Tag Archive | blessings

UFF DA Revisited

Wisconsin ID

A few weeks ago I blogged about taking “Mary” (one of the people we care for) to the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles to get an official State ID card. She may need the Wisconsin ID to vote, but more urgently, she needs a State ID to cash in a U.S. Government Savings Bond. As you may recall reading in my May 20, 2014 blog post, we were unsuccessful in getting the ID. We needed to have a certified birth certificate. Mary didn’t have one. We walked away from the DMV with the web address for the official Illinois state website where we could obtain information about how to get an Illinois birth certificate. (Illinois is where Mary was born.) Keep in mind that Mary is 92 years old – will turn 93 later this month. She is not computer savvy.

I had titled the May 20 blog post “UFF DA” (a mild Norwegian expletive) because I had started the day of our visit to the DMV by reading the following prayer:

Grant me the grace to look with respect
upon all I will meet this day
and upon every event I encounter.
Mindful that I am a pilgrim,
may I treat each and every one with reverence and love,
as a manifestation of you to whom I journey.
[from Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hays]

Uff daI was anticipating some frustration in dealing with the state, based on prior experiences I’ve had. (Perhaps that will be another blog post sometime.) I wasn’t looking forward to treating “with reverence and love” anyone who would be hassling Mary and me with bureaucratic rules. UFF DA! What a prayer to begin that day with!

When Mary and I got home from the DMV, I immediately logged onto the Internet to find out the process for obtaining Mary’s birth certificate. I printed out the official Illinois form to request a certified birth certificate, and I worked with Mary to fill it out. We almost couldn’t complete the form because Mary couldn’t remember her mother’s maiden name. But then she thought of a cousin who might remember the name. We called her cousin, and fortunately, the cousin remembered the name. After completing the form, I made copies of Mary’s Medicare card, old Illinois ID card, and a bank statement showing her current address. We enclosed a check for $15, and sent everything to Springfield.

About three weeks later we received a letter from Springfield with an interesting enclosure – NOT a birth certificate, but instead a different document, “State of Illinois – Certification that record was not found.” The cover letter explained that Illinois does not have any record of Mary’s birth and that this certificate, along with one or more other documents that “prove the birth facts,” can be presented instead of a birth certificate for all official purposes.

At 9:00 Monday morning, June 23, Mary and I walked through the door of the DMV in Madison, armed with her “Certification that record was not found” document, her official Illinois ID which included her birth date, her social security card, and a bank statement showing her current address.

Waiting in Long LineI was a little alarmed to see that the line to check in stretched all the way to the door. There were at least twenty people in line ahead of us. I asked Mary if she needed to sit down while I stood in line for her. It was early in the day, and this little 92-year-old lady said she thought she could stand in line okay. Hopefully, the line would move fast.

By 9:17 we were at the head of the line. I explained to the clerk what we needed and gave her the Wisconsin ID application form, which we had already completed. She asked for a certified birth certificate. I gave her the “State of Illinois – Certification that record was not found” document and Mary’s Illinois ID. The clerk looked confused, and I explained that Mary had been born at home and that there was no official record of her birth. According to the letter Mary had received from Illinois, this should suffice. The clerk was satisfied with the explanation and asked Mary to sign her name on one of those little digital boxes like you sign when you use a credit card in a store. Mary had never used one of those before, and the stylus she had to use was as blunt as a pencil eraser, and the image on the screen was a little distorted. The clerk patiently cleared the screen for her so she could start over, three times. Finally, there was a satisfactory signature, and the clerk asked her to “click on the OK button.” Mary had no idea what she meant. I pointed to the OK box on the screen and asked Mary to touch it with the pen. She did that, and then stepped over to the wall opposite the camera to get her picture taken. The clerk snapped her picture, verified the picture was okay, smiled at us, gave us our paperwork, and told us to sit in the waiting area until our number was called.

By 9:30 our number was called. We walked to window #8 and handed our paperwork to the clerk. She asked us what we wanted. I replied that we were there for a Wisconsin ID. She asked for a birth certificate. I pointed to the “State of Illinois – Certification that record was not found” document and the Illinois ID that I had given her already. She had no idea what to do with that response. She asked the clerk working in the window next to her what to do. That clerk said to talk to their supervisor. So, our clerk left us, and went to get her supervisor. About five minutes later she came back with her supervisor.

frustrationThe supervisor asked for Mary’s marriage certificate. We didn’t have that with us, and Mary didn’t even know if she still had that document. I pointed out to the clerk that she was 92 years old and that she was from an era and culture where husbands took care of all family records, and her husband was deceased. The supervisor still wanted us to go home (20 miles away) and look for the marriage certificate.

