Looking Back... Looking Forward


From my archives...

December 31, 2007... Written one year after I left my ex and just a few days before I met my beloved Papa Bear.

February 21, 2009... I didn't write a New Year's Eve post in 2008, this was written two months later as I was settling into my newly married life.

December 31, 2009... My father died on December 30th and we were preparing to fly home to South Dakota for his funeral.

December 31, 2010... Returning to the blogsphere after a year's hiatus.

December 31, 2011... A year of struggle ending with me resigning from my job.

December 31, 2012... And here we are, at the end of another year!  It's been five years since I wrote that first post linked above.  Funny how fast time seems to pass when you are older, yet when you are a child the months seem to crawl by and becoming "grown up" takes forever! 

If anyone would have tried to tell me on New Year's Eve 2007 how my life was going to begin change in just a few days, I would have thought they were crazy!  Yet, look how much it has changed... I now have an amazing new love, a new life, a new home, a new state of residence, a new job, and four beloved furkids!  I am writing more than I ever did before, and feel more secure in my writing efforts.  Most importantly, I now have a strong underlying sense of peace and contentment that I never felt before! 

Life isn't always easy my friends, for me it hasn't been a piece of cake, and I have no one to blame for that but myself.  Yet I don't waste a lot of time on blame and regret, life is too short to spend it that way. I look at those years as learning experiences... powerful ones! 

I am her to testify (over and over so that everyone within earshot hears my message), that no matter how you feel about yourself and where your life is at now, it can change. It can change in ways you never dared to dream possible!  The darkest hour truly is right before dawn, and sometimes our greatest moments of despair come right before we discover new meaning,  purpose and direction right around the corner... things that we couldn't see coming before we made that turn!  Never give up, never lose hope, never abandon faith... these things will see you thru the worst of times, and be a cause of celebration in the best of times!

I can honestly sit here on this quiet New Year's Eve, comfy in my rocking chair next to my beloved Papa Bear, surrounded by devoted furkids, with Happy New Year texts popping into my phone from near and far, and say without a doubt that I am blessed.  "Life is good now, life is truly good!  I know that I am strong enough to face whatever bumps appear in the road in the future, and I am ever eager to begin the journey.  Maybe I will even surprise myself and make a few self-improvements along the way.  Remember that if we want things to change we have to be willing to do something different! :-)

HAPPY NEW YEAR MY BELOVED BLOGGING FAMILY, MAY 2013 BRING  YOU ABUNDANT BLESSINGS, GENTLE LEARNING EXPERIENCES, AND WONDERFUL MEMORIES IN THE MAKING!

The Best Laid Plans


"No, no, no!" Jackie stormed into Mark's office, slamming the door behind her. "Not this time, I won't do it!"

Mark, the ever laid-back boss, took notice of Jackie's anger and quickly sat up in his chair.  He'd never seen her like this before. Jackie was the easy-going, always willing employee, his go-to girl whenever he needed back-up coverage or an extra hand.  This morning he'd emailed Jackie informing her that he needed her to work the front desk of the hotel on New Year's Eve because Reba, the young night clerk he had recently hired, had to go out of town on an emergency.

As Jackie read the email, she grew livid and headed down the hall to his office, hands on hips and a look of total defiance on her face. "You've had me working New Year's Eve for the last three years", Jackie protested.  "Every year there's another missing person that I'm expected to cover for.  Well not this time!  I have plans to go out of town with my boyfriend and I won't let you ruin them. Find someone else!"

Before Mark could even reply, Jackie wheeled around and marched out of his office. "Damn", he muttered to himself. "How am I going to explain to Reba that our own little New Year's Eve celebration just got cancelled?" 

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I'm linking up with Megg at  Sunday Scribblings
where the prompt this week is "defiant".

Shedding My Skin


It's that time of the year again... a time of reflection on who we are, where we've been, and what the past year has brought us.  It's a time for reassessment and the making of resolutions regarding changes we'd like to see transpire in our lives.

Change... that's a word I've often struggled with.  I want to be me! I am relatively content with who I am.  I don't want to have to change into someone or something else to please myself or anyone else.  Yet certainly there are ways that I would like to be different... sort of a new and improved version of me in the coming year.  Bearing that in mind, there are a few areas I want to spend more energy focusing on, I guess you could call them resolutions of a sort... I want to be more healthy,  I want to be a kinder person, I want to experience a greater sense of happiness in my daily life. 

It is so easy to fall into a rut and go thru our days on "remote control" without a lot of intent. Wanting something is a lot like wishing for it to happen, and I know that just wanting it won't make it so... I also want to find a million dollars and retire, and that isn't likely to happen either!  So let me rephrase those resolutions as statements of intent...   I intend to work at being more healthy, I intend to be a kinder person, I intend to experience a greater sense of happiness in my daily life.  Do you see the difference... the emphasis is a focus on intent, I am going to do something to effect those changes, rather than waiting for them to materialize all on their own! I am going to do something different! What I have been doing all along isn't getting me to where I want to be regarding those aspects of my life!

Now, getting back to that word "change", I like to look at it a little differently.  I believe that I am basically a good person, and good enough just the way I am.  Rather than wanting to change things about me, I envision myself as the snake who periodically sheds his old skin, finding it too confining for his growing body.  He emerges from the struggle of shedding off that old cloak all shiny bright and new, and more beautiful than ever before!  I am going to work on shedding some of the old me that no longer fits, so that the new parts that have been growing and expanding can emerge shining and bright!

This time around, when you think about making resolutions for the new year, resolve to shed that old, battered and scarred skin of conditioning and past experience, and slip into the new year fresh and ready to be the beautiful self you truly are!

