Tuesday, May 30, 2006

That Time of Year




That time of year came early this year. You know--

When I must get up at 5:00 a.m. and do all I can before 8:00, before the sun dials up the heat and humidity to awful levels. Oh dear, on hot, steamy afternoons I turn into Dorothy's wicked witch and can be heard to say, "I'm melting!" Because I do melt and feel just like old-fashioned Southern ladies, those who murmur genteel complaints and lie upon fainting couches, longing for the cool of the evening.

Well, with me, it's kind of like that.

So that is why, on broiling days, I arise at 5:00 in shadowy light and dress, then open doors and windows wide. And do what I must do--early.

But after time, the temperature rises and so must I to feed the backyard birds and water the yard, then back inside, to the basement, to gather and wash a load of laundry. Then back upstairs for a little chore, whatever I did not do yesterday, wipe down window sills, change the litter box, dust or mop or wash a sink.

And then--well, you get it.

And then it is 8:00 and time to awaken Tom and time to choose gratitude over dread--gratitude for all I accomplished before the dreaded heat arrived.

Time to accept that, of all the things in Life I cannot change, the weather is probably the biggest one, so the best thing? It's to change my attitude about it. And change my schedule, too.

I can do that.



******

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Memorial Weekend, Memorial Life




Not everyone can watch a Memorial Day Parade from their front porch. I realize that. 

But that's what I did this sunny Sunday afternoon. 

It helps that I am far-sighted, for we are the 7th house down from the avenue where the fire engines, high school band and bagpipers walked down at parade-pace. I watched them through a break in the trees while our neighborhood folks stood in front of their houses or walked their children down for a close-enough-to-touch experience. 

But here I sat on our porch and reveled in, once again, living 1940's style in my Mayberry-esque town. And at the parade's end, two ice cream trucks jangled and calliope'd past, but then, they're part of the usual any-warm-day parade.

It's Memorial Day Weekend and I'm remembering all that we are supposed to on this day.

And more.

I've a feeling that, in Heaven, God will ask me if I paused to remember His extreme goodness, the people He sent to inspire me and His blessings which He freely fluttered down like confetti. He just might ask, "Did you notice each one? Each answer to prayer? Each response which came, sometimes, even before you prayed? Did you remember to give thanks?"

And more than anything, I long to say a truthful, grateful, "Yes." I don't want a single blessing to go unnoticed, unappreciated or unseen so I am on Blessing Watch. Always. All days.


******

Saturday, May 27, 2006

The Bicycle God Gave Me


God is so good. I can hardly stand it.

Around June of last year, Tom and I watched the most pointless movie ever made. (That is not the part where God is so good. heh.). It was called The Upside of Anger and well, parts of it were well-written, but the ending was so bizarre/pointless/just-plain-dumb, that I was sorry we'd even seen it.

Except for one amazing thing.

Halfway through the film, there's a scene where the very pretty Keri Russell, with long wavy hair, a blue cardigan sweater and a full, flowing floral skirt, gets on an old-fashioned girl's bike and rides home beside a river in a park.

Oh my. The scene reminded me of a 1950's Audrey Hepburn romantic movie. I watched her ride along that path and gasped. I thought, "That's the real me on the inside of me!" It felt like seeing my real self upon the screen. 

Because of that one scene, I began growing my hair long. I got a wavy perm (and am getting my third one on Wednesday). I even began a search for a blue cardigan, a long floral skirt and an old-fashioned bike.

And well, I found all those things--but only in magazines. 

I clipped out the pages showing what I was now searching for and added them to my scrapbooks. I asked Tom to watch the classifieds for an old bike (or a new bike which looked old) at a good price. He found a few bikes, but unfortunately, they were expensive so we kept looking. And once while on a walk, I found the perfect old bike on the curb awaiting the trash truck, but alas, on closer inspection, it was ready to crumble to pieces.

And then winter came, and well, in the midst of snow and freezing rain, one doesn't think much about bikes and riding down the street with your long hair flowing behind you. At least, not this one. 

But this morning our neighbors had a yard sale and poof! From our sunroom windows I glimpsed it--an old blue bike outside on their front lawn. One with a basket, even. So I got dressed and made-up, zipped out the door, though slowed my steps and tried to look oh-so-barely-interested as I approached the bike. I casually peeked at the price tag. $25. The date: 1962. I spoke with the owner, a brother-in-law of our neighbors, and he gave me the bike's history as he knew it--a woman, long ago, bought it and planned to ride it, but it hung in her garage for two years and then she passed away. Then it hung in the garage for many, many years after that.

Waiting for me, I like to think.

