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What marks you in life?


Our family Christmas time (in January) saw a number of us getting Jagua tattoos.  It is like Henna but has a blueish tint.  It is interesting.  When you start out it is dark and then when it dries and you first wash things off, there is nothing there.  After 24 hours, Voila! A wonderful tattoo is there. It isn’t permanent and will disappear.

my tattoo

A long time ago, I got a chest x-ray and the technician said, “I need a second opinion because I think you have cancer spots in your lungs.”  You hear those words and you freak out!  The next person came in, looked at the x-ray and asked, “Did you grow up on the Mississippi River?”  I said Yes.  He said “You are fine.  You have a fungus from when you grew up.  Our bodies are marked by where we live and by what we have done.”

I have thought about that line “Our bodies are marked by where we live and by what we have done.”  Many of the marks that we carry are not seen by others.  Those people that have PTSD know all too well the things that mark our lives.  We all carry with us things that cannot be seen – even by x-rays.

The tattoos came with patience in the drawing and drying.  It was fun to see the image emerge the next day.  It was fun to see others getting their tattoos done.  We are marked not only by the negative but also by the positive.  Our family gathering was a great positive and was fun.  We have to be aware that not all things in life that mark us are positive and fun.

Kristen Vincent taught me about prayer beads.  She has some great books out and a great website “Prayerworks Studio”.  She has been doing a ministry lately with people (soldiers included) with PTSD.  She has a book almost a year old: Beads of Healing: Prayer, Trauma, and Spiritual Wholeness. This is one way that healing and wholeness can come to us and that our lives continue to be lived out in wholeness.

We are all marked by the day’s events.  Sometimes with help of friends and professionals, we can take the negative and make them at least neutral in harming our lives if not move our lives to positive gain. One friend said, “It isn’t that the glass is half full or half empty but that it is a glass that can be filled and drained as you wish.”

We need to find “filling” people and events in our lives and stay if not run away from things that drain us and harm us.  Prayer beads – centering prayer – for me have been helpful in calming me, helping me look at things in a new perspective and seeing ways that God is nudging me to do.  Jagua marks us temporarily. Centering Prayer and Prayer beads marks me as well.  They mark me in ways not seen but that are effective in my life.

What marks your life?  What is helpful or harmful?  Find the people/events/places that bring you wholeness and healing and do those things and focus on those people/events/places.   Find a community or at least one person/event/place and move in that direction this year.  Be aware of what marks you temporarily and permanently.  Go for the markings that bring wholeness and healing.






Hello? Hello?


This summer as we were coming up from the lake, our son looked at this lonely tree and asked the question as if he were the tree, “Hello?  Hello?”.  When we bought the land, the top half had been pasture and the bottom half almost forest.  The drought in the 1980’s took the cedar trees.  Later we removed their stumps.  The tall elm that had our tire swing for so many years got Dutch Elm disease.  One by one the Poplar, and Mulberry trees have toppled until there is one lone tree standing in the middle of what was once forest-like.


With the leaves gone it looks even lonelier.  You can see one of 2 of the same size woodpiles made from the trees that have fallen.

This fall, we took out the dock but the boat lift was still in the water.  My husband asked, “Hello? Hello?”


The dock was gone, the boat was put away and all that was left was the life – alone in the water.  There are times during rainy days and snowy days, I am thrilled to be alone.  I can read.  I can get my projects done.  I don’t feel obligated to go anywhere.  Yet there are times that being alone can be lonely.  During my lifetime, being alone has been as exhilarating as being with others.  Being alone, in a small group or being in a large group each has advantages and disadvantages.

I know that there are Christmas decorations up and Halloween hadn’t even been here yet.  Now that Thanksgiving is near, the Christmas rush is almost on in full swing.  People are doing “Black Friday” things earlier and earlier.  I know from being a pastor and the counseling I have done with others that the closer the time comes to Christmas, the harder it is for some people.

  1. People they love have died and this is the first year they won’t celebrate with them.
  2. People they loved have died a while ago but each Christmas the feelings come back as fresh as if it were yesterday.
  3. People put so much stock into Christmas family get together that it isn’t humanly possible to come close to expectations.
  4. This might be the first Christmas they are alone or it is the season they they feel alone and coping gets harder and harder.

