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


Monday, August 21, 2017

Spiders - Again

Over the weekend, while cleaning the living room, I found it necessary once again to do some spider eradication via my trusty vacuum. It made me think of this post and I thought you might like to re-visit it – you  know – in case you find yourself in similar straits one day this week. It will give you strength. 


Spiders Spiders Everywhere

Isn’t it amazing, amazing I tell you, how stealthy spiders are? And, gosh, the places they choose to live. For instance . . .

Yesterday was the day I decided to take down the sheers in the dining room for a wash. These are the new, on Sale at Penney’s, sheers I bought last year in anticipation of painting that room. That hasn’t happened yet but I put the sheers up anyway just to cheer myself. It’s been a while so down they come and I bundled them in my arms and even though they were slip-sliding away in every direction eventually I wrestled them all into the laundry room. Unbeknownst to me I had guests.

With water running into the machine, I poured in the detergent and began to load the first pair of sheers. As I reached down into the basket, which butts right up to the machine, I came up short. There on the white enamel surface, two inches from my nose, she sat. Or bounced. Danced maybe? Scared the poop right outta me. I popped up quicker than our grand dog when someone yells, “Squirrel!” with my hand over my heart. Where the devil had that come from???

Okay, this was no cute little, almost invisible, critter. Nope. Around here we call these Farm Spiders. About an inch long with soul piercing eyes. I’ll tell you right now, I don’t squish  the big ones. If I have my vacuum handy I often invite them to the party in my Sears 4 HP Arachnid 7, but yesterday I was without my handy spider sucker. Sooooo – I went for my spider rescue kit. Ha! Bet you didn’t know I had one. Okay, I made this thing myself. It’s a plastic cup and a recipe card I got from an author who sends recipes if you sign up for her newsletter. It’s made of nice stiff, glossy paper and this one was for crab dip, I think. Anyway, here’s what you do.

1.    Approach spider (I know)
2.    Slap the cup over her (be quick here, spiders are amazing leapers)
3.    Slide card under cup
4.    Hang there for a second and calm yourself
5.    Lift cup, card and spider TOGETHER and carry outside
6.    Release spider onto the ground, not into the air as this can go very wrong with the spider perhaps wanting revenge and jumping onto your leg when you remove the card. Guess how I know that?

I followed this procedure precisely and all was well. Until I found the second one. On the kitchen screen. That must have been the first one’s husband. Somewhat bigger and able to escape while I was dealing with his wife. I could almost hear him, “Don’t worry, Blanche, I’ll come for you!”  As he’s dodging my feet, looking for the tall grass. Coward. It was the cup for the mister, too.


Tune in around Christmas for more adventures in Spider Land. Can’t wait to dig into the plastic bins of ornaments. I’ll have my Arachnid 7 handy.    


Image: Spider and Web by Pansa             Free Digital Photos

Monday, August 14, 2017

Family, Swedes and Pounce!

Whew – what a month! I hope you’ve missed me. I didn’t even have time to announce a blog break. Summertime is like that. But here I am again and you’re  probably thinking I’m now going to assault you with “what I did on my summer vacation”. Right? Well – you nailed it. One assault coming up.

Ever driven in North Carolina or shot down a slalom ski run? Same thing. At least  that’s my take on the roads around Rumbling Bald Resort where this year's family reunion was held. Everywhere we went we encountered hairpin curves and sudden swings that made us wonder if we should have stuffed extra undies into the seat pocket. When you’re gasping and pop-eyed for most of the ride certain bodily functions can fail. I have great respect now for the NC hill country natives – those people are tough.

Among the more delightful aspects of the family reunion, however, were our visitors from abroad. Sweden to be exact. Six charming not-too-distant relatives flew over to join in the fun and festivities. They introduced us to myths and legends of the old country, prepared a sumptuous Swedish feast and delighted us by singing in unison their national anthem one sultry evening. Spoke perfect English, bestowed on us gifts, and got to know their American kin with good humor and affection. Doesn’t get much better.  

Pounce! Our family card game of note. But I’ll bet you’ve never heard of it. In our family it has a longstanding history of fearsome games that go far into the night and can be learned and perfected in just a few hands. Which is what it tests – that – and your eyes.  Those two, the hands and the eyes, must  be super coordinated to win. It’s like double solitaire on steroids. Two of our Swedes, Folke and Marit, picked it up in no time prompting Folke to exclaim after he was able to yell “Pounce!”   “I am so happy!” If you want to learn how to play let me know. But be warned – it IS addictive.

When the hiking, boating, after dinner sing along, massive doses of food (including a best  pie contest), swimming, goodbye hugs and frantic packing were over, it was time to head home. And what luck – hubby and I got to take two of the revelers with us. My sister Shari (whom you  have read here) and our granddaughter Elaina were hauled along on the Road Trip back to NY. And because we didn’t get enough of good eating at the resort, we indulged at Waffle House, Chick-fil- A, and Wendy’s on the way home. In Elaina’s exact words, “The best eating day ever!” Oh, to be a teen again. The drive took 14 hours and, in spite of two pounding rainstorms and some road rage, no homicides were committed or even thought of. I’m pretty sure anyway.

At home we found a rip in the garden fence through which one, or several, deer helped themselves to the lush buffet they apparently thought we’d left for them. Stupid, ding dang critters! Beans wiped out, pumpkin vines obliterated, nibbles and crunches on broccoli and squash plants. Grrr. It took lots of wine and blueberry pie to recover from the devastation, but we all soldiered on. Shari’s blueberry pie with a butter crust was beyond awesome (see photo above) and will now be the go to fruit pie recipe in this family. White wine, excellent cheese, good crackers and therapeutic story sharing  also helped in the healing process. And some local gift shopping aided mightily as well.

The next two weeks were packed with activity including three birthdays, lots of pizza, the arrival of #2 son and another granddaughter, Lillie, from Washington state, more Pounce!, more eating, two trips to Saratoga for the horse races, swimming at Kinderhook lake, an awesome production of The Wizard of Oz at the local children’s theater (granddaughter Anna performed) and on and on. It all culminated with a five granddaughter sleepover at Grandma’s  house on Sunday night and Swedish pancakes, made by Grandpa, on Sunday morning. Then, in a sudden rush they were off to the airport or being picked up by parents. We kissed them all goodbye, waved them down the walkway with tired smiles and misty eyes as our shoulders slumped. Then I got ready for church and went and sat in peace to thank God for my exciting, exhausting, sweet, dramatic and blessed life.

How’s  your summer going? 

Swedish pancakes - where'd they go?