A Saturday Thought on “Stuff”

We had another productive Saturday work session with Steve’s cousins on their parents’ (who passed away in September and December) home today. However, the realization is that there is so much more to do.  We feel a sense of accomplishment in what we’ve done, but the reality is that there is so much more to address. Their approach to setting aside a concrete time-frame together on a Saturday morning, every 4-6 weeks, is a great way to tackle it, for upon entering the home and seeing all of the “stuff” can immediately feel overwhelming.

If you have “stuff” that you never use anymore, please do not save it for your family to deal with later, unless you think it has sentimental value or monetary value. If you think it has monetary value, do the legwork for them and substantiate the value by getting the item appraised or providing a receipt. If you have an item of sentimental value, please write down the sentimental story. Why? It could easily be considered just another item in the plethora of items in your household.

Another way to look at the “stuff” in life, is that it’s not necessarily the “stuff” in life that we should cling to, but rather the relationships or having more free time for yourself. Freeing yourself or your descendants to enjoy the relationships or extra time may be one of the biggest gifts you can provide yourself or them one day! Each item that you possess takes some time from you. For example, when you dust your house, how many objects do you have to lift or shift to dust your furniture? The time it takes to lift or shift, is time away from a relationship or your doing something you really want to do. Consider all of the time that would eventually accumulate? Or, how many times have you moved, only to pack, load, move, unload, and unpack? Why not invest your time with your family or friends?

What techniques do you have for getting rid of stuff? I’d love to have you share your ideas.

Happy Saturday!


The Snowball Team circa 1972

As part of writing classes last year through University of Denver’s University College and Lighthouse Writers Workshop in Denver I began writing some short stories as part of my memoir. I’ve decided to take it to this blog as a fun way to share it with others. I will occasionally share my stories.

An easy way to write your own memoir is simply through short stories that come to mind from your life. Sometimes a quick write of 500-1000 words covers a story. While I cannot recall each detail specifically, I use some creative license and personality traits to add depth, as I write. May you reflect on what your story may look like and the chapters that you might include. Stories are not unique, in fact, it is amazing how similar our stories can be, which makes them even more special.

What is your favorite story involving a snowfall as a kid, if you lived near snow? Please respond, I’d love to hear from you. Here is mine:

The Snowball Team, circa 1972

By Diane McLennan Felt

The early March snow fell in big wet snowflakes. With mouths opened wide, I, being the oldest at 17, along with my siblings, Charlene, Laurie, Susan, and Charles tried to capture the cold, moist flakes somewhat like baby robins with opened mouths eagerly anticipating wiggly worms. We had just arrived home on the bright gold school bus which Daddy drove for one of the Belle Plaine School District’s rural routes.  Having endured a longer than normal bus ride due to the falling snow, we were all ready to engage in some playtime in the fresh snow.

Daddy always had a gift for throwing balls, since baseball was a childhood passion of his. To him it seemed second nature then to scoop up that wet snow and mold it into heavy snowballs, the size of baseballs. We quickly snapped our mouths shut when we heard his chuckle following the throw of his first snowball. It was as if he gave us the license to break the rules which we heard at recess during the elementary years on snowy days. “Do NOT throw snowballs”, the teachers and principals would warn through their cardboard megaphones. “You could hurt someone or something!”

Quickly Charlene scooped up her wad of snow, shaped it into a ball, and threw it at the old maple tree. Laurie shot hers at the side of the 70-year-old garage, where the snow held firmly in place like plaster. We continued making our way down the farmhouse driveway toward the barnyard where literally all hell broke loose. Susan’s snowball smacked against the scale house. The icy bomb that Charles threw landed on the corn crib’s corrugated metal roof. My throw made its mark on the rusty-red siding of the hay barn. As our snowballs whizzed back and forth they shot through the air like icy streaks. Pock marks in the half-foot of snow were evidence of many of our packed missiles.

The quietness of the falling snow enveloped us, making our cheerful laughter appear muffled and close. Large snowflakes came plummeting straight down from the heavens. Thuds, like launching fireworks, continued to resonate off of the corn crib, the scale house, and the hay barn with each throw of a snowball. With Daddy’s chuckles serving as encouragement, we worked our way around the barnyard and at the same time we were careful not to aim for one another. Daddy reminded us, “This snow is so wet, kids, that it would hurt if it hit someone.” We all chimed back, “Okay, Daddy, don’t worry, we’ll be careful.”