I have tried to share how being alone feels to me and how I feel it is full rather than empty but maybe because I like being alone, I haven’t really understood the angst nor the depth of loneliness that they feel.

When I look at the lone tree, I can hear the tree calling “Hello?” “Where are you?” “Where have you gone?”.  We have planted trees over the years and they are growing but it will take a while for them to get to be as tall as the trees that have fallen.  The trees are also not planted as close together as the other trees were so even when the trees get bigger, they won’t be close to this lone tree.  It will probably be gone by the time the others are as big.

I guess I would ask you to look at these photos and then look around at those you love and who are near to you.  Are they calling out “Hello?” silently or out loud?  If you are the one feeling that way – reach out – and you may help someone else and in doing so you won’t be alone.  If you are hearing even faint whispers, reach out in their direction and see who needs your smile and presence.

Sometimes we fear that people will cling to us. Maybe we need to get over that fear and just be present to ourselves and those near to us.  Ask for help.  If people say they are too busy, then find those who aren’t.  If people are afraid to get close, take a step back but stay in their proximity and show you aren’t afraid.

Take some deep breaths and pray.  Take some to be alone.  Take some time to be with others.  Share carefully and listen with confidentiality.  Who knows, the ones you help may be those you need help from in the future.

Got it – almost


The other day I wrote “Missed it”. I had missed a photographic opportunity of leaves falling like rain.  Our fall leaves are the yellows and oranges this year but not the reds and purples. Monday I saw some great leaves but it was almost nightfall.  Tuesday we were gone all day and it rained and the wind blew and Wednesday it rained and the wind blew.  I was sitting working on something on Thursday when all of a sudden the sun came out!  I yelled to my husband “The sun is out!  Do you want to go for a drive and see the leaves?”. By the time we took off the sun had gone under a cloud but we thought like the day of the Eclipse, we might be able to follow the sun and see the brilliance of the colors – even if the sun wasn’t out long enough to get photos.


Where the sun was shining, the sun brought out the brilliance of the leaves but it almost washed out the whole photo.  When the sun went under the leaves didn’t seem to have such brilliance.   I was able to see and receive some great images.  The frustrating things was the sun coming out and by the time we stopped – just a few seconds – the sun would go under a cloud again.  Yet I needed to try because the rain and winds have been so fierce, I feared that if I waited until the rain and wind stopped, there would be no leaves left on the trees.


The leaves were great but I did miss the sun letting the leaves show all their brilliance.

The best part of the day was the stop by our road and the county road.  Several years this was the gathering place for lots of sandhill cranes.  Today there were geese but they are a little more skittish about a car stopping.


Then the most amazing thing happened.  Sandhill cranes in groups of 3 and 4 keep coming in for a landing.  They just kept coming and coming and coming.

I have enjoyed seeing the trees.  Somehow it never captures digitally as brilliant or as wonderful as you see it.  I enjoy the cranes and geese and just watching them – in the wild or at the International Crane Foundation.  What is your wonder in nature?  What of each season draws you into creation?  Where do you stand in awe of what is around us?


I missed it




We were sitting eating lunch and a sudden burst of wind came.  Our poplar tree has yellow leaves and it looked as if someone had take a huge container of leaves and just dropped them from the sky.  We sat in awe for a few minutes just watching something neither of us had ever seen before.  Then I said “Where is my camera?”


I went to get it and stepped outside on the deck and the “event of leaves” was done.  Just like that it was done and gone.  I tried to get a few of the single leaves that were in the air but it is easier to focus on birds in the sky.  I caught one leaf but it wasn’t in focus.  Even the leaves on the ground were blowing here and there.



I sometimes get discouraged at this fall time of the year.  What my eyes can see just can’t be duplicated either on film or digitally.  You think you have one of the most wonderful images to capture and when you look at them when you get home it is almost “oh well” that wasn’t really what I thought I saw.




