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Sharon Canfield Dorsey – Some Of Us Are Just Tougher… A Tribute To My Brother, Carl

My brother, Carl, is one tough cookie. He has had more than his share of health problems – from multiple heart surgeries, to kidney dialysis, to kidney replacement surgery, to diabetes, to an aneurism at the base of his brain, to skin cancer surgery. He just keeps on “ticking,” surprising us each time we think we are about to lose him. He doesn’t sit around and worry about these things. He remodels his house (he’s a master carpenter, like our Grandfather Kuhl) or works in his yard and garden. I’ve seen him crawl outside and sit on the ground to pull weeds or plant tomatoes when he was too weak to walk. He’s devised all sorts of ramps to help him get from his Jazzy chair to his riding lawn mower so he can mow his own lawn. Through it all, he’s kept his quirky sense of humor and his love of family.

            When our brother, Homer, and Carl’s best friend, became ill with lung cancer, he was there for him, until we lost him. They lived just a few houses away from each other their whole adult lives, hunted and fished together and raised sons who grew up to share that same kind of friendship. Homer and Carl also ran a country store together for many years. Losing Homer would leave an irreplaceable hole in his life.

            When I decided to write a memoir including stories about our growing-up years, “Daughter of the Mountains,” it made perfect sense to include Carl’s stories. Among other things, he is a great writer. Late in life, he decided to go back to school to become certified as a Practicing Psychologist. He specialized in family therapy and practiced until the health issues made it too difficult.

            When our mother became ill, he was there every day, cooking the foods he knew she loved (he’s a wonderful cook) or just sitting and visiting with her in the home we all grew up in. When Mom had to be moved to a hospice facility, he was there every day, holding her, rocking her like a baby through all the scary times until she left us too. 

            Now he is facing a new challenge, a tumor on his tonsils which has resulted in excruciating pain, difficulty speaking and inability to swallow anything but liquids. He sees a specialist this week to diagnose it and determine a path forward. But again, he isn’t sitting home surrounded by doom and gloom.  Today, he send me pictures of the huge pot of tulips, just starting to bloom in the big window in his living room. He sat in his Jazzy and planted fifty bulbs in five containers, one week apart. He planted hope and promise. Tomorrow, he’ll be sitting in a hospital waiting room while his wife has the hip surgery that was scheduled long before his new problems emerged. She wanted to postpone. He insisted she go ahead with it. That’s who he is. 

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Sharon Canfield Dorsey – The Journey Continues… One Day At A Time… January 1 – 11, 2020

JAN. 1, 2020: Happy New Year!  We made it to 2020! Now if we can just remember to write it on our checks… Time for resolutions. I resolve to write one a day for ten days. Join me with your own?????

JAN 2, 2020: I will do less things I dislike and more things that make me happy, like going to the movies instead of dusting. I dusted. It came back. Not falling for that again!

JAN 3, 2020: I will spend more time with friends who laugh and less with those who constantly complain.

JAN. 4, 2020: I will read the six books stacked up on my nightstand instead of watching the bad, awful, rotten, stinkin’ news all the time.

JAN. 5, 2020: I will not say bad words about the deer, rabbits and groundhogs who lunch on my shrubs and flowers. MAYBE.

JAN. 6, 2020: I will write more poetry and listen to more jazz.

JAN. 7, 2020: I will re-watch all the Avengers movies on Disney+ without guilt. After all, Shannon gave me the channel for Christmas. I OWE it to her to watch every single one!

JAN. 8, 2020: I will pay at least one compliment a day to someone who needs one. Think of the smiles I’ll collect!

JAN. 9, 2020: I’ll do more things to help the planet – including harassing friends who do not recycle. It’s a small thing. We can all do it and it makes a BIG difference.

JAN 10, 2020: I will encourage everyone I know to vote and I will actively support candidates I believe in. Democracy is worth saving. Our ancestors expect that of us.

JAN 11, 2020: I will assume every day could be my last, and savor the moments, large and small.

SHARON CANFIELD DORSEY is an award-winning poet and author of four children’s books; a memoir, Daughter of the Mountains; a book of poetry, Tapestry; and a new travel memoir, Road Trip, just released in December, 2019. All the books are available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, High Tide Publications and the author.

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Cindy L. Freeman 1/11/20 – Embarrassment is not Fatal

I’ve heard it said that it takes six weeks to incorporate a new habit, six weeks of practicing that behavior consistently. Well, I must be a slow learner because it took me four years to purge sugar from my diet, and it is taking a lifetime to stop beating myself up when I make a mistake. I just did it again! I called myself a “slow learner.”

