Monday, April 16, 2018

Lovely Things


There will always be wars and rumors of war but I’d like to briefly depart from the daily news and remind you today of some of the lovely things. We have them in our lives all around and we shouldn’t let them be pushed aside by horrible and awful, those twin destroyers of our peace and sanity. Pause here with me and consider these.

If you are fortunate enough to live where you can hang your laundry on a clothesline and know what it’s like at the end of a weary day to slide in between wind kissed sheets you are truly blessed. The scent alone can carry you to a sunny, wholesome place, perhaps from childhood, where the troubles of the day drop away as you drift off to sleep. Shun the dryer, make the effort, and it will be worth it. Promise.

Dogs and cats, bluebirds and butterflies. Creatures of another kingdom that neither plant nor reap and yet enrich our lives like nothing else. Gifts that come to us with whiskers and velvet ears, rosy feathered breasts and divinely patterned wings. Sometimes we only catch them out of the corner of our eye, but oh, how we need that. Stroke your furry companion, feed the birds and chase the butterfly. Bliss.

The pure laughter of the littlest among us is a thing to be treasured. Every mother, father, sibling, grandparent, aunt and visiting neighbor will try to get that first giggle from the infant in front of them. It’s one of the few sounds of genuine delight on this earth and we crave it. In the baby belly laugh there is no guile, no agenda and no self. It’s an echo of Heaven coming to us from a tiny envoy who will only possess it for a very short while. If you’re the first to hear it, God has smiled on you.

From the CEO of the giant corporation to the guy who picks up your weekly trash, to the battle worn teacher, each and every one  will pause in the kitchen doorway where baking is going on. Loaves of fragrant bread, the spicy scent of gingersnaps or a bubbling apple pie – they call to us. It doesn’t just say “home” it says “Home at last!” and grabs you by the heartstrings. You want to be there with the world outside of the door you just shut – hard. Sit down, loosen your tie, take off your shoes and feed. Once in a while your soul needs just such. Indulge whenever you can.

We can’t ignore the world. It’s after us. But we can take quick moments to look at what else is there, riding alongside, given to us in full measure. Look for the lovely things. 

Image: My sweet violets


Monday, April 9, 2018

What if?


We’ve had really stinko weather around here for the past few months. Yesterday it was high winds and tomorrow we’re expecting snow. Snow for crying out loud. It’s  April. As I plunged my head under the shower this morning I thought to myself – it could be worse.

What if, while I was all soaped up, with dandruff shampoo burning into my scalp, the water pump in the basement shut off? Then the bathroom grew dark and something began scratching at the door and jiggling the latch? And the door began to cr-e-e-e-eak open? Poor, naked, water-less, shampoo covered me. There I'd be with only a pretty shower curtain between me and the evening headline, "Sasquatch Horrified When Confronting Woman with Burning Scalp Clad Only in Shower Curtain". That would be a lot worse than snow.  

Or how about this? I just got a free sample of some hair color ( a whole box!) and thought maybe I should try it. I haven’t colored my hair in years, but why not give it a go? What’s the worst that could happen? But then, I thought, what if I’m standing in the checkout line at the grocery later that day, feeling all young,trendy and winking at the bag boy, when suddenly a big chunk of my newly colored locks falls out right on top of my package of pork chops? Yeah, what if that happened? Almost as scary as naked me with a burning scalp and a monster at the door. No wonder the stuff was free.

Let’s leave scary behind and go look for happy. We have an old house. Always needs a repair or an update somewhere. It can affect your sanity and clean out your wallet.  But what if I bee-bop out to the mailbox tomorrow morning and find a certified letter inside? From Sweden. Addressed to my husband. Curious, we open it and find some lovely, royal looking stationary with a message stating that he’s the long lost heir to the fortune of Prince Sven Lots-a-Dough? Worth? Eleven million krona or, in American dollars, eleven million dollars. And it’s legit. I’d say we’d get a little happy over that and the old house would, too. 

And what if this were true? I’ve been healthy all my life. My husband of 51 years is, too. Our children and grandchildren share their lives with us and love us. What if I have a large circle of friends and a great writers group. I’ve never gone a day hungry, my closet is bursting with clothes and I have a cozy bed every night. What if that? Maybe I’ll count those all as blessings and thumb my nose at monsters, the possibility of going bald and the impossibility of being married to the heir of a Swedish prince’s fortune.

I think that’s what I’ll do. How about you, do you have a “what if” or two in your life?

Image: Free Digital Photos   

Monday, March 26, 2018

Some Easters I Have Known


It’s funny the things that come to mind when a holiday rolls around. This Sunday coming up will be about the 65th Easter I’ve celebrated. Before that I was too young to remember much. But by the time I was five I had my ear to the ground for all situations that may involve some gain in my direction. 

