Category Archives: Exploring My World

Reflections on Loss of Loved Ones

A prose poem reflecting on the accelerating pace of losses in the years beyond 50, is shared on the 20th anniversary of April’s National Poetry Month.

Someone Left the Window Open

Someone left the window open and they are slipping through,
One by one, and two by twos –
Loving grandparents – drum majors of a parade –
Uncle Don who drove everywhere looking for little pink pigs like ones in my storybook;
Betty Davis, dear childhood friend, named for a movie star, who survived polio to be felled by its re-awakening in later years;
Uncle Frank, who told scary ghost stories, loved Florida and lived life his way;
Uncle William, who lived a formal life as Presbyterian minister till he retired and put away his suits for blue jeans and bluegrass;
Aunt Ermal, who was dietitian at Cumberland College, loved playing Sorry, and made memories with her fruitcakes;
Aunt Verna, who cared for her town as county public health physician;
Aunt Maggie, who liked brandy alexander’s, managed her own business and parachuted from a plane in her 80’s;
Aunt Shirley, who enjoyed taking care of her home and sang country songs while she washed dishes;
Aunt Fanella, twin sister of my father, who kept kinfolk connected and her faith strong;
Dottie, my 6 foot tall college roommate, who had a big heart, a hearty laugh and was a wonderful nurse;
Sweet Alice, my Indiana University officemate, loyal to her friends, who found love in later life;
Mother-in-law Nora, loving mother and grandmother, who taught first grade for 52 years;
Brother-in-law Don, who went at life in a run, and took good care of my sister;
Dad, a talented and happy man who lived life well, but left under the veil of dementia; and
Mother, who loved Christmas, her family, and her home in Madison, and lived to 91.
Someone left the window open, and we keep slipping through.

Sue Marquis Bishop
Copywrite 2013

THERE ARE MANY BENEFITS to living fully in the years beyond 50.  One of the hard knocks we experience with increasing age, however, is the accelerating pace of loss of significant others in our social networks.

I CONTINUE TO FEEL  the presence and influence of loved ones who are no longer here, in so many ways –  in funny family stories re-told,  sage advice remembered, family talents and traditions passed on. My life has been enriched by knowing them. I feel gratitude and joy, that they were part of my life.

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Changing Carpets From Winter to Spring

In spring, nature is like a thrifty housewife…taking up the white carpets and putting down the green ones.” Mary B. Eddy, Miscellaneous Writings, 1896.

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ONLY A FEW SHORT WEEKS AGO,  we enjoyed a light carpeting of Southern snow as a snowstorm blanketed the North in huge drifts.  But…it only lasted two days in Charlotte, until it morphed into water and disappeared.

WHEN IT SNOWS IN THE SOUTH,  it only stops in for tea and a brief respite before melting and running away.

SIGNS OF SPRING are emerging here and there in Charlotte as February and March days turn warm, then cool, then windy.  Today, it is sunny and 80 degrees.

Dormant
buds bursting
open winter casings;

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Carolina
Jasmine’s display
beckoning us outside;

Blue
birds gathering
at the feeders:

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Pedaling
with the
wind in my face;
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Rosy
pink ground
cover kissing lawns;

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Forsythia
showing up
gray tree trunks:

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Reading
and dreaming
at Spring Park Pond.

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I’M READY FOR TOMATOES from the garden, flowers blooming in profusion, breezy days on the porch, walks in the sunshine, reading by Spring Park pond, cookouts, and yes… even Spring cleaning.

I AM GRATEFUL to be here, in this place, witnessing the emergence of Spring once again.

“Suddenly a mist of green on the trees, as quiet as thought.”
Dorothy M Richardson, Pilgrimage: The Trap, 1925.

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2016

 

 

 

 

 

17 Books of LOVE: The Ties That Bind Are Not Just Lovers

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LOVE COMES IN MANY FORMS. Human connections give life meaning.  We celebrate romantic love on Feb 14th. Seventeen (17) books reviewed briefly in this post, depict love and bonding in many different relationships and ages, and the grief of loss when it is gone.

An Available Man by Hilma Wolitzer (2012).
How do I learn to live as a widower?  One man’s journey of  how he navigated his new life as a widower, following the loss of his beloved wife. The reaction of others in his community as they responded to his changed status as a newly single man, was believable and often humorous.  Realistic depiction of grief and loss; risking new relationships.  A charming man to invite for a dinner party.

