Thursday, April 30, 2015

Men Don't Shop

Last summer, as I sat at a baseball game, my daughter-in-law nodded at someone she knew, leaned in and whispered, “He loves to shop”. It brought me up short.  The “loves to shop” part I get. It was the “he” that threw me for a loop. The whole notion of a man loving to shop was so far outside my own experience that I was left speechless. I stared at him to see if he was wearing a skirt.

You see,  I have very closely held notions about the consuming habits of men and women. Many of my friends and family members have heard me spout, “Men buy, women shop.” What’s the difference you ask? Let me do some ‘splainin.

The world is full of creative people whose work astonishes me. Artists, designers, engineers, and innovators provide the rest of us with the goods to improve our lives. That improvement can range from the itty bitty to the ginormous. Why, just yesterday as I waltzed through the aisles in the Christmas Tree Shop I found one of the itty bittys. Plastic cup thingys that attach to the side of your chip bowl to hold your favorite dip. Genius! Somebody’s kid probably did up the prototype for the school science fair and while touting it’s virtues an innovator who happened to stop by. His kid’s exhibit was going nowhere, but the dip cups held promise. He was so impressed it’s now in stores. I bought two boxes.

Anyway, these brilliant people should be honored and recognized by the rest of us. As a true American shopper, I do just that. And it takes a long time. The shelves in stores are crammed with these beautiful works of art and creativity, industriousness and profit motive. And they need  me.

Now, consider the men, one of whom is my husband.

“What do you need?”

“Um, I’m not sure.”

“No, what are you going to buy?”

“I need some new sneakers and a summer tablecloth.”

“Well, that shouldn’t take long. I’ll wait in the car.”

The “takes a long time” part is what he doesn’t understand. Sometimes I’m not sure he’s even American. Has he no regard for the gross national product, a good deal of which can be found in the Christmas Tree Shop. Does he expect me to just walk by the bin full of pretty napkins – each package only a buck? And there are dozens of patterns! Picking through them could take five or ten minutes and that’s well before I get to the tablecloths. Yeesh.

So what I have to do is calculate carefully whether or not he should even have come along with me in the first place. Probably not. I don’t go with him to the hardware store where he zooms right to the aisle with the sheetrock nails, grabs a box, pays for them and leaves. Good grief. What fun is that? And no honor for the wrench and lawn chair designers either. See? His citizenship is suspect. 

Okay, so my daughter-in-law knows a man who loves to shop. But he’s an anomaly, I’m sure. On the other hand I might just sidle up to him one day and ask if he knows where to get the prettiest summer tablecloths. That would be okay, wouldn’t it?   

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, April 27, 2015

Shoo Dragon!

Around here the dragon’s tail of winter is just now pulling away, leaving in its wake a large swath of mixed precipitation, chilly mornings, yet a few more snow flurries and golf ball size hail in some parts. But the monster is leaving, back up to the mountain where Old Man Winter will groom the beast for the upcoming season. That dragon casts a long shadow, but there are a few ways to hurry it on its way.

First you must go shopping for new and colorful clothes. That’s right. You have my permission to take advantage of all those coupons that have been coming in the mail since Valentine’s Day. Touting spring they were and I’m off this week with a $10 gift card from Kohl’s and a 30% off from their flyer,too. I’ll only look at items in coral, lime or bright yellow. No more black and blue and burnt orange. No siree.

Okay, the next thing to do is buy ice cream. I know, I know. It’s a bit early for that. But jumping the gun on cones, sundaes and malted milks really gives the final slap to Dimwit the Dragon’s tail. And don’t you dare let him have a slurp of your strawberry shake. The spring people will consider that fraternizing with the enemy so watch it.

Then you must begin the hunt for your summer things. This includes the silk daffodils, the cute cafĂ© curtains, saucy beach towels and khaki shorts. Ew, that last one is tough. My lily white stems aren’t fit to be seen yet, but shaking out the shorts is a springtime, time- honored ritual that brings the sun out from behind the clouds. The sun that’s going to tan you. Plus, every diet trend on every magazine at every checkout counter at every retailer in the county will pop out at you while you’re buying your ice cream. Sorry, shouldn’t have mentioned that. Pay no attention to them!

Finally – you must go outside. Pick up the rake, the hoe, the garden gloves. This is your armor against the  hale, wind and fire (from all those leaves  you’ll be burning). Shape up the world around you and put Dimwit in his place. He’ll just have to wait it out – through all the lawn mowing, the luscious ripe tomatoes, the soggy beach towels and butter pecan ice cream. He can pout from his mountain top while he re-groups with Old Man Winter. Good riddance for a while.

