March 2022 Story Sparks
I had just arrived home after spending hours with Jerry at the Eisenhower Medical Center where he was hospitalized for a bladder and blood infection. I had made the decision to call the ambulance the night before (which as every caregiver knows, is not the easiest decision to make for someone else who is an independent and opinionated soul). He didn’t object too loudly and I sent him off to the arms of the fire department medics and ambulance crew. And yes, those arms were quite muscled. He was admitted.
So at home the next day in Rancho Mirage I collapsed onto the couch and looked through windows badly needing washing, another item on my to-do list. That task had been set aside after we returned from Mexico with Jerry dealing with the after effects of two falls while were vacationing there. (I have threatened to write a book called “Emergency Rooms I have Known and Loved” and now had the hospital in San Jose del Cabo for a chapter. It was a good place to receive care BTW.) And perhaps dirty windows were a distraction from the concern of yet another setback for dear Jerry. I’d been trying to find someone to wash the outside ones for several weeks with no luck. And irrationally, I marked it as yet another failure on my part.
A knock on the door interrupted my lament. A gentleman dressed in a loose shirt and khakis introduced himself and said he used to wash the windows and the entire coach (read trailer) of the previous owner. Because of Covid he hadn’t been back. But now he was and would I like him to wash all my windows. He would take off the screens, wash the outside walls and all the windows and patio and car port. If I wanted. “What do you charge?” I asked though whatever it was I planned to pay it. “150” he said. “You are hired” came my reply before he barely finished the sentence. And he did everything he said. For that $150. But his arrival in that moment was priceless.
I’m now looking out through clean windows at the glorious San Jacinto Mountains dotted with palm trees in the foreground. Even more, friends who helped us build the homestead arrived on the day Jerry was hospitalized and they looked after Caesar and had a hot meal for me when I arrived home from the hospital each day. And Sherrie washed off Caesar nose prints from that window! Now we are dealing with infusions for two weeks with the hope medical science under the Great Healer will prevail.
Mary Oliver in one of her poems speaks of instructions for living a life: “Pay Attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” I had paid attention to the windows. And in that very moment I was astonished by the perfect person to tend to that small detail. And now I’ve told about it with my hope you’ll recognize those small gifts that arrive as reminders that you are not alone. Maybe I should write a book about astonishing moments to treasure. With your contributions, it would be encyclopedic!
Another gift is that our friends took Caesar for his daily walk. He’d dawdle for the first half but seemed to know when they were halfway. He picked up his pace which is pretty good for a 13 year old dog! Inspiring. (I think in dog years, he’s the same age as Jerry, 91). It makes me chuckle!
Exciting Book News
The Healing of Natalie Curtis (Revell/Baker Publishing) was recently chosen as a Finalist for the 2022 Western Writers of America Spur Awards, Best Western Historical Novel category! Hurrah to team Revell and thank you to all my readers!!
Also, the Akta Lakota Museum & Cultural Center will now carry Natalie’s book in their gift shop. It is located on the St. Joseph’s Indian School Campus in Chamberlain, South Dakota and celebrates the Lakota people. It was a school like this where Natalie recorded the songs and dances of native children once President Teddy Roosevelt gave his permission to defy the Code of Offenses of 1883. She wouldn’t have gone to this particular school because it didn’t open until the 1920s, but it is wonderful I think that visitors will learn of how one person tried to make a difference in a time of great trial.
This photograph by Amar Ahmed was taken far away from Ukraine (in Canada) where today my heart breaks along with so many of yours. But it symbolizes the efforts of what one person might be able to accomplish — especially when there are others on the same flight path. If you have not yet found a way to help refugees or other efforts in Ukraine, here is a Christian-based organization in Salem, Oregon that serves those on the ground in Ukraine. They are feeding people, providing information, transporting those seeking to leave. YWAM Slavic Ministries, PO Box 4213 Salem, Oregon 97302. (YWAM stands for Youth With A Mission). They — like many — are praying too for both the Ukrainians and the Russian people who are protesting at great personal risk within a dictatorship. An international organization has begun a prayer time each day in your own time zone at 9:00am until 9:10am praying for the people of Ukraine and the world. And here is the Presbyterian Disaster Assistance website. They too are serving needs of refugees around the world.
