Monday, July 23, 2018

A Dime A Daisy and Queen Anne's Lace

A summer walk can be lovely especially if there’s a light breeze,  puffy white clouds and – low humidity. And that’s how it was that evening last week. So off I went.

I hadn’t gone past our tree line when I caught the glint of something on the asphalt. Right on the white line the highway guys paint every year. It was a dime. I almost left it there, but it looked kind of needy.  As though it had been through many hands, countless checkout lines and the occasional washing machine. It had chewed up edges. Probably it had been run over many times with no one seeing it down there on the white line, suffering. So I picked it up, gave it a little salute for its valor, and twirled it in my fingers as I walked.

The Queen Anne’s Lace is profuse this year. Before my husband planted pine trees and began building his compost pile on the top of our small hill out back, we had lots of it. Not so much anymore. So when I saw it nodding and bobbing along the roadside, I snatched some. These happy ditch dwellers have always fascinated me. Made up of dozens and dozens of minute white petals it sports a tiny, deep purple flower smack in the center of the bloom. Love them. And if you know how it got its name, text me.

Just at the curve on the back road, the one where I quicken my step in case a big old truck is coming around to surprise me, I spot her. Daisy. A single flower with a couple of fallen pine cones in the grass at her feet. I could swear to you the  little leaves that sprout from her stem are hands and they were up waving at me. “Over here!” she seemed to say. No doubt she’d spotted Queen Anne and dime riding along happily in my grip and wanted to be included in the adventure. "Okay, okay," I mumble, quickly plucking Miss Daisy and scooting past the curve. No truck. Whew!

We scared two rabbits. We caught a glimpse of the railroad tracks through a neighbor’s pine tree border. We noticed the blackberry bushes, so full of promise three weeks ago, were now bereft off all fruit. As we turned away from them my companions and I strolled up the short incline back to the main road. Heading for home we saw it. A blob in the distance but growing more distinct as it came at us. A biker. A dedicated rider with his head down. Not looking up until he was only feet away. He swerved sideways, slightly, when he saw us. I raised my hand full of flowers and a dime to greet him. But. He was a dedicated biker and he took little notice.

The driveway to the old homestead was now only a few hundred feet away and then we’d be home where a small flower vase and a cozy place in my coin jar waited.

A summer walk can be lovely. Especially when you have a dime, a daisy, and Queen Anne’s Lace for company.

I’ll be taking the month of August off. See you in the Fall! We’ll go for a walk.

Image: My walking buddies

Monday, July 9, 2018

Hometown Street Fair

Are hometown craft fairs, festivals and bazaars pure Americana or what? I’ve got to think so. This past Saturday we drove the six miles necessary to see our granddaughter in a local children’s theater play, A Year With Frog and Toad. The kids did a spectacular job and I don’t suppose I need to tell you that our granddaughter excelled. Right? I didn’t need to tell you that.  

Outside on the streets of Chatham there was a fair going on. Summerfest 2018. You could smell it. Hot dogs, cotton candy, food trucks, pretzels. You could see it. Pop ups and long tables with coolers and boxes stashed beneath. Good things had come out of those boxes and hopes were high that folks would buy. You could touch it. Doll clothes, homemade toys, nifty things for dogs and cats. Earrings, metal art, and children’s books. You could hear it. “Are you registered to vote?” Yes, we answered – and she seemed pleased. Across the way the gentle voice of a singer accompanied by his own guitar floated over the crowd. Children bounced along, eyes wide and ever on the lookout for that cotton candy I mentioned and tugging at their moms to hurry up.  

On the ride home I pondered. Every sense is stimulated at these events. Besides the five we own, there are the others. A sense of hope. Every vendor hopes the day will be rain free. It was. Every vendor hopes their carefully crafted items will sell. Every shopper hopes to find one unique thing available nowhere else on earth and for a good price, too! Every town hopes the fair or the fest will be successful and reflects well on their name.

It brings out the poet in me.

Do you recall when you were ten

Excited for the fair,

That came to town like a happy clown

Who hoped to see you there?

The summer sun beat hot and sweet

With pop ups strewn along the street

And any kid who had a dime

Could simply have a glorious time

When you were ten, go back again

Remember when, remember when

Okay, that was off the cuff, but kinda how I felt as we headed for home. Thought I’d share my Americana thoughts with you. Have a super week!

