Friday, July 15, 2016

Flashback Friday....Ten Years

In October of 2014, I went to visit old friends in the "way up there part" of Michigan. I drove up one side of the state...crossed over to Alpena, spent two days...
and came back down the other side.
I probably knew why I took this route before hand, 
but I didn't know if I would have time to do what was in the back of my mind.
I "wrote" this by recording my thoughts into my notes on my phone. I meant to post it upon my return, but never did.
It's been 10 years since my friend, Jolene's passing.
I thought it would be a good time to share about the special spot I visited on my way home from my Michigan Road Trip:

I knew when I left I would probably end up here at some point in time.
Since I ended up leaving from Lowell, I thought maybe it wouldn't happen. But, the return route took me too close to her hometown, not to stop.

I SHOULD have been at work.
I was scheduled to be at work instead of here. But, since I knew in the back of my mind I would stop,
I called and asked to take an additional half a vacation day.

It took me longer than it should have to find the place. I don't remember the cemetery being so small. I passed it twice going west. And finally, realized I could not find it because trees hide it from the east.

I thought I was just coming here cause it was the right thing to do.
Stopping, to say hello to an old friend.
Stopping, out of respect for she and her family.
Stopping, to see her name on a headstone; the stone that was yet to be set the last time we all stood here.

Awhile ago I read about why people leave coins on gravestones.
It's to let the living know that their loved one's grave has been visited.
After I finally found the cemetery and parked the car, I carefully counted out eight pennies and put them in my pocket.
I went to where I remembered standing the day of her funeral.
I went too far and the first stone I saw, was Baby Miller.
There were no other Millers in that row.
I thought, surely they got her a headstone?
I turned and saw the back of a brown stone.
As I came around the front of it,
there was her name:
I have been to a lot of funerals,
and I have walked my fair share of cemeteries.
But, I was not prepared for the catch in my throat and the instant tears upon seeing her name etched in granite.

I think of Jolene often.
I always mention her on the anniversary of her death. 
Every year, I go and get an ice cream cone during the week, because that is what I did that week in July of 2006.
I sit on the steps in the sun and remember this sweet girl.
So, it's not like I'm in denial that she is gone.
But, something about etchings in stone make things seem very real and very permanent.

The rain started to fall lightly, as if it was mirroring my tears.
I whispered, 

"Here you are."
"Hello, sweet girl.

"I thought I wasn't going to be able to find you."
And with that, I imagined her alive...
jumping up and down, waving her arms, flagging me down by the side of the road, saying:
"Here I am...
I'm right here!" 

And flashing that beautiful smile and laughing uncontrollably like she always did!
And with that, as quickly as the tears had come, I was now laughing out loud in the middle of the cemetery.
As I did, I smiled and thought, 
now this is like a real visit with Jolene!

I took the pennies out of my pocket,
I sat down on the grass in front of the stone and 
laid them on headstone one at a time.
One for each year that she has been gone.
I talked and talked and talked about the time that had passed.
2006...the year it happened
2007... all those weddings Dad
2009... all that happened...2010, 2011...

2012...changes at the Bookstore
2014...clarity, plans, the present and the future.

I stood back up.
I wondered about her family.
I wondered about her parents and their unimaginable grief.
I wondered if they still lived nearby and I wondered if they were in one of the cars that drove by while I stood there.
I thought about her nephews and prayed for the hope that even tho they were very young, they would never forget their Aunt Jolene.
I told her, I can tell that they love and miss her...
Because of the Flowers of Fall colors,
the solar lights, the statues, engravings with sayings...
The telltale signs of a person who is always loved, always missed.

The tears came again,
as I couldn't contain my sorrow for what might've been for this young lady. 
I felt anguished, as I apologized that she had so little time. So much life that she missed. I told her I had wanted so much more for her. 
I told her I still don't understand.
Because, I know, "God does not need another angel."
He doesn't "need her more than we do."
None of those answers are good enough.
I told her Lisa gave me the most peace, when she simply said:
"Nance, it was an accident."
I told her I will never understand...until we meet again. And, maybe even then, it still won't make sense.