Five – Didn’t get much as Mom and Dad didn’t have much to give, but I knew something was up when the word on the street – so to speak – was that a bunny would be visiting with goodies for me and my siblings. Jelly beans and chocolate things hidden in nests around the house. Before the shiny green stuff you find in bags now there was the kind made from green waxed paper shreds. I found some"vintage" on Etsy selling for $26. Yikes! Trouble is, dogs and cats really like it so when it passes – well – you can imagine hopping down that bunny trail!

Ten – This year stands out in my memory because Mom made me an Easter dress that year. She had a new sewing machine and put it to good use whipping up a creation made from taffeta. Remember taffeta? Little girls the world over loved to swish around in their pretty dresses made from it. Mine was pink and covered in tiny rosebuds and trimmed at the neckline with pink velveteen (why am I thinking of a rabbit just now?) Sending up a “thank you” Mom. I know it was an effort.

Fifteen – This was the first year I sang the Hallelujah Chorus in the church youth choir, The Chanceleers. Wow. What a way to inspire a teen.  We attended a pretty big Lutheran Church in Southern California and there were about 20 – 25 kids in the choir when everybody showed up. We wore blue robes with white stoles and we rustled when we processed. What  a thrill to belt out the beloved anthem as our dynamic director, Mr. Encheff, pumped his arms and brought the altos in one beat ahead of the rest at measure 45. It burns in my memory.

Adult - I have sung the Hallelujah Chorus many dozens of times since then. With every rendition the message that so inspired Handel sinks deeper. I grew up hearing about Jesus and what He has done for us. I learned as a child and have always believed that He was my only Savior and looking back over my many years I see how I’ve been loved, chastised and guided by His life and His death.

With both Christmas and Easter there are forces out there trying to hijack the true meaning of those days. It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to and I can claim the Easter Bunny for the little ones and Jesus for our greater lives. With the one there’s the gain of weight. With the other there’s the gain of Heaven. A good deal all around. God loves each plump believer.

If you celebrate  Easter, I hope you have the best one ever this year. And in honor of Spring, I give you this.

Fiddlehead and Robin
By Susan Sundwall

A tiny curled up fiddlehead,
tucked ‘neath the melting snow,
awakened one fine  morning
when a robin chirped “Hello!”

“It’s time to rise you sleepyhead!”
said Robin to the fiddlehead.
And then they both began to sing
to welcome God’s sun dappled spring.

God Bless



Monday, March 19, 2018

Adventures While Traveling



Travel  time is coming up! Yes it is. And if you’re off into the wild blue yonder soon, you might enjoy reading about a few of the people I’ve encountered in my  own travels. This is a story that’s been published so you may have read it before. But maybe not.



The Bride, the Priest and the Maniac
By Susan Sundwall


We both sighed when the gate agent announced our flight would be delayed – again. Only twenty more minutes the agent promised. My stomach gurgled as I slumped into my seat and returned to my book. Great. I’d probably have to run like a crazy woman to make my connecting flight at the next airport. These kinds of delays are one of the reasons I dislike traveling alone. My mind inevitably churns with all the "what ifs," especially if re-routing is involved. I took a deep breath to calm myself. Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed the woman beside me pulling something from her canvas bag. She settled back and removed a small square of colored paper from the package on her lap and began folding the paper. Her fingers moved quickly, and in about two minutes she was twirling a little paper bird in her fingers. I lowered my book.

“How pretty,” I said.

She smiled. “It’s a peace crane. I’m making them for the guests at my wedding.”

I smiled back and took note of her appearance. She wasn’t young and there was an air of calm confidence about her that I envied.

“I’ve never heard of them,” I said.

This middle aged bride-to-be then explained about the Cranes for Peace project, the Children’s Peace Statue and how she hoped her bright paper creations would be a useful reminder for her wedding guests. My book stayed on my lap as she talked. The hypnotic rhythm of her fingers working the paper was a pretty distraction from my current travel worries. My anxiety was much reduced before we were finally called to board the plane. The bride shared with me that she was a chaplain and just before we went our separate ways, she gifted me with a pink crane. I still have it.

The Priest

I was kind of shocked when the man in the clerical collar glanced at the flight attendants legs then asked her if she played tennis.

“I used to,” she replied, “but it ruined my legs. I have no strength in my joints anymore.”

“That happens to a lot of athletes,” he said.

I didn’t really want to be privy to their conversation so I buried my nose in my book. (Yeah, I always travel with a book). It wasn’t too long before I was nodding off, but the priest must not have noticed because he leaned across the aisle and said, “That’s a very good book.”

I guess a priest would have to say that about Mere Christianity. I smiled at him. “I’ve read it a couple of times and always learn something new.”

