Wednesday, August 14, 2019

Going Back

Michael winced at the pain in his shoulder. It had started hurting by about the fifth time he put the oar in the water.  How was he going to make it home? Michael let the small boat float a bit as he took another drink from his water bottle and used the handkerchief from his pocket to wipe the sweat from his brow and neck. Irritated that the water levels had dropped, he wasn't able to drop the motor into the water.  Using an oars would be the only way he would be able to return.

The morning he set out for home, he swore under his breath as he approached the dock.  He didn't have a plan, he wasn't prepared for the elements. Michael knew that the phone call from the Sheriff was important, but he still wished he hadn't answered the phone. His father had taken ill and hadn't been to town in months. The road was almost impassable. First, washed out by floods and then so many huge holes that formed when the water receded.  The Sheriff tried to check on him but couldn't get his boat through the muck. He returned with a smaller boat a second time. With the water levels so low at this time of year, the Sheriff wondered if Old Man Lemond's boat may have been stuck in the mud and he couldn't reach out to anyone for help. The second time the Sheriff reached the narrow end of the channel,  Old Man Lemond greeted him with a single shot from his old shot gun. No words were exchanged. That single shot was a warning to stay away.

Ms. Zimern tried calling every few days, but the phone stopped going to voicemail and now just continued to ring.  Ms. Zimern was actually the one that alerted Sheriff Wallin to the fact that Lemond was ill in the first place. She was also the one that made sure the Sheriff knew he hadn't been into town for a couple months for his staples of bread, frozen meals and powdered milk and plenty of canned goods.

Ms. Zimern was always incredibly friendly when she called Sheriff Wallin. Quiet and kind, that was Ms. Zimern.  Michael was 9 when his mother died, and Ms Zimern had been called in to help care for Michael and his little sister, Nicolette. She had never married and found that caring for other people's children brought her so much joy and filled the void.  When she started cooking for their family, she also found herself then putting the children to bed at night and anticipating Lemond's return home from the long shifts he worked at the factory in town.

Ms. Zimern cared for Lemond much more than she would ever admit.  She once had dreams that they would marry one day and raise Michael and little Nicolette together.  Such dreams never came true as Lemond held onto to a liquor bottle much tighter than any relationship he had ever had. Lemond grew cold and distant and as his children grew, the need for Ms. Zimern became less. When Michael turned 16,  she visited once a week to clean their home and to cook meals for the next few days which included plenty for leftovers.

When Michael turned 17, Ms. Zimern said it was too much for her and couldn't return.  Lemond had gotten drunk, came home in soiled clothing and tried to take advantage of her.  In that moment, any dream she had about possible love and companionship dissolved right in front of her eyes.

Michael left home at the age of 20. He had stayed at home two extra years just so he could keep a watchful eye on his little sister.  When Nicolette graduated from High School, she ran out of the front door of the old cabin at the end of the narrow channel and never looked back.  She and Michael excelled in their Freshman year at a small community college and once he saw that Nicolette was going to be just fine on her own, he knew it was time to start his own life. He dropped out of the school that they both attended and decided he wanted to pursue art while going to night school.

Michael's artwork was dark. Mostly paintings of trees, grass and water, the vines were what grasped most people's attention.  They often were reaching out for people, strangling them and sometimes even pulling people into the deep. Night school enabled Michael to experiment with other mediums. Sculpture, clay, drawing, but he always went back to painting.  He was at rest when a paint brush was in his hand. 

Michael came to the realization that that all he ever painted were scenes from his home.  Where everything was green, muddy and wet. He felt a release when he painted. A calm would wash over him and he knew he could continue on.  Michael took jobs here and there, washing dishes, cleaning barns, helping with cattle and horses, but only to pay his rent and put food on the table. He was fortunate to sell a few pieces and then scored a showing at the local art gallery.  Every wall was bare by the end of the show. Commissions started pouring in and life became a bit easier.  

Michael began creating art full time and found a great space for a studio with an apartment above.  He called Nicolette each week to check in with her. He started sending her money each month so that she wouldn't have to worry about anything.  She was grateful that her brother helped her pay off student loans and pay her rent. 

