Monday, October 16, 2017

Charlie, Ichabod and Wind

That song that’s not about Christmas will be creeping up on us soon. You know the one  “Raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens . .” Maybe we associate it with the holidays because we all have favorite things that come to mind when a new season is upon us? Dunno. Anyway my favorite things list is long and seems to begin climbing the peak about now because summer has nearly completed her annual striptease and awaits the kiss of autumn – that naughty boy. She’s asked me to share some things on my list for October.

Ichabod and Charlie – I broke down and bought DVD’s of “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown”. I’ve loved them both for many years. Charlie and I go way back. I was 16 when the Pumpkin debuted on television – yes, smarty pants -they had television back then. It was a greatly anticipated event and it didn’t disappoint. That pumpkin patch, mouthy Lucy, Snoopy with his WWI obsession. And, of course, the no show of the Great Pumpkin himself made this cartoon what it is today, a national treasure.

Ichabod and I go back even further than that. When I was in elementary school, living in Southern California, we only had one car. If Mom needed it for the day, she would drive Dad to work in the morning and sometimes one or more of us would go with her in the evening to pick him up. On the way we’d pass through a section of town we dubbed “spooky hollow” which amounted to a dip in the road and a clump of trees. It was all we had and our homage to the Disney special about Ichabod and his encounter with the Headless Horseman of Sleepy Hollow. We loved plopping in front of the television to watch it every Halloween. Now I live in upstate New York where autumn is on full display every October and actually live in the Ichabod Crane School District. Huh.

Wind – My favorite kind of weather. Not of hurricane proportions, but the kind that almost makes you think God is speaking to you. Whirling around tree trunks and rattling our old shutters, it’s a reminder that another kind of weather is headed our way and why the heck don’t you have the storm windows up yet? We only have the two in the kitchen. I’ll get to them. Soon as God gives the word.

Sweaters – Early last week I pulled open the bottom drawer of the dresser in the spare room and there they were. I drew back the tissue paper I’d covered them with last spring and grinned. The teal blue one, the red one, the black one with tiny cardinals on the front. They spoke to me, “Hey, sister, time to think about getting us out of here. Did you hear that wind last night?” I took the teal one out and told the others to pipe down –for just a few more weeks.

From here I could rhapsodize about the big bags of Halloween candy on sale at CVS. Snack size Snickers, Almond Joy, Kit Kat's and hardly any calories if you only eat ONE. I could go on and on about the big pile of pie Wiapples in the bowl on the kitchen table or the whopping pan of lasagna I made for company the other day. The heat from the oven warmed the house nicely. It’s not quite time to crank up the furnace. I’ll save that for November.

Now – I’m guessing you have some things on your favorites list too. Brown paper packages tied up with string perhaps? We'd love to know. 


Image : Free Digital Photos

Monday, October 2, 2017

Oh, Masterpiece

Masterpiece Reviews

I’m a big fan of Masterpiece Theater. Especially the mysteries, but also some of the historical fiction. Here are my opinions on two of them.

Poldark – Ross Poldark is a scar faced (be still my heart) British soldier returned home to Cornwall from fighting in the American Revolution. He finds his fiancĂ©, Elizabeth, engaged to his cousin, Francis, and his estate in ruins. And you think you have it rough. But, because he’s our hero, he forges on and eventually marries Demelza his servant girl. He’s remains besotted with Elizabeth, is determined to re-open an old mine on his property, becomes involved with smuggling and there are side plots, too. This all from the first season and it was just okay. Ross scowls a lot. A. Lot. Maybe that’s the reason for the “dark” after the “Pol”? I dunno. But he does even more of it in the second season where we’re bombarded for two hours with all the women’s problems. Such as jealously. Ross sneaked out and slept with Elizabeth in season one and – surprise! Demelza didn’t like it. She smacked him a good one upside the head to show him, too. And then the pregnancy. Whose baby did Elizabeth deliver – her husband’s – Ross’ mortal enemy - or does the wailing infant belong to Ross? And then there were war ships lost at sea with two of the other characters, the doctor’s wife and Elizabeth’s cousin, having husbands aboard. Oh, no! Are they alive or will Carolyn and Verity become widows – possibly on the same day! Oh, no! I’m sorry, this kind of stuff makes me glad I had my Kindle in hand and a Spider Solitaire game going. Yes, I could have changed the channel, but I just kept hoping it would get better. Like another mine explosion or Errol Flynn emerging from Sherwood Forest to capture Demelza's heart (so there, Ross!). Something. 

