Pages

It's Coming!

 
The 2013 Edition of  the Blogging from A to Z April Challenge begins tomorrow!  I've decided that the theme for my daily alphabet posts will be "An Attitude of Gratitude"... a list of things I am thankful for each day and in my life in general.  That shouldn't be too  hard!  You are welcome to join me, there's still time to sign up before the Challenge begins!  You can do so by clicking on the A to Z button above.  When signing up, you are given the option to select a category to be part of, or you can leave it open and do random posts. Posts will done Monday thru Saturday, one letter for each day in April, with Sundays off to catch our breath!  Short posts are encouraged, to give everyone more time to check out a few new ones each day.  Come and play along, and meet some new bloggers in the process.  It's going to be fun, hope to see you there!
 

How Can I Sing?


It is Easter, the holiest of days for Christians everywhere.  It is a time for rejoicing in the miracle of miracles!  Yet how can I sing The Lord's song today, when my heart is heavy with sadness for the burdens of those I care about and love?

One friend's husband was hospitalized on Thursday with heart problems and is now waiting for specialists to determine if he is a suitable candidate to be placed on the waiting list for a heart transplant, his life depending on that.   Last night another dear friend was airlifted from New Mexico to a hospital in Texas with severe chest pain and erratic blood pressure.   He is currently on a constant nitro drip and is undergoing cardio testing, awaiting answers.  He was just recently given an all-clear report on his one-year check-up after being treated for cancer.  He is several years younger than I am.

In both cases, the devotion of these couples to each other is strong and deep.  Like with Papa Bear and me, they are each other's everything.  As I have written of here before, Papa Bear had a heart attack not long after I met him, due to a 99% blockage in one of his arteries, and now has two stents placed end to end, and medication he will take for the rest of his life to help prevent another heart attack, maybe.  Today, sharing the concerns and fears of these two couples, brings home yet again the fragility of life.  We have each other in each moment, we are not promised one moment more.

What this day finds me most thankful for is the supreme gift of love we were given on this Easter so very long ago.  If it were not for faith, for belief that we have a Father/Creator  who holds us safely in His hands, there would be such a feeling of hopelessness and despair.  But because of Easter I have the assurance that God is with me always and everywhere, and that He hears my fervent prayers on behalf of those I love. 

I do not pray for the answers of my choosing, I rarely do, for God is so much wiser than I and knows our needs and what is best.  I pray instead that He will keep these people, and all those who are fearful and suffering, in  His loving care, and help them to walk thru this valley,  trusting that they are not alone.  I believe in God the Father, I believe in God the Son, I believe in the power of the Holy Spirit, and I believe in the power of prayer.  That is my comfort, that is my peace, that is what I have to offer my friends... my faith, my prayers, and my love that is but a tiny reflection of His.

No Complaint

Try One Day Of Not Complaining,
Watch How Your Life Starts Changing -
Develop An Attitude of Gratitude Instead!
 
Me, complain much?  Why no, of course not, I never grumble or complain, or whine, or whimper, or glower, or bellow, or stomp my feet!  Well, almost never.  Ummm, ok, sometimes.  Maybe a little more often than that.  Ok, I admit it... "My name is Josie and I am a chronic complainer."  There I said it, and I'm sure it comes as a great surprise to you, right?  :-)  Am I the only one at this CC Meeting???
 
Let's face it, it becomes an easy habit to find things wrong with your day, your life, and especially with others.  What happens is that over time it leads to a general attitude of unhappiness and dissatisfaction, and results in failure to notice and appreciate all the good around you.
 
My friend Lena, at My Personal Lens has undertaken a thirty day challenge in which she writes every day on her blog about ten things that she appreciates... different things each day.  She's already half-way thru the challenge and I've got to tell you that reading her lists each day is both uplifting and convicting!  I encourage you to stop by her place and check it out!
 
I participated in the Thirty Days of Thankfulness on Facebook last November and I loved how it turned a usually snarky place into a much nicer, more positive environment for that month.  I've also got to admit that some days I had to work a little to come up with something to be thankful for.  Now if they would have asked for a complaint, that would have been so easy!  See what I mean?  
 
Lena is noticing and appreciating all the little things in her life each day that make it a good.  When I read her list each day I can almost always find one or two that apply to my life as well, things that I am also thankful for.  Would it be cheating to copy?  In this case, probably not, because it is an affirmation that yes, I agree, that IS something I am thankful for too.  At the end of a long, tiring, and often grumpy day, Lena's list is making me mindful of my blessings... and how often I complain.  (My beloved Papa Bear, just might issue an amen on that last part! :-)
 
Next month, starting on Monday, folks in the blogsphere will be participating in the Blogging From A to Z Challenge.  I wasn't going to join in this year, having done it before and grown weary of it before the end of the month, but I've got a new idea... I think I'll use it to list something that starts with that letter that I am thankful for, and then I'm going to add a list other things about my day that I am thankful for.  You are welcome to join me if it sounds like something you'd like to try.  I'm also going to work a whole lot harder on stopping complaints before they leave my mouth.  By that I don't mean bottling up dissatisfaction, I mean refocusing on things that are more positive, replacing it with a better thought. 
 
Just for today, I pledge to go twenty-four hours without complaining, let's see if I can do it!   
 
 
~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 
I'm linking up with Cate at Six Word Saturday...  join us there!

Complexity Conspiracy


In the midst of a mental meltdown Josie flung the computer mouse across the living room where it crash-landed on the floor, startling the snoozing cats.  She was tempted to send the laptop sailing after it, but wisely decided it was time to step away for a breath of fresh air instead.  Patience wasn't Josie's strong suit, and the recent upgrade of her laptop to Windows 8 was proving to be less user-friendly than she had hoped for...

"Tech Support... the embedded videos on Facebook and my friend's blogs won't play." "You can't play them in the metro view ma'am, you need to click on the tool  icon that pops up at the bottom right of the screen and select View on Desktop", you can watch them from there."

