<![CDATA[B. Jane Lloyd:  Writer - REFLECTIONS]]>Sat, 19 Aug 2017 02:23:48 -0500Weebly<![CDATA[Art and Iron:  Richard Morgan, Metal Man]]>Tue, 02 Aug 2016 17:41:38 GMThttp://bjanelloyd.com/1/post/2016/08/art-and-iron-richard-morgan-metal-man.htmlPicture
 “Only through fire is a strong sword forged.”                                                                                    Star Wars

Richard Morgan worked as a welder for 35 years. He occasionally welded gifts for family members and friends, but basically viewed welding as a job, nothing more. That perception changed in 2008 when he and his wife were notified that their only son, Nathan, had been murdered on a California beach. 



Richard tossed and turned in bed at night. Sleep seemed impossible, so he went to his workshop instead. Welding metal into new forms eased Richard’s grief, awakened his creativity, and ultimately transformed him into a trailblazing artist and metal sculptor.



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He began by making bells with faces on them. He gradually added mirrors, western furniture, stall fronts for horses, driveway gates, memorial items, custom signs for ranches/farms, and jewelry. He worked with Mike Sohikian, an extraordinary artist from Genoa, to learn about making metal sculptures. 

Richard and Sue have been married for 33 years. Sue is his inspiration. Daughters Nichole and Christina and their husbands help in the workshop from time to time. Their 9 grandchildren enjoy working on jewelry. It was grandson Elijah’s idea to put hide inside one of the bracelets.

Richard recommends that anyone attempting to weld art pieces have intermediate welding skills. Christina is an artist who decided to try welding. She put on protective gear, but the first spark that shot out burned her leg. She decided that welding art was not for her.

Richard's friends call him Metal Man since he welds steel, iron, stainless steel, bronze, and aluminum. He calls himself a picker. He searches scrapyards and John Deere dealerships for uncommon items like airplane and machine parts, bulldozer chains, old doors, horseshoes, metal gates. Word has spread about his work. People drop off things they think he can use. Joe Belinski Sr., a friend and retired businessman, donated a 1970’s Allis Chalmers industrial forklift that has been a blessing. It allows Richard to build larger pieces and has been helpful in constructing his new art studio.

Every piece Richard creates is an original, with no two pieces alike. “When I find stuff to repurpose, that’s where I get ideas. The inspired part of it just comes out. I don’t know how.” Creating something new puts him in a good mood. “The only thing I can compare it to, in terms of the same kind of high, is riding a motorcycle.”

Richard’s most challenging project was a totem pole with an assortment of faces attached. Faces is made of steel and weighs at least a ton. It was built on the floor of a garage, loaded on a truck, and taken to a friend who helped pull it upright and take pictures. It is currently located in Richard’s front yard, along with several other distinctive sculptures. 


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In 2015 one of Richard’s sculptures was accepted to the prestigious, international art show, ArtPrize, in Grand Rapids, Michigan. ArtPrize is an annual art competition and festival that draws close to half a million attendees from all over the globe. Richard’s cutting edge sculpture was originally planned as a hanger for one of his bells. After finishing the hanger he realized it looked like a gallows pole.

 “It made me think how fragile life is. We’re running around, worrying about how much sleep we get, if our taxes are paid, grocery shopping. The world spins, but it could all be over tomorrow.” 


Instead of a bell, he hung a handcrafted globe on the pole and placed a bird’s nest inside. He named it Hanging in the Balance. The Welding Journal of the American Welding Society featured Richard and his work in March 2016.

He says, “It’s nice to receive awards, but that’s not the goal. The whole thing is to create something that someone else enjoys and watch their eyes glaze over. The expressions and comments when people see my work is the reward.”  


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Richard recently retired from his full-time job. He looks forward to having time to travel to art shows all season without hurrying to get back for work. It will be more relaxing and give him the freedom to travel far. Sue travels with him whenever possible.

“My goal since day one has been to go to Jackson Hole, Wyoming. I think the western and rustic pieces will sell well there.”

He searches the internet for opportunities, allowing museums and businesses to borrow/lease his sculptures. He currently has three sculptures on loan: two in Michigan and one in Colorado. This is a win/win situation. The borrower pays an annual fee to display the sculpture at their location, and in turn showcases Richard’s work to potential buyers. “You have to set feelers out all over. Word of mouth helps.”

His advice to other artists: “Just keep at it. You have to take baby steps when growing your studio or business. We started in a minivan, then two minivans, then a van and a trailer. Now we have a box truck with a lift gate and we pull a trailer behind.” 


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Richard’s dream project is to build a sculpture garden in the woods and invite people to wander through it. If he didn’t have to make a living, he would be a sculptor’s apprentice. “Everyone sees things differently. Seeing from someone else’s point of view is a good education.”

