them, I can still picture their faces when they told their stories, but it’s hard to translate that to Little Bit. Enter their written words. I am just so thankful they thought ahead and because they did, their memories live on. 

The Smell of Turkey Cooking

Don’t you just love to smell a delicious meal cooking? 

We were blessed to be able to come home to my parent’s house for Thanksgiving and arrived on Wednesday evening. I woke up yesterday morning, with a smile on my face and a light shining bright in my heart. I know it probably sounds silly, but I haven’t been home in several months, and was quite homesick. 

They still live in the same small town I grew up in and for all those days I couldn’t wait to grow up and leave this town, now I’m so thankful for each chance I get to come back. Funny how our perspective changes, after we’ve been away from home any big chunk of time. 

While we were preparing our Thanksgiving meal,  I found myself really missing my grandparents. The smell of that turkey cooking, took me back to my grandma Irene’s farmhouse kitchen. Oh, how I miss their house. 

It was a typical Iowa farmhouse, white with a second story, one bathroom, and a cellar out back. Her kitchen sink window looked out to the front yard, the barns, and the fields. The house had been in the family and before grandpa and grandma moved in, they remodeled and grandma got a nice modern kitchen. 

Grandma’s dad lived right next door in a small house with a dirt floor in the basement. When I spent time with them in the summer, it was my job to walk over and get great grandpa for lunch and walk with him to grandma’s to eat with us. I really miss those days! 

What I miss maybe the most, is sitting at their kitchen table and watching her and grandpa wash and dry the dishes. She washed. He dried and put them away, while he whistled the entire time. 

Years passed and eventually, they moved to their nearby town. After the farm changed hands a few times, someone tore down the farmhouse. Thinking about it still breaks my heart, though it happens, I suppose. What I wouldn’t give to be able to walk into their house one more time and be greeted by those hugs and kisses. 

I wish I would’ve taken more pictures of the house when I was a kid. There aren’t many pictures of it. We have to rely on memories since the structure is long gone. I completely credit their house being torn down, to my love of abandoned farmhouses now. Sometimes they look sad being empty, but at least they are still standing.

I’ve heard that the sense of smell is a memory trigger. I believe it. I really didn’t notice how much I missed them until I smelled the turkey cooking yesterday. It’s been quite a long time since my grandparents moved on to their heavenly homes and the older I get, the more I wish they were still here. 

I miss the sounds of their voices. The way grandpa would sit in his chair. I miss hearing grandma tell stories and her giggly, joyous laugh. I miss listening to the chatter and laughter of their after dinner card games, while I read grandma’s True Story magazines. I used to love sneaking through the bathroom to the freezing cold back porch where she kept the holiday goodies and getting  myself a little snack. 

Although they are gone, I am comforted that my parents are making similar memories for my kiddo. In fact, right now  I hear mom whistling in her kitchen and dishes clanking around while cabinet doors open and close. 

Cribbage has taken the place of card games, but there is still chit chat and laughs coming from the table after meals. My dad has his own way of sitting in his chair just like my grandpa did even though they were related by marriage. 

I make sure I take lots of pictures of my parents, their house, and them in it for Little Bit. Maybe someday when he’s all grown up, the smell of turkey cooking and those photographs will take him back to his days of childhood, just like they do for me. 

Unpacking the “Boxes”

Ever notice how feelings can be like glass and porcelain collectables?

That probably sounds like a silly comparison, but last year I learned a pretty big lesson that opened my eyes to it.

Five days before last Christmas, it was a quiet Saturday afternoon. Then, I heard sirens. The course of that entire day changed many things, as our neighbor’s house burned down. 

It’s hard to imagine what a devastating sight that is. Despite valiant efforts of the volunteer firemen in freezing temperatures, it was beyond saving. All the neighbors gathered around as a gesture of support. 

I can’t begin to tell you how hard it was to think about leaving someone who lost their house, to go home to my house that was still standing and filled with light, so I didn’t. I stayed there with them until they left. 

The house smoldered for days. Every time I looked out our window, I saw it. Each day that followed, the sky was dark gray and the moods were sullen. 

Finally, on Christmas morning, five days later, the sun came out. Man, that was a glorious day. The rubble stopped smoldering and moods were lifted. The community supported the family and their Christmas was saved. 

