Monkey Business

There is an awful lot of bad news in the world today. Nature brings droughts, floods, fires and earthquakes.  People commit thefts, assaults and murders.  But here and there, in at least the same proportions, you can find good in the world through people who care about others.

God has connected me with a lot of incredible people through the years, but especially now when I need them most. Some significantly sweet souls have come to me disguised as ordinary people. One such person is a friend in a group I meet with once a week. One day, she arrived with a charming basket.  In it was a pair of unsuspecting socks.  Also tucked away in the basket were scissors and sewing needle and thread.  She brought that basket and its contents weekly. We curiously looked each week as she emptied her basket; and watched as she expertly knew how to cut here and sew there as the socks transformed from their original shape to legs, then arms, then a head and body. At some point a face appeared….and then, of all things, a tail !  Special touches were given along the way.  Questions were asked as the creating took place – “what do you think, higher or lower?” and “does this look okay?”.  Then it was adorned with adorable apparel.

To my surprise, when the cutting and sewing were completed and the creation had been given it’s finishing touches, it was presented to me as a gift.  My surprise was evident.  I hope my gratitude was also.

Having watched its transformation over the weeks, and seeing the time and care that was invested in it, I felt the wholeness of the gift. And now, when I see the end product – when I touch it, when I feel it, when I hold it, I am reminded that someone cares.

Melody Monkey, so named because she puts a song in my heart, is our mascot for meetings now.  She offers companionship, comfort, and inspiration to and for all of us. 

When one person shows love, it is often multiplied and offers hope to the world.  This special friend of mine displayed a most pleasant form of monkey business.


mm1        sw7        mm2

photos by a mutual friend


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We fold laundry when it’s clean. We fold napkins on the table.  We fold paper to fit in envelopes or to make shapes in origami. There are a multitude of things we fold.

If we are working, exercising or doing yoga positions, we fold parts of ourselves – bending an elbow, stretching a foot, etc.  We see people bend or double over when overcome with laughter or when sick or in pain.  But folding ourselves is not something we normally do, at least without purpose.

Yet I am folding unintentionally.  My neck sometimes seems to be too weak to hold my head up and my shoulders are slouching.  I’d like to think my head is heavier because I have gathered so much knowledge that my brain has grown;  but sadly, I know that it is the combination of  MS muscle weakness and the law of gravity that are causing me to fold.   My torso is already crooked, leaning this way and that.  In spite of exercising, I struggle to keep my back straight and I bend forward at the waist.  This new weakening challenge in my neck and shoulders presents yet another obstacle to overcome in my daily life.

It’s tiring to keep my head up when talking with others, looking at a screen or any other daytime activity.  The length of time I have to look straight forward will lessen over time.  The view of my stomach in place of the rest of the world isn’t a good trade.

The tilt feature on my electric wheelchair helps sometimes and so does a neck pillow.  I am grateful for these helpful tools.  Still, I watch as my body misshapens and folds, bit by bit, making living increasingly difficult.   As the present becomes harder to deal with, I hold fast to the active past that I enjoyed and the future life to come.

So if you see me hunched over in my wheelchair struggling to look up and engage in this world, try instead to see my soul smiling with memories and with anticipation for the life that follows.

Makes me think of the following story by L. B. Cowman that my Mom told.

“I heard of a mother who brought into her home as a companion to her own son, a crippled boy who was also a hunchback. She had warned her boy to be very careful not to touch the sensitive part of his life but to go right on playing with him as if he were an ordinary boy. She listened to her son as they were playing and after a few minutes he said to his companion “do you know what you have on your back?”  The little hunchback was embarrassed, and he hesitated a moment.  The boy said ‘it is the box in which your wings are; and someday God is going to cut it open, and then you will fly away [like] an angel.'”


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Moments Through Time – Aunt and Uncle

Sometimes I go through my family picture files to organize them. In doing so, I continue to be sidetracked by the way pictures work with each other. Recently, as I scrolled through Freda’s pictures, arranged by date, I watched her and Everett change and age on my screen. Of course I had to put a few together.


