Dec 2011 - Renee's Ramblings
My apologies: I accidently deleted the December 2011 postings and am attempting to add them back here, using my memory, so forgive me if I forget something you might have read previously.
Posted: December 29, 2011
Happy New Year!
2012 is going to be a great year! Why? I have no idea. I’m just being optimistic. I’m being expectant. I’m going to worry less. I’m going to laugh more often. I’m going to produce more. I’m going to appreciate each day as the gift that it is. I’m going to be more flexible.
I’m not going to bog myself down with unrealistic resolutions that fall apart within two to three days. Sure, there are things I need to improve or change. I will keep those things at the forefront of my mind. I will pray and meditate on them. I will seek counsel. But I’m not going to feel guilty if I don’t meet my own set timetable. I’m going to embrace the fact that I am a work in progress and that each day is a new opportunity.
So many times in the past, I’ve made resolutions that failed fairly quickly and then I spent the rest of the year feeling like a sub-standard, will-powerless, low-life. I’d wait for the next year to begin again with the same result.
I’m breaking free for the first time from this crazy tradition. So you will not find my list of resolutions here today.
But it is my expectation that 2012 will be the best year ever and it begins with me. In my attitude, in my gratitude, in my walk with God, in my appreciation of family and friends, in my openness and willingness to accept what is and be who God created me to be.
So here’s to wishing you the best year ever!
My fun and fabulous former co-worker, Cheryl Hill, who was a good friend who since has become like family.
Posted: December 26, 2011
I’m Missing Something – I Think It’s Co-Workers
Writing is lonely business. I feel fortunate to be given this opportunity to write and try to find ways to make a living, but my favorite saying to myself lately is, “Get to work, you’re not getting paid to sit around and do nothing.” Then I remember, “Oh yeah, I’m not getting paid at all.” You see, I have to try to amuse myself somehow, as I don’t have any co-workers to entertain me or to prod me along.
I can’t sit in the break room and listen to stories of what happened the night before or bitch about the boss. I am my own boss. There are no invitations to go out for dinner or a drink after work. There are no fun work Christmas parties to go and make a fool of myself.
I miss Michele, Donna, Lois, Vicky, Maureen, Renee, Marty, Carrie and many other wild and crazy people from SD Tourism. People like Mark, Chris, Lee, Greg and Brett (no last names listed to prevent a slander suit) who always knew how to throw a party and keep the entertainment going. I miss the skits from the Christmas parties. The times where we all acted out characters from Hee Haw, or danced and sang as the Pointless Sisters, and pranced around as Hasbeen Playboy Bunnies. I miss helping my co-workers plot out milestone birthday parties for people in the office. I miss all the impromptu happy hours and the millions of laughs.
I miss working with people like Cheryl and Arnell from InterTribal Bison Cooperative who welcomed me with open arms. I miss Cheryl, who taught me so much about Native American culture and the buffalo, and who also was very proficient in office and computer skills and taught me much of what I know. I miss Arnell who was always so friendly. I admired her for her professionalism. I miss laughing with them in the break room. I even miss going to out of town board meetings with them. We were fortunate to be able to go to Vegas several times and Oklahoma City.
I miss working with people like Mary, Nancy, Jodi, Larry, Nicole, Amanda, and Pat at Big Brothers Big Sisters who were always so very appreciative of the work I did for the office. Honestly, I didn’t do that much, working only part time there, but they always showered me with praise. I don’t think I’ve ever worked with people so dedicated to the cause of an organization – they all loved their jobs and their mission to help kids in the community.
Now, the only co-workers I have are the characters I’m developing for my latest story. They are coming alive in my mind as I type, but they will never replace all these great people I’ve gotten to know in the past. They are never going to take me out to lunch or send me flowers on Administrative Assistant’s Day. They are never going to listen to my woes or offer up any advice. They are never going to teach me a new skill. Co-workers really are a perk, especially when you’re as lucky as I have been to get along with most of them. I’ve had the pleasure of working with some remarkable people. Some I’ve spent more time with than my own family. Some were like family. Some will always be family.
Painting done by my sister, Carrie Neuschwander.
