Posts made in November, 2013

The War for Me – Jennifer Peterson

The War for Me  Jennifer Peterson The day I came upon Linda Ellen’s mother crying in the kitchen was the day the war became real for me. Before that moment, it was just parties and parades, fundraisers and patriotism. The soldiers were young and vibrant and strong. It wasn’t death. It wasn’t pain. It wasn’t real. It was not real until that afternoon when I found straight-laced Mrs. Eleanor Pineberg, who was quick with a Kleenex if I so much as sniffled in church on Sundays, standing with her hand pressed painfully against the green linoleum countertop, as silent tears poured down her face. The phone hung off the wall, the receiver dangling from its curly cord, bouncing up and down, up and down, in tune with the silent heave and fall of Mrs. Pineberg’s shoulders. I’d only come up for a glass of water. Linda Ellen was still downstairs, hunched over the checkerboard, scrutinizing the pieces, trying to outmaneuver me this time. I knew my way around the Pineberg house, being Linda’s best friend and all. I’d taken the rickety old basement steps two at a time, thinking I’d burst through the door into the small neat kitchen with the floral curtains and a proudly displayed new dishwasher. The Pinebergs had a pastel blue phone with a black dial track. It wasn’t like ours. Ours was a dismal custard yellow with enameled numbers more rubbed off than on. I’d always thought of the Pineberg telephone as blue like the ocean, blue like the sky. But when I saw Mrs. Pineberg clutching the counter as her blank eyes blinked desperately, all I could think was that it was blue like sadness, blue like tears. “Mrs. Pineberg…” I said slowly. My voice was almost a whisper, but I don’t think she would have heard me if I’d screamed. “Mrs. Pineberg, are you okay?” I asked, stepping closer, but her eyes looked right through me. I blinked, trying to figure out if I was hallucinating. My carefully rounded fingernails pressed into my palms, hard enough to leave little half-moon marks behind. My heart was pounding in my ears and I was terrified. I knew it was something serious. I knew there was something very wrong. Mrs. Pineberg’s face was… desolate. Just empty. Crushed, broken. Her carefully curled hair was slipping out of its rigid, familiar updo. I knew she must have been pulling her fingers through her hair because the carefully sprayed blonde beehive was skewed and frizzy, as if all the bees inside had suddenly gone into a frenzy, swarming out towards the walls. I stood there staring at her, watching her stare right back at me without seeing. “Linda...

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Finding Opportunities in Moments of Crisis – Niki Holzapfel

Finding Opportunities in Moments of Crisis Niki Holzapfel                 The gluten battles my intestines. It punches and kicks, rattles and stabs. It infuriates my insides, which know that this protein does not belong here. I live with a gluten allergy. A pesky protein (to me, at least), gluten pervades wheat, barley, and rye. While most consume it thoughtlessly, I interrogate the ingredients in my food, knowing the suffering gluten inflicts: a bloated stomach, swollen fingers, achy bones, and intense grumpiness. It leaves me in dizzy spells. It exhausts me. My throat does not close up as in a severe peanut-allergy sufferer, but instead, the suspect particle devastates in a few hours, as it rages against the walls of my stomach. I learned of my allergy the summer after I graduated from high school. It explained the two seizures I experienced, the dizziness, the constant hunger and fatigue, but eliminating all the wheat from my diet left me salivating during commercials for flaky, buttery Pillsbury crescent rolls and hovering over the bagged loaves of bread at Wal-Mart just for the smell. No longer able to eat at restaurants because of the possible contamination, I dreaded social events billed as “meeting for dinner.” Restricted to food labeled on the box, jar, or bag as gluten-free, I could only brood over what I did not have. Then five pounds of flab disappeared after omitting drive-thru windows, and my body felt fitter. A set of culinary skills developed, beyond just assembling a bowl of cereal. Using rice, potato, and almond flour, I baked graham crackers and a vanilla cake with a lemon-orange filling. I became the fruit smoothie queen in my house, blending yogurt, frozen fruit, and milk for a sweet and healthy treat. I opted for fresh instead of processed, an orange over a Pop-Tart, eggs over Krispy Kreme. I began drinking more water; it’s one thing that pacifies the stabbing pains in my stomach when I’ve been glutened. Forced to scour a snack’s ingredient list every time I eat, I realized how many chemicals and preservatives I blindly consumed in my former life. Though they had long, science-y names, I still sent the additives clunking through my digestive system. Now, I must care more about my food, and thus, my body. I believe in finding opportunities in moments of crisis. I believe that bits of positivity hide in negative situations, waiting for unearthing, no matter how abysmal things may seem. It might require ingenuity, but that is a part of the upside; crises extract creativity. I do not believe my gluten allergy has ended my life. I believe it has spawned a new one. Share...

