Monday, 13 June 2022

Father's Day

I've been thinking a great deal about fathers the last few weeks. Not just the father I have missed for more than sixty years but all the fathers throughout the generations that were responsible for giving me life and a great many inherited traits - both good and bad. For some reason I have been drawn to Family Search, one of the largest genealogical databases in the world, with quiet regularity and have found the information available literally addicting and riveting with family trees, stories, picture and detailed data about how I am related to everyone who appears in anywhere in my family tree. 

Some of those lines can be traced back to the 400s, and I literally marvel at how records can be found that go back that far. I've even met people who can trace their ancestry back before Christ's birth. I love looking at names, many of which I have no idea how to pronounce, and thinking about the struggles those wonderful people must have had just to survive the difficulties of their days. Most of them were completely illiterate and would have to pay someone to write down any information they didn't want lost. However, many of those scribes were basically illiterate as well and names were spelled the way they sounded. That's why there are so many discrepancies in older records that must be triple-checked for accuracy. 

My mind cannot even comprehend what must be done to find and verify family members. If a job has more than three or four steps I forget what I'm doing and trying to figure out relationships when it comes to anything more than the obvious is almost impossible for me. I was lucky to pass the Praxis test so I could get into graduate school because it asked every question this way. If this is related to this then how is something else related to something else. It made absolutely no sense to me and still doesn't. I guess my brain just wasn't wired for that kind of logic. But oh how I love tracing family lines from one generation to another. It helps me see just how inconsequential my life is in the great scheme of themes but how very important it is to me.

My paternal grandfather died from lead poisoning when my father was barely a year old. In those days there were no painkillers and he sought relief in the only place he could, alcohol. My grandmother never had much in the way of kindness to say about him, although he gave her four children. That always bothered me because I felt a real closeness to my grandfather the moment I first saw his picture. I suppose part of that had to do with the fact that I looked great deal like both him and my father. I just wish I could find a living relative who knew that side of my family. What a joy it would be to learn everything I could from him or her, but there were too many early deaths and small families. I'm hoping I will get to meet all of them when I get to the other side.

But for now, I want to concentrate on my own father, just as I hope everyone else will do come Father's Day 2022. I really don't remember much about him. I was thirteen when he died. That should have been old enough to recall a great many things but the trauma I suffered when I was five by having my mother tell me I was responsible for the farm accident that nearly cost my little brother his life caused a sort of amnesia when it comes to anything other than a few highlights throughout my entire life. I suppose it's been a safeguard to keep me from having a complete mental breakdown, but it's also hard not being able to recall events my children or siblings remember with great clarity. 

I often wish I had been able to talk to my father about that life-altering day. He must have gone through even more agony than I did because he was driving the tractor when the blades of the tandem disk ran over my little brother's body. He didn't see the little three year-old coming and the noise from the old tractor was deafening. When he turned around, thinking he had run over a rock, seeing Sandon laying there under such monstrous blades must have broken his heart. With superhuman strength, he lifted the disc with one hand and pulled my little brother out with the other. He raced towards the house saying Sandon was dead but also calling for the keys to the jeep. That's when mother turned to me and said. "If you had been watching him the way I told you to this never would have happened." Oh, how careless words can hurt and destroy.

But the accident couldn't be reversed and we had to get on as best we could. All I really remember about my father was him being  a six foot, four-inch gangly cowboy who loved to ride horses and bulls in rodeos, play the part of a clown or announce events from high up in the stands. He worked incredibly hard to keep a roof over our heads and food on the table and just wanted to work the ground and raise a herd of beautiful red Hereford cattle. But he had to leave part of that dream behind so he could manage the garden department of The Mart in a nearby town because he had seven children and Sandon's doctor bills continued to come as new operations were necessary to keep him alive.

My father's voice was deep and melodious but we knew better than to get in trouble with our mother because he always supported her and he wasn't afraid to use his thick, leather belt on our soft behinds. It was called discipline, not abuse, in those days and I can't help but feel the children of today would be more responsible, better-mannered and not so me-oriented if they knew where a few boundaries lay. 

Three main events stick out in my mind from those brief years and they all happened not long before his death. He thought I should know how to drive a car so he put me behind the wheel of one Sunday afternoon when we went to get my older sister from a friend's house. I was terrified and immediately drove off the road. He wasn't any happier about that than he had been when I was nine and ten years old and driving the tractor to help him feed cattle each morning before dawn and I tipped the wagon into the ditch. I must have been a very slow learner in some areas. The next was him building an addition onto our home so six children would not have to sleep in one bedroom and a short hallway in the basement without any windows. He did all the work himself, with us kids helping as best we could. It was finished less than a year before his death.

The last was the day he died. He had come home from work early claiming he wasn't feeling well. When the bus arrived from school and I learned he was there, I had an awful feeling inside because he was never sick. My mother took my older sister to town to get something she hoped would help settle his stomach and I was left in charge of my five younger siblings. It was Friday night and daddy loved the cowboy show, Rawhide. I tried to get him to come out of his bedroom to watch it with us but he said he didn't feel up to it. I kept running down the hall to check on him every few minutes. Then about five-thirty I heard a crash. I raced to the back of the house to find him out of bed and in the bathroom. I tried to push the door open to get to him but his body was blocking it.