In the months that followed,  I did a lot of thinking about “stuff”. My china cabinet was full of books, and my glass treasures were nowhere to be seen. All of my family heirlooms, dishes from my grandmothers, childhood gifts from my parents, and gifts from friends, were packed away safely in boxes. 

It’s funny how we pack things away to save them from being broken. One night, I dragged those boxes out and started unpacking. I moved all those books to a different room and started filling those china cabinet shelves with the beautiful breakables of my life. 

It was in those moments, that I realized it’s easy to “pack up” our feelings to keep them safe and unbroken. If we’ve been hurt at some point, it seems completely logical to pack faith and trust away where it can’t be broken or doubted. But is that really living? 

That fire was a reminder of how things can change in a split second. What good were all my heirlooms doing me by being packed away? I sure can’t see them if they’re boxed up in a closet. And, sure, hurt feelings certainly justify living with a protected heart, but what do we miss out on by doing so? 

I’m happy to say that every  glass and porcelain keepsake I have is unpacked and I see them every day. And, the feelings? Definitely a work in progress. They say that out of ashes, come new gifts. After last Christmas, I’m pretty sure there’s some truth in that. 

Here’s to unpacking all of the “boxes”, literal and heartfelt. Maybe it is in those moments, that living truly shines. 

EVERY One Included

Have you ever felt like you didn’t quite belong somewhere? 

I don’t like that feeling, and I certainly never want anyone else to ever feel that way. I chalk it up to a childhood game of Red Rover when the kids chose teams and I was one of the last ones picked. A good chunk of my life has been spent making sure others feel included. I give a lot of that credit to my parents for raising me to care about and be respectful for other people’s feelings. 

Recently I’ve been thinking about something and I really just want to take a moment to thank each one of you. The fact that you take time out of your busy days to read my sometimes too long, rambling posts about the way I tend to see the world, is quite humbling. 

If you’ve read my other stories, you know that a recent hospital stay turned this “I’m never going to blog” girl into a “blogging” girl. While trying to figure out how to even have blog, I ran across lots of advice. The most general consensus was: pick your audience. 

I am published in the genre of special needs parenting. That would have been the assumed audience choice for me. But, I just couldn’t wrap my heart around leaving anyone else out. 

I followed my heart here and I am simply writing. Because, the truth, for me anyway, is that the writing chooses its reader. All I have to do is get the ideas onto my keyboard, and whoever is meant to read it or wants to read it, can. 

I learned a really big writing lesson lately about being able to let my writing go. On the surface that is a mind boggling concept for me. I have written a couple books, but haven’t published them because I’ve been a bit attached to the “me” in them, and I’ve also been scared to put my thoughts out into the world for others judge. 

Enter this blog. Here’s the thing I absolutely love about this blog: 

It is so freeing!

I can just write when I want to or feel like I need to. Two weeks ago I had total writer’s block. I had no story ideas whatsoever. Then, like magic, a few suddenly appeared and poured out so quick I barely could keep up with the words. Then, bam! Writer’s baracade showed up. Forget writer’s block. Nothing. Oh, I had ideas, but every time I tried to write, it ended up as a mushy mess. I went six days without publishing a single story. 

All the sudden, I was writing again! I couldn’t keep up with it. In fact, I was awake most of the night getting “The Thanks of Giving and Living” done. That just seems to be the nature of my writing. There’s no forcing it, it comes when it’s ready. 

My heart is filled with extreme gratitude for all of you for sticking by me on days when no new stories come. I have to pinch myself every time I look at my blog stats because the numbers just keep going up and up. 

I appreciate you reading this and I just want to tell you, thank you so very much! 

Jessica

The Nature of Hearts

Don’t you just love hearts?

The shape of a heart brings about thoughts of love and caring. Hearts are generally quite welcoming. At Valentine’s Day, heart shaped boxes overflow with chocolates and greeting card fronts are filled with multicolored hearts.

I love hearts. For me, they symbolize that things are going to be all right. Right now, the world is not all right. Things seem to be in a state of turmoil, with no possible end in sight. That is very unsettling and causes us to become fearful.

Yesterday Little Bit and I shut off the outside world and had a nature day. Our black lab accompanied us. I’m pretty sure Ozzy was excited to be invited along, because he barked the entire time.

This week, we got nearly five inches of rain in our area. So, we ventured down to the creek to see how high it was. It was definitely up.

