Archive | September 2015

Grinning from Ear to Ear

Floey is always happy to see me - or anyone else.

Floey is always happy to see me – or anyone else.

Floey greeted me as I walked in the door.

Marian Smiling BW adj

That’s me – grinning from ear to ear.

“Hey, Mom, welcome home. But why do you have such a big smile on your face? I thought you were at a funeral.”

“You’re right, Floey. I was at a funeral. It was the fifteenth funeral I’ve played the organ for so far this year. It was a very nice funeral for a beautiful, kind, loving, 103-year-old woman. There was a lot of love expressed and felt throughout the whole church.”

“That’s nice, Mom, but you’re grinning from ear to ear. Did the funeral really put that big smile on your face?”

“Well, not really, Floey. It was almost noon when I left the church and I was really hungry, so I stopped at the McDonald’s in Cottage Grove on my way home.”

“What in the world did you eat at McDonald’s that made you that happy?”

“Well, I was hungry for their filet-of-fish sandwich, and of course I got the ‘meal deal’ to get fries and a soda with it. The food was good, but that’s not what made me smile. When I pulled into the BP station that the McDonald’s is attached to, I saw that there was only one parking place left. I took it, but groaned when I saw three big construction workers get out of the van next to me and walk toward the McDonald’s entrance. I followed them into McDonald’s, and groaned again. The small restaurant area was packed with over a dozen people in line. I almost turned around and walked out. I probably could drive home and make a sandwich about as quickly as I would get my food here. But by that time, I was really craving a filet-of-fish sandwich, so I decided to wait a couple minutes to see how fast the line moved. I was amazed. In almost no time, I was ordering my meal. The clerk offered to give me my cup while I waited for my meal, so I could get my soda right away. I got my drink, waited just a couple minutes, and then sat down to eat in a clean booth.”

McDonalds Filet-of-Fish Meal

Not the healthiest, but just what I was hungry for.

“You were lucky, Mom. Sometimes you really have to wait a long time to get your food at that time of day, and then when you do, there’s no place to sit – or at least no clean place.”

high five“Yeah, I know. I really was lucky. As I ate my meal, the crowd cleared out. When I was ready to leave, there was no one in line, and the clerk who had waited on me was standing alone at the counter, waiting for whoever might come in the door next. She smiled at me as I got up to leave, and she wished me a good rest of the day. I dropped my empty containers in the trash can and walked up to the counter. I told her, ‘I’m impressed! You are efficient! I can’t believe how quickly and pleasantly you served everyone. When I came in here a little while ago and saw the crowd, I almost turned around and walked out. I’m glad I didn’t. You’re really efficient!’ She flashed me a big smile, put up her hand for a high-five, and called back to her co-workers, ‘Hey, a compliment! A compliment!’ A customer standing nearby smiled, the clerk smiled, and I smiled.”

“Wow, Mom. I bet from the way she reacted, she doesn’t get many compliments.”

“I think you’re right, Floey. And you know what, by taking the time to give a well-deserved compliment, I put smiles on the faces of three people – the clerk, the other customer standing nearby, and me. I bet there were smiles on the faces of the other workers in the kitchen that the clerk had called back to, as well. It was so easy to give a moment of happiness to so many people, including myself.”

Kitty and Floey

Kitty and Floey

“I know all about that, Mom. You know how I always run to the door to greet whoever is coming. I do that to let them know they are welcome in our home. I want them to know that I am grateful that they came to see us. That greeting usually makes them happy, and that makes me even happier.”

“I should have known, Floey, that you would have all this figured out already. You know just how to give anyone a moment of happiness.”

“Thanks, Mom. I really try. I think that’s my mission in life.”

“Floey, do you remember my special word for 2015?”

Floey looked thoughtful for a moment. “I think it’s GRATITUDE.”

“Yeah. That’s it. GRATITUDE. I haven’t written much about my special word lately, but this incident reminds me to be grateful for all the good little things that happen every day. By being grateful for the surprisingly good and quick service I got at McDonald’s, I was prompted to give a compliment, which prompted the clerk to share the compliment, which gave a whole bunch of us a reason to smile and be happy.”