"Tech Support... my Yahoo mail isn't working properly, there are no longer tabs at the top to switch between pages, and when I hit reply I am given a tiny box to type in that's about the size of a cellphone text box."  "I'm sorry but Yahoo Email's latest upgrade wasn't optimized for Windows 8, maybe it will be included in their next Beta version."

"Tech Support... I can't open any  of the Word documents I use, including my monthly budget."  "I'm sorry but Microsoft no longer includes MS Word, or a free trial version of it with their software.  If you need to access and manipulate documents you will need to purchase a copy of MS Office at the discount price of $169."  "Can't I just reload the previous version of MS Word that I already own?"  "I'm sorry that version isn't optimized for Windows 8."  "Arrgghhh!!!"

Although she liked the concept, Josie struggled to learn to use the new metro view, to find settings which it seemed had all been given new names and hiding places, and all she wanted to do was to check her Facebook, send some email, and post to her blog!  It seemed that every new  update or upgrade to her tech toys  (laptop, tablet, cellphone, etc.)  required the acquisition of new knowledge to operate it's system...Windows... Android...iOS.  When she bought her tablet the salesman told her she would find Android easy.  He either lied about that or greatly overestimated her intelligence.

It wasn't just the "smart" equipment that was driving Josie mad with its endless options, apps, and menus; she never had found time to learn all the bells and whistles of her digital camera before was left in the dust, replaced by cellphones with cameras of their own, and she had yet to pull out the manual to her car to find out how to reset the "change oil now" light that the man at the service station forgot. Sometimes it was just easier to put up with such annoyances than to look up the solutions.

 Then there was the new multi-functional remote for the Dish Network and it's new Hopper and Joey.  Cute names, really cute.  But what was that they'd said about recording five shows at a time? After much fumbling and fussing, she found out that they'd forgotten to mention that three of the five were mandatory Prime Time network stations, so you could really only record two shows of your own choosing simultaneously.  No wonder there wasn't an increased charge, nothing gained.

Oh, and don't forget the GPS for the car, which is awesome once you learn to use it, except that every now and then it decides to take you to an "alternative" destination of it's own choosing, having nothing to do with where you intended to go.  And it's important to update the files for $69 a year to include any new highways or perhaps a new city they've located on the ocean floor.  If  you find that a bit  pricey, for just $189 you can buy a lifetime upgrade plan, unless of course the GPS itself becomes obsolete before you do. 

Josie figured it out one day, it was all just a giant industry marketing conspiracy to keep her constantly wanting and needing something new just about the time she'd almost figured out the last gizmo.  She thought it was called "planned obsolescence" or something like that, but she had another name for it... something about the byproduct of a large farm animal.  It all seemed designed to make her feel incompetent and very, very old. 

Josie found herself spending way too much of her life learning new gadgets and gizmos and how-to's, and longed for the simple days of her childhood when most devices came with an on/off switch, the one and only phone in the house was attached to the wall and calls were made by spinning a numbered dial, cameras were made by Kodak with prints developed from rolls of film at the store, both her watch and the clock on the wall indicated the time by the position of two hands pointing to numerals or numbers, and the alarm clock had to be wound; books were printed on bound sheets of paper that smelled and felt wonderful, mail came  to you straight from the writer's hands,  tv reception included just two stations  - Dad decided which show would be watched and kids were the "remote" channel changers, and if you wanted to know how to get from point A to point B you learned to read a map.  She now understood why her Grandmother, who lived to be well past 90 and was raised in the time of kerosene lamps and horse-drawn wagons, was so skeptical of tv news that showed a man walking on the moon.  Maybe it was just too much change to assimilate.

Sadly, Josie realized that simplicity had given way to the desire to reach further, know more, and do  more.  She readily admitted that she loved the Internet, with it's infinite access to information and friends around the world.  She loved her smart phone, and her laptop, and her tablet, and her GPS, and her Kindle reader, and the tv satellite dish which enabled her to access a hundred boring fascinating channels... but it all came with a price, and she wondered to herself if all that technical information constantly bouncing around in her head wasn't crowding out things like common sense, and wisdom, and personal communication, and simple pleasures, and stealing the time that she used to spend just looking off into the distance and pondering the meaning of life.  

What if every now and then we "pulled the plug" for a week or so, do you think we would survive?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Msrupole's Theme Thursday 
where the prompt this week is "complexities"
 

Outside Of The Box

 
I opened my eyes to find myself in a small dark room, confined with the other members of my family in an enclosure with walls much higher than my head.  Although I couldn't see beyond them, I felt safe because my mom was there keeping us clean and fed, and warm. 
 
A couple times a day giant monsters would come and scoop us up one by one and talk to us in a strange language, and although they never hurt me I knew they could easily devour me if they wanted. 
 
We grew quickly and one by one my brothers and sisters scaled the prison walls to find out what existed on the outside, but I wasn't so sure; I knew that those monsters lurked somewhere out there, along with bright lights, loud sounds and strange smells. 
 
This is it though, today I'm going to conquer my fears and climb over that brown wall; I'm tired of  being left behind... here I go, wish  me luck!
*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Lillie McFerrin's Five Sentence Fiction
where the writing prompt this week is "conquer"
 

Shattered Glass

 
Shattered glass
strewn across the roadway
sparkles like diamonds
in the morning light,
treacherous to foot and tire;
someone's day started off very badly.

So Far Away From Home


LuAnn was struggling with homesickness, having followed her military husband to Germany for his tour of duty there.  She had been living in their third floor apartment in Neu Ulm for four months now, and although she found the people generally friendly and the countryside beautiful, she had never been away from home for so long; she missed her family terribly. 

