Scents Sense

One of the oddities of Parkinson’s Disease is that it messes with one’s sense of smell. Yes, it’s less of an offense to one’s way of life than tremors or some of the other more odious issues, yet it’s still an often-inconvenient loss. For example, gas companies put a noxious odor in the gas that is piped into your house so you can tell if there is a leak. That’s a great strategy if your sense of smell is in working order! With Parkinson’s, however, no so much…

Recently my elderly dog has had incontinence problems…always, it seems, as she is resting on the carpet in my sewing room. I realized one day that without a sense of smell, that room and everything in it could reek and I would never know. Solution: begin carpet removal. Then borrow a good friend’s nose to be certain the “treatment” was effective. (*sigh*)

Sometimes, I go for days without smelling anything, and don’t really miss it…until I realize that I cannot taste some of my favorite foods. How, I ask you, is a cook supposed to check to be certain seasonings are just right if said cook cannot taste!?!? And, how can I tell if something in the oven is done? I’ve always been able to tell when something is just done by how it smells. Can I blame burned or under-cooked things on Parky……Of course I can!

Dad's Peace RoseAll of these things really are mild inconveniences when compared to other Parkinson’s issues. But there is one place where I miss this sense the most. The best way to explain is to tell the story: Years ago, my husband decided to give me roses, knowing I love this flower. Rather than the cut variety, he brought me a dormant rose bush. In time, that bush produced dozens of gorgeous pink roses, one of which even made the head table in a rose competition. Needless to say, I was hooked.   Thirty some tea rose bushes later, my rose garden produced the heady perfume of a myriad of roses, all chosen for their fragrance.

Sometime before I discovered the connection between Parkinson’s and the loss of sense of smell, I realized that my roses no longer smelled good.Serenity._optJPEG In fact, they had no scent at all, no matter how carefully they were watered and pruned and fertilized. Of course, they really did still have their marvelous scent, but it was lost to me early in the Parkinson’s journey. Sadly, the upkeep on my rose garden soon became too much for me to handle and the “scent motivation” was no longer there. So, like many other things in my life, that garden was dismantled…

 

I do have some gorgeous pictures from the rose garden, and some wonderful memories of sharing huge bouquets of roses to students, parents, and friends who needed some TLC. And of course, there were those crazy days when my Dad and my sister and I transplanted the entire 30+ shrubs to new homes. When we sold our

Dad Rodgers Planting Roses

George Rodgers’ 85th Birthday “Gift”

Virginia house and moved to North Carolina, Dad and I dug up those shrubs, ignored their thorns, dumped them in buckets, and then drove30 miles south to dig more holes, replant the bushes, water and mulch the new bed. The project was completed as we enjoyed a cup of coffee on the back porch, surveying the fruits of our labors. One of those “fruits” has become a favorite picture: I found Dad very early on the morning of his 85th birthday, outside on his hands and knees in the new rose bed, digging yet another hole.

Rose Garden memories abound: when we moved to our home in the country, my sister, Marie, was present to help move the garden. Again, there were buckets and shovels, hoses and rakes, thorny bushes and a truckload of mulch, but there was more. The weather played games with us all day, cycling from snow to intense sunshine and heat to rain, and back again to snow, then heat. We laughed and sweated and made a wonderful memory as we fought the ever-present red clay and a monstrous tiller.

That rose garden has now been reduced to only five of my favorite rose bushes. I am building a perennial bed there with a myriad of shrubs – paying attentions to things like texture, color and relative height. Its effectiveness is based on visual aspects – not the sense of smell! (Who would have believed that planning a garden is a work of art!)?