Last December, a clothes dryer overheated and started a fire that gutted the inside of Richard and Sue’s home. It took 2-1/2 months to sort through the rubble. They currently reside in a mobile home in their driveway while the interior of their home and the art studio are rebuilt. This setback has not slowed them down. Richard is scheduled to exhibit at 16 art shows all over the country this season, including Jackson Hole.


To view Richard’s art, call 419-345-9734 or visit online: 
  www.richardalanstudios.com and www.artprize.org/richard-morgan 

Published August 2016 in Boomers Today

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<![CDATA[Cecily & Jerry Rohrs Bring Christmas Cheer All Year]]>Wed, 06 Jan 2016 16:00:36 GMThttp://bjanelloyd.com/1/post/2016/01/cecily-jerry-rohrs-bring-christmas-cheer-all-year.htmlPicture
The legacy of Cecily and Jerry Rohrs’ unconditional love will be realized and treasured for generations to come. Jerry Rohrs and Cecily Strock became good friends in first grade at Liberty Center Schools, and remained so through college. He left for Ohio State; she for Bowling Green State University. Eventually, they realized they were meant to be together and recently celebrated their 46th wedding anniversary.

Christmas Cheer 
When Cecily was working under the direction of Erie Sauder at Sauder Village, she was freer to focus on other things in the winter since the Village was closed for the season. Erie didn’t mind if she left work to volunteer for a good cause, and her first assignment was to build on an existing Christmas Cheer program in Fulton County. Cecily sought donors, raised money, and invited local schools, churches, and civic groups to gather items to stock a temporary “store” where needy families could pick their own Christmas foods, toiletries, blankets, and even brand new toys. 
          
When Cecily began 31 years ago, there was $613 with which to serve about 300 children. In December 2014, the program helped 650 families, which included 1,200 children. Christmas Cheer now has a toy store, a grocery store, and a miscellaneous store that stocks closeout items such as hats, gloves, and mittens donated by merchants and area residents throughout the year. 
          
It takes two days to setup at the Junior Fair building, located at the Fulton County Fairgrounds, with the help of FFA members to do the heavy lifting, set up shelves, and carry merchandise. Meanwhile, other teams of volunteers collect donations from schools throughout the county, sort and stock items, and donate and deliver a noon meal and baked goods for the setup crew. 
          
Families in need are identified by local agencies and schools and are given a chance to register for the event. On one of the two pick-up days, they come to do their Christmas shopping. With a volunteer shopper to assist them, and a certain number of points to spend, the shopping and relationship-building begins. 
          
Christmas Cheer volunteers come from various schools, churches, and organizations, and cherish the opportunity, saying Christmas Cheer kicks off their holiday season, and reminds them what Christmas is really about. People who were helped in the past with the program return to volunteer and pay it forward. 
          
Cecily deflects praise for her work, saying, “Christmas Cheer doesn’t need me anymore.” Her only task now is to send an annual letter requesting donations. Workers don’t need to be notified of dates and times through any formal announcement; they are so dedicated they simply appear ready to work! 

Furniture 
While Cecily was busy with Christmas Cheer, 20 years ago, Jerry helped establish a furniture ministry that serves Fulton and northern Henry Counties. People and retail stores donate good, used furniture and/or appliances. He and a team of volunteers pick up and store the items in warehouse space donated by a local factory. Churches, social service agencies, and organizations call when the people they serve need help. About 200 sofas and 100 mattresses are delivered per year, covering 10,000 miles. Jerry recalls delivering a bed and mattress to a retired man with cancer who lived alone and slept on a nest of sheets in the corner. 

Shelter 
When Cecily learned an Archbold woman with five children had been evicted, and the closest shelter was in Bryan, she thought, “This community can do better than that,” and decided to open a homeless shelter in Fulton County. Five shelters are presently providing housing for 23 people. Shepherding Cecily and Jerry’s next project evolved from working with shelter residents. Each person had a lot of baggage, no one to rely on, and needed someone who could guide them. It was a huge undertaking and not one the Rohrs’ could handle on their own, so Shepherd’s Circle was born. 

Shepherds are volunteers who receive five hours of training to help them assist individuals who may be homeless, low-income, former addicts and/or inmates. They teach budgeting and decision making skills; help secure employment; arrange transportation to and from work until the person is able to drive; offer guidance through court hearings; listen; and assist in times of crisis. This kind of uplift and support has moved many individuals from chronic joblessness to permanent full-time employment. Stabilizing a family’s primary provider also improves the life of each family member. 
          
Cecily says relationships give people value: “It is important to expose the heart. Being a shepherd isn’t easy. There are days of pain and heartache. Our job is to keep doing the right thing. These are not surefooted people. They are good people who have made some bad choices. You cannot lie. You must be real. The shepherd may be the last plank in their bridge. Liking and accepting people where they are is transformational. We can sometimes break the cycle. We won’t throw anyone away, or call the police on them. If they are using drugs or alcohol, they are not ready for us yet. If someone falls off, we don’t go with them. Someone else is waiting, and there is another story within that new someone.” 
          