Image: Free digital photos

Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Casey at the Bat

Note: This story was published in Prairie Times a few years ago.
Like Father, Like Son, Like Grandson
True American Sportsmen

When my husband was in eighth grade he played basketball at a private school. His teachers were very strict but made him what he is today, I’m pretty sure. But he also had a mom who was concerned with his grades. Three cheers for mom, right? But then she got a note from one of the strict teachers who informed her that basketball was endangering his grades. Big game coming up. Big tension in the house. Basketball lost to  Mom and the teachers and one young boy was devastated. Many years later she told me about it because he never could.

Fast forward to our number one son, a baseball player. He truly loved this favorite American pastime as we did. He was a popular player and had his dad for a coach. What could be better? Many times he came through for Dad and the team and glory rose all ‘round. Until the day that has assumed the mantle of Casey at the Bat for us. Remember that old poem about the hero of Mudville? Until he struck out. All hopes were pinned on our son that day just as the hopes of Mudville were pinned on Casey.

“Get ‘em!” his teammates hollered. Lots of chatter from the outfield. My eyes and his brothers were all glued to our favorite batter. We just knew he could do it. He was a team player, and a good kid – who struck out. On the ride home our new maxi-van was barely able to hold the grief and this mother wanted to cradle her baby so badly and could not.

Pull the story into the present and another star has been born. Mr. Personality. The male heir. Funny, scary smart, and, best of all to Mom and Grandma, tenderhearted. Well, except when it comes to teasing his sister, but that’s a brother for you. It’s a kid thing. And then one summer our star faced a challenge that rocked our world. He had to absorb, cope, think about and rally against a perceived injustice. Tie score, worthy opponents(and a bit cocky), and a chance to break a tie to win against a team with no losses. It was beyond tense.

“You can do this, bud!” His mother yelled and I was so nervous for him I was speechless. 

His grandfather was keeping score and I looked over to see him squirm in his fancy lawn chair. He rubbed his legs like he always does when he’s tense and excited.

Sam clobbered the ball and got to first. One man ahead of him on second and then the ball was clobbered again and they were off. Our boy rounds third like a locomotive and  heads for home. Where chaos reined. Dust all over the place, an outfielder hum-chucking the ball for home plate. The player just ahead of Sam scoring, parents on their feet cheering, and the opposing team’s itty bitty catcher smack in the way. Sam’s way.  

Do you know how hard it is to stop a locomotive? You do? Then you know Sam couldn’t stop. With every sense dedicated to scoring and his judgment on call, he spotted the prize and decided not to slide. He did not intentionally do it but he took the itty bitty catcher out at the knees.

CRASH! Down went the poor guy and outrage exploded.

On their side for the turtle-on-its-back catcher. On our side for Sam who was suddenly caught up in a melee that got him thrown out of the game and threatened with suspension. “Yer Out!” the umpire screeched. Just like Casey in Mudville. Our boy with a red face and Niagara Falls wanting to spill from his eyes on the humiliating walk to the dugout.  And this time a mom as well as a grandma who could not cuddle their baby.

With all this drama and with a head full of memories all I can say is, there was more love in that van ride home than I’ve seen anywhere in a long time. And I’m sure there was the same on the ride home for the other team’s catcher. These were our boys, on both sides, needing every bit of understanding we could give them.

Some things are so hard. But our choice in the tough times is to rage on or to hope. And for our family’s part, we went with hope. You won’t fail if you aren’t out there playing, but you won’t win, either. In the true spirit of American sportsmanship we keep on trying and hoping. 

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, June 25, 2018

And Now for a Re-read

I’m at it again. Re-reading Gone With The Wind. The first time I read it I was sixteen, the age of the heroine, Scarlett O’Hara, when the story begins. I was taking a library science course in high school and my mother forbade me to read it. So, of course, I couldn’t wait to snag it off the shelves. Honestly, I have no idea why Mom would issue such an edict – but it worked. I was in it for the long haul and boy, at over a thousand pages, it was a haul for sure. Lasted almost as long as the Civil War itself.

Need I point out that at the ripe old age of sixteen I already knew everything. Like most young people. Right?  So I skipped over Margaret Mitchell’s long, beautiful descriptions of life in the pre-war South and ignored the rich history she revealed. Instead I looked for the good stuff, Scarlett’s obsession with romance, Ashley Wilkes and her own very important self. The book struck a chord deep inside my emotional girl's heart and I buried myself in that book every night for weeks. At the end, when all seemed lost for Scarlett, I wept on my bed. My dad found me that way and when he asked what was wrong I nearly took his head off. Little did I know that my mother’s subterfuge had opened a whole new world for me. And at sixteen I now knew what love was all about, clutching my heart each time I thought of Scarlett O'Hara and her one true love, Rhett Butler (not Ashley as it turns out). Sometimes I miss that silly young girl who was me.

