Thursday, July 6, 2017

What's on Your Window Sill?

There are twenty one windows in our old, old house and they all have wide sills. In some of the rooms that means, especially for dear husband, more shelf space. This is especially true of the one in the kitchen. That window is ten feet long with a truly admirable sill. The back door is right next to the window so naturally that sill is a great place to store anything the man may need on  his way out. Or in. Like flashlights, two of them, keys, notes to self, his staple gun and once in a while a wrench.  

The kitchen counter where I prepare yummy good stuff to eat faces that window. It looks out on our couple of acres and smack in the middle of that sill is a cute little jam pot I picked up at a tag sale. It takes up about four inches of sill space. That’s my share. On occasion this poor little pot will shout at me that the flashlights are acting up again or the keys are winking at her. I pick her up, wash her face and tell her it will be alright. I promise to talk to the man and he’ll tell everyone to behave. So peace descends until the next dust up.

Then there are the sills that get drenched in a sudden thunderstorm. You should hear them scream. It's just water. Bunch of wimps. But I quick grab a towel to dry them off as I drag the windows down. I’m aghast at all the dirt that comes away on that towel. Sometimes there’s a dead ladybug, little feet up, or the dried corpse of a stink bug that must be dealt with, too. Ugh. I apologize to the sills and they seem content to have been attended to at last.

It’s summer so three portable air conditioners sit on three sills in three rooms. Hubby packs all around the units with rescued pieces of wood and old packing foam. Adds a nice third world touch to the d├ęcor of those rooms and I’m thinking of doing a photo essay that Better Homes and Gardens will surely snap up. Surely.

I was in a friend’s kitchen over the weekend and noticed her sill as I helped clean up the kitchen after a small birthday celebration. Oh, my. All kinds of cool stuff sat there. Tiny potted plants, a ceramic figurine, something that looked like a pin cushion. I mentioned my kitchen window sill and she steered my attention to the end of a counter where her own dear husband  “stores” all the things he’ll need for the day. She let out a sigh and I smiled empathetically. No further discussion was necessary.


Windows are awesome things. They let in light to brighten our days and help provide a steady income stream for Windex. Whoever invented them should get a federal commendation and an excellent health care plan. But the genius who thought up the sill? Those things could really mess up your home life so the jury’s still out on that one. 


Image: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Love That Sugar!


Two little girls and a trip to the store. What could be  more fun? The discussion was candy. My two young charges were all excited about the dollar I’d just given each of them. They perused the candy offerings at the local Dollar General and both decided on Mentos. One got strawberry and one got mixed fruit. A whole roll each for sixty five cents.

We didn’t have Mentos when I was a kid, but watching their pleasure as they each paid for their sugary treat brought to mind the candies of my youth. You knew that would happen, didn’t you? See if you remember any of these.

Candy Buttons – These came on a long sheet and were just that.Tiny colored buttons of candy on white paper. Probably our mother made us tear the sheet apart so we could each have a section of “buttons”. It didn’t occur to us dumb kids that they were all the same flavor. It was the color we wanted and often battled over. Then the dilemma of whether to pick or bite them off. That paper could get pretty slobbered up by the time all the buttons were gone if you chose the latter. I was a picker.

Jaw Breakers – Oh, yeah. Your jaw was in real jeopardy if you didn’t take your time with these little cement sugar bombs. You had to suck through the colored outer coating to get the whole deal going. Once that was done the real work began. How many times did you pull it out of your mouth to see how far you had to go to get to the point where you could clamp down and NOT break your jaw? I don’t know if they still make them this way, but in the center, and what they built the jawbreaker around, was a mustard seed. Anybody remember that?

Wax Candy – I loved them all. The lips, the mustaches, the little bottles with a pin dot of colored syrup in them. But my favorite was the orange wax harmonica kind of thing that really played music. Your lips got all sweet as you blew and the music, played badly by all of us, hardly had a chance after you took the first chomp of that wax. When you’d chewed all the sugar out of it you had a ball of flavorless wax to throw at your sister. Music, a sugar high and a cool saliva laced weapon. A three pronged wonder. It just didn't get any better. 

