Welcome to Joywriting! (New posts are below)

Jan at Puget SoundWhether you’re family, or a regular reader, or just stumbled on this blog while searching for a “paintball” or “termite” image, I’m glad you are here.

If you especially enjoy a post, you can “Share” it using the Facebook or Twitter button. To receive links to new posts, start at the “Want to ride along?” button at upper right.

Again, welcome, and I would love to hear from you either in a comment or via email (under the “Feedback Zone” tab at top).

Thanks for reading,
Jan

Posted in Uncategorized | 5 Comments

Building Excitement

Yours truly, the Queen of Sidetracked-ness, has reached unprecedented heights of distraction.

We’re having a new house built, and I’m pretty dang excited about it.

Not that we’re moving very far—only about four miles, in fact—but we needed a different configuration of rooms, and a quicker commute for Brent. The new place has easy access to the highway, in contrast with our current plight of having to trundle down narrow two-lane roads, often stuck behind poky vehicles like gravel haulers or Cadillacs.

Anyway, I’ve had the fun-but-dizzying job of selecting everything from paint colors and flooring to faucets and light fixtures, plus hardware right down to the drawer pulls. Seeing the interior come together has me in extreme states of everything from bliss (“I knew that chandelier would be perfect!”) to despair (“How did I fail to see that on the plan? We’ll have to move it!”)

Our wonderful builder, however, is going all out to make our dream home perfect.

I’m not at liberty to give you a full tour, since I’m holding out for my sweet mother-in-love to see everything in person. But I can’t resist showing a few “teaser” pictures.

As you can see, everything is coming together. Over the next few weeks we will move furniture and get set up in the new place. Friends are always welcome.

Thanks for reading!
Jan

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Meanwhile, in my “Other” World…

The day before Father’s Day, Mrs. Tweedy and I drove to Italy, Texas to participate in the “Tour d’Italia” bike ride as usual. The organizers offer five different routes: You can choose 12, 30, 42, 50, or 63 miles.
I’d been training my head off for two months, burning thousands of extra calories and even letting bicycling cut into my writing time, shooting for the 63-mile (100 KM) distance.

As you might expect if you’re familiar with me and my “Thoughts on Two Wheels” stories, things didn’t go exactly as planned…

June 18, 2016

Tour d’Italia on my list,
A favorite ride I seldom miss.
Carbo-loading, stretching joints,
Work for B&B Team points.

Pinstripes worn to represent.
Fifty miles, and now I’m spent.
Planned to do the hundred K,
Many setbacks in the way.

Couldn’t find my lineup spot,
Sun’s ferocious. Getting hot.
Water bottles left behind!
Back to fetch them—what a grind.

Heart rate climbs, it seems too high,
Rest stops beckon, “Don’t pass by.”
Fifty miles in broiling sun.
Stick a fork in me—
I’m done.

TDI She's done

Thanks for reading!
Tailwinds,
Jan

Posted in The Poetic Side, Thoughts on Two Wheels | 6 Comments

A Long Moment of Silence

My mother died in January and I haven’t said a word about it online until now, more than five months later.

Why the long silence?

First, I didn’t want to post anything until the relatives were notified. After that was done, I still hesitated. I didn’t know what to say. (Public announcements like that aren’t really necessary, anyway… right?)

But I think the main reason for my silence is that I didn’t want sympathy. Didn’t think I deserved any, or needed it.

Doll, 1940s

I’d been handling my mother’s business affairs and seeing to her care, but from a distance. First, visiting her at a senior-living apartment two hours away, and later moving her to an assisted-living facility near my home. In November, she spent a few days in the hospital and then had to rehab in a nursing home before she could return to assisted living.

Mom was 92, wasn’t getting any stronger, and didn’t care to. She felt like she had lived quite long enough. Figuratively speaking, she had spent the past four years drumming her fingers and waiting to die.