The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion (2013).  
Socially challenged man searches for love.  A funny, touching story about a brilliant genetics professor with Asperger’s who sets out to find a wife.  I laughed aloud in places as he meticulously plans his strategy, and as his plans often go awry.   Australian author.

The Republic of Love by Carol Shields, Harper Perennial, (1992).
Finding someone in later life: The author is a master at noticing minute details of living, both emotional and material.  Fay and Tom find love and connection in later life.  Story depicts human need to have a special someone to share life.

The Rockin’ Chair by  Steven Manchester (2013).
Leaving a legacy of love:  heart-warming story of love, family, forgiveness, continuity, place, home and creating a legacy.  Everyone should have a grandpa John to go home to….

Finding Home by Jackie Weger (1987, 2014).
Love of family, search for belonging:   A story about a quirky and determined woman … a good-ole-girl with a big heart… who sets in motion a plan to find a home for herself and her large family.  So many funny parts I laughed out loud…and rooted for Phoebe to get her man and her house…and find a place to belong along the way.

The Illegal Gardner by Sara Alexi (Greek Book Collection 1) (2012). 
Non-romantic  bonding between two socially different individuals based on interdependent needs:  Takes place in a small Greek village.  An English woman’s journey, along with her Pakistani gardener, an illegal immigrant refugee with limited options for his family. Their chance meeting and ensuing working relationship provides comfort and meaning to their lives.  Themes: gardens, human needs for connection, opportunity, mutuality of relationship.

Forever Interrupted by Taylor Jenkins Reid (2009).  Young love and loss; bonding between women: A heart-breaking novel of two young adults who meet, fall in love and marry and hours later the bridegroom dies in a freak accident.  Is she a widow, when she hasn’t had time to even be a wife?  So truthful about the vagaries of grief. Hope and affection is discovered in unexpected places for mother and daughter-in-law.

Walk Me Home by Catherine Ryan Hyde (2013).
Bonds between sisters, connecting with strangers to create a new family:  Two sisters begin a long walk across states after their only parent is killed, to find an old boyfriend of their mother’s that they think would care for them now.  Their adventure takes them into Indian country where they meet a unique and no-nonsense Indian woman, who changes their lives.

11/22/6 by Stephen King, (2011).
Love story set in 1950’s: Time travel and attempts to right some wrongs in the past, e.g., killing of President Kennedy. Time travel to 1950’s is detailed in food, fashion, dance, customs, technology.  King must have been a jitterbugger by his detailed description of this dance 50’s style. Secondary theme is a love story.

Fortune is a Woman by Elizabeth Adler, Dell Publishing (1992).
Lifetime  bonds among three strong women: Settings from China to San Francisco to rural New Mexico. Story of how the lives of three strong women connected over years.  Unexpected events from start to finish  keeps you turning pages.  I didn’t see the ending coming.

Somewhere in Heaven: The Remarkable Love Story of Dana and Christopher Reeve by Christopher Anderson, Hyperion (2008).
A true love story.  This biography is a love story of two exceptional individuals whose lives continue to inspire.  Presents challenges of living every day paralyzed from the shoulders down… and what happens to the body.  Given this huge burden, it is amazing what Dana and Chris accomplished together!

1929: (Book 1), by M.L. Gardner (2009).
Bonding of friends during times of economic disaster to survive:  Story of three  American couples (all friends) who lose their wealthy lifestyle in the 1929 stock market crash, and must now find a way to survive poverty, and to rebuild their lives. Story focuses on what happens to them, their servants and in-laws during the years after 1929. Depicts the real life situation that many families experienced in our grandparents generation, as a result of the 29′ crash….the abject poverty for so many, the greedy who took advantage of events, and efforts to survive..   The  1929 series consists of 6 books, but I recommend only Book 1.

I know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou (1969).
Family, Community and learning to love self.  Powerful memoir from African-American writer of her early years. Compelling narrative raises questions about love, abuse, racism, home, country and family.  I heard so much about this book, I wanted to read it.  I’m glad I did.  Maya died last year in NC.

