Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Strength Through Adversity

A few days ago, I was with my sister in Branson, Missouri. We were being silly kids again and attending Motown concerts put on by some of our friends. One night, we were sitting on the front row of a show when a lady in a wheelchair pulled herself into the seat behind my sister. I glanced over my shoulder and smiled. She didn’t look like everyone else in the crowd. Her clothes were rumpled, her movements jerky and her voice disjointed and loud. But it was apparent she wanted to be friends and immediately began talking to us. Her questions, and rather boisterous outbursts, continued after the performance began. People in the audience started giving her dirty looks and saying unkind things just loud enough for her hear, but she tried to ignore them. When one of the performers asked a few couples to come to the stage so he could sing to them while they danced she wanted to be spotlighted too.

She got to her feet with such wobbly movements I thought for sure she would topple over, but her husband let her lean on him while he got her up the few steps. She came alive for just a few minutes, moving around to the melodious strains of a love song, but I knew she was in trouble when her knees began to shake. I wanted to rush up and lend my support since no one else on stage appeared to notice that she was in trouble. But before she collapsed to the floor the performer helped her husband get her back to her chair. She apologized profusely for not being able to stand longer and asked for a soda. I left to get it for her while the performer told the rest of the audience that she had only been able to walk for a little over a year.

 

It was during intermission that I learned more of her story. She was the poster child for MS when she was a little girl and got to go to Disneyland and meet a bunch of celebrities who paid a great deal of attention to her. But when her cuteness faded, she was basically tossed away to make it on her own. She lived on the streets, doing anything she had to for survival, until the man who became her husband saw her. He told us that he really didn’t want to become involved because he had other ideas for his life, but God told him he would be giving up a great many blessings if he walked away. He decided that God knew more than he did, and since this life was a test he was willing to take the challenge. He worked with her everyday for several decades until she could finally stand and then walk short distances. His love and support helped her reclaim as much of her life as she could. She had two seizures before the show was over but didn’t let that take away any of her joy at just being there. That experience gave me a lot to think about when I went back to the bed and breakfast that night.

 

I had been taught that strength comes through adversity, and I realized early the next morning that I had seen one of Heavenly Father’s most choice spirits the night before. She had been given a test I would never want or be able to handle, but she was doing everything she could to rise above her challenges. That awareness was followed by a true epiphany. I saw quite clearly that I had come to define my life by all the really bad things that had happened since I have almost complete memory loss when it comes to the day by day experiences most people are able to recall without any effort. Even when my kids bring up something fun or unusual that happened when they were growing up, I can’t remember it. But I know that somewhere in my genes is an incredible gift – the ability to keep moving whenever life seems determined to push and keep me down.

 

I know we all have times of great adversity when the pain is almost more than we can endure – times of death, illness, heartache and loss that zap us to the core. There are also times of challenge that make us dig deep to find the strength and courage necessary to even get out of bed. But mostly, there are just unrelenting irritants like broken water lines, flat tires, unruly children, allergic reactions, lost items and requests from others that we really don’t have time for. But regardless of what we’re asked to go through by a loving Father who knows what we need to become more like him, or simply the things we bring on ourselves through carelessness and plain stupidity, how we react to the unpleasant will determine where we ultimately end up.

 

I learned about adversity and how it can destroy an entire family when I was five. I'm sure I've related this experience before, but I think it warrants retelling since it has much to do with the topic. It was the spring of the year and my father was getting the tractor ready to plow the fields. We were poor dirt farmers, and I was sent outside with my three year-old brother and told to watch him. I suppose I did for a time, but kids minds can’t stay focused for long and he was determined to be with our dad. He slipped away and went to the field. But our father didn’t see him, and the tractor lunged forward just as he was trying to climb on the neck of the disk. One of the blades ran over his neck, another his chest, and a third over his legs. 

 

He was lifeless when our father, through super-human strength, lifted the disc with one hand and pulled him out with the other. He came running towards the house, shouting for the keys to the jeep and saying that Sandon was dead. My mother took one look at me and said. “If you would been watching him the way I told you to this never would have happened.” Then she turned her back on me and disappeared. That was the day I became a little adult who allowed the cares of the world to settle directly on my shoulders.

 

My little brother was in a coma for six weeks, and the doctors had no idea how to help him since all the medical marvels we have today had yet to be invented. His trachea kept collapsing and they had to operate several times without being able to transfer him to a sterile environment. We three girls were sent to stay with family and friends because our mother needed to be with him. 

 

When he woke up, the right side of his body was paralyzed along with the accompanying brain damage that made it so he had to learn how to walk, talk and do even the simplest things again. We were thrilled when our parents were finally able to bring him home, but it was a scary experience too. His crib was set up in the living room and he became the center of our lives because there was nothing he could do for himself. Several large and noisy machines were in the room with him and our mother had to learn how to use them, especially the one that suctioned out the mucus that formed in the hole in his neck where the doctors had inserted a tracheotomy tube. Each accomplishment he made was celebrated, but the strain his partial recovery put on each member of our family was great. 


The doctor and hospital bills were enormous, there were no physical therapists or specialized who knew how to help him because no one with his kind of injuries had ever survived before and someone had to be with him every moment because scar tissue would grow over the end of the tube in his neck that had to be surgically removed. He couldn’t speak unless the hole was plugged, and he couldn’t breathe if it wasn’t.

