Strength From Old Souls

When things get tough, where do you draw your strength from?

On the eve of this approaching new year, I’m quite thankful to still be tripping over these feet of mine.

Overall, I’d chalk 2015 up as a great one, it was definitely well lived. Although, like many, I’d guess, there were a few hiccups along the way.

I once heard that if life isn’t throwing you challenges, you aren’t really living. Hmmm. That makes it sound like the challenges are gifts. Gifts? Isn’t that a contradiction? It seems a bit ironic, if you ask me.

However, maybe there’s some truth to that. Perhaps the gift is the lesson that gets pulled out at the end?  That makes a bit more sense to me because I’m always looking for the lessons.

Although each of our circumstances are unique, here are some life challenges that are pretty relatable:

  • Financial troubles- days when pay checks don’t come, but bills still do
  • Losing a loved one and not making it to say goodbye to them in time
  • Disagreements with loved ones
  • Health issues
  • Friendships that end after putting our hearts into them
  • News of a friend getting sick
  • Losing a pet
  • When a friend moves

At times, we can draw strength from things we have already been through. It’s almost like we have little tiny pieces of memories intertwined with patched up feelings that are tucked safely away in a heart pocket in our mind. When a similar situation presents itself, we can reach into that pocket and grab the “Oh yeah, I’ve been here before, I can get through this” strength reserve.

Other times, new situations arise and we have no idea what to do. That happened to me earlier this year and I was stuck having to make a huge decision and had no idea which direction to go.

Have you ever had your boots sink in the mud and when you tried pulling them out they wouldn’t budge? That’s how I felt. I needed strength and guidance in a big way.

So, where did I turn? To my grandparents.

I got out my letters from them and sat in my closet rereading them. You wouldn’t believe how much that helped me! Just thinking about the good and hard times of their lives, was such an eye opener.

For example, my mom’s dad had to quit school in the 6th grade to work on the farm and spent most of his life farming. Her mom quit school in 8th grade to clean houses to help with the family income. She worked nearly all of her 71 years, simply because she loved to work.

Dad’s mom, Grandma Wilma, graduated high school at age 15 and went to college at a time that not many women went to college. After college, she became a teacher at age 17. Talk about some strength and determination! These were some hard working people.

Their lives brought the Great Depression up close. As farmers,  at times they struggled and lost their crops after pouring their hard work into them. They lost loved ones. They had health issues. In fact, grandma Irene had eleven surgeries and grandma Wilma beat cervical cancer!

One of the things I admire the most about them is how long they were married. Mom’s parents were married 50 years when grandma passed away. Dad’s were married 73 years, when we lost grandpa.

Besides being great role models for times when their lives were tough, they also taught me how to be gracious and see the best in things.

After reading those letters and drying my cheeks, I was able to make a solid decision and I haven’t looked back. I often wonder what my grandparents would think if they knew how much I love how they lived their lives, and how great it is to fill my life with strength from old souls. 

 

´╗┐The Pink Closet

Do you have a specific color preference and if so, what draws you to that particular color? 

I just can’t seem to choose one color, such as red or green. My favorite seems to be a variation of hues, almost a combination of things, really. Mostly, experiences and things I love seem to come into play here. 

If I got put on the spot and someone asked my favorite color, I might just say “pink” to save them from the drawn out version of what pink to me actually entails. It’d be like lining up all of your beloved pictures and trying to explain the color scheme. Sometimes it’s hard to choose! I love the many shades of pink.

My pink is the fuchsia sort of pink of our Moss Rose’s petals. It’s the earthy glowing pink, with splashes of yellow and orange, yet a hint of blue, in the sunset Little Bit and I saw on Christmas eve. 

Add in the old fashioned pink of grandma’s rose bush. That same bush she transplanted from across the road years ago and didn’t think would live. Would you believe it has shown up blooming every summer since that fateful day? 

Then, there’s the closet. One summer, grandma let me help her paint her closet pink. That’s kind of a big deal. You see, she had a house full of boys! Six of them, to be exact. One girl in a family of eight? She needed a little pink. Helping her paint that day is one of my most treasured memories. 

As most of you know, grandma passed away recently. A few months before, while she was in the care facility, the water pipes in her farm house broke and did a lot of damage. That resulted in a pretty major renovation. The floors, carpets, and countertops had to be replaced. At the same time, the walls received an update: new paint. 

