Re-Define Neccesity

I am thankful.  I have more than I need.  I have more than enough.  My home is filled with stuff, my cupboards with food, my car with gas.  I have love, I have family, warmth, friends, joy.

I have employment, enough to live, not enough to immerse myself in conspicuous consumption. 

During my youth I embraced minimal living, reveled in it.  As I grew, I forgot the beauty of less, fell more and more into the trap of gain for the sake of having.

At this stage of my life, I am returning to the basics of life.  And I delight in this.  I am remembering gardening, canning, raising chickens, and glory in the prospects of the fantastic freedom of recreating my life in a simple, less hectic fashion.

 For Thanksgiving, redefine your necessity.  Give thanks.


Today, I sit at my laptop, logged into by remote to my office computer, my i-phone and kindle charging on my desk.

Life was so different while we were growing up.

We had a party line for our phone, when we had a phone; party lines are a great way to keep up on the neighborhood doings.   I remember many lovely conversations, overheard as a child.  My hand covered the mouthpiece, muting my giggles.  Children, (and nosy neighbors) learned how to quietly pick up the phone, and quietly replace the receiver in its cradle.   If I did not know what time it was, I would simply pick up the phone, dial O and ask the nice operator.

I remember a old gray washtub, that  Mom would bring  into the kitchen and fill with hot water for our baths. a privacy blanket over the door, (as the youngest, I was able to bathe first) and going out to the milk house in the cold of a winter night to stand under the cold hose there for a shower, with  a little blue kerosene heater to keep us warm, or in the summer, a hose thrown over the clothesline, and showering with our swim suits on.

Mom worked hard to keep our home comfortable.   Aluminum foil placed over the windows on sunny summer days to reflect the hot sun away, and the bowls of ice  placed in front of the fans for our air conditioning.  In the winter Mom would fill mason jars with hot water,  wrap them in towels, then we would place them at our feet in bed at night to warm us into sleep.

Flashing back to a time I can only imagine, Mom, 16. just a child herself, newly married, and spending her first wedded year living with a mother in law who scared the beejeez out of her, and then, when dad came home from the service, moving out to a lonely farm in the back 40 acres of Iowa.  No running water, no indoor utilities, only a wood stove for heat, pregnant, and working the farm.  Mom persevered, as she always did.

She spent her years out there, working hard, bearing children, bringing more children home to us, and raising us all in a tumble up fashion.

In the summers she raised a garden, canned, worked the fields, put up hay, picked corn, had babies (well she had us in the summer, fall winter, and spring really)

Remember, she was still a child herself through much of this; she raised herself while raising us, and she lived, she persevered…

Flashing to another memories, this one I own.  Sitting outside of a church under a shady tree, our bible school teacher is telling us about Jesus, showing us a picture of him, tiny, standing atop a green leaf, explaining that he is everywhere, even in a blade of grass.

I have had this view of God and Heaven since that time, everywhere all at once, in us, outside of us.

And that is the vision I have of our Mother, everywhere, inside of us, our hearts, and outside of us as well, a bigger view: Mother as part of Heaven, as part of the universe, on a greater adventure than even her life here, Mother now with Linda, her sisters and brother, her Mother, her soul spirit, all together,

Mom is planning her garden now, carnations, lilies, gladioli, and tomatoes.  I am pretty sure a fluffy white kitten has found her way to that garden spot, and sits on Mom’s lap, while she herself sits under a tree, in a comfortable wooden rocker, at her ease, in her glory.  Still living, still persevering.

Celebration of Life

Our Mother has passed, we will mourn her absence, but mostly, we will celebrate her life.  Our Mother lived strong, wild, ferocious, bodacious.  She lived with faith, and joy, and strength.

She left us much, her joy of flowers, her affinity for sunshine, fresh air, natural living.  We will, all of her eight children, numerous grand children and even more countless great grandchildren remember her daily.

Countless gestures; we find our hand placed over our forehead, shading our eyes with exasperation.  hear ourselves with small phrases, “For goodness sakes.”  “Good Grief”.  sound like her, we hear her with our own words.

We enjoy chickens, well, some of us.  Fresh eggs, apples, bananas.  I never could get the hang of Rocky Mountain Oysters and frog legs but I think some of us have.

We have countless house plants, knick knacks, and candles scattered about our homes.  Just like our mother.

We have a a stubborn determination to live and survive, our Mother taught that to us as well.  She lived greatly.

We will miss her, and we will celebrate her always.

Memories of our Mother

Mom lay quietly in her bed these days, her last stroke destroyed half of her brain, her ability to move on her own, and her ability to communicate with more than a few one syllable words. She is waiting.

When I visit her I  sorrow.  Her tiny body is weak, her face still beautiful.  Half of her body does not move.  But her eyes…her eyes sometimes still burn with that flame of life that has carried her through so much.  At those times I feel a surge of hope, unwarranted hope, that perhaps she will pull back from this determination of death.