Moments captured and put together, showing the passage of time.

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10 Ways to Win at Life’s Finish Line

I put some information together for a small group of friends and have been encouraged to share it with a wider audience.  Hello wider audience.  What follows is my personal advice.


As we go through the course of our lives, we do our best to live well.  We read about and research subjects that pertain to living heathy and wisely.  We are focused on living and planning our lives, as we should be.  The thing is, life is 100 percent fatal.  Nobody plans to die, but we all do; so we need to plan for death also.

We don’t know when we will die, so we should plan for it now.  A quote attributed to Ben Franklin comes to mind… “Failing to plan is planning to fail.”  You can’t take your stuff or your knowledge with you, but you can use the power of choice you have now to love, protect and provide for those who are left behind.  These are not all fun things to do, but they are some of the most important decisions you will make.  It’s responsible to have your affairs in order.  Part of living well is planning well for the end of life.


Here are 10 things you have the power to do to finish life well.

1   Make End of Life Legal Decisions.  Have a Last Will and Testament, a legal document stating your wishes.  Without a will, those who love you may have a paperwork mess to deal with in addition to mourning your loss.  Generally, wills help organize the chaos that death can bring.  When making decisions, think carefully about the impact on others and the long-term consequences on those left behind.

Completing a will causes you to make important decisions such as who will handle your affairs after you are gone, who will care for any minor children, who will inherit your worldly goods, what you want to happen to your body (burial/internment or cremation), etc. Don’t make any assumptions about what will happen to your assets and material possessions if you die without a will.  Each state has it’s own laws that regulate such decisions.  Do an internet search for “what happens if you die without a will in (insert your state)”.  OR, just get a will!

If you can afford it, have an attorney complete it to ensure it’s legality.  If funds are tight, there are websites to create your own will.  Ensure it is valid in your state, and have your signature observed and notarized.   As personal property can be legally frozen/inaccessible temporarily after death, it is convenient to have two original wills, one stored in a secure place (like a bank safe deposit box) and one in your important papers at home where a close family member knows where to find it when it is needed.

Even if you think you don’t have any assets, a will allows you to designate who will handle  your personal affairs, which avoids possible family conflict and/or someone having to be appointed as an estate trustee by the court.

While you are making decisions regarding your will, also complete a Health Care Directive/Living Will  (which indicates what life-saving medical intervention(s)  you desire in case of illness or accident)  and Durable Power of Attorney (appoints who will make medical decisions for you if you are unable to do so yourself).

If you are elderly or have a serious illness, you may also want to have in place a Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) form which is a shorter version of a Health Care Directive.  It can be posted in your living space where it is visible to emergency personnel or home health care employees, and it can be quickly referenced in your medical records.  These forms vary according to state, can be found online, and must be signed by a doctor.

2   Communicate your wishes When you have made those important legal decisions, communicate them with trusted family or friend so there are no surprises when the time comes.

3   Make a list of your assets and/or debtsInclude bank or business names and account numbers.  Also include information about insurance policies and retirement plans (including pensions and annuities) from present and past employers.  Take pictures of high value and sentimental items or heirlooms, from jewelry to furniture, and designate who you wish to pass them to.  [This is a good time to take pictures of all possessions and entire rooms in your home for insurance purposes as well, if you have never done so.]

Put that list and important papers (birth certificate, marriage certificate, passport, etc.) in a bag or box and put it in a central place where it can easily be taken quickly in case of an emergency.  We call ours our “grab and go bag”.  Tell someone you trust where it can be found after you’re gone.  Update the list about once a year.

4   Plan your service This isn’t being conceited, it is helpful for your loved ones to know what you would want.  This is your chance to choose special songs, scripture or communicate a message with others.  Even designate pall bearers if you are to be buried. Again, organization creates calm.

5   Write your obituary. From doing family history and researching ancestry, I believe this is crucial.  More than any other thing, it documents your existence with dates and places, linking you to parents, siblings and children all in one place.  Write them for relatives and prepare your own for descendants.  Include a picture as you want to be remembered and include affiliations to show your interests.  Leave instructions for it to be published in a newspaper.   It might seem expensive.  Do it anyway.  Click here for more information.