 

I became his personal guardian because I blamed myself for all he was going through, but he never complained about anything. He taught me more about building strength through adversity than anyone else ever has. We could never have a pet because he tripped over everything. He had to do special exercises several times each day to help strengthen his stiff and shrunken limbs, and he had to wear a heavy metal brace on his right leg until adulthood. He never got to play during recess because his teachers spent that time trying to help him understand his lessons. He fell down constantly and always had holes in pant legs and scraps on his arms and legs. Kids were cruel and made fun of him continually, but there was always a smile on his face, even though I knew his heart was filled with pain because he understood that he would never be able to do the things others could. 

 

But despite his disabilities he set goals and accomplished some of them. He graduated high school, married a girl he had grown up with and had 6 children. Unfortunately, a lifetime of pain, rejection and self-doubt caused him to lose his way and he forfeited association with all but one of his daughters. He ended up marrying a young girl who had some serious issues and when they broke up he got involved with more bad people and fell into a fire pit while he was at a party. He couldn’t get out, and the people he was with waited until they thought he would never survive before dropping him off outside the emergency room doors without any identification. It took three days before any family was notified. When I saw him in the burn unit his face and body were swollen to twice their normal size. 

 

Because he allowed his faith to waver, he spent his last 15 years in a nursing home in incredible pain because some of the burns never healed. But he recognized where he had gone wrong and never blamed anyone else for where he ended up, not even the people who put him there. He spent his time cheering up the other residents, studying his scriptures and praying for help, strength and forgiveness. I lost him the day after Thanksgiving last year. And while I take comfort in knowing that he is now able to run and feel the wind blowing through his hair like he couldn’t do in this life, I miss him every day. He was, and is, an amazing man, and I admire him more than ever for his willingness to accept and even flourish in the face of what I consider true adversity. 

 

Personally, I don’t particularly enjoy adversity, but I recognize its purpose and the gifts it offers if we’re smart enough to recognize them. Sandon’s accident gave me a love for the disabled because I can see their true value and what strong spirits they have to be given such difficult challenges. They’ve already proven their worth and their reunion in heaven will be glorious. 

 

There have been many defining moments in my life. I’ll share just a few and what they taught me. When I was in the third grade I contracted Rheumatic Fever and spent six months in bed. I could only get up to go to the bathroom or for my weekly visit to the doctor where my blood was drawn. The disease damaged my heart, and I have never been able to participate in strenuous physical activities. But those long months without seeing anyone other than family taught me to love the printed word and gave me the desire to express my thoughts through writing. 

 

When I was thirteen, my father died quite suddenly from a massive heart attack leaving seven children behind. I found him lying on the bathroom floor, but couldn’t open it because his body was blocking the way. His death was too much for our mother and she had a complete nervous breakdown a short time later. Those were awful years. She came after me with a butcher knife when I was a senior because I wouldn’t support some of the truly horrid things she was doing. I ended up running away a couple of months later, but was fortunate enough to get a scholarship to attend college. I never went home again, but thanks to a loving grandmother I was able to see my younger siblings a couple of times before she died during spring semester of my freshman year. 

 

I’ve often wondered what possible purpose God had for taking our father when we needed him so much, but I suppose it kept me from making more mistakes than I did because I knew he might be watching me. His death also taught me how to love my Heavenly Father more. And over time, I learned to talk to him like I would have talked to my father. He has been the only one in my corner most of my life since I’ve spent the majority of it alone.

 

With no one to give me advice, support or love after the age of 19, I ended up marrying a man who said he needed me to help him become the man he really wanted to be. I knew how to be needed and take care of others, but I didn’t know anything about being love. I could never do anything right with him, and he let me know it on a daily basis. I was terrified of his ability to reduce me to just a shell of the person I was before we met, but in those days girls just didn’t walk away from a marriage. 

 

I tried to give him a family that I hoped would make things better, but each pregnancy ended in a miscarriage. He blamed me for all of them because in his own words, “he could me pregnant. It was my fault I couldn’t carry them.” 

 

When I knew Heavenly Father wanted me to adopt, he said he didn’t want someone else’s children, but he would sign the papers if I would do all the work and I did. I lasted 22 years with him before my body started to shut down from all the abuse and stress. The doctor told me I would be dead in 6 months if I didn’t do something drastic. It was hard walking away with nothing, but Heavenly Father gave me the strength to start over again. 

 

My daughter had already graduated from high school, and my fifteen year-old son said he would go with me as long as we had a place to live. But my ex-husband bought him a pickup he could drive to school each day, along with all the spending money and freedom he wanted. I was in a small basement apartment and making $17,000 a year so all I could give him was love. Those were the hardest days of my life being away from the children I had fought so hard to have. 


But Heavenly Father was my constant source of strength. He helped me move 4 times that first year, and hold my head up at the high school where I taught after my principal called me into his office to tell me to watch my back because the good people from my home community were out to crucify me. He helped me find a job in a different town and my son came to live with me. He helped me through graduate school while I was working full-time, find summer jobs so I could make it financially and make several additional moves. He gave me the courage to walk into the unknown over and over again, and taught me how important it was to stay close to him.

  

We live in both perilous and exciting times, but I feel calm when I'm doing what I know is right. And I know there are many people in the life that comes after this one who are lending whatever support they can as we navigate some very difficult journeys. May we remain strong, teachable and loving in a society that calls evil good, encourages hatred and division and tries to silence those who appose what the people in power are trying to promote. It is a beautiful world, and there are amazing people everywhere.


In case you find time for additional reading, I'm enclosing a list of the books I've written, along with a brief synopsis. Each book is built around family, searching for truth and overcoming personal struggles and opposition. They can be found on Amazon Books in both print and Ebook formats at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv 


Stay happy and know that the answers to most of life's problems are just a prayer away.



