Optimism essential in crisis

Optimism essential in crisis
By Liz Thompson
July 12, 2020
This Week News

Earlier this month, we celebrated the Fourth of July and our nation’s freedom.

The past few months have been riddled with problems that could cause fear to win over reason or enjoying our lives.

One freedom we do have is to choose how we will react in any given situation.

I try to react positively, but I don’t always succeed. It is a challenge for everyone during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and all the other issues going on in our country.

In the 1980s, I worked for a retired U.S. Air Force colonel. He taught me how to solve problems.

When I first approached him about a problem, he said something like, “You can bring any problem to me you want, but when you do, also bring a solution. We may not use it, but we’ll figure it out.”

That advice has carried me through many circumstances. Problems are everywhere in our lives. To resolve them, we need to come up with solutions.

That’s what many people have been doing these past few months.

The pandemic has created problems we have never faced before. I believe people are resilient.

I’ve begun to think more intentionally about everything. I’ve made efforts to focus on all the things going well and search for solutions for even the smallest problems.

I see more pop-up pools in yards and get to hear children laughing. I’ve enjoyed watching a young family plant a garden and tend it together. Children are playing, swinging, running — often while parents watch during the week. Moms and dads — on furlough, perhaps — are making the most of the time together.

Cathy Williams found herself without her job at the Hair Shoppe in Grove City when the state ordered salons and barbershops closed in March. It was difficult not seeing her daughters or grandchild, but she said she and her four brothers texted constantly.

“We still do that even now. And I saw more people outside walking dogs, picnicking and playing as family units,” she said. “I was home and was able to see that.”

She and I had another thing in common during this time: cleaning our homes and not missing one corner or closet.

My daughter, Mary, said having a margin in her days is a good thing.

“This allows for all the ‘little’ things to be done so that life runs more smoothly,” she said.

Mary has been creative about interacting with others when she couldn’t be with them. And she is thankful for online church services — as am I.

“But seeing people in real life, in real time, and having ‘normal’ conversations in person is so valuable,” she said.

As a result, lawn parties are becoming commonplace.

Mary’s family recently added a puppy to the household — a mix of Labrador retriever and Great Pyrenees.

Her advice: “If there is ever another quarantine, get a puppy — they are a wonderful, pleasant distraction that brings joy and excitement to any day.”

Joan Campbell of Reynoldsburg said, “My current day-to-day routine doesn’t seem at all suffocating, and I have the good fortune to be married to someone who feels the same way. We’re happy to be hermits together, if that’s not a contradiction in terms.

“But I’ve also been able to actually read some books that have long awaited my attention. That’s a little bit of heaven right there.”

Like many others, my husband and I didn’t do our typical springtime camping. As a result, we got our garden started at a better time.

We planted our wildflower seeds and are being rewarded with myriad blooms showing off their diversity and beauty.

My daughter agreed about gardening: “Gardening is peaceful when you allow yourself to really take the time to do it and not just rush through the work for the results.”

Campbell said, “Yard work and gardening have attracted a higher percentage of my time than usual.”

I read that seed suppliers were busier than ever with the demand because more people are planting gardens.

Seeds of hope likely will grow as we learn positive ways to find solutions during this difficult time.

Childhood memories keep family farm alive

Day by Day:
Childhood memories keep family farm alive

By LIZ THOMPSON
June 14, 2020
This Week News

The sound of the cooing mourning dove at the beginning of summer takes me back to my grandmother Page’s farm and the lazy summer days I spent there, waking to the sound of the dove as the sheer white curtains blew softly in the morning breeze.

I remember waking and listening to bird song and sniffing the summer scents. I would look out the window and through the tall trees to see her vegetable garden.

Once downstairs, the large kitchen smelled like flowers, cinnamon, coffee, toast and homemade jam. Each day held the promise of adventure and time with my grandmother.

My grandmother lived on a farm built in 1854 in Groveport (Ohio.) The property originally consisted of about 750 acres, and the largest section, the bottomland, ended where three creeks came together: Alum, Blacklick and Big Walnut. They named the farm Westbank.

