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.

Have You Found Your Calling?

Depression is real. It is a hopeless feeling that wells up inside of you and takes over rational thought putting fears, doubt, and paranoia inside of you so that you want the pain to stop.

I know, for me, when I feel anxious, sad and overwhelmed, if I keep on the path of those feelings the endless depression will overwhelm me. Occasionally my remedy is going to bed for a day and confronting it. It is the only thing which starts me back on my journey to being able to smile and see the light.

I wasn’t feeling good this weekend and I tried to decipher if it was a real illness, meaning my stomach picked up a bug, or if my feelings of being overwhelmed with responsibility were the cause of my stomach and my tears of sadness.

I turned on meditation music and gave myself permission to wallow in bed. At first thoughts of all the things I needed to do kept churning in my mind. Did I really have to do any of them or was it my expectations that were stealing my peace? As I wandered through my life’s experiences and memories—I’m a firm believer in learning from your past to go forward to your future—I knew what was causing me to be on the edge when it came to expectations this time. I will save that for another time but what did hit me in this day of rest and meditation was the “calling.”

What was my calling? And was that part of my anxiety? We hear the question all the time from our churches, from the media, from friends and from strangers. Self-help gurus, some very good ones, promote all of us to find our calling. And our churches ask us continually “What has God called you to do?”

If I read the news first thing in the morning we have a constant bombardment from the news headlines and almost every headline has the word Trump in it, for or against. Almost every headline has a disaster in it.

My cell phone updates frequently warn about the winter storm warnings or the flood warnings. A plane crashed, kids are hungry and illegal immigrant children are being kept from their parents and mistreated. The Social Media tells us if you’re a Republican you are supposed to be upset or hate Democrats and if are a Democrat you are supposed to be against and hate Republicans.

We feel helpless in the midst of all of this chaos. So not only are we supposed to find our calling we are supposed to find it in the mess we are bombarded with everyday.

There are so many volunteers needed everywhere. I have friends that spend their lives giving and giving and giving. They are busy 24-7. Not only do these people spend their time volunteering, they also have to juggle taking care of their family and spending time with them in the midst of the good things they are doing. Have they found their calling? I often wonder about how they keep up, or do they have to make those difficult choices for society over family? I remember at times being too busy volunteering to have time to help someone in my family.

What about parents who have to run with their children, work a full time job, and still expect or are expected to be the ever present volunteer to make the world better for their kids. Have they found their calling?

I lay in my bed this past weekend pondering these questions. I do think too much. It is hard for me to just be. I pondered these questions because I felt guilty being down and depressed when so many others are spending their time helping others. How do they take care of themselves so they can give back to others?

I know we need to stop hunger, stop global warming, stop sex trafficking, stop gun violence, stop ignoring the elderly and their needs, feed the homeless and the list goes on and on and on. I know we need to raise a next generation that is respectful and responsible. These are all things I know. I read the headlines and the list seems impossible because inside all those headlines we aren’t given any good news.

I don’t know about you—these things bother me because I can’t do anything about any of it—but if I am called to do something as everyone tells me, what am I called to do? It seems when people preach or bellow about our calling they always want to make us think if we aren’t doing something out there for the world to see we are failing. We are drug down to believe rest or being busy is laziness and failure. We have to be on the move all the time. Is this what we are teaching our youngsters? Nothing we ever do is good enough in the eyes of the world.

My sister-in-law, who lived states away, years ago came to visit my mother-in-law who was in a nursing home. After visiting, my sister-in-law came to my home and told me I was called to bring my mother-in-law out of the nursing home into our home and take care of her. I felt guilty because I didn’t want to do that. Was that my call and I was ignoring it? That time I was at a good place in my life and I knew just because we had a responsibility we needed to do or had a responsibility that we could do, didn’t mean that was what I was called to do. We all do things because we need to do them. We all do things because we might be good at it. That doesn’t mean it is our calling. At least I at the time, didn’t feel like that was my calling.

As I took care of me on this lazy weekend day I felt guilty for taking the time to get it together. In reality, if someone would have asked me to do something for them that day I probably would have said yes and put my “me” day on hold. And it would have been because I have been programed to put myself second and so have many people.

