Sunday; PTSD & Mental Health

Today was an informative event at the VFW Post 2503, thanks to the generosity of Kim Erickson and Tammy Marshall, Donna Wolff, and Silouan Green. Mr. Green is an author and speaker on PTSD, and does training for many types of organizations, military, law enforcement, and others. He was an incredible and informative speaker on the subject of PTSD.

It is a subject people don’t want to talk about. Mental health is just as part of your health as your gall bladder, your heart, and muscles. Anyone can have PTSD. It can be from a direct event that happened to you, or can be something you hear about that causes you great distress. It’s amazing. I wish you had all been there. We learned so much.

I learned a lot I didn’t know, and am disappointed Donna didn’t do her presentation on Talk Saves Lives. I was looking forward to it, but it wasn’t to be. Silouan ran over, and Ms. Wolff needed to drive back to where she lives near western Nebraska.

It was my last formal involvement in a VFW Post activity; I’ve made it known I need to spend more time pursuing my passions. Writing, Quilting, and learning new things are tops on the list. I want to take art lessons as well. This will allow me much more time. It’s time. Time to make time for myself and what I wish to do for myself. It’s all part of being well-rounded. I’ve loved my time volunteering with Veterans outreach, and we’ve made friends to cherish from these years. My life is very good, and I’m proud of what’s been accomplished. Time to step back.

I remember when I was a kid, a great aunt on Dad’s side of the family was hospitalized with mental health issues. I was about 10 or so, I think. We went to visit her at the mental hospital near the regular hospital. Mom threatened us with an untimely demise if we told anyone where we went to visit her, such was the scourge of mental illness. I remember the poor lady was troubled with depression, and she could have been bi-polar, I don’t know. There was no shame in it at all. But Mom thought so, as did many folks during those years. I overheard she had shock-treatments. I didn’t know what those were, but they sounded awful.

If you talked to a “head doctor,” you carried a stigma. The feeling was strong in the families, and society back then. Our aunt was unmarried, so according to the protocol of the times, she lived with her sister (our Grandma) and her family. It was totally normal for us. Like having two grandmothers. She was such a sweet woman, always dressed in her own classic style, and a lady through and through.

Aunt Anna always talked about having class. That was a phrase that meant you had manners, style, were appropriate in any situation, and could carry on a decent conversation. After she passed away, I tried on a dress that reminded me of something she would buy. I heard her, in my mind’s eye say, “Kid, you’ve got class in that.” Even after over 40 years, I miss her. She had such an influence in my life. When I’d stay at their house, I’d get to go downtown on the bus with her on Saturday to go shopping. It was such a wonderful time.

Writing takes your mind on many trips down memory lane. Yesterday, it was about the brownies from three wars; today, it was mental illness, family secrets, and having class. I appreciate you listening and reading and coming back every day as you do. We have #975 followers, which is awesome! I’d like to see us add #25 more, and get to #1000followers since we passed #1000blogs a little while ago. Help a girl out? It’s be fun!

Thank you for reading. I hope you have a beautiful evening and a great Monday morning. It’s going to be a wonderful week. Eight days until our 24th Wedding Anniversary. Some days it feels like yesterday, others it seems like a long time ago. Blissful all the way. See you tomorrow!

The Three-War Brownie Recipe

As I baked nine batches of boxed brownies today, I couldn’t help but think of Grandma Jewell and a very special brownie recipe she shared with me once a long time ago.

Gram was an excellent baker – yeast rolls, the best from scratch German Chocolate Cake you could ever taste, Pecan Rolls, oozing in melted butter and sugar and cinnamon, and many other masterpieces. When my first husband was in Germany (he was a Vietnam-era veteran, assigned to Germany at the time of the 1972 Olympics. Tough duty), she told me I needed to send him some brownies. She had a recipe she shared with me that made an 8 x 8 pan of the most decadent brownies I’ve ever experienced.

One of the flavors of purchased brownie mix I used had “real chocolate” to add. It was a little foil packet containing maybe two tablespoons of Hershey’s Syrup, the gold standard for chocolate syrup. As I pulled it open and squeezed the goodness into the bowl, I thought back to opening the can of Hershey’s with a can-opener (the kind we used to have to use for beer, before pop-tops), and pouring the whole can into the bowl with the flour, eggs, butter, salt, and stirring until the beautiful nearly black batter settled. It smelled so good! I believe I can still smell it today.