The bricks for the house and the outbuildings were made from the land, and the wood came from the trees.

I am told that from the kitchen pantry to under the front porch was a tunnel that was part of the Underground Railroad during the Civil War.

By the time I was born, the acreage had decreased, but the beauty remained. The time at the farm was more about being with my grandmother and enjoying time outdoors.

Sadly, the farm was sold to developers in the 1970s, and the house burned down in the early 1980s.

But the mind is miraculous. I can easily walk through the large house and around the land in my mind. I see my young self crawling under the shade of the tall trees to find carpets of wild violets.

I often sat on the large, cushioned swing on the screened porch and listened to my mother, grandmother and aunts talk as their knitting needles clicked.

On hot summer evenings, adults moved the cloth lawn chairs to the large yard, hoping to catch a breeze. My siblings and I, and often our cousins, busily would catch lightning bugs in jars.

The summer kitchen smelled of earth, clay pots and all manner of gardening utensils.

Music floated in the air when my grandmother played her piano.

It’s important to appreciate what we have while we have it. Our childhood memories can be glimpses of the real thing, yet the feelings, scents and mental images sustain us when life gets too complicated.

I wrote a poem 32 years ago about the farm, called “September Night Play.” In part, it reads:

Knitting needles clicking and conversation humming.
The citronella candle and the swing gently bumping.
Lightning bugs and laughter, and children running after
With a jar and lid with holes punched through to let the captured breathe air, too.

The weeping willow is a grand hiding place
But it is time to go home and end our night play.
So goodbye to Grandma, she must return to her porch
Who will have a new sweater to keep them warm at night
While catching bugs in a jar to watch their green, glowing light?

It’s so easy to become complacent thinking everything will stay the same.

I’d like to think I didn’t take the farm for granted, but I was 20 and living in California when she sold the farm. When I was there last, I assumed I would walk through the doors again. Maybe walk down the lane with her to get the mail or spend a summer day or Christmas Day with her.

We often do take things and people in our lives for granted without realizing it. But we can change that starting right now.

Irish poet and author John O’Donohue wrote in his book, “Anam Cara,” “Explore memory as a place where our vanished days secretly gather … and the passionate heart never ages.”

As I listen to the dove cooing, I close my eyes and smile. I let the sweet memories of childhood at the farm and in small-town Westerville tumble through my mind aimlessly, almost like a child doing summersaults through the cool grass on a summer evening.

Grandmother Page’s farmhouse likely taken in the 1940’s.
I remember in front of the screened porch she had roses, not bushes.

Changes in daily life afford time for kindness

Day by Day: Changes in daily life afford time for kindness

May 21, 2020

This Week News

The tiny, green mint leaves peeked above ground last month in my yard.

As I pulled the tentacles of the plant’s roots from the heavily mulched garden, I was amazed at how they had become so long underground.

When I planted it years ago, I didn’t know that it was an invasive plant that could take over an area.

I can see a similarity in the mint to the hidden, sweet-smelling things in our lives.

With the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, I have seen the sweet reactions of so many people. This unique time in our country has most of us staying home to stay safe.

But for those with children now home from school – and people working from home – life took a quick turn. Suddenly, they have the entire family at home, all the time.

Homeschooling became a reality that was thrust on many parents. It takes patience and creativity, but the spring weather at least makes it easier to spend time outdoors.

With technology at our fingertips, online school and virtual meetings became the norm.

My granddaughter, Elizabeth, now a senior at Cedarville University, completed schoolwork online. She conducted lessons via video with her piano students.

My mom, Mary Day, who just turned 98, always was busy and available to me and my three siblings 24/7.

Someone at the Church of the Messiah, her church in Westerville, planned a drive-by birthday party, including gifts. Cars lined the streets as she stood on the porch waving. My brother, Jim, and his family later stood on the sidewalk and sang “Happy Birthday to You.” They and my sister, Cynthia Slocum, all from Westerville, delivered flowers, gifts and sweets.

