Embracing embraces. And the number 28.

Are you a hugger? I wasn’t as a child. It wasn’t our family’s “thing”. That’s okay, I suppose. Pretty sure all you non-huggers are tolerating the COVID-19 restriction policies better than us huggers. Though I’ve grown into being a hugger (with a few limits), during these pandemic days I truly treasure all the human interaction I can get. Smiles (that you can actually see on an unmasked face), hugs, elbow bumps, conversation. Anything, I tell ya. Growl at me even.

One of our daughters was not much of a hugger as a child. One of our daughters was known for her hugs. Oddly enough, as adults that has changed by 180 degrees. The non-hugger hugs, the hugger hugs reluctantly. Their grandmother Lena was adamantly opposed to being hugged. Didn’t mean she was harsh and unloving, quite the opposite. But. NO HUGS. Well, unless you were her grandchild/great grandchild. Her face would light up when getting hugs from any of that group of twenty-eight human beings.

In October of 2008 the hubby and I spent a couple weeks in France. It was a business trip for him, and while he was at work I explored the vast expanse of Paris. Solo. Armed with camera and purse hidden under my jacket. Did I look cute? Of course not. Our hotel was a distant 12 subway stops from the heart of the city and I became pretty familiar with how to get around. One day I took myself to the Louvre and surrounding area. Since it was a gorgeous day I opted to stroll through the Tuileries Garden.

Jardin de Tuileries, Paris

Here is one picture I took on this stroll. If you look really close, maybe zoom in to the center of the pic, you will see a couple. They were enjoying their day with a lunch at one of the tables in the garden. I watched their happy faces, heard their laughter, and though I heard their conversation it was not in a language I could understand. Italian, maybe. But the love between this man and woman was undeniable. As I got closer to them I saw a camera in the woman’s hand. Not a cell phone camera with selfie option. Those days hadn’t quite happened yet. The woman was trying to take their picture. I caught her eye and somehow communicated that I would love to take their picture for them. You would have thought I’d offered her a large sum of money. She handed me her camera and I took several pictures. Then she indicated that she wanted a picture with me. This certainly surprised me, good grief why would anyone want their picture taken with me there in the center of the Tuileries garden? My jacket looked like a black trenchcoat, my face was…..well….my face. My shoes looked like orthotics for the elderly. I dress for comfort. Always.

The photo shoot went on while “conversation” was accomplished only by smiles and gestures and just an atmosphere of kindness. Friendliness between strangers with a serious language barrier. After the three of us spent some time looking through the digital images on their camera I turned to leave. At that point the woman reached out her arms with a smile, and embraced me with a brief but firm hug. I returned the embrace and we waved goodbye.

As I walked away I just couldn’t help but think about how wonderful that experience had been. Totally unexpected. No names were exchanged, no words actually even spoken. In all likelihood we’ll never see each other again. Just a brief encounter that I’ll never forget.

Sometimes I think God has unique ways of administering hugs to us. Wordless hugs. Warm and unexpected embrace from the One who loves us most. On this particular day he used a random couple in a beautiful place so far away from my normal life. Angels unaware, perhaps.

And I think He most definitely used Lena’s twenty-eight precious young grands and great grandchildren to hug her on His behalf over the years. We’re approaching the first anniversary of her passing and I know every one of those twenty-eight would give anything to hug her one more time.

Do yourself a favor, embrace being embraced. 🙂 It will work wonders for your heart and soul.

Purpose and Plans.

We’re retired. It’s been two years now. Since we love to travel and have a fifth wheel, we looked into ways we could incorporate both of those into our life plan. Doors opened for us to volunteer at faith based camps while living part-time in our fifth wheel and in the fall of 2019 we had our first stint in eastern Oklahoma. After the first month we loved it so much that we quickly signed up for another month.

And it seemed we’d found our purpose.

Do you select a “word” for each year? I started doing this a couple years ago. Early in 2020 I selected my “word”. 2019’s word had been “grace”, and for 2020 I selected “servanthood”. After all, it went right along with our purpose and plans.

We right away signed up for more places to volunteer. Late February of 2020 found us on our first project of the year in a small camp northwest of Fort Worth, Texas. The wonderful people there work with children that have learning disabilities and/or social/emotional difficulties. Lovely little place way out in a very rural area on a gravel road, so peaceful and quiet. Perfect place to serve.

After 5 days of working there, my mother-in-love’s health condition deteriorated quickly and we abruptly returned to Kansas. She passed away two days later. We subsequently put a hold on our volunteering to work on selling her home and wrapping up other details.

