Poems, Personal Stories, and Observations

Thank You, Everyone!

Ohio Report: January 26, 2022

It was 7 degrees Fahrenheit this morning at 7:20 a.m.  No wind to speak of, clear skies, and no ice on the roads, so it could be a lot worse.  No snow today, except little piles left over from January 17th.

I’m sure people from Siberia, Alaska, Canada, the northernmost states of the U.S., and other places will be laughing at me for thinking 7 degrees is unusual, but it is for this coastal California girl!  Maybe a few times at Lake Tahoe, I’ve experienced 7 degrees.

If you have cold weather, never take for granted (if you have them) a home, a furnace, electricity, warm clothes, and food to sustain you.  I once watched a documentary in which they did an experiment with three couples or families, perhaps around the 1990s or later.  The challenge was to see if they could survive a winter without all the modern conveniences.  I think they had a cabin already; not sure.  At any rate, they had to grow and preserve enough food, and collect enough firewood to survive winter.  All three families failed.  They didn’t preserve enough food nor collect enough firewood.  They had to go back to their regular life before finishing the challenge.

The goats at my son’s in-laws are doing well in their indoor winter pen. They have a milk house heater for when it’s freezing or below.  These are African pygmy goats, so they aren’t as hardy as, say, Scottish goats.  They eat grain, leaves, and hay, and seem to really enjoy having people visit and pet them, not to mention the food provided.

We are fine here because of hundreds, if not thousands, of people:  those who made our warm clothes; those who grow, deliver, and sell food; those who make and sell and maintain furnaces and refrigerators; those who build facilities for and maintain and deliver gas and electricity; those who collect our garbage once a week; those who deliver mail and packages to us; those who sustain us spiritually and/or in friendship and love, those who helped us have health and the ability to work to pay for bills – the list could go on and on.  Thank you, everyone!

Faults

Do not be too discouraged about your faults, even those that come up repeatedly. Of course, strive to overcome them, but don’t be depressed by them. Instead, let them lead you to humility and dependence on God’s grace.

“I am confident of this, that the one who began a good work among you will bring it to completion by the day of Jesus Christ.” (Philippians 1:6)

All the World

All the world is filled with grief.

There is no place to find relief —

Except at the foot of Jesus’ cross.

All the world is filled with hatred.

Hardened hearts to sin have catered —

But some souls sacrifice themselves.

All the world is filled with violence,

With killing, thievery, fighting, riots —

Except when people learn to forgive.

All the world is filled with madness,

Insanity twists sense to rashness —

But reason can find a better way.

All the world must turn around

Until a better truth be found —

And hearts and minds are finally sound.

The Moving Clouds

It doesn’t feel much like heaven now,
Though I get glimpses of it.
Those who nearly die
And have visions of heaven, or hell —
Live transformed by gratitude.

I don’t know why
Some see heaven
And others do not.

Perhaps we have to train
Our hearts and eyes.
Perhaps we need to deliberately
Think
Of seeming coincidences
As real miracles.

We have forgotten our wonder,
Filled with self-importance,
Thinking we are the only creators.
What a heavy burden to bear!

Do you ever stare
At the moving clouds,
And wonder?

Why do the geese fly south,
Through never-ending seasons,
Only to fly north again?

I cannot comprehend the rhythms of life,
Like making a bed,
Only to have it messed up again.

Perhaps the rhythms, like an endless tide,
Or waves that ebb and flow, go “left” and “right”,
Give glory to God, in every season —
We need a rhyme; we need a reason.

We need the heat, the cold — if I may be so bold.
We need the peace of winter freezing,
The new spring buds our nostrils teasing,
The summer heat, and frenzied days,
That turn to autumn — the harvest phase.

The work, the play, exhaustion, rest,
The climax, quiet, the tears, the jest,
The hardship, ease, the stress, the peace,
Success and failure; they never cease.

Up and down, pride and shame,
Through it all, our God’s the same,
And every breath we ever take,
He watches tirelessly, for our sake.

The Stealth of Survival

The deer are seldom seen by day on our street.
They stay in the nearby woods
Until all (or most) neighbors
Are safely in bed.
Dim darkness will be their cloak of safety.

Like ghosts, they silently emerge
From the nearby woods,
Grazing on cold lawns and shrubs
And leaving behind
Only their telltale tracks in the snow
To surprise us in the morning.

Renewing Our Mind

As a girl, I often heard the song, “Accentuate the Positive.” You can listen to many versions of it on YouTube, including those by Bing Crosby with the Andrew Sisters, Aretha Franklin, Ella Fitzgerald, and Paul McCartney.

While there can be a danger of being too Pollyannaish (unrealistically optimistic), there is a lot to be said for focusing on positive things. St. Paul wrote, “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about theses things” (Philippians 4:8). He also wrote, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God—what is good and acceptable and perfect” (Romans 12:2). “Renewing our minds” can be seen as turning our thoughts to what is good, holy, and productive, and if you’re a believer, focusing on God.

There are many articles to be read on “negativity bias,” the tendency of humans to give more attention to negative than to positive things. How else would news outlets survive? We can be almost ghoulish in our fascination with the negative.

