June 20 – A Father Extraordinaire

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

William Roger Roop a father extraordinaire
Whatever project he tackled it was done with flair.

Determined was a word that described him well,
When he tackled a project it was accomplished with a spirit you could not quell.

Heifer Project began on his farm,
In spite of neighbors who shook their heads with alarm.

He designed and patented a milking machine,
Even though a high school degree he never gleaned.

His passion was farming–it ran through his veins,
He knew how to guide horses by pulling their reins.

The ponds he had dug were fulfilled wishes,
And he stocked them with a variety of fishes.

He desired a son who would love the farm,
But when three daughters showed up he never expressed his alarm.

Why girls could drive tractors, milk cows, and rake hay,
Women’s role was not just for housework, he would say.

It was in church that Olive Main gave him a wink,
Her forthrightness took him aback and made him think.

“She might be worth checking out for a date,
And I had better do it before it’s too late.”

With just horse and buggy it took awhile,
But when he arrived he was greeted with her stunning smile.

They were married December 27, 1931,
Yippee! Yahoo! He had finally won.

They were married just shy of 70 years,
His death, of course, brought Olive to tears.

However we celebrate his life well lived,
As another Father’s Day has arrived.

Patricia Roop HollingerPatricia Roop Hollinger is the middle daughter of Roger and Olive. She is a retired Chaplain/LCPC from a mental health setting and married her high school heart-throb in 2015 after death of both their spouses. She loves cats, is a voracious reader, a musician, and hospice volunteer, who is now in pursuit of her writing goals.

June 4 – A Long Distance Graduation

by Patricia Roop Hollinger

silver-cup

“You want to do what?” my husband asked when I announced that I would like to drive 700 miles to Jacksonville, Florida to attend my great-nephew, Grant’s, high school graduation.

Travel has become a hassle that I try to avoid as the aging process has diminished my stamina, and my learning curve to figure out where and how to turn on bathroom lights in an unfamiliar toilet is, well . . . daunting.

As wary guests we arrived at the homestead before the big event. Yes, it is a big event when there are 400 graduates; I was a graduate in a class of 24. There were the usual hugs and “Hi, how are you?”, “My how you have grown”, “Long time no see” chatter.

The chaos began when the kitchen stove was being dragged out the front door. A smoking stove with guests and an upcoming graduation was an unanticipated annoyance. We sat back and, in the blink of an eye, the newly arrived stove was installed before the mother of the graduate returned home from work (she was covering for a co-worker who had a death in the family). We wondered when the next crisis might evolve.

Another co-worker arrived with enchiladas, casseroles, and all the necessary eating devices. We just lined up to fill our paper plates and grab a plastic knife and fork. Any plush decorum was not the order of the day.

“So, Grant what are you required to wear tomorrow?” my niece asked.

“Oh, I am going to wear the black trousers I wore for that freshman event,” he replied.

“But, Grant, they don’t even fit you anymore!” she exclaimed.

A hasty shopping trip was in order.

On May 29, 2015, thousands of family and friends arrived at the Fleming High School graduation. Parents were in the bleachers while other family members, with lawn chairs in tow, marked their territory. There was nary a storm cloud in sight. The golden eagle flying overhead was Grant’s great-grandfather who died in 2001. Uncle Matt, the professional photographer, got a perfect shot of this magnificent bird soaring the graduates to their individual destinations. Afterward, with great efficiency, these thousands of people were back on the highway to return to various sites for further celebrations.

Packages awaited Grant as we gathered around to ohhhhh and ahhhhh as he opened his gifts. I waited with bated breath as he opened the silver cup that was given to his great-grandfather on the occasion of his birth in 1909. Grant could see his reflection in it and stared with awe and wonder. This silver cup was very symbolic for me. While recovering from rheumatic fever as a child my mother would serve me crushed ice and orange in this cup.

“Grant, cherish this cup and may orange juice be the strongest drink you ever guzzle from this cup during your college years,” I told him.

Patricia Roop Hollinger married a high school heart-throb in 2010. Grant, Grace and Graham were her attendants for this event. She now lives in a Retirement community in Westminster, Maryland. She is retired as a Pastoral Counselor/LCPC, hospice volunteer, cat lover, musician, voracious reader and now in pursuit of honing writing skills.

June 3 – The Art of Dying: Rehearsing for Death

by Lily Iona MacKenzie

I’ve been reading the Tibetan Book of the Dead, intrigued with a section on meditation that seems important to me just now: The art of dying begins with preparation for death. As for any journey, there are innumerable preparations one can make. Known in Tibet as The Book of Natural Liberation, the book suggests at least five main types of preparation while still living: informational, imaginational, ethical, meditational, and intellectual. (52)

I think my interest in taking up a more focused spiritual practice again is to experience some of these things listed as preparations for death and the wisdom texts can help with that need. I don’t want to be like the ostrich with its head in the sand; I believe in preparing for life’s various stages, being knowledgeable, being ready.