When he left home with Nicolette in tow, he knew that his dad would just fall further and further into oblivion.  Michael tried calling home a few times, Christmas, his dad's birthday, but was always greeted with a snarl, "Who is this? Why are you calling?"  The conversations always went downhill from there since his dad was probably double fisting bottles just to get through another day. 

Michael knew going to see his father now that he was ill, wasn't going to be easy. If he fired a shot in the air at the Sheriff, chances are it would also happen to him.  Michael also knew that he would need to announce himself as he slowly approached the property at the end of the channel. 

Toiling over the fact that this might be the last time he saw he father, Michael realized his chest ached just as much as his shoulder.  This was stress, he kept telling himself. ~You are fine.  Just check on him, tell him who to call when he needs help, say goodbye, and go. That is all you have to do.~

As he neared the property at the end of the channel, he observed that the water was no more than about 3 feet deep. No wonder the Sheriff couldn't get his boat down there the first time.  Michael shouted, "Dad! Dad, it is me, Michael! Dad, I am here to see you!" 

There was no response. Michael announced himself again and his father never emerged from the small house.  Slowly floating up to the rickety old dock, Michael reached out to grab the first metal post. He proceeded to throw a rope around the post and stepped out of the boat.  Fearful that the dock wouldn't hold his weight, he gingerly stepped on one board at a time until he reached solid ground. 

Discovering that front door was secured, he walked around back to see if that door had been left unlocked.  It was unlocked just as it always had been when he and Nicolette lived there. His dad intentionally left it open for when they returned from school.  Michael knocked as he entered. Old Man Lemond was seated at the kitchen table bent over resting with his head on his arms. There were dishes and trash here and there and Michael knew that his dad must be passed out from the liquor that had already been consumed that morning.

Michael hesitated as he prepared to place his hand on his dad's arm.  That is when he saw the handwritten letter on the table and the discarded pen.

Dear Michael and Nicolette,

I am sure by now you know that I am sick.  Liver Cancer. The doc said maybe a few more weeks.  I don't know. Each day gets more difficult. I hurt a lot and the pills he gave me don't seem to help.  I am lonely and it is time for me to go. 

I love you guys.  I am sorry. For everything.  Your mother and I loved you both. I am sorry I was never the dad you needed.  That I couldn't be the dad you deserved.  

My pension is now managed at the bank in town.  They also have an account that will pay for my final expenses.  Burn this house. It isn't worth much.  
The boat is at the bottom of the channel. The truck wouldn't start. I couldn't walk to town. I didn't have the energy. I didn't call anyone to come get me. Who would I call?

Tell Ms. Zimern I am sorry.  Tell her. Don't forget.

Thank you for... 

Michael quickly flipped over the single sheet of paper to see what else it said. That was it. Nothing more. His dad must have passed out as he was writing it.  He stuffed the paper in his pocket and reached forward to wake his dad.

Old Man Lemond wasn't to be woken. Michael checked his neck for a pulse and placed his hand his front of nose to check if he was breathing. He has passed away probably within the last 12 hours Micheal thought. He sat down next to his dad and just sat in the quiet for a few minutes.  No tears, no emotion. Just an acceptance of what had happened in the hours before he arrived. 

Michael reached for his cell phone to call Sheriff Mallin. He told him his father had passed recently while writing a letter.  And that they could probably get out to the house if they brought a 4x4. Sheriff Mallin was stern and serious, but never offered an apology to him that Old Man Lemond had passed. 

Michael went to clear out a few things from the bedroom. His parent's wedding picture, his mom's dairies from the bedside table where they were always kept and the Family Bible from the coffee table.  He took his grandma's silverware from the hutch and both the high school graduation pictures which hung in the hallway. That was it. Nothing else of worth, nothing else that was treasured. He found a duffel bag in the bedroom closet and placed each item in there.  