So – fake it until  Spring makes it. You won’t be sorry.   

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Spring Walkin'

My first solo walk of the spring happened last night. I’d decided right after supper to mop the floor in the kitchen (thank you Swiffer) and then donned my sneakers. A quick trip around the back road was just what the doctor ordered. Plus, when I came back I'd pretend the maid had just mopped that floor. Nice woman.

Anyway. Things on the road haven’t changed much. Although I did notice the goat sheds have been turned to rubble. Their owner has been gone for many years and someone finally got around to dismantling the wood from the make-do buildings where they sheltered. They used to come to the fence and baa-haa at me. No more.

The peepers were competing with the guy who had his chain saw out. I love it when the peepers start trilling in the swampy area in the woods. I applaud the guy with the chain say, too. Hey, if you don’t keep the undergrowth hacked back the next thing you know it’s on the back stoop looking at you like you’re breakfast. Zombies hide in undergrowth, too. They hate chain saws.

Daffodils are all over the place and forsythia is in full bloom. The yellow is so cheerful! As I rounded the first loop a woman and her dog were coming at me. Big white lab. I’m not afraid of dogs – especially labs and greeted this one with baby talk. She loved it and so did her mistress. I was allowed a  pat and a rub behind the ears (the dog’s not mine) before they went on their way.

By the second leg of the journey I was beginning to think I’d probably earned a small ice cream sundae. Big mistake. That scoop with chocolate sauce and whipped cream showed up on the scale this morning. Dang!

It’s so nice to have come out of a long cold winter and know my neighbors did too. The critters and peepers and birds are on the move. Two black ducks flew over as I walked. Green is sprigging on the trees or red if it’s the maples. I saw a robin bobbin and crunched a few leftover autumn leaves underfoot.

Yup, spring is here.  I’ll bet you’re loving it, too.

PS: Another harbinger of spring – deer ticks! Hubby plucked on from my leg this morning. Grrrrrr.

Monday, April 20, 2015

BSP - Letters Than Mean Something

Okay, BSP, does not mean "letters that mean something". But we live in the age of the acronym, no? BSP means Blatant Self Promotion out there in the blogosphere. And in list serves, and on Facebook, Instagram and whatever new social  media is being developed by somebody’s good-for-nothing brother-in-law who can’t wait to say “HA!” to all his doubting relatives.

Here’s the deal. If you’re a writer you must constantly BSP yourself. Otherwise you will never be rich and famous. Actually, for me, forget famous. So far I’ve only been recognized in public once, in the liquor store, and I’m only just telling people about it now. Right here this minute. But I’ll take a crack at rich. Might not be any good at it, but I’ll try.  

Anyway, today for my blatant self promotion – and just in time for Mother’s Day – I’d like to highlight what some of my fans (there are four – maybe six) say about my books. I went to Amazon to paste and copy these if you don’t mind.

The Red Shoelace Killer

From Norma: A  really excellent read. The characters were charming and believable. There was enough mystery and suspense to hold my interest. I am anticipating my next adventure with Susan Sundwall.    4 **** (that’s stars not a cuss word – whew!)

The Super Bar Incident (right this minute on sale for $4.69!)

From Sharon: Here is another good read from Susan Sundwall’s Minnie Markwood series. Minnie outwits a local criminal and I laughed out loud at Rashawna’s antics. It was fun to discover more about Joel’s background and I was delighted to have Minnie start a romance as well. 5*****

Just A Little Romance (Bet you didn’t know about this one and only .99 – such a deal)

From Marion: If you have just a little time and enjoy a little romance, "Just A Little Romance" is for you. Four short stories and a few poems that can be read at bus stops, waiting rooms, or while resting between dreadful housecleaning jobs. Oh yes, you will find a bit of British flavor mixed in. 5*****  

Writers don’t really like BSP. But it’s just the way things are these days even for some big names. Well, probably Stephen King can stay home most days, but otherwise . . . it’s a tough slog for most of us. I promise I won’t do this too often – but books make great gifts. Isn’t that right fellow writers? And if you need a bookplate signed by me, do let me know.  

Thank you and God bless.

Image: Free Digital Photos 

Friday, April 17, 2015

The Fastest Transport on Earth

I’ll bet that title grabbed you, huh? Especially since you know I’ve been to The Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum recently. But I’m going to throw you for a loop here. The fastest method of transport ever devised is not the SR71 Blackbird– although that machine is Really fast. But faster still is . . . wait for it . . . Music.

This morning as the news show went to commercial the station played, "All I Have To Do Is Dream" by the Everly Brothers to get them there. Bam! I was instantly twelve again. That’s going back a lot of years at Mach V (whatever that is). I was in my parents home listening again to the brother’s excellent harmony, gazing in the bathroom mirror wondering if my current crush would like the way I wore my hair. So simple was my life then.

