Saturday, October 31, 2009


Oct. 31, 1910
Andrew Berndt died Saturday afternoon. Funeral today - 2p at his home.

I sit in my parlor this All Hallow's Eve, wondering about the deceased Mr Berndt. We have nothing in common- except this home that he built.

We found his obituary while rooting through old records in the Tuscarawas County library- wondering about the person who built this home in 1875. It is quite descriptive. Andrew, age 88, apparently decided to visit the county fair, determined to shake hands with the govenor- thereby contracting pneumonia which led to his death.
He was married in Germany. After arriving in this country, he traveled from Cleveland to Dover on the canal boat- settling here to establish his harness shop.

He is described as one of Dover's most estimable residents, having retired to manage his farm. Always interested in politics, he was a great reader of high class literature.

We stumbled into Andrew's home quite by accident. Coming home from church on a chilly day 41/2 years ago- we spotted the open house sign and wondered what that old house might look like inside. Following a whim, we drove back to town that afternoon just to see.
I remember quite distinctly the feeling I had 2 steps across the threshold. I felt as if I had come home.

It is not a place I would ever have pictured myself living- yet I have never been sorry that we made the move.

From the description- Andrew is someone I would have liked- alot. I meander about his house now, often with my nose in a book, sometimes bumping into walls or furniture as I try to turn a page. I leave here and drive to the edge of town, to brush my favorite horse.

Andrew and I seem to have a bit in common- and that makes me smile.
Rest in peace Andrew...

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009


I had no idea!
Sounds like a martian invasion....

Instead nanowrimo turns out to stand for National Novel Writing Month. Who knew that the month of November would generate such a collective creativity. I am a nanowrimo virgin.

Encouraged by fellow bloggers- especially one of my favorites- Monda at the fabulous "No Telling" blog, I took the plunge. I signed up and dove in.

Who knew that I would so quickly become consumed? I lie awake at night, thinking of a character that I hope to channel in my dreams. I wake in the morning to snatch a bit of reading about plot planning and character development. Find a problem- create a struggle...

Such uncharted territory. Such a relief from the harsh realities I see every day.

This week I hope to meet with some other nanowrimo newbies.

It is quite likely that no one else will ever read our words.... It is also quite likely that we will have ourselves a bit of fun.
Just 4 days to go- let the games begin....

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Friday, October 23, 2009

Lady and God

I had an interesting day yesterday with this little Lady

She belongs to my good friend, Becki... and her name is.... Lady

Becki kindly offered me some equine therapy in the spring, when everything seemed dark and closing in. It did me a world of good to leave behind chemo and hickman catheters, and simply brush a horse for awhile.

Each time I arrived, she would come running to meet me, eager for some brushng and her apple. I was told she did not like to be tied- indeed had broken a board in the fence, so we worked on that a bit. I occasionally would lead her - just to get a feel for the horse. On one of those first occasions, I led her in a circle, set her up to look pretty and stepped in front of her. When I stepped toward her- up in the air she went. I've never been in that position before- it was somewhat like a movie- horse rearing over my head. I've been quite cautious with Lady ever since. I might not know much- but I do know that a horse without 4 feet on the ground is a dangerous thing.

We went along without incident until last weekend. I was there with my son, simply wanting to brush and fuss. I led Lady away from the gate, and without warning- those back feet were flying in the air. Thank God noone was behind her.

I've been talking to my friend Sandy about Lady. Sandy is fascinated by horses and their behavior. For years she has been training her own and helping others with their problem children. Sandy came with me to the barn yesterday.

The first 15 minutes were fine. She began teaching me to "ask" the horse to lower her head. Simply put a tiny bit of pressure on the lead and the Moment the horse Gives at all- RELEASE. The release is the reward. You must be quick with it.

That was all well and good. We stood and talked for a few minutes, then started to lead Lady toward the fence. Apparently Lady had enough- because up in the air she went. Stand back.

Then began the most fascinating demonstration I have ever seen. Sandy never lost her calmness or coolness. She got the long training whip from the barn- and without ever touching her- simply began moving the horse. When Lady came toward her, Sandy raised the whip and let out a "yah" Lady ran to the far side of the field. Sandy followed at a determined walk. Lady ran back, Sandy followed. The horse was perfectly free to run, but within 15 minutes or so, it became obvious that Sandy was directing the horse which way to go.