Each time I visit, she looks at me, and her eyes are tender, telling me so much with a look or a small smile.  As I sit and talk, she watches, nods, responds for a bit.

Sunday we talked of the past, growing up on her farm.

Our Mom had chickens, many chickens that lived in a good-sized chicken house,  surrounded by a tall dog – proof fence that was partly roofed by the large branches of overgrown apple trees.  Watching them was a wonder, they scratched about the dirt, heads bobbing, sometimes pecking at each other, other times mindlessly flapping their wings, chasing one another about the yard.  Autumn days, the apples hanging above their yard dropped down, some would ferment before the chickens devoured them, and then, I swear, the little creatures would eat the fermented apples, and chatter drunkenly about.

In the spring time Mom bought baby chicks, and nestled them in our basement, in a wire enclosure, with straw spread over the concrete floor.  Above she hung a warm light to keep them warm.  We could hear soft chirps and scratching coming up the stairs.  I was forbidden to touch them, but of course I did, cuddling their tiny bodies close to my face, smelling the freshness of their new beginning

At times it was my job to gather the eggs.   The chicken house was magical to me.  I entered it and the warm earthy smells of life rushed to greet me.  Hens laying in their boxes would let out soft, sleepy sounds. Reaching under them, my hands enjoyed the  cozy feathers of the creatures, and quietly as I could I pulled out warm eggs for the basket.

Always since, when I have been able, I have had chickens, and enjoyed again the beauty of new eggs, and mother hens.  One more of many parts of me left to me by our Mother,

Leaving home was the only thought in my mind when I turned 17, but now, nearing 60, I have learned that home has never left me.


   My friend from high school, Irene is a major proponent of memories, Irene was the most awesome girl I knew back then, she introduced me to LIFE.  She did things, knew people, and although she had her own problems, she continued to grow and live.  I missed Irene, and am so happy to have her back in my life through the medium of social networking. Reading her posts, looking at her pictures, I understand the full, active , and most important honored life she has lived.

I am part of a facebook page, postings of memories from people from my home town.  Reading them, I have an opportunity to remember my own past and in that way, reconnect with the little girl that left home in a head long rush towards freedom.  I love having the memories. Mine have not been so complete.  Memories can heal. After over four decades of forgetting, it is wonderful to begin to regain them.

Here are a few of my own;

The town square and stuffing myself on watermelon during watermelon days. and the best carnival a child ever did attend.

An easter egg hunt downtown, I won a silver dollar in a pink plastic box from Doctor Byram’s office.

My more than pitiable attempt at archery down by the old elementary, ( also remember a bad experiment with copper tone that day)

Comic books bought at the 5 and dime.

An equally pitiable attempt at golf in high school, I have never understood while we hit the balls toward the windows, did Ms Ahrens just know we would all miss?

Stumbling going up the steps during graduation and Bruce Robinson telling me I would be fine, (forever grateful for that  Bruce)

Walking miles on country roads

Canoeing at Hanon Lake.

Eating at the maid rite, french fries, cherry coke, and ketchup

My first pack of cigs at Old Style Tavern I was 12, they cost 20cents                         

Riding the square and honking horns

Just some memories….Love memories!

A tribute to Sweet Annie

Sweet sweet Annie

of many faces.


earth-mother, gypsy.

Gardener, provider.


Sweet sweet Annie

Kind of heart,

fair of face.

She does not see

What I see.

Sweet sweet Annie


Savior to critters.

She does not see

what we see.

Sweet sweet Annie

Beauty. Lover.



You should see from these eyes.

To my Mother

I love you my Mother, the woman who bore me, the woman who endured so very much to raise me and all of  your children.  You have  never been  a victim of your life, you are a survivor.  You are the greatest freedom fighter, a woman who raised yourself  high, amidst a rather chaotic background, who made mistakes, and prospered, who did right things, and lived.  I salute you.

You are the woman, who, I realize are the core of me, the backbone that has moved me through my chaos, although until today I have never voiced this knowledge to you.  Our own relationship was somehow diminished early in my life, through no fault of yours, but rather through the sadness and anger  of external life.  Our distance became an unhappy habit.

I love your spirit Mom, your strength, your toughness, and your truth of life.  This is something you need to know this day.  You are a landmark in my life; the woman with the fierce history, the woman who walked through fire to protect her own, lived through pain, loved her babies with an intense heart.  You are the woman who touched a growing plant and made it blossom with beauty. 

You made it through not only one, but four husbands, now that is enough to make any woman give up.  Good grief!  Four men to raise!  And still you moved forward. You raised eight babies into I think pretty amazing people.  You had to, sadly, see one go, our Linda.  You lived through war, poverty, the harsh environment of that little farm in Iowa, cold winters, broken bones, back-breaking work, the strong rarity of a difficult every day existence.  Yet, you created beauty for us all and your self in the best way you could.  We always had flowers growing, and remember that wonderful peach tree you sheltered so faithfully out by the milk house door, the one that you nursed through many winters?   Mom, you are tenacious, stubborn and determined.  You are a scraper, a fighter, an artist, and a love;  all rolled into one.