This distancing has been especially difficult for those living alone or in nursing homes. Stories abound of people holding up signs in windows at such places so residents know they are loved.

My neighbor, Ralph Johnston, recently turned 88, and his family put together a drive-by birthday celebration. His children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren drove by and brought gifts. Ralph shouted this information to me from his porch as I walked by with my dog.

I have learned more about frugality and appreciation for the plenty my husband and I usually have. We ordered online using home delivery from GFS, Meijer and Giant Eagle. The stores’ employees did wonderful jobs of putting our orders together and delivering them. We may continue this for some time.

They are frontline people taking extra precautions to provide what folks need.

I always have had high regard for health-care workers, and even more so now. Their needs for equipment and protective gear have skyrocketed. Walking into a hospital or making an emergency run immediately puts them at risk.

Gov. Mike DeWine (Ohio) and his team deserve praise for their quick action to protect Ohioans and keep us informed daily.

Author Laura Kelly Fanucci wrote of current times:

“When this is over, may we never again take for granted:

A handshake with a stranger, full shelves at the store, conversations with neighbors, a crowded theatre,

Friday night out, the taste of communion, a routine checkup, the school rush each morning,

Coffee with a friend, the stadium roaring, each deep breath,

A boring Tuesday, life itself.

When this ends, may we find that we have become more like the people we wanted to be,

We were called to be,

We hoped to be and may we stay that way,

Better for each other because of the worst.”

This month, we are easing back into business as usual, yet most of us realize “usual” might have changed permanently.

Face masks will be common, distancing ordinary, church services modified, shopping different.

We have been given a unique opportunity to look beyond ourselves and become united, though separate. Let’s hope the kindnesses we shared during these past few months remain.

That is the type of invasive, sweet-smelling action we always need.

Listening fortifies 43-year marriage

Day by Day:
Listening fortifies 43-year marriage

By LIZ THOMPSON
April 19, 2020
This Week News

Most of us can look back on our lives and wonder what would be different today if we had made a different choice in the past.

My most vivid thoughts on this idea float back to April 1, 1977.

A friend from church, Rosemary, talked me into going to a church-sponsored single-parents group. It took some convincing, but I finally gave in.

Within 45 minutes, I had met the man I would marry.

It was the last thing I had in mind. I was focused on raising my young daughter and surviving on a meager salary.

But one year and 21 days later, Bob and I became husband and wife.

We have been asked by young people how we stayed married “this long.” It seems we met yesterday, not 43 years ago.

Love and respect, friendship and good listening skills certainly help make the days memorable.

A verse from James 1:19 is good advice for relationships, especially marriage:

“My dear brothers and sisters, understand this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to anger.”

Most of us have heard the phrase, “There’s a reason you have two ears and only one mouth.”

According to an article on Dayspring, “If you have (heard this phrase), consciously or not, the deliverer of that message was speaking the truth of James 1:19.”

Bob and I had some unique situations to deal with. We all have challenges, but we were a blended family before it was common.

He was blind in one eye, and I had moderate hearing loss.

We often joked that it was a good thing because he could see only half of me and I could hear only half of what he said. We joked so we wouldn’t cry or feel sorry for ourselves.

It turned out Bob had a lot to say, so I listened as well as I could for many years. I had no difficulty talking and Bob was a great listener. I was near deafness in 2002.

“But love listens because love first seeks to understand. At its core, that’s all listening really is: caring enough to try to understand before responding.”

Those sentiments from the same Dayspring article had a different meaning as I lost my physical ability to understand words. I could read body language and American Sign Language.

I usually was exhausted at the end of the day trying to understand. Many times, I responded incorrectly or remained silent, yet Bob and my family were kind and patient with me.

When the miracle of a cochlear implant gave me back the ability to hear words clearly, I loved listening and truly understanding.

I love it when Bob says, “I was thinking …” because we can share our thoughts so easily now.

The Dayspring article was about the art of listening well. I think that is the basis for any good relationship, and certainly marriage. It goes on to say:

“For those who are quick to listen, have patience with the talkers.