Sitting at her computer, she wiped the tears that trickled from her eyes, and typed out an email to her grandmother back in the States...
"Oh Granny,  you would love the food here - we buy fresh, crusty bread from the corner bakery everyday, and the Brauhaus has schnitzel that tastes just like you make it!  I'm still not used to drinking warm beer though, it seems strange since we drink it icy cold in America.  Here they say that cooling it ruins the flavor. 
On Sunday Kevin and I went for a walk along the Danube River in Ulm.  It was so charming, with the narrow streets and quaint old houses and shops all crowded together along the river bank.  We climbed to the top of the big Muenster Cathedral too, and the view from up there was amazing!
When we came home I saw that the older lady who lives downstairs in our building has a window full of African Violets just like you do there.  She waved at us as we walked by, and it made me miss you all the more!  It is lonely here, I really don't know anybody very well..."
LuAnn's grandmother read the note and knew how hard it was for LuAnn to be so far from home.  When she walked into her kitchen she looked over at her African Violets blooming on the window sill, and she said a little prayer for her oldest granddaughter, asking God to send His angels to keep her company and watch over her. 

That afternoon LuAnn was surprised to hear the doorbell ring.  She knew Kevin wasn't due home until suppertime and she hoped nothing was wrong.  She opened the door to find the lady from downstairs standing there smiling broadly, holding a pan of peach keuchen and a pot of  deep purple African Violets.  In broken English she said, "Guten tag, my name is Frieda. I thought maybe you like some flowers for your window, and maybe you want to help me eat the keuchen I baked this morgen."

LuAnn's face broke into a wide grin as she welcomed Frieda into their apartment.  She realized that she was beginning to feel a little bit at home here after all.  She would learn in time that the love and prayers of family follow you everywhere you go.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Keith Hillman's Carry On Tuesday 
where the prompt this week is "Here, there and everywhere" 

What A Week It's Been


This has been one of  those killer weeks, for both Papa Bear and I... today we look pretty much like this.  It's not that anything horrific has happened, it's just been balls to the wall all week at work... crazy pace, high pressure, non-stop phones and dealing with customers/clients and staff with issues. By the time I got home each night, I was so tired that I could just barely drag myself to my chair, and then off to bed at bedtime.  There wasn't a creative thought in my head, much less any thoughts, or at least positive ones.  It was hard to remember my name and what day it was.  There were some good prompts I wanted to write for and didn't get it done, and I feel guilty when I link to someone's blog-hop and then don't find the time or energy to visit other participants. I have some really great comments on posts I wrote last weekend, and the one I scrabbled together mid-week, and as yet haven't gotten back to those kind folks to reciprocate... but I'll get there, hopefully tomorrow. 

When I get really tired and stressed the Fibro flares up - of course - adding pain everywhere and even more exhaustion to the mix.  I could have easily curled up on the floor behind my desk and gone to sleep!  Dragging myself out of bed in the morning to get ready for work was a Herculean task, but I got there, and I got the job done.  I worry about the day in the future when I will no longer be able to pull that off.  I worry about the same for Papa Bear, we are getting old... and tired, but have at least six more years, seven for me, of full time work before we can think about going part-time. 

So that's the story of my week... wahhh, wahhh, wahhh, poor me! :-)  Believe me, I also thank God that we ARE able to work and do the job, and that we HAVE jobs to begin with, when so many aren't that lucky.  I am not ungrateful, I am just tired.  On a brighter note... I am counting down the four remaining weeks until we fly to Savannah for our week of vacation... that's going to be heavenly!!  If any of you have been there and have suggestions about things to do, sights to see, and great places to eat, feel free to email me at jts.2000@yahoo.com

I owe many blog visits and a few emails, so if you're wondering if I've forgotten or you said something that upset me, please don't ever believe that.  I'll be back in touch shortly, just trying to take it easy this weekend and catch my breath.  It's Spring here in West Texas... the dirt blows fifty miles an hour and well, yuck!  Loving the warm, sunny afternoons, but a nice Spring rain would be lovely!

Work isn't likely to let up soon, we are just that busy, but I do hope to get my batteries recharged and back in gear here.  I have so many words bouncing around in my head and trying to make my way to the keyboard... it's a jungle in there! :-)

I appreciate each and every one of you who stops by to read and comment, and I have totally enjoyed stopping by your place to read your posts on mini-breaks or lunchtime, or before bed, you keep  me in touch with life and all the great people that are a part of mine!

Wishing you a beautiful Easter week ahead!

- Josie

Close Your Eyes And Remember


Are you old enough to know what this is?  Why it's a perfume atomizer, of course! They enabled you to spray a mist of your favorite perfume before the days when perfume came in spray bottles.  My mother had one on her bedroom dresser when I was small, more as a keepsake than for actual use, but she did have her favorite fragrance, and I bet yours did too!

Have you ever thought about how much we tie certain fragrances to people or events in our lives. That all we need to do is walk into a room where that smell lingers and we'll instantly remember someone our heart has connected with it?

My Mom.... Avon Topaze perfume, and Jergen's hand lotion

My Dad... Old English Leather cologne

My Grandma... Cashmere Bouquet talc

Papa Bear... Armani Code cologne

When my children were babies - Mennen Baby Magic lotion :-)

A friend from the past... Patchouli Oil

Ghost that visits our bedroom... cut tobacco (That one's followed me from past  houses, and both Papa Bear and I have smelled it from time to time; also the perfume his late wife wore, and once or twice I've smelled my mom's. :-) 

One night the fragrance of honeysuckle was strong in our bed. Neither of us has a memory connection with honeysuckle but we could both smell it!

Then there's seasonal fragrances, like apple blossoms, lilacs, summer flowers, fresh mowed grass, and Christmas pine branches that can magically transport us to someplace in time!

 My mother's mother had no sense of smell at all, and I can't help but think of all the wonderful scents, and memories connected to them, that she missed out on. 

Sadly, with each passing year I grow increasingly allergic to all fragrances, even flowers (though I still enjoy them, opting to endure the headaches and itchy eyes for the beauty and heavenly scent), but if someone comes into the office wearing strong perfume, or I get stuck sitting next to someone at an event that has "bathed" in it, my asthma kicks in and it gets very hard to breathe.  I so wish that wasn't true, because I love things and people that smell good!   What fragrances from the past do you remember?
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Msrupole's Theme Thursday 
where the prompt this week is "fragrance"

The Infant's Cry


The Lost Mind by Elihu Vedder

"They say that I have lost my mind, and perhaps what they say is true;
but I know it is out there somewhere, and maybe someday I will find it."
 