An Hour or more of this followed, and at the end of the hour- the horse was standing- without any type of lead or restraint and facing Sandy no matter what direction she turned. When the horse turned to face Sandy, Sandy would often turn her back and walk off a few feet. The horse turned to face her again. Any time the horses attention was off of Sandy- Sandy simply raised the whip. Lady would start to run off again, but she wasn't running far now- just a few feet- then turning back to face Sandy.

I followed them back and forth across the field- safe on my side of the fence. As I watched the last half hour or so, with Lady turning to watch Sandy- to keep her eyes always on Sandy- without restraint- totally able to leave any time she wanted- it seemed clear to me that this must be a picture of what God does with us. He lets us run, wild and free. When we are in trouble, when our behavior is such that it is going to cause a problem- does he perhaps simply say- keep running- I'm just going to walk behind you and patiently guide you?

Is God's goal for us the same as Sandy's was for Lady? Sandy was patient, determined, and intent. She would not stop until she was standing with Lady's eyes fixed on her. She did not restrain, she did not beat the horse..... she simply kept her moving until she was tired of running.

As Lady stood, eyes fixed on Sandy.... Sandy would approach her and rub her face- or brush her a bit. We're ok, that gesture seemed to say. I'm in your corner- I want what is best for you. Just keep your eyes on me.

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Wednesday, October 21, 2009

my mom

" I am so glad to see you, I brought this for you" and a virtual stranger shoved this picture into my hand... The event was a party to mark the 50th anniversary of my aunt and uncle.
In 1960, a little girl accompanied her expecting mother to substitute a fourth grade class. The little girl, so enthralled by the wind that plays with her skirt, is of course, moi. And the beaming lady....that's my mom.
This picture had been lovingly cherished for all these years
"The happiest days of my life" my mom pronounced upon seeing the snapshot. Her face beamed, and the stories began to pour forth. I've heard them all before, of course, a hundred times, but every once in a while, it's fun to hear them again... to watch her face soften and change and a lilt come into her voice that is not often heard.
Life got difficult for my mom after those days. This baby was born with severe birth defects and died without her laying eyes on him. The third child, longed for and loved, none the less brought a certain amount of anxiety after that experience. And then, pregnant with son number 3, she lost my dad- the love of her life. Nothing- nothing- was ever the same after that.
My mom is made of steel however. "I'm tough" is her favorite expression... and she is. She raised us all to be successful adults. She never let us forget what was expected of us. She worked hard to provide for us, and to keep a happy home. We always knew that we were her first priority.
A second marriage brought a new life, a little less frantic, a little more stable. Brother Steve joined the family and life established a new normal.
Through it all- through it all- my mom endured...
I like to remember my mom as I am seeing our hospice familes. I sat today with a family who found their way to laughter and to rememberance. It was good to see- good to hear. I know that they will go through their own trials- that time is coming soon, of that there is no doubt. It is good for me, as I sit with them, to remember my mom. To remember her strength, her determination, her stories, her laughter and her tears. I know this hospice family will find the same strength my own mother did.
Today is my mom's birthday. It seems a good time to thank her for who she is and what she has been in our lives. Thanks mom. Happy birthday, and many more.

Sunday, October 18, 2009


Someone asked me recently what my idea of a perfect day might be...

yesterday might have come close....

Got up early for some reading/writing time- then went back to bed. I would say that constitutes a favorite thing.

Around 9:30, I decided to drive out into the country and see an old house. It's been on my list of things to do for a while..... I off handily asked my oldest son if he wanted to come with - and to my surprise he jumped at the chance. We had a great drive- way out in the country- poked around the empty house to our heart's content (yes, we had permission- :) ) and drove home passing Atwood Lake.
The day was beautiful, though chilly. The colors were magnificent. And the conversation...... priceless. I got to hear the hopes and dreams, the trials and tribulations, the laughs and the heartaches

By the time we returned, the other teens were awake- having rolled from their beds at the crack of noon. We got them fed- top priority- and of all things, they decided that the pumpkins needed carving. The gutting alone was hilarious- they felt the need for gloves and begged for help- but we showed no mercy. The carving speaks for itself. I learned later that one of the friends has never carved a pumpkin before.
Once the pumpkins were done, I decided I wanted to visit my favorite horse. Son #2 agreed to come- so we had a great hour or so. He's been with me a few times before, hanging back a bit, just watching. Yesterday he grabbed a brush, climbed the fence and we brushed and talked to our hearts content.

