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When leaves fall . . .

December Leaves

Welcome to my blog! I have just made more hot tea and am fixing lunch—Greek yogurt with thawed mango chunks and blueberries. There’s a fresh batch of homemade coffee concentrate in the refrigerator. Help yourself or bring your own munchies and brew!

Another week almost finished up! I have been taking time off from things this week, again. I have been sleeping more, exercising, rereading some favorite novels, and making some progress on cleaning and redoing the books on the front-room shelves. In my room, I still have boxes of books and electronics that we hauled out of the basement, a few summers.ago, when we got water seepage from heavy rains. I am now ruthlessly tossing things. Also, I need to get some of the picture frames back on the walls and out of harm’s way. I have one (framed) embroidery sampler from the late 1800s that I need to unframe and send to a relative on the east coast; her first name is the same the girl, a direct ancestor, who embroidered the sampler. I think that it should not have been kept under glass. My sister will know what to do with it to preserve it without more damage.

My last Artist’s Way session (13-week course through the U of Wisconsin-Platteville with Prof. Sean Shannon) was last weekend. To maintain the framework somewhat, I decided to continue on my own by rereading Julia Cameron’s book It’s Never Too Late to Begin Again. I also have on hand Naomi Wakan’s Write Away (prompts for a healthy life). (I ordered two copies , which are available from a business near her home, and both were autographed, which I had not expected, but much appreciate.) Naomi’s book is much more utilitarian, coming from experience without extraneous sidetracks. I may intersperse the exercises. I may find that I want to stick with Naomi’s. I logged onto B&N’s site and found three more books (available only as paperbacks) that I can add to my library. They should be arriving two and three weeks from now.

My mother left many completed quilt tops in her fabric arts room when she died. One of my sisters-in-law took them, along with the many shelves of Mother’s materials stash, to put to use as she could for various and worthwhile projects. I hope that much of it is donated to charities, whether as quilt tops or finished quilts. Before they left with the items that fell to them to distribute, I chose two quilt tops, which my sister-in-law has quilted for me. Finally, in the midst of the pandemic, she and my brother made the long drive to bring them to me/us, this week. They felt that shipping was too uncertain to trust them to. My sister-in-law does exquisite quilting, finishing them almost as fine as Mother would have.

The four of us enjoyed supper together at the local Denny’s Restaurant. It was interesting, being out and around people talking and enjoying one another’s company. I had missed fried eggs with hash browns and bacon. Something I do not make for myself. (That would be the potatoes, which I do not keep in the house. I do, however, have a frozen veggie pasta meal in the freezer. The stuff with the cheese sauce.) We three oldest siblings have gotten together on Zoom a few times, these past two years, but being together in one place is something we have not done for a very long time, other than the parents’ funerals, the winter of 2016-17.

when leaves fall
they give themselves back to earth
to rise again
transfigured into flowers
clothed in butterflies

and dreams

[tanka.] lizl bennefeld, © 2021-12-17

Although I have been writing some poems in December, I am not focusing on writing. I very much enjoyed joining with other participants during February 2021 for the February National Haiku Writing Month (NaHaiWriMo). I plan to write more haiku, tanka, and other (in English) Japanese poetic forms during January, leading up to the poem-a-day activities in February 2022. My reading has been mostly rereading favorite books. I found a number of them lost among the volumes that had accumulated on the front-room bookshelves. Found a favorite ebook that I had thought lost; a science fiction book by my friend Melisa Michaels, now deceased. Had a good cry. Missing her a lot. I am happy that she and her husband bought property and lived for a while in the same state we do, so we were able to get together more than once during that all too brief time.

Time has passed so quickly, and I must tend to the Scamper dogs and start in on the laundry, once Al is out of the shower. I am grateful that you have stopped by for a while.

If you visit the blog (link below) of Natalie the Explorer, you will find her weekly Weekend Coffee Share post and a Links app with links to the other Weekend Coffee Share participants. Enjoy! Natalie is taking a two-week break from the Weekend Coffee Share feature on her blog, and so the next will be on 7 January 2022.

Best wishes for the coming week and the new year!

Lizl

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family · Good Night · Personal · Writing

Favorite Photos : Season of Good-byes

during the early 1940s
Their Beginning

They died within months of each other after 76 years in a marriage that began in 1941. He was 24, and she was 19 years old. It is only now that I begin to understand what it must have been like, being that young, the world in upheaval, making adult decisions in the face of uncertainty. I have not yet lived as many years as their marriage lasted. I may not, after all. We are in the midst of another time of uncertainty, upheaval, and ill will. They did not fully understand—either one of them—but they knew what decisions to make. They knew what to do. I have a good idea, I think, of what is happening and what is pending. Unlike them, I do not see a path through to a good end. “Now” is not “then”, and we are not they.