I remember she cautioned me to pack it in a coffee can (they were metal back then), and wrap securely. It would take quite awhile for packages to go APO or FPO back in the early 1970s. It finally arrived, and I pictured servicemen from three wars, WWII, Korea, and the Vietnam Era enjoying Grandma’s delicious brownies. It’s a beautiful, warm memory.

If we have to find these memories on a bad day, we can make a bad day good. We have a choice; cave in, or do your best to get through the bad ones. I think of how Gram Jewell did exactly that. In her strong faith, and prayer life, she carried many of us through bad times. I’d like to remember that again for my future. You never know when you’re going to need it.

I hope you had a great day today. We’ll be at the Post for the PTSD lecture and Talk Saves Lives training. Maybe we’ll see each other there. Take care, and we’ll see each other tomorrow right here.

Old(er) People

Should never be allowed in the kitchen. OK, well maybe never is too long a time to be banned. This morning, the Babe and I began our task of cooking 30 pounds of hamburger to make Sloppy Joes for the PTSD presentation/Talk Saves Lives Training the VFW Post 2503 is hosting on Sunday at noon. The Post is donating the lunch, and we’re doing the work at home to give the cook a break. They already have to cook for a Craft Fair tomorrow. Funny thing is, they’re making Sloppy Joes and Hot Dogs.

In South Dakota, the locals call Sloppy Joes “Bar-b-ques.” Isn’t that funny? Local differences, just like “soda” vs. “pop.” America is great, isn’t it?

So the browning of the hamburger went well, I had 3 large cans of crushed tomatoes and 3 large cans of tomato sauce. I pre-measured 3 separate cups that contained all the seasonings for each 10 pounds. Salt, Pepper, Smoked Paprika, Italian Seasonings, Garlic, Worcestershire Sauce, Sugar, and whatever else. All set. Then, the battle of the can openers happened. The header photo finds them poised for action. The white one, on the left, is the new Pampered Chef one, is specifically made to be used by those of us who have arthritis in our hands, fingers, and need a little assist. I like it because there are no more sharp edges on the can lid once it’s removed, like the one on the right creates while cutting.

The first can, no problem. In fact, the first five, no problem. Then the opener became a diva and wouldn’t cut the last can lid. The Babe tried it. Nope. It just doesn’t adhere to the can, you can feel it doesn’t engage, and therefore, doesn’t cut. I tell the Babe, “I did drop two cans, maybe this one is one of those.”

We decided to turn it upside down and try it on the bottom. Nothing. I picked it up, turned it right side up and there it went. The cut lid that looked intact gave way. And there went a 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes all over the counter top. Wow. I said a couple naughty words, and we started to move it off the counter top and into the pan, where it belonged. And that, boys and girls, is why older people shouldn’t be allowed in the kitchen. Don’t you agree?

We had a laugh or two, and kept cooking. I can hardly wait to start baking the nine boxes of brownies I get to do. It’ll be fine. Really, it will. There are no canned goods to open.

More from the book, “Wired for Story,”

Tone and Theme are stressed very early. So is the phrase, “It’s not what you say, but how you say it.” Have you ever known someone who can tell such great stories, jokes, and anecdotes they always have a crowd at their elbow? They’re the one we always want to be an emcee at our events, and maybe even give our eulogy at our funeral. They really know how to tell a great story. We can learn, with practice.

Another incredible thing I just learned – all story is emotion based. If you’re not feeling, you’re not reading, according to Lisa Cron. I get this. Have you ever read something very emotional for the protagonist, and you feel it, too, as you read? The author has done a good job.

Emotion determines the meaning of everything. If we’re not feeling, we’re not conscious. Most of us were taught emotion and logic were two opposite things. They are, but one must exist for the other to exist. I haven’t read further than this yet, and I hope to do so tomorrow, in between baking brownies. Who knows what madcap hijinks the Babe and I will engage in? I’m sure we’ll enjoy it, and have some good laughs. Have a great evening, see you tomorrow.

Wired for Story

My latest book to read is called “Wired for Story.” It is a writer’s guide to using the science of how the brain science helps hook readers in the first sentence.

We humans are wired for story, and there are countless authors out there, including myself, who are working on selling stories to others. We hope others love our stories as much as we do, and eventually see some income from selling our books. The book began with this quote from Flannery O’Connor:

“I find that most people know what a story is until they sit down to write one.”

