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? 









Monday, May 15, 2017

All That Cool Free Stuff

Fidget spinners. Do you know what they are? Neither did I until our granddaughter explained. She spun the colorful disc between her fingers. “You can get them at Ocean State,” she said. “They have a bunch of them.” A fun little toy trend - selling fast.

This intelligence sparked a larger conversation when everyone gathered here yesterday for Mother’s Day doughnuts and gifts. Apparently this spinner craze has spawned quite a following. They’re becoming hard to get. Orders are pouring in at Amazon and they can barely keep up. Huh.

“What was that other craze when Sam was eight or so?” I asked his younger sister. She’s got a mind like a steel trap when it comes to trends – past and present.

“Silly bands.”

Oh, yes. Kids loaded their arms with them. If you didn’t have any you were an outcast. So, of course, this grandma scurried all over town looking for them. But by the time stores had them by the cart full, though, it was a faded fad.

And then the nostalgic conversation ball began to roll very quickly.

Wacky Wall Walkers – Pitched against a wall or window these little creatures, made of suspect material in Japan, would proceed to slip and slide down the wall or glass surface in a delightfully wacky way. “I loved those things,” said youngest son, now in his 40’s.

Free Inside!

When I was small Post Toasties cereal featured free marbles inside their boxes of golden flakes. Came in a little cellophane sleeve and I always hoped there would be a cat’s-eye marble in blue. I think there were three or maybe four in the sleeve.

“The Honeycomb license plates were just stuck in the cereal,” said son. He pantomimed pulling the thing out and shaking it off. 

Baking soda powered submarines. Little plastic gizmos of all shapes and sizes. I recall emptying half the box into several bowls to get “the prize”. Sometimes I'd just plunge my arm in and squirmed my hand around until I found the thing. Small magnifying glasses you could start a pretty decent fire with. Whistles. Puzzles with a little bead you had to work into tiny holes. Gosh, what else?

Also Free Inside!

When we were first married, poor as dirt, I used Duz  laundry detergent. Yup, there was such a thing.The main reason I bought it was because a free dish towel came inside. They were tightly rolled, thin and small and shaking the detergent out of them made me sneeze, but I didn’t care. It was Free!

“My mom used to get drinking glasses at the gas station,” said daughter-in-law. Free with fill up! Green and blue stamps were also a draw and many a smart station owner got with the program and offered them to customers. Perhaps the first customer loyalty plan?

We’d keep going back to certain detergents, cereals and gas stations to stock our kitchens. Clever, clever ad men. Green and blue stamps were offered at gas stations and other stores and redemption centers sprung up all over the country. My mom did mostly the green. Not as many places gave out the blue – I think.


Isn’t it funny how one tiny toy can trigger an avalanche of memories? Now I’d like to know what Free Inside! or other incentives to buy that you all remember. I’d even offer you a free fidget spinner for them, but I’d have to pry it out of the hands of a certain six-year-old.  


Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, May 8, 2017

Why Do I Do It?

Yesterday, as I surveyed the large wooden bread board where I’d just rolled out a pie crust, it occurred to me. I could have purchased a perfectly good strawberry rhubarb pie on the way home from church instead of undergoing all this fuss. There’s a local farm stand that sells pies and apple cider doughnuts, puff pastry, apple cider, fresh veggies and honey every day of the week. Why hadn’t I simply stopped there? Now I had flour everywhere, a pile of sugar and fruit slopped bowls in the sink, and a sticky rolling pin to clean. I brought my hand up to smack my forehead then noticed it was covered with schmutz from all this pie assembling and I stopped myself just in time.   

But then the over-thinking apparatus in my brain kicked in. Of course it did. I began cogitating on  what it took to make this pie.

First – I had two packages of strawberries still in the freezer from picking last summer. A prime ingredient in pies, strawberry daiquiris, and jam. How much longer could I imprison them in that frigid gulag?

Second – First batch of rhubarb ready to cut. Big fat juicy stalks. After pie our next favorite thing to use the stuff for is rhubarb custard bars. Oh, man, glory in a pan. Thank you, Rhonda! Will make them soon after the pie is gobbled up.

Third – Rain. Blech. More rain and then raindrops and then worms on the patio. What’s a girl to do? Bake, of course. Warms the kitchen and smells up the house – in a wonderful mouth-watering way.   

Lastly - The Great American Novel. Okay, okay. I’m stalled. Strawberry rhubarb pie making seemed so much more productive and immediately consumable. America is NOT waiting for this book. That’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it. Plus . . .

Satisfaction. Something we all need once in a while. Something we can put, “There, I did that all by myself,” to and count it worthy of our efforts. Like having your hair and nails and new spring outfit all look awesome at the same time. Or finding the perfect cheese to go with that crusty bread and a great wine. Or remembering every single word from your favorite song when you were sixteen. Or stepping on the scale after skipping lunch and . . . okay, maybe not that. Anyway.  

I could have stopped at Samascott’s farm stand and bought a pie. But why would I do that when everything in my little circle of heaven had come together to make that yummy pie you see up there? There’s some left if you want to stop by later, too. I'll make coffee.


So, let me know. What satisfies your soul on any ordinary day? 

Photo - Second pie of the season. First one swooped away by #1 son and not seen again.