Women in History Month
Last year I chose three women in my family whom I wanted to honor in my present (rather than historical) life. It was great fun to surprise them with a gift card. This year I’m sending money to the Ukrainian people especially the brave mothers, grandmothers, sisters and daughters defending their country, seeking to take their children to safety. It’s very selfish on my part to make a donation. Remember that Dr. Karl Menninger quote? “Generosity is the single most important indicator of a person’s mental health. Generous people are rarely mentally ill.” It serves my mental health by giving. It doesn’t have to be with money, it can be by listening, sending a card to someone, making a phone call. Time is a gift one can never get back once it is given which makes it precious indeed. Who in your life needs your attention? And how can you take care of yourself in the process? March is also Mental Health month. Oh how we need to pay attention to each other.
Soon you’ll be seeing May and June in-person events. Mark your calendars and stay tuned for updates.
May 7 – Almost Mother’s Day with Jane at Aurora www.auroracolony.org. Signing and a lunch and presentation. Bring your mom and spend the day. Stay tuned for details.
May 15 – Linn County Historical Society presentation – Albany, OR 2:00pm, Lakeside Center at the Mennonite Village, 2180 54th Ave SE, Albany, OR. Abigail Scott Duniway is the subject but words of other amazing women (like Natalie Curtis) will also be in play.
Here’s a Woman After My Own Heart
Dana Rubin (https://speech.studio/) is a writer and speaker hoping to create a collection of women who made speeches or talked about important issues but historically weren’t interviewed or had their words memorialized as men. Abigail Scott Duniway Something Worth Doing is the perfect example. Dana is using Kickstarter to raise funds for publishing her collection. Visit this site to find out more.
The Personal Librarian by Marie Benedict and Victoria Christopher Murray
Penguin Random House, 2021
While on vacation in Mexico, I read a dozen or more books. Red Notice: A True Story of High Finance, Murder, and One man’s Search for Justice by Bill Browder prepared me for the corruption and brutality of Russian lead Vladimir Putin. Lisa Gardner’s Look for Me was a thriller that kept me reading late into the Mexican night. William Kent Krueger was new to me but no more. I read two of his titles, one a 20 year anniversary re-publication of Iron Lake. Beautifully written with an eye to mystery, family dynamics and heart set in Northern Michigan. But the book I want to share with you this month is The Personal Librarian. It would be an intriguing story if one just read about the library put together by the financier, investor, philanthropist, art collector J.P Morgan. But Belle Marion Greener or as she was known by JP Morgan, Belle da costa Greene, was a black woman passing as white in the early twenties until her death in the 1950s. An amazing story written by collaborating authors, one who is black and another who is white. It’s a story about doing what you must to care for your family but also for yourself.
The second book recommended for this Lenten Season especially is Good Enough 40ish Devotionals for a Life of Imperfection by Kate Bowler and Jessica Richie. Convergent, 2022. I loved Kate’s book Everything Happens for a Reason (and other Lies I’ve Loved). And this book has the same wry humor and joy, non-judgmental thoughts and theological hope so needed in my life right now…and in the world. There are 40 blessings to boot.
And this poetic closing:
”Life is mostly froth and bubble.
Two things stand like stone,
KINDNESS in another’s trouble,
COURAGE in your own.
Adam Lindsey Gordon, “Ye Wearie Wayfarer”
May you take to heart these words, breathe deeply and celebrate the women in your lives!
See you in April!
P.S. I often get requests from those wishing a book list of my titles. Incidentally, Wikipedia has some errors. Visit my Bibliography webpage for the real scoop.