Rounded out the day with a quick trip to the library with Dan (the hubby) and then! wonder of wonder- miracle of miracles! we decided to go to the Y. I had to circle the equipment for quite a while- til I saw something with pedals and recognized it as an exercise bike. From that vantage point, I could observe the rest of the room, and actually figured out how to bend, twist and sweat- a little. I found a treadmill- also familar... and then, just before leaving was talked into something elliptical.... I think? In any case- it felt good.

I gave a big lecture to the wife of one of our patient's earlier this week. She is about my age. I told her to move herself up on the list- to take care of herself, to get out some. I told her everyone else would be fine- actually better, if she took care of herself a little.

I've given this lecture before- think it's # 51 ..... but this time, I must have believed it a little for myself.

Think we all had a good day yesterday...

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Tuesday, October 13, 2009

change in the atmosphere

Zooming along a windy country road yesterday, just before twilight, I barely noticed the tan and white bundle of fur lying on the yellow line in the center of the road. I might not have registered the road kill at all if it had not raised it's little head and looked at me just as I passed by.

For a moment I tried to convince myself that it must have been an optical illusion- my tired eyes playing tricks in the waning light. For a few more moments, I tried to convince myself that this was not my problem, that I had more important things to do than worry about a half dead dog in the middle of a busy road. But somehow, in that moment of passing, my eyes had met the eyes of the dog. I inhaled deeply as I signaled for a left turn, and let out a long sigh as I reversed onto the busy road. In the midst of shifting into drive, I noticed a car ahead of me making a quick U turn.

Safe! I thought- and pulled over for a moment to let his car go ahead of mine. Sure enough- as I reached the top of the hill, I saw a young man pull over and leap from his car. He efficiently stopped traffic both ways- grabbed a jacket from his trunk and ran to the side of the injured animal. A young woman was there ahead of him, and together they swaddled the injured puppy and placed it in her back seat. A few words, the exchange of a glance between them and traffic moved on. Passing the site once again a few seconds later- it was if nothing had ever happened.

Driving home,I let my mind wander back over the day. I had spent most of the afternoon in an unpretenious home with ordinary folks. Not the kind of people who would ever merit a second glance if passed on the street.

The conversation wound around- from death, to life and back again. Memories began to surface... Before I left, I was given the priviledge of reading some poetry that an ordinary man had written years before to his ordinary wife. The language was so beautiful that my eyes welled with tears.

It made me wonder, as I drove in the twilight. Does the atmosphere change in places where acts of kindness and love occur? Is there a shift in the universe? Noone would ever know that on that country road, two strangers met for a moment to save and protect a helpless creature. No one would guess that in an ordinary home such emotions spilled over and flowed onto a piece of paper.

My guess is that someone - somewhere- notices..... and smiles.

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

we worry

A week of blood sugars between 350 -400 brought my eldest son home early this week. Looking sallow, peuky ( is that a word?) generally just plain ugh...

I am proud of him though... he has handled it, he did the best he could all week, and knew when he was over his head and it was time to call uncle

Diagnosed with juvenile diabetes at age 9- this is familar ground, yet we worry....

He scheduled a visit with his endocrinologist- made the trip there himself, had some adjustments made and was told he is doing a "good job"

The last statement was probably the most significant for him. It is amazing how these kids base their self worth, and subsequently their compliance on whether or not the adults in their lives think they are doing a "good job" It is fascinating to see and hear how they rebell against the very things that save and enhance their lives... It is amazing how quickly perfectionism rears it's ugly head... convincing them that they will never be good enough....

They do the things we all do.... in one way or another.... yet for them, the outcome of their life and physical health hangs in a delicate balance.

He's back at school tonight. Last week was rough.

I'm grateful for the advances science has made that enable him to have some illusion of control. I'm more grateful for the adults who have come along beside him- for one in particular, Dr Sam Wentworth of Indianna. Without him, I don't believe we would be where we are today. I'm grateful for the on line community I have found.

One day at a time.... one day at a time.....

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Saturday, October 10, 2009


Oh baby, it's cold out there. There is a distinct chill in the air, the leaves are starting to change. I feel old man winter pushing his way in.

I woke up this morning feeling as if there were frost on my pillow. It took a while, but I finally convinced my foot to leave the covers, then the rest of me had to follow. I stumbled my way down the stairs, heading for caffeine and heat. Passing the thermostat, I flipped the switch to on, and heard the rumbling begin in the basement as I pressed start on the microwave. Now I'm snuggled under a blankie, feeling the house warm my outsides and my tea warm my insides.

