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Kathy B Article: Inclusion

 

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My cousin, Kathy B, a college student, has written an article on a topic that is very dear to her: inclusion. Being someone who has a disability and uses a wheelchair, she knows much about being excluded from many things but her deep desire to be “included” and to have equal opportunities in life continue to be strong within her. In recognition of Independence Day, she has taken on a deep perspective and wanted share her thoughts here. I hope you all enjoy and take to heart the words and thoughts she wanted to share with us all today:

Inclusion is the act of including someone or something. That does very little to help us to truly understand what it means, so what does include really mean? Here are some definitions that make it a bit clearer: comprise or make part of a whole set. A second definition is to allow somebody to share in an activity or privilege (Google, 2016). An activity or a privilege does not begin to describe the way that I, and other disabled people want to be included. We want and deserve to be included, as much as humanly possible, in every aspect of our own lives! For almost all my life, I have accepted exclusion as a fact of my life. After all, I have thought that people and the laws were making progress toward allowing me and others with disabilities to have more freedom and equality, weren’t they?

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men {and women} are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with inherent and inalienable rights; that among these, are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or abolish it, and such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.” –Declaration of Independence as originally written by Thomas Jefferson, 1776.

As we prepare to celebrate America’s birthday, it’s 240th, how far have we come in nearly two and a half centuries? We, as people with disabilities, are people with the same natural rights to life, libertyworkplace and the pursuit of happiness – just like everyone else. In my opinion, we have so much farther to go!

In 1990, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law. To say I was elated that day would be an understatement! If I could have leapt for joy, I would have done it. At long last, there were laws on the books that protected me and others from discrimination!  I felt that in only a few short years that I would be able to join the workforce. I tried to go back to school in 1999. I was treated just as I was before the ADA passed, obstacle after obstacle was thrown in my way. If I enrolled, I would not be allowed to take a full schedule of classes because I had no caregiver.

Fast forward to the present – 2016. I started an internship in order to complete my BA online program. I was finally finishing college. The agency’s motto and mission statements seemed to mirror my own: “Opportunities for Everyone.” It also had its roots in Christianity, something else I appreciated. Of all organizations, this place would surely respect me, my skills and the ADA laws. By now, I had less than a year before I would get my Bachelor’s in Human Services. To be completely fair and honest, I was told in the beginning that there was no possibility of a paid position, however, I was given no reason for this. I thought that perhaps all that I had to do was impress them with my passion, empathy, education and skills. Some wanted me to stay, one was willing to modify the job so that I would be able to stay, but the agency administration would not go along with the idea. The “Opportunities for Everyone” slogan was/is a complete fallacy; this was/is equally true of the mission statement: “Empowering individuals with disabilities to enhance their quality of life.”

The ADA says this: “If you have a disability and are qualified to do a job, the ADA protects you from job discrimination on the basis of your disability. Under the ADA, you have a disability if you have a physical or mental impairment that substantially limits a major life activity.” However, agencies can and do get around the law by adding job requirements that many people with disabilities cannot do: have a driver’s license, have the ability to lift 30-50 pounds, have the ability to stand for long periods etc. During my internship, I worked in the main office for the supported living division. I was not alone with clients. I did task analysis, behavior analysis, writing functional and positive behavioral support assessments. I also took part in writing goals and working one on one with the client.  However, it was stated in an email that I did nothing that anyone else could not do and nothing that I did was worthy of a paid position. I could be not alone with clients, could not learn to perform CPR and other home care aid requirements, including driving.

Thank God that Jesus did not feel this way. “Matthew 20:16 New Living Translation (NLT) states:

16 “So those who are last now will be first then, and those who are first will be last.” Here is another example that means a great deal to me.  I will give some background to clarify my point. A man with leprosy approached Jesus. Everyone was encouraging not to waste a moment on this poor man. There was not a single individual that wanted anything to do with this man because he was diseased and demon possessed. Yet, Jesus ignored all of those around him and spoke to him with love, respect and dignity: “Large crowds followed Jesus as he came down the mountainside. Suddenly, a man with leprosy approached him and knelt before him. “Lord,” the man said, “if you are willing, you can heal me and make me clean.”

Jesus reached out and touched him. “I am willing,” he said. “Be healed!” And instantly the leprosy disappeared. Then Jesus said to him, “Don’t tell anyone about this. Instead, go to the priest and let him examine you. Take along the offering required in the law of Moses for those who have been healed of leprosy. [a] This will be a public testimony that you have been cleansed.” (Matthew 8: 1-4.).

Lord, please let people see the gifts and talents that You have blessed me with, allow their eyes to clearly see my abilities, not my dis-ability {Emphasis intended}. I also ask this for anyone else in similar circumstances. In Your name, Amen.

