Saturday, February 28, 2009

As February comes to a close

2-28-09 satisfied brain
Sometimes what you think you want..... is not always what you need.

I found that to be true for "men"..... and in my experience with trying to find Mr. Right...... this also turns out to be true in finding a new house in Kansas City, along with the need for patience and prayer!

We were looking in the Brookside area, since we liked that area and the walk-ability to restaurants and shopping, similar to what we have in Beaverdale area of Des Moines. But I believe Greg found the right house for us in a different part of town, "old" Leawood area off Leawood Boulevard on 90th St (for those of you who might know the area.).... it's a nice little ranch with a LARGE garage!

I'm in KC this weekend so Greg could take me to see the house today and our friend Molly joined us. (KC is getting beautiful snow today!) Molly and I both agreed with Greg that this is a perfect fit in so many ways...... However, I'm sure going to miss hanging out at the Plaza when I spend time in KC. The apartment here was a good temporary solution as we worked through how we envisioned our lives to be for the next 5 to 10 years...... basically until I retire.

Picture: new house- Kitchen opens into family type room. All very nicely updated, move in ready! Molly is standing in the kitchen taking the picture.

Saturday UPDATE on my Dad:

Dad is back home and "doing well today" is the report I got from my sister this morning.

He did have a bit of a fainting spell last evening, after dinner and after his blood pressure medicine was taken. We are still wondering if there is a connection. Dad has some follow up appointments in Iowa City in 3 weeks, done outpatient, to continue to assess his heart and to help him decide if he is willing to under go the brain aneurysm surgery.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Family emergency, charmed life

2-26-09 grateful brain

I usually have blog postings done a few days in advance and they are then scheduled to post in the early morning hours.
Today my blog is posted in real time, since I need to catch up to what has happened since Monday morning.

I received that dreaded cell phone message…. Just as my cell phone battery was dying……. (One lesson, always have a full battery, or carry your cell phone charger)…..Long story short, my mother was calling with news that my father was in the hospital and she needed my help! Her voice had an urgent tone.

I dropped everything and drove 2 hours north to my hometown with the worst case scenario playing my head…… preparing myself for the funeral. I have always felt very blessed to be in my 50’s and have both parents still alive in their 80’s. They have both been fairly healthy all their lives and are living a good quality of life in their own home….. But I knew the day would come, when they would require more of my attention and care.

OK back to “long story short”….. my Dad was helicoptered to University Hospitals in Iowa City. I picked up my Mom and we drove the 2.5 hour trip there to meet up with Dad. (PS: he enjoyed the helicopter ride)….I won’t go into the details here at this time. I will tell you we were very blessed in many ways. Dad is doing pretty well as of Thursday evening and might be headed home Friday.

Dad really has had a rather “charmed” life from my view point. At age 17 he join the Marines to fight in WWII. This picture is on top of Mount Suribachi at Iwo Jima. Dad was an amphibian recon Marine and spent time swimming to islands in the Pacific mapping out the territory and was one of the first Americans on the island of Iwo Jima in 1945. Everyone probably is familiar with the historic photograph taken by Joe Rosenthal on February 23, 1945 which depicts five U.S. Marines raising the flag on top of Mount Suribachi. Dad was in the first group of Marines that did reconnaissance and made the path up to the top of Mount Suribachi. He was standing around when the flag raising picture was taken. This is a picture also taken by Joe Rosenthal at that time. You will see Dad on the left with his gun in the air.

Brief history lesson: At Iwo Jima, the Allied forces suffered 27,909 casualties, with 6,825 killed in action. The number of American casualties was greater than the total Allied casualties on D-Day (Wikipedia), also Iwo Jima was also the only U.S. Marine battle where the American casualties exceeded the Japanese.

I always have believed it was a miracle that Dad survived all his WWII experiences and was able to lead a rather normal life as a teacher and coach, raising a family and being married for nearly 60 years to my one women, my Mom.

Dad is still in pretty good shape at age 83 (soon to be 84 in April), in spite of smoking for nearing 50 years (he quit at age 70)….. must be good genes and the fact he was a fit athlete into his 50’s . Today he still has his wits about him, his toughness, and his sense of humor and he has been riding his exercise bike for 10 year since he received new knees. I know he won’t live forever, but for the time being he is still living a charmed life.

It was a bit of irony that Dad’s initial passing out spell happened on Monday….. February 23, and as he told Mother that morning in the hospital it was 64 years ago he was on Iwo Jima. Unfortunately, he still remembers that day all too well. (We were glad just to see he had no brain impairment)

My postings may be limited for the next few days as our lives hopefully will slowly, but eventually, settle back to a more normal schedule.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009


2-25-09 Rejuvenation brain

Greg and I often enjoy a spring retreat to Big Cedar Lodge this time of year and stay in a cabin on Table Rock Lake. We purposely make this mini vacation all about relaxing, connecting and communing with nature and each other. At this special place I can rediscover a powerful force, my creative spirit. In 2006, this poem just poured out from me in that most surprising, wonderful and satisfying exchange of energy. This painting was done a few years earlier and I have named both the painting and poem "Rebirth", done with Ash Wednesday in mind. (sorry the correct formating of the poem didn't come through, I need to learn better how to do my blog posts)