Jerry and Cecily like people, not paperwork. Many years ago, Job & Family Services asked Cecily to make Christmas Cheer a private non-profit organization. As such, it is independent, doesn’t have to follow quotas, or generate excess paperwork. Cecily has since created non-profits for Shepherd’s Circle and the homeless shelters. “When someone needs help, they don’t need a committee, or pages of bylaws. If it’s in the best interest of a person and the community, we just do it.” 
          
Cecily and Jerry don’t worry about tomorrow, and have faith that everyone’s needs will be met, as funding, food, and housing seems to arrive as needed. Together, they have conceived multiple ways to connect people from seemingly diverse worlds and give new life to some of society’s neediest outcasts, transforming the lives of their children and descendants. Together, they find ways to reach out, rescue, and restore.

Published:  December 2015 - Living Today
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<![CDATA[Jim and Hazel Figy - A Lifetime of Volunteering Together]]>Mon, 29 Jun 2015 02:58:30 GMThttp://bjanelloyd.com/1/post/2015/06/jim-and-hazel-figy-a-lifetime-of-volunteering-together.html
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Jim and Hazel Figy
Jim Figy was a high school senior with a big decision to make:  attend Ohio State and become an Agriculture Teacher, or continue helping his parents raise 10,000 turkeys on their farm. The choice was clear. Jim knew if he deserted his parents, their poultry farm would go under. He worked there for 52 years. 
Jim and Hazel May Pike were high school sweethearts, marrying when they were 21. They raised a family, and in their late 40's in response to calls from their church's national office, began volunteering as a couple. It was the beginning of a life centered on volunteering, often with their children in tow.

While growing up, Jim and Hazel had learned about volunteering by watching their parents help and care for others.  They believe God had a hand in Jim’s decision to work for his parents those many years ago. Over the years, the elder Figys never complained when Jim had to leave unexpectedly for a mission of mercy. If he had been a teacher, he wouldn't have had the flexibility to go when and where he was called.

PictureJim and Hazel and their family.
The Figys feel they have been blessed, especially with their children: Ralph lives in Massachusetts, Rex in Ohio, and Allan resides in Indiana. Daughter Marsha lives in Maine. The Figys have 12 grandchildren and five great-grandchildren, one of whom is deceased. 

Also among their blessings, the Figy family counts friends from all over the world. In one year alone, they traveled 10,000 miles, spending most nights as guests in private homes and churches. Visitors from Myanmar, Italy, Philippines, Singapore, Ecuador, Bolivia, Argentina, Tanzania, England, India, Thailand, Tibet, Sri Lanka, and Côte d'Ivoire have been welcomed to the Figy home in Wauseon. 

When their kids were teenagers, Jim and Hazel were active as church youth leaders and traveled with the youth to national conventions all over the country. They were dismayed when their teenage son, Allan, got into alcohol and drugs. Jim built furniture that was destined for a church in Texas. He invited Allan to help him transport it. When they arrived, the church’s pastor thanked and warmly embraced Allan. The feeling of being totally accepted and valued by a stranger inspired Allan to kick his habits on the spot.

The Figy ministry is one of encouragement, reaching out to down and out individuals and churches. “We have a warm spot in our hearts for the underdog. We accept opportunities as they arise and ask ourselves, ‘What would Jesus do?’ We try to share our blessings and the love of Jesus whenever and wherever we can, not by preaching but by acts of kindness. It is important to accept people at their own level. You can’t have a false front or they see through it.” 

The highlights of the Figys' volunteer experiences include:
  • Building a chapel, with their family, at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Reservation of the Oglala Lakota Sioux.    
  • Taking Anderson University student volunteers to Costa Rica. They endured a scary trip across steep mountains on a banana train. One student became deathly ill. Natives put potato slices on her wrists and ankles. She recovered. 
  • Coordinating five Anderson student work trips to Mexico and one to Texas.
  • Over 20 years, making many 600-mile trips to eastern Kentucky, to provide assistance to extremely poor residents.
  • Running into a copperhead snake pit when planting 400 pine trees on a Kentucky mountain top.
  • Coordinating volunteers, making home repairs and building ramps for people in wheelchairs after Hurricane Andrew hit Florida in 1992. They also ministered to parishioners who lost homes when Hurricane Rita hit Texas in 2005.
  • Helping remodel an old church and build a new one at a Navajo Reservation in New Mexico 

Now 86, Jim & Hazel regret they cannot accept as many challenges as they used to. However, they still help where they are able: gathering and transporting donations to the Cherry Street Mission in Toledo; non-physical labor with the Voice of the Martyrs in Oklahoma; and gathering and distributing food with the Wauseon branch of FISH (Friends in Service to Humanity).