And then, unless you’ve been living under a rock in a hallucinatory state you are well aware what happened next in 2020. The pandemic. Ugly old Coronavirus put a stop to life as we knew it. “We” being every person on the planet. Our opportunity to serve at faith-based camps took a hit.

It’s now the new year, 2021. It feels like my 2020 “word” of the year, servanthood, was a failure. We had been so very certain that God’s plan for us was traveling and volunteering. That was our vision of what servanthood would be. It was our purpose and plan.

Consider this scriptural reality: “Many are the plans in a person’s heart,
    but it is the Lord’s purpose that prevails.”. Proverbs 19:21

Finding the Lord’s purpose in 2020 was not an easy thing for me. Discouragement was the easy thing. Simply B, with my promise of “simple stories and encouraging words”….. well Simply B is far, far from being immune to discouragement.

So what do I think God was trying to teach me, maybe you, too?

In the year 2020, when the world was upside down and “imprisoned” by a virus, God was still at work. It was the perfect opportunity for Him to strip away pre-conceived notions about what it means to follow Christ. For someone who firmly adhered to the practice of regular and dedicated church attendance, it was a real wake-up call. Following Christ, being His Church, doesn’t happen inside a church building sitting comfortably in a church pew. And it’s not a checklist of Things You Can Do To Prove You’re A Good Christian. Because, there is no way we can be good enough, do enough good things, to earn what Christ freely gives us.

It seems there’s something important here I need to learn. God can use us, God will use a servant heart even when that servant is unaware. I kind of think you and I will never know exactly how others have been helped by our simplest actions. If we could see what God sees we might be amazed by how the smallest insignificant seeming action was a real blessing to others. Life changing, even, if our actions point the way to Jesus. Maybe even just a smile or hug. Or a cup of water, etc., in His name. (Matthew 25: 34-40 if ya want to read what Jesus has to say) You and I just have no real comprehension of how God uses us to impact His world, His children. And that’s how it needs to be. We shouldn’t require pats on the back and high fives. The glory is His alone.

So what’s my word for 2021? I believe I’ll choose the word “Remember”. Because I so quickly forget that being a Christ follower isn’t about being good or doing good works. It’s about Jesus and His amazing love and grace that changes hearts and lives, accomplishing His purpose in big and small ways. Even when we have no idea how we’re part of His plan. It’s His work that he does through hearts committed to Him.

I want to remember to seek Him always, drop the worry tendency, and trust Him to use us however He sees fit.

Remember.

Oddly enough, the last month of 2020 included a totally unexpected trip through Death Valley. And we found totally unexpected beauty. The year 2020 was most definitely an unexpected trip. The whole year had a “death valley” feel about it, but oh it had beauty, too. Well hidden, but it was there.

Wait for it

If you’ve read many of my blog posts you know that I was one of those surprise package bonuses for my folks. They were in their forties when I was born and my three sisters were all teenagers.

Life is just weird for us surprise packages. A good weird, a difficult weird, hard to explain.

By the time I was nearly 3 or so, two of my sisters had left home for college, marriage, life. My oldest sister with her special needs remained in our home.

The minute my two sisters left home for adulthood, I began to miss them. A lot. I do not remember ever living under the same roof as them, but their absence from my life affected everything about my life. This isn’t a pout fest or pity party, life was still good. Just not as good as I imagined it would be if Lois and Wilma were living with us. In the same house.

Wilma eventually lived close to us again and having her nearby was a blessing. And so very much fun. We had a big music connection, we had a big Jesus connection.

Lois lived many hours away. Always. And I longed for her visits home, or our visits to her home. Our trips to visit her started with the two hour drive from Minneapolis (Ks) to Wichita on old highway 81. In one of our Chevy cars. We only drove Chevies or Buicks. GM only. It was the law of my Dad.

While visiting Lois in Wichita I tasted my first pizza. From likely the first ever Pizza Hut in the whole world! Pepperoni pizza. So good. And Wichita had a Kentucky Fried Chicken which my dad was totally in love with. Eventually I would take extended solo visits to help Lois care for her little boy while she worked. She introduced me to Taco Tico, which at the time seemed like exotic foreign food. Something you just could not get in little Minneapolis. Mmmmm good. She took me to the Wichita Zoo. In those days it was just a tiny little spot in Riverside Park. Birds and monkeys. But boy, I was wowed. And she had a Magnavox stereo system with a stacking turntable and LP’s. The Mamas and Papas, Barbra Streisand, etc. My favorite was “Chet Atkins Picks on the Beatles”. Yes, I was/am an “old soul”. I was raised by (fantastic) old souls. And we had neither a stereo nor LP player of any sort. My childhood home had a small desk top radio on a desk near the dining table where KFRM AM station played every morning from Concordia Kansas. Farm and ranch reports. Country western music. Every morning this woke me up along with the smell of coffee.

