Tag Archives: Relationships

Helping Hands

We lost a sincere songwriter and creative musician with the death of Bill Withers. He will be missed. We are fortunate to have his songs to help us remember. One especially moving song is a tribute to a special person in his life who helped guide him in both big and little ways. That person was his grandma. Her hands were strong when they needed to be. They were tender at the right time. They could express many emotions. Many of us had a grandma in our lives who did those things for us when we needed a helping hand.


Working From Home

Some notes from our daughter…

Snapshot of life in our house:

22 year old is on her laptop at the kitchen island dialed in to a 3 hour college course where everyone in class is talking with each other for 3 hours. Quiet required. Every Monday morning.

Husband is sitting at the kitchen table on his laptop dialed in to his Monday morning meeting (NASA). Totally not important stuff.

13 year old is *also* sitting at the kitchen table on a laptop emailing his teachers (upon my instructions) and asking for clarification as to what exactly they are expected to do during this time at home because he is certain the packets are optional. Mom is making him get confirmation from his teachers before throwing in the towel. Because, clearly, I have been misinformed. Big sigh. Eye roll. Walk away.

20 year old sits in the next room 10 feet away (no doors) on the desktop dialed in to her new online college experience. Have fun doing this for the rest of the school year kiddo.

15 year old sits in the next room (no doors) on the desk top dialed in to his online school which he has been doing online for the past 3 years…completely frustrated by this new LOUD learning environment he is expected to function in with *seven people* under one roof. Unacceptable. This is clearly not going to work, mother.

The 9 year old and I are having a late start to our day in my bedroom watching cartoons while waiting for an electronic device to open up so he can start his school day. My new playmate

We have implemented 3pm Monday – Friday as our “quiet time” cut off. Trying to be more respectful of everyone’s needs. Which, of course, requires a rule. This experiment is crazy making, at best. Pray for big families who struggle with “quiet time” on a good day. We are a LOUD family people…I’m not sure how this apocalypse is going to work

I forgot to say that I am used to being alone. And now I am NEVER alone. I know there are a few of you out there who can relate. And that doesn’t even begin to address the GLOBAL PANDEMIC happening outside our doors. Lord, we ask that you give us strength to survive this. All of this.


Getty Images | iStockphoto | Christian Chan


After Mom’s stroke, she was unable to care for herself or Dad. She was a strong and capable woman, raised nine children, and lived a farm life. They were married over 66 yrs when her stroke happened. It removed her from Dad’s life one dark winter night. He prayed for her return. He wasn’t ready to let her go. He held tight to the dream of getting her back.

22 Sept 2000

Many of us lived near enough to give Dad daily rides to the nursing home to be with her. She didn’t get better. The efforts to bring him each day became more difficult for him and for us. It seemed best for him to stay in the nursing home with her. The staff gave them much gentle care and attention.

Dad died on 28 March 2002. Mom on 16 May 2005. Maybe they are hand-in-hand again.

Tools of Engagement

by Jim and Melanie

Before internet, talk radio, and social media platforms, it was not so easy to express your opinion in public. Your choices included speaking to the person(s) face-to-face, calling them, public demonstration, and writing a letter to the editor. Today, we have access to multiple tools that allow us to express our opinions and engage with those with whom we agree and disagree.

Is this a good thing? It can be argued both ways. I am like most people. I like having the tools to socialize with others. I enjoy discussion both in person and online. We are social beings. We band together with others who share our viewpoints. People have always been that way.

People have also always disagreed with others and their viewpoints. This aspect of human nature combines with our ubiquitous tools for engagement to cause some of the problems we are seeing today. The tools of social engagement have sharpened the differences between people.

One can express a multitude of reactions to a Facebook post by simply clicking a button. Nothing more is expected. One can give thumbs up or thumbs down on some online posts. One can call talk radio shows on a wide range of topics and express your good, bad, or ugly viewpoint. One can write the most vile of remarks in the comments sections of stories that don’t deserve that kind of treatment. Why?

In my opinion, it is not that people are any worse than ever before. I think they have too many easy tools to put their negative feelings out there at all times of day and on nearly everything online. These tools work too fast. In the past, we had to think over something we didn’t like. We had to go see the person(s). We had to organize a protest. We had to write a letter and wait for it to be published. Not today. It happens in seconds.

