Good Wednesday to you

As you begin your day, focus on the blessings. If you have sorrow, if you are lonely, reach out. Or get busy doing something. Please remember. You matter. You make a difference in this life. It really is a wonderful life, my “George Baileys”.

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wishing you porch swings and compasses

I like to think of my life as an ongoing tapestry or as a journey through an ever changing landscape. The path I am on was made by Him, and I work to trust Him even if I get bogged down.
Change, and adapting to it is inevitable. The journey gets arduous. The tapestry gets lumpy.

Most change requires a big step towards Him. You see, since I am a math type person, I REALLY like linear equations. Predictability makes me feel smart, secure, and in charge.
BUT life isn’t like that. It changes. We change.
If God is my navigator, I MUST set sail. Letting Him lead means I must be humble and in charge. If I insist on being in charge, THAT is when I get scared and run aground!

Where better to place my trust than in Him?
Difficult times happen. He sticks with me through it all. Sometimes people walk away and I wonder if I ever mattered. But then I remember. I matter to God. And God reminds me to keep giving love, it lights the world. As I give, I notice so many people who just keep sticking with me and loving me.
It is then that I remember that I am blessed beyond measure. I can rest and know that it isn’t a scary journey. It is a glorious adventure.
Psalm 37:23-24 reminds us “The Lord directs the steps of the godly. He delights in every detail of their lives. Though they stumble, they will never fall, for the Lord holds them by the hand.”
Just yesterday I was freaking out! I was overwhelmed because we have to figure out a bunch of strategies for our family. I felt like a crazed lion, Pacing and roaring.
Today I realize (once again) that as we research, God will lead our hearts.
Life is manageable, even in torrential storms.
Speaking of storms, my dad and I used to watch massive thunderstorms, perched on our front porch swing. Never once was I scared, really.
Dad was at my side. Inside, the lights (or candles) were on. I knew 100% that the storm would pass. The sun or stars would return.
How metaphorical is that?
Today, I wish you comfort, joy, peace amidst your storms, and love. I wish you porch swings, compasses, thread for your tapestry, and His hand to hold.

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Pause with me

Happy Saturday. How are you doing today? Do you feel the need to pause and collapse this weekend?
To pause to restore and regroup is a comforting way to put it. For me, striking a balance between stepping back to pause and reaching out to bring light and love is tricky. Yes, it is tricky but necessary. Even Olympic marathoners pause, rehydrate, stretch, rest, and consult with their coaches, don’t they? I wish you peace and restorative breathing room.
I plan to clear my mind this weekend.
Remember, not every hill was meant to be taken. Sometimes a hill has a lovely spot to look at birds, tiny blossoms, sunrises, sunsets, and stars.
Do your heart and soul a favor. Pause, breathe, listen, and wait.
Take a simple path. Remember to love and pause. Life is simply beautiful.
❤ Simply Kate

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Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was right

I don’t know about you, but poetry is something I grew up with. Teachers had us memorize and recite poetry. Mom loved poetry. One of her favorite poets was Longfellow (along with Kipling and Stevenson). Her favorite Longfellow poem was The Children’s Hour. She recited it often.

Lately I have been missing her deeply. I long for her counsel in these discouraging times. Things have been looking dark and hopeless, in many ways. I see hate and division. As a perennial optimist I have been REALLY struggling.

Then, this morning, I got a nudge. I thought about another poem, that is also a song. I am posting here the nudge I got today. It is the final part of the poem and song. Yes, mama.

[“And in despair I bowed my head;
“There is no peace on earth,” I said;
“For hate is strong,
And mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good-will to men!”

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
“God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
The Wrong shall fail,
The Right prevail,
With peace on earth, good-will to men.”]

We can hope. We can give. We can love. God is right here. Yes, Lord. Yes.

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I fell in love with the ocean

I grew up in Minnesota and Chicago. I loved the rivers and lakes. Beach time was precious.

In my adult life I have lived within about an hour and 15 min from the ocean. Oh, boy, that is incredible.

My beautiful, beloved Jersey shore. My fabulous Long Beach Island. Do you have places you go that restore your soul, your spirits, that are like heaven on earth? For me it is certainly a gathering of dear friends or family. But it is also this specific beach at the Jersey shore. For 9 wonderful years, i lived one hour and 15 min from this beach. Time measured from my living room until i was sitting on a blanket. Thanks to the internet, I can travel there in my mind. What places do you like to go? What memories are wrapped up in that place? I would love to hear your memories… some of you get that same feeling in the forest or in the mountains, I bet!

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H2O therapy

Anyone else feel de-stressed around water? Yesterday afternoon, I headed to our community pool and went for a quick swim. Being in the water works like a charm for me. My favorite, of course,is the ocean. But, a river, lake, pool, or even a hot bath or shower help enormously. May you have a chance to de-stress today.

