Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

 

The other day at the store, I saw an elderly man wearing a World War II veteran cap. I looked him in the eye and thanked him for his service. “You’re welcome,” he said, a pleased smile lighting up his face. Bruce and I commented on the fact that there aren’t very many veterans left from World War II, especially ones who are able to take themselves to the store.

 

I’ve always felt like World War II was so long ago, in the dim, distant past, as my aunt used to say. And, don’t get me started on the Civil and Revolutionary Wars, let alone the 1600s! But time is skewing those impressions. Or maybe, it is righting them.

 

Recently, I realized that it was only eleven years between the time my mother died, in 1973, and when I started nursing school. Only eleven years? How can that be? So much of my growing up occurred during those years. On the other hand, what seems like it may have been eleven years ago, was 1990, which, of course, has been (gasp) thirty-three years. No way!

 

Then, this thought struck me. Twenty years before I was born, we were in the middle of World War II and the Holocaust.

Auschwitz-Birkenau, the largest of the death camps, was liberated on January 27, 1945, which is why this date was chosen for the International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Other than the celebration of this liberation, it’s not a day in which we remember a victory. It’s not a remembrance day where we are delighting in the birth of someone important. No, it is the remembrance of an evil, horrific, planned execution of a whole ethnic group of innocent people. And this was only twenty years before I was born.

 

Last week my husband and I watched a documentary titled Nicky’s Family. It is the story of one man who made a difference and the families he helped. A young business man, Nicholas Winton, was made aware of the desperate situation of Jews in Czechoslovakia, and he single-handedly succeeded in saving 669 children by finding them “temporary” homes in England and other places. It is the powerful account of the difference one man can make.

Here is a link to information about this documentary.  http://www.nickysfamily.com/

 

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” George Santayana

 

I would encourage you to spend some time this week remembering the lives lost. Consider how you might make a difference in your own community with the challenges we face. Both the man in the grocery store and Mr. Winton answered the call facing them. How about us?

 

If you have stories of people who served in World War II, survivors of the Holocaust, or other good documentaries or books on this topic, feel free to share them below in the comments.

 

 

  • Several years ago, I read the biography, Truman, by David McCullough. I knew very little about President Truman before that, so the book was an eye-opening experience. After all, that time period is the back story to my life, the era of my parents’ childhoods. To be honest, there was a lot going on in the world during that time, and Truman ended up involved in most of it in one way or another.

 

The fact that a farmer from Missouri could end up in the White House, almost by accident, was incredible. Yet, he did. And he took responsibility and made tough decisions. Then, when he was done, he went home and walked to “work” at his Presidential library every day. The first presidential library.

 

So after reading the book, I realized that nearly every time we drove to South Dakota from North Carolina, we went right past Independence, Missouri, and the signs that point the way to his home and his presidential library. It became my goal, my dream, to visit his library. I’d never been to a presidential library, and this seemed like a perfect place to start.

 

But, it wasn’t that simple. Our trips back and forth were often made with as much speed as we could manage. After all, when it takes 27 hours to make the trip, you don’t really have time for sight-seeing. But every time we passed the signs I would say, “One day!”

 

About the time we got serious about visiting, they closed for renovations. Then the pandemic happened. But this past Thanksgiving week, “someday” became “this day” and we stopped in Independence and spent several wonderful hours exploring the museum/library. There was so much history there, a lot of it sobering, as it dealt with several wars.

 

I came away, thankful once again for the man that was Harry Truman and the gifts God gave him. Someday, I would love to go back. But, there are other presidential libraries!

 

A couple of weeks ago I finished reading Mornings on Horseback, also by David McCullough. It’s not a biography, but rather the chronicling of a family, the Roosevelt family. It starts with President Theodore Roosevelt’s grandparents and parents, and then settles into a close-up-and-personal look at the family in which Teddy Roosevelt grew up. It follows them through to the point where Teddy is about to marry his second wife, then quickly ties up the loose ends, letting you know how each of his siblings’ lives went after that.

 

It was an incredibly detailed look at the life of a privileged family in the last half of the 19th century and into the 20th.

 

The thing that most caught my attention, though, was a note from the author explaining how he decided to write the book. When he was researching for his books on the Brooklyn Bridge and the Panama Canal, (both on my must-read list) he discovered this massive collection of letters from the Roosevelt family, housed at Harvard. Every Roosevelt was a prolific letter writer. The author recognized in them a treasure trove of first person accounts of this time period in history. How could he not write the story? And wow, I’m super glad he did!

 

Only now I want to go to Harvard to see those letters.