Posted: December 22, 2011
This Means More Than You Know
My sister, Carrie Neuschwander, has recently taken up a new hobby of painting and she’s very good at it. She can now add painting to her other talents of making beautiful beaded jewelry, quilting, sewing, crocheting and crafting.
She gifted to us her latest creation, a painting of an eagle’s head. She painted it on a piece of leather, punched holes in it and weaved through it straps of leather attaching it to a frame, which is also wrapped in leather. She added some leather straps adorned with beads and feathers, completing her masterpiece. It is a stunning piece of art that we are proud to display on our wall. We add it to our other treasures from family and friends that remind us of home.
I wonder if she knows just how much meaning the symbol of the eagle has for Al and I. To him, the eagle symbolizes his twenty seven years of service in the U.S. Air Force and all the work he has done on the B-1 Bomber. Al says, “To me, the eagle symbolizes strength, freedom, and fidelity. A majestic guardian of the land. A more perfect symbol could not be depicted to project the true beliefs of our American way.”
For me, I see the eagle in a slightly different way. For the past several years, I have been learning more about God and growing my faith. Back home in South Dakota, as I would sit on our back patio and look out over the prairie behind our house bordered by pine forests and the vast blue sky above, thinking about how wonderful God is and marveling at the beauty he created around me, an eagle would often suddenly come into view, soaring high in the sky. I’d watch it until it would disappear from my site and would think of the following favorite Bible verses of mine:
But those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint. Isaiah 40:31 (NIV)
Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits, who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases, who redeems your life from the pit and crowns you with love and compassion, who satisfies your desires with good things so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s. Psalm 103:2-5 (NIV)
There is also the symbolism that the eagle has for the Lakota culture, of which my sister, brother and I can claim that we have a slight bit of Native American blood in our genetic makeup. To learn about what the eagle meant to the Lakota, please click on the following link:
Even here in Virginia, many times as I sit typing in my second story office looking out the window, I often see two birds flying through the air high against the pale blue sky. I had been wondering if they were bald eagles, but couldn’t get a close enough view to see their heads. Today, I finally got a look with Al’s binoculars, and I saw the sun gleaming white off the head of one of these spectacular birds in flight and I can’t help but be amazed. I don’t think that it is any coincidence that these birds appear when I am feeling most home sick. I see them as a message from God to keep hoping in Him and to know that I am at home here, until I can get back home.
Carrie, we are touched by your gift and honored to display it in our home. Thank you so much!
Right after I finished writing this piece, I received in the mail some more treasured art that I hope I can one day pass off to my daughters who will one day pass off to their children. My multi-talent mother, who can do ANYTHING with her hands, sent me a picture of a Native American dancer that she cross stitched. The stitching is very fine. I don’t know how she does it. I would go blind. It is hard to describe the detail of this piece. There are tiny beads, feathers, the girls waving hair, fringe on her skirt – it’s all remarkable. I’ve been admiring this for some time and was elated to receive it as a Christmas gift. She told me that some of the thread used actually came from a company in Virginia. Now we need to shop around for a framer that will do it justice.
Also, included was a gorgeous doily that she crocheted. See picture below. This will look right at home in our little farm house. I love the detail and the colors.
Thanks, Mom, I love them!
How do they do that? It is definitely a gift I don’t have.
Dancing Indian Maiden cross-stitched by my mom, JoAnn Sell, Mitchell, SD. Below, a doiley crocheted by her, as well.
Aunt Marilyn Gartner, Interior, SD, and the mysterious red wig...you never know when or where it might show up...
Posted: December 19, 2011
Everyone Should Have an Aunt Marilyn
Aunt Marilyn taught me to sing Jesus Loves Me. I was four or five years old and she took me to stay with her in her home for a week. During that time, she made me feel like the most special little girl in the world. It couldn’t have been easy to listen to me sing those simple words about Jesus, as I do not have a good voice, but she patiently taught me and listened to me sing it back to her. I have a vague memory of her buying me a doll and making clothes for it. It may have been at this time or another time. I do remember always struggling to dress my dolls and she would patiently help me.
Aunt Marilyn taught me how to set a table and about table manners. Or at least she tried. To this day, I’m still unsure what goes where when putting the silverware down, but I give her credit for trying and whenever I try to set a formal table, I think about her and wonder, “Am I doing this right?” It’s not that my own mother didn’t try teaching us these things, but Aunt Marilyn did her best to refine us unruly kids.