6   Write down facts for your family treeInclude names, dates and places of birth, marriage and death for all those you can, older and younger.  Check with older relatives for the same information before opportunities pass.  Record the list in more than one place to ensure its longevity.   Click here for more information.

7   Label family pictures. Write names and dates on the back of all that you know.  (Use a permanent photo marker because pencil fades, pen leaves imprints and regular markers smear.)  Ask older relatives to help identify those you don’t know.  While doing this, have a formal picture taken of your own present family and print it.  With our advances in technology, today’s pictures are rarely printed and kept.  Scan the old ones and print some new ones.

8   Leave memories.  What have you invested in that will last long after your time here is done?   Make notes, tell and write down meaningful or funny stories.  Record messages to children/descendants, or even write your life story.  Bless your family with a written faith experience or statement of what you believe and why.  If time or creativity is short, it may be easier to buy and complete a fill in the blank grandparent book.  There are many options to choose from.   Assemble family recipes in one place and indicate who and/or where they came from.

9   Be the person you want to be remembered as.   Who have you invested in?  Financial assets will be appreciated by those they are left to, but your knowledge, experiences and personality are valuable now.  Whether you lead a calm or chaotic life, pause long enough to consider how people will remember you after you are gone.  What impression has your life had on others

What you leave behind is your legacy. describes legacy as anything handed down from the past, as from an ancestor or predecessor.  Billy Graham says The greatest legacy one can pass on to one’s children and grandchildren is not money or other material things accumulated in one’s life, but rather a legacy of character and faith.

10   Plan your last trip. This is actually number 1.  Know your destination. Click here for more information.

Tackle these steps one at a time. Enjoy the life you’ve been given here. While you’re doing it, plan for the time after it’s done. It will give you peace of mind and will be appreciated by those who love you.

As you run the course of your life, people will cross the finish line before you and after you; but you can be a winner when you finish.  There are many things we cannot control, but at least 10 that we can.  Whether the course is short or long, however rugged the path is, whenever and wherever it ends; what matters most after it’s done is how you ran and how you finished.


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Back Door Friends

In the old neighborhood when I was growing up, we had back door friends.  The front door was more formal and used by those who didn’t know us well – solicitors, businessmen, and acquaintances.  But then there were back door friends – people who were close enough and comfortable enough to come to our back door.  Maybe it was a neighbor and the back door was simply closer to walk to from next door or through the unfenced back yards that we shared.  Maybe it was a close and familiar friend and both of you understood that the back door led to the kitchen, or hub, of a family.  Simply, if you knew each other well enough, the back door was an informal hello and a welcome interruption in the day.

Times have changed, but my husband and I have back door friends now.  They use the front door because of its convenience, but they are friends we know well and who know us well.  Friends who, when a gathering time is arranged, know they can walk in and knock afterwards.  It’s understood and comfortable and we all know they are welcome.   Some of our dear back door friends recently came to the front door, but not for their entry…for mine.

We have a great front porch.  It is shaded in the afternoon and a place to watch walkers and drivers pass by.  It is from the front porch that I could wave to or say hello to neighbors, be near Mr. Legs as he works on the yard, or wait on expected company.  But one thing separated me and my wheels from the front porch.

One six inch step.


It was determined long ago that the four steps from the porch up to the door to the house were too difficult to ramp for safety and appearance.  (I use an electric lift in the garage to enter and exit the house.)  But only that one step separated me and my wheels from the front porch.  See it there?  I would look at that one step and try to wish it away.

I browsed the great online shopping mall for an answer, but nothing seemed workable or practical – nothing that would accommodate normal legged people, my scooter AND my heavy wheelchair.  I let the idea fizzle and fade and be forgotten.

I didn’t ask for help, but word leaked out.   Wheels in heads started turning to come up with a way for my wheels to get on the front porch.  And then the back door friends came to the front door with a mission in mind.  These are people with time consuming management or executive jobs who happen to also be very handy and creative.  These are people who take the time to care about others, and I’m fortunate to be one of their others.

