REFLECTIONS ARE NOT EASY

I am in the process of finishing my memoir On Becoming a Minister’s Wife with writing a chapter on “Reflections.”

The body of the memoir takes me from not wanting to be a minister’s wife through the first nine years of living the role. Two years ago I wrote 50,000 words during the National November Writing Month (NaNoWriMo) in a stream of consciousness style. This past year I’ve been reordering, editing, deleting, and adding to those words so they would make sense to someone other than myself. Now that part is readable, thanks to my writers’ group friends, who have listened to me read it twice. They are due much praise for endurance.

I am struggling with this last chapter. My husband, Richard, celebrated his fiftieth year of ordination in 2013. From 1963 to 1993 he served five churches, retired for health reasons, but continued to enjoy preaching as a supply for several years. Our lives were so intertwined, how do I sum up those years for myself?top-bmp

Questions I am seeking to answer include:

What did I like or didn’t like about my role?

How did it affect my life as a wife and mother?

What did it teach me about myself?

Would I do it again? Yes, I would, provided I was married to the same man. I think perhaps that is the key to all my answers.

Corinthians 13:13 “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.”

 

 

TIMELY GENEROUSITY

What does it mean to be generous?

I was recently given a flyer about creating a congregational culture of generosity. As far as I could determine it was primarily about money, engaging the members and caring for the members to grow a larger sense of stewardship and the church budget. I’m nostock-photo-luxury-watch-isolated-on-a-white-background-103887638t against this, but I think there is more to being a generous person.

The Biblical basis of the program and of our lives is that all comes from God, so in thanks we give back those things we’ve been given.

What is the one thing we all have the most of? TIME

What is generosity of time?

Standing in a checkout lane with a basket full of items and a person behind you holds one or two things in their hand and you quickly step aside to let them go first? A gift of a few minutes.

The driver who stops to let you move into traffic from a side street is generously giving you a moment of their time.

The store clerk who must call assistance and wait for help? What’s happening to her blood pressure? Letting the clerk know you are sorry for her wait, but do not blame her is being generous. Offer a quiet comment? “It’s been a long day?” Or “It’s busy here today.” Or “Are you nearly finished work?”

One day I was shopping when a woman holding an address book said, “a gift for a teacher?” I responded “I rather have an ornament or something to eat.” We chatted for a few minutes. She was stressed out and needed to talk. She thanked me for listening. Those few minutes enriched my day.

Then there is the opposite of giving time and one of my favorite peeves.

It is a driver dashing back and forth across lanes to be first at the next stop light. If they are not going at least fifty miles, speeding will get that person to their destination only seconds earlier than if they’d stayed within the speed limit and in a single lane. I always want to ask, “What are you going to do with those nine seconds?” It’s not even time enough to take a deep breath.

The next time you are in a hurry, think about what you will do with any time you save or perhaps if you slow down something or someone will touch your life in a way you would have missed by hurrying.

What are other small ways to be generous with your time?

REVISE, YET AGAIN

Revise, revise, revise. That is the mantra of editors. I’ve thought my novel was finished. It has been revised and revised.

A few weeks ago no one was prepared with a manuscript to read at our writers group. A number of prompts were tossed out to us. I chose “Have one of your characters tell you (the author) why they are upset with you.”

What came out was a minor character spewing forth all manner of complaints. Freddie said all I did was say he was a pest that caused trouble. He wanted me to know that he doesn’t like his home and family much. He has two little sisters and a baby brother and he has to take care of them. Their house so small he has to share a bed with his sisters.

No one cares about him. He’d rather spend time at Johnny’s house up the road. Johnny’s mother makes better stuff to eat too.

After listening to Freddie’s tirade, I feel he deserves more space and recognition in my novel.

Freddie has left me no choice. I must revise, yet again.
part_1477954132672

Dreams of a Ten-Year Old and Today’s Reality

How do your thoughts and dreams when you were ten-years-old match with your reality today many years later?

 

 

Growing up on an upstate New York dairy farm during World War II, I learned to love acting in a one-room schoolhouse. Our small movie theater showed the popular musicals as soon as they left the big city theaters. I loved the idea of singing, dancing, and acting in front of large audiences.

Audiences were not easy to come by, but I had one built in for my convenience. Our dairy barn had two rows of cows which faced a large open area Dad used for feeding them. Standing there I could act out my dreams to an approving audience. As an adult, I had roles in several plays. It was one of these that showed me how difficult it would be as a professional having to go on stage night after night.

My alternate dream was to be a teacher like Mrs. Parsons, my country school teacher. She was my ideal as a teacher. After I graduated from Fredonia State Teachers College (as it was named then), I tried to emulate her. Teaching children to read was a joy for me, especially when I saw a child suddenly ‘get it”—and understand all those squiggly marks on the pages of a book.

In our two-shelf country school library, there were several books about foreign countries which I loved to read. As a ten-year-old I fantasized about being in those countries, but didn’t believe I’d ever walk their streets and travel their roads.

Today’s reality? I love the theater, wonderful music, learning new things, meeting old and new friends, and visiting new places. Dreams can come true.

A DRESS REVUE

When I was in my early teens it was nearly impossible for me to buy a dress. Nothing fit. I was too short, but my bust proved I was growing into a young woman. Dresses, the right length for me, were made to fit an undeveloped seven or eight year-old. My mother made nearly all my clothes.