As I wrap this journal entry, I have one final query: Why is it, I ask you, that I can always smell the skunk that has been hit on the road?! Seems sort of cruel somehow! Or an ironic twist. Or something…

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Journey Begins

I pulled this piece from a website I set up in 2014, as I was just beginning to explore possibilities and opportunities for photographers. (scenealongtheway.comI had forgotten about this essay, but it fits well with my Father’s Day sermon (previous blog entry). It also gives me pause when I realize that it was this very week in 2005 when Dad contracted Pneumonia from which he died on July 31…

Well, actually, this is a new phase of a long journey.  One that began in my earliest memories as we trekked to the camera club at Eastman Kodak where my Dad worked as a chemist.  Dad was a photo bug who especially liked working with stinky chemicals in the dark room.  I didn’t understand during those early childhood years that he was really a fine photographer as well.  I just thought it was weird standing in a totally dark room with only an odd red light while Dad fished papers in and out of different liquids, finally hanging them all on lines to dry like the laundry out back of the cottage.

Dad had a knack for helping my siblings and me see and experience our surroundings in almost magical ways. Petoskey stones could become owls, given a bit of paint and some patience.  

Drop In MushroomsMushrooms would leave a perfect gill pattern if one took the cap, placed it on black paper, and left it covered with a bowl overnight. Cherry tomatoes tasted like warm sweet candy when picked right off his plants in the late afternoon. My worms always caught the best fish when I tiptoed out of the lake cottage with Dad before the sun came up. There was magic in those mornings, sitting quietly in the middle of Sugar Lake, watching the sunrise reflecting off the lake’s glassy surface as we waited for the largest northern pike or the fattest sunfish to arrive for its breakfast.

But I digress!  Now, half a century removed from those memories, I have finally taken an enormous step in my own artistic journey.  My first set of photographs (and the cards and coasters enhanced by those images) are being adjudicated for admission into an artisans’ center.  I was not nervous as I carried my precious cargo to the desk…..merely curious as to whether my work would fit with that of other artists who have traveled this path before me.  Some are friends of many years.  Some are friends I have yet to meet.  But all, it seems, have their own unique style and perspective on the world around us.  I grow richer and deeper as I study their work, absorbing colors, textures, lines and symmetry.  There is magic in that place, with personality that reaches out from the creations of artists who see the world with new eyes.  
A Day in the Park
I wonder, Dad, if you knew what you were instilling in each of your six children all those years ago?  You were an artist, shaping the souls of our generation.  I wonder if that magic will again reach beyond time and place?  There is artistry in the world around us.  
There is power in the lens of a camera. The magic lies in what is “scene along the way”……and then shared for others to see as well.

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“Johnny Come Lately”

When I was young, say 40 years ago, I did a good bit of public speaking.  I even partially paid for grad school by speaking (preaching) at churches on the weekends.  Somehow, as I got older, that gift of speaking got channeled in different ways, mainly in the classroom and in the public performances by my students. “Preaching” took a backseat as music and teaching became the main avenues for helping support my family.

Recently, however, I was given the opportunity to preach at my church.  So, several decades after I learned how to do this, I found myself in the pulpit on Father’s Day.  The text for the morning was from Mark 4.  Here is that sermon text:

Stories

One of the first things I remember learning about the Bible as a young child was that Jesus talked in parables. He told stories! A parable, I was told, was an earthly story with a heavenly meaning. I have been bumping into parables my entire life and only in recent years has the full significance of this type of teaching really made sense to me. As a teacher myself, I discovered that my young students often were more attentive to information given via a story than by any other means, even technology! And so it was when Jesus told his stories – simple, yet complex parables/stories that extend far beyond the story into the middle of Life itself.

My Dad was a master storyteller too. Another of my earliest memories is of sitting on my Dad’s lap or hanging over his shoulder with my other siblings while he regaled us with stories of B’rer Rabbit or Uncle Wiggly or Uncle Remus. Dad introduced us to Dr. Seuss…he discovered “The Cat in the Hat” the very first week it arrived on our public library shelves. Dad was forever telling us stories, entertaining us with his vocal and facial expressions, teaching us – albeit indirectly – how to be family for each other!