 

Please comment below if you have visited any of the presidential libraries or have ever been inspired to visit a historic site because you read about it in a book.

 

If you are interested in visiting a Presidential Library, you can find a list of them at this site: https://www.archives.gov/presidential-libraries

 

Here is a link to information about the Theodore Roosevelt Collection: https://library.harvard.edu/collections/theodore-roosevelt-collection

 

 

 

Fifty years ago today, January 11, 1973, my life as I knew it ended. That afternoon my almost 35 year old mother went to fix supper, and in the doorway between the dining room and the kitchen, she went to heaven instead. This date is always a contemplative day for me. I usually am a little sad. And, to be honest, when you lose a parent at ten, the trauma becomes part of who you are.

But today, I don’t want to be sad. I want to remember that on January 11, 1973, somewhere between four and five in the afternoon, my Mommy saw Jesus for the first time! I don’t believe she worried for a moment about us, or about Daddy. I believe she knew instantly that God would take care of us, and HE DID! The moment she died, HE began pouring grace on us.

Today, I am revisiting a post I wrote several years ago. I hope you find it helpful.

Nine Ways To Support A Grieving Family When The Unthinkable Happens

Every time I hear of another family who has suffered the loss of a young parent, my heart constricts with painful memories. Losing a parent as a young child is a life-altering event. Even though I’ve been through this very situation, I find myself uncertain as to how to support them, I know to pray. That, after all is the best thing I can do. But there has to be more. Here are a few ideas for how to support a grieving family.

1. Support the remaining parent in any way you can.

The truth is, if the parent is okay, the children will be okay. My greatest fear was that something would happen to Daddy. Beyond the physical needs of the parent, the emotional stability and coping ability is crucial. The children will gain confidence as they see their parent coping. Now I don’t mean that they should never fall apart. Seeing your parent fall apart at the appropriate time can be a valuable learning experience in itself. But, if the parent has the right support to handle those moments life can right itself.

 

2. Try and keep things as normal as possible.

Of course it can never be the same again, but the children will find comfort in tradition and routine. Family rituals become all-important. If you know that the missing parent used to do something special, ask if you can help carry on the tradition—not to take the parent’s place, but to celebrate a tradition they started.

 

3. Keep any letters or emails you have from the deceased—especially those that mention the children in any fun or positive way.

My aunt kept all of the typed letters my mother sent her family, and after several years, she gave us each a copy of all of them. This is a treasure beyond description. An album of photos from the parent’s childhood, and photos of the parent with the children would be great too.

 

4. Don’t be afraid to talk about the deceased.

Tell stories. Relate personality traits about the parent that the child might not be aware of, if appropriate. My step-mom was actually really astute at getting Daddy to tell us things about our mother. Children who lose a parent are afraid they will forget how the parent sounds and what they looked like.

 

5. Offer practical help. And hugs.

If it is a mother that dies and she has preteen daughters, take them shopping for personal items. Let the dad know you are available for any conversations he might need help with. I would imagine this could be a problem for a family of boys when Dad dies. If your child is a close friend to one of the children, invite them over as before, but give more hugs. Hugs from one of your Mommy’s friends helps more than words can say.

 

6. Offer help with cleaning, cooking, or just giving the parent an evening off.

They need time to themselves, and sometimes the kids may need a fun evening too.

 

7. Extended families are crucial.

Our grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even cousins were our security blanket. We spent time with grandparents and gave Daddy time alone. Two of our mother’s sisters and families visited the next summer, helping with housework, and making sure we were doing okay. Daddy’s aunt and uncle stopped by frequently to check on us. His brother and parents were always just a couple of hours away and we could go there for a quick visit on the weekend for love and encouragement.

 

8. Consider offering to pay for the children to go to a grief camp.

There were no such places when I was young. But, we had a family. Intact. Caring. Present. In addition we had a church family with several ladies who were close enough to give us the hugs we needed. We had a Daddy who either kept himself together, or knew where to go when he didn’t. But, most of all we had the Lord and He met our every need. Just like He promised. But, not everyone has all of those resources, and some children might need more than they can offer! A grief camp can be an experience with life-long benefits.

9. Pray for them.

Like I said at the top, prayer is the best thing you can do. Pray that God will give the remaining parent wisdom, comfort, and strength for the difficult road ahead. Pray for the children that they will have the resources they need to deal with the trauma. Pray that God will give YOU ideas of additional ways to support this family.

Please share any other ideas for how to support a grieving family in the comments!

 

 

 

A Christmas Story AND

Ten Ways To Recycle Coffee Mugs

Every morning I choose my coffee mug based on my emotions, what the date is, or who I’m thinking of that day. On the 14th of December, I drank out of my “Marv” mug in honor of the 90th anniversary of Daddy’s birth.