Where the River Ends by Charles Martin (2008).
A haunting story of love and letting go.  A final journey of an artist and the love of his life, who is dying of a terminal illness.  They steal away from her possessive family (the Senator, ) and take a harrowing last trip (at her request) up the river from SC to Georgia, in a small boat.  Her body dies a little every day, but she radiates joy, as they meet interesting people and share experiences along the way. Would you have done it?

A Gentle Rain by Deborah Smith (2007).
Love comes in all sizes; appreciating differences.   A warm, fuzzy love story of rural life in North Central Florida.  Eccentric characters include lovable, mentally challenged and other unique and strong characters.  Rich girl seeking her birth parents, arrives at farm and quickly makes herself indispensable. You will cheer for main characters, even though you just have to overlook too many coincidences and just enjoy the tale.

The Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah (2011).
Adult-child bonding. A child arrives in a small town in the American Northwest, who can’t speak, and doesn’t show normal social behaviors. Major focus of story is the building of bridges of communication between a woman psychiatrist and the feral child.

Tuesday’s Socks by Alison Ragsdale (2014)
Risking first love at 64 years.  In the Scottish town of Pitochry, Jeffrey finds a path to change the ordered life he has led and risk change that will lead to big life changes.  His day socks, a loving mother and a mysterious dog urge him on his journey.  This story is slow moving, but fits the rhythm of Jeffrey’s structured life and the baby steps he takes to finally change his solitary life.  Characters are believable.  A first novel by this author. Some lonely folks may need a push, sometimes more than once, to take a leap of faith.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Celebrate LOVE This Valentine’s Day

“Love has nothing to do with what you are expecting to get-
only with what you are expecting to give-
which is everything.”
Katherine Hepburn, Me (1991).

LOVE IS CELEBRATED annually with one special day set aside mid-February as Valentine’s Day. An entry in the Huffington Post estimates that Americans will spend over $17 billion to celebrate love this year.  If the print and TV ads are any indication, the emphasis is on lovers expecting grand gestures and expensive outings and gifts.  A review of TV sit-com stories suggests considerable storm and stress for characters planning or expecting extravagant Valentine’s Day gifts/events.

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Photo by SMB

YET … WE MAY BE MISSING SOMETHING, by not seeing the potential of Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to communicate our love and affection beyond our spouse/lover, to other  loved ones  in our personal social networks of mutual affection.  Who are the persons in your social world who bring meaning and joy to your life?…(e,g,  sons, daughters, siblings, parents, extended family members? ).  You might also include other closely held friends in your network of affection.

“To love deeply in one direction makes us more loving in all others.” Anne-Sophie Swetchine (1809).

ADS ARE PLENTIFUL this time of year for expensive gifts of jewelry/trips/evenings out.  In my view, something expensive is not necessary.  It really is the thought that counts.

IT’S A LOVELY TRADITION to receive a card with heart warming message, maybe enclosed with a special tea bag, or flowers (even one bud), or even a thoughtful  message that says, ” I thought of you on Valentine’s Day”.

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A MESSAGE OR SMALL GIFT tailored to fit the interests and likes of a special person…such as:

VALENTINE’S CARD with a touching message relevant for the relationship;
BOOK from a favorite author, favorite candy bar, or music CD;
POEM written by you, or published one expressing your feelings;
BOUQUET of flowers, or just one beautiful flower bud in a vase;
CANDLELIGHT dinner with the recipient’s favorite foods;
MOVIE to watch together that you dislike, but know he loves;
BREALFAST in bed;
SMALL GIFT the person needs (e.g., kitchen, gardening or garage tool);
THOUGHTFUL TEXT message on Valentine’s Day to siblings
NOTE in card or post-it on mirror recounting a shared funny or loving event;
CHEERY VOICE MAIL wishing the recipient Happy Valentine’s Day;
PLANS to take someone to enjoy a new experience
PHONE CALL to elder kin and friends who are alone just to chat and wish them Happy Valentine’s Day.

A GIFT THAT REFLECTS  the interests and needs of the recipient, and the nature of the relationship,  can send a strong and loving message that  communicates,
“I remember”,
“I know you”,
“I get you”, and
“I love you.”

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I like not only to be loved, but also to be told that I am loved.”  George Eliot (1875).

THIS FEBRUARY,  may you be the happy recipient and generous sender of affection to the nearest and dearest in your social network.  Valentine’s Day, and the month of February, can remind us of the importance of communicating affection to those close to our hearts.