The people of the village whispered that Esther was crazy, spending all her days walking in the wilderness,  eating and sleeping alone in her own small dwelling, and rarely speaking to anyone. 

Seven years ago she had fallen in love with a handsome young man from another tribe, but their marriage had been forbidden since his religion differed from her own.  When her father discovered their relationship he and fellow council members of the tribe had run the young man off, swearing to kill his mother and his father if he ever set his eyes on Esther again. 

In her grief Esther had lost the child she was carrying, and the elders had taken it and buried it in the wilderness in an unmarked grave, saying that a child created outside of marriage was unclean and unfit to be known to man by God or man.  They would not tell her where her baby had been buried, yet everyday she searched the hills for it, claiming that she could hear its cry. 

Esther's mother said of her that she was a tormented soul, and that much was surely true.  She no longer cared about her appearance, or being rational, or involved in village life.  All that mattered had been stolen from her, and she could think of nothing other than finding what had been lost.  She would continue to roam the wilderness all her remaining days, searching for her heart buried out there somewhere amidst the shattered pieces of her mind.

Years later, when she did not return to the village at sunset, the tribal men went out in search of her.  The elders whispered among themselves how strange it was that they had found her body curled up at the base of a date palm at the exact spot where her unborn child had been buried so long ago.  
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Meghan Genge's Sunday Scribblings
where the prompt this week is "it's out there"

Meet Me At The Paradise Motel


I'd never been to Paradise, and judging from the seedy little motel, I wasn't so sure I'd found it now.  When Selma called and said she'd finally left that bastard Frank, I was packed and headed for Paradise in less time than it took me to take out the trash in the morning.  Selma and I go way back; we went steady in high school for three years, then we had a fight over some stupid damn thing, and she hooked up with Frank and ended up pregnant.  It's been nearly twenty years, and all this time I've been waiting for her to call.  I'm thinking that if Selma really is here in room 117, I must have died and gone to Heaven after all.

*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Lillie McFerrin's Five Sentence Fiction
where the writing prompt this week is "paradise"

I'll Be Watching You


I did not write this.  I don't know who did, but it is so clever and well done that I just had to share it with my cat-loving blog friends.  Hope it adds a smile to your day. :-)

Reading this has triggered an "earworm" of the tune.  Remember when we talked about those here?

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up this post at Feline Friday

Crime Never Pays



A worker who wanted a raise
was tired of his boss's cheap ways,
so he sold tools from the shop...
to an undercover cop,
proving once again crime never pays!

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
This is my contribution to Mad Kane's
2nd Anniversary Edition of Limerick-Off Monday

The Palm Branches and The Lamb


Kenny had been born with a twisted limb, and despite wearing a leg brace when he was small, it had not straightened as the doctors had hoped, making walking very difficult for him.  By the time he reached school age he was able to navigate fairly well with a pair of crutches, but this required the use of his hands, so any items that he needed were carried in a tote bag that hung from his shoulder.

Each Easter Season the church that Kenny's family attended marked Palm Sunday with all the children of the congregation entering the sanctuary together, waving palm branches as they came down the aisle, while the adults sang hymns that had been passed down from generation to generation.  The part the children loved best was the tiny lamb borrowed from a local farmer, which was carried in the arms one of the older children leading the procession.  The one chosen to carry the lamb was always the envy of the other children.  When they reached the altar, the lamb was placed in a small pen that had been prepared for it.  Each child placed their palm branch in front of the pen, then reached out to pet the lamb before taking a seat along side their family in the pew.

Every year Kenny had hobbled along in the procession with his palm frond resting in his tote bag, secured to the strap.  How he dreamed of having his hands free to wave his palm branch as the other children did, more often than not tapping them on the head of the child in front of them, causing parents to stifle smiles.  As it was, he was barely able to walk down the aisle holding tightly to the handles of his crutches without tripping over the many feet around him.  The youth pastor tried hard to keep them all walking slow and spaced apart, but being children they tended to speed up and crowd together as they moved along. 

The year that Kenny was ten, the lamb chosen for the procession came from their farm, with Kenny being allowed to select the most perfect baby from their flock.  He spent Saturday afternoon helping his father bathe and groom it, and was so excited for the Palm Sunday Service that he had a hard time falling asleep.  He couldn't wait to find out who the pastor had chosen to lead the procession; he hoped it would be someone that loved that little lamb as much as he did, and would carry it gently, not squeezing it too tight. 

When they arrived at church the next morning, Kenny was wearing his Sunday best - dress pants, shined shoes, a white shirt, and a tie.  He fell into line with a group of children waiting to receive their palm branches while his mother stood nearby to help him secure his safely in his bag.  Much to Kenny's surprise, when he approached the youth pastor who was handing out the palms, he was led to the very front of the procession.  There waiting for him was a small basket on wheels that looked like it had been fashioned from a shopping cart.  It had been covered with palm leaves, and nestled in the soft bed of greenery lay his own little lamb.

Supporting himself with the cart, Kenny was able to move forward slowly without the need of his crutches.  There wasn't a dry eye in the church as he came down the aisle beaming proudly, pushing the cart bearing the precious lamb.  As the children got closer to the altar the adults nearest the aisle grew silent, witnessing a miracle transpiring before their eyes... Kenny was walking more upright with each step.  By the time he reached the front he was putting no weight at all on the cart handle, but was pushing it along in front of him as he walked freely behind.  Reaching the altar, Kenny bent over and scooped up the little lamb in his arms.  Climbing the two steps on his own, he placed it gently in it's pen.

"Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord."


~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Msrupole's Theme Thursday 
where the prompt this week is "greenery"
 
And with Brenda Youngerman's Pondering With A Purpose
where this week's writing prompt is "green"

Compassion


A couple nights ago Papa Bear and I were eating supper at a mom n' pop diner.  It's a small place, with maybe twenty tables, that serves the best chicken strips and steak fingers in town.  We were engaged in conversation about our day and I wasn't paying much attention to the other customers, but Papa Bear was. I am ever oblivious to my surroundings, he is always observant and aware.

