Tag Archives: Gratitude

Reflections on the Importance of Knowing One’s Purpose: Blogging 101

Carol A. Hand

“I really HATE that report you’re working on!”

Imagine hearing this this every morning as you walk through the door to do your job. Delivered in a strident nasal tone, this was my supervisor’s greeting and her commentary on my efforts to develop the first-ever report on the demographics and services for elders in the state. Each morning, my response was the same. “I welcome any specific suggestions you have to improve it.” None were ever offered by my supervisor, but fortunately, the director and staff all provided assistance, ideas and support as part of a team effort to write, organize, and illustrate the final product.

AW cover

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Cover Page

The report, Aging Wisconsin: The Past Three Years: 1984-1986, was so popular that the first 6,000 copies went quickly. Even during tight budget times, the report went through a second printing and generated hand-written letters from elders thanking us for creating something to make their lives better. My supervisor never liked it, but I now realize she really wasn’t the audience, nor were legislators, administrators, or academics. The report was written to help elders learn about the range of services and supports available to improve their lives. Focusing on task completion is important, yet I also learned an equally important lesson about the value of process from my supervisor, although not the one she probably intended. Any project can be approached from a coercive power-over stance, or from a liberatory joyful stance. The staff and director, often easily divided by petty issues, joined together to produce something that was fun and gave them a sense of purpose and pride in their work.

AW nursing home

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Long Term Support

AW transportation

Photo Credit Aging Wisconsin – Transportation

AW caregivers

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Caregiver Support

AW home delivered meals

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Home Delivered Meals

AW housing

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Housing Options

As I look back on this experience, I realize how grateful I am that I had the opportunity to work on this report shortly after graduating from college. I am grateful to the director who believed that I could do it, and the staff who offered their support, assistance, ideas, and encouragement. I am grateful to the elders who penned hand-written thank you notes. And interestingly, I am grateful to the supervisor who kept spurring me on to do the best I could with what seemed like an overwhelming, impossible task at the time. Today, looking at the photos we gathered for the report so many years ago, I am grateful that I didn’t give up trying.

AW fiends 1

AW friends 2

AW volunteer

AW adult daycare

Photo Credit: Aging Wisconsin – Community Support

I left that job decades ago, but this memory resurfaced this morning as I reflected on today’s blogging 101 assignment, reviewing the About statement for Voices from the Margins.  The memory and the assignment both remind me that it’s important to be mindful of purpose. Not everyone will like what you do, and that’s as it should be. Knowing that I was hired to serve elders in the state, not the whims of my supervisor, helped me find creative ways to build a team to be successful any way. Clarifying the purpose of the blog I share with a partner helps keep us focused. Just like the team effort that resulted in a report that was helpful to elders, my partner and I have attempted to explain our blog’s purpose. It’s a space that celebrates diversity and welcomes creative team efforts to resist status quo critiques. a place to give voice to different “truths.” Like all bloggers, we hope people will read what we write and engage in dialogue, but we also try to speak about what we see as important during these challenging times. In order to let people know who we are, we added a second “about” section entitled  A Little About Us.

We are both interested in learning from others who see the world through frames that are different than ours. We welcome feedback about our explanation of purpose and our description  of who we are, and we welcome your visits, comments, and submissions.

(A final note: I just couldn’t decide which photos to share so I went a bit overboard I fear 🙂 )

Work Cited:

Carol Hand (1988)(Ed.) Aging Wisconsin: The past three years – 1984-1986 progress report on the Wisconsin State Plan on Aging. Madison, WI: Bureau on Aging,  Department of Health and Social Services.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

“Inch by inch, row by row …”

 Carol A. Hand

 Inch by inch, row by row
Gonna to make this garden grow …
Please bless these seeds I sow
Please keep them safe below
‘Til the rain come tumbling down
(Pete Seeger)

I have been thinking about how important blogging has become to me. When I posted my first essay on June 18, 2013, it was only because of a partnership I had with a friend who knew more about technology that I did. Anyone who visits this blog now can probably see that, despite a little over a year of blogging experience, I still have many technological challenges to overcome yet. The few improvements are due largely to my new blogging partner, Cheryl.

