Monday, November 24, 2014

Joyful Thankfullness

This week we celebrate Thanksgiving and the prayers that go up will contain thanks for things like:

Families and loved ones
Safe travel
A blessing on the hands that made this meal
God’s bounty

Yeah, yeah. All that and more. But think about the times in your life when your thanks for something was so profound it brought tears to your eyes. Or the relief that came at a pivotal moment pulled ecstatic joy from deep inside and the Hallelujah Chorus rang in your head. That’s what I’m talking about.

Some examples.

The rent, which has tripled since your small business moved into this big building, is due. You have a few hundred dollars and a few moths in the bank account and that’s it.

Your child rolls out of the car and hits the pavement as you take a corner onto the highway. Everything in your world stops.

Your husband has served almost a year in Vietnam and writes to you every day. Until he doesn’t for almost a week.

Where do you go for help when the extremes of life sit on your shoulder like a hobgoblin? When your mind is frantic and you snap at everyone and everything because you’re so afraid of the next breath? The last thing you think about is thanking God for the situation. 

But along with that fear and dread and feelings of helplessness come the prayers of a lifetime. The real ones. From the deepest part of you that you didn’t even know existed. Intense and unspoken because in your gut you don’t think you deserve a good answer.

Then . . .

A check for three thousand dollars came just in time to pay the rent.

We got to the hospital and into the hands of good doctors within ten minutes.

My husband was unable to sit and write his daily letter because he was on his way home. He called from inside the United States, “Can  you come and get me?”

Go – examine  your life. Remember the times of unbounded grace when joy and thankfulness sang in your heart and split the heavens.

Celebrate a true Thanksgiving. And do ask a blessing on the cooks. They’ll need it.

PS: I'll be back next week and I hope you will, too. 

Happy, Blessed, Joyful Thanksgiving

Image: Free Digital Photos

Thursday, November 20, 2014

When They're Far Away

Several years ago, when Mom was still alive, I asked her about something I’d always wanted to know. How hard was it for her to leave Minnesota? Back in 1956 things were tough out there on the prairie. We didn’t live in Lake Woebegon where all things seemed to work out at the end of Garrison Keillor's stories. No, we lived in a very small town where there was always lots of snow in the winter and mosquitoes in the summer, and not much money in the teapot on the counter. But it was home.

And then we left.

Dad packed up his whole family and took us out west to California. As a kid it was very exciting (and only scary when I had to start school). But I never thought about how it affected Mom until I was an adult and left California to live in New York.

“It was the hardest thing,” she said. “I cried a lot.” She told  me she even gave a big hug to one of her relatives whom she didn’t like. I have no idea who it was, but she was in such a state at the time that she did it anyway. I felt her gut wrench.

History repeated itself when one of our three sons left New York and moved to Washington State. It never gets easier no matter who is leaving, but I held it together as I waved goodbye to my first grandchild, only two, as they stepped into the airport fifteen years ago and flew away. That gut wrench again.

But think about how blessed we are.

No one likes to be separated from the ones they love best. But I’m so grateful that I can write, call, email or Skype these days. We can almost over-communicate. A few summers ago I even did some Skype babysitting for our (now) two granddaughters on the west coast. I sat in front of the computer while the oldest made grilled peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. We were experimenting and it was great fun. Another time I challenged her little sister to draw as many kinds of hats as she could. I jabbered and she drew. She sent them to me afterwards and now I have a new piece of refrigerator art.

All this is to say – if you have loved ones or maybe someone you’re trying to love better or even someone you’ve had a fight with – take advantage of all there is out there and stay in touch. 

Your life will only be better for it.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, November 17, 2014

The Very First Story - Written Down

Have you ever played that game where you’re sitting in a circle and have a sentence whispered into your ear and then you must whisper it to the person beside you until it comes full circle? Sure you have. It’s a kids game. The fun of it is seeing if the original words make it all the way around the circle. Usually they don’t and the results can be quite funny.

