Story prompt – Compliment

I must compliment you both. It’s inspiring the way you complement one another.

Compliments are amazing things, often underestimated, I think.

It seems, if some of the stories I’ve read are to be believed, there are segments of society reluctant to give compliments because they are thought to encourage pride. Then there are other segments who are just plain mean and abusive. Not only do they not give compliments, they pile on the insults.

I love stories where a kind heart recognizes worth and goes to great lengths to promote healthy self-esteem in the down trodden.

There is a popular old story I’ve never forgotten. A young farmer was looking for a wife. He picked a young woman, shy and insecure, with literally no marriage prospects. The village people could not understand his choice, in their estimation she had nothing to offer as a farmer’s wife.

The going bride price was two cows. He chose to pay double that. Four cows was unheard of, never mind for a wife with so few talents to recommend her.

He took her home, treated her like a precious treasure and over time she blossomed to became all he knew she could be.

Compliments are powerful and for us to blossom we need them as much as we need food and water. At least that’s what I think.

Then there is complement. (to make complete)

How many stories have I read lately where the author pairs characters because they complement each other. The restaurant owner who is an awesome chef and a hopeless bookkeeper. The female ranch owner struggling with endless heavy chores requiring a man’s strength. Or even the one tasked with jobs requiring two or more people to meet deadlines. How many of us would kill ourselves trying before we would ever reach out.

It’s not easy admitting we need help. I know I struggle with that. Last summer I chose to fight to prune small trees myself rather than ask. My neighbor who is taller, heavier, stronger, (never mind younger) would have gladly helped.

In stories there is often a stubborn character who will not ask or even allow someone to help. Of course, one of the requirements of a good novel is tension and stubborn provides that in spades. By the end, though, they are working together and life is rosy.

It happens that way in real life too if we let it. We’re better together. Especially when our talents complement one another.

I like these two words.

The same only different.

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Story Prompt is hosted by Sunday Scribblings

What to say…

I’m at a loss for words. After missing several days in my daily blog I need to find something to say. I’m feeling emotionally wrung out, maybe that’s why my mind is empty. I’ll just have to start and see what happens. It will surprise me as much as it will you, guaranteed. It’s funny how one thing leads to another and rabbit holes appear out of nowhere…

Today was the day for our monthly writers group Zoom call. Since I’m part of the executive there is always a feeling of self inflicted pressure to be a good participant not just a passive observer. As an introvert, fly-on-the-wall is where I would rather be. I was trying to be rested and relaxed ready for the camera but it wasn’t working out all that well for me. I started out stressed, like it or not.

Going into the week, I didn’t have an active part in the meeting. That all changed when the agenda came out and I found I was down for a book review. In the end we had more than enough readers (to share stories that would be critiqued) and there was no time for the my contribution. It didn’t get used but it was good writing practice, working on the review was not a total waste.

It’s funny how things happen sometimes. I had been thinking several days ago about my style of writing and the type of critique I would like to have. The thing is, I’m often not sure if what I have to say makes sense. Feedback would be helpful. I think I assume people know certain things already and tend to write in note form with little detail. My first clue I do this is when, days later, I read what I’ve written. Sometimes I have no idea what exactly I was getting at. So, going back to the most recent review I’d posted I found myself with a chance to work on making sense.

The review definitely needed to be reworked and expanded. It was a good exercise in figuring out how much extra detail needed to be included. I’ll try to do better the next time I write something like a review or thoughts (like now maybe.)

So, getting back to today’s Zoom meeting. It did the heart good to see everyone again even though we couldn’t be in the same room together. Five members read their stories, each one personal and unique.

They were all good but the one I appreciated most tore us all apart. It was a very raw and real sharing of a lengthy journey with parkinsons. What she has been through, and will continue to go through, is heartbreaking. Yet she has such a positive outlook on life. We could see it cost her dearly to be honest with us. We felt honored to be trusted enough for the privilege of hearing her story.

Today was a day we will not soon forget.

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I’m going to pick up a fast food hamburger and then the mail (it’s been several weeks and I need to get out.) When I come back I’ll see if this still makes sense to me.

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Well, I’ve made changes. I’m not sure it’s enough but time’s getting away on me. At least I’ve finished supper, washed the pile of dishes waiting for me and played a few games on the computer while I was thinking.