Aunt Marilyn loves to make people laugh. If you ever go out in public with her, you wonder what her next antic might be. She might all the sudden start talking with a different accent or start acting like she isn’t playing with a full deck or start walking around like she’s crippled or something. She doesn’t care that she might be embarrassing you just a little bit. She’s just having fun and you better well just sit back and enjoy it.
When I was about ten years old, my Aunt Marilyn would sometimes let me tag along when she and Ronnie were first dating. They took me to a movie once. They let me ride to Pierre with them. They were all over each other and nothing much has changed since then. They still act like a couple of young people in love forty three years later. When you’re in a room with these two, you can see that they still have a great love and respect for one another.
I remember Aunt Marilyn playing mediator a few times when there was strife brewing in our family. One particular time as a teenager, I called my mother a horrible name in front of her. My mom went ballistic about it, and I know it was wrong, but Aunt Marilyn came and talked to me instead of yelling at me and she listened to my concerns.
Today, Aunt Marilyn is having a double mastectomy and will have four or five months of subsequent treatment to fight breast cancer. She knows that Jesus loves her. I pray not only for her, but for her husband, Ronnie, her daughter, Stacey and family, and her son, Shannon, and family, and for my mother, JoAnn. Marilyn has been her best friend their whole life. I pray that they all have the strength to go through this with Aunt Marilyn, for there is nothing worse than watching someone you love go through cancer treatment. I pray that they have the wisdom to know how to help her and give her what she needs as she goes through the recovery process. Many are praying for Aunt Marilyn today, as she has been blessed with tons of friends and a loving family. It would be a better world if everyone was blessed with an Aunt Marilyn.
Celebration in Lights
Newport News Park, VA
Posted: December 15, 2011
Celebration in Lights, Newport News Park, VA
What can you do with over 100 miles of multi-colored Christmas lights? You can turn them into a magical land of fantasy, creating your traditional Christmas décor – dancing poinsettias, prancing deer, chugging choo-choos, jolly Santas while throwing in some smiling dragons, swarming butterflies, and sailing ships. You can bring to life a candy cane factory, you can shout out a patriotic theme, and add a few perky penguins. You can create a backdrop of falling leaves and for extra fun some polar bears pulling a sleigh.
We drove through on a Tuesday evening, a perfect time, with little traffic allowing us time to pull over and snap a few pictures (see above). We marveled at the time and engineering it must take to put these displays together. I think my favorite was the dancing poinsettias blinking and flashing across the sky in a large arch. That and the Peace on Earth sign. This activity was well worth the $10 per car entrance fee. The only thing missing was the snow. And the little kiddies in the back seat eyes as big as saucers.
Posted: December 13, 2011
That Was God!
Those of us who believe all have moments in our life when we say little prayers asking for help and immediately God responds and we know, without a doubt, that was God. Here’s my story of one such happening that occurred not once, but twice. Some will laugh at me or shrug it off. Some will say that I have no proof. That’s okay. I don’t need their approval and I don’t have to prove what I already know. I just hope that by sharing this story that others will realize that God is there in a pinch. Not always does he perform major miracles, such as healings. Sometimes, he just reaches down and gives us a little hand in the small things, if we just take a moment to ask.
It was winter in South Dakota and at least a foot of snow had fallen on our sidewalks and driveway. Al was deployed to Qatar, so it fell on me to clean up the snow. I pulled out our snow blower from its spot in the corner of the garage, filled it with gas and stood there amazed that it immediately started up on the first try. I was proud of myself that I remembered how to start it. I remembered Al’s constant warning to be careful near the rock beds that lined the front side of the sidewalks and along the driveway. He told me not to get too close to them or I’d ruin the snow blower blades and motor by getting rocks jammed between them.
I cleared the driveway with little incident and mentally patted myself on the back. Then I eyed the area where the sidewalks were supposed to be. It was hard to see in all that blinding whiteness just where the rocks started and the sidewalks began, but I thought I knew just by eyeballing it. I pushed my way over to the spot where I thought I needed to start. Not fifteen seconds later, the snow blower sputtered, grinded and then stopped. I thought it might be out of gas, so I added some more and tried to re-start it. Nothing. Dead silence. I tried several more times, then lugged the contraption back to the garage. I had two choices. I could try to get the snow blower started or I could hand shovel the deep, heavy snow, which would have been torture on my back.