So imagine this. You’re a cave dweller at the dawn of the age. It’s winter and time for a chat around the fire. Everyone is hoping Tunk is up to telling one of his fantastic hunting stories. And he is, but it’s one you’ve all heard before. So it’s kind of boring. Fellow cave dwellers begin to scratch their fleas and pick each other’s noses. Tunk gets really annoyed. He stands up and grabs his club.

“Tunk never tell story again!” And off he goes to kill a mastodon for next Friday’s supper just in case everyone is sick of the (increasingly pungent) pterodactyl stew from Sunday.

This is extremely unsettling. Nobody knows what to do until little Org pipes up. "We should endeavor to write down this story or it will be lost to future generations.”

Everyone is stunned at little Org’s sentence structure and use of proper grammar. He might even be responsible for the first use of the word ‘story.’ Time will tell.


Org runs off to his corner of the cave and grabs some birch bark, a sharpened stick, and a jar of bat’s blood. (NO – I don’t’ know where he got the jar). He heads back to the fire and starts pumping for information. What did they all remember about the story? Whispering is heard around the glowing embers. Org is excited. But then squabbling breaks out. Okay – what could they all agree on? “Please tell me," pleads Org while wringing his hairy hands. But there’s no agreement anywhere it seems.

Then Granny, at the advanced age of 26, pipes up. “Back in my day . . .” A collective groan goes up and someone spits into the fire. Org is beginning to think this collective story writing gig is overrated. So he thanks them all, takes his bark, his stick, and his bat blood in a jar and hustles back to his corner to figure it out for himself.

The next day he brings his story, “Ten Ways to Trick a Mastodon”, to the fire. Everyone agrees that he got it down pretty good, even Tunk who had come back in the night with a new fur coat.

Don’t even ask. That’s the second written down story and involves nudity.

By the following spring Org had made six copies of "Trick" as it was now called and sold them for twenty clams a pop to Gary, the leader of the next cave over. Org's work became wildly popular and he eventually employed others. So, not only did he write down the very first story, but we can also thank him for founding the very first Org-anization.

Stop groaning.

Image: AKARAKINGDOMS                                   Free Digital Photos

Friday, November 14, 2014

Soccer - Gotta Love It

It must be tough, I thought, to sit on the sidelines and watch your two older brothers sparring on the soccer field. Out there with their buds defending the reputation of the Crane team. Dad and Poppy on the sidelines making sure you don’t get into trouble. But then there was . . . the monkey.

Julius had come along to keep him company and I could tell it was a love match. From the second step on the three tiered bleachers Julius got flung again and again. Soccer game? What soccer game? When you’re not yet two it’s hard to imagine anything more fun than monkey flinging. And it never got old. Over and over the beloved stuffed animal took to the air.

As I sat on the third step I was peeped at through scrunchy little eyes and his grin was impossibly cute. “Go get him,” I whispered. And he would. Julius was rescued from the narrow bit of Astroturf that dad had allowed as a play area. Then it was back to the second step and off Julius would go. Whee . . . “Oh, no.” That’s what he said each time. Then he’d look at me and wait.

It was hard to give the soccer game my full attention with this little boy and his monkey for a distraction. He was being so good and entertaining himself superbly. I was enchanted. It made me realize how much time had passed since Sam was that small. Now Sam is Number 8 on a rocking soccer team that won both of its games last night. A boy taking the direct route to manhood. I sighed inside – a deep grandma sigh.

Towards the end of the game little Ryan must have realized there was a need for his input. His brother was being called upon to “Shoot!” and needed to hear “Go!” from the sidelines. Guess who yelled that out? With his head back and a little hop at the end. Doing his part in the clinches. Go team!

And here in a nutshell is what I know about men. Little boys, not yet two, grandsons out on the field, dads pacing as the soccer ball flies, and grandpas beaming with pride. This is what unites them, I think, more than anything. This contest. This mission to win. This common love through the generations of all things sporting. It satisfies a deep need, one that’s sometimes hard for members of the fair sex to understand. But it’s a universal intense form of bonding that I’ve observed for decades and I have to say . . .