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Get out there …

This is so good. Substitute your name in the stuff below.

Show up! Written by John Roedel

“Me: Hey God.
God: Hey John.
Me: I’m not leaving my house.
God: Today is not the day you can allow yourself to withdraw from the world.
Me: It seems like a perfect day for that. I’m not going anywhere.
God: You have to.
Me: Why?

God: Because there is going to be a moment today where you will get the chance to impact a strangers life through a simple act of kindness that comes from you. This person is going to need you to be there at that exact moment to remind them that the world is still full of good people. This person is going to need you to remind them through your actions that grace can surround them at any moment. This person is going to need you to remind them that they can’t give up or surrender to their darkest thoughts. By leaving your house and engaging the world, you are going to be given a chance to save the life of a person who is full of despair right now.

Me: But I’m the one who is full of despair! I’m the one who needs to be reminded of all of those good things!
God: Don’t worry. I’m pushing a completely different person out of their door to show you a kindness today at the exact right time right when you need it the most. If you stay at home you won’t be there to rescue somebody else or be rescued yourself.

Me: Wait? I’m both the healer and the heartbroken?
God: Yup.
Me: Sounds complicated. I guess I better put some pants on.
God: That’d be fantastic.”

~john roedel

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Stay in grace

Good morning! Here we are at the start of a new week. I was thinking about direction for this week, as I had my morning coffee and watched the birds in my yard.. Does watching nature calm you?youth? Need calm like deer need water.
The reign of God is like a mustard seed (Mt 13:31)
Never judge by appearances. The works of God have uneventful and barely discernible beginnings. However, such beginnings give rise to a miracle for those who, with patience and perseverance, let God’s work mature.
Pray, let your soul relax. Stay in grace…

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Sometimes You Just Have to Have Popcorn

Many years ago, my husband and I were living in an apartment in Minnesota. He had to take a business trip to the west coast. He was gone for a few days. One night I got home from work and was hungry, course. However, I did not feel like making dinner just for me. I decided to watch some TV and just make some popcorn.

Now, we did not have a microwave. What we did have is one of those popcorn poppers that were popular in the 1970s and 1980s. It had a base that plugged in. That is where you put the oil and popcorn kernels. Then you put the top on. The top looked like an amber see through top hat. Eventually, the kernels would pop. Then you would unplug it, flip it over, and remove the base. The top hat part would now be full of yummy, delicious popcorn.

Ok, so I made the big decision to make popcorn. The only oil we had was some Wesson vegetable oil. That is fine. What turned out to be less than fine was that it was a brand new unopened bottle. When I tell you I tried EVERYTHING to unscrew that top, I am not exaggerating. First I just tried budging it with my hands. Then I banged the lid against the counter and I pounded the bottle from beneath. NOPE. Then I tried my nut cracker and my tool often used in canning. NOPE. I tried one of those rubbery things in my hand to try to open it by unscrewing it. NOPE.

A normal person might have decided to go to plan B and actually make dinner of some kind. But APPARENTLY, at least that night, I was not a normal person. It was Katie bar the door. It is popcorn night.

So I rustled through my drawer and THEN I had a perfect solution ~ a corkscrew. Yes, I drilled right through the cap and poured oil into my popcorn popper. It was perfect. And then I had my popcorn. Problems can always be solved if you get creative.

A few days later my husband came back into town. That night we were making dinner. I can’t remember what we were making, but it did require some oil. My husband grabbed it from the refrigerator. He said, “what the heck?” I said, “I couldn’t get it opened and you weren’t here. I tried everything, finally I got it opened”. He, my logical engineer, said, “but now it has a hole in it.” I said, “you weren’t here to help me, ya know”. He again said, “but now it has a hole in it”. To which I replied, “SOMETIMES, you just have to have popcorn”. He shook his head and we both laughed.

It has become one of our family lines.

Sometimes, you just have to have popcorn……

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Wait …. ok, let’s go

Monday night –> how are you doing? I am feeling grateful tonight. I am grateful for people who care and people who post things that remind me of the good and kind way of doing things….
I have been on SO MANY paths over the years.
The happiest and best path is when I realize I am doing what God wants me to do. That is my true path. It is true even when the path involves suffering.
I was thinking about that when I walked my dogs this evening. When we get to each corner, I tell them, “wait”. They patiently wait, without tugging or whining, until I tell them, “ok, let’s go”. Corner after corner, we do this. We safely cross each street.
It struck me that this is the trusting faith I/we are called to have as we walk through life with Jesus.
It is good. God has our back. We may or may not see oncoming traffic. But He sees it.
He sees us. Just walk. Simply walk with Him.
It will be ok. “Wait”. “OK, Let’s go”. ❤ … Remember that, as we walk each other home. ❤

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May God bless you tonight

My prayer for you is that God ease your mind tonight. May peace and healing rest calm and restore you. Good night and may God bless your sleeping and your awakening.