Recently, I read a reminder on Facebook of something I posted six years ago.

It’s time to stop viewing the other as always wrong, with nothing positive to offer. In our families, towns and communities, we accept differences of opinion and decide to work with
the things we agree on. It solves problems we face. Why make more trouble by being obstinate, unyielding and inflexible? Nothing gets done.

Things don’t seem any better than they were then. In fact, they seem worse.

The Daughter Files

The view on one daughter’s Facebook wall today…

Being a mother is like trying to juggle 15 balls at once. Flaming balls. While someone throws marbles at you. And you are on a unicycle blindfolded in a rainstorm. And there are 5 people talking to you all at once then getting mad because you didn’t answer and clearly didn’t listen. And they want to know if you were a superhero and could fly over hot lava would your cape catch on fire and who built the first yurt and how long would you live if you had no eyeballs. And the math. Sweet Jesus. The math. It all sounds like: if Tom has 7 oranges and Paul has 13 triangles, how long would it take Susie to travel West 3.5 miles if she is wearing a green shirt? Explain how you got your answer. And then when you get mad at them for a sassy comment they say “God wants you to calm down.” And how can you argue with that?!?! Then 5 minutes later they tell you you are the best mommy ever and they love you more than the whole wide universe to infinity and beyond. And your heart melts and you think…can I remember this moment forever? The way they smile at you like you have all the answers and how their sweet faces look when they sleep. And even though you have fallen asleep in every movie you have tried to watch for the last 10 years you realize how blessed and thankful you are to wake up and do it all over again. This crazy, loud, amazing life. I can’t get enough.

And this on other daughter’s wall another day…

I love when God decides to show off a little. When He subtly nudges me and reminds me that He is way ahead of me – and he has totally GOT this. I especially like it when this occurs at a time when I am not so self-absorbed that I miss it. Today was what I call a “Hindenburg Day”. It was a day when nothing went as expected – and there were casualties. It started off with me turning the dryer on WITH THE CAT IN IT, and ended with my son telling me I should try to be nicer tomorrow. I began counting down the hours ’till bedtime right after lunch, and I limped across the finish line tonight and fell into my bed feeling pretty much like an epic failure who is systematically destroying my children’s lives and futures – just by breathing. I spent a few minutes fantasizing about flying off alone to an unpopulated tropical island with a suitcase of books and a carry-on full of chocolate. Then I opened a book I’ve been reading and the VERY FIRST words I read were these

You are stronger than you know.
You are loved more than you realize.
You are part of a greater plan, and nothing can stop God’s purposes for you.
You’re going to be okay.
I promise. But more importantly: God promises.
Take heart, friend. Good things are ahead.

So, I guess…as my dear friend, Lemuel would say…”‘Nuff said.”

Ruminations on personal writing

by Melanie in IA

You know how I write, partly to make sense of things? You know how I reveal a fair amount, but fairly quietly? Sometimes I don’t want to do that. Sometimes I want to be really forthright, loud, say it out loud. Sometimes I’m tired of censoring and being restrained and editing my words so someone unseen won’t take them wrong. Usually that unseen person either a) won’t read them at all or b) doesn’t matter at all. Why censor myself for them?

Why not just say exactly what I think, how I think it? Why not explain exactly what happened, about ANYTHING, and how I feel about it? Why not name names? Why not burn bridges? Why worry what anyone else thinks?

I wish I could go all out like that. I think I would be a better writer if I learned to be more bold. If I felt comfortable like that. But I don’t trust enough, ironically. Trust only goes so far.


by Melanie in IA

Who needs it, really? What does it mean to forgive someone, and why is forgiveness important?

I grew up un-churched, a heathen, so my faith-structure is weak. But I still have a belief in a higher power, a god-creator, if nothing else. I do believe in love and forgiveness and connection. I believe we are connected. I believe love is ours for the accepting, that we are all worthy of love.

Forgiveness is a more difficult concept, but my god would not require a physical human sacrifice to allow us all forgiveness. I believe the sacrifice, instead, is in humbling ourselves, in reviewing our wrongs, in asking for forbearance for our humanness, our imperfections. We need to forgive ourselves for this, and we need to forgive each other for this. I don’t know if we need to ask God for forgiveness, but where we have hurt each other, part of humbling ourselves is asking the other for that special grace, that blessing. We need to learn to see each other’s perfection, and have compassion for each other’s faults.