In the years before crooked teeth, pimples and first bras there were other songs. The ones Mom and Dad taught us.

From Dad – Little Sir Echo, Billy Boy, Playmate I Cannot Play With You, Red Red Robin, April Showers. There was one song Dad was fond of singing, early in the morning. It was “Oh what a Beautiful Morning” from the musical Oklahoma. We all came to hate that one.  He used it as an alarm clock to rouse us out of bed on Saturday mornings when he thought we’d slept way too long. If it was going for eight o’clock the bedroom doors got slammed open and we were in for a serenade. Dad wasn’t greeted with love and good cheer.  

From Mom – Brahms’s Lullaby, Whispering Hope, Red River Valley, Spring Once Said to the Nightingale.  Mom sang in the church choir for years but I never remember her having a particularly strong voice. She was also a dedicated smoker of Winston cigarettes – that might have impacted her singing voice. But she did have heart and sang to us from there. Sometimes I get teary-eyed when I sing these old tunes.

Moving on from the Everly Brothers to the high angst of the mid teens and the Beatles came to town. I didn’t like them that much. Shocked! I know. You thought I’d love them, right? Eh. I far preferred Simon and Garfunkle. I still swoon over many of their songs and listen with rapt attention to my Concert in the Park CD whenever I feel all nostalgic. Makes me pine for my long lost flat tummy and good legs.

I like a lot of today’s music, too. Shocked! I know. A few weeks ago our nine-year-old granddaughter, Anna, got a new CD. One of the songs is titled, “Dear Future Husband” by Meghan Trainor.  I. Love. It. Anna and I choreographed a few dance moves to it. What a fun afternoon that was. I'm such a hip grandma I can hardly stand myself. Wink.

Good music is good music in whatever era it’s produced, don’t you think? It ties up a lot of our emotions. It zips us back in time faster than a frog slurps a fly . . . ewww, maybe I should come up with a better metaphor, but I think I hear strains of “The Boxer” on the radio behind me. I’m about to be transported, but do give me your thoughts on this.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Pollyanna Re-visited

I wrote this one a few years ago. Still applies today. If it’s sunny where you are try to get outside and enjoy it. That’s what I’m going to do! =0)

I remember the day exactly. Two years ago on December 26th all I could do was sit in my recliner, exhausted. It had been our turn to do Christmas dinner (for 19) and I’d gone the extra two miles to make it perfect, but it took a toll. The next day was the most tired I can ever remember being. And that’s why we watched the movie – Pollyanna – starring a very young Haley Mills.

I didn’t really want to watch it, but nothing else seemed any better so there I sat. If you don’t know the story, it’s about a little orphaned girl who goes to live with her rich, tyrannical Aunt Polly in the small town of Harrington in the days of long dresses, horse drawn carriages, and idyllic small American towns.  

Pollyanna is full of good cheer, sass, and a very clear sense of what’s right and what’s wrong. She also plays the Glad Game that she learned from her missionary father explained in the following quote.

 “Oh, yes; the game was to just find something about everything to be glad about--no matter what 'twas," rejoined Pollyanna, earnestly. "And we began right then--on the crutches."

"Well, goodness me! I can't see anythin' ter be glad about--gettin' a pair of crutches when you wanted a doll!"

Pollyanna clapped her hands.

"There is--there is," she crowed. "But I couldn't see it, either, Nancy, at first," she added, with quick honesty. "Father had to tell it to me."

"Well, then, suppose YOU tell ME," almost snapped Nancy.

"Goosey! Why, just be glad because you don't--NEED--'EM!" exulted Pollyanna, triumphantly. "You see it's just as easy--when you know how!"

 Pollyanna alternately charms and shocks the townspeople and even makes inroads with the sourpuss, Mrs. Snow (played so well by Agnes Morehead), who is bedridden.

About halfway through the movie I was a little sick of Pollyanna’s solution to everything. Sort of like listening to yet another little girl screeching out, “The sun’ll come out tomorrow, bet your bottom . . .”  Sorry, but that song brings on the gag reflex in me. Because, you know, sometimes the sun Doesn’t come out tomorrow or for days even.

But my state of tiredness kept me in the chair weakly sipping coffee and watching. I was being pulled in. Finally the whole crux of the matter was presented in the form of a fund raising bazaar that Aunt Polly was against. Pollyanna in her eternal optimism sides against her aunt. When things are finally at their worst, we find Pollyanna sneaking back into her attic bedroom via an old tree on that side of the house. Just as she’s reaching for the window sill, she loses her balance and plunges to the ground. And lays still.