Mom’s last day was a good one. I had a pleasant visit with her that morning and left when lunch was served, promising to come back in two days. But late that night I got The Call.

So sudden, and yet, in a way, so timely.

I won’t lie — the role reversal, having to “parent” my own parent? It made for a delicate dance, balancing care and advocacy with deference and respect. Second-guessing myself on a regular basis… it stressed me out at times.

Now that Mom was gone, my sorrow was mixed with shock. But also with relief, for both her and myself. The net effect on me was a sort of blank. As if my mom’s death barely made a blip in my life.

I thought of a long-distance friend who had lost her mother to Alzheimer’s more than a year before mine died. In her own home, my friend had cared for her mom through the confusion, fear, and mood swings. Talk about stress and responsibility! After her mom died, my friend was inconsolable. She mourned openly on Facebook. Loved ones near and far were able to rally around her with sympathy and prayers and concern. The support must have been so healing for her, yet I didn’t reach out as she did.

Frankly, the contrast between me and my bereaved friend threatened to send me on a “Worst-Daughter-Ever” Guilt Trip.

Then, two weekends ago, Brent and I went with his mother to the National Cemetery where my father-in-law is buried. Not until I stood by his grave did I start feeling the weight of loss. Dad Johnson. My own Dad. My sister.

And my mom.

Well, I’m finally sitting down to write this post because now I know what I want to tell you.

I’m learning first-hand what I’ve heard for years: Grief is not the same for any two bereaved persons. Or even for the same person through any two seasons of loss. How you feel is how you feel. There is no right or wrong.

I’ve learned that I was grieving all along… I just didn’t feel as if I was.

If you’ve lost a loved one, be kind to yourself. Ditch any expectations, and, if you want help from someone, please ask. People do care.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

PS: This past year epitomizes the kind of experiences that can make me more compassionate. The kind I meant when I wrote in 2012 about comforting others. For more, click over to “With Those Who Weep.

Posted in Grief Anticipated, I Remember When... (my OWN stories) | 8 Comments

Did Somebody Say “Update?”

True confession: Around September 20, I finished the first draft of Book 1 in my humor series. Actually typed “THE END” and everything. In so doing, I beat my stated goal by more than two months.

Did I report to you as promised?

No, I did not.

Sorry about that. Lots of life got in the way, as it does for everyone, though few allow themselves to get as badly sidetracked as Yours Truly.

The new year arrived, and I took steps to make a fresh start. Set some office hours. Streamlined my outside schedule. Even cleared off my desk! No, really, I did. See?

Take my word for it... this is a serious improvement.

Take my word for it… this is a serious improvement.

I also started writing this post… back on January 2. The more astute among you will note that the 2nd was, like, three weeks ago. What have I been doing in the meantime? Well, in a nutshell I’d say I’ve been digging out from under a rapid-fire series of major upheavals. I’ll explain more next time.

Meanwhile… I have writing goals, among others, for this year. I won’t bore you with them, but one goal is to stay in touch with you here. I appreciate the time you give my posts, and hope I brighten your day or give you a little encouragement in return.

Happy Nearly-New Year!

Thanks for reading,
Jan

Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Audible Confusion

My hubby keeps these machines running like well-oiled, um... machines.

My hubby keeps these machines running like well-oiled, um… machines.

Some weeks ago, Brent went into the garage to clean and lubricate his bike chain. Perfect weather, plenty of daylight… but something conspired to hinder him.

The local wildlife.

I should explain. He had wiped the excess lube from the chain by turning the pedal with one hand and holding a rag around a section of chain with the other. There should have been no sound but a faint, metallic gliding.

Yet he heard his freshly lubed chain squeaking.

Had he missed a spot? Accidentally grabbed the bottle of wood glue instead of bike lube?

No, the source of the annoying sound was outside the garage–the deceptive little “Chain-squeak Bird.” There’s probably a more common name for them, but when you’re bicycling along and one sings from a nearby tree, it sounds exactly like your chain. The fastidious rider can go crazy worrying about chain wear.