A 4-H club was formed in our community and Mom was the leader. She taught me to sew on her White treadle sewing machine. It took a lot of practice to keep pumping my feet up and down while steering the fabric in a straight line under the needle. I mastered that, Mom said I was ready to make an apron.

During World War II, farm supply companies began bagging certain feeds, such as corn in printed fabrics of a quality suitable for sewing. It was a bonus because the sacks didn’t require precious ration coupons. They made serviceable dish towels and cleaning cloths. A feed sack was good for me to try out my newly learned skill.

Next came a dirndl skirt—two widths of fabric gathered onto a waistband with a continuous placket or opening on the side. The placket was a challenge, but I had a very patient teacher who pulled out wrong or crooked stitches.

Finally, it was time to learn how to cut, and sew a dress using a pattern. I got better each time.

I was just fourteen when I went to my first Broome County Dress Revue. My cousin, Norma, and I both made navy blue taffeta dresses. Mine had a sweetheart neckline and puffed sleeves. Norma=s dress had a large round collar which she lined with red taffeta. Norma and I spent many hours at the dining room table pinning and basting parts together.

By this time the war was over and Mom acquired an electric sewing machine, which made stitching much easier. It didn’t mean that we were perfect.

One evening, I remember being very pleased with myself. I had stitched the sleeves into my dress very carefully so there would be no little pleats and puckers where they didn’t belong. Then I lay the dress down on the table. I wanted to cry. One sleeve was perfect, but the other would have required me to keep my arm raised. I’d put it in bottom side up. Dear Mom pulled out the errant stitches.

The judging at the county dress revue was always very thorough. While Norma and I stood in front of them wearing our dresses, two experts examined every part of our work. One checked whether the collar or zipper was correctly assembled while the other examined the hand-sewn hem to be sure the stitches were small and even. One pulled here, the other there. They also judged the fit of the dress and the accessories we’d chosen as part of our total outfit. In the late 1940s that meant hat, gloves, purse and shoes.

Lastly, all of the entrants were all required to participate in the revue. As we walked in front of the audience, the judges noted our composure, posture and stance.

Norma and I each received a blue ribbon.

MOTIVATION TO MARKET

This past two weeks I have spent most of my time sitting in front of this computer. I have working on submitting manuscripts for publication. At the top of my agenda are three books I’d love to see published. Books that have been in the writing in various forms for many years—one is a biography of architect Mary Colter for middle school children, a picture book of Mary Colter for lower grades, and a chapter book telling the story of a young girl living on a farm during World War II.

All three of these books have been through several revisions and critiqued by my writing group and edited again. But I have let them sit quietly in my computer. Yes, I did send them out once or twice and received a rejection. No, I don’t like to receive rejections, but they don’t discourage me from writing. I’ve even received encouraging rejections, such as: “I love the story, but it is not right for us.”

How to find that one agent or editor who says, “I love the story, here’s a contract?”

Nothing submitted. Nothing published. I know this.
So this is my New Year’s resolution:
I will submit at least one story to an agent or editor every week.

Perhaps having written this for all to see, I will work to keep my resolution.

MAY DAY

Next week is May Day. What that means now and what it meant when I was ten are very, very different.

After World War II, the formation of Communist block, and the beginning of the Cold War between Western oriented countries and the United Soviet Socialist Republic, May Day brought news of stiff marches of the Soviet Army showing off guns, tanks, and planes. The traditional May Day festivities in the United States declined.

In European countries, May Day is a holiday. Dancing around the Maypole continues in many small communities. Young girls in traditional costume wind the Maypole with colorful ribbons as they circle it, weaving over and under one another’s arms.

You also know the call of “mayday” when someone needs help

MAY DAY IN 1942

In the afternoon, Mrs. Parsons announced we’d be making baskets as our art project. She distributed outdated wallpaper sample books and let us choose a couple of pages we would like for our baskets. Then with her help and instruction, we folded square pieces of these colorful sheets into baskets and pasted a handle on them.
After school I begged my mother to let me go over to the sap house to look for wild mayflowers and violets that grew in the damp earth. It was a long walk, but Mom let me go. I went through the dairy barn, down a farm road and across the bridge that spanned the creek that ran through our farmland. I squeezed myself between the strands of the barbed wire fence, walked and ran down the path which acted as a road through the length of the long flat field to the fence at the other end.
In front of me stood the sap house, a very old building with its roof caving in. Dad said that many years earlier the farmer had made maple syrup in it. The large brick furnaces still in place could boil sap from one thousand maple trees growing on the hill beside the building. Dad used it one year, but it was too far away. Instead he opted to use the pans, but build a fire closer to our house. I digress.
I searched until I found the tiny white and pink mayflowers, purple, white violets, and yellow dog-tooth violets or trout lilies. When I had enough for two or three small bouquets, I retraced my route to our house. While Mom went to help Dad in the barn, I arranged my bouquets in my baskets.
As it grew dusk, I slipped out of the house to hang a basket on the front door. Then I knocked loudly and ran away a short distance. Mom came to the door to find the basket. She chased and caught me to give me a kiss. Dad took me to a neighbor’s house so I could surprise
another mom with a basket and collect my kiss. Meanwhile, Mom had a knock at the door from
another school friend.

Do you know other May Day traditions?

To see pictures of wild mayflowers, click on the URL below:
http://www.statesymbolsusa.org/symbol-official-item/massachusetts/state-flower/mayflower