I suppose you can easily guess the rest. He'd had a massive heart attack and was gone. When my mother got home she sent all of us kids to the neighbor's house. I'll never forget walking down that country rode with my baby sister in my arms, crying and pleading with Heavenly Father to let my father be okay. No one was home, but we knew better than to disobey our mother so we stayed where we were until our grandmother and uncle came to get us a couple of hours later. My father's body had already been taken to the mortuary and my life was never the same after that.

I have missed him dreadfully over the years but have known moments when I knew he was there protecting and guiding me. Those are precious, spiritual experiencs that have only been shared with a few people but they helped me to see just how close those who have gone before really are to the ones who have been left behind. Still I can't help wondering why he had to be taken when seven little chicken needed him so much. That's when I remember the old saying that goes something like God didn't promise life would be easy, only that I would be worth it one day.

I'm not the best poet, but I wanted to share one I wrote about my father. I'm hoping my feeble attempt will encourage others to write down a few thoughts of their own. Posterity relies on the written or recorded word and any efforts will be greatly appreciated by those who come after we are gone.  


Daddy,

Did you know that perfect spring morn when the flowers

first started to bloom, that you would be leaving 

your family to return to your heavenly home?


Did you know that the loss, abandonment and grief

your little ones felt would bring sorrow and tears 

and lifetimes of questions, regrets and feeling alone?


Did you know that the wife you had loved above all

would lose her way, struggle with fear, temptation, grief, and

the harsh responsibility of doing a job meant for two? 


Did you know your sons and daughters would become

divided, holding all pain inside, trusting no one,

no longer even remembering having you in our lives?


Did you know that the emptiness we felt would keep 

some of us from ever knowing love, acceptance, fulfillment,

true intimacy with others, especially with our spouse?


Did you know that far too many of us would fight

to stop the abuse in our own homes, the kind of abuse

that became so commonplace once you were gone?


Did you know that after a near lifetime of living most of us 

would still not understand why we had to be left alone

when other fathers got to watch their children grow up?


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 had done our best through some very difficult times?


I doubt any of those thoughts crossed your mind that day,

but they must have later on as we navigated through our own trials.

Perhaps strength, acceptance and compassion could be learned no other way.


Sunday, 8 May 2022

Mother's Day

I skipped over Easter for some reason this year--that defining day in the life of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, when he atoned for our sins and rose from the dead so that we might have eternal life and earn the privileged of returning to his presence one day. I love him with all my heart and am so thankful for the gift he gave to all mankind regardless of their life circumstances or what they choose to do. His supreme gift is one that should never be forgotten. But in a way I feel even closer to him than I did in April on this particular Mother's Day. Perhaps that's because I've read a little more about his mother, Mary, the past few Weeks.

What an extraordinary, spiritual and amazing woman she was to have been chosen to be his earthly mother. We don't know much about her from the scriptures but she had to have known how remarkable he would be from from the very beginning and what an incredible responsibility she had to help prepare him for such a divine and important mission. Tears fill my eye just as they do when I think of our mother, Eve, and the choice she made between staying in the Garden of Eden where life would remain perfect and bringing life and death into the world so all of God's children would have the chance to come here.

It breaks my heart to see all the people protesting Mother's Day in front of churches in our country on this special day. I never thought I would live to see such selfish, blatant and hateful disregard for the sanctity of life and religious freedom. Each person on earth has a mother who was willing to go through the perils of carrying a child, not knowing how he or she would turn out, but hopeful each one would bring love, acceptance and joy into the lives of so many others. 

And regardless of what some would-be comics on television say to get a laugh, not one woman I have ever known has not mourned for a child lost through miscarriage. These little ones were loved, wanted and cherished from the moment of conception and the hurt never goes away. I know this from losing every baby I ever tried to carry. Motherhood is the supreme gift of being a woman and our bodies were specifically designed for such a glorious challenge.

Mine was not a happy, peaceful home growing up. There was little laughter, nurturing or guidance, and I've had a hard time over the years trying to understand why I never felt like my own mother loved me. I know it began when I was five and she blamed me for the farm accident that nearly cost my three-year old brother his life. Her very words were. "If you had been watching him the way I told you to this never would have happened." He was in a coma for six weeks and when he came out of it the right side of his body was paralyzed. He demanded constant attention and care as he struggled to survive and began learning how to do even the most basic things again. I became his guardian and would sleep on the floor by the side of his crib. Needless to say, our home was never the same again. The constant stress and tension could be felt by every one of us.

When I was nine, I was confined to bed for six months with Rheumatic Fever. My mother had joined the work force to help pay all the medical bills and I was left on my own on a chair and footstool combination during the long hours of the day with only my father to check on me at irregular times when he came in from the fields. I was only allowed to stand up when I needed to go to the bathroom or went to my weekly doctor's appointments. At ten, I had sufficiently recovered and was given violin lessons, even though I knew we couldn't afford them. I wanted to play the piano, but that wasn't the worst thing about that experience. My teacher, an old man with white, pulp hands, began to molest me. I was too young to understand what was going on but the horror I felt grew to the point that I was pulling out all my eyebrows and eyelashes. When I told my mother, she said he had never touched her so he couldn't be doing anything to me. Things were very different then.