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Linking up with Brenda at Pondering With A Purpose
where this week's prompt is "resolutions"

Finding Peace


From time to time I link up to the blog Marc and Angel Hack Life because they have so many wonderful things to say... good things that make you stop and think, things that can be put to use in your life.  Today's post is yet another winner... It's entitled: 8 Things You Must Give Up to Find Peace.  Go and read it, I highly recommend it!

No Time To Cry or Say Goodbye


Maisey sat stiffly in her rocking chair on the porch with eyes averted, refusing to let herself cry in front of strangers, these men in uniform who had come to steal her babies.  Her son had told her this would happen, that they would come for those precious little souls so dear to her heart, but she had failed to take his threats seriously.  How could they all be this unfeeling and cruel?  Could they not see the panic in her little one's eyes as they ran in terror around the rooms, trying desperately to avoid capture by darting behind curtains and hiding under beds and chairs?  Alas, it was too late now; referring to her as a crazy cat lady, they had cornered and crated all twenty-six of her precious furbabies and hauled them out the door.
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I'm linking up with Lillie McFerrin for Five Sentence Fiction
where the writing prompt this week is "ending" 
 

Family Time


Christmas is different when you grow older and your children leave home.  Both my parents and John's have passed over to the spirit world; our children are grown and residing anywhere from 200 to 1000 miles distant, and opportunities to spend time with our grandchildren are few and far between.  Everyone is busy with their lives and they don't get home to visit often. 

Holiday time with no children in the house is much too quiet. Normally, we both have to work on Christmas Eve, so there isn't time for travel to distant places for family celebrations.  This year we were blessed in that John's boss opted to close their store on Christmas Eve.  The law firm where I work was open  a half-day on Christmas Eve, but we were given the option of taking either that day or New Year's Eve off with pay.  Thus we were able to arrange a three-day weekend getaway for Christmas!

As I noted in my previous post, we decided to go to the Gaylord Texan Resort Hotel in Grapevine, Texas near Dallas.  It's huge, and decked out to the max in holiday finery.  I suggested that we invite John's daughter Carol, her husband Daniel, and their eleven-year-old daughter Noa (who live in closest proximity to us) to join us for the weekend, since they are also usually on their own without family for Christmas. This turned out to be great fun for all of us!

Heading to the Gaylord from two different directions, with no set time for arrival (this was a vacation and scheduled time was to be avoided so we could all relax), both families arrived on the resort grounds within ten minutes of each other, much to our surprise!  This made it easy to get rooms that were just a few doors from each other which they could not promise when we made our reservations a few weeks earlier.  The rooms were huge, and very nicely appointed.  (I'd be very happy to move in  permanently! :-) 

Although the Gaylord Texan is a huge facility with hundreds of rooms and a capacity crowd of Christmas guests, their services were amazingly well coordinated and staff were available everywhere, willing and eager to be of assistance. No one seemed harried or unhappy, they had even hired additional seasonal staff to assist with the massive job of valet parking, bellhop service, etc.  Lines moved quickly, and events went off smoothly.  We couldn't have been more pleased!

One of the Gaylord's holiday features each year is a large ice sculpture display, held in large tents that are maintained at 6-9 degrees with the help of massive AC units in order to keep the sculptures in perfect form for the weeks of the show.  Ice carvers are brought in from China to execute the sculptures, and since the show is sponsored by Dreamworks, this year's theme was the Madagascar movie.  We were told to wear our coats and warm footwear, and to bring our own hats and gloves.  They provided insulated parkas for everyone, from the smallest child to the largest adult... and we all looked "very cute" in our ice show attire (refer to photo above)!  We actually managed to stay reasonably warm, with only our exposed faces getting the full effect of the frigid air.  They even thoughtfully provided Kleenex tissue dispensers at the end for those soon to be dripping noses as we warmed up. :-)  

The final display at the ice show was an entire nativity scene carved out of ice, left clear and uncolored.  The figures were larger than life size and looked very much like they were made of fine crystal, and various figures/groups were illuminated with lights during the short narration of the Christmas story.  We were delighted that in this very public venue they chose to present the true meaning of Christmas in all it's beauty and majesty.  Thousands of people view the display during the holiday season... awesome!

In addition to the ice sculptures, there were ice slides, indoor snow tubing with real snow runs, gingerbread house and cookie decorating, three large atriums adorned with Christmas decorations and lighting, and "sit and enjoy" balconies, tables and chairs, and benches everywhere to savor steaming mugs of gourmet coffee, hot chocolate, or more powerful beverages.  It was like living in Christmas City central!

We also played board games, spent lots of time visiting, enjoyed wonderful meals, and even room service breakfast on Christmas morning at Noa's request. :-)  We didn't do a big gift exchange, opting to let our gifts to each other be the memories we made together.  Noa chose a beautiful carved angel statue at the Ice show gift store that we bought for her, and she had decorated the covers of "Thankfulness Journal" notebooks for each of us to use each day during the coming year, as she and her parents do.

Noa is an amazing pre-teen who has been raised with equal amounts of love and discipline in a strong Christian environment.  She is a gentle spirit, bright, funny, and well-mannered... and a total joy to be around.  Her presence made Christmas for us!

We talked with each of our other children on the phone, and although they were greatly missed, they were close in heart.   Someday, somehow, we will manage to get everyone in one spot together, God willing!

Our family, like so many in today's world, is an assemblage of his kids and mine, half-sisters/brothers and step-sisters/brothers, and some that aren't actually related by blood but are bonded by love that runs far deeper than genetics.  Each has their own  personality and life style, as do we, and I feel so very blessed that in marrying John I gained three wonderful and caring daughters, two great son-in-laws, and six amazing grandkids.  Next May we are anticipating the arrival of our first-great grandson... very exciting!