I remember waking on cold, cold mornings in my grandparent's farmhouse. There really was frost on the windows on those morning. I was never sure what woke me- if it was the feeling of my body convulsing with shivers or the sound of my grandpa stirring in the room across the hall. I would lay as still as I could, trying not to shake the bed, knowing that I would soon hear his feet stomping down the stairs. Slam- the back kitchen door. Bang- the trap door on the porch that led to the basement. Next came the sound of the shovel hitting the coal and the rattle of the coal hitting the furnace. The distinctive smell came next. How I loved that smell, for it announced the arrival of blessed warmth. I was asleep again within minutes, warm, toasty and safe. Grandpa made his way from there out to the barn to milk and feed.

I wonder how many times he performed that same ritual. He came in from the barn one morning in his eighth decade, curled up beside the register to soak in some of that warmth, fell asleep and never woke. He departed from this earth in the same house that welcomed his birth.

I stopped at calling hours last night for a lovely 94 year old from our church.. I have never seen this woman without a smile and a kind word. She volunteered faithfully at the hospital- yes, even this year. One day this week, she got her hair done, made a pot of soup and went out to rake leaves and clean up the yard. When she came in, she sat down in her chair, fell asleep and woke in heaven.

It seems to me that these are the folks who keep the world on it's axis. The people who live their lives simply, who watch out for their friends and neighbors, who are always quick to lend a kind word or a helping hand. We don't think much about them, but they surely leave a void when they are gone.

I know that there are plenty of those people around me. People that are living their lives simply and well. I think I'll aim to pay a little more attention, to appreciate them a little more while we have them. The world can be a cold and lonely place- here's to those who warm it everyday.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

be still

I've been tempted to worry since yesterday afternoon
Tempted to fret
Tempted to stew
Tempted to what if myself into anxiety
To think ahead, to make a plan

This all involves a person who may or may not go home from the hospital today who I may or may not see

Each time a thought crept to the corners of my mind last night, I made myself think"you have grace for the day"

Today will take care of itself- if I let it....

I got up this morning and got very quiet Over and over I meditated on the words 'be still" "Be Still and know that I am God"

What I was left with was this:
"And I pray, that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have the power, together with the saints, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge- that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God" Ephesians 3:18

Many days I feel so buffeted by what awaits me. I am grateful for the quiet solitude of the mornings.

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Saturday, October 3, 2009

Margin and Metaphors

My husband's leukemia has done one positive thing in our lives- it has created some margin.

Margin- a term I had heard before and aspired to, but never seemed to be able to achieve.

Margin- defined loosely as some space

So much has changed in our lives- so much has shifted. I'm trying to be very careful about how much I let back into those spaces. With a little space in our lives we are finding that we have some time for some of those things that never seemed to happen before- like running to the county library together this morning and researching the history of this old house. Like going out to dinner with our son before homecoming. Who would think they would want a couple of Parents tagging along- but they do, and we are.

Margin- time to appreciate each other a little more.

We are in a small group that is currently studying the book "One Month to LIve" I'm not sure I'm buying the premise- I don't see that many people who are told they have one month to live and begin experiencing a wonderous sense of freedom- but the concept is good. What would you do if you were told you had one month to live?

We are challenged in this study to find a metaphor for our lives.

I've been pondering this and one memory keeps surfacing

In 1994 my appalosa mare (Princess) gave birth to a beautiful filly, who we named Tango. That was all well and good- except that I had absolutely no idea how to train the young lady.

Three years later, Jill unexpectedly entered my life. Jill had trained dressage horses and graciously agreed to give Tango and I some much needed help.

Jill visited us weekly- and we improved slowly- from my being able to get onto Tango's back to circling and figure 8s. Tango learned alot- but I learned more- how to sit lightly, to communicate with my legs, how to be one with the horse.

On one particularly lovely summer evening, Jill instructed me to put down the reins, keep my legs off the horse and to cue her to move off in a straight line across our front field. About half way across the field, Jill instucted me to turn my head (and my head only) to the left and see what happened. To my utter astonishment, I felt Tango veer slightly to the left. A little while later we repeated the exercise and I turned my head to the right. Immediately I felt Tango angle slightly toward the right.

We repeated this enough for me to be sure it was no accident.

The horse and I were one....

I remember putting the horse away that night- still astounded- and writing a prayer to God. This, I said, is what our relationship to be. Please, let me be close enough to you that when you look to the right, I go in that direction...

If there is a metaphor for my life- I would like for that to be it...

I'm not sure it's possible - but I do know that to come close- I will need to keep my margins.