“Where did you get a Marv mug?”, you might ask.

Let me share a Christmas story!

In 1975, Daddy and Mom gave each of us ten dollars to spend on Christmas gifts. Even back then, that wasn’t much. Daddy’s suggestion was that we go together to get gifts, so our money would stretch further.

I clearly remember our excitement when we found coffee mugs with names on them. Marv was as close as we could get to Marvin, but we were delighted. And it had a cool antique car on the mug. The problem with Mom was that her name is Dortha and the closest we could find to that was Dorothy. So, she got the Dorothy mug with the lovely rose.

When they opened the mugs, their pleasure was obvious. They were impressed with our finds and they used those mugs every day for years! When Daddy retired and they were downsizing, I spotted those mugs and knew I had to bring them home. Now, when I want to remember Daddy, I drink from the Marv mug. On Mom’s birthday, I drink from the Dorothy mug. My collection is so big that even though I’ve given several away over the years, my mug wall is full, and there are more in the cabinet. It made me wonder about options for recycling coffee mugs. Here are a few that I found!

TEN IDEAS FOR UPCYCLING COFFEE MUGS

1. Plant Holder: Small succulents are particularly delightful in coffee mugs.

2. Coffee Mug Cake: Recipes are easy to find online for these yummy cakes, and they are naturally portion controlled.

3. Pencil/Pen holder: Use on a desk to hold all of your pencils and pens.

4. Coin Collection: Place on your dresser and put coins from your pockets in the cup.

5. Workroom/Sewing room collections: They would make a great holder for screws, buttons, or small pieces.

6. Candle holder: They could be used for tea lights, or even with poured wax as actual candles.

7. Candy dish: Especially for something like M&M’s.

8. Birdfeeder: I’ve seen mugs or teacups glued to a saucer and hung outside with birdfeed in it!

9. Soup dish: I love drinking my tomato soup right out of a coffee mug. Especially if you have a really large mug.

10. Regift: Mugs in great condition can be given as a gift. Put some candy, tea bags, or other delights in the mug and give it to a friend.

 

Do you have any other suggestions? Next time you pull out a coffee mug, think about where it came from. Who gave it to you? Who does it remind you of? Is there a special memory associated with that mug? Take a few moments and remember those people and experiences, then share in the comments!

 

Remembering people is my favorite thing to do with a mug. Well, that and drinking coffee!

 

Primary

Secondary

Now, when I want to remember Daddy, I drink from the Marv mug. On Mom’s birthday, I drink from the Dorothy mug. 

 

Somewhere, buried in Mom’s photo albums is a picture.

Vonda, my little sister, was good at entertaining herself. She would line up her stuffed animals—and her cat if she was in a tolerant mood—and she would lead them in Sunday School songs, followed by a lesson.

Mom’s picture is of one of these “Sunday School lessons.” A dozen stuffed animals attentively listen from their perch on the couch as Vonda diligently taught her “lesson.”

It seems, not so long ago that Vonda was that little five year old, but yet, we have another generation already grown and getting married.

I teased my niece, Megan, at her wedding a couple of weeks ago, that she might be married, but she was still eight in my mind. That she always would be.

But, as I watched her stand under the lovely trellis with her groom, absolutely princess-level beautiful in her wedding dress; I didn’t see an eight-year-old after all. I saw a woman, and I teared up. Joy? Or sadness?

A bit of both, I guess.

But wait! Maybe one of these days there will be more great-niblings from some of these eight year old brides and grooms.

Possibly a little girl or boy teaching their stuffed animals or pets about Jesus.

Maybe a little girl with three pigtails running with her arms rotating like a windmill “to make her go faster.”

Or, several, gathering around the new books they received from Great-Aunt Miriam.

And, in three blinks, there will be another group of weddings. That’s how life goes, isn’t it?

 

 

For more on the below opportunity follow Double Cousins Mysteries (Ages 7-13) on Facebook!

The other day, someone posed a question. If you could spend an hour visiting with anyone, past or present, who would it be? I immediately thought of Daddy.

Oh, there are many other people from history that I would love to talk to, including my mother and my grandparents. There are also many, still alive, that I would love to visit with for an hour. But still, I would have picked Daddy.

I’m not sure why. Maybe it was because his birthday was coming up (today) and I miss him a lot.

But, today a friend posted a picture of a red truck her son painted. A memory flashed across my mind. It was the story of Daddy’s first memory and it involved a pickup like the one my friend’s son painted, only his was yellow.