We learned many lessons from those stories Dad told or read to us – lessons about life, about morals, about relationships…but I realize now that the most significant lessons were inherent in the very act of telling those stories. Jesus, too, understood the power of a good story. He used that power to capture the attention and imagination of his listeners, imbedding in those stories some of the essence of God’s Presence. Perhaps I can get at this best by telling you a story!

When our younger son, Joel, married Maria, she brought with her a young son, Samuel. We were delighted with this “instant” grandchild, but our chances to really get to know him were severely hampered by the fact that Joel and Maria moved to Chicago. A few short visits a year were all we could manage at first. Sammy seemed like a stranger, and I wondered if we would ever have those special grandparent feelings I had heard so much about.

Then, one summer, Joel suggested that we go camping with them.   So we loaded up our cars with everything, including the kitchen sink (!) and headed for the mountains of West Virginia. There was the normal chaos of setting up camp, followed by days of cooking over open camp fires, searching for tree frogs after dark, photographing mushrooms and bugs, hiking in the woods, riding horses, throwing the Frisbee, playing board games, napping in the hammock … all those things that were part and parcel of a Spencer camping trip.

We were beginning to forge some family bonds with our young grand son, but the real clincher happened on the night a storm was brewing. As we listened to the approaching thunder, and felt the wind begin to blow, little Sammy crawled into my lap, curled up under a blanket, and said, “Grandma, can you tell me the story of the day my daddy was born?”

And so, the family stories began.   In the following days, we relived many details of Joel’s childhood, laughing over long forgotten antics, growing closer, becoming family as the stories unfolded. In that one short week, we, Sammy and Ed and I, became family for good.

Jesus apparently understood that stories helped draw people together. He recognized that his listeners would come the closest to understanding his message if he couched that message in stories. He began many of his own stories, or parables, with the words, “The kingdom of God is like…” In today’s gospel we get a glimpse of two such parables, but the verses that most caught my attention are the last two (verses 33 and 34): “Jesus used many similar stories and illustrations to teach people as much as they could understand. In fact, in his public ministry he never taught without using parables.”

Have you ever wondered what Jesus meant when He talked about the Kingdom of God? The focus of much of Jesus’ teaching was the Kingdom of God. In fact, that Kingdom was Jesus’ central message. He wanted to make certain that his listeners understood as much as possible about living in God’s Presence. “The Kingdom of God” happens in one’s life when that person learns to become aware of God’s Presence always.

When is the last time you were personally aware of God’s immediate Presence? When you knew God was present, working in your midst as surely as that friend now sitting next to you? Do you believe it is even possible to sense God’s presence, to catch God in the act of working out details on your behalf? God is involved in the details of our lives. God is constantly at work in our lives, pulling together events in such a way that one cannot possibly believe it is coincidence.

Let me tell you another true “dad” story to illustrate: In the spring of 2005, I was working in my classroom after the students had left for the day. Normally, I worked in silence – welcomed it after the noise that was inherent in the music room! For some odd reason that day, I flipped on the radio, tuning into NPR just in time to hear about a new venture called “Story Corp.” A mobile recording booth had been constructed in Grand Central Station. People were encouraged to bring loved ones in to record special family stories. The recordings were made and archived in the Library of Congress as a record of everyday American life. The main idea behind these interviews was that listening is an act of love.

 Somehow, as I first heard that report on NPR, I knew I had to get my Dad into one of those recording booths. Several mobile units were beginning to travel around the nation as part of the project. One was coming close to Martinsville, with stops in Charlottesville Virginia, and another in Charleston, West Virginia. By some miracle, my busy teaching schedule “just happened” to offer a short window of down time at exactly the time the phone line was opened for taking reservations for recording time. I was fortunate enough to secure one of those limited and highly-coveted appointments. Our recording date was only a few days after Dad turned 85.

Dad had always been the paragon of good health. He only went to the hospitals for the birth of his six children, but never was he a patient himself! Yet, less than 2 weeks after our interview, he came down with such severe pneumonia that he was hospitalized. Ten days later, he was gone! That very evening, someone working the Story Corps booth called us to be certain our interview experience was successful! From that phone call, our story became part of the national fund raising efforts by the Story Corp team.