Upon my forehead,
Ashes have been placed.
The season of renewal calls to me-
Step away,
Step away,
Turn off the noise,
Put down the remote,
Stop the channel surfing.
Step away
Step away,
Turn off the distractions,
Disconnect from the web,
Stop the browsing.
Step away,
Step away,
Fold up the newspaper,
Declare a moratorium on headlines of doom,
Turn away from cynicism.
Step away,
Step away,
Step into-
The open meadow- greening,
With hidden treasures at my feet,
On my knees, much is revealed.
Step away,
Step away,
Step into-
This spring time- new with hope,
40 days,
What sacrifice will I make?
Step away,
Step away,
What will I do with the rest of my life?
When cold death turns into resurrection-
And my rebirth!
Step away,
Step away.
- Judy Sebern Beachy March 2006

Tuesday, February 24, 2009


2-24-09 cramped brain

It’s late February and I am feeling that faint, subtle stirring inside my warm cocoon. The length of daylight is noticeably longer. The sun’s rays actually warm my back as I walked over to the grocery store at noon. Spring is on its way and I’m feeling that urge to transform into a new being.

In January, I entered my cocoon, foregoing art classes and I even took a sabbatical from my church committee work. I have isolated myself somewhat to focus on the task before me. The last two months have been a whirlwind of change and house projects, along with emotional reflection and trying to visualize a new life in Kansas City……. Today, I realize now I have let myself slide to the bottom of my priority list. I haven’t had my hair cut since November, my skin is drying up, and I’m feeling gross. I’m longing to break out of my winter cocoon and fly into the new season of spring! Usually this would be the time to take our annual mini vacation to southern Missouri visiting the Big Cedar Lodge- cabin, however this year I believe it won't happen. BUT today is "fat Tuesday" and tomorrow Ash Wednesday........It’s a perfect time to prepare….... not only for Easter, but for new life and SPRING ..... I think I’ll start with a haircut this week.

Monday, February 23, 2009

My navy blue suit

2-22-09 reminiscing brain

I was looking through some old pictures from the 80's after I had posted "biker-babe" picture on 2-6-09 (my husband loves that picture of me, even though it was taken 8 years before we met).
I found this other picture which I will call "career-women" which was taken about 3 years after the biker-babe" picture. I was out of college now for a few years and starting to evolve into a more professional dresser for work. Both men and women back in the 80's dressed up for work. Suits were popular, nylons, heel pumps and even these silly looking ties.

I have a fond memory of this particular outfit I had- my navy blue suit. One day as I was walking across the parking lot of my apartment building, a guy in the building next door also was getting home from work, he stopped and asked me if I was an airline stewardess. I smiled and said no, and wondered to myself what's up with this guy? It didn't occur to me until later that this navy suit really did look like something a stewardess would wear back in the day. The next run in with this particular neighbor guy was when he came to my door asking if I had lost some purple bikini underwear in the laundry room. (I had done laundry earlier that day) And sure enough they were mine.

Long story short, this guy Russ and I became good friends, and even now I smile when I think of him. In hind sight now, after knowing Russ and his silliness, I wonder if he took my purple underwear out of the dryer, just to have an excuse to bring them to me. I felt a type of kinship with Russ. We were born in the same year and our birthdays were only 10 days apart. He was fun to hang out with and was even goofier than I am. He didn't mine embarrassing himself which gave him great confidence my many ways. He brought out the silly side of me and we laughed over the smallest things. We could waste more time having fun doing nothing much at all.

Russ came in and out of my life in the late 80's and early 90's. We dated for awhile, but somehow it just evolved more into friendship. I then set him up with dates with several friends over the years. My girl friends liked him- he was fun. Eventually he met my friend Molly, who by that time lived in Kansas City. They dated for awhile, long distance. Russ attended mine and Greg's wedding in 92. The last time we saw him was in 97. Molly came back to Des Moines for a visit (they were not dating by then) but the four of us went out for the evening. It was the night that Princess Diane died, August 31, 1997 so I remember it well.

After that, Russ seemed to disappear from our lives. There were a few phone calls here and there, and I always expected him to show back up at our door at some point, but months turn into years and we have lost track of him. I have been blessed to have many friends in my life over the years: many I've kept in my life, a few I've let go, and once in while, sadly, a friend will unintentionally slip through my fingers. I still miss Russ, but a part of me still expects him to show back up at our door someday. Or better yet, I'll see him somewhere from across the room and it will be one of those "God-incidences" like which happened to me a few weeks ago in Kansas City.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Allow time for fun

2-22-09 playful brain
Christopher and I had to take some time, mid week, to enjoy a warmer Iowa day in February. The snow was just perfect for making a snowman, or snow women in our case. This is the tallest one I've ever made (6ft) since Christopher was able to lift the sections on top of each other. The lips are made from cut up apples.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Two state solution

2-21-09 resolute brain

News flash! The house decision has finally been made! An offer was put down on a house Friday afternoon, and accepted, so barring any unforeseen problems Greg and I will try living with the two house solution for awhile and see if it works for us.

This house is on the Kansas side in Leawood area and has an over sized garage to keep Greg happy. For me, I was looking for a house which faces south. I just like the sun shining in my front door for some reason. This is a different area than we originally were looking in, but I believe it will be quite acceptable to me. The good part is that the house is move in ready! After the work I have been putting into Des Moines house with my nephew, I didn't want another house to have to paint. I will be excited to go see it next weekend when I head down for a KC visit. This weekend the basement project continues in Des Moines.