Click on the link below to hear Daddy tell the story of the yellow truck. The tapping sound is me typing as he spoke.

Daddy and his brother, Jim.

Interview with Daddy 12142010b First Story a

I have this story because we sat down ten years ago and spent almost ninety minutes talking and recording his memories. I listened to some of it today, including this story and it was bittersweet. I’m so glad I have his voice and the memories.

Slicing the Turkey

I know I harp on this a lot, but our parents aren’t around forever, like we thought they would be. And then there are our grandparents. Get their stories. Use that record feature on your smart phone this Christmas. Let the whole family submit questions. Make it a group activity! Maybe you’ll discover your own yellow truck story.

 

   Three weeks ago I had foot surgery to repair a failed tendon and the damage it had done. I was ready. I’ve worn a brace for six years, so it was time.

   But, surgery is never fun and often inconvenient. After all, six weeks of non-weight bearing and a twelve week recovery wasn’t my idea of a normal fall season.

   Fortunately I have an extremely helpful and resourceful husband. “I’ll have to get that old footstool up from the basement and fix it so you can use it,” he said. I was delighted. We both pictured the small stool we knew was “somewhere” and smiled in delight that it would be used.

   But, when he went looking he didn’t find it. Instead he found another one which I think is actually a better size and didn’t need repaired. So, I started using it.

   I use it in front of my pink rocking chair in the bedroom where I’m currently sitting. I use it under the table, so I can sit and work on my computer or work puzzles without having my foot down the whole time. It has been quite a useful little stool.

   Then my husband asked this. “Do you know where I got this stool?”

   My story radar went off. I love a good story and I wasn’t disappointed. It turns out that when Bruce was in graduate school “umptyjillian years ago”, as he likes to say, he found a wooden box in the lab that was to be thrown away. He took it home. Then he found a piece of foam which he added to the stash, and finally a scrap of brown and tan material. He had all the makings of a stool, except for the castors, which he bought. Now, he just had to put it together.

   “Kay’s dad made it for me,” he continued. Kay was his neighbor and Bruce has been life-long friends with Kay and her late-husband Robin.

   “Really!” I exclaimed.

   “Yep. He asked me what that was all for and I told him. He took it home and brought the footstool back to me.”

   I looked under the table at the ragged old footstool and smiled. A great story, indeed. But Bruce wasn’t done.

   “You know, Kay’s father was a prisoner of war in WWII? And, if I remember right, he was in the Bataan Death March. He was a tough old bird.”

   So, now this rather pitiful looking old ratty footstool has a special place in my heart too.   We are story people and we are people people. And when we connect a story, a person, and an item together. . . well, it’s a very special thing.

   This, folks, is why we will never be minimalists.

This morning I called my mom and sister. But, alas, our conversation was cut short for they had a date.Turns out they were being escorted to breakfast by my oldest two nephews. When I called Mom this afternoon she reveled in their gentlemanly behavior.

A couple of days ago, I received a letter from niece number four. She shared how much she enjoyed my recent visit and expressed a desire to exchange letters with me. She wants to get to know me more.

My heart soared at these stories. Not just because it made my day to receive that letter, or it delights my mom and my sister to spend time with the nephews, but for the benefit these young adults will gain from time with their elders. You see, I know first-hand the value of time alone with other generations.

When Grandpa Jones died I ended up in Broken Bow with Grandma and her children for the two or three days before the funeral. I was the only grandchild. It was an eye-opening experience, let me tell you.

I had already been visiting my other grandparents without my parents and had experienced this phenomenon before, but it was etched forever in my heart those days in Broken Bow.  Maybe because Grandpa Jones’ death came just six weeks after my other grandparents went to heaven, but whatever the reason, it became a firm part of my psyche.

I realized then what a gift I was given. Here’s why. It is a completely different experience to visit grandparents, aunts, and uncles by yourself. You aren’t just one of a passel of grandkids. You are another adult in the room. The opportunities for deep, meaningful, life-altering conversations open up like an ocean in front of you.

I became compelled to go back every chance I had to spend time with Grandma. After all, she had so much wisdom to share and she was hilarious and interesting. And now that my grandparents are all in heaven, I do my best to spend time with aunts, uncles, and Mom.

So, yes. My heart was delighted to hear my nephews took Mom and Vonda out to breakfast today. And, I’ll be writing a letter to my niece soon.

 Tomorrow, Sunday September 13th is Grandparent’s Day! How about it? Are your grandparents or parents still living? Give them a call or stop by for a visit. Let them know how important they are and give yourself time to listen to them. You’ll most likely come away happier and a bit wiser.

So Much Green

I have poison ivy. Again.