Grantchester – A little better. But this time there’s a brooding vicar and we’ve moved forward a century or two to 1953. The love of his life has also abandoned him to marry another, but at least Sydney Chambers and his police officer buddy, Geordie, have murder as a distraction. Grantchester is the name of this fictitious little town near Cambridge, England, and it’s full of charming characters who have it in for each other. Really, what would Sydney do if he couldn’t help out here? Oh, yeah. He smokes and drinks and pines for Amanda, the heiress he can’t have and he occasionally gives a tortured sermon. But then someone is murdered. Whew! Let’s get to the meat of the show here and shove personal problems aside for a bit - please. But, all in all, once you get all the characters straight (which his new assistant isn’t – though he struggles with it), this one can be enjoyed. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out whodunit but I don’t glance at my Kindle nearly as often whilst I'm trying to figure it out.  

Maybe I’m past the age where I can appreciate yet another female giving birth for our viewing pleasure or men scowling and lusting or horse and rider dashing along seaside cliffs. Or perhaps it’s just that these two fall short of my expectations. I’m much more inclined to love Sherlock, Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre or Downton Abbey. All of which were superbly done in my estimation. Thank you Masterpiece!
  

So, there ya go. Any thoughts? 

Image: Free Digital Photos




Monday, September 25, 2017

An Ode to the Season

I’m very much in the mood for autumn, but the weather isn’t cooperating. Gonna be almost 90 around here today. Good grief, it’s the end of September. Still, Old Man Winter is grinning broadly as he peeks around the corner while gazing at the blueprints for our first blizzard. So here’s a poem I wrote several years ago that speaks to that future date – looming large.





Autumn at the Gate

She came upon the garden late,
and lingered there beside the gate,
as fallen leaves went whirling round
with rustling crunch upon the ground.

The rising moon, the hissing breeze
had found the bare bones of the trees
and pressed upon her heart, at last,
that winter now would come on fast.

Mid wistful thoughts of summer days,
the lovely, golden autumn haze
seemed as a lover’s kiss, and then,
she left the gate for home again.


Have a hopeful week!




Image: Our tree by the barn

Monday, September 18, 2017

Where We Keep Things

A few weeks ago, after a soccer game, we issued an impromptu invitation to some friends to stop back at our house for pizza. Husband had been given a whole one after an event he’d helped with that morning. It was a cheese pizza and not his favorite thing so I understood why he said, “Want to come back and have supper with us?” This surprised me greatly and I immediately wondered if I’d scrubbed the toilet earlier. Ugh.

So we get home and I go to turn on the oven but first I have to take out the frying pans. “I hate for a big space like this to go to waste,” I said. “We keep our bread in the microwave, too.” These two comments were said by way of explanation. I don’t know why I do that. Explain how we live. And then I thought of all the places we humans keep stuff.

Like my friend, Marie. “Oh, it’s in Mary’s closet,” she said, speaking of some random object. “That’s where we keep all the stuff we don’t have any other place for.”

Whoa. She’d just tapped into something universal. We all need places for our random stuff. Right? There are little spaces – like my shopping bud Karen’s purse – her home away from home. Everything you could ever want on a shopping trip is in that cross body bag. And it’s tiny! Four by six inches or something. No quarter inch goes unused. Tissues, aspirin, Band-Aids, safety pins, 30% off coupons and on and on. I highly suspect she's got a whole coat in there, too. Amazing.

Then there are bigger places like my closet. It’s my very own, no husbands allowed. All my old handbags, shoes, totes, a box of decaying birthday cards, the architectural plans for a house we’ll never build, large plastic bags from shopping trips that will be just what I need some day, oh – and clothes. Lots of them. My mother-in-law’s mink stole that’s at least 75 years old. In perfect condition. No one will ever wear it. But it’s in the closet where I keep stuff.

John’s Red Barn. The biggest place of all. I don’t go in there. It’s the man’s keeping place. You would die of boredom if I completed the list. An old Mustang carcass – the car not the horse. Ancient tools, washed out tuna cans filled with screws, spider webs, woodchuck hideout. Ratty oil rags, cardboard boxes, scary things in the old goat stall that have been there for over 35 years. His place for his stuff and I’ve come to terms with it. Really. No – my eye is NOT twitching.