“So that’s it, Mom. GRATITUDE for the good little things in life has you grinning from ear to ear.”

“Yeah. Now you know my secret, Floey – and I know yours,” and I gave her a big hug.

Floey-Marian 01-06-15

Playtime… Big Time!

Floey lying beside desk - adj 2

Floey beside my desk, helping me with my blog post.

I was sitting at my desk and Floey was lying on the floor in her usual spot, between me and the patio door. “Well, Floey. It’s been a whole week now. What should we tell our blog readers about your play date with your litter mates last Tuesday evening?”

Frannie with her moms Bonnie and Heidi

Frannie with her moms Bonnie and Heidi

“Wow! Mom, I had the time of my life! You know that. We were the first ones at the dog park, and oh what fun it was to run around inside the fenced area all by myself! I wished you had remembered to bring a tennis ball for me to chase, but at least we found some rings, and they worked fine, even if they didn’t bounce.”

“But we didn’t have to wait alone more than about five minutes before your sister Frannie came with her two moms – Bonnie and Heidi,” I responded.

“Oh, yeah. I couldn’t believe it when I saw Frannie again. She looks a lot like me, except she’s somewhat smaller, isn’t she, Mom, and she has short hair. As soon as we sniffed each other we started to race, just like we did on the Indian Reservation when we were little pups. She’s the only dog I know who’s almost as fast as me.”

I laughed at that. “I took a picture that shows Frannie running ahead of you, Floey. Don’t you think that may mean she is actually faster than you?”

“Not really, Mom. We just took turns being in the lead. Oh, it was so much fun to run so fast!”

“The two of you chased each other constantly for about ten minutes until your brother Otis arrived with his parents – Nicole and Jordan.”

Frannie and Floey racing

Frannie and Floey racing

“Otis has really grown! He’s big. I think he’s almost as big as my cousin Lucy. But he can really run, too. Once Frannie and I went through the sniffing routine with Otis, the three of us chased each other for about an hour. The only times we stopped were when another dog and their human came to the gate to join us. We politely greeted them and invited them to play with us, but they stayed pretty close to their people instead. I think they were amazed at our speed. We really are a fast family!”

Girls against boy - cropped

The girls (Frannie & Floey) against the boy (Otis)

“You’re also a very loving family. I watched you, your brother, and your sister tackle each other sometimes, too, and play fight with each other. All three of you are just as gentle as you are fast.”

“Oh, it was so much fun to be together again. Can we do it again, Mom?”

3 w toy

Otis, Frannie, and Floey lining up for the Pass-The-Ring game

“I think we’ll be able to work it out for all of us to get together every few months. While you dogs were playing, we people talked, and agreed that everyone was having so much fun we’ll have to continue to do this. We also talked about how similar you three are in so many of your mannerisms.”

“Like what, Mom?”

“You all cross your front legs when you sit. You all have the same eyes – you gaze at us with that soft, intent look. And you all hate loud noises like lawn mowers and vacuum cleaners, but you don’t mind thunder. And, you also only eat when you’re hungry. You never over eat.”

“But most of all, Mom, we all run like the wind. We are fast! And running fast is so invigorating!”

“I think you finally had a chance to run enough to get tired out. By the end of the evening, all three of you were lying around, just being content to be together.”

Three very happy dogs resting

Three very happy dogs resting

“Yeah. And then Mim proved again that she’s the primary cook of the family. She knew we needed a little nourishment after all our running. She had remembered to bring along some treats for all of us. Frannie and Otis were pretty impressed at what nice moms I have.”

Treat Time

Treat Time

“Frannie and Otis have nice parents, too, Floey. I think all three of you were very fortunate in having the right people adopt you.”

“Yeah, we were. But I wonder about my other three siblings who didn’t show up at our reunion last week.”

