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Faye’s Life & Thoughts

  • Truths (Mine)

    FayeSitting with a cup of coffee and Quietness as my companion?  Priceless!

    All I have lately is cliché’s inside me.  For instance: “The older I get, the less I know.” And, “The older I get, the more I become like my mother.” And, “The older I get, the more I realize I don’t understand things nearly as many things as I did when I was young.”

    The sad thing is that all those adages are true. I also believed that once-upon-a-time I was a good judge of character.  In fact, my career was a social worker. I worked with the chronically mentally ill.  So, I trusted my judgments of others because my job depended on it.

    Now, I see that my judgments of others had as many holes in it as aged Swiss cheese.  My insight into what really motivates other people is pretty thin.  Whatever gave me the impression, and the confidence that I was a good judge of character?  Youth, that is what it was.  Add to that, was the fact that other people believed the same thing, and we have the collected myths of a few privileged people.  It all fell away like an unattached lace curtain that covered my inner eyes.  None of it remains, because it was for the most part … false. 

    I will share with you just a few things that remain as my truths.  You should know that even these are fragile and can escape as summer smoke in the wind. 

    • I love entering my mid-sixties only because I still live in a body that enjoys good health, flexibility and strength. My true metal has not yet been tested because each physical or mental obstacle placed before me was not yet permanent. However, that day will come. How I will react at that time, remains an unknown.
    • I love entering my mid-sixties because I have a supportive, loving, life-partner.  That is a gift that I do not take for granted.
    • I have learned the immense value of a grateful heart. Through my decades I have been homeless for a year, lived in great uncertainty, and I learned how to survive. Now I am given everything I need, and even more. Gratitude is something that cannot be taught. Period. It must be lived. It is more than a word.
    • I believe that the average person on earth lives close to disaster, or even homelessness. To many it can be as close as a few missed pay-checks. Yet most people I know lives and fights for the little resources they have. It seems apparent to me that the answer is in sharing what we all have. We live on one very small planet and yet we seem incapable of learning how to share it and live in harmony. We continue to follow our political leaders who do not have our best interest in their mind at all.
    • I have learned that there is no one right religion, or one right belief. Through listening to countless stories from many different people of different faiths, and of no faith; I have come to the conclusion that one will find signs and miracles that supports whatever you believe in. The heart holds the key. In my opinion, it is a definite truth that truth is in … what you believe. Yes, another adage, “Be true to yourself.”
    • I also believe that all of us have some form of mental illness. We, as Americans have a system that says if you have a diagnosis of mental illness, you are treated different from the normal population.   This has created a devastating dis-service to our nation, culture and society. We have a nation-wide problem and disaster on our hands in the way we look at ourselves. We must take a close look at this problem and come to some viable solution, because we are missing the boat on our approach as a whole people.

     

    These are a few truths from an older woman’s perception.  I offer them to you at no cost.

    With no money passing hands between you and me for my wisdom, you may find that my words have little or no value to you.  This is one example at how messed up our American system is. 

    You would happily pay big bucks to hear someone talk at length who has “Answers”.  Then, because you paid for those “answers” you would believe them, and not question them.

    Hearing free words of truth from a wise old woman has very little prestige in our culture.  I wish you the best in finding your truth as you age.  But remember even Jesus asked, “What is Truth?” 

     

     

     

     

     



  • Pro-Choice

    58449698_140604I was eighteen, and pregnant.  The doctor who examined me, told me that technically I was still a virgin, “don’t worry,” he said “these things happen.”  I was already in my fourth month when I heard this news. As I had no job, no husband, no home, and no future that I knew about, my reactions could have lit a Molotov cocktail.

    I was staying with my brother in Chicago. Being straight from Nutterville Wisconsin, I got lost easily, so I did not dare to even take a walk alone because I did not believe I would find my brothers apartment again.  He worked during the days, so I had much time alone.

    I needed to absorb this news, and to talk it over with my brother. I staggered under the weight of my emotions and got back to my brothers apartment. The only thing I knew for sure was, I was not ready to be a mom!

    I have never been a person to stew in a problem for a long time.  If the choice is mine to make, I make the choice and abide by my decision.  I decided to have an abortion.

    Here in my story, I will pause: I do not want to offend either my Muslim friends or my Christian friends. However, this is the entire point of my story.  I believe with all my heart that women need to have the right to make this choice. We need to be able to legally make this choice, and have the right to sanitary conditions!

    I wish I could scream this message to the entire world, and be a spokeswoman for PRO CHOICE.  We have to continue to offer women this choice, for if we make this illegal again, the back alley’s will always be open to perform an abortion in filthy conditions with no experience, and no expertise.  Desperate women will continue to make this choice regardless what the consequences are to their bodies.

    Continuing my story, my brother set things up so I could fly to New York, New York and have a legal abortion, for that was the only place where it was legal.  I had to catch a jet all alone.  I was to do this journey, all alone.

    Two days before my take-off I began to experience sharp, stabbing pains in my abdomen and doubled-over in pain. As my brother was at work, I was all alone.

    I miscarried, all alone.  I was terrified, all alone.  I still had to fly to New York to complete the process, because it was illegal to even have this “cleaned-out” of my body, and I was all alone.  I crossed the line at the clinic, all alone.  The times were hot on this topic, (not unlike today) and people at the clinic were shouting “baby-killer!” and “you are going straight to hell!” at me.  They threw eggs at me, and I was all alone.

    Did I deserve all that?  Do young girls today who make the same choice deserve this?  I don’t think so.  I endured quietly, and silently, because I was all alone.

    Now, I speak out.    Now, I would like to tell everyone to protect Pro-Choice.  I made the right choice for me.

     

     



  • My Nutterville

    fde4e0e3_139108In 1952, when I was born, Nutterville was a small, isolated, rural community in central Wisconsin.  I have only my memories of it, of course, and that is all that I share with you.  I am not able to share other people’s memories as I am not them.  My book, “Nutterville”, caused no small controversy when it came out because it was not the Nutterville of other people’s memories.  My family read it with an eye that desired to read something they could sue me for.  My social status has drastically declined in Nutterville ever since I wrote that book, for it was not the reader’s memories that I discussed.

    As a child, when my head grew to bar-counter height, Dad drove me to the center of Nutterville itself.  Until then I always believed that we were the center.  After all, it was the road by my home that led to the church where my grand-father and then my uncle preached, and also to the tiny wooden one-room school-house.

    I found, that lo-and-behold, Nutterville also had a bar that made fish-fries on Friday night.  One Friday, Mom called, and placed an order via our phone, (which was still a “party-line” at that time) for 3 fish-fries.  Dad took me along on the mile-long trip along-side the swamp to pick up our supper.

    He opened the old, heavy, wooden door for me at the Nutterville Bar.  The sun was low in the sky but it was still bright.  I entered this dark room which was difficult for my senses because I was immediately assaulted by strong odors, and felt temporarily blinded. Soon I could see bright neon lights over the wood bar, and a line of people sitting at the counter that turned and looked at the strangers who entered. (That would have been us).  Looking up, I could see various colors and shapes of bottles holding liquids. They lined shelves that went almost to the ceiling. I was amazed by all the things my eyes saw.  I did not know these things could exist.  This was a very interesting, adult experience I was having with my Dad.

    The smell of this old bar was really pungent, and it made my nose wrinkle.  It smelled a little like the card-club-party that Mom and Dad often went to, only about one-hundred times stronger.  It also had this ancient odor that reminded me of days-gone-by long before I was born. I knew I was in a very different place than the church where I usually was allowed to visit.

    We were told that the fish-fry was not quite ready, so Dad took me back outside. It was a gentle summer evening and the weather to my memory, was perfect.  Dad began to talk to me, something he rarely ever did, so my ears perked up, and I listened.  He pointed across Highway 52, to a wheat field and said, “That’s where the old general store once stood”. I looked over there and began to think of the buildings I saw on the TV show called “Gun Smoke”, which was Dad’s favorite show.

    “This was once an old logging town back in the 1800’s”, he said.  “The store that stood there also had a post office in it, so the loggers could write to their sweet hearts in other cities.  This area was not yet settled, so there were no women or children that lived here. Back in that day, Nutterville was equal in population to the city of Wausau.”

    “The men who logged were fed and housed in a big one-room wood building.  They had a general store, a post office, and also a black smith shop across the street, aside of the bar.”  I looked at the rocky earth where he pointed, and knew I loved history and that this one-time lesson that was important for me.

    This was a rare and pleasant bonding moment between my Dad and I that has stayed with me all these years.

    These are the types of memories I cherish from my Nutterville youth; the memories that I lived, not the memories that other people wanted me to have lived.