PictureJim with Sylvia and Stanley Hollowhorn, missionaries who are from Pine Ridge Reservation
Wounded Knee, South Dakota, is the place that remains closest to their hearts.  It is one of the poorest parts of the U.S. with unemployment can reach 90-percent. The life expectancy for a Native American woman is 51. For men, it’s 47. The local hospital treated 241 children under age 19 who planned, attempted, or committed suicide from December thru March of this year. 

“When the government removed the tribe from their homeland, they put them in the middle of nowhere. It’s extremely cold in winter and unbearably hot in summer. There is no work and no opportunity for advancement.”

Their son, Rex, is a physician in Toledo. While on rounds during his residency, the team encountered a Native American who'd had a seizure while traveling by bus to his home in Wounded Knee. The staff was unable to get his medical history because he refused to speak. Rex stepped forward and told the patient about how, as a child, he had helped build a chapel on the reservation. The man relaxed, gave them the much needed information, and followed Rex everywhere until he was released.


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The couple still helps at Wounded Knee by gathering and transporting donations, painting and repairing buildings, cooking, and leading Vacation Bible School.

Jim and Hazel advise couples considering volunteering to “Go for it. Volunteering gets in your blood. There is something for everybody to do. Volunteers can change the world.” 

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Want to help build a much-needed Youth and Community Center at Wounded Knee on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation? For more information, contact Place of Promise, 760 Farmersville Pike, Germantown, Ohio 45327   Phone: 937-855-6907  

 Email:  theplaceofpromise@gmail.com  
 Website:  www.theplaceofpromise.org 

Published July 2015 - Living Today


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<![CDATA[A Christmas Story ... Visit the Cleveland House & Museum Where It All Took Place]]>Tue, 02 Dec 2014 23:39:27 GMThttp://bjanelloyd.com/1/post/2014/12/a-christmas-story-visit-the-cleveland-house-museum-where-it-all-took-place.htmlThought you might enjoy learning more about the house where the movie, A Christmas Story, was filmed. (See pictures at the end of the article.)

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Did you know that the movie A Christmas Story was filmed in Cleveland, Ohio? A leg lamp shines in the front window of A Christmas Story House at 3159 West 11th Street, inviting visitors to step back in time to the 1940s. Our two youngest grandsons, Jaden and Jacob, watched the movie with Dan and me the night before traveling there. Although we’d all seen it before, the movie refreshed our memories to appreciate details throughout the house.

We waited in line on the front porch for the tour to begin. The guide opened the door and welcomed us into the house/movie set. We sat on old-fashioned, overstuffed couches and chairs in the living room while he shared informational tidbits: 



·        Jack Nicholson was originally offered the role of the father, but it was eventually given to Darren McGavin. Jack was best known at that time for the horror movie, The Shining. Had Jack been cast, Randy’s cry while hiding under the kitchen sink, Daddy’s going to kill Ralphie! might have been too believable. 

·        The movie cost about $5 million to make. McGavin received $2 million of it.

·        Oddly enough, there was no January snow in Cleveland during filming that year. Snow was trucked in from local ski resorts. Fire hoses sprayed foam and soap bubbles to keep the winter scenes realistic. If you look closely, you may be able to tell that snowflakes falling at the end of the movie are actually potato flakes. 

·        Flick’s tongue getting stuck on the icy pole was an illusion. They painted a PVC pipe to look like a pole, drilled a hole at mouth level and inserted a dental vacuum. When Flick stuck his tongue out, it was sucked inside the hole and appeared to be stuck to the pole. Clever, eh?

·        All outdoor scenes and any indoor scenes with natural light were filmed in Cleveland. Indoor scenes that required lighting were filmed on a soundstage in Canada since the house was not big enough to accommodate all the necessary lighting equipment.

Following the presentation, we were allowed to roam freely throughout the house, sit at the kitchen table, climb under the sink, etc. Jaden and Jake admired the leg lamp and held the BB gun that was under the Christmas tree. While taking their pictures, I thought about Ralphie’s wish for a Red Ryder BB gun. Responsible adults told him, You’ll shoot your eye out.  How sad that today’s children can play video games simulating machine gun fire, and mow down crowds of people without any consequence.

Our grandsons especially liked the boys’ room where they could lay on Ralphie’s and Randy’s beds. They noticed a bar of Lifebuoy soap on the sink in the bathroom and the decoder pin with Ralphie’s message, Remember to drink your Ovaltine, sitting on the hamper by the toilet.

