Missing Those Saints

This column ran in the Courier Sentinel this week but the last few paragraphs were left off. This is the entire column.

I have written the column Something About Nothing since 2005. It appears every Monday in the
Albert Lea Tribune and every other week in the Courier Sentinel. Usually it is the same column
in both papers.  

I have decided I want to branch out with another column called Sprinkled Notes. It matches my
blog of the same name. On my blog the blurb says it is about a little bit of “this n’ that.” It makes  sense to link the two together. So please bear with me. My new column is going to make its  debut in this paper and will be a different topic than published on Something About Nothing.  

Sprinkled Notes

Missing Those Saints

We have a term in our church called Senior Saints. I suppose I could call myself a member of
the Senior Saints now that I have reached that age. By that age I mean the age at which one  considers someone a Senior Citizen which seems to vary from person to person and store to store. However, I am far from being a Saint.  

The reason the Senior Saints are on my mind is a member of our church died this weekend. Her
name was Grace, and in my mind she was a Saint long before she became a Senior.

Others from our congregation have gone before her and some of their names will live in my heart and mind forever too. Names such as Gerald, Lorraine, Emily, Wilbert and Donny, to name a few. These people made a difference in my life. None of them would have called  themselves saints. They went through their life touching people. None of them achieved what  the world would call greatness. They weren’t lauded across the nation or broadcast on Social  Media, but they made a steady difference in the life of the people they met every day, and the  life of their church and especially their families. The one thing they had in common was their love of God and they showed it in the way they lived. It wasn’t loud but quiet and gentle. Well,  occasionally it was loud when a couple of them were telling one of their famous jokes.  

I remember when I was new to the Lutheran Congregation and I attended Bible Studies led by
Lorraine, Emily and Grace. I learned more about God and the Bible, but most of all I learned  about kindness and love for others. I saw their dedication to their church in all they did quietly  such as Altar Guild, Women’s groups, Choir, Ushering, Church Council and of course teaching  others about the word.  

I met Gerald when I became the head of our Sunday School and he was one of our teachers.
He taught I think for over twenty years or more. He, with his wit and humor made a difference in the lives of young members in his teaching, and in his leadership of youth groups, taking them  out into nature in the Boundary Waters to teach them about the beauty of creation.  

I met Wilburt when he ushered every Sunday without fail. It wasn’t unusual for him to grab one of
my kids and hold them on his lap while we went up for communion in the days before kids could
go along to be blessed. And he always had a twinkle in his eye and made us feel welcome.  

Donny was a family member. He married my cousin and then after she died, a best friend. I got
to know him in another way. He too was always in church, ushered every Sunday and charmed  people with his wit knowing when you saw him to expect a friendly razzing. 

Each one of these Senior Saints also had jobs outside of their church life and they lived their
faith in the way they treated people in their workplace and on the street. They weren’t different
people when they walked out of that church. You could count on the fact they were who theyrepresented themselves in and out of church.

And each of these people at one time or another served on the church council.

One of the things I liked best was that even if they didn’t always agree with what you did, or how
you viewed something, they would state their point without belittling and making you feel less
than.

These people, who are no longer with us, made a difference quietly in my life as a young adult
and as I aged. As I look around today I don’t know if my generation can live up to those Senior
Saints of the past. We tend to think of making a difference as making a big splash, but not as
one quietly living our lives, making a difference by just being themselves in someones life and
quietly spreading their faith.  

I look at our choir and see the spots some of those Saints used to occupy. I still see them
singing with joy along with the rest of the choir. They occupied those spots with other Senior Saints still alive. The choir is peppered here and there with younger ones, but not many. And I
wonder…in our churches… if anyone will be remembered as these that have gone before us are
remembered, for their kindness, their knowledge, and their dedication to their faith.  

I know I am failing. Am I the only one? Thank you special ones, who shared your lives and your
faith. You are indeed Saints. Grace you will be missed. Thank you for influencing my faith. 

There’s A Time and Place For Creative Clutter

SOMETHING ABOUT NOTHING published the week of January 23 in the Albert Lea Tribune and The Courier Sentinel

whats-upI am not a neatnik; I am a messer, and I am not going to apologize for it anymore. It doesn’t mean I don’t clean up my messes, it means I don’t always clean up my messes when others think I should. There is a time and a season for everything and that can be said about messes too.

I am trying to simplify my life so I have more time to write and to enjoy my family and friends, and movies, and chocolate, and reading, and not feel guilty spending the time having fun and relaxing. Stuff does get in our way. Yet, that same stuff can bring us peace. Simplifying does not mean always being neat.

I called a friend in Nebraska this week. We hadn’t talked in a few months. I thought of her over the last few weeks and was going to place that call, but I got sidetracked and it never happened. It was one of those messes which reminded me of my friend. My mess was funeral cards. When I talked to my friend she too has been simplifying and mentioned how behind she was on her house because of taking care of family. I mentioned I was behind, too, for no good reason. She explained she knew my house wasn’t as bad as hers. Yes folks, we do the dueling houses; my house I know is worse than yours. I laughed and said, “Yes and do you remember the reason I thought to call you? I am going through funeral cards from when my mother died 14 years ago.”

