Sunday, December 31, 2006

Just Who's In Charge Here?


The sun is--finally-- shining through my (spotty) windows this morning! For far too many mornings and long afternoons the sun hid behind clouds all November and December (it seems). I never remember such an endless stretch of grey, still, quiet days (not the nice kind of quiet, but the eerie kind).

So in the midst of all these so-grey-I-can't-stand-it days, I've found myself having to keep my hands firmly on the reigns of my emotions, or else, they'll jump and swish! Fly off into the night all helter-skelter, willy-nilly, careening into ditches on both sides of the road of Life.

I cringe when I speak of emotions and feelings here in my blog. Some people live and die by their right to make their emotions king, to picket for their right to be way up then way down. But not me. No, been there, done that years ago and now in my late 40's I'd rather follow wisdom, the Bible and God's still, small voice. I'd rather try staying on that level path David spoke of in Psalms (a full-time job, that one).

For it's those which lead me to the all the best places in town and in my head and in my heart, and well, to all the best places anywhere. I mean, my changeable feelings whisper things like this:

"Now, you'd better stay home and not go driving anywhere. You might get in an accident."

"Ah, go ahead and eat that whole pie/cake/carton of ice cream/ huge bowl of spaghetti. You deserve it after what you've been through."

"After what that person said to you, you have every right to stay angry at them and to send them a mean note like the one they sent you."

"Oh, it won't hurt to procrastinate writing that email/doing that laundry/taking those walks just a few days more. Who really cares? Just take the week off. Maybe two."

Well, that list is endless, believe me.

No, I want to be the kind of person who makes clear, precise decisions with her head and heart according to what is right, not according to how she just happens to feel at the moment. According to, like I said, wisdom from God. He's got a certain place where He wants me to be standing at the end of my days when He scoops me up and I want to arrive at that place right on time, knowing full well Who got me there--and Who had to give me extra nudges, especially on strings of dreary, grey days.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Wandering Around My House Tonight...


For ages I've not even touched our camera, but after seeing some special corners of your homes, I went around tonight and took pictures of some favorite corners of my own home... (Click any photo to enlarge.)

Since you last saw this, I added a couple old photos to the leaves...


.........I made this hook thing.... (that's obvious,I know...sigh...)

I'd wanted a Kit-Kat clock like this one for 15 years, ever since I first watched Honey, I Shrunk The Kids. His tail and eyes move back and forth. He was a gift this year from my parents.

.........I wish you could see the little white lights I keep above the bookcase year-'round... they make it look special.


The cannisters are my answer to Amy's question about our favorite retro kitchen items...

.............I can't just put plates on a plate rack anymore.... heavens, no!

Friday, December 29, 2006

Thinking Of Heaven...


I wasn't going to take a walk today (it's cold out there!) but I went ahead anyway, mostly because my parents called and they told me that my Aunt Marian (who I told you about here), well, that she had passed away on Christmas. Christmas morning, in fact. I almost told them, "I know," because somewhere inside me I did already know, but I refrained.

So anyway, I wanted to go ahead with a walk because I think most clearly while passing those tall, old houses--somehow they make me feel like the real me in a more custom-made world for my old-fashioned soul ( a whole other post, that thought)... So I bundled-up in my long black wool coat and my black-knit gloves, and then as I walked along the sidewalks, I thought about my Aunt Marian having arrived in Heaven and how she must have been greeted by lots of people, Jesus and my grandparents (her parents) in particular... and then suddenly, the nicest scene popped into my head.

In this 'scene', I saw my Aunt Marian, her husband (my Uncle Ray), who pre-deceased her, and my grandparents--all four--sitting at the outdoor patio of a heavenly coffee shop. And it came to me that--of course! Heaven must certainly have coffee shops--why not? Ones better and more perfect than any you would find in France or Italy or well, anyplace here on Earth.

And I 'saw' both those couples seated around a small table there on the coffee shop's patio and they were drinking coffee (can you imagine such good coffee?) and each of them were laughing... remembering good, harmonious times in the past. And looking closer, I glimpsed in the eyes of each, a light of anticipation of many, many more great times to come in that place of Light and laughter and true, true love.

And then later, out of the cold, I stepped inside our warm house, smiling... And caught myself anticipating when I, too, would be seated around that table with those who arrived early and are waiting for me, even now.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Night At The Museum



Tom and I had planned for weeks to go see The Pursuit of Happyness, but this morning I told him, "You know? I've already cried every time I've watched the previews and then I saw Oprah's show about the whole movie, watched more previews, and well, I feel like I've seen it already!"

Tom agreed, and so this afternoon we drove to the theater and saw Night At The Museum. Oh wow... What a fun, imaginative, fun, laugh-out-loud, fun, crazy, fun, wild, and did I mention--fun?--movie! We absolutely loved it. And definitely it was a 'you-gotta-see-it-on-the-big-screen' film.

Maybe I, especially, loved this movie because, ever since my wonder-eyed tiny girl days, I've gazed up at manikins in department stores and wondered, "What would it be like if they all came alive after the store closes?" The same goes for museums, display windows and ok, I confess.... even my own backyard. Well, in a strange, kinda-sorta way. Don't tell anyone, but even now, when I sometimes lug the trash outside at night, I peek over at our dark backyard and nearly always imagine that I see people sitting in our chairs and drinking lemonade and laughing.

No, really. Perhaps that comes from the After School Special based on the book, The Night Swimmers. I don't know. All I know is that, although my imagination isn't what it once was, it still works. And I'm glad.

Anyway, Night At The Museum fed my imagination and tickled it, too. My favorite parts were rather simple ones--the parts where people in Victorian and other period costumes strolled together in pairs talking quietly down the museum halls. People who had no speaking parts, but were just there to add ambiance and a sense of motion and oddity.

And perhaps Night At The Museum delighted me because it struck a familiar chord. For you see, shortly after I began this blog 2 1/2 years ago, I began having almost nightly dreams filled with crowds of people.... People I'd known in California, ones in Nevada, others from New York and people my brain creates--all these people together in one place, in one dream. Well, the dreams are all different, but they are almost always crowded with people, people, people. And usually not much is happening, hardly ever anything exciting--but rather predictable and forgettable, though they always leave me, by morning, with a sense that I've spent the night awake in a crowd.

(I am too lazy to look into why I've had these crowded dreams for two years... Any dream experts want to venture a guess?)

Enough rambling... Night At The Museum is pure delight and fun for the whole family. Though personally, I'm tempted to suggest you leave any little squirmy kids at home. I mean, it's a rather long movie (didn't feel like it, though) and you wouldn't want to miss a single scene, say, if you had to pass around candy or promises of what you'll do after the movie if only the kiddos will sit still. No, be brave and see it with another adult, even without the excuse of taking little children. You won't be sorry.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Making Room For The Good Stuff


"Does a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?" James 3:11

Up in my pink dream room last month I finally realized why it had been mind-boggling-hard for me to look on the bright side while living in Nevada back in the 80's. I mean, there I was repeating like a parrot to Naomi, age 8, that she could be happy or sad--the choice was hers. But at the same time, choosing to stay positive, meditating about the good things and viewing Life with a happy spin--all were becoming nearly impossible for me.

I'd wonder, "Why can't I have a good attitude for more than, like, three minutes at a time?"

