Could I Borrow a Cup of Sugar?

It was Friday morning and six weeks since the kitchen cupboards were restocked at our house. Living in the country, miles from nowhere and especially during this time of isolation, I seldom plan trips to town. The grocery list was extremely long. I couldn’t believe there was anything NOT on the list. And adding to the length was a list of food shelf items.

I was disappointed to discover the food shelf was closed on Fridays. But because it was only a fifteen-minute ride in comparison to the grocery store being forty-five, I decided to get the items they needed and drop the donations the following week.

Shopping is always an all-day planned event with the grocery store my last stop. Leisurely perusing each store and chatting with others is part of the journey. Talking about products, helping someone reach an item on the shelf, or reading a label for someone makes it more like a social outing than a chore. But shopping these days isn’t what it used to be.

My granddaughter is learning sign language and I’ve learned a few signs: cat, dog, and I have to go potty. But I didn’t find them helpful when trying to interact with the grocery store cashier wearing a mask behind the wall of Plexiglas. So, I wave thanks and shuffled out of the store pushing the overloaded cart.

Early the next morning my husband began making bread. As the flour grinder hummed, turning wheat berries into flour, he continued gathering ingredients. He suddenly stopped when he noticed only a smidgen of crystals in the bottom of the sugar container. It was the only item NOT on my grocery list or on the pantry shelf. Somehow, he managed to make the bread, but used every last grain of sugar.

I was the first one at the door of the food shelf when it opened. Putting on my face mask, I grabbed a cart and waltzed through the door with ten bags of groceries. There in right front of me stood a shelf stocked with bags of sugar. It was so convenient. All I had to do was ask. They wouldn’t mind if I borrowed just one little bag, would they? You have no idea how hard it was for me not to ask if I could borrow a bag of sugar so that I did not have to make another trip to the grocery store. I’m kidding, but the thought struck me funny and so I thought I’d share it with you.

During these times of isolation, we have all had to come up with creative ways to meet our needs by shopping online, ordering take-out dinners, using social media apps to attend meetings and social gatherings.

Thanks to those that may not feel a need to wear a mask, distance themselves, nor make as few trips to the store as possible, but do so out of respect to others that may be vulnerable.

What is the one thing you are most looking forward to doing once things get back to normal? Comments are often enjoyable and fun to read. Please feel free to share this blog with others.  http://www.leannembenson.com

What Do Chickadees Know?

Our long-awaited spring is officially here with the equinox marking the occasion. However, spring didn’t just appear on March 20th. It’s been sending us many little telltale signs as it inches its way through winter. The length of the day changes rapidly during both spring and fall equinox, reminding me just how quickly the seasons change. There are countless transformations that take place as winter turns into spring. I feel rather fortunate to find the time to stop and daydream about those everyday miracles.

I’ve watched as winter marches strong and straight. And noticed as it seems to slowly lose its brisk pace. At first it’s a small sidestep and then another. Soon, winter’s march takes on a lighter step as it begins to dance with a young innocent spring. The dance begins with a short twist and turn before returning to its angry tempo. Then a sweet little ballet softens the hike. But not long enough. It’s a rumba that wins the dance competition and stops the advance of winter.

Winter lost its sting when a warm misled breeze blew its way into my yard. Glistening cool water trickled through snowbanks and down our driveway as ice crystals melted.  After months of breathing frozen sterile air, it was the smell of wet gravel and moist woodsy soil that made me want to shed my coat and boots. I imagine I’m an inchworm riding over a raging waterfall on a curled up dry leaf as I sail on melting snow.

And then, looking up I see white flags. The last of winter has surrendered. Cirrus cloud horsetails line up across the sky. My heart begins to race. Excitement builds and suddenly I’m in a horse race. I secretly cheer as the gates open. The announcer in my head yells, “And they’re off! Fluffy is in the lead, Puff is close behind . . .” And a children’s story begins for me. Will it ever be written? I don’t know. But it is always fun for me to imagine stories I can share with you.

Sometimes when I’m lying awake in bed, I look out my window. The sky is full of stars. Without the snow to reflect the moonlight it’s much darker out tonight. Another story plot entertains me.

I must admit, the thing that excites me most each spring is hearing a chickadee change from his winter song to that cheery “Spring’s coming” song. The blades of green grass to come benefited from the snowy blanket of protection that is slowly lifted by spring. My garden is now decorated with tiny green Iris shoots. Then a robin bows her head to the flower to be before flying off to a nearby tree. A closer look reveals an expectant branch waiting to give birth to new leaves and flowers. Soon that branch will become home to the bees, orioles, and hummingbirds.