     

     



  • Nutterville: Thunder and Lightening

    Scan10080I remember summer storms from my youth that rolled in from nowhere over the swamps of Nutterville.   Fat pregnant clouds filled with turmoil and mischief for earth; they would morph into wonderful dark mushroom shapes as I watched. Mama would call me to come indoors. Sometimes I was stubborn, and went inside only as far as the screen door in the hall so I could still see things happen outdoors.  I loved to absorb the weather and wonderful smells that came with storms.

    I not only loved big storms, I also loved to watch the predictable behavior of Mama.  She would worry and fret and pace from window to window to look outside.  She would look at the skies and say, “oh dear, should we go to the basement?”  Mama was usually worried and afraid over many things, sometimes I felt very sorry for her.  I usually wanted to take care of her and do everything right, so she would not worry so much.

    On this particular day a storm brewed late in the afternoon.  It got darker and darker as the thunder rolled, and sometimes a streak of light shot out and illuminated my swamp and my two elm trees that stood in the cow pasture.  Cows always tried to huddle under those trees for protection.  Mooing of cows and swamp-land go together in my mind like a horse and buggy.

    The cracking sounds of thunder became sharper and more pronounced.  Simultaneously, huge bolts of lightning made the world shake, and be bright all at one time.  The earth and sky came alive with noise. Then the wind began to wail.  First my maple tree had all of its branches swung this way and then that way, and I could see the same thing happening to the elm trees. The swing that dad made for me under the maple was swinging freely and going high all by itself.  The trees could not decide which way to bend.

    Mama called me and said, “We need to go to the basement right now!” It was just her and I at home this time, and no one else.

    I was about four or five and I was pretty sure that I knew about as much about storms as Mama did.  I did not fully realize that this storm was just beginning.  We walked down the thirteen steps to sit together in our basement.  We had no seats in the basement.  All we had was a tamped down dirt floor, old logs and the steps themselves, which is where we sat to “wait this out”.  I thought I could smell the odor of the storm from the basement although what I probably smelled was the earth beneath us instead.

    The best part of this all was still to come.  Mom and I sat in the basement and we could hear the great wind die down and then we began to hear the rain hit the house.  It not only rained, but the sky opened and sheets of water began to pour from the heavens.  It sounded terrific and loud.

    Mom and I climbed back upstairs.  By then a bolt of lightning had hit the electricity, so it was gone. No lights!  That happened a lot in those days, so that did not surprise me. What surprised me and made this evening a little different was the fact that the rain, thunder and lightning did not really let-up.  It continued.

    Mom got out her hurricane lantern that I loved so much.  I loved all things ancient and from days gone by.  Nothing was better than an evening sitting with the hurricane lantern lit, or candles lighting the rooms in the house.  I found that it made for restful and happy times.  It was nice and cozy.

    This particular night however, the rain did not stop easily and soon Mom and I began to hear plop sounds that I had not heard or experienced before.  Mom opened all the cupboards and took out pots and pans, she set them all over the bedroom floor, and where ever the plops and pings were coming from.  Actually, the rain came all the way through the second floor of the house, and was dripping in various places on the first floor.  Mom set me on her bed and I got the very important job of emptying the pans that were filling-up on her and Dad’s mattress.

    I watched Mom work with the pots and pans and water by the glow of candle light, and the old hurricane lantern.  I watched her bend and saw her shadow bend with her on the wall.  This is what is comfort and security and home for me.  Once in a while I would proudly take my buckets and empty them into the larger one.  We worked together and we had a purpose.  We were silent and content.

    The storm eventually took its course and ebbed.  Dad came home exhausted from his job.  Eventually the lights came back on and life’s routine continued.

    Looking back over the decades, I can only guess at the roof and conditions of my youth.  I can guess at what Mom’s worry was, that I could not see as a child.  She was a valiant and brave woman, living in Nutterville, in a house in the middle of a swamp that no one had ever built a house on before.  She was more like a pioneer than what I ever gave her credit for.   We eked out a make-shift life.

    Innocence of youth makes fond memories of dangerous situations; we were probably lucky that the roof did not collapse on top of us.

     

     

     

     

     



  • Nutterville “Strange Wild Sounds”

    Scan10054Many people have come to know me through my book, “Nutterville”.  Although I am older, I never forget my roots, or where I was born.  I was born in Nutterville, Wisconsin, my home.

    Each day it seems that some memory or a “feeling” from my childhood seeps into my thinking.  Sometimes while puttering in my kitchen in Jefferson, I can hear the ghost of my mama whisper something in my ear.  Or, I can break into an out-right laughter at a memory of something that happened way-back-when. I can then feel mom or dad smile at me, and I’m comforted. Nutterville always seems close to my heart.

    During this time, in 2015, my new hobby has been reading about Bigfoot, or Sasquatch.  Laugh if you want, but it’s true.  I am reading a book by David Paulides called Tribal Bigfoot.  A person can find me googling their sounds, and doing research on my computer of what I can find.  I am a great fan of thinking about unusual topics.  I am definitely not a main-stream person, never have been and never will be.

    Reading and thinking about my new hobby has reminded me of course, (you guessed it) of Nutterville. Spring in Nutterville arrived with the sound of sweet tree-frogs and droning the swamp-frogs in the dark of night.  They chimed together with full-throated “croaks and peeps” from all over dark swamp.  The sounds echoed mysteriously around our home that was situated in the middle, with no other houses near-by.  Spring came also with stars that twinkled overhead on clear nights, bright and clear because of the lack of street lights, or any lights to cloud them.  All these bright orbs seemed so close!  It was what “Heaven” must like … and it made the world so very small.

    One such spring night, my entire family (all of us that were home at the time) gathered together on the front lawn, trying to be quiet.  We gathered to listen, and hear something that was creating a very unusual sound from the wild-wood, which was across Highway 52.  I was not allowed to go over there because I was too young.  Looking back in my mind’s eye, everyone is standing about 20 feet apart.  Except for me, I stood close to my Mama’s side.  The others, I think, could not stand too close together … even then.  It forebode of our future together as a family.

    Then an un-earthly, loud, shriek echoed and lingered from those woods.  The hair on my arms tingled, and I snuck a little closer to mama.  She whispered, “There, it happened again, did everybody hear it?”

    Everyone began to talk and whisper excitedly all at one time.  In my mind, I can see my two brothers heads turn in the shadows and look at each other, and then look back at mama.  They stood closer to the wild wood than I.  Everyone was excited.

    Then one more time, the eerie scream echoed in the swamp.

    I felt excited, thrilled, and terrified all at one time.  I memorized that moment without knowing it.  In fact, I memorized the entire event. I still hear the frogs peeping loud and clear.  I see the crystal dark sky with its numerous stars that felt like a twinkling blanket.  Stars that made me feel small, yet safe.  I smell the wonderful odor of the wakening, moist, swamp-earth after the icy winter.  On that particular night, I also have the memory of this amazing sound that tore the atmosphere of our routine in two.

    There was much talk after that late cry from the woods of “the last lynx”, or the “last cougar”, or the “last wild bob-cat”, or “the last creature of this type.”  No one seemed to fully agree on what it was that we heard.

    What happened next was only part of what shaped my life.  I do not cherish all the memories of Nutterville.

    My two brothers began to talk immediately about killing this creature that made the sound.  They could hardly wait to get their guns, and go hunting.  They planned on doing a night hunt, chase it down, and shoot it.  Shooting wild creatures was a great hobby for them.  Killing dogs with their car, and hunting for pleasure, was to them something to do in Nutterville that was done with zest, and fun.  Stalking wild animals at night was their idea of a great adventure.

    Why this should have hurt me so deeply, way down into the inner marrow of my bones, I don’t clearly understand or know.  I was not like them, nor could I appreciate their hobby.

    I learned a lesson that night, a lesson that keeps teaching me

    A group of people can witness an utterly fantastic, rare occurrence. Some of them will feel honored to have seen or witness it, others will want to exploit it, or may not even care.  They may even want to benefit from it financially, or … kill it.  We all had the same experience, and yet had such diverse response.

    I believe if I heard a Bigfoot today, or a wild cougar, lynx or bobcat, while sitting on my mama’s lawn, I would still be as grateful, thrilled and supremely happy as I was as a young girl. I also believe that some others would want to hunt it down, shoot it and examine it for their own pleasure.  We never seem to learn how to co-exist on earth … in peace and respect for all living things.

     

     



  • I am Crabby!

    So, I’m crabby.  I am not feeling like a “chipper, upbeat, positive, sweet, smiley, old lady” lately.  It’s not that I haven’t felt this mood before. Because, I have.  But, every time I feel this way, I feel like I will never be happy again.  Being crabby is miserable.

    You think you got problems?  Well, me too!  Join the club, is my attitude for today.

    The thing is: in reality, I am healthy and I have a good home.  I receive unconditional love and I am surrounded by beautiful nature.  So, why on earth should I be feeling this way?