Not until last month did I truly--like a lightning flash--see that it's not enough to just tell yourself (even over and over) to look on the bright side while you're going through hard times. No, something's gotta give... something's gotta go... because like the verse above says, you can't have sweet water with bitter in the same place.

My problem in Nevada? I wanted to have a good attitude, but I also wanted to stay upset with the people at church... those people on the worship team who, each and every one, wanted me, the sound-mixer person, to make the overall sound the way he/she, individually, liked it (one woman even stepped down off the stage during the greeting time, grabbed my wrist, and told me to turn up her microphone or else...)...

I wanted to enjoy going to church, but I also wanted to stay offended on the Sundays when Tom had to work and then people would look straight at me and ask only, "Where's Tom?," and not, "How are you, Debra?"

... I wanted to be happy we lived in the desert, but I also wanted to keep on complaining about how desolate and dreary all that sand and those soda flats looked whenever we drove outside of town...

... I wanted to take on new, exciting projects, but I refused to let go of one project which God had been finished with long ago... It was like wanting to ride a fresh, rested horse on a new journey, but remaining strapped onto an old, dead horse, instead. On a dead horse you go nowhere.

Well, you get my point.

It's too bad I didn't learn this lesson while I still lived in Nevada. But I'm glad I learned it while living here in New York. Somewhere along the way it became almost easy for me to see Life in all it's best possible angles. But then also somewhere along the way, I had to leave a long, long trail of cast-off junk, stuff like my 'right' to stay angry and offended and disappointed and hurt and bitter. Such a long, long trail of all that lies behind me, but I don't spend much time looking back there.

No, there's way too many better things gleaming up in the road ahead.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

My Favorite Day


"Oh, it's the most won-der-ful time... of the year..."

Can't you just hear Andy Williams singing that? Well, for me, he's singing that about today--the day after Christmas.

I love this day.

I mean December is nice and everything.... the cards, the carols on the radio, the family gathered together, the gifts, the food, the people in shops smiling and wishing you Happy Holidays (well, some people, anyway)... the old Christmas films(though yesterday I thought, "I've watched Christmas movies since early November and if I see just one more--just one more-- I will, uh, throw-up.")

And the yearly Christmas miracles are great, of course. Ours, this year, being that Christmas came in the middle of Tom's 9 days off! (We nearly fainted... "Has that ever happened before?" we wondered.)

But give me December 26th, my own New Year's Day, of sorts. The day when Christmas The Way I Love Best begins all over again for eleven anticipatory months ahead. The day when I leap back into Life As Normal, with normal feeling downright pleasant. Normal mornings of secret coffee meetings with my Friend... and hanging-out with my husband... puttering around my old house in my aprons... feeding the backyard birds, squirrels and mice... running errands and taking walks through snowy or sunny neighborhoods ninety years old... sitting on the front porch with 1930's magazines... reading books and blogs and recording in my own blog these simple, but satisfying old-fashioned days of mine...

The most wonderful time of the year, indeed... Eleven normal months ahead--and I can hardly wait.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Merry Christmas To My Readers


On this Christmas Eve I am wishing all my readers a wonderful merry Christmas...

...and sending my thanks to each of you who leave such encouraging comments throughout the year... and to those of you who simply visit and read and walk away with something to ponder...

...and thanking you, too, for contributing to this dream-come-true of mine--this blog within which I write words from my home where I prefer to spend most of my time... words which then go out to friends all over the world without my having to leave my home and travel or submit those words first to editors and thus complicate the whole matter.

Instead, God has simplified (as only He can) what I once, for years, put-off for fear of complication (and rejection slips) and He's, instead, made a way where there was no way for a long, long time.

So I thank Him, too... and you again, my Blogland neighbors, who I've been so blessed to meet by way of this blog these past two wonderful years.

Today and tomorrow I'll be baking my pies and the turkey and puttering in my old-fashioned kitchen and, all the while, wishing each of you a very Merry Christmas!

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Bitter? Or Better?


Sometimes Tom and I have spoken over the phone to old acquaintances and after their dire predictions, lists of complaints and general gloom they spread, I've looked at Tom and said, "If I ever become like that, you have my permission to shoot me."

Some days I pause and ask myself, "Am I becoming bitter or better?"

This month for example... I know I've become better about receiving Christmas cards. You should have seen me years ago each December.

No, I'm glad you didn't. I mean, I would mail out my Christmas cards (with handwritten notes and tiny surprises) early and then day after day I'd trudge outside into a cold, wintry blast of snow to our mailbox where it seemed, inside, an even icier blast would slap me because there would, generally, be no Christmas cards until, like--can you believe it--three measly days before Christmas.

And because those were the days when I based my happiness upon the mail I received, if my dearest friends signed only their names to the card or sent a long, type-written page of brag--, uhm,memories, well, I'd frown and fume and be totally, totally blown away.

That, my friend, is called becoming bitter. Not better.

But now? Now I'm one happy Christmas camper. I mean, each year I sign-up on two Christmas card exchange lists from my favorite online groups, and those ladies keep the cards coming in a regular flow all month long, giving me my Christmas card fix. Not to mention the cards I receive from other online friends I've made over the years.

As for the simply-signed cards or long-missives-but-no-personal-message from old friends three days before Christmas? Heck, I love them all--now. I've come to realize that people are different... that I need to give them the freedom to be themselves and to do the best they can. And somewhere along the way I even began sending out my own type-written letters and wonder of wonders, I love every similar letter I receive, no matter how long, how braggy or how fine the print (definitely some God-made changes there!).

But the biggest change I've seen in myself is this: When I stopped trying to get from people what only God, Himself, could give me, I began to relax and just accept people as they are. Probably because for the first time, I could finally accept myself as I am since God accepts me as I am, too (something I never quite could believe before).

And now each year I'm accepting December and Christmas, itself, in a whole more kindly manner.

And that is better. Not bitter.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Staying Awake


Most nights of my life, these words of Laura Ingalls Wilder flash through my mind like falling stars as I lay beneath the blankets of my bed:

"That was such a happy supper that Laura wanted it never to end. When she was in bed with Mary and Carrie, she stayed awake to keep on being happy...
A splash of water on her face dimly surprised her. She was sure it could not be rain, for the roof was overhead. She snuggled closer to Mary and everything slid away into dark, warm sleep."

The majority of my days, my hours, are quiet, uneventful. They're not rollicking... not full of big happenings or crowds of friends or parties. My days usually aren't full of pretty cards in my mailbox, emails that make me feel great, fun trips or coffee dates with friends. And Tom and I love each other, but it's certainly not all passion and roses around our house, especially after 28 years.

Years past, I needed happy times and favorable circumstances to make me snuggle down with smiles at night. But now, most nights, just as Laura did, I try to stay awake simply to keep on being happy... And sometimes I, too, am dimly surprised by a splash of water upon my face, especially on nights when I've pulled back the curtains so I can watch the twinkling lights in the skies--and find myself overwhelmed with gladness.

My days are not full of big, wonderful things. No, but they are full of a big, wonderful God who I enjoy so very much.

How To Fake Having a Memory


I am becoming an expert at giving the impression that I actually have a memory left. I've had to, because I think I lost my memory, oh, around age 44. (I can't remember for sure...heh...). So in case any of you have also dropped your memory somewhere along Life's Road, here are some hints to help you pretend you've got the same memory you once had:

1. Whenever you go shopping anywhere, always park in generally the same area of the parking lot. That way, when you come back outside from the store, you won't be searching for your car in such a huge area, but rather, a small one.