I inherited my love of the sunshine from you, my love of the earth, my love of a good time, and perhaps my obstinate personality.  I inherited my red hair, my blue eyes, my nose, my hands, my sometimes faithful adherence to putting my foot forward every day… all from you.

I see large beauty in small items;  this I learned from you, the woman who could take cockle burrs to turn into works of art, the woman who taught me how to iron leaves between sheets of waxed paper to frame on the wall, to bake a roast beef, fry a chicken, tried to teach me how to sew, but rightfully gave up on that one.

You taught me how to bowl, to tie my shoes, clean a house, read a book.  I inherited a quest for knowledge from you, the want to understand what is happening around me.

You are a human goddess, full of the vagaries of both divine and human spirit.

You, our Mother,  have made a full and intense life, you have sung beautiful songs, raised recalcitrant children, birthed cows, planted fields, created beauty.  You are the woman of the moment, woman of the world

Bless you Mother with love.

My Mother’s Hands

My mother has hard-working hands, fingers bent, somewhat gnarled from arthritis, knuckles turned large from worry, life.   Blue tinted veins prominently run under her skin; skin that has turned translucent, fine, almost parchment through her years.  Her nails, at this time, are manicured, acrylic, colored.  And she is quite proud of them. That was not always so.  Her nails were tough, I remember, worn, sometimes brittle from the harsh environment of her daily life.  It used to be, she would take gelatin capsules to keep them strong.  In my childhood, I thought it oddly circular that she would take extract of cow hoofs to make her own nails grow.

Her hands have touched children in love and yet in anger, the men she has loved, with tenderness and delight.  They have held babies close to comfort tears, and gently to give them grace.  They have touched the cheeks of her men, after they passed, with sorrow. And those cheeks of her daughter, our sister,  with greater sorrow after she also passed.  No mother should have the need to hold the hand of a departed child.

They have gardened, farmed, milked cows, swung hammers, sewed clothing, washed clothes, washed backs, changed diapers, mopped floors, butchered chickens, paid bills, fixed hair, slapped faces, made bread; her hands have lived, and still live.

They are a picture in my mind, my mother’s hands, of strength, sorrow, and life.

My Mother Manages Life

My Mother’s life was tough, and hard, and has been very long. As a young child she was raised in a fair to middling economic status, and had aspirations to be a singing star.  Her life spiraled away from that dream pretty quickly.  At about the age of 14 she moved in with her oldest sister, and there she learned the hard way about what a relationship with a man was all about.  I do not know details of that learning experience; I have just pieced together that knowledge for stories from my aunts, which I heard over the years. Later, at the age of 16 she married my father, a man 10 years her senior.  He went away in the service during World War II and left her young, alone, and pretty lost in a town she did not know, with a mother in law that just did not show her much love.  Her dreams of being a singing star still existed, but they were tempered by the reality of her life…imagine; being 16 and alone and lost…My father returned from his service and took her and her then unborn daughter to a farm in the backwoods of Iowa, no electricity, no running water, and she coped, she managed.  Her first child was followed by 4 others, and she managed, she coped, and she loved her children in her best way.

When I was 7, her life was starting an upturn, her house had electricity, running water, and her husband had become economically stable.  And then, in a strange accident, he fell from a light pole, hit his head on a concrete slab and died.

So again, Mother’s life took a sad turn.  She floundered for a bit, dated a few guys, and then married Ed, when I was 12.  Ed was steady and around, and industrious.  He did love Mother.  With Ed, my Mother adopted the first two of my youngest brother and sisters. She loved them.

Ed died of a brain aneurysm, by then I had left home and started my own somewhat dubious life of the time.  Mom was alone with 2 kids, and she raised them in her best way.

And then she met Chuck, (I am pretty sure we all share the same opinion of Chuck), but in the midst of all of his con artist ways, he did assist Mother in adopting our youngest sister.  So every thing has a blessing.  Chuck she divorced after a number of years, after finally believing that he was not an honest man.  He left her poor, farm sold, money gone.

And she raised her youngest daughter in her best way.

Finally came Bernie, and he was sweet. And he loved her, but shortly after the marriage, he became ill with emphysema and after some years of living with an oxygen tank, he passed away as well.

Mom is now 86, and has survived many very critical strokes; she lives with my oldest brother and his wife.  They take marvelous care of her, and I think that although she may be fairly bored these days, (she is frustrated because her thoughts do not translate into clear words) She is content, and living a peaceful life.

My relationship with my Mom is unclear.  I left home at 17, full of angst, and got into the habit of never communicating.  But she is a good woman, with a history that spans nearly a century, and more living in her than can be known, and I love her in my way, and hopefully I can someday call it my best way.

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