    Yet, I am!  I am crabby, and I also feel this “vague discontent” that seems to come from under my soul, grasp my heart and my nature, and wants to subdue me into surrendering.  Surrender to what? Surrender to merely existing, instead of riding the crest of my passion that I want to do with my life.  I never wanted to just exist from day to day, or to say “I am doing so-so” when asked.  And yet, here it is.

    I am wondering: What does this crabbiness mean?  And also: How can I drill a hole through it and come out the other side? Once I can drill through, how can I make sure this never comes back?  I do not like this, I say.  I want to feel strong, wise and on top of my game. I want to feel like I can nurture and give back to people, and feel like I can contribute to society.  Not just feel this indescript notion of being out-of-balance.

    Being crabby is to be human, I know.  Yet this is so messy, being human with all these emotions!  Oy Vey!

    I honestly believed that if I lived this long, (into my 60’s) that the hardest part of life would be over.  I believed that the difficult decisions would have been made by this time. I believed that these years would find me slipping into a sweet welcome routine.

    Wait!  Not so!  Not so!

    This feels unfair.  And … it is unfair.

    I am sitting in a coffee shop pouring my feelings onto beautiful paper.  I just read this blog (what I wrote above) to a 21 year old man.  He immediately stated, “oh ya! I can totally relate!  This is how I felt all day yesterday!”  We had a valuable heart-to-heart discussion on this.  Which successfully changed my mood.  Like… totally.

    The good thing about having emotions is that they are a great equalizer. As long as we all have crabby days, and joyful days, we can all relate and we are all human.

    I don’t like being crabby, but some rare times, it serves a good purpose.

    As for this mood never returning, I say, “Good Luck with that one, Faye”.

     

     

     

     



  • Day by Day

    31N9pw7S9PL__AA160_The years have slipped away too soon, and all things become only memories.  Once in my life, I sat by my mother in the sun shine back in Nutterville, and she read to me from a book.  It was a story of a little girl who was given a task that she must accomplish.  She was given a spoon that had many holes in it.  The girl had to empty a lake filled with fresh water using only this spoon that had holes.  She toiled day after day, dipping her spoon into the lake and carrying the water to the bank.  But by the time she reached the bank with her spoon, it was empty.  There was no way to complete the task she had to do, so she sat and wept.

    Decades have passed, and I have no memory how this story ended.  Yet, I never forgot that story.  I identified even then.  This girl was given a chore she could never accomplish for it was an impossible task.  The person who gave her this job was surely a trickster and was mean-hearted.

    What strikes me about this; it is really the story of our life, all of our lives.  We may not feel a need to sit and weep over it, but we accomplish really so little with all our years we are given.  Oh, there are times when we feel like we accomplished a lot.  We look back over the day and say, “Wow.  This was a big day and I am tired from all my work.”

    Yet, the next day begins and we have to do the same work over again, just like the girl in the story.  Even when we win a rare reward, or achieve praise, or obtain the golden moment we strove for, it is over too soon.  Then when we start a new day, we find the lake filled with the same water and we must again begin to work at our same task.

    How unfair is that!

    I am now thinking of movie stars and our heroes of the golden screen and from u-tube.  I am thinking of people who have made it to the top of their game.  I am thinking of someone who appears to have made it and has done it all.  Yet I know that when tomorrow comes, they too must sit at the lake with a spoon again, and they too must toil under the sun. Or, they will not stay on top of their game for long.  For, it will vanish along with the applause they want and worked for.

    So, is this just a really unfortunate and horrible attitude that I have, that comes with Sinicism and my old-age?  If it is, I have had it all my life.  Given that, I do not think it is an unkind position to have.  Because I think we all work hard, and achieve little for our effort.  What is it that we want to achieve?

    See, this is where I believe I have the advantage over you, because I have had years to ponder this, and I have an answer in my heart already.  I have thought and thought and also mourned as time slipped away and I had so little to show for it.  So, I contemplated this riddle.

    What is it that I want to achieve with my time on earth?  Given the fact that when each day comes, I must work at my tasks with a spoon that is filled with holes, and life really is unfair?  I have come to the conclusion that if the little girl in the story decided to be happy as she took water out of the lake each day, that her happiness and acceptance in life would be a Prize that no one could ever take away.

    The evil person who gave her this endless task would only grow more and more bitter each day, as he/she would watch this little girl grow beautiful, peaceful and calm toiling under the sun.  It would be the only way the girl could survive.

    The end game in life is not what we achieve or accomplish.  It is our attitude while we do it.  It is all about our heart/soul and the invisible in the end.  How did we take up the challenge of empting a lake filled with water, using only a spoon that had holes?   Because whatever our job is, it is really only toiling under the sun and has no purpose unless we give it one.



  • Death and Dying

    “I love people so much that I cannot visit them in a nursing home; it is too painful for me.”

    Those words were said to me ten years ago by a relative … a Christian relative. Ten years have passed, and I can’t tell you how many times I have thought about those words.  I have thought about them in many various aspects of my life.  I have tried to put “the best construction” on them.  As a Lutheran, we are taught by Martin Luther that we, “put the best construction” on all situations.  I once was proud to be a Lutheran, about fifty years ago. So, I can go back and put myself into that mind-set.  Even as a Lutheran those words would tend to swizzle my brain.

    I looked at those words from the stance of a social worker who loves to work with people and families in hospice.  I see those words being said from their eyes.  What would those words mean to them as they need to sit and watch all that needs to unfold during this process?

    I looked at those words from a daughter’s perspective as my mom and dad were going through the process of saying good bye to this world and all that it holds while dying.  I also had to sit and watch my sister die from gangrene with all the ugly gruesome bits of human reality that went with that.  Sometimes even then, those words would came back and haunt me.

    I never came to peace with what that relative told me.  Tonight the words ring somehow even more profound in the inadequate way this person showed her coping level.

    Yet, tonight I have come to realize that those words exemplify Americans as a whole.  We do not like to visit our dying relations.  We do not like to see them in their last stages of fight on earth.

    My dad became mean toward the end of his life. He was angry and it came to the forefront. Not pleasant to witness or be around. If he got a hold of my arm or hand, he would use all his strength, which was impressive, to hurt me and pinch me.  He would grasp until all I wanted to do was break his hold.  My older sister always said he had a “dark side”.  It came out at his end, with none of his other characteristics fully present.  Sad to see, yet his battle was not over and I needed to watch the drama play out.  I did.  I was the one with him when he died.

    My mom became sad and rather sweet at her end.  I would rather like to be like her.

    My sister became more hallucinatory toward her end, due to her being paranoid schizophrenic.

    Now, I watch many people as they grapple for life during their last days.  I think I see a pattern of what they have been in their prime, (but repressed) become more so.  The layers of façade are peeled away as they reach death’s door.

    Do we have a way to cope with death in America that is better?  One that is more like a warier who wants to fight a good fight, and meet death head on, ready with open arms and open heart?

    That is my goal.  I live my life with full awareness that it will end. I want to meet it as a warier with open arms and open heart.  I can only change and reform my body and mind.  To think that I can influence others is phooey.  Yet, I need to communicate and write about this important topic.

    In the end, it is all that will matter. How will we face death?  How will you face death?



  • Mamadee Dux Dukely and… Why

    IMG_1230Having no children of my own has often, too often, made me the source of pity from others, especially women.  “Oh, you poor thing”, “I am so sorry for you,” “That must be so hard for you.”  Those are only a few of the stream of comments that I have received through the years. First, the inevitable question, “How many children do you have?”  When I say, “None” Then I get those deep pity-looks.  My own flesh and blood sister told me this last year, “I am so happy that you never had any children, think of the mess we would be in now.”

    One of my memories from early grade school was when I made an announcement to Mama.  I said, “Mom I am not going to have my own baby’s. I have enough love to love people who have no love. I am going to adopt. There are many people in the world who have no love. They need it too.”  I came a little over her waist in height, and I had to look up at her when I said that.  She said, “Don’t ever let me hear you talk like that again.  You will have your own children someday.”  I thought to myself, “Ok, she doesn’t need to hear it again.”  But I never changed my mind.

    When I was twenty-six years old, I found myself totally alone and had not one friend on earth. Long story I won’t get into now. But I had a spiritual awakening of sorts. I prayed.  I prayed in the one-room efficiency that I was renting. I prayed in my misery, as people do.  Some turn to God when there is no one.  That is what I did.  I asked God for help. What I asked is that as I age I wanted a life that was filled with people to love, and people to love me back. All I wanted was people in my life.  I was so deadly lonely.  (I still did not want my own children. There are so many children that need love, why should I require my own?  That has always seemed a selfish desire to me.)