2. When you have two things to do at once, always choose the thing you're most likely to forget. For example, if I need to 1.) feed my cats or 2.)take the laundry out of the washing machine down in the basement, I would first choose the laundry. There's no way I'm going to forget to feed my cats--they won't let me forget--but I'd be quite likely to forget the laundry.

3. Keep lists and pens in every room of your house and even in your car (or your purse) to jot down all those things which come to mind at the oddest times. Refer often to those lists.

4. Try to keep a series of routines going so that much of what you do will simply be a result of habit, rather than using the few memory cells you have left.

5. Take at least one fish oil (omega fatty acid) capsule each day. That is, if you can remember to take one.

6. If you can't afford one of those little hand-held computerized substitutes for a memory, get a free Yahoo email account and use the calendar feature. You can program it to send you emails to remind you of everything from remembering people's birthdays to appointments or tv shows, paying bills or taking your vitamins (see #5 above).

7. Never tell yourself blithely, "Oh, I'll remember that. No need to write it down."

8. Never walk out of a room where you've left the water running in a sink.

9. Only have two places--or at the most three--where you set down things like your keys, eyeglasses, billfold or purse. That way you're searching in only 2 or 3 places for them, rather than tearing through every room in the house.

10. Discover clever little ways of avoiding calling people by their names when you've forgotten what they are.

11. Ask God to remind you of anything you may be forgetting. He never forgets anything--or anyone.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

A Christmas House For You...


Ok now... no one choke or sputter or boycott my blog, or anything, but.... I've still, as of this moment, not put up our grapevine Christmas tree! Nor have I finished decorating nor have I baked one single Christmas cookie.

There, I said it.

But right this moment I am going to make up for my extreme lack of Christmas photos and cheer here in my blog. I am going to invite you to a blog where I could only exclaim, "Oh! Oh! Ohhh!" the more I scrolled down the page. (Be sure to scroll all the way down so not to miss one single, gorgeous detail!)

So please.... Go visit her house and be delighted right out of your pretty Christmas stockings!


***
P.S. Here's a funky old Christmas movie which you might like... I watched it again last week. It's called I'll Be Seeing You, and stars Ginger Rogers, Joseph Cotton and Shirley Temple. I just discovered this movie this year ...wish I'd found it earlier!

The Approaching Hooves of Change


Your comments to my last post sounded curious as to how I am handling this possible move to Virginia. And well, actually, I am excited. For thirteen years we have lived here outside of Buffalo and I have loved those years, yet now I am feeling the sand in the hour glass is emptying upon our stay here.

Last week I took my semi-daily walk and pondered, "I love looking at these tall, wonderful old houses, but I'd like to see some different ones... And it would be nice to live someplace where I could take walks in the dead of winter with temperatures higher than 18 degrees... in a place which didn't loom so grey in winter, either--grey trees, grey skies, grey streets, grey, sleeping flower stems."

Never before have I lived in the same house for more than 2 3/4 years. I had lived the life of a nomad of sorts before we moved here (long story), but this house has sheltered us for 13 years and what its walls have seen! These walls which I've painted over and over have watched me at my aproned June Cleaver highs and my Roseanne lows. And you'd think we'd lived here sixty years with the variety of music we've played, everything from Big Band era to the Beatles to symphony and Christian pop.

Naomi went from Middle School through college while living in this house (so many changes!). And I have gone from a young, physically-fit woman of 34 to a premenopausal, trying-to-age-gracefully woman of 47, one who, thankfully, is at least happier and made of stronger stuff than she was on Moving Day.

The dinners with friends around the table... the movies we've watched... the harsh winters we've survived... the bad news we've received over the phone, as well as the good... the Christmasses and birthday cakes with candles still in the drawers...the times we were sick in bed... the pies I have baked and the meals Naomi learned to cook at our stove... the huge, house-shaking parties we let Naomi have and all the times she made videos for school assignments here with a whole group of kids (and the dusty props we still have in the basement from those films)...

The memories you make inside a house are endless-- I could go on remembering for years to come. Yet now my heart and God are preparing me for the Someday when I'll be remembering these times in a different place. But I'll be making new memories there, too.... and that, really, is fine with me. Besides, as long as God is there--as long as this is His idea--Life will be good. Changes are coming and the time feels right.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Visiting The Past--Carefully


These days Tom is kinda-sorta certain he wants that Virginia job and so I have kinda-sorta been digging through boxes of all that paper they tell you not to keep (but you keep anyway) and tossing stuff which had survived previous cuts, but which will not make the in-case-we-move-to-Virginia cut.

Good gracious... the junk we keep! So far, the silliest folder I've found is the one I labeled "Baby Information." And, uhm, well, uh... every how-to-care-for-your-soon-to-arrive-baby article inside that folder was 27 years old... I know because my 'baby' will be 27 next month. Rampant sentimentality at its worst... and into the recycling bag they went.

There are the calendars I've stashed away from 20 years ago, ones I kept as 'diaries' since back then I wasn't organized/awake/together enough to keep a real diary. Only three, or so, I'll save to remind me of the places we went and people we saw during Naomi's high school years... but the others joined the baby information in the recycling.

Receipts from car repairs of cars we no longer own... insurance information from items long ago sold... my old typewritten lesson plans from eleven years ago when I taught adult Sunday School and women's seminars at church.... you'd find it all in paper grocery bags if you were here.

And after all that sorting, I have that took-a-trip-back-in-time feeling. You know, the hazy one which clings to your head because suddenly you've bombarded your brain, like an awakened bee hive, with memories of people and gatherings and happenings you'd not recalled in years.

Some of you may take trips back to the Past often, but I don't. No, I seldom travel back that way, seldom even by way of video home movies. But when I do travel back, I stay only ten minutes, or so, for those trips feel too much like riding a bicycle where I turn my head to stare and talk to someone behind me, and then lose my balance or crash into a telephone pole.

I lose my balance when I visit the Past and glimpse only the good times, but ignore the bad ones. You'd think that's a positive thing, but it isn't if it creates a yearning to return to something which was never as perfect as I'm recalling it. Or there are the memories which mostly I recall as dark and humiliating and those are the kind that can jump into Today and haunt me for hours. Or there's just the thing of mixing this present season with seasons long dissolved--for me, they tend to jar one another. Like those time travel movies where, if the actor goes back and changes even one small moment, then all of history is changed forevermore--and not for the better as he had supposed.

No, if I take the road back to my past, I peek just a few moments and only as long as appreciation accompanies me, and generally, only long enough to learn something valuable. Besides, my past is now a lonely place, for all my loved ones live other places--they have moved on from there--and so should I. And, for me, I know I've wandered too far into the Past if a strange sense of longing tries clinging to my head or if regrets start taunting like children on a playground or if what I forgave years ago starts raising its mishapened head out of my own sea of forgetfulness.

Then I know it's time to ride speedily, face-forward, back home to Today where I am, thankfully, happier and more contented than I've ever glimpsed my old self during those quick trips to the Past.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Christmas Gifts For My Readers


Since I like to keep Christmas as simple as possible, I am offering, again, the Christmas gifts I've given you, my readers, the last two years. I enjoy giving them early in case you would like to share some of the gifts with your own friends and family. (I will be re-checking the links throughout the day to make sure they still work...).