Kismet Finds a Way: by JS Ririe

Andrea Halbert always lived by the rules, but she’d never found Mr. Right. Then one dark a stranger entered her life. He was handsome, charismatic, and had a passion for living that made her head spin, but he also had a dark past and secrets he was unwilling to share. Her head told her to be careful, but her heart didn’t want to listen. Will a whirlwind romance, and some choices she did not see coming, cause her to fall from grace, or will she be able to help a man she can’t forget find his forgotten dreams?


Crossfire at Bentley: by JS Ririe

Jada Sloan spent four years at the university in love with a professor – seven years her senior - who hopped in and out of her life like a yoyo. Ten years later, after a rocky road to success and a failed marriage, she found herself back at Bentley as a guest lecturer. But a new friend, a conspiracy and a chance encounter with her old flame threaten to destroy her purpose-driven life. Will she find the inner strength to let go of her past or become part of a puzzle no one seems capable of solving? 


Rivers of Rage: by JS Ririe

     For Rani Wade, it was far from easy knowing that her parents had dropped her off at a stranger’s house with no intention of returning. But left with the will to survive, she embraces a new life that unexpectedly takes her to the mountains of Colorado and an adventure that causes her to reevaluate everything she believes about permanence, hope and the reality that people are seldom forced to be alone, even when abandoned by the people who should love them the most.


Beyond the Glass Doors: by JS Ririe

     Maya Kincade was used to taking risks. That’s how she claimed the perfect life and how it ended. But she wasn’t ready to have her world torn apart and be left with two children to raise. That’s when a long-lost relative enters her life with a proposition she is unable to refuse, and she must dig deep into her soul to decide if her husband’s death will be the worst loss of her lifetime.


Final Allegiance - Reagan Sinclair, FBI - Book 1: by JS Ririe


Reagan Sinclair defies her family’s wishes by joining the FBI. While her motives are pure, her first undercover assignment proves that true bravery comes from the heart. Loaned out to the Drug Enforcement Agency to infiltrate a compound in the Colombian jungle, she is forced to face her own mortality when the mission is compromised and she attempts a daring escape without the necessary backup.


Resilience - Reagan Sinclair, FBI - Book 2: by JS Ririe

    Life is beginning to return to a semblance of normalcy when Reagan is approached about another undercover assignment with the DEA. Seeing her former partner again is intriguing, but she will never forget his cold arrogance and ruthless behavior in the Colombian jungle. Pull off the role of his make-believe wife won’t be easy.


Safe Haven - Reagan Sinclair, FBI - Book 3: by JS Ririe

   After trying to come to terms with more than just the fallout of a challenging assignment, Reagan returns to FBI headquarters with a new price on her head. Eloise Seville has vowed to destroy her life, and with a mole somewhere within the ranks of the DEA, she knows that discovering her true identity won’t be hard.


Unsheltered - Reagan Sinclair, FBI - Book 4: by JS Ririe

    Stunned, hurt, and afraid after the tragedy at the safe house  and a brutal demand, Reagan is forced on the run with baby Sam knowing they might never see their family again. A strange and unnerving encounter gives her the ammunition she needs to start a return battle against the evil monsters that have stolen so much of her life. 


Welcome Redemption - Reagan Sinclair, FBI - Book 5: by JS Ririe 

  Not wanting to spend time in a Mexican prison, Reagan agrees to testify at Eloise Seville’s trial. But her uncanny ability to see things others often overlook tells her that the subpoena was merely another ruse. Her journey takes her back to Colombia where she and Agent Fielding go up against their ruthless and formidable enemies in a calculated showdown where only one side will be victorious.


Indecision’s Flame - Book 1: by JS Ririe

Brylee Hawkins was prepared to enjoy a bright, hopeful future until her fiancé convinced her to return to the Australian Outback to confront her father. On her own in a harsh and unforgiving land, she is forced to face an unsavory past and an even more disturbing and dangerous present filled with unrelenting lies, secrets and cover-ups.


Lost - Indecision’s Flame - Book 2: by JS Ririe 

Torn between her family and the obligations of a promise made to her father, Brylee longs to return to the United States and to her fiancé, but fate has other plans. Jake, the brother of her father’s wife, decides to take her under his wing and teach her the ropes of running the ranch—mostly in an attempt to get rid of her before she learns of her father’s legacy and the part she is to play if she wants to help keep it alive.


Exposed - Indecision’s Flame - Book 3: by JS Ririe

With LeAnn gone from the ranch and the aftermath of the flood to contend with, Brylee is forced to assume more responsibility than she is prepared for in raising her little brother and trying to keep the family heritage intact. Her troubles deepen when a secret she was keeping from her fiancé is revealed through an unexpected source.


Betrayal - Indecision’s Flame - Book 4: by JS Ririe

     Despite a fractured heart, Brylee forges onward in support of her cousin, Molly, who suddenly decides to get married. Tension and violence quickly ignite in the outback when a nugget of gold is found on a neighboring homestead, and Brylee and Jake are forced to put aside their differences as they are pulled deeper into a web of misunderstandings, cover-ups and danger.


Reawakening - Indecision’s Flame - Book 5: by JS Ririe

Jake’s cryptic note forces Brylee to reconsider remaining in the outback where personal heartbreak and unrelenting responsibility are reducing her to a shell of the woman she has once been. But the arrival of an old aborigine from her past whose revelations about her childhood and omens for the future make leaving impossible. 


Unraveling - Indecision’s Flame - Book 6: by JS Ririe

Brylee’s avoidance when it comes to revealing parts of her curious past lead her back to the cave of drawings. While Trevor’s disappearance fuels LeAnn’s involvement with their neighbor, Raymond Tucker, whose only goal has been to acquire every ranch in their part of the outback by whatever means is necessary.