I completely approve.

Image: sattva                              Free Digital Photos

Monday, November 10, 2014

Who You Take With You

When I stand at my dresser in front of my  open jewelry box every morning there’s a brief moment or two when I must decide what reminder to take with me that day. Shall it be the small gold cross that my husband gave me when our youngest son was born? Or perhaps the bracelet my best bud Karen gave me? It’s a magnetic shimmering little bit of a thing and it’s supposed to help if you have arthritis. Which I do and it’s most pronounced in my wrists.

Ever since I was a teen I’ve loved wearing other people’s things. It could be because we were so poor and hand-me-downs were the order of the day. Mom would get boxes of clothes and shoes from well meaning relatives and we’d plow through them to pull out the gems. And I got it in my head that other people’s belongings were somehow more trendy, expensive, tasteful – whatever – than anything we owned. I remember one dress I wore all the time in high school. It had a paisley pattern in muted colors and the style was only a few  years out of date. Was it an aunt who had given it? I can’t remember but I loved wearing it.

When Mom died back in 2011 my sisters and I took on the duty of cleaning out her apartment. Tough gig. You must touch everything your mother owned. We had to decide which of those things we wanted for our own. I took the picture of the angel. She’d always loved that print and I’d found it in a catalog and sent it to her one year for Christmas. It’s in the room where I’m writing this. Hey, Mom. I also took some scarves – my granddaughters love them – and a denim jacket that is my first choice on a chilly day. Washes up like a dream.

The bulk of my jewelry has been given to me, mostly by other women. I love these women. A dash of brightness in my ears, at my wrist or around my neck reminds me of their friendship. I imagine them standing at a craft fair table or a counter at Kohl’s or our local gift shop. They’re thinking of me and I know how that feels because I do it, too. But they’ve bothered to take the time to consider their choices and find something to please a friend. How cool is that?  

So who shall I take with me today? My daughter-in- law Heather gave me a pair of silver double hoops. Casual, easy to slip in and go with everything. Probably those. I’ll take Heather with me today.

Can you relate?

Friday, November 7, 2014

Around Town

A couple of days a week I run errands around town. I always have my eyes and ears open so I can report back to you. It has nothing to do with national security but quite a bit to do with natural curiosity. For instance.

I was bee bopping along the road, having just come from the post office, when ahead on my right, on the sidewalk, it appeared as though someone had forgotten to take off their Halloween costume. Was this a Mr. Potato Head on steroids? The top part of this costume was brown and crinkly and there were feet attached. It was a real fight to keep the car on the road as I drew near. But the mystery was soon solved. I whipped my head back to see a rather short woman carrying a largish bag of laundry on her head. No hands! Yeesh. Wish I had balance like that.

And then yesterday hubby and I, along with our daughter-in-law, took advantage of the discount offered to veterans at a local store. 25% off. Yay and let’s shop. We went our separate ways to cover all aisles and I wound up in food (bet you’re surprised there, huh?). So I’m discriminating like crazy against all the chocolate covered biscotti, extra large bottles of olive oil, etc. And then I see a little yellow box. Of sugar cubes. Sugar cubes! I picked it up and marveled. When was the last time you saw those? A flash from my childhood came back. In the late 50’s some clinics put the polio vaccine, a pink blob of it, on sugar cubes so kids would take it. Innovative. Mostly the cubes were used for coffee and tea, though. Oh, and sugar cube igloos. Can’t leave that out. Sugar cubes were a craft supply beloved of third grade teachers in those days.

This morning I woke up with the theme from On Golden Pond drumming through my head. Good grief, where had that come from? But suddenly I recalled a trip to DC one year with my sister and her family. We were wandering through a beautiful hotel lobby when we saw the baby grand. Nobody was around and my sister claimed that Laura could play this beautiful piece of music. To prove it she did. Her fingers found all the right keys and it was lovely, just lovely. And no bell hop came to shoo us.