As our conversation progressed I learned that he traveled throughout the country helping high school coaches build team spirit and foster a positive attitude towards their sport. One of his programs main principles was to highlight respect for one’s opponent.

“The seeds of that respect are planted when we respect our mothers,” the priest said. "It all begins there."

We exchanged a few more pleasantries and time passed quickly. Watching his retreating form as we deplaned, I marveled at the people we meet when traveling.

The Maniac

Well, the guy was from Maine, after all. I noticed him sitting in the window seat as I told the man next to him that he was in mine. Got that? There was an open seat in the middle though, and I volunteered to sit there so the offender could stay in the aisle seat. I plopped myself down next to the guy from Maine. Nothing much was said until it was time to decide on the movie.

“Have you seen this?” the man asked.

“I have,” I replied. “It’s quite good and has a wonderful message.”

 The movie also had some funny parts, and I felt my friend chuckling at the same spots that I had. When the movie was over he thanked me for recommending it.

“There are no accidents,” was the message in Kung Fu Panda, and the man was truly touched.

From there our conversation escalated to matters of faith, and I happened to mention my frequent flyer book, Mere Christianity. It was downright spooky what happened next. The couple in front of us peeked through the small crack between the seats and chuckled. Then the man held up the book he was reading, The Complete Works of C.S. Lewis which I knew had to include Mere Christianity. A chill ran down my spine.

My new buddy, Paul, (he revealed his name and shook my hand later) then told me of the difficulty he’d had when a beloved nephew died in a car accident a few years earlier. I just let him talk. I’d figured out it was no accident that I’d sat beside him that day. The few hours on that plane passed quickly, and when it was time to land my head was full of  much more than travel fears.

“If you only knew who walked beside you,” said Paul just before we parted. I smiled at that. It seems I’m watched over in the area of my greatest fear and these three examples let me know it’s so.  



Image: Free  Digital Photos

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Lasagna Sandwich


A while back somebody somewhere published a book about the telltale signs of the beginning of a civilization’s fall. You know, like the Roman Empire – the biggest “fall” of all. If you read just a little about it you’ll find out all kinds of bad stuff those people did to set the wheels in motion for sure destruction. One of them was their attitude towards food. More specifically, though, was the rise and glorification of celebrity chefs. Right? My eight pound old dictionary says “celebrity” means renown and honor publicly bestowed because of noted character or exploits. Huh. So let me tell you about dinner last  Sunday.

I put out the call early in the week. Join us if you’re able. Baked ziti, Italian sweet sausage, homemade garlic bread (yes, with homemade bread), blueberry pie. Sunday – we’d love to see you. #1 son jumped right one it and volunteered a Caesar Salad (our fall of Rome connection). The food came out well – maybe a  tiny bit of scorch on the garlic bread (stupid broiler – gotta watch that sucker and lay off the Merlot for a second) but otherwise, it was all yummy.

After all our concentrated gorging, when we come up for air and the kids had gone off to the living room, #3 son pipes up. He surveys the glorious leftovers and says “You know what would be good?”  We all politely burp, pat our round tummies and wait.

“A lasagna sandwich.” He says this with attending hand motions and we can almost see the layers going into this astounding creation. Pointing to the remnants of my excellent garlic bread he further illustrates, holding his hands as if in prayer. “Yeah, take two pieces of garlic bread, stuff some lasagna between them and it would make an awesome  sandwich. I’ve always thought that would be great.”

We  smiled, thinking of the glory. Three kinds of cheese, deep red sauce, perfectly cooked noodles, and lots of earthy spices all cozied up between slices of crispy bread dripping with butter, more cheese and garlic. I, of  course, would want to add a sausage or two. And #1 son, the great Caesar Salad maker, would add romaine, salad dressing and a few garlic croutons. A truly stacked sandwich – worthy of decadent Rome even. We all got teary eyed just thinking about it. Why worry about war, famine and pestilence, or the barbarians at the gate for that matter? We had this vision before us. 

The conversation went downhill shortly thereafter as we got off into the weeds with various eating contests we’d heard of and the exploits of the heroes of those sporting  events. Hot dogs, 14 pound hamburgers, row upon row of pies. Speaking of which, we hadn’t had our dessert yet. That blueberry pie  called to us from its place of renown on the big buffet. I abandoned the conversation and waddled over to get it. “I have vanilla ice cream if anyone wants.”

None of us was in any real danger of turning celebrity chef and becoming a contributor to the decay and fall of Western Civilization, but, boy oh boy, wouldn’t it be great to be the owner of a nationwide chain of lasagna sandwich shops? Or, if the barbarians do bust down that gate, maybe a lasagna sandwich will be what they’re after and not our heads. One can hope.