Friday, February 20, 2009

House project #5

2-20-09 reminiscing brain

The house projects continue. Christopher and I are improving the looks of the steps down to the basement. The first step was to remove the old linoleum. This black, gray, and white pattern was common, I believe, in the 1950's. This linoleum was also in the kitchen when we brought this house in 1993. I know there was another older layer of linoleum beneath this one, which would make sense since our house was build in 1939. It will be celebrating it's 70th birthday this year.

This black, gray and white linoleum was similar or possibly identical to the linoleum in the bathroom of my childhood home. I remember sitting on the toilet and I would love to stare at the floor and pick out familiar shapes. I could see a face , a boot or a shape of a state. Right now I'm struggling to see much of anything when I look at this floor, just dirt and a lot of hard work ahead for us.

This flooring will soon be history, since Christopher is helping me remove it and I will be doing something different and creative, I hope, with the basement steps. Stay tuned for a progress report at a later date!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Letting go part II: Set it free

2-19-09 detached brain

I believe I remember what I used for the letter L in my LOVE essay back in high school (see 2-13-09 posting)..... I think L = Learning and I discussed the important roll parents have in teaching their children what is healthy love.

I was thinking this weekend that L also could stand for "Letting Go"..... you know the old saying. "If you Love something, set it free"..... If it comes back to you, it's yours,..... if it doesn't ..... well then you're screwed, so get over it! OK, maybe that's not the original version, but it works for me. I think this old saying has to do with practicing "detachment" which I first learned about from author Deepak Chopra.

After working through my emotions in January concerning selling our Des Moines home, I believe I had come to the point of successfully "letting it go"....... well now, surprisingly, my home might be "coming back to me"!?

This was Greg's idea..... Greg has diligently been creating and analyzing a spread sheet which compares our mortgage payments as a percentage of our income. Over the last two years our "mortgage payments" also include the rent for our Kansas City apartment. Greg did this ratio all the way back to when we were first married. Now he feels we can afford two homes if we can find a moderately priced home in the area of KC that we want. This makes some sense since our DM house mortgage payment is close to what I would have to pay for an apartment in DM. We've always tried to live below our means and this has allowed more margin and flexibility for opportunities such as affording an apartment in KC.

However, at this point, I'm continuing as if we will sell the house and I am proceeding with the BIG cleaning & painting house project. My nephew Christopher has been a big help. We are on to basement projects now.
PS: my cousin Roger has commented on my LOVE essay. He even suggested his own version which I think is wonderful.
Laughter - Happiness or fun expressed by laughing.

penness - Not trying to hide anything or deceive anyone.

itality - The ability of something to live and grow or to continue in existence.

ternity - The condition, quality, or fact of being without beginning or end.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Christopher part II

2-18-09 proud aunt Judy brain

Continuing on with my nephew’s story: As many of you know, Christopher was accepted into OCS in October for 10 weeks of training. OCS= officer candidate school for the Marines. It was quite the accomplishment just to be accepted. You had to pass physical requirements as well as have good college grades and write an essay. This 10 week period was a roller coaster for all of my family as we followed along with Christopher on his adventure.

For the first 3 weeks, we had no contact with him. This was hard on him and especially hard on my sister who is use to being in daily contact with her children. After that period, we were able to exchange letters and would get a phone call from him during his weekly 24 hour "liberty" period when he got to go off base. I guess he spent most of this time eating and sleeping in a hotel near base.

Christopher wrote some heartbreaking letters home, but inspiring letters as well of his struggles to complete this 10 week training. He was put to the test with physical challenges, leadership challenges, there was book training and testing and the whole emotional and mental challenges of being in this military environment. Only about half of his platoon made it to the end, either they quit by choice or they were sent home when they didn’t pass all the requirements.

From week to week, we didn’t know if Christopher would make it or if he would choose to leave. We knew he was struggling along the way, trying to figure out if this was what he wanted to do with his life.

One particular letter home was at Thanksgiving (about week 7 out of 10)……

Today has been one of those days where I have both vacillated about my future and received clarity as to what I should do. The motivational run this morning really inspired me both by the descriptions of the recipients of the Medal of Honor and by the bonding of the team through cadence and everything we’ve been through. It made me really feel like it was something I could do and that it was worth going to fight. But liberty (24 hour period off base) is both the thing that has gotten me through this place and simultaneously shown me that this life is not for me. Today when I took off my “libo” (liberty) clothes, I felt trapped, like I was taking a piece of me, a form of my freedom off and that came with a few moments of despair”……

So long story short: Christopher hung in there and did complete the 10 weeks of training. We were very proud that he graduated. At that point, Christopher had a decision to make- whether to accept a “commission” and continue on and officially join the Marines and make a 4 year commitment to them. At this time he has not accepted a commission. I believe there maybe a time period in which he still can accept, but at this time I believe he is considering graduate school instead.

I always thought he was more of a “lover” rather than a “fighter”…. But as I said before, he actually probably is BOTH- he is a multifaceted type of guy. Like most all of us had to go through......Christopher still just needs to fine his niche and his passion in life. So far, he knows he does not want to be a golf pro like his father, so with the process of elimination, he is one step closer to figuring out his life.

"Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans"

(John Lennon)

I guess for the time being, Christopher's life is all about helping me, and I am truly blessed by this and grateful!

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

How will I know?.... for Sarah

2-17-09 unconditionally loved brain

Today, while we are still in the month of February.....back to a Valentines themed blog:
How will I know it’s really love?”
“How will I know that he/she is the right person for me?”
I remember asking myself questions like that for about 20 years, between the ages of 16 to 35.

“Will I know by the romantic gifts and cards he gives?”
My experience has taught me the answer is No.

For example: This year Greg returned from his Chicago Car Show trip on Sunday and gave me a Valentines gift, this red Toyota bag. On the surface that probably doesn’t look like a very thoughtful gift- but it was, because it proves that Greg really knows me well. He knows I’m not into jewelry, or candy or such standard “love gifts”…. He knows me well and knows I like to recycle and that I try to use non-plastic or paper bags as much as possible. He also knows that currently I don’t really need any more stuff.

In return, I had a Valentines card waiting for him. What I didn’t tell him was that this was a “recycled card”. When I was cleaning out the desk drawer I found it, still in the original opened envelope with his name on it, from a few years ago. So I just resealed it with a rose stamp and waited for him to call me out on it, but he never did- yet. However, he will know now, since he does read my blog daily.

What I would like to share with my younger readers, who are still trying to find Mister Right or Miss Right, is a tip a discovered at age 35. (OK, so I'm a slow learner!)....I was on serious boyfriend #6 (disregarding the minor boyfriends between age16 to 35)….. This guy #6 was a great guy in many ways and we had a lot in common, however I never felt much of a strong commitment from him and I was wondering- is there more to love, or is this as good as it gets?”

I found myself, that late winter of 1990, watching the Civil War documentary on PBS and when I heard this song/letter (The Sullivan Ballou Letter) it gave me goose bumps and I could feel the love between these two people and I knew THIS is what I was longing for, and I knew that serious boyfriend #6 was NOT “it”…..

I’m not saying that Mister Right or Miss Right needs write you a poetic letter such as this, but your "true love" will have these intense feelings for you, which are exemplified well in the tone of this letter, as you also should have these intense emotions in return for him/her.

PS: I'll admit I do like flowers as a gift, but roses can make me a bit nervous. You see boyfriend #1 (referred to in blog 2-13-09) had sent me a dozen roses the week before he broke up with me. I never did figure out that irony!

For those of you who can not connected to Youtube, I included the words here of the Sullivan Ballou Letter:
July 14, 1861

Camp Clark, Washington

My very dear Sarah:

The indications are very strong that we shall move in a few days—perhaps tomorrow. Lest I should not be able to write again, I feel impelled to write a few lines that may fall under your eye when I shall be no more . . .I have no misgivings about, or lack of confidence in the cause in which I am engaged, and my courage does not halt or falter. I know how strongly American Civilization now leans on the triumph of the Government and how great a debt we owe to those who went before us through the blood and sufferings of the Revolution. And I am willing—perfectly willing—to lay down all my joys in this life, to help maintain this Government, and to pay that debt . . .Sarah my love for you is deathless, it seems to bind me with mighty cables that nothing but Omnipotence could break; and yet my love of Country comes over me like a strong wind and bears me unresistibly on with all these chains to the battle field.The memories of the blissful moments I have spent with you come creeping over me, and I feel most gratified to God and to you that I have enjoyed them for so long. And hard it is for me to give them up and burn to ashes the hopes of future years, when, God willing, we might still have lived and loved together, and seen our sons grown up to honorable manhood, around us. I have, I know, but few and small claims upon Divine Providence, but something whispers to me—perhaps it is the wafted prayer of my little Edgar, that I shall return to my loved ones unharmed. If I do not my dear Sarah, never forget how much I love you, and when my last breath escapes me on the battle field, it will whisper your name. Forgive my many faults and the many pains I have caused you. How thoughtless and foolish I have often times been! How gladly would I wash out with my tears every little spot upon your happiness . . .But, O Sarah! If the dead can come back to this earth and flit unseen around those they loved, I shall always be near you; in the gladdest days and in the darkest nights . . . always, always, and if there be a soft breeze upon your cheek, it shall be my breath, as the cool air fans your throbbing temple, it shall be my spirit passing by. Sarah do not mourn me dead; think I am gone and wait for thee, for we shall meet again . . .

(Yes, he died a week later)

Monday, February 16, 2009

Nephew Christopher

2-16-09 grateful brain

February is turning out to be a very cool month for me. I'm spending time with my 24 year old nephew, Christopher. He is visiting me here in Des Moines and helping me get some house projects done. So far he's painted the upstairs bathroom, the back hallway to the basement and the guest bathroom. He even shoveled 7 inches of snow for me the other day.

It's been wonderful to spend time with him, just us two during the week. He does his projects while I work during the day and in the evening I try my best to feed him. I didn't realize how much an athletic young guy can eat! I've been cooking casseroles along with healthy fruits and vegetables; and a hearty beef soup/stew has covered some lunches. (thanks Ann Marie for the recipe!)