I look forward to more fun little daydreams as I watch spring turn into summer. Honestly, I’m not trying to rush the season by prematurely bringing out the flyswatter. My mother’s reminder not to wish my life away, stays with me. But I see that the warm sun on my windowsills has awakened a pesky house fly.

What signs of spring have you seen? Please share your stories with me. Comments are often enjoyable and fun to read. Feel free to share this blog. http://www.leannembenson.com

I’ve Got It!

Today, it seems everyone over the age of five has a cell phone. But it hasn’t always been that way. Most of us remember those days when one telephone had to be shared among every member of the family. And it was connected to the wall, so you couldn’t take the phone with you to school, the store, or to work. If you were lucky, you had more than one telephone at your house. However, that didn’t mean that you could make numerous calls at the same time. It meant you didn’t have to run a flight of stairs only to be too slow and miss that phone call after all.

We had multiple phones in our house when my children were growing up. I guess, that meant our family was one of the lucky ones. But we still had to share!  It always seemed like a contest between my son and daughter, as to who got to answer the telephone. And each time it rang, they would both run to answer it. Yelling, “I’ve got it!” Whichever one picked up the receiver first got to talk. It was a big deal to them when they were young.

Often my son would be a second slower in answering the phone than his older sister. If he answered the phone in the kitchen after his sister had already picked up the receiver in the basement, he would hear her say, “I’ve got it!” Being taught that eavesdropping on someone else’s conversation was inappropriate and not tolerated, he would quickly hang up! This mad dash to be the first to answer the phone went on for years.

One morning while eating breakfast my son gasped, “I forgot to do my extra credit assignment!” It was a riddle that apparently the students could get help solving. His sister listened to the riddle. Before running out the door for the school bus, she said, “I’ll think about it on my way to school.”

My daughter was in junior high and left the house an hour before her brother. She loved to sit alone and read or draw. So, I really do think she enjoyed contemplating over this riddle on her way to school.

I was getting ready for work and my son was watching television in my bedroom when the phone rang. He reached over to the bedside table, picked up the telephone and said, “Hello?” Then quickly hung up.

I asked him who was on the phone. And he replied, “I don’t know. Morgan said, ‘I got it!’
And so, he quickly hung up.

A few seconds later the phone rang again. And when he answered, his sister was on the other end of the line. She said, “Don’t hang up. I got it! –I got the riddle!”

Miscommunication and bloopers can be rather hilarious. I suppose that’s why America’s Funniest Videos / AFV has been successful for so many years. I think, more than ever we all need to find things to laugh about. So, send me your comments or funny blunders and I will gladly post them. Please feel free to share this blog.

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Didn’t See It Comin’

News headlines have been bombarding us with that terrible “C” word that ends with -19 for an entire year now. So, I decided to give people a different “C” word to read about — Creativity!

Creativity doesn’t just happen for me. It’s messy! Paint ends up on the floor and on my shirtsleeves. Then I end up walking in it and dragging my sleeve on surfaces around the art room. Before I know it, I’ve got paint just about everywhere. But, if I’m lucky, somewhere in the hours and hours of chaos, something wonderful is created. Like this silly painting of the world dancing with the sun.

I’m just as messy when I write a story. My fingers bounce about the keys. Jumbled words begin to work their way across the screen. Only after all my ideas are spilled across the page, do I begin to sort them out and make sense of it all. I started this story by flipping back through my calendar, looking for inspiration. Well, I did not see it coming! But, after digging through several months and unfurling the mess of events, I was amazed at all the humorous things that had happened. And I ended up having a phenomenally fun time with –Creativity!

I’d like to hear about things you’ve done during this time of isolation and if you ran into any situations that you “did not see coming.” Comments are often enjoyable and fun to read. Please feel free to share this blog.

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Don’t Like the Taste but Love the Sayings

Years ago, it was rather common to have Valentine’s Day parties in school. Among the many festivities, students would give cards with silly little sayings to classmates. I recently read a story where a teacher had taken that old tradition and expounded on it. She gave students an assignment to send Valentine cards to their classmates. These cards were not to be filled with silly sayings nor were they to be about love. Every student was to think of something nice to say about each of their classmates. They were then asked to write and send them that short note of encouragement.

We often think of Valentine’s Day as a day only for lovers. But I’ve always used the 14th of February to show love to all the special people in my life. I would make heart cookies for my kids, say something nice to a coworker or classmate, and do something nice for friends.