Growing quiet, he leaned in and said, "There's a guy and girl over at that table that are eating only lemons. They came in and got some lemon slices from by the iced tea dispenser, placed them on a napkin and are sitting at the table eating them. They didn't go to the counter to place an order."  

Before long he noted that they had returned to place a few more slices of lemon on a napkin and take them back to their  table to eat.  Curious as to who would dine on lemons, I turned around to spot the saddest looking young couple I've ever seen - in their late teens or early twenties, and both very gaunt, though not your typical grungy street people.  They didn't appear to be strung-out, as is so often the case.  They just looked very tired, sad, and hungry. 

I went to use the restroom as we were getting ready to leave, and Papa Bear reported that they had gone up to the counter and requested some soda crackers and were given a few.  What struck me most, was that they were sitting here in this small cafe surrounded by people eating dinner, and yet they made no attempt to beg for food or money; they kept their eyes on their own table and each other. 

Reaching into his wallet, Papa Bear walked over to their table asked quietly, "If I give you this money, will you please buy yourselves something to eat?"

"Yes, sir!" answered the young man respectfully, and then added "God bless you."  The girl with him started to cry. 

We left then, we didn't wait to see if they placed an order, though I suspect they probably did. It was obvious that they were starving, and it broke our hearts.  I am a believer that it is the intent that matters,  Papa Bear is blessed for giving, what the recipient does with it from there is on them.  He chose not to embarass them by taking them up to the counter to order, or place an order on their behalf.

This is one of the many things I love about my Papa Bear, he is compassionate.  They could have been your children sitting there, they could have been mine.  Whatever their story, it was the right thing to do.  Papa Bear can always be counted on to do the right thing.

Old School Blog Hop

Old School Blog Hop
I have been tagged by my friend Brenda at Ponderings Of An Author for a good Old School Blog Hop.  This one looked like fun, and it is really quite simple... answer the questions and pass it on...

1. What were you doing 10 years ago?  I was living in New Mexico with my then-husband in a marriage that was rapidly descending into Hell.  I had no idea that my life would change 180 degrees in about five more years!  That's why I am always telling people to have hope, you never know what God has planned for you!
 
2. What 5 things are on your to-do list?  Become more active and eat healthier to lose weight, write Papa Bear's biography, de-clutter my entire house and the storage buildings, improve our yard so it looks and feels more welcoming, convince Papa Bear that we need to rescue another cat from the shelter. :-)
3. What are 5 snacks you enjoy?  Brownies, cookies, caramel popcorn, pistachio nuts, and dipped pretzels.  Anything chocolate ranks very high on my list of guilty pleasures!
    4. Name some things you would do if you were a millionaire:  My husband and I would retire from our current jobs and move to someplace green and beautiful, then spend time our free time travelling. I would own and operate a no-kill cat sanctuary with my daughter.  I would write books, and I would visit all the bloggers I've gotten to know here.  I would do what I could to alleviate hunger for the children of the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.  I would donate my time and energy to help people find their way out of abusive relationships.  I would rise early, stay up late, and take naps every afternoon! :-)
5. Name some places you have lived:  In my 59 years of life I have actually lived in eighteen different cities.  I listed them in this post: The Road I've Travelled.  Those cities were located in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Colorado, Indiana, Georgia, Texas, New Mexico, and in Germany.
6. Name some bad habits you have:  I tend to be impulsive, and to always think I know best.  Sometimes I am so consumed with being right that I forget being kind is more important.  I also have a serious addiction to the computer keyboard.  I am on one all day at work, then come home and do more of the same! :-)
7. Name some jobs you have had:  Library aide, nursing home aide, receptionist, secretary, A/P clerk, and office manager.  Although I am very good at clerical stuff, having done it all my life, it is not fulfilling.  I loved working in the library long, long ago.  My life is a good lesson on why one should finish college instead of abandoning it for other adventures.  There is much I was capable of doing and could have accomplished.  Not finishing school is  probably one of my greatest regrets.  At this point I'd much rather not have to work, but that's a fantasy - at least for the foreseeable future.
    8. Name those you are tagging for the Old School Blog Hop:  I'm not much into tagging because some folks enjoy it and some don't.  So I'll just tag anyone reading this who thinks it might be fun to participate... go for it!! :-)

Crossroads


Walking through the trees during daylight, it seems like such a welcoming and peaceful place, but Alana knew otherwise.  She'd been coming here, where the paths crossed in the center of the woods, for the past four years beginning at the age of thirteen.  At first she came under protest at his bidding; but eventually she chose to be present at the full-moon gatherings, lured by the mystery of ancient chants and ritual.  Now Alana had reached the age of decision.  Standing at the crossroads as the full moon rose high, the smell of blood sacrifice hung heavy in the air.  Tonight, she would be called forth to side with good or evil.  Would she cross over to become one of the predators, or choose to remain an innocent and become one of the prey? 

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Keith Hillman's Carry On Tuesday 
where the prompt this week is "standing at the crossroads" 


Something Not Quite Right


Alexandra sat on the sofa watching tv, waiting for her husband Stephan to get home.  He'd been working late much of this week, saying that he was trying to finish up a big project ahead of time to earn a bonus.  When he was home, he seemed nervous and uptight.  She knew he hadn't been sleeping well, so she attributed his unusual behavior to exhaustion. 
 
Shortly after eleven p.m. she heard Stephan's truck pull into the driveway. She waited for the sound of him setting the alarm, but didn't hear the familiar double beep.  A few seconds later, her phone lit up with a text...  "Alex come out here, I've got something to show you." 
 
Strange, she thought.  Why hadn't he just called her on the way home to tell her he was bringing a surprise or whatever it was?  "I'll get my robe and be out in a minute," she texted back and headed to the bedroom for her robe.  Something just didn't feel right about this though.  She noticed that her two cats were not at their usual spot waiting by the door for their "daddy" to come in, but rather had gone into alert mode, ears up and pointed, bodies rigid as if they were ready to pounce or make a run for it, eyes staring intently at the wall between the carport and the house. 
 