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The Great Depression & my parents

Did your parents grow up during the Great Depression? My parents grew up during that time. It affected how they lived their lives. It made them very careful with their money. It made them wise. They knew the importance of saving for the future, gardening for some of their food, and canning or freezing what they could. They stocked up on things when they were marked way down. They did all of this because of wisdom that only comes from experiencing hardship, poverty, and simple necessities being unavailable. As mom told me many times, “your generation takes sufficiency of products or even affluence for granted. My generation never can.” Of course, she was right. Dad spent his career in logistics. I spent part of mine in logistics, inventory control, and production scheduling. Dad and I often discussed trends and the impact of shipping and factory problems on supplies at the factory level and the retail level. When shelves emptied out last year, it took factories awhile to ramp up. Why am I going on and on about this? I guess I was thinking about my folks. I was thinking about them teaching me to be wise, mindful, careful, thoughtful, and kind. I was thinking that my parents and their peers would be thrilled by many trends these days. They would be thrilled by food Bank donations. They would be thrilled by Facebook Buy Nothing type groups. They would be thrilled by kindness and pay it forward efforts. They would be thrilled by church outreach efforts. They would be thrilled that people are planning ahead and saving when they can and having food and essentials on hand in case things go awry. Awry isn’t just about illness. It can be job loss, transportation disruption, etc.
I try to remember what I have been taught by my elders ~ and do them proud. I am betting that you do, too. You are each wonderful.

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A thread a memory

Here we are starting a new week. I find myself awash with memories and stories. It is funny. When I look at the tapestry of my life thus far, I see connecting threads that didn’t connect in real time. Only in retrospect do I see it. For example, there is the way my family did something simple like family birthday parties. There were no huge bashes. Just mom, dad, my 2 brothers, and me. The birthday person picked what would be made for dinner and what kind of cake would be made. The birthday person didn’t have any chores that day. Dinner was a grand time. Party hats were worn and reused every year. At cake time; the candles were lit. Happy birthday was sung …. and then candles stayed lit. Then each person around the table sang a song or told a joke or recited or read a poem aloud. Then Happy birthday was sung again. Then candles were blown out. It was always our tradition. Why? Mom and dad said it helped us participate, gain confidence, and make a contribution. As the family expanded, the tradition continued. Some people rolled their eyes and didn’t like the tradition as much as others. But, each person was listened to with respect.
I can see now that this simple tradition stood me in good stead for participating in class and in business meetings.
Sure I get tongue tied at times. Sure I feel shy. BUT, with my vicarious birthday hat on, I can take my turn.
It especially helps to think of setting someone else at ease.
My high school speech team coach counseled us to look around at audience members. He said to look at the ones who seem anxious or ill at ease or even bored. He said smile, move, draw them in.
My goodness! With all of that on my mind I can change my anxiety to happiness.
It began all because of the thread that started with family birthday parties before I even went to kindergarten.
So many simple threads. I love the tapestry of life.
~ Simply Kate ❤

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Link arms at the campfire

Always have hope, dear hearts. Despite the things or people that tear your heart apart, believe anyway. There is always someone in your corner. Believe anyway. Go to the campfires where the loving people are. Sit beside them. Link arms. Laugh until your sides hurt. Sing with them. Listen. Watch their eyes sparkle when you arrive and when you share your heart. Your tribe can be pieced together like a beautiful quilt. You are a work of art and a work of heart. Simply you. Simply me.
Simply Kate ❤

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So Awkward!!

Go ahead and be your own weird self. If you feel awkward in your own skin some days, how do you handle it?
I either cocoon until the feeling goes away, or I reach out to someone (eventually).
I think many of us have awkward days (or have had in the past). I don’t know why I feel that way some days.
Oh gosh, in looking back, there are many points in time I felt that way for a little while. … maybe you have those times, too.
Did you have times like that?
One stage of life I felt this “awkward not fitting in feeling” was h.s. sock hops. Oh gosh, NONE of my friends went, but my folks thought it was important to go. So I went. But I felt suddenly very shy. Spent the evening hiding in the bathroom. I just couldn’t approach people I didn’t know and try to hang out with them. And it felt awkward to stand alone.
It took me by surprise that I felt like I had to hide. In my classes and at my youth group I was never at a loss. I was in my groove, confident
Sock hop? Nope. Going to the community swimming pool? Nope (except in swim lessons).
At those awkward times I didn’t feel like myself. I felt adrift … buffeted by the winds of feeling alone in a crowd. I had no urge to connect across perhaps a sea of people who all seemed to fit with each other.
At those “unfamiliar territory” times, I freeze like a deer in headlights!
Isn’t that odd? I mean I am a perennial optimist. I have God as my best friend.
Yet, I am never prepared for suddenly feeling like a fish out of water!! And I am pretty aware.
In many situations like this, I REALLY don’t fit in (not my imagination).
Now, in many of those past instances I quickly extricated myself. That turned out to be WISE.
But boy do I DISLIKE that awkward feeling.
Now, if you have those awkward times, respect your own feelings.
I am telling myself during introspective times today ~ don’t go into shock when awkward or painful times come. Adjust your sails. Ride out that storm.
Hang on. No storm lasts forever. Sock hops end.
Youth group retreats bring healing. There is joy in finding your way.
Sending you wishes for hope and healing.
~ Simply Kate ❤