“Love will not always linger longest,
With those who hold it in too clenched a fist.”
Alice Duer Miller (1931).

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Sue Marquis Bishop
February 14, 2016

 

 

Raising Seafood in the Midwest! What?

“Indiana could become the shrimp capitol of the world”, according to the  Brown family, who raises shrimp in a land-locked farm.  No!  That can’t be!  Can it?

My family moved to the flatlands of southern Indiana from the mountain state of West Virginia when I was a teenager. Neither of these states is situated near the coast for easy access to all kinds of seafood, with the exception of lake fishing.  In the Midwest, corn and soybeans are common crops.  Is Indiana, in the heartland of America, on the way to becoming a major center for farming shrimp? Really?

I didn’t know about the rich variety of seafood available when I was young, as there was a limited selection of seafood available at the local Kroger store  in Madison, Indiana where Mom did her weekly shopping. (Changes in distribution and frozen foods have increased seafood choices in the Midwest from the years when I was growing up.)

 I learned to cook a variety of foods from my mother who was a good cook.  Mom prepared a full sit down dinner every night, and our family of six ate together in the dining room. Our plates were stacked in front of Dad who sat at one end of the table, and he dished the plates with food and passed them around.

Our meat entrees included pork chops, roast cooked with vegetables, hamburgers, chicken and turkey.  Mom bought a lot of ground beef each week and we helped her patty them out with a wooden hamburger smasher.  My younger brothers were picky eaters and hamburgers were one thing they would eat without complaining. We had potatoes every meal – usually baked potatoes, mashed potatoes with gravy, or homemade French fries.

We also enjoyed mom’s desserts – pies, baked custard and ice cream most often, and she always baked each of us a birthday cake for our special day.

Our culinary fare in seafood was limited.  We ate our share of tuna salad sandwiches, baked salmon loaf made from canned salmon, and as children we seemed to like the fish sticks that mom heated from a frozen food package.  What did we know?  We were kids.  Grouper? tilapia? Never heard of them or knew what fresh salmon or tuna filets looked like .   Lobster? Never saw a live one up close.  We would have likely said “yuck” when we saw the insect-appearing critter anyway, just like we refused to eat frog legs someone gave our family.

When I moved to Florida, and later North Carolina, as an adult, my love affair with all things seafood began, and I learned to prepare a variety of delicious foods for my family that were harvested from the sea.  How wonderful that they are more healthy than the heavy dose of red meats I grew up eating each week.  In her senior years, my mother enjoyed new seafood dishes in my home that she had not tasted before.CIMG3146

Tonight, I prepared a simple dinner with baked tilapia… seasoned with salt, pepper and lemon, rolled in panko crumbs, baked and topped with sour cream/dill sauce.  We also had baked sweet potatoes, grillled zuchinni and cooked cinnamon apples. Comfort food on a cool September day.

New technology is creating seafood farming options for land-locked areas of the country. The Brown aquaculture farm, one of 11 shrimp farms in Indiana, is becoming a leader in the inland farming of shrimp in the U.S, and is one of 11 shrimp farms in Indiana, seven added just in the past four years. The Browns who previously raised hogs before switching to shrimp, hope to expand to tank farming of oysters, talapia and crawfish (Popular Science, 2015).

 An article in the October Popular Science (2015), entitled “The Midwest is Our New Ocean”, describes the low-tech methods developed by Texas A & M that is enabling land-locked areas to enter seafood farming. Basically, the tanks don’t need to be filtered, as bacteria held in a liquid suspension keep the tanks clean and with no need for antibiotics. The article states that this sustainable method of in-land farming may be critical for our future, as our “ocean is dying unless we change our ways”.

It’s exciting news that research has devised a way for in-land farming of seafood in cost-effective and healthy ways in the Midwest, with other possibilities on the horizon.  This new technology creates jobs and provides healthy food for a growing population.

But, I can’t be so cavalier about the oceans becoming toxic. It will not be so simple to have any quality of life on the planet if we destroy our oceans, even if we increase the farming of seafood in the Midwest. Reducing over-fishing and curbing pollution remain huge environmental concerns.

Sue Marquis Bishop, 2015

Ducklings Rescue at Spring Park Pond

On a warm Summer Day, a family of resident ducks went for a stroll. This duck family needed help from the Fire Department before the day was done.