I remember that the only one who liked my first post was my blogging partner at the time, Susan Sutphin at intersistere. Much to my surprise, someone pressed the “like” icon for my third post, and then honored me with recognition for my fourth post. Over time, we became virtual friends. Without his support, encouragement, and recognition, I am sure I would have given up many times. I know he has done the same for many other bloggers. When he announced that he was taking a hiatus from blogging for a little while, it felt a bit like the sun going out. Since then, I have been contemplating how to express how important his posts have been for me, and how crucial his support for other bloggers has been in building a network that feels like an authentic community based on honesty, creativity, inclusiveness, and critical thinking.

Because he often remembers to ask how my garden is doing, it occurred to me that the work he has done in the blogosphere is similar to gardening, and Pete Seeger provides the metaphor – “inch by inch, row by row… Jeff Nguyen, this is my way to say chi miigwetch for continuing to be part of all of our lives (Ojibwe thank you very much). As I look at the before and after pictures for my garden, I am reminded of where I began as a blogger and where I am at present. It’s still a work in progress, but you gave me the hope and support to continue.


Inch by inch…

I moved to Duluth in late October of 2011 to a house I bought sight-unseen. My daughter picked it out, although I had seen the following pictures that were posted on the internet.


Photo Credit: Mesina Realty Photo September 2011


Photo Credit: Mesina Realty Photo September 2011

I wondered about the log cabin and the windmill and the strange metal “tree” in front of the deck with its ringed branches holding flower pots filled with plastic flowers. I guess we all have different ideas of beauty. And then there was the aged greenhouse frame surrounded by raspberry bushes and little trees, and the rotting weeping willow that showed daylight halfway up its mighty trunk. Cutting trees is not something I do lightly. Yet, as I watched children walking past everyday on their way to and from the elementary school on one side and the high school on the other, I realized I would need to do something to make their passage safer.


Photo Credit: February 13, 2012

So the dying tree came down, leaving its partner to weather the winds and storms on its own. The next spring, I cleared the brush the old fashioned way, shovel by shovel, inch by inch, and painted the greenhouse frame – still a work in progress.

garden August 2013 (1)

Photo Credit: August 13, 2013



Photo Credit: August 11, 2014

Of course there are always challenges – critters that have been displaced by urban development, and brutal winters.

polar vortex 2014

Photo Credit: The Polar Vortex Winter – February of 2014

 A deer just ate my tomatoes

Photo Credit: A Deer Just Ate my Tomatoes – May 15, 2014

Yet gardens, like blogging, provide opportunities to help others develop knowledge, skills, and a belief in their ability to honor life and create something beautiful. This is the newest project that my granddaughter, Ava, helped to create out of salvaged lumber from the old fence that was replaced as a deer repellant.


Photo Credit: Ava’s Garden – August 11, 2014

Inch by inch, the garden is continuing to grow, and post by post the blogging adventure is continuing to grow as well. I wish to thank of everyone who has stopped by our modest blog to share your wisdom, kindness, and insights. And again I wish to say chi miigwetch, Jeff for helping build a community that is working to create the peace and unity your work represents.

Copyright Notice: © Carol A. Hand and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Carol A. Hand and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Stories from my Father — Pilots, Pitchers, and Pigs

Stories from my Father — Pilots, Pitchers, and Pigs

By Cheryl A. Bates

Several years ago, my father threatened to buy a computer and teach himself how to use it. This was an incredibly ambitious effort for someone who grew up before color and cable TV, cell phones, and computer games. At 80 years old, finally retired from decades of the physical demands of logging in the Pacific Northwest, he has learned to connect with people from all over the world using his computer. Now with more time on his hands, he has begun writing down his memoirs and stories. He has been busy this past winter. After promising me for years that he would share his stories, he sent me his old computer’s hard drive with a collection of stories and memories he had written.

Every now and then during our online chats, he’ll ask about the stories or he’ll say “maybe you can do something with those stories.” I always give an upbeat answer that I will do something, someday. Today, it occurred to me that with this being Father’s Day, I could show how much his sharing means to me by writing about the sharing of his stories with me.

During one of our weekly online chats, my dad was talking about something he read in an AARP magazine that inspired him to write a story about a random act of kindness he experienced as a boy. He shared his story with me by typing it into an email. A few days later, I received a regular mail letter from my dad with a copy of the inspirational story and the following note.