I kept hearing how different her house looked, and honestly, I didn’t know if I wanted it different. Maybe that sounds a bit selfish, but I wanted her in her house, with everything the same, so my memories of our lives there would match up. I was a bit afraid to go there and see the changes. 

I went anyway. It was different, really different. A lot of her furniture was gone, and what was left was rearranged in every room. I felt my heart sink a little. 

I went into her bedroom. It was familiar, kind of. The dressers were switched around and her jewelry boxes were gone. The framed art that grandpa had given her over seventy years ago, was still in the room, but moved from its spot. 

I bit my lip, as I stepped to the closet. I almost didn’t stop, for fear my heart would break upon opening the door and I’d be standing in a puddle of tears. Then, I decided to look anyway and slowly opened the door.

Wooooooo hoooooooooo!! It was pink! Pink, pink, pink, pink, pink!! I ran and got my mom! “Look, look, look!” I said. I’m pretty sure there was never a happier granddaughter at that exact moment. And, I was standing in that puddle of tears, but they were happy tears! 

They say that our love of colors can be tied to our emotions. I believe it. I will be forever grateful that her closet is still pink. Makes me wonder though, what would my favorite color be if we had painted her closet another color, say yellow? 

 

Four Words

Has anyone ever said anything so monumental to you that their kindness threw you a bit sideways? 

That happened to me recently and it really cemented in my mind, the sheer capacity of the power of a handful of words.

The writer in me loves words! Lots of them. Line them all up. A bunch of words together has the ability to make a descriptive and relatable story. So, I was quite surprised when four words got 100% of my total attention and even left me a bit tongue tied. 

Many of you know about my unexpected hospital stay in September. This week I had an appointment with a doctor I’d never met before. It took nearly a month to get in and I spent a most of the days leading up to it, splashing around in all kinds of worries and “what if’s”.

Finally the day came, and we were off to the city for the appointment. Once we arrived, we sat in the waiting room. I was pretty sure spring had sprung, by the amount of butterflies in my stomach. 

That changed when the  doctor came to the waiting room to get me. Wow, I was stunned, to say the least. The nurses usually come to the waiting room, but the doctor? I’d never seen that before.

By the time we sat down in the exam room, nearly all my fears, nervousness, and worries from those days before, had disappeared. Simply put, this doctor was AMAZING! 

We weren’t rushed through the appointment and I was allowed to ask all of my questions. Things were explained in ways that I could actually understand. What a gift that was. Seems like after leaving other doctor’s offices, I sometimes scratch my head and wonder “what was that all about?” This time, it was different.

This doctor was kind, funny, personable, and compassionate. He educated us and helped us understand when things didn’t make sense. To top that off, he was also extremely thorough and most notably, he listened. Like, to me! 

As my appointment was coming to its end, I told this kind soul how nice he was and how I’d been scared to come to that appointment for a month. He expressed that he was sorry to hear that. Then, he said four words. Four simple, yet profound words.

I care about you.”

Whoa, what? 

I’m pretty sure I’ve never heard a doctor say that E V E R. Wish I would’ve had a mirror so I could’ve seen my expression! I looked at my husband and said, “Did you hear that?”

Four words, my friends. A life changing  four words. 

Memory Lists and Hope Chests

Do you have the physical traces of your memories gathered together somewhere? 

I do. As you may have noticed by now, I’m a sentimental sort of gal. Recently, I joked that if anyone ever came to my home seeking valuables, they’d walk right past mine. 

My china cabinet is full of the glassware, trinkets, dishes, and the this& that’s of my life. I love seeing them everyday. They bring a hint of the past, into the present. 

It’s kind of funny that in the very same room, sits another object that holds things of similar sentiment. My hope chest. I walk past it at least four times a day and on most days, I never give it a second glance, until this morning. 

The definition according to Wikipedia.org is “a hope chest, also called dowry chest, cedar chest, or glory box is a chest used to collect items such as clothing and household linen, by unmarried young women in anticipation of married life.” 

Though I do have some tea towels my grandma made and a pair of pillowcases I got for my wedding in there, the contents are a bit different than those of the traditional use. 

Have you seen that movie, “The Bridges of Madison County” when Francesca’s children open her chest and it’s filled with letters, books, a locket, and a camera?  That’s more along the lines of what I have in mine.