Along with immediate family members, we each have sisters that we love and friends that we cherish, and then there is my blog family... and it could honestly be said that you awesome folks know far more about me than any of the above, outside of my beloved Papa Bear... who knows it all and STILL loves me! :-) 

As Christmas drew to a close, and we covered the long miles across West Texas back to our own little house in the country and our furkids so happy to have us home again, I could only reflect once again on how very incredibly blessed I am.  Family... however you define it, bring meaning and fullness to our lives.  Be they kin, inlaws, or outlaws, it just wouldn't be the same without them!  Life is an experience to be shared!

Thank you all for being members of my family... I treasure each of you, your friendship and the thoughts you share more than you will ever know!

I hope you all had a wonderful holiday season too, and that you made good memories to cherish in the months and years to come.  With the new year just around the corner, I urge you to start your own daily thankfulness journal.  It doesn't have to be fancy, formal, or long-winded.  A simple numbered list will do... either on your computer or in a notebook, or even a nice blank journal purchased just for that purpose.  Think of all the blessings you will have counted by then end of 2013! 

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This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday
where the prompt this week is "family".

Two Shoes Tuesday #17 - Family


Welcome to Two Shoes Tuesday... a place to share what we enjoy doing most... writing! Each week I provide a one-word writing prompt and invite you to share a short story, poem, essay, thought, or photo relating to that topic. You can add a link to your post anytime, there is no deadline.

This week's writing prompt is "family".

When you've finished your post, share it with us by adding a link in the Mr. Linky widget below. Please link directly to your Two Shoes Tuesday post, rather than just to your blog. Also, please provide a link on your post back to this one.
The only other request is that you read and comment on the other entries, at minimum the one before and after yours on the list.

I've made it easy to locate this post and our archives by including a tab for Two Shoes Tuesday at the top of my home page.

Feel free to email me at jts.2000@yahoo.com with any questions, or to submit suggestions for future word prompts.

Now let's get down to business... what do you have to say about "family"?

Heading Out For A Christmas Adventure



As soon as Papa Bear gets off work this afternoon we are:

Heading Out For A Christmas Adventure!

We'll be spending Christmas at The Gaylord Texan in Dallas along with our daughter Carol, her husband Daniel, and our beloved granddaughter Noa. It promises to be beautifully decorated, with lots of fun activities in store... I am so excited!


Wishing all of you and your families a truly blessed Christmas...

be safe, keep warm, and remember that it's all about love!

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I'm linking up with Cate at Six Word Saturday...  join us there!

Pondering... Overcoming Loss

When I left my last husband six years ago in December, my life was in shambles. The final years of that relationship were so emotionally destructive that  I had no clue about what side was up or who I even was anymore.  I had no idea how to come to terms with yet one more devastating loss in my life.  It felt like there was nothing left to lose.  Deep down I knew I had no choice but to leave him if I was going to survive at all, and somehow, despite feeling numb and nearly immobile,  my survival instinct kicked in and propelled me forward and out the door.

Moving out on my own at over fifty years age was the scariest thing I've ever done. I knew that freedom wasn't an end in itself, but just a beginning, and that somehow I had to find a way to rediscover myself and rebuild my life.  The blog I started at that time was aptly named "Picking Up Pieces". 

What I have learned in life, and particularly from that experience, is that we have two options when dealing with devastation in our lives, no matter what form that loss might take.  We can curl up in a corner, withdraw from living, and become hard and bitter; or we can bravely, and with all the determination we can muster, put one foot in front of the other and move forward, even if just one baby-step at a time. 

Just as with all walks, if we spend our time looking backward at what is being left behind, we are going to trip and fall over every tiny rock rock or obstacle on the new path.  Only when we are willing to let go of the past, stop trying to sort out the blame or make excuses for our woeful situation, and focus our eyes firmly on the future, can we begin to make any real progress in building a new life that reflects who we are and want to become.  

My answer to Brenda's question of how we overcome loss is thee-fold... first, we must accept that loss is a part of life, much like the butterfly who must be willing to accept the loss of the security of his cocoon in order to fly free.  We change, circumstances change, and things and people come and go.  We are not singled out, loss happens to everyone.

Second, we need to take an inventory of our lives, count our blessings and see all we still have that is good.  I assure you there are always blessings to count if you look hard enough!   

Third, we must find our survivor spirit, and determine what steps we can take to move forward.  In other words, we must sort thru the pieces, find the ones that are worth salvaging, discard the rest, and work to build something new. 

Some days it will feel hopeless, and easy to believe that nothing good will ever come again, that we will never, ever feel happy again. But life isn't really like that.  Life cycles, and what may, at the moment, seem to be the end of the road, is almost always just a bend in the road that we are unable to see past until we come around. 

Loss of things and people precious too us can feel so devastating that we doubt if we have the strength and ability, or even the desire, to recover.  My life is a testimony to the fact that just when we think there is no more good to come, no point in even caring or trying, God will enter with some amazing developments we never could have anticipated. 

Let go of the past, don't let it be the millstone around your neck - it's over, it's done. Close the back door, and open up the front one to new possibilities.  Overcoming loss is all about having faith, maintaining hope, and loving yourself enough to believe that you are deserving of a happy and meaningful life.  Cast off that victim mentality and join me in becoming a survivor... we are many, and together we are strong!

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Linking up with Brenda at Pondering With A Purpose
where this week's prompt is "overcoming loss"

A Special Wish for Christmas


The year was 1959. When the orphanage in Omaha closed it's doors that Spring, the last few remaining children who no one had stepped forward to adopt, had been sent to whatever foster homes could be found.

For Julie, now eleven, the orphanage was the only home she had ever known. Her mother had died in childbirth and her father, too grief-stricken and overwhelmed to care for her, had dropped her off at the orphanage in the first week of her life. No one ever saw him again.