After my father died when I was thirteen, leaving seven children ages fifteen to one, my mother had a mental breakdown but never missed a day of work. Our home life was horrible and she began to do some very uncharacteristic things that impacted a few of us siblings so much that we have never recovered from them. At one point she came after me with a butcher knife because I wouldn't go along with something she was doing that I knew was wrong. I ended up running away from home a few months later never to return. 

I saw her occasionally after that, but it cost lots of money to make long distance phone calls in those days and traveling more than a few miles from home was seldom done for the same reason. She would remember Christmas and birthdays but I could never talk to her about anything that was important, especially the decision to marry a man I somehow knew would not be good for me. I think one of the reasons I married him was simply because he didn't like her because of the way she treated me. When I finally left him after 22 years of similar emotional abuse all she said was. "Maybe you should reconsider. You're not attractive to find anyone else."

And when she got cancer and had only few months to live, I was told I could only see her for twenty to thirty minutes once a week. My job was to type up all my grandmother's short stories and readings and put them into binders so all my siblings could have one. I didn't even get to tell her goodbye the day she died, even though I was at her house when it happened. It was a rather bitter pill to take.

I don't write these things for any other reason than to let you know that even though life with my mother was not at all I wished it could have been, she was trying to do her best in some very trying circumstances that were too painful for her to even talk about. I guess I better understand now because of all the mistakes I've made with my own children. Not that I didn't love and nature them with every fiber of being. If anything, I was too protective because I had to work so hard to have them in my life and knew that one day they would each find their biologicals mothers and I would have to decide how I was going to react to that. 

That's happened now, and it's been hard. But I have come to realize that every child needs many good women for support throughout their lives. Perhaps that's why teaching has always been such a passion for me. I've always felt like my students were part of my family and treated them as such, even when they least deserved it. My grandmother--who died when I was nineteen--an older neighbor and several teachers who took me under their wings provided that stability, hope and encouragement for me. I would never have survived without them.

So on this special day I really am thankful that my mother did not decide to get rid of me because I was an inconvenience or she may not have wanted me as much as she could have. Life has not been easy but the opportunities for refinement and growth have taught me more than I thought possible. I just hope we'll have time to really talk when I get to heaven. I think we'll both be in a better, more understanding, place then. Without mothers mankind would be lost. They bring life, purpose and hope into the world. May God bless each one of them with added wisdom, understanding, patience and love.

 

Sunday, 10 April 2022

Last month I was asked by a dear friend, Andre Gensberger, who is both owner and publisher of Books 'N Pieces online magazine to write an article for his April issue titled: Why the World  Needs Clean Fiction and Characters With Value. At first I thought he was baiting me because that's not a popular type of book being written today, so I asked if I could think about it overnight. But when I said my prayer, I knew this was an opportunity to address why I write books that are suitable for the entire family. I feel like God has given me a gift that can be used to bless the lives of others by expressing my love an devotion to Him and His Son, Jesus Christ. It is a sacred responsibility I take seriously, even though I know few people will read what I've written. I decided to share it with you since I sense that many of you feel the same way I do about the eroding moral fabric in society today. 

Those of us who believe need to stay true to our convictions and not allow the woke agenda's being promoted today to take away the peace and safety we feel when we are free to express our religious beliefs. If you would like to read the many other good articles and short stories in his magazine you can access it at www.BooksNPieces.com. Here's what I wrote in answer to his most thought provoking questions.

Why the World Needs Clean Fiction and Characters with Values

I see the need with most of the books my 13 year-old granddaughter reads because her obsession with the macabre, violent and unreal frightens me. Fortunately, she's not into the really graphic sexual stuff yet, but I see the handwriting on the wall. No one wants to write about normal people with regular problems anymore because it's much too tame and doesn't appeal to the masses who have been conditioned to accept things as being routine that caused people to gasp even a generation ago. I feel a great need and responsibility to help fill the gap between people who have decided that God no longer exists, and ones who still believe in him, with stories that cause people to get in touch with their inner selves and hopefully find the strength to fight their own problems without giving in to all the negative influences that are so prevalent in our me-centered society.  

Brylee Hawkin's Virtue

Brylee is a character of the twenty-first century. She knows what it's like to feel rejection, regret, betrayal, anger and loneliness. Watching her grow from a frightened young woman with no real sense of self into a confident adult who can run a ranch and give emotional support to a family she doesn't know helped me to identify my own strengths. She has no answers when she arrives in Australia to face her estranged father, but she has the faith necessary to keep moving forward when her beliefs threaten to destroy everything she is trying to build--even a new romance. She learns how to fight through the hardships and pain without turning her back on God, like most everyone else in her family has done, because she understands that without her faith she has nothing left to cling to. Her journey parallels that of most anyone who has ever lived, not in exact experiences, but in the throbbing disappointment, excruciating heartache and loss of dreams that few mortals escape. Brylee's story is not for readers who prefer fantasy to reality, but it is for those who want a thought-provoking and exciting read that is full of twists and turns they will not see coming.


