50 Year Legacy – How I Became a Jesus Follower: Part One

My College Years

I am celebrating a Golden Anniversary!  50 years ago this July I started following Jesus. Here’s how it began in May of 1970…

We had met before like is sometimes in the case with long term relationships. We actually hung out a lot when I was younger.

My mom remembers us talking to each other from my crib. “Tish, who are you talking to? She would poke into my room to ask. I replied, ‘Jesus.’” But, as I grew older, we drifted apart. It wasn’t about him, it was about me.

Jesus was part of my childhood. I sort of “grew out of him” but held the memory dear, like the flashback of a favorite doll I received one year for Christmas. I didn’t ask him to keep in touch when I left for college. I knew I might stop by and see him at our local church where he lived on my visits home but he wouldn’t have fit in at college.

If he ever did pop in to see me, I rushed him out of the room. I didn’t think he would care for my new lifestyle or choices. No need to embarrass him. Let’s just keep the memories as they were, a childhood friendship. I was going my way and he could go his.

Turns out, my way was ending up full of potholes (no pun intended,) detours, flat tires and dead ends. Not to mention I got lost all the time. Asking for help from any others than my traveling companions on the same road seemed out of the question. Foolish even. Likely someone would tell me to just turn around and find another road. No thanks.

Until the spring of 1970 in my sophomore year of college. My new pursuits, philosophies, and relationships were crumbling around me. I longed for the “Kumbaya” nights around the campfires of my youth but they seemed gone forever.

The wheels began to fall off the bus but it would take something really big to stop me in my tracks. The something big began with the Vietnam war protests.

The spring of 1970 was filled with war protests over the US involvement in Vietnam. I can’t honestly say I did a lot of soul searching for my views on this but it certainly seemed important to join the protests which were happening all over the country. I proudly wore my black armband and chanted with the best of them as we marched around campus.

On May 4, 1970 the Kent State Massacre occurred when four college students were killed by the Ohio National Guard during a protest. That event catalyzed students everywhere and on that night of that event, the call went out to “take over” one of the main buildings on campus, Simpkins Hall. So the entire group of about 1000 protestor marched into the building and refused to leave for five days.

I remember huddled there with my group that first night fascinated and somewhat fearful about what might happen next. Speech after speech was made with lots of chants with the crowd building in fervor. I was glued to my spot on the floor. Then the local police showed up and began making their way through the crowd trying to break it up. Ultimatums were issued on both sides but no violence occurred.

Part of me wanted to run out and the other part thought what a great statement it would make to stand down, risk expulsion and possible arrest. Rumors were spreading about the presence of state police and National Guard near by. Tear gas was used at Southern Illinois University which was eventually closed by the protests.  Clearly, I wasn’t agitating at the level to get even noticed and eventually the crowd dispersed and I headed back for a few hours of sleep.

I wrote my parents about “almost getting arrested” and they showed up at campus the following Sunday, which was Mother’s Day, to have a little chat with me. Actually more like a confrontation.  “Stop what you’re doing!” I knew they were worried but didn’t see that as my problem.

To be honest, I was worried too but not about getting arrested. (To be continued next Thursday)

The Birthday Gift: 1968

2020 is the second of two “most dramatic” years I have lived in my many decades. The first was 1968. Of course, I’ve had many personal moments that changed the course of my life (preview for next week’s blog post!) but for overall years, so far, these are the front runners. 2000 wins the Bronze medal but that’s for another time.

Everything felt spinning in 1968. If you lived through it, you remember it well. I was a senior in high school and it was definitely my Coming of Age year. Besides going to the new-to-Quincy coffeehouse to discuss the meaning of life, reading Kahil Gibran’s “The Prophet,” shedding the parts of my faith the nuns told us were no longer needed like St. Christopher, I was completely enamored by Bobby Kennedy’s run for president. At almost 18 years old, although I couldn’t vote yet, I pinned all my political hopes on his likely presidency.

I will never forget the morning my Dad woke me, June 6, 1968, to tell me of his assassination. I sobbed for days and couldn’t bear to watch any of the coverage of the funeral. My mom saved all the newspapers for me which I found in her home a couple of years ago. I never read them at the time as I was too heartbroken. Along with many others, my freshly budded hopes for the change I was sure our country needed were now dashed.