TCM featured GWTW late one night a few weeks ago. I was about ready to call it quits for the night when I came across it. There she was, my Scarlett, in her flouncy green dress, flirting with the Tarleton twins like a true Southern Belle. I paused and  hung in until the Cival War actually began and then hauled my ancient self off to bed. But it got me to thinking.

Even though this will be the seventh (yes, seventh) time I’ve read the book, this time it will be different. I will go in deep and find new things. I will do some research apart from the book, which was written in 1936, so much closer to the actual war than we are now. I will pay attention to what Mitchell has revealed about those times as she understood them. Will all that’s gone on since then with regard to civil rights, language, cultural sensibilities, etc. make me see this old telling in a different light? What will I gain from this re-read? My younger, by twenty years, sisters think the book and movie are racist. Will I, or can I, or should I see that now? There are certainly stereotypes of all sorts in the story including those relating to southern gentry, the hated Yankee, and slave and master relationships. I’d like to think I’ve gained some wisdom and perspective of my own since I was sixteen when – incidentally – I knew nothing.

There are many other books I’ve re-read, though not as many times as GWTW. I’ve read The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy three times and all of James Herriot’s books about being a Yorkshire vet in the 1930’s at least that. I count The Wind in the Willows and The Screwtape Letters among my many re-reads.

I know there are millions of books out there to be read. Some for love, some for increasing knowledge, some for a challenge, some for a thrill and some for a lark. But only a few of them endure in our hearts. Care to share yours?

Image: The book my late mother-in-law gave to me because she knew I loved it.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Let's Be Creative!

As many of you may know, or have gleaned from what you’ve read here, I’m not much for foul language. Unless the word that starts with  F is “free” or “fantastic” I don’t want to hear it. And as for the C word – well – you better be talking about cheese and chocolate or I’ll scowl you into next Christmas.

On the other hand . . . I do love creative  language. For instance, the other day when the humidity crept through the back door and leaped onto my left shoulder, I knew within the next  ten minutes my hair would begin to “spoodge”. That’s a word I’ve created to describe the fuzz that overtakes my carefully coiffed locks when the air changes from the cool and dry of fall and winter to the ICK of summer.

Our mother, when confronted with a whiny child who wanted to stay home from school, dreamed up an illness for the teacher’s note she’d have to write the following day. Whichever kid it was was probably faking. Mom knew it. “I guess I’ll just say you had the thru-puppa-gudgeon.” Yup, that’s the word she used. It's a really cool all purpose disease. And I’ve probably spelled it wrong but I stretched it out like that so your own tongue could wrap around it for the silly thrill of saying it. Go ahead and repeat it a couple of times – I’ll wait. 

My mother-in-law was not one to use bad language, either. Thought it was low class. “There are millions of words in the English language,” she’d say shaking her finger in the offenders face. “You don’t have to use those!”  But this left her with having to be creative, too. And she was. My favorite was dopey dilldock. These words were most frequently used to describe my father-in-law who frequently transgressed and was the object of her ire. Frequently.

All through my life I’ve know people who are language wizards. Probably the one closest to me now is my friend, Marie. Hoooo boy. She has some doozies. On a few occasions we’ve attended ecumenical services together at the local Catholic church where the faithful “benuflect” before entering the pew. Once, at the butchers counter, she ordered “100 proof ” beef and failed to understand the laughter from the meat counter guy. Her husband could barely contain himself the time she looked at a restaurant menu and ordered, with complete sincerity, “chicken condom blue”. But her favorite term of utter disgust comes in the form of this plum, “dirty ratherford”. We know not from whence it sprang but she uses the phrase with vehemence when someone (aka her husband) trumps her ace as we’re playing pinochle. You don’t even want to be there.

Lastly, we have my new favorite You Tube stars, Diamond and Silk. Get these two blathering about politics and they’re going to expose a lot of S.ugar, H.oney, I.ced, T.ea that’s going on in the political realm. I just love ‘em. (Pssst – this was Mom’s favorite – ahem – expression of disdain but you didn’t hear that from me!)