I put my hands in my pockets and shut up.
I listened.
I was I reminded how at one point in time, I had given her permission to snap her fingers in front of my face if I got a little too grumpy or took things too seriously as a manager at the store.
She would, occasionally, do this...
walk up to me, two snaps...criss/cross in front of my face, flash that smile and laugh out loud.
And that was my cue to "snap out of it,
To lighten up.
To enjoy the moment.

I stared at her name.
I could see her smiling.
She knew that I was getting it....
That standing before the grave of a wonderful person, who died at the age of 23...
should make you think about your life.

I promised to do better.
I gave her full permission
that on the days that I think Life isn't enough, or the moments I waste away, waiting for a day off or the next big thing,
to get right in my face and snap those fingers,
Waking me up, reminding me,
I have this day.
I have this moment.
Do not take it for granted.
Do not waste it or wish it away.
I will remember this girl and what she wouldn't give to have just one more day.
To Be Alive.
To Be Present
To Be Here Now. 

Directions to here:
"Sweet girl, I know you are not here. 
The thought of the Earth or a Stone containing your spirit and soul is as laughable as your smile or your infectious personality.
But yet I am here.
I'm here to laugh with you, to cry with you, to remember you.
Thank you for listening and as always, giving more sweetness than we or life ever gave you.
These six words aren't enough.

But I will say them anyway.

I love you
I miss you."

Friday, May 27, 2016

Flashback Friday...The Good Stuff

I am still going thru boxes and boxes and boxes.

Many of them are from when we cleaned out my mom and dad's house.
I packed up a lot of stuff.
Stuff I just wasn't ready to make a decision about or let go of at the time.
Some of the them are full of paper...
Scrapbooks I was gonna make.
Momentos from people and places all across the world.

There are a few that are full of nick nacks....
or tchotchkes, which, in my opinion, is a much more sophisticated word than nick nack!

I can see the evolution of my personal taste, as I'm unpacking the decor that used to cover the walls of my apartment. Peeling back the layers of what Main Street has looked like over the years.
Main Street
look at all the empty wall space and the little book collection!
And then there's the junk/treasure finds.
Packed in boxes, and/or stacked in the "Kane County Closet" or on display at the "Main Street Museum,"
Main Street
walls filling up and I've become a professional book shelver.
(picture courtesy of Joel Wilson)
There's just not enough flat surfaces in this apartment for all of this stuff!
Every "find" tells a story.
Most of them represent a road trip, a day at the flea market with family or friends, a 'memory/memorial' purchase, a souvenior of a place and of the many phases/obsessions I've got stuck on (Wonder Woman, Marching Band hats, Pirates....etc),
and gifts that have been given to me.

If you've been following my Facebook posts, you know I've been getting rid of a stuff. I post some of it and put it up for grabs, but there's a lot that has gone straight to the thrift shop. I wish I would have started a box count of the stuff that has gone away.

In opening box after box...
some of the stuff, I remember exactly why I saved it...
some of the stuff, I can now take a picture to preserve the memory and then get rid of it...
some of the stuff, for the life of me, I can't remember why I saved it...
some of the stuff has been easy to part with, some of the stuff not so easy...

But some of the stuff....Is "the Good Stuff."

Remember, Family?

While we were cleaning out the Log Cabin,
Dad told us that we would find "The Good Stuff" in the attic.
"What?" I said?
"The attic of the house?"
"No, the attic of the Cabin."
I didn't even know the Log Cabin had an attic!

So, one day, we sisters...
braved the attic...
in search of the Good Stuff.
I was hoping for endless Coca Cola and advertising signs, Gas Pump Globes, Christmas Decorations and/or maybe even The old "Vandercar's Log Cabin Sign."
The Log Cabin
Early 1960s (?)
Just look at all that Really "Good Stuff!"
who knows what "Good Stuff" was once in the attic?
Whatever it was, it must have been only in my Dad's memory, cause we found the attic mostly empty...
and what was there was mostly broken pieces of maybe what was once upon a time, (good ?) stuff.
Maybe "the Good Stuff" in the Log Cabin attic went the way of "the Good Stuff" in the basement...
to the "Antique Man"....
(but that's a whole different story for a different day)

I've been uncovering, at least, in my opinion...
my "Good Stuff."
It's been fun.
Walking down memory lane.
I must say, I have some really cool stuff, even if I do say so myself!