Wishing you all an early Merry Christmas... I appreciate your readership and friendship so much!

For free bookmarks go here:

Mary Englebreit Bookmarks (these can be printed-out full-size, but you didn't hear that from me, ok?)
Hundreds of Bookmarks
Printable Bookmarks

To watch free movies online go here:

Movie Flix

To listen, free, to old radio shows from the 1930's and 40's, go here:

Radio Lovers

To walk in and visit a beautiful cottage home, go here:

Becky's Cottage

For free Christmas gift tags and enclosures, go here:

Christmas Fun

For a fun online Advent calendar for kids of all ages, go here:

Tate's Advent Calendar

To have fun trying on clothes online (forget those depressing dressing rooms! This is more like the days of paper dolls--and you are the doll.)--go here:

Lands End (Click on My Virtual Model to get started.)

To receive a free issue of Good Old Days Magazine (no credit card required), go here:

Good Old Days Magazine (Scroll down to 'Send No Money Now' when subscribing.)

If you enjoy Victorian photography, go here:

Victorian and Edwardian Photography

To download free charts and lists to help keep you and your family organized, go here:

Digital Women

For lots of cool old black and white photos from life in the 1930's, go here:

The 1930's

For free dollhouse accessory printables, go here:

Dollhouse Printables

To find amazing pictures to copy and paste into your emails for friends, go here:

All Posters

If you are into the fairy scene, go here:

Wee Folk Studio
Cecily Mary Barker

If you would someday like to visit 'Mayberry', go here:

Mt. Airy NC

If you were a big fan of 'The Waltons,' go here:

The Waltons

If you like all things Victorian, go here:

Victorian Trading Co.

To read hundreds of classic books online, go here:

Page By Page Books

If you like vintage paper dolls, go here:

Betsy McCall
Dress the Digital Dolls (there's more than one page)

To receive a free issue of Reminisce Magazine (no credit card required), go here:

Reminisce Magazine (click on Bill Me Later when subscribing)

If you'd like to go window shopping in New York City, go here:

Window shopping
***

If you'd like to do something kind for fellow bloggers, leave comments at the blogs of those who almost never receive comments.

Add blogs to your blogroll...it's a compliment when you do so.

If a blogger's writing has meant something to you this year, let him/her know.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

My Aunt Marian


My Aunt Marian, my dad's sister, is 74, but whenever I remember her, she is in her forties, already grey, smiling and kind.

I visit my grandparents' house in my memories and my aunt is usually sitting there, too, because she'd bring her children to visit when my parents would bring theirs, my sister, brother and I, even though it meant she traveled by train from Colorado to California. And somehow we would all fit inside my grandparents' small house, a place for everyone around the table and a place to sleep, too.

Then in my late teen years my aunt moved to California, married again, and lived near my grandparents, caring for them in their final years, even after her children remained in Colorado with their own families... even after her husband passed away.

In my memories my aunt is quiet, yet she is strong. She never speaks to us children as though we are small-brained, but instead, speaks as she would to her friends. And sometimes she and my dad are at the table, discussing the differences of their religious denominations while the rest of us, smiling, are thinking, "There go Dad and Aunt Marian again...," and knowing a miracle would have to happen for either to change the other's made-up mind.

But mostly I see my Aunt Marian with her camera, the old classic one she'd hold at her waist and look downward into its top. (The above photo is not of my aunt, but it has always reminded me of her.) To me, Aunt Marian and her camera with the strap around her neck just belonged to each other, were as normal a pair as pie and ice cream. Only when I later married and Tom nudged me, chuckling, and asked, "Why does your aunt use such an old camera?" did I even really notice how she must have looked, there in the 1980's, to other people. And I remember how Tom and I giggled, afterward, when Aunt Marian mentioned to the family, "You know... It's getting harder and harder to find and buy film for this camera lately."

Later, Tom gave my aunt a camera for Christmas and the next time we saw her, Aunt Marian said she enjoyed using the new camera and she especially loved being able to find film for it in whichever store she visited. But I'd watch her take pictures and it just wasn't the same. Always at Christmas, until last year , we have received from my aunt a card as well as a two-page letter on the same kind of lined tablet stationery--hand-written--and who does that anymore? Aunt Marian is the quintessential example of a woman contented with simple things and ways. And if you give her a gift, she is thrilled with it, no matter how tiny it may be.

After my grandmother passed away, Aunt Marian moved back to Colorado, near her daughter's family and in October my parents finally took the train to visit her there. It had been 11 years, I believe, since they'd seen her and for two weeks they talked and remembered and caught-up on days gone by and spoke of days ahead, too. How my aunt was ready for Heaven after having lived in pain for years with arthritis and other health issues. Aunt Marian and my dad, both, told each other that neither would expect the other to attend their funeral, if anything should happen in the months or years to come, especially now that they'd had this time to visit each other while both were very much alive. And how that is much, much better.

Yesterday my parents called me.

A few weeks ago my Aunt Marian was moving to a new apartment and she fell and hit her head, hard. And afterward she called my parents and told them she had fallen and given her head a real goose egg. She was able to joke about it and I can just hear her for her complaints always seem to come with humor. But then, two weeks later, she suffered a severe stroke while alone in her home and she fell again. Fortunately, my uncle found her not too long afterward and now my aunt lies in a hospital bed, unable to speak anymore, bleeding inside her head.... holding her daughter's hand, reaching for that hand again each time her daughter must go away.

And yesterday, at first, I didn't know how to pray for her. It's always hard to pray at times like these. But I think God told me to pray that my Aunt Marian would have her greatest heart's desire granted... whether it be to stay here or to go to Heaven where I can just see my grandparents standing at the shore waiting, watching for her. And that is what I'm praying... That my Aunt Marian's heart's desire will happen and that everything will be all right.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

In The Mood For Some Christmas Snow?


....Then take a little trip here (turn up your sound). It's almost as nice as the real thing... Though, even nicer in some ways since you won't have to travel for hours to get there and you won't need a winter coat and gloves and you'll be warm, not freezing and damp, from the ice and cold air. I hope you'll stand there awhile and relax... unwind... I'll probably be standing out there in all the peace, quietness and music right along with you.

(Check the instructions in the lower left corner to get the most out of your snowy experience.)

Cottages & Bungalows



Since last summer, I'd been anticipating this magazine's premier issue (somewhere I read about it). I went and bought my copy today (first magazine I'd bought in eons, but still called it an early Christmas gift to myself), took it down to the hazy, windy river and loved every photo.




In the magazine's back pages there are listed home renovation blogs and this was my favorite of the ones listed:

One Woman's Cottage Life
Scroll down and click on 'Older Posts' so you won't miss more photos of her great kitchen.

And from there I went over to Making It Home, where her Christmas decorating delighted my heart.

And, for good measure, here is a renovation blog where you'll find many more listed:

HouseBlogs.net

Enjoy!

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Photos On a Tuesday Night


Here are just a few pages from my favorite kids' craft book, What To Do Now by Tina Lee.

It's a favorite because it's from 1946 and every page screams 1940's! (Click to enlarge.)