Christopher is a wonderful kid. He's a bit of a Renaissance type of guy. I'd say he was like me.... being "split in two" and able to use both sides of his brain, but I think he is even more talented than that. Here is a guy who spent an intense 10 weeks at Marines Officer Candidate School last fall and graduated, and then over Christmas he sat down and made gingerbread houses his sister and I (see picture on right side panel). So he's got a creative side, and a tough side, and a smart nerdy side. (he's at least split in three!) He graduated with honors from Furman University spring of 2008 with History and Philosophy major and was on scholarship playing on their golf team. I'm so proud of him, but more than any of the above qualities, I love his big heart and the fact that he'll hug me several times during the day.

I've observed that he is taking after his grandfather John in the fact he seems to drink a pot of coffee everyday, and likes peanut butter on his toast! Right now as I blog this evening, he is downstairs playing some Marine computer-video game with some friends over the Internet. There are a million stories I could write about him when he was younger and I suppose if my blog continues, some of these will be addressed. I've included a few pictures of his cute curly haired days. I've enjoyed many times spent with him over the years..... trying to keep up with his energy...... he was always on the go and very competitive, even as a toddler...... to be continued.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Visitor in the house

2-15-09 sabbatical brain

My nephew is visiting for a few weeks. More on this tomorrow. This picture was taken at Christmas.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Happy in LOVE!

2-14-09 Happy in love brain

I married the most "wonderful man" in the world, and I said so during my wedding vows, which threw the minister off for few moments and everyone had a good chuckle. Don't get me wrong, Greg's not perfect, but he is perfect for ME!

Today is Valentines Day and Greg is in Chicago going to a car show with his best friend Tom. They do this almost every year, but usually they go to the Detroit car show in January but this year the Chicago show worked better for them.

Do I feel sad being away from Greg on Valentines Day? No, I'm fine. Greg's happiness is important to me, as my happiness is important to him and thus we make sacrifices for each other when life requires this.... AND that does remind me of what the letter O in my LOVE essay stood for (see yesterday's posting)....... The letter O in LOVE stands for "others".... Love is when the other person's needs and happiness are as important as your own.

PS: This picture is from 2007 when Greg sacrificed for me and took me to a Valentines Dinner and Dance! We both ended up having fun.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Unlucky in love?

2-13-09 Friday the 13th brain

At age 17, I considered myself an expert on Love. I was hopelessly and deeply in love with my first love, high school boyfriend-Bruce. I was so confident that I understood the ways of love, that during my senior year, I entered an essay contest sponsored by the Women's Club- the topic was LOVE, the prize was $100.

I thought long and hard about what to write, and although "English" was not my best subject in school, I relied on my creativity. My approach was to pick a word starting with each letter of the word love (L, O, V, E) and used this to address different qualities of love. I think I still have a copy of that essay around somewhere. Probably in my antique trunk where the TV sits in the sunroom, so I can't reference it at this time. I'm having trouble remembering all the words I used for the letters L and O...... I do remember V = "variety" and I discussed the different types of love....... And I also remember E = "ego" dealing with the importance of self-love.

AND surprising I won top prize! With the $100 I was able to buy my first 10 speed bike (pictured in posting from 2-6-09)......... Well, about 7 months after winning this essay contest, and 2.5 years into the relationship, my first love broke my heart (on a Friday the 13th in December 1974). Sadly it took several years for me to recover, but time eventually healed my wounds. But I often wonder if you can ever totally forget losing someone special? Once you've truly loved someone, I think they are forever yours.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

What's on the menu?

2-12-09 Left brain at work
I was in Iowa City last week giving a four hour presentation to students in the College of Public Health Masters Program. My lecture was part of an internship giving these students an opportunity to learn about the State Health Registry and how we go about collecting data on Iowa Residents with cancer.

We only had four students this semester; so it was a causal group to work with. There were two non-traditional students, one male, one female. I guess that’s what they call older people who are back in school for an advanced degree. Then there was two typical younger kids in their 20’s, one male, one female. The younger male, Ron, was so cute! I was wishing I was 30 years younger, but the reality is I am old enough to be his mother. But I couldn’t help but find myself wanting to look over in his direction all the time as I talked. What nice brown eyes and cute smile.

I had to laugh at myself. This reminded me of the time Greg and I were spending time with my niece Sarah one summer at least 7 years ago. She was in middle school and starting to have an interest in guys. The three of us were walking somewhere and I spotted what I considered a good looking guy. So I pointed this out to her. “Look at that guy Sarah, isn’t he cute?” Sarah replied, “Aunt Judy you shouldn’t be looking at guys, you’re married!”…… And not missing a beat in the conversation, Greg pipes up, “Just because you’ve placed your order, it doesn’t mean you can’t look at the menu.”

Well that had both Sarah and I laughing. Neither of us had ever heard that saying before and it was funny coming out of Greg. And that’s one of the things I love about Greg- I never know when he will surprise me with something new!

Well, I have to admit I don’t often find myself looking at the menu much these days, but maybe again it was my new eyes being able to see so much better from across the room! Oh dear…. I hope these new eye’s aren’t wandering eyes! ….. but then again, no harm looking at the menu especially since I’m very satisfied with the menu item I ordered 16 years ago.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Loving what is

2-11-09 surrendering brain

I've come across an interesting book a few months ago: "Loving What Is" by Byron Katie.

This book deals with the power that our THOUGHTS have over us. Quote: "we are disturbed not by what happens to us, but by our thoughts about what happens"......... "When we believe our thoughts instead of what is really true for us, we experience the kinds of emotional distress that we call suffering".

