Black History Month

One day a young African-American student of mine wandered into my class saying, “it’s black history month but nobody pays attention.” It stung me. I didn’t know what to do to pay attention. I was the Latin teacher, so how to do something to pay attention? Maybe I haven’t done much, and I’ve tried to keep reading, listening, and singing. Sometime it scares me how little we know, or how overlooked black history is in our American culture. There was a Ben Carson video circulating about and he listed several significant characters in our history that I had never heard of. And then there is the story Hidden Figures. Our friends, the Mortons, have led us through several MLK observances. But the wound is old and deep, and does not heal by being neglected or forgotten. I believe it has altered the personality of our culture and nationality.

So here I am to say, it’s Black History Month! And how will that reminder change anything you do at this time of year?

Joel and I went to here a singer sing through songs of the Civil Rights movements yesterday. It’s not an emotional safe space for us, and when we got to the car the tears flowed. In a way, we are the lucky ones. We have the distance of History to look back on and see how things were and see how things are now. Even though there is still room for improvement in lots of ways, we are aware that we sit in a room and listen to this man say and sing such things to us and shake his hand and say thank you.

On the way home, I was thinking about what I knew about the Civil Rights Movement as I was growing up during those times. I thought of the of a book my mom had by Tom Skinner but I couldn’t remember what it was or what it was about so I Googled him and found this video. It is an hour long but it is all interesting and all worth listening to and maybe even convicting. It amazed me how appropriate it is for our times nearly 50 years later. If you can make the time to listen to it, do it!


Friendship blog- the Conclusion

This one was cooking before the second, but it’s taking me this long to get around to writing it!  In all of my stewing around about friendship and lack of it in my life, things unusual, for me, have been going on. What made me observe them was a video I watched of a young pastor who goes to Scotland from America to serve for a term. I have posted it on FB a coup!e of times and it’s called Godspeed or Living Godspeed. The result of that, for me, was to endeavor to be available for whatever comes my way. Sometimes friendship is just a chat with a stranger, or showing kindness when and where I am able to, like alerting the neighbors to street cleaning day (and they return the favor!). I am not the only one who likes to be visited, so I have a couple of regular visits I make, and I feel I am the beneficiary. 

People ask me what I do, since I am not working. I have felt my fingers uncurl from what I think thing must be, to stretch my mind into what can be. I say I do whatever comes to hand.  That sounds awfully abstract, but here is the thing. I can’t make anyone be my friend. I can just be available. I have ceased thinking in terms of what I can orchestrate and produce, but endeavor to be alert to the need of the day. I do have a routine, but I hold it loosely. I don’t run out of things to do. Currently, I have knitting and sewing projects for other people. Yesterday I made Christmas cookies with my grandson. We both had fun! I think it has been years since I made Christmas cookies.

     So …. featur ed friendships that have come my way. Hav e been my neighbors. I have often depended on my church for friendship, which is a good thing, and barely known my neighbors, not a good thing. I’ve mentioned them before. I still love them. Long chats out in the garden with passersby may not be the typical friendship, but a feeling of kinship passes through us and hugs are exchanged. We have friends we call our “fun friends”, a young family that has waltzed into our lives and when we are looking for somebod y to do something fun with, they grab their babies and come along! Then there are cousins who stay in touch and my kids ,whom I have always considered my friends. Recently, middle daughter moved from about 35 minutes away to 10. This gives us opportunity for a quick walk, a cup of tea. I think life has been less lonely for both of us. I can play her musicteacherhusband ‘s nice piano or rattle around on his Orff instruments while I’m at it!I

I turned 60 this fall and think it is my prerogative to choose the speed at which I live. So I’m choosing Godspeed, and so I bid you….

Woodstove in the Kitchen

When I was young and still in my parents’ home, we would visit my grandmother, who had a wood stove in the kitchen. My grandmother’s place was most romantical to her grandchildren, being in the Minnesota  birch woods and, as she didn’t like us to broadcast, without electricity or running water. Or central heat, unless you count the woodstove in the living room.The lane to her house was the two track kind with grass in the middle and, in the winter, the snow laden branches would slap the car as we drove through. The kitchen was the warm place in the morning, and the smell of brewing coffee would wake us and we would crawl out from under our pile of comforters and head for the kitchen.

