A Yearning For My Front Steps

This morning I have an inexplicable yearning to go outside and sit on my front steps and breathe in life.

It is the appearance of the sun in what has been a cold and bleak and cloudy Minnesota which brings to mind spring and thoughts of flowers and warm weather. However, I can’t explain my feeling that I need a front step sit. I have a perfectly good outside porch to enjoy but something in me tells me I need steps.

Though the sun is shining today my front steps and porch are crusted with ice. It is still winter and there is still snow on the ground. I like the beauty of winter as long as I don’t have to haul my old body outside. The pull is real to feel the fresh air on my face so I may dash out, raise my face to the sun and dash back inside to the warmth of my fireplace. Still, I feel the call of the front steps or the back steps for a peaceful sit.

Outdoor furniture awaits my porch sitting so why would I abandon that in place of the front steps? I think it has to do with my past and memories.

Living at my grandmothers and then when my family moved, we didn’t have fancy outdoor furniture. We would go outside and sit on the steps and talk and enjoy the evening. The front steps were better than the back steps because you could chat with those passing by or you could wave at the cars going by. Occasionally they would stop and talk.

There were interesting views. At my grandmother’s house I sat on the front steps and watched the trains go by or watched the animals. My mom or uncles would come in from the chores or the garden and we would talk for hours on the front steps. At our house my dad would sit with me as we watched the neighbor kids play or visited with those in the neighborhood, sometimes calling across the street. There were no cell phones or outdoor phones to distract us.

I do sit on my front concrete steps occasionally in this day and age for a quick moment when I am shaking out a rug or waiting for someone to pick me up, but most of the time I sit on my comfy chair on my outdoor porch or my patio. I have to say that for some reason it isn’t the same. Perhaps because of the front step memories.

I have no good explanation for yearning for my front steps unless it is perhaps missing those that used to share my experience. I also shared many front step conversations with my best girlfriends. If those steps could talk they would reveal so much about the past lives of the step sitters.

Perhaps when the ice is gone I will forgo my porch and patio for an occasional step sitting. I have a feeling it will be a good way to breathe and appreciate the simple life of the past,

“A journey to a thousand miles begins with one step.” –John F.Kennedy

I’m On A Rant!

It’s Friday, the end of the week. The world is spinning around us with reports of strife, bad news and so on and so forth, and if you don’t know what so on and so forth means, look it up. Yes, that might be a little snarky. I had someone tell me once I don’t write enough snark. On another note, I am plunking this out with one finger because I have an injury on my right-hand ring finger and though it is a small handicap to deal with, it does hamper my words. I  downloaded a new speech to text program but I haven’t mastered it yet, maybe I never will,  the one plunk method takes more time.

Now that you have an idea about the attitude you might get the direction this post is going.

In my latest mystery, #ASmallTownCanBe #Murder, I write not only a murder mystery but about the nuances of small towns. I live in a small town. I have been a small-town girl all of my life but there are some changes that make me sad. Communities in rural areas have to fight for their identity and survive with ambiance and coziness in a world sacrificed to ideas of people in offices far away that have no idea adding us to their growing number of generic businesses is not only bad for the survival of the community but for their own bottom line as well.  When you become a number in the line your identity ceases to exist. At that point, even the line may disappear. When we don’t seem as profitable as the big city we are like the baby thrown out with the bathwater, and as residents, we have to fight harder for our mainstreets to survive.

We do survive in my community. We reinvent ourselves, pick up the pieces and move on. What brought about these thoughts is a couple of recent experiences. A few weeks ago an editorial in a Twin Cities newspaper mentioned that Mike Bloomberg, the presidential candidate, visited a farm outside of our community. The writer lamented that Bloomberg should have taken the time to stop in town and visit with the rest of us to get a good picture of the joys and struggles of rural America’s main streets. It mentioned what we had lost in the past years. The writer had a good point as we have lost to the changing worldly ambitions of businesses. I took a small issue with it because I felt we also gained so much and are alive and well, moving forward.