An Author's Values

 

I am in the minority and can only speak to the values I've set for myself, and they are ones I cannot violate even though I know I would garner far more success if I did. I was raised in a very strict home where our mouths were washed out with soap if we said even the mildest swear word and our behinds felt the pain coming from a razor strap if we back-talked to our mother or stepped out of line in any other way. I'm not saying that's any way to raise kids, but we knew what it was like to respect God, country and adults--something that is sorely lacking in today's permissive and self-indulgent society. I also grew up reading books where the authors could tell a riveting story without lacing it with profanity, violence, drug and alcohol abuse, explicit sex and many other things I feel are unnecessary but still show up on nearly every page in the books that are coming off the press today. I feel accountable for every word I write because it defines who I am as a person. I'm proud of being a Christian in a very unChristian world. I want people to know I believe in God and in my Savior who died for each of us since I know I will have to account to them one day. That stance offends a lot of people who can say some very unkind things, but I try to let their comments roll off my back because we have the right of choice and should never condemn someone else for their personal beliefs.


Creating Women of Substance 


In the past seven years, I have published sixteen books--two series and four standalones. Each lead comes from a place of true individuality underscoring diverse problems that could happen to most anyone. I write in first person because it feels more authentic to me, and I cast women as my lead characters because I really have no idea how men think and want my stories to be believably real. I also feel that the genres of family life, romance and mystery are more likely to be read by women who want to identify with the lead character. 


In Indecision's Flame, Brylee is searching for forgiveness and family as she tries to make peace with a very disturbing past while trying to build a future where she can thrive. Reagan Sinclair, as  a new FBI agent, finds out through some very desperate experiences that perhaps her parents were right in saying that a career exposing her to the seediest underbelly of life isn't the right place for a girl who attends church every Sunday and believes in God. Maya lost her husband in an unexpected avalanche and is left with two children to raise. Rani has a chip on her shoulder as big as the state of Colorado and cannot stand weakness in anyone, but then she discovers some of her own. Andrea just wants to be married but falls in love with a guy who is all wrong for her. And Jada goes back to her old college as an adjunct professor hoping to find answers as to why her professional life is flourishing while her personal life stinks. The series I'm working on now is about a middle-aged divorced woman who finds herself alone with no one to cling to for help, but she is willing to risk everything she has left to become part of a family she has never known and isn't sure still exists. 


Indie vs Mainstream Publishing

 

I'm not sure I've ever really broken into mainstream publishing. That's pretty hard to do without some serious cash backing, and I'm afraid to push too hard because I don't want anyone telling me I have to change my characters values and beliefs just so the general public will be more interested in their stories. I guess I have to say that I value my integrity over potential dollars earned. Whatever I make goes directly into an account for my grandchildren, and I like having people tell me how much they appreciated one of my books because it gave them direction, courage and hope. I appreciate being able to connect with other writers of faith-filled books who are going through the same struggles I am in finding the right audience. It gives me the courage to stand by my beliefs because the work we're doing is helping people, if only one by one. For me, that's what my writing is all about.


Personal Growth Through My Writing

 

I think I realized how much I've grown as both a person and an author when I started my latest series. While each of my books contain reflections of an incident or feelings I've had somewhere throughout my life, I was able to truly let go with these. I no longer care what someone else might think about the storyline or how my characters react to personal problems. We live in a very diversified world and have to accept both the good and the bad in others if we want to be happy. That doesn't mean we have to embrace a lifestyle that isn't right for us or accept any kind of abuse, but we do need to show compassion and understanding. That's something I've always believed but have managed to let judgmentalness, jealousy and anger cloud many of my dealings with people. I don't feel that way anymore. I know who I am and would like for my faith to embrace everyone who is struggling and fill them with the same peace I've managed to find. I would still like to find that golden niche every author dreams of, but I'll keep on writing until I do.


There you have it. I hope it makes a little sense and would love to hear how you feel about the books being written today. I can only say that in these times of turmoil and strife I only read things that will build and uplift because I get enough of everything else from the news. People need to know about all the good there still is in the world and how kind and loving most of the people are. Maybe I just choose to look for the positive because that's how I'm trying to live my own life. May safety follow your footsteps and may you find joy in the little beauties you find along the way. 


Books by Author JS Ririe found at: https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv

 

Crossfire at Bentley

Kismet finds a Way

Rivers of Rage

Beyond the Glass Doors

Agent Reagan Sinclair series:

Final Allegiance

Resilience

Safe Haven

Unsheltered

Welcome Redemption

Indecision’s Flame – Book One

Lost – Book Two

Exposed – Book Three

Betrayal – Book Four

Reawakening – Book Five

Unraveling – Book Six

Destiny – Book Seven

 

 

Wednesday, 9 February 2022

Confessions

This won't be as long as usual since I'm still in pain. After having such a great January, as I explained in my last post that talked about doing something creatively exciting instead of writing down my usual list of goals, I was simply waiting for the next shoe to drop. But I didn't expect such an uncomfortable blow. I've been doing a little updating in my home so it would feel more like me and take away some of the eyesores I've hated since moving in nearly seven years ago. The granite countertops went in without too much of a hitch right before Christmas. Then I spent most of January waiting for the flooring I wanted throughout most of the main level to arrive. 