After brushing away the excess snow around the blades, I could see what the problem was. I had a rock wedged in between the blades. It was about four inches in circumference. Not a problem, I thought, I’ll just get something out of Al’s tool box to push it out of there. I took out a little mini crow bar and a flat head screw driver, squatted down and proceeded to try prying it out between the metal blades. It didn’t budge. It didn’t even move a slight bit. I tried several times with all my might thinking about Al’s warning in my head. It’s not that he would be mad at me, but he worried about things back home so much when he was over in the desert that I hated to tell him. I decided to try pushing on the crow bar with all my might putting pressure on the blade hoping to bend the metal back just a hair, in order to dislodge the rock. The metal stayed strong in its shape and didn’t move either, not even slightly. I was getting a bit frustrated and heating up inside my insulated coveralls. Sweat was running down my face and smudging up my glasses. Anger was building up inside. I attacked the rock again with what I thought was the strength of a gorilla, but with no success. My knees were burning in pain from squatting over and straining against the rock and metal. I tried again. The pressure on my back was killing me. I stood up, so flustered that I could not fix this little problem. I thought about how winter had just started and how long of a winter it was going to be without a snow blower to use to clean up the more snow sure to come. I paced back and forth in the garage and finally I did the one thing, the only thing I could possibly do. I prayed to God to help me get the rock out of the snow blower blades. I said to Him, I can’t do this on my own. Then I felt a calm feeling come over me – the anger and frustration just left my body. I knelt down and picked up the flat head screw driver and reached out toward the rock, expecting that I was going to have to put all my might into pushing on it, but I barely touched the rock and it literally flew up, arched over and landed with a plop in the corner. To me it almost seemed like slow motion as it sailed through the air. I was stunned, but very thankful and I thanked God repeatedly for his help. I know without a doubt it was His strength that got that rock out and not my own. I had no clue why God would show me favor this way, as I was a work in progress and had lots to answer for in my life. But I do know he was there and he reached out and gave me the assistance I needed, but only after I stepped back and asked for it.
This is going to be hard for anyone to believe, but during the next snow storm, the exact same thing happened. I got another rock nearly the same size stuck between the blades, causing the mower to sputter off and making it impossible to restart. Without thinking, I tried the same method as before, trying to use my own strength to get it out, but it didn’t work. Then I looked up and said, “God, I hate to bother you again, but could you get this rock out too?” I reached over and barely touched the rock and it, too, popped out. I was amazed, I wouldn’t have believed it either if I had not witnessed it and I felt blessed that God took time out of his busy schedule to help this woman who repeated the same mistake. I saved those rocks. They mean a lot to me. I am proud of them.
Some will have a scientific explanation for how this happened, such as maybe the metal contracting in the cold. I don’t need to hear it, because I believe all science comes from God. And the temperature range from the garage to the outside wasn’t much different, to cause such a significant change in a short amount of time.
Just yesterday, I was thinking about these incidents that happened a little over a year ago and it occurred to me that this whole situation was much like my life. So many times, I got myself into situations (stuck) on my own, doing the wrong things to the point where I struggled, strained, cried, stomped, became frustrated, and worked with all my might to get myself out of the messes I had created, only to find myself deeper and stuck harder than before. But when I learned to turn my life over to God and let him take control, that’s when my life began improving almost overnight. That’s when my life sort of just fell into place and when I found true happiness. Believe me, with God in control, whatever messes life throws at you, are nothing, easily swept up, by the one you put your complete trust in, God above.
I have more stories such as these that I hope to put into a book one day. It is my hope that others will be willing to share their moments of knowing without a doubt in their hearts that God did that. We don’t always have to wait to ask for help for the big stuff, he’s there for us, even in small problems, like when something as simple as a rock gets in our way.