I thought I might

When I was a small boy, 4th or 5th grade, my folks moved to Roswell, New Mexico. During WWII, my step-father was in the Air Force stationed at the B-29 base. He was a line mechanic and could change those engines on the big planes. My mom was working also, usually as a telephone switchboard operator. They never seemed to worry about my brother and me. We amused ourselves pretty much.

I can remember wandering around and exploring many places and things. There was a municipal airport not far from where we lived at the time. One day I happened to be there when the Air Force was using the runways for touch and go landing practice for the military planes. The pilots were so young. Usually just out of college as Second Lieutenants. This day, a tall good looking military man looked at me and said, “You wanna go for ride?” “Wow – of course I would,” I replied. “Okay, wait right here and I will be right back.” Well, needless to say, I was not leaving that spot until he came back. He came back and said, “Let’s go.” Evidently he must have rented this little Piper Club airplane. We took off and circled the town and county. Oh my, I was so excited.

I have often wondered whatever happened to this young man. Sincerely, I hope he made it through the war. I never saw him again but what a nice thing he did for me just out of the blue.

Dad Douglas AZ

My dad, William Thomas Bates, Sr.

Our weekend telephone calls have been replaced by more frequent yahoo chats throughout the week and an occasional email. Throughout the many years of graduate school, my dad was my number one supporter. There was never a time after a phone call or chat when I didn’t hang up feeling uplifted, inspired, or supported. Even now, he continues to be supportive. He was the first person to comment on  my bio for the blog, “Wow…way to go sweetheart, very good. Loving you, Dad.”

In 2008, I finally finished school. Even though my dad had had a rough year with his health and wasn’t particularly comfortable traveling on airplanes, he made it to my graduation.

Graduation 2008

So proud, tears came to his eyes.

A few years ago while attending a conference in Portland, OR, I slipped out and visited my father for a couple of days. On this visit, in addition to bags of old photos and stuff, he sent me home with an old silver set. He explained that it wasn’t an expensive set but it was special because his mother, wanting to have heirlooms to pass down, managed to purchase it during the depression by making payments, 10 cents a week, until it was bought.

Creamer Pitcher

Then, a few months later, I received a small package from my father. Inside was this silver cream pitcher and a note from my dad.

Dear Doctor Cheryl,

This little cup or pitcher probably has no value except that it is filled brim full of my love for you and for its little story. When WW2 ended, we were in Roswell, New Mexico. I think I was 10 or 11 yrs. old. My step-father brought us to Oregon where we settled in Twin  Rocks, OR. His brother was in the hog raising business supplying pork for the military and other markets. In those days they fed discarded restaurant waste and had regular slop routes around Salem, OR and other places. Whenever we visited them I got to get up real early and go with cousins, nicknamed Bean and Babe, on the slop routes and they picked up barrels of this waste.

Well, in the slop there were some different items evidently tossed in either intentionally or just negligence. In those days they used a lot of real silverware and heavy duty dishes. My uncle’s wife gave all the relations some of these items after they were cleaned up of course. We had several different things from her. They all got one of these pitchers. Somehow this one found its way back to me. I used it for tooth picks. It might be an heirloom someday. Now you know “The Rest of the Story”…Loving you dearly, Dad.  (December, 2009)

pig picture

I had to substitute this picture for the one I wanted to use here. I have been looking all morning for an old picture my dad sent me of some pigs he was raising. He had written the names of the pigs on the photograph with a ball-point pen.

On this Father’s Day, I am living up to my promise to share his stories to let him know how important he is to me and how much I value his presence in my life.

Copyright Notice: © Cheryl A. Bates and carolahand, 2013-2016. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Cheryl A. Bates, and carolahand with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

Spring Is Finally Here – And Music Is Everywhere!

Carol A. Hand

This morning I awoke to hear my parakeets singing, and my little dog, Pinto, adding his lovely voice (yes, he really does sing — he’s singing as I type).


pinto 2

Photo Credit: Animal Allies Adoption Photo

When I stepped outside, my yard was filled with the sound of the birds that returned after a long and silent winter.


Photo Credit: ocmist-blogspot.com


Photo Credit: kitchen garden.co.uk

This is a short post to wish you all a wonderful Sunday filled with music.