There was plenty of carpet available, but I wanted laminate floors because I knew they would never grow ugly and have to be replaced as long as I took care of them. Besides, with all my allergies it just made more sense. It took three months for my backorder to arrive, but by the first of February the installers were ready to go. With no one to help me, I began boxing things up and moving them into places where they wouldn't get ruined by dust or be in anyone's way. I wasn't the least bit sorry to see the old carpet being tossed. It was being held down by a hundred little nails in all the places it had buckled anyway. 

But with the prep work done by noon the first day, I was told that they wouldn't be able to start laying the new floor until morning because they had another job to finish first. That was irritating, but I let it go and swept all the floors again and settled in on the sofa for the night. I'd had to take my bed apart so its parts could be moved. Sleep was intermittent at best, as it always seems to be when I'm going through any kind of mess, but I was ready for another late arrival as soon as the sun came up. This time I was told that the boss wouldn't be coming to help. He was spending the day with his pregnant wife. 

"Goody," I thought. But the twenty-one year old young man seemed to know what he was doing. So I went into my office to work since it was the only place I would be out of the way. He got most of the great room finished, but said it would take him until the early morning hours to finish and he would do better work if he came back in the morning. I agreed since my nerves were pretty much shot. I cleaned up everything I could find after he left and then spent another night on the sofa. He managed to finish by three the next afternoon, but I was unaware of just how extensive the silicone mess he left behind was. I could see large smudges of it when the overhead lights were on and raised bumps seemingly everywhere, but research on the internet told me some of it might come up with alcohol. I spent a couple of hours scrubbing but it didn't work.

So before I went to my volunteer job the next morning, I picked up some goo-remover at Lowe's. I spent a couple more hours on my knees that night trying to get it up and started putting a few things back together. I'll omit the rest of my ordeal since I know many of you have experienced it, but by Saturday night I had the floors polished and was ready to sleep in my bed. Unfortunately, I was also starting to develop a rash in an embarrassing place I won't mention. By the next morning all I wanted to do was scream, but I figured I could live with anything until Monday when urgent care centers were open. I really didn't want to go to an emergency room.

Much to my surprise, the doctor told me I had shingles and a UTI. I'd had the first shot and hadn't thought much about ever getting it because I try very hard not to get overly stressed. But when it hits it is ruthless, and I must have taken on more than my body could handle during my renovation projects. I picked up some meds and lidocaine patches at the pharmacy but knew there was nothing I could do to spend up the recovery process, although the doctor felt we had caught it early enough that it shouldn't get too much worse. 

I spent forty-eight hours in horrid pain, but I was able to sleep last night and feel like I will be able to return to my volunteer work tomorrow. I've always believed in the power of prayer, but my quick recovery from something that could have lasted so much longer has certainly increased my gratitude for God's love and protection, along with the marvel of modern medication that can treat so many rough things. I still have four days of meds left to take and they cause some uncomfortable nausea, but when I get on my knees it is with complete gratitude in my heart.

I don't know what this has to do with making new year's resolutions, but I thought it rather ironic that such a low could so immediately follow my jubilant high. Nonetheless, it's all part of the unavoidable things that happen just because we are part of the human race. I suppose all I can really say is that it is so important to cherish the beautiful moments of fulfillment and joy because the bad will always slip in. At least that's been my experience. And it's a good reminder that there is always someone above who is there to listen and offer encouragement and hope. For so many of us, we don't have anyone in our homes to fill that very basic need. 

By the way, Happy Valentine's Day. Don't know that I'll get another post out by then.

Books by JS Ririe:

Crossfire at Bentley

Kismet finds a Way

Rivers of Rage

Beyond the Glass Doors

Agent Reagan Sinclair series:

Final Allegiance

Resilience

Safe Haven

Unsheltered

Welcome Redemption

Indecision’s Flame – Book One

Lost – Book Two

Exposed – Book Three

Betrayal – Book Four

Reawakening – Book Five

Unraveling – Book Six

Destiny – Book Seven

 

Book by Viola Ririe:

So Long, Bishop


All Books available on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv  




Wednesday, 26 January 2022

The Goals Not Set

Here it is, almost the end of January and I have finally decided to make an accounting of the goals I didn't even bother to set this year. Like many of you, I spent a lot of time deciding what I thought would be attainable in areas like physical, emotional, mental and spiritual health. I included things like eating less, moving more, doing something unselfish for someone else each day, counting my blessings with more intent and doing better at staying on top of things that needed to be done around the house. I'm sure each of you could add a hundred more items to that list, but by this time each year my enthusiasm always wanes. I was more intent on being like everyone else who wanted to look like Barbie or Ken instead of a real person who had been created by an Eternal Father who knew what he was doing by making each of his children just a little different than all the rest.

I really didn't want to exercise more or give up my addictions to chocolate, ice cream or chip dips. Nor was I happy about spending more time doing things for other people if it meant getting dressed up and leaving the safety of my home. I am a complete introvert and social interactions are very difficult and draining to me. I can't even get excited about going out to lunch with one of my female friends because I can't think of anything to say. And when one of my sisters, who use exercise more like a religion than an attempt to stay healthy, drones on and on about the hours she spends each day lifting weights  and twisting her body into uncomfortable positions I want to gag. Nothing sounds more boring that doing repetitious movements that require no intellectual thought. 