I had it not three weeks ago, possibly caused by mowing the grass with culottes on. This time I was wearing a dress.

The first time, I initially thought it was mosquito bites behind my knee. But when the “bites” began spreading in a long ridgy line a voice in my head started talking, no, shouting. POISON IVY.  

When I told my husband he made a matter-of-fact statement.

You know the kind. Logical. Obvious. Really annoying if you aren’t the one making the statement.

“You’ll have to learn how to identify poison ivy.”

“But I tried,” I insisted.

And indeed I had.  One day I googled poison ivy and spent quite a bit of time reading about, and studying pictures of, poison ivy. When I finished I was confident I would be able to spot it. But, realistically, once in the great outdoors here in North Carolina there was a major obstacle and I was quick to let him know just what it was.

“There’s just so much green.” Everywhere you look. Green trees. Green grass. Green weeds. Green shrubs. Ditches full of green masses of unnamed green plants. And then there are the named ones. Like poison ivy.

He had to admit that the green seems to have exploded this year. The weeds on our property act like God has been showering them with steroid laced weed fertilizer, and we haven’t been able to keep up. We are doing good to keep the yard mowed.

So, I avoided mowing near areas where we have known growths of the bane of my existence, and Bruce sprayed as much of IT as he could find with week killer. But, yet, here I am with poison ivy again.

I guess I’ll have to go with the other obvious, logical, and possibly a wee bit annoying thing he said.

“You shouldn’t be mowing without long pants and sleeves.

 

 

 

“There’s just so much green.” Everywhere you look. Green trees. Green grass. Green weeds. Green shrubs. Ditches full of green masses of unnamed green plants. And then there are the named ones. Like poison ivy.

 

 

 

This morning I noticed that I am almost at the end of the journal book. WHAT? No way! I have only ever finished an entire journal book once, and that was a small one.

What typically happens is this. I can’t find it so I start another one. Or, I get bored with that one. Or I find a really beautiful/cute/awesome/inspiring one at the store and I just “have to” start using it. Or someone gives me one and I want to use it right now. You get the picture.

Anyway, I counted only seven more pages. Incredible. I thumbed back to the beginning and found that I had started this particular journal in January of 2018. As I leafed through the pages I found gaps. Gaps where I wasn’t writing in a journal with my devotions. Gaps where I had lost it and was using another one. A long gap after Daddy went to heaven.

I also found a couple of really great entries. You know how sometimes you read your Bible and you write down a couple of comments and, well, that’s all you’ve got to write? Then there are other days. Days where a truth explodes off the page and you journal two or three pages of what God just showed you. Well, there were a couple of those.

At the end of the second one I stopped and reread the verse. Wait a minute. That’s awfully familiar. Could it be? It sounds just like the verse that jumped out at me this morning.

It wasn’t the same verse, but it did say the same thing. I was so stunned I hurried into the house and shared it with Bruce. Then I took pictures and sent it to my Mom. I told a friend via Marco Polo.

Here it is. Are you ready?

Psalm 57:1-3 1To the chief Musician, Altaschith, Michtam of David, when he fled from Saul in the cave. Be merciful unto me, O God, be merciful unto me: for my soul trusteth in thee: yea, in the shadow of thy wings will I make my refuge, until these calamities be overpast. 2I will cry unto God most high; unto God that performeth all things for me. 3He shall send from heaven, and save me from the reproach of him that would swallow me up. Selah. God shall send forth his mercy and his truth.

Psalm 89:14  Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne: mercy and truth shall go before thy face.

When I read Psalm 57:1-3 on July 30th the thing that struck me was that the Most High God performs all things for me. He holds it all together. He maintains my cause. Then, verse three. He will send from heaven and save me. He shall send forth his mercy and truth. Here is where my imagination kind of took flight. Here’s what I wrote in my journal:

I imagine God raising his arm and shooting out LOVE like a laser, right down to me. And right behind it is his truth. Love and truth. OR, it could be little hearts dropping from the sky to bring his love. Or little minions marching in with truth and love. (Oh wait, I thought. That’s not biblical. God doesn’t have minions.) Okay. Angels flying in with the truth and love.

Anyway, you get the point. So when I saw that part about God sending mercy and truth, I couldn’t help but remember today’s verse. Justice and judgment are the habitation of thy throne. They are the foundation. You must have the home base, the foundation for mercy and truth. That is God’s justice and judgment. Not always seen. No.

What’s seen are the mercy and truth that go before his face. What a picture! And, what an explanation for those who are wondering how a loving God can judge sin and unrighteousness.

Anyway, that’s what God taught me today. What about you?