Those long-kept funeral cards were a blessing. I pulled them out because I am purging and I wondered why I was keeping them. One of the blessings was a reminder to call my friend and the other — the realization that in my grief at my mother’s passing, and other things going on in my life at the time which added to the grief I was feeling, I didn’t take the time to absorb what others wrote in those cards. Fourteen years later I sat down and read every one and my heart was moved by what others said, and those that took the time to remember us. Some of those precious people are now no longer with us, and it made their words more meaningful as I remembered their friendship. That is where the thoughts of time and season come in. This was the perfect time and season in my life to read those cards.

Yes, I kept some still for when I want to remember and need some comfort when I think of my mother. No matter how old you are or how much time has passed you never quit missing your mother. I remember as my mom was in her last weeks and ill. She was smiling, and I asked what she was smiling about and she said, “I am going to see my mother and dad and brothers again.” It was a beautiful smile. She never quit missing her mother.

That is the part of the messy me, not always being able to let go of things that bring back memories. There is also the day-to-day messy me. It is hard for the person I live with to live with messy me. He is a neatnik and doesn’t have as many indoor hobbies as I do.

When I am immersed in the creative me, watch out. I may need a drink of water or a plate of food but don’t expect the dirty dishes to go anywhere beyond the top of the cupboard while I am creating. Don’t expect my shoes and socks to go anywhere except beside my chair. Don’t expect my paints to be put away one by one as I finish with each color. Don’t expect newspapers, books, appointment books, reference materials to be anywhere but scattered around me.

When I am in full creative mode I don’t hear anyone, and I don’t take the time to open the dishwasher, go to the clothes hamper, watch any food that is cooking or sweep the floor. It disrupts my chain of thought especially if I am writing, and it isn’t easy to get the flow of words back. I am in the groove so don’t expect me to carry that plastic water bottle all the way to the basement stairway for recycling. Don’t expect me to be neat when I am splashing paint or creating something out of nothing. I absolutely cannot work in a neat restricted environment. I work better in disarray. I find things better when my materials are spread out and tossed around me. And I drive my husband crazy because of it.

I’ve tried to be this neat person, and it is agonizing. It stifles me. I do the same thing when baking and cooking. You will see flour all over me, the kitchen counters and occasionally all over the floor. But I have fun.

Don’t get me wrong, I love to sit back when I am relaxing in a cozy, soft, neat environment, and I do, after all the creative craziness has passed. I clean up the countertops, sweep the floors, light my candles, make peace in my environment and relax.  My house is either one or the other. There is no in-between. I haven’t found the balance. Maybe I don’t want to. There is a time and place for my creative clutter and there is a time for neat and tidy.

“I like messy. What fun is tidy?” — Dasha Zhukova

Information Overload

breatheYesterday morning I woke up agitated, stressed and riddled with anxiety. I had just opened my eyes and hadn’t thrown back the covers yet, but I felt the anxiety overtaking my body.

My mind raced with thoughts of the election and the hateful things that were being spewed, the list of online things I had to do to promote my books, the emails I had to answer, the blog posts that needed to be written, a two-page to-do list and the thoughts of my grandson’s anxiety because of the hoopla of the clowns in the news recently. I realized I didn’t want to get out of bed and face my day.

Why was my mind playing all these things out before I even got out of bed? I was tired. I just wanted to cover my head and sleep and not talk to anyone.

The day before I had two friends tell me they were afraid to put a sign for their choice of Hilary for President in their yard because of repercussions from the opposite party, and they were worried about violence being directed at them. I can’t say I blame them. But it shouldn’t be that way. Those thoughts added to my anxiety. My stomach was churning and so I did what I felt I needed to do to recover—I pulled the blankets over my head and stayed in bed.

I could not face my social media. I could not peek at it. I could not deal with what was happening in the world. After a couple of hours of settling under the covers and snoozing in and out, I picked up a book and spent my day reading. I didn’t even answer my phone. Finally around 4:00 pm I knew I couldn’t ignore the world any longer because I had a book club I needed to attend. But I felt better.  I felt I could once again face the world.

I love Social Media but I don’t love what has been happening on my social media and I too have gotten pulled into the debate over the election. It is hard for one that writes for a living to keep her mouth shut and not voice her opinion, but I knew I didn’t want to be in this circus anymore.

I put too much time into debating the pros and cons of who should be President. It made me come away feeling vilified. I have spent too much time reading about the violence taking place in our society, especially the clown scare. The reason that concerns me is that my young grandson is scared. He is now scared of clowns and I and his parents spent the weekend reassuring him. I used to have a clown collection and I loved clowns and now that too has been spoiled for our children. My grandson will never think of clowns as funny creatures anymore. He didn’t hear this from his parents or the news but on the back of the school bus from 5th and 6th graders who heard it on the news.  He doesn’t feel safe anymore.

After my anxiety calmed I wondered what had caused my first thought of the day to be of the vile things that are happening today.  I came to the conclusion that I had been filling my life with treacherous news and it needed to stop. I can’t control the elections or what people believe no more than they can control how I feel. Our experiences are what makes us who we are and what we believe.

I can control what I put out into the world. I don’t need to debate nastiness but I can send out positive vibes. I can fill my life with positive things so I can handle the negative sources and challenges. I can only change what I do. I think that is all each of us can do. We are the only ones that can control what we contribute to others. So I want to fill the lives of my grandchildren and my friends with positive stories and positive vibes. I want to wake up with joy in my heart and not anxiety over the world.

I am going to try and do better. I am the only one that can choose that for me. Mohatma Ghandi said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”

What will you choose?