Ringing in the Old

As I read the news this morning I decided to do something different on my blog the next few weeks that doesn’t speak of the virus. As some of you might remember, I wrote a column for the Albert Lea Tribune titled Something About Nothing. I wrote for them starting in 2005 and quit in 2019. I decided to dust off some of my favorite columns and post them on this blog the next few weeks. I am going to take these columns and put them in a new book to be read, either all at once, or a little at a time. My goal is to lift someone up especially at this time. I find writing helps me and I hope my words help you.

This column is from way back and I can’t you what year probably 2009 or 10. Enjoy.

IT’S A MIRACLE

The beautiful tall tree in my front yard that shades my house and keeps us cool is withering. I called the tree doctor. He diagnosed stress from this spring’s weather. He told me my tree would come back but possibly not until next year. In the meantime, I see its withered leaves and know there is nothing I can do to bring it back to health. It has to heal on its own with the weather and the water from the earth.

It strikes me that the tree is like our lives. When the storms of life descend on us, we seem to wither and droop. We feel helpless because there is nothing we can do for some of the stresses in our lives, such as friends’ illnesses, financial problems, and other things over which we have no control. We can only wait and heal until spring comes again.

I have said that it will be a miracle if my tree makes it. We use the word miracle lightly in our lives. We throw the word around as if we do not believe miracles can happen.

Dictionary.com describes a miracle as “An effect or extraordinary event in the physical world that surpasses all known human or natural powers and is ascribed to a supernatural cause….”

Perhaps we are skeptical of miracles because we Christians believe miracles have to be huge. The Vatican and Lourdes carry out scientific investigations of miracles of healing. They have to meet strict criteria to be called a miracle. We also may think of miracles as those in the Bible, such as Jesus turning water into wine or Jesus rising from the dead..

C.S. Lewis stated that one cannot believe a miracle occurred if one has already drawn a conclusion in their mind that miracles are not possible.

I am currently reading Expect a Miracle by Dan Wakefield. This book is about miracles in everyday lives. I expected the book to tell of great miracles that happened in everyday lives such as miraculous unexplainable healing, instead the book opened my eyes to the miraculous things that happen every day.

Do we miss small miracles every day because we are looking for something grand and bigger? Do we throw the word around because we feel a real miracle can only happen if it is huge, like water being turned into wine? Or are miracles happening in small ways inn our life and we miss them because we truly do not believe in miracles? Or we believe a miracle cannot happen for us.

My friend recently had surgery for cancer. It went well. She has been through many surgeries through the years for this cancer. She has a cancer that most people do not survive. I consider her life to be a miracle. I am sure she does, too.

When I see a rainbow in the sky, I know there are scientific reasons for rainbows, but that rainbow always seems to appear when I need it most to give me hope. When my mother died in the midst of a cold February winter, a mourning dove visited my window. The mourning doves hadn’t been around since fall. Usually they come in pairs. That winter, one morning right after her death, one mourning dove visited my window. To me that was a miracle, and seeing that dove made me feel that things would be all right.

My tree is withering, but if just one leaf comes back, it could be a miracle that there is still life in my tree. Pat Gralton makes this statement as she listed one hundred miracles that she sees in her life. This is one of them.

My garden is a miracle. It teaches me everything about life that I will ever need to know: anticipation, birth, joy, changes in color and texture, different shades of the same color, buds, dead blossoms, killing frost, burial, saying farewell, hope for the spring, renewal. (Dan Wakefield, Expect a Miracle, http://www.danwakefield.com/id7.html)

NOTE: My tree lived and is thriving today.

Christmas, Joyful or Stressful?

Sprinkled Notes by Julie Seedorf © December 2018

Printed in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of December 6.

my angel 1

Copyright Julie Seedorf Creations

Each Christmas season, others remind me when I write my feel-good column about the holiday season that many people struggle with the holiday. I decided to be honest and share my issues so that it doesn’t feel as if I am not empathetic with seasonal depression.

 I loved the Christmas season from the time I was a child. My parents made sure the season was magical. Growing up visiting my dad and mom’s business put me in the mood with the holiday decorations, with the mood continuing as I attended the free Christmas movies at the theater, capping it off going to midnight mass with my mom at her church and Santa’s arrival early Christmas morning at my home. And I can’t forget visiting my Uncle Dominic’s Christmas tree lot in Mankato to pick out our tree.

As an adult, the fun and joy continued on as my own family grew. I loved decorating the Christmas tree with my children and then with my grandchildren when they were small. Putting up the tree and decorating my home was a family affair. Teaching my kids about the Christmas story and having them participate in the Christmas programs at church was also a highlight and one of the reasons I loved the season.

It is 2018 and times have changed. I no longer have that family here to help me get in the mood for the season. We used to do it when the family was here for Thanksgiving, but now with everyone being so busy, our time together is short if our family get-together even happens. It seems like a struggle to figure out a time to celebrate any holiday as a family.

Six or seven years ago I suffered from an illness and depression, and I did not put one single decoration up in my home. I didn’t even go to church that year. It was a dark time in my life.

The severe depression and illness, through a lot of work, have passed, and I again like the Christmas season, but with it still are feelings of sadness.  I miss the hubbub of children helping me with the tree and oohing and awing over Christmas decorations and remembering who made what. My husband isn’t one to get involved except to set up the actual tree. He will help if I twist his arm, but there is no excitement in the task. It just isn’t his thing. It is hard to be excited when you are alone in the feeling.

A couple of years ago, since we never had Christmas at our house anymore but at one of the kid’s homes, we gave our big tree to our son and his family. We now have a small tree that we leave decorated, put in the closet and haul out every year. I no longer cover every nook and cranny with Christmas bauble. But the already decorated tree isn’t the same.