In the second or so it took to read the sentence above, your senses had 11,000,000 bits of information to process. We miss most of it. We can only register about 40 of them, and what we process is only about seven of them. On a good day, under perfect conditions. On a bad day? Maybe five. We think in story. It’s how we envision the future. Isn’t that remarkable?

Most writers talk about things like writer’s block (usually procrastination) and other reasons (excuses) why they cannot write. I had no problem getting over 50K words down before I knew anything about writing. That’s a lot of words when you don’t know what you’re doing.

My book coach (I worked with Sam Tyler for about six months during the pandemic) really put me to thinking about the scope of the story I was trying to tell. I stripped away a lot of the story. And settled on writing one part of the story. In great detail. I’m not sure where it will end in it’s current form. That is the project I’m picking back up come November 1, 2022, for NaNoWriMo. I’m looking forward to making progress on it.

Fictional stories are best liked by the brain; they’re more interesting. That’s the best reason. A story is about our changing. That’s it. It’s not plot, setting, the protagonist, or the goal. It’s how the protagonist changes. Universal appeal is how it would feel to navigate the plot. It’s not the external journey, it’s the internal one.

This kind of book is hard for me to read anymore. Yes, I need to learn this information, but I have a time keeping my interest on the facts, ma’am, just the facts. Yawn! If I can’t figure out what’s happening in a story, I lose interest and put it in my pile I started and didn’t finish. There are a bunch of those on my Goodreads list. Probably 20 books of all kinds I just can’t get into. I feel guilty for buying books I’m not going to read. I did pick one back up and realized it was a series of short stories, not one long book about dogs. Oops! That makes a little difference.

Many folks think good writing is flowery words, adverbs and adjectives all over the place, and beautiful writing. WRONG! Great storytelling trumps everything. Make people want to keep reading, into the wee hours of the morning. Telling a great story is not equal to great writing. They’re two very separate things.

What do you do with details? They should all be on a need to know basis. If they’re not critical to the story, I need to leave them out. No one will notice them anyway. A story is interesting, highlighting key points. Maybe they don’t all happen in two hours chronologically; but they should in the story, or the action will grind to a halt and your book/story will be in the “I can’t make it through this book” pile.

If you can’t tell what’s going on, your story needs help.

If you can’t tell who the protagonist is, your story needs help.

And so on. Your story may need help in a lot of places. That’s why, I hear, the first book an author writes never sees the light of day. It never sees a beta reader, an editor, a printer, a cover designer, etc. I have one, I’d like to salvage it someday. If that is possible.

I suppose my writing coach would tell me focus was missing in this literary folly of mine. The maiden voyage, if you will. It had a point and a cast of colorful characters. Fleshing out the story, focus, and all the adventures the protagonist has will be a good way to see if this story can go anywhere. But later. Not now.

So I’ll read some more tomorrow, and share what I’m learning with you. It may help explain why you start a book, and just can’t get into it. We all have that happen. It’s tortureous to keep going when your journey is doomed, when your dopamine dries up and can’t be replenished. Get over feeling bad, and put yourself out of your misery. Have a great evening and tomorrow. We’ll see each other then.

Happy Wednesday!

It was an early start at the Home Office in Gretna, Nebraska. It was zero dark thirty, I swear! The coffee was dark and strong, the cream sweet, and the conversation was good for it being 6 a.m. The Babe had an early appointment with the VA, so he had to leave super early. I was convinced all day it was Monday again. How does that happen?

I worked more on the quilt blocks for Kayla. I am having fun learning the stitches to applique the pieces down. I’ve missed the hum of the machine. My thoughts go to a creative world full of colors, shapes, textures, and all sorts of beautiful garments, quilts, and decor. The time just flies.

My goal is to have this quilt pieced and maybe layered and pinned for quilting. Then, cut out Cody’s blocks, pieces, appliques. Assemble it and quilt them both during October. AND get back to my children’s book, once the quilts are well in hand.

The month of November is NaNoWriMo. It is a stretch of 30 days dedicated to writing 50,000 words. This will be back on my novel. To prep for this, I’m reading the book, “Wired for Story.” It is about using brain science and writing to hook readers with the very first sentence. I think it sounds fascinating, and I hope to learn a lot from this 250 page book.

All of these ideas are how I plan to spend the next few months, creating, writing, quilting, and other things I love. I’m so fortunate to have interests I enjoy. I just don’t seem to have enough time to do everything I hope to see through to completion.