And see the green file cabinet made from matchboxes? If you'll look closely at the photo below (left), you'll see the one I made years ago. I added little pearl beads for drawer pulls and each drawer is lined with Victorian art I snipped from Victorian Trading Co. catalogs. I hide teeny treasures inside the drawers.





Below is a bit of a change I made in my dream room.

And at the bottom is my laughable attempt to decorate for Christmas. I may get good grades for decorating the rest of my house, but when it comes to Christmas decorating I get a D... especially when graded on the curve with all of you who are wonders at it! (P.S. That's a paper plate behind the lamp.)

The Things I Hide From My Husband


(Intriguing title, huh?)

I'm going to run this post again because it returned to my head minutes ago when I was (with a touch of annoyance) rummaging through our dark, awful basement, searching for some packing tape for the package I'd planned to mail early this morning for my parents. Huh. So much for that. Not a roll of it was to be found in all of the (mostly Tom's) clutter down there. But rather than get upset with Tom, I got more annoyed with myself because I should have, ages ago, added packing tape to my own list of Things I Hide From My Husband.

Here--read what I mean by that... This time of year, this idea may come in handier than ever for you:

***
I have been married a real long time and well, I've learned there are, generally speaking, two kinds of arguments:

The ones you cannot avoid.
And the ones you can.

And that's what I wanted to mention today--the arguments I avoid by hiding things.

Like what, you ask? Like my very own toolbox. Around 20 years ago I bought a toolbox and began collecting tools for it (cheap ones... it's not like I use them everyday). I'd become extremely tired of needing hammers/screwdrivers/stud-finders/nails, etc., while Tom was away at work and having to wade through piles of Tom's tools to find them--or not find them. Which, of course, required that I nag (nag, nag, nag) Tom about his lack of organization and my frustration thereof.

A real marriage-saver, that one. My toolbox is my responsibility... I keep it hidden... and so if a tool is missing, it's my own fault. End of where's-the-silly-tools? arguments.

Something else I hide? A chunky black indelible marker which I find indispensable for my kitchen. After probably 25 years and 300 did-you-lose-my-chunky-black-marker-again? arguments, I finally got the idea to hide my marker in a little cupboard in my hoosier cabinet, a cupboard Tom never thinks to look inside. Oh my... Life feels so good when I know my chunky black marker is waiting for me in that little cupboard. Life also feels good minus those long, loud, needless chunky black marker arguments.

Know what else is inside that little cupboard? My very own flashlight. It only took me 27 years to finally start hiding my own flashlight (which, ok... the older I get, the more I need one around the house to read certain things...). No more why-can't-I-ever-find-a-flashlight-around-here? arguments feels oh-so-great, too.

I also hide my own scissors, masking tape, stapler, Scotch tape, glue and measuring tapes.

Get the idea? I'm not talking about keeping secrets from your spouse,(lest you thought I was going there. Heh.) No, it's more like this:

Lots and lots of arguments saved(avoided) equals lots and lots of peace and harmony earned.

Well, at least, that's what I have found.


***
"The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects." ...Lord Jeffrey..........(Ouch!)

Monday, December 11, 2006

re: Rudolph and His Red Nose


Okay, now I'm not trying to start some new, crazy movement nor am I getting ridiculous like this and trying to ban the song Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer (just in case you start thinking that's my aim).

No, I'm just making an observation.

The song, Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer bothers me. The movie (which I grew-up watching and loving), bugs me, too. I can't help but roll my eyes each time I hear the song on the radio.

I mean, think about it... Here's this adorably-cute reindeer who just happened to be born with a bright, red nose. As if he could help it! And suddenly he grows up, goes to reindeer school and gets ridiculed by all his intolerant, bratty little schoolmates just because his nose is different. Just because his bright, cherry-red nose isn't small, dark and boring liking everyone else's.

And because of that one little difference, he's laughed to scorn and the majority don't take the time to discover that really, Rudolph, is a darn nice kid... uh, reindeer. He loves his parents, he's sweet and he just wants to be loved and accepted like everyone else at reindeer school. But no, that's asking too much. Even his teachers laugh at him.

But then, poof! Suddenly, Christmas Eve rolls in all foggy-like and since Santa can't see to drive his sleigh, Christmas is nearly cancelled. But then someone remembers that goofy little kid, Rudolph, the one with the nose like a huge red lantern, and Rudolph is whisked to the head of the reindeer pack and Christmas is saved, thanks to that funny little kid... uh, reindeer, who, just the previous week, was considered a royal loser.

Oh but now--now!--Rudolph is considered a hero. And then how the reindeer 'loved him' (if that's love, I'll take spaghetti). They even shouted-out with glee, because of course, now, Rudolph, the red-nosed reindeer is going down in history.

But only now, only after he proved himself a useful member of society. Only after his 'disability' saved Christmas for all of mankind. Only after Rudolph became a valuable asset, a famous reindeer and a credit to his family and the entire world at large.

Give me a break!

Right there is the kind of stuff which is messing us all up, stressing us out and making us appreciation-hungry nuts. The fact is, Rudolph was valuable before that foggy Chrismtas Eve. He was a creation of God, a son, a friend, a member of woodland society and just a sweet little deer. And here is the truth:

Today you are valuable to God.
Today God loves you just as you are, famous or unknown. For you are not unknown to Him.
Today God would have sent Jesus to die for you, even if you were the only person on Earth.
Today, with God, you are a winner, not a loser.
Today, you do not have to prove yourself to God. He knows your weaknesses and He's standing ready to give you His strength in those areas.
Today, even if you overcame all your weaknesses, God would not love you any better than He does right this minute.
Today God is thrilled that you are His child and He wouldn't trade you for all the perfect, got-it-all together, famous, Christmas-saving people in the whole World.

Really.

And I hope you'll remember that.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

The Changing Face, Part 2


Y'all are too kind.

I mean, your comments after my last post about my changing face made me feel as though I'd missed the point I meant to convey. That point being, that now, nearly ten years later, I appear older, greyer, wrinklier and altogether different than I did in that photo. The face I have now is not the one I had then.

Really.

There *is* a shock which comes when your face changes as mine has this past year. I wasn't writing about my crows' feet (which I'd thought were kinda cute and added character to my face). I wasn't even speaking of the grey hair which has framed my face for years, but now glows like a neon light when I wear light blue sweaters.

No, I meant that my face has Changed. It has jumped the track I knew so long and is now zooming along the Old Lady Track, instead.

And it's when your face does that that you have to spend some time, some real time, accepting that what you've watched happened to others, you will now watch happen to you. And that is where I am... Still walking through the acceptance mode--and not at the end of it yet, either.

Oh, I know that "pretty is as pretty does".... I know, I know. But still, it's going to take awhile for me to accept that, for the rest of my life, I may act in pretty ways, but my pretty ways will be done with an aging-by-the-minute, wrinkling, crinkling, sagging face. Unless I do something about it (surgery), but as of this moment, I'm not planning on it, being allergic to pain and all.

(And for the record, I have absolutely no negative opinions about any older woman who has plastic surgery. I applaud your bravery, actually.)

This is one of those things you have to experience to know what I'm talking about. And up until this year, my 47th year, I hadn't gone through it yet. But I'm going through it now and even though I know everything is going to be all right... even though I realize I'll be just fine with the face I end up with... right this moment, I am, as I said, still accepting this new face. The one which has magically, somehow, appeared like a mask over the face I once knew so well.