 

Remembering My Mom and the Runaway Grocery Cart

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Today, February 13th is my mother’s birthday and she would have been 71 as she was born in 1945. She was gone too suddenly and too soon and I can’t help but miss her. I miss her smiling face and her look of astonishment when I would stop by for a surprise visit. I miss our little chats when we sat in the living room in the evening and her quiet laughter when we watched a light-hearted comedy movie. During the many quiet evenings, she often worked on a project while later is revealed as a Christmas gift. She also shared about her faith in God in very quiet ways.We also used to go on long strolls past the farm fields and visit the tiny pond on our property. Mom enjoyed hearing the sound of frogs at night which was something she remembered as a young girl: listening to the choir of chirps in the night air. She also talked about how she saved money and bought her own radio. With her radio near her bed, she would lay awake and listen to the Grand Ol Opry. She liked taking photographs too but often didn’t like having her own picture taken. As a mom she could be stern at times and let us kids know when she was displeased about something we had done. However, she made sure we all knew that she deeply loved us and there was no end to her love.  My mom was a modest and quiet lady usually too modest to draw attention to herself; this was evident in her quiet mannerisms, often subdued tone of voice, and even her laughter contained a quiet and musical quality. To be sure, I have shared many humorous moments with her when she suddenly would erupt in giddy laughter However, one day unexpectedly, I heard her burst into loud and uncontrollable mirth.

One warm summer day while I was visiting my mom, she had decided she needed to go to the grocery store. Sometimes, if she didn’t need too many groceries, we would just visit a grocery or convenience store in nearby Hixton. However, on this day, she needed more. That meant heading to Burnstad’s in Black River Falls. I accompanied her to the store where she proceeded, with list in hand, to grocery shop. She had the aisles memorized and knew just where to find each item. Often her grocery list was organized according to items needed in each subsequent aisle. I helped to look and grab items she couldn’t reach or I might run back a few aisles to pick up a forgotten item. And, almost always a few extra things get placed into the cart.

We finished shopping, completed our purchase, and headed to our parked car. I was pushing the cart and parked it in back of our vehicle, opened the trunk, and began transferring the groceries into the open space of the trunk. I had all the grocery bags loaded and needed to only transfer the gallon of milk and the watermelon.

Suddenly my mom cried out, “The cart!!”

I turned to see our grocery cart, still containing the milk and the watermelon, rolling downhill across the parking lot. I dashed off as if I had been propelled from a canon to catch up with the runaway cart; but no matter how fast I ran that cart rolled faster. However, I continued to pick up my pace determined to catch up. The crazily careening cart shot across the parking lot, rolled into the grass, and flipped over in the ditch sending the milk and melon flying. Much to my amazement, neither item was broken. I retrieved the cart and the groceries and then headed back to the car and my waiting mother.

As I retraced my footsteps across the parking lot I mentally prepared to apologize to my mom about being so absent-minded as to park the grocery cart on the wrong side of our vehicle. If I had set it next to the car on the uphill side, it would not have rolled off speeding across the pavement and crashed into the ditch. However, I soon found that my apology was unnecessary. When I arrived at the car, I found my mother bent over laughing hysterically; she could not control her mirth. According to her giggle-tainted description, the scene of me chasing this speeding runaway grocery cart across Burnstad’s parking lot looked so ridiculous and absolutely ludicrous that I was convinced I should have been in an episode of The Three Stooges or, perhaps, Laurel and Hardy. After I stored the milk and watermelon into the trunk and safely put away the cart, we headed home which was roughly 13 miles. During the drive, my mom still couldn’t contain her laughter and it was contagious for soon I was smiling and giggling with her.

We arrived at home still unable to subdue our hysterical mirth. Nathan, my nephew, ran out from the poll shed demanding, “What’s so funny?”

Between bursts of giggles I tried to explain, “I just turned around and the cart was gone.”

This made no sense to Nathan so I took a deep breath and explained the tale of my oversight in parking the grocery cart on the wrong side of the car so that it shot across Burnstad’s sloping parking lot and flipped in the ditch. Then I picked up the milk and the watermelon from the trunk and exclaimed, “But look, neither the milk nor the watermelon were smashed. Isn’t that good?”

Nathan shook his head and smiled.

It was not every day that I had the sweet opportunity to hear my mother’s unhindered and joyful laughter. That day was an unexpected and special gift. While she lived on earth, my mother faced her share of hardships and disappointments but even during those times she made sure her children and grandchildren knew they were loved. She worked hard over the years to take care of the family she loved so much. She also basked in the sunlight on warm and beautiful days when she could sit outside in the yard to hear and watch a nearby water fountain which sent a tiny waterfall gushing over the stones and into a small pond. There was a sense of gentle calmness when listening to the trickling water. Nearby she had set up bird feeders so she could watch the colorful humming birds fly in and feed. Those were wonderfully pleasant days to sit and just visit. Often I wish and yearn to have just one more day with my mom. Each memory I have today of her is a gift that I treasure in my mind and heart.