“For the talkers: breathe. Let others speak until they’re finished … then wait to say it. Intentionally let someone else speak first.

“And as for the slow-to-anger part of these verses in James … that’s much easier to do when we are first quick to listen and subsequently slow to speak.”

It takes practice on both sides of any communication. Did we do it perfectly all these years?

Of course not, but we came out stronger on the other side of troubles. We added a large dose of forgiveness throughout the years for ourselves as well as for each other.

We are all challenged during the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. I’m thankful to have Bob by my side as we live our wedding vows every day: “to have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish.”

In many ways, we helped each other become better versions of ourselves.

I’m glad I listened all those years ago.

Enjoy each new day. Time passes all too quickly.

Letter is ‘awesome’ reminder of slower pace

Day by Day:
Letter is ‘awesome’ reminder of slower pace

By LIZ THOMPSON

Mar 22, 2020
This Week News

My old printer finally spit out its last sheet of paper, just as I was attempting to print something to mail to my mother.

Yes, good old U.S. mail.

The printer’s demise was an inconvenience, but I reasoned it was about 10 years old. For electronics these days, that’s a good life.

I’m thankful it won’t end up in a landfill for another 50 years because there are ways to recycle almost anything – including old printers.

Just as my printer died, I was about to type a letter to my youngest grandson, who is deployed with the U.S. Armed Forces. He had just texted his new address. I replied that I would answer with a handwritten letter.

His response: “Awesome! Those are special!”

Being a grandmother who grew up writing everything by hand, this made me smile. In 2020, a young man thinks handwritten notes are awesome.

I told him, “You are special.”

In the early 1990s, I had a severe attack of multiple sclerosis that left my right arm and hand numb. Holding a pen or writing was nearly impossible. Fortunately, I was a typist.

It took years to regain normal use of that hand, and the numbness finally abated. I struggled to make my handwriting readable.

Then, in 2006, I broke my right wrist. After surgery, again, I had to teach myself to write legibly.

I have to concentrate to write anything of length these days, but it’s doable.

I have a letter my grandfather had typed to my brother and me around 1955. Typewritten to us then might have been special instead of the usual handwritten note.

A recent daily devotion stated, in part:

“We live in a world of instant gratification. We want what we want – and we want it now! Whether it’s faster internet speeds, ‘on-demand’ movies and music or same-day delivery for our online purchases, we live in a culture that expects things to happen immediately.

“Of course, there’s nothing wrong with fast internet connections, downloading a new release to your tablet or enjoying the convenience of same-day delivery.”

When I read this and then my grandson’s text – yet another instant-gratification tool – I realized writing a note by hand takes longer. I give it more thought because I can’t backspace or delete to fix an error or reword a sentence. Giving more thought about what we want to say is important.

My dad used to chastise us if we said something inappropriate in content or tone. He would remind us to think before we spoke.

How easy it is to spout off something in anger or even excitement and realize too late how we sounded.

It’s just as easy to shoot a text, email or tweet in a way we later regret. They’re not just words in the air but words that can be saved for a long time.

Are we that impatient to learn the latest tidbit of news that we can’t wait to talk with someone?

When we have celebratory news, we do want to shout it out. Besides, buying, writing and mailing announcements can take time, and we want to send the news now. Yet it might be made more precious sharing in a more personal way.

Many remember catalogs clogging the mailbox. We’d flip through them to see what clothes, toys or gadgets were offered.

I used to place orders by telephone. When I paid via check, the company would process the order once the check was received and cleared.

Sometimes, orders for home or business took four to six weeks.

We had to plan ahead and seldom made purchases on a whim. And yes, we used it up and wore it out.

Catalogs still exist, but brick-and-mortar stores are disappearing faster than I would like.

Now many stores don’t want checks, and some don’t even accept cash. Credit and debit cards often are the only game in town.

In these days of instant gratification, we can get used to and appreciate the convenience.

But I often yearn for a slower pace.