After all, most days I feel 25 years old inside, so imagine my shock when I pass a mirror and see that odd, haggard-looking woman who appears more like 50. And I don't know about you, but it's going to take more than kind words or reassurances and more than just 15 minutes to accept that aging woman staring back at me. Like anything else, this is a process and all process takes time.

So here's the funny part... I was going to post a recent picture of me and place it beside that one in my post below just so I could prove to you what I'm talking about. Just so I could prove my face has changed incredibly since 1997.

But then I laughed.

I mean, what would you kind-hearted people all do? Write in my comment box, "Eeew, Debra, you were so right! You DO look so much older now! What happened?" ?

No, you would just probably write the same sort of compassionate things you wrote after my last post. You wouldn't be able to help it... so there goes the point.

What am I trying to say? Just this... If you're around my age (or older) and your face, too, is changing, well, you are in good company. Millions of us are right there beside you with changing faces of our own, there at the mirror... wondering.... staring.... and accepting, too. In time.

Friday, December 08, 2006

The Changing Face


It's a rare, rare day that I post a picture of me in my blog. But here I am almost ten years ago and let me add, I look different now. I'm not just talking about having shorter hair, either. No, I'm talking about something else.

Have you ever heard of that phrase, "The changing face of America?" I've lately wondered if that term perhaps referenced what has happened down through Time to women and men my age, that nearing 50 age...When I stand before mirrors now, I see my own changing face with it's new creases and unevenness and a sort of shadow of years lived and years yet to come. I have even seen my grandmother's face, on occasion, staring back at mine in the bathroom mirror glass... and seeing her there, I have gasped.

Yet, mine is not the only face which I see changing. No, I see the same signs--these same similar lines and shadows--in strangers' faces and in recent pictures of friends who I knew when we were all 17.

We are, most of us, visibly transitioning from the face we grew-up with to the face with which we will die.

This freaks-out some people. And well, maybe on some future day when the creases and shadows have deepened upon my own aging face, maybe then I will freak-out, too. Though, of course, I hope I'll have more Grace than that.

But for now, for today, I'm fine with it. With my changing face and what it means. After all, that is part of Life, and living is all about change and growing-up and growing old, as well as, growing in wisdom, too. And thank-goodness for that wisdom which grows along with aging, bringing with it a peace that everything is going to be all right--even after my face turns and changes into what would have horrified me at 17.

For after all, Life is about much, much more than a face... and that is something for which to be grateful.

Christmas Favorites



Paige tagged me about listing my five favorite Christmas songs, so here they are:

Oh Holy Night
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Noel, Noel
Mary, Did You Know?
Angels We Have Heard On High

That last song is the one I hum while I am out and about every November and December. I hum it without realizing I am doing so. Just one of those things, I guess.

And while I'm at it, here are my favorite Christmas movies, though just a few since they are legion:

It's a Wonderful Life
A Christmas Carol (George C. Scott version)
Miracle on 34th Street (the original one)
The Snowman
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Bachelor Mother
Ebbie
Home Alone 1 & 2 (Deal with it...)
While You Were Sleeping
Christmas In Connecticut

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Instant Christmas




Tomorrow I'll probably be putting up our Christmas tree, so in honor of that, I will re-run my original post about Christmas at our house from two years ago...

***
WARNING: Die-hard Christmas traditionalists may be greatly traumatized by this post. Smelling salts will not be provided.

Long ago (well, maybe 8 years ago), Tom, Naomi and I realized that going out shopping for a Christmas tree had become our yearly family nightmare.

The rest of the year, on the most part, the three of us got along great. About as nice and sweet a family you could ever hope to meet. But just let us show up at a Christmas tree lot and we all morphed into monsters. Each person had their own vision of the perfect Christmas tree and each person was determined to tie that vision to the top of our car and carry it home.

Well, one year it hit us. None of us wanted to attempt the annual family Christmas tree a-hunting-we-will-go. We kept putting it off. Later and later and still no tree and still no one felt like going out and buying one. No one wanted to wreck the family peace.

That became what is fondly referred to as The Christmas Without a Christmas Tree. We just piled the presents against a wall and managed to celebrate Christmas anyway. We barely noticed we had no tree. And since Naomi had two years before stopped helping me decorate the tree, well, I was the only one who missed that part. (Okay, so I missed it like I would miss being hit by a speeding reindeer.)

But our friends noticed our 'treelessness' and made little questioning remarks. I could tell they questioned our sanity/motives/parenting ability by the tone of their voices.

Well, the next four years we used a fake Christmas tree, one that (here's where I lose half my faithful readers)--one that Tom found on the curb. But hey! It was a faux tree and to us, they all look the same. It served its purpose.

Now here is where I lose the other half of my readers---when it came time to take down the tree and put all the ornaments away, I chose, shall we say, the road less traveled. I carried the whole tree, ornaments and all, up to our attic and left it in a dark corner. And okay! I confess that the following December I was absolutely thrilled that all I had to do was bring that thing down from the attic and stick it in a stand.

Poof. Instant Christmas.

Well, if anyone is still even reading this blog, let me reassure you. I no longer do that. No, our attic has been finished-off and is part of Naomi's 'apartment' upstairs. There's hasn't been room for a real-live fake Christmas tree up there for years.

No, for the last four years we have used that gold grapevine thing that you see in the picture at the top of this post. And yes, we keep it on our dining room table the whole month of December. To top it off, I even burn pine-scented candles nearby so that Naomi will associate that scent with Christmas since we have no real tree.

And then when January comes around I fold-up that gold grapevine collapsible tree, ornaments and all, and carry it down to our basement, always to the same corner. There it will sit ready to be unfolded next year, placed upon the table for again-- Poof! Instant Christmas.

Hey... It works for us. We laugh about our sweet little tree each year. And how much nicer it is to have a funny, peaceful December than one where we dread that one day formerly known as The Battle of The Christmas Tree.

There are no more battles this way. No , just more time to celebrate the real meaning of Christmas.

***


At Christmastime, more than any other, it takes a brave soul to create traditions different than those of all his neighbors...

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Christmas Shopping The New-Fashioned Way


Yesterday morning I went Christmas shopping.

The inside of our car was freezing cold at 9:00 a.m., but who cared?

Snow and ice blanketed the roads then, too, and the wind was blowing icy darts, but I didn't even notice.

The mall was crowded with people, even so early, but I didn't mind a bit.

For you see, I went Christmas shopping online.

I went to three different stores and didn't use one drop of gas and I didn't have to search for, or squeeze into, a single parking space, nor did I get shoved around by that frosty wind while winding through the back 40 of the parking lot.

I was the only person I saw in each store. It was blessedly quiet and I didn't hear any screaming children, yelling parents or Christmas Muzak. I even drank coffee while I browsed the shelves.

The stores had exactly what I wanted, everything was in stock.

I was always the very first person in line at the check-out. There was no waiting and no lines so long that you begin to wonder if you've entered a type of purgatory where, now, you'll be standing for years and years amongst these many and varied, noisy people.

I had no heavy packages to carry out to a freezing cold car in the freezing cold, crowded parking lot. There was no traffic to battle my way through on the way home and no traffic lights, gas fumes, stop signs or near misses with other cars.