I'm not saying that goals like that aren't honorable and worth the effort, but they are just too hackneyed and unrealistic for me. I have been setting similar ones my entire adulthood and have never been able to stick with them for more than a few weeks. Perhaps that is why I am carrying around more weight than I should. But I simply can't believe that staying 10 to 20 pounds under what the, supposed, experts say is the weight a person should be at for a specific height is any healthier than being that much over it. I would starve to death if I only ate a bowl of cereal and some fruit for lunch and a salad at night. Besides being boring, it would take all the joy out of living. 

So I purposely didn't write down any goals this year. All the really important ones pertaining to my eternal wellbeing had already been set, and adhered to on a daily basis, like praying daily, studying God's word, being honest in my dealing with others, actively participating in church assignments, supporting members of my family and taking time for personal introspection. Of course, I miss doing one of those things occasionally because I get tired and distracted like everyone else. But the minute I recognize my error, I do something about it. 

I didn't even commit any new resolutions to mind, except for trying to get my blood sugar under better control. I figured if I could do that one thing everything else would automatically fall into place. I would have no other choice than to eat more responsibly and get on my exercise bike more so I wouldn't feel sluggish at night and have every muscle in my body sore from sitting in one place for too long. Arthritis has become an unwanted friend, but there really isn't a whole lot that can be done to reverse it.

I don't know what my A1C is doing right now and won't have it checked by the doctor until May, but I do know that some of the stress I felt over the holidays is gone. I decided that what I really wanted to do with the month of January was write for as long as I could each day, without getting eye strain or a headache, and not feel guilty about doing it. Other retired people could make time for the gym, plan activities with friends, go on a cruise, learn to knit or spend hours in front of the television set if they wanted to. But for once in my life I was going to concentrate on what made me feel most creative, even if no one else understood or appreciated it. 

I had no idea how quickly my life was changing until a few days ago when I realized that I was waking up between five and six every morning--during the winter, no less--excited about turning my computer on so I could see what my characters had to tell me in the new book I was writing. Even when I was having the accurately-named writer's block, I wouldn't stop working. If it took me two hours to type a page, instead of the one that I usually averaged, I felt more invigorated than frustrated because I understood that my abilities were growing as I took the time to unravel what had caused the blockage.

I was thrilled a few minutes ago when I saw that I had written over 150 pages of a novel in less than four weeks, doing a great deal of editing as I went. I'm not saying that giving into one's passions is always wise. Some of them are more detrimental than useful, but I have found that concentrating on something I love, rather than the things other people think I should be doing, has made me happier than I've been in a long time. And I am seeing lower numbers when I prick my finger more days during the week than I have for months.

I still spend two days a week volunteering with work I consider important  and am always available when someone needs my help. But I'm no longer going to chastise myself for being so unlike most everyone else because I want to do something I feel I am good at instead of torturing myself because I'm not stick thin. God made me to appreciate the printed word for a reason, and I would be doing myself a real disservice if chose to ignore it. Other people can do what they like, but I feel more liberated than ever because I no longer care what anyone else thinks. 

Perhaps a little wisdom does come with age, or maybe I'm simply deluding myself. But it sure feels good no longer feeling the pressure of conformity. Even if no reads a word I've written, it really doesn't matter. I like what I'm doing and am learning more about myself in the process. After all, isn't that one of the purposes for life? Learning who we are when no one else is watching? 

Anyway, I can't wait for February. My creative juices are flowing, and I don't want them to stop. Hopefully, you'll be able to spend a little time thinking about what makes you really happy. There may be a season for everything, but there are perfect moments each day. May each of us find and cherish them.




Books By JS Ririe:

Crossfire at Benley

Kismet Finds a Way

Rivers of Rage

Beyond the Glass Doors

Reagan Sinclair FBI series:

Final Allegiance

Resilience

Safe Haven

Unsheltered

Welcome Redemption

Indecision's Flame series:

Book 2 - Lost

Book 3 - Exposed

Book 4 - Betrayal

Book 5 - Reawakening

Book 6 - Unraveling

Book 7 - Destiny

Book by Viola Ririe:

So Long, Bishop

All books available in print and eBook formats on Amazon at https://amzn.to/2BXNSdv 

Saturday, 18 December 2021

Time to Remember

I've come very close to having this year end without much more than a puff. I suppose a lot of other people feel the same way when confronted with the perils of the holiday season whether it's shopping for the perfect gift, fixing the best meal ever, finding time to do everything required, worrying about travel and the weather, or agonizing over family get-togethers where someone always seems to get upset. I've certainly had many of those concerns the past few weeks, but they have been tempered by far more serious matters that have been difficult to get through.

They started right before Thanksgiving - which I always spend alone because my children have plans with other members of their extended families. I could complain, but it has never seemed wise to make waves since I've lived in a different state than both of them until recently and was too far away to come with only one day off from work. But I digress because none of us need a fancy meal with more food than our stomaches can digest in one sitting to count our blessings. All we need is a heart willing to look beyond the obvious daily challenges that keep us so overtaxed we often have trouble deciding if we're coming or going.