“It’s kind of confusing,” Brent admits.

Ol’ Chain-squeak isn’t the only winged trickster out there, either. Another example is the “Heart-rate Monitor Target-Zone Warbler.” This one bothers me, but not Brent. See, my heart-rate monitor emits a faint “fleedle-fleedle” when my pulse goes above or below the “target zone,” which it often does because the default “zone” is ridiculously low and I’ve been too lazy to change it. The “HRMTZ Warbler” mimics this sound perfectly.

“Leave me alone,” I bark at the overprotective monitor–or the overprotective bird, it doesn’t matter which.

Sometimes our feathered friends forget about cycling and try to lure us into spending a lazy evening in front of the television. One species sits on the neighbor’s roof and calls out, “Video, video, video, video.” Then his little buddy pipes up, “Netflix, Netflix, Netflix!”

One day, after a few rounds of this exchange, another bird butted in, “Chea-perr, chea-perr, chea-perr, chea-perr!”

I don’t know… I like a bargain, but I suspect that last bird’s videos are pirated.

Guess I’ll go see what looks good on Netflix.

Thanks for reading!
Tailwinds,
Jan

Posted in Thoughts on Two Wheels | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Shattered!

Hi, friends! I’ve been away from the blog for a couple of weeks, getting my mom moved and settled in her new apartment. But now I’m ready to return to my regularly scheduled musings….

See that? It’s our favorite vacation spot, a resort on a tropical white-sand beach in the Turks and Caicos Islands. Not that we go there often. It’s expensive and the flight tires us out because of having to change planes and go through customs.

We’d made two summer visits there, which we enjoyed immensely. (I guess that’s kind of redundant. If we didn’t enjoy the resort, it wouldn’t be our favorite vacation spot, would it?) Anyway, after an unusual amount of upheaval in November and December 2012, Brent proposed a short winter getaway to the island.

I started packing, this time remembering my swimsuits.

So we arrived just after the first of January and enjoyed one day of snorkeling and kayaking. Then we found out what a tropical winter is really like. The other days we were there, the wind was whipping so hard we didn’t dare paddle out into the bay, lest we end up two or three hundred miles west on the coast of Cuba.

One day while not kayaking, we visited the resort’s boutique and gift shop. There they offered hand-painted Christmas ornaments, which we’d never seen before. They must only carry them in winter. We picked a favorite–one decorated with a hummingbird–and bought it for our next Christmas tree. It would provide a warm, tropical memory right in the middle of December.

Sure enough, eleven months later we pulled out our decorations and started dressing up the tree we’d bought and set up in the dining room. I opened a plain, white, cube-shaped box the size of a baseball.

“Hey, look–it’s our Turks and Caicos ornament!”

I walked over to get a hook for it. Wary of crushing the tissue-thin glass, I held the sphere loosely, not even bending my fingers around it. When I stopped beside the table where the hooks were, the ornament kept going. I watched in helpless dismay as the glittery hummingbird flew to the tile floor and, with a hollow “pop,” shattered into hundreds of pieces.

I believe my exact words were, “NNNOOOOOooooooooo!”

The loss of our souvenir grieved me. I’d assumed we would use the beautiful decoration for years to come. We couldn’t even replace it. I mean, we weren’t going to vacation there in winter again, what with the gale-force winds and the danger of an unplanned kayak trip to Cuba and all.

But after a few seconds, it dawned on me: losing that ornament didn’t cost us anything of importance. We still had our memories and photos from three trips to the island. We could even go back again. A broken ornament? Talk about a “first-world” problem!

So I put on my big-girl panties (figuratively speaking), swept up the pieces, and looked for what the incident could teach me. As near as I can figure…..

1) All our “stuff” is gonna break or wear out or burn anyway, so don’t grieve too much when that happens. It’s only stuff.