It has been years since I made those heart shaped cookies. I decided that this year, I would buy cookies for our local food shelf. For the last few months now, I have been calling Kris, our local food shelf director on my way to the grocery store and asking her what food items the shelves are lacking.

Ketchup is always on the list. There are many other food items that are deemed unnecessary and are not subsidized. I guess, ketchup is not a necessity. But I certainly wouldn’t want to eat a hotdog without ketchup or mustard. And I can’t imagine, never having cookies or anything sweet. So, along with all the other items on Kris’s list this month, I bought a couple cases of cookies.

Donating cookies is not going to change the world. In fact, I believe giving those cookies did more for me than it did for the food shelf customers. During this time of isolation and other times when I have felt down, encouraging words or a tiny gift from others has been the most helpful to me. So, I decided to turn that thought around.

For years I have given to the food shelves. But I became so wrapped up in self isolation this year that I have done little more than write a few checks. I had forgotten to take notice of people that might be down on their luck. But I’m back! And I’ll continue giving not only when it’s convenient or easy for me, but when they need it. …like Ketchup!

Is there something someone did for you that made Valentine’s Day more than just another day? Please share your stories with me. Comments are often enjoyable and fun to read. Feel free to share this blog.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

 

http://www.leannembenson.com

Where Do You Setup Your Easel?

With only twenty-six letters in the alphabet, twelve musical notes, and three primary colors, is there anything left to create? Think about it! How many combinations can we create before all the new concepts to write, sing, or paint are used up?

This past year has given me the opportunity to work on that equation. I wrote down stories I have never told, and painted things I might never have expressed as well as a few other projects that may never have been finished. At times it felt as though my fingers had a mind of their own as they flew over the keyboard or danced across the canvas with a paintbrush. Sometimes I make a mess of a project and need to start over. There are those pieces that seem to have a mind of their own as they grow into something different and more beautiful than I imagined. I’ve even found the courage to post many of my stories along with my artwork in previous blogs.

It is exciting to hear there are so many people starting to paint, draw, sculpt, knit, write memoirs, fictional stories, or poetry for the first time in their lives. Now, maybe you’re not going to be able to take your easel and paints to the train station, at the break of day, to create that soft array of colored smoke as it billows out of the train’s smokestack, like Monet painted. But to conjure up images from our armchairs might be a place to start.

It is not the amount of detail or beautiful colors in Picasso’s paintings that make his work so great. But rather the way he captured scenes like no one had before. His paintings beg us to think about the grotesqueness of war. I can’t imagine he would have been able to paint those honest, raw feelings if it were not for the fact that he had lived through those awful conditions.

I am rather certain that many of the first pieces that Monet and Picasso painted were not great. But after a few thousand works, they came up with some “keepers”. How might Picasso or Monet have expressed this past year in a painting? None of us need to be as artistic as they were, nor do I think, it’s mandatory to be good at drawing or spelling. What I do think is important, is that everyone has an opportunity to paint, sculpt, or tell their story in their own way.

Let your bad thoughts go into a project. Savor the good times by showing it in your artwork.  Your story and mine, might not be as glamorous nor beautifully written as stories by Jane Austen or William Shakespeare. But to people we know, our stories might possibly mean more. And who knows, just maybe, one of those items you create, will be around long after you’re gone.

This year is jam-packed with fresh new possibilities. Open a jar of “creativity” and taste some new flavors. With only twenty-six letters in the alphabet, twelve notes, and three primary colors, is there anything left to create? The only thing that limits that equation for me — is me.

Please feel free to share this blog. Comments are often enjoyable and fun to read. So, tell me how you are finding ways to express yourself, and I will post them.

http://www.leannembenson.com

Greetings!

Thank goodness for holiday festivities! They come during the time of year when darkness falls early and stays too long. And despite all the turmoil throughout this year, there is still plenty of holiday cheer and goodwill going around. We may not be getting together –but we are finding ways to show we care.

Giving our time, sending gifts, food, clothing, toys and cards are just some of the ways we are showing that we care. Many of our packages are going to family and friends. And a great deal of these gifts are being donated to families that need a little help this year. One thing is for certain: we are touching lots of hearts and souls with the gifts and greetings we give.

Sending greeting cards is an easy way to connect and it’s exciting hearing back from everyone. I savor every card I receive. Opening a card, is like getting a hug. And each card that we get is displayed on the staircase that comes down into the living room. By the time Christmas has arrived, our staircase is lined with photos and greeting cards from all our friends and family. This is one of my favorite holiday decorations.