So, here I sit. The contents spilled out before me. Here is my aqua sweater with the white heart buttons my grandma made me that I wore to my first day of kindergarten. Oh my gosh! There’s all kinds of things in here, including:

Ponchos that my grandma’s made, pajamas from when I was a kid, my cheerleading uniform from high school, a prom dress I wore, a doll mom made me when I was young, flowers that my husband picked for me on an Ozark’s mountainside when we first started dating, letters from my siblings, cards from my grandparents, costume jewelry, items from my wedding, cassette tapes, concert ticket stubs, photographs, nearly every birthday card my parents have ever given me, a front page of the newspaper when the world lost Princess Diana in that awful car accident, a newspaper when St. Louis Cardinals hitter Mark McGuire tied Roger Maris for 61 home runs, a Stevie Nicks album. 

Lots of seemingly ordinary yet beyond extraordinary things. There’s a scrapbook mom made me and tucked way in the back are all the cards she and dad received when I was born! What a gift to read through those again. 

Because of my grandma’s recent passing, they’ve been cleaning out her house. That got me to thinking about the stuff I hold dear and the future of my items. If someone opened my hope chest, they may just see a bunch of junk and toss it. That thought alone inspired an idea I made up of a Memory List.

What’s a Memory List? Its simply a way of sharing the importance of sentimental things. My hope in making one, is to someday keep my stuff out of a dumpster. 

How does it work? I am putting the objects down on a list, writing why they’re in there, where they came from, and what they mean to me. 

For instance I could write:

  • The pearl bracelet in a white box was a wedding gift from my sister and I wore it during my wedding. 
  • The Santa blanket was a gift from my mom.
  • The bag of coins came from my grandparents 50th wedding anniversary party. 
  • The list of boy names were the ones I had picked out for Little Bit two weeks before he was born. 
  • The concert stubs were kept in hopes I would reach my lifetime goal of attending 100 concerts. 

I started this story earlier today and I have put all my treasures back inside. I can’t tell you how great it was to see all that stuff again. So, on this day after Christmas, I feel like I received even more presents because this time, instead of walking by my hope chest like I do countless times each day, I lifted the lid.  

 


      Blessed By You

      Don’t you just love it when people are sooooo genuinely kind and beyond supportive, that sometimes you have to pinch yourself to believe it’s true? 

      That’s me. Today. And, it’s because of you. On this eve before Christmas, I am thinking about you. 

      On October 10, 2015, I started this amazing blogging journey. A sudden, unexpected four day hospital stay in mid September, caused me to start reevaluating what was really important in my life. 

      In the midst of figuring that out, I decided to stop putting my longing desire to write about “really cool stuff, lessons, and observations” at the end of my Dream List. 

      Do you have a Dream List? It’s something I totally made up and, to me, it basically means: a “someday I want to do these things” list. Writing was on my list and has been for a long time. I always told myself that someday I’d be a writer.

      Someday when life wasn’t so busy. Someday when I felt good enough, among millions of other writers. Someday when I did enough research and prep work. Someday when I wasn’t doing other things. Someday when I was brave enough. Someday when what I have to say is really important. Someday…

      One of the problems with someday is that, it is nowhere in the line up of Monday to Sunday. I’ve never seen it on a calendar, have you? Hmmm. No wonder someday rarely shows up. 

      Until a sudden calamity makes us drop the some off of day and what was once down the road somewhere becomes TOday. 

      That extraordinarily, marvelous gift of forgetting someday and doing it today, was given to me. Since I started this blog, I’ve have been crazily amazed by you. To date, my 40 stories have been viewed over TWO THOUSAND SEVEN HUNDRED TIMES!! Are you kidding??? Pretty sure I should be covered with bruises with all the pinching here! 

      Because of you, my Dream List has one less goal on it. Why? Well, your kindness and support of my writing, makes me want to write more! Before my blog, I was writing in my notebook, which is great, but there was no feedback. So, I was a bit afraid to start a blog and that partly stemmed from two fears: 

      1. What if no one likes it?
      2. What if someone is mean?

      Lucky for me, you showed up! You join my email list. You follow me on WordPress. You leave inspiring comments. You hit the “like” button. You follow my Facebook page. YOU read my stories. You take time out of your busy life to read my stories. 

      So, on the eve before the magic of Christmas, despite the fact that I want to jump up and down and noisily express my sincere, overflowing gratitude, I’ll spare you the image, and simply offer my thanks and let you know that I truly am blessed by you. 