Reposting: A Letter, A Journey and a Gift of the Heart

 

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Two days ago, a dear 2nd cousin of mine was severely hurt in a fire. Today she is in a trauma ICU on a long road to recovery. She is a beautiful young lady with a beautiful spirit deep inside.  And she is constantly on my mind and in my heart. Her mother, my 1st cousin, is one of my best friends in life who has been a wonderful source of encouragement and inspiration to me.  Many times she has been my personal cheerleader when no one else is around; always just a phone call away. So, today, I am reposting this story with some revisions to hopefully portray the strong yet gentle beauty that both these cousins have lovingly revealed to me:

Time frame: late 1980’s. While attending college in Minnesota I embarked on a quest to find my cousin, Kathy whom I last seen at age 10. I had told my roommate about her and she encouraged me to try to find her. We last saw each other when we were 10 years old when she, her mom, and dad came to visit us in Wisconsin. When we were five, my mother took a photo of us in the kitchen. When we were 10, we visited on the front lawn on a warm summer evening and I piled kittens on her lap. I thought those kittens were so cute but I am not sure she liked having them all on top of her. While I grew up on a farm in the Midwest, Kathy lived in southern California. Kathy’s parents divorced when she was 11; she could not return to visit her Wisconsin relatives. She also couldn’t travel easily because she had cerebral palsy and used a wheelchair. My immediate family never traveled as far as California. We lost contact with Kathy during the years following the divorce. Although I only met my cousin just a few times in my life, I often wondered about her.

Determined to find Kathy, I met with my grandmother who had written her occasionally and she had written back. But, time again passed so my grandmother could only give me Kathy’s last known address. To make things more complicated, my cousin had married acquiring a different last name. My grandmother couldn’t remember her new last name. Not wanting to give up, I wrote Kathy a heart-felt letter using the wrong address and the wrong name mailing it with a stamp and a sincere prayer. I needed to believe that God would answer my prayer.

Weeks and even a month passed. One day, I arrived at my apartment and found a letter from California.  The return address contained an unfamiliar last name but as soon as I saw “Kathy”, I knew it was from my cousin. I could hardly believe it.  Eagerly, I opened the letter and found that Kathy had poured out her soul in that long, detailed letter. She described some incredible events in her life. She unexpectedly gave birth to a baby girl.

Doctors told her that she couldn’t get pregnant. Sometime later, Kathy began experiencing extreme pain and was taken to an urgent care clinic. She was misdiagnosed as having a kidney stone or perhaps a bladder infection. The very next day and while on medication for a possible bladder infection, she returned to the clinic due to increasing pain. She was found to be in labor and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. Kathy and her husband were shocked and amazed for the unexpected and miraculous birth of their daughter, Kristie Lee.

Through the years, Kristie would be an inspiring source of joy to her parents, relatives, friends, and to all who truly get to know her. She would prove herself to be intellectually brilliant, artistic, and to have an eye for beauty she discovers in nature.  She also possesses inside her soul a quiet and tender spirit which you might not see unless; you truly take time to know her.

Later Kathy told me that she and her husband tried to revisit her urgent care doctor who had treated her.  With her newborn daughter in her arms, Kathy wanted to show him her beautiful but misdiagnosed “kidney stone.” They were promptly told that the doctor was no longer at that clinic. Can you imagine the shock and surprise of everyone in that waiting room?

I wrote again and we began corresponding; by letter and by phone. We became more than cousins but friends who could talk about anything.  While Kathy told me about her married life and cute stories of her young daughter, I told her about my job working with adults with developmental disabilities, family in Wisconsin, and my personal life.  We shared about our common faith in Jesus. While Kathy had married, I had remained single which enabled me to do some limited traveling taking in time and limited budget considerations. At this point though, most of my solo journeys were short excursions to Wisconsin to visit family and friends. I had made occasional trips to Iowa too. Like I said, limited traveling.

Several years later, Kathy invited me to visit her in California and I was terrified, “I actually have to get on a plane?” Later and with lingering fear I was up for the adventure of traveling cross country. My first journey to San Diego was a direct flight taking about a three and half hours across mostly sunny skies; I watched from my window the changing view of cities, forests, and mountains.  Farms resembled quilt blocks of grassland and crop fields.

When the jet journeyed downward, the rising topaz-tinted desert appeared on one side of the plane and the deep-blue ocean on my side. Sun rays brightened the clear sky and glimmered on the ocean’s surface making the scene sparkle like a sapphire gem. This picturesque view showed me God was there and was blessing my journey. Apprehensive though, I braced for the final approach as the jet glided towards land and jolted as it touched ground.