“Well, we know that two of them, Rosie and Charlie, tried to come but their humans had last minute things come up that kept them from joining us on Tuesday. Their moms emailed all of us to apologize and say they hope we all try to get together again. By the way, Rosie’s mom just emailed me to tell me that her brother’s family lives just a block away from us in Cambridge, and that the next time she goes to visit her brother’s family, she’ll bring Rosie along and walk over to our place so you two can play together.”

“Really, Mom! Wow! I can hardly wait to see Rosie again! When do you think they’ll come?”

“I don’t know, Floey. But I hope it’s before the snow flies. Regardless of when it is, at least you know you will see her again. Unfortunately, I think we’ve lost contact with your last sibling. They have never responded to any of our emails. We don’t know if they received them, or not.”

“You know, Mom, I’ve thought a lot about all my litter mates over the past week – since we got together last Tuesday. As I was thinking about them, I felt bad that three of them didn’t come to our reunion. But then on Sunday, I read over your shoulder when you were doing your early morning devotional reading. I’m glad you’ve picked up the JESUS CALLING book again. I like that book. In Sunday’s reading, Jesus said:

Try to see things more and more from My perspective. Let the Light of My Presence so fully fill your mind that you view the world through Me. When little things don’t go as you had hoped, look to Me lightheartedly and say, “Oh, well.” This simple discipline can protect you from being burdened with an accumulation of petty cares and frustrations.   [JESUS CALLING by Sarah Young, Thomas Nelson, 2004, p. 275]

“Even though I had a wonderful time playing with Frannie and Otis, I was feeling a little disappointed that I didn’t see the rest of my litter mates. I had expected to see and play with all five of them. But maybe it was best this way. The three of us sure had a good time. Maybe the others will come next time. I’m certainly not going to worry about it. I’m just thankful that Frannie, Otis, and I got together, and that we’ll do it again. JESUS CALLING helped me put everything in perspective. I’m really thankful I have litter mates and that they live close enough that at least some of us can get together to keep in touch. God is so good to us.”

The next day should have been Sunday. It was a day of rest for all.

The next day was a day of rest for all.

A Litter Reunion

Floey - thinking hard about something, lying on the couch with her legs crossed, as usual.

Floey – thinking hard about something, lying on the couch with her legs crossed, as usual.

“What’s on your mind, Floey? You’ve been staring off into space for a long time,” I asked.

“Oh, hi, Mom. I didn’t notice you come into the room. I’ve been thinking about tonight.”

“Oh, yeah. Tonight’s your big night. You’re going to see all your litter mates again for the first time since your adoptions. I bet you’re excited.”

6 puppies playing cropped

Just over a year and a half ago, Floey and her litter mates must have looked a lot like this.

“In some ways, I am. I can hardly wait to see them. All six of us will be together again for the first time in over a year. But I’m sure we’ve all changed a lot. I know I have. What if I don’t like them? What if they don’t like me? We all played together the first six months of our lives, but then we were moved away from the Indian reservation in northern Minnesota where they wanted to shoot us, and a rescue group brought us to Wisconsin to find new homes. Over the next few months we all went our separate ways. What if one of my brothers or sisters has turned into a really mean dog? I don’t want to play with any mean dog, even if he or she is a sibling.”

Two dogs grin against each other

Floey’s imagination gone wild…

“Wait a minute, Floey. You mean to tell me that you will stop loving one or more of your siblings if you don’t approve of the way they act tonight?”

“I guess so, but only if they deserve it, Mom. If they growl and snap at me, and act like an enemy, I’ll be very disappointed, but I won’t play with them. With five litter mates, I’m sure I’ll find someone else who’s nicer to play with.”

“Oh, Floey, don’t worry about this. I bet they’ll all be nice dogs. I’m sure they were all adorable pups just like you when they were chosen to be adopted. You’ll have a great time playing together again tonight.”