Alexandra felt the hair stand up on the back of her neck.  She took a quick glance out the kitchen window as she walked down the hallway toward the bedroom.  The carport was dark, and she could make out Stephan's truck parked next to hers, but in the shadows it looked like there were two men in the front seat, both of them larger than her slim built husband. 
 
Hands shaking, Alex punched 911 into her cellphone just as she heard two sets of  heavy footsteps coming across the deck.  Thank God she had locked and bolted the door, as Stephan had always insisted she do when she was home alone.  Before the call had finished connecting, she heard the wail of sirens as a police car came screeching into her driveway, lights flashing.  "Drop  your guns and put your hands up", she heard an officer shout.  Alex cowered down in the corner of her bedroom, too terrified to move or cry out.   She heard a shot fired, an exchange of loud voices, and then nothing for a few seconds - seconds that felt like an eternity. 
 
Then there was a knock on her door, and someone saying "Ma'am open up, this is the police," but she wasn't sure until the lady on the other end of the 911 line told her that there were indeed policemen at her door, and that they had apprehended two suspects on her property. 
 
Shaking from head to toe, Alex moved to the door, cellphone in her hand and still connected, just in  case.  She opened it a crack and the officers showed her their ID; she let them in and crumpled into the arms of the nearest one. 
 
"Ma'am it's going to be ok now, you are safe and everything is alright."  The officers explained that the two assailants had attacked and wounded her husband as he left the office, taking his cellphone and truck keys and leaving him laying in the parking lot.  Thankfully another coworker, had found him just a few minutes later and had alerted the police. 
 
It turned out that Stephan had gotten himself deeply in debt, and the two men who attacked him had come to collect what he owed.  They had intended to kidnap Alexandra and hold her for ransom.  Had she responded to the text to come outside, their plan might have succeeded.  She was grateful to her cats for alerting her that something was amiss, and for trusting her own instinct that Stephan's text didn't seem like him at all. 
~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Meghan Genge's Sunday Scribblings
where the prompt this week is "instinct" 

Papa Bear Saves The Easter Bunny

 
Papa Bear saved the Easter Bunny! 

Thursday night I had the back door open while I was in the hot tub, and the cats were coming in and out.  Apparently one of them decided to bring in a surprise. I noticed they were trying to get under the tv table all evening and I wasn't sure if they were after a toy or what. When John got home yesterday they were staring under the table again, so he got down on the floor with a flashlight and was surprised to see this baby cottontail hiding underneath the glass shelf just out of the reach of cat paws. 
We barricaded the cats in the bedroom and shooed it out from under the table. Papa Bear was able to corner it in the bathroom and set it free in a safe place outside - happy, healthy, and unharmed. Lucky little rabbit, and so darn cute! The cats are still searching the living room for their missing "friend" :-)
~*~*~*~*~*~*~ 
I'm linking up with Cate at Six Word Saturday...  join us there!

A Whispered Goodbye


Christie came to visit Sam at the hospice house, knowing there wasn't much time left to say goodbye; she had grown up next door to him, and he'd always held a special place in her heart.

Sam had lost his beloved wife, and was now in the end stage of cancer; Christie's husband had been killed by a drunk driver, and she was struggling to get by on her own.  Neither of them had any family left in the world, so they'd been family to each other and she was going to miss him so!

When it was time to go, Christie leaned close to give Sam a hug and kiss, and he whispered to her with labored breaths, "Remember that big tree in my back yard where the swing was... dig underneath the rock beside it, I hid a box for you there." 

A week after Sam's funeral Christie went to retrieve the box, and was stunned to find that it contained over fifty thousand dollars with a note in Sam's scrawl that said simply "Go and be happy, thank you for being so kind."
*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Lillie McFerrin's Five Sentence Fiction
where the writing prompt this week is "whisper"

Retiring Two Shoes Tuesday


After giving it some consideration, I've decided to retire Two Shoes Tuesday.  There level of participation and readership doesn't warrant the time I spend on it that could be put to better use writing and commenting.  I very much appreciate those of you who have taken the time to write for and support Two Shoes Tuesday, it was a fun endeavor! 

I intend to continue my participation in Sunday Scribblings, Limerick-Off Monday, Pondering With A Purpose, Five Sentence Fiction, and Six Word Saturday.  I'm also planning to  join a couple others I've just found... Carry On Tuesday and Theme Thursday.  They are all great writing prompts and I urge you to check them out!

Pondering... Flexible



In the house where I grew up things were black and white, left and right, no tolerance for aberration. I chaffed under that repression, it simply wasn't me.  
 
In reality I was a good kid, didn't party, did well in school, volunteered as a candystriper at the hospital and nursing home, and was chosen as "Betty Crocker Homemaker of the Year".  That one was a laugh, it certainly cracked me up, but the win was based on essay writing, and I was good at that. (I'm sure that Betty is still rolling in her grave at my lack of domestic diva talents.) 
 
The problem was that I questioned too much, always asking why this or that was right or wrong, and how could it be the only way?  Why couldn't we just all get along, and  did our preacher really believe that all the Buddhists and all the Muslims were going to burn in Hell?  (Yes, he did, and I nearly was dropped from the confirmation class over that debate.)
 
Then there was the problem  of dress... no, you can't part your long hair down the middle, or wear granny glasses, or God-forbid leave the house without a bra!  (How I wish I could get away with that now, but alas gravity takes a toll.)
 