 

On worst days, 911 call takers are there

On worst days, 911 call takers are there

By LIZ THOMPSON

February 23, 2020
This Week News

“Imagine being there for everyone’s worst day, every day. The reward is absolutely knowing you made a difference with each shift.”

These words from Johnna Sells, Franklin County (Ohio) 911 coordinator, tell us what telecommunicators deal with on every shift they work.

Never was I more thankful for the ability to dial those three short numbers to get help than I was 15 years ago, after I went careening backward down my basement steps onto concrete.

Those three numbers connected me with a calm voice that asked me, “Where is your emergency?”

Within minutes, several EMTs were coming in my back door, per my instructions.

I have always wondered about the calm voices at the other end of my calls.

These people are called dispatchers, communications technicians, public-safety telecommunicators or call takers.

The most important name is first responders.

They are the first people we talk to – those who are extensively trained to sort quickly through our emergency and send the correct help our way.

“There is so much more that is expected from our telecommunicators than ever before,” Sells said. “With the constant addition of new and better technology, the job is constantly evolving. The job is anything but stagnant.”

Training is detailed so telecommunicators can triage the diverse situations to get the proper response started.

Dublin, Grove City, Hilliard and Upper Arlington provide Smart911.

Smart911 allows individuals to provide additional personal information on their households, such as names, ages, health issues and pets, for the telecommunicators.

“It is different because it goes beyond the basics provided by a phone company,” Sells said.

When people call 911, they could be panicking, or for other reasons not able to provide all the information needed for the best response.

“Smart911 is a good financial investment for a community to make,” Sells said.

In 1968, the first 911 call was made in the United States. Now, 96% of the United States is covered by some level of 911 service. 911 was established in 1983 in Ohio. Franklin County implemented the services in 1987.

If you need to call 911, the most important information you can give is your location.

“You can give the entire rundown of the bad thing that is happening, but the bottom line is that we cannot help you if we don’t know where you are,” Sells said.

“Rest assured, once we know where you are and what the type of emergency that is occurring, we have started a response,” she said. “If we are still asking questions, it’s because we need additional information to pass to the responders so they can better prepare before they arrive on (the) scene.”

Telecommunicators always are in demand, Sells said.

“It’s hard work, and, traditionally, it comes with long hours, at all hours of the day and night,” she said.

Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries and weekends are included, so it is not for everyone.

“We look for people who want to serve their community and work in the public-safety field,” Sells said. “There has to be some passion for the industry to keep someone engaged and dedicated, but we also need people who are empathetic and can talk someone down when they are reaching out for help.”

Telecommunicators are multitaskers. They must be people who can talk, type, anticipate the needs of their responders and keep a steady voice through it all. They put the pieces together for their responders and for their community.

Sells was a telecommunicator for 15 years and said, “They are the first to learn about the emergency, now with growing video technology, sometimes even first eyes on (the) scene, they are the link between the public and the help they need.

“Telecommunicators should be held to the same high standards that police and fire have to meet and maintain, and they should in return be given the same recognition as those they work alongside,” she said.

Thank you all for being there in sometimes our darkest hours.

Call Franklin County’s human-resources line at 614-525-3397 if you want to know more about becoming a telecommunicator.

Empty nest prompts advice for moms, dads

Day by Day: Empty nest prompts advice for moms, dads

By LIZ THOMPSON

January 27, 2020
This Week News

One spring, I watched an adult male robin and a young male robin as they hopped in my yard, pecking at the ground.

I noticed the larger robin was leading the smaller one – obviously papa and son.

I was fascinated. I had never seen that obvious action of teaching in nature before. I wondered how long it took the mama bird to push him out of the nest, and then the papa took over the teaching so he could survive.

Papa’s role had changed; he no longer brought worms to the nest for the babies.

That’s what we want for our children – not so much the worms but the learning and growing. We care for our children when they are young and cannot care for themselves.

As parents, we do our best to teach them by example and in all the ways anyone learns anything. We encourage their talents and provide opportunities as we can. We gradually nudge our children out of the nest so they will learn independence and live the lives they were meant to live apart from us.