So, that’s it from my side this morning. Have some creativity you’d like to share?  I’ll come back and read them later. I’ve gotta get moving on with my day. Gonna be hot and a bit muggy. Hello spoodgy hair.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

No One
By Susan Sundwall

No one won’t come home again
When no one goes to war
And brother slays not brother
On some clouded distant shore

No one will see poppies grow
‘Tween crosses row on row
But only wind kissed petals
Nodding there in glorious show

When no one calls the hell of war
By other than its name
And turns his back upon it
With horror and with shame

Will then there be a peace on Earth
And God will bless the more . . . when
No one won’t come home again
For no one goes to war

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, May 21, 2018

A Short Spring Drive

Sometimes an early spring drive is a worthy substitute for an early spring walk and I had one of those drives this morning. Had to go to the local blood draw lab and I wanted to be the first one there. They  open at 6:30. I was the second one there. But that’s probably because I didn’t rush myself. After all the sun was out and up and glorious. Not a cloud in the sky. Bliss.

Reaching the first stop sign, I had to wait for two vehicles.The second one made me ponder. It was a low riding street or drag car of some sort – all black. Like it just got its first undercoat and was right then being driven to a shop to be painted and detailed so as to inspire awe. If I hadn’t been on my way to see Dracula, I would have followed the guy to help him pick out the colors. Or not. Guys can be real funny about that stuff.

Being one of the few drivers on the road, the stillness of everything was delightful. I almost wished I were walking. There must have been a downy blanket of fog that had come over the land during the night and it was just dissipating as I moved along. Rolling down the country road I was able to see in the distance the Catskill Mountains nearly shrouded in that fog but reaching for the sun nonetheless. The streaky haze almost looked as though God himself had lit a fine cigar and blown silken smoke rings around the lofty peaks.

The perfection of my early morning trek to the lab had totally changed a half hour later as I made for home. (I got a nifty lime green arm wrap from the phlebotomist to show for my suffering – very cool). Anyway, the world had roused itself while I was chatting away trying very hard not to look at my blood filling her vials. The bank lawn was being mowed with a huge ride on mower. A little further down, at the elementary school, teachers were beginning to arrive and I knew the bus drivers were gearing up to begin their rounds to gather their young charges.The traffic circle was full of workers trying to beat each other to the jobs they all love. I could tell by the joy on their faces.

As I moved away from all this activity and got back onto the road leading to home, a barn swallow rose from the cover of some tall grass and swooped out to bebop alongside me for a few seconds. I smile and said “hello, birdie”. And then my driveway, hot coffee, and my breakfast – in that order – were calling to me and I was back at our little shack in the woods.

Yes sir, a Spring walk is a tonic, but sometimes a slow watchful drive is a pretty good substitute.

How has the season been treating you?

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, May 14, 2018

Repeating Myself

This is a repeat I hope you'll enjoy. The outside has been calling to me so I'm being lazy with the writing today. I got pansies and impatiens for Mother's Day and they're begging to be planted. 

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: My late brother, Jim’s, old truck

Monday, May 7, 2018

Laugh a Little

At what age does a personality trait begin to show in a child? Does a fussy eater become a no nonsense, everything in the proper order kind of adult who still doesn’t like his mashed potatoes to touch the green beans on his dinner plate? Does the little girl who is the first to jump into the freezing lake – in March – become the go gettum enthusiastic sky diving reporter? I don’t know about them, but I do know of myself that I have loved, from a very early age, making people laugh. Today, in honor of laughter and it’s attending wisdom, I’m highlighting popular quotes from some wise comedians of old who have left their mark on me. I hope you enjoy reading them and the comments that I just can’t resist making.

Will Rogers (1879 – 1935)

“Even if  you’re on the right track, you’ll get run over if you just sit there.”

Wow, how true is this? Get your behind moving along that track cuz’ the next train is coming along to sniff your caboose. You really want that?

“Good judgment comes from experience and a lot of that comes from bad judgment.”

Oh, man, been there every week and done that every day. Right? It’s how we learn.

Satchel Paige (1906 – 1982)

“Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.”

My husband, “You know what old Satchel Paige used to say . . .” and then he uses this quote to fend off inquiring minds. It always gets a chuckle probably because it deserves to and it keeps that train moving down the track!

“How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?”

Twenty five and for the rest of my life. Oh, how wise was old Satchel.

Don Rickles (1926 – 2017)

“Italians are fantastic people really. They can work you over in an alley while singing an opera.”