At the airport gate, I gathered my belongings, and walked through a curving tunnel. With nervousness, I rounded the last corner stepping into the terminal. The afternoon sun glistened through the airport’s vaulted windows and in the midst of a blinding glow; I glimpsed my cousin in her wheelchair. After 17 years we had reunited. I hurried to give Kathy the warmest hug I could.

“Welcome cousin,” she said in such a warm voice that I forgot my shyness.  Kathy, a sensitive and loving person and we soon felt like sisters and even best friends. During this visit I became acquainted with Kathy’s husband and her daughter, Kristie. While I visited that first time, we managed to visit both Disneyland and SeaWorld. Surprisingly, Disneyland was a disappointment especially for Kathy. Many exhibits and attractions would advertise that they were “handicap accessible” but they really weren’t so; at least not for someone who is in a wheelchair. We did find one interesting attraction that was truly accessible; the Mark Twain Steamboat ride. Kathy was easily able to maneuver onto the boat and find a safe place to park her chair. We all enjoyed the gentle and scenic excursion along their recreation of “Mississippi River”.

Disneyland did have a few other attractions that interested young Kristie and one include “It’s a Small World after all”; a small boat ride through a series of scenes depicting children of all nationalities. Also, I still remember the Alice in Wonderland Teacup for Two Ride. This amusement ride is comparable to the Tit A Whirl which you might see at county fairs. Kristie and I climbed aboard our little teacup and waited for the rid to begin. She notice a turning wheel in the center of our teacup, “What is that for?”

“I don’t know,” I answered and then tried turning the wheel. We found out that the wheel caused the teacup to spin. So I instructed Kristie, “Oh! That makes us spin around. Let’s leave it alone.”

Four year old Kristie did not leave the wheel alone; she did the exact opposite by turning and cranking that wheel as hard as she could. By the way, Kristie is no weakling; when she cranked that wheel, she made it spin faster than any other teacup on that ride. I was convinced we were the fastest spinning teacup in all of America. I became dizzy as the world blurred around me. Finally, our unstoppable teacup came to a halt as the ride ended. I have never forgotten that ride or the adventurous spirit hidden in Kristie.

SeaWorld proved to be interesting as all wildlife exhibits and presentations there were truly accessible for Kathy; this made our visit more enjoyable for all. While there we saw two orca whales, Shamu and Baby Shamu who we learned was just a few weeks old and shared the same birthday as Kristie.  We could see Mother Shamu teaching Baby to swim and turn in the large pool. Another highlight was seeing the splashing, playful dolphins. As I held Kristie in my arms, one eager dolphin flew in the water to our side of the pool showering us in a huge spray of water and parked itself next to Kristie.  Kristie was soaked from head to toe but she delightedly reached out to pet the friendly animal. Over the years, I would also see that Kristie held a special love and fondness for animals and somehow they were attracted to her. She had rescued a number of cats and dogs who became pets. And when one passes away she deeply grieves and suffers a broken heart. At such moments, I realize that she has the softest heart of anyone I know.

Over time, I visited my cousin Kathy and her family as much as I could. We went on adventures together forging new memories and deepening our friendship. We also shared bus-related misadventures and trips to the beach on warm, sunny days. In one bus related mishap, Kathy was stuck, mid-air, on a broken bus lift and we waited hours under a steamy summer sun for her to be rescued. In another misadventure, we boarded the wrong city bus but did not realize this until the bus turned onto Eucalyptus Street heading in the wrong direction. We then got off the bus as soon as we could and endured a long walk home in the dark as no more buses were available that late in the day.

Also taxis were not an option as I was not strong enough to transfer Kathy into a car seat. During this time, accessible transportation options for my cousin were very limited. To keep ourselves calm, we kept up a steady conversation and prayed for God to keep us safe. Kathy’s courage inspired me to remain brave. Today, I don’t remember what our conversation entailed; I just remember the long walk along those California streets in the darkness like venturing through a dimly lit tunnel. Also, Kathy at this point used a manual wheelchair so I pushed her along until we were safely home. I have no doubt that Jesus was watching over us during that journey in the darkness.

Some years later, we camped on Mount Palomar where the sun-filtering forest surrounded us like a colorful, woven blanket handmade by God; it was a quiet refuge from the demanding world far below. We basked in nature’s peacefulness venturing through the woods, picnicking, and relaxing around a campfire.  We visited Mount Palomar Observatory and stayed up late looking through large telescopes, set up in a mountain meadow, to view stars, planets and nebulas. Kathy’s husband and I took turns pushing Kathy’s wheelchair through the long grass so she could gaze through as many telescopes as she wanted. It was a special evening of admiring God’s glowing creations, glittering like jewels embedded in the deep night sky.

The tranquil, emerald-colored mountain was a vivid contrast to the traffic-filled streets, and the sun-scorched climate of Kathy’s everyday life. Years later, she and her family moved to Washington State where they were amid perpetual greenery. Kathy’s daughter, Kristie, who is an artist and nature lover often shoots photos depicting nature’s inspiring beauty. She once asked me, “Do you remember how green it was on Mount Palomar? Well, it’s like that here but it’s everywhere.” The experience of Mount Palomar affected us all and remained a cherished memory in our hearts.