Typically, girls were quick to be adopted out to homes where they could help with household duties and caring for small children, but Julie had been born with a curved spine and walked slightly bent over. Her back wasn't strong enough to carry chubby toddlers or heavy baskets of wet laundry. Time and again she had been passed over as child after child went to new homes.  She had gotten used to it, but it always hurt. She was certain  no one would ever want her.

It fell to the old preacher and his wife to take Julie in when the orphanage finally closed. They were kindly people but Julie understood that her time with them was only temporary, they were well past their child-raising years and received barely enough money from the parish to feed and clothe themselves, much less a young, rapidly growing girl.  Everyone in the church knew they were looking for a couple to take Julie on permanently, but times were hard and families were already large and struggling.

As Christmas approached that year, Julie missed the fun and excitement of Christmas preparations at the orphanage in years past.  There had always been a big tree lit with real candles on Christmas Eve, gifts sent by people from far away who didn't even know them, extra helpings of dinner, and plum pudding for dessert!  A favorite tradition had been each child carefully saving a wishbone to tie in the tree branches with red ribbon as they silently made a wish for something wonderful.

Though she knew that she wasn't likely to get any gifts or special treats this year, Julie still had tucked away a wishbone and hung it from the fireplace mantle with a scrap of ribbon she had saved from last year.  She was thankful for the kind way she was treated, some of the kids from the orphanage had ended up being adopted into situations that were far worse, but she longed for a forever family of her own.

The little church was overflowing on Christmas Eve; families had gathered from near and far, and there were many unfamiliar faces in the pews.  As the service drew to a close and the refrains of Joy to the World faded, the children gathered in the back to receive sacks that held an orange and an apple, a handful of nuts and a few pieces of Christmas candy. Eyes sparkled with excitement as the treats were passed out. 

Just as she was preparing to head back to the small house next to the church where Julie stayed with the pastor and his wife, another couple approached her.  Julie knew them as Mr. and Mrs. Johannson that lived not too far down the road, and who often stopped by with a jar of jelly or a freshly plucked chicken for the pastor's family. 

Mrs. Johannson introduced the young couple with them as their daughter Emma and Emma's husband Lars.  Mrs. Johannson told Julie that Emma and Lars weren't able to have children of their own, and they had heard that Julie was in need of a home.  They asked if she wanted  to join them at the Johannson's for Christmas dinner tomorrow to see how they all got on and if Julie thought she might like to become their daughter. 

Julie couldn't believe her ears.  An offer of a forever home and a family, could it be possible?  She had to pinch herself to make sure she wasn't  dreaming. "Sssure," she stammered, so excited she could barely get the words out.  "I would like that very much!" 

"Well come by about noon tomorrow then, and bring the pastor and his wife too, we'll have plenty of food to share," said Mrs. Johannson.  Emma and Lars were smiling so big that Julie felt warm all the way down to her toes.

Julie turned to run back to the church to tell the pastor and his wife about this wonderful turn of events, but found them standing just a few feet away, smiling just as broadly as the Johannson family.  Apparently they already knew all about the offer!  She went to bed that night with dreams of a family dancing in her head, and she woke early on Christmas morning to begin what was to be a wonderful new life. 

When packing her few belongings to move to Wisconsin with Lars and Emma, Julie carefully wrapped the wishbone in a length of fabric and placed it gently in her bag. She would keep it always, and hang it in a place of honor on the Christmas tree each year to remind herself that wishes and prayers really can come true.
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This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday
where the prompt this week is "wish".

 

Two Shoes Tuesday #16 - Wish


Welcome to Two Shoes Tuesday... a place to share what we enjoy doing most... writing! Each week I provide a one-word writing prompt and invite you to share a short story, poem, essay, thought, or photo relating to that topic. You can add a link to your post anytime, there is no deadline.

This week's writing prompt is "wish".

When you've finished your post, share it with us by adding a link in the Mr. Linky widget below. Please link directly to your Two Shoes Tuesday post, rather than just to your blog. Also, please provide a link on your post back to this one.


The only other request is that you read and comment on the other entries, at minimum the one before and after yours on the list.

I've made it easy to locate this post and our archives by including a tab for Two Shoes Tuesday at the top of my home page.

Feel free to email me at jts.2000@yahoo.com with any questions, or to submit suggestions for future word prompts.

Now let's get down to business... what do you "wish"?

A Few Minutes Of Your Time


This morning found me shopping in the pre-Christmas craziness of WalMart (wonderful planning on my part, I know).  I was out of cat food and litter and needed gift wrap, etc.

As I stood in giftwrap section looking at bags and bows and such, a young woman came flying down the aisle, looking frantically about. "Has anyone seen an iPhone?" she asked out loud.  "I think I left my phone here." 

I watched as she scanned the shelves looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack of Christmas clutter.  Folks shook their heads and moved on with their carts, seemingly oblivious to the woman's distress. 

I could easily relate to her situation.  Which of us hasn't carelessly set our phone down a time or two?  Knowing that she would likely never spot her phone if it was buried among the wrappings, and fearing as she did that someone had already picked it up, I handed her my phone and suggested that she call her number to see if we could hear it ringing. 

Her hands shaking, she dialed the number and we waited... nothing, no ringtone to be heard.  She put the phone to her ear to make sure it was ringing, just in time to hear a man's voice answer.  "Who is this?" she said.  It turned out to be someone from the Customer Service desk.  Thankfully her phone had been found and turned in.  Bless the kind soul who did the that!

The young woman handed me back my phone, still so emotionally rattled that she couldn't remember where Customer Service was.  I pointed her in the right direction and she hurried off to retrieve her phone.  Hopefully the rest of her day went much better. 

It took just a few minutes of my time to be helpful this morning.  I thank God that I paid attention to her dilemma and offered my assistance.  So often I am wrapped up in my own little world, oblivious to those around me and their needs. Yet just a few  minutes of my time made all the difference in  one person's world.  It was so easy.  I want random acts of kindness to become second nature in my life.  That's the kind of person I want to be, one who takes the time to care. 