The first event came when my son-in-law ended up in the hospital with Covid. He had gone to the emergency room on Sunday night with all the symptoms, but the hospital where he lives said his lungs were clear and sent him home without running the simple test. That seemed rather strange to me, but some places in rural Colorado aren't known for being on top of anything. By Thursday, he was so bad that the minute he stepped into the clinic to see his regular doctor he was immediately admitted. I won't give all the details of his grueling and frightening experience since I'm sure most everyone in the world today has stories they could tell of family members or friends who have fallen victim to that horrid, manmade virus with either positive or heartbreaking results. 

While he was developing blood clots in his lungs and the doctor was telling my daughter to prepare for the worst, my niece's home in South Carolina burned down. Her father, my brother, died the day after Thanksgiving last year and she was thoroughly devastated since she, her husband and four children lost everything they had left that reminded them of him. That included his scriptures, the flowers from his casket, the scrapbook one of my sisters and I made with every picture we could find, and the little cars he had played with as a child. Unfortunately, I have nothing left I can send her except a picture from a coloring book he once painted for me and a letter he sent me while I was in college over 40 years ago. 

Between trying to comfort her, and take care of all the other upsets I'd brought on myself by deciding to replace my kitchen countertops and the carpet that had been buckling for over three years, I talked to my daughter daily. She was living through one of the worst nightmares of her life but could only go to the hospital occasionally to see her husband because there wasn't anyone she could leave my eight-year old grandson with. They'd all been exposed at the same time while attending a wedding and were supposed to be under quarantine. 

I told her I would come anyway, but she suggested I wait until they knew more. Thankfully, the blood clots dissolved and he wasn't put on a ventilator like anticipated. But he still spent two weeks in the hospital, and it will be many more months until he's able to do even a portion of what he once could. You see, he has a pacemaker and had to have his heart shocked back into rhythm several times while he was at his worst. That was enough of a worry, but the fact that he's twelve years older than my daughter and on disability complicates most everything.

With none of those issues resolved, two days after Thanksgiving, my nephew in Texas went missing. He had a wife, three children and five grandchildren and was just ready to turn 49 years old. Since I wrote that last sentence in the past tense you obviously know that he didn't make it. He chose to end his life, like his older brother had done 5 years earlier. That really blew our family apart it was so unexpected, but then I suppose a great many of us have dealt with similar experiences the past year or so with the virus, the isolation and the astronomical increase in drug overdoses since the border has been open and fentanyl has been coming across it by the truckload.

But I suppose what really made me take a moment from my busy day to write was having my son tell me a few minutes ago that a foreign exchange student who had lived with his wife's family of origin for an entire school year had just gone missing in Sweden. She had been hospitalized twice in the past few weeks for depression, and divers have been combing the lake and people scouring the woods by where they've been staying for the past day and a half trying to find her. She's an only child from a very affluent family and they have little hope of finding her alive. I met her on several occasions while she was here, and my granddaughter adores her. 

Two suicides of people I know in such a short amount of time have given me great cause to reflect on the reason for this season and the hope I have in Christ. The miracle of his birth, life and death have not been on my mind as they should have been the past few weeks because there have been so many other things to occupy it. But as I sit in the quiet of my little office, I recognize how fragile life is and the enormous need there is for hope in this harsh and confusing world. We need to unplug from the steady diet of doom and gloom the media presents in nauseating length and concentrate on people. They need our smiles, our listening ears and the knowledge that they are not alone.

I don't know what I would do if I thought this life was all there is. But I know from the depths of my heart that we existed before we came here as choice spirit children of Heavenly Parents and were created in their image. We came to this earth to gain experience, learn how to walk by faith, and repent and change course when we make mistakes. And when our time to leave this earthly realm comes, we will return to those we love where we can continue progressing. 

I wish I could shout that simple message from the rooftops so everyone could hear it. So much of this world is in a mess, and heartache is rampant everywhere. But I know there are good, kind, generous, optimistic and loving people all over the world who believe in the true meaning of this season and who glory in the birth of our Savior who brought light and life to all of us because through him we can be born again and live forever.

So tonight, I'm going to turn off all the outside distractions, plug in my tree lights and spend some time thinking about how lucky I am to know I even have a Savior. I may even read the story of his birth a week early. I love Jesus Christ. I honor him. I want to live my life for him. And when I die, I want to see him again. That's what this season means to me because I know I was in that heavenly choir singing and praising his name when he came to this earth. And I shouted alleluia with everyone else because of what he was willing to do for me. 

I wish everyone a beautiful Christmas, regardless of the pain they may be feeling. This time of year is a gift that I want to cherish more closely, just as I do the people I love and those I have yet to me. We all belong to the same family, regardless of color, race, religion, occupation or personal desires. It truly is a time of year to give thanks.





Monday, 1 November 2021

BECOMING

It's been a busy fall in the arid deserts of Utah with more than an anticipated amount of rain. At one point, we had five straight days without seeing the sun. After nearly four months of continual blue skies most everyone was pleasantly surprised, if not welcoming, of so much moisture over such a brief amount of time. I found myself busying around trying to get produce picked, vines cleared away and dead flowers cut back or pulled up. I mowed my grass, which will have to be done again before the snow falls, and finally put all my lawn furniture and garden ornaments in the shed. There has been nothing to do outside since then but wait for the more inclement weather to come.