The section of the book I love the most is called- Staying in Your Own Business. The author explains..... "there are only three kinds of business in the universe; mine, your, and God's. Much of our stress comes from mentally living out of our own business".

The author says if you are worried about war, floods or earthquakes or when you will die, then you are in God's business. If you are in other's business you are trying to tell others what is best for their life, and that's pure arrogance to think you know what is best for another person.

Give this challenge a try: the next time you are feeling stressed, ask yourself whose business are you in mentally? Chances will be that you are not in your own business.
I come from a long line of "worriers".... my Grandmother on my father's side seemed to worry about everything (that's my memory anyway).... she especially worried about storms and lightening (God's business).... however I was told she and my father had a close call with a ball of lightening coming through their window once. My Aunt JoAnne also seemed to be a worrier like her mother, and I can see this same trait now in my sister.
I have to admit from time to time I can tend to get myself in God's business as well. One of my favorite Bible verses as a child was Matthew 6: 25 "Do not be anxious about your life, what you shall eat or what you shall drink, nor about your body, what you shall put on......Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your Creator feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"
I think during this time of "economic uncertainty"....... remembering to stay out of God's business will be a good habit to practice!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Just let it go!

2-10-09 de-cluttering brain

Sunday, slowly the cleaning project began.
It started with a desk drawer. Here I found a treasure of address labels, "gifts" from various charities hoping for a donation. This picture doesn’t capture the depth of the 3 inch pile I had to shred.

For a moment, my right artist brain wanted to keep these as a possible future interesting art project. I know Alice, another creative spirit, will relate to this impulse to save. As I began to shred the pile, I then had the thought that I should at least have taken one label from each set and stuck on a blank piece of paper. Perhaps this would make an interesting piece of art? Then the voice of my mother came to me and said, “just let it go”….. so I did. But then of course I had to stop my cleaning for a moment to blog about this experience...... until Greg called me back to work on yet another drawer. At this rate, this house cleaning project may take awhile!
PS: My nephew Christopher is arriving today to stay with me for several weeks and to help clean and paint. He has some time on his hands until entering graduate school in the fall. Greg has a big project for Christopher in the basement. Maybe this 24 year old kid can get me motivated and focused in the evenings to accomplish more than just blogging my time away. That is what we both are hoping for! So perhaps I may just be blogging every OTHER day?

Monday, February 9, 2009


2-9-09 artistic right brain
Still on the Surrender topic from last week......Today I will share with you some more of my early art. This is from my collection of "Storytelling Art" done around 1998, during my "hand phase". I would paint and write a story or poem to go with my drawings.

(Inspired by, and dedicated to Pam)


This has not been an easy lesson for me, especially regarding my health.
In the last 10 years it seems as if I’ve been prone to illness, starting with the diagnosis of chronic fatigue in 1990. “The Yuppie Flu” the media was calling it at the time. Doctors had comments like: “You’re working too hard”, “You must be stressed”, “You just need a vacation”, “Are you depressed?” Well, I discovered most of that was probably true, as I then was given the time to reevaluate my life’s situation while lying in bed for a month, back home under my parent’s care.

I suppose I’m luckier than most people with a chronic disease; I didn’t loose my job, I had good health insurance, I had caring people to help and support me AND I learned that I was able to find spiritual growth from this experience. I discovered that an illness might actually be a GIFT.

Oh, I realize it’s not always easy to look at being sick that way. I usually get so frustrated each time I suffer from yet another period of fatigue. Yet, consistently, I’ve noticed over the past several years, that each time I’m laying in bed recuperating, some lesson or wisdom about life is given to me. Sometimes I think good health is a consolation prize given to those souls who aren’t ready to experience spiritual growth. However, I’ve been told by a reliable source (my pastor Sam) that you don’t always need hardship to grow. Unfortunately, that hasn’t been my experience so far.

I’ve discussed this idea with my friend Pam, who also struggles with her health at times. Pam was born a premature twin back in the late 1950’s without the advantage of today’s technology (her twin sister didn’t make it). Pam suffers some left sided paralysis and eyesight problems. She has talked about the time when someone actually told her she could be healed if she had enough faith. I giggled at the irony of that statement, since Pam is one of the most faithful and devoted Christians that I know. Pam and I both agreed that our “illness” has helped us become stronger, wiser, and more faithful.


2 Corinthians 4: 16-18
Philippians 4: 11-13

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Can you see what I see?

2-8-09 Sabbatical brain
Keeping it short today.
People are asking how my eyes are doing since my surgery a few weeks ago. Other people are asking me to share more of my artwork on my blog. So today I’ll shoot for two birds with one stone. Also note I posted a slide show of some artwork on the right side panel.

My eyes are doing very well! I drove to Iowa City for work this last week and it was incredible what I could see. I swear I could see for at least 5 miles into the horizon and the Iowa fields with snow drifts where so beautiful. So much so I found myself being distracted often from keeping my eyes on the road ahead of me. At one point I tested to see how far I could see ahead by spotting an overpass bridge down the Interest and by looking at the mile marks as I passed them, that bridge was 3 miles up the road when I had spotted it. I think I have never seen distant this well before in my entire life. I probably needed glasses at birth, but didn’t get them until 4th or 5th grade. Of course there is a trade off in the fact that I now have to wear reading glasses to see objects that are close up. Over the last few years, I was getting to that point anyway, and I was in need of bifocals. So I believe I’m happy with the results of at least having improved my distant vision. No more thick lens.