I urge you to join me.  In the hectic pace of holiday preparations, don't forget to take a few moments to look around and see what you can do to brighten someone else's life... let the person with a few items put their cart ahead of your fully loaded one, help an elder place their grocery bags in their car, return someone's empty cart to the cart corral for them, and above all share a smile and a kind word... think of it as a Christmas virus that we'd love to see spread!  It only takes...  A Few Minutes Of Your Time!

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I'm linking up with Cate at Six Word Saturday...  join us there!

If Tomorrow Never Comes


If Tomorrow Never Comes 
by  Jennifer Salomone

If I knew it would be the last time
that I'd see you fall asleep,
I would tuck you in more tightly
and pray the Lord, your soul to keep.

If I knew it would be the last time
that I see you walk out the door,
I would give you a hug and kiss
and call you back for one more.

If I knew it would be the last time
I'd hear your voice lifted up in praise,
I would videotape each action and word,
so I could play them back day after day.

If I knew it would be the last time,
I could spare an extra minute or two
to stop and say "I love you,"
instead of assuming, you would know I do.

If I knew it would be the last time
I would be there to share your day,
well I'm sure you'll have so many more,
so I can let just this one slip away.

For surely there's always tomorrow
to make up for an oversight,
and we always get a second chance
to make everything right.

There will always be another day
to say our "I love you's",
And certainly there's another chance
to say our "Anything I can do's?"

But just in case I might be wrong,
and today is all I get,
I'd like to say how much I love you
and I hope we never forget,

Tomorrow is not promised to anyone,
young or old alike,
And today may be the last chance
you get to hold your loved one tight.

So if you're waiting for tomorrow,
why not do it today?
For if tomorrow never comes,
you'll surely regret the day,

That you didn't take that extra time
for a smile, a hug, or a kiss
and you were too busy to grant someone,
what turned out to be their one last wish.

So hold your loved ones close today,
whisper in their ear,
Tell them how much you love them
and that you'll always hold them dear,

Take time to say "I'm sorry,"
"please forgive me," "thank you" or "it's okay".
And if tomorrow never comes,
you'll have no regrets about today.

Pondering... Holiday Memories


Holidays are certainly a time when all the memories of past years come into play (or perhaps more accurately - out to play), bringing with them emotions both sweet and bittersweet. 

When you are older, and have lived a life with multiple chapters and relationships, you lack the continuity of a family home and memories that have replayed and grown along with your children over the years.  John has been married three times before, as have I, thus we each carry memories of those years as well as the new memories we have made together in the last four Christmases shared. 

For me, there have been some very sad Christmases, particularly two I spent alone with no one and children not at home, also a couple spent with my ex when it would have been preferable to be alone.  But I also have some wonderful memories of Christmases when the kids were small, and a couple spent with my daughter and her now ex-husband in recent years that were great fun. 

Then there are the Christmases of my childhood... bright with memories of real Christmas trees, colored lights, crunching snow, Christmas carols, and cookies baking in the oven!

Of course the very best holiday memory of all was created just after the end of the year... on January 2nd of 2008 nearly five year ago... that's the date of my first online message exchanges with Papa Bear through Yahoo Personals!  Just a month later we were buying a house and making plans to be together!  Talk about whirlwind romance... some things are just meant to be!

You will often hear me say now "Make good memories!"  That's the secret to coming to terms with those that are not so good... replace them in in your heart and mind with new ones of good times shared with people you love.  Fill your heart with joyful memories that you can replay when ever life needs a bit of brightening.  It's magic that works! 

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Linking up with Brenda at Pondering With A Purpose
where this week's prompt is "memories"

I Hope There Is A Special Hell


I hope there is a special kind of hell for those twisted souls who abuse children.

I spent my morning sitting in a court room listening to a long list of pre-trial proceedings.  I arrived early, wanting a good seat in what I knew would be a crowded court room.  I was there for one reason... I wanted to look into the face of the pedophile who hurt someone close to my heart.  That turned out better than I had anticipated. 

This man (using the word in the physiological sense only) in his late thirties, is currently up on charges of felony sexual assault in two separate counties in Texas, both where the child lived before, and here where she lives now.  It had been dropped there once before, but charges were reinstated after the current charges were file here.  He is out on bond, quickly arranged.  Money is not a problem for his family. 

He entered the courtroom not long after me, following behind an older man that might have been his father. I don't know, it doesn't matter.  The man headed into my row, which at that point was mostly empty, and mister pedophile had no choice but to follow. 

Our eyes met as he crossed in front of me.  He recognized me instantly, as I knew he would.  I have talked with him on the phone in the past, and I was a visitor in his home a few years back, when people I care about were staying there.  I didn't feel comfortable with him even then, never felt right about the situation, nor did my husband, and we said so to those involved.  He called himself a devout Christian. I wonder how he defined the word.

So there he and I sat today, maybe five feet apart with nothing but empty space between us until right before the proceedings began and the courtroom filled up.  He looked at me, I looked at him, he looked at his feet.  He has lost weight, he doesn't look good. I hear that his wife has divorced him.  Apparently she finally found her backbone.  I worry about his own two small daughters, and all the girls on the ball teams he loved to umpire.

His turn on the docket was brief, as they all were. Today was just about setting hearings.  The proceedings were quiet, relatively informal, and very hard to hear.  Something was said about an offer that has been made by the State, and a hearing date wasn't set, so I take that to me there is a plea bargain in the works.  A person who helped facilitate one encounter between him and the victim has already pled guilty, and there is ample evidence against him.

