Monday, August 29, 2016

Mindful Monday- The Stories of Our Marriage

   This month I set out to become more mindful of my husband and then each Monday write about what I am learning. I knew I was often dismissive of his ideas. I often tune him out which causes him to repeat many stories over and over again because eventually I hear all the parts and recall the whole. These stories are not fiction. They are history lessons and economic lectures which he tells in massive detail. I am a global learner and if I can't see the whole picture quickly I get bogged down by the detail. My goal this month has been to hear him more. I know I can't be perfect but I want to be more present with him.

    Yesterday I watched him dish out food, which he had prepared, around the table of friends. Instead of just bringing dinner he decided we should bring the dinner to their home and eat with them. Our friend was just home from the hospital and they had a kitchen under renovation. I listened as my husband described the ingredients, apologizing for the smallness of the roast. (I purchased the roast for two.) He was enjoying the details of the meal. Our friends saw his service and showed deep appreciation. It was a lovely dinner and we had good conversation, history topics, of course. 
   Being at ease in conversation attracted me to Mark. I was dating his roommate when we met. While my date was studying or talking on the phone, I talked to Mark. He challenged me to think more logically and in more depth. Soon I realized that I was spending more time with Mark than with his roommate. After we got married we often spent the day in long conversations. The children would come and go from our bedroom, asking questions, and complaining that we were still talking. Much of the change I have made in myself came from recalling information from our conversations. He is my anchor and I take him for granted. There is wisdom in my taking more time to be attentive of our relationship. Mindfullness, in general, is making me a better wife, mother and grandmother. 

      This month I am being more mindful of my husband. It is part of my year long exploration of mindfulness. You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.

Eight Minute Memoir- Games

                        A Game of Strategy and Skill

     Chinese checkers did not originate in China. It originated from the German game "Stern Halma" in 1892. Stern means star and refers to the layout of the board. My aunt Hanni was a master Halma player. She knew exactly what moves were required to win the game. I played with her often and always lost. Her fingers would pick up the marbles in the most agile way and hover slightly over the hole making me wonder if she was rethinking the move.     Obviously, it was the most fun to play the game with six players but most often my aunt and I played three colors each. In the middle of the game, when all the colors are moving in the middle of the board it is so visually confusing. 

   Later as the players bring their marbles into the opposing triangle the moves are easier to see but by then it is too late to win the game. One must be thinking three or more moves ahead. As a child I thought my aunt was so smart. I channel her spirit when I pull out the game to play with my grandchildren. Right now, I always win but soon I may have serious competition.

      I am joining Ann Dee Ellis and other writers in using a prompt                        to record some memoir moments.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Eight Minute Memoir- Small Things

          Small Things Can Connect Us To The Past

     My mother had very few things that came with her from Germany. Coming by ship gave us a limit to the poundage we could take. She did bring her feather beds which I find amusing. Sleeping accessories were different in the United States. We never used a top sheet because our feather beds had a cover. There were down feather beds for winter and damask comforters for summer. 

     I inherited the pictured bracelet. Mother wore it on Sundays along with a spritz of 4711 Cologne. I can't really tell if it was expensive, but is does need polishing now and then. Tiny, thin flowers with vines are etched into the metal and are worn smooth. When I wear the bracelet I feel dressed up. I was an adult before I realized that my mother was a wee bit vain. She was the only sister who got her hair cut short regularly. Actually, she cut it herself, as she removed the bristly rollers from her hair. She would hold the hair just pulled free from the roller and cut it just a tiny bit. I can see her before my eyes. Feeling the little gold thing on my arm makes that happen.

I am joining Ann Dee Ellis and other writers in using a prompt to record some memoir moments.


           Can we really be part of a loyal opposition?

           Every institution made by man is somewhat flawed. It just is that way. Governments, political parties, churches, businesses, committees, families; I could go on. Even when God sanctions and gives his authority to a group, failings of correct action, improper governing, and of character will and always do arise. 

    Can I still be loyal and feel "all in" if I have questions? What if my questions move me to oppose certain decisions? Can I remain loyal if I am in opposition? 

  "Some who use personal reasoning or wisdom to resist prophetic direction give themselves a label borrowed from elected bodies--“the loyal opposition.” However appropriate for a democracy, there is no warrant for this concept in the government of God’s kingdom, where questions are honored but opposition is not"
      Dallin H. Oaks

   I think of Judas who, for whatever reason, made a decision to betray Jesus. Perhaps he believed that Jesus could save himself at the last minute, or perhaps his greed set him against a master who he shared supper with and for whom he pledged loyalty.
  What happens inside us when we move against something we love? I ask questions because the word "loyal" has been diluted in a society where virtues are fewer every year. I believe I am allowed to ask questions. Many of my questions don't receive answers but I burn inside with a faith based not on man but on a God who I have experienced. May I always feel "all in" and loyal to Him and to those humble servants who may stumble along a vulnerable path in mortality but who desire Him more than the good opinion of the world.