Destiny - Indecision’s Flame - Book 7: by JS Ririe

Beth effectively ruins Christmas with an unexpected visit and Raymond steps in to save the day, further ingratiating himself into the family. LeAnn’s accepting behavior towards their unwanted benefactor causes additional rifts as Brylee and Jake race to figure out what he’s up to before the secrets of the mountain are revealed.

 



 

Tuesday, 31 August 2021

More Gratitude Needed

I think God, in all his wisdom, has been teaching me a lesson in gratitude and not overreacting to the minor inconvenience life throws our way that I talked about in my last post. They're why I haven't written anything for the past month. I've been both too tired and filled with self-reflexion to put words together in a coherent fashion. The events of the past few weeks have certainly given me a different perspective when it comes to complaining. And I'm not just talking about national and world events that show how desperately we need to put God first in our lives. He has a way of letting those of us who have faith in him better understand just how dependent we are on him for all the little things we take for granted on a daily basis. 

My little journey began the last Saturday in July when I met my son's biological sister who had come from Texas to visit him. She wasn't feeling well, and I had the distinct impression that she had Covid. But I tried to put that off because I wanted to get to know every member of the family he had met a couple of years ago when he got a text from this same girl who said she was his biological sister. I had always known that both of my adopted children could one day meet members of the family that had given them away. My daughter had found hers a decade earlier and had basically written us off after realizing how much she was like her biological father, but my son had never really cared to meet his. Nonetheless, biology has a more direct link to a person than the people they are raised with so I've had some very difficult feelings to deal with while shedding a great many tears.

It was a good visit and she was very sweet. But some of the residual feelings I'd been trying to work through were still with me the next day when the worst storm our area had seen for years was predicted to arrive. I didn't think much about all the pelting rain that night until one of my neighbors called to see how I was doing and if I'd checked my window wells. I hadn't, but I did. The minute I walked into the basement I could hear water running down a wall behind the sofa. Of the six windows it was the only one affected. My neighbor helped bucket the water out, but half an hour after he was gone I had to climb down into the window well in the dark and bucket it out again. The rain was coming down so hard I was soaked to the skin, but I was able to keep it from getting inside again and clean up the mess the first round had made. 

Tired, but grateful things had not been worse, I continued my week. On Tuesday morning my son called to tell me he had Covid and since I'd been exposed I needed to quarantine for a week to 10 days depending on whether or not I got any symptoms. Most all of us had already been vaccinated and other than a bad cough he said he was feeling okay. I didn't like missing 2 days of work but was okay with it because there was plenty to be done around the yard and house and I wanted to do my part in helping to stop the pandemic. But when he called a week later to say he was on his way to the hospital and I needed to come and get my granddaughter, I knew we were headed into a very bad stretch. Never in his life had I seen him as ill as he was when I went to his home to get her. He was having trouble even making it down half a flight of stairs. 

To make a long story short, we were lucky as a family. He was only in the hospital for three days before he was able to come with oxygen. But he was still critically ill with his fever coming and going at will and was not able to keep anything down for two weeks before he lost his ability to taste anything. During that time, I got my granddaughter ready to start junior high since she and her dog were staying with me, ran numerous errands, cleaned their house, did their laundry, picked fruits and vegetables and made freezer jam. My daugher-in-law was exhausted just taking care of him. We also had another big storm, but after shoveling out all the mud that had run underneath the window well I was able to keep it from getting inside the house again. I had actually figured out why it had happened and dug up the extension on the rain gutter that had been put underground so it could drain onto the basketball court in my back yard. It wasn't a pretty fix, but it worked.

My granddaughter was able to go home the day before school started. I was counting my blessings profusely because my son had decided he was strong enough to go back to work, albeit with oxygen and coming home totally wiped out. But two days later I noticed that the box on the north of my house that contained valves and wires for the sprinkler system was filled with water. I had fixed 2 other leaks in the water lines less than a month before, but now I had to start digging again. Fortunately, another neighbor was able to help me repair it. While I have watched it done several times in the past, I knew I could never do it on my own. Every place it breaks is near a joint that is underneath another line. But when I went to fill in the hole I ended up tearing the hamstring in my right leg. So I've been icing, wrapping and elevating it for the past 4 days. 

There was so much I wanted to get done before going to see my sister, but I have to be content knowing that my son is slowly recovering, my granddaughter was ready to start school,  my sprinters are working for the moment and water won't get into my basement if we have another big rain. I can't even complain about that because we need it so desperately, and it has helped revive all the grass, shrubs and trees that have been turning brown ever since the summer began. 

As tired and frustrated as I still feel at times, I am just so grateful for God's tender mercies that help me see life more clearly and have more love and compassion for others. My heart is filled with sorrow for all those lives that have been so horribly disrupted the past weeks and months as the elements and men's lack of understanding and humanity have caused untold suffering for millions. I look around my humble home that is clean and safe and the tears start to fall because I have been so richly blessed. I owe everything to God and my Savior. They are always there to lift and help and bring others into my life when I need them. I want to be an instrument in their hands in loving and serving others in my small circle influence. That's all most of us will ever be able to do anyway.