We discussed alternatives for the next twenty minutes. During that time, Mary was getting more and more frustrated. At one point she said, “The damn thing’s not worth it. Let’s go home.”

I think her language surprised the supervisor. I persisted, saying, “It shouldn’t be this difficult. She just wants a Wisconsin ID to cash her savings bonds and maybe vote. I doubt very much that she will be able to find her marriage certificate. The documents we have provided should be sufficient to prove she is who she says she is.” I also pulled out a copy of the completed request for the birth certificate that we had sent to Springfield, which had prompted her receiving the certificate stating there was no birth record. That request provided her date of birth and connected her maiden name to her married name.

After more exploration of alternatives, the supervisor finally said to the clerk (not to us), “Well, this is quite a stretch, but use the ‘State of Illinois – Certification that record was not found’ document, Illinois ID, and Social Security card to process the request.” The supervisor walked away without looking at us.

The clerk, without saying anything to us, keyed a lot of keystrokes into the computer, and finally handed us a sheet of paper. She said, “You can use this paper as an ID until your card arrives in the mail. You should receive it in a week or two. If you have not received it in two weeks, you can call this number on the top of the page, but DO NOT CALL before two weeks!” It was clear that she was not happy that Mary was getting a Wisconsin ID without providing more documentation. The clerk had a very stern look on her face. She looked back at her computer, expecting us to leave.

I started to walk away, but Mary stepped closer to the counter. “May God bless you, ma’am. Thank you for helping me. And may you be truly blessed, and may you have a wonderful day.”

The clerk looked up, stunned. I was a little surprised, too. Obviously, Mary is living a life much like the prayer I read a month ago:

Grant me the grace to look with respect
upon all I will meet this day
and upon every event I encounter.
Mindful that I am a pilgrim,
may I treat each and every one with reverence and love,
as a manifestation of you to whom I journey.

UFF DA! I guess there are still more things I can learn by example from our elders.

"May you be truly blessed,  and may you have a wonderful day."

“May you be truly blessed,
and may you have a wonderful day.”


Thoughts on Gratitude

Gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life.
(Jack Canfield, creator of the Chicken Soup for the Soul series of books)

Anna in wheelchairAnna, the 92-year-old woman who lives with Mim and me, knows that very well. She is so appreciative of everything anyone does for her. “Thank you” is probably the most used phrase in her vocabulary.

Last Saturday was a beautiful autumn day. It was warm and sunny with a light breeze –more like late August than late September. Mim and I decided to take advantage of the unusually nice weather and take Anna to Old World Wisconsin, a living museum about an hour’s drive east of us.

The first highlight of the day came before we even got to Old World Wisconsin. We decided to take roads we seldom drive in order to see (and smell) some new scenery. About half-way there we smelled onions. Then we saw it – an onion farm during harvest. We saw several wagons full of onions next to empty fields with long troughs where specialized equipment must have dug out the onions. Anna was delighted to see a large-scale onion farm. This was a first for her in her 92 years of living, and Anna is a real onion-lover. The day was off to a wonderful start, and Anna was beaming. So were Mim and I, even if we aren’t as big fans of onions.

When we arrived at Old World Wisconsin we were able to roll Anna in her wheelchair onto the tram. We went directly to the German farm where they were preparing root vegetables for storage in the cellar. They cut up samples of raw carrots, rutabagas, beets, and kohlrabi. Anna tasted and raved about how good everything was. We wheeled her into the various gardens surrounding the house, and she talked with each of the museum workers who were all in character as a German immigrant farm family. From there we followed the gravel pathway to a couple other German farms and to a small Polish settlement. We watched the oxen in one pasture, and sheep in another. Anna had grown up on a farm in northern Wisconsin and really enjoyed being back on the farm like it used to be in her youth.

Sampling root vegetables.

Sampling root vegetables.