The door always is left open with a soft place to land, no matter their age or place in life.

But the day comes when they fly the coop and we wave goodbye, helpless to stop time. A mixture of sadness, pride, love and hope rises within when we comprehend we have been working toward this day since they were born.

The time with them has moved far too rapidly, we realize, as we blink away tears.

My husband and I became empty nesters in 1995. All three children were grown and out on their own. When our youngest, Mary, waved goodbye to us after her wedding, I was told it was OK to cry.

But I said I was fine and very happy for her. She had married a nice man whom we loved.

The moment I landed in the passenger seat of our car to go home, I burst into tears.

How had time moved so fast?

I recovered on our drive home. I reminded myself again how happy we were for her.

Later that evening, I walked into our bedroom and found a framed picture of Mary with us, taken when she was about 3 years old.

A letter had been placed next to it.

As I read the letter, my hands shook with emotion and the tears once again fell. She was thanking us for being her parents.

The litany of mistakes I’d made over the years could have canceled out her loving words. So often I felt that I had messed up and had done things wrong as a parent.

If I could do it again today, I would do things differently. This same daughter went on to successfully homeschool all three of her children, and now she’s on the verge of being an empty nester, too.

That day, in 1995, as I read and reread her letter and then shared it with my husband, the old regrets melted away.

The letter is still tucked behind the photo. I have shared it with a few close friends, and each time, the tears return.

A quote from the book “Live and Learn and Pass It On” – described as “a collection of wisdom from people aged 5 to 95″ – states, “I’ve learned that simple walks with my father around the block on summer nights when I was a child did wonders for me as an adult.”

Pastor and author Gordon McDonald agrees: “All effective fathers learn the importance of a wise and flexible response to their children’s calls for attention. No busy signals here. No hold button.”

That also holds true for mothers, stepparents, grandparents, foster parents, adoptive parents or any adult in a child’s life who can offer the simple things to our children that involve time.

Talk and listen, cook, read, laugh and solve problems together.

Help with homework and attend their sports games, plays, concerts, art shows and science fairs.

Show up. Be present.

As ordinary people, we can show extraordinary love as we see each child as a unique gift, pecking his or her way through life, looking for an example.

City wasting less food, but work remains

City wasting less food, but work remains

Day by Day

By LIZ THOMPSON

January 4, 2020

This Week News

The holidays are over, and in many cases, our stomachs show the evidence of their feasts and bountiful sweets.

But buffets with mounds of food always have squelched my appetite. It might be the huge selection, the mixture of food aromas or that I was taught to eat all the food on my plate at a meal.

I also know many people go without even a portion of that bounty.

Although the United States is considered a land of plenty, many live with food insecurity. We all should ponder how we manage the food we buy.

As my husband, Bob, and I gradually moved from a household of five down to two, we continued to cook for five. Our freezer often was full of leftovers. But I confess to throwing food away in the past.

Over the past 25 years, we learned to cook for two. We subscribed to Cooking for Two magazine from Taste of Home. I found allrecipes.com, where you can choose the number of people you want the recipe to serve, and it adjusts the measurements.

Ty Marsh, executive director of the Solid Waste Authority of Central Ohio, said in Franklin County alone, nearly a million pounds of food waste enters the landfill every day.

Dr. Allan Lines, Ohio State University professor emeritus and a Worthington resident, taught courses in farm management, farm finance and agribusiness finance. He remains active as an agricultural consultant in Ohio, the U.S. and in international agriculture.

“There is a lot of food wasted here and in the rest of the developed world,” Lines said.

He said he was shocked in 2018 when he took a group of visiting professors from Ukraine to a food-distribution company in central Ohio.

“The managers of the warehouse told us that of every 100 semitruck trailers coming into the distribution center with fresh food, four truckloads were separated as ‘unusable’ and sent on to the landfill,” he said.