Lois gave me a taste of a life that was so very different, so much “younger” than my life with our parents and my oldest sister. So much fun. (please don’t misunderstand: I had a wonderful loving home with my parents. NO COMPLAINTS)

Those stays with Lois were like winning the grand prize to me.

She taught me how to play Scrabble. She taught me how to play tennis. She taught me all about her favorite make/models of cars. (She always drove the coolest cars). She worked as a Medical Laboratory Technologist.

And I wanted to one day beat her in Scrabble. And I wanted one day to beat her in tennis. And I wanted to one day drive cool cars like hers. And I wanted one day to be a lab tech.

Spoiler alert: I never ever beat her in tennis. Seriously, I am 16 years younger than her, why did she never slow down? She never even let me win. Nope. But Scrabble? I could compete.

Over the years, I waited eagerly for the day I would live near all my sisters. But Lois ended up moving to the west coast. Beautiful California. The first time we visited them in California I crossed her move back to Kansas off my wish list. Why on earth would she ever want to leave California? Good grief, I didn’t even want to go back home to Kansas after our first visit to California some 38 years ago.

And then, last August, Lois and her husband were visiting us in Kansas. As they were walking from our door to get in their truck and head back to California she turned to me and said “Keep your eyes open for a house we might buy here.” I looked at her husband and he said “Yeah, we’re getting old, we’re ready to leave California”. I could not believe my ears.

But you better believe before their vehicle was out of sight I was already searching for homes to buy on the internet. I dragged my husband all over Wichita to open houses and model homes. Taking pictures and videos, doing live video tours with Lois. With the help of an amazing realtor (thanks, Rebecca) I found a home just 3.4 miles from our home. Within three months it looked like the move was perhaps going to happen.

We helped them prep their home for sale in California, then we returned after it sold to help them make the trip back to Kansas.

Home. She came home. The wait is over. Could I now beat her at tennis? Probably not. Even though she’s fixing to add one year to….several. I’m 16 years younger but also old. **sigh** It’s okay. We’re pretty much unbeatable at Dominos.

And we both love and trust Jesus. That’s really the best part. One day all of us sisters will be together forever.

Every time I drive down Woodlawn I look to the right and see their home. It is just so amazing to be able to drive less than 5 minutes and be at my sister’s home. Worth the wait.

Happy Birthday, Lois.

2020. California birthday visit. Tell me again, why did you want to move to Kansas, Lois?

Let go of my Legos

Fifteen years ago I became a grandmother.

About eleven years ago, I bought my first ever Lego set for the boy who made me a grandma.

About eleven years and one minute ago, I became just a little obsessed with the delightfulness of Legos. So did said grandboy. We spent many hours building one thing after another, as the coins rapidly left our bank account.

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Ebay lessons and Cabbage.

(Originally posted back in 2017….needed the recipe contained in this so I republished it. )

It’s been a week of education for Simply B in the fine art of using Ebay to purchase stuff.  I’m a relative newby, just mainly buying stuff outright and not bidding on it.  But this week I decided to bid on Castillian plates to add to the 2 that were given to me from my mom’s kitchen.   And I learned a vital lesson.   Once you place a bid on an Ebay item, you may well win that bid.  And once you win that bid….well….you pay for the item and it’s yours.  It’s a contract of sorts.  I guess I thought I’d win the bid then be able to decide if I really wanted them.  So far I have 10 Castillian plates.  There may be more on the way, who knows.  I kind of got carried away once the bidding started.  Wow.  No biggie.  I guess.  Haven’t checked our bank account balance.  Perhaps I should.  😅 Continue reading “Ebay lessons and Cabbage.”

Pep And Petrol

Small town America loves their school activities. That was certainly the case in my very small hometown high school during the 60’s and 70’s. Friday night football and Tues/Friday basketball would bring every loyal citizen who could still breathe and walk out to watch “their kids” play.

And for students, even if you weren’t part of the team, you were still part of the team. Some were in marching band. Some were cheerleaders. Some took turns working the concession stands. Some dressed up as the Lion Mascot. And the rest of us? Well we were part of the team too. Thanks to Pep Club.

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The rest of the story….

Percival and Augusta**.    Long ago they lived across the street from my family in a small super-modest old home with peeling paint and many many many cats.  And one little dog.   There was a front porch.  There was a back porch.  There’s no trace left of where Percival and Augusta spent their sad life.  But my mind will never lose the image of that home and the couple who lived there. Continue reading “The rest of the story….”