2) On the other hand, it pays to hang onto anything that holds importance for you. Don’t lose something just because you were too careless to bend your fingers around it. If you want to know how crummy that feels, just ask me. Or any NFL receiver who has missed a catchable, game-winning pass with 0:03 left in the fourth quarter.

3) In the end, what matters most is not stuff, but people. Handle loved ones with care. A shattered glass ornament is just glass, but when someone’s heart or their trust gets shattered, it’s a tragedy.

Your turn: Did you ever lose (or *ahem!* accidentally destroy) an item that held great sentimental value? How did you reconcile yourself and move on? Or does the loss still affect you? I'd love to hear from you in the “Leave a Reply” box below.

Thanks for reading!
Jan

Posted in I Remember When... (my OWN stories), Near As I Can Figure... | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

Sewing Machine: Tool, or Enemy?

82nd Airborne, 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment Patch. The lit-fuse bomb is the LEAST scary element.

I haven’t had any trouble with my appliances in quite a while. (Click here if you don’t know what I’m talking about.) It’s been so long, in fact, that when Brent asked me to sew circles of Velcro backing onto six military patches for his paintball team, I didn’t even have a panic attack.

Silly me.

First off, I had to deal with the patches themselves. These things were Ugly–so hideous I could barely bring myself to touch them.

It’s only an embroidered design, I told myself. You won’t get bitten, or mange, or fleas, from embroidered spider monkeys. And don’t take that expression on their little faces so personally–they’re not out to get you.

The thick plastic-y Velcro hook material gave me all sorts of trouble with the lower thread tension. Somehow I got one patch done and started another. But soon the top thread got jerked under the fabric and tangled down inside the mechanism. I had to take the
“twist-back-and-forth” bottom-thread-grabbing assembly apart to cut out the ruined thread. And for the first time ever in more than 40 years of sewing experience, I could NOT put the thread-grabby thing back together properly.

I mean, it looked okay when I snapped the brackets into place. But I realized something was amiss after the thread broke again. Twice more.

Things went downhill from there. I assembled the twisty thing again, re-threaded the machine, and…

Broke the thread.
RE-re-threaded.
Broke my needle.
Cut the partially-stitched patch loose from machine and threw it across the room.
Trekked to the sewing box at the other end of the house for a new heavy-duty needle.
Removed first needle (both pieces).
Discovered I’d been using a fine-gauge one intended for lightweight fabrics.
Apologized to the sewing machine.
Replaced broken needle with the new one, rated “Denim.”
Tried one more time to properly re-seat the bottom-thread-grabber assembly.
Ran the machine with no thread to test the assembly; hatch open so I could watch.

By some miracle, this time everything ran smoothly. So I retrieved my long-suffering ugly patch and Velcro from the floor, and gave it another cautious try.
Ka-chuk… ka-chuk… ka-chuk…
ka-chuk-a-chuk, ka-chuk-a-chuk, ka-chuk-a-chuk,
ka-chuk-a-chukachukachukachukachukachukachuk…..

Sweeeet victory! Now for the other four.

One of the patches still ended up looking as if the dog had sewn it together–no offense, little mutt–but at least the chore is done.

You know, despite all my stomping and raving and throwing during the process, I was honestly glad to help Brent with the patches. For one thing, sewing is a skill I have (questionable though it may be) that he doesn’t. I enjoy being needed. Kind of like when I made a window-seat cushion for Secondborn >shudders<.

Besides, Brent does so much for me, often things I don't have the skill or strength to manage. Like me and my rebellious sewing machine, Brent sometimes helps me in ways he doesn’t enjoy. But he does it anyway out of love and honor for me. The least I can do is honor him in return. We complete each other rather than compete with each other.

As near as I can figure, this practice of putting each other ahead of ourselves is the kind of mutual submission and service that creates a happy marriage for both of us. You know… the kind the Bible teaches.

Thanks for reading,
Jan

Posted in I Remember When... (my OWN stories), Near As I Can Figure... | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments