Guest blogger Lorie Sheffer: It’s the most wonderful time of the year

Winter view from Pennsylvania home window


(photo Lorie Sheffer)

Sometimes we can get so caught up in trying to advocate with the intent to make positive change that we miss the larger picture.

I think this comes into especially sharp focus during the holiday season.

I recently made what I thought was a lighthearted joke about the latest bandwagon cause, The Great Thanksgiving Day Retail Debate. I commented that I would gladly go work behind a register if someone would come clean my house, spend days planning, shopping for and cooking the meal and then spend another day cleaning the aftermath, all while trying to keep the family waters calm for all to sail upon. The backlash was swift and furious. I “should” enjoy cooking for my family. I “should” not be tired, as making a holiday meal for 20 “should” be something I treasure. I “should” care more about my family and my job “should” be to make wonderful memories for them. I would know all of these things if my apparently lazy, ungrateful behind had ever worked in retail!

Phew! I wasn’t insulted by these words and assumptions, but I will say I was rather intrigued. How quickly people are to judge a total stranger instead of stepping back to look at what may be a much more complicated issue.

I spent several years working in retail, helping my friend with her rather busy small business. And yes, I worked both Black Friday and Christmas Eve. After being a stay at home mom, it was fun to get out into the adult world and have some extra money to spend on little treats outside of our normal budget. All that ended when my husband had a massive brain hemorrhage. For the past 20 years, my life has gone from one caretaking role to another, ranging from physical and speech therapy, to 10 years of full time care giving for our grandson, to several years of assisting my elderly parents. I have changed infected surgical wounds and colostomy bags, and I have loaded my car with full holiday meals and transported them across town. I’ve attending funerals and settled estates and cleaned out a hoarded house. I’m fine, and things are good, and I am grateful, but I’d be lying if I said I don’t have days where I am exhausted, both mentally and physically. And yes, I have days where I think back to the simple pleasure of working in that retail shop. I haven’t had even a weekend vacation in almost 10 years, so mental vacations have been an indulgence of mine. Using humor to deal with stress has been incredibly helpful.

I’m not telling my own story for any purpose other than to make a simple point. If I was judged and the rude comments flew at me for what I said, then I know for certain I am not the only one who has been verbally beaten. I am fine, but someone else may not be so strong. The holiday season isn’t always the warm and fuzzy time of boundless cheer for all. There are folks who may be mourning loss, dealing with financial strain, or carrying heavy burdens they choose to keep private. Handing them a list of “shoulds” is probably not the gift they had been hoping for. In fact, the absence of kindness and abundance of judgment may well end up being the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Next Blog

Guest blogger Lorie Sheffer: The 19th Amendment

Old family photograph


(photo courtesy Lorie Sheffer family archives: Photo taken around 1905. Lorie’s great grandparents Emanuel and May Baker with 7 of their 12 children, standing in front of their house.

I never knew my great grandmother. She died a decade before I was born. However, she was in my heart on November 2 as I stood on a sidewalk on Broad St in Philadelphia. I could almost feel her walking along with me.

May Holt Baker was the daughter of a Union soldier in the Civil War who barely survived a year as a POW in Andersonville Prison. In her early twenties, she married and left her family home in Illinois to move to the South Mountains of Adams County, Pa. She wouldn’t see her surviving family until 47 years later. The Bakers had twelve children, 10 of whom survived to adulthood; Grace died of whooping cough at the age of 4 months, and Rosalie died of sepsis, the result of a wooden splinter she got while crawling on the floor. Basic vaccinations and common antibiotics were years away. The wood frame farm house in which the family lived, like many homes of that time, had no indoor plumbing or electricity. The family survived on farming, their fruit orchard, hunting wild game, and my great grandfather’s job at a nearby sawmill.

May tried hard to keep up with the news, reading everything she could get her hands on in an effort to educate herself. When she was 47-years-old, women were granted the right to vote. She became increasingly interested in politics and voted in every election. The Great Depression probably didn’t seem that much different from how her life had been since leaving Illinois, but she was keenly aware of the struggles of the nation. She developed a deep affection for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt. One day, while reading her local paper, May saw that FDR was coming to nearby Gettysburg to dedicate the Eternal Peace Light Memorial for the 75th Anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg. May was 65-years-old and had never driven a car, but she knew she was going. Some way, some how, she was going to see her beloved President. And go she did. As luck would have it, she actually got to shake hands with him. Tears would stream down her face every time she recalled that day. FDR would die in office 7 years later, and May would join him four years after.

