Heaven Will Never Be The Same

It is The Fourth of July, 2019, and our country is celebrating the 243rd Independence Day.  Other anniversaries thus far this year will have included the 75th Anniversary of D-Day on June 6th and the coming 50th Anniversary of Man Landing on the Moon on July 20th.

As with every morning, our radio is on and I’ve awakened to a plethora of patriotic music.  I still recognize the military anthems of each branch; unlike most of my generation, I actually played a couple of them on my accordion.  Such were the expectations of my childhood home; in retrospect, apparently God and Daddy knew what was best for me; the music lessons proved to be character-building.  As a Baby Boomer, however, guitar lessons would have been the preferred choice to “fit in” among peers in The Sixties.  After forty years, I have since recovered from adolescent embarrassment…kinda.

 Today on this July 4th, I am mourning the loss of two men whom I admired greatly and who admittedly influenced this writer’s belief in the American Dream and my religious perspective.  Both were independent thinkers and not afraid to take risks that challenged traditional practices in their very different professional fields.

One I never had the pleasure of meeting, but he once gained national interest when he challenged the American public: “If you can find a better car, buy it!” 

The other was a preacher whose intellect and service to His Savior engaged and befriended this soon-to-be-divorced mother of one; he and his wife welcomed us into their church family.

With his wife at his side and five little critters to tend to, this pastor challenged the traditional practices and availed himself to the greater community.  He didn’t wait for the spiritually hungry to enter the church. He walked out among the neighborhoods and met people where he found them. He joined community service organizations and learned about each town’s dynamics. 

He was a student always, an articulate speaker who found God’s truths and built future sermons from his library which included vintage Catholic writings as well as from some of Sunday’s comic strips.  A voracious reader, he once admitted he couldn’t spell well and depended heavily on spell check.   Once this admission was voiced, I wasted no time in secretly presenting him with a Scrabble game for his next birthday.  Eventually I was forced to confess (an old Catholic habit) and the chuckles and much detested board game remained in his household even after several moves to other pastoral assignments!

I had the pleasure of his friendship for more than thirty years.  He proofed my first published book and, in his signature dry humor, admitted that he would allow it in his church library, with the caveat, “But what do I know, I’m just a heretic” (wink, wink).

Other memories remain, not the least was our final get together here in our Washington, Missouri home.  It had been fifteen years since we’d seen each other but always, always, the occasional email picked up where we left off. And I was allowed to once again banter back and forth, trading barbs and dry wit, enjoying the fellowship with our spouses’ smiling approval. 

Health issues presented themselves, spine deterioration and hearing loss which forced him to retire after thirty-three years of ministry.  But he pursued and, with the successful medical technology of cochlear implants, regained “his life again” (his words) and continued to mentor young pastors and former students, in addition to teaching high school math and history; in some cases developing the curriculum for on-line courses.

He was my first “adopted minister” and, as he was quick to point out to me, certainly the MOST entertaining! His passing has left me heartbroken but comforted and grateful that God’s plan allowed us one final fellowship.  In true dry wit form, I’m smiling at his arrival in Heaven on the same day as that CEO…  

May the angels never run out of vitamins…

WashMO Blues

FrogHaven, 2018

It’s been two Christmases since I sent out cards; but I can assure you that your greetings hung on our shutters as in years before, helping chase the winter blues away. While there are changes both subtle and laughable and my natural look takes longer with each birthday, there are still traces of wine, women and song; kinda.  For example, Jim bakes fruit and flaxseed bread each week and I w(h)ine about having to eat it every morning… thus, a satirical refrain of a Neil Diamond hit best describes the coming Spring here at FrogHaven:

WASHMO BLUES

Verse One:

WashMO Blues – Earth Boxes are too heavy…

WashMO Blues – doc visits are aplenty…

Him or Me, we just can’t see until all cataracts gone….

Now we purchase Kleenex by the carton…because the pollen’s that strong,

Because the weather’s all wrong…. (Thank you, Puxatawney)

Verse Two:

WashMO Blues – lets pull out that dead willow

WashMO Blues – each night we hit the pillow

One:  Funny thing, we hear bells ring and can’t distinguish whose phone… (Oh not again)

I can sing it in the shower daily – yes, I still have a voice! YES, I still have a voice!

(Repeat Verse Two, and then jump to Finale)

Finale:  Funny thing, ya see another Spring…and we’re renewed once again!

It’s Easter! He is risen! Keep believin’! We’ve simply got no choice! (Music fades)

Love, hugs and kisses xoxox from Annette and Jim

Peter Pan at 80 Years Old – updated for 2-5-2018

Letting go and allowing my Rogue to handle his weekly pill box and other household chores has been both welcome and difficult for me.  After five plus years of care giving,   I can supposedly concentrate on my personal business projects and goals.  Rapt attention is much needed these days, as being an entrepreneur is a 24/7 mental state of conviction, doubt, confusion, determination, belief, and ignoring one’s surroundings.