We have Got to re-learn how to laugh at ourselves. Don’s nobody's- off- limits “insult humor” has cracked me up since I was a little girl. We only lost him last year and it was a very sad day for comedy.

Bob Hope (1903 – 2003)

“Middle age is when your age starts to show around your middle.”

The reason I still make up my eyes and wear bright shiny lip gloss is to distract from my age around my middle. Look into my eyes when we’re talking, dear friend, and I mean it.

“I have seen what a laugh can do. It can transform almost unbearable tears into something bearable, even hopeful.”

Thank you Mr. Hope. You have spoken my heart. As someone who graced the earth for over a hundred years you prove the old adage, “laughter is the best medicine.” Causing laughter, the good kind, may be one of your own personality traits. If so, be sure to share it with others every day if you’re able. They’ll love you for it. Promise.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, April 30, 2018

Mountains, Valleys and Garlic Bread

The Adirondack mountains in upstate New York are awesome. A perfect place for a retreat with a bunch-o-women you’ve known and loved for many years. Camp of the Woods sits aloft at the edge of Lake Pleasant and helps you push your real world troubles away if only for a little while. Jeans and sneakers, prayer and laughter, tears and hugs – it’s all in the glorious mix. That’s how I spent two of my weekend days and part of a third before I had to take off down the mountain for the valley below.

But there was wonder in the valley, too. Our near perfect grandson (said his grandmother) Sam, was confirmed in the faith in a beautiful old church in Hudson yesterday. For this I gladly left the lofty mountain perch. We carefully made our  twisted way up the tiny stairs in the church turrets to get into the crowded balcony of Holy Trinity where we seated ourselves and peered below. What a sight greeted us. The altar was swathed in golden light and gorgeous flowers. the choir was resplendent in red. The stained glass windows rose around us and told the tale of our Christian heritage. The robed priests added dignity and solemnity to the occasion. Sam and his sponsor, Grandma Johnson, accepted the blessing of the bishop with grace and humility. My eyes brimmed.

Later, at her always lovely home, we celebrated with too much food, fun, games and happy chit chat. I brought the garlic bread. I was, and wasn’t, surprised by the compliments about how good it was. It’s what I always make. So this is how I’ll break it down from a faith point of view then you get the recipe.

The bread is the basic element. The ordinary stuff of life – jeans, sneakers, prayer and laughter. Where we all are most of the time and needing our daily bread. On occasion we require more. Some butter and olive oil, chunks of garlic, herbs – the set apart bits that add richness to life. Sacred things like dedicated altars, towering arches and priestly blessings. They come more rarely but are all the more precious for it. And then there is the sharing. We are made to love and break bread with each other. To rest in the mountains and toil in the valleys together hashing out what life it all about with tears of joy, anger, surprise and release.

It makes me want to share with you my garlic bread recipe. Can’t help it, so here you go.

Garlic Bread

1 loaf of Italian bread cut into medium thick slices and laid out on cookie sheet
1 stick butter melted in a saucepan with ¼ cup olive oil
Add 4 large garlic cloves coarsely chopped and a dash of garlic powder
Half a teaspoon each of dried sweet basil and oregano
A quantity of grated parmesan cheese (you decide how much)
Let butter mixture blend together in pan until bubbly then spread on bread
Place under broiler for 1 minute (or a little longer, but Watch!)

Serve joyfully

Up in the mountain, down in the valley, in all the places of your life, bitter or sweet, lofty or lowly do break bread with someone over this loaf. Life and love are worth it.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, April 16, 2018

Lovely Things

There will always be wars and rumors of war but I’d like to briefly depart from the daily news and remind you today of some of the lovely things. We have them in our lives all around and we shouldn’t let them be pushed aside by horrible and awful, those twin destroyers of our peace and sanity. Pause here with me and consider these.

If you are fortunate enough to live where you can hang your laundry on a clothesline and know what it’s like at the end of a weary day to slide in between wind kissed sheets you are truly blessed. The scent alone can carry you to a sunny, wholesome place, perhaps from childhood, where the troubles of the day drop away as you drift off to sleep. Shun the dryer, make the effort, and it will be worth it. Promise.

Dogs and cats, bluebirds and butterflies. Creatures of another kingdom that neither plant nor reap and yet enrich our lives like nothing else. Gifts that come to us with whiskers and velvet ears, rosy feathered breasts and divinely patterned wings. Sometimes we only catch them out of the corner of our eye, but oh, how we need that. Stroke your furry companion, feed the birds and chase the butterfly. Bliss.