PS: This picture above was a pastel painting I did about 10 years ago, it was my first experience painting snow- I call it “Purple Drifts”.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Sweet Surrender

2-7-09 surrendering brain
Yesterday's blog reminded me of one of my favorite songs back in those chaotic days.

"Sweet Surrender" by John Denver.......
I still love the words ......... But check out the "youtube" link below, turn on your speakers.

Lost and alone on some forgotten highway
Travelled by many remembered by few
Lookin for something that I can believe in
Lookin for something that Id like to do with my life
Theres nothin behind me and nothin that ties me
To somethin that might have been true yesterday
Tomorrow is open and right now it seems to be more
Than enough to just be there today
And I dont know what the future is holdin in store
I dont know where Im goin, Im not sure where Ive been
Theres a spirit that guides me, a light that shines for me
My life is worth the livin, I dont need to see the end
Sweet, sweet surrender
Live, live without care
Like a fish in the water
Like a bird in the air

Friday, February 6, 2009

False reality

2-6-09 wild & carefree brain

Tuesday 2-3-09, my "stable brain" was doing the talking..... today my "wild & carefree brain" wants equal blogging time. (see I really am split in two quite often!)

This business about having a predicable and stable life..... that really is nonsense...... that is a false reality. Sure I had a safe, secure, and loving childhood for 18 years...... And I have been blessed with that same situation in my 16 years of marriage...... But there was a time in between when my life was not what you would call normal or stable.

I was living out side the box a little bit anyway. I was not following the usual stereotypical path one would expect. I wasn't a wife or mother like many of my friends. I was still in college finding myself until I was age 26. I had no idea what direction my life would be taking most days. I was kind of a loner, a tormented "artist" in many ways, taking calculus, organic chemistry, and biology classes. I knew each situation was just a temporary experience and I was OK with that for the most part. These were fun and interesting times and I have stared to reflect back on them this week. This above picture is from 1982 (age 26) taken by a photographer roaming the U of I campus looking for prospects for Playboy magazine....... Well, that's what he told me.........I don't know if he was for real and NO, I didn't follow up with him, but he sent this photo to me. (Stupidly I did give him my name, address & phone number!) ..... he could of been a serial killer!

At times, these years felt a bit chaotic and unstable, but that also made me feel really alive, taking some pleasure in living on the edge......... life was not predictable and life was "out of my control" and this is actually when my faith started to grow. By 1990 when I was feeling worn out and broken in many ways, this is when I turned control of my life over to God. Chaos can be useful as an important step to bring you to your knees....... humbling yourself....... leading you to ask for help and forcing you to surrender.
Sweet Surrender!..................... (continued tomorrow)

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Old Friends

2-5-09 surprised brain

Yesterday I talked about new friends in KC, today I need to write about old friends in KC.

The coolest thing happened to Greg and I this past weekend night.
We decide to walk down to the Plaza to get something to eat. Greg suggested we try a place we have never been before. I decided to be open to having a new experience, rather than going back to a favorite & familiar place. After having a nice exercise walk around the Plaza, we decided on the Irish Pub, since we weren't very dressed up.

We liked the feel of the Irish Pub as we sat down, commenting on how it did remind us of a pub we were in during our 2005 Drake trip to Dublin. As I was sitting there eating some pretty good shepherd's pie, I looked over at the bar and commented to Greg that this gal drinking a beer looked familiar to me. After a minute of thinking I said, "that could be Lisa who was in the softball team I played on in the 1980's"..... "I know she and her husband had moved to KC some time ago"........ Well after I was done eating, I decide- what the heck, I'm doing to talk to them, the worst thing to happen will be to just embarrass myself. So I walked over and asked them if they were Lisa and Doug from Iowa! AND IT WAS! (I found this picture of Lisa and a few of the guys on our team!)

I get so excited when the universe sends me surprises like that! Strange how all the planets needed to line up to make that happen. Lisa and Doug were down at the Plaza celebrating their 21 Anniversary! The Irish Pub wasn't one of their usual hangouts, they were just having a drink before their dinner over at the Plaza III.

Wow, just think about that.... all the timing that went into making that meeting between us happen! And the fact that I could see Lisa across the room because of my new improved vision! Kimby my former pastor always calls something like this a "God-incidence".... instead of a "coincidence"...... I couldn't agree more!
PS: HOUSE UPDATE: 180 degree change, now considering cute smaller house in Prairie Village close to Prairie Village Shops which would be same price range as Greg's Plaza apartment, thus we could keep the Des Moines house and own 2nd smaller home in KC. (Greg's idea......stay tuned!)

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

New Friends

2-4-09 stretching my brain
Speaking of making NEW Friends (from 2-3-09)......

I have a new friend in Kansas City whom I met last fall during one of my week long stays. Greg and I were walking in the Brookside neighborhood to see if we liked the feel. This neighborhood reminds us of our wonderful Des Moines neighborhood of Beaverdale since it has a high walk-ability score. There are many restaurants, shops and grocery store in both of these neighborhoods and this is important to me. (A small town feel within the big city)

Greg and I walked by a house and there was a women and man sitting out on their front porch with their cat in the front yard. They waved hello and being the cat lovers we are, we had to stop and say "hi kitty"..... The women came out to greet us and we started a conversation with Julie and Paul!.