Hope you have a pleasant evening (It’s getting dark out by 7 p.m. here in Nebraska)! The temperature was 100 yesterday, and about 65 today. We’re looking towards the cooler days and finding more time to spend with each other. The Babe is heading towards his second retirement (From the VFW) in six or seven months. In the meantime, he’s going to do most of his work from home, and only be at the office when necessary. It’s going to be another change for us. At least we like each other (now!) See you tomorrow!

It’s a creative mess in here! I love it. Out of the chaos comes creations. Quilts, kid books, a novel, clothes.

I love the warning when the bobbin is about to run out!

The Gown by Jennifer Robson

This book, this work of historical fiction, was the best gift during the sad time of the Queen dying and the country mourning their longest reigning monarch. Prince William may have a shot at reigning longer, but who knows.

Much speculation has been written about the royals, the way life is for them, and other such stories. I love how this story, the real-life marriage of Princess Elizabeth and her Prince Phillip, was such a boost to the moral of Britain after WWII and it’s aftermath, is told. I can certainly understand the plight of the subjects, the ruin the country was in, and the lack of comfort that ruled the land. I can see why many folks would emigrate to Canada, which is under British Rule.

It makes me wonder how many young women, pregnant out of wedlock, relocated and acted as widows, which was respectable over unmarried and pregnant. How good that times have changed, and changed for the better.

The story of the ladies who used their talents for the intricate designs of embroidery on the princesses’ gown is deep with characters, skill of the ladies after years of practice, and the camaraderie of the women who did this work. I envy their skill, and I admire the art they created. I love to embroidery, but I only do stamped cross stitch/other stitches. Even people who do counted cross stitch amaze me. So many works of art, and not many younger women taking up these hobbies. It’s a shame.

This book is for anyone who loves the Royals, fine stitchery, and beautiful gowns. I hope you read it and enjoy it as much as I did. How the world has changed, and how much we needed the changes!

Hope you have a wonderful evening, and see you tomorrow.

Monday Evening

It has been a very long day today. Mom had a PT appointment, (her last one), and she seems to get more frail every time I take her out. She tries to fool the therapist, but doesn’t. Those therapists weren’t born yesterday, even though they are young. (Everyone is young when you’re 93)!

I would guess nearly every older person thinks they can put one over on those young therapists. My niece Terri, who has done all my PT over the years, knows all the excuses, stories, etc. I went for so long for so many different issues I know I couldn’t fool her even now, nor would I want to. Mom’s biggest fear is she’ll have to leave her home. My childhood friend Peggy said her mom was the same way. Her mom acclimated eventually.

Mom has no inkling of making friends her age. For over 50 years, she’s insisted she’s not “old.” I hate to tell her, but now she is. I’m getting there, 23 years younger than she is. But I’m not trying to fool anyone, either. Least of all myself.

You’re as old as you act, right? Well, no. Acting immature isn’t going to make you younger, just immature. Thinking young, being open to new ideas, and joyfully learning new things is a great way to keep younger. Our Grandma Jewell and her sister Anna were pretty progressive thinkers. When wire rimmed glasses came back in style in the 60s, along with longer hair, they told our dad there wasn’t a lot long with that. They did draw the line when one brother had hair way past his shoulders and wore a ponytail. They thought that was a bit much.

Sometimes, we need to step back and re-evaluate what we value, what we want to associate ourselves with. Sometimes, we need a whole new way of thinking about life in order to resolve an old problem we have. Instead of divorcing a mate, sometimes we need to divorce our parents way of doing things: by repeating behavior patterns we learned at home, we are not thinking about how to make our relationships work, we are simply repeating their mistakes. That modeled behavior is deadly to relationships. You must be open minded enough to try something new. It’s so crazy, it just might work! It’s worth a try.

As a new day dawns tomorrow, try a different way of thinking. It certainly can’t hurt. You might even like it. Look ahead, eagerly, to a new way. Enjoy, and we’ll see each other tomorrow.

Homecoming, 2022

Facebook is alive with all our friends sharing pictures of their kids and grandkids going to Homecoming. Our Addison is going again, she’s a Sophomore at PLHS.

I love how kids go in groups now. Dates or not, they all go. I never got to go when in high school. I was supposed to but broke up with my boyfriend before the dance. Mom was mad, said I should have gone anyway, but I didn’t want to go with him if I wasn’t happy with being his girlfriend anymore. Long ago loves of lives that don’t stand the test of time. We all have them.