We’ve spent a lot of time down at the creek over the past six years. Spring time visits are filled with sights of wildflowers blooming. Summer days at the swimming hole are quite a treat from the hot sun.

Yesterday, on our fall day, the current’s roar was so loud, I kept thinking a vehicle was coming. We breathed-in nature and we exhaled the crisp fall air. We tossed rocks in the water and shivered a bit when the afternoon sun went behind the hill. Our laughter and chit chat filled the holler.

It’s fun to go down there and photograph the changing seasons. I love how one place can have such varied scenes. The sky, the water, the winding road. Giant tree roots washed in from who knows where, stealing places on the banks that were once empty.

On the way back to our truck, something on the ground stopped me in my tracks. I’m pretty sure I had to look twice! Yes, it really was there. It was a wasp’s nest in the shape of a heart.

What? That’s such a contradiction. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a wasp that was loving or welcoming! My experience with wasps has taught me to steer clear of them when they are flying about. Once you are stung by one, you never forget it.

After snapping a few pictures of this crazy heart, we continued our nature journey with a ride through the country. We passed streams, hay bales, and even saw a doe next to a fence row.

As our nature day came to a close, moon and stars seemed to swallow the night sky. What a glorious ending to a wonderful day.

This morning as I looked through yesterday’s photographs, my eye was once again drawn to the nest shaped heart. For some reason, there seems to be a bit of comfort in seeing a heart shape in something that was once a scary sight. Nature seems to have a way of looking at things that we may never quite understand. And that, itself, is just so amazingly beautiful.

The Thanks of Giving and Living

Isn’t it funny how the word giving rhymes with living?

Here, Thanksgiving is only a week away. In my story, Unlikely Places, I talked about how much I love the yoga studio we go to. Recently, we got invited to an upcoming event there called the ThanksLiving meal.

I just LOVE that title. I mean it’s one thing to give thanks and quite a bonus to live thanks. Now, I don’t know about you, but when I think of gratitude, my mind goes straight to compassion.

I once heard that compassion has to be taught. Personally, I don’t know that I  really believe that 100%. I like to think that children are born with pure hearts and know things about being compassionate that we wish we knew. I have a story to share as an example.

A couple years ago I had a story I wrote published. The prize was ten free books and a check for $200.00. For weeks I thought and dreamed about what I would do with my prize money.

The day the check came, Little Bit and I went to the bank and cashed it. I put the money in the console. After running several errands, we were sitting at a red stop light on our way home.

Out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man sitting on the corner with a sign. At our angle, I couldn’t see what his sign said. Before the light changed, I had a sudden crazy idea. I told myself, “No way!”

Now would probably be a good time to tell you that I once heard if you get the urge to do something kind, to just do it, don’t question it. Well, I had the kindness urge and it was screaming my name!

So, I asked Little Bit, “Should we do something really, really nice for someone or should we go home?” From the backseat I heard this little voice say, “Really, really nice for someone.” So, around the block we went.

As luck would have it, we caught a red light right next to the man on the corner. His sign simply said, “Neep help”. I cracked my window and motioned him over. It wasn’t until that moment that I saw he was wearing a Veteran’s hat. I told him I was going to make his day and handed him a 100 dollar bill. I honestly don’t know who was happiest, him, me, or a Little Bit smiling in the back seat.

As we pulled away, my tears started pouring out. Thanks living. Those tears fell in extreme gratitude, not only for the experience, but that my kiddo chose kindness even when my mind had a doubt.

Since then, we have helped many others and something about that seems kind of funny to me now. All those times I thought it was me who was teaching Little Bit about compassion. But, now I can clearly see, he was teaching me.

Yesterday at yoga, near the end of his session, Little Bit’s yoga teacher said she had a surprise for him, a song. I waited in anticipation to see what she chose. As soon as I heard the first note, my gratitude tears started falling. “Imagine” by John Lennon filled the room.

We are looking forward to joining some kind souls at the ThanksLiving meal. And, I just have to tell you how lucky I feel every time I experience the thanks of giving and living. 

Best. Husband. Ever. 

What’s your favorite holiday food?

With Thanksgiving only eight days away, I’ve been dreaming of all those yummy foods that make up that beloved feast! Mashed potatoes slathered in butter, sweet potatoes with delicious burned marshmallows on top, homemade rolls, pies with homemade crusts… Oh my. My mouth is watering just thinking of it!