Posted: December 8, 2011
What to Do When Suffering from Writer’s Block
I am suffering from the dreaded writer’s block today, so I decided to take the advice of many and just write a list, for even doing that is something. Some would say, if this is the best you can come up with, why not just skip it for the day. That would defeat my goal of writing for at least one hour a day, every day, which can sometimes feel like a long walk to a gas chamber for as much as I want to do it. However, once I get my fingers aligned on the keyboard (after arguing with myself and finding excuses for hours), I find I can write, even if only like today being silly and utterly useless. Why do I put myself and any potential readers through this? Because if I don’t, I feel like I’m missing something.
So today, I’m going to write without any expectations. After visiting with some long time friends of mine who often would tease me that I should write a book about my life, I got to wondering if I did such a thing, what would the title be, and this is my list (all in jest, of course):
- Low Places
- Three Time Loser
- Just How Many Fish Are There in the Sea?
- Nightmare on Kay Street (as opposed to Nightmare on Elm Street)
- To Kill a Love Bird (as opposed to To Kill a Mocking Bird)
- Until Love Do Us Part
- Gullible’s Travels (as opposed to Gulliver’s Travels)
- Rita’s Adventures in Finding Mr. Wonderful (as opposed to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland)
- The Way We Love Now (as opposed to The Way We Live Now)
- The Way We Hate Now (sequel) (ditto)
- Crippled Goose (as opposed to Mother Goose and as dubbed by my friend, Delon Ganschow)
- Three Men Thrown Off the Boat (as opposed to Three Men in A Boat)
- Journey to the End of a Relationship (as opposed to Journey to the End of the Night)
- As I Lay Crying (as opposed to As I Lay Dying)
- Brave New Marriage (as opposed to Brave New World)
- Poop (as opposed to Scoop)
- The Big Creep (as opposed to The Big Sleep) and I won’t name the main character here
- Marriages Fall Apart (as opposed to Things Fall Apart)
- One Hundred Years of Mayhem (as opposed to One Hundred Years of Solitude)
- Waiting for the Divorce Papers (as opposed to Waiting for the Barbarians)
- The Renee Lange Triolgy (as opposed to The New York Triology)
- Unwise Choices (as opposed to Wise Children)
- Around the Bedroom in Eighty Days (as opposed to Around the World in Eighty Days)
- Broken Beauty (as opposed to Black Beauty)
- Deceitful Men Tell No Truth (as opposed to Dead Men Tell No Lies)
- Small Expectations (as opposed to Great Expectations)
- Dick Head (as opposed to Moby Dick)
- Here and Gone (as opposed to Day and Night)
- Nonsense and More Nonsense (as opposed to Sense and Sensibility)
Well, that was a productive way to kill an hour. And it did put a smile on my face. In fact, I chuckled out loud a few times. Totally useless drivel, because you know that book is never going to be printed!
Posted: December 5, 2011
“Don’t be afraid, just believe.”
Bearing our sorrows
Everlasting pure grace
Love shines down
Inspiring us onward
Enlightening our hearts
Vindicating our souls
Encouragement from above
Christmas, for some, is a stressful time of year. Last night, in an Advent study group at the church we are attending, we discussed how sad it would be for those who go through the motions of the holiday, but don’t truly grasp and embrace the true meaning of Christmas.
I used to be one of those people. While I’ve always known the meaning of Christmas, I didn’t quite feel in my heart how awesome and wonderful it was that God so loved us that he sent His only Son to be born on earth and to become the Savior of us sinners. I used to get very depressed and stressed over Christmas, because I wanted it to be perfect for my children, yet, in my weakness, I failed to give them the kind of Christmas that had meaning. It isn’t that there weren’t fun times and it wasn’t great to have family get togethers, but in the end, after all the presents were opened and dinner consumed, there was always a bit of a let down. While their father took them to mass on Christmas and other holidays, because we couldn’t agree on a religion for them, in my stubborn pride, I failed as a mother to provide them with a regular church upbringing. This is my greatest regret in life.
I did teach them about Jesus and about giving. We enjoyed buying gifts from the angel tree for other families. I did read them the story of the birth of Jesus from the Bible. I think I taught them that it is better to give than receive, as they are all three generous souls. I did teach them how to pray and I think I taught them all how to love and be compassionate towards others. But I don’t think I conveyed to them how much Jesus loves them and what an amazing gift of salvation he gave us. I don’t know that I taught them how to have a personal relationship with God, because at the time they were growing up, I don’t think I knew what that was like, at least not to the degree that I do today.