“This was largely because of spoilage or conditions, such as blemishes, poor coloring, unripe, overripe and misshapen or other attributes the consumer is unwilling to purchase,” Lines said. “So it is not just the waste at home. We have a long way to go to train families, young and old, that fresh foods don’t need to be perfect to be edible and nutritious.”

We each can take measures to become better at managing our resources.

Bob and I have a small compost bin in our yard that we fill with food scraps. This becomes soil rich with nutrients for our garden. SWACO recommends shopping with a list — I have heard never to shop hungry — as well as freezing leftovers or feeding them to your dog (if they’re safe for animals).

Our dog has refused only a few foods, but check with your veterinarian for recommendations. Like people, all dogs are different.

I was encouraged to learn that a year ago, SWACO launched the Central Ohio Food Waste Initiative, a group of more than 60 organizations working together to reduce food waste. The initiative is concentrating on three areas: food-waste prevention, food rescue (getting extra food to those in need) and food recycling.

This group will release the results of a feasibility study and kick off a consumer-education campaign this year, including a food-waste-reduction program in schools.

SWACO grants support residential compost options across the region. The cities of Bexley, Worthington and Upper Arlington have instituted the pilot program.

In November, SWACO released new numbers that show central Ohio has surpassed a 50% diversion rate. This means residents and businesses are keeping more than half of the waste they create out of the landfill by recycling, composting and reusing materials.

When you see that not-so-perfect piece of fruit dangling from a tree or in the produce department, give it a try. Think of ways to be wise with the food available to us.

Make our only footprint in that compost-rich soil of our garden, with a lifestyle of guarding our land’s resources.

Check out swaco.org and look for places to dispose of products. To learn about the initiative, go to cofwi.com.

Ocean’s sound spurs waves of thankfulness

Day by Day
Ocean’s sound spurs waves of thankfulness

By LIZ THOMPSON
December 1, 2019
This Week News

 

The wind was blowing the trees sideways.

Leaves were falling like rain as I waited for the actual rain to begin.

Early last month, autumn in its glory of color and cool temperatures were blowing out of Ohio. Winter was close behind.

My friend, Sonja, called me while the winds blew.

“Liz, have you listened to the leaves? They sound like the ocean.”

“The leaves on the ground?” There were plenty of those.

“No, in the trees. Go listen.”

So I did. It took me a moment to match the sound with the idea of the ocean.

Then I got it. The wind blowing the drying leaves in the trees sounded like the ocean surf as it rolled onto the beach. I could almost smell the saltwater and feel the cold waves splashing over my bare feet.

Never once had I thought about how one distinct sound could remind me of another – especially two so different. Dry leaves and ocean surf? Yet there it was flowing into my brain. I could close my eyes and remember being at the ocean and figuratively lapping up the sound.

In 1976, I was in the ocean at Martha’s Vineyard. My 2-year-old daughter played in the sand. The surf drowned out all other sounds, except for the squawking seagulls as they swooped through the sky.

By 1992, sounds were elusive, and by 2000, they had gone silent.

In 2002, though, I received my first cochlear implant. When I visited my daughter and her family in California, of course, I went to the ocean.

That’s when I stood in the surf once again and heard the waves rolling onto the beach. The water washed over my bare feet, and I sunk partly into the sand as I stood there soaking in the beautiful sound. The rhythm hummed in the air and vibrated in the sand.

During December, I’m especially aware that another year is ending and a new one is peeking around the corner. With the joy of Christmas closing out the month, I often find myself counting my blessings.

I review the year and see what I, and others in my life, have come through.

Irving Berlin might have thought of this when he wrote “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep),” sung in the movie “White Christmas”:

“When I’m worried and I can’t sleep, I count my blessings instead of sheep, and I fall asleep, counting my blessings.”

When I think about counting my blessings so I can go to sleep, I think I might never get to sleep because the count would be so high.

What a lovely problem to have.

Typically, we think of a blessing as something we have or have received.

Hindsight gives us 20/20 vision. As we age, we have many more experiences to review and are able to see the world with perspective.