“I hope so, Mom. I think you’re probably right, but I’m a little worried anyway. What if …”

“Floey, since you have a nagging little concern about the ‘what if’ possibilities, I think I need to tell you about what I read in Jimmy Carter’s devotional book this morning. He referenced Matthew 5. Here are the verses he referred to from THE MESSAGE version. Jesus said:

“Here’s another old saying that deserves a second look: ‘Eye for eye, tooth for tooth.’ Is that going to get us anywhere? Here’s what I propose: ‘Don’t hit back at all.’ If someone strikes you, stand there and take it. If someone drags you into court and sues for the shirt off your back, giftwrap your best coat and make a present of it. And if someone takes unfair advantage of you, use the occasion to practice the servant life. No more tit-for-tat stuff. Live generously.

“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. …

Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.

[Excerpts from Matthew 5:38-48]

Jimmy Carter went on to explain, “The command to ‘love your enemy’ is both startling and unique to the Christian faith; no other religion has a parallel teaching… Christ commanded [us to have] … a self-sacrificial love for other human beings [and dogs], even for those who may never love you back or who may not seem lovable.” [“Through the Year with Jimmy Carter”]

Floey-Marian faces selfie“Mom, does that really mean that if one of my siblings has turned into a mean dog, that I need to pray for him?”

“Yes, Floey. I think it means that you need to pray for him, and play with him, too – be nice to him, kind of like Jesus said to give him a present of your best coat.”

“Wow! That might be hard. What if he bites me, or grabs my collar and drags me?”

“Well, that probably won’t happen. Remember, your litter mates are probably all just as nice and fun-loving as you. But if one of them is overwhelmed with all the excitement, remember that Mim and I, and all the other adopters, will be there, too, and we’ll see that no one gets hurt. For all of us, our dogs are our best friends, and we’ll take care of all of you. Oh, and most important, God will be there, too! Your Mama Dog will probably be standing right next to God, the two of them watching all of you playing together.”

“OK. I’ll stop worrying, and just be excited about our first reunion,  6:30 tonight at the dog park. Are you going to bring special treats for me and all my new/old buddies?”

1 dog angel

God and Mama Dog watching the play date.

Back to School – Adventures of a Former English Teacher

That's me as a brand new English teacher in the early 1970s.

That’s me as a brand new English teacher in the early 1970s.

Forty-five years ago I graduated from college as a freshly minted English teacher-to-be.  All I had to do to start teaching was find a job. Back in 1970, teaching jobs were not plentiful, but there were some to be found if you looked hard enough. I decided to look in New England. I guess I wanted a little adventure. Moving back to Wisconsin after graduating from Wheaton College near Chicago wasn’t exciting enough. New England was rich in early American history and literature. That’s where I wanted to go.

I wrote to the state department of education of each of the six New England states, and requested that they send me a list of all the schools in their state that had openings for English teachers. Connecticut was the only state that responded to my letter. They sent me a list of about a dozen schools with openings, along with contact information for the superintendent of each school. I sent letters of application to each of those schools, and arranged for a week of interviews. In my six interviews, I was considered for positions in a couple wealthy suburbs of New York City, a farming community in northwestern Connecticut, an inner-city junior high school in Bridgeport, and a mill town in eastern Connecticut. I was immediately offered a job in the inner-city school, but I turned it down. I was too scared of the environment. A couple weeks after the interviews, I was offered and accepted the position at Plainfield High School – the mill town. They had the dubious distinction of being on the bottom of the list for Connecticut in terms of how much money the school district invested per student. But I was happy. I had a teaching job, and I would have an annual salary of just over $7,000. I felt rich.

Connecticut Tourist Map

Plainfield is on the far eastern border, just north of Voluntown. The closest big city is Providence, Rhode Island, about 30 miles east.