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Not just a chore: a chance for gratitude

I hope your Thursday goes well. What is on your mind and heart today?
Are you filled with wonder at God’s creation?
When I hear the birds singing in the trees in my yard and see the sunny sky, I try to just stop and soak it in.
Doing that reminds me to be mindful …. simply mindful.
I think today I will try to stop many times and observe. Then I will add to my grateful list.
Here is an example.
Chore: emptying the dishwasher… thank full for a plethora of things behind this task. Ready? Here we go ~
Normally I might turn on the news. Lately, this blocks my Grateful heart. Today I will put on some calm music. Boom. ⤵️
Grateful for my ears. Grateful for composers. Grateful for dishes and silverware Grateful for running water, dishwashers, and electricity. Grateful for each person who invented, manufactured, and transported all of that. Grateful for the families of all these people.
Grateful that I have the opportunity to move my arms and legs so I can do this task!
Now that the dishwasher is empty it is time to expand my thankfulness list. ⤵️
BOOM. I am thankful for counters, drawers, cupboards, the sturdy walls that hold the cupboards. If it wasn’t for that, my arms would surely be incapable of forever holding all of that.
Time to be thankful for carpenters, drywall installers, painters, electricians, and flooring.
Do you see what I mean?
One simple chore (emptying the dishwasher) is a chance to be grateful for countless people and things.
Everything we do is a chance for gratitude.
I just have to stop and notice. Rather than zone out and go through my day doing things on automatic ~> just notice and thank. Take it down to minute details of gratitude.
Open the door to let the dogs in and out a zillion times? Yes. Grateful for dogs. Grateful for glassmakers, truckers, door installers, hinges, rags to clean the door, lockmakers, and so much more.
This cascade of people, things, and the beautiful things in nature is mind boggling, don’t you think? God gives us countless ways to be grateful.
What do you think of this approach?
I would love to hear about some simple thing you might do today and the interconnections for gratitude!
Simple task ~ major gratitude.
Wishing you a day of hope today and everyday.
~ Simply Kate ❤

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Do you ever wonder if you’ve still got it

Do you sometimes wonder if you’ve still “got it”?
Do you add multiple paths in an attempt to do great in some area?
Does your heart long to make a difference like a deer thirsts for water?
I can identify with all of that. When I hit those points I must fall back and regroup.
As a result, I refocused on just tutoring and writing. Really, I doubled down on tutoring.
I find such joy in tutoring math. God finds me the most wonderful students.
It is more than the math. It ALWAYS is. It is also about building esteem, confidence, and belief that dedication and diligence make a difference.
It is about working with the student’s strengths to help the difficulties.
And then it happens.
Progress. The light comes ON!
And today it HAPPENED.
Yes, my wonderful student went from an F to a B!
OH gosh!! Yes. I thank GOD for my student (who shall remain anonymous). I thank God that she learned well.
I thank God that HE moved me onto this path, in time to help.
So tonight, I did a major happy dance.
Simply tutoring matters. Fills me with joy in indescribable ways. Being wife and mom has had similar effects on me.

But my point is I got to be His conduit!
Soooo what makes you feel that way? By simply being you, what works?
~
Simply Kate ❤

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The view will be spectacular

“Do i prefer to be as young as my hope or as old as my despair? It is in the shaking off of the despair and the cynicism that we claim or reclaim joy. I wish you messages of hope, beauty, and courage today. No matter what, we shall climb our mountains. I hear that the view from the mountaintop is spectacular.”~ Kate Henderson Kresse

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Sail on

Get your rose-colored glasses ready! We know that optimism has been linked to better mental and physical health, and even to a longer life.

How, then, to quiet optimism’s opposite: the naysayers in your mind that tend to dwell on the negative aspects of a given situation, day, or life in general? Mindfulness, and prayer in which you practice simply noticing thoughts and feelings and handing them to God can help to reduce negative thinking and worry.

You can also try giving events a positive spin before they even happen. Simply imagining that an upcoming event will go well can lead you to remember it in a positive light, after the fact. Trying to tweak your perception may smack of denial, but it doesn’t have to.

Focusing on the positive can help you stay enthusiastic and engaged and find solutions to problems.

Suppose you have an upcoming work presentation that you’re nervous about. Visualize it going well, and imagine how good you’ll feel afterward. Do the same with an upcoming trip, a challenging workout, a holiday with extended family, or just an ordinary weekend.

