Awesome . . just awesome


Some people post pictures of their dogs.  Some people post pictures of their grandchildren.

You will understand why I’m doing both with this shot.  This is P. J. being surprised by a dog from the neighborhood.

Now, of course, the boy is bigger than the dog.  He will graduate this spring from high school.  But isn’t this just an amazing picture?



Now Picture This . . .


And remember those quaint pictures of tourists sunning on the beach in Waikiki?

Whoops!  This picture was taken in 2012.  My computer “sepia-ed” it for me.  And that makes me wonder about several things.  I started wondering if my mind “sepias” pictures stored away for a long time.

I tried an experiment.  I asked my mind to bring up a memory from 1942, another from 1952.  It was complicated.  My mind tried to bring it in color . . but  didn’t remember what colors people were wearing, what kind of day it was,  Yet it was a clear picture and I even sensed the feelings of the moment.

But here was my problem.  I couldn’t examine a memory because it took my mind to think about what I was seeing.  And when I did so I lost the picture I was looking at.  My mind was busy thinking.  It was a little like patting your head while circling your tummy, only worse.

See what you can do.

Memories in Sepia


Do you have some of these precious family pictures in sepia?  I marvel at their quality and how well they have withstood the years.  This is a photo of my grandmother and great grandmother, etc.  My mother had not yet been born, so I know the picture was taken in the late 1800’s.  The actual picture is sharper than it looks here, but, even so, note all the detail.  Then look at my next post.


So . . If life is like a puzzle . . . . . . . .


It may look something like this . . as you approach ninety.




And That Leaves Blue

I hadn’t worked a jigsaw puzzle for years but when  my grandchildren gave me a gift of 750 little  pieces of cardboard in a cardboard box with a stunning ocean scene on its cover, I knew they’d never let me rest until I put the thing together.

So we worked as a team at first, hovering around the card table, the kids and me. . young sharp eyes finding matches, little hands thrusting and crossing each others as they placed their round-edged  pieces into the border.    It came together quickly, and when our holiday weekend was over the picture was framed.  It would be round, as if it represented my world. And for a while it did.  The children left, but I had made them a promise and doing that puzzle was do or die.

The “big picture”, with its 750 components, was overwhelming but the smaller pictures within it made the puzzle do-able.  I sorted pieces by color, setting aside all with orange tints for the giant lobster, gray ones for the whales, turquoise, black, red and white for the fish, browns for the mountain in the background, pinks and greens for ocean vegetation.  That left blue, and blue was everywhere.

I started slowly, minutes at a time.  Then, tempted by every fish that needed just a fin or a bubble over his head, I began bringing my morning coffee to the puzzle table . . and my afternoon tea.

I challenged myself to find at least five pieces before the buzzer went off from my clothes dryer or my oven.  I stayed up a little later to finish a row of coral or a group of dolphins.   By now, you might say, the fish had me hooked.

As with most things, the really fun part, the easy part, was early in the game, singling out and piecing together objects with bright colors, sharp lines.  But then I graduated to seeking things less identifiable, like the stuff that grows on the ocean floor, the rows of tiny fish streaking about, the sunlight on a mountain slope, the foam on the crest of a wave.

Now I was sorting not just by color, but by shades.  Not just by shape but by idiosyncracies of shape that in my frustration I started to name so I could find them and fit them into  place where they belonged.

Many of the pieces looked like a body, with a head and limbs,.   But some had one arm or one leg, and I’d recognize a piece by the name of  Lefty or Peg Leg..  It was easy to recognize the shapes of clubs and spades.  But the best clue was given by the “innies” and “outies.”  After all, they had to fit together.

This helped, but seldom did I have a complete hole waiting to be filled.   I‘d be fitting one or two edges of a piece into the picture, or sometimes three (rarely four) so I needed a candidate that met at least one of the requirements.

At some point, the puzzle became less fun, more hard work.  Some days I’d move pieces about aimlessly.  Or I’d sit and stare at those little pictures, seeing no way to tie them into the big picture.  Too many pieces and they all began to look alike.

It seemed I could not move into action until I chose one specific area, defined what it needed, and set my mind to look for nothing except what would fit there in that one small spot. . even if it took me all afternoon.

Then it was BINGO, whenever a  piece fit.  I knew it fit because it almost snapped into place.  If I had to manipulate it to fit, it didn’t.

This was when I began to appreciate that the  longer I worked intently on the hard spots , the bigger the bingo moment, the greater the incentive to go on with the puzzle.

The third phase came when I had completed everything but the background.  The background was water and sky, lots of it.  And that left blue.

Do you know how many shades of blue there are? ( I looked it up online  and I got the answer “infinite.” )  Again I was forced to narrow my vision, set specific goals, and be led forward by the energy I gained from each small success.

Then one day the puzzle was finished.  Sort of.  There were no pieces left in the box, none  on the table, none on the floor.  But there were two glaring holes in the puzzle.

I searched the area, searched the house . . on hands and knees . . with a flashlight.  I didn’t find the pieces.

I smarted for a while, but finally said oh well, I did the best I could with what I had to work with. I’ll put the puzzle away and keep it just in case.  Wouldn’t it be just like me to find the pieces months later . . to find I had what it took, all the time, but had just dropped it, swept it under the rug?