The day did me good. I, in my head, know if I don’t take care of me, I can’t take care of anyone else. But yet…what is my calling? Should I feel guilty because I don’t know?

What if I said, after my day of rest that I do know what my calling is NOT. I am not called to make another person feel bad. I am not called to use my words in a way that will degenerate another living human being. I am not called to hate. I am not called to judge. I am not called to be cruel.

I don’t know what my calling is. I don’t know if I need one. If I stick to what I know I am not called to do, would that be enough? If all of us did that, would we need all the venues we need today to combat those things?

Perhaps our calling is the gift God gave us when he gave us our magnificent bodies and what we are called to do is to take care of them, and then the rest will all fall into place because we will be peaceful and whole.

Perhaps all we really are called to do is to love one another. Rather than being confused about all the material and societal mores to live up to, we could rest in our journey if we felt love from others, for others, and for ourselves. Wouldn’t the headlines be fun to read each morning? In spite of whatever is happening in our lives whether it showing others who we truly are, weathering storms, the personal and the weather related, love would get us through.

The Mother’s Day Gift That Keeps On Giving

Something About Nothing by Julie Seedorf

Published in the Albert Lea Tribune the week of May 8, 2017

“Children are the anchors that hold a mother to life.”  — Sophocles

File May 09, 10 49 34 AMAs a mother, it is hard to let go of my children and let them lead their lives their way. I want to protect them from making the same mistakes I or others have made in the past. I pray for them every day and they are never far from my thoughts. They are always in my heart. Being a mother was the most important career I can have. 

I love to watch my grandchildren grow and see the way they mimic some of their parents’ gestures when their parents were young or how they grow to resemble another family member. I love to see them develop into their own personalities.

I think most mothers feel the same way. I have noticed when talking with other mothers on my writer’s journey there are many lonely mothers out in the world. They are not lonely because their children don’t love them; they are lonely because life for their children has become so busy a phone call or a short visit may only happen occasionally, or on Mother’s Day. But life is busy, perhaps busier than my generation when we were raising our children. Plus, there is also the distance many families now face with children living all over the United States and abroad.

Mother’s Day is next Sunday. The stores are full of flowers, and restaurants are filling the advertising spaces with ideas of gifts for that special mother. While gifts are nice, I have a feeling that what mom wants is to spend quality time with her children, especially if you are a mother whose children no longer live in the area or live at home.

Those of us who have lost our mothers will tell you that perhaps we can give you this advice because of regrets from the past of the things we never did and said while our mothers were alive.

My family wasn’t a hugging family, so I can probably count on my two hands the number of times my mother and I grabbed each other tightly and gave a hug. When we did it always felt awkward because that was not our relationship. But now, I wish I had one more awkward hug I could give her. I wish I listened when she talked about her past. I wish I made it a habit of asking about her day more often.

In conversations with other mothers I have heard the reasons why kids, adult kids, don’t call their moms at least once a week, or if they live close, stop in for a visit. And because we are moms and we love our kids, we accept what is happening with their life because we don’t want to put more pressure on them. We always want to make our kids’ lives easier. We have all heard these words in conversation: “The kids are busy. They run from morning until night between work, household chores and getting their kids to their activities. They say they just get busy and forget to call.”

Every person needs someone in their life to ask them about their day. Every person needs someone to care about how they are feeling. It might take a few minutes for a phone call, but those few minutes may make a difference in the life of a mother, especially if mom is older and less mobile.

I watch as everyone sits in restaurants on their cell phones; I do too. And I wonder if we put away our texting for a few minutes — if we turned off the television or took a five-minute break from the hectic schedule if there would be time for one five-minute phone call to mom.

I am blessed as I already have a Mother’s Day invitation this year. My kids live within two hours, and I visit with them on a regular basis. I hope that continues as I grow older and am less mobile.

Near or far, take the time to give your mother a Mother’s Day gift that lasts all year. Give her a gift certificate with a promise to call her once a week, or if you are close by, stop in occasionally and have a cup of coffee, give her a hug and ask about her day. Let her know that no matter where you are, she is a priority when it comes to keeping in touch. After all, you were a priority of hers from the minute you were born, and she would have it no other way.

Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.