In my head I’ve designed the best keeping place ever, though. At the top of the mattress there will be a compartment, zippered, and just big enough to hide six gold bars. They’ll be right under your head while you sleep and the robbers will have to get past you and your pet python to get to them. If you only have a couple of bars, that’s okay. You can make some fake ones with cardboard and glitter to fill up the space. By the time the robbers figure out which is which you and the python with be on them.

So – where do you keep things? I want to know your weirdest places. And I won’t tell anyone, even the python. She and I will be too busy enjoying our profits from skyrocketing mattress sales to bother with you. I’m just curious, that’s all.

PS: What do you think we should charge for the mattress and would it be a good marketing ploy to include a couple of fake gold bars?  


Image: Free Digital Images 

Monday, September 11, 2017

Havens

Yesterday, in a sermon, I heard of a young man who sought companionship and a sense of place among his peers in a youth group. He had all the classic symptoms of a child growing up in a broken home. Drugs caused his mother’s death and his father had been one of her “clients”. The boy is now battling his own addictions and in the hospital wondering “if anyone loves him” according to pastor’s story. That boy needs a haven.

It’s only one letter away from Heaven – leave out the “e”. I’m not talking about safe spaces filled with teddy bears and shared outrage at the unfairness of the world or the wrong headedness of someone else’s stance. No, I’m talking about something more lasting.

We all exude in our personalities characteristics that make us a haven for those who know us and/or love us. It’s a smile, an arm around the shoulder and warm bread from the oven. You know people like that. It makes your heart happy when you’re in their presence. How do we get to be like that? I’ve thought of a few ways.  

Be choosy. About your words. I was recently called a bigot by someone I love very much. She’s young and just beginning her journey into the marketplace of ideas. I cannot even remember what we were discussing, but I knew my response to that charge would affect her. I simply sighed. No counter blows, no huffing and puffing and no yelling. I was tempted to tell her what the word she flung so easily at me meant. In my very old dictionary the first definition is, from the French, “mustachioed man”. Which I am not. But I hope the haven of my sigh will allow her to know that a few quickly flung words will be excused by the love we have for each other.

Pick a room. When I was a teenager that room was Mom’s bedroom. I’d come home from school and find her reading, pillows propped behind her, coffee cup on the side table. She always seemed happy to see me. I’d plop down and ask what she was reading. She’d tell me and explain the plot. I’d tell her about some good or bad thing that had happened that day or ask what was for supper. A brief, peaceful interlude that signaled all was well as evening approached.

My children and grandchildren love the haven of my kitchen. Hot coffee or a Capri Sun and something to go with it. Zucchini bread, chocolate chip cookies or a necessary conversation. Temporary respite. That room can be anywhere – even leaning on a counter at work comforting a co-worker. Two chairs next to each other at a dinner party. Anywhere. The more of a haven you are the more the comfort of your presence will be sought.

That boy who needs a haven? He might be next to you in line at the grocery store. Smile at him. That lonely old woman in the bed next to your sister’s at the hospital – ask if she’d like you to read to her. The grandchild who’s wailing over a lost love? Let them cry. Make them laugh. Excuse the foul language – just this once.

Be a haven. Be love. Bear the burden. It’s the Lord’s work and the world needs more of it. God bless you.


Image: Free Digital Photos

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

The Lovely Interlude of September

Somehow, when September comes, it seems as though another season is upon us. But not yet. Leaves are still green, flowers still bloom and tomatoes are plentiful on garden vines.  Oh, there may be a stray breeze or two that hints at the cold to come, but for a few weeks it’s still summer.

Over the weekend I cleaned up the county fair. Not the one with the Ferris wheel and pink and blue cotton candy found over in the next town. No, I’m referring to the one the  granddaughters and I made in the living room last week. What fun we had thinking up exciting things to do!

Sierra made a bowling game. We cut up a wrapping paper tube into sections which she colored and set on a piece of stiff foam for the "alley". We found a Wiffle ball to roll against them. Melodi made a pitch and toss out of a sizable piece of cardboard. We cut a big hole out of the middle and she used a black marker to make sure everyone knew it would cost two bucks to toss three tennis balls into it. We draped a sheet over the closet door for a photo booth and made fresh popcorn to sell from red and white striped cartons. All the stuffed animals in the house were used for prizes. It was quite the project. Their dad came later and was the major attendee. He made a big deal out of each game. Bless him.