Funny the things that happen on otherwise ordinary days. All you have to do is keep your eyes and ears open. Don’t you love it?

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Walton Street Tycoons

Ever heard of it? It’s a book by Jim Lesczynski. That’s a picture of the cover over there. It’s an engaging read that shows us what could happen if kids took the economic reins into their own hands and helped save a town. I’m particularly interested in it because I know the two guys who got the production rights from the author in order to turn it into a movie script. I was called in to do some advising and a bit of editing. Oh – and to be a cheerleader.

In these dodgy times, when finances for so many are the cause of daily anguish, this book and possible movie are timely. More than timely, really, because whoever grabs up this puppy and puts it to the American people will have a big hit on their hands.

So, what’s it about?

Two brothers. Yeah, I know, sisters are more trendy, but hang on. Twelve year old Mark Hoffman and his little brother, Sam, are budding Libertarians. Feisty, non-conformist and very funny.  They defy authority, especially the nonsensical kind, and are not afraid to tackle a tough situation when life is going down the toilet in their small town of Walton, New York. Their mom is dating a man they despise and when her bakery is shut down, Mark and Sam use their righteous feistiness to help her out.

With an ingenuity that screams “get outta my way” they are wildly successful at selling underground baked goods to their school friends. Profit motive is not a bad thing to them. They cook up their tasty treats by stealth and eventually grow beyond their capacity to supply the increasing demand. So they hire help and in the process make some unlikely friends – and likely enemies. You’ll have to read the book to see if they’re caught out or not and how the town eventually fares. I can’t tell you everything.  

This story deserves to be a movie. It has everything. Kids and attitude all over the place. Hilarious chaotic scenes, rascally adults, brotherly love – sort of - and a surprise at the end that could make this adventure a box office sure hit.

We’re testing the waters. The script has been sent out and hopes are high. Congrats on getting this far, Eric and Mike. Thank you Jim for an excellent read. May the Force (the one and only) be with you!

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Kitchen Dance

Way back in the last century it was my habit to make breakfast for my husband. It was usually a well thought out affair. Bacon, eggs, waffles, pancakes, sausages, homemade ketchup on the scrambled and strawberry jam for the toast. Okay, that wasn’t all in one meal, but these are the things he loved and so I made them.

Then. . .

One day he fessed up that it was all too much. It gave him bloat to eat such a big breakfast in the morning, frequently causing embarrassing sausage scented explosions in the work place. So I could let that go if I really wanted to.  Hat in hand, so to speak, and puppy dog eyes, he waited for my reaction. On the outside I was gentle and smiled. On the inside there was the Mt. Vesuvius of joy. Yay, yay! A chore had just been eliminated from my always growing list. Bring out the streamers and shoot off the canon – freedom loomed. But I was cool and allowed that, perhaps, he could just see to himself in the wee hours.

But . . .

Another situation arose. You see, I like to eat breakfast, too.  So here’s how that goes. Whoever gets to the kitchen first makes the coffee. He fusses with his orange juice and pill box on the counter and I do-si-do around him to grab a spoon from the drawer. In the pantry doorway we do a fair impression of the Twist as we reach for our favorite cereals and then it’s a waltz back to the counter, each claiming a chunk of it for the prep. I like yogurt in the morning but if he’s heading for the milk I’ll allemande left to grab the fridge door just before he closes it. Then there’s a duck and bob to share the sugar and a two step back to avoid the cat. Before too long the end is in sight. Bowls out, banana cut up, coffee cups filled, we curtsy and promenade to our recliners in front of the a.m. news. Another kitchen dance morning has ended  . . . unless we both head back for second cups of Joe at the same time. 

Whew, it’s enough to make me long for the good old days of waffles, bacon and jam. Well, not quite, but there are days I could do without the Kitchen Dance. Or maybe the first 100 calories of the day are burned off this way. Hmmmm.

I wonder if I could teach the Kitchen Dance to the cat.

Image: Free Digital photos