I guess I have decided that some things are best captured by just sitting and watching and soaking it in.  I came across the book “Frederick” by Leo Lionni.  This is a story of a mouse that collects images rather than seeds and helps the mice in the cold of winter when they are hungry to become warm again with images that are in one’s mind.

I did enjoy the view of the falling leaves.  It was brief but momentous.  I enjoyed the leaves on the deck.  Each one was unique and wonderful and they were blowing around.  I may have missed the chance to get it recorded but I didn’t miss what I can still see in my mind’s eye.


“Choice” was the title of the photo that I submitted to Sight Psalms and it was posted on September 27, 2018.  The Psalms are in scripture and probably were set to music at one time.  Through poetry, we see God in a different light in the psalms.  The Upper Room is ministry of the United Methodist Church seeking to encourage people to have a daily spiritual practice.  One of the ways that is offered is through email or from their site to have a photograph and a thought for the day – hence the name Sight Psalm. You can sign up at

People can submit photos and a thought for the day.  I have submitted photos for some time.  I feel privileged that some of my photos have been accepted.  It is always fun to see one’s work – which has meaning for you – also mean something to some one else.  I knew my photo was coming up but I had forgotten which day.  It surprised me to see it on Thursday the 27th.  I usually go to the Upper Room website so that I can share it on Facebook.  This day that “click” took me on a far flung journey because someone had commented on my photo.


Will you use your God-given uniqueness to blend in or to stand out?

Photo by Barbara Page Kell

What surprised me was that someone had commented on my photo on the Upper Room website.  It was also a surprise that I saw it.   I don’t always look to see if there are comments but what I found really got me to thinking.  Here is the comment:

Thank You Barbara Page Kell for your sight psalm. I find it most amazing your choice of subject- that speaks to me -the lionfish ( genus Dendrochirus) to convey your thought. I have encountered this fish in every area I have visited underwater- shallow and deep. Shipwrecks and reefs along the Atlantic east coast North Carolina and Florida, Gulf coast Florida panhandle and east down into the Keys- all the way to Key West. I have dove in Hawaii and they are there. This invasive fish is a master of camouflage at times, almost impossible to find. Blending into the surroundings is impressive and standing out when moving makes it easy to see. I find it necessary to blend in and be quiet so others can have their uniqueness shine for God. Where at other times I find it necessary to speak of my experiences that can relate that uniqueness. Life, I have observed offers us all opportunities to use our God -given uniqueness at different seasons of our lives. I truly believe it is a choice we all have to let it shine or conceal it. Let us this day choose to use that uniqueness to the glory of God. Make it a great day!

I am not a diver.  On our honeymoon in 1983, we did snorkeling off Maui and it was amazing to swim with such a diversity of colorful fish.  Growing up in Wisconsin on the Mississippi River and some of the other Wisconsin river, I never saw such beautiful fish.  This Lionfish was one I saw in the Ripley’s Aquarium of the Smokies in Gatlinburg Tn.  After reading the comment,  I started looking up articles on lionfish throughout the day.

Just like the Asian Carp, an invasive species in the Mississippi and other Rivers,  so the Lionfish an invasive species in the Western Atlantic Basin.  They are without predators in that area.  They come from the Indo- Pacific region and the Red Sea.  They eat everything in the water – what other fish need and they eat other fish. Native fish haven’t evolved to recognize or avoid the hunting practices of the Lionfish. The Lionfish can clear out a reef or fishing area in short order.  These beautiful fish are a threat to the ecosystem when there is no predictor to keep them in check.  How did they get here so far from home where they don’t belong?  The answer isn’t clear.

We might never get rid of all of them but there was a comment from the Caribbean Oceanic Restoration and Education Foundation “Trash is also a problem but it’s not like you are going to do nothing about it”.  Trash is a serious problem in the ocean but many people are working on it – so too are people looking for answers to the lionfish.

What I first saw at the aquarium was a beautiful fish – which I knew nothing about.  After today, I am more aware of the larger picture of this beautiful fish. Many times we make judgement about something  without knowing or caring about knowing more.  Even if we aren’t divers nor live in the area they are threatening, what affects some of us really affects all of us.  We need to learn about what is harmful and helpful – sometimes one fact at a time.  There was a message on one website about what steps you could take. In bold red it said “Most importantly, please don’t turn a blind eye to the lionfish problems.  It affects us all!”