    After my prayer, the decades ahead were filled with more than bumps.  For whatever reason, my life has been extreme. Some of you know bits and parts, only bits and parts. Through it all, the one thing I continue to seek is love.  Love to give and love to receive.  That has been constant.  I want to experience everything and learn all the lessons that are on my plate to learn.  I want to soar and grow and thrive on earth and know that I have lived every moment to the fullest.  That desire has made a very interesting and filled life from homelessness to some amount of riches and success.

    What I wish to say is that over the past year, I have been given the love of a son.  Mamadee Dux Dukely from Liberia, and then from Nigeria, West Africa.   He and his wife Masiame have embraced me as Mom and I have been given the title of “mama Africa” which I say I never take lightly.

    These events have happened over a course of fifty years.  I follow my heart on this topic.  Not having your own children is not the end of the world that some seem to think it is.  I feel blessed in a multitude of ways by not having my own children.

    I eagerly await to see what my future will be like.  Since that fateful day of such deep agony, and my prayer, I opened up to what fate will bring.  Look where I have gone and come.

    My message is to open yourself to love and growth.  Loneliness can lead to the biggest adventure ever if you continue to open yourself and grow.

    I cannot tell you how often people tell me that they should write a book, like I did, about their life.  It is not in the writing, or the stories.  It is about what you have learned in your life that matters.  What is your lesson you pass on to others?

    Mine is to continue to open your heart to love and grow.

     



  • Christmas Reflections

    Mail0004Christmas Season has rarely been a time of reflection for me.  I find it an obnoxiously busy time of year.  The airwaves and stores add to this already crammed time by tooting what a happy month this is for family.  If we don’t “catch” the Christmas wonder and awe of a child, and the deep spiritual meaning, well then there surely must be something wrong with us.

    Traditionally I think of December as something I must get through, so the lull of January can come and give me relief!  January has this abrupt crisp peace that my soul longs for.  It is all the better if it brings days of bitter deep below 0 weather and white-air vapors that are visible in the icy air.  It helps me feel grateful that I have a warm home and windows to peer through while I am toasty warm.

    January has become the month that I truly embrace has having the hint of returned sanity.  I no longer have to feel I need to exude the “holiday spirit”, or be seen as a Grinch.  The first month of the year has a distinctive soft sweet dignity after the frenzied crushing distortion of fun/family-filled December.

    Growing up in the 1960’s with a sister who had a significant mental illness and who was placed in a county mental institution, I have awareness as an adult how difficult Christmas-time can be for some people.  As a child, I was aware of myself and how grateful I was that my sister was not home for the holidays. To my young eyes, she was disruptive and rather like a tornado in our midst.

    To my aged self, I consider Christmas in the 1960’s through her eyes. I don’t even know if they decorated Wisconsin’s Winnebago State Hospital for the insane, during that time.  I hope that they had at least a few kindly staff.  I have gotten to know one of her peers since then, and I am glad to report that my sister was loved and had friends. Perhaps it was them who helped make it more bearable for her.

    At age 62, am I a Christmas Grinch? No.  I do not think I am.  As I write, Bing Crosby is singing, “There is no place like home for the holidays” on the radio at this coffee café. I resurrect my home back in Nutterville, and I can see the snow and the ice. I can hear myself memorize my Christmas line for the pageant. .. Mama is practicing church hymns on the organ as she bakes Christmas cookies.  These are all good memories.  They are fleeting, but good.

    My “Christmas Present” as Scrooges Ghost shows me, is equally good.  For along with feeling crunched, I also feel happy and even blessed. Whatever a blessing is, I have it in triplicates because I am loved.  I fully participate in that, as I love back.  That, to me is Christmas.

    I still await the peace of January with anticipation, and relish the thought that it will come soon.

     

     

     



  • African Experience; Beauty

    IMG_1026My days in Africa flew by.  I lacked time and space to just “soak-in” happenings, as is my manner and custom.  I love to sit and watch things as they unfold, and that could not happen while I was there.  So, now is my time to reflect.  Now is when I can magnify a memory and cause it to linger as I examine it.

    One such memory is a scene from a street. I glimpsed a young woman as she sauntered under the hot African sun. She was beautiful and had natural dignity and grace. She carried herself with an inner strength, and a quiet pride. Her bearing was as regal as a queen’s as she strolled through a crowd carrying yams on her head in a large bowl.  One arm was bent to help balance her load as she walked with this effortless ease.  She was not carrying a few yams on the top of her head, but huge heavy ones that were stacked high!

    It was her face struck that me the most, because she was at peace with this enormous weight on her head. She appeared calm and serene. To my eyes, her body and face would vie with any major movie star we admire in our American magazines today.  She was beautiful.

    Yet, as surly as she stood so proud and beautiful, I could not help but see that she was standing amid major squalor and rubble.  She was standing on a street made of dirt, in a town that lacks any government help to make it a town. The neglect or absence of any government help is so fierce that the beauty of a woman such as this is easy to miss amid the filth and despair.

    In my mind’s eye, this woman still has youth on her side. She walks amid the dirt, pot-holes, garbage and filth as though it does not exist and has no impact in her world. Yet, we know it does.  For, there is no sanitary hospital for her to go if she cuts her foot, or if she gets hit by a car.  There is no safe place for her unborn child to play or to get an education and learn to read or write.  Her world has little time for these dreams, or even hope.

    The hope she has lies in her ability to buy a little rice or beans to take to her family for an evening meal.  Her hope manifests in being able to live another harsh day on the streets, and to stay in a place where there is little electricity at night.  There will be no warm water for her to wash herself after a hard day.  Her night will be difficult when the blackness that falls arrives amid these people.  It is not easy to tell the difference between a friend or an enemy in darkness.

    There is great and vast poverty in the streets of Africa.  It is still “slave labor”.  It comes at a huge cost to the people, and it is all around. People there will do anything for little money, or even a scratch at security.

    Back to the beauty of this one woman that caught my eye during one fleeting second of time.  She is beautiful. She remains beautiful amid the rubble. She is radiant in her cheery cherry colored dress, and adorned with a head-dress of the same material.  Her delicacy complements her appearance and looks.  The memory is feast for my mind.

    But I cannot look much deeper!  She is still young.  Her future will be filled with sorrows.

    Nigeria lacks leadership.  She lacks anyone who can help her towns, and streets. She lacks a leader who sees her beauty and who will protect her from violence.  So far, Nigeria and surrounding countries have leaders who only see her for personal profit and pillaging.  Corruption and greed is the only name of the game for her leaders.

    Nigeria needs a leader who will look at her earth, her natural resources, beauty, and people with compassion.  Who will care about the future and create justice for them.

    Africa needs good leaders.  When will this happen, and how to find them.



  • African Experience (4)

    IMG_0421 IMG_0443I am a person who follows my heart. I have done this all my life.  I have no idea how my heart makes up my mind, but it does.  Then I follow along to see what will happen. My heart always knows long before I know, what my next move in life will be.

     

    That is why I went to Africa, and that is why I am still involved with Africa. I had absolutely no idea as to what to expect, where I would be staying, what I would be eating, where I would sleep, or if I was to go to the bathroom in the bush, or there would be flush toilets. All I knew for certain is my heart said I must go.  And so I did.

     

    Minna, Nigeria, West Africa, I was so far from home! Once I arrived, would I be able to connect emotionally with the people?  I did.  I have a keen heart.  When I place my heart next to another person’s heart, I can feel things.  Can’t you?  Love, acceptance, home, or just plain rejection is all known in that one moment of contact.

     

    When I stepped out of the car at New Horizons College, I met Maryam Lemu. When our hearts met, I knew I had found home.  She is a woman whose heart and emotions are similar to my own.  We hugged repeatedly.  We looked into each other’s eyes, and laughed.  I trusted her right away like I would a beloved sister.  It was wonderful.

     

    I found it was on her suggestion that I did not eat until I came into New Horizon’s. She knows Americans, and knows we are not used to African foods, and she was trying to protect me from illness. I loved her on sight.  Who could not? She had a meal waiting for me that she herself had prepared.

     

    She even had a little reception committee waiting for me by my apartment. Oh My Gosh!  I never expected to have my own little apartment or quarters during my stay. This was too much. I was so overwhelmed and over-joyed that the little girl from Nutterville, who my heart identifies with the most, was lost. I became someone greater than myself.  I had gone to Africa, and was given my own lodging!  Too much, I thought to my heart.  This is too much joy and happiness.

     

    Soon Maryam’s mother, Aisha was there and hugging me too. These women are beautiful, both inside and out.  I could tell they were also educated and had been around.  This was not like anything I had expected.

     

    No one stayed long that first morning. They wanted me to eat and rest.

     

    After all my company left, I was too excited to rest. I did eat breakfast and I drank some coffee, and I took my luggage back into my bedroom.  I checked out my bathroom and found it to be much more than what I thought I would have during my stay.  I was comfortable indeed.  I sat on my bed, and opened my luggage.  Then I longed to be out in the African sunshine, and explore.  I did not think there would be any harm in exploring alone.