So, I'm gonna start sharing pictures of some of the "Good Stuff"on Facebook now and then.

And by the way, it's ALL for sale...
you just have to pay the price of what it's worth to me...

I hope whenever I move and wherever I end up there is an attic for all this "Good Stuff!"

Directions to here:

Or maybe, I'll just buy another Wagon and carry the Good Stuff around with me like old times.

Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Gratitude Rant.....Jingle Jangled Followed

Facebook, the Universe and God are co-conspiring and winking at me again.

I didn't sleep very well last night, woke up achy, feeling meh and a little queasy and stayed home from work.

I got some sleep. Drank some tea. Made some soup and felt a little better.

I was reading a book about mindfulness and how amazing our 5 senses are and it had a 5 minute exercise where you closed your eyes and focused on hearing Sounds...
not judging them good or bad or labeling them...
just listening, hearing.

Which,led me to be amazed at all the science and medical stuff I don't even pretend to understand about how sound is made and how we can hear it...

Which,led to a 20 minute gratitude rant in my journal about how grateful I am for all the things my body does that I take for granted and all the amazing sounds there are in the world and how hearing them can change and uplift my emotions/thoughts/body chemisty in an instant (think baby giggles and the Hammond B3 Organ)...

Which led to me to think of the line that says "in the Jingle Jangle morning, I'll come following you.."

Which led me to googling "Hey, Mr. Tambourine Man" lyrics...
(Which,by the way, led me to finding out Bob Dylan turned 75 yesterday...Happy New Year, Bob)...

Which led me to playing the Byrds version of this song...on vinyl...(because I can HEAR the difference in the warmth of the tone)...

Which led to dancing hippy style (like the 'groovy dancer' guest at Bobby and Jess' wedding) :)
and shaking a tambourine,
and raising one hand 
(like the verse that is in Dylan's version...but left out of the Byrd's version)
...while singing and falling under it's spell...
because you know, I promised to...just like the lyric says.

Jingle Jangle...Followed.

Directions to here:

later tonight...
Facebook, the Universe and God winks by showing me this beautiful video of a girl signing a song...
so her friend can "hear" the lyrics.

I may be losing my hearing :(
But, the message of the blessing of sound is coming thru Loud and Clear.
How great is it that we have ears to hear?!

So great!
So grateful!

Sunday, May 22, 2016

Sunday Morning Coming Down...."And I Fly..."

Where I am,
What I am

What I Believe in...
Holly Holy

Directions to here:

This is one of the most Spiritual songs I've ever heard...
That bass line, 
The adding of the chorus growing in intensity,
The layering,
The building....
The Healing

The Flying...

After this song swept me away...unawares...
I've been walking around all week and when something wows me...
I've been saying "Holly Holy" outloud.

And I know it's Neil Diamond.
You go right ahead and judge me.
I got hands in the air like I just don't care.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Flashback Friday....Girls Gone Wild

Last time these two got on a plane together....
they ended up leaving the country...

anyone heard from Sister Susie today?

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Sunday Morning Coming Down...

Sunday Words

Awake My Soul!

For You Were Born to Meet Your Maker

Directions to here:

Sit, Stand, Raise Your Head, Raise Your Hands, Dance....
Whatever it takes:
Awake Your Soul

Mumford and Sons
Awake My Soul

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Songs for Tuesday Mornings ~ Up on the Roof

I've read the Bible through a couple times and I know they have always been there.
I know I have read them, heard sermons about them, heard stories of people claiming them.

I'm talking about the verses in the Bible about Healing.
The New Testament and especially the Gospels are full of stories, not just parables but real stories of people who were physically healed by Jesus.

Yes, I have read them.
I have heard and worked with missionaries who have witnessed and told amazing accounts of modern day people being healed.

Yet, I have never been able to relate to these stories of physical healing.