Then the attorney from DA's office informed the judge that the defendant had been in contact with the victim after being released on bond.  The judge called him to the front and asked him if he had been in contact with her, which of course is a violation.  He stated that she had texted him (which I don't doubt is true) and that he had responded.  The judge was not pleased and warned him sternly that any further communication between him and the victim would result in him being sent back to jail.  At that point they continued on with the next case and I left.  I will find out more about what has transpired in a day or so. 

I would like to say I felt anger or hatred toward him, as I must admit I do for more than one man who has similarly damaged the life of people I love deeply.  Instead, I felt a tremendous sadness.  My heart aches to understand how a person can become so twisted and sick inside as to allow themselves and their behavior to cross over the line, to do something so very vile without a thought or care for their innocent victims.  I wanted to ask why, but I know there are no answers that could justify such premeditated evil.

In this particular case the victim wasn't a young child, but she was immature enough to be easily lured in and seduced.  It doesn't take much to convince a child who is desperate for love and attention that you are their soulmate and savior.  Part of her is still convinced he loves her  and she loves him.  He told her they would be together, and I have no doubt she would jump at that opportunity if it presented itself.  She doesn't really fully understand why what he did was wrong.  But she was a minor, and it was wrong, terribly wrong.  Sickening, disgusting, demented... evil. 

I wish I could say she is the only person I know who was a sexually abused as a child.  The truth is, I know dozens.  We all probably do.  It is a pervasive sickness in our society.  I don't know if it happens more now days or is just talked about more.  Probably the latter, since in the past families kept such dark secrets under wraps and the perpetrators were never held account for their crimes.  The children were treated as they were somehow responsible for the adult's aberrant behavior, not as the victims they really were.  What I find most disturbing is that in the vast majority of these cases, at least one family member in addition to the pedophile knew or at least suspected what was going on, and yet they allowed it to continue. 

There should have been another name on the docket today, the name of the victim's mother who created this situation and then allowed it to continue after she knew what was going on.  What kind of mother allows their own child to be abused?  I really don't know if I can ever look her in the face again, and the time will come when I will need to do so.  I hope by then I will have found some forgiveness, but I'm not holding my breath on that.  I try hard to be a forgiving person... hate the deed not the doer, and all that, but in the situation of innocent children being abused, I just don't know if I ever can, because the damage done to them lasts a lifetime.

So we will see what happens in this case, at least this man, unlike others I know who got away with it, is facing felony charges and will undoubtedly have to register as a sex-offender for the rest of his life, whatever good that does.  Will he get time off for good-behavior?  Can we give the time of innocence back to to his victim, or any of the children scarred by this crime?  I am strongly in favor of castration for child-molesters, it proves to be far more effective than "re-education".

I'm not sure I believe in a literal heaven or hell, but I find myself truly hoping there is a special kind of hell for those who hurt our children, where they can spend an eternity living with the pain and suffering they have caused.

A Giving Heart


Mrs. Goodbody was proud of herself for helping out the Quinones family that lived down the road from her.  She liked being able to tell her friends at the club that she did her part to feed and clothe the poor.  Last weekend she had taken them groceries, with all the ingredients for a week of carefully planned out meals including the recipe cards.  She said that it was "high time those folks adopted a healthier life style" and learned to eat something other than their usual fare.

About midweek Mrs. Goodbody stopped by the Quinones house with her friend Mrs. Merriweather to drop off a bag of clothes that her grandchildren had outgrown.  "Beggars can't be choosers" she had said when Mrs. Merriweather remarked that some of the items were quite faded and worn.

When the two ladies entered the tiny three-room house where the seven members of the Quinones family lived, Mrs. Goodbody was quick to spot a stack of flour tortillas on the table and bowls of pinto beans in front of the seated children. 

"Why on earth are you serving beans and tortillas when I brought you all that good food?" sputtered Mrs. Goodbody. 

"The food you brought is all gone Senora," Mrs. Quinones replied politely.

"Gone! How can it all be gone?" said Mrs. Goodbody, her voice rising as her face turned crimson.  "I brought you enough food for two meals a day for the whole week!  How could you be so wasteful?" 

"I am sorry Senora," replied Mrs. Quinones humbly, "But the family who lives across the road from us, they had nothing at all to eat, so I gave them half of what we had."

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This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday
where the prompt this week is "share".

Two Shoes Tuesday #15 - Share


Welcome to Two Shoes Tuesday... a place to share what we enjoy doing most... writing! Each week I provide a one-word writing prompt and invite you to share a short story, poem, essay, thought, or photo relating to that topic. You can add a link to your post anytime, there is no deadline.

This week's writing prompt is "share".

When you've finished your post, share it with us by adding a link in the Mr. Linky widget below. Please link directly to your Two Shoes Tuesday post, rather than just to your blog. Also, please provide a link on your post back to this one.

The only other request is that you read and comment on the other entries, at minimum the one before and after yours on the list.

I've made it easy to locate this post and our archives by including a tab for Two Shoes Tuesday at the top of my home page.

Feel free to email me at jts.2000@yahoo.com with any questions, or to submit suggestions for future word prompts.

Now let's get down to business... what do you have to say about "share"?

Grounded


Jeannie and her two young children had gone home to Minnesota to spend Christmas with her parents.  Traveling alone thru airports with a four-year-old and a one-year-old during the busy holiday season had been anything but fun for the single mother. She was tired, and so ready to be back home in the warm weather of Arizona.

Their flight from Minneapolis had departed on time but, as they arrived in Denver where they were to make their connection, it began to snow heavily and howling winds created blizzard conditions.  It wasn't long before announcements were being made that all flights had been temporarily grounded due to zero visibility and problems with keeping the planes de-iced. 

Waiting areas throughout the airport were jammed with holiday travelers, some even napping on the carpeted floors of the terminal amidst backpacks and suitcases. Jeannie walked the concourse with the kids, hoping to wear off some of their energy, bought snacks and sandwiches, and then settled them on the floor next to her.  Carrie, the four year old, was soon occupied with a colorbook and crayons, but baby Bryce was not doing well with the noise and commotion in the unfamiliar environment. He squirmed and fussed in his mother's arms as she tried to settle him for a much-needed nap.