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Tomorrow is story prompt day. The word is Resolution. Guess I’m not done thinking for the night quite yet.

A favorite episode from a favorite podcaster

I just have to share this podcast episode. I love it, it makes so much sense.

Patrick Lencioni on How to Discover Your Working Genius

There are two reasons:

Carey Nieuwhof has a gift for asking insightful questions and then listening intently with great follow-up questions. It seems every interview ends with him saying this has been so good. And it has been, every time.

Today’s topic is about giftings in relation to work life. This is one of my favorite topics in the world and it has been for decades. Not just for work but life in general. The more I understand about myself and others the better life goes for me. Today focuses on work life and it makes so much sense.

If you want to know more, Patrick Lencioni has a website with testing material available and he is even offering a discounted price on orders resulting from this podcast. I’ll let him give you the details at the end of the podcast.

So here it is: I hope you find it as helpful and I did.

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Story Prompt – Houseplants

Houseplants

Many of my best memories are attached to houseplants. I can’t say that I am a plant lover but I loved the ones I had because of where they came from.

Growing up we had outside plants. Flower beds and vegetable gardens. We probably would have had houseplants if there was a place to put them. I was ok with no houseplants. We had cats and dogs, that was enough.

Living on my own with my first job, I didn’t have plants or animals. I was ok with it.

Things changed with the addition of a father-in-law.

Most of Dad’s life his family was in the nursery business, he loved plants. The climate was mild where they lived and they were able to grow things in their greenhouses year round. Eventually they became florists as well. They had the flowers so why not. By the time I met him he had scaled back on greenhouses and was buying plants for the flower shop from other growers.

He had this idea that everyone needed plants and he took pleasure in providing them. Whenever he came our way on a buying trip, well, we became the proud owners of new plants. There was no question in his mind that we needed and wanted them, which was pretty funny really, and very sweet.

He would even bring cut flowers occasionally, freesias were my favorite.

We moved many times over the course of the years and the plants always went with us. That is, if they were still alive and able to be moved. Our Fiscus fig tree eventually became too big and needed a new home. We had mixed emotions because Dad had given us the tree as a small plant and it had a lot of miles on it.

Looking at the plants spread through the house was always a reminder of the giver and the time and place. I think that was my favorite part about having plants. The memories.

Over the years, other people would bless us with cuttings from plants we admired. It was nice to have reminders. It seemed we were forever leaving friends behind with our many moves.

Eventually life happened and the plants all went by the wayside, for one reason or another. And then there were none, I was ok with it for a lot of years.

As happens sometimes, all good things must come to an end.

My neighbor had two large plants needing to be farmed out while she had long term house guests. Long term seems to have turned into forever. (I have tried to give them back, numerous times, I can’t argue with the fact I have more room than she does.)

A couple of summers ago I was on a long road trip where I visited with family friends. They have a menagerie of African violets and Spider plants and decided I needed to have some too. I wasn’t sure they would survive the long trip home but they did.

Since then I’ve gained several more plants from local family members.

Things have come full circle and once again I have a house full of reminders of folks who love to give me houseplants.

I love the reminders.

Story prompt was courtesy of Sunday Scribbling hosted by Peckapaloosa: The Confusing Middle

Boys turn into men

It’s a sad/happy day for Grandma when her little boys grow up. Today was proof. The river of life moves on and things change. I can’t help feeling some sadness but thankfully that’s not all I feel. My daughter’s eldest passed his drivers test today and is now the proud owner of a new licence. I’m proud of him too.

Along with this news I heard a rumor, something about him taking over taxi duties for his younger brothers. His mother seems rather happy about this.

Of course, there have been signs long before now. Voices dropping to the lower ranges, Faces losing the boyish look. Taller, much taller. Then there’s the day of the last sleep over. You pop your head in to say good night and see him lounging on the bed. It’s a blow to the heart. This is a young man, he’s not a little boy any more.

There is something special about a relationship with a child. They are excited to stay at Grandma’s house. We play games, watch movies, have sleepovers lasting several days. Plan on hot dogs with macaroni and cheese. Sure… we can have pie for breakfast. Precious memories.