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Insight: A Message from Within – Karalee Sutton

Insight: A Message from Within Karalee Sutton             Life seems to be full of patterns that repeat ad nauseam. God, the universe, and the innate wisdom within people will present lessons like broken records until they are learned. Once the human mind finally grasps these messages and applies their knowledge, it is time to move forward. I feel as if some people breeze through existence. They see challenges, acknowledge them, and overcome events without the intrapersonal struggles that I experienced. When puberty struck, negative thinking patterns rode its coat tails. As each teenage year progressed, I buried myself with stagnantly thick and unconstructive beliefs. Depression permeated my soul. In desperation, prescription drugs were showered upon my fragile, fifteen-year-old brain, and there was no relief in sight. While conversing with an older, wiser woman one day, she recommended a self-help book entitled The Power of Now by Eckhart Tolle. I do not know why I listened to her; there was not an individual who was able to chip through this lead like layer with which I surrounded myself. Underneath all the muck and self-doubt, there remained a speck of hope inside my withered heart, a glimmer of hope that one day I could sense the warmth of happiness, again. I followed this inner wisdom to the bookstore. My consciousness engulfed the recommended paperback like a tidal wave consuming a sand castle. Wading through the blackness of despair, I discovered that I have the power to change my thinking patterns. As a tender, but seemingly tough teenager, I began to apply the wisdom of positive thinking. Growing up, my parents could not have been more opposite. Mom wore rose colored glasses and saw the bright side of every situation. Dad’s glasses were gray, and nothing was ever good enough for him. After becoming an adult, I came to discover that he was never “good enough” in his own psyche. I absorbed his pessimism and anger. He picked it up from his mother, and I am sure that she learned it from someone close to her. Even generational patterns exist. I had the determination to break this cycle, but it has taken years of intense self-study and an ability to gather knowledge from many different traditions in order to feel that grace of sunshine on my soul again. I have been blessed with a deep spiritual connection to a universal force my entire life. While depression swam in my head, I was swept away and dismissed this union. The Power of Now was the first pebble that began my accruement of wisdom practices. In another book, I read about finding a “happy place,” sitting quietly and imagining a blissful environment. I called...

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Through My Writing – Shelley David

Through My Writing  Shelley David                 I started an uphill journey 2 ½ years ago, a lifelong yearning to become a nurse. After completing the Certified Nursing Assistant course in January 2011, I began the prerequisites for the nursing program the following spring at Metropolitan Community College. My first two classes were chemistry and algebra. On the second day of classes, I became more overwhelmed than I imagined I ever would and decided to drop the classes, ending my dream to become a nurse. I felt completely devastated. No matter how hard I tried, however, I could not get over the strong urge to fulfill this crazy desire. Something inside was tugging at me, telling me to not give up. I decided to take the college plunge, one more time. It is what I needed to do, for my sanity, for peace. I will never satisfy my inner soul until this true calling is accomplished. Learning is much more fun for me, now, than it was when I was younger. The fact that I have hiked up the “mountain of life experiences” gives me a huge advantage. I love to learn, and I love to read, two things I never desired in my younger years. Thankfully, I am still climbing the mountain; I will never stop growing and learning. At my age, I have reached the point where I am confident that I can complete my wish. Right now, I am exactly where I need to be. Regardless if I complete this nursing path or not, my college experience has been life changing. The writing class I am in, now, has taught me that I can speak for those who cannot. Words are powerful; they can build up, and they can destroy. With social media overtaking our world, young people are drawn into a place where words are power. Sadly, so often, they use the power given to them in destructive ways. Through my writing, I want to improve the lives of others, not tear them down. My words can be small drops in a lake which ripples of hope to all who read them. God has placed me here, in this class, for a purpose. I have discovered what a joy it is to write, and as a nurse, I appreciate how influential writing will be in my position as a health-care provider. It is therapeutic; it is healing, and it can bring hope to a hurting world. That is what creates change; that is my mission. Share...

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Weather Change – Brad Ashford

Weather Change Brad Ashford     Watching summer change to fall is a favorite event of mine. At home, in Omaha, this event occurs, generally, in the last couple of weeks in October. However, in Ely, Minnesota, where we have a summer cabin, it happens now at the end of September. Fortunately, I am at my cabin, now, watching as the wind is shifting from the South to the West. A strong wind is blowing in and the gray white bank of clouds rushes across the horizon. White caps dot the normally becalmed expanse of lake a few hundred feet in front of my deck. The maple trees are already a deep red, and the birch are topped off with a deep gold hue. The contrast with pine and spruce is dramatic. Maybe, most notably, the loons have left the lake. Their distinctive call is our church bell and street light. As a child, I remember awaking to the church bell in our neighborhood and returning home with the street lights. The loon, though not synced to Greenwich Mean Time, signals the morning, warns us of inclement weather, and portends the rising of the moon. I am told they are off to South America. Good luck. I am blessed, as I get to see this whole change of nature happen again, in a few weeks, at home in Nebraska.   Share...

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