My heart almost stopped. I began to tear up. Because it could have been one of my granddaughters laying there. A little girl who’s buoyant innocence only wanted to see the glad in things. Someone who could look at you and see through whatever mask you’re wearing and get to the heart of the matter. The wide open soul who listens to your story of woe and hugs your arm saying, “Don’t be afraid, Grandma. I will be with you.” So said our little Melodi after I told her how frightened I was one day as a child when I got lost coming home from school.

I also realized that the world would be that much more miserable if we let Pollyanna die. We can’t leave her there on the ground to perish. We can’t let the crushing forces that so often intrude keep her down. For if Pollyanna dies, Despair wins, corruption triumphs and evil will slowly become the norm. We can’t have that, can we?

Those few tears I shed in my exhaustion were cleansing. And Pollyanna did get up and was healed along with her Aunt Polly and the little town of Harrington. A little town that just might be like our whole nation is right now.

Look for the Pollyanna in your life. She is a gift from God and you need her. So do I.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, April 13, 2015

Grateful People

“Thank you for your service.” We hear that often when we travel. And it’s all because of a hat. The one my veteran of the Vietnam War husband wears. Our daughter-in-law gave it to him for Father’s Day one year and it’s rarely off his head in public. Let me list a few encounters.

Dallas – We were waiting in line at the ticket counter in Dealy Plaza – where President Kennedy was assassinated over fifty years ago (in the Plaza not at the counter). The place is sanctified now and the window from which Lee Harvey Oswald took aim is sealed off with Plexiglas. But the Book Depository—all museum-ed up— is an eerie reminder of the era. So, anyway, as we stood there a young man tapped John on the shoulder. “May I pay for you today, sir?” This very respectable looking young man, as it turns out, was also former military and we were kind of awestruck that he offered to pay for an old codger’s entrance to the museum.

McMinnville, Oregon – We needed something to drink about mid-way home after visiting the Evergreen Aviation and Space Museum Campus where there are enough aircraft to supply a small army. Beautiful place but almost two hours from  home. Our son, the driver, suggested we stop and before  we could blink he’d spotted a sign for Dutch Brothers Coffee. It’s tiniest drive-in place I’ve ever seen, just big enough for the Blond Squad of three young women to serve from windows on each side of the building. As she handed our beverages through, our server, I’ll call  her Heidi, spotted “the hat,” and made a point of saying, “Thank you for your service, sir.” The man bobbed his head “you’re welcome,” and off we went chalking up another encounter. #82, I think. 

Charles Lindburg's plane at the museum - so cool!

Portland Airport – Two guys sat across from us as we sighed and twitched waiting for our boarding call. I smiled as one of them sat down and that must have been the signal that we were friendly forces. The older of the two men leaned in. “What’s a Seabee?” He wasn’t asking me. He was asking “the hat.” And he got an earful when Mr. Vietnam spewed forth. Turns out we were sitting across from a father and son, both ex-military and the father had just barely missed going to ‘Nam himself. Interesting.

There have been numerous other such encounters and it makes us both realize how aware people are these days. I only rarely read t-shirts and hubby wears “the hat” mostly to cover his bald (and getting balder) head. But I think these people who approach us have the right idea. I’m going to start reading chests and heads a bit more and giving commentary. A good idea.

People can be so nice sometimes, don’t you think?

Monday, April 6, 2015

Notes From the Weekend

On Saturday, as I shambled into the kitchen and poured my first cuppa Joe, my head was full of all the things I had to do for the weekend. Make a dessert for Easter Sunday, bundle up goodie packages for the grand kids, wash everything I needed to pack for our trip on Monday . . . on and on. Then, with hot coffee in hand, I leaned against the kitchen counter, sighed, and looked out the window. And there she was. The moon. Just through the bare branches of all the waiting maples and pines it glowed softly. Full, pale, shimmery. It gave me pause. Such a lovely reminder of what’s there for us to see if we simply stop for a moment. So I did and it stayed with me all day - this feeling that beauty is all around us. Just look.

The next day, Easter, the church was packed. I got there early for choir practice and saved a pew for the Sundwalls. I was so happy to know my family would be there. Our granddaughter, Sierra, is especially enamored of the Hallelujah Chorus.

Two things happened.

Just before I went up to sing I shared the peace with friends and strangers. One older gentleman, one of the strangers, stood straight as an arrow as I approached and extended my hand. He graciously accepted and shared back. Later when he went  up for communion he did so on crutches, lofstrand, the kind that fit on your arms. I never would have guessed he needed them. I gave him a small silent cheer.