Meditation as an active practice attracts me again. I did it daily for many years when I was living alone before my husband and I met. The Tibetan Book of the Dead has a good section that gives an overview of the various meditations one can do, from the basic calming meditation of one-pointed attention, to using ordinary daily activities as opportunities for contemplation: This involves using sleep as a time for practice.

As the authors say, “You can convert the process of falling asleep into a rehearsal of the death dissolutions, imagining yourself as sinking away from ordinary waking consciousness down through the eight stages into deep-sleep clear-light transparency. And you can convert the dream state into a practice of the between-state, priming yourself to recognize yourself as dreaming when in the dream…. It is very important, for if you can become self-aware in the dream state by the practice of lucid dreaming, you have a much better chance of recognizing your situation in the between after death.” (57)

I have had numerous lucid dreams over the years, but I hadn’t thought of them as vehicles for preparing for death! I feel I’ve had fewer since I’ve stopped practicing meditation regularly, as I did for so many years when I lived alone. It’s harder to make time for it in a relationship and while raising a family if your partner isn’t interested. Now that my husband’s son and daughter from a previous marriage are no longer living with us, I can pursue this practice again.

I’m using OM MANI PADME HUM as a meditation, especially when I awaken in the night and have trouble getting back to sleep. I found it in The Tibetan Book of the Dead, and I like the idea that it evokes a universal good in all things, which can prevail even in times of misfortune. Of course, you need to believe that there is a universal good in all things for this mantra to be effective. I want to believe that.

LilyMac_3-12-15hires (1)Lily Iona MacKenzie has published reviews, interviews, short fiction, poetry, essays, and memoir in over 145 venues. Fling, one of her novels, will be published in July 2015 by Pen-L Publishing. Bone Songs, another novel, will be published in 2016. Her poetry collection, All This, was published in 2011. She teaches writing at the University of San Francisco.

May 31 – Morning Moments

by Linda Hoye

Finch-1-4

One of the great gifts of retirement is the opportunity to wake naturally in the morning when my body is ready. After so many years being jarred awake by the clamour of an alarm–too often after a mostly sleepless night and with my mind in go mode before my feet even hit the floor–to wake according to the rhythm of my body is a precious luxury.

These days I wake gently, often with the dawn in these late spring months. With the windows open, morning air fresh in the room, and the sound of birdsong filling the room, I surface slowly to a wakeful state. I stretch, perhaps holding lightly to the remnants of a dream, and listen to the calm cadence of my Yorkie Maya’s snoring and the peaceful resonance of Gerry’s breathing. The day stretches in front of me rich with possibility.

I take time to pray for those who are on my heart. I think about the day ahead–not in the hurried stomach-churning way I once did—instead making plans with gratitude and anticipation. There is work to be done: gardening, things around the house, and errands to run; there are also creative pursuits like photography prompts, writing projects, and even some quilting projects I’ve been thinking of getting back to.

There is satisfaction in knowing I have the gift of time and I can choose which activities to focus my attention on that day. I find deep satisfaction in living, not according to unrealistic deadlines and unrelenting demands all too common in the corporate world, but instead moving to the ebb and flow of this simple life we have chosen.

The June garden calls to me like a siren and, on those days when I can tell from the early morning air that it’s going to be a hot one, I make plans to head out early to work. On other days I consider the harvest that is already beginning: the canning, freezing, and dehydrating projects that are ahead of me; and I plan how I’ll fill the pantry this year. There is always something to think about; something to work on. I am busy according to my own schedule and pursuing passions that fulfill.

There are still challenges in this life: concerns about situations that cause angst; circumstances I can’t control; burdens that, at times, feel too heavy; but in these early morning hours when I linger in bed listening to the sweet melody of the finches waiting for the first rays of sun to come through the window, I am at peace and filled with gratitude.

These still morning moments strengthen me. I am blessed.

meLinda Hoye is a writer, editor, adoptee, and somewhat-fanatical grandma who recently retired from a twenty-five-year corporate career. She lives in British Columbia, Canada with her husband and their doted-upon Yorkshire Terrier and finds contentment in her kitchen, at her writing desk, behind her camera, and in her garden.

She is the author of Two Hearts: An Adoptee’s Journey Through Grief to Gratitude and blogs at A Slice of Life.

May 24 – Two Spare Rooms

by Barbara Churchill

pedicure

I am dead committed to writing now. New vows and I’m sticking to them. I write at least two hours every morning, sometimes more, ferreting out journals accepting submissions, and joining organizations. Surely there’s a critique group somewhere that has room. I go to workshops.

I’ve received an unemotional, but polite, e-mail rejection so far, so that means someone actually read the thing, right? My spirits lift. The others are pending.

The really difficult mornings are when I have to find somewhere else to write because my cleaning lady is here–noisy–and lawn services are everywhere. I have Starbucks and noise-canceling headphones for such emergencies.