It’s funny how the view changes from mom to grandma. I didn’t lose much sleep when my own three were old enough to have drivers licences. I was counting my blessings having someone take over taxi duty.

I’m delighted to see my grandsons grow into awesome young men. There will be more good times, the memories will just be different. In fact they may even be better. Games will take on a whole new look when they actually understand the rules for play. There’s a good chance I may never win again. Hmmm. Maybe not better.

Of course it’s better.

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Connection – what is it?

Two things are on my mind today.

It’s story prompt day and the word is Time. My last post talked about a New Years resolution which basically acknowledged it was Time for change. The definition for connection (in relation to my friendship resolution) has been on my mind recently so I’m going to combine the two thoughts. To quote a blogger friend ” it’s my blog and I can do what I like” so I guess he won’t complain about my unusual treatment of his prompt.

The whole concept of connection has been percolating in my mind and heart for decades. Through the years many marriage related books found their way into our home but the first solid memory of a discussion centered on connection was a radio program called Love, Sex, and Relationships, with pastors John and Helen Burns. They had many good, practical things to say but one phrase standing out above all the rest was into-me-see. Connection requires intimacy and intimacy in practical terms is defined as into-me-see. Eyes without shutters are crucial.

Our first thought of intimacy is physical in relation to a significant other. In reality it is not physical and applies to every type of relationship. If we’ve built walls of protection, generally speaking, they will apply to all of our relationships to one degree or another.

By John and Helen Burns (and many other’s) definition into-me-see only happens through the eyes, the windows of our souls, the keeper of our secrets. Without the eyes there is no connection. I do know this. I wish I didn’t. (with a good relationship I would also have known this and been glad I did.) Physical intimacy becomes intimate on a whole new level when the eyes meet and hold.

The good news is that varying degrees of connection can be found in varying types of relationships. This is encouraging since we are made for connection. We shrivel without having it on some level and since many of us remain single it’s nice to know friends and acquaintances can fill the void. That will be the challenge.

Friends is where we most often encounter walls still firmly in place. I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately in my quest to leave my hermitage behind. Connection is difficult to find. Friendships on a superficial level are easy. I have a number of friends who are willing and even eager to hear the details of my broken life but, it’s a one way street with little-to-no reciprocation. There is a lack of satisfaction in these friendships and I’ve been mediating on why that is. I recognize deep hurts they aren’t willing to share. Is it the not sharing that bothers me most?

No. It seems I’m good with people not telling me their story. It’s the walls that are the problem. Up or down, there is a different vibe. Walls-down there is a softness with approachability, walls-up there is a harshness with keep out signs. It’s harshness I find myself most often responding to.

I can remember how hard it was to let people in. I can also remember what a freeing experience it was and continues to be. I’ve learned that lowering my walls doesn’t mean I have to tell all to everyone. I can use discretion. The important thing is, it may only be one person I tell but I’ve stopped keeping secrets.

I don’t think I’m all that different from anyone else. We all need connection. Many of us have walls we struggle to bring down. It is not easy to find a good friend.

My New Years resolution: it’s time to be proactive with maintaining neglected friendships and make myself available for new ones. It’s time to stop hiding. Covid and it’s restrictions have caused a deeper need for connection. It takes more work under these conditions to find it.

Only time will tell how well I do with my resolution and whether or not I’m successful at finding connection.

Another this-and-that kind of day.

Another day already, when I have nothing much on my mind. No book suggestions or read books to share. Not a whole lot has been going on in my head either, although I will admit to a few persistent half thoughts. There are some sad parts to my musings but I promise this won’t be a downer conversation. At least I hope not.

I don’t know about you, but I find it takes me years sometimes (most times, actually) to realize I need to change some things. That’s kind of where I’m at right now. I’m gradually waking up to the need for action.

I know I’ve mentioned some of this thinking before but it’s all part of the lead-up to where I’m at today. Ready to make a New Years resolution. Something I rarely do. I hope it sticks and I follow through on it.

When I take an honest look back, I’ve been a loner my whole life. Most memories that come to mind easily are solo activities. Even the years when I had friends and boy friends. My role was always passive, never taking initiative in planning a get together or outing. As an adult I planned things now and then but they were usually group activities.