Besides that, putting your anxiety and worries in God’s hands reduces panic and that overwhelmed feeling.

See whether prayer plus thinking positively seems to affect your experience, your memories of the experience, or your attitude in general. Then keep the optimism ball rolling –> sail on. God is with you, always.

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Joy girl

How are you doing tonight? I am feeling “up”, which is good. A few days ago, I was feeling a bit down. It happens to all of us. There are times when I am just dragging. On those days, I just want the burdens weighing on me lift or fly away. There really is no rhyme nor reason to the feeling. It isn’t that suddenly there is a whole lot weighing me down. Perhaps I just get careworn. Jesus had times like that, too. He would leave the apostles and go to a quiet place and regroup. He would go and commune with the Father. I have excuses regarding why I cannot take that time. You
know how that is. I have multiple things I need to get done. But if I do not take the time to regroup, it does not go well at all. That is when I reach the end of the day and I have no sparkle.

So I took a few days to regroup AND get some things done. As a result, going into this next week, things feel positive. Oh how I love that feeling.

My family and I sat down to watch the movie “Inside Out” today. My husband hadn’t seen it before and we snagged the DVD from the library. As we watched the movie, it struck me how strongly I could relate to the character/emotion Joy. Oh my, how she works at seeing the joy in everything. I do that too. She discovers some interesting yet simple truths during the movie. She discovers that Sadness played a vital role. It was a significant revelation. If you have seen the movie, is there a character/emotion you could relate to?

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Wishing us all a mindful Memorial Day

Today I wish to thank all who paid the ultimate sacrifice, losing a family member while serving in the military. I did have family members who served. Many of them passed on, but none passed on during wartime. My heart goes out to all the families who did lose someone.

My prayers are with you as you remember. My thanks go out to you for the freedoms that I have, because of their immense sacrifice.

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The need to feel at home

Roofs – by Joyce Kilmer

The road is wide and the stars are out and the breath of the night is
sweet,
And this is the time when wanderlust should seize upon my feet.
But I’m glad to turn from the open road and the starlight on my
face,
And leave the splendor of out-of-doors for a human dwelling place”.

I was introduced to Joyce Kilmer’s poetry in grade school, when we read his poem about trees. This part of his roofs poem rang true to my heart today.  I could really relate to leaving the splendor of out-of-doors for a human dwelling place. The weather here has been glorious for weeks. The mountains and sky look so pretty, and the stars seem extra-twinkly.I have felt the need to cocoon lately. I get that way sometimes. Do you? Eventually, I just need to STOP!

So today is tiny task day. Today is for crossing off just one or two things from my procrastination list. That helps me feel at home within myself.

What helps you?

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Rise and shine! Don’t be a droopy-drawers

So, it began when I was a kiddo. “Rise and shine. Make today one of your very best days,” my dad would say, every day. How did your day begin today? Mine began with my sweet dogs showering me with kisses. How can anyone be glum after that? “Rise and shine”, I told myself. I am determined to find joy today and to hold on to hope and optimism. It is easy to fly towards pessimism like a moth to a lightbulb.
But that attitude makes me GRUMPY. Pessimism fits my soul like a size zero dress. My mom used to say, “Kate, don’t be a droopy-drawers”. Of course, she was right. Staying in that mindset is not a good fit for me. My family doesn’t need me focused on pessimism, that is for sure.
My strategy today is to be mindful. By that I mean to declutter my heart and mind when negativity crops up!
Perhaps I will figuratively poke myself in the ribs and say, “come on! Are we 2 years old today? Don’t be a droopy drawers! Be a joy hunter!”
So, on this glorious Wednesday, I want to be a perennial optimist. Nothing fancy here. I am …
Simply Kate

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It is hard to believe

It is hard to believe we are already in the double digits part of May. When I was a kid, May meant dance recitals, piano recitals, final exams, making summer plans, getting book recommendations from teachers and librarians, the scent of lilacs, jump rope, jacks, and softball games. I enjoyed those times. When the threat of snow and freeze passed (which in MN and NJ meant after Mother’s Day), we planted annuals. In my family we planted petunias and marigolds. We picked lilacs and put them in vases, giving the house a glorious scent. In NJ, I planted impatiens. I loved the look of those.

In the Phoenix area, May means the arrival of 100 degree days. Oddly enough, although I spent most of my life in the north, I love the warm weather and sunny days in Phoenix. It is hard to believe how much of an impact sunny days has on my psyche. Since I tutor, May means final exams for my students. You see, most school districts here begin school at the end of July or the beginning of August. The school year ends right before or right after Memorial Day. A few districts are on year-round school. They start back to school in the 1st half of July. Districts here have a one week fall break, 2 weeks at Christmas, and a 1 week spring break. The theory is that with a shorter summer break, more material will be retained.