I can’t wait to pull up a chair to that lovely table and sink my teeth into…

None of those. 

Yes, you read that right. None of those yummies will be on this girl’s plate. No mashed potatoes. No homemade rolls. No marshmallows. No pie. What? That’s not even fair! 

On my recent health craze, I gave up gluten, grains, and sugar. Hmmm. Maybe that would have been a smart move AFTER Thanksgiving. Such is life. Guess I should have thought ahead and had triple helpings last year.

If you’ve read my stories on my recent non-grain baking adventures, you’ll know I’m not too skilled at baking yet. Now, with good old fashioned wheat flour, I can make pretty much anything. However, coconut flour and I are barely on speaking terms and we certainly aren’t friends. When I set that container on the counter, I’m pretty sure it is laughing at me. 

So, as you can imagine, I haven’t been really looking forward to all the “I can’t haves” for Thanksgiving this year. I sure as heck don’t want to make a grain free dish for someone else to eat. Yikes. Can you imagine that poor soul? 

All that meal dread turned around last night. My husband came home from being at the woods cabin for several  days. He had a gift for me that SAVED Thanksgiving! A bag of these big, beautiful, hand dug just for me, turnips!

If you’ve never had a turnip, you’re missing out. While they’ll never quite replace a steaming hot bowl of mashed potatoes, they are white, steaming, and taste rather sweet. And, they are my new favorite comfort food. What a welcome sight after weeks and weeks of green leafy vegetables and coconut baking disasters. 

I’ve only got three words for you: 

Best. Husband. Ever. 

Coffee Shop Chatter

Do you like to meet up with your friends at a coffee shop, just to relax and have a visit? 

 I saw a writing prompt about being at a virtual coffee shop and I love the idea of all of us sitting around chatting. 

I picture walking into a hometown diner and shaking off a sopping wet umbrella. After grabbing a steamy cup of hot tea, I’d pull up a chair next to yours. 

Friends, old and new, pile in, filling up the other seats. The atmosphere is warm and cheery on a rather blustery fall day. 

We’d start with the usual small talk and I’d venture to say the conversation would take on a pretty sad note considering the recent world events going on. 

I’d probably mention that we drove to an area town today and that my heart nearly broke when I saw the three giant flags at half staff. 

I’m sure I’d bring up some things that have been on my mind lately. For instance, I’ve been pondering what we can do to make this world a more nurturing place. 

On a grand scale, the world seems a bit out of reach. I mean, the world is huge! One look at a globe and it’s easy to get swallowed up in the can’ts of making a difference. 

I mean, come on, really? One person seems pretty small in a world of millions. But, I learned a long time ago, if your heart is in it, it can be done. 

Now, let’s suppose we break that hugeness up into small parts. If one small person becomes lots of people, maybe we can change the world. 

Ok, maybe not the entire world, but what if we can change the world where we are? Maybe that will have a ripple effect.

Here are some ideas for changing the world where we are~

We can teach kindness. From what I know, the easiest way to teach kindness, is to show kindness. 

We can share joy. I’m sure that sounds ridiculously simple, but joy brings feelings of hope, faith, and happiness. It’s hard for meanness to set up a tent where joy resides. 

We can send out positive thoughts. It seems like negativity makes negativity multiply. Let’s choose to fill the world with positive light instead. 

We can show compassion towards others. That’s relatively easy to do, if we just step into someone else’s shoes. 

We can help people when we can. A smile to a stranger. Feeding someone who is hungry. Lending a helping hand to someone when they need it. 

We can give small gifts of cheer. Sending a card or letter to a relative we haven’t seen in a while. A bouquet of wildflowers for a friend. Calling someone just to say hello. 

By doing these simple things are we really changing the world? Hmmm. That’s a toss up. The best  I can tell, is there’s a lesson that lies in the wording. 

Changing the world sounds pretty impossible. 

Changing someone’s world sounds pretty do-able. 

Back at our virtual coffee shop, I can just imagine everyone checking their watches and yawning. 

Standing up to stretch, we bid each other farewell, perhaps feeling a bit better, simply because we swapped about ideas about making a difference somehow. 

As we hold the door to let each other out, the sun has poked through the clouds and the rain has suddenly stopped.