This morning, as I was viewing pictures on Facebook of families decorating trees, I realized part of my sadness at Christmas is because I miss having someone to share the excitement of the season with me. I miss my kids and grandkids helping me with the fun points of making my house feel festive. The other part is me missing those family members who have died, meaning my mom and dad who always joined in the fun too.             

We are having Christmas back at our home this year, and I am looking forward to that. I have some decorations up, but they will be mellower. I know I am blessed to not have to spend Christmas alone, and I will have my family with me. The reasonable part of me says it is no big deal to have to decorate by myself and get ready for the hoopla. But yet there is the niggling feeling of missing days gone by — happy times with my mom and dad’s families and those with my children and grandchildren.

Last year, too, was a struggle for a different reason. My best friend, Jan, was in the last days of her life. I marveled at her peace and joy in the season. She taught me to count my blessings, but yet this year I feel sadness she isn’t here to share the season with me. She, too, loved Christmas. I will never look at an Old World Santa without thinking of her. She also loved the hospitality of the season, always hosting friends and family. And her voice — her beautiful voice — lifting in praise and worship at our church or when we were out caroling will never be forgotten. Joy shared with her, together as friends, kept me going. When I was in my depression, she lifted me up and encouraged me to live in the season of love.

I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for me. That is not the purpose of my sharing this. I have a choice. I know this from the past. I can leave this sadness to overwhelm me, or I can count my blessings and feel grateful. I will tell you, for me, it is work. It is hard work pulling out of the doldrums. I do know writing down what I am grateful for eventually turns into peace. But I also know there will be an occasional day when it won’t work, and I will have to accept the sadness but not let it carry me away. I know how to reach out if I can’t figure it out myself. Each person has to take care of themselves the way that works for them. But if you feel trapped, and can’t work your way to find a little joy in the season, please reach out to a friend, a pastor or a professional. Your life is worth living, and you deserve joy, peace and love that Christmas can bring. It is there if you reach for it.

Feeling stressed? Try not to multitask

my mindMy column in the Albert Lea Tribune and the Courier Sentinel the week of November 8, 2018

I am a multitasker. It is a habit I need to break, but it comes so naturally. I do not know I am doing it. Multitasking got me in trouble the other night.

I told my friend Jane I would pick her up for a church event. Later in the afternoon, she and I, and another friend, Julie, were texting about the evening. At the same time, I was texting in another thread with an author friend, and I was also texting with my son. No, I didn’t mix up the texts between threads; I mixed up the texts between people on the same thread.

I thought Jane told me she would meet me at the event. But it was Julie who was driving herself. I saw the J and went with that in my haste of switching between threads not noticing it was Julie, not Jane. I thought it was strange but didn’t take the time to question it.

I arrived at the event, met my other friends and was waiting for Jane. She wasn’t there. Soon my cell phone rang, and it was Jane asking me when I was going to pick her up. I felt horrible that in my multitasking of texting I got the message wrong. Jane, being the nice person she is, forgave me — or at least I think she did.

As I was trying to fall asleep that night, I thought of all the other things I get mixed up or wrong because of my bad habit of doing too many things at one time or hurrying to get something done. It never turns out well, and it is exhausting.

I can’t watch television without doing two things at once. I usually crochet, read or play a few games on my cell phone while watching the telly. My husband is wonderful that he washes his own clothes, (it could have something to do with his “I want it folded this way” fetish), and when he is washing his clothes it is his only task. It is the same with all he does — one task at a time. He doesn’t understand when I tell him he can do more than one thing at a time.

My switcharoo tasking started when my kids were small. All mothers need to have two eyes in front, two eyes in the back and multiple arms, hands, and legs but we don’t, so we do as much as we can in the time allotted to get things done. We pretend we have more appendages because we use them so quickly. The problem is that when we get older such as retirement age, we can’t always stop. Somehow that need is drilled into us, and it takes time after we retire to find that sweet spot of being lazy without feeling as if we are lazy because doing only one thing seems to be the epitome of lying down on the job even when we don’t have one anymore.

And then, it has been drilled into us that we need to be hard workers and have a purpose in life and that, too, is hard to let go of when you get to be my age. Perhaps our purpose has been fulfilled and the only goal we need to have is to enjoy life and let each day take its own course while we meander along the way, living our lives without being on the proverbial multitasking spinning wheel.

There are those who are young and old that enjoy the multitasking busy life. Many older adults will tell you it keeps them young. Many will tell you it puts you into an early grave. I don’t know which is right, I only know the older I become, the harder it is to multitask without committing some real doozies of error.

Relaxing is hard when you see dishes still needing to be done, floors needing to be swept and scrubbed, knowing the next meal is right around the corner. Relaxing is also hard when you have a pile of books to read, magazines piling up, crafts stuck in every corner that you started or were going to do. Who knew fun and hobbies could be so stressful? And then don’t forget all the social events, the requests for volunteer help and visiting children, which also make us a multitasking genius.

The holidays are coming up. We have to multitask right now between turkeys and Santa. Do we grab Christmas as we are grabbing for Thanksgiving when we are in the stores?

I will opt for thankfulness as we settle in for the coming month before we usher in the Christmas hoopla. Maybe if the one task I commit to each day is sitting in silence and being thankful for what I have, what I can do, and ponder why I feel the need to multitask, my stress will settle down.

“Remember that stress doesn’t come from what’s going on in your life. It comes from your thoughts about what’s going on in your life.” — Andrew J. Bernstein

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Thursday.