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?

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?