I had a couple weeks to plan my move to Connecticut. My brother Danny and his wife Sandy who was about three months pregnant, and their 3-year-old daughter Cindy agreed to help move me. It would be a little vacation for them, and helpful for me. My dad convinced me to buy a canvas car-top carrier for my little blue Corvair. Mom and Dad let Danny drive their big Pontiac for the trip. This car had a huge trunk. On the morning we left, we packed both cars as full as they could be packed. I brought along most of my belongings: clothes, books, typewriter, clock radio, record player and record albums, a few of my mom’s dishes, and an ice chest filled with chickens that my mom had frozen for me in half-chicken size packages when my dad had butchered that year’s spring chickens. Every empty space in the trunk was filled with fresh vegetables from the garden – lots of melons, tomatoes, and beans. (Not all of the vegetables traveled real well in a hot car for over a thousand miles.)

A big Pontiac - similar to my parents' car. Lots of room in that trunk!

A big Pontiac – similar to my parents’ car. Lots of room in that trunk!

Cindy w ice cream cone - age 3

Cindy – the little traveler

I can’t remember how far we drove the first day, but we managed to keep the cars together despite the traffic. We took turns being the lead car, and it was the responsibility of the lead driver to always keep the other car in the rear-view mirror.

By about noon on the second day we were approaching Hartford. We stopped at a rest stop for Cindy to get back in the car with her parents. She had been riding with me since breakfast, and I think she was getting tired of talking to me.

We decided to drive straight through Hartford to Plainfield with me leading the way – what should have been the last hour or so of our trip. Unfortunately, reading all the expressway signs, figuring out which lane to be in with heavy fast-moving traffic on all sides, and keeping an eye on the rear-view mirror, was too big a challenge for me, and our cars got separated.

Hartford highwaysOnce I got out of the city, I drove very slowly the rest of the way to Norwich, the last city before Plainfield, hoping that Danny, Sandy, and Cindy would catch up to me. They never did. By late afternoon, I went to the police station in Norwich, explained my predicament, and they agreed to notify the state police to be on the lookout for my parents’ light green Pontiac with a Wisconsin license plate. I could even give them the license plate number – the one precaution I had taken before we left Wisconsin was to write down their number, just in case we were ever separated. I drove back and forth between Norwich and Plainfield (about 20 miles) a couple times looking for the car, but with no success. I finally checked into a motel, hoping and praying that we’d find each other in the morning.

Meanwhile, Danny and Sandy drove back to Hartford and checked into a motel there. Danny’s solution for us to get together again was to call our parents to let them know where they were, assuming that I would do the same thing, and that’s how we would find each other. It never occurred to me to call home. That would just make our parents worry. My solution had been to get help from the police. (Danny and I never did think alike. We still don’t, but we like each other anyway.)

playground swingsThe next morning, I drove to Plainfield to the school district office to get suggestions for where to start looking for an apartment. Danny and Sandy had also driven to Plainfield. They drove around the town looking for a playground. Cindy needed to wear off some of a 3-year-old’s energy. They found some swings at the elementary school, which is where the school district office was located.

Fortunately, our paths finally crossed, about 24 hours after being separated.  We shared our stories with each other. Then Danny’s first priority was for me to find a payphone to call the police and tell them to stop looking for him. And my priority was to call Mom so she could stop worrying about us.

payphoneAfter making those calls, we followed up on the apartment suggestions from the school secretary, rented an apartment that afternoon, and unloaded the cars. The next day we went shopping for furnishings – a bed and dresser, a desk and bookcase, a kitchen table and chairs, a couple pots and pans, a mixing bowl and cookie sheets.

Then Danny, Sandy, and Cindy headed back to Wisconsin, and I organized my meager belongings in my brand new apartment. My neighbors came over to introduce themselves and they invited me home with them for dinner.

A couple days later I became an English teacher at Plainfield High School. I quickly became known as one of those two new English teachers who had moved to Connecticut from “out West” – Wisconsin and California. Louise and I helped each other learn how to be teachers while we also learned how to live “out East.”

I guess times have changed a little in the last 45 years. Today, cell phones would have kept Danny and me from having such an adventure. One more reason to be thankful for our ages.

Maybe that’s why one of my favorite gospel songs is “God Will Take Care of You.”

Be not dismayed whate’er betide, God will take care of you;
Beneath His wings of love abide, God will take care of you.