An illustration in my own life would be my lifelong tendency to take offense, to take things personally, or to assume the negative intent of someone. I’ve had to battle this my whole life. It’s a serious internal battle, requiring much prayer and refocusing.

Just the other day, a person in my life did not react in a way I had been hoping. An insidious little devil in me started ruminating on why the person “didn’t like me,” “didn’t trust me,” and on and on. Then, thankfully, another thought came to me, “Hey, wait a minute — earlier in the conversation, they smiled and said something positive. Why don’t I remember that, instead of the other stuff?” From training my mind over the years to reframe incidents and refocus my thinking, I was, by the grace of God, able to get over this incident relatively quickly. The “training” has included Bible study and help from a therapist.

In Isaiah 42:3, it says “a bruised reed he will not break, and a dimly burning wick he will not quench; he will faithfully bring forth justice.” This was fulfilled by Jesus (see Matthew 12:9-21). We are all broken in many respects; perhaps some are more broken than others. Thankfully, Jesus is willing to work with us.

What’s in a Name?

This is long, but if it will save anyone some trouble, it will be worth it…

For people who may be applying for a driver’s license in the future, especially “real id,” a.k.a. “compliant,” be sure your identification documents are in sync, that is, the first and last names match EXACTLY. Also, if you’ll use your passport as an identifying document, obviously it must be up to date. Passport renewal can take weeks.

On 11/9/2021, I got approved for a driver’s license, after three tries. I don’t know if it would have been a problem if I had not moved to a new state. On my first attempt to change to my new state’s license after moving, I brought in a certified copy of my birth certificate, a certified copy of my marriage license, my Social Security card, my former state’s driver’s license, and two proofs of my new address, like utility bills.

My dear parents, may they rest in peace, gave me four middle names besides my first name (at the time, Clara). One of my middle names was Katalin, and over the years people started calling me Cathy, a derivation of Katalin. So, though my birth certificate and my marriage license have Clara as my first name, and four middle names, all my other documents, including my Social Security card and my former state’s driver’s license, had Cathy as my first name. So, because, of the difference in first names, my application for a D.L. was rejected. I cannot remember how I got a driver’s license and SS card with the name Cathy and not Clara (I’m 66.).

My husband thought and thought, then said, “Forget the birth certificate, use your passport, which has your name as Cathy.” That’s how he had gotten his new D.L.

I applied for renewal of my passport, which had expired. I paid extra for expediting the passport renewal. Some weeks later, I received a valid updated passport with the name Cathy.

Soon after, I returned to the licensing bureau, using my passport as an identifying document instead of my birth certificate. Things were going well until they checked my passport number. The clerk said, “It doesn’t match up.” Turns out that it takes three to six weeks, or more, for new passport numbers to be downloaded into the license bureau’s database. So, no go, again. The clerk recommended that I “come back in three weeks”.

I was tempted to give up, but I then emailed the state capital licensing bureau. They confirmed that it takes three to six weeks for new passport numbers to be downloaded.

After waiting four weeks, I tried and succeeded in having the D.L. application approved, using the passport! What a relief! I was so amazed, I left my checkbook at the bureau and had to return to get it, thanks to an honest person who turned it in.

During this ordeal, I briefly contacted two lawyers (no fees paid) who weren’t a big help. One option was to have my name changed in court. But you must reside in my state for a year before you can legally change your name.

Other cases I’ve heard of: 1) a woman whose only name differences were Catie versus Katie. 2) A person whose name difference was Julie versus Julianna. That lady got results by writing to her U. S. Senator. 3) A woman who had either “Grace Mary” or “Mary Grace” (I have changed her names) on different documents.

So, if you’re planning to get a D.L., you may want to work on getting all your identifying documents to agree on the version of your name, or use a passport that is synchronized, if your birth certificate is not.

I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t had a passport!

If anyone has had a similar experience, or advice on hindsight, please share.

Changing Lightbulbs

I’m changing lightbulbs

Instead of cursing the darkness

Instead of cursing the lightbulb company

Instead of cursing someone who might have broken them

I’m changing lightbulbs

And thanking God that I could afford new ones

And thanking God that there will be more light

And thanking God for my husband who helped me

I’m changing lightbulbs

And hoping I can give some to those who don’t have any

And hoping there will be more light than darkness

And hoping that we can work together

I’m changing lightbulbs

Instead of sitting around

Instead of having a frown

Instead of getting down

Let there be light!

I Long to Dwell

Self-knowledge:

I long to dwell in a gentle place

Where acceptance doesn’t depend on race.

Where sins are forgiven, each person driven

By self-knowledge of their own sin.

Understanding:

I long to dwell where people smile;

They say to me, “Sit down a while.”

They listen quietly, as do I;

And understanding, we say “aye”.

Safety:

I long to dwell where children are safe

No longer victims of hate or rape.

No longer killed inside the womb,

Nor harmed by parents’ angry gloom.

Growth:

I long to dwell with an inner peace,

Having confessed my anger and grief,

No longer concerned what others think —

Nor under their opinions shrink.

Humility:

I long to love as Jesus loves,

To fly like an eagle or a dove,

To have a purpose that fits like a glove,

And remember my gifts have come from above.

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