The pure laughter of the littlest among us is a thing to be treasured. Every mother, father, sibling, grandparent, aunt and visiting neighbor will try to get that first giggle from the infant in front of them. It’s one of the few sounds of genuine delight on this earth and we crave it. In the baby belly laugh there is no guile, no agenda and no self. It’s an echo of Heaven coming to us from a tiny envoy who will only possess it for a very short while. If you’re the first to hear it, God has smiled on you.

From the CEO of the giant corporation to the guy who picks up your weekly trash, to the battle worn teacher, each and every one  will pause in the kitchen doorway where baking is going on. Loaves of fragrant bread, the spicy scent of gingersnaps or a bubbling apple pie – they call to us. It doesn’t just say “home” it says “Home at last!” and grabs you by the heartstrings. You want to be there with the world outside of the door you just shut – hard. Sit down, loosen your tie, take off your shoes and feed. Once in a while your soul needs just such. Indulge whenever you can.

We can’t ignore the world. It’s after us. But we can take quick moments to look at what else is there, riding alongside, given to us in full measure. Look for the lovely things. 

Image: My sweet violets

Monday, April 9, 2018

What if?

We’ve had really stinko weather around here for the past few months. Yesterday it was high winds and tomorrow we’re expecting snow. Snow for crying out loud. It’s  April. As I plunged my head under the shower this morning I thought to myself – it could be worse.

What if, while I was all soaped up, with dandruff shampoo burning into my scalp, the water pump in the basement shut off? Then the bathroom grew dark and something began scratching at the door and jiggling the latch? And the door began to cr-e-e-e-eak open? Poor, naked, water-less, shampoo covered me. There I'd be with only a pretty shower curtain between me and the evening headline, "Sasquatch Horrified When Confronting Woman with Burning Scalp Clad Only in Shower Curtain". That would be a lot worse than snow.  

Or how about this? I just got a free sample of some hair color ( a whole box!) and thought maybe I should try it. I haven’t colored my hair in years, but why not give it a go? What’s the worst that could happen? But then, I thought, what if I’m standing in the checkout line at the grocery later that day, feeling all young,trendy and winking at the bag boy, when suddenly a big chunk of my newly colored locks falls out right on top of my package of pork chops? Yeah, what if that happened? Almost as scary as naked me with a burning scalp and a monster at the door. No wonder the stuff was free.

Let’s leave scary behind and go look for happy. We have an old house. Always needs a repair or an update somewhere. It can affect your sanity and clean out your wallet.  But what if I bee-bop out to the mailbox tomorrow morning and find a certified letter inside? From Sweden. Addressed to my husband. Curious, we open it and find some lovely, royal looking stationary with a message stating that he’s the long lost heir to the fortune of Prince Sven Lots-a-Dough? Worth? Eleven million krona or, in American dollars, eleven million dollars. And it’s legit. I’d say we’d get a little happy over that and the old house would, too. 

And what if this were true? I’ve been healthy all my life. My husband of 51 years is, too. Our children and grandchildren share their lives with us and love us. What if I have a large circle of friends and a great writers group. I’ve never gone a day hungry, my closet is bursting with clothes and I have a cozy bed every night. What if that? Maybe I’ll count those all as blessings and thumb my nose at monsters, the possibility of going bald and the impossibility of being married to the heir of a Swedish prince’s fortune.

I think that’s what I’ll do. How about you, do you have a “what if” or two in your life?

Image: Free Digital Photos   

Monday, March 26, 2018

Some Easters I Have Known

It’s funny the things that come to mind when a holiday rolls around. This Sunday coming up will be about the 65th Easter I’ve celebrated. Before that I was too young to remember much. But by the time I was five I had my ear to the ground for all situations that may involve some gain in my direction. 

Five – Didn’t get much as Mom and Dad didn’t have much to give, but I knew something was up when the word on the street – so to speak – was that a bunny would be visiting with goodies for me and my siblings. Jelly beans and chocolate things hidden in nests around the house. Before the shiny green stuff you find in bags now there was the kind made from green waxed paper shreds. I found some"vintage" on Etsy selling for $26. Yikes! Trouble is, dogs and cats really like it so when it passes – well – you can imagine hopping down that bunny trail!

Ten – This year stands out in my memory because Mom made me an Easter dress that year. She had a new sewing machine and put it to good use whipping up a creation made from taffeta. Remember taffeta? Little girls the world over loved to swish around in their pretty dresses made from it. Mine was pink and covered in tiny rosebuds and trimmed at the neckline with pink velveteen (why am I thinking of a rabbit just now?) Sending up a “thank you” Mom. I know it was an effort.