I don’t like to fail. I don’t think anyone does. Failure, even a small botch, feels humiliating. When I mess up, my first instinct is to berate myself. Self-flagellation is nothing new. It was a part of early Christian history, especially in monasteries and convents. Even Martin Luther whipped himself as a means of atoning for sin. I don’t whip myself when I find I have disobeyed God or made a foolish mistake, but I fall into the unproductive habit of self-blame. My instinct is to waste mental energy shaming myself; making myself feel less-than; forgetting that I am a forgiven and renewed child of God.

What if, instead of engaging in unproductive mental self-flagellation, I turned immediately to God in prayer, confessed my shortcoming, and asked for help in making things right? What if I trusted the promise of Romans 8:38-39 that “…neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor heights, nor depth, nor any other created thing will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus?” Perhaps Paul’s list of ‘nors’ should include nor embarrassment.

What if, instead of getting discouraged by problems and embarrassed by mistakes, I remembered that God loves me no matter what blunders I make and stands ready to show me how to solve problems? What if I focused on my innumerable blessings, turning my attention from miniscule earthly issues to the grand scheme of God’s purposes?

I’m not advocating ignoring issues and hoping they’ll go away. Denial never solved a problem or made a situation better. Rather, I’m trying to develop the habit (resolution, if you will) of facing life head-on and dealing with embarrassing mistakes without falling into a blame-and-shame funk.     

After all these years, I’m still working to develop healthy responses to stress. Worry, self-doubt, and self-flagellation are not healthy habits. If God has already conquered death, how can I allow myself to be discouraged even for a moment by life’s inevitable challenges?

Another verse from Paul’s letter to the Romans reminds me to put problems and perceived failures into perspective: “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose (Romans 8:28).” In other words, God has my back; God is in my corner; and every negative experience provides a teachable moment with the potential for growing in wisdom.

Cindy L. Freeman is the author of two award-winning short stories and three published novels: UnrevealedThe Dark Room and I Want to Go Home. Website: www.cindylfreeman.com; Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/cindy.l.freeman.9. Her books are available through amazon.com or hightidepublications.com

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Susan Williamson – Gratitude

Thanksgiving is over, but I find myself in a state of gratitude for both small and large mercies. Last summer I received a call from the Veterans Administration Insurance Department. The caller told me that my father had taken out a small veteran’s life insurance policy when I was a year old, naming me as beneficiary. Since I knew nothing about this, I did not contact them when my father died in 1986. But this faithful bureaucrat was trying to close the case. I do know that the funeral home did contact the VA because we received a veteran’s certificate or some such.

My family members were sure this was a scam. But, no one was asking for any money from me. The woman said she would send a letter outlining what I would need to do. I looked up the phone number for the department, not the number the woman gave me, and called. Sure enough a gentleman assured me that the claim was real.

I no longer had death certificates for my parents. I had to order them from an office in Pennsylvania. This process was neither quick nor cheap. Eventually I received them and sent them on.

I heard nothing. I called and was told that my father had taken a loan against the policy in the early seventies and so, they had to refigure the actual amount that I would receive. My hopes dropped. Each month I checked back, only to be told that one person had looked at the file that month, but no calculations were finalized and that I should keep checking.

By now, I did not expect to see any insurance money, but I was touched that my father had set up the policy for me, his first child.

The agency required me to give a bank account number for direct deposit. This seemed a little sketchy, but they explained that checks could be lost in the mail and in today’s world this was a better alternative. I gave them an account number for an account where we keep very little money, just in case. Then shortly after 2020 arrived, what to my wondering eyes did appear but a bank deposit from the Veterans Insurance Department. It was not a huge amount, but a great windfall to us.

On the day I saw the deposit, I couldn’t help but be thankful for all of the other blessings in my life—our family, my health, our home, my friends, my church family, my publishers who have allowed me to grow a writing career, a James River Stable in Prince George which allows me to teach riding lessons and the ability to daily enjoy these blessings. Happy 2020.

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Sharon Canfield Dorsey – ‘Twas The Week After Christmas

‘Twas the week after Christmas, all through the house,
not a thing would fit me, not even a blouse.

The cookies I’d nibbled, the eggnog I’d taste
at holiday parties had gone to my waist.

I remember marvelous meals all prepared,
the gravies and sauces, the beef nicely “rared.”

The wine and the rum balls, the bread and the cheese,
the way that I NOT ONCE said, “No, thank you, please.”

Away with the last of the sour cream dip.
Get rid of the fruitcake, all crackers and chips.

Each bite of food that I like must be banished,
‘til all of the extra ounces have vanished.

I won’t have a cookie, not even a lick.
From now on, I’ll chew on a celery stick.

I won’t eat hot biscuits or cornbread or pie.
I’ll munch on a carrot and quietly cry.

I’m hungry, I’m lonesome, and life is a bore,
but isn’t that what January is for?

Unable to laugh…no longer a riot,
Happy New Year to all, to all a good diet!

Sharon Canfield Dorsey
January, 2020