Part of what appealed to me about my first marriage was simply the getting away from all that. So I went the other extreme, choosing a partner and a lifestyle that couldn't have been more different from the way that I was raised.  What? You are managing a boarding house for eleven single young men?  Don't you know you're going to burn in Hell for adopting that strange religion?  And what kind of parents are you anyway?  (In reality I was a good mommy, but I declined to dress my baby in the requisite pastel pink and bunny prints... opting instead for bright tie-dyed pajamas that I sewed for her myself.  (That probably accounts for the struggles she's had in life! ;-)
 
My sisters, perfect products of the middle class, they got it "right"... with formal weddings and matching china, and forks and knives that didn't come from the dollar store.  My involvement with those children on the reservation?  What an embarrassment.  "Can't you just do some normal service project in your community?"  And on... and on... and on.  And don't even get them started on my writing.... "You always go on, and on, and on."
 
I thank God that I grew up to know my own mind, to question social injustice and any other bull@*&# that didn't make any sense.  I don't choose my friends by their creed, class, color, or sexual orientation,  and I don't limit family to blood relation.  I don't dress in the latest fashion, and I don't spend my hard-earned money on high-dollar shoes. (Actually, it goes for cat food :-)
 
The older I got the more I realized how important it is to be yourself, and to have a flexible mind.  No one fits perfectly inside the boxes, not all the ready-made rules apply.  Sometimes new ways of looking at things are better, and some of the old-fashioned ways weren't all wrong. 
 
Long ago, a sign hung on the kitchen wall of the house where I stayed for a time.  It said... "Some solid, concrete people are mixed up and set in their ways."  I've never forgotten those words, I take them as a warning of the dangers of living strictly in the realm of black and white, left and right. 
 
The dinosaurs were unable to adapt to their changing environment, they weren't the least bit flexible in how they dealt with life, and we know what became of them!  I hope I never become so rigid in my thinking that I am unwilling to consider realities that are different from my own.  Perhaps that's why I enjoy getting into deep conversations and asking so many pointed questions... "Give me something to ponder please, inspire me, teach me something new!"

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Brenda at Pondering With A Purpose
here this week's writing prompt is "flexible"

Weary To My Bones


Lord it's been a couple rough weeks at the ol' law firm.  I barely manage to drag myself across the parking lot at the end of the day, brain dead, muscles aching from tension, emotionally drained.
 
I think I've mentioned before that my version of hell is a place where phones never stop ringing... like they do now - from the time we arrive in the morning 'til we transfer them back to the answering service at the end of day. We've been busy with a capital B, swamped with new clients and bunch of hearings coming up.  Needless to say, the paperwork is detail-oriented and endless, we scramble to keep from being buried under an avalanche of incoming and outgoing mail. 

For me, it's not really about the paper pushing and the phones ringing, though both can drive me to distraction at times.  What matters to me, is the clients we serve.  I've talked about them here before. It can be so rewarding when we see a positive outcome for someone whose been caught up in the Social Security Administration nightmare for months and sometimes years.  It can also be heartbreaking when the system doesn't work,  and people who have critical medical issues end up getting denied for who knows what reason... like a case we had this week where an administrative judge actually denied disability benefits to a person who is terminally ill, citing insufficient proof of disability, despite the fact that medical records state the individual is dying.  A hearing has been scheduled, and we are wondering what it will take to make the point, the man dying in the courtroom?

Then there are the people who come in with stories like the lady I visited with today who has moved from her small rural town to an apartment here in the city so she can be near medical treatment for renal failure.  She is to begin dialysis this week, and is on the waiting list for a kidney donor.  The SSA wants to stop her SSI benefits because she owns a property (her mobile home) but isn't living in it... because she can't live there and commute over a hundred miles several times a week for treatment.  She isn't allowed to sign the property over to her children, she isn't allowed to see it for under market value, even if she could find a buyer in their small town.  And if she does manage to sell it, they will take away her benefits for three months because she will have that  money to live on.  If she sells it, and then is blessed to receive a kidney in time, she may be able to recover and return to a normal life, but she won't have a house to return to in her home town if she's sold it.  Craziness!  Yes, there are rules, there has to be, but when it comes to human beings and their lives not everything fits neatly into the boxes. 

Emotions run incredibly high in situations where people are dealing with medical issues and financial issues that compound until they reach the point of feeling hopeless... and we tell them we hope that we'll receive a decision on their case from SSA in three to six months... maybe, more likely it will be denied and have to be appealed... another long wait for a hearing.  You get the picture.

Because I am the receptionist and answer  phones, and also am the one responsible for taking most of the notes from clients who call in, I am the person they interact with first and foremost.  They are sad, they are lonely, they are frustrated, they are bewildered - and more than anything they just want someone who will listen to their story.  They know I can't fix their problems, they know I can't make the system move faster, or find money to pay for doctors or medicine or delinquent house payments or food, but they want someone... anyone... to listen and care. 

I can listen, and I do care.  There seems to be days, and weeks, when there are more than a few clients whose lives are in crisis, and where it feels like everyone who calls in has a story and needs my time and attention... and I listen.  I sympathize, and I agree with them that the SSA system is screwed up and unresponsive to their plight.  While I listen the paper pile stacks higher, the faxes and outgoing mail to be  processed overflow their boxes, and I grow so very weary... and still I listen, because I am sometimes the only one they know who will.  I know that's why God has me there, because I care.

But I've got to say that it's hard on the mind and heart.  You do develop some emotional resilience, because I can't cry for every client or I'd be drowning in a lake of tears, but anyone who says they don't let it get to them is either far stronger than me or just doesn't give a damn.  If you care, you hurt, and you are angry at not being able to change things, to help in some way, to do more.  Some nights when I go home I scream at God for letting people suffer like this, even though I know it isn't his fault, he is not the one to blame.

On weeks like this one, sometimes I have the urge to clap my hands over my ears and say "I don't want to hear this, I can't listen to any more!"  But I can't do that, and I don't , because I am the only outlet they have.  If they are somehow enduring their own personal hells, surely I can endure the minor pain of  a hurting heart. 

So I drive home with the windows down, the wind scouring my face and making my hair fly.  When I get there, my first act is to get out of my work clothes, slide into something comfy and cuddle up with Papa Bear and the furkids.  Many nights we soak in the hot tub under the stars... it helps my muscles relax, it helps me remember to breathe, it takes the pain away... it restores my soul.  Once in awhile, when I am really feeling stressed, I'll have a glass of Wild Turkey American Honey, icy cold. It's wonderful stuff, very smooth and almost sweet, it relaxes me. I don't do that often though, it could too easily become another bad habit, I already have enough of those.