Fifteen – This was the first year I sang the Hallelujah Chorus in the church youth choir, The Chanceleers. Wow. What a way to inspire a teen.  We attended a pretty big Lutheran Church in Southern California and there were about 20 – 25 kids in the choir when everybody showed up. We wore blue robes with white stoles and we rustled when we processed. What  a thrill to belt out the beloved anthem as our dynamic director, Mr. Encheff, pumped his arms and brought the altos in one beat ahead of the rest at measure 45. It burns in my memory.

Adult - I have sung the Hallelujah Chorus many dozens of times since then. With every rendition the message that so inspired Handel sinks deeper. I grew up hearing about Jesus and what He has done for us. I learned as a child and have always believed that He was my only Savior and looking back over my many years I see how I’ve been loved, chastised and guided by His life and His death.

With both Christmas and Easter there are forces out there trying to hijack the true meaning of those days. It doesn’t bother me as much as it used to and I can claim the Easter Bunny for the little ones and Jesus for our greater lives. With the one there’s the gain of weight. With the other there’s the gain of Heaven. A good deal all around. God loves each plump believer.

If you celebrate  Easter, I hope you have the best one ever this year. And in honor of Spring, I give you this.

Fiddlehead and Robin
By Susan Sundwall

A tiny curled up fiddlehead,
tucked ‘neath the melting snow,
awakened one fine  morning
when a robin chirped “Hello!”

“It’s time to rise you sleepyhead!”
said Robin to the fiddlehead.
And then they both began to sing
to welcome God’s sun dappled spring.

God Bless

Monday, March 19, 2018

Adventures While Traveling

Travel  time is coming up! Yes it is. And if you’re off into the wild blue yonder soon, you might enjoy reading about a few of the people I’ve encountered in my  own travels. This is a story that’s been published so you may have read it before. But maybe not.

The Bride, the Priest and the Maniac
By Susan Sundwall

We both sighed when the gate agent announced our flight would be delayed – again. Only twenty more minutes the agent promised. My stomach gurgled as I slumped into my seat and returned to my book. Great. I’d probably have to run like a crazy woman to make my connecting flight at the next airport. These kinds of delays are one of the reasons I dislike traveling alone. My mind inevitably churns with all the "what ifs," especially if re-routing is involved. I took a deep breath to calm myself. Then out of the corner of my eye I noticed the woman beside me pulling something from her canvas bag. She settled back and removed a small square of colored paper from the package on her lap and began folding the paper. Her fingers moved quickly, and in about two minutes she was twirling a little paper bird in her fingers. I lowered my book.

“How pretty,” I said.

She smiled. “It’s a peace crane. I’m making them for the guests at my wedding.”

I smiled back and took note of her appearance. She wasn’t young and there was an air of calm confidence about her that I envied.

“I’ve never heard of them,” I said.

This middle aged bride-to-be then explained about the Cranes for Peace project, the Children’s Peace Statue and how she hoped her bright paper creations would be a useful reminder for her wedding guests. My book stayed on my lap as she talked. The hypnotic rhythm of her fingers working the paper was a pretty distraction from my current travel worries. My anxiety was much reduced before we were finally called to board the plane. The bride shared with me that she was a chaplain and just before we went our separate ways, she gifted me with a pink crane. I still have it.

The Priest

I was kind of shocked when the man in the clerical collar glanced at the flight attendants legs then asked her if she played tennis.

“I used to,” she replied, “but it ruined my legs. I have no strength in my joints anymore.”

“That happens to a lot of athletes,” he said.

I didn’t really want to be privy to their conversation so I buried my nose in my book. (Yeah, I always travel with a book). It wasn’t too long before I was nodding off, but the priest must not have noticed because he leaned across the aisle and said, “That’s a very good book.”

I guess a priest would have to say that about Mere Christianity. I smiled at him. “I’ve read it a couple of times and always learn something new.”

As our conversation progressed I learned that he traveled throughout the country helping high school coaches build team spirit and foster a positive attitude towards their sport. One of his programs main principles was to highlight respect for one’s opponent.

“The seeds of that respect are planted when we respect our mothers,” the priest said. "It all begins there."

We exchanged a few more pleasantries and time passed quickly. Watching his retreating form as we deplaned, I marveled at the people we meet when traveling.