Three evenings in a row, our back door friends showed up at the front door to think and work together.  They measured, examined and problem solved.  They built and sanded and perfected while they tilted their heads in concentration and they smiled as they worked together toward a goal.  I saw them first through the front window, then opened the door to watch.

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A friend took some pictures from outside.

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When they were done, they tested its strength for my heavy wheelchair by each test driving it themselves for my safety.

They created something to be proud of.  The transitions going on and off of it are the smoothest I’ve experienced.  It is the most comfortable ramp I have ever been on.  It is a custom built rollway, paved with love, and just for me.

I am grateful. Grateful for the friends.  Grateful for the gift.

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I can now sit perched on the porch.  I like and enjoy being able to be there again even more than I anticipated. I am scaling that ominous one step with the wonderful ramp our back door friends made for me to reach the front porch.


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Glenda’s Garden

Glenda and I have been friends since 7th grade when we shuffled textbooks and folders in school lockers next to each other. We also both played the flute in band, although Glenda always played better than I did.  Glenda is one of those genuine Midwestern gals that you like right away and keep liking.  She is also a gardener….and apparently a budding photographer.

Awhile back, Glenda posted pictures on Facebook of the flowers in her yard. They brightened my day and left such an impression on me that I found myself thinking of them into the evening and night.  Trying to describe them in my half sleep – half awake state led to a personal game of words and alliterations.  Following are Glenda’s pictures and my descriptions.


ggGlenda’s garden is a flowing fountain of fabulously flourishing fragrant flowers and a fantasy of foliage.


It is a heavenly haven of horticultural hues.

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Her bright back yard of balanced buds and blooms bubbling and bursting upward beckons me to view more of her beautiful botanical bounty.

It is a venue of vibrancy, a wildlife wonderland.

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My deeply downcast mood defers to the delightful distraction of the dainty daisies where they were distributed as part of a  detailed design.

Appearing like a daytime fireworks display, this explosion of nature creates a paradise parade.

g5 g3  gw12 gw5

g13In a lavish landscape of lilies, I notice the carefully cultivated contours clothed in clusters of color and likely covered by carefully crawling caterpillars.

g1  gw8     gw01

I am mindful that this is a marvelously maintained mountain of a mastered medley of miniature miracles; a tastefully tended terrain of textures.

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g4My eyes pour over a plethora of petals poised in position to pop into plump purple peaks perfectly performing for photographic pleasure or gathered posies.


g11-2  gw14

g10The yard is a relaxing refuge where one can roam through radiance, while a rustic relic reaches out from the past.   The site summons you to stroll or sit among the shades of scented scenery.

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I’ve noticed that many of the pleasures I enjoy now, like these blooms, are rooted in my past.  When I was a girl, my mother would take my sister and me to visit Mrs. Swenson, her older friend down the street who had gorgeous gardens.  With delight, we would smell and touch the flowers tended by the daintiest of ladies.  A true artist, her perfectly decorated house filled with her paintings was as skillfully pieced together as her gardens. When she spoke to my sister and me, she naturally bent to our level and her words were laced with warmth as she called us sweetie and honey in a melodic voice.  She was a joyful woman in a happy place.


Friends and flowers mixed together create a bouquet of blessings.  Thank you, Glenda, for sharing your garden through pictures, it brought back old memories and created new pleasures.


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Grandparents – Then and Later

Two people make a commitment to build a life together and stay together, overcoming challenges as they come.  Four different long-lasting marriages.  Eight people who didn’t give up.  Many descendants who benefit from their example.

Each year of marriage, each anniversary, can be celebrated for the success that it is, for the selflessness and compromise and sacrifice it requires.  Long marriages can be celebrated in big ways.  I thank God for grandparents who made our parents together, stayed together and were examples for us.

Here they are at the beginnings of their lives together and toward the end of them.  Paired together in a grouping for our family – first shown in black and white and then in color where available.