Creating humorous, and even unusual stories with illustrations is one way I’ve found to sprinkle a lighthearted perspective on dark times. And so, while my paintbrushes were still wet, I decided to create this Greeting card for you.

Wishing you an Incredibly Joyous Holiday Season and a Happy, Healthy New Year!

Thank you for reading my blogs and for your replies. See you next year.   ~Leanne

www.leannembenson.com

The Tree I Almost Missed

A soft Minnesota breeze touched my shoulder with the warmth of September instead of the December day it really was. Among the bills in my mailbox, I had received a Christmas card. It was the only thing that said the holidays were here.

A week ago, my husband asked if I wanted a Christmas tree. My reply was something like, “I don’t think so. No one will see it anyway.” And so, the house remained the same. No garland. No stockings hung by the fireplace with care. And no Christmas tree!

Something in that warm breeze changed my heart when our first Christmas card arrived in the mailbox. I heard my own advice echo back. It came from a time when my children were growing up.  Often, I would remind them it was important to celebrate each holiday and every little accomplishment throughout life and to make each day special.  That is when I knew –we needed a  Christmas tree this year.

It was a proud tree that topped almost ten feet tall standing on the table. The lower branches cascaded towards the floor. The first, second, and third row of lights were hung across each tree branch with care. But a battle arose with the fourth and fifth string of lights. As soon as they were plugged in, the lights went dark! Scrunching my nose, I thought to myself, “This tree is just not meant to be…” then I sadly walked away.

After taking a short rest and a deep hearty breath, I was ready to tackle the lights on that tree. Digging through boxes of old decorations, I found two new string of lights. But they didn’t match! For these were LEDs. And the lights I had already placed on the tree were strings of incandescent bulbs.

I decided to let things happen naturally and not work so hard to make everything perfect, as I often had throughout my life. So, rather than taking all the lights off the tree, I pulled lights from the branches at my knee and tossed them to the top of that evergreen tree. Scattering the bright LED lights among the warm old-fashioned ones, the wires became a tangled mess. Twisted wire turned into knots.

Taking a few steps back, I looked at each branch, covered with sparkles and wondered if the ornaments would hide that mess of wires I had made inside the tree. Sitting by the fire with my husband by my side, we stared at our half-decorated Christmas tree. Tenderly, he turned and said, “I like the simplicity of this tree.” The LED bulbs appeared to shimmer with a silver cast of light. While the incandescent bulbs sparkled with a warm copper glow.

A simple tree decorated with only lights was an interesting idea that had merit.  And so, I pondered, “Would a quiet, simple Christmas be so bad?” Don’t get me wrong, I love to celebrate! And I look forward to lots of parties and festivities in the coming months and years. But this year’s gift –is time! Time for faith. Time to reflect and give thanks. Realizing this year was going to be a Christmas like no other. Maybe, in some strange way, this shambolic tree was rather symbolic of this year!

My husband was right. The tree was beautiful just the way it was. Just as this year was beautiful, just the way it was! This once unwanted, mismatched, and scarcely decorated Christmas tree had brought us wonderment and joy. And to think, I had almost missed this tree. The tree that taught me; sometimes the most wonderful things happen when you open your heart and mind up to do something different than you never have before.

Wishing you a peaceful feeling as warm as copper-colored lights, enthusiasm as bright as silver lights, and quiet simple pleasures as humble as the bare branches of a tree. Have a Happy Holiday, how ever you celebrate!

Please send me your replies. Let me know if you think my string of lights on my tree will unwind with ease, or will I need a wire cutter to get them off. Tell me one unique way you’ve decorated your Christmas tree. I look forward to hearing all your fun thoughts and ideas.

www.leannembenson.com

You Are More Capable than You Ever Believed!

If you lived through 2020,

With your face half covered and your hands rough and dry.

 

If they cancelled your trip to a far-off country,

Yet you held onto dreams of going in July.

 

If you couldn’t eat out, or even buy bread,

And instead you learned baking wasn’t something you hated.

 

Rather than complain about the articles you read,

You looked for other ways to stay updated.

 

If you listened to all the political ordeals,

And still kept an unbiased attitude.

 

If you opened your mind–to the different ideals

That freedom gives us –and you smiled with gratitude.

 

If you enjoyed watching other’s progress,

And weren’t plagued with being envious.

 

Or shared in the joys of another’s success,

And never once were you disingenuous.

 

If you kept your cool, when the markets went down,

When fires did blaze, and hurricanes would rage.

 

If you stood by the royals as they gave up the crown,

And you hoped racial equality would soon come of age.

 

And instead of criticizing those that were sickly,

You brought them a care package of chicken soup.