As Michael prepared to leave the house for the last time,  he paused and went back to the kitchen. He pretended for just a moment that his dad was sleeping. He reached and touched his hand and saw that he was still wearing his wedding ring. Old Man Lemond had never recovered from losing his wife. Michael bent over and kissed his dad on the top of his head. 

At the end of the dock,  Michael sat down after placing the duffel bag of belongings in the boat. He removed his shoes and let his feet dangle in the water. When he got back to town, he would see if he could hire Ms. Zimern to clear out the home and then would place the property up for sale. Someone would like this land for hunting and fishing. But this land wasn't a property he ever planned to go back to. 

The Sheriff and Coroner arrived within a half hour and removed their hats.  They took pictures and notes, made a few phone calls and then told Michael it was okay for him to leave.  Michael then told him that he would be in town for a few more days and that he would plan on having his dad's remains cremated and buried and that he would take care of the arrangements with the local funeral home.  No service was necessary. Sheriff Mallin clasped Michael on the arm and nodded at him. Michael then returned to the dock and the boat which had carried him home.

Michael sat in the boat rowing slowly and knew that there was no going back. He would not return again. 

That evening, he called Nicolette. A brief call, only to explain what had happened.  No tears, or consolation needed. Just an exchange of information. He then called Ms. Zimern. He shared the news. He asked her if he could hire her to clear out the house, and she immediately said yes. She went on to explain that she somehow knew that this would be the final way that she helped both he and Nicolette. She said she would indeed clear out the possessions and either leave or sell the furniture.  He explained she could keep any cash she made. 

"Ms. Zimern, my dad wrote a letter to my sister and I that I found on the kitchen table.  He asked me to tell you that he was sorry."

There was a long silence before Michael heard a stifled sniffle.  "Thank you Michael for telling me that."

Michael returned to his home, to art and the life that he created and loved. He hung three picture frames in his hallway.  His parent's wedding picture and Nicolette and Michael on their graduation days. The Family Bible and their mother's diaries were kept in the duffel bag under his bed. 

Michael was thankful for the last letter that his dad had written.  He was thankful for an apology and thankful for a bit of closure. Micheal wanted to try something new. He felt inspired. No more darkness, no more vines and water and despair.  Michael was going to focus all of his efforts on the sky, landscapes and nature. Scenes filled with light, with promise. Paintings filled with hope for the future. 

Friday, August 9, 2019


It is true. I am a noticer. The one that notices more than I sometimes care to admit. 

I notice when a smile doesn't quite reach someone's eyes.

I notice when a smile is shared only because one was offered.

I notice when someone lets go first when I hug them.

I notice when I am the one that always initiates text messages.

I notice when someone is no longer included in group invitations to participate in activities.

I notice when friendships have played their course and one friend is still holding on for dear life.

I notice when someone hates their job, but sticks with it as the burden of supporting their family is a driving force.

I notice when children are lonely and wish for more friends and listening ear.

I notice when I wear out my friends with conversation.

I notice when I have hurt my daughter yet again when disciplining her and words have been too harsh.

I notice how my husband easily collapses into the comfort of my arms when he returns from another endless challenging day at work.

I notice the joy that others take when they are gifted with the company of my son.

I notice the light that now has gone dim in the eyes of someone who has given up on their goal or their dreams.

I notice the joy of someone who has realized they are not alone.

I notice the turmoil in a person's heart when they discover their marriage isn't a marriage any longer.

I notice the love exchanged in just a look.

I notice the excitement of parents who have children returning to school very soon.

I notice the dread on children's faces when they realize school starts in just a few short weeks.

I notice the happiness that washes over someone when they are finally included.

I am the noticer. The one that notices more than I sometimes care to admit.

Saturday, August 3, 2019

I Regret Nothing- A Collection of Poetry and Prose Is Available On Amazon

I Regret Nothing- A Collection of Poetry and Prose - is available on

This is actually my fourth solo book, but the first to be published. I have had 9 other anthology book inclusions.  My first solo book is a large collection of non-fiction short stories and is currently being edited.  My second book was also published this week. It is a book about my son, Zach who is an amazing artist and has Autism.  My third book is still a work in progress. It is a collection of fiction short stories.  This book of poetry and prose came together over time and quite by accident. As my husband was reading my first book, he recommended that I remove all poetry and prose and create a book containing just those. So a happy accident it was as it came together seamlessly. 