Tomorrow, like all workday mornings, I will rise with the sun, shower, dress, and head down the highway to the city.  On the way I pray for clients who I know are struggling, I pray for strength and courage to face the new day, peace of mind, and the patience to stop what I am doing and just listen... because, despite what the job description says, that's what my real job is.  And every night I count my blessings, because I am already older than most of the folks who are our clients, and there but for the grace of God go I.

In The Name of Love

"Love is something you do; the sacrifices you make, the giving of self.
If you want to study love, study those who sacrifice for others..."
 
Sixteen-year-old Joshua slipped down the stairway quietly, awakened by the sound of his parents voices in the kitchen below.  It has been a couple hard years for the family, Joshua's dad has lost his job and they were barely making ends meet on his mother's smaller income.  The sound of his mother crying tore at Joshua's heart as he stood silently in the hallway listening to the conversation. 
 
"My mother is dying, Rick, I need to go home and see her.  It's been three years since we went to Illinois to visit them... I have to see her one more time."  Then her voice trailed off.
 
Joshua's dad's sounded sad and weary as he replied, "I understand Rachel, it breaks my heart too.  God, I wish there was some way we could afford a plane ticket, but we are barely managing to pay the mortgage and buy food.  I feel like such a failure for not being able to help you get home."
 
"It's not your fault", Joshua heard his mother reply. "The factory laid off half the men in this community, and there just aren't enough jobs to go around. Something will come up soon, maybe I'll still be able to go home before it is too late."
 
Joshua went back to bed but was unable to sleep, the burden of his mother's sadness and his father's despair weighing heavily on his young heart and mind.  As soon as he heard his sister Miriam moving about in her room the next morning,  he tiptoed down the hall and knocked lightly on her door.  "I need to talk to you about something, I have an idea," he said.
 
The following Sunday morning the sun rose bright and beautiful.  It was Easter, and Joshua and Miriam crept down the stairs early, grinning at each other upon finding baskets of candy waiting for them just like there had been every year since they were old enough to remember.  Sure, they were getting a little big for the Easter Bunny, but to their mom they would always be her children, and she knew that they secretly loved the tradition. 
 
Quickly Joshua placed a smaller basket next to theirs.  Nestled in the colored Easter grass, they'd placed a few Cadbury eggs, knowing they were their mom's favorite.  Folded beneath them was a white envelope on which was written in bright purple marker,  "To Mom from the Easter Bunny". Then Miriam and Joshua tiptoed back upstairs and waited excitedly for the sound of their mother heading to the kitchen to make breakfast.
 
"What's this?" they heard her say, and back down the steps they came, smiling broadly.  "Oh my!" was heard next.

They entered the kitchen to see her sitting in a chair at the table, eyes glistening and a look of amazement on her face as she held the contents of the envelope.  "Happy Easter Mom, we love you!" they said in unison as they wrapped their arms around her.
 
"But how did you do this?  Where did you get the money for the plane ticket?" She asked, totally bewildered.
 
"Well, you know we've been saving the money Grandpa and Grandma gave us for Christmas and our birthdays to buy a new game system" Joshua said, "and I had a little extra put away from my job at the grocery store."
 
"I chipped in my babysitting money too," Miriam added, beaming proudly.
 
Tears of love and  pride streamed down Rachel's face as she pulled her children close to her just as their dad appeared in the kitchen doorway to find out what all the fuss was about.
 
"It seems there really is an Easter Bunny," Rachel smiled, handing him the envelope with the ticket.  "In fact it looks like there might be two!  Now let's get breakfast started; after church I've got some packing to do!" 

It was going to be a beautiful Easter...  after all, Easter is the very definition of love.
 
~*~*~*~*~*~*~
This post is linked to Two Shoes Tuesday
where the prompt this week is "sacrifice"
TWO SHOES TUESDAY

Two Shoes Tuesday #27 - Sacrifice

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. You are not required to use the actual word in your post, but please use it as the theme.

The writing prompt for March 5th is
"sacrifice"

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.
 
NOTE: This week (and every other week) the first person who adds a post link to the Two Shoes Tuesday Mr. Linky will be given the opportunity to choose the word prompt for the following week!

Now let's get down to business... tell me about sacrifice!

Not A Bad Night



A fellow whose mind oft' took flight
Found himself in a bit of a plight
He arrived at the dance
But forgot to wear pants
His dance card was full the whole night

~*~*~*~*~*~*~
This is my contribution to Mad Kane's Limerick-Off Monday
 

The Girl With Brown Eyes


Jackie remembered the first time she saw Royce like it was yesterday.  It was her first day of third grade in a new town and a new school, and she was more than a little apprehensive.  Settling into her assigned seat, Jackie looked at the faces around her table who were clearly sizing her up as well.  Across from her sat a boy with the reddest hair she'd ever seen; his face and arms were peppered with freckles. She couldn't help but smile, but was a little surprised when he smiled right back. 

Royce would later tell Jackie that he was instantly drawn to her beautiful brown eyes, so different from the blues and greens of the many fair-haired girls in the class.  It wasn't long before there were sharing recess and lunch, and riding their bicycles to the park during summer vacation.
 
Fourteen years passed.  Jackie attended a school for the performing arts and then opened her own dance studio.  Royce was well on his way to becoming a doctor,  and they had remained together through thick and thin.  Now Jackie stood next to her father at the end of the aisle, dressed in a beautiful ivory gown that had been her mother's, with a wreath of pink roses in her hair.  She looked up at the handsome red-headed man waiting for her at the altar.  Royce's face lit up in a smile as he fell in love all over again with the girl with the liquid brown eyes.

~*~*~*~*~*~*~*~
I'm linking up with Megg at  Sunday Scribblings
where the prompt this week is "moment"