Many of my experiences have included struggles. While riding the wave of troubles, all I could see was the long to-do list, the endless what-ifs or the physical or emotional pain and uncertainties.

Now I can see the blessings derived from getting through these times. I came out stronger and more appreciative.

As the seemingly endless waves roll to shore, we wonder if we can withstand the rush of life pressing in. Often, we feel we are sinking and all hope is lost.

One of my favorite hymns also talks about counting our blessings. Written in the early 1900s by Johnson Oatman Jr. and Edwin O. Excell, “Count Your Blessings” begins:

“When upon life’s billows you are tempest-tossed, when you are discouraged, thinking all is lost, count your many blessings; name them one by one, and it will surprise you what the Lord has done.”

The true reason Christmas exists is that God came down to reveal his love and ultimate blessing.

Love for pets connects us with humans

Day by Day: Love for pets connects us with humans

By LIZ THOMPSON

November 3, 2019

This Week News

We know unconditional love when a warm, furry pet in the shape of a dog or cat cuddles with us.

It has been proven that such cuddles lower blood pressure and ease feelings of loneliness.

Over the years, my family has kept myriad dogs and cats as pets. Many of our family stories – happy and sad – revolve around these animals. We are not alone in this.

While camping in Great Smoky Mountains National Park in Tennessee last month, my husband, Bob, and I met people from Alabama, Georgia, Florida, Kentucky, Virginia and, of course, Tennessee. Still others we talked with but never learned their home state.

Our dog, Toby, was a perfect conversation starter during walks. He is friendly and loves meeting new people, as do we.

Lou and Dan Farrow from Sugar Tree, Tennessee, told us they have owned three dogs: Queenie, Duchess and Princess. Despite the royal names, one was “an all-American mutt,” Lou said; the other two were Keeshonds.

Dan went into their trailer to get a photo of Princess, their last dog. The beautiful animal was perched on his favorite rock, Dan told us.

“It’s right down this road,” he said. “She would go there every time we walked.”

Princess has been gone two years, yet they spoke of her as if she might be nearby.

We understood and we talked about our past dogs, too, with the same affection and sweet memories.

As we spoke, Toby was waiting patiently in a pile of leaves, facing toward our campsite.

“I think he is ready to go h-o-m-e,” I said, spelling the last word.

Dan and Lou both laughed and said they had to do the same thing with their dogs: spell such words as treat, ride and walk.

That’s because saying certain words made our dogs anticipate that action.

We joke that Toby has learned to spell, so we need to change such words as walk to stroll.

A veterinarian told me years ago that dogs can learn up to 100 words, but I didn’t ask if they could learn to spell.

Sunny was an 8-year-old golden retriever we met with his owner from Tennessee. I guessed they were from the Volunteer State because their canopies and coats were all orange.

An Ohioan might have scarlet and gray.

I didn’t get the owner’s name, but she told me Sunny was a little skittish and didn’t leave her side often.

Her story reminds us that we provide comfort for our dogs, too. I know Toby is happiest when Bob and I are with him.

William and Tamarra from Spottsville, Kentucky, talked about Buster, their black Lab, when they walked onto our campsite to meet us. While Tamarra petted Toby, William pulled out his phone to show us photos of Buster.

“He traveled with us for 12 years,” William said. “We were actually in this campsite last time we were here with him.”

That was two years ago; sadly, Buster is gone.

Kristina Reed of Virginia camped next to us for a few days.

It was her first time camping without her daughter, now in college.

She especially loved seeing Toby because she had to leave her dachshund home with a friend. She hikes, and no dogs are allowed on trails.

Kristina shared photos of her dogs, including one who died a couple of months ago.

Dogs and cats are with us for a short time.

They give us many reasons to be thankful they walked into our lives, offering comfort and reasons to smile and remember.

On the morning we were leaving, William came to say goodbye. He had watched us with Toby, and when Toby gave him a doggie goodbye, William said, “You sure do get attached, don’t ya?”

That we do.

 

Bob, Toby and me in the Smokies