As if on cue, the five of us kids stopped to watch Daddy scoop up yet another handful of snow. He firmly molded it between his two large mittened hands. Then he swung back his right arm and lobbed it high as if throwing a fly ball. This particular snowball seemed to be suspended as it hit its apogee near the outer edges of the earth’s atmosphere. All eyes watched this spectacular throw with mouths open in awe. “Whish-h-h-h!” went the snowball as it hit the two black electric wires that crossed the barnyard to the farmhouse. “Sputter-sputter-sputter,” went the sparks that flew as the wires twisted.

A new silence fell on the six of us as we stood in amazement. However, the silence was quickly broken by a clear voice coming from the house. “Chuck, we have lost power Dear!” Mama called out. Daddy’s reaction included his throwing his Funk’s G hat onto the snow in frustration. Our reaction was to stop throwing snowballs. The six of us made our way to the house like scolded puppies with tails between their legs. In chagrin, Daddy admitted to the grievance at hand as we reached the house, telling everyone that he should have known better and apologizing to Mama.

As the five of us children entered the cold front porch, we quietly stripped off our wet winter coats, snow-clad mittens, and damp boots. Between our sweaty bodies and the damp wool, we were a smelly sight to behold. Typically we would look forward to some hot cocoa on a chilly day like this. However, today a soothing hot drink wasn’t to be enjoyed. Mama quickly made a fire in the black Franklin Stove in the family room. We warmed our tingling fingers, chilled toes, and rosy cheeks, sitting shoulder to shoulder at the stove. With dusk quickly approaching, all Mama could think about was a night without lights, without a hot meal for the family, and without warm heat from our furnace. Mama was always one for adventure, but undoubtedly this type of adventure wasn’t one she anticipated on this snowy and chilly March day.

The daylight minutes were quickly passing so Daddy got to work in resolving the power outage. First, he turned off the main power switch to the place, next he drove the stock truck so it was beneath the twisted wires in the middle of the barnyard, then he carefully leaned a long ladder against the truck.  Climbing the ladder, he was able to reach the wires safely and untangle them.  Fortunately, with the flip of the main switch, power was restored and so were all relationships, especially between Mama and Daddy. The lights came back to life, the refrigerator hummed, and the oil furnace kicked on.  Most importantly, Mama shared a smile with all of us, announcing, “Looks like Daddy got things fixed!” The five of us kids cheered, “Yeah Daddy!”

As Daddy entered the front porch stomping the snow off of his boots and unzipping his heavy winter coat, Mama greeted him at the kitchen door, winked at him, gave him a quick kiss, and said, “Chuck Darling, sometimes you don’t know your own power!”  Then off she went to make some hot cocoa for her playful snowball team!


A New Year……and a New Horizon!

Having not fallen off the face of the earth, but allowing life to side-track me and not to blog, I now look beyond to a New Horizon in 2012. We anticipate several delightful occasions this year and several key transitions.  The significant events which we will savor include the marriage of our daughter, Stephanie, to her wonderful fiance, Shane, in a late March ceremony with their families. In June Steve will graduate with his masters degree in Conflict Resolution. In early July we hope to attend at least a portion of the Sesquicentennial (150th) celebration of my hometown, Belle Plaine, Iowa. In October our nephew, Drew, will marry his lovely fiancee, Tiffany, in Amana, Iowa.

Ah yes, the transitions that await us this year will provide the impetus to “gettin’ on the move” once again! The $64,000 question is, “Will we remain in the Denver area?” Later this spring, I will resume my job search with hopes of finding meaningful work in Denver with health insurance benefits (of key importance). Sometime after graduation, Steve will begin his job search or begin consulting. By July 31, we need to have our next living arrangement in place, so yet another move will occur by that date.  Having downsized thrice in as many years, we will continue to discern what else no longer remains a possession, but would be better sold or donated.

Reflecting back on 2011, I’d like to update. At the last writing in May, we reached the one year mark since driving away from Batavia. In May we delighted in travel updates from our son, Jeremy, and daughter-in-law, Michelle, who were traveling Europe. In June Steve and I hiked in the hills (Rocky Mountains and foothills) a couple of times, some paths still greeting us with snow and others providing dry sandier paths. On June 5 we drove up to Rocky Mountain National Park only to come to a natural road block as 12 feet of snow stood firmly on the road in front of us with a parking lot providing a handy U-turn. Large industrial-sized snow blowers were busily working at shifting the snow from the roadways to an adjacent mountain lake as the National Park was determined to open Trail Ridge Road for the season, albeit later than typical from the record-setting snowfall in Colorado. Also in June a call came from our traveling duo in Europe, informing us of their desire to return to the U.S. Having spent time in Ireland, Wales, England, France, and Spain, they were satisfied with their two months abroad, including several days of walking on the Camino de Santiago (Way of St. James).