I mentioned my grandmother's book in my last post. The challenges my ancestors lived through are very different than mine, but I know I carry some of their strength and resolve in my genes. How grateful I am for their example. Her story is one everyone who loves a bit of history should read. It will make you laugh and cry. So Long Bishop is available on Amazon Books. https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv 




Saturday, 31 July 2021

Summer Slump

The hottest and driest June and July in recorded history in Utah is finally over, and I can't tell you how happy I am. Don't know what August will bring yet, but we had a little rain the night before last and today it only got to 90. I think I've been down in the dumps since the heat wave started. My lawn and flowers started out so beautifully this spring, and the garden came up without being hit with a late frost. But as the temperatures climbed and the worst drought ever hit us, I had to watch all the vegetation in the countryside turn brown and some of the leaves on the trees start to change color in the middle of July. Even some of my pumpkins  have turned orange, and Halloween is still three months away. It's discouraging to say the least, especially when water restrictions came and my lawn started to turn brown, then white and finally bare in spots. I was determined to keep my garden and flowers alive, but that was only because I watered them by hand faithfully every morning.  

The only thing that saved my sanity was doing something for my grandmother who has been gone since I was nineteen. She was my champion, my best friend and the only one I've ever had to turn to. When my little brother was hurt and my entire family displaced, I went to stay with her. I was reeling with pain and grief, believing I was responsible for him being in a coma and ending up with partial paralysis for the rest of his life. For those who haven't read some of my earlier posts, I was five and he was three when he wandered into the field and my father accidentally ran over him with a tandem disk. My mother told me it never would have happened if I had been watching him. That chastisement has been like a cancer festering inside of me my entire life.

My sweet grandmother took me under her wing, played the piano for me, told me countless stories and fixed the most marvelous food. She let me help her do the laundry in her old wringer washing machine, hang clothes on the line, press apple cider in the orchard, learn the art of using rags to curl my hair and offered every diversion possible to keep me from falling apart. But most of all, she taught me to love the printed word. I owe any writing ability I may have acquired to her tutelage. She spent a good portion of every day with the stub of a pencil in her hand, that she would moisten with her spit, and any piece of paper she could find. Her mind was always ablaze with ideas for readings, stories or books, and she knew exactly what each scrap of paper contained. 

She only had one story published in the London Mystery Magazine, but I was blessed to be given two of her manuscripts when my mother died. I've sat on them for nearly twenty years. I suppose having to provide for myself and my children was partially responsible, but I guess I had to be ready to read them and life had to slow down enough for that. I'm glad that time finally came because her book is one of the treasures I have guarded carefully through several moves and many challenging life experiences, only reading the first few pages until I decided it was time to share it with the rest of Great Grandpa and Grandma John Bowker’s posterity. It is impossible to know just how much is factual, and what has been embellished to make it more enjoyable to read. But after I started typing and watched the characters come to life, I knew it was mostly a biography of their family and the people who lived in the small township of Blackfoot, Idaho around the turn of the twentieth century. Without question, some names have been changed to protect the innocent since it is told from my grandmother, Viola Bowker Ririe’s, point of view. But even in my limited memory of the ancestors I knew before their deaths, it was easy to recognize certain family members. 

In it, she calls herself Tamsin. It’s a name she used in some of the stories she told us as children as we sat around her knees in utter amazement at how perfectly she could mesmerize us for hours. Many tears came to my eyes as I put her words on the computer. Perhaps part of that was because my brother, Sandon, who died the day after Thanksgiving, 2020, looked so much like Great Grandpa, and I miss him terribly. But it couldn’t have been easy living without running water, indoor plumbing, electricity, telephones, adequate medical care, or even being able to contact neighbors in a hurry if the need arose, but it attests to their strength of character, endearing flaws and the great love they had for family, God and country. I get emotional just thinking about all the luxuries and ease we have now and how little so many of us appreciate the people who gave us everything we have, including our DNA.  It makes me want to start working on family history again.

Today, I finished that project and even had the courage to try my hand at designing a cover. I hate to admit that I have no artistic ability, but cover design templates available on the Internet give some of us a chance. I can't say that it's good, but I know my grandma would love it, if only because she loves me. I decided to include the synopsis for anyone who may be interested. The book is titled "So Long, Bishop", and it will give any reader something to think about, along with some laughter and a few tears. It will be available on Amazon as soon as it clears the review. 

John Bonner knew what he wanted, and it wasn’t driving a freight wagon across the sage-covered, inhospitable desert of Southeastern Idaho for the rest of his earthly existence where his only companions were coyotes, rattlesnakes, jackrabbits, ground squirrels and an occasional sheepherder who wanted to be left alone. His desire was to become a landowner, but in his zest to claim the life he wanted, he made an uncalculated mistake. He became engaged to his benefactor’s willful daughter without falling in love first. 

 

While he was determined to do the honorable thing and make good on his commitments, he didn’t take into accounting meeting her cousin, the bright-eyed, enchanting, Rosella May Wilton, who had just returned to the valley and immediately captured his heart. With the elaborate, and much anticipated, wedding only a few weeks away, he was at a crossroad where his next decision could literally cost him everything he hoped to have. While he was trying to make up his mind, all the while knowing he had nothing to offer anyone but an old wagon, a team of horses and his two hands, a spark of true genius hit him. But would the parties involved be agreeable? It was time to find out.


I'm concluding this post with a poem I saw on Facebook a week ago. It reminded me that mountains don't always have to be scaled. Sometimes, it's perfectly okay to climb a hill instead--even if that hill is just getting out of bed. 





Sunday, 27 June 2021

What July 4 Means to Me

At the northwest corner of my house stands a tall flagpole that my neighbor erected long before I moved here. I can hear the whipping of the fabric of our national emblem of freedom and peace on a very windy day and see it from the corner of my bedroom window as I start my day. I greets me as I return home and reminds me as I am working in the yard how much the past seems to have become lost in the push for ideologies and many other things that are far different than what the average American believes in or wants. 