My sister is there in that place now, the wood stove still burning the birch wood and coffee still brewing , albeit in a modernized way. I think that those powerfully pungent memories shape us. We burn wood in our house, make the coffee, and the day is as upright as the sun rising. Yesterday I was at my son’s , and the Kitchen was the warm place in the house with the woodstove going and the coffee was delicious.

Garden Craft

A couple years ago, a co-worker of Joel’s took pleasure in making me a flower press and a leaf press. I’ve always wanted one and decided that it’s inclusion in my school curriculum warranted it. I’m not teaching right now, but I can still use it. I think I have found my craft.

The Friendship blog (2)

I think this is the hardest part. I really want to write the third part but this comes first. And I don’t think that I am able to resolve much. My mind likes to ‘have it done.’ I think I have somewhat trained myself that way because I will forget I was doing something and come back a considerable time later and it’s not done. But this continues to float around in the undone section of my brain.

One evening my DH and I were taking about this and how friendships happen and disso!ve. We think they usually spring up from something in common. You know what these things are without my listing all of them. One of my dearest friends I grew up with. Now we both live in the same state a thousand miles from where we grew up and it is a a gift. Years ago we had neighbors with kids the same ages. They were happy times. And the dad played the cello and I played the piano. More happy times. ☺ We lived and worked at a boarding school for five years and strong friendships were forged,, but that was intentional. I saw then that our work could be all we were about and you need friendship beyond work. I know that if I ran into any of these people on the planet Earth we would be thrilled to see each other and do all the catching up we could do with the amount of time we had.

But I am here, living in the same place for 10 years , the same area for 24, and it seems I have to work hard to find someone to have lunch with or coffee. It seems I am always the initiator. Before I whine too much, I want tell a story. When our inner city church closed at the end of last year, several people  went to another church in the same denomination on the edge of the city. We hadn’t been there in a long time and I suggested we visit, since there were people we knew. And, I added, I wanted someone to spontaneously invite us over for dinner. About 5 Sundays in, a young woman I introduced myself to after church said, “Would you like to come over for dinner?” The magic words! I said “Yes! ”

So here is my gripe. When I have made blanket invitations on Facebook for lunch at a public garden or tea by my fireside, I can think of about 5 people who have actually come and only 3 of them came out of response to that invitation. I even went through my contacts and made sure that I contacted people who aren’t on FB or aren’t on often enough to catch something like that regularly. I even added that if it was a bad time I can make different arrangements. I can only say that in this period of isolation, this has been discouraging and demoralizing.

The more I thought about it, the times I have been a bad friend have popped into my mind and I am not going into a full blown confessional here, just saying there are some I have let slide , some unwittingly and some I was aware but just let it slide. Sometimes we’re just tired. We aren’t getting younger…or even staying the same. It has been a catalyst for re-thinking friendship. How do I show friendship when I am aging? It was all well and good when I was young to be spontaneous, and I don’t want to lose that, but I can feel it is rather tempered! I have cooked for 50-100 people often, and now I tell myself 6-8 would be nice! And how do I think past the torn out kitchen and general weariness? Well, that is the stuff of another blog. I really wanted to write that blog before this one, but it would be leaving something out of the story…..

See you soon!

The Friendship Blog (1)

I have been wanting t write about friendship for a long time. The more I thought about it, I became concerned that I would offend someone who has shown friendship to me, and that is the last thing I want to do. What I do want to do is to clear my head a little, but also, if you need encouragement in this department, I want to encourage you. I know I do. And if I do say something that makes you feel pointed at…..please remember that I have three fingers pointing back at myself. I will do my best to not let myself off the hook, but I can’t guarantee that you won’t find anything prickly in my words. I am also happy to be responded to and challenged in what I say or think. That is part of my reason for writing.

Having made that caveat, I named this the first blog. I don’t like blogs a mile long, and I won’t write them. So this is the first ‘episode’. And I think that I will just make introductory remarks.