What I do know is that when I was in school, that summer break meant a lot to me. It meant swimming, playing, reading, daydreaming, extra time with friends and family, and vacations. In these pandemic days with school structure and schedules all akimbo, I do hope families are able to provide that joyous cushion for their kids.

I hope kids can play and daydream and get their hopes restored if they have been worn down. But do you know what? I hope that we ALL can have some time during these days of extra daylight to get outside and get some extra vitamin D. I hope we can laugh and sing, maybe even skip. You see, it may be hard to believe, but our hearts still need to fly and dance. Our minds need affirmation and peace. We take time each day to refuel our tummies, charge our phones, and get some rest. Our hearts, minds, and thoughts need regular reassurance and affirmation, just like our phones need to be recharged. I know things are difficult some days. Even if things seem dismal, try to believe anyway. It will help recharge your heart.

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bill + settlement house

http://abilitiesawareness.blogspot.com/2006/01/bills-legacy-lives-on-in-coffeeshop.html

MONDAY, JANUARY 09, 2006

Bill’s legacy lives on in coffeeshop

Bill Sackter has been gone for more than 20 years now. He died in 1983. But his spirit lives on here at Wild Bill’s Coffeeshop in Iowa City, Iowa. Look around and you can see so many memories from the days when Bill was behind the counter.

The “Bill story” began early in the 20th century in Minneapolis. Bill was the son of Russian Jewish immigrants who ran a small grocery store in a neighborhood just north of downtown Minneapolis.

By the time Bill started school it was clear his mental development was not progressing like the other children. He had the mind of someone who was about five or six. Bill later called this “cracked-mindedness.”

Life was never easy for the Sackter family. But it became even harder after Bill’s dad died.

Because of Bill’s limited development, it was recommended that he be put into an institution. So for nearly 50 years, Bill lived at a state mental hospital in Minnesota.

Bill was released in the 1960s, one of hundreds of people who were returned to
communities around Minnesota. Bill was sent back to Minneapolis and lived in a group home.

A few years later, Bill met Barry Morrow, a college student at the University of Minnesota and community worker at Margaret Barry House, a settlement house in Minneapolis. Barry and his wife, Bev, actually lived at the settlement.

Bev worked in the restaurant at a country club, also in Minneapolis. Bill worked there, too.

Barry would come to pick up Bev from work and would see Bill in the front
window. They eventually met at a party for all of the country club employees.

A friendship blossomed and Bill became a part of Barry and Bev’s family.

During this same time Barry was finishing up some classes at the University of Minnesota. One of his teachers was Tom Walz, who headed up something called the Living Learning Center.

(There are many stories about Tom Walz at Minnesota; perhaps as many as there are at the University of Iowa. Many of those stories are true. But that’s a topic for another column.)

Tom Walz left Minnesota and came to the University of Iowa to head the School of Social Work. He recruited Barry to come along.

Barry and Bev came to Iowa 30 years ago; Bill followed shortly after. At some point, they all decided Bill should have a job in Iowa City.

That led to the coffeeshop inside the School of Social Work — the one which is still here today.

It also led to a movie called, simply, “Bill.” It was Barry’s first movie and
eloquently tells the story of Bill Sackter’s life up to the opening of the
coffeeshop. A second movie, “Bill On His Own,” followed two years later in
1983. It focuses more on Bill’s life in the coffeeshop. Mickey Rooney played
the part of Bill in both movies.

There is a book about Bill, too. Called “The Unlikely Celebrity,” it was written by Tom Walz and published in 1999.

Bill’s story has also been told as part of theater productions in Minneapolis and in Iowa City. The Minneapolis show was at the Capri Theatre; the Iowa show at Bill’s coffeeshop.

Barry today lives in Santa Barbara and continues work as a screenwriter. His
best-known film is “Rainman,” which is the reason for the poster of that movie
at the coffeeshop door.

Tom Walz has retired from the UI School of Social Work, but has started a new career as director of Uptown Bill’s, a crosstown cousin of the original Bill’s Coffeeshop. Now three years old, this venture includes not only a coffeeshop but a bookstore, an antique shop and other businesses.

Continuing in the spirit of Bill Sackter, both original Bill’s and Uptown Bill’s employ individuals with disabilities from the community. Both Bill’s also offer volunteer opportunities for students and others interested in strengthening their “abilities awareness.”