The recording of our Story Corps interview was a remarkable gift that shaped not only the celebration of Dad’s life, but also fixed in our memories the sound of his voice and much of the essence of who Dad was. I found myself, much like Moses and the burning bush… standing on sacred ground in the Presence of God! There is no other way to explain how perfectly the logistics of that entire event fit together! Such timing to me is always a mark of God’s Presence, as uniquely recognizable as a thumbprint. The Kingdom of God is at work just as surely now as it was when Jesus spoke in parables!

I was always Dad’s little girl. I was the only girl in the middle of four brothers, and Dad did many things for me, seemingly little stuff at the time, but that had huge significance later. I have many warm memories of time we spent together… gardening, shopping, making book runs to the public library. I learned that all routes to our home led past Krispy Kreme, especially if the “Hot off the line” sign was lit!

One of my favorite memories was searching for agates along the banks of the Mississippi River near the lake in Minnesota where we vacationed every summer. Over the years, I filled a glass jar with those layered red and orange gemstones. Every year that jar went with me on the long trip from Tennessee to Minnesota; the rest of the year, it had a prized place on a shelf in my closet.

When my parents downsized from the large home where they raised 6 children, I went looking for my agate jar… and couldn’t find it anywhere! I assumed those rocks had been assimilated into the family’s large agate collection, but I was sorry they were no longer in my jar.

Not too many years passed before my mother realized that keeping up the house by herself was too much of a burden. She decided to enter an assisted living facility, so we began the process of shutting down her home. I was with her one weekend and she suggested I make one last trip to the basement. “There might be something down there in all the junk that you might want.” She said.

So, I bleakly rummaged through the piles of ancient tools, boxes of rocks from family rock-hounding days, moldy camping gear, listening to the echoes of years gone by, grieving that such days were over and done. And then, I stumbled upon a small, innocuous plastic box. The contents took my breath away! In a flash, I vividly remembered a conversation with Dad on a weekend visit home from college, some 40 years before. He had offered to tumble polish my agates in his lapidary. I gave him the entire jar, carefully pointing out a few favorites that I wanted left in their natural state, because I loved their texture and color. There in the plastic box was my entire agate collection carefully tumble polished, …and those most special favorites were there too, left in their natural form, just as I had requested! Forty years hence, and years after my Dad died, I felt as if he was standing beside me. I could hear his voice almost audibly, feel his breath on my hair as he hugged me close. In those brief moments, I experienced again the depth of my Father’s love for me. The surprise was that such love could reach beyond the grave and rock my emotions so intensely! In that same instant, I was aware that God was there, giving me exactly what I needed during a difficult time of transition.

The Kingdom of God! It’s as simple as it is complex! As I researched for today’s sermon, I ran across a blog called “From His Presence…because your life can be Heaven on Earth”. It is written by a young woman named Jamie Rohrbach. She writes from the premise that Jesus himself taught us to pray, asking “Thy Kingdom come. Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” Jesus himself taught us to ask explicitly for God’s Kingdom! We ask for it every time we pray the Lord’s Prayer!

Just what is the Kingdom of God? The arrival of the Kingdom of God was Jesus’ central message. “The Kingdom,” Jamie Rohrbach writes in her blog, “––happens in your life when you learn to become aware of God’s Presence always.” Miss Rohrbach believes intensely that we can and should regularly experience the presence of God in our everyday lives.

God’s Presence for me is a constant reality. Sometimes I am more attuned to that Presence than others. Thankfully, God doesn’t base that Presence on our awareness! God comes not as an audible, disembodied voice, but rather in the midst of life, often in a sequence of events, so carefully choreographed, so perfectly timed that there is no way it could be mere coincidence. Most fascinating to me is that God seems to work in similar ways with others. God’s Fingerprints – in the form of a tiny boy and an approaching thunder storm, or in preparation for the death of a loved one, or in finding a long lost treasure … The more one takes time to slow down, listen and look for God’s presence, the more one can discover God is there in the midst! That still small voice speaks as eloquently today as it did 2000 years ago.