I am easily distracted and, because I work both outside and inside our home, the closets and other January projects staring me in the face have to take a back seat now;  I’ve got sales tax to compute and records and multiple reminders (scrawled in my own hand on lots of loose papers stuffed into folders) that must be reviewed before finalizing this year’s business path of priorities.  I consider the stack of info in front of me as a yearly validation that man was never meant to put anything in writing!

We have both aged, my Rogue and I, not only in actual years but (I would like to believe) in wisdom as well.  Wisdom is the attribute I wish for; for me, it describes the compromising of any initial response –  I catch myself biting my tongue – so that I can attempt a more diplomatic reply; for my Rogue, wisdom is centered upon accepting what he can and cannot do.  Accepting  “the cannots” has been the more difficult, on-going process.

Instead, he has chosen to return to old habits with a fervor and survivor’s attitude that neither stroke nor open heart surgery could stop, nor any amount of medications alleviate.  My Rogue has emerged once again as my perennial Peter Pan:  the one who insists that anyone can fly, one need only believe!

So, what is your problem?

A streak of the maturing adolescent is in full exhibition… his modus operandi has always been direct, determinedly contrarian and just plain abrupt.  He has seen my concerned expression and, true to form, insists that there is nothing wrong with his doing chores, i.e. shoveling the drive!

(You’re blowing it again, Wendy; you have to shift gears and believe.) But I can only imagine my hair graying at top speed, and I’m literally willing whatever dark brown strands I still have to stay strong; I have four more weeks before my scheduled highlighting appointment.  Dear God, I’m actually having a conversation with my hair when Peter breaks the silence:

Just what is your problem?

Our experience was unnerving enough to place me on overdrive, reluctant to let up on the throttle. I am overtly cautious, my adrenalin recycling itself and my sheer will stepping carefully forward, slowly acknowledging there are fewer pirates lurking in hidden coves.   I can be very competent in a crisis; but I am no less human than the next spouse when such a stressful pace takes its toll over the long term.  My personal convalescence is far from over; no point in explaining any of these leftover effects to Peter.

My Rogue has come indoors and admits it is chilly; where his snow shovel was once important he has relinquished this duty to others younger than he. Lucky neighbors!   The city has yet to come down the street this morning.

Additionally, Peter informs me that the surface is icy and it is better that he drive me into work and maneuver the sultry black ice.  After all, he reminds me, he knows how to drive on such road conditions and I’m the lesser experienced.

(Bite your tongue, Wendy; remember, his mother taught him well and he is ever the gentleman …)

So, I change the subject to things less serious, and to which I already know the answers:

Did you take your medicine, Honey?

Probably not.

Did you remember to toss the laundry into the dryer?

Probably not.

Do you have your glasses?

Probably not.

Honey, I really think I can drive to work without a problem; I’ll be really careful, you needn’t worry.

I don’t want my truck out there in the freezing weather for four hours!   

BOING!!!! (note to Wendy: toss the gentleman angle out; Peter wants his truck back.)

What would you like for dinner, Honey?

Whatever you want to fix, Dear. You know I’ll eat anything you cook!

He eats to live; I, on the other hand, live to eat.  Yes, opposites do attract; and Wendy is gonna need a bit of bread and butter tonight…

 

REACHING AN EPIPHANY

I found a house and the realtor came with it.

When I tell that story, it continually evokes laughter. Neither My Rogue nor I could have imagined leaving our California bungalow for a new, two-story home in Missouri; nor that would a combination of his serious health issues and the loss of my corporate job nearly turn our lovely new Midwest lifestyle upside down. God’s Hand would avail us of great medical talent, family support, many loving friends, and new opportunities to keep us here at our lovely Frog Haven.

While My Rogue has mellowed, it is only slightly. He still will not be told who/what/when/where/why to do anything. Occasionally, as the house sous chef, he will listen to how and follow my instructions for sliced, rather than chopped, fresh mushrooms for the evening’s meal. I have learned to hide my surprise and bite my tongue so as to keep the peace. (Thanking him would only push my luck!)

We celebrated our Twentieth Wedding Anniversary on November 29th in a quiet manner with a simple dinner. We toasted each other and, I confess, we both expressed a somewhat slightly amazed, state of near disbelief; neither of us ever expected to reach such a milestone. We were in a lighthearted, playful mood and, I’m proud to report to all who know me, we celebrated without bloodshed; all my previous, weekly threats were set aside, at least for the evening! They were replaced instead by a mutual, deep-felt gratitude between two soul mates – neither of whom could find the proper words – so, we thought it better to just dive into the calamari and pasta before they got cold.

This year, we didn’t need lots of fluff and bling; we enjoyed a Just Enough Christmas Season. Such was the collection of silver linings we had collected after celebrating twenty years of marriage. Not all the linings were laden with metallic grandeur, but each gave us just enough to cope, care, learn from, and pursue onward… May you feel His Presence and Comfort in the New Year!