That’s the “Bill story” up to now. There’s sure to be a lot more to come.

posted by Tom Gilsenan @ 4:08 PM

5 Comments:

  • At 5:23 PM, February 24, 2006, Anonymous Erica Hardy said…
    Bill’s legacy lives on in the coffeeshop is a neat story. I have never heard of something so amazing. Bill sounded like an amazing guy who looked at the world from a different perpective. Bill had limited development, I wonder how he survived in an mental hospital. I have heard if you are in a state mental hospital that you most likely would not get better, but sometimes even get worse. Most patients who are in there arelifers. Bill was able to keep a good relationship with Barry and Bev’s family. Thank you for sharing this remarkable story. These stories about “Abilities Awareness” are enjoyable to read and to share with other people. This makes people look at their life and realize that they really don’t have it that bad.
  • At 8:31 PM, February 24, 2006, Blogger Tom Gilsenan said…
    The original idea of state hospitals was to teach life skills and then return individuals to the community. We’ll talk more about that original vision in our class. We’ll find out about Dorothea Dix, who was a pioneer in this field.
    Unfortunately, most people who ended up in those big hospitals never left. We’ll talk about why that happened, too.
    You are right, IQ tests of those sent to state hospitals generally went down the longer they stayed. That has actually documented in the case of Bill.
  • At 1:01 PM, March 22, 2006, Anonymous becky heintzman said…
    the book started off on a slow note in my perspective. once i got into it i liked the story. he was a strong man and i thought it was neat how even though he had a disability he stood up and took care of many others. he would often put others before himself, he would eat cold food just so he could make sure the others got to eat. he took better care of others than the workers did. he didn’t seem to get down on himself or other things. i don’t think i would have ever survived living in a place like that. i also thought it was great how people would step up and care for him and didn’t act like it was a burdon to them.
  • At 9:28 AM, March 24, 2006, Blogger Tom Gilsenan said…
    I wonder if Bill’s “helping role” — taking care of others — is one of the reasons he stayed so long at Faribault state hospital. He played such a valuable role in humanzing the institution.
  • At 11:21 PM, March 28, 2006, Blogger Reyanne Nicole said…
    While reading the Unlikely Celebrity it was hard for me to imagine what Bill went through all of those years. I have searched different websites about the Faribault Hospital and not to my surprise there was not much negative to be said about it. I find it so interesting that sometimes the real truth is hard to find unless you read a story like Bill’s. Another good example of what went on in state hospitals is Christmas in Purgatory. I have seen the horrific pictures that were taken in these institutions and could not fathom ever having to have lived there.

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Just one cup of coffee a day?

I was thinking about coffee this morning. I love coffee. I come by that honestly. My dad’s side of the family is 100% Norwegian-American. My mom’s side of the family is 100% Irish-American. Both sides loved coffee. I don’t recall anyone drinking tea, other than an occasional iced tea in the summer.
I never drank coffee until my junior year of college, during the semester I spent in Rome. My very first cup of coffee was an espresso! I know, hard core!! I quickly switched to cappuccino, I loved the sweetness and foam. Ever since, I drink coffee with milk, or cream, or unsweetened almond milk.
My dad’s family and my parents drank their coffee black. My mom’s parents used milk. I don’t recall how the rest of her family drank their coffee.
What I do recall is that my dad’s family drank a LOT of coffee. In all honesty, I do, too. By early afternoon, I do switch to decaffeinated. I don’t think they did.
I saw something the other day that said to have just one cup of coffee a day. IMPOSSIBLE, I said. And then I remembered I can do anything if I set my mind to it.
TA-DA!!! I have an ENORMOUS mug ~ it is meant to be a BIG soup mug or popcorn bowl. Yes, one cup a day!

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How are you today?

Today i am feeling reflective. I have been thinking about the ups and downs of life. With all that is going on in the country and the world, my perennial optimism has been squeezed and squished, ALMOST eliminated.

The emphasis is on almost. The more I see on social media and the news, the more i realize how important it is for me to have a personal filter. My personal filter is based on faith, love, hope, and wisdom.

I do not want to get into any specific political views. Why? My reason is that I just want to hope. I want to live my life with kindness and love.

All I can do, in my own life, is to stick to my own path. I must continue to believe that God has me in His sheltering arms, no matter what.

It is of paramount importance to me that I focus on the good in people.

My parents raised me to make a difference. If I griped to them about things not being right in the world or people being nasty, they would remind me that I must go first. They said maybe others would change, improve, become kinder and more loving. Even if they don’t, the balance of the world shifts with each person who loves.

Anger, cynicism, and bitterness do not serve me well. They rip my heart, soul, and spirit apart. So each day throughout this past 12 months, I have been attempting to wrap myself in faith, hope, and love. Some days I find myself shivering in a world that feels cold at times.

Of course, I keep all of you in my prayers. Be the light, my friends. The light keeps us warm.

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Mama’s Counterpane and Me

I started reading when I was very young . I was 3 or 4 years old. I credit my parents, aunts, uncles, and grandparents for this. They were all voracious readers. They were all huge fans of libraries, as they didn’t have the money to buy many books

Since I was the first born on both sides of the family, someone was almost always reading aloud to me. My mother loved stories and poetry. Longfellow and Stevenson were two of her favorites.