However as is quite normal here, or so I've been told since I've only lived in the state for six years, a revival of glorious fall weather often happens after the first serious frost. It takes that initial shot of freezing temperatures to turn the leaves  the brilliant shades of gold, burgundy and brown that are usually associated with states like Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. And I have certainly enjoyed watching them fall from the trees and listening to them crackle under my feet as I walk down the sidewalks to church or visit more homebound neighbors.

But their presence has kicked off my usual round of melancholia that always surfaces when the days become shorter and the nights so much longer. I already refuse to drive after dark unless it is necessary. And the ice and snow-covered roads literally fill me with dread since our freeway system connecting the two towns I most often travel between have been in a constant state of construction for the past three years. I never know what I might run into, like the semi-truck driver in front of me last week who had a blowout and fragments of his tire were swirling through the air everywhere. I managed to miss the larger pieces of black debris but heard several thuds against the front window and roof of my car before he was able to move to the side of the road and pull to a stop.

I know more of those unnerving experiences are on the way since most Utah drivers seem to believe they are the only ones on the road. Perhaps it's my age, but I'm ready to stay in the slow lane until spring because there's less likelihood of becoming involved in an accident. The coming cold and gloomy days also mean a dramatic change in my activity level since I have no interest in becoming a slave to some gym, and any major movement will be confined to walking around the house, getting on my stationary bike and waiting for the next snowfall so I can start shoveling before some kindly friend beats me to it. 

Housework also becomes more of a chore without much sun, and I tend to put it off unless I know company is coming, can actually see the dust on the glass or wood surfaces or notice that the floors need more than a simple sweeping or vacuuming. Bathrooms and kitchens are a different story since I hate clutter and like the rooms where I take care of my cooking and most intimate business sparkling clean and sanitized.

Since this time of year brings with it countless more hours when I have less important things to do than during the warmer months, and the lack of sunlight strips me of most of the energy I manage to acquire, I find myself feeling like I've lost my rudder. Nothing sounds more satisfying than hibernating with good books, warm blankets and bowls of the most decadent goodies. Sound familiar to anyone else? But excessive indulgence in anything is unhealthy, and I don't want to be left with more regrets than usual when spring arrives again. That's why I force myself to stay busy.

I never sleep late, mostly because my back and joints don't like it, and I try to fill the morning with productivity knowing that by three in the afternoon I won't be good for much besides relaxing with a book or watching reruns of my favorite programs on DVD. I don't have cable or satellite TV because there are so few programs I feel are worth watching. It's just another thing that gives my age away. The amount of violence, profanity and sex that most people find entertaining leaves me cold, as do large gatherings of people since I'm more introspective than outgoing in nature and seldom have more than a few things to say. 

Nonetheless, I still find serious self-reflection onerous and often frightening because I like to remain in control. Painful life experiences have kept me from letting more than a select few into my heart and soul. I can write about feelings in a fictional way, but heaven forbid that I would actually have to tell someone how I really feel. It has been my experience that no one really cares, even the ones who should.

That's why when I read this Facebook post a week or so ago it gave me something a little different to think about. I have always thought of life as being a test that I would ultimately end up passing or failing when I met my maker. The idea of becoming fascinated me because I was reminded that life isn't always black or white, and all choices aren't entirely right or wrong. We're here to become what God meant for us to be. And each life, with its ensuing challenges and joy, was tailor-made for the individual. When we think we're falling apart, we are really just taking another step in a very personal journey. 


Me: Hey God, I'm falling apart. Can you put me back together?

God: I would rather not.

Me: Why?
God: Because you aren't a puzzle.
Me: What about all of the pieces of my life that are falling down onto the ground?
God: Let them stay there for a while. They fell off for a reason. Take some time and decide if you need any of those pieces back.
Me: You don't understand! I'm breaking down!
God: No - you don't understand. You are breaking through. What you are feeling are just growing pains. You are shedding the things and the people in your life that are holding you back. You aren't falling apart. You are falling into place. Relax. Take some deep breaths and allow those things you don't need anymore to fall off of you. Quit holding onto the pieces that don't fit you anymore. Let them fall off. Let them go.
Me: Once I start doing that, what will be left of me?
God: Only the very best pieces.
Me: But I'm scared of change.
God: I keep telling you - YOU AREN'T CHANGING!! YOU ARE BECOMING!
Me: Becoming who?
God: Becoming who I created you to be! A person of light and love and charity and hope and courage and joy and mercy and grace and compassion. I made you for more than the shallow pieces you have decided to adorn yourself with that you cling to with such greed and fear. Let those things fall off. I love you! Don't change! . . . Become! Become! Become who I made you to be. I'm going to keep telling you this until you remember it.
Me: There goes another piece.
God: Yep. Let it be.
Me: So, I'm not broken?
God: Of course Not! - but you are breaking like the dawn. It's a new day. Become!!!
~Author John Roedel


Pretty powerful stuff if you really think about it. Letting go of all the weighty matters that consume so much of our time and energy will make room for something far more beneficial for 
everyone. Think I will frame it and hang it on my fridge because I'm going to need the reminder as I head into another winter. Maybe I can dispel some of the gloom I anticipate by replacing it with more light before it has time to settle. What knows what I might become by spring?