So what happens when we ask for forgiveness and it is not granted, when we apologize sincerely and it is not accepted?

Does that mean the other person only sees the flaws in us and not the goodness? And how should we see ourselves when that happens? As something less? Less worthy? No. For me, my need to be forgiven is largely ego-driven. Once I take the ego out of it, I can accept the situation either way.

Or should it change how we see the person we have injured? Should I be angry with them? Are they trying to make me mad, make me withdraw? At what point, for self-protection, should my attitude change from one of humbling myself to one of saying, “Fine, you won’t forgive me. I am a good person, despite your opinion. If you won’t forgive me, perhaps you are the one who is flawed.” How generous is it to give in to anger that way?

Again, for me, it’s irrelevant.

Something I know: life is short. People are human and make mistakes. I believe forgiving is important, part and parcel of loving them, accepting them as they are. I believe apologizing sincerely and with no expectations of mercy is important, too. That is the humbling part.

Yes, life is short. When things go wrong in your relationships, do you want to leave things the way they are? Do you want to reconcile and try to make the relationship better than it was?

Or do you really want, or really need, to cut off the relationship completely? Is it toxic? Is it healthier on the whole if it ends, if forgiveness is not granted? How do you come to that decision?

What examples do you have of forgiving or being forgiven? On a personal level only, what insults or wrongs are not forgivable? Does it matter if it is a one-time incident or a recurring problem? Have you ever granted forgiveness and wished you had not?

Tell me what you believe about forgiving. Tell me your stories of being human and asking for forgiveness.

Friendship is a tricky thing

by Melanie

It can be hard to know who is a friend and who is not. merriam-webster.com defines “friend” variously as “one attached to another by affection or esteem” and as “one that is not hostile.” That’s pretty wide ranging, just in terms of the emotional implications.

If we’re only concerned about those that are not hostile, I have lots of friends. Most of them, though, are what I consider to be friendly acquaintances. We can enjoy each other’s company, virtually or in person. We can commiserate and laugh, but the connection is limited by circumstance. Work friends often are amiable, but when work is over for the day, or the employment ends, the tie is broken. The same thing happens in neighborhoods or as “band moms,” or any number of other occupational or locational connections. And it happens on-line, as well. We’re happy to be together for a time, but we are only tenuously bound.

Real friends are different. Real friends are available when needed to offer support and comfort, to share a laugh, to tell stories, and to sit quietly. They are true beyond circumstance, and emotional connection continues, even when a particular occasion or employment does not. I don’t have a lot of friends like that.

In my opinion, friendship takes some effort, and most of us simply aren’t willing to make that effort for just anyone. No matter how much someone “likes” me and enjoys being with me, unless they and I have time and energy to invest, we may not become friends.

I read an interesting blog post recently, discussing internet friendships. The question at hand was whether friendships that are online only are “real.” I believe they can be; I believe they are for some people. My experience is mixed.

In the past couple of years there have been people I would have counted as friends, who I only knew from online contact. Now I think my understanding of those relationships was wrong. For one, in particular, I was completely off base. It turned from amiable and warm to quite hostile, much to my surprise. Another, I thought, deepened over time.

The quilt you see above, a labor of love made by me, was a gift last month to that friend. Since then he acknowledged my gift in an email, only after I inquired as to whether it had arrived. Other than that, I have not heard from the receiver. It’s hard to express my disappointment in words. But I get it. Though I was available to him for comfort and support while he went through a traumatic event, I am not truly part of his life. Though a big part of my world was rocked from related events, he is not available to me, when I need comfort. I am not part of his life. I get it. But it hurts.

And based on these experiences my guard is up. I’ve built armor I never had before. Though I am open, and will continue to share my thoughts and emotions with others, I’ll be wary of becoming emotionally involved with anyone I only know online.

For the most part, I’ll save my attachments mostly for my “real world” friends. I can see their faces, touch their hands. Some of them I don’t see often, but the context and contact has a different basis. I know their affection is real, that each of them would help me if needed. And I am there for them, too.

Friendship is a tricky thing. But even given disappointments in that arena, I have good friends. In that regard, I’m very fortunate indeed.