This past week I had experience with a corporation that has been contracted to pick up garbage in our city. That is the other thing that brought this column on. You see I wanted to discontinue their service in favor of a local business. A year ago when I called to cancel they lowered their rate so I stayed. In the meantime, I found a neighbor that was paying almost $30.00 higher than what I was paying. Their service kept going up and they didn’t know if they called and complained their bill might be lowered. It was then I realized none of us are probably paying the same amount for the same service. This year my bill went up and I decided to go local and not with the service the city contracts with. My surprise was how much it was going to cost me to discontinue that service and have them pick up my container. However, I wouldn’t have known this until I got the bill as it was not readily given to me in a dollar amount until I asked. It was almost as much, save for a $2.00 difference, as my three-month bill. This shouldn’t have surprised me as many of the big corporations such as cable and telephone charge you a disconnect charge, This is how I knew I grew up in the small-town world when hidden charges were not part of the small-town landscape.

It goes farther than that. A nationwide chain came into town and our dry-goods store closed. One of our banks that were in our community as long as I can remember was sold to a larger bank. The old bank employed many people and the new bank cut most of the staff, and if we need support we have to call another state. A larger chain bought our hometown’s bustling drug store that was also a gift shop and had the original old fashioned soda fountain still serving treats.  The drug store hours have been cut so much that the working person cannot get in there with those hours. And the soda fountain is shut down along with the gift department greatly minimized. It is no longer about the consumer.  We used to have more than one gas station. An Iowa chain came in, bought land, bought the other stations and closed them down. Those are only a few of the changes that happened when big businesses try to change the landscape of a small town. They haven’t looked into the faces of their consumers because we are a number on their chart instead of a face that is familiar.

Now that is the bad news of my rant. I and I imagine you, get tired of sitting on the phone to get service. I think we get discouraged because we feel we are not heard. I am telling you if you want to be heard, shop in a small community at a locally owned business. You will be heard. You will experience what customer service really is.

In my community when we needed a new school we built one. Our meat processing plant closed down. Our city worked hard to get a new one in place and it has provided employment and good wages. You will find it hard to get a parking place downtown on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays as our local thrift shop entice people in town and out of town to shop. They might take time to visit one of our locally owned eating places or the coffeehouse or take in a movie at our theater. The library is always busy with readers, speakers and different project days and evenings. Moving on down the street our locally owned hardware store has reasonable prices and the flowers at our locally owned flower shop will make you ooh and ah.

Our liquor store is building new. Our new industrial park is starting to fill up and our craft and quilt store is in the process of moving to a bigger building. You can have your choice of different denominations of churches and if you need to pick up a gift the local funeral home also has a room of unique items by local artisans. Locally owned for generations, there is no better place to let them take care of the loved one you have lost. There is so much more to our community with a grocery, beauty shops,  newspaper, exercise facilities,  depot museum,  veteran’s memorial, parks. golf course and a swimming pool along with senior care facilities and senior housing, trucking firms, plumbing, electrical businesses, car repair and I could go on. Yes, we have more.  And yes, we still have another locally run bank. And our local window company can make your house warmer with the right windows.

The best part of a small town is its people. They care about each other. The business owners care about their customers. We don’t give up, we regroup and move on. Did I mention we are a community somewhere around 2200 people? It is not the numbers it is the heart of the community. When one hurts we all hurt. It is what makes a community unique.

Large corporations don’t understand that our bottom line is people and that is what makes a business in a small community a success. We have to tolerate the changing business climate in the larger world. We don’t have a choice with some things. I will admit to ordering online, usually things I can’t get in town but it isn’t the same.

My long rant is done. I might also add we have our local utility too and that too is a blessing. We know them and they know us. The same can be said for our local emergency services such as fire and ambulance. And for the garbage company that seems to be playing with our heads and finances — I wish I would have known your garbage bin was such an expensive object I would have painted it gold to match its value.

If anyone knows Mike Bloomberg, tell him to come back and see a successful, small community. We are the heart of America. He missed out but don’t you. Come for a day. come for a season, we will give you a reason to come back.

P.S. We have building lots available if you want to stay for a lifetime.

 

Julie Seedorf is a former columnist and now is an author of eleven cozy mysteries. To find out more about her books visit  julieseedorf.com

Can’t We Have More Than One Church Family?