When the time came to sing Hallelujah our normally smallish choir was enhanced by at least ten other people from the congregation. Pastor Jim always invites anyone who’d like to sing to do so – this one time. They clamored up the stairs and it was awesome to be filled in like that. The whole of the congregation then stood, turned and looked up as we began. But this time, as we roared out our praise, another voice shot up from the assembly below. Wally. The yellow lab. Yup. He accompanies his owner every Sunday and all we usually hear is the jingle of his harness when he stands. But this Sunday Wally was making a more joyful noise. You can listen to him and us right here. It was glorious. I’m sure the King of Kings was delighted. Oh – Sierra sang along, too. She told me later. Dogs and kids. Gotta love ‘em.

So – what have you encountered while you were out and about this week?

PS: I’ll be away visiting our #2 son and granddaughters until Saturday. Hubby and I will be off to Washington state this afternoon. See you soon! 

Image: Free Digital Photos 

Friday, April 3, 2015

Good (God) Friday

This day, Good Friday, comes once a year. For Christians it’s the day, even to the hour, that changed the world forever. I’m posting three small bits that I hope you will find edifying if you are one of those Christians, as I am. Have a wonderful Easter. May its joy fill your heart.

This is a short devotional I wrote several years ago.

Thought for Today: “who wants all men to be saved. . .”  I Timothy 1:4 (NIV)

Looking around it sure seems like the end of all things can’t be too far off. Think of the books and movies that present end-time scenarios for anxious believers to gobble up. Now think about Good Friday.

Judas’ betrayal, a horrible burden for anyone to bear, was no worse than the betrayal of the crowd. Pilate asked them to choose between Jesus and Barrabas. They could have undone Judas’ betrayal by calling for Barrabas. But they cried instead for the death of one whose kind face, miracles and teachings many of them had witnessed. But suppose the crowd had called for Barrabas? Jesus might then have signaled his holy angels, taken the crown of kingship and glorious day of the Lord would have come…but without you. Or me.

Good Friday is sometimes called God Friday because on that day God acted. God’s perfectly woven tapestry of the story of Earth isn’t over. Your life and mine have yet to be threaded through its beautiful fabric. 

A Poem

Mary Speaks
By Susan Sundwall

Oh, day of awful darkness
when I cried unending tears,
the very thing I dreaded most
now haunted all my fears.

Where could my lovely child be,
my Savior and my Son?
Who sought to wrench his life away;
what foul thing had He done?

With Peter, James and brother John,
I hid myself away;
as all around a cosmic roar
defined the wretched day.

I did not know where He had gone;
my world was torn apart.
Perhaps I’ll only have Him now
in the cradle of my heart.

And finally this by S.M. Lockridge. It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Another Peek

Monday’s survey results are in! Number ten was the all out winner – that being “all of the above”. I did have one request for more posts about writing so, in light of that and other considerations, I’ll do a combo of sorts and let you all have another sneak peek at my new Minnie Markwood story. This will be the third adventure for Minnie, Rashawna and Joel and the working title is The White Pizza Caper

Set up – Minnie has just come home from Bianco’s Pizza where she’s had lunch with Dan Horowitz and witnessed a shooting. She gave her report to an Officer Trumble and now all she wants to do is collapse into her recliner and chew on a Taffy Tail. But first this . . .

 The phone rang again.
     “Minnie, we won! The big jackpot! We won!”
     “And you sound excited about it, too,” I said. For the second time that night Rashawna’s voice blared forth, only this time into my ear. “Slow down and give me the details.” I heard scuffling, and Joel got on the line.
     “Minnie, sorry about that. This girl wants to tell the whole world we’ve got dough.”
     “What’s happening, Joel? Where exactly are you?” I strained to hear some indentifying background noises. Muffled voice and bell-like sounds came through.
     “Well, here’s the thing, see, we never quite made it to the Pocono’s.”
     “Oh? Joel, where are you?” I was in no mood for such foolishness. There was more tussling on the other end, and Rashawna re-claimed the phone.
     “Don’t worry, Minnie. We stopped at that racetrack in the Catskills just to look around and they have, like, this new video gaming. It was the video poker that did it. Three rows of big ol’ cherries. We won! We won!”
     “Rashawna,” I chided. “Settle down. Don’t let everybody in the place hear you.” There was gradual calming on her end, and I could hear her fighting for control. “Now tell me, how much did you win?”
     “Two thousand dollars,” she whispered. Then she started to giggle helplessly and hung up on me.

I’ve got about 10K words to go. I’m excited – like Rashawna – and will collapse into helpless giggles when that last word is laid down. Thanks for reading. 

Image: Free Digital Photos