A Blog? Why?

Why did I suddenly decide to write a blog? That’s the question from my friends this week.

It’s not that I have advice to share, only experiences. I realized years ago that I could learn from hearing others share. Sitting around the table at Al-Anon meetings, I listened and found the value of being present for others. Talking things out with a person “who has his ears on,” as Mary Kathryn puts it, often brings the answer we have been seeking.

I have never studied any sort of creative writing or journalism, and I have never followed the suggestions of writing down my thoughts, so this blog is a challenge from me. As I share with you, I hope to be learning as I go. Eats, Shoots & Leaves by Lynne Truss is a book that I purchased when it was first published. It has become my textbook of sorts, helping with comma placement, etc.

All my life, I have buried my emotions in books. I don’t have many memories of my childhood, but I do know in my heart that reading and the love of my cocker spaniel Rusty comforted me in many ways.

So: The blog is about my healing and experiences as I look back over the years. On the outside, I must have seemed to have the proverbial silver spoon. On the inside, I was a scared child who faked an illness in high school to keep from making a speech when running for a class office. Frederich Buechner, in his book Telling Secrets, encourages me to tell mine.


Stephens Suzies

Stephens College
I met three longtime friends in Kansas City a couple of weeks ago. We shared the freedom we felt in our casual clothes, because when we traveled to college in 1954 – on the train to Columbia, Mo. – we arrived in hat, white gloves and heels. I was truly giggling about how ridiculous I would look today, boarding a train in Hoxie, Arkansas, and changing in St. Louis, dressed in this way. We had bags we could barely lift and were greeted, at the station, by girls wearing Stephens beanies. I can remember the loneliness of being in a crowd and not knowing one soul, just before my 18th birthday. My first roommate was a ballerina who danced pirouettes around our tiny dorm room! It didn’t take long for the switch of suitemates to occur. My forever friend from Boston was the girl who saved my sanity!


The Horseback Riding Ministry

It was June, probably 1950, and a new minister was assigned to First Methodist Church of Jonesboro. The pastor was a man who loved horses. His parting gift from his former congregation was a horse of his very own. My memory is sketchy with details of how we offered to board this beautiful animal. There was a pasture, fenced and with water, across the lane, and I know that his horse stayed along with several others including mine in that place, when they weren’t in the fenced enclosure and barn in the rear of our house.

The minister formed a group of young teens into a “riding club” and anyone who had access to the loan of a horse and could ride was welcome to participate. I think of sunny afternoons and the caring spirit of this good person in opening his thoughts to us and the comfort of knowing him as a man, approachable with our cares.

He wanted me to exercise his horse as I had time. I remember one late afternoon when the horse stopped abruptly and dumped me into the holly bushes!

Pastors have a difficult life as they are criticized about any little thing: not preaching long enough; one who preached on too deep a level for the congregation; one who didn’t read well; one who didn’t visit the sick. I could go on and on and each one of you who read this know what I mean. This dear man began to curtail his hours with the teens because, guess what, he spent too many hours shepherding his flock to understand life as Jesus taught and other things were being ignored – or so some people judged.

When this one teen was able to escape her unhappy home and learn unconditional love, how could anyone dare object. I look back and see that the Saturday afternoons were a blessing of peace. After all, if the minister just wanted to enjoy riding his horse, why would he want a bunch of teens trailing after him!


Sarah and Sam Approve!

I have been seeing ads on TV for hanging screens at the door, used for letting pets in and out. My Sarah and Sam were raised with a pet door, and it was an adjustment for them when we moved. I decided to do a little research and found one of the screens for $22 at Amazon. Steve Holt installed it for me. The screen attaches to Velcro with the addition of a few tacks, and the magnets keep it closed. I’m sure it won’t do much to discourage mosquitoes, but I do think it would keep a bird from flying in. I was afraid the standard pet door wouldn’t work for Sarah as we have a step onto the patio. This hanging screen would also help with training a pup. It makes me lazy. When I watch TV or read I leave the door open, and Sarah and Sam enjoy their freedom..