The following link contains 7 of my books that are all currently available on Amazon.

Thank you for reading my blog and for checking out my books that are available on Amazon and for supporting small book printings.

Thursday, August 1, 2019

Walls Signs and Truth Bombs

I have to admit it. I love wall hangings made out of wood. I even don't care if they are a cast in plastic or metal. I like funny sayings and clever quips. I like decor that makes people stop in their steps and spend time reading, comprehending and digesting.  I like when I see one in a store, or a wall at a friends house or out and about and it makes me laugh out loud.

This past Tuesday, my family was at Parkway Pizza. If you haven't been to Parkway, please make a plan to go soon. They have a huge amazing menu, including many Gluten Free and Vegan options. When we sat down,  I took a look around as there was some new art work on the wall and signs about upcoming events.  I then spied a wood sign on the wall in the corner by the front windows.

Live. Laugh. Love. (All crossed out)
Don't Be A Jerk.

I laughed out loud, much longer than necessary and read it to my husband.  He smiled as he found the humor in it also.  I can't stand the signs that say Live Laugh Love, or even Hashtag Blessed.  Some just seem repetitive and trite. But Don't Be A Jerk resonated with me. 

Every day we come into contact with people we know and people we are meeting for the first time.  Some of these people are kindred spirits and others are challenging and the kind of people we work very hard to avoid.  Some of those people are cranky, constant complainers, horrible to other people and look for any reason to make their presence known as they are difficult and invoke dread on behalf of everyone that surrounds.   I admit it.  I am an avoider. If I meet someone who is all of these things, I will from the start deem them as "not for me." I tell myself that it isn't necessary to be friends with everyone I meet.  But that is really a cop out.  I don't want to put in the effort. 

Past relationships with difficult people have made me realize that it is usually me that puts in the effort in relationships. Especially when I think it is my job to crack away at the hard exterior shell that someone has worked so hard at perfecting around them. Why is it my job? Why me?  Chances are if the person is difficult with me, they are challenging with everyone. I am not a fixer, I can't fix people.  But I can be kind, I can soften them.  And I usually do.  I show them that I love them and will stick with them. I will show them that I will keep showing up, and keep coming back.  I am not walking away.  Sometimes I end up being the first person that doesn't walk away.  And the idea of that makes all the difference.  Even if a real true friendship isn't forged, the fact that I didn't go running for the hills from the start, matters.

While I acknowledge that I really don't want to put in any effort for nothing in return,  I remind myself of two things.  I just need to be kind and don't be a jerk.  Kindness.  It isn't always easy.  It requires us to flex some muscles that we don't use very much because when it is hard,  we won't work at showing it.  Don't be a jerk?  I can use my adult words and not return ugly with more ugly. How do I do this? By the grace of God.  It has nothing to do with me. It is all Jesus. 

I would be kidding you if I told you that there weren't a few days that began with the prayer- Jesus, please help me not be a jerk today.  -  Those are the days when I might be feeling quite poor, the days when sleep eluded me.  Those are the days when I am overwhelmed, have too many deadlines and not enough help.  Those are the days when parenting is such an exercise in tongue biting,  I don't think I am cut out for it.  But those are also the days when Jesus hears my prayer and sometimes I am even able to not be a jerk.

A difficult client. Or even a boss or coworker.  A challenging marriage. The parent who continually oversteps. Children who seem to not fear you or even God.  The woman in front of you at the check out lane.  The man driving behind you so close you are sure he can make out the odometer on your dash.  It doesn't matter who it is. 

We all need the reminder to be kind and not to be a jerk.  This week, my reminder came from a wood sign while enjoying pizza at Parkway. 