I’ve always accepted invitations if they were issued and spent time with people when we were thrown together in public gatherings. Through the years I’ve been a lot of places and seen a lot of faces (that’s from a song running through my head right now) and have a large number of people I can call friend, although you wouldn’t know that by the 91 friends I’ve allowed on Face Book.

Probably the underlying thought behind my hermit behavior is if you really knew me you wouldn’t like me. I will even admit, because of this mindset, I have been guilty of sabotaging friendships. Not that I was aware of it at the time. Hindsight sees things more clearly.

I’ve been on my own for a lot of years and I’ve been okay with it. At least I had convinced myself I was happy with it. Covid has changed so much of that thinking. Restrictions have caused pressure, kind of like turning up the heat until it’s unbearable. All of a sudden, emotionally, I’m not okay with it. I’m being forced to take a hard look at the way I do life.

There is an honest evaluation driving my resolution. I need to start taking a responsible role in maintaining friendships, instead of just letting life happen.

In a way this idea has already begun rolling, starting with Zoom type communication with family. Out of casual conversation I took pictures of my puzzle collection, that way my daughter and her friend can borrow what they like. My neighbor popped over, (can’t remember why now) saw the puzzles spread all over the floor and went home with an armful.

It’s Christmas. I’ve responded to some today but there are more neglected emails to answer, cards to send, and phone calls to make.

None of this will take place unless I care. Covid has turned up the heat with all it’s restrictions and now I care. I hope it lasts.

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A lengthy telephone conversation with an elderly relative yesterday showed we are struggling with similar emotions. It was fun laughing together, it brightened both of our days. Must call her more often.

A little this, a little that, at Christmas

This is story prompt Sunday. The word was Jolly. I feel happy and jolly, but totally pulled a blank when it came to anything jolly worth writing about. It’s not a great day for book suggestions either so it will be a this and that kind of a blog day.

I’m good with it. Many thoughts are busily floating through my mind at the moment. As usual, I don’t have any of this planned out. It will be another lets see where we end up post. I’m currently feeling upbeat and I’m pretty sure the post will sound that way too. I don’t want to take a chance with the good vibes I’ve got going on.

I will admit, briefly, that the lead up to this week was anything but jolly. There were a number of emotionally charged things going on and it all brought me to a place where, for days, I just wanted to cry. I couldn’t figure out why. I thought maybe if I gave in to the need the pressure would ease. There were no tears, so that idea was of no value. One thing did help, I counted up all the stresses over the previous week. That explained a lot. Once you get past a certain number a melt down is inevitable.

I worried that a lock-down covid Christmas would only make things worse. Thankfully the opposite happened.

It all began on the 21st when things started out sideways. My daughter-in-law talked about a video call at 4 pm, my eldest and his family. When it didn’t come at four as suggested I thought it wasn’t happening after all. Part way through a piece of blueberry pie my cell phone rang with a video call. No time for primping. I can laugh about it now.

Our whole family gets along well and has a lot of fun together but, scattered all over the country we don’t see each other very often. None of us are good with phone calls either. When we do talk though, it goes on for hours. After three hours I’d seen most of the house and talked with everyone in the house. It was just what I needed.

The next night we had scheduled a full family Zoom call. The first one we’ve ever had as a group and it was four hours of awesome. Nothing fancy or spectacular just the simple joy of being together and seeing each other. I think a few grandkids and a spouse or two may have checked out after awhile and left us to it.

I think part of the reason we were all fully in the moment was the recent loss of an extended family member. It reminded us of the fragility of life. Some of us are not getting any younger and the sudden, unexpected passing could have been any one of us. It sounds like we are going to commit to regular monthly visits while we still can. Just not four hours long. I’m couldn’t be happier about the promise of more visits.

Christmas Eve I delivered gifts to my daughter’s family in the city. I didn’t plan to stay long with covid restrictions in place but I was there long enough to see most of another family Zoom call with the extended side of the family. They enjoy each other immensely too and it was a treat to experience their interactions.

I enjoy all of the families my kids have married into. I feel very blessed. Most, if not all of us, find it easy to allow others into our family circles and it’s awesome.

So, aside from conversations I had fun with gifts this year.