My 18th birthday was 15 days later and among the many gifts I received was a hand carved piece of driftwood. My dear friend at the time, Barb, knew of my devotion to RFK and painstakingly carved each word.

“Some men see things as they are and say why? I dream things that never were and say why not?” RFK

I remember no other gifts from that birthday except this one. It became my most precious possession.

A few months later, I packed up my world to go to college. The log had a prominent place on the top of my duffel bag as I loaded it in the car. My father, who was not an RFK supporter, decided it was too big to bring, not enough room in the car, etc. I was horrified and we had a rare fight centered around the log.

Looking back, I now know fights between parents and off going college students are common and even helpful to ease the leaving process but my dad and I hadn’t read those books. We were at a standstill and each holding our ground. My mom finally intervened in some way I don’t remember but the log came to college.

52 years later, I still have it. In fact, it is sitting on my dining room table now where it spends every June in honor of my birthday. I have tried to contact Barb to thank her again but we haven’t reconnected. I hope she somehow knows what a treasure it was and still is to me.

The infamous quote seems just as relevant now. Glad I can see it often. I plan to keep dreaming. You?

Do you have any similar object from your youth that still speaks to you?

Hope for the best,

Tish

What’s Your Covid Coping Style?

Be Productive! Be Still! Reach Out! Dig In! In the 36 days of my quarantine, all of those messages and more have shown up in my head as well as my social media news feeds.

Is there really a BEST way to respond to the most unusual time of all of our lives? Whose message is the right one?

As with most other things, you are the best expert on you. What serves you well during any other time of uncertainty or duress?

We all have a resume for tough times and hopefully got through most of them still standing. What had worked in the past for you? There are many right answers for how to cope.

Sorting Photos

For some of you that will be taking on projects: Clearing closets or basements, categorizing books, organizing photos, sorting recipes.

Maybe learning new skills is your coping M.O. Someone I know is learning French with Duo Lingo, another is baking bread for the first time. Trying something new uses part of the brain that also makes you feel good. An extra bonus right now.

Baking!

But if you’re not wired that way, you will likely only feel frustrated.

Maybe, adding SLOW to your day to day is most lifegiving. Stopping to smell the roses even if they’re not really there yet. Letting go of the pressure to perform even if it’s just in your own kitchen. Sleeping later, going to bed earlier, taking long walks, does that sound like you?

Walking into Spring

Many have reported that the early days were filled with novelty then intensity then calm. My own response followed those lines. The first few days felt so surreal then I started making lists. Part of my coping plan for just about everything. Then I modified the list as it was stressing me out!

What was essential to you? What can you let go of? What always works for you? What never works? Even the best ideas of someone else might not work for you.

One thing that does work for almost everyone is to laugh more! We are watching Seinfeld for the first time ever to guarantee times of laughter. 30 year old episodes but works every time! Last night we checked out John Krasinski’s SGN (Some Good News,) hilarious and heartwarming. https://bit.ly/3crfC9A

Even though we are well into these days with more on the way, figuring out your best Covid response  will serve you well for this and the inevitable next crisis.

Hope for the Best.

Tish

Eight Ways to Remember These Days

You think you will never forget these days. You won’t! But later, as life returns to normal, many of the details will get blurred with each new experience that comes in.

Not one of us has ever known anything like this when the whole world was personally affected and the days ahead full of uncertainty.

While the global drama is still going on, consider capturing the details in some way to keep your personal memories intact.  In the days ahead, you might want to go back and reflect on these surreal days.

I’m remembering how curious I was to know about my Dad’s WW2 experience. Like most men of that era, he didn’t talk about it much. I could and did read books and watch movies about this time in history, but I wanted to hear about it from one who was there.

If you ever watched the Ken Burns documentary on the Civil War, you would recall the personal experience snippets he included. I remember the excerpts from Mary Chesnut’s diary more than the facts he offered. Her accounts brought a whole new dimension to the historical era.

While you probably won’t write a book about these times, you will likely have an opportunity to tell a story to future generations about what it was like to live through a worldwide pandemic.