Long story short- Julie was an Iowa gal too! They had moved into this neighborhood a few years ago and were very happy with the area. I liked Julie right away because I sensed she was "a character"..... you know a real "down to earth gal" who seems comfortable in her own skin..... She was so nice and welcoming I felt like I actually could see myself living there. I call Julie my Kansas City angel since it was her kindness which broke my stereotype of "big city" people.

Now, I need also to mention that I already have 3 other friends who live in Kansas City....... Molly, one of my best friends I first met in Des Moines in 1984 (she is an Iowa gal too!); My college friends Teresa and Jim (also from Iowa originally)...... and Kimby, my wonderful former pastor from Westminster Church in Des Moines, who has been in KC for about 6 years now and is very happy there.

Boy! I'm so blessed to have friends in both places where I will call home: Des Moines and Kansas City! Not to mention my "first Hometown" of Charles City and my work town of Iowa City!

PS: Thanks to this blogging business, I also have met a "new blog friend" ....... A shout out to Ruth in Michigan! I enjoy reading her blog and looking at her beautiful winter pictures. I have mentioned this before, but I'll say it again, check out "my blog list" on right side panel : Ruth's blog is called synch-ro-ni-zing

HOUSE UPDATE: While awaiting a counter offer, we have been distracted by another possible house! I guess it's nice to have choices!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Silver and Gold

Addendum 9:30 AM:
One of those wonderful people I refer to below as "knowing me all my life"..... has emailed me a correction. I actually lived in our first house for 14 years! Thanks Alice- (my 2nd mother/neighbor who lived across the street from us during my "wonder years")

2-3-09 stable brain?
I was pondering the possible reasons why I tend to resist change. With one glance at the mess in my basement, it becomes quite obvious that letting go is difficult for me. And it’s not just letting go of stuff, but people and relationships too. For example, I still exchange Christmas cards with my high school boyfriend’s parents..... That’s 30+ years ago that we shared some special times together. Is that so bad?

I have been turning this question over and over in my brain, what I have come up with so far is that the reason I am not good with embracing change is that I just haven't had enough PRACTICE. I had a very stable childhood….. is it possible to have too much stability? (My Dad’s going to get a kick out of that thought….. he already thinks I am wacky)…. But I think I’m on to something here.

I grew up in the same house for the first 12 years of my life. Then we moved up the street one block and this is where my parents still live. I have many people who can say that “they have known me all my life”. I still have friends from kindergarten.. My parents stay in touch in friends and neighbors they have known for 50 to 60+ years. Mom and Dad will celebrate their 60th Anniversary later this year. My Mom still owns the farmstead which belonged to her Grandfather, the place she was born and grew up. Greg and I now have been in our house for almost 16 years, ever since we were married. My life was and is predictable and sweet...... so what can I say..... I have never really had to practice change.

Personally, I like the whole concept of continuity. I like a life with deep roots and deep friendships. I remember learning this little song as a child…….

Make new friends but keep the old ones; one is silver and the other gold.

So I guess I need to start….. start to practice change......I hope you noticed the new February look of my blog today. Baby steps! Who knows maybe I’ll get really BOLD and change the look every month!

House update: offers and counter offers continue!

Monday, February 2, 2009

Shooting the rapids

2-2-09 water-logged brain

Saturday it was warm and sunny in Kansas City, record high 72 degrees! The meandering stream looked tranquil and inviting. I took my shoes off and rolled my pant legs up to my knees. I timidly tested the temperature of the water with my big right toe…… OK, not too bad. Soon I was wading out ankle deep, feeling the soft sand between my toes. This was very pleasant. The sun light was creating diamonds sparkling off the water’s surface. Surely I could stay here all afternoon, just enjoying the scenery put before me.

However, evening came and it turned dark quickly. All at once from behind I was caught off guard and knocked off my feet. A giant tsunami type wave was moving me down stream fast, and I was too much in shock to even cry out as I was flailing about in a panic. I was being swept away, carried off to Lord knows where..... into a sleepless night.

What would you do? Does a person attempt to swim upstream, or shout for help praying for a quick rescue? I suppose the Zen Masters would advise lying back in a non-resistant position and accept and even enjoy the journey. After all I’ve heard that “hope floats”. What I chose to do was to grasp onto this blogging life jacket and continue down this innocent stream turned raging river….. destination unknown.

Sunday afternoon, sadly, we didn’t make Molly super bowl party. Instead we put an offer down on a house in Kansas City, after Greg fairly quickly rescued me from drowning, by pulling me into his small but trusty life boat. Together we decided to continuing shooting the rapids……. Choosing to accept and maybe even enjoying this journey together….. our destination is still uncertain.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Super Bowl Sunday

2-1-09 party brain

I'm not much into watching football, unlike my father, my husband and my sister..... but I will be watching today since that cute Iowa boy, Kurt Warner, will be playing. Greg and I will be attending Molly & Jeff's super bowl party here in KC. If I get bored I can always play with their cats!

Kurt Warner has actually spent time on my street, Allison Avenue in Des Moines. Mike and Mary Pat (our former neighbors down the street) are good friends of his from college, so I'm only one degree away from knowing Kurt Warner!

PS: AND I'm only one degree from knowing Kevin Bacon! That's another story.