I have driven past this barn and silo hundreds of times. Actually I glimpsed it as I drove past the house that sits in front of it and all the trees that grow around it. It caught my eye because the new white eaves stand out in contrast to the aging wood. I expected that it would be a beautiful barn to photograph if only I could get to it – could get a clear shot of it without the cover of green leaves.

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Last week Julie and I drove in the driveway and I knocked on the door to ask permission to photograph the barn. No one answered so I snapped a photo of it before we backed down the driveway (okay, I know I’m on the ethical edge). There is an empty field next to the house and barn so we pulled over. Julie said it was a different kind of trespassing. Without leaves we were able to get some images of the barn but they turned out disappointing. Maybe it was because of the poor light of a grey day. Maybe I didn’t take enough time because of the cold. Maybe the barn wasn’t that great.

So often we anticipate something, we have great expectations only to be let down. This seems to be especially true around major holidays. We want to buy into the Madison Avenue and storybook tale of loving families gathering around the tree and fireplace to exchange gifts chosen with loving care. We can see the special beverages and homemade pastries on trays. We smell the cooking goose and multiple mouthwatering side dishes. The laughter rings in our ears of children play games with loving aunts and uncles. 

In so many families this isn’t reality. People who are living in alcoholic families know that holidays can be destroyed by anger and embarrassment. Unresolved hurts between family members can keep everyone tense – waiting for the eruption. Many face loneliness because of disrupted relationships or hunger because they lack sufficient income. So many in our community are receiving Christmas gifts and food from charity organizations but experience the unspoken shame and sadness that comes from not being able to provide for their family.

What seems to be needed is the ability to approach the holidays with expectations of joy along with a healthy dose of reality. My photographs of the barn aren’t as great as I had envisioned all those times I was passing by, but I had some fun while I was photographing, I coped with the very cold wind, and in the end I can feel satisfaction in being there. May you find satisfaction in creating some joyous memories during this holiday season, even if there are rough spots along the way.


Sister Hole

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My sister died yesterday of a brain aneurysm. My editing of the photo from my last post is crude but death isn’t pretty and leaves us survivors feeling a bit beat up. There is a gaping hole filled only with jumbled memories of a lifetime. I like closure but the hours and days after a death leave me adrift. I’m exhausted but feel a need to do something.

Have you experienced the subtle changes that take place in families with each death. We three sisters lost our father, but mom was there to keep everyone up to date on family happenings. When she died I felt that burden shift to my shoulders – holding the family together. I didn’t do a very good job because – well, staying connected is hard work, we don’t live in the same town, and I hate making phone calls. They didn’t call me either. When I did connect with each of them our first laughter was always about how much we hate talking on the phone and then we talk for a couple of hours. There is a lot of catching up to do when we haven’t connected for a year or two.

We loved each other, gone sister and me. We knew we were there for each other even though some people would say we weren’t very close. But those people are basing their conclusion on external demonstrations of love. We didn’t have to share our every problem to know that the other cared. We just do and we know that we do. That’s enough.

I finally found and connected with sister three to tell her. She had been in South Dakota and was driving across Minnesota. They are figuring how to make it to the memorial. We saw them on our drive home from out west but I really need to see her and hug her now. I remember my Grandma saying to me, after a death of someone important to her, that everyone was gone. I wanted to say, “But you have me.” Now I am understanding that lonely feeling – sister three and I are the only ones left of our childhood family.

It is the same with all the cousins. I’ve contacted most of them and made sure they contacted some others. I don’t see them often but look forward to seeing them at the memorial. Another indication that life changes – we used to see each other at graduations and weddings but now it is deaths. All the aunts and uncles have died so we are the older generation. I remember great aunts and uncles and how old they were as they sat together at family celebrations. Funny, but the cousins I look forward to sitting with aren’t nearly as old but we are the next generation to die. Sister is cousin number two. We will talk about how that shakes us up. And we will be glad we are together.


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Just a part of the hardscape in the Asian Garden at the Naples Botanical Gardens – no information given. But we know the artisan who carved it had an image in his brain, of his world, his experiences. Isn’t that what art is about, making an image that resonates with the observer, an image that we can see ourselves and our world in.

Today my world is crumbling a little. Middle of the night phone call from my nieces to say that my sister, the middle one in the image above, had a very serious heart attack and the doctors don’t hold much hope. I haven’t heard anything today and I suspect she is on life support and the family is getting some much needed rest.

How will my life change when the person in the middle is no longer there? It will change, because every death and every birth changes our world. I will have to live into the answer.

Weekly Photo Challenge: Surprise – Under the Christmas Tree

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That’s my Kindle Paperwhite, in the green package with the red bow. The silver package behind it is a cover for it. They are my husband’s presents to me – I know what they are because I ordered them and wrapped them. He loves giving me surprises and presents but imagination isn’t his strong suit. I probably won’t be surprised Christmas Eve when I open them, but I couldn’t be more excited. I feel like a kid again, not able to stand the anticipation. I find it amazing how well our marriage is working since we gave up trying to do things as the “should” be done (like in our family of origin) and instead doing things the way that works best for us.

There are lots of surprises under the tree, however. Son, Mike, and I have our presents wrapped, and Natalia, his special love, sent presents for under our tree. She, and her two children, will be joining our celebration again this year. She is from Azerbaijan and found the most beautiful paper to reflect her heritage. See if you can pick it out.

Daughter, Sharon is flying in from Texas tonight and then will be picking up her special love, Joe, at the airport on Sunday. I am excited about Joe visiting from Arkansas for a few days because he cooks really good – and we like him a whole lot. Sharon e-mailed me that she had a couple of packages being delivered and to NOT OPEN THEM. It is about to drive me nuts – they will be a SURPRISE.

Sunday we will be meeting daughter, Carol, in Lansing to pick up our three granddaughters. It has become tradition for them to sleep under our Christmas tree on the night before our party on Christmas Eve. Grandsons Zach and Alex are a little too macho in their early 20’s to sleep under the tree, so they will be driving from Grand Rapids and Zach is bringing his special love, Kim.

I am so excited about our family coming together for another special holiday. I remember how exciting it is to gather at grandma & grandpa’s with the anticipation of surprises under the tree.

To join in the fun of the Weekly Photo Challenge click here.

Toys – of Christmas Past

Jakesprinters Sunday Theme this week is toys and the first thing I thought about was the excitement of Christmas past when our kids would get us up well before dawn to see what Santa had brought. Santa started coming Christmas Eve after I complained to him that I wasn’t getting enough sleep. Of course they didn’t have digital anything back then, so I had to go through my old snapshots. These pictures were taken in the early 70’s.

I also thought of this picture that was taken with one of those way-back picture taking machines. This is a Christmas picture of me playing with my toys taken in 1946.

As I was looking through my box of old pictures, the ones I enjoyed the most involved the kids finding their own “toys”. We provided toys for our kids, but because we didn’t have a lot of extra money they didn’t have an overabundance. They had a lot of fun, however, with Daddy’s clip-on tie and baseball cap, water, kitchen objects that were safe and in the bottom drawers, and of course all the big-people tools of everyday life. Take a peak.