Big Hunk – Be still my heart! Every time I could beg, borrow or (yay) find under the sofa a nickel, off I’d go to the grocery store. It was a fifteen minute hike through several neighborhoods and a vacant lot in cheap flip flops to get there, but it was worth it. In roughly the shape of a ruler and almost as long, this was a vanilla taffy and peanut hunk of paradise. I loved them.Took a good long time to devour and I never shared. When they came out with one covered in chocolate I over the moon. But they may have cost a dime by then so I never got as many.

These candies are still around – except maybe the wax harmonica thingy. But the memories from childhood that are tangled up with them are not for sale – anywhere. I hope my little girls will have similar awesome memories of Mentos or any of the four million other ways there are to sugar kids up. They need that.  

So – what are your favorite childhood sweets and treats?


Image: Free Digital Photos

  

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

A Few Short Reviews - Re-reads

More than reading I’ve been re-reading lately. I don’t know if it’s because I’m too lazy to find new reads, need comfort, or can’t remember all the good stuff in those books I’ve laid down and have now picked up again. Some of each, I guess. 






Witness by Whittaker Chambers – Written over 70 years ago and it still chills. Why? Because it’s about Communism and this man’s struggle not only to leave it, but to be a witness against it. The trial of Alger Hiss came ten years after Chambers and his wife fled and then hid from the murderers who would have had them disappear into the night. Ultimately Chambers became a devout Quaker and thereby gained strength for the fight of his life. Richard Nixon was the tenacious bulldog on Chamber's side in that fight. If you want to know what threatened and still threatens our republic today, read this book.

All Creatures Great and Small  by James Herriot – Ah, the comfort factor. I’ve read this and Herriot’s other books three and four times and they never fail to soothe. Or make me weep with laughter. Or nod in sympathy. Who would have thought that cows, pigs, opinionated farmers and quirky dog owners could be such fun? The Yorkshire vet who captured the hearts of millions back in the 70’s still does that for me. I am one of those captured hearts and you could be, too. Or maybe you already are. If so, we should talk.

What’s So Great About Christianity by Dinesh D’Souza – Okay, I already know about the greatness of Christianity. But sometimes you need to have that reinforced by brilliant arguments not of your own making. God didn’t make me brilliant, but He's shown me a few who are. I may have to read this book several more times to internalize Mr. D’Sousa’s noble defense of his Lord. Atheist views pale.

I’m seriously resisting the urge to re-read Gone With The Wind. It would be my 7th go round with that one. But I’ve forgotten some of it and it would be nice to have a surge of old feelings come on with the first few chapters. I was sixteen the first time I read it. Maybe my flat stomach would come back, too? Probably not. And, yes, I’ve seen the movie, seen the movie, seen the movie.


So – what have you been reading? Are you a re-reader, too? 



Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, June 12, 2017

Guest Blogger - My Sister!

Good Morning! I have a guest post this morning written by my sister, Shari. In honor of Father’s Day and our own father, she writes from the heart about an important facet of child rearing – discipline. Something, perhaps, that is sorely needed now as much as it ever was.  Enjoy her missive and please feel free to comment. We would love that. Blessed Father's Day to all. 






WHITE HAT BLACK HAT
Lucas McCain where are you?
By Sharon Wible


The home of my childhood was prosaic in its structure, provincial in its worldview and moral in its consequences for good and bad behavior.  In the minds of myself and my siblings there were not a lot of questions as to what was acceptable conduct. Punishment was swift and painful and every wrong doing was instantly judged as having been done “on purpose” ruling out the necessity of a jury. All misdeeds went straight to the judge for sentencing.

This method happens to be a very quick way to bring order to a household filled to the brim with children.

EXCEPT, Lucas McCain would disagree and because I loved him, I had to reevaluate the discipline style so feared in my youth.