Sharing on this Monday Morning

Some of the best advice I ever received was from an older friend when I was a young bride. She told me to embrace both older and younger friends as their viewpoints become more important as we age.

This happened almost as a coincidence in my life, and it has been great, although my older friends are very few at this stage. It is wonderful to be able to share with long time friends my age as we have so much in common. But now I find my special friend is about 10 years younger and always ready to have a good laugh or cry. I enjoy any age and am reminded of an AA speaker who said, “you may wonder what this old gray headed woman will have to say that will help you, but I want you to know that I have the same emotions as you. They don’t change with age.”  I have found her words to be true.

I love my friends, both old and new. I have found that someone I consider unfriendly just needs a kind word and can be a good friend – perhaps they are shy or wounded in some way. Take time to listen!

My ENT asked if the tinnitus bothered me a lot, and my reply was only when I am quiet. And since I am seldom quiet, it’s not a huge problem. I am working on hearing that still quiet voice and achieving that goal is a priority.

Enjoy your Monday, beginning with a grateful heart. Thank you God for good friends.


BEING MORTAL by Atul Gawande

BEING MORTAL by Atul Gawande is a book which is significant to anyone perplexed by making decisions about aging loved ones or those dealing with a terminal illness. It traces the history of nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and shows how life can be improved though limited. The book thoughtfully explains hospice care and palliative care. Dr. Gawande is an amazing writer. He tackles “the hardest challenge of his profession: how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.” Though it could read as a textbook, it does not. His writing immediately catches the attention of the reader and the book flows smoothly. Though the subject is sad, it left me wanting to read and learn more. I am grateful that there are compassionate physicians willing to address this subject.


Seeking Faith

When Mary Kathryn was in her twenties, she lived on Wilkins St. with her two Bernese Mountain Dogs. One morning, just as she let them into the backyard, someone in the neighborhood set off a firecracker. Faith was so terrified that she was able to bolt through the privacy fence and evidently ran until she was completely lost. We put ads in the newspaper, on the radio, in the veterinary clinics, frantic for her safety. Someone stopped my car as I was hunting her and told me it was interesting to him that “all of Jonesboro was seeking Faith.”  Mary Kathryn had several calls, one from someone who had her but had left her to go to her car to get a leash and Faith ran away! Another called from the Jonesboro Sun saying she was on the loading dock but they didn’t detain her. The next call was telling us she had been seen at Trinity Church, but when I got there and called her she ran again. Out of ideas, I called Betty Hinson who reminded me that everyone was using Faith’s name to call her, and she was becoming more and more afraid. She suggested the next time we heard she was seen that we take a food that smelled strongly of something she loved at home. Mary Kathryn made her special peanut butter fudge.

On Sunday morning, I was so worried about Mary Kathryn that I left for awhile and went to church – communion was being served in the chapel. When I returned to Mary Kathryn’s, we heard a horn frantically honking in her driveway. In the car were Bess Lykins and Betty M. Sloan, the most unlikely persons to recognize a lost dog.  They were on the way to church and spotted her going into the wooded area off Wofford St. Mary Kathryn and I hopped in her car, taking Prince, the male companion, with us and a big square of peanut butter fudge. I walked into the woods with Prince and just talked calmly to him, breaking off pieces of the fudge. Faith came hesitantly to us and with my hand on her collar and Prince on his leash, we walked out of the woods. Mary Kathryn had been driving around the block trying to spot Faith, and when she saw us she told me later she thought the sight was a mirage. There were hugs and tears and when we pulled into the driveway, John was outside to greet us. We had someone at the house during those days to answer the phone, always hoping the next call would be good news, and that had been his shift. We had put her blanket and toys on the front porch so she would recognize them if she found her way home, another hint from Betty Hinson.

Our dogs are such precious companions and show the very meaning of unconditional love. Her presence in our family is a memory we all cherish.