A Christmas Story is my favorite Christmas movie for several reasons. Our son, Justin, was the spitting image of Ralphie as a child … blonde hair, big blue eyes, glasses, and a mischievous grin. Having grown up in the 1950’s, my friends and I walked to school bundled up in heavy snowsuits like Randy. Our family often ate meatloaf and mashed potatoes at a similar, small, porcelain enamel kitchen table. Like Ralphie, I was a connoisseur of soap … from the light-bodied, sour flavor of Ivory face soap (99-44/100% pure) to the hot, acrid, lingering aftertaste of Fels Naptha laundry soap. Mom meted out the dreaded soap punishment according to my level of mouthiness.

A Christmas Story Museum, located across the street from the House, is full of memorabilia from this same era. Our grandsons were excited to see the actual clothing worn by the movie actors. They pointed out the fox hat Scutt Farkus wore when Ralphie beat him up and Flick’s aviator cap. They were surprised to see glass milk bottles and to learn that milkmen delivered them to homes.

The Museum reminded us how times have changed. Most parents nowadays would not allow their children to play with the sharp metal toys, cars, and animals that are on display. A wall telephone hearkens back to operators placing long distance calls and party lines shared by several families at once. Phones are practically a part of people’s anatomy now. They wouldn’t think of leaving them at home. 

The Christmas Story Gift Shop was another highlight, selling memorabilia not only from A Christmas Story, but also from the movies Christmas Vacation and Elf. The Christmas Story House, Museum, and Gift Shop evoked wonderful memories (minus Fels Naptha soap).

As much as times have changed, some things stay the same. Unfortunately, there will always be bullies like Scutt. But fortunately, there will also be children with parents who do their best to love and protect them from danger. My family wishes you and yours an abundance of peace, love and joy this Christmas. Embrace the spirit. Make memories for your children and grandchildren to recall when writing their own Christmas stories. 

(Go to: www.AChristmasStoryHouse.com to learn more.)
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<![CDATA[Taking Flight]]>Tue, 04 Feb 2014 00:01:56 GMThttp://bjanelloyd.com/1/post/2014/02/taking-flight.html
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Today was an uncharted ride on a stream of consciousness. Listening to an audio clip this morning made me think of birds. A small bird sat in a snow covered tree outside the window. "Why is she alone? Isn't she cold? Why doesn't she fly somewhere warm?" I felt chilly wearing layers upon layers of fabric with the furnace turned up. She was out in the elements dressed only in feathers. I shivered for her. 
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The stream offered up a favorite quote ... 
  • "Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words – and never stops at all.”                                   Emily Dickinson

The stream entertained me with a mini-meditation on hope and faith.  
I searched a website, found a fresh quote, a picture, and clip art, then put them all together (above).

I ditched the stream when Dan came home for lunch and avoided the computer altogether after he left. It seemed like play time should be over so serious work could begin.  I got dressed. (Yes, still in pajamas at noon. Retirement is awesome!)  

Just about to open a project for editing when the stream flowed through:

Taking Flight

A lone bird rests on a bare tree branch. 
The winter wind blows.  She tightens her grasp.
No fluttering nor squawking, screaming nor talking …
Composed, silent, calm … she listens.

Unaware of danger and undaunted by weather
She measures the wind as she ruffles her feathers.
Not pondering gravity nor what tomorrow will bring, 
The right current comes. She swiftly takes wing.

Oh, to be a faithful, fearless, free bird!
To ascend without doubt and no dreams deferred,
Soaring in lofty thought to places unknown ... 
Sightseeing and self-discovering until I’m full-grown.

B. Jane Lloyd
© February 3, 2014









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<![CDATA[The Gift of the Migrant ]]>Wed, 13 Nov 2013 22:47:14 GMThttp://bjanelloyd.com/1/post/2013/11/the-gift-of-the-migrant.htmlBack in the 80’s, our local newspaper sponsored a program called Clothe-A-Child. Residents donated money to clothe as many needy children as possible during the holiday season. My husband and I volunteered to take children shopping.  The directions were to use the allotted funds to buy a warm outfit plus winter coat, hat, gloves and boots for each child. We were allowed to buy one small toy per child with our money, but were strongly discouraged from spending more than that. 

We drove to a rundown neighborhood on the rough side of town.  The house had no curtains at the windows and little paint on its rotting exterior. The porch boards felt unstable as we walked to the door and knocked.  A pretty, pencil-thin woman with long dark hair and a baby on her hip opened the door.  An older man and woman sat on folding chairs at a formica table watching a small, black and white television. A young man sat on the bare floor with his back against the wall. The house was immaculate, but there was no furniture.  

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I said, “We are here to take Jose and Maria (names changed) shopping.”  Two young children raced into the living room and spoke to their mother in Spanish. She nodded. They kissed everyone goodbye and we headed to the restaurant of their choice: McDonalds.  Jose (age 6) spoke for both of them since Maria (4) was shy. He said they were living with their mother, father, grandma and grandpa in Ohio until their father could find another job so they could all move where it was warmer. We surmised from the things he said that they were displaced migrant workers.