The Rifleman had the same philosophy as my dad for taking care of bad behavior. BUT he had a lot of help! The bad guys always wore black hats and sneered when they spoke. The good guys wore white hats and were pleasant, happy people.

Lucas had a rapid-fire Winchester.

Over and over again this truth was reiterated; if someone threatened your life you had every right to protect yourself.  When the bad guy drew his weapon, the Winchester meted out judgment pure and true.

With his son, Lucas taught lessons of right and wrong with humor and hope. When the son strayed from the path, justice was given pause as mercy worked its way into the son’s soul. When the natural consequences of misguided actions took their toll, the pain of disappointing his father seemed punishment enough for the boy.

But television fantasy doesn’t play too well in the lives of non-scripted people in the real world. My dad didn’t own a gun and there were no evident criminals running loose. Dad also understood his children were not “evil” in the truest sense of the word. But at the end of a long and harried day at work with mom at the stove and kids running wild; order was necessary and swift correction cut short a longer war.

If love and respect for the father has been cultivated, disappointing dad will often be deterrent enough to keep the bad deeds at bay.

Thank you Lord for fathers!


Image: Our mom, Elaine and our dad, Wendell. 


Monday, June 5, 2017

Tell Your Stories

The question went around the table, “What person would  awe  you the most if you were to meet them?” Furrowed brows and half smiles appeared then slowly the names, memories and stories came out.

“Kenny Rogers took my hands and looked right at me,” she said and began to laugh. The thrill of it still made her eyes light up.

“I met Arthur Ashe,” chimed in another. “He helped form our city kid tennis program.”

"I’d like to meet Angela Merkle,” said the person across from me.  “I didn’t think I liked her until I read her life story.”

On it went with each of us touching on encounters with the famous or a voiced  hope for that to happen. It took a good hour to get it all out, but at a rainy Memorial Day picnic it was a good way to pass the time and get to know these bits about each other’s lives.

A similar thing often happens at our family dinner table. Stuffed to the gills – actually I’m the only one with gills – and ready to talk, the car stories are unwrapped and thrown down. With four men chiming It’s a hoot to listen to all the ways a good car can go bad. Like . . .

Middle son had a Frankenstein green Toyota when he was a teen. Unless it was a Honda. Hmm. Anyway, it had wonky spark plugs that “popped” as he rode along. If you ran your eye along the edge of the hood, you could actually see the fiery little explosions. “No big deal, Mom” was the attitude. Then one day he offered to drive me to work. We were moving along at a good clip when suddenly there were puffs of smoke.

“Um,” I croaked, “does it do this all the time?”

No reply. We pulled into the parking lot and jerked to a stop at the front door. Son leaped out to lift Frankenstein’s hood. Billows spewed forth. “No big deal!” he cried from behind the death fumes. An alarmed co-worker ran for a fire extinguisher and it was all over in a few moments. Son grinned, said, “We’re good” and moseyed back on home while I tried to keep from having a stroke. 

I swear, one of these days, I’m gonna write a car stories book titled, “And We’re All Still Alive!”

Whenever and wherever people gather and begin to share I can’t resist saying, ”Write it down!” Please. You may think no one wants to read your stories, but you’d be wrong.  Life is story. I would give a small ransom to have my mother’s tales from her childhood in northern Minnesota resting somewhere other than in my failing daily memory. As a young girl I spent hours sitting on the edge of her bed listening to her "olden days" adventures. If only she’d written them down, I could wander back there whenever I chose. 

All this is to say that your life  has great potential for enriching other lives whether you think so or not. If you’ve come this far reading my words, why not grab a pen or sidle over to the keyboard and get it out? C’mon, you can do it. Someone, somewhere will sit on his or her own bed some day reading and loving what you’ve written. I promise.



Image: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

A Musical Repeat

This is an updated version of one of the first blog posts I ever wrote. I was prompted to go find it when my granddaughter told me she’d never heard The Battle Hymn of the Republic. Whaaattt???! So – being the good grandma that I am (try to be) I found it for her – guess where – on YouTube. So now she has heard it and also knows that we live in a republic. I couldn’t just let it go at the music. I know, I know. Anyway, here’s the piece. Feel free to leave your own list.