Over the years we’ve all persevered through life’s heartaches and disappointments praying and encouraging each other. In the same year, Kathy’s father passed away, my mother unexpectedly died; together we faced each family holiday with grieving hearts and feeling the emptiness of our parents being gone too soon.

We also encouraged each other in new aspirations. Kristie has grown up and continues to bravely forge out a new life of her own; life is not always easy but she courageously endures and keeps pressing on in sheer determination. She is an example of strength and bravery like I have never seen. In recent years, Kathy, growing in confidence and a desire to do more in her life, took on the tasks of completing her college degree and exploring professional work opportunities. She has earned one college degree and is working on another. We all have met unseen challenges and continue to endure the next chapters of our lives.

Several summers ago, I visited Kathy in her Washington home and we again indulged our adventurous spirits by hiking around woodsy Lake Padden. It was a long, winding journey with a paved trail circling the shimmering lake. The thick green forest surrounded us like a warm and familiar cloak. I instantly remembered Mount Palomar where we had camped, hiked in the mountains, and gazed at the stars. Kathy now used a motorized wheelchair and could easily propel herself up and down the sloping hills of that curving, woodsy trail. However, I worried about the battery losing its charge as we wandered along.   This had happened before with one of Kathy’s previous motorized chairs. Thankfully, that had been a lighter wheelchair; I just needed to switch the gears to manual and push her home.

But now if that battery died, I realized I wouldn’t be able to push her back home again. Not this time as the chair was much heavier. But Kathy knew her wheelchair and her battery readings better than I; she was confident and eager to continue our trek. We finished our journey and with a beaming smile, she exclaimed, “That was my first rolling hike.”

When I think of Kathy and her family, I remember the love and friendship we all share; I also am reminded of God’s words about treasures in heaven when in Matthew 6:20-21 of the Holy Bible we are told, “but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is there your heart will also be”. I went on a quest to find a lost cousin. In return, I had found a new sister and a lifelong friend. I also treasure the friendship I share with her daughter, Kristie.  Each friendship is an unseen treasure granted from God in heaven and a precious gift instilled in my heart.

 

Writing 101 Day 7: Starting with a Quote about Hope

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“But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.”

Holy Bible NIV

I have heard it once said, “Joy is a choice; choose joy.” As I awake on any given morning, gaze out the window, I can choose to be joyful or not. Well, I am also learning along life’s pathway that hope is also a choice. I can wake up on any morning and decide to be hopeful or not. Admittedly, there are days when choosing to be joyful or hopeful are very hard to do when I am in the middle of a difficult situation or perhaps, when I have been disappointed because my latest dream was slashed to pieces.  Or I wake up realizing I have a huge problem.

Several months ago, that is exactly what happened; I woke up one spring morning and found I had no electricity in the house. I wondered around checking all the rooms. As I entered the kitchen and looked out the window, I found a huge problem; a huge tree had fallen during the night and had pulled the electrical wires out of my house. It damaged an entire wall. The lower interior south wall looked fine but once I stepped outdoors, the story changed. A large section of the outer wall was missing and a window from the attic had also flown out.  I was much shaken and wasn’t sure what to do first. Being on my own, there is no one to call for help.  I started with the city utility office and went from there. They had already found my fallen tree and turned off power to my house until I could make repairs. I had to arrange for emergency tree removal, have my wall repaired, fix the electrical hardware, and then I could have power. But all of that could not be done in one day. Completing all the repairs was a long process in which I needed to work with my insurance company and pay my deductible to have everything done.  Also due to lack of power, I was temporarily displaced from my home. My insurance company was really good and paid for my temporary stay in a hotel where I also received hot breakfasts.  Additionally, the hotel was near my worksite so getting to work every day was not a problem. No doubt, God was good as he kept blessing and providing for my needs.

But as this process continued on, it was easy to lose sight of hope. I was so anxious for everything to be fixed in an instant and life be back to normal. My mother did tell me more than once that I was too impatient. The practice of being patience is a lifelong endeavor for me. How I wish I could hear my mom’s gentle and cheerful voice one more time.  Also, my finances tend to be tight so this personal catastrophe was a huge drain. I felt sick to my stomach as I contemplated this latest mess in my life. Furthermore, I was displaced from my home over Mother’s Day weekend. Both my parents have passed away and I didn’t receive the blessing and honor of becoming a mother. Therefore, not only was I temporarily “homeless”, I also was all alone while everyone else I could think of was celebrating and spending special time with their families.  The weather did not help matters either as it was raining with heavy gray clouds in the air; the charcoal gray scene outside my large hotel window seemed to deepen my gloomy mood. So I rested on the unfamiliar bed in tears.