Annette Brochier Johnson /2014

Political Asides

I was feeling pretty good.  And yes, I recognize patriotic spiel…but how wonderful that it again filled the air with so much zeal!  I even believed that America’s problems were once again manageable…that’s how it is during convention weeks for this political junkie.  This year, when I again tuned into the first convention, I was buoyed and jubilant!  We were indeed a melting pot of shared values.  A panorama of nationalities and accents had all shared:  We DID build it, Mr. President.  Damn… we ARE Americans!!!

Every four years, we weather political claptrap and cast our voice.  Truth be told, my parents had not voted for either Jack or for Jimmy; by 9-11, Mom and Dad were both gone and I was quietly grateful that they’d never have to endure living through another world war or a repeat of the Great Depression.

My love for my country and its history had always been strong; 2008 was an historical election and I would take in as much of the excitement as the next citizen!  In the end, I hadn’t voted for Barack; his message just didn’t resonate with my free market belief system, so I was cautiously alarmed by some of his semantics and rightly so.  I remembered S.I. Hayakawa, a semanticist who blew cannon-size holes through the Sixties’ rhetoric.  Perhaps it was my having lived and remembered the political turmoil; perhaps it was my personal inability to dream much beyond my immediate circumstance; or – God help me – perhaps I was becoming my mother. Finally, it was that my own retirement was taking a beating; legalities, changing tax rules and global economics now ate into the once projected, inflation-protected theories; this baby boomer had amassed much less than the safety net recommended by most financiers.

Perhaps naively, I believed the checks and balances – including the Electoral College – were above the destruction by any dissident voices. Had not our constitutional republic been instituted by men with extraordinary vision and understanding? Had not they foreseen the vulnerability of the human spirit?

I’d matured enough to understand that nothing in this life was free – one or some ones would eventually foot the bill.  There existed a taxpayer survival chain; it definitely needed an entire overhaul.  Until that happened, more serious concerns could be set aside just a bit longer; it was time to join in the celebratory traditions of a new administration!

I recognized the 2009 inaugural for what it was: another historic moment in our country’s history.  America had at long last elected our First Black President.  Sorry, William Jefferson, but this man really WAS half-Black and his African roots were only one generation removed.  Sounded like another American dream come to life!  We’d again have small children in the White House. There on the dais stood another young, educated and good looking family, reminiscent of the Camelot years that had appeared in the Ladies Home Journal and Family Circle magazines my mother would bring home.  Jackie and the children had indeed captured America’s imagination and its youthful exuberance; it was extremely likely Michelle and the girls would do the same for a new generation of believing citizenry.

I must admit, I had friends and family members sit up and take notice when I announced that I was taking a vacation day to stay home and watch the Obama Inauguration. My immediate circle knew my political leanings; some even shook their heads and asked aloud if I were crazy????  Politics aside, I would always believe in America’s goodness; its grounded reverence for the rule of law; its ability to correct its wrongs; and its remarkable resistance and vigilance to protect and maintain the very unique constitutional republic that was the foundation of it all.  I was an American first.  My reasoning was simplistic: if “the old country” had offered as much as America, my grandparents would never have left Europe.

This daddy’s girl would continue the family tradition. No matter which party declared victory, its newly elected Leader of the Free World deserved my respect and would be afforded my reverential attention, complete with my benefit of the doubt; at least in the beginning.  In my patriotic lens, America was truly the greatest political experiment mankind ever knew! In what other nation did leadership transition so civilly, even after the most heated campaigns? Like my mentors before me, I kept a pair of rose-colored glasses specifically for ballot box results. I donned the glasses and watched the next four years unfold.

Obviously, I was naïve, especially regarding power’s addicting lure.  In the common vernacular, the values I assumed we all shared were not quite the same ones; so, my assumptions that this president would work for the greater good of Americans proved illegitimate and made a complete ass of me.

After four years of a worsening job market, some questionable signatures and appointments of several non-elected advisors to positions of unrestricted power over our elected legislature, this administration had completely undermined its own credibility. But I was determined to watch the festivities.

I tuned in to the latter convention; several spoke, forming an American montage of individuals I did not recognize.  One was actually the offspring of non-citizens, yet she was given the podium! Others joined in, pleading for a fairness and level playing field; they whined, they complained, and they sought sympathy as victims of America’s opportunities.  I asked myself, since when do the rules not apply?

Behold! The stage was smaller than four years ago; there was no room for God who was initially excluded, then loudly booed when reinserted back onto the party platform!  Color and Ethnicity joined forces against a common enemy: Success!  Jealousy found a place to sit among an electorate divided between poor and rich.   Each night, we were reminded that the present administration had saved our American auto industry.  For any further economic recovery, cries and pleas echoed throughout the convention hall: Four More Years!

Missing was a hologram performance by Peggy Lee:

Is that all there is?
If that’s all there is, my friends, then let’s keep dancing…
Let’s break out the booze… and have a ball
If that’s all there is…