Mother was (probably still is) the “stand up and be counted” sort. Father was more of a fatalist, mourning before he died for the world into which his great-grandchildren are being born; I trust that he’s comforted (not consoled)  by the One who sees all people, time, and places at a glance.

I am not comforted.

I can be comforted.

Endings are contained in and by their beginnings.  I can trust in the one who guards both the going out and the coming in.

Trust does not come easily, because I have personal convictions concerning the sorts of paths that I would see history take, going forward. I would like to see those resolutions come about while I watch from my present vantage point.

I sympathize with my mother, I think. I really want to get angry and strike out, to beat the world into decent, proper shape.  I want to make it happen. I cannot, nor could I rally the world to do what I cannot on my own.

I can only do what I can do and measure, at the end, what I have achieved against own yardstick. I am not an angry person, nor do I believe that am I called to be one. I have to find my own path, as they found theirs and followed them to completion, satisfied with having done so and peacefully letting go.

It’s gotten late. I think that I’ll turn off the alarm and see if I can sleep in.

family · Good Morning · Life Through My Windows · Nattering · Personal · Writing

In the Company of Women: An Article

This article was originally written for and published as part of a WOW (Women of Worldnet) project; it was republished in 1999 in the Inspirations section of the ezine Moondance.org, Loretta Kemsley, Editor. I was on the staff for a number of years.

Rhoda Elleen Berry, holding her 2005 Christmas present from me and Al
Fantastical Nightbird by Liz Danforth – Gift to Mother

“In the Company of Women”
by Elizabeth Wicker Bennefeld

Published in 1999, and previously*

I was not often in the company of women during my early years. Growing up in a small town, I found only a few who shared my passion for war novels, the inner workings of prop jets, archaeological expeditions at the farthest corners of the world, and books of all sorts. It never occurred to me to fit the narrow mold my home community had laid out for women of that era. I had no interest in bearing and raising children, teaching home economics, or becoming a secretary or a nurse–the acceptable options.

While at college, I plunged into one subject after another—chemistry and math, psychology, German, economics and computer programming—finally ending up with a degree in English and Philosophy. Then, determined to spend my life learning everything there was to know about everything, I secured a position in computer operations and settled down to read whatever I wanted, and to write my poems and short stories to please myself. I had not realized how much the women of my day were oppressed by boundaries and barriers. I was absorbed in my own thoughts, with goals that made such things irrelevant. The few friends I had were men. For the most part, I was an outsider and content to be so.

In my later years, as the pace of life slows, I find myself more in the company of women—women who are no longer confined by earlier expectations or demands that life begin and end with parenthood and family. Women are making up for lost time with a vengeance. In their fifties and sixties, they are finishing master’s and doctoral programs and setting out on new careers. These are women who are taking control of their lives in ways that were unthinkable forty years ago. It is now the women in my life who are breaking new ground, trying new things, pursuing a lifetime of interests with no thoughts of barriers or limits.

In 1996, my mother, who had a degree in business administration, then abandoned a career, following discharge from the Navy, to bear nine children and raise the seven who lived, inquired about computers. Rhoda Elleen had never run one, and had only looked at mine from a distance. So, my husband and I built a computer for my 77-year-old mother out of pieces and spare parts gathered from various family members. In the meantime, Rhoda had decided to call the telephone company to have a dedicated computer line installed.

After a couple one-hour training sessions and a few frantic phone calls, Rhoda was out surfing the web and corresponding with people from all over the world, particularly about quilting, which is her passion. She paid her America Online subscription two years in advance.

She encouraged her children to get their own computers and helped them learn more about how to use them. During the next three years, my mother added a fancy color printer, a scanner, and a sound card to her computer, as well as doubling the disk space and memory.  She got out into the usenet  and was a regular participant in the newsgroup rec.crafts.textiles.quilting. When I signed up to be a beta tester for WorldNet’s web pages feature, Rhoda announced, “I need something new to learn. Is HTML something I could learn to do?” I do believe she actually bought an HTML how-to book!

It seems that this woman whose company I enjoy with increasing frequency wants to spend some of her time, now that she is older, putting together a web site on quilting and teaching the younger people how to quilt, because, while she still loves quilting, learning HTML programming and putting up a web site on the same would be less strenuous. She is also transferring the old family photos to digital format, while one of my sisters edits the book that Rhoda wrote about our ancestors from their arrival in America to 1900.

I am reminded that my mother’s mother, Florence Elizabeth, died at age 84, still employed as an undercover store detective at Younkers Department Store in Des Moines, Iowa, and really enjoying it. On one of my web pages, I have a photo of Florence taking part in a ballroom dancing competition, an activity she picked up in later life.

These women represent my heritage. I’m in very good company.