Chorus:
God will take care of you, Thru ev’ry day, O’er all the way;
He will take care of you, God will take care of you.

Thru days of toil when heart doth fail, God will take care of you;
When dangers fierce your path assail, God will take care of you.
Chorus

All you may need He will provide, God will take care of you;
Nothing you ask will be denied, God will take care of you.
Chorus

No matter what may be the test, God will take care of you;
Lean, weary one, upon His breast, God will take care of you.
Chorus

Words:  Civilla D. Martin
Music:  W. Stillman Martin

God will take care of you

The Time Machine in my Mind

Albert EinsteinI think it was Albert Einstein who postulated that time is the fourth dimension – after length, width, and height. That intrigued me when I first heard the idea. I think I was in junior high. About the same time, I watched a TV episode of the “The Twilight Zone” that played with that idea.

This particular episode was set in the American West in the 1800s, the time of cowboys and Indians. A cowboy was alone and stranded on the plains in barren territory – I can’t remember why. He was tired and thirsty, leading his horse over the hillside with hopes of finding some civilization, or at least a trickle of water. As he reached the crest of the hill, what he saw instead was a four-lane interstate highway with cars zooming by at 70 miles per hour. He had crossed the barrier into another time zone. He rubbed his eyes and looked again. He couldn’t understand what he was seeing. He was terrified. He stumbled back down the side of the hill he had just climbed. The eerie “Twilight Zone” music started playing and that was the end of the show.

That episode fascinated me. Could it ever really happen that we could slip from one time zone into another?

While still in high school I read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court by Mark Twain. This novel used the same idea of accidental time travel, but it was a humorous adventure rather than a science fiction mystery. People have continued to write comedies and mysteries, novels and movies, based on this fourth dimension of our universe.

Marian and Floey walking the neighborhood

Marian and Floey walking the neighborhood

A couple weeks ago I was walking Floey through our neighborhood and we met a brand new neighbor and her dog, also out for a walk. As we chatted for a few minutes I thought about telling her that this whole neighborhood used to be the farm where I grew up, but I decided against it. The hot summer days when I would sit on top of a tractor pulling the hay baler over the hill where her house now stands were gone. I can still see my dad on the wagon behind me, pulling the bales of hay off the baler and piling them high on the hay wagon, but that scene is invisible to her. Those days were in a different time zone, about 50 years ago.

Obviously, that's not me on the tractor - but that's the kind of tractor, baler, and hay wagon we had.

Obviously, that’s not me on the tractor – but that’s the kind of tractor, baler, and hay wagon we had.

Oriole and Chickadee street signsEver since that encounter, I’ve been thinking about the 1950s – 1960s time zone as I’ve walked Floey along Chickadee Drive, Oriole Lane, and Bluebird Pass. In my mind I can see the hay fields and the corn fields that used to be there. The tobacco field is now Canterbury Court with ten houses lining the street. The pasture where the cows used to graze is now Stone Meadows, the condominium community where I live.

I guess that’s one of the benefits of getting older. In my mind, I can travel through time, at least back through history for as many years as I’ve been alive. That’s one more thing to be grateful for. “Gratitude” is my word for the year for 2015. Earlier this year I mentioned my word several times in this blog, but I haven’t talked much about it lately. The time machine in my mind is something I’m really grateful for – 67 years of mostly wonderful memories. This library of memories in my head is a huge resource for time travel.

I think the closest thing the Bible comes to on the subject of time travel is in Ecclesiastes. (If anyone knows of anything else, please let me know as a comment on this blog.)

God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded that there is nothing better for people than to be happy and to enjoy themselves as long as they can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God.  [Ecclesiastes 3:11-13, New Living Translation]

“Enjoy the fruits of their labor…” – I guess some of the fruits of our labor could be our memories. If you happen to see Floey and me walking through our neighborhood, and I have a great big smile on my face, know that I may have traveled back in time, and that I am sitting on top of our old red “H” tractor, pulling the baler and hay wagon behind me.

old tractor