This Christmas I will miss my daughters and their families terribly. But I’m not going to let that take away the excitement that is building as I learn more about Jesus and the real reason for this season. I am enjoying a closer relationship with God than ever before and learning more each day.
As the study group at SWUMC decided last night, maybe we should start getting ready for Christmas in January and all throughout the year. Maybe that’s what this world needs. Christmas every day…what a beautiful concept, not all the hustle and bustle and trimmings, but just the knowing that we are loved so perfectly by God, no matter what our circumstances and being able to share that knowledge with others all year long.
Now I share my faith with my daughters when I can and I believe they are all growing in their own personal relationship with God. I may have failed them in my actions and non-actions while they were growing up, but God never will. For that, I am forever grateful.
Posted: December 1, 2011
Sometimes You Just Gotta Laugh at Yourself Story #5: Do You Wanna Dance?
(names changed to protect the quilty)
One night back in my old Longbranch Saloon days, way back when long hair on dudes was no longer cool (in my eyes), when Ronald Reagan was just elected president, when the term airhead was used repeatedly and bite me was a standard response to anyone who said anything offensive to you, back when I wore skinny jeans hugged tight to my body and still looked good, I made a colossal fool of myself.
My sister, Carrie, and I walked into the bar. She immediately spotted her current boyfriend, Matt, sitting at a table just off the dance floor. He came over and invited us to sit with him and his friend. We were introduced to John. Let’s just say, I wasn’t impressed. He had a scraggly beard down to the middle of his chest and hair down the middle of his back. I personally thought he looked like a prehistoric caveman. In my stuck up, snotty attitude I hoped that he wouldn’t talk to me. I was uncomfortable enough just sharing a table with him. I nervously drank several beers and kept glancing around hoping to be rescued by Mr. Tall Dark Handsome Stranger. It didn’t happen, but a girl’s gotta dream.
Many times, having a hearing problem has been a disadvantage to me, but especially in a bar with loud music blasting four feet away. So instead of trying to make conversation or hear what the others were talking about, I just sat staring at the band and wishing someone would ask me to dance, as I loved dancing. I wanted someone, anyone, but the hairy ape next to me to get me out on the floor. An hour later to my horror, the Neanderthal leaned over and said to me, “Excuse me, do you wanna dance?”
I tried not to let my face fall. I looked around the room and thought about it a second. What the heck, I thought, I don’t know anyone here, what can it hurt. I said, “Okay,” and stood up and walked the three feet to the dance floor, with him following behind me. I stopped and turned toward him and started moving and gyrating and grooving to the music. He just stood there staring at me from under all that hair hardly moving with a shrug in his shoulders and I thought to myself, “He’s not much of a dancer either.”
After letting me dance around like that for about a minute, he leaned over and shouted into my face, “I said, excuse me or I’ll pee my pants. I didn’t say I wanted to dance!”
My heart stopped beating at that moment. Did I just make a complete fool out of myself in front of this throw-back from the sixties? Yup. I sure did and good thing it was dark in there, because my face was as red as the cherry on top of a police car and as hot as a mouthful of chili peppers. I tucked my tail between my legs, hung my head low and slunk back into my chair wishing I were invisible. Matt must have noticed what happened, because he immediately saved the day and grabbed my arm and pulled me out to the dance floor, like a gentleman, and we cut up a rug, jitterbugging like a couple of pros.
As for the guy with Moses hair, I ended up giving him and Matt a ride home shortly after that. John had the audacity to invite me to come in and party with them. My face was still red from the misunderstanding over dancing and his handling of the situation certainly didn’t make me feel any warmth toward him. Of course, I turned him down and couldn’t wait for him to get his butt ugly self out of my car.
It took weeks for me to get over the embarrassment of being stranded on the dance floor, but after some thought, I realized how funny it was and could laugh about it when I told the story to my friends.
And ironically, John continued to call and ask me out and after the fourth time, I finally agreed. We ended up seeing each other on and off for the next several years. He never quite outgrew his caveman mentality, but underneath all that hair there was quite a handsome man. But then, that’s another story for one my books, or NOT!!! And I’d like to say just one more thing, “Bite me, Airhead!” Just kidding! I don’t harbor grudges, but I’d watch your back if I were you….
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