Here are a few ways to keep track of the days.

1. Journal: I start each morning with writing in my journal a few things about what is happening in the news, in my home, in me.

2. Highlights: Write down bullet points of the headlines of the world and your life. This can be on paper on in the notes section on your phone.

 

3. Photos:I started taking photos of closed signs on my walks and then added them to an online photo album. When I see someone else’s interesting photo on social media about the times, I save that too. I have snapped a photo of the mayor’s updates too.

4. Headlines: We still take a physical newspaper, so I’ve saved a few startling headlines in a folder. Cover page of news magazines can be saved as well.

5. Social media posts: I’m saving posts that are positive and encouraging on my computer. Easy to do, just look for the “save” feature.

6. Record: Smart phones have a “voice memo” app so you can use it to record your feelings or items you want to remember.

7. Email: Write yourself an email as you think of things you want to remember. Don’t worry about grammar or other edits. Just get it down.

8. Day by Day: Use your wall calendar or desk calendar to write in the white spaces what has gone on that day.

What is not written is not remembered. You won’t forget the facts, they will be readily accessed, but only you carry the memories of how the virus intersected with your world. Gather them up for an audience yet to come.

Hope for the best,

Tish

The Last Day of Normal

“Last Days” are sometimes so obvious. Which kid doesn’t know when the last day of school is at the end of the year? The retiree won’t forget the last day of work. Certainly, the last day of a near-perfect vacation is so hard to let go of. Often, we know exactly when that final event occurs. Sometimes though, we are blindsided by last days.

My “Last Day of Normal,” before the Covid 19 changed everything, was Wednesday March 11, 2020. Of course, I didn’t know it at the time. Honestly, in spite of all the simmering news stories, I didn’t think it would happen so suddenly.

I saved my to-do list from that day just to marvel at how oblivious I was to the impending storm. Our darling granddaughter stopped by for breakfast and our weekly walk to her school. It was Wednesday and that’s our routine on Wednesdays.

My suitcase was out as we were traveling the next day to a conference in Atlanta. Tom was presenting on a topic that he was quite excited about. My plans were to soak up the sun and enjoy the time alone in the hotel along with seeing some family members nearby.

I love to pick up a “new” piece of clothing before a trip so right after the school drop off, I drove to one of my favorite resale shops and sure enough, found the perfect top.  Next on the list was my 11:45 exercise class for an hour. Last year, I started bringing my own equipment to avoid cross-contamination but was pleased that day to see a big bottle of hand sanitizer perched on the stage for the first time.

My manicure appointment was next, also a pre-trip ritual. No one was worried. I stopped into the library to grab the book I had been waiting for to read on the trip. Trader Joe’s followed on the itinerary and everything I needed was on the shelves. Same at CVS, my last stop.

Throughout that day though, our four adult kids were sharing their worries about our trip, often. I kept reassuring them how fine/not foolish we would be. They disagreed.

During my packing time, one daughter texted me photos of the quickly emptying shelves at Target. The other daughter chimed in with her photos of the same story at Jewel. I jumped in my car to my local grocery to get a few things to avoid the hassle after the trip.

That was the beginning of the not-normal. I never shop at night.

By 9:30 that evening, the trip was cancelled. I finished my packing hour by unpacking.

Before the end of the day, my exercise classes were no longer available due to closure.

Within a day the schools closed. No more walks.

The resale shop shut its doors. As did the library

Trader Joe’s and CVS are still open but I’m staying home.

I’m keeping track now with journal entrees and photos of the new normal. My first day was March 12, the day after the “Last Day of Normal.”

When was yours?

Hope for the best, Tish

My FIRST New Coat Purchase!

This is the one I got!

The snowy Midwest has been home my whole life and I bought my first new coat this week! I know, it’s hard to believe.

Of course, that fact wasn’t on my mind while I was limping around the mall one week before my knee replacement surgery. Fortunately, I landed a handicap parking spot with my new placard but there was no assistance for walking between stores. except my purple walking stick.