And so, I ask again … when is the last time you were personally aware of God’s immediate Presence? When you knew God was working in your midst just as surely as that friend sitting next to you? What stories do you have to tell about these experiences? Have you shared those stories with friends or loved ones? There are many ways to talk about God, about what we do here at church, about how much God loves us. But one of the most effective ways is direct, immediate, personal experience with God’s Presence!

What goals or dreams do you have for yourself? For this church family? What does the Presence of God look like right here at Starling Avenue? In many ways, we are family for each other here in this place. Yes, we have stories to share. Hopefully, we have dreams to share as well. As we move into the future, may God’s immediate Presence – His Kingdom – be immediately upon each of us, sharing beyond ourselves with a broken world the reality of God’s love – of God’s Kingdom in this time, in this place! Amen”

 

 

 

 

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VIOLENCE

Arm teachers!?!? Have we lost what’s left of our collective minds?!! The day I was required to keep a gun in my classroom would be the day I would walk out! And don’t think I’m a loser…. I am National Board Certified and was a Teacher of the Year. Gun ownership is a personal issue and I would no more want gun possession forced on me than many of you out there would welcome giving up your rights to gun ownership.

So, what is the solution? First, would someone please tell me that owning a rapid fire, automatic rifle actually SAVED a life! I mean, a normal, everyday person….sort of like those normal victims who now inhabit cold graves. Have you saved someone’s life with your own rifle?

Second, I cannot believe the authors of a constitutional amendment would have included weapons of war in their writings if such weaponry had existed. Those weapons have a place…in the hands of our military and police…NOT in the possession of the general public. Why do we insist that kids wait until they are 21 to drink alcohol, but allow them to handle and purchase lethal weapons? Common sense would say that children are not ready to handle such weighty responsibility.

Third, we have in our hands the technology to establish a nationwide data base to track and manage gun purchase. We are already tracked through medical, financial, and tax data bases. Surely, having a similar data base to ensure safe gun ownership would help more than it hurt! Surely, saving someone’s life would be worth the freedom gun owners might have to give up…

Finally, at least some responsibility also rests on the heads of…well, of ALL of us. I was constantly surprised by the “harmless” violent rhetoric and actions I often saw in some of my young students. I have also been dismayed at the tech addiction that is sweeping our society. I believe young children have a difficult time separating the fictional violence of these games from the reality of living in community with other people. (Wonder if this same violence addiction has anything to do with road rage…?). Perhaps we all need to take a collective breath and determine to live peaceably, without malice, dealing fairly and respectfully with our neighbors, and walking humbly, give up our obsession with power (i.e. Gun ownership?) and intimidation, seeking out the best in others, rather than provoking their worst.

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Moving Day

Ten years ago, I was blithely ignorant. About my future. About people with disabilities. About the hidden benefits that came with my teaching position. About Parkinson’s disease. Unaware of the dramatic turn that was about to take place in my existence.

Ten years ago, a doctor asked innocuously about the slight tremor in my right leg. I was only vaguely aware of it…..could make the twitching stop just by thinking about it. He sent me for an appointment with the local neurologist …. An appointment I put off because of big (brave??) plans to drive my mother and her younger sister (both were seasoned octogenarians….) north into Minnesota to their stomping grounds at a cabin on a lake north of the twin cities.

I was aware of some strange details: while swimming the traditional half mile across Sugar Lake, I struggled to stay on course, pulling dramatically to the left as I swam. At the organ bench, it was getting harder to play “clean.” I found myself tripping over notes in favorite hymns that I had played for years. Handwriting was growing difficult as well…my once beautiful script was turning into inelegant scrawl… In my naivete, it never occurred to me that all these little irritants were part of a much larger issue….