The next day, Sunday which was the dreaded Mother’s Day, on my calendar, I did manage to muster the willfulness to attend church and tried to stay close to God in quiet prayer. Because my own mother wasn’t here and I wasn’t a mom, I knew I would be spending most of the day all alone; a sense of hopelessness, like a large boulder, had parked itself in my stomach. Considering the special family holiday, everyone I met at church had plans to spend with their loved ones.  So, as expected, I returned to my home away from home all alone. But something made today different from yesterday. I was struck by a sense of restless;  felt as if God was nudging me and saying, “Come on, you don’t want to stay cooped up in here all day.” For by now, the weather outside had gradually changed. The dark, soaking rainstorms of yesterday and this morning had finally dissipated. In place of the storms was a bright blue sky beneath brilliant and warm sunshine. No, I didn’t want to stay indoors all day.

I wandered outside where I could smell the fresh spring air and feel the warmth of the sun wrap my bare arms. Since this area was new to me I felt adventurous enough to embark on a new path where my footsteps have never wandered before. Although the highway was nearby, I was also surrounded by the greenery of the ground, the bushes, and the trees.  Singing birds glided and swooped high above me. I smelled sweet lilacs along the way which was a tender reminder of my childhood home where each spring new lilacs bloomed along the road. As I walked along, I felt hopefulness trying to return to calm and soothe my aching soul.  It was as if the Lord was quietly speaking inside of my heart and kindly telling me it was my choice to make. I could continue this day in a sense of gloom and, “oh, woe is me” attitude or I could choose to hope and firmly believe that all will be well and fine; I just needed to continue to trust and believe over time. So with a silent prayer and taking a long, slow breath, I resolved that today I would choose hopefulness.  With a lighter heart and a burst of cheerful energy, I felt that once immovable boulder in my stomach slowly melt away. I continued along, letting God gently speak to me. And being a writer of poetry, I sensed a new poem forming in my thoughts. Often I write poems as a way to remind myself of the little milestones between the Lord and me; my writings are like a memory album of my walk in faith. God had meant for me to remember this day and how I emerged from this long tunnel of dark gloom to embrace renewed hope now resting inside of me.

After the Rain

The sun brightly appears after a stormy spell

Letting everyone know that all again is well.

The shrilling wind has lessened its’ churning

While the pelting rain has ceased it’s drumming.

Trees, shrubs, flowers, and everything green

Is bathed in wetness on this summery day in Spring.

A new fresh scent permeate  the air;

A welcomed sign that the earth is renewed and fair.

Such a sweet blessing to remember and realize

That the loving Lord is in charge: rain, snow, or sunshine.

And at night when the orange setting sun is dipping low,

He stays in charge of all our nights, and our hopes for tomorrow.

Blogging and Writing 101 Day 4: Adventures in Geocaching

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Learning Something New

The love of picturesque walks in nature is shared by my friend Cindy who lives in Wyoming. I went to visit Cindy and her daughter Briana and they introduced me to a new sport: geocaching. Geocaching is a high-tech sport requiring the use of the Internet, and a handheld global positioning system (GPS) device. It often involves long walks, detective work, and a sense of adventure to find a hidden container known as the cache. I enjoy adventures; they add spice to everyday life. So, with this sense of adventure, my friends take me on several geocaching hunts. In doing so we embark on several hikes in the Wyoming wilderness finding that the true reward in geocaching is enjoying the walk and discovering scenic places while finding a secret container.

The Appeal of Geocaching

The desire to track and find the hidden cache is appealing challenge; like a treasure hunt and I am hooked. Since then I have found hidden caches in Wyoming, Minnesota and Wisconsin. I have now added the states of Washington and South Dakota to my list of geocache finds. These Cache containers can be hidden in easy to access locations requiring short walks and little effort while others are hidden in remote places requiring long hikes and an adventurous spirit. These latter are my favorites as I take time to enjoy the journey and the hunt.

A Light-Hearted Adventure

In Wisconsin I go geocaching with my niece, Amber, sharing adventures in tracking down the hidden containers. Amber has sharp eyes that will pierce through the darkest, shadowy places finding the elusive containers.  We discover our first cache on geocaching.com entitled “Trout Haven”. I record the location coordinates in my GPS and we follow its direction to a little-known wilderness area containing a small creek flowing beneath an old, dilapidated bridge, long grass, and trees. When we arrive, we spot two other people there and assume they are fisherman.

Next day we return when no one is around. My GPS indicates the cache is near a certain large tree. I circle the tree plunging unknowingly into a deep, soggy, marsh where thick, tall grass blades surround me like a small forest of young saplings and I am soaked to my ankles. Caches are often hidden so they are protected from nature’s elements. Knowing this, I climb back to dry ground focusing on a different side of the tree.  I and Amber search in crevices and hollowed out areas. I look closer at the base of the tree noticing something hidden under a loose slab of tree bark. Peering closer, I spy a camouflaged peanut butter jar; we find the cache. We discover later that the “fishermen’ had been geocache seekers also and we still laugh about this.