Let me mention, I don’t like shopping at malls, only thrift shops and cute little gift stores. On the rare occasions I venture into a mall, I get quickly overwhelmed by all the options as well as the prices. Somehow, shopping in malls often triggers envy and deprivation. I walk in feeling satisfied and suddenly feel lacking. How do I get by without all those items displayed everywhere?

But I needed a coat.

Don’t worry, I have stayed warm all these winters. My mom started buying me coats when I was an infant. There is a funny family story of how she put me in a snow suit for the 4th of July parade nearly two weeks after I was born.

They would just show up during visits. “Oh, I picked up a coat for you!” These were lovely coats in a variety of styles she located on the deep sales racks at the end of the winter. She knew my size and tastes and kept me supplied. Confession: I hardly wore the leopard print one though. She stopped coat shopping for both of us a few years ago when she could no longer get around.

Occasionally I would pick up a coat for myself too, at the resale shop, to wear in between seasons. Mom’s coats were mostly “dressy,” and I needed some casual outerwear for my everyday lifestyle. I did buy a few new jackets in my life but no winter coats. No need.

I started my coat quest early this fall by checking out all my usual (resale) shops. Nothing seemed right. Too long/short/wrong color or style etc. My goal was to land one before this surgery and now I was running out of time.

Runner-up

My daughter offered to help as she excels in online shopping, but I needed to see it, feel it and try it on. Thus, the trip to the mall. I was sending these pictures to her as I shopped!

Turns out, the experience was fun! I allowed enough time, money and energy and didn’t overspend on any of it.  I only looked in two stores and went back and got the first one I chose.  It was in my budget and then I found out it was on sale. I would have danced except I can barely move my knee ☹

A little sleeve alteration was in order and I was attended to by a lovely woman who probably had been doing this all her life. They will even send the coat to me after the mend for no charge so not having to carry it home was a plus.

It wasn’t until later that I realized it was my first coat buying experience ever! I think I will try it again in a few years.

Hope for the best,

Tish

Walking With a Limp These Days

Midway Airport

I surveyed the long concourse last weekend at the airport and realized I couldn’t make it to the gate without help. More help than my ever-present walking stick, aka cane, could provide. I keep pretending I’m out for a hike in the woods with my trusty blue stick except I’m really inside my house or nearby, mincing along.

So, I flagged down some assistance and climbed into a wheelchair to get to my gate. The view is different from the chair. I felt I could notice everyone more clearly and no one noticed me. Certainly no one noticed me for about an hour as I waited for a push to baggage claims when I arrived at Midway.

Hopefully, my limp should be resolved sometime next year after my November knee replacement but for now, it is a daily reality. After months of lament, I’m beginning to stop resisting it and getting closer to embracing it as the next big adventure. After all, what’s the alternative?

For sure, I would like to avoid this invasive surgery. Many prayers have been offered with much resulting peace and presence of God, but no healing has come. At least in my knee. Later on, I will likely be aware of something fresh from the Holy Spirit showing up or waves of gratefulness sustaining me during this season – another kind of healing of sorts. I do trust that I have been heard.

Meanwhile, I am scheduling loads of pre-op appointments, rounding up comfortable clothing for the couch days, reserving books at the library, freezing food for no fuss dinners, thinking about how I will decorate my hospital room (this is fun!) and taking my sweet time getting places.

But before that day comes in a few weeks, with my faithful stick in hand, I’m hitting the road again. Taking the train to New Mexico, the bus to Phoenix, the plane to Chicago, the train again to Quincy and one more drive to a retreat. Many steps for this damaged knee, but these events were on the calendar before the surgery date. I always long for some time to reset after a lot of travel so this time I will get it for sure.

Life is full of plans we make and plans that get made for us. I’m leaning into reaching for the available grace no matter what’s on the table. Well, some days at least.

Hope for the best,

Tish

Do You See What I See? Musings on Looking Older.

Circa 1990

“Are you old, Mimi?” one of my younger grandsons asked. “I’m older than you…and older than your dad, but inside I am young.” That satisfied him and we took off to play.

I really enjoy the age I am. Older, not old. Actually, I prefer “timeless” as what’s a number? When I reflect on my image,  I usually view the version of me that is inside:  Vibrant, full of life, childlike in a good way, “seasoned.”