The Maniac

Well, the guy was from Maine, after all. I noticed him sitting in the window seat as I told the man next to him that he was in mine. Got that? There was an open seat in the middle though, and I volunteered to sit there so the offender could stay in the aisle seat. I plopped myself down next to the guy from Maine. Nothing much was said until it was time to decide on the movie.

“Have you seen this?” the man asked.

“I have,” I replied. “It’s quite good and has a wonderful message.”

 The movie also had some funny parts, and I felt my friend chuckling at the same spots that I had. When the movie was over he thanked me for recommending it.

“There are no accidents,” was the message in Kung Fu Panda, and the man was truly touched.

From there our conversation escalated to matters of faith, and I happened to mention my frequent flyer book, Mere Christianity. It was downright spooky what happened next. The couple in front of us peeked through the small crack between the seats and chuckled. Then the man held up the book he was reading, The Complete Works of C.S. Lewis which I knew had to include Mere Christianity. A chill ran down my spine.

My new buddy, Paul, (he revealed his name and shook my hand later) then told me of the difficulty he’d had when a beloved nephew died in a car accident a few years earlier. I just let him talk. I’d figured out it was no accident that I’d sat beside him that day. The few hours on that plane passed quickly, and when it was time to land my head was full of  much more than travel fears.

“If you only knew who walked beside you,” said Paul just before we parted. I smiled at that. It seems I’m watched over in the area of my greatest fear and these three examples let me know it’s so.  

Image: Free  Digital Photos

Tuesday, March 6, 2018

The Lasagna Sandwich

A while back somebody somewhere published a book about the telltale signs of the beginning of a civilization’s fall. You know, like the Roman Empire – the biggest “fall” of all. If you read just a little about it you’ll find out all kinds of bad stuff those people did to set the wheels in motion for sure destruction. One of them was their attitude towards food. More specifically, though, was the rise and glorification of celebrity chefs. Right? My eight pound old dictionary says “celebrity” means renown and honor publicly bestowed because of noted character or exploits. Huh. So let me tell you about dinner last  Sunday.

I put out the call early in the week. Join us if you’re able. Baked ziti, Italian sweet sausage, homemade garlic bread (yes, with homemade bread), blueberry pie. Sunday – we’d love to see you. #1 son jumped right one it and volunteered a Caesar Salad (our fall of Rome connection). The food came out well – maybe a  tiny bit of scorch on the garlic bread (stupid broiler – gotta watch that sucker and lay off the Merlot for a second) but otherwise, it was all yummy.

After all our concentrated gorging, when we come up for air and the kids had gone off to the living room, #3 son pipes up. He surveys the glorious leftovers and says “You know what would be good?”  We all politely burp, pat our round tummies and wait.

“A lasagna sandwich.” He says this with attending hand motions and we can almost see the layers going into this astounding creation. Pointing to the remnants of my excellent garlic bread he further illustrates, holding his hands as if in prayer. “Yeah, take two pieces of garlic bread, stuff some lasagna between them and it would make an awesome  sandwich. I’ve always thought that would be great.”

We  smiled, thinking of the glory. Three kinds of cheese, deep red sauce, perfectly cooked noodles, and lots of earthy spices all cozied up between slices of crispy bread dripping with butter, more cheese and garlic. I, of  course, would want to add a sausage or two. And #1 son, the great Caesar Salad maker, would add romaine, salad dressing and a few garlic croutons. A truly stacked sandwich – worthy of decadent Rome even. We all got teary eyed just thinking about it. Why worry about war, famine and pestilence, or the barbarians at the gate for that matter? We had this vision before us. 

The conversation went downhill shortly thereafter as we got off into the weeds with various eating contests we’d heard of and the exploits of the heroes of those sporting  events. Hot dogs, 14 pound hamburgers, row upon row of pies. Speaking of which, we hadn’t had our dessert yet. That blueberry pie  called to us from its place of renown on the big buffet. I abandoned the conversation and waddled over to get it. “I have vanilla ice cream if anyone wants.”

None of us was in any real danger of turning celebrity chef and becoming a contributor to the decay and fall of Western Civilization, but, boy oh boy, wouldn’t it be great to be the owner of a nationwide chain of lasagna sandwich shops? Or, if the barbarians do bust down that gate, maybe a lasagna sandwich will be what they’re after and not our heads. One can hope.

PS: Garlic bread recipe upon request

Image: Free Digital Photos