* * *

In 2000 Mother received a Worldnet Recognition Award, and in 2010, when Worldnet discontinued its webhosting service, Mother asked me to move her site to WordPress: Rhoda’s Web Site

Coffee Break · family · Good Morning · Nattering · Personal · Writing

Memories of Mother | In the Company of Women

My mother, Rhoda Elleen Berry Wicker, died in the early evening, two days ago. It was two months after she went from home to emergency department by ambulance, after a fall, and then from hospital to nursing home, under the care of Hospice. I had the medical power of attorney, and Mother was not happy when my sister-in-law called me for the EMTs, to give them permission to transport her 25 miles to the nearest ER/hospital here in Fargo, where Al and I live. Not too much later, she no longer recognized me, but thought that I was her sister Alberta.

When she died, it had been some time since I had visited her room and found her awake, although I know she had interacted with staff throughout the past week. There was no marked decline noted by staff; she slipped away, just quit breathing. And nobody would have noticed right away, had there not been staff caring for the other resident of that room.

I have written poems about and inspired by both of my parents, over the years, and may blog them and thoughts that emerge as I do so, as I remember. In the meanwhile, I have included below an article, “In the Company of Women”. The publication history is at the bottom of this blog entry.

Rhoda Elleen Berry, holding her 2005 Christmas present from me and Al
Fantastical Nightbird by Liz Danforth – Gift to Mother

“In the Company of Women”
by Elizabeth Wicker Bennefeld

Published in 1999, and previously*

I was not often in the company of women during my early years. Growing up in a small town, I found only a few who shared my passion for war novels, the inner workings of prop jets, archaeological expeditions at the farthest corners of the world, and books of all sorts. It never occurred to me to fit the narrow mold my home community had laid out for women of that era. I had no interest in bearing and raising children, teaching home economics, or becoming a secretary or a nurse–the acceptable options.

While at college, I plunged into one subject after another—chemistry and math, psychology, German, economics and computer programming—finally ending up with a degree in English and Philosophy. Then, determined to spend my life learning everything there was to know about everything, I secured a position in computer operations and settled down to read whatever I wanted, and to write my poems and short stories to please myself. I had not realized how much the women of my day were oppressed by boundaries and barriers. I was absorbed in my own thoughts, with goals that made such things irrelevant. The few friends I had were men. For the most part, I was an outsider and content to be so.

In my later years, as the pace of life slows, I find myself more in the company of women—women who are no longer confined by earlier expectations or demands that life begin and end with parenthood and family. Women are making up for lost time with a vengeance. In their fifties and sixties, they are finishing master’s and doctoral programs and setting out on new careers. These are women who are taking control of their lives in ways that were unthinkable forty years ago. It is now the women in my life who are breaking new ground, trying new things, pursuing a lifetime of interests with no thoughts of barriers or limits.

In 1996, my mother, who had a degree in business administration, then abandoned a career, following discharge from the Navy, to bear nine children and raise the seven who lived, inquired about computers. Rhoda Elleen had never run one, and had only looked at mine from a distance. So, my husband and I built a computer for my 77-year-old mother out of pieces and spare parts gathered from various family members. In the meantime, Rhoda had decided to call the telephone company to have a dedicated computer line installed.

After a couple one-hour training sessions and a few frantic phone calls, Rhoda was out surfing the web and corresponding with people from all over the world, particularly about quilting, which is her passion. She paid her America Online subscription two years in advance.

She encouraged her children to get their own computers and helped them learn more about how to use them. During the next three years, my mother added a fancy color printer, a scanner, and a sound card to her computer, as well as doubling the disk space and memory.  She got out into the usenet  and was a regular participant in the newsgroup rec.crafts.textiles.quilting. When I signed up to be a beta tester for WorldNet’s web pages feature, Rhoda announced, “I need something new to learn. Is HTML something I could learn to do?” I do believe she actually bought an HTML how-to book!

It seems that this woman whose company I enjoy with increasing frequency wants to spend some of her time, now that she is older, putting together a web site on quilting and teaching the younger people how to quilt, because, while she still loves quilting, learning HTML programming and putting up a web site on the same would be less strenuous. She is also transferring the old family photos to digital format, while one of my sisters edits the book that Rhoda wrote about our ancestors from their arrival in America to 1900.

I am reminded that my mother’s mother, Florence Elizabeth, died at age 84, still employed as an undercover store detective at Younkers Department Store in Des Moines, Iowa, and really enjoying it. On one of my web pages, I have a photo of Florence taking part in a ballroom dancing competition, an activity she picked up in later life.

These women represent my heritage. I’m in very good company.

* * *

In 2000 Mother received a Worldnet Recognition Award, and in 2010, when Worldnet discontinued its webhosting service, Mother asked me to move her site to WordPress: Rhoda’s Web Site

*This piece was originally written for and published as part of a WOW (Women of Worldnet) project; it was republished in 1999 in the Inspirations section of the ezine Moondance.org, Loretta Kemsley, Editor. I was on the staff for a number of years.