I waited in line for 2 hours in the wind and cold, thinking of how she must have waited in the heat that July day back in 1938. Inside the arena, people jumped to their feet as he walked to the stage, the sounds of the cheers and applause like nothing I’ve ever heard. I looked around to see that wonderful mix of people that is Philadelphia; that is America. As the President began to speak, I looked at their faces and I knew we were all feeling what she must have felt 76 years ago on that field in Gettysburg.

Link to dedication video and photographs.

Link to photographs Lorie’s great grandmother’s house, which was recently sold out of the Family.

Next Blog

Guest blogger Lorie Sheffer: Cocoon

Antique chair


(photo Lorie Sheffer: The rocking chair ‘Grandpa Sheffer used to rock Lorie’s husband, Gary, to sleep in as a baby.)

Retirement. Gone are the days when that word meant a gold watch and a rocking chair on the porch. (Although there’s something to be said for both of those things!) Now, retirement means opening a new chapter full of possibility. It can also mean reclaiming the things that made being a carefree kid so wonderful.

Jeff, I wish for you and the rest of our generation who are looking toward The Big “R” all of the joys of being a kid. To get you started, here is a list of suggestions. Please feel free to add as you wish.

-Spend a weekday in your pajamas watching old movies or TV Land favorites. Popcorn and soda are allowed. Shoes are not.

-Go shoot some hoops at your local park. Weekdays, you’ll have the place to yourself!

-Avoid the lines and go see that movie MIDWEEK that just HAS to be seen in the theater. (While you’re there, take advantage of the discount you’re now entitled to!)

-Plan to spend an entire day floating on a raft in the pool. This experience is greatly enhanced if you eat popsicles and crank up your favorite music. (Everyone else will be at work, so hit the volume as hard as you want)

-If you live near a ski area, go midweek. NO lift lines, nobody skiing out of control and into your path, no endless trek across a crowded parking lot, PLUS you get a midweek discount.

-Take a nap. Just because you can.

-Go on a field trip! If you time your journey around all of those poor SOBs heading off to work, you’ll have almost no traffic to contend with!

-Two words: Amusement Park.

-Enjoy that snowstorm. Because guess what? You can clear out the driveway in the afternoon! No need to rush out there so you’re not late for work, so you may as well make a big mug of REAL cocoa and watch the flakes fall. If you happen to have a sled…

Sure, there are still adult responsibilities, and sure you still may want to do some work on your OWN TIME. But there is also that wonderful chance to rediscover what all of that hard work was really for. Enjoy! And Congratulations!

Next Blog

Guest Blogger Lorie Sheffer: Crisis

Three Mile Island


(photo Lorie Sheffer: Three Mile Island)

Remember when TMI meant something other than Too Much Information?

Think of all the things we worry about. Sometimes those worries are a huge group effort. The flames of fear and hysteria are fanned by misinformation and passed on as truth. Rumors and mistrust run rampant. Facts are thrown to the wind.

When the dust settles, the crisis has been averted and the experts are proven to have honestly been giving us facts and not trying to inexplicably mislead us with a lie, when the conspiracy theories die down, what then? What have we learned?

We all seem to fear most that which we do not understand, and yet how many of us make it a point to learn the facts?
Most of all, why do we only seem to care when the “crisis” is knocking on our own door?

Next Blog

Guest blogger Lorie Sheffer: Legacy

Wildflowers at Orlando Nature Preserve


(photo: wildflowers at Tibet Butler Nature Preserve near MLC HQ. To some it’s a weed to be scorned and eliminated. To others, a beautiful, flowering gift to make us smile.)

My friend died yesterday. One minute she was having a wonderful time with her family, even smiling happily for a photo, and the next she was gone. She was taken from this world by a crazy freak accident that never should have happened. But it did.
Reading the comments that folks made as the news of her death spread, I saw the same sentiment from every one of the hundreds of people who offered their sympathies to her family. Everyone said she was the kindest, sweetest person they had never met; she was someone who always made them smile; a gentle soul with a kind word for everyone.

I thought of the contrast between her and another person I know. This person is avoided by most who know her. She has a habit of telling lies and actually exhibiting criminal behavior at the expense of those whom she perceives to be weak and easily manipulated.

It struck me: how do we want to be remembered by those we leave behind? Do we want to be the person who brings a smile to everyone’s face or do we want to be the person who brings a knot to everyone’s stomach?

Next Blog