Bibles show mute evidence of the past.

I unexpectedly got in touch with my inner historical child today through an unexpected encounter with an old Bible.

I grew up loving stories about my grandma’s growing up on a homestead in Alberta and the family using catalog pages for toilet paper and Gram and her next-in-line sister, Meryle, perched on back of a horse to reach the local, one-room schoolhouse.

My great grandmother wrote down the names of each new daughter in the family Bible.

Another family Bible — now long vanished — played a role in showing where a 4x-great grandfather came from. Evidently, he never shared any details of his family or past with his wife and children and their children. Whatever happened to divide them, he stuck to his resolution to say nothing.

Except, in the family Bible. After his death, one of his descendants leafed through grandfather’s old Bible. And there she discovered he’d written down that he hailed from Pennsylvania. The lines for the writing of his mother and father’s names was blank.

I was reminded of those stories today while riding the bus today.  An older man sat down next to me much to my surprise. There were vacant seats to be had — however, he said he had something  I might like to see.

Now, I don’t know why he picked me. I wasn’t wearing a t-shirt marked with “History is the bomb!”

But I was glad he perched next to me. His treasure was a vintage Bible — leather bound, brass fittings. The original owner had signed his name and the year 1860. Gilt-edged pages still shone, the lithograph colored illustrations of King David and the Apostles still intact. The spine was in bad shape, but the new possessor said he planned to get the Bible restored.

1860. My 4x-great grandfather was still alive then and the westward movement was taking place with folks travelling to Oregon and California in covered wagons to homestead. On the national front, the debates over slavery and electing a new president raged. Women including my grandmother’s English-born grandma, using wood stoves, wash tubs and “sad” irons to care for their families and homes.

This Bible — and the ones owned by my great grandmother and 4x great grandfather — feature the elegant handwriting of the past. The recording — or not — of family lineage. The stories found in the Bible that probably provided the only entertainment allowed on the Sabbath days. Showing mute, small evidences of who these original owners were, like the delicate dried flower found in my great grandmother’s Bible.

Treasures indeed.

(C) 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved. For more information contact her at






Shaking off inflammatory learned behaviors

When I was a kid, I behaved like a kid. Ornery when dealing with what I thought of as in-my-face siblings. Shriveling internally when getting called names by some classmates who specialized in bullying. Ducking behind behind the covers of a book when life just got too overwhelming – which it seemed to do on a regular basis.

From those situations, emerged what I call “learned behaviors.”

You know, those inflamed automated responses that crop up. Such as sputtering “Shut up!” when discussing how much firewood I was allowed to use on a recent camp out. My next-in-line-to-me sibling was in charge of fire operations.

I stalked back to my tent. Brooded, growled and chewed over what I wanted to say. Versus how I should behave especially with younger family members watching. I located him later and scraped out an apology for the heated words. But not for how I felt about his assertion of being da boss. That – that part of him will never change so I need to accept that reality.

A few weeks ago my boss micro-managed a project. I understood they wanted a certain result – okay. However, the way they communicated their expectations, left me feeling like a first grader who’s struggling to figure out what C – A – T spells.

I’m still trying to figure out a pleasant and professional way to shape my response to that situation. One with using my “I” words versus the more inflammatory “you” words.

Yeah. Good luck to me on that one.

And of course there are other situations that trigger the learned behaviors of earlier adult years. For example, sharing a meal with a 20-something offspring – and wanting to spill out reams of parenting advice on how they could shape their lives into my image of success.

My” or “their” image? Hmm. I bit back the words that hovered on the tip of my tongue. Told myself, “hey, cupcake, this isn’t your life.” It’s tough. But all those lovely “how-to’s” and “you should do’s” need to be shared sparingly. Sometimes not at all, unless the object of my concern looks at me and says, “Mom, what do you think?”

Basically, shaping the responses that keep the doors of communication open calls for a lot of thinking.

In some ways, I think I’m making progress. Although I’d better be careful about saying that too loudly or life (karma?) will bonk me royally over the head.

My mother and I have survived nearly two years of life together under the same roof. Because her health issues, she needs quiet and simplicity. I am learning to clamp down on my tendency to overly explain myself. Inserting pauses that allow her to gather her thoughts. Knowing when to fill in the words she is struggling to say – and when to voice solutions that work for her.

So, I’m working to scrap off the old triggers and examine more thoughtfully what is happening between me and others. One event at a time.

© 2017 by Mary Louise Van Dyke. All Rights Reserved. The writer can be contacted at