No, I was home. In my nightgown and robe. Warm and toasty and smiling like a Cheshire cat.


***
Kim reminded me that another advantage of shopping online is the avoidance of shopping in the midst of thousands of sickness germs... Gotta love that, too!

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Calm December Days


I've been so contemplative lately... you'd think I'd have more to write about here. But it's like God has me sitting in front of windows again.... thinking calm, pensive thoughts... thinking about Him.

He knows I'm not a big fan of Christmas, at least, not of Christmas as most people stressfully celebrate it, so perhaps He's supernaturally keeping me calm, almost like giving me a heavenly Quiet Pill. (Uh-oh, you mention a word like supernatural and Christians tend to get spooked. Oh well.)

But whatever, it is nice to walk through December in an almost-fog of calm and peace and tranquility.

It's nice to fill-out a handful of Christmas cards... sit in a sunny window... put out a couple Christmas decorations... then return to the window with a cup of coffee and think about how good God is and how His wisdom will help me get everything done, never fear... And leave the rest alone... and the world will keep spinning if I don't mail as many Christmas cards this year... or don't bake as many cookies... or don't put up every single decoration from the Christmas box.

...And realizing December was never, ever designed by Him to be one hectic, harried day after another.

How much better to enjoy the process while enjoying Him.

Monday, December 04, 2006

The Christmas Test


Speaking of knowing what you want (my last post)...

... I was watching my new favorite show, Rachael Ray, minutes ago and her guests were a married couple who both agreed that the husband (poor guy) was a horrible gift-giver. When his wife said she'd NEVER received a good gift from her husband and then he hung his head and said he was a loser-- I became upset with the wife and ran down here to our basement office in order to re-run a post I ran this time last year.

Here is what I wrote last December about gift-giving where husbands and wives are concerned:

The Christmas Test... I know women who give their husbands The Christmas Test every year and almost never have I heard of a husband actually passing it (the poor guys...).

Which Christmas Test? The one which starts with, "If you really love me, you will be able to figure out--on your own--what I really, really want for Christmas."

Oh my...

Why do women torture their husbands that way? And why do women even do that to themselves year after year, disappointing Christmas after disappointing Christmas?

If you are one of those women, I just have to ask, in the words of the O-So-Wise Sage--Dr. Phil, "How's that working for you?"

I guess I have an especially-sensitive compassion for men who must take The Christmas Test because my own brain came without the Good Gift Giver Gene. No, really. There's a blank space inside my brain right where that gene is supposed to be.

(Actually, I think there are lots of blank spaces in my brain, but that's a whole other post.)

The odds of my coming up with the perfect gift for my husband and my daughter are about 1 in 3,999,999. Finding the perfect gift for them (and often for friends, too) is enough to make my hole-splattered brain hurt and freeze and downright dread Christmas.

So what have Tom, Naomi and I done for years? We give each other nice, long, quite-detailed lists of what we would like. Lists from Amazon.... lists in emails... lists on little slips of paper. I have even been known to give Tom a coupon and a little map of the aisles of a store leading to just the right shelf where he would find just the right diary to match the title I'd written down for him. And hooray! He found the diary, used the coupon for ten dollars off, wrapped it up and put it under the tree. It was my favorite gift that year.

And, yes, there are still surprises this way. I never know for sure which items from my list Tom will choose to buy for me. I do try to list them according to what I want most and then second most, etc., and often he goes that route.

And I am always thrilled that I get just what I wanted! It certainly beats getting, instead, mad or sad or depressed all because my poor husband couldn't read my mind.

And then, too, Tom likes to buy me some little things I did not ask for.... and that's always a very hit-and-miss kind of activity. But since he also gets me things from my list, the 'misses' don't even matter. In fact, they are often comic-relief and our whole family (Tom included) has been known to laugh until we cry at some of those 'misses'. We even look forward to them.

Well, I just wanted to share this with you in case it might help. Tom and I haven't been married for 27 mostly-happy years without learning a few nifty, peace-giving tricks along the way.

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Knowing What You Want


I've been taking another little break from blogging, though you never wander far from my mind. I've been thinking about things... Christmas (of course)... and how it's not fair that I can't eat junk like I used to and get away with it. And don't tell Tom, but I've also been tearing off chunks of bread for the mice in the backyard and training them to come when I call. It's like keeping pet mice in the back yard.

I am so bad, I know.

I've also been thinking that, as a child, I'd watch tv commercials and find myself craving Jif Peanut Butter and Wonder Bread and Chatty Cathy and being clueless that those commercials were influencing my childish longings.

Now, though, I get these adult longings, but they do not come from tv commercials--I have grown way past that. Mostly, tv commercials just annoy me now. No, my longings and desires have moved way, way past tv commercials.

I am, now, influenced by movies.

Long ago when Home Alone first came out, I was mesmerized by that house. (If you've seen the movie, you know exactly which house I'm speaking of.) I mean, I loved all the colors and the arrangement of the rooms and the lighted windows at night. I was never crazy about the kitchen, but I did love that the house had a basement and an attic.

And well, at that time, Tom, Naomi and I lived in a new, double-wide mobile home. I had to stretch my imagination extremely out of shape to believe it was anything like the Home Alone house. But a few years later we moved to our present house and finally, I had my basement and an attic, too, though it was a second-floor, unfinished attic and the house was much, much smaller. But still.

But because I have changed and evolved, my tastes have changed and evolved, too, and when I watch Home Alone now, the house looks, well, a bit too 1980's for me. No, now the house of my dreams is the one from the old 1930's Blondie and Dagwood movies. I watch those movies sometimes for the plot, but mostly, to let my eyes gaze and dream upon Blondie's house and all her classic, cute stuff.

And then there's the black coat which Susan Lucci wore in her movie, Ebbie. Finally, only last year, I found just the right coat at the perfect (Salvation Army) price and because I have such a WILD imagination, I wear it and pretend I look as terrific as Susan did, when in reality, the only things she and I have in common are that we're the same height and our hair is brown and sort-of the same length.

And then of course there are the three-quarter shelves I put above my kitchen sink because Blondie had some above hers... and the dark curtains I bought for our sunroom because I liked the ones in Welcome to Mooseport... and the record player I put on my Christmas list because Jessica in Prancer had one... and the vintage Christmas record I bought because of the vintage songs in The Polar Express (not to mention Gary Hobson's Craftsman lamps and yellow pillowcases in Early Edition).

And maybe it sounds silly for me to bring all this up, but actually, I have a point to make. For many years, I was too vague in my thinking, my wishing and my desiring. Instead of actually knowing who I was and what I wanted, I more often walked around in a fog where I only complained that I never seemed to have what I wanted. That other people had nice things, but my stuff never seemed to go together or look quite right or express who I was inside.

The problem was I didn't know what I wanted because I didn't know who I was, and therefore, I didn't know what I liked. Or in most cases, I didn't realize that what I liked was ok, even if no one else liked it. Even if everyone else thought I should like and want and desire what they liked and wanted and desired. I was wishy-washy, indecisive and afraid to dream big.

But when I finally began to listen to the voice inside of me rather than all those swirling around on the outside, I began getting clues as to who I was and what I wanted. And it was as though I awoke from a long time of sleeping and found myself seeing things I realized I loved, even though I wasn't always sure why. And they were suddenly everywhere I looked--even in the movies.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Don't Compare--Just Be Happy


"Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else..." ... Galations 6:4

When you just have one child, people tend to tell you, in funny and not-so-funny ways, that you should have more kids.

