A Knock on the Door

“I don’t know what to do,” is never my wail.

This morning I was asked to help a person get to court tomorrow. Tomorrow is dedicated to final preparation for a writing conference.

Is? Was?

The balance of “yes” and “no” is worse than me walking a tight rope. Is the person or event on the other side of the door a “God-incident” [yes] or a distraction [no]? Hmm.

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Zoned out on a book proposal

Tonight is quiet: Ron is in his room watching ball, I’m typing and the noises of teens are gone for a few days. I’m nearly finished with a book proposal–so why am I typing here instead of on it? ‘Cause I’m “zoned out.” On average, I taught four hours of swimming each day this week. Occasionally I do more than water activities. That is humor. I miss my Ohio family.

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Bed Making at a Hospitality Facility

Elders are full of knowledge, right? An older person has collected a wealth of experience. Ah, but on this day, as Abby, Phoebe and I were making one of fourteen beds I glimpsed my lax habits.

“Grams,” Phoebe muttered across the king-sized bed, “The fold isn’t straight?” She had her share of the sheet folded back two or more inches and I just laid my back causing a crinkle in fabric. I obliged and the effort (?) was rewarding.

Next we flipped the comforter onto the single bed. Phoebe squatted, pressed her cheek against the extended support leg and one eye squinted. Her “sighting” revealed a swag in the lines of the quilt. I wish I had a camera.

“You better hurray Grams. We’re about to lay it out.” Abby referred to the filler for a beam on the deck. Gotta run!

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Lessons From Street People

Maggie (not her real name) has imprinted herself in my mind. To you and me, Maggie’s story is unusual. For starters, she was found in a dumpster–a throw-away newborn.

I first encountered her as I drove by her in a “seedy” section of town. Maggie changed my perspective on the plight of street people.

While we talked, Maggie periodically poured conditioner into her hand and “tamed” her nappy near-waist-length hair, using her fingers as a comb. The beauty of olive skin and deep dark eyes haunted me. After we talked, I took her to a Women’s Shelter where she stayed. Temporarily.

When next I saw her, she wore cargo pants and a baggy sweater. Determination in her brisk walk implied a destination. Not so.

Again I picked her up. We talked and walked for a bit. Then I called my husband. “We do have an empty bedroom. It would keep her safe.” Thus Maggie stepped into our bedroom. Instantly her hand covered her mouth and she fell to her knees. “I prayed for a closet and I got a room.”

A few days later Maggie rode to town with me to get her things. She reappeared with a man. “We will be right back.” Nope.

A few years have passed and this month I saw Maggie, in a near zombie state yet putting one foot in front of the other. Oh, Maggie. What should I….what could I do for you?

From my rear-view mirror I observed Maggie stopping a trucker as his vehicle edged forward at the company gate, preparing deliver his cargo. Begging, searching dumpsters for food, and selling her body keep her alive.

The searing questions I struggle with probably have no answer. Why would a woman put her just-born child in a dumpster? Is schizophrenia caused by trauma to an infant? Is she suffering from a detachment disorder? How does a person effectively help her?

Why? Mental illness is hell on earth, Lord. I sometimes yell at Him, Why? Mental illness is hell on earth.

Each time I drive to an appointment and see Maggie, I want to stop, jump out, run to her, and wrap my arms around her. I want to imagine that an embrace can erase her misery, bring hope and purpose. What a dream!

Maggie, I love you.

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Important Teachers from Pomeroy High School

This was printed in The Daily Sentinel [April 2012], serving the Pomeroy, Ohio area where I grew up, with favorable comments.

Rain drops from the overcast skies emptied their contents on our roof. The pit-pat-pitty-pat-pat lazied my mind. Who wants to get up now?

Because of stitches down both hips from replacement surgery, I couldn’t roll over to hug my pillow on this Sunday morning. Retirement is good. I reached for my laptop and keyed in “When You Walk Through a Storm”. As the bedroom filled with the music, my mind raced back to Swackhammer, Husted and Ward.

Those attending Pomeroy, High School in the 1950s would remember these three teachers.