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If you have read my previous blogs you know my family is a mixture of religions. I have been a Catholic and turned Lutheran when I had my family. As I get older and ponder my religious upbringing the more I seem to question, not whether I believe in God, but why I need to attend one sole church.

The thought crossed my mind as I attended my Granddaughter’s confirmation. I knew why we had to belong to one church as my children grew up, so they could attend Sunday School, Bible School and learn more about God. That’s the way it is done. As I get older and have no children to raise I ponder why I can’t have many church families.

I loved the church service at the confirmation ceremony and the way my Granddaughter’s church, Cross of Peace Lutheran Church in Shakopee, MN, prepared their children for confirmation and made their day special. It made my day special too with the upbeat and contemporary service. You could feel the joy. I enjoyed the experience of worshipping in a congregation that was not my home church.

This week I decided to test my theory in my own home town. I decided to drop in and visit Open Doors United Methodist Church. It was my dad’s home church. I felt welcome the minute I walked in the door. The chatter and feeling of warmth immediately drew me in. As I experienced the services, different from my home congregation, I was moved. Looking at the bulletin I was drawn into wanting to attend some of their activities. It was Mother’s Day so the kids handed out homemade bookmarks to mothers. A woman I met briefly a few weeks earlier, invited me to dinner with her family. I already had plans but I appreciated the invitation. Another person invited me to a Bible Study.

After leaving I pondered visiting two different churches so close together, both different, but both feeding my heart and teaching me about the Lord and the gospel and church family. Each church, my own included, has an energy all their own.

I love the people in the church where I belong. My point is not unhappiness with my own home congregation, Good Shepherd Lutheran, it is something inside of me that wonders why we can’t have more than one church family in 2019. I know the doctrine of each church differs, but I also know very few people who 100 % follow the doctrine of their church. I am a mixed breed of religions and perhaps that is what is fueling my questions.

In my cozy mystery series books, the Fuchsia, MN Series, I think I addressed what I was feeling without knowing it. In Fuchsia, we have the We Save You Christian Church. Everyone in Fuchsia goes to the church. The denominations are not the same. The building is shared by all religions with the Priests and Ministers presiding over each denominations services but sharing the building. Residents can attend the service of their choice but many times they attend a service of another denomination because they want to change it up. Because they are all under the umbrella of one building, they are all one church family holding some events together. Maybe I pulled that out of some deep down feelings I have been hiding.

What would happen if we attended different churches on Sunday, expanding the church families that we have?  What if we weren’t so territorial about our people, but encouraged them to not only worship and take part in our church activities but of other churches too, and we welcomed others to join our activities without expectations. What if we welcomed and encouraged expanding church families and encouraged them to give their money wherever they worshipped for the Sunday? It would come back to us when others worshipped at our church.

I found events enticing me to attend in both churches where I worshipped in the last two weeks. At Cross of Peace Lutheran, I would love to participate in their Women, Wine and Woods event. At Open Doors I would love to participate in their Bible Study. There are things in my church too to attend. And there are events I wouldn’t mind helping with at each church such as a library and children’s book Sunday.

Am I advocating a pick and choose religion? Not really. I am advocating expanding and becoming part of a larger nurturing family of believers, rather than limiting ourselves to one inclusive congregation where attending another church or religion in your community might be viewed as a betrayal. I view it as enriching our lives with a bigger family brought together to learn about God.

I find I expand my world by seeing things through others eyes and the same can be said by learning about how others worship and what they do to feed their flock.

We have a fear in our congregations, I think it is underlying and not said, but in smaller communities perhaps, fostered silently, and that is that we are in competition with others churches and religions, and we need to keep people within our walls.

I love Billy Graham’s quote: Christianity means a lot more than church membership. And we’ve all heard the quote by Billy Sunday: Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than going to a garage makes you an automobile. I agree with both. But having a church family that has your back can change your life.

Spending time with others with like interests in various activities feeds us to come together in prayer and outreach, bringing with it laughter, and comfort and a deeper understanding of the word.

These thoughts are just those of a rebel old person. Whose hallowed halls will I still be welcome in?