We always have choices. We can just see something and not do anything about it.  We can choose to get involved and make a difference.  My original words ” Will you use your God-given uniqueness to blend in or to stand out? ” began to really mean more to me.  We need to stand out, stand up and know what we are talking about.  Curiosity and learning can help us to know more and learn to make a difference in our world.  We are all unique.  We can all make a difference.

“To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.” ― Dr. Seuss

We often aren’t aware of what we do that makes someone else take notice.  I am glad for the comment on the website.  Those words took me on a journey that I never knew existed nor was it in my realm of possibilities that I thought would happen that day.  Listening, looking and sharing can open a world of possibilities for yourself and others.  Choose to make a difference.  Choose to be creative.  Choose to be both teacher and learner.


Pitcher or Saver?

One of my minster friends would ask the question as people came in for the cleaning day at the church – “Are you a Pitcher or a Saver?”  The Savers got to wash windows and the Pitchers got to clean the closets.

I am learning to pitch things slowly and carefully.  Time hasn’t gotten me in a practice of pitching as the next day AFTER I pitch something, I need it.  I am a Saver and come from a long line of Savers.


September 22, 2018, I went with my sister to the International Crane Foundation which is in Baraboo, Wisconsin.  I was in college in the 1970’s and I remember hearing someone who was interested in environmental issues say, “I’m going to work in Baraboo at the International Crane Foundation.”  I remember asking, “Why?”  The answer was “Somebody needs to save them.”

This is from the Foundation’s website: The story of the International Crane Foundation began in 1971 at Cornell University with two students who shared a passion for cranes. Ornithology students Ron Sauey and George Archibald envisioned an organization that would combine research, captive breeding and reintroduction, landscape restoration and education to safeguard the world’s 15 crane species. In 1973, with the generosity of the Sauey family – who rented their horse farm to Ron and George for $1 a year! – the International Crane Foundation “hatched” in Baraboo, Wisconsin.

We need to all be Saver’s of our environment and the creatures in the world.  In the 1940’s there were less than 20 Whooping Cranes.  There are now over 600 in the wild and captivity.  Having that small of a population usually means extinction.  There was much work and genetic engineering in the breeding that is still going on daily.  Whooping cranes stand 5 feet tall and have a wing span of 7 feet.  They are the tallest bird in North America.  Being big didn’t help them live until caring human being  stepped in and still are stepping into the life of these magnificent birds.

They have a board outside the Whooping Crane exhibit for you to see how you measure up – I am a little bit taller but my “wingspan” isn’t as great.

Are you a Pitcher or a Saver?  Do you know if what you buy and throw away is biodegradable or not?  Lately I have seen more photos of how we have used the oceans as our dumps and the plastics are killing the environment and the critters.  the David Suzuki Foundation asks people to pledge to go zero waste and give up single-use plastics.

A world without single-use plastic is possible.

I agree to adopt one or more of the proposed actions:

  1. REFUSE single-use plastic items that I can do without
  2. ASK for reusable cutlery and pass on plastic straws in restaurants
  3. REPLACE single-use items with reusable items
  4. GIVE UP non-recyclable, plastic, disposable items
  5. PROMOTE the choice of single-use items made of eco-responsible materials
  6. BUY items that contain recycled plastic
  7. PICK UP plastic debris in cities and natural areas
  8. REDUCE the amount in my recycling bin without increasing the size of the bin
  9. APPLY 5Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot/compost
  10. ASPIRE to a zero waste lifestyle

I had just seen a Facebook post for biodegradable toothbrushes.  The toothbrushes we threw around in the 1960’s are still just fine.  I looked up and plastics in general take about 1,000 to decompose in landfills.  Plastic bottle take 450 years.  This made me stop and think about what I am saving and what I am pitching.  What do I buy that I can buy “greener”?  What can I do as an individual to help the environment?