After my morning’s labors, I have other obligations: making worm casting soup to spread on my vegetables, reading, sometimes a volunteer commitment, and answering e-mails from friends. My spam filter gets rid of annoying email and of course I have caller ID so I only answer the calls I want and block the others. I check the mail and some days there’s the tedium of the grocery store and drug store shopping. Occasionally I reward myself for these tedious afternoons with a pedicure.

Today, for example. I went back to a new place I just found– quiet with brand new massage chairs. It’s second time and I have Tu again who runs me a hot foot bath. I nod, signaling the water temperature is right, and carry on answering e-mails. I have a book in my bag too–just in case.

But today, Tu draws blood. It hurts! I jump a little and frown. She offers a heartfelt apology and pours nail polish remover into the wound. While I writhe, she commends me on how quickly I stop bleeding compared to those who have “sugar in their blood” by which I assume she means diabetics.

Now, much to my dismay and pain, I am stuck chatting with Tu.

She begins:

“You live around here?” Yes.

“House?” Yes.

“You have kids?” Yes.

“They live with you?” No.

“You have husband?” Yes.

“He work or retired?” Works.

“Here?” Here and in LA.

“So, just you in house?” Sometimes.

“How many bedrooms?” Three.

“You want to rent me bedroom?”

Tu is six years in the U.S. from Vietnam, divorced from her second husband, and with no children. Because she lives on a manicurist’s salary she’s forced to rent a room in her ex’s house which they share with his mother. His mother is old, smells, and is mean to her. Her ex sounds like no prize either. Tu does the cooking and cleaning and works six days a week. She assures me she is never home. There’s also a cat who smells.

She needs to rent a room. Why don’t I?

Barbara Churchill is am a retired English teacher trying to make her way back into the world of writing. She has published a little but publishing isn’t really her main goal now. Writing is.

May 14 – My Patio

by Doris Jean Shaw

easy-wave-plum-petunia-299312815810716Njq

I take my coffee out on the patio just as the sun begins to hit the sky with a slight tinge of white. It is cool so I pull my housecoat close about me and watch as the sky changes to a delicate shade of pink. Sun up and coffee drank, I start my morning with breakfast served on the patio. I worry as Bud takes the step down from the house but he makes it.

In a previous life I must have been a nomad who lived outdoors most of the time and only went inside to sleep. Even better, I would be sleeping under the stars or in a lean-to that kept the wind off while I enjoyed the night sky with the soft velvet dotted with sparkles of light. Now, I get out as much as I can. Duties drive me inside only temporarily.

Lunch finds us back on the patio. I look across the table at Bud and flashes of by-gone days on the beach cross my mind. He would prop his feet up on the rail and watch the activities going on around the pool. I think I could sleep out here if a lounge could be shoved into the four-foot space.

No such luck, Bud is down for a nap and I attempt to complete the necessary housework to keep us going.

Supper finds us on the patio having missed the sun pouring in during the late afternoon. We now must deal with the descending shadows and the cool breeze coming our way. I linger for a moment before helping Bud up the one step to the house wondering how much longer he can make that step.

Doris Jean ShawDoris Jean Shaw is a retired educator, Life Coach, author and member of  the Beauregard Parish Writers Guild–The Ink Blots. She loves to travel and writes romances, children’s stories and devotionals. Mrs. Shaw presents a workshop, entitled Reclaiming Me that helps women find direction for their futures.

May 7 – Somebody Stole My Fish

by Nancy Davies

large-mouth-bass

I had a recent interaction with my father that brought about a curious new insight.

He is 88 years old and struggling with Alzheimer’s. He is convinced that there is a thief coming into his house at night and taking his things or sometimes just moving them around. On this particular day he was concerned about a big taxidermied fish that hangs in his office so he moved it into the spare bedroom–hiding it so it would be safe.

Half an hour later he burst into the kitchen declaring: “Somebody stole my fish! I’ve searched my office and it’s gone.”

At the time it was actually kind of amusing, although as I write it down it sounds more sad and distressing. However the flash that struck me that afternoon was that my dad’s actions are not really all that different from actions that most of us might turn to on any given day.

How many of us unwittingly hide things away only to tell ourselves that we’ve been robbed? We hide our feelings, our fears, our creativity, and then wonder who stole our happiness. We bury our truth and can’t imagine where our peace has gone. We disguise our bad decisions then blame someone for hijacking our freedom. You get the picture.

The thief in the night has come calling on many occasions in my lifetime, stealing things both ordinary and precious and usually leaving behind the same riddle for me to solve: where did I hide my fish?

It seems innocent enough but it’s a question that requires a little bit of soul-searching and a whole lot of honesty. It’s about paying attention to that subtle voice that is no longer satisfied to hide behind the fear. It’s about releasing the blame that comes so easy.

But it is also a waking up process and, at the end of the day as the intruder slips away, we are hopefully left with the epiphany that the real treasures in our lives can never be taken from us.

Recently retired, Nancy Davies is rediscovering a love of writing, gardening and long walks with her dog.