Working a jigsaw puzzle is so much like doing any project.  So much, in fact, like living a life.   You learn as you go.  You tackle the fun parts first and leave the drudgery to the end.  Things that once looked impossible become possible.   You go to bed early if you can’t make a play, but you may stay up into the night after finding one wonderful key piece.  Success is addictive.

P. S.  Later I did find the missing pieces.  Guess where.  Under the rug!


There’s always someone who got a bigger puzzle than you did.  (But that takes a lot more work.)

There are always those who have prettier puzzles than you do (But look at them fifty years later!)

There are always people who have a very nice puzzle. .  but never open the box.

– Doris Markland

Chapter 3 of Soul Survivor

Dear friends . . here is the final segment of Soul Survivor, the piece I sat on for twenty years because I thought people would find it odd or offensive.  I can’t believe the reponse from so many who understood this as a positive piece, despite the subject matter.  Thank you for your notes and encouragement.


Darling, I Am Growing . . . . . . .

     We never say “I am old” or even “I am becoming old.”  We are always “growing old” because of our eternal optimism about the limitless future.  But more than that, we think of ourselves as growing old because we are aware more than ever in our lives that we are, in fact, growing.

     Not that we didn’t learn our lessons as we went through life’s experiences . . but sometimes we were too busy to notice.  Now we catch the missing links as we take time to regroup, and as we watch the younger ones around us.                                                           

     We are so proud when we see our children and grandchildren show courage and wisdom, when they are considerate and helpful to others, when they understand the values of hard work and self reliance.    “Well, they didn’t learn it from the neighbors,” someone will say, and that makes us feel we did a few things right.  But  of  course the same is true if we see them make choices that bring hard consequences..   We feel we must have put some bad information in their survival kit . . and probably we did, because that’s what we found in ours. 

     For me, the pain of growing is discovering that kind of chaff in the bottom of my own kit and seeing my  mistakes become another’s burden.    At the same time it reassures me that everyone is doing the best he can.  If I had known better, I would have done it better.  I would have passed on nothing but the best advice, the best tools, the best attitudes.  Now I say “If I had it do over again I would do such and such.”  Hey, that is good.  It’s got to mean that I am learning, and I am growing..

     “So, what good is that going to do you?” asked my husband.  “You’ve had your chance and it’s not coming around again.”

     “Oh, really?” I say, and smile as I go back to my counted cross-stitch and my counted blessings and my optimistic visions of a limitless future. 

                            – Doris Markland





Chapter 2 of Soul Survivor



      When seniors  say they gotta go they don’t necessarily mean what they did in Kindergarten when they said they hadda go.  They might be telling you they’re going and they’re not coming back.   More likely, they will slip out silently and without notice.  But they will go.  Every body’s gotta go.

     When the body goes is a closely guarded secret, rumored to be known to God alone; but I suspect God slips the information to at least a few souls who are very close to him.  It could be whispered in the wind that blows over shady porches where the elderly rock, or shared in the night in a private conversation with a poor soul who lies in a coma because he is too petrified to let go.

   In the case of my husband’s grandmother, she knew.  Grandma was 97, living in her own home in Wisconsin, when she called up all her children.  “Come home,” she said.  “I’m going now.”

     Within hours the remaining seven of her nine children were there with her, all of them in their seventies, along with other relatives.  The only one who couldn’t make it was her brother Ben from Oregon, who had fallen off the house that week, while repairing the roof, and had broken his knee.  He was 102.

     Grandma cooked a big meal and enjoyed having everyone there around her table once more.  Then she lay down on the sofa for her afternoon nap, and of course she didn’t wake up because she had told them “I am going now,” and she went.

     My own grandmother wanted to go, but couldn’t find a way out.  She entered a care center when she was 93 because she had fallen and broken her arm while cleaning her big two-story house.  She was in good health, however, and sharp of mind.

      “Why would I want to stay on?” she asked  as we sat together in the sunroom on one of my visits.   There were  few people in her new environment who could carry on a good conversation, and  none of her friends were still alive to come by.  Her husband was gone, her brothers and sisters were gone, as well as two of her three children.  She could no longer see well enough to read or to sew, and frankly she was bored.  But patiently she waited, spending her afternoons sitting on a sofa in that sunny common room, and it was here that she nodded off and left us at 95 when her name was called.

     Her father had met his death in quite the opposite way.  It came rushing toward him when he was in his early forties and caught up with him in the middle of town while he was driving his horse and buggy down the street.  It struck him in the heart and ended his journey.

     A few years ago, when my mother was  90,  she asked me to take her to a casino for the day.  I expressed some concerns, because she’d been having some heart problems and I didn’t want to take her too far from home or into an unhealthy environment or over-stimulating activity.  In my mind’s eye I pictured her sitting at a slot machine in a room full of ringing bells and smoke clouds,  and experiencing either complete exhaustion or the shock and commotion of a big win.

     She looked at me for a long time, reading my thoughts, and then said, “Can you think of a better way to go?” 

      We went to the casino.  

                      – Doris Markland




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