After we had explored the German and Polish areas we got back on the tram and rode to the Yankee area and Crossroads Village. We were able to push the wheelchair inside the general store and we looked at the merchandise. It was fun for all of us to imagine what it was like to live in rural and small town Wisconsin in the 1800s. Back outside, Mim and I found a bench to sit on while Anna visited with other museum characters. About 3:00 a Civil War era band marched down the gravel road and set up to play a concert in the grove. After the concert we went home.

Visiting with the gardeners.

Visiting with the gardeners.

Yes. Anna knows that “Gratitude is the single most important ingredient to living a successful and fulfilled life.” She wasn’t thinking about her arthritic pain. She wasn’t wishing she could walk to get up close to everything there was to see. She was grateful that we had taken her on this outing, and she was as happy as could be.

So why did I write about Anna’s attitude of gratitude today?  Yesterday when Mim and I were out for a walk, Mim suggested that I should write about gratitude today. She said that her heart was just filled with gratitude for all the warm wishes and congratulations we have received for our marriage. We’ve received dozens of cards, emails, Facebook and blog comments, and face-to-face congratulations. Both of us are overwhelmed by everyone’s kind wishes, and we are extremely thankful to each one of you. We are thankful that you are a part of our lives.

Wedding Cards on Buffet

Just as Anna is grateful for the many blessings and people in her life, Mim and I are grateful for the same. One of the readings we included in our wedding was called “Aztec Prayer to God.” It’s from the book Prayers for a Planetary Pilgrim by Edward Hays. It says a little more about gratitude, about being thankful for each other.

O Divine Parent and Gift-giver,
let me not take those I love for granted,
failing to remember
that you have loaned them to me only
for a very short while.

Help me, this day, you who are absolute love,
to love those you have loaned to me,
as if tomorrow you would call them home to you.
Let me not take them for granted
or be blind to the marvel of their presence,
to the sound of their voices,
the joy of their companionship,
or the beauty of their love.

May their minor faults and failings,
which often cause me discomfort,
be seen as trivial transgressions
compared to the marvel of the gift
that you have loaned to me
for only a short while.

One last thought on gratitude. “The miracle of gratitude is that it shifts your perception to such an extent that it changes the world you see.” (Dr. Robert Holden)


church cemetery

On Memorial Day, patriotic concert planners and parade organizers try to get us to remember the wars our country has fought and the veterans who have made personal sacrifices for the benefit of all of us. That’s a good thing. We need to remember our history and we need to be thankful for the people in our past. The Bible tells us to remember our past. “Remember the days of old, consider the years long past; ask your father, and he will inform you, your elders, and they will tell you.” (Deuteronomy 32:7 NRSV)

Garys GraveI went to the cemetery on Saturday to put some silk flowers next to my parents’ grave stone. It was good to walk along the rows of graves and see all the flowers and other objects placed on the graves. I love the ceramic dog sitting on my cousin Gary’s grave. There were pretty flowers on my sister’s grave and on her son Steve’s grave. When I got to my parents’ grave stone I was surprised to see the silk flowers from last year still looking pretty good – slightly faded, but still nice and colorful. Since I had some fresh new flowers, I pulled out the old ones and planted the bright new ones. But I wanted to do something with the old ones. They were too nice to throw away. So I walked up to the older section of the cemetery. There weren’t as many flowers there.  I found my grandparents’ graves and planted the year-old silk flowers beside my grandma’s grave stone. I don’t know if my grandma was offended that her flowers weren’t as fresh as her daughter’s flowers, or if she was pleased that I remembered her. I hope the latter.

Memory WallTaking time to remember the people in our lives, both past and present, is important. It helps us understand how full and rich our lives are. We have a memory wall in our home – a wall where we display pictures of everyone who has come to us for assisted living. Currently, the wall has some twenty pictures. It includes my mom and dad and Mim’s mom – the first people we cared for throughout their last days. It also includes everyone who has lived with us since then, including our four-legged family members. Today I plan to get another frame so that I can add our newest resident, Roger, to the memory wall. I walk past this wall several times every day and I’m reminded of how each of these “extended family members” has enriched my life.

On Memorial Day it’s good to collectively remember our national history and be thankful for the men and women who have fought for our country. But it’s just as important to remember our rich personal heritage every day and thank God for all the people who have been blessings to us.

Mom-Dad grave