I have been writing with the Five Minute Friday Group for two years and I really enjoy the talented writers who share their work. Would you like to join? 

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Eight Minute Memoir- Adventure

                                    July 20, 1969

     While Neil Armstrong was walking on the moon, I was traveling through the Oregon desert on my own adventure. We took a potty break in the middle of the night and looked up at the bright orb of diffused light and thought we saw their footsteps. I was fifteen and traveling with my brother and sister-in-law to their home in Eugene. I was going to see the ocean for the first time.

   My brother enjoyed showing me around but a series of unfortunate events took some of his enthusiasm. I was very eager. While helping them make french toast I tossed a carton of eggs into the trash. Oops, they said put them back into the fridge. 

   Browsing for books one morning at the University Bookstore, I pushed a large, oversized book back onto the shelf, when suddenly the shelf started swaying. I desperately clawed at the falling shelf but to no avail. It hit a ashtray holder on the way down. Kneeling on the floor scooping up sand, I was politely asked to leave. I looked around and noticed my sister-in-law had vanished.

   In the parking lot of the park, where I would see the Pacific Ocean, I broke the car key in the trunk lock. My brother's face indicated that I might have ruined their trip. 
   I talked to a coast guard man at the Heceta Head Lighthouse and promptly fell in love. He was white washing the outside and volunteered to take us up into the prism  I asked my brother if we could get his address from the local coast guard office. He looked dismayed. Hmm......
     Needless to say, when they escorted me to the airport for my flight home, my brother mentioned to the flight attendant that I needed some watchful care. He winked at me and I wondered if I would survive the flight.

I am joining Ann Dee Ellis and other writers in using a prompt to record some memoir moments.

Monday, August 22, 2016

Eight Minute Memoir- Billboards (and Signs)

   My daughter sent me this picture from Germany and I loved it. There it is. My name on a sign, in the country of my birth. There are four vowels in my name and they are lovely to roll around the tongue if you are familiar with the German vowel sounds. GAH-BREE- A- LEH, harder to say with an American tongue. My German mother loved to say my name. She had no idea that when we emigrated to the US no one would be able to say it the way she did.

   When I was a teenager Roman Gabriel was a famous football player. I used the pronunciation of his last name to identify myself because it was familiar. Along the way GA-BREE-ELLE became popular and I tried using that but it seemed wrong somehow. I say my name sometimes aloud, just to bring my mother back. She did say it with so much romance.

   I am joining Ann Dee Ellis and other writers in using a prompt to record some memoir moments.

Mindful Monday- Attentiveness

   This month I am being more mindful of my husband. It is part of my year long exploration of mindfulness. You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.

   When I picked my husband as my focus this month I knew I would feel awkward. The awkwardness would start when I wrote about how attentive he is to me. He really is! And, has been for years. It is one of his best characteristics but I have not been mindful, paying close attention, to this trait because I want to be the object of his attention but I don't, at the same time. What is it with women? We want to be desired but we feel pressured when we are the center of a man's attention. 

    "Because, even though the world is full of normal and pretty women, the world we see – the world of television, films, magazines and websites – is full of women who are top-of-the-scale beauties. 
And right now, in the second decade of the 21st century, the situation is more extreme than ever. If you're a woman, a huge proportion of your role models are beautiful. So if you’re normal looking, you feel ugly. And if you’re merely pretty, men feel free to comment on how un-beautiful you are."
     William Leith, "The Telegraph" 
     My husband thinks I'm beautiful. There I said it. I believe him but, I think he is biased. What? Who cares what any other person thinks? At this point I must confess this post is becoming more about me than him. To his credit, I am becoming more aware that my husband is really wonderful in giving me feedback about his attraction to me. And I am opening up to the idea that that is pretty great.

Friday, August 19, 2016

She Needs A Team

Sometimes you hit the road knowing that half your team is behind you and the rest of the team is yet to be found.

The text read, "There is a traveling art gallery in the parking lot. You should come and see."
I was tired but, I went. Meet Nora, an artist from California, traveling the west coast stopping in small towns to do collaborative art and display a variety of art and jewelry. 

   She smiled as I approached her trailer. She knew I looked hopeful to see sometime interesting. Our conversation was simple and heartfelt. I looked at the beautiful pieces on her walls. Her huge dog, Handsome, approached with a tired, hot greeting. 