One of her favorite poems was “The Land of Counterpane by Robert Louis Stevenson. You see, when she was a young girl (elementary school age) she was quite ill and was convalescing at home for almost a year. Thus, this poem had special meaning to her. Her mom recited or read it to her many times that year. As a result, it is one of my many favorites, too. Do you have any favorite poems? Here are the first and last stanzas of the poem.

The Land of Counterpane.

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head.
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane

The very first book I ever received as a gift was “A Child’s Garden of Verses” by Robert Louis Stevenson. I still have it and thoroughly enjoy reading the long ago words of a marvelous wordsmith. When I re-read it I am transported. Sometimes I can literally hear mom’s voice and see her smiling.

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Ballet transported me

When I was a toddler my pediatrician recommended that I take ballet. Apparently, I was extremely uncoordinated due to the fact I was born pigeon toed. I was falling over, tripping and running into things. I didn’t even walk until I was 17 mos. But I was very verbose well before I was a year old. Anyway, the doctor knew ballet would help. The “turnout” that comes through ballet could counteract my pigeon toes. I felt like a princess in my dance shoes and tutu. I took dance from age 3 or 4 until 16. I have said many times that I have no idea if I was actually any good at dance. What I do know is that I felt like I was dancing exactly like my teacher. It was marvelous and heavenly. I loved it. i joyfully practiced every day. We ALL should have something that makes us feel that good. Recently I spoke with an aunt on the phone. She was recalling my toddler dance days. She said watching me dance was the funniest thing she ever saw. She said I was obviously clueless as to how “not with the program” I was. That took me by surprise as I have said, in my own mind I was a fabulous dancer. Was I hurt by her comment? I was shocked to discover that I was a little surprised, but I wasn’t hurt. I realized what mattered was how I felt as I danced. I was transported. Nothing removes that feeling. What transports you?

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Do you remember who your first friends were?

In these COVID days, I have been thinking a lot. I have been thinking about friendships and family. It is funny. Sometimes friendships begin because your teacher’s seating chart places you next to someone who turns out to be “a kindred spirit” as Anne of Green Gables so aptly expressed it. Sometimes you meet in a shared extra curricular activity like sports, scouts, dance, band, or youth group. Naturally, your siblings (with any luck at all) — and their spouses are friends as well.

But really, some friendships begin because they are siblings or cousins. For me, I had cousins for 5 years before I had brothers. I was the first born on both sides of my family. My parents adored their siblings and their children, as did I. So my first cousins (all 45 of them) and their spouses, and their children, and in some cases, their children’s children are my forever friends.

You had better believe, in this day and age that when of them cries, I taste salt. When one of them hurts, I want to comfort them. I learned from my cousins and brothers what love, loyalty, and friendship really mean.

Until I breathe my very last breath, this tribe gives me strength. This tribe modeled for me what a true tribe is. Thus, the friendships I formed outside of my family follow a similar pattern. Constancy and seeing the best in each other helps cement friendships and family. These tribes know my heart. They know my shortcomings and stumbles. Of course they do. But they also know my good points.

Today I am especially grateful for cousins.  I pray that you have tribes who affirm you exactly when and how you need it.

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Mama’s Button Tin

When I was growing up, my parents “made do”. My mom made all of our clothes except for socks, underwear, and shoes. She did make our slippers, though. She could see an article of clothing in an ad or hanging on a rack in a store and she could make it.

They found free or almost no cost activities (dance, (acrobatics for my brothers), piano). My mom and her friends and relatives would pass clothing back and forth, handing them down to the next kids. Often mama would do various tasks like typing report cards, handling billing, mimeographing, sewing costumes in exchange for lessons. Any article of clothing that wore out was cut up, using the unworn fabric for other articles of clothing, napkins, or quilts. To that end, every single button, reusable trim or elastic,  and zipper was reused. At her side throughout my childhood I got to remove the buttons, zippers, lace, rickrack, eyelet, and elastic! I would take each button and place it in this totally amazing tin.

Mama’s button tin was shaped like a hexagon. It said America the Beautiful on it. It had various scenes on it ~ such as “beautiful mountains majesty” “amber waves of grain”, and “sea to shining sea”. Oh how I loved that tin. We would talk about God’s beautiful creation, imagine what it would be like to instantly go to each of those places. Sometimes I would take many of the buttons back out and we would talk about what article of clothing they came from. Buttons are expensive to buy and so are zippers and other notions. So each thing we saved and repurposed had meaning and value. Meaning because of the memories. Value because of the memories and the money saved.

When I imagine that tin to this very day, I can picture my mom and me. I was usually sitting on the floor at her feet. I just liked that. We would merrily chatter away about anything and everything. To some people it may just be a pile of buttons. To me. . . it is a heart full of hope, joy, dreams, and memories. I do not have the tin, but I sure can picture it and the buttons.

Memories are sometimes all we have. Mama’s Button Tin held a lifetime of memories. That makes them all the more precious. Do you have memories like that?

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