     

    I left my apartment and began to walk around. Soon I heard the laughter and voices of many children and wondered about it. I walked up a flight of stairs to a building that was near my apartment.  I was alone.  I entered a room and there were dozens of children.  Many tiny children, around the age of three or four. There was one adult.  The adult came to me with a smile and asked who I was.  I was explaining that I was a guest of Dux when I heard footsteps of someone running up the steps.

     

    Dux had found me. He had a look of sheer panic on his face, and he was sweating. When he saw me, he looked relieved but said, “Mom you must wait to be introduced to people, and to be shown around.”

     

    I again had a shock because I was not in America any more. I really did not know the customs and ways of where I was, and I must rely on Dux more than I thought.

     

    He had gone to my apartment to check on me, and did not find me. He was very worried.  I decided that I would have to stay under his care and not be my usual bold self.  He was there to take care of me. I did not want to spoil that, or make him look bad, or give myself a reputation of mis-conduct.

     

     



  • African Experience 3

    IMG_0345Waking up the first morning in Africa was again surreal for me. I found that I had slept in my clothes, something I had not done that for decades. Men’s voices were muffled and infiltrated my dreams, and when I woke, the voices were still there, talking low and I could not make out any of the words. I slowly opened my eyes and looked around me, not knowing what to expect. Immediately people were smiling at me and welcoming me.  They were eating breakfast and drinking coffee. I was offered bottled water, but no coffee.  I did not say anything because I did not want to be rude or ungrateful.

    Soon we were all piled in the car and they finished their breakfast as fast as they could without offering me a bite. Actually, they were so cheerful, smiling, and happy that I could not even feel it in my heart to tell them that I was hungry, or that I too would like some coffee.  They had bought me some Danish cookies the night before, and I had them in my hand.  The cookies came in a sealed tin-package and were from a different land. I looked at Dux sandwich which was eggs and bread and he immediately offered me a bite, which I took and ate.

    As we drove I became totally immersed in the different culture and all the people around us. From our car window I could see street scenes that I describe as a sea of humanity, busy, loud, and disorganized in an orderly and predictable fashion. People were trying to get our attention in the middle of the street to sell us merchandise that they were carrying on top of their heads, in their arms, or in big bins with a leather strap around their neck.  Arms were waving at us and voices shouting that were loud and unfamiliar.

    At one point I rolled my car-window down so I could get a picture of the vendors. Immediately I felt absolutely terrified and assaulted by the many arms and many body’s that came through the open window. Loud voices were yelling to give them my camera. I was caught off guard.  One of the hands that came in scraped my chin and took off a few layers of skin.  I felt paralyzed and breathless in my adrenalin rush of fear.

    Dux immediately put his body between me and the boy-vendors that surrounded the car. He shoved their hands back out of the window.  Masiami took my camera and hid it in her dress. I was numb, and scared out of my wits. I was not in Wisconsin any more. I was in a foreign land and I realized anything can really happen. I was quiet, and retreated into a quiet zone in my mind.

    Weeks after I got back to the states, Dux wrote and said that he found the boys that did this, and told them how I felt and asked them what they were doing. They claimed to be trying to make a sale and did not mean me harm.

    Dux continues to amaze me in many ways. Going back and talking to these same young men never occurred to me.  Telling them how much they frightened me and helping them see what their actions caused is the way Dux thinks and operates.

    It was after we arrived in Minna, a three hour journey, that I found out that Dux, Abdul, Masiami all had strict orders that I was to not eat anything but what was tightly sealed, or drink anything but bottled water. I began to know the ways and rules of what would become part of my journey.



  • African Experience (2)

    IMG_0308African Experience

    For me, communication in Nigeria West Africa was a different experience than in Wisconsin, USA. Being there, among people I never met, I did not know exactly what to expect. From the beginning of my journey, I decided that I would place my trust 100% in Dux, (Mamadee Dux Dukuly) and go with the flow. But the heavy accents made it difficult at times. Dux is very hard for me to understand because of his accent.  We communicate best by typing, to this day. Meeting him in Abuja was a shock to my ears. I soon realized that I would have to just relax and trust.  So that is exactly what I did.

    When I met him, his hug was warm and genuine and his wife’s touch was the same. I knew instinctively that they were my family from now on. Looking into his eyes is what I had imagined it would be like for a year before I met him. There was trust, joy, sorrow and depth of character all mirrored there, plus respect for me.  That is what I saw.

    Once we got into a car, we drove through the streets of Abuja. I could not help myself, as we drove I kept exclaiming excitedly, “Wow!” “Look at that!” “Oh!”  Each time I saw a bill board, or a person who was carrying stacked items on their head or the like.  I found everything foreign and fascinating. 

    During one of my loud outbursts I happened to catch the eye of the man in our car who Dux introduced me to earlier at the airport. I was so overwhelmed at the time, that I could not remember much about him.  But, at the moment our eyes met in that car, is the moment that Bella Abdul entered my life and heart.  His eyes were twinkling, and oh-so kind.

    “Whoa!” I said to myself. “These are the eyes of a very intelligent, and compassionate young man.” Out loud, I laughed and said, “What is your name again?” He laughed too. He would hear that question from me often for a while, due to my poor memory.  He never seemed to mind.  I became his fan right away, and I remain that way. As I type, I see his eyes, Dux’s eyes, and Masimae’s eyes… all in front of me. 

    After a short drive, we arrived at a neat, clean-looking building. I learned we would spend the night there. I no longer had to worry about carrying my luggage or even my purse or camera. All was taken care of.  My new son and daughter-in-law would take care of all things from then on. We were all to stay at this hostel and drive to Minna in the morning.

    As I got out of the car, I tried hard to take in the African experience. I felt the hot air on my skin, and it felt as a caress.  The aroma was exotic and a bit spicy with plant life, and hot. I felt as a woman in love. Happy.  I looked up and saw large, clumsy objects flying low overhead, flapping their wings with some effort.

    “Look!” I exclaimed loudly and I pointed at them, “What are they?” My companions glanced upward as they were working with the luggage, but they failed to be impressed by what they saw, and went about their business.

    So there I was experiencing, all alone, the magnificent flight of the African Fruit Bats as they soared in the air, right above my head! Making their nightly sojourn, in search for the most fragrant and the most ripe of all the fruit trees to dine on. They soared, flapped and flew in great numbers, but not in a tight bunch.  They were spread out as they lumbered along.  The flight of the fruit bats would become my favorite of rituals during my stay.

    Dux, Masiame, Abdul, the car driver and myself sat on the edge of the two beds in my room and talked for a time. I began to snap some pictures.  Abdul quickly asked about my camera and began to take photographs with it as well. 

    Soon, the men left to go to their room. Masiame and I were left in the women’s quarters.   I laid my head on the bed and was soon fast asleep.  It had already been quite the experience to come from frigid Wisconsin in mid-January to the equator of West Africa in one trip.  I had not yet had time to reflect or think about it at all.  The day passed in one great rush, and became history way too fast.  I was in a state of deep sleep before I could comprehend the changes, or catch up to where I was.  Africa!

     



  • My African Family

    IMG_0327How I felt becoming a “Mom” at age sixty-two. I felt a mother-son bond with Dux (Mamadee Dux Dukely), shortly after meeting him “on-line”. I loved him and called him my son even though he is a black-skinned African and I am a pasty old white lady. Dux, along with his wife, Massiame, have become my family. 

    He frequently calls me, sends pictures, and emails me, always assuring me of his love and support. He openly shares his heart and soul with me, and that makes us family.

    West Africa, where he lives, has become a part of my life and heart. I no longer feel roots in only Wisconsin, but also in Africa.  I had no idea that traveling there this last January by myself would bring such deep feelings of family and belonging. 

    Before I made the twenty-one hour flight, Dux assured me that he would wait at the airport gate for as many hours as it took for me to land safe and meet him. He told me he would not leave his vigil. It is a good thing he said that.  Because landing in Abuja, Nigeria is not at all like landing in an airport in America.  For one thing, the electricity goes out repeatedly and the room becomes dark, and you can’t move in your line.  One stands in a long line and waits to have the officials look at your VISA. I was the only and sole white person there.  Me and me.  The sole white-skin.  I stood in this line a long time to have them look at my VISA so I could get my luggage.  I was the last one in line, because I had to fill out paper work on the plane.  I had to declare what was in my suit-cases.

    Then it took hours standing in that line. I refused to feel flustered.  I kept telling myself that I did not need to use the bathroom and I was fine.  After my VISA was checked, the officials made some jokes that they felt were funny. I was afraid to laugh because I did not know if I should. Only then I was allowed to enter the baggage pick-up area.

