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? 

 

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.  

 


      “Kings”of Our World

      When you’re outside, do you ever outstretch your arms, lean your head back, and just breathe? 

      Yesterday was grandma Wilma’s service. At one point, my uncle was at the altar telling stories about her life. He mentioned that when she was a girl, it was her job to help her Papa. When their chores were done, her “payment” was getting to run up the hill, outstretch her arms, and stand in the wind. 

      I didn’t know that about her, and it struck me because it is something we have in common. Little Bit and I do that often. Sometimes when we’re out in our yard, we stop what we’re doing, we reach our arms out and simply listen. We hear the wind, we pay attention, we breathe. 

      Why would anyone want to do such a silly thing? For me, several things come to mind. 

      1. It makes you present. It puts you in that moment. Just picture it, standing still. How often does that even happen? 

      2. Arms outstretched. The simple gesture of putting our arms out to our sides is such an offering. A surrender, even. A gift. It’s almost like handing over the sense of control, even if it’s just for 30 seconds. 

      3. Head back, taking in the view. Eyes open or closed, it doesn’t really matter. 

      4. A deep breath of nature. Lungs expand, nature is inhaled, then, nature is exhaled. Pretty darn relaxing. 

      5. Sometimes, we add our signature phrase, belting it out as loudly as the moment warrants: “King of the world”. 

      After the service, some of us went out to grandma’s farm. After being in the house awhile, Little Bit, my niece, and I needed some air. We hiked the hills, the same ones I’ve spent a lifetime on and that they have traipsed up in winters past with sleds in tow. 

      There was no snow, so getting up the giant hill was a bit easier this time. When we arrived at the top, we decided to blow a kiss to grandma Wilma and we all blew big kisses at the same time. It was then that I introduced our tradition of “king of the world” to my niece. There we were, all three of us with our arms outstretched, giggling, and screaming out “king of the world.”

      Just being up there was so great. Grandma used to climb those hills and breathe in that air. Geese were flying over our heads. From our spot, we could see the entire farm: the 100 year old barn, the apple and peach trees, her house, her barren  rose bushes, and the chicken house.

      The thing I love most is that Grandma’s “payment” for chores lives on. Who knows, maybe someday when these kiddos grow up, they’ll recall standing on that hill with me, our arms out wide, the frosty air filling our noses, the giggles, and the freedom of childhood that we experienced on that lovely December day when we were the “kings” of our world.