I grew up watching the most important person in my life, deal with physical pain every single day.
It wasn't a now and then thing.
It was an every day, all day pain.
Thankfully, there were days in her young life that she was not in pain, but my mom suffered from rheumatoid arthritis every day of my life.
I can remember being about nine years old and knowing not to ask for certain things because it would be too painful for her to do.
When I was 10 years old, she found much relief from this pain by having both of her knees replaced.
Visually, she did not look much different. But physically, the knee replacements took away a lot of the pain.
To look at my mom, you would think that her arthritic hands would be the most painful part of her body...
But she often said, that the pain had burned out of her hands long ago....
Because that's what arthritis does, it eats away, deforms and then moves on to another part of the body only to repeat the process over and over, joint by joint.

So, The remnants of pain were very visible in my young life's eyes.
When I read about Jesus healing the lame, it was in comprehensible to me that this could happen in a modern-day situation.
I SAW my mom's hands.
I mean, her hands.....
I could not by any stretch of my (very active) imagination…
ever imagine my mom's hands being "healed."

So, because of this always present visible pain,
I think I began to see "healing" as a symbolic thing.
A sign of Jesus' time, but for our times, it was more of a metaphor or something to be used symbolically.
Yes, we can be "healed." 
Jesus can make us whole...
But, for the most part I believed that meant the healing of our mind, heart and/or brokenness.
But, not necessarily that of our bodies.
I saw my mom's hands.
I couldn't grasp it, so I didn't ask for it.

That was until my brother got cancer.

His first go round with cancer,
I followed my normal..."trouble, trouble, trouble" routine....
Shocked, denied, bargained, and finally settled down to accept it, hand it over to God and the professionals and settled in to pray for it and the course of action.
And the very intelligent doctors did what incredibly smart doctors do best.
He had surgery and they removed his kidney along with the cancer.
Yes, I suppose,
because everything went as the doctors planned.

Now, I can't tell you what exactly happened in between the first time he told me he had cancer and the second time he told me he had cancer.

All I know was my reaction the second time was extremely different than the first.

I do know that I had been undergoing a bit of soul surgery myself.
I was reading the Bible again, but also reading other spiritual works.
Reading old journals.
Dismantling old views of God and rebuilding a new views with much more possibilities.
Embracing my story...trying to live more whole-heartedly.
I felt my soul waking up.

And for some reason, despite the more dismal view the doctors took on this reoccurrence of cancer, I felt a strange positivity that my brother was going to be alright.

I call it strange because, being a melancholy personality,
positivity is not my normal first response. 

For example, Just last week, when I was talking with a friend about health and how crazy amazing our bodies are…
even when parts of them are broken, and the more grateful we are for what is right, the better we will feel, and feeling better will make us more grateful and quite possibly, even have an influence on what is not working. She looked at me a bit strangely and said "who are you and what have you done with my friend Nancy?…I mean, no offense, but you have always been a bit of an Eeyore…!"
I had to laugh and say "I know!"
And believe me, it's such a strange feeling to be embracing these thoughts, but I have to go with it cause I am experiencing it and believe it!

Anyway, I happened to be reading through the Gospels a month or so after I found out my brother's cancer was back.

I was reading the story about the time Jesus was at a house and people were bringing their sick for him to lay his hands on them and heal them.
The word had got out that he was there and the house was packed.
The storyteller nonchalantly tells the tale of how there was a man who could not move and they were carrying him on a bed, but because the house was full, they couldn't get him thru the door or even a window,  so they made a hole in the roof and lowered him down in front of Jesus:

Luke: 17-26
 One day when Jesus was teaching, Pharisees and legal experts were sitting nearby. They had come from every village in Galilee and Judea, and from Jerusalem. Now the power of the Lord was with Jesus to heal. Some men were bringing a man who was paralyzed, lying on a cot. They wanted to carry him in and place him before Jesus, but they couldn’t reach him because of the crowd. So they took him up on the roof and lowered him—cot and all—through the roof tiles into the crowded room in front of Jesus. When Jesus saw their faith, he said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.”
The legal experts and Pharisees began to mutter among themselves, “Who is this who insults God? Only God can forgive sins!”
Jesus recognized what they were discussing and responded, “Why do you fill your minds with these questions? Which is easier—to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up and walk’? But so that you will know that the Son of Man has authority on the earth to forgive sins” —Jesus now spoke to the man who was paralyzed, “I say to you, get up, take your cot, and go home.” Right away, the man stood before them, picked up his cot, and went home, praising God.
All the people were beside themselves with wonder. Filled with awe, they glorified God, saying, “We’ve seen unimaginable things today.”