PS: Garlic bread recipe upon request


Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, February 26, 2018

Only 22 Days Away






This is a re-run, but it reminds me of a season that’s coming – Spring. We’ve had a few hints of it this February and as of today it’s officially only 22 days away. Yay! I’m not getting too excited yet because we usually get one doozy snow storm in March, but, but, it’s on its way! So, in honor of the upcoming season here’s one of my favorite poems from “A Child’s Garden of Verses.”

The Swing
By Robert Louis Stevenson

How do you like to go up in a swing,
Up in the air so blue?
Oh, I do think it the pleasantest thing
Ever a child can do

Up in the air and over the wall,
Till I can see so wide,
Rivers and trees and cattle and all
Over the countryside –

Till I look down on the garden green,
Till I look down on the roof so brown –
Up in the air I go flying again,
Up in the air and down!

All six of our grandchildren have gone up in the air so blue on the plastic swing hanging from our giant maple tree out back. When it was new it was shiny yellow and red with a t-shaped bar the snapped in place to keep them from flying out. They all loved to be pushed high enough to kick the leaves on one branch that dangles in front of them. And they would, when very little, sometimes fall asleep as they went back and forth, back and forth.

Ah, the pleasant sunny days of childhood. We think they’ll never end when we’re six or seven or eight. But soon enough we look back with longing and can only go there again in brief flashes. Like in Mr. Stevenson’s poem.

Hurry Spring. We need you


Photo: My miniature daffodils from last year
  

Monday, February 19, 2018

My Olympic Feet - Uh - Feat


Back when I was in my late 30’s, the same year sliced bread was invented, I was an adventuresome kind of gal. We had three kids, boys, full of all kinds of energy, good and bad, and athletic. So, when they asked about going to Haystack, a local skiing destination, I agreed that it would be a way cool family experience. There was only one problem.

I had nothing to wear.

“You can wear my old ski pants and jacket,” said husband. In his youth he’d been a speed skater. Even made it to one Olympic prelim. Medals all over the place. That’s how I met him. He asked me to skate. So I took up his suggestion and donned his vintage, before Gore Tex, ski ensemble. The pants were heavy brown wool and the coat, also wool, was bright blue. When I donned my gray fuzzy hat and black gloves I bore a startling resemblance to the Michelin Man off to his first clown rodeo. But once on the mountain, I was beyond toasty. I felt surrounded by happy children and inspiring winter scenery.

This mountain had an awesome bunny hill and a simple to use T bar. You know, grab the T, hang on and up the little hill you go. You glide up on your skies thus avoiding the possible disaster of plopping off the chairlift and doing a face plant in the snow. Really, looking like a big blue and brown marshmallow was bad enough.

Anyway.

Each of my guys took their turn with me. Once I let go of the T bar, one or the other would ski slowly down beside me to make sure I didn’t fall and become a human snowball. They all knew that Mom Was Not A Skier. Even hubby took a turn.

Under their tutelage I was doing pretty well. Had my “wedge” mastered – kind of. I was well padded, naturally and otherwise. On one of my runs I was feeling that I could go it alone now. This is how all those Olympic types must feel I thought as I breezed on down. I told my guys to go off to the big hill and I’d be okay on my own.

And I was for about two runs. On the third run I stopped at the top of the bunny slope and lined myself up to swoosh down towards the rope line and the T bar. I took a deep breath. I shoved off. I began to pick up a little speed as I went along. I became slightly alarmed but I had that wedge thing going. I could do this.

That’s when I spied her. A delicate little flower of a woman all dressed in perfect white ski garb standing primly in line with  a light wind touching the fur trim on her jacket hood. Just charming. A bunny on the bunny hill. I wanted to be her.

As she  moved slowly towards the T bar, I began to barrel clumsily towards her. I fought for control. Dang wedge! Faster now. I didn’t dare shout and imperil the bit of control I did have. “I’m going to take her out!” My terrified brain screamed. “Look out, Bunny Lady, look out!” I tried mightily to think of how a real Olympic champ would handle this. Nothing came to mind – because they are champs and I am not. A big fat zero would be coming up on that stupid electronic scoreboard for Michelin Girl Rodeo Clown.

As I was imagining profuse apologies and trying to think of what lawyer might take on my case something wonderful happened.

An arm swung out in front of me and stopped me cold just as I was within striking distance of Bunny Lady. My son Eric had seen my distress from afar and and zoomed heroically to my rescue. I heaved a huge sigh and instantly forgave him for all the crazy teen stuff he’d ever done (a lot!) hanging onto his proffered arm for dear life. I didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.

I do wonder, though, if there could ever be an Olympic event where a puffy circus clown and a bunny lady could do a ski ballet kind of thing. Probably not. Thankfully Bunny Lady doesn’t even know I exist.



Image: Free Digital Photos