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We arrived at the store. Jose and Maria’s faces lit up as they tried on, then bought the clothes of their choice. We asked them to pick a toy. Jose was elated to find a Rubik’s Cube, the toy of the year. He said all of his friends at school had them. Maria chose a purse with comb, brush, and pretend makeup. She hung it on her shoulder while twirling in front of the full-length store mirror.

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The children thanked us over and over. They spoke animatedly to each other in Spanish in the backseat of the car. Upon arriving home, they jumped out with their bags. Maria hugged her purse to her side, but Jose’s Rubik’s Cube was nowhere to be seen. I asked Jose if it was in his bag. He reached into his pocket and pulled out many of the multi-colored small cubes that made up the larger Rubik’s Cube. He said, “Maria wanted to play with it too so I broke it to share.” I told him I didn’t think it could be fixed. He said, “I know, but it’s okay.” Maria opened her purse and gleefully showed me the rest of the pieces. Jose smiled and hugged her tight. 

Jose and Maria are grown now and probably have children of their own. I still see them as they were that night …wide smiles and dark, shining eyes beaming with joy and love…Christmas angels. 

                                                 
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Postscript:  My husband & I were touched by Jose’s generosity and told friends about the experience. We pooled funds to purchase/wrap clothes and gifts for the whole family. One couple donated their gently used furniture. They also bought Santa and Mrs. Claus costumes and decorated a freshly bought Christmas tree. Another couple cooked a complete Christmas dinner. We filled several large boxes with more food. On Christmas Eve just after dark, we quietly placed everything on the rickety front porch.  Santa and Mrs. Claus knocked on the door while the rest of us stayed out of sight.  As the door opened, Santa proclaimed, “Feliz Navidad!” Jose, Maria, Mom, Dad, Grandma & Grandpa came outside. Santa & Mrs. Claus hugged and cried with the family as they helped carry the Christmas bounty into the once empty house.

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<![CDATA[The Second Time Around]]>Tue, 05 Nov 2013 03:58:10 GMThttp://bjanelloyd.com/1/post/2013/11/the-second-time-around.htmlThis article about my husband, Dan, was published in 2007. Here's a rerun in honor of our upcoming 23rd wedding anniversary on November 17:
I married my former husband two weeks after turning 20.  He was outgoing and a good provider who shared household duties, but we were emotionally incompatible which affected every aspect of our relationship.  Our children suffered through years of conflict. We divorced after 19 years of marriage. I felt numb and had no plans to marry again.  A few awkward dating experiences reinforced this choice. I liked the single life.

Some time later, a friend asked me to help her family move to their new home.  Unbeknownst to me, she invited her brother-in-law, Dan, to help too.  I showed up in baggy shorts, a dirty shirt, and no makeup.  It was 90 degrees and humid. Sweat dripped off my nose and flattened my hair as we packed and carried boxes.
Imagine my surprise when Dan called a couple of weeks later and asked me out on a date.  I accepted with expectations of another disappointment.  We went to the movies (“When Harry Met Sally”), then on to a restaurant. While we waited for our food, Dan asked questions about my job, goals, family, and feelings about life in general.  I relaxed upon realizing he had no hidden agenda.  He looked into my eyes and seemed to hang on every word.  He was unearthing the real me, someone even I didn’t know. We stayed at the restaurant until closing time discussing our families, childhoods, and past loves.
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Dan drove from the restaurant to the lake.  We held hands and walked to the boat docks.  There were no awkward pauses in conversation.  When we reached the end of the pier, he kissed me for the first time.  I’ll never forget the glow of the lights on the water, the sound of the waves, and the feeling of being myself and totally accepted for the first time in my life.  It was electric.  I knew that night that I would marry Dan (although he didn’t come to that realization until months later :)

It is ironic that my first husband had the qualities I grew up dreaming of in a mate. Dan had almost none of those qualities, but his innate goodness and wisdom swept me off my feet. We had a long-distance relationship and only saw each other on weekends until we married a year later.

Dan had never been married and had no children.  My three (ages 16, 11, & 10) welcomed him to our home in the same way the lions welcomed the biblical Daniel.  Like Daniel, Dan never blinked.  His firm yet loving nature eventually overcame their hostility.  His great sense of humor saved my sanity and ultimately won the kids over.  I wrote these words to chronicle my feelings about him back then:

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            Dan is a carpenter who does not make much money,
                        but he builds my self-esteem.
            Dan spends more time reading than doing chores,
                        but he drops everything to hear my thoughts. 
            Dan is the smartest man I know,
                        but also the humblest.
            Dan does not care how he looks and hates to shave,
                        but his inner beauty shines through. 
            Dan does not bring me flowers,
                        but he showers me with kisses and compliments.  
            Dan does not stand out in the crowd,
                        but he listens intently and learns from everyone he meets.
            Dan is agnostic,
                        but he loves unconditionally. 
            Dan refuses to lie,
                        but he has no enemies.
            Dan is a man of few words,
                        but he speaks from the heart. 
            Dan takes me seriously,
                        but he makes me laugh.
            Dan is a fisherman and sportsman,
                        but he is a pacifist.
            Dan is the strongest man I know,
                        but also the kindest, gentlest and tenderest. 
            Dan’s smile makes me feel warm and secure.
                        Looking into his eyes, I catch a glimpse of heaven.