    I picked up my two pieces of heavy luggage. I had my X-large purse which was very heavy, a carry-on, plus these two giant pieces of baggage filled with exactly forty-nine pounds each. After I acquired these, there was plenty of airport staff telling me they were “thirsty” and holding out their hand.  I had no money to give them, because I did not have African currency.  I knew “thirsty” meant “give me money”.  So, I ignored them and just smiled. 

    After that, I entered a third area. Finally I saw some chairs.  But, what I did not see were people.  There were no people!  At all, anywhere.  No Dux, No Massiame, no one else! As I looked around I did not know who to ask, or what to do next. I felt very alone and began to make a plan how I would get back home. Then one last person exited the door where the luggage was, and he spoke English.  He said, “You must go through that door there, no one is allowed in this room.” He pointed at a door as he kept walking. 

    So … I took my one-hundred-and-forty pounds of luggage, and tried to drag them all to that door, swearing to myself that the next time I fly, I will have cases that have excellent rollers. Once I opened the door, I was aware of 2 new things immediately.  One was the sun.  It shone so fierce that it hurt. Of course! I was at the equator.   Second, there was a circle of people behind a line, but I could see no faces due to the brightness of the sun, and the distance of the circle. 

    I struggled with the weight of what I was pulling when I saw 2 people running toward me. This is how I knew that my son would come through for me, whatever it took. He never gave up waiting or watching for me.  

    Soon our arms were around each other, and my hands were holding his face for the first time. Soon my arms encircled Massiame and I thought she was the loveliest person my eyes ever saw.  Soon I was meeting new life-long friends and family.

    And this was only the beginning.

     



  • I love Wisconsin, But…

    IMG_1353I love Wisconsin. I love most of its people, culture, nature, topography, weather, aromas, seasons, history and just about everything you can think of.  I learned when traveling to Arizona recently, that there is one thing I wish we had that we don’t have. That is, a mass sun-set watching.

    This particular Thursday in Arizona appeared to be a rather bleak day. No sun was in sight. There was only a hazy, cloudy sky all day. It was a grey day, and not very interesting.   The hills didn’t jump at me with deep a sense of shadows or textures that I saw on others photographs of the west.  My eyes did not hurt from the glare of the sun, and others did not even bother wearing sun glasses.

    On most of the cliffs, vortexes, and paths of Sedona and the surrounding area, people were walking, but they were not bunched up together to see any one thing that was totally fantastic. It was just an ordinary, quiet and rather bland day filled with peace and serenity. No particular scene stands out.

    Then, at 6:30 PM, I noticed a slight opening in the far west corner of the heavens. It appeared like a little tease, like a skirt that was lifted slightly to show a small bit of ankle to allure.  I said to my friends, “I want to get a picture of that sight when the sun comes shining through! I want to capture the cliffs in full light!”

    We started to drive as fast as allowed through the streets of Sedona to get to Air Port Vortex. “Hurry!” I kept saying, “This isn’t gonna last more than a few minutes.”

    When we got to the first parking lot, it was packed with cars. “Let’s go higher!” I cried.

    Arriving at the top level, my friends left me off so I could take my precious photos. I looked at the cloud cover and noted that the sun might shine for a few moments just before it slipped away.

    As excited as I was, I actually forgot to watch the sun set. What struck me like a smack aside my head was the crowd that was gathered for the action of the sun.  I realized that was a big deal!

    At first, I walked to the edge of the cliff to get a better view. Then I noticed I was in the way of everyone.  The people were polite, but they also let me know that I was standing in their way.  So, I walked to the back of the crowd and looked around me.  Here I saw at least 150 people gathered to watch this event.  Some had cameras and some didn’t.  I looked around in amazement and some amount of shock.

    The atmosphere was like a carnival. I heard laughter, much talking and excitement.  I sat on a rock and began to snap pictures of the crowd.

    “I come here as often as I can for this.” One woman told me. “And I live right here, in Sedona. This is the best entertainment around as far as I know!”

    “I come too” Another woman chimed in. “I put my sun set pictures on face book.”

    I wanted to see them and I gave them my name. I am still hoping for their friend request so I can look.

    One woman was dressed in total western gear. I did not get a chance to talk to her long, but I asked if I might take a photo of her; she pulled her ankle-length yellow rain slicker away from her hip and showed that she was packing a gun.  She smiled and said, “of course you can take my picture.”  And so I did. IMG_1348

    This was an odd arrangement of folks up there on that cliff. I watched them mill around for a while.  The sun was forgotten by all the other strange sights.

    I sure wish we had a place to gather together and watch the sun set in Wisconsin. I just wish we could all start a new tradition.



  • LeeRoy

    imagesD1Y3F6V0Entering the dimly lit room and gently coo, “LeeRoy, LeeRoy, Are you awake?” As I approach his bed, my hand automatically reaches for the top of his bald head, letting it linger there.

    This routine has occurred often through the years. Even if LeeRoy was awake and alert, his thirty-five year old eyes would not be able to track, nor would he be able to speak or acknowledge me in any way.

    In our busy complex lives, we seem to fill each moment with learning, expressing, experiencing, making choices, or a combination of some such. We forget about the fact that there are people like LeeRoy around.  The only people who never forget are his faithful mom and dad.

    LeeRoy and his mom, Lois, are my friends, and also part of what I do for a living. For the next two hours, Lois will have the luxury of a two-way conversation filled with belly laughs, stories and jokes.

    Her son, LeeRoy was born this way. His brain lacks any activity.  He has no reactions. No abilities.  Not even the ability to eat or drink, or sit up.  Every aspect of life that we take for granted, he lacks.

    After I greet him, I go into the kitchen where we ladies sit and talk. Soon a high-pitch “BEEP” sounds through the room and repeats, sounding exactly like a hospital monitor.  I follow Sally into the bedroom where she continues our conversation while cleaning his G-tube, refilling it after flushing out the air.  She never loses track of what we are saying, as she does this work.

    Have you ever talked with someone in their home as they clean the tube that enters the stomach? Have you ever watched as all these instruments surround a person in their own bedroom, and know that they keep them alive? I have been in this room and watched it often, yet I never took the time to stop and give it the full attention it deserves. It feels automatic in some ways.  It is what we do; it is something that just happens.

    A hundred years ago a baby born with LeeRoy’s disabilities would have died at birth, or a few hours after. We can now keep this body alive and help it grow into an old man, just lying on a bed surrounded by baby toys and machines that drip food and liquids and take care of waste matter.

    “I know he is able to hit his toy and make it moo when he wants to” Sally has said often. I have never witnessed this happening.  I have seen him awake often and he moves his arms up and down a little, but I have never seen him hit this toy and cause it to “moo”.  The toy is meant for a three month old.  It stays in his clean, meticulous bed with all of his other clean, unused toys.

    LeeRoy’s life has served a different purpose. He has permanently altered the course of his parent’s world and personalities.  His one ability is to remain as a functioning three-month old.  This single event has forced them to adapt, and recreate a life centered forever on their “baby”.

    Should any one even dare to feel sorry for them? No!  Not even for one moment in time.

    Both parents have grown to fully embrace having a “baby” in the house. LeeRoy has become their joy, and their fulfillment.  He has given them purpose and meaning that the rest of us can only sit back and envy!  Every aspect of this home is “baby-centered”, and they cherish each day.

    I always find true heroes of our American culture in the least expected places. Yes, they are there. Be aware and on the lookout for them. You too can find true caring people in this maze of a seemingly uncaring world.

     

     

     



  • Introduction

    Faye Kufahl was born in Nutterville over 60 years ago.  Did you hear the name of the town?  Nutterville, Wisconsin … yes.  How many of us have often felt like we are from Nutterville, or live in Nutterville?  Lol

    When she was 11, her older sister was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia, sending Faye and her sister and mom and dad, into great chaos of pain, change and an acknowledgement that things would never be the same.

    Faye became a social worker for the chronically mentally ill, and married into her comfort level.  She did not know it, but she married a mentally ill man.  After 30 happy years, his illness became very pronounced.  As a social worker and wife, Faye worked very hard to save her marriage, but she ended up fleeing and entered into a shelter for abused and battered women at age 55.

    There, she learned about the work of gaining self-esteem and self-respect.  She was determined to start her life over.  This time around, she decided to open her heart, head, and hands and embrace what years she had left, and leave a legacy of nothing but love.  She resolved to work hard to forgive her past, to let go of emotional pains and mistakes, and to go for the gusto in life, … whatever that meant…. She did not even know.

    At age 56 she moved to Southern Wisconsin to live with Bill Krupinski, alongside the historic Rock River.

    Here she found a job that again is caring for others, and she enjoys having a case load of 35 families she is involved with.  She also has found many people who she loves and embraces as extended family, and they have found her.  Her life is rich indeed.