Through

I was the last chance.

My folks were the parents of three teenage daughters when, out of the blue (or pink?) I came along. Another stinking girl. I have mental pictures of my dad, age 47, going from the hope of hearing “it’s a boy!!” to “oh, well”.

I was the last chance for him to have a boy to hang out with and enjoy time together. A son, a kindred spirit, a little Benton. He had three teenage girls. Just wrap your brain around that fact for one moment. At least once a month you KNOW my dad wished he had sons.

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Rising numbers. Rrrrrrip.

My collection of numbers has become pretty large. Too many birthdays has added a ton of numbers to my age. And I seem to have an uncanny ability to add numbers to my weight. Though it’s tempting to blame COVID19 and the whole stay-at-home scene on the weight dealio, that would be a lie.

All these numbers have resulted in gravitational effects and odd changes to my already unfortunate configuration of body parts.

Continue reading “Rising numbers. Rrrrrrip.”

Dear Younger Me

My breath was taken away and tears came to my eyes. Not gonna lie, they even rolled down my cheeks.

A friend of mine shared a photo with me. She’d found it in an old yearbook of her mom’s.

Me. Age fifteen. The one school picture that never made it to a frame on the top of the piano with the other pictures of me and my sisters. I had totally forgotten about this particular photograph. I doubt there are prints of it anywhere, except of course the old yearbook.

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Bunny, Bird, and Boo

Let me just preface this post with this statement: I love animals. Yes, I do. Now just plant that fact in your brain while you read the rest of this.

Our oldest daughter went off to college many years ago at Kansas State University and began dorm life. Our youngest daughter was four years younger, just a high school sophomore at the time.

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Mixed values; unexpected ho-hums

Got some time on my hands. You too? I refuse to use the C word or the P word though. If you’re reading this in say, 2030, and you have no clue what C and P words are, then you indeed are most fortunate. Be deeply thankful. And just go ahead and search for “historic events in the year 2020” if curiosity has the best of ya.

So while roaming about the house during the past week or so, organizing, cleaning, avoiding stir craziness, I came across a few items with stories to tell.

Continue reading “Mixed values; unexpected ho-hums”

Talking to myself and feeling (fill in the blank)

If you’re my age, and if you’re a girl (well, OLD girl), you probably once loved listening to the smooth voice of Karen Carpenter. The Carpenters. One of their most popular songs was Rainy Days and Mondays. “Talking to myself and feeling old” “Sometimes I’d like to quit, nothing ever seems to fit”. Such upbeat lyrics. NOT. Sadly, the line about “nothing ever seems to fit, like to quit” ? Karen died from anorexia at a young age.

I talk to myself and you probably do, too. Please tell me you do. 🙂

Continue reading “Talking to myself and feeling (fill in the blank)”

Smiles, language barrier, and poop. Oh my.

A couple of days ago we found ourselves strolling through a local mall with the littlest grandboy. Malls have become pretty desolate, but there were quite a few mall-walkers utilizing the space on that day. As we were standing next to the little children’s carousel, a mall-walker woman looked our way and I smiled and greeted her. She started to walk on by then turned to speak to me. “Thank you for smiling. I’ve smiled at everyone in this place today and you’re the first one to return my smile.” I told her I understood what she was talking about and thanked her for her smile, too. She patted my shoulder and said “God bless you,” as she walked away.

Continue reading “Smiles, language barrier, and poop. Oh my.”

Food nostalgia and a recipe

On Christmas in the year 1970 my dad had just returned home from a one week stay at the hospital following his diagnosis of leukemia. He was dismissed Christmas Eve. Christmas morning was not the typical Christmas, as you might imagine. Not a lot of jolly old St Nicholas. But we were genuinely glad to be together. Just the four of us, Mom and Dad, Sharon and myself. We didn’t know what the future held but we sure loved having Daddy there with us on that day.

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Looking through windows

Recently I read a story that pulled the curtains back from a window into the life of a mom and her difficulties with her young son. His behavior is so poor that kids avoid him. Classmates say their parents forbid them from playing with him anymore. He comes home from school and says he was told he is “bad.” He has been removed from that kindergarten now. His mom and dad are struggling to help him.

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On an Island south of Manhattan. The little Manhattan

South of Manhattan Kansas on Manhattan Ave there is a bridge over Wildcat Creek. Cross the bridge and you have arrived on what is commonly referred to as Hunter’s Island. Wildcat Creek and the Kansas river border this land. Some of the most fertile ground around can be found on Hunter’s Island. The hubby tells me it’s only a true island when it is surrounded by flooding. Which happens a lot.

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