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1- gpall BEST

A  long marriage is a great legacy to leave your descendants.


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About Those Photos…

If you have looked at the age progression photos I’ve put together and shared here over the last weeks, you have seen men and women physically transform through pictures as they age.  For me, and others who knew them personally, the changing faces represent so much more.


I  knew these grandparents when they were older.  In the busyness of life and the naivety and self-absorption of youth, I failed to even consider that they had lives before I knew them.  Having the pictures we do, and having time to study them and consider what their lives were like before my memories began, has been a reflective journey.  I have not lived beside them, but I have seen glimpses of their lives before my time.  Although in some cases there are links – generations between us – I am left with questions.  Many questions, and only some answers.

Some questions I ask and wonder about when I look at most of the names on my family tree and the pictures on my computer files…what were those people like? Had I lived life alongside of them, would we have been friends?  If s/he were my neighbor, would I have wanted to sit on the porch with him or her?  What did a day in their life look like?  Often, I find myself fascinated by the generational times they lived in and how their lives were different from mine.  How did the time they lived in affect their lives and how did their lives impact those around them?  Do we share similar physical characteristics or facial features, hair or eye color?  Are there genetic strengths or susceptibilities I might want to be aware of?


And then there are personalities to wonder about.  There are remnants of some of their lives – letters, a poem that was held dear and kept, a dress, a family story (flattering or otherwise) – but those are only a peek.  If someone kept an item a person had, does that say something about the person who owned it or something about the person who saved it?  One can only guess.

I do know the people closest to me in my family tree.  What I write may or may not be kept or shared, but I have the time and ability to put words together, so I do.  These people you’ve seen pictures of are my family, my grandparents.  Seeing them as a baby, a child, a young adult, at middle age and on into what we call elderly all in one glimpse is a bit mind numbing.  Our lives go by quickly.  We’re born, we marry, we die.  And what’s left of us are those dates.  We are more than dates, though.  We impact each other on a day-to-day basis and through generations.  I write about the impact family members have had on me.  I write about how their words and their actions played a part in making me who I am.  I write as a tribute to their good lives.  If you knew them too, I hope you find yourself nodding as you relive your own memories of them.  If you didn’t know them, I hope you have a similar memory of someone like them and you find yourself smiling.

Thank you for looking at the pictures of my grandparents.  Thank you for meeting them.  Thank you for reading about them in my other posts.

Consider their lives and how quickly they passed. Like scrolling through a file of pictures on the computer, seeing the age progression photos shows how time, and a life, go flashing by.  Consider your own life.  Let’s use the time we have to impact others in such a way that when they see our faces transforming through the years, they remember us fondly and wish we had been here longer.

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Moving Through Time – “Take 4”

I have put together age progression photos of three sets of our grandparents.  Click here, here and here to see them.

Creating age progression photos of our fourth set of grandparents presented more of a challenge.

I have no pictures of my grandmother as a child, but she lived until the age of 90.  Here is Dora, in some color, and then black and white:

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I do have childhood pictures of my grandfather, but he died at age 57, so pictures stop before then.

Peter Clemons Simon

Peter Clemons Simon BW

I have about the  same number of good pictures of them to work with, but they don’t align in age.  Still, it was nice to put them together.

Dora and Pete Simon C (2)

It does make more sense when the pictures are aligned in age.

Dora and Pete Simon aligned C (2)

Here are Pete and Dora together.


This shows all of the pictures in one grouping.


Here it is framed, in black and white.

Dora and Pete together (3)

Thanks for looking!

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Moving Through Time – Grand Procession of Granny and Gramps

This is the third set of our grandparents that I have had the privilege of knowing and displaying pictures of.  Granny and Gramps lived long lives and we are fortunate to have pictures from every stage.

Gramps is shown here.


And here is Granny.


Gramps and Granny together…


Then, photos of them as a couple.


Putting them all together looks like this.


Framing it adds a nice touch.


I’m thankful to have known them.  Grandparents are a gift.

Here is the grouping in black and white.  Which do you think presents the changes better?

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