The Path Through the Music

There’s a reason why we call it mood music. Your whole life is filled with mood and there’s a kind and quality of music that suits each of them. That’s why music accompanies every scene in a modern movie and why, when the music changes, we know how to feel.

Think about it for a moment. When you watch old black and white motion pictures, often the scenes will not have music, and it comes at us out of a warped time machine. One that fails to realize how life is enhanced by the addition of music. Fortunately that’s not the case anymore. If you listen to music on your iPod while be-bopping down the street it’s exactly like being in your own movie, isn’t it?  I contend that the path that leads directly to God is lined on both sides with music; powerful, gentle, exciting and beautiful. Sometimes even judgmental (talk about mood).

Music is the sixth sense. I can open my mouth and with only one nano second of thought bring forth a sound that is not like any other sense. I know the mechanics of it – air passing over vocal cords, vibrations – all that. But it’s what I have in my head that’s informing those vibrations. I have to think that composers of old like Handel and Bach as well as more recent geniuses like John  Rutter (What Sweeter Music) and Natalie Sleeth (Joy in the Morning), who have been tapped from on high to bring a touch of heaven to earth. What was given to them is on a far greater scale than what this humble singer produces, but isn’t it wonderful that music is the universal language that falls like righteous rain on all of us?

I’ve recently come across some pieces that I don’t seem to be able to listen to hard enough. I want to squeeze every bit of beauty from them.

Melissa Venema playing Il Silenzio on the trumpet exquisitely. Here, she’s the age of our own trumpet playing granddaughter and I think of Lillie every time I hear it.


And this one, Gabriel’s Oboe, played by Henrik Chaim. I’ll wander into Heaven on these notes some day.


Last but not least is The Battle Hymn of the Republic conducted by First Lieutenant Alexandra Borza. Simply awesome!



I would love to know what plays along your path.



Image: Free Digital Photos


  




Monday, May 22, 2017

Picking the Moss

“Do you want me to do that?”

I looked up and there he stood, propane torch in hand, waiting for my answer. I was sitting on the walkway picking tiny weeds out of the moss. We’ve lived on this property for almost forty years and have never paved the walkways. They’re moss and gravel covered wonders and we like them that way.

Except.

The weeds, poison ivy, wayward lilies of the valley and grubs like them, too. So every spring I’m down there picking the moss. It’s a chore in my old age, but also a joy. Now I had a decision to make what with Torch Man tapping his foot and waiting for an answer. There are two walkways coming up from the driveway and almost everyone uses the one going to the back door. The one I was working on.


“Go ahead and do that one,” I said pointing to the walk at the front of the house. And I went on working. Boy, does burning moss stink! I ignored the hiss of the torch as I plucked carefully at the spongy lime green moss that looked like this when I started. 


I have to admit, my old bones were kind of relieved to have only half the work this year. The afternoon moved along. Finally, I stood up and stretched then gazed at my handiwork. Looked pretty good.




Then I stepped over to the walkway that had endured the torching. Whoa, Mama! See if you can spot the difference. Holy war zone, Batman!


On the one hand the scorched earth policy did the job. NO more weeds, grubs, and wayward things. I probably won’t have to do anything on the blackened path for months. Nothing to pick. And it only took a few minutes.

On the other hand no lovely green moss. No stone pattern slightly obscured by a bright overgrowth that’s been thriving there for decades. No place for tiny creatures, like delicate blue fairies and ladybugs, to hide. And no satisfaction for me. I really like preserving the beauty in the stones and moss. It takes hours and it’s still a bit messy, but, while I’m down there, I hum favorite songs, think of great blog topics, get some exercise and fresh air, and wonder all the while how God came up with the idea of moss.

Scorched earth and get ‘er done or careful picking to preserve the good? It’s tough to decide.

Any thoughts? Foreign policy ideas? Empathy?