Mrs. Swackhammer, choir/chorus met after school in a second-story back-side room of Pomeroy, Junior High. “E-nun-see-ate each word and I want to hear the ending on words.”

May of 1954 I and other member of the choir stood on the risers facing the audience and sang, ta-tata-ta-tum, “God of our Fathers…” as graduates marched toward the stage. Then in 1958 I along with the graduate class walked to the same beat but sung by new voices.

Mrs. Swackhammer, nurtured my love of music to the extent I continue to hum or beller “When You Walk Through a Storm” and “I Talked to God Last Night.” I also compose my own melodies. Nothing like the ones Larry Tracy scored on his graphs, but none the less beautiful to my ears.

Ms. Husted encouraged her students in many ways in English class. One assignment was to write a humorous piece. +Faye Thomas and I sat on stools in Stark’s Soda Fountain. While we slurped Cokes we wrestled with words until we were satisfied.

Whatever Ms. Husted said about my paper, she heated the ember for writing to a flame. Today I have awards and published articles and stories.

Forest Ward, Senior Homeroom teacher in 1957-58, often chatted with me at lunch time as we were the only ones in the room. One day he asked, “Do you have a boy friend?” I nodded but didn’t give a name “because if I tell you it might spoil what is developing.”

Sly Mr. Ward probably already observed Ron Russell and Anna Murray “eyeing” each other. We still do, 54 years later.

In my cozy bedroom I snuggled back into the covers and silently thanked Lucile Swackhammer, Martha Husted and Forest Ward for their input into my life.

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White Water Walking

Why would anyone want to walk up stream in a clear-water mountain stream? You know, like a salmon swimming against the current.

Because I can. Because in the remote Colorado San Juan Valley, the nearest pool is over an hour away. And this “fish” must have a regular water fix.

The first few weeks at Redcloud Family Ranch, I waded in the irrigation ditch. Cold water but invigorating. Then as we drove across the North Fork of the Gunnison River I had an “ah-ha” thought. Wade here.

Thus began my white water walking. About three times a week I stepped into the 60-68 degree clear water. Below the bridge I started with ankle-deep water keeping close to the bank. My new hips struggled with the short distance but felt stronger from the exercise.

However, as I learned to dress (plastic bags under wool socks and an extra layer on my legs) warmer, I could go deeper longer — a whole 12 minutes. Deeper was mid-thigh. Ah.

As the summer progressed and the depth diminished, I took to the up side of the bridge. There white water was more than my feet plunging into the water. Varying sizes of round rocks challenged my balance. Falling into the water wasn’t my fear. Falling and hitting my new hips on rocks frightened me. That’s why I used ski poles. Now I had upper body and lower body workout.

A friend loaned me his waders. Hey, I could walk up stream for 45 minutes before my strength was gone. The cold temperature either of water or air didn’t bother me. When on land doing other tasks, I yearningly looked toward the flowing water.

When I searched on the internet, I didn’t find any other references to +white water walking. Have you, reader, done it?


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A pencil drawer

Why is the content of our pencil drawer important? Soon I will tell you why but first….

Our pencil drawer is under the  microwave counter and a few steps from the kitchen table. Easy to reach into for a writing utensil and scrap paper. Handy when the kids want to suddenly play 10,000 or Scrabble; paper is needed on which to keep score.

A few times a day I open, withdraw, and return what I took out.

Today I paused when I casually pulled out the drawer. The ruler and scissors are snugged against the left side of the tray that now holds all the markers. In the three-slot tray, ball point pens lay nested in one slot. The next one has pencils. The third slot has mechanical pencils.

Behind the trays are note pads, tape, and glue.

These important details, the neatness of their placement, tell me Ron organized the drawer.

By contrast, when I use a pen, I toss it haphazardly back into the drawer, intending for it to hit a slot — any slot. Thus the next time I open the drawer, well, I have to hunt for whatever. But Ron has a strong bent for everything in it’s place. Me? I just leave a trail of messy evidence I’ve been there.

The pencil drawer shows me Ron’s character and I love him for the quiet demonstration of what can be.

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