Saturday, July 27, 2019

She Is Clothed

I am at the Chaska Library on this beautiful Saturday morning in July.  Where else would I be? It is Saturday. It is summer.  This is my expected location at least until 11:30 am when my children will let me know that they are done with their desired activity, (which is always computer time and searching for kids movies on dvd) and we will head home for lunch and the then figure out what the rest of our day entails.

This morning, we left the house early as River City Days is this weekend in Chaska, and I wasn't sure what the crowds would be like.  Our first stop was Red Bench Bakery.  Three tables, maybe four were taken. All three comfy chairs in front of the stone fireplace were empty as if they were just waiting for us to arrive.  I wondered if they had been cleared out just before we got there.  Rather than make our selections and exit quickly, the kids and I enjoyed the comfy chairs and that Chai Latte with almond milk seemed to really make my smile a whole lot more grand.  We knew that the library wasn't going to open for a bit, so we decided to drive in search of a garage sale or two. We found a moving sale and enjoyed looking at all of the items they were parting with. We ransacked the free bins for jerseys and bought a few Peanut's dvd's for Zach.  (Yes, he already has them, and yes, I knew it.  He loves them, what can I say?)

We then headed to the Library so that we could take a leisurely walk through the commons area and shop at the Library Book Sale. Table after table of books, movies and magazines all at amazing prices. I would guess that there were over 5,000 items available in the commons this morning.  And absolute feast for fellow bibliophiles.  I found three classics (Shirley by Charlotte Bronte, Gerda in Sweden, The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck,  and a John Irving book I have been wanting to read. Lily found a kids book of poetry.) Lily then took a gander through The Chaska History Center and enjoyed the World War I and II exhibits which she commented that she wants to go back and bring dad with her next time. She also enjoyed the fact that the woman who welcomed her gave her permission to raid the candy bowl on the welcome desk.

Lily then joined Zach and I in the library where it was a little bit cooler and little less chaotic.
Why, you may ask, do I share this mundane glance into our Saturday morning? Because it is anything but mundane. Leggings were worn.  Oversized tee shirts were donned.  Chai Lattes were consumed.  Books were poured over. Smiles were shared.  Videos were watched. Children were content. And this mom?  This mom knew it was a great start to a new day.

Not every day is exciting. Not every day is filled with adventure. But every day can be great when we set our minds to it.  When we do not race on to the next activity. When we take extra time to sit and share stories with each other. When we enjoy comfortable chairs that were ours for the taking.  When we just take time to be together.

I do not have any grand plans for the rest of this day.  It will be hot, we will swim. The kids will enjoy popsicles on the deck.  We will grill chicken tonight and pair it with a salad and pineapple for dinner.  And we will probably enjoy a gluten free brownie with cashew milk ice cream for dessert. And all of this sounds like a mighty fine Saturday to me.

Enjoy those moments. Those moments that don't seem spectacular.  Those moments that often fade into the background because we let them.  Those are also pieces of each day that can be something absolutely amazing, if let them.

I Am Here Journal- Designed By Ed Westwick

Help support the Jenesse Center and survivors of domestic violence by purchasing this beautiful blue nautical themed journal designed by Ed Westwick. Gorgeous cover, thick paper and the ability to add additional pages makes this journal a must have for any writer or note taking enthusiast. 

See the link below for more information.

Thank you Ed for the beautiful journal and for supporting worthy causes around the globe! 

Sunday, July 7, 2019

Slipping Down

I laughed the first time I heard the saying -

I may look like I have it all together, but inside my shoe, my sock is slipping down.

To be honest, I feel like that a lot.  I have been told many times throughout my life things like, "You make it look so easy."  -I am not sure what "it" is.  "You are such a good mom." -My kids have been fed and they have on clean clothes if that is what you mean. "I don't know how you do it all."  -My house is a disaster of epic proportions and I am so very tired. I went to work today and did the dishes. Hardly accolade worthy.

