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Enjoying the dash

It is said that what happens between the date of your birth and the date of your death is LIFE. Although my tombstone has no dash, I like to think about the time that has been my life. It has truly been a journey and I am not finished yet.

First of all, everyone has a life story. No not all are worthy of print, but never the less the dash represents your life story. Today I would like everyone to think about what the story of their life has been.

Did you make the most of the opportunities that came your way? Did you do the best you could do under the circumstances? Did you make your life count in some way? All of us will have to stand before our maker at some point and account for what we have done or what we did not do. Sometimes it by omission that you choose to not do something. That is OK as long as it was the right thing for you to do at the time.

In the past 25 years I have led a very public life. I have written about the things that were my life.

The omissions in my life mean as much as what was included. I have learned that when I think of someone, it means that I am to pray for that person. Later I find out what the need was. I can pray even when I do not know the specific need. The Lord knows and my thoughts just echo his.

How often have I thought about calling someone and not done it? How often have I uttered a hasty prayer on my way some place? How often have I prayed for someone just to have my prayer not answered? Then I think — maybe it was answered and I failed to notice. Not all prayers are answered in the way we think fit.

I realize that some of you may be reading this column for the first time. I grew up in a single parent family. My mother had the sole responsibility for raising me.

My father contributed nothing but my genes. Did I let that hold me back? I do not think that I did. I always saw the best in things. My mother never bad-mouthed my father in spite of the way he acted. I give her a lot of credit because she could have been bitter. All she wanted was the best for me.

Life has not always gone the best for me. I did not get the job I wanted. I could not have the clothes I wanted. Even in my love life, I did not get the man of my dreams. What I did get was a man who could be trusted. A man who was a good father to our children.

Life on the farm was hard. We missed many things because there was work to do. I went to work to provide for my family. My husband provided monetarily, but there was no insurance and no retirement. My job provided both of these things.

On the back side of things, I have to say thank you for my job. When my husband died young, it was an asset. I am still reaping the benefits.

To say that I never intended to become a farmer’s wife is an understatement. The thought never entered my mind. Those years at the fair when I was exercising a calf or trimming its toenails or scrubbing it clean, all of this was new to me.

I became an agricultural writer. My first work was with a weekly paper where I did features for them. I went out and talked to farmers, then produced an article about their farm. The only experience I had to do it was my years of English in high school and college. When I did my first interview, I did not even have a camera. I borrowed one to be able to get a picture for the feature.

From that humble beginning I forged ahead and eventually had a column. Having a column has been a wonderful experience. I have met so many people. Often people communicate through e-mail or even through snail mail. Facebook has also opened up a whole new readership. People find me and write to me.

I have produced five books. Two were cookbooks complete with annotated recipes and personal family experiences. One book was about grief. I produced that one years after my husband died. It is my most spiritual one with my experiences of my first year alone. I have two books with articles similar to the ones I do in my column.

Most of my books have been sold through craft shows and when I am out speaking to groups. I think this is because people connect with me. They want to meet me.

When my husband died, I received close to three hundred cards — many from people who only knew me through my column. What a blessing it was to feel their love and respect.

My dash has been a full one. I have had so many wonderful experiences that I cannot count them. Not everything I have done was perfect. I made mistakes like everyone else. I am human.

I found a piece on Facebook that spoke to me. It was from the Power of Positivity. It says,” Love your life. Take pictures of everything. Tell people you love them. Talk to random strangers. Do things that you are scared to do. So many of us die and no one remembers a thing we did. Take your life and make it the best story in the world. Don’t waste it.”

P.S. I had this piece partially written when I found that quote. The Lord provides. It says what I wanted to say better than I could have said it.

Ann Swanson writes from her home in Russell, Pa. Contact at hickoryheights1@verizon.net.

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