Trust me, I know.

For lots of years, Tom and I had people--especially, but not exclusively, relatives--give us hints and advice and warnings and even prophecies about having more children. And basically, the only result became my frustration and confusion and misery, because, well, it just wasn't happening. Tom and I were only able to have one child 'the old-fashioned way' and when I wasn't being told we should adopt or try this and that, I was happy with the way things were, with our one little bird in the family nest.

But it was while I listened to all those other voices and opinions that I began to flounder. Those words (and the occasional maternal hormone whining inside me) caused me to compare my little family to those families who had two or more children and to let nagging, annoying doubts kick me around.

The whole story would take pages--many books have been written about this subject. But I'm using it only as an example.

What I'm really trying to say is that, believe it or not, God knows best (imagine that!). He knows me. He knows (and made) the plans He has for me. And He knew way back twenty years ago when I was floundering with all this, that having more children was not in His plan for me--and that today, I would be fine with that. Because really, I am.

The only time I'm not fine with it? They are the times I start comparing my life with the lives of friends or of people in books with large families or with the lives of strangers who appear to have one hilarious time after another with their quiver full of kids.

But no one's life is one hilarious time after another, no matter how many children they have. And thank-goodness I've grown enough to realize that.

And thank-goodness I've grown enough to realize that God gives me Grace for every single thing He gives me to do.... And it's only when I wander over to places my emotions or my comparisons take me that I eventually find myself flailing around and gasping for help. Help which, technically, God isn't obligated to give me since I did not follow Grace into those scary places. So many times, though, He has (probably while sighing) come along and yanked me out of messes I created myself...

I could, right now, adopt a whole houseful of children and work at the local orphanage and head-up committees on helping the homeless--but I would crumble in the middle of it all. Positively crumble in heaps of regret. I would fail, exhuasted, because God did not take me to those good and wonderful places. He takes other people there and gives them the Grace to stay, and I am nothing but unwise and just plain silly when I compare my bits of God-given Grace to theirs.

It's all good--but only when it's all from Him.


***

"When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise." ... 2 Corinthians 10:12

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

The Hospital Room


I'll bet you didn't know I have my own hospital room, one always on reserve for anytime I need it.

Well, in a way.

This Life, for any of us, comes with varied and many hurts and injuries and I remember the years when I tried to heal myself. I'd run to books or friends or movies or teaching tapes and after awhile, I'd find that I felt better... I felt a healing begin like stitches being taken in my heart.

And I believed it was the books or friends or movies or teaching tapes which had healed that heart. But now I realize they, instead, only helped me change my negative, offended mind and atiitude so that God, the Great Healer, could release His own warm, healing balm and fix what others, or I, had broken.

We nod our heads and repeat like parrots that nothing is too hard for God, but I think it's pretty hard for Him to heal my heart if what I believe is, "God doesn't heal people today." ...

... or, "God is mad at me and has left me."

... or, "This pain is too great for even God to handle."

... or, "I deserve to stay mad," or "I don't deserve forgiveness or healing."

... or, "This is just the pain I'll have to live with for the rest of my life."

No instead, this is the kind of stuff I take with me to my always-on-reserve hospital room (which is conveniently located upstairs in my house) and it's there that I let God take it all away--to where, I don't know, or care. And because I've walked upstairs in faith, because I've come to the Great Healer to fix what has been broken, because I realize how helpless I am to heal myself--God, in His mercy heals me.

Oh, not always right away. But always, I know the healing will come--eventually. There's one thing I've noticed about God--He's pretty big about this Faith thing. I've noticed it blesses His heart to watch me walk into that hospital room with all faith that only He can heal my broken, aching parts, restore me to wholeness and make Life look and feel good again.

But you've probably already noticed that, too.


***
"For this people's heart has become calloused;
they hardly hear with their ears,
and they have closed their eyes.
Otherwise they might see with their eyes,
hear with their ears,
understand with their hearts
and turn, and I would heal them.'" ... Acts 28:27

Monday, November 27, 2006

"I'll Show Them!"


Sometimes God gets on my nerves.

Ok, calm down. Let me explain.

As I told you, Saturday was our anniversary, and well, we absolutely loved watching Deja Vu. It was awesome. Cool. Denzel (Tom's favorite actor) was at his incredible best. We even watched another movie after going out for dessert and strolling through Home Depot, and when we got home, Naomi had left an amazing lemon jello cake for us. A perfect day.

Then came Sunday.

There we were, Tom and I, that cute couple who rarely fights anymore, standing in line at the supermarket, having an argument in heated whispers. One of those which goes a little like:

"You shut-up!"
"Hey! We don't say that in our family."
"Well, you shut-up anyway."
"No, you shut-up!"

(Blah, blah, blah.)

We continued the fight on the way home in the car, and when we pulled into the driveway and Tom said that I was like the woman who lives across the street, I gasped and saw red. "You take that back!" I said.

"No, I won't. She nags her husband every time they're out in their yard and you are nagging me to death."

Oooooo... I was fuming. I stomped upstairs and only when I calmed down (took awhile) did I realize something. Part of the problem (just part) had been that Tom is not yet ready to eat healthy foods on a constant basis. And it came to me that, even in that area, trying to change a person when God has not yet worked on their heart, well, it's pretty much impossible. For any of us to change, God has to prepare our hearts (like preparing soil) and then we have to cooperate with His ideas after that.

So I went downstairs and told Tom that I would no longer nag him about eating right and he could buy any unhealthy, salt-stuffed, heart-clogging food he wanted. In fact, I was going to another supermarket right that minute to get him the things he had wanted in the first supermarket, things I'd talked him out of.

Of course, he then said, "No, don't do that. I don't want anything. I won't eat it."

But I drove there anyway, still, uh, fuming inside (I confess). In fact, I sat inside the car in the parking lot a few minutes and thought, "I'll show him. I'll become like that lady in our town who started walking years ago every single day, no matter how much snow and ice there is, and who now looks like a (scary), obsessed, walking skeleton. I'll start walking like that, too, and I'll get so skinny and then I'll show him!"

(Of course, a little voice in my head said I'd have better luck "showing Tom" by becoming as round as I am tall. That would be easier, knowing me as well as I do." Heh.)

But here's the part where God gets on my nerves. Nowadays, He never lets me get away with that 'I'll show them!' attitude. Even if what I'm aiming to do appears to be a good thing, whether it be losing weight or showing someone that I *am* a giving person when they accuse me of not being one... or determining to clean my house so spotlessly, that neither Tom or Naomi will ever be able to make another little critical remark about it, or... well, you get what I mean, I'm sure.

No, even though years ago I accomplished all sorts of things out of my 'I'll show them!' motivation (it was the way I lived, my fuel, practically), God no longer lets me get away with that. Immediately, He nails me on my wrong motives. Instantly. He tells me that why I'm doing something is just as important as what I am doing and that both matter--both are equally important. Both must stem from love, His 'fuel', and not retaliation or insecurity. Both my motives and what I am doing must come from simple obedience to Him or else my rotten, I'll-show-them motivation will nullify the whole thing.

And even though God is still getting on my nerves about all that, I know He is right.

He is always right.