Don't get me wrong. It isn't that I am lying. It isn't that I am portraying a fake persona and finally have everyone convinced that I know what I am doing.  My mom told me that my smile that comes naturally could be deceiving.  When I was a teenager and first heard this from her, I was confused as I thought she was insulting me.  After hearing it a few times, I asked her what she meant, because it sure sounded as if she was being mean.  My mom explained that she actually envied me. I was so confused.  She went on to say that no matter what I was experiencing, no matter what had happened, I always seemed able to locate a readily available smile that seemed genuine. She wished she could do that.  She wished that what she was thinking and feeling didn't always show on her face and in her body language.  My mom told me that she knew my heart, and she knew my joy and she admired that I was able to find something that could make me smile in each new day.

When I was 12, my parents divorced. My parents relationship went from being married to trashing each. When I was 14, my dad moved to Washington and never returned.  Also, when I was 14, I became ill with Lyme Disease and felt pretty horrible for a number of years.  But I went to youth group, I made new friends, I began to date, went to camp, attended youth conferences and went on missions trips.  I acted in plays, I sang at special events and at county fairs and at the state fair.  I went to college, I met my then future husband.  No matter what I had experienced, life had to go on. I wanted to do more, see more, experience more.  I was forced to put one foot in front of the other. And I am so very glad that it was my mom pushing me along the way.

As an adult, I have struggled with a number of physical issues.  Needing a number of surgeries, trying to figure out pain management, and desiring a pain free day, I struggle. I am usually quite honest when someone asks me about how I am feeling. But I worry that I have become a bit of broken record.  I complain. A lot.  I don't want to be known as the complainer.  I am now able to identify what kind of day it will be usually quite soon after opening my eyes in the morning.  I have good days and I have not so good days. But I feel that after my most recent surgeries this past January, that I have more good days than not.  However, one of things that I have really worked on is being very aware of and thankful for is the good that I can find in each day.

A day is made up of many moments.  Some boring and mundane, some heartwarming and edifying. Others funny and laugh worthy, while still others that fill us with emotion until inevitable tears break loose.  Each day is a sum of its parts.  Those parts become a whole.  Even on the toughest of days,  I force myself to identify what good can be found.  Yesterday was one of the not so great days for me.  I struggled with pain the entire day. Transitional movements were the worst. (Sitting to standing, laying to sitting.) However, I got a lot of work done yesterday on the computer. I took my kids to the library.  I enjoyed an almond milk chai tea at Red Bench Bakery.  I watched 4 little girls play and splash in the pool.  I cuddled with my son.  My husband and I enjoyed many games of cards together at the dining room table.  These things made me incredibly happy on a day where I could have felt nothing but discouragement.

A friend who was going through rough patch once told me that the only thing she enjoyed each day was that first cup of coffee.  I responded, "How wonderful that you have coffee! Imagine if you had to start your day without it.  That would be a horrible day."  After repeating this and other such things to her, she started to realize what I was aiming at. We spoke about our daily challenges and our triumphs. I told her how I had to make a concerted effort to explore the good in each day and sometimes, I even had to intentionally create fun. It changed my mindset.  Now, I know when I become a Negative Nancy, I need to go on a new path and search out the good.

That smile you see?  It means- I have missed you.  I am so glad to see you.  I love hearing stories about your kids and sharing with you stories about mine.  Thank you for meeting me.  I enjoyed our time together. I can not wait to spend time with you again. -That smile is meant for you.  That smile is real.  Thank you for making me smile.

Tomorrow might be another hard day.  My sock might totally be slipping down.  I have to leave for work quite early and then have to come home and clean.  But you know what? I will laugh with my morning client. We will be silly together and take breaks to love on her cat and admire her healthy patio flowers. I will laugh with my kids and swim in the afternoon sun.  I will make a great dinner for my family and probably swim again.  I will seek out the joy that is mine for taking.

My house might not be completely clean by the time the guys arrive for bible study tomorrow evening. But it doesn't matter.  Because I will probably have located my smile by the time they arrive. And there is always Tuesday. I work on pulling up my socks then.

Going Back

Michael winced at the pain in his shoulder. It had started hurting by about the fifth time he put the oar in the water.  How was he goin...