    She did not know that taking a chance on face book would alter her life forever.  A man from Nigeria, West Africa had read some of her public blogs.  He asked her to be friends on face book.  Faye entered this relationship with hesitancy, for what is Nigeria really known for?  Faye knew too, scams!

    After over a year of correspondences and exchanging life stories, Faye decided to buy a round trip ticket to visit Nigeria. She wanted to meet Dux and also to check out the “brown beans program.”  She called her friend, Dux and told him that she bought a ticket to meet him.  He said… “You can’t just come that easy, you must first have a passport, then visa, then shots… and you must have a formal invitation from someone who have many assets!”

    Dux helped Faye every step of the way.  Faye not only went to Africa, she thrived in Africa!  She was asked in front of 400 people to proudly bear the title of “Mama Africa” for the rest of her life.



  • My Old Russians

    OldCoupleNeither of them stands much over five feet tall.  Together, they make one unit. One walker is used between them.  One gnarled, boney, old hand grasps one handle firmly on the side of the wheeled contraption, and is used to keep balance for the gentleman. And his wife grips both handles of the walker and walks between the wheels. They walk toward me, as I am already sitting at the kitchen table waiting for them.

    “This is our best friend in the world,” they say, and both pat their walker like it was a family pet, and then they slowly sit down. The woman plops softly on her chair, and sighs deeply with relief to be able to sit.  The man sits with a bit more effort for he is very achy, he sits gingerly and then closes his eyes a while to regain composure.

    “He doesn’t hear very gut,” Says the woman.  Her accent is very thick, and very Russian. She whispers that news to me with her left hand covering the side of her mouth that faces him.

    “Vat?  Vat you say?” he turns to her, and asks.

    “Nothing. I said nothing.  Don’t vorry about it.” She pats his arm. She peers at me through thick glasses with owl-like eyes that appear to be wise and knowing.  “I am dying, you know.” She whispers again.

    This is the way we begin our conversation for years already.  I sit and listen, and I enjoy these people very much. Who would not enjoy this?

    She keeps her left hand placed on top his arm throughout the time I am there, almost like he is an extension of herself.   And he keeps his left hand cupped over his ear like a megaphone, trying to enhance the words spoken, so he can hear. It does very little good, and I usually need to repeat what I say, and speak it the words very slow into his cupped hand.

    “Vould you like some vater? I get you some.” He says, and does not wait for any answer.  With terrible effort he stands and walks very slowly to the sink.  He draws a glass of tepid water from the tap. I drink it to be polite and thank him very much. Hospitality is important to them, and so are good manners.  Pain does not stop hospitality or a warm welcome.

    We sit, and look at each other for a while, and smile.  Our eyes are like those of old friends, and we know each other well.  I place my chin on my hand, as is my custom, and I wait for them to tell me whatever they want.

    “Ve vere orphans, you know. During ze var, … ve had no one but each other. You know, dey sent us to Siberia during de end of ze var.” He states. Again, this is no news for me.  They have told me this story often, but truth be told, I can never hear enough of it.  I am always hungry for them to tell me things. Their stories feed me better than a full meal.

    “Ve ver so cold, so scared, and so young.” Silence fell as they both remembered together. “Oh, da tings ve have been trough.” He sighs.  Then she sighs too.  “Ve always stick together.  Never apart.  Ve been together now for almost 68 years now!” He beams a smile at me, which by all rights should melt anything cold.

    “Ach, you can’t imagine.” She adds.  “and ve survived! How did ve ever survive?” She looks adoringly at him and tears fill both of their eyes, and then mine too.  I am watching something unfold that seems unreal.

    Old pictures are bought out, but not without difficulty.  By then they are into their tale of hardship and woes, which I could not comprehend.  They are right.  I can’t.  Stories of cold, hunger, fear and no help. Then their baby’s started coming. They stuck together and made a go of it.  Because there was no choice.

    “Vould you like some more vater?” So earnestly this gentleman looks into my eyes. “You are such a nice lady to listen to the stories of us old people.”

    Now it is they who do not comprehend. They don’t seem to be able to understand that to me, they are my heroes.  I am more than honored to be able to sit by them at their table and listen, than what they can understand.  I am so privileged to serve these people who have been though such deep struggles and history.

    The smallness of their frail bodies and the giant-ness of their heart and soul is a dichotomy. I watch their interactions with great affection.

    Suddenly the woman again gets this fearful expression in her eyes, she faces me, looks into my eyes, and covers the side of her mouth. “I’m dying you know. He does not know it yet.”

    When the time comes and this unit is broken … and only half remains, I will be very sad.  And the world will have lost something that can never be replaced. These are gentle heroes, molded through hardship to create one entity.



  • Aging

    at TomsThere are many astonishing things to discover and ponder-on regarding watching the years pass … as one ages.   Officially, I am in the autumn of my life.  I find that for some people I know this means baby-sitting grandchildren, and having big family events, or finding that retirement cottage.  Other friends my age travel, or take vacations.  Still others think about retiring. And, a few are battling with health issues.

    It is a time for old adages to find a home.  I hear people from my past tell me how time flies faster as they age, and now, I identify.  I hear my dad say, “Be grateful for the days that go by fast, it means you are not in pain.”

    Some days I ponder on all the people I have loved that have passed- on before me. They do not enter my mind with sadness that they passed. No, but with gratitude that I knew them, and they helped me understand the process of life and death. Without them, I would not know what I know.  Nor would I wait for what-I-know will happen. It is all such a continuum.

    It seems to be a time for giving-back.  I give as I can.  I am not one, nor likely to be one who has material gifts to offer. So, I give of myself.  I give friendship, loyalty, kindness and the like to whoever comes into my life and will receive. I give small gifts such as acceptance to some who may be struggling to be accepted.  I give encouragement as well.  These things are free and easy to give. Who cannot benefit from kind words spoken?

    At times I find I also whip out my sarcasm and let it rip the air. I still can laugh at myself for how good that sarcasm can make me feel.  The other day someone I know very well was telling me how much he hates Muslims.  I replied that I thought it was Christians that was hated the most by him.  He agreed that he hated them the most too.  I waited for a while and went on and said that I remembered he also hated homosexuals.  Yes, he agreed, he hates them too.  I think smiled at him and I said, … wouldn’t it be wonderful if all the people in the world thought exactly like you?  He did a few double-takes of me.  I don’t know if he knew how utterly sarcastic I was being.

    My sarcasm comes in handy as I age.  But I try to find a good use for it.  When I was young, it just ripped all the time.  That is one of the things I ponder on as I age.  For some people, sarcasm coming from the lips of a sweet-looking older lady shocks them. I find I do not really like to be shocking, but I will continue to use my sarcasm, because I can.

    I ponder tolerance.  Why are we such an intolerant society and people? The man, from the above story lacks tolerance.  What do I not tolerate well?  I can tell you there are plenty of things I don’t like that other people do.  And intolerance breeds intolerance.  Then I wonder what the solution is?   There is no end in sight to pondering solutions to difficult issues for me.

    Another thing I ponder that is a bit easier is … how should I dress as I age?  I simply do not feel in the autumn of my life.  I feel in full-bloom summer-time.  Yet, in truth I am in my 60’s and I should be dressing in a mode so I do not shock people. I can well remember when I was younger when an older lady wore tight clothes and I thought to myself, “Wow, I will not dress like that when I get old.”  Yet, here I am, as an older lady, and I still enjoy wearing clothes that makes me feel attractive, and looks be damned.  I take great care in how I choose my clothes. However, I admit that I do not know when the age will come … where I must start dressing my age.

    My hair and make-up is yet one more thing I ponder.  These may sound like vain things when you read this.  I assure you they are not.  When will I begin to want to look my age?

    As of yet, I am in the pondering-stage of all these things.  I will let you know when decisions are made.  Or, you may just see me a different way, and know a decision has been made.

    So far for me, aging has been the best thing that has happened to me.  I really do love it.  I love each day and each leaf that drops off the autumn tree.  But then, how soon will winter come?

     

     



  • Heaven

    93d132e8_293289“I don’t really wanna go to heaven, I’m afraid I’ll be bored there.  All those streets paved with gold, and pearly gates … it’s not something I’d want, Gold and Pearls bore me.” These words were spoken with quiet sincerity, and gentle truth.

    During the last weeks of her life, my Mama confided those words to me.  She was sitting in a wheel chair, living in a nursing home at the time. Her head was bent over, almost touching her knees from advanced osteoporosis.  She also suffered from severe complications of Diabetes, and heart-disease.

    When a person is dying, if they bring up the topic of the after-life, it is a time to listen.

    Mom had become my very closest and best friend the last years of her life.  There were not many topics that we did not discuss, during my daily visits. Our relationship grew into a wonderful one, after decades of estrangement.  This can happen; that people grow close during that last stage of life, if you allow it.