 

Rather than cry about missed opportunities, or times that passed too quickly,

You virtually connected with your Sis and her troop.

 

If you didn’t let loneliness in the door,

And knew not to drink from that sobering cup.

 

If on this Thanksgiving, you’re thankful for

Those everyday miracles, and the things that kept your chin up.

 

If you could “smell the turkey baking and fresh pumpkin pie”,

Even when you “couldn’t breathe”: You’ve achieved

A great deal this year.

 

For you cannot deny,

You are more capable than you ever believed!

 

~Leanne M. Benson

Please feel free to share this blog. Comments are often enjoyable and fun to read. Send me your thoughts and I will post the appropriate, non-spam remarks.

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A Stairway to The Past

If you have ever taken an all-terrain vehicle (ATV) off road, where there is little to no markings, you may already know; it can be more than just a bumpy ride. You can discover a lot of interesting artifacts. Thanks to a friend of mine and neighboring landowners, I experienced quite a journey.

Yesterday, I was invited to join a small group on an adventure. When the ATVs turned off the well-traveled road onto a worn-out path, I stepped into the past, to a time when horse and buggies ruled this land. The tracks were once a country road in Iowa. In some places, erosion cut deep into the path.

Each of the vehicles rolled slowly over the boulders and small ravines. As we meandered through the woods, I was tossed about, and my seatbelt pulled at my waist. Looking at the scenery, it became obvious why this road had been abandoned. On one side lay a steep hill and on the other a babbling trout stream.

A few miles into the woods, we stopped to take a closer look. At my right, stood a cement stair leading nowhere. But in my mind’s eye, it led into a tall rectangular room with a potbelly stove on the far end. This schoolhouse had been built in 1910. Listening carefully, I could almost hear these cement steps telling me their story:

I watched as a young girl grabbed the shovel leaning against the stoop. She began pushing the snow that had drifted and blocked the door to the schoolhouse. Mary was a young girl, not much older than the oldest students that attended this school.

Arriving an hour earlier than her students was part of Mary’s job as teacher. It took quite a few trips out to the wood pile, to fetch enough firewood to keep the children warm throughout the school day. Under her breath, she thanked the old farmer that lived down the road. He had stacked a pile of firewood for the school just up the hill. Entering the school carrying a heavy load of wood, her breath became more noticeable in the stillness of the room.

Mary tried to blow lightly and evenly on the tiny flame that licked at the twigs in the potbelly stove. As a first-year teacher, patience with building a fire, was something she had not yet learned. She began stacking the firebox until it was nearly full. Shutting the door, she peeked through its isinglass window at the flame. Noticing its glow was dying out, she quickly opened the door to the potbelly stove and smoke billowed into the schoolhouse. It took perseverance, but she finally got the fire roaring. After the better part of an hour she removed her hat, mittens, and coat.

When her students arrived, the little dusting of snow that had blown in through the cracks in the walls had begun to melt. Mary led all eighteen of her students in saying “I pledge allegiance to my Flag and the Republic, for which it stands, one nation, indivisible with liberty and justice for all”.  Reading was the first subject of the day. Divided into eight small groups, one child for each, began to read aloud. Soon the room was filled with voices.

The thick, rough dimensional timbers that spanned overhead, creaked from the warmth. A tiny red area began to grow on the glossy black stovepipe flue at the joint that turned to exit the schoolhouse. A loud rumbling sound like that of a freight train came barreling down the pipe. But no one hears it coming. Within seconds, the wall around the flue caught fire.

As smoke began filling the room, Mary yelled for the children to get out. Stooping to take a breath of fresh air, she began crawling across the floor. But her long dress kept getting in the way. Gathering the material around her waist, she managed to scoot over to the door. Reaching up, she unlatched the door and ushered her students outside.

After making sure no one was left inside; she ran to join the other children on the hill. Standing in the snow, they looked back to see the old schoolhouse burn to the ground.

Staring at the old, blackened cement stairs, I murmured to myself, “Could that be what happened to the old schoolhouse?”. Just then, one of the ATVs started up. As we rolled out of the woods and onto a farm field the sun glistened its last rays on the treetops.

The trinket I found in this experience that may help in my creative writing was knowing that it’s important to stay on well-marked roads and byways when I want to get to where I am going, but when offered an opportunity to get off the beaten path, take it! For that’s where life becomes interesting.

Trail Ride Video

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Please feel free to share this blog. Comments are often enjoyable and fun to read. If you send me your thoughts, I will post the appropriate, non-spam remarks.