A Wintry Hunt

Amber and I reference the geocaching.com site again embarking on another hunt in a park for a cache known as “Broken and Twisted”. A wintry chill fills the clear, blue sky and the snow is deep. I park my car where it will not get stuck resulting in a longer walk to the cache. We follow the direction my GPS indicates forging a new path through the heavy blanket of gleaming white snow and into the quiet woods where dark trees, motionless as statues, stand stripped of their leafy crowns. The snow makes the trek difficult but we will not give up. We trudge further into the woods finding ourselves underneath a large, arching, twisted branch.

My GPS reads, “00.00” feet meaning we are near the elusive cache Amber’s piercing eyes are at work as she searches upward into the dangling, broken tree limb, “I see it” and promptly reaches for a small object lodged high in the tree branch (this time a black 35 mm film container). Then I realize I had forgotten a pen as this cylinder container is too small to have one but it does have a small log for recording our visit. My niece is not happy with me. Oops.

Nature’s Unseen Choir

I engage in plenty of geocache hunts where I am unsuccessful in finding the hidden container; I revisit the same places to try again and I know the extra walking is good exercise for me. One place I return to find hidden caches is a wilderness area near my home in Minnesota; eventually, I find the caches. For each visit I endure at least 30 to 40 minutes of fast-paced walking beneath a long canopy of green foliage circumventing a quiet lake. I see red-winged blackbirds fluttering and swooping between the trees while ducks float in the lapping water. Sounds of singing birds fill the air. In the evening frogs and crickets announce their presence with their chorus of croaks and chirps escalating to an incredible ear-splitting crescendo; I marvel at the melody of this unseen choir.

Geocaching has Interesting History

Geocaching is a new sport gaining popularity and is now in its 15th year.  According to a “History of Geocaching” website, geocaching began in the year 2000 with a single hidden container near Portland, Oregon and one posting on the web; then new containers have been hidden in California, Kansas, and Illinois. The next secret container resides hidden in faraway Australia and from there it branches worldwide. This new game is based on using the global navigational system developed by the US Dept. of Defense using orbiting satellites.

Getting Started in Geocaching

Geocache sites are registered at geocaching.com and other websites. A geocache seeker must register and log on the website to access the most current information about hidden cache sites. This is important because geocache sites are sometimes temporarily disabled or permanently removed. For each hidden cache, the seeker obtains the longitude and latitude coordinates inputting them into his GPS device.  Handheld GPS devices can be purchased at department stores, sporting goods store, and online. I had purchased mine from Amazon.com.

Geocaching Mishaps

As a geocache seeker, I recommend double checking the coordinates to ascertain they have been entered correctly into the GPS. The geocache seeker will have an inaccurate reading if off by one digit resulting in failure to locate the hidden cache. I realize this mistake once when I find myself standing on the banks of the Minnesota River with my GPS indicating for me to continue trekking deep into the flowing current. Later I check my GPS entry against the website confirming an error.

Being Prepared for the Adventure

The hidden cache is a container usually full of trinkets, log book, and a writing utensil; some caches are too small to contain trinkets or a pen. The cache containers range in different shapes and sizes.  A good idea is maintaining a small geocaching backpack or bag (I use a slightly oversized camera bag) with supplies including pen or pencil, tablet to write down extra clues from the website entry, trinkets, camera, and extra batteries for the GPS.  Wearing hiking shoes and other appropriate apparel is wise along with having a cell phone. As in any sport, being safe and prepared enhances the geocaching adventure.

Finding the Cache

When a cache is found the geocache seeker records his registered geocache name and date in the log book as proof he has found the cache. He also has an option to make a trade with the selection of trinkets in the cache.  The basic rule is to trade fairly or trade up.  If a geocache seeker selects a trinket then he also adds a trinket of equal or higher value. In this manner, there is always a small “treasure” to be found by the next geocache seeker.  Back at home, the geocache seeker logs back onto the geocaching website recording his progress and adding notes about his geocaching adventure. His entry becomes available for others to read.

A Breath-Taking View and Nourishment for the Soul

Several summers ago, I had returned to Wyoming to revisit my friends and we embark on several geocache hunts. One memorable experience involves climbing a small mountain to its peak and finding an old fire lookout station. This climb is a workout in maneuvering uphill over rocky and treacherous terrain and I realize that my Wyoming friends are in better physical shape than I. Even so, I am elated to be with them and eager to reach the top.