Today’s header photo is all of Addison’s friends from two years at her high school. This is her, and yes, she’s a beautiful young woman. Thank you for saying so!

What a girl! What a dress! Does Dad gave grey hair yet?

The kids had a post party at the home of Addison’s friend, so all was well. These kids have a great world to grow up in. They work hard, and so do all their parents. I hope life treats them all well.

A little more progress on the quilt today, and tomorrow is probably all lost. Mom’s appointments and meetings all day, and picking Addison up after school. It’s going to be a day that goes quickly.

Summer rears it’s head this week, and once it’s settled down, I’m hoping we’re to the fall days, the “ber” days. It’s time. Hope you have a beautiful evening, and see you tomorrow!

BROTHER SE1900

I cannot describe how exciting it is to have a new sewing machine. I’m going pretty slowly learning basic functions, nothing is the same as it was. I’m also wanting to joke with my younger brothers that, “Dangit! I have another BROTHER! Not AGAIN!” I’m an only girl. I’m glad, I always had my own room. Until I met the Babe, I had my own room for an additional 14 years. So, here I am with the Babe and four brothers. One of them a machine.

This baby tells you when you’re just about of bobbin thread. What a welcome feature! No more playing beat the bobbin, to find out you ran out five minutes ago.

It’s been a little challenge, since I bought it in late May and just now am trying to use it. Of course, I forgot all the instruction for my couple hours with Jenny, the owner of MJ Supply. They were the only listed Brother dealer in the Omaha area. The price is what made me buy the machine. I had never considered an embroidery machine. It came with the package, so who am I to turn down an upgrade? I see some fun projects in my future.

Thought I’d get to write about Homecoming, but that won’t be until tomorrow. The photos don’t sync as quickly as I’d like from photos to Google Photos/Wordpress. It’ll still be a good story. Memories and all.

Have a beautiful rest of the evening. I guess we’ve gone from Football to NASCAR now. I looked up from reading, and there were race cars on the screen. I wondered what happened. The Babe just works the remote way too fast for me to keep up. See you tomorrow!

Friday Finales

It’s the middle of September, with some cooler mornings signaling the fact we’ll soon have crisp mornings, and perfect days for jeans and sweaters or sweatshirts. My favorite.

Today was an early start, with a serviceman coming from our furnace/AC company. With a fairly new system, we had the AC and furnace check/maintenance at the same time. We felt so sorry for the serviceman. He’s only in his early 40s and needing double knee replacement His biggest concern? He has no relatives in America (he’s from India), and therefore, no one to care for his dog while he is laid up. What a kind man! I’m thinking of checking with a person we know to see if she knows of any rescue that could help. More later!

I’m still working with my new sewing machine. It’s wonderful, and I’m very glad I bought it. It has a wider “throat” area, between the needle and the far right of the machine than any one I’ve had before. It will be much easier than trying to cram all that fabric through that small area. There are always new things to make life easier. Isn’t that the nice thing about life?

Earlier this week, Nebraska found out they no longer had a head coach in Scott Frost. I feel for the guy, I really do. But the numbers tell another story, and the powers that be decided he needed to leave. Coach Joseph will be taking over in the interim. Such is the life of college football, especially in Nebraska.

In the midst of all of this, kids are used to school now, high school football is again on the nightly news, and cross town rivalries are renewed for another season. I remember it as great fun. My kids didn’t participate when they were in high school, never went to games, etc. Not interested, and eventually they worked all weekend nights. Such a long time ago, but it also feels like yesterday. This amusement park ride called life has many twists and turns, jolts and spins, and fools us all as the years add up. Then we’re a bit achy and stiff in the mornings, and we realize what ages we’ve become, and isn’t is wonderful we still get to live our lives! God’s been good to us.

The quilt blocks are coming along nicely. I cannot wait to hear what Granddaughter Kayla has to say about it. Pictures to follow, when the blocks are all assembled and quilted. I’ve missed this hobby so much!

As the evening winds down with some reruns of Chicago PD, I’m trimming excess fabric from those beautiful quilt blocks, thinking about how awesome my parents have two great grandchildren to carry our family on. I’ll accept every child who calls me Grandma or Miss Kathy. I answer to anything, really. Kids deserve love from everyone.

Enjoy your evening, I hope you get to relax and enjoy this weekend. It’s bound to be beautiful. See you tomorrow!