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Those sentiments still ring true.  Dan’s objectivity is a compass that guides me.  When I developed health problems last year, he encouraged me to let go of my high-paying job.  Dan knew that the workplace had become toxic, and that the cruelty and chaos there was destroying me. It was a difficult decision. Dan shepherded me through the process.  I resigned, regained my health, and secured a great part-time job that is both challenging and rewarding.  Shedding years of stress brought additional bonuses:  the inspiration to write again and to paint.

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I’ve heard that joy can only fill one’s cup as deeply as sorrow has hollowed it.  Dan and I have faced many crises during our 16+ years of marriage including bearing and burying a daughter. On the bright side, we added another son and seven grandchildren. My cup of joy is deep and overflowing.  God blessed me with a soulmate . . . the second time around.

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<![CDATA[Losing A Baby:  the Death of a Dream]]>Wed, 04 Sep 2013 22:08:56 GMThttp://bjanelloyd.com/1/post/2013/09/losing-a-baby-the-death-of-a-dream.htmlDan and I were blissfully happy and looking forward to the birth of our first child together. I was 41. This was my second marriage but first pregnancy. Dan rubbed my belly as he talked to the baby he called “Peanut.” 

The pregnancy was uneventful until my water broke prematurely. Kaitlin Grace (Katie) was born by c-section to minimize trauma to her 1 pound 12 oz. body. She was perfectly formed in miniature. Her arms and legs were about as long as my fingers. I looked into her eyes and felt a power surge of love. 
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Katie was immediately connected to wires and monitors. Neonatal ICU doctors and nurses hovered nearby. She was too fragile to be removed from the incubator, but we could reach inside it and touch her. She wrapped her tiny hand around my finger as I alternately talked to her, sang to her, and prayed. There was no doubt in my mind that she would be fine. She had to be. She was our precious baby.

Two days later, the doctor told us Katie suffered a brain bleed; her organs were failing; she was in pain and there was nothing they could do to stop it. He recommended that we disconnect her from the machines. It was an agonizing decision. Our whole family took turns holding and loving Katie as she gradually let go of this life. When the nurses carried her body away, I felt a curtain of darkness descend.

Dan stayed at the hospital with me until I was released. When he opened the car door to take me home, I noticed an empty peanut shell stuck under the windshield wiper. The irony cut like a knife.  I was angry and surprised as we drove home. It looked like the rest of the world was going on as if nothing had happened when our whole world had been turned upside down.
 

Family and friends were totally supportive, but had no idea what we were going through. Some tried to comfort us by saying God needed a little angel. Others said we could have another baby. The thought that God gave us Katie, then arbitrarily took her away made me feel sadder and angrier. The idea that another child could replace her hurt even more. 

Physical pain from the c-section was a welcome distraction from the emotional pain. I was off work for two months. Tears rolled down my cheeks the first day back. A coworker said, "Haven’t you gotten over that yet?" I felt ashamed for being out of control.

Dan and I received an invitation to a support group meeting for parents who had lost a child. We were hesitant to go, but pain overruled reluctance. We sat silently as other parents spoke and cried openly about their dead children. There was no judgment, no expectation, and no requirement to speak. Everyone had a mixture of feelings: angry, frantic, despondent, jealous, depressed, scared... We were like a battle-weary troop of soldiers in a foreign land, living minute to minute, not knowing what to expect, fighting a hopeless war against our own emotions. 

What a blessing it was to discover that grieving is normal, not crazy or inappropriate, and there are no rules. It is a rollercoaster ride that may last many months or years. Sharing difficult feelings with others who can truly empathize makes all the difference. It was an overwhelming sense of relief, like exhaling after holding your breath for a long time.

Our support group had its own library. I voraciously read books written by other bereaved parents detailing their grief journeys. One recommended writing down every aspect of the tragedy chronologically from the first inkling that something was wrong until after the funeral. I hadn't slept well due to thoughts and fears bouncing around my brain. Was there something I could have done to save Katie? Writing everything down organized my thinking in order to analyze my actions. This analysis released any guilt.

We attended meetings for about a year. We hoped to find magic words that would eliminate our pain, but eventually realized there were none. The most uplifting words came from a minister: "
God is weeping with you."  It took a long time for that message to sink in. 