   Squares of art paper, already in process, colorful pens, pastels, watercolors. waited for my marks. In essence, Nora wanted me to leave my mark on her traveling show. I illustrated a page with the words of her favorite poem, drawing a flame and little tracks of lines and squares connecting the lines of words.  We talked with a few others about life and whether we were cynical or hopeful. I could not believe that she could be cynical and travel alone for two months meeting strangers everyday. I thought she was very  brave. 

    The setting sun reminded me that it was growing late. She asked one last question. Why do I do art? I answered that I was tired of being scared. Art fills the scary holes between past and future. 

My grandchildren boarded her trailer before I arrived. I was grateful they could meet an artist with grit. They joined her team for a few moments and left their mark on a page or two. She left me with a great story and a sense that art is not only a team sport but a healing service for those we meet.

I have been writing with the Five Minute Friday Group for two years and I really enjoy the talented writers who share their work. Would you like to join? 

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Mindful Monday- Grit

              Grit is courage and resolve, strength of character

I married a man with grit. Paying attention to him this last weekend showed me again how much grit he displays. At first appearance he seems quirky in his camo clothing. Is he trying to stand out or blend into his environment? There is no military connection to his love of camouflage wear. It has to do primarily with the inexpensive price and quality of product it affords. When I stopped buying him clothing, this new trend appeared. I admit, at first I was chagrined. But then I realized he had a certain aesthetic. He likes certain patterns for summer and others for winter. There is khaki and then there is green. He wears them purposely to match the weather.

    My husband thinks and analyses very carefully before deciding what he will embrace. It may take him months But once resolved, he rarely waffles. And having a differing opinion from others does not bother him. We disagree on many things but he is not reactive. It takes a lot for him to get agitated and angry. But if he does, you can bet that it will be based on logic and reason.
   I believe one of the reasons I married him was because he showed very little weakness. I was used to that male behavior in my home. But, my father was very reactive and my husband seemed decidedly less so. That was attractive. As I got older I chose to explore more vulnerability and found he did not shy away from those conversations. As I pushed and prodded myself to embrace being vulnerable,  he listened and came along in the journey. On Friday we traveled through a section of Washington where last year we listened to "Rising Strong" by BrenĂ© Brown in the car on a similar road trip. The concepts came rushing into my head and the conversations we had that day felt sweetly comforting. He listens and wants to understand because he has strength of character. I am lucky to have found him and feel it a tender mercy that I heeded the inner voice, telling me to hitch my star to his wagon. Or, is it the opposite? Did I hitch my wagon to his star?

 This month I am being more mindful of my husband. You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.

Friday, August 12, 2016


Each morning when I lift my head off the pillow I choose. There was a time when a rush of dread accompanied the lifting of the head. Weight from some unknown source rested on my heart. Struggling to get through the simplest acts, I walked in darkness for many months. I quite literally had to walk it off. It started with my older children taking turns walking with me. But as the days went by I finally reached the point when I trusted that I would go alone.
In my struggle there was celebration. I think about that time often. Choosing seemed to be beyond my control. When I finally walked far enough and turned to come home I regained my will to choose joy. 

Lifting my head and choosing joy is small act with stupendous consequences. 

"But thou, oh Lord, art a shield for me; my glory, and the One who lifts my head."

Psalms 3;3

I have been writing with the Five Minute Friday Group for two years and I really enjoy the talented writers who share their work. Would you like to join? 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Whimsical Writing Wednesdays- Paper Dolls

The Memoir is a weekly exercise that builds upon itself. I will divide your life in sections. By answering a "jot list" of questions each week I will trigger vivid memories, discover lost dreams, and find unexpected healing and clarity.

From It's Never Too Late To Begin Again by Julia Cameron

The Entryway- Chapter 1
To enter my childhood house you came through a big door with beveled glass. This gave access to the entryway. To the right, stairs climbed up to the apartment where Mr. Ito lived. To the left was a door which led to another apartment. My brother lived there some of the years with his wife and kids. Straight ahead was a glass door into my home.

This first house, which my father bought in America, came with a tenant. Mr. Ito was Japanese and lived alone upstairs. I believe he lived there for a decade or more before we arrived. Particular smells wafted down from above which were foreign and somewhat repugnant to my young nose. I was fascinated by the sight of him. He descended very rarely so I took up a vigil on the entryway stairs. His pajama-like clothing seemed so strange. 

I played on the stairs most days. This gave me access to all the movements of the inhabitants. I knew when my niece and nephews were going out to play, when my other brothers came home from college, and when my father arrived from work. Paper dolls covered the stairs. Each stair was a place where my dolls lived.