I have tried not to think too much about the 4th of July this year because all it does is make me cry. As a baby boomer, so much of the country I was raised in has disappeared that I hardly recognize it anymore. I was too young to appreciate the Vietnam War, not that it was ever recognized as being a good thing by very many people, but it still impacted the lives of millions of Americans who came home tarnished and disillusioned to a point where they were never able to fully recover. The same thing applies to the sexual revolution of the sixties where every moral value of the past was questioned as drugs and the concept of free love overtook the sound reasoning of parents who only wanted what was best for their children. And the courageous actions of people like Rosa Parks who helped usher in the right kind of equality for every American were imprinted on my heart as I watched a revolution take place during my own lifetime.

I remember the morning I sat in a class at school and word came over the intercom that our president, John F. Kennedy had been shot. I couldn't move for the longest time as we listened for further word. The tears, fears and disbelief were so strong in the room that day they really felt like they could be cut with the proverbial knife. That shocking and unparalleled incident--at least in my lifetime--was followed by the deaths of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert Kennedy. I thought our entire world had gone crazy back then, but it was nothing when compared to the turmoil, loss of believe, fear, media control of almost everything, unrighteous dominion of members in every branch of government and the unraveling of our constitutional rights that is being unleashed today. 

The days of my youth when we said the Pledge of Allegiance each morning at school, were allowed to offer prayers, studied history so we  would value what we had and not repeat the past, cherished our belief in the equality of all Americans, not just the rights of special interest groups or government mandated ideas, are long over and greatly missed. I feel deep sadness when the statues and memorials representing those who have sacrificed for others are torn down and replaced with ones of people who have done nothing to show love, respect and honor to what our founding fathers worked so hard to achieve. They were not perfect men, but they were instruments through which the greatest nation on the face of the earth was built. It was a country founded on a covenant with the specific blessings of liberty, protection and prosperity, if the inhabitants would only obey and serve God. 

I don't like what is happening to our country, nor do I like the impact it is having on our youth. The ideologies that are being rammed down their throats will destroy so much of what I hold dear and sacred. But as the older generation, I believe we cannot give up or give in. We must continue to fight for our rights, our beliefs and our desires for a future that may never materialize. Each day I hear or read things that cause the pain in my heart to increase as so many of my God-given rights are being stripped away. The thing I find most disturbing is that so many Americans can't see what is happening. They are buying into  the garbage they are being fed without any resistance, or the belief that it will ever impact life as they know it. But in my mind, that is far from being true. We will reap as a nation what those in positions of power are pushing for unless we have the moral convictions to take a stand by supporting people who have the same values we do. I will keep doing that because as long as I live I want to see our flag flying brightly outside my front door.

I would like to end this post with the words from Moses' farewell address to his nation under the same covenant we have (found in Deuteronomy 30). It was repeated by John Winthrop in 1630, Martin Luther King Jr. on the night before he was killed in 1968 and President Ronald Reagan at the base of the Statue of Liberty in 1986. May we really internalize them is my prayer for the 4th of July this year.

See, I have set before you this day life and good, death and adversity. For I command you this day to love the Lord your God, to walk in his ways, and to keep his commandments. But if you turn away, you shall certainly perish; you shall not long endure on the soil that you are crossing the Jordan to enter. I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life--that you and your offspring might live. That you may love the Lord your God, and that you may obey his voice, and that you may cleave unto him: for he is your life, and the length of your days: that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore unto your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob.



Sunday, 20 June 2021

Father are Never Forgotten

Father's Day this year has hit me harder than it has for quite some time. Perhaps that's because I lost my brother the day after Thanksgiving and feel a little jealous because he is now with the father we lost as children. I was 13 when he was called home. I remember that afternoon with clarity. He was in bed resting when I returned on the long, yellow school bus. My mother left me to tend the little ones while she and my older sister went to town to get something she hoped would help settle his stomach. My siblings were watching Rawhide on our small black and white television. I loved that show because I had a schoolgirl crush on the character named Roudy Yates. (Clint Eastwood for those who are too young to remember the show.)

But for some reason, I couldn't get into the episode. Our father was never sick, so I kept going his door to ask if there was something he needed. He was a six-foot, four-inch cowboy who loved to ride his horse, tend his cattle and perform in rodeos. He was our champion, and I had been his right-hand man since the day I got out of bed after my first bout with rheumatic fever. I was going into the 4th grade. I got up at 4:30 every morning to drive the tractor while he fed the cattle and worked with him on every project I could around the farm from setting fence posts to stacking hay. I looked more like him that any of my siblings - mostly because I have the same long, straight nose - and that was definitely a plus to me. 

Anyway, back to my story. I heard a thump and went racing towards the back of the house. But my father wasn't where I had left him. He had gone into the bathroom and had a heart attack. His body was blocking the door. I cried out for help and push with all my might, but it wouldn't budge. It was about this time that our mother got home. She sent us next door to the neighbors. That short walk seemed like the longest of my life and after we were left alone in the neighbor's kitchen, I had all of us kneel down to pray that our dad would be okay. Then the long minutes of waiting began.

I had been taught to pray as a child at his knee but never before had I felt the need to do so with such intent. I loved my father completely and trusted that he would always be there to take care of me. But God had other plans. It was nearly dusk when my uncle came to get us. He said our father was gone but we could come home. Walking into the house he had build for us with his own hands was one of the hardest things I have ever done. I wanted to hear his voice more than anything else in the world, or even see his face, but his body had already been taken to the mortuary. I don't remember much about the next few days, except that neighbors filled our freezer with tuna casseroles and chocolate cake. 