With joy and a sense of accomplishment, I made it to the peak with my friends. After viewing the old lookout station we search for the cache by checking for crevices in nearby rocks, looking under loose stones, and around trees. Cindy finds the cache and we all enjoy the scenery; a breathtaking, high-altitude, panoramic view of the hunter-green, forested valleys below and the distant, tree-topped mountains surrounding us. With longing, I gaze around letting the scene nourish my soul. This is the joy and the adventure of geocaching. I enjoy more scenic walks and discover new places in nature which I would never have known if I did not participate in the fun and the adventure of geocaching.

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Blogging 101 and Writing 101: A Letter to my Visitors

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Welcome to my personal blog and I am so happy you dropped by. I was recently given the assignment to blog about “Why I write.” It is my hope that you find something that you enjoy here. I now have been blogging on this site for a little over a year. I use this blog site as an avenue of expressing myself through writing poetry and some stories. I also try to share some of my photos. I tend to be this very introverted person who is leading a very quiet life most of the time. I try to be more extroverted but that is often quite a challenge for me to do. I go to work almost every day and have contact with co-workers and some very close friends. I also keep contact with family and visit them when I can. But at times I will try to be more outgoing or something. If I do seem to become somehow too outspoken or say the wrong thing, it doesn’t take too much to knock me down and I just disappear for a while; sometimes a long while depending on the situation.

Anyway, about a year ago, I became very frustrated with myself being stuck in this shyness cocoon where I am too afraid to come out and just be myself.  I felt I had neat things to share and needed someone to share them with. So I got this great idea to try blogging. I set up my blog on WordPress but then didn’t know what to do with it. So I read and studied up on blogging to see what it was all about. I also visited other blogs to see how it was done. I found blogs on all sorts of subjects. I learned that a blogger needed to write with a purpose and maintain a consistent theme. That way, readers may become familiar the type of blog one writes and come to know what they may expect at one’s blog site. I then arrived at the idea of using my blog to share my poetry and to hopefully, be upbeat and encouraging to others. So I came up with the theme, “on a quest to find inspiration in everyday life.” It is often too easy for me to become downtrodden and discouraged. So,  I am on this personal quest to discover inspiration for myself and for others who might want to follow my blog.

Keeping up with the blog is very motivational for me as well as a challenge as I do go through dry spells. But overall, I tend to write poems and try to share interesting stories as a way to share a piece of myself. I write about my faith, things I find in nature that inspire me, and some personal stories. I continue to hope that all who visit find something that might encourage them. Blogging has become a winding and spiritual journey; I hope you enjoy seeing a piece of my blogging journey. Thank you again, for visiting my blog and may you be blessed in a very special way today.

 

Thinking about my Dad on his Birthday

 

Me and My Dad

Today, June 4th, is my dad’s birthday; he was born in 1942 and passed away when he was just 58 years old.  It is hard to believe that he has been gone from our lives now for 15 years. My dad had this quiet personality but with a very hearty laugh. When something struck his funny bone, he would roar in joyous laughter that echoed through the house. He worked for many years in an iron mine and later for another 10 years in a tire factory. Additionally, he farmed and sometimes was self-employed as an electrician. He did everything he could think of to pay the bills and make ends meet. I am convinced that his very best friend in life was his older brother John who was born in 1941 and also passed on in 2010. Even though they lived far apart in their adult years, they shared a special closeness.

My dad also possessed a sense of adventure and wonderment. In 1969 when man first stepped on the moon, my dad watched enthralled. He held me on his lap and pointed to the TV, “See, Becky, they’re walking on the moon.” When I was still very little, he liked to swim and let me ride on his stomach while he laid on his back floating. Years later, he showed his sense of adventure by taking us on a family trip out west. We traveled as far as Utah and visited family there. Other highlights of that trip included seeing Mt. Rushmore and camping at Yellowstone National Park. We spent many summer weekends camping in Hatfield.

As a father, he was stern when he thought he needed to be but also very loving when someone most needed it. At least that was how he was to me. And his gift of joyous laughter with twinkling eyes will always stay with me. He could regale in humorous animation a lively story of his childhood. His Christmas Skis story comes to mind. He also loved watching a comedy or a movie that could really bring out that laughter. But other times he would watch a movie and give it more serious thought. We once had a conversation about the old Christmas movie, It’s a Wonderful Life. Through the course of the movie, the main character, George Bailey (played by Jimmy Stewart) is very unhappy and in a dire predicament although through no fault of his doing. The situation seems hopeless to George and he doesn’t want to continue in his life. Near the end of the movie, George is happily running down the street. His dire situation had not yet changed. My dad puzzled over this saying, “His situation had not changed and yet suddenly he was happy.”

“No,” I slowly commented in my own quiet way, “His situation hadn’t changed; just his perspective.”

“Yeah,” my dad’s face lit up now satisfied, “His perspective changed and THAT was the point of the movie.”

My dad’s laughter and his quiet moments of wonder and thoughtfulness are gifts that I will always treasure in my heart.