I usually just give the teen-aged boys money. I’m a lousy shopper and I want them to be happy. I fully intended to use that method again this year but at the last minute changed my mind and ordered something. It wasn’t a new thought, I’ve been wanting to do it for awhile now but waffled.

I gave them a family Christmas card explaining that I decided to spend their money for them, the gift would be arriving before the 31st and it is a secret. I know they will love the gift. In the meantime curiosity is driving them crazy. It’s a good thing I’m not with them or they would be dragging it out of me. Anticipation is a good thing sometimes.

Included in the bag with the card was a couple of big bags of variety junk food, flavored chips, and three books. Big books.

Several years ago when their cousins (my other grandkids) were visiting I gifted them with a couple of full bags of books. My goal was to find stories they could get hooked on and from there develop a love of reading. I had selection help from a nerdy, teen-age book-lover sales clerk so I knew the options offered were good.

I held back three books (all part of a series with stand alone books) waiting for them to be in need of more reading material. Middle boy is the book lover, boys one and three – not so much… not yet anyway. The distress over the thought of such long books was hilarious. Their dad said he would give oldest boy fifty dollars if he read the whole 600 pages. (If dad was serious about the reward I think I will make a contribution to the incentive. Must check it out.)

Their reaction was no surprise and I didn’t take it personally. Reading is such an important skill, I wanted to do my part to provide tempting reading material. One day they will find a book they love. Aside from that, it gets easier with practice so any book they read will take them in the right direction.

I know they will be happy with the gift when it arrives, It will have them forgetting all about books, I’m sure.

I was unsure how I would feel about coming home to an empty house at this time of year. Usually I would stay with them for a few days to make the most of the season.

Once in a while, when I return from a family visit, grief at being alone will hit me like an unexpected tidal wave. It didn’t happen this time. I think there were several reasons. My emotional tank was refilled with the many hours spent with my family. (virtual works for me.) At the same time someone was praying for me. A friend mentioned I have been on her mind lately and she’s been praying for me even though she had no idea what the need was. I can still feel the comfort of her prayers wrapped all around me. I am grateful beyond words.

It was in answer to my prayers too. Earlier in the week I had cried out to God in my despair and he answered me. (there is a bible verse that says it like that). The change was so dramatic it feels like a miracle.

So, that’s my story. It has been an unexpectedly good Christmas and I still feel good.

(I hope the same for you)

Story Prompt – Dance

I love to dance but I have to admit, I don’t really know how. I don’t let that stop me any.

I never did learn because I had no reason to. My grandmother was not a fan of dancing, although my mother was, and as I respected my grandmother’s thoughts and opinions, I wasn’t either.

The only dances we ever attended were wedding receptions. I was shy about doing new things in public and at the time I felt great relief at not having to take part. On the other hand most of the time I would have been bold enough to say no, now that I think about it.

I’ve always loved music and in the last couple of decades it has become a bigger part of life than ever before. Listening to songs over and over does something to a person. I find they get right down into my bones and I can’t help but move.

Some songs are worse than others, it’s impossible to listen to them and sit still.

These days I can dance with abandon because there is no one around to see me. At least I hope the neighbors can’t. I do try to avoid the windows at all cost.

The thing about dancing to music that touches my heart; the impact is greater with movement. The other positive thing about dance is the cardio workout, especially after all the sitting I do. All the way around it makes me happy to get up and move to music.

I try to spread the joy of dancing but I don’t think I’ve had any converts. Maybe my luck will improve and I’ll have one or two here.

In lieu of pictures I’ll share some videos. I had one favorite song in mind but I can’t remember where it is in my extensive DVD library. (Not that I haven’t spent time to trying to find it.)

Here is a random selection of songs that make my toes tap and my feet want to move.

This first one is one of my favorite groups. Actually, they all are favorite groups.

This song is from the Gaither Vocal Band DVD Better Day

And this one is from The Martins (a family group) Still Standing album. It was new last year and I still play it a lot.

I love this next group and even this song but my favorite part of this toe tapping video – the mountains of Alaska. I miss my beloved Rocky Mountains over here in flat Manitoba and a glimpse to bring back memories is wonderful.

I hope you felt a little like tapping your toes along with me.

Story prompt was courtesy of Sunday Scribbling hosted by Peckapaloosa: The Confusing Middle