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Our new neighborhood has a community pond that has been adopted as a home base for several families of ducks.  Some are mallards with their beautiful green necks.

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Some are domestic ducks.  They come in all color combinations.  The black ones with white necks and chests remind me of penguins as the drakes waddle along, typically in a group.

One of the black hens with white markings we named Henrietta.  Every day, she brought her brood of ducklings to rest under the red maple beside our sunroom.  We had a front row seat to watch the ducklings grow from day to day.  We gave them fresh water, but took feed to the pond each day.

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The ducks wander about during the day throughout the streets of the community when they aren’t swimming at the pond.  Ducks are monogamous during one mating season, but  may choose another mate the next season.  When the ducklings are very small, the drake stays nearby for a short time.

After a duck was killed by a car, the homeowner’s association installed speed bumps in the neighborhood to slow down the traffic and they moniter speed to keep our community safe for children, walkers and ducks..

Some of the ducks have markings like abstract paintings with varied patterns of brown, tan, cinnamon and white stripes… some have a formal looking tweedy vest, and some have black  polka dots on their white chests.

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Some of the brown mature ducks have a navy blue stripe on the sides of their  wings. The baby ducklings are various shades of black and white and brown….with tiny black bills.  Some have yellow on their necks and upper breast when they are young.

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Occasionally mixed into with a large brood, there are 2-3 butter yellow baby ducklings with orange bills and orange  webbed feet.. They are storybook gorgeous.  My husband names them Marilyns.  They seemed to be the first to disappear.  I wonder if large predator birds or turtles can see them easier?

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Mother ducks would never be accused of neglect.  Ducklings stay with their mothers for 6-8 weeks, trailing along after her.  When they are small, they gather under mother’s body, so 18 or more can be completely hidden.

As they grow in later weeks, the mother hen hustles to stay up with them, but she keeps them together.  They continue to sleep a lot when young and to sleep in a heap touching one another.

I noticed that only a small percentage of the ducklings tended to survive …. maybe 5 or 6 only from large litters of 18 and 21.   An internet check revealed that this is typical for wild ducks.

One  afternoon this Summer,  Ethyl and her brood went for a fateful stroll… The ducklings veered off the sidewalk  to the edge of the street, and one by one, followed their siblings  down the sewer drain.  An alert neighbor called the fire department and Engine 28 responded…our heroes to the rescue.

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I snapped a picture of one of the fireman with his arms and torso stretched down inside the drain as he searched for the ducklings..

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Success!  He kept at it until he retrieved all but one of the ducklings.. and they were pulled out to safety and an anxious mother duck..

The duck family was  soon on its way back to Spring Park pond, apparently none the worse for the experience in the sewer.

The neighbors expressed their gratitude to the Fireman for the rescue.   I sent them some tomatoes from the garden, with a pound of bacon, to make bacon and tomato sandwiches for their lunch in the Firehouse .

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And the ducks went on their way back to Spring Park Pond.

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Sue Marquis Bishop 2014

 

 

How to Celebrate Books this Week!

WAYS TO CELEBRATE NATIONAL LIBRARY WEEK:

1. READ A BOOK TO A CHILD. It may start interests that enrich his or her whole life.

2. SPEND AN HOUR in an independent bookstore – and buy a book or two to help ensure independent booksellers will be there for us in the future.

3. LEAVE A GOOD STORY in a public place for someone else to enjoy – leave a note with the book – “This book is to be read, enjoyed and passed on”.

4. BROWSE A LIBRARY SECTION you haven’t explored…new treasures are there to be discovered.
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5. VOLUNTEER TO READ A BOOK at the library or elementary school for Children’s StoryTime – it will stir memories of your own youth and take years off your day.

6. WRITE A BOOK REVIEW AND POST for a book you read and appreciated to direct new readers and to acknowledge the author.

7. TAKE A BOOK TO THE PARK OR THE PORCH for a restful afternoon outdoors. Goodbye Winter! Hello Spring !

8. JOIN A BOOK CLUB in your community or online if you would enjoy discussing books you read.

9. BUY A SPECIAL BOOK for a friend.

10. USE YOUR OWN WORDS…write a letter to an old friend you have missed and send U.S. mail…start a gratitude diary…draft a poem…start your family history…respond to a blog post.