Apparently, that view isn’t the one shared by my grandson or the grocery clerk at my local store. Tuesday is 10% off for those of us of a certain age and once again yesterday, the senior discount on my groceries rang up without me requesting it.  I wish I could say it was due to her remembering me, but she was new.

Same thing happened at the pharmacy later that day. When I inquired about my flu shot, the young associate quickly told me they were out of the ones for the over-65 crowd. Who told him I was over 65?? Sheesh, is it that obvious?

Don’t get me wrong, I love all the eligible discounts I qualify for and ask for them all the time. I just want to be the one doing the asking! My fantasy is that I am demanded to pull out my driver’s license to prove it. Hasn’t happened yet.

No judgement please. I am not trying to pretend I’m younger. I don’t use products that are “anti-aging.” I’m not getting any “work” done. I have a deep appreciation for all the years behind me and counting on at least 30 more to go.

All that I love so much in my life is NOW and wouldn’t have been possible in an earlier season. Of course, I have a museum of beautiful memories of the years gone by, but I don’t want to go back.

My lament is that my inside and outside no longer match. I miss that.

Oh well.

Hope for the best,

Tish

 

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Bite by Bite: Lunch with My Mother

Birthday lunch a few years back.

Four women eating lunch around a small table on a beautiful October afternoon. Such a common event, one might not hardly notice a group like that. All around the large room, other groups were dining too. As expected, snippets of conversation filled the air.

Two of the four women just met that day. As one of the two newbies, I enjoyed meeting a new acquaintance, Deborah. We exchanged the usual info like our names, family details, and what brought us to this table. Turns out, the same events.

While we were getting to know each other a bit, Deborah and I were also feeding our mothers. The other two women at the table. Like my mom, Deborah’s mom also suffered a stroke some time back. Neither one was now very successful in getting the bites into their mouths without help. We continued chatting like this was the most normal thing in the world. For both of us, it was.

Before this season of post-stroke, my mom and I shared thousands of lunches over the years. Such sweet times over her kitchen table or later, mine. Some in restaurants like truck stops in Missouri others, in places like Harrods in London. Most somewhere in between.

The first few hundred, she was feeding me, just like I am her now. It all comes around. I wonder if she thought about then that someday our roles would be reversed. A thought I usually don’t have when I’m lunching with one of my girls now. Just as well, those musings would take away the pleasure of the moment.

After lunch, Deborah and I pushed our moms in their wheelchairs into the courtyard and mostly sat in silence. A wind chime filled the air with occasional tones and the breeze felt good. I think Mom liked it. Sitting outside was always one of her delights.

Meeting Deborah was lovely. I hope we lunch together again sometime. Another unexpected gift from this season to add to the pile I have already opened.

No one asked for these events but much grace is present.

Resting in the courtyard.

Hope for the best,

Tish

Miss You Today On Your Birthday, Dad*

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Tish around 4 years old.

Happy Birthday Dad!  Wish we could celebrate tonight with a pineapple upside down cake and off-key singing. You were always hard to buy for, as many men are, but now I could shop online for you and surely find something unique…but of course, you’re not around to open my gift.

Did I ever thank you for teaching me how to play baseball or ride a bike?  I didn’t like it at the time when you insisted I learn how to drive stick shift before I could get my license but I am so grateful now.  I taught my husband you know 🙂

There are cool stories about you floating around like how you were the Adams County tennis champ and your brief stint as a police officer.  I wish I could hear about those adventures in your words.  I know you worked hard for us, sometimes two jobs at a time.  BTW, I loved that second job at the drive-in when we all watched the movies over and over under the stars.  It probably wasn’t as much fun for you.

I know we had 44 years together but there was so much more we both could have said.  “Relationship Parenting” was not an operating principle in your generation but I knew you loved me.

I wish you could have met these fabulous great-grandchildren of yours.  I hope you can see them from your vantage point and you will be glad to know, Mom dotes on them every chance she gets.  Don’t worry, I will pass on the stories so they will know you too.

Tony Wiewel around 14 years old 9/3/1923-2/25/1994

So cheers to your 96th!

Love, Your “Cutie”

Hope for the best,

Tish

  • originally published 9/3/12


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