Dad's Peace Rose

Dad’s Peace Rose

Ed and I had just moved into a wonderful space on Pine Road, and I was eager to begin landscaping our 2.5 acres. We planted a rose garden, and began planning the landscaping for the front of our new home. As I photographed the first rose blooms with my new DSLR camera, I could not know how precious those developing camera skills would become. Nor did I realize then just how valuable the “all on one level” layout of our new home would be.

I eventually kept that neurology appointment, going as a “lamb led to the slaughter.” The doctor’s diagnosis ( “I’m 99% certain you have Parkinson’s Disease.”) introduced me to the reality of panic attacks, and the horrifying realization that nothing would ever be the same. In the coming months, as I researched, read, asked questions, and made the rounds of an ever-growing list of doctors and specialists, I learned that there was nothing that could cure me. Nothing that could stop the progression. Nothing to prevent this interloper from gradually, ruthlessly stripping from me many things that I enjoyed doing.

Ten years ago, I took on a new mantle, unwittingly and unwillingly, without any choice. This new journey brought with it an all-important decision; one that has to be reconsidered nearly every day: Is the proverbial glass as half empty or half full? Is it a stop light or a go light? Do I dwell on what is lost, or look for new perspectives, maybe even savoring new ideas or opportunities? Does Parkinson’s define who I am? Or does it serve as a catalyst, prompting me to think outside my own proverbial box?

Let me be honest here: I am not superhuman! Not an angel nor a saint. Sometimes, I am afraid. Sometimes, angry at what I have lost. Sometimes, overwhelmed by grief. I miss my classroom and my students.   I miss playing the pipe organ and singing…I can no longer physically make music. I ache to perform again and am repeatedly devastated with the realization that it just is not going to happen…ever! With each fall, each setback, each loss, I sense the growing concern and protectiveness of loved ones. I loathe what this illness is doing to all of us.

Ten years, the first decade of this “decades long” diagnosis. I am different:  older, wiser, less-stressed. I have explored new artistic avenues (things that may have never entered my mind before), enjoyed successful competitions in photography, learned to make teddy bears from old fur coats. I’ve learned to think my way out of a “blue funk” as I color extravagantly detailed pictures, go for walks, try new exercises. I have met new friends and found fulfillment as I work to make life easier for others with serious medical issues. I have been very fortunate during most of the journey, reaping the rewards of countless benefactors…those Parkinson’s patients who have gone before me, testing new drugs and procedures. And the brilliant doctors, neurologists, movement specialists, and scientists who have passionately searched for answers and solutions. And there are the untold thousands of friends, neighbors and fellow citizens who have generously given to fund the research.

So now, as I enjoy the wealth of research…as I obediently take the drug regimen custom fit for me….as the Boston Scientific brain stimulator works silently inside my head, canceling the tremors and much of the rigidity….well, now it’s my turn to give back. Fund raising is not my usual forte, yet it is a challenge that I cannot ignore. It will culminate in what is called “Parkinson’s Moving Day.” the annual national fund raiser for the Parkinson’s Foundation. One of the events will be held in Winston-Salem, not too far from my home. Even many of the medical care providers (who, incidentally, have become like a second family to me) will be involved. On Saturday, April 28, we will gather as a community from 9:00 to 12:00 for a morning of walking, moving, learning, playing – as we raise awareness and gather funds to help the next generation of Parkinson’s patients.

SO what happens in the two months between now and then? I need to build a team who will commit to a Saturday morning in April immersed in the PD community, who can meet with me at least once for some initial planning early in March, who are willing to share by any and all means possible the absolute necessity of funding continuing research. I need team members who can help me get past my own personal hesitancy to ask for money….Who are willing to join the “Spunky Spencers” in a quest for $1500 for Parkinson’s.