A man sitting a short distance away on Jeannie's left, looked over at the young mom who obviously had her hands full, and felt compassion.  Smiling, he greeted her and introduced himself as Kevin.  She learned he had also been visiting family in Minnesota and was returning to his job in Phoenix. 

"I sure wish I could talk my parents into moving to Arizona, at least for the winters" Kevin said.  "They are getting older and I worry about them walking and driving on the snow and ice. I go home to see them for Christmas each year, but the weather makes travel so risky.  I have to be back at my job on Monday morning, there's an important end-of-year meeting I can't miss." 

Jeannie commiserated with Kevin about the worries of aging parents, hers also stubbornly refused to move where it was warmer, saying that Minnesota was their home and would always be.  Baby Bryce had been eyeing Kevin curiously.  Kevin pulled the scarf from around his neck, fashioned it into an approximation of an animal hand puppet and soon had Bryce laughing with delight.  Bryce edged closer with his mother's permission, and was soon curled up on Kevin's lap, sleeping soundly with the puppet clutched in his chubby hands.

Jeannie sighed with relief and thanked Kevin profusely for the assistance.  He learned that she also had to be back at work tomorrow. and that her boss hadn't been very happy about her taking off at Christmas to begin with.  She was worried that he was going to be angry if she didn't make it.  She had texted him on her cellphone to tell him they were stuck in Denver, but so far there had been no response.

Two more hours passed before the snow let up, plows began clearing runways, and crews started de-icing the airplanes as their big engines roared to life.  Kevin and Jeannie had visited during the entire wait, and she found herself feeling light and happy for the first time since her husband had walked out on her shortly before Bryce was born. 

The speakers announced that their fight would begin boarding shortly, so Jeannie helped Carrie pack up her books and toys, and they got to their feet.  Kevin gently handed the sleeping Bryce back to her and followed them onto the plane.  Jeannie offered him the empty seat next to her, and he smiled broadly as he stuffed his bag and theirs into the overhead compartments. 

It was beginning to look like going home for Christmas this year wasn't such a bad idea after all.  A new year was just around the corner, and maybe, just maybe, Jeannie's Christmas wish for someone to share it with might come true.

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I'm linking up with Megg at  Sunday Scribblings
where the prompt this week is "grounded".

Seventy-five Days


It had been forty years, but the woman looking at photographs of the now crumbling buildings and broken windows remembered the time like it was yesterday; memories fade but scars remain forever... 

Her father didn't understand the situation so he did what he had always done, threw his weight around and had her committed to a mental institution at eighteen years of age.  

She recalled the faces young and old, collection of lost souls and the truly insane, open ward with no privacy permitted, burly enforcers bearing straight jackets and keys to isolation, staff who didn't care and didn't want to be there any more than patients did, doctors who barely spoke English, dark tunnels, forced medication, terrifying tremors, and screams in the night.

Mind and soul manipulation ran rampant, with her father controlling what subjects would and wouldn't be broached in family sessions, and doctors threatening shock treatment and long term confinement if she didn't conform to their collaborated plan.  

It hadn't taken long for her to realize that, if she was to have hope of freedom beyond wire windows, legal papers, and locked doors, the best course of action was to play along.  

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Note: This story is based on an actual event  ~  
release from this nightmare occured forty years ago this month.
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Linking up with Lillie McFerrin at Five Sentence Fiction
where the writing prompt this week is "time"...


and with Brenda at Pondering With A Purpose
where this week's prompt is "loss"

Mahpiya's Spirit Lights


Mahpiya slipped away from the encampment and walked slowly thru the dark woods, her footsteps lit only by the pale moon.   She carried with her a knife that had once belonged to her grandmother, and had been handed down to her mother, and now her. 

When she reached the clearing she sat down on the soft carpet of pine needles and dried grass.  Pulling the knife from it's sheath, she laid it gently across her knees.  Tears streamed down her face as she crooned softly, singing  her own death song to the stars above. 

Mahpiya had dishonered her family. A young maiden, and the daughter of a village elder, she had become pregnant by man from another branch of the tribe who already had a wife and child.  When caught together, he had been run off by her brothers and uncles, with them keeping his horse as a penalty for his crime.  He was lucky to escape with his life.

No one spoke to her now, they turned away when she approached them, averting their eyes as if she wasn't there at all.  Only the aunt who had raised her showed compassion, letting Mahpiya continue to live with her in her tipi.  The aunt was well respected and no one dared to confront her.  She protected Mahpiya from the others and saw that she had all that she needed. 

But Mahpiya knew that she was a burden, and had caused disssention in the tribe, as many had wanted to send her away to live alone with her shame.  No one would want her as a wife now, in one impetuous act of youth and desire she had ruined her entire life.

Examining the edge of the knife in the moonlight, Mahpiya tested it with her finger to see if it still held sufficient sharpness to do the job.  Her hands began to tremble but her resolve remained strong. She saw no other answer. 

Lifting the the kife high and pointing it toward her chest where her heart pounded, she suddenly found herself in the presence of many tiny glowing orbs of light, darting here and there and then gathering around her as if to form a  protective circle. 

In front of her, a whisp of white vapor formed and rose up tall.  Wrapping itself around the knife in her hands, Mahpiya felt it yanked from her grasp.  She stared at the knife where it fell softly on the ground.

Then a voice, gentle and ancient spoke to her thru the mist.  "This is not our way, daughter, you must not do this.  The child you carry will one day save your people; you must carry him and give him life, and teach him all of our ways."