Life after that was nothing more than existence. My mother had a complete nervous breakdown three years later, and I ended up running away from home because I couldn't take the abuse any longer. My grandmother drove me to college a few months later. I had been lucky in receiving an academic scholarship, or I never would have been able to leave Idaho. 

The first year being completely on my own was the hardest. If I could find a ride back to Idaho Falls, I would stay with my grandmother. After my mother had left for the night, she and my uncle would take me to see my younger siblings. We would cry as I held them in my arms and promised that we would get to see each other more often. But those promises were empty because I never went home to stay again.

It would be nice to say that my trials gave me strength, and I suppose in many ways they did. The challenge was trying to keep it together without any support after my grandmother died the spring semester of my freshman year. I was left without any of the emotional tools I needed to navigate a very confusing, and often frightening, world. But there were a few times along the way when I knew my father was with me. It's been a long time since I've heard his voice in my head, but I'm sure I will recognize it when I hear it again. I know this life isn't all there is. It is but a small moment in the span of eternity.

Despite many times when I wish I had been smarter, more astute and less emotional so I wouldn't have made my life more difficult than it might have been, I am so grateful that I got to be with my father for as long as I did. I miss him so much and wonder quite often how things would have been if he had been allowed to stay with us. We needed him so much. He was our rock, our champion, our defender, our teacher and our best friend.

I wrote this poem a few years ago and want to share it with you. I know many of you have endured similar experiences, and I would love to hear about them. All you have to do is reply to this. I hope fathers around the world know how important they are to their children for we are all a little lost without them.


 Daddy,

 

Did you know that perfect spring morn so long ago

that you would be leaving your loved ones alone 

to return so abruptly to your heavenly home?

 

Did you know that the unexpected loss and confusion

your children felt would bring sorrow, loneliness,

tears, uncertainty and a lifetime of regrets?

 

Did you know that the wife you loved above all

would lose her way, struggle with fear, grief,

adversity and the harsh responsibility for us all?

 

Did you know your seven little ones would become divided, 

holding pain, sorrow, anger, self-recrimination and anxiety inside,

almost forgetting that you were ever part of our lives?

 

Did you know that the emptiness felt to our very cores 

would fester so completely that the most vulnerable of us 

never knew true intimacy, especially with a spouse?

 

Did you know how many of us would fight with all we had

to stop the abuse in our own homes - ramifications of the nearly

debilitating treatment we had suffered so often after you were gone?

 

Did you know that we would long for your wisdom,

your gentle way of caring, and your heartfelt laugher

as we tried to navigate our often bewildering journeys?

 

Did you know that all of us would want to be with you again,

to see your smile, to hold your hand, to let you know that

we did our best through some very difficult moments?

 

 

 

Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Many of you have been following my rantings about doctors, hospitals and such the past few months. I'm not saying that I'm doing a whole lot better when it comes to the issues that were plaguing me when my journey began because most of the symptoms are still there, along with an acute nausea that hits me most mornings and last until early afternoon. Not sure what is going on with that, but I'm determined to turn things around with a more positive attitude. That's not to easy to do right now since it was 100 degrees yesterday, it's only the 14th of June, and we haven't had any rain for over six weeks. We're down to 17 percent in the reservoirs and restrictions on water usage are already being put into place. To say that it's going to be a long, hot summer is an understatement. 

To let you know just how bad it is even in town, my son was sitting at his desk in a bank where he's a loan officer last week and the lawn in front of the restaurant next door burst into flames it was so dry. No one knows for sure how it happened, but it is a prelude to what we have to look forward to as the heat continues. I went out to do a little weeding early yesterday and was so sick when I came in that it took a couple of hours until I could even move about without feeling sick. Summer has never been my favorite time of year, but I'm afraid that this year it's going to be even harder to find something exciting about it. Of course it might help if I was going somewhere, but work will keep me here until September when I'm going back to see my sister again. (It's just no fun to travel alone when you're older and basically become a backdrop to what everyone else is doing.)

Nonetheless, I do have one piece of good news. I've finally finished my next book. It's the last of the four I completed the first draft too when I was in my thirties but never had the time to complete with all the responsibilities that come with family, work and home. But waiting until life had given me more experience to draw from made it more believable and real since most of us have dreams we wish we had captured while there was still time. Like the heroine in Kismet Finds a Way, this book is semi-autobiographical since I fell in love wth a special someone I have never forgotten when I was in college too. It gave the song Reunited by Peaches and Herb new meaning because I dreamed for many years what it would be like to see him again. But I'm sure that reality would never equal what I have experienced in my dreams. So I wrote one of the scenarios about a possible meeting where we could rekindle what had been lost. Is there anyone out there who has some of the same fantasies I do? I think it makes us human because love is the most driving force in the world, especially for those of us who have never found it.

I guess that since I've been alone for over 20 years it's not so bad to have a few lost dreams since it means I used to have a life where love was always a possibility, and I could feel things I have never experienced. My marriage did not bring peace, fulfillment or a reason to be myself and explore what most women long for. Fear, putdowns and never being good enough were what marriage meant to me, and I really envy women who have been truly loved by a man because that has never happened for me. Perhaps that's why my first publisher told me I needed to learn how to write love scenes - not steamy, explicit ones because they take all the romance out for me and are not something I am comfortable doing - but tender passion that shows what true joy in a loving relationship should be. It's hard to write about something that has never been experienced, but I still know what I would like to happen before this life is over. However, I am realistic enough to know that men anywhere near my age are looking for women 30 years younger.