Will you join me? Any donation will be most welcome. New team members are welcome too! You can register, join my team and/or make donations by going to this web address: https://movingdaywalk.org/event/moving-day-winston-salem/participant/1704584/

Thanks to all who have been part of this incredible journey.  Thanks for your encouragement, your presence, your patience, your understanding.  For those of you who have already volunteered, don’t forget to officially sign up as a team member at our website.

 

Posted in Ministry, Parkinson's Disease, Photography | 2 Comments

Snow Days

(Written a few days ago, during the first snow of this season.)

WInter Post

It’s 5-ish in the morning. A “snow day.” A surprising slow-down in the midst of Advent, preparing for the coming Christmas celebration. The activities of this day will be a bit different from those planned on the calendar! Perhaps we will complete the decorating, actually putting up our Christmas tree together. And toting the boxes, now empty of their stored decorations, back to the garage. We will prepare meals together – no sense in trying the normal “eating out on the run” scenario.

The only things missing are the normal “warm factor” commodities such as kids and grandkids, and a fire in the fireplace. The firewood has finally been depleted and the chimney sweep is coming in a few days – all in preparation for the installation of gas logs. Such logs were in place when we moved into this house (was it really 10 years ago this week!!?). As we set up house keeping in this new home,I adamantly had those fakes removed (“We will be using the real things! Thank you very much!” I thought.). For ten years, we have stacked firewood, hauled logs into the house, swept up over and over … and enjoyed the warmth and smell of real wood fires. Almost like sitting around the campfire,

img_4728

Ah, but this pleasure is about to bite the dust, much as the “real” Christmas tree did after our children flew the nest. Hauling logs is no longer easy. Even bending down to build and light the fire has become an issue. (Old age has it perks, but this is not one of them!). In fact, decorating and Christmas baking have been scaled back, in direct proportion to my current energy.

Of course, the fruitcake recipe is lying out on the counter with the growing collection of ingreIMG_1057dients necessary for concocting the “George Rodgers” recipe (Thanks, Dad!). There are plans for a couple of our traditional coffee rings as well,but who knows if they will actually come to fruition. There actually won’t be any baking today – lacking some ingredients and heavy snow means possible power outages. So, like so many of our plans and traditions, many of today’s activities are in a dynamic state of “hold until things are stable again.”

So, what to do with today? With the power still intact, I can fire up the sewing machine to finish a couple of Christmas projects. I can complete my gift list by shopping on line. I can be totally lazy in my recliner, reading and dozing the day away. I can dig out the camera and try to capture the beauty just outside my window. Lots of possibilities. Limited mainly by soreness from an automobile wreck 5 weeks ago (Who knew it would take so loooooooong to get over that trauma?).

Whatever this or any future days may bring, I face them with a strange mix of sobriety and mirth. I was “lucky” five weeks ago. Or “blessed” or something. There is much healing left to do, in both body and spirit, but at least I am here. The events in recent weeks have confirmed much of what I already knew: Live each day to the fullest, because it may be your last. Family and friends – relationships are by far the most valuable “thing” in life. “Wasted” time is   not necessarily lost time. Savoring one’s life, just like savoring hot, home-made soup, is highly important, for it nourishes our very souls.

Cedar iin White.jpgI am giddy with the possibilities that life still holds, yet sobered with the realities that things change as I age. I still have the same choices as when I was a young adult: will I allow the negative forces to surround me, holding me captive in an ever- restrictive web, or will I continue to follow dreams? Will I rest on my laurels, or will I keep following the “road less traveled by”?   Much to contemplate. Good thing I am moving slower, so I have time to think!

I love snow days!

 

 

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Sixty Five

I’ve been a lot of things in my life, but never 65. Until today. As with previous birthdays, I don’t feel any older than yesterday, yet there are some odd realizations that seem to go with this prodigious milestone. Medicare is one (sorry, I am not willing to go there here!). The official ending of a career is a larger one. Yes, I’ve been on disability for 3 years, but today, retirement is official.