Now, I have probably heard and/or read this story over a hundreds times.
not once have I given it more then the amount of time that it takes to read it…
and go onto the next chapter.

But this time.
This time was different.
This time I thought about my brother.
I thought about those people who brought this sick man to Jesus.
It doesn't say whether they were family of the man or friends of the man.
It doesn't say who thought of it, or how they did it.
It just barely tells the story of what they did to get that man in front of the one who could heal him.

And I thought about them.
I thought about how determined they were that they brought the man to Jesus in the first place.
I thought about how desperate they must have been to get their brother/their friend help.
I thought about how when they heard that there was a man who is healing the sick,
how much hope that must have generated... 
About how much risk it took to even let their fearful hearts hope that there might be a chance for healing.
I thought about how they might of had to even convince the man who was sick that he should go to Jesus and to take the chance.
I thought about how they may have had to have take off work, drop everything, and to figure out a way to transport the sick man from his house to the house where Jesus was.
I thought about them carrying this man, their brother, their friend. Carrying him thru the streets on his bed/stretcher.

And then, after all this, to get to where Jesus was and not be able to get into the house because of the crowd.

And then, I thought about their desperation. 
The moment of "trouble, trouble, trouble," about how they could have given up.
About how they could've said well maybe next time, maybe tomorrow.
Or, maybe, it wasn't meant to be.
How, they could've gone home feeling good that they did everything they could, that they tried…

But, I love to think about one of them looking up to the corner of the house…and then to the roof.
The crazy engineer that said, what if….?
I want to meet the one that said "hey guys," what if we…. 
The one with the bold idea of going in through the roof.

Now I'm picturing a modern-day house, but, I know that the houses in Jesus' time would not be as enormous as ours, that you wouldn't be cutting thru shingles, and wood and insulation and attics.
But, I'm quite sure they may have needed a ladder.
And I'm quite sure that the man who "could not move" was not light and could be of no help getting himself up the ladder.
And I can't imagine the the strength that it would took to get a man on a stretcher up a ladder onto a roof...
let alone, the tools, time and gall that it took to saw a hole into someone else's house? 

I have to ask, just how much did this sick man mean to these people that did this for him…
how desperate were they they he be healed?

And that is when I lost it.

That is when I thought of my brother.
And I thought of his wife,
And I thought of his two sons,
And I thought of his brothers and sisters,
And I thought of the people who call him Uncle
And I thought of our Sunday Dinner Crew
And I thought of the men who call him their boss
And I thought of his friends and all the faces I saw a party he hosted.
And I thought of the men who gathered around a kitchen counter and figured out a way to move a Log Cabin down the road in the middle of the night...

And I got it

I got it
I don't know what it look like for Jesus to heal the sick…
(I mean, if you only saw my moms hands)

But what I do know, is there is not one person on the list above that would hesitate for   
to do whatever it took, to get my brother into that house.
Even if it meant tearing the whole roof off shingle by shingle.

And I do know,
What hope looks like and what happens when people who have hope put all their positive energy in one direction in order to see this person be made well.

I believe in the Divine.
I believe that God can Heal
Body, Soul and Spirit.
But I am also beginning to believe that it is not just a sit back and wait type of thing.
I'm beginning to believe our minds, our souls and our hearts, and even our physical actions all play a part in our healing, the healing of those we love and the healing for the world at large.

Fear, conflict, anger….when experienced…all change our body chemistry and mostly for the worse.

Why can't the opposite be true?
Why can't hope, courage, daring greatly, gratefulness, positivity and gratitude...when practiced and experienced change our body chemistry for the better?

Hope Matters.
Hope can heal.
And the crazy thing is, this melancholy pessimist named, Eeyore is starting to believe it can!

Directions to here:

Dave, Levi, Tammy, Bobby, Jess….
and countless others...

Here's to raising the roof.
We love you and are up there with you.