When I was young with three small children at home, we moved to a place about an hour from where we had been living. We went from a neighborhood to living in a house on greenhouse property. The house needed help and the greenhouses needed renovating. Needless, to say , my husband was shoulder deep at the greenhouses and loving it. As I watched him from the house, I always saw him moving about amid a huddle of workers. I didn’t have any kind of casual conversation outside of my husband and young children. I remember being in a long checkout line at the grocery store and I made some kind of remark and everyone got this alarmed look on their faces that said, “She talked! I can’t believe she talked!” We were not far from where we had been living, but we didn’t know where anything was. We didn’t know what was a mile in any direction. I went to a Women’s Bible Study and one time the teacher, who was a good teacher, spoke on friendship. At another time in my life, I would have thought it  a great study, but at that time, it stung. I cried all the way home and never went back. I really hadn’t thought of that until I was contemplating writing this blog, but I remember those emotions very keenly.

Zip through thirty years and I have found myself in another patch of comparative isolation, but it has come much more subtly. I had been teaching in a small school that a friend had started. And we had been going to an inner city church that we had played a part in planting. They had been works of delight to us and we felt a rhythm with the people with whom we worked . We shared just about everything. Due to structural changes in both of them that seemed unsustainable to us (my husband and me), we ended our relationships with said organizations… we thought. But it seemed that we ended any kind of friendship at all. I felt caught between my feelings and not really knowing exactly what we were doing. One day I said to Joel, “I just need someone to listen to me and tell me where I am crazy or not!” It soon came, dear friends showed up and told me I wasn’t crazy. That was a great encouragement to us, but it didn’t bring us into a community.

Some months later, my husband developed a herniated disc in his back. In this pain, it was all he could do to get to work and back. We didn’t make any evening engagements of any kind. Sometimes he couldn’t make it to church, but lots of times he would stand in the back for a while. Pain is isolating. Probably pain of any kind is isolating and maybe once in a while we need this reminding. But coming on the back of recent experiences, it was a lonely time. We were going to a church where we didn’t know anyone. The pastor had visited us with a listening ear. But I would think about stuff like. “What if I died? Would anyone I know notice? Would strangers bury me? Who would take care of Joel?”  Remember, I still live in the same area I have lived for practically 30 years. It might be absurd to have such thoughts, but that is the level of isolation I was feeling. I was beginning to think a lot about friendship and why I am in circles where it is tied to what I do and if I’m not doing it, why people in those circles don’t seem to have time for me.

Meanwhile, other things were going on. A few years ago, three houses on our short block went up for sale. It’s a small enough space that one nasty neighbor can make life difficult for everyone else on the block and here we were, faced with three changes. Well, as one neighbor puts it, we won the neighborhood lottery! In this time, we have had potlucks and game nights. They stacked our wood when Joel couldn’t. We have supported the local politician and the new mothers among us.

Well, this is about as long as I dare make a blog, so you will have to wait for Episode 2 . There is a lot more to be said.

Over and out.

So what happens if everything becomes unplugged?

Do you ever think about this? I do! I had a grandmother who lived without indoor plumbing and electricity. I have always been thankful for that. When I was young, it was like fancy camping out, which we left after a few days, and now that I am old, I know how it’s done. I know how to brush my teeth without a sink. I know the glow of lamplight in the evening hours, the smell of coffee and woodstove in the morning.

But…. we are ever so much more dependent today than in my childhood. How would you make coffee in the morming? How would you keep your food from spoiling? I read recently that people used to keep milk from spoiling by putting a silver coin in it. Who can find a silver coin??

What actually made me think of writing this post was someone saying that penmanship is a moot point. It seems so, but I don’t  agree. There is more to it than legibility, although legibility is a worthy point, especially if things are unplugged.

I wonder how much my life would change if I had just lamps, fans, stove and refrigerator. Oh yes , and the water heater, can’t forget that.Oh, you might as well plug in the coffee maker if you have all that.. and the toaster.. and the mixer. Is the internet on? I think I’ll post this blog…. and go for a walk and listen to the birds