I put them into their stands and changed their clothing over and over again, dependent on the weather. My mother gave me shoe boxes in which I sorted the families of dolls. Cutting carefully was paramount to having good dolls. Many times I mistakenly cut the white tabs off the jacket or pants. Bother! Not good! 
There on the stairs I played for hours, imagining a life far different from mine. Really, my life was extraordinary. I was an immigrant, fluent in German and learning English. The only girl in a family of much older, brilliant brothers, I found my way among adults. Adults who had escaped a world war, survived as refugees, and started over in a new land. And, the smells wafting from my house must have been just as strange as Mr. Ito's.

Join me on Wednesdays for more whimsical writing from my life.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Mindful Monday- A Faithful Narrative

      Every Sunday afternoon my husband writes a newsletter, which he e-mails to family members. Sometimes he writes notes on Saturday to help remember what he wants to write about. His newsletter started before I began writing a blog, so that is more than five years ago. In a big comfy office chair, he settles down for a hour or so to review the week past. If an activity interrupts this event he complains about not getting his newsletter out. 
      I don't always read it, I confess. His writing style is somewhat like a reporter giving the news of the week. His favorite topics include his work, economic concerns, his latest projects on rebuilding target shooting guns, and lastly, reports on what family members are doing. That is where he gets into trouble. He needs to employ a facts checker. If you ask him why his story lacks accuracy he jokingly replies that he enjoys writing fiction. 

“A well-thought-out story doesn’t need to resemble real life. Life itself tries with all its might to resemble a well-crafted story.” 

    All of our children have complained about being the subject of their father's  stories. They prefer reading about their siblings lives rather than their own. Resentment about misrepresentation has sometimes resulted in angry e-mails. But, he is undaunted. I am mindful of the importance this habit has in his life. His intention is not to falsify truth. Reviewing his own experiences and the in and outs of family life are most enjoyable to him. 
      Writing is cathartic. Some of us write morning pages or journal entries. Some hide their writing and never intend to share and others publish their stories for posterity. I wonder at my own motivation for writing a blog. What good will come of it? That question is easily answered when I read the narratives of my deceased parents and grandparents. They live on through their words. I receive great strength from reading their stories. When they write about me I hear their love even when their perception of me is less than favorable. It reveals what they valued and sought after. I learn so much in knowing. 
      When I see my husband sitting before his computer, with the strange backward clock hanging above, I smile. He is quirky and eccentric and that is precisely why I married him. I am often the subject of his stories. I get my nose bent out of shape when he reveals something about me that I don't particularity like in myself. But, more often he praises and projects me in a light of someone he cherishes. Wait, I haven't read yesterday's installment. 

   This month I am being more mindful of my husband. You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.

Friday, August 5, 2016


Sometimes the smallest blackberries make me the happiest.

Blackberries hang outside my front door on overgrown vines. They are not cultivated and most of the year are considered noxious weeds. While picking, my eyes always focus on the big, juicy ones. This morning I felt disappointed that I couldn't see ones I consider "the best".  As I visually roamed the bush, smaller, less appealing berries came into focus. I popped a few into my mouth and to my surprise they were very sweet. Quickly, I filled a basket and licked my fingers of the dark, sticky juice.

I feel conditioned to expect certain conditions of life to make me happy. Financial security, free time, uncomplicated relationships, are the big, juicy blackberries I look for first. The sun streaming through my window, a lovely note from my friend, or half a chocolate bar hidden in my purse, seem like ordinary things. At first glance, they are like the smaller, less appealing berries, hiding under the leaves. More numerous and just as sweet in the moment, these berries in my life bring just as much satisfaction. And, so many more fit into my bowl. 

The meek shall eat and be satisfied; they shall praise the Lord that seek him.
Psalms 22:26


 I have been writing with the Five Minute Friday Group for two years and I really enjoy the talented writers who share their work. Would you like to join? 

Monday, August 1, 2016

Mindful Monday- Married For Forty-Two Years

                                         Do you know everything about your spouse?

   Being mindful means paying close attention. Is there a better relationship to be mindful in than my marriage? No!

                             Mindfulness offers us the space for greater discernment.

  As the years go by it is easy to define our relationship in a certain way. I like this and he likes that. We do this together and this apart. We agree here and disagree there. Our mindset can become fixed which closes the space available in a living relationship. Mindfulness opens up new ways of seeing each other.
   Last week during a shopping trip, my husband and I ended up at a mattress store. I was surprised by his willingness to try out new mattresses. I payed attention to his playfulness as we pretended to be awed by each more expensive style. To my utter surprise he told me to go ahead and do the paper work for the one we both loved. And, then, he promptly took a nap. We have a new mattress, which is wonderful, but I believe that decision came about because I was being mindful of him and watching his responses instead of steering the activities with a fixed outcome. I did not go into the store with a plan and I did not push for an outcome. I merely observed the activity.
This month my mindfulness practice will center on him, the man I married forty-two years ago.


             You can read more about my Year of Mindfulness here.