Anyway, enough of that. I doubt any of us need a reason to feel down because life gives us enough reasons without  looking for them. But I am proud of Crossfire at Bentley. I think you will enjoy this story. Here's a quick synopsis. Happy reading for those of you who enjoy it, and for those who don't, have a wonderful day anyway. 

Jada Sloan spent four years at the university in love with a professor – seven years her senior - who hopped in and out of her life and made her feel like a queen. But he was never ready to settle down with just one girl. Ten years later, after a rocky road to success and a failed marriage, she found herself back at Bentley as a guest lecturer. But a new friend, a conspiracy and a chance encounter with her old flame threaten to destroy her now well-ordered life. Will she find the inner strength to let go of her past or become part of a puzzle no one seems capable of solving? Only time, and a great deal of understanding and patience will tell. Jada thought her past was complicated, but it was a breeze to what she is facing now. 

Crossfire at Bentley is available starting TODAY on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdvin both print and Ebook formats. It’s been a real labor of love. 



Sunday, 30 May 2021

The Old Army Blanket

I'm not sure why Memorial Day hit me with such force this year. Perhaps it's because I've taken the time to really think about why we have it. Somewhere over the years I've lost that it was meant to honor the men and women who gave their lives so I could enjoy all of the freedoms I mostly take for granted. It wasn't that way when I was a kid. My father was in World War II. He wanted to serve his country more than anything, but he had a bad heart due to Rheumatic Fever and also suffered a football injury to his left eye that impacted his peripheral vision. The war was practically over when the draft board finally accepted his papers. Since he couldn't go directly into battle, he became a military policeman who rode the trains back and forth across the country looking for the draft dodgers and deserters who had failed to do their duty as an American citizen. Then he received specialized training as a medic and spent some time on the Del Monte Pineapple Plantation in the Philippine Islands treating soldiers so they could come home. The sad part was that most of them suffered from venereal diseases rather than being wounded.

He always respected the flag and what our country stood for and taught his children to do the same. I'll never forget the flag my mother was given at his funeral or the gun salute that still causes me to shiver with each blast. I was thirteen and old enough to remember how dismal and frightening life had suddenly become. Never again in this life would I hear his melodious deep, base voice or climb onto his lap for a hug or a kiss. Since the cemetery was only a quarter of a mile away from our home, I rode there on my bike, or walked, many times over the years to spend time with him. And Memorial Day was always spent visiting cemeteries and placing fresh cut lilacs, tulips and peonies on the graves of our loved ones. The flowers were mostly put in glass canning jars with rocks at the bottom to keep them from toppling over. We were too poor to go to the story for plastic ones.

Many years have come and gone since then. I've moved a number of times, mostly farther away from where I grew up, and have only been back to the old Milo cemetery a time or two. Time went by so fast, all the older generation passed beyond the veil of mortality and I let what Memorial Day had once meant to me get lost in the more fashionable things the people around me were doing. It became a time for extra yard work, going somewhere for pleasure or, if I happened to live close enough to family, a time for barbecuing, playing and talking. Little to no time was ever spent recalling things from the past that should still matter as much as they once did. 

I suppose that's why this poem I once wrote about the Army blankets I grew up using as a child came back to me this morning. I had forgotten them like so many other things. I'm sharing it with you because the past should never be forgotten. It should live on, through us, in the hearts of the generations who will come after.

Scratchy, wool, army blanket,
What is your story?
Did you shelter soldiers 
fighting for other’s freedom?

 

Did you warm civilian bodies 

against the fear and the cold?

Did you wrap the remains of those who

had given all for the truths they held dear?

 

Did you shield a small, helpless infant 

against the wind and rain?

Or did you lie quietly on a self 

until the war was at an end?

 

I wish I knew your story 

though it might bring grief and pain.

But since I don’t, I’ll tell you 

how you were used in my childhood home. 

 

None of us wanted to touch you

since your surface was so very rough,

but you hung in the doorway on Christmas morn

so we couldn’t see our Santa stuff.

 

You traveled for picnics in the yard, 

the orchard or the mountain heights.

Draped over chairs you made new worlds, and

were ever near when the night became chill.

 

Your holes were ones of careless acts

since mostly children put them there.

You see, we didn't understand where you

came from or your incredible worth. 


It would be nice to thank you 

for all the service you have given, but

you’ve been gone for so many years
I have almost forgotten your existence.

Still, it's hard not to recall the smell of wet wool,
the dusty green color so unlike any other, 
and the stories of people thanking God
for even having you around to bring them warmth. 

Those things, and many others, 
have made me a more compassionate person.
I almost wish I had one now so I could share it
with the generations who have never even seen one.

I conclude this post with something I read yesterday. It touched my heart and gave me even more reason to reflect on what I am willing to sacrifice for freedom.




The Missing Man Table
When you see the table of the ones who have not returned, this is what it means. Please take a moment to respect those it represents.
•The Cloth is White- symbolizing the purity of their motives when answering the call to serve.
•The Single Red Rose- reminds us of the lives of these Americans, and their loved ones and friends who keep the faith, while seeking answers.
•The Yellow Ribbon- symbolizes our continued determination to account for them.
•A Slice of Lemon- reminds us of the bitter fate of those captured and missing in a foreign land.
•A Pinch of Salt- symbolizes the tears of our missing and their families who long for answers after decades of uncertainty.
•The Lighted Candle- reflects our hope for their return- Alive or Dead
•The Bible- represents the strength gained through faith in our country, Founded as One Nation Under God, to sustain those lost from our midst.
The Glass is Inverted- to symbolize their inability to share a toast.
•The Chair is Empty- They Are Missing.
🇺🇸Memorial Day 2021🇺🇸