School starts today and nerves are tight. Lunches and water bottles are stuffed into backpacks. Buses zip by on all the side roads. Classrooms full of crayons, colored paper and A B C’s strung in colorful array around blackboards bring back school days memories to we who have been there and done that. Books are piled on shelves waiting to be cracked open and teachers take attendance. Every kid has chosen clothing, sandwich and attitude carefully. It will take a week or so for the nerves to calm.

I’m reluctant to put summer away. But that breeze, the one bringing winter, blows. It makes me turn my head skyward knowing the leaves only have a tenuous hold on the branches that soon will release them. The oranges, reds and golds will begin to dance around my feet and it won’t be long before pumpkins will grin from fences and porches around town. Halloween cards are already in the stores. Turkeys, warm sweaters and snowmen are peeking at us, too. Time won’t stop marching.  

But it’s still summer. I think I’ll take a short trip back to June and work my way forward through all the wondrous memories I’ve collected since then. That’s what memories and the lovely interlude of September are for. Don’t you think?


Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, August 28, 2017

Just Try One


I was telling a friend recently how my late mother-in-law refused to eat squash. Why? Because she’d tried it once and found it repulsive? No. Because she didn’t like the name. “Squash” she’d say in a disgusted tone as though no one with any kind of decent upbringing would consider it either. Almost like she’d have joined with anti-squash tyrants to storm the streets if only someone would volunteer to organize it all. This  got me to thinking and you  know what that means.

Here are 5 things I suggest you try. I’d say “before you die” but every minute you stay breathing is before you die so I’m not going to say a dumb thing like that.

Anyway.

Peking Duck – Yeah, it was right there on the menu last Tuesday when you were out to dinner but you passed it up, didn’t you? Poor duck. All tiny and crispy and loaded with fat. Sauced up, too. Deep down inside something said "Try Me", but you wimped out. Again. This meant that Dutchie the dumpster diving rat and his brother, Ralph, always at the ready, got to gobble it down out behind Louie’s New #1 Asian Delight Cafe later that night. Why should that happen? Try the Peking Duck next time. One time – that’s all I’m saying.

Pennies – Try saving one a day for a whole week. Okay, that only adds up to seven cents by next Monday. I know, not much. BUT now that you have that saving principle firmly embedded in your psyche you can move on to two pennies a day. By the end of the  year you’ll have almost eight dollars (I think) in pennies and you’ll be musing, “Well, how dumb was that? What the devil do I do with all these pennies?” But maybe you’ve got big plans for that money, what do I know? Start with one a day– that’s all I’m saying.

Dancing – Do it in the kitchen. Go find Chubby Checker’s “The Twist” and let ‘er rip. Even if you’re still in your jammies, do it. So freeing. One caution, though. If there’s a blob of jelly somewhere on the floor, try to dance around it. Could be, if you got carried away with one of your signature moves, you might hit that jelly blob and find your feet going in a different direction than the rest of you. And if you’ve forgotten to wear your nifty little fallen-and-can’t-get-up necklace (now available in electric blue) it might not end well. When they find you two days later that jelly won’t be good to anybody – even Dutchie and Ralph. But do dance in the kitchen – that’s all I’m saying.

Listen – Now, I’m not suggesting that you try to become a better listener. No. That would be cruel. Because I already know you’re a good reader – you’ve come this far. Wait. That doesn’t make any sense. Okay, forget what I just said. Stop right now and listen. Is the television on? Is a bird singing? Is someone yelling “Wolf!” in a crowded theater? Just try listening. It will make you a much better reader – that’s all I’m saying. 

Grow Something – I sent a friend some basil seeds last spring and I think she planted them. She hasn’t told me whether the plants are overtaking the house, you know, like in “Little Shop of Horrors”? I hope not. But, if you don’t want to grow an herb or corn or rocket flowers, try skin tags. All you have to do to get a nice crop of these (most notably on your neck) is to keep breathing. It takes a while, but hang in there. Same goes for warts, liver spots and nose hairs. All I’m saying is Try growing something, anything.

So that’s what I’m thinking this morning. If one of these helps you become a better person, drop me a line. And Cindy, if you read this, do let me know about the basil. Okay? Speaking for my mother-in-law I know she’d want to know. She never would have tried it.


Image: Free Digital Photos