    I chuckled at Mom’s disclosure of her view of heaven.  “Mom,” I said, “Do you think that a God who created all this beauty around us, and created you, would not know how to make things interesting for you?”

    I kept my own thoughts and skepticism out of this particular talk. I was there to comfort Mom, and to give her hope. I was there to ease the way as best as I could.

    “Maybe there will be streets of gold only in the city, for the city dwellers; and you will be one that will want to live in the country. Maybe even all the animals that will be there will be able to talk to you and you can find out all their thinking here on earth.  Maybe you will be able to understand stuff like the mysteries of the wind, and how everything works.”

    “Mom, the possibilities are endless here.  Think about another thing, how would it be to be able to see your Dad, (who was a preacher), and your Mom?  How about seeing your eleven brothers and sisters again?”

    “Hey! I never thought about that!” Mom said.  A tear trickled down her cheek as she said, “The circle is almost complete.”  Meaning that her entire family was already gone and beyond our knowledge, only she remained.

    When a child walks through the time of death with a beloved parent, all these types of conversations can arise.  Emotions can be at their highest.

    Some of my siblings could not visit Mom during these times, it was not their gift.  Some might have been jealous of the closeness and comfort that I had with death, and we became estranged after her death. Others went to be with her every day, feeling and experiencing everything right along with me.

    I feel that death is a part of life.  I feel that none of us can understand either aspect fully.  And… it is all over and done with … way too soon.  None of us seem to have enough time.  I am also in total agreement with my Mama; I would not like to live eternity with streets of gold or have pearly gates either.  That is just not our style.  Give us brambles and heather barriers.  Give us aromas, laughter, love and the feeling of having time … when we reach the other side.

    Mama asked me to be with her when she passed.  I was.  My body was curled around hers in her bed. I like to think that the energy that was her… passed on somehow to me, and is with me still.

    Death is a huge topic. It is a lot like the word chili.  After Mom died, I would ask Dad to come over and eat supper with me.  He wanted to know what I was fixing.  I’d say, “Chili”.  Dad would say, “That is a huge topic, Chili can mean anything you want it to mean; to some it means this, and others make it another way.”  The concept of Death is a lot like Chili to me.  Each time it comes and claims someone I love, it comes in a different way.  The passing never leaves me the same.  The flavor of my life is altered forever.  I like to think that mom never saw a street paved with gold, or one pearly gate.



  • My Intention

    Scan10216My life’s aim is to be the best person that I can be.  To me, that means being filled with love for myself and for others.  Given that, it has been a bumpy and often un-navigable path.  Truly.  Times of such deep darkness I wondered if I could find a way out.  Times of tears streaming down my face along with snot, and not having enough sleeve or arm material to wipe them dry.  Messy.  Unrewarding, unhappy and gut-wrenching.  This is what my life has been like. Painful mistakes I made that ran deep and seemed totally un-fixable.

    If there seemed a path less traveled, I wanted to go there and check it out.  And, I did. Sometimes it took years, decades to turn around and to realize that I still had time for a new path.

    I am so glad I am old now.  I look back on the 6 decades.. and I would not live one day over. I have no good days to wish I could go back to. I am glad it is as far along as it is.  Mostly I live fully now and have a heart that is balanced and joyful.  Unless it isn’t, and then there are painful times for me, even yet.  That is when it’s time for me to fight with all my might to open my heart again and find peace and balance.  It is tricky to navigate a heart.

    Yet I feel no regrets and given a choice, I would chose to not change a day.  Why? Because, I had to find things out for myself. I found things that no one can teach.

    So, why do I share this?  What is in this for you?  It is the first thought, that my intentions were good.  My intentions are good.  I want to experience it all to the fullest.  I want to live in the everlasting present and feel everything there is to feel, and learn all I can.  I want to open both arms and fists and capture this annoying and sometime ridiculous world. I want to taste it all before it slips away. I want to be that one who understands.  Although let me be the first to say, that what it is I understand vanishes under a microscope.

    Spiritually, I am a deep seeker. I am not quite finished with my journey, so how can I know how the story will end? But I believe that if I capture a handful of air, I have God that close.  If I hear my heart beat in the deep of night, I understand the working of God. If I see a flower open in some small fashion, that is also God.  Like so many I know, I am totally turned off by a God that any person must explain to me.  Do not give me that. I want to experience this myself.

    When I dive into finding something, I do it 100%. I am an all or nothing person. That is the way my heart works.

    Now, given all that, I find that I also needed to learn how to navigate the world of earning an income. I also had to find out how to take care of a house, drive a car, and attain coping skills to interact with people.  Those areas are the most challenging.

    My intention is, until the minute I take that last breath to be a better person, one who is utterly filled with love for myself, and for others.  That is the best person I can be, in my estimation.  I will follow my intention until my end.

     



  • Luster

    black manLuster is dead now from complications of leukemia.  That is one nasty disease. I was his social worker for many years. He was my age, so we shared many life-events in common right from the start. His black eyes would pierce mine as we talked of the race riots that went on in the 1960’s and of Martin Luther King, his idol. His favorite topics were race issues, and politics.  We had heated conversations on these topics over the years. His mama would listen-in. When she became involved, the level of noise and commotion would rise considerably. When we all erupted in laughter I always felt like I found a home. We had some good times together.

    Whenever I visited Luster, I’d ask him how he was, and he always said, “I’m fine”. I visited him 4-6 times every year and I watched his progress. Even toward the end when he was lying on the sofa looking like a long rack of bones he still said, “I’m all right”.

    The last time I visited Luster was the week he died. After I entered his room, I could see the process of death happening before my eyes. I sat close to him and took his hand in mine.  I said, “Luster, I think there are some fools and paupers that have political power and money right now.  But, I also think there is a man who is lying on his bed who has the heart of a King, and I really respect him.” Luster leaned back on his pillow, closed his eyes and his lips softly turned upward.  I could tell that my words had touched his heart.

    I have learned so much from my job and the work that I do. I have learned how I want to be toward the end of my life, and learned how I don’t want to be. Now, all I need to do, is keep working this out and sharing and hoping that others will also work on they want to be toward their end.  It all boils down to that.  We live our entire life for those days.

    If we don’t keep our end-goal in sight, it will all slip away and we will forget what is important.  What is important is how we treat others and how much we love ourselves. We must love ourselves enough that it bubbles out, and reaches others.  That is one of the cruxes of why we are here.



  • Tales and Tribulations

     

    NuttervilleHome1I believe my Aunt Lolsy’s woeful tales from my youth fed my unquenchable desire to learn and experience not only the world around me, but also opened my heart to the suffering and poverty of others.  Little girls who died from exposure to icy conditions, with no one to care for them? (See my last blog)  What was that all about? As I aged, I fed this great thirst for any and all story’s or books that I could find or scrounge up in Nutterville.  Our library, in the early 1950’s, was way out in the country, it was a large bus filled with shelves of books.   I walked to that library once a month, when it made its rounds to our Nutterville.  I found all the books I could on the holocaust which in the 1950’s, which was not that far from our past.  I had to walk a mile one way to get to the bus that was our library, and walk back home.  It was along the state highway. I spent time there, filling my bag with all the books I could possibly carry, on any and every topic. I trudged back home with this weight on my back from the books. All these books that I could possibly carry went back home with me.  By then, I learned that a pillow case worked pretty good for a book bag, and could hold a lot more than my arms could.   Then, I devoured them.  These books made my summers the happiest times of my life.  Once again, this is not a bad way to spend one’s time or to grow-up, as I did in Nutterville.



  • Nutterville

     

    NuttervilleScan10041

    Story-telling has always been a way of communicating that has been close to my heart. My Aunt Lolsy told stories to my cousins and me during Thanksgiving holidays.  Us kids would sit crossed-legged, or stretched out on my older sister’s bed, upstairs in the old homestead in Nutterville.  Those were the days before the terrible-time came; when my older sister, Gail, began hearing voices and became scary and violent.

    During those years in the early 1950’s, my aunt would sit on a chair by Gail’s bed, and spin yarns of other times, and other worlds.  I would close my eyes and dream about what she described. I dreamt of a girl who was not unlike me, except that she sold matches on street-corners in England.  She stood on bustling, busy street-corners hoping that someone would buy a match so she could eat. No one bought a match and she froze to death that night. In her death she still had beautiful, cherry red lips and curly, long, golden locks of hair.  She wore rags and was so cold.  In death she was still beautiful, and it was a shocking way to die.

    These were the type’s stories I heard while growing up.  The message was plain for me.  I was to be grateful for all I had, because there are people in the world who had so much less.  I had to think about people like the match-girl, selling her matches and dying a cold and lonely death so early in life, because no one cared for her.

    I remain this same girl from my humble home in Nutterville, to this day.  I am fully rooted in stories of this type, stories of others who had life so much worse than I did.   This is not a bad attitude to have in this world.