      When Those Hats Came Full Circle

      What brought you to live in your current town or city? 

      Seems like there are several reasons why we live where we do:

      • a job 
      • college
      • location- skiers may choose a mountain town, while surfers may choose the beach town
      • love the town we grew up in and stayed put
      • moved to be closer to family
      • good schools for the kiddos
      • love the land outside of the town
      • the hats

      Whoa, wait a minute. The hats? 

      Believe it or not, the very first time I visited this rural Missouri town, I knew I loved it. My sister and I traveled several hours from our big town to photograph a high school graduation in this small town. At the end of the outdoor ceremony, the seniors threw their cowboy hats way up in the air at the same time. That was it, I was hooked. 

      After the photo shoot was over, we went back to our big town. Life adventures led me to living in other towns and even in some huge cities. But, I never forgot about the image of all those hats in the air.

      Several years later, my husband and I were house hunting within about a 50 mile radius of that fateful, long gone, graduation photo assignment. Any guesses where we bought our very first home? You got it! The town with the hats. 

      Now, I guess that may seem like a silly reason to live somewhere, but to me, cowboy hats are symbols. Similar to farm trucks or barns, cowboy hats tend to represent farming, ranching, families, early risers, hard workers, an abundance of faith, and kind hearts. 

      I grew up in a small farming town and my family’s roots run deep in the Iowa farmland. Even though we don’t farm ourselves, farming is a big part of who I am. 

      I “fit” here. No one even thinks twice that I drive a pick up, because most of the gals around here drive one, too. I feel just fine wearing my coveralls into the grocery store on days the wind is bitter cold. I’ve worked in this town and volunteered in this town. We choose to raise our son here. We bank here, eat here, and shop here. 

      In fact, a couple days ago I heard about a family owned store in town that I’ve never been to, so yesterday I went to have a look. As soon as I parked, I almost felt my heart expand a little. 

      The building is old and quaint. You know that “homey” feeling you get when you visit an old friend’s house after you haven’t seen them in a while? It was like that. Welcome at a place I’d never even been. 

      After stepping in the door, I noticed it was a really nice home decor shop. I started to look around, when I heard the greeting from a kind gentleman behind the counter. 

      When I turned to look his way to answer, I nearly fell over. He was wearing a beautiful,  black cowboy hat. In that moment, I knew we are exactly where we are meant to be, when those hats came full circle. 

       

        A Lifelong Love of The Barn

        Ever driven by a farm and noticed that the barn was bigger than the farm house? 

        That is definitely the case at my grandparent’s Iowa farm. Their barn is nearly a kingdom on its own. Built over 100 years ago, the red beauty towers over everything.

        Simply put, it is huge! There is a basement with a dirt floor and two big open doors for bringing in cattle and equipment. The main floor is lined with livestock stalls and it has several storage rooms. There is even enough room to park a vehicle just inside the door. The hay loft was quite a busy place once upon a time, though these days it’s pretty quiet up there. 

        Can you just imagine the undertaking of building such a massive structure in the early 1900’s? The time before nail guns and power tools? Much less constructing something the builders would never even live in? 

        What a testament of faith in the dream of making a living. I love the optimism in that! Just the idea of creating something so beautiful yet functional, to house and protect the investments of good old fashioned hard work. 

        Everything kept in the barn over the years has had the potential for keeping a farm in business and a family fed. From housing the cattle and horses, to protecting the very first tractor that was bought, to storing hay for the animals, the barn has had a very important job. And, even all these years later, it still does it well. 

        The farm has been in the family for nearly 60 years. Countless pictures have been taken of the barn. Lots of feet have crossed the threshold of the giant sliding door. Every time kids, grandkids, and great grandkids go inside, it’s like we almost literally step back in time. 

        What a gift for our children to experience! I can’t remember the first time I saw the barn, but I see the excitement in Little Bit’s eyes every time we slide that door open. We have spent many afternoons in those rooms and climbing the stairs, exploring.

        One thing I absolutely love about that is, that my dad spent his childhood running in and out of that barn. I spent my childhood running in and out of that barn. Now Little Bit has spent a good chunk of his childhood doing the very same thing. 

        I often wonder how the people all those years ago would feel knowing that the labor of their hard work is still used now, and that essentially because of them, our family has  been graced with a lifelong love of the barn.