Hearing this, Mahpiya put her face in her hands and wept.  The spirit orbs hovered around her, covering her like a soft blanket of light, and crooning a strange melody that her own spirit recognized as the song of her ancestors from long ago.  Slowly she felt her strength and her courage return.

Finally Mahpiya stood up, put the knife back into it's sheath and tied it to her waist.  One day soon she would use it to sever the umbilical cord of her newborn son.  The spirit orbs escorted her as she returned to the village, disappearing as she entered the edge of the encampment. 

Her father and her brothers rushed to greet her, as did her aunt and other women of the tribe.  "Daughter, I feared you were lost," her aunt cried.  "I had a vision in which the old ones told me that you were sacred, carrying a child they have sent to save us. We have come to return you to your rightful place in the family and in the tribe." 

With that, her father led her to the campfire and everyone in the village gathered around as he spoke. "This night my daughter has returned to us, she will be shown the love and respect of everyone from this day forward."  Then the aunt told everyone of her vision and the  people murmered in awe. 

From that time on Mahpiya held a place of honor in the tribe.  Her son grew up to be kind and wise, and loved by all.  She knew that the prophecy was true, and one day his destiny would be fulfilled. 

For the rest of her life, Mahpiya would return to the clearing on the first night of each full moon.  Once again the spirit orbs would appear and dance around her, and she would join them in singing the ancient song of her people which she knew was a song of the sacredness of life.
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This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday,
where the prompt this week is "light(s)".

Two Shoes Tuesday #14 - Light(s)


Welcome to Two Shoes Tuesday... a place to share what we enjoy doing most... writing! Each week I provide a one-word writing prompt and invite you to share a short story, poem, essay, thought, or photo relating to that topic. You can add a link to your post anytime, there is no deadline.

This week's writing prompt is "light(s)".

When you've finished your post, share it with us by adding a link in the Mr. Linky widget below. Please link directly to your Two Shoes Tuesday post, rather than just to your blog. Also, please provide a link on your post back to this one.

The only other request is that you read and comment on the other entries, at minimum the one before and after yours on the list.

I've made it easy to locate this post and our archives by including a tab for Two Shoes Tuesday at the top of my home page.

Feel free to email me at jts.2000@yahoo.com with any questions, or to submit suggestions for future word prompts.

Now let's get down to business... tell us about "light(s)" !

When the Headlight Disappeared


This is taken from Papa Bear's Tale, a blog interview I did with my husband. It's about a near-death experience that he had when he was in his forties. I thought it was a great wintertime story in it's own right.

"Some friends and I were camping at some sand dunes near here in the winter, and were out riding four-wheeled ATVs.  We headed back to our campsite as it was getting dark. It was cold out - in the 20's, raining and sleeting.  I was wearing insulated coveralls and boots for warmth.  The other riders were more experienced than me. I  was at the rear having a hard time keeping up.  I lost sight of them in the dark, and as I topped a dune and started over, the ATV started sliding down toward a large pool of water at the bottom. I applied the brakes but continued to slide.  The ATV flipped forward into the pool of water, which was about eight feet deep, throwing me over the handlebars.  It landed on top of me pinning me under water at the bottom of the pool. It happened so fast I didn't even have time to hold my breath as I went under.

An ATV weighs over 600 pounds, but some how, by the grace of God, I found the strength to push it off of me so I could rise to the surface.  One of my friends had turned around to come back and find me, and he saw my headlight go over the dune and disappear.  By the time he got there I was clawing my way up the steep bank, soaking wet, and freezing cold. 

I went back down in to the water to right the ATV and my friend and I managed to push it out of the pool and drag it up the slippery bank.  We towed it back to the campsite behind his ATV using my belt for a tow rope. Nearly two hours passed from the time I fell in the water until we arrived back at the campsite.  I was frozen through and shaking uncontrollably.  My friends helped me change into dry clothes, gave me coffee, and warmed me up by the campfire. 

That's the only time I've ever had death staring me in the face; I was lucky to get out of the water alive.  It was not nearly as much fun as skinny dipping when I was a kid!"

More of Papa Bear's Tale can be found here:
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This post is linked up at Two Shoes Tuesday,
where the prompt this week is "light(s)".

Between You and Me


Just between you and me...

"I heard that her husband is seeing some waitress on the side."

"Did you know that she goes home and drinks until she passes out at night?"

"Look at what she's wearing!  She must be shopping in her daughter's closet!"

"Her neighbor says her kids are always dirty and hungry and she lives on her cellphone."

"I heard he is working two jobs just to cover his wife's online shopping addiction."

"Did you know that one of their kids got arrested for stealing from the neighbor?"

"I heard that her daughter has a different boyfriend every week, bet she'll be pregnant before long."

"She thinks she's so smart, really the only reason the boss likes her is because she's a kiss-ass."

"Maybe if they stopped having kids they could afford a decent house and car."

"I think my daughter's PE teacher is a lesbian, I've heard they're all like that."

"Did you know that he married her right after his first choice dumped him?"

"Look at that baby, sure doesn't look anything like her or her husband, does it?"

And on... and on... and on.  Get the picture?  Gossip... it feeds on pettiness, negativity, and a sense of superiority.  It serves no good purpose and causes so much hurt and harm. 

We all know that there is no such thing as "just between you and me" because within a few minutes... or hours... or days, what you shared will be shared with someone else, and they will share it too.  Soon it takes on a life of it's own and the rumor becomes gospel, and before long folks will be looking at the target person in a strange way, thinking they know some dark secret, when in reality they know nothing at all about that person or what their life is really like. 

Imagine a world where, instead of gossiping and attempting to devalue others, we spent our time and energies reaching out in friendship and caring. What if we all made a New Year's Resolution to be nicer this coming year?  Is it really that hard to be kind?

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I'm linking up with Megg at  Sunday Scribblings
where the prompt this week is "between you and me".