It’s amazing that a tiny being who lived only two days could change life so profoundly. Although I didn’t know what to think during that awful maze of grief, I’ve had 20 years to digest it.  Conclusion: time truly is the best healer. Grief takes as long as it takes.

I used to blame God for Kaitlin’s death, but eventually realized it was God/Love that inspired the dear family members, friends, and strangers who comforted us through the storm. I now look beyond a broken peanut shell to sense the whole but hidden “Peanut” … until we meet again.


B. Jane Lloyd          Published 2011

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<![CDATA[DOG GONE ... Saying Goodbye to Mocha]]>Sun, 12 May 2013 19:42:50 GMThttp://bjanelloyd.com/1/post/2013/05/dog-gone-saying-goodbye-to-mocha.htmlPicture
Writing about our dog in the past tense seems surreal.  She’s only been gone a few weeks. Mocha, a cockapoo crossbreed, was six weeks old when she joined our family in 1996. She was a fuzzy ball of fur, who looked like a lamb and leapt across our backyard like a bunny. Chasing squirrels became her favorite pastime. 

I was Mocha’s person. She followed me around, whimpered to be petted, and snuggled up in my lap anytime she got the chance. She was a gentle soul with the patience of a saint when our grandchildren were young, licking and loving them even when they pulled her fur or tried to ride on her back.  She sat on my lap on the front porch at Halloween wearing her Dorothy (Wizard of Oz) outfit. Costumed children petted her. Their parents took pictures. She never flinched.  

Mocha greeted me at the door when I came home from work. She raced outside to do her business knowing she would be awarded a treat upon completion. She eventually realized that doing all her business at once was not in her best interest. Instead, she went out to pee, came in, ate a treat, then barked to go out and poo, thus earning a second treat. 

Mocha was a mind reader. When Dan or I stood up, she knew where we were headed (even when we forgot)….kitchen, bathroom, etc. She was there waiting for us by the time we reached our destination. She slept in our bed. As we started up the stairs each night, she raced past us like a shot, vaulted onto the bed and waited joyfully for our arrival. She wagged her tail, jumped up and down, so excited to win the race.

Mocha began to slow down several years ago and was diagnosed with congestive heart failure. Our veterinarian put her on 5 pills a day. She no longer raced up the stairs. We added a stepstool by the side of the bed. Her health deteriorated seriously this past year. She barked to go outside, but couldn’t remember what to do when she got there.  She had accidents in the house so we put thick rugs on the furniture and doggy pads on the carpet. She sat in the backyard while squirrels raced by. Her hearing and sight were mostly gone. She sometimes sat straight up during the night because lying down for too long caused fluid to pool around her heart and inhibit her breathing.

There were no medical options to improve her quality of life. It was clear something had to be done, but she was a family member who trusted and adored us. How could we end her life? A friend and coworker gave me the comforting poem, A Dog’s Prayer by Beth Norman Harris. (www.petloss.com/poems/maingrp/dogspryr.htm)  She said her vet came to her house when it was time to put a pet down. This cost a little more, but prevented the animal from having a scary trip to the vet’s office and death on a cold, metal table. Wouldn’t we all rather die at home? 

During the last week of May, Mocha panted constantly and couldn’t seem to get comfortable. She paced in circles around the kitchen table. I made the appointment. Dan and I fed Mocha the people food she craved but had been denied per doctor’s orders. She lay on my lap all day. My fingers went numb from petting her.

Dr. Reiser came to our house. His compassion was a real blessing.  I held Mocha close and looked into her eyes as he gave her the shot. She went quickly. Dan stood next to me stone-faced with tears rolling down his cheeks. Dr. Reiser left. Dan hugged me and went outside. I swaddled Mocha in a blanket, rocked her in our favorite chair and cried, then headed to the backyard to help Dan dig her grave. Digging was therapeutic for both of us.

Life has been different the past few weeks. No rushing home from work to let Mocha out. No stepstool by the side of our bed. No doggy pads on the floor. Dan planted wildflowers in a circular garden over Mocha’s resting place. There’s a cockapoo statue and a marker with her name, but we know she’s not there. She’s bunny hopping in God’s backyard. 


B. Jane Lloyd    Published 2012
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Mocha as Dorothy
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<![CDATA[LONGING FOR FREEDOM]]>Mon, 15 Apr 2013 06:36:04 GMThttp://bjanelloyd.com/1/post/2013/04/longing-for-freedom.htmlPicture

A bird flew into Dan's workshop last summer and stood in the window looking outside. She flew against the glass over and over trying to get outside.

The back door was wide open a few feet from her, as was the double garage door at the other end of the room, but she was too focused on the window to notice any other options.

She paced back and forth on the windowsill then continued flying against the glass until she wore herself out. At that point, Dan caught her and set her free.

That small bird taught me a big lesson. We can be imprisoned by our own limited thinking. 

Freedom is just a thought away.


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