I’ve been mulling some things over for quite a while… What’s next? Does retirement mean the end of my effectiveness? Am I being sent “out to pasture?” Do I get to sit back and rest “on my laurels,” content to watch the world go by? This is supposed to be a time of resting, relaxing, and enjoying the good life, right? I will admit, the proverbial rocking chair does look pretty good sometimes.

Ever since brain surgery almost exactly 3 years ago, I’ve been in some sort of holdingWake at Daybreak #4 pattern, waiting to see what the next big adventure might be. After all, isn’t there supposed to be an open window when the current door slams shut? It still seems odd to have been sidelined on disability just after deep brain stimulation seemed to give me back so much! For all its miracles, DBS could not restore my ability to play the pipe organ, nor could it stop the deterioration of my voice. With balance an ongoing issue, and the increasing inability to multi-task, I could not return to my beloved classroom… so “waiting” has become a way of life, a huge question mark stamped on my existence as I try to make sense of how I got here anyway! What in heaven’s name I’m supposed to do now!??

Interestingly, recent events, some seemingly innocuous and quite ordinary, are converging into what I recognize as a Thumbprint, characteristic of other hallmark events down through the years. From a sermon Sunday at Elevation Church through a retreat for a Parkinson’s Support Group yesterday to a ministry-related hospital visit this morning, there seems to be a remarkable answer to my query.

First, Sunday’s sermon about waiting: Whether you believe i,n God’s activity on our behalf or not, there were several observations that ring true: (1) How you wait impacts who you become. (2) A waiting season is not necessarily a wasted season. (3) Waiting may be more about the journey than the destination.

Translation: Perhaps it’s quite all right to let go of constant goal orientation. Career aspirations seem to feed on our culture’s unspoken yet very real insistence that success is measured only in one’s advancement up the ladder. Waiting for “the next step” can be quite active, but it still is the antithesis of goal-oriented being and doing..  Finally, what if, all along, the journey – the experiences we’ve had, the memories we’ve made, the relationships we’ve cherished – have really been what was most important?!

A retreat with my Parkinson’s buddies yesterday helped the picture come more into focus. We shared frustrations, concerns, experiences, and even a surprise birthday cake together during the course of that day. I was asked to lead some drum circles … odd, because I can no longer keep a steady beat on my own. That didn’t seem to be an issue as these friends immediately understood the value of the drum as an expression of things even more basic than “steady beat.” It wasn’t my skill (or lack thereof) that made it work. It was the connection of kindred spirits who joined together, strengthening the bond that was already formed.

An activity later in the day “by chance” brought a book to my awareness. Peace In His Presence is exactly the sort of book I’ve been wondering if I could write! There it was, in my hands – proof that not only is such a book possible, but there might even be a niche for it. Combining nature photography and perceptive writing, Sarah Young’s book both touched my soul and sparked my imagination. Now, some real waiting and listening begins as I seek Direction for combining passions for photography and for writing into something bigger than I am…

The divine Thumbprint cemented itself, yet again, in my psyche today during a visit with long-time friends who are in the middle of a health crisis. This tale begins with Howard #9a love of teddy bears. I make them from non-traditional materials such as old fur coats, upholstery material, and blue jeans. In the last three years, my sewing machine has increasingly become a tool for designing everything from minister’s stoles to purses to teddy bears. Previously, I thought it was only for sewing clothing and mending…never fully comprehended its availability as an artistic tool! Certainly not as a tool for ministry! Wonders never cease …this special friend has been looking for someone who could make a teddy bear for her sister…from her recently deceased father’s sweatshirt!

Today IsSo tonight, as I contemplate a birthday chock full of friends, good wishes, family, food, and fellowship, I am aware yet again that these three years of “waiting” have most definitely not been wasted. The activities used to occupy my mind and hands while I have waited have become the Next Step.   I embrace “65” with thanksgiving. This retirement pasture is still green, calling me out, giving rest, joy, relationship, and continued belief in a God who is still intimately involved in the details!

 

 

 

 

 

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