I am a member of the International Crane Foundation.  I can not do their work but I can support it.  I do have work to so in both saving the planet – environment and critters – and there are places for me to get information on what I can do better.  I have bought pens made from recycled plastic bottles.  I use water bottles but there are times that I use plastic bottles and make sure to recycle them.

I am making rugs out of cloth for Christmas presents as a way to re-purpose the cloth that was once going to be clothing.   #9 on the above list was: APPLY 5Rs: refuse, reduce, reuse, recycle and rot/compos.

Maybe the question is better put: “How are you a pitcher or saver for the good of the environment and your life?”  What are you saving that is good – like being part of something greater than yourself like the International Crane Foundation? The question is more than  “What are you pitching?” but more like “What and how are you buying things that eventually will be thrown away and harm the world?”

What things can you pledge to do to help be a saver of the world?  What and how you pitch is part of that answer.

I didn’t think I would ever forget her name.


I loved to bike when I as a kid.  I would go out on the roads in the country – gravel roads – and try not to fall into a sand burr patch.  My mother was our Girl Scout leader but as my siblings are 9 and 11 years younger, she couldn’t go camping with us.  A great lady who lived out in the country and was a Girl Scout leader was the person who took our troop on  so many camping adventures.

I thought of her this weekend as we were going up on the bluffs to Shefelbine’s Apple Orchard. There were 2 bike riders struggling going up the last part of the bluff.  My car was struggling so I know I wouldn’t do so well today on a bike.  I remember I had to get off and walk down parts of the curves on that road.  When you go up, you need to remember to save energy to go down, and visa versa.

It used to be that it felt like miles and miles of farm land before I arrived at this lady’s home.  I would ride out and help her do dishes or sweep the floor and then ride home.  Our troop went out once and she had this huge tent with a pole in the middle.  It had rained the day before and the tent pole was in soft ground and slowly fell during the night.  She was by the pole and it began to slowly pin her.  She rolled over and couldn’t find the door of the tent as it was slowly collapsing.  I heard my name “Barb find the door – lead us out of here”.  I guess she had remembered that my sleeping bag was close to the door. I started to wake everyone up too and led the group out.  She told me that I had saved her life.  I think that was a bit dramatic but it was nice to know I could lead even if I was half asleep.

We went into her living room to try and sleep until breakfast.  We had taken tuna cans and wound cardboard in them and put paraffin to make a burner.  We took coffee cans and but a “door” so that the burner would get air.  First we cooked bacon, to get grease on the top and then fried eggs.  The only problem was that her driveway was slanted and you could see for a long time grease spots all over the driveway where the breakfasts had been made for a long time.

We planted some pine trees and called it an experience!  When I went by her home the other day, the pine trees were taller than her house!  I almost missed the house for the pine trees except I knew which corner it was on.  Today the farm fields and sand burrs are gone.  There is nothing but houses all the way to her home and most of the way to the steep part of the bluff.  It isn’t out in the wilderness but in the middle of a settlement.

She was Presbyterian, I a Methodist but her life was a prayer.  She taught us graces to sing and pray before we ate.  She taught us campfire songs.  She cared so much for Girl Scouts and people’s experiences.  I was in college and she had moved but she had me come out to her new county to talk to a group of girls about all the experiences one could have as you get older. Most of the time girls drop out just when the experiences can be really interesting.  At the time I was still an official Girl Scout and a leader helping my mom.

I didn’t think I would ever forget her name.  Maybe it will come back or I will find where I wrote it down.  I have been going through old photos and I can tell you stories of the people but they names are gone too – some people the faces aren’t even familiar.

I am doing a project for Christmas using Close to My Heart: Stories by Stacy  – Short Story Workshop kit.  My husband used to tell stories of his youth to our kids as they grew up.  We are gathering the stories and photos so they can have them so our kids won’t forget.  You hear stories over and over as a child and you roll your eyes when it comes up again.  Yet now some of the stories are growing dim and some I can only remember how they made me feel.

Write things down.  Video people telling their tales.  Record them in audio form or written form so they will be safe from memories that fail.  Try the Stories by Stacy workshops and keep your memories alive.


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