Over an extended July 4th weekend, we met our long-time fun-buddies, John and Karen (from Bozeman, Montana), in the Heber Valley of Utah with spectacular views of the Wasatch Range. Hiking, biking, eating local fare, and stargazing were at the top of the list of favorites with them. By mid-July, Steve and I were off to Arizona to celebrate our 35th wedding anniversary belatedly, with a 2-day stay in Tucson to visit my aunt, uncle, and cousins. Going north to Sedona, we remained a week playing in the dry Arizona heat. Whether it was hiking into picturesque red-rock canyons or madly negotiating single tracks on our mountain bikes, the week flew past beneath the deep blue skies of Arizona. The three predominant colors in the vista each day, “Tres Colores”, as I called them, were red, green, and blue. In observance of our 35th anniversary and the traditional gift being coral, we stopped in the Monument Valley area of the Navajo Nation, where we commissioned Lawrence Crank, a Navajo artist, to craft an intricately designed coral-colored Navajo wedding vase with a beautiful story crafted from Navajo native symbols. From Monument Valley we made our way to Arches National Park, where we witnessed a spectacular sunset and had a cabin stay in Moab for the night.

Returning home, we were greeted by Jeremy and Michelle, who stopped in Denver for two weeks to visit Grandma and us as part of their moving journey from Illinois to Portland, Oregon. (Here we go….another part of our family moves from Illinois.) Time together with them was too brief, yet lovely. Within days, Steve and I were off again on another driving trek across the Midwest, while at the same time Jeremy and Michelle were en route to Portland. Steve and I drove across the Great Plains with stops to visit family members and friends in Nebraska, Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin. Two days were spent along the shores of Lake Michigan in Door County, Wisconsin with Stephanie and Shane. At the end of July, and just days prior to leaving on our Midwest trip, Stephanie and Shane made the decision to leave Illinois and move to Denver (yes…more moves from the Felt family). Thus, part of our trip to Illinois included loading our mini-van to the hilt with some of their prized possessions, which we brought back to our home. Steph and Shane arrived later in September with their car loaded, having sold all of their furniture and remaining household possessions. Needless to say, we are all living in cozy style in our rented Denver bungalow as a two-generation home.

September arrived as did Steve’s second year of graduate school. He hit the ground running with 15 credit hours, his on-going internship at the Denver Court Mediation Services, and teaching a weekly class at The Conflict Center. Sadly, we lost Steve’s Aunt Nomy from Denver in September after a lengthy decline.  In October extended family arrived, providing several opportunities to gather surrounding Aunt Nomy’s memorial service. By the end of October, I managed to fulfill my role on an Event Planning Team for the annual fundraiser gala for Seeking Common Ground. It was a very successful event and one which I enjoyed immensely.

November was filled with paper writing and project completion for Steve. My volunteer focus shifted to interviewing church members as part of a Narrative Legacy (story-telling) project. My side work has been that of family archivist, so I have been imbedded in the archives, sorting, purging extraneous items, and scanning. I’ve created several albums using Snapfish. Most recently I’ve devoted many hours to writing and creating updates for my Patterson-McLennan and Plumb-McLennan lineage, which will be shared with family and my hometown for the upcoming Sesquicentennial. In December we took advantage of frequent flyer mileage, about to expire, and took a 6-day trip to Portland. We thoroughly delighted in the time with Jeremy and Michelle as they excitedly shared their new environs and introduced their new friends to us. One day Jeremy drove us to the Pacific Coast, where we were captured by its stunning beauty and curiosities, including the tidal pools at low-tide and basalt rock formations called sea stacks.

Returning to Denver, we were coming off such a cherished time with Jeremy and Michelle in Portland, only to return to more sadness, as Uncle Cliff died during our Oregon trip. Having suffered from a grieving heart of having lost his dear Nomy 10 weeks prior, he could now be at peace. Thus Christmas was bittersweet as we played games, shared in meals, and engaged in great laughter, only to feel sadness at the passing of another family member and seeing cousins grapple with a the loss of a second parent in such a short span. This year we also lost dear friends, which only reminds us of the fragile nature of life.

As I write this, snowfall is gracing us with a new 3 inch coat of white. Steve is doing laundry during breaks from reading books for his course. Jeremy is working for a virtual company in web development, while sitting in the comfort of his home-office in Portland. Michelle continues to create the most delicious raw-ingredient dishes and keeping her Feed Your Skull website updated. Stephanie arrived home from her job at an ice arena’s Starbucks shop to inform us of being promoted to manager. And, Shane has shoveled the walks yet again.

Happy New Year…..and may you have a New Horizon on which to set your gaze!