And as I reached inside my tiny red change purse for the money, the owner said, "Oh, you can have it for just $20. My wife said to sell it for that, but I was going to keep the $5 for myself." He smiled. I thanked him and I smiled (and thanked God for what felt like favor) and wheeled it home and into our shed, saving it for later.

And that is the part where God is so good that I can hardly stand it.



******

Why I Watch TV




You confess to some people that you watch tv and immediately they throw you a so-very-long huffy spiel about why they do not. And that's ok, only as long as they let me voice my huffy spiel about why I do watch tv.

Hmmm. Perhaps I just realized why I love blogging. For most of my life, people have interrupted me in the middle of my long, wise, eloquent ramblings (heh. I hope you are picking up on the humor in that.) But in keeping a blog, I can, A.) Finish my sentences and B.) Assume that people are reading every finely-crafted word before they comment.  γƒ…

So here goes--Why I Watch TV:

1. My own little life, at the moment, is too darn near perfect. And it's far too easy for me, without tv, to enter a type of La-La Land where I, ignorantly, start believing everyone else in the world has a near perfect life also. TV shows me the hurting people 'out there.' I am made aware of unmet needs, of broken homes and violent streets and communities. 

2. And in response of the above, I'm reminded to pray for those trapped inside a darker, bleaker world than my own. And through watching and praying, I'm convicted about where to send my money and encouragement to help.

3. TV shows me human nature, which I, personally, find fascinating. I watch people in crime shows and reality and contest ones and ask myself, "Why are they doing what they are doing?" and then I ask God to help me understand and empathize, not judge and criticize. Through tv, God reminds me if I want to be like Him, I will react in compassion and certainly not derision or contempt.

4. TV shows me where the pulse of the world is currently. I learn the language and thinking-processes of the 21st century, when I'd otherwise be tempted to stay wholly old-fashioned--and rendered obsolete to do much of what God is asking of me.

5. I watch shows where people win things because I love to see people happy. Viewing (nice) comedies and comedians makes me laugh and too, I love to hear audiences laugh, as well. Also I enjoy mystery dramas which make me use my mind.

6. TV challenges me to keep my imagination brushed-off and outside of the same ol' dusty box where I tend to keep it. Through tv I get to travel to countries I'll never see in-person.

7. I watch tv because people are important to God and I love to watch people--and pray for them, actors and others. Every single soul means much to God--and for whatever strange reasons, tv reminds me of that. I love to hear common sense given--then spread it around (and use it), myself.

TV reminds me there is a huge old crazy, hurting, wild-and-varied world out there which I am responsible to pray for and help as God leads--and I am thankful for that reminder.


***


For the record (and in my defense) I do read books, too. Tons of 'em. 


******

Friday, May 26, 2006

A Few Of My Favorite Things

...raindrops on roses and whiskers on kittens.... these are a few of my favorite things...

...and these, too, from around my house...
(You can click on the photos to enlarge them.)

Damask dinner napkins and an autumn garland--an inexpensive window treatment...Hoosier cabinet with old stuff all over it, except for the Target cookbook holder (red, in center).

1920's advertising fans from Ebay...

...I love Jade-ite! Also a couple small head vases and etc.

My junk shop lady name plate... $1, I think... and the VBS plate above it (I had the kids make these--just decoupage gift wrap over an old plate).

Just a handful of my old apron collection. I wear these things nearly every day.

Love this little antique gal... a yard sale find.


A very special thanks goes to Judy of Plethora for the inspiration to run around my house to take these pictures (often from the most awkward, back-breaking positions, which all other photographers will understand). And I am hoping Judy will forgive me for my glaring, flagrantly-obvious copycat ways...

Thursday, May 25, 2006

The Dwindling Scope of Imagination




I read that the average 40-year-old has just 2% of the average 5-year-old's imagination. 

Probably, that is one of the saddest statistics I've ever read, yet it's one I believe to be true.

Our dwindling imagination shows when we always drive the same roads to work or to the supermarket or we --

--eat the same ol' meals at the same ol' places.

--never rearrange our furniture or our schedule.

--believe the same ol' things about the same ol' people, places and principles, cease growing.

--become suspicious of new ideas.

And here's one--I visited a favorite blog and was profoundly disappointed that the author had resorted to the ever-popular game of criticizing a mega-church pastor by name (and the comment box was filled with nodders in agreement.

Basically? We show our lack of imagination when we criticize teachers, preachers and evangelists who approach things differently than we would. Because when we make comparisons we totally disregard these verses:

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men....The eye cannot say to the hand, "I don't need you!" And the head cannot say to the feet, "I don't need you!" ... 1 Corinthians 12:4-6, 21

Oh, we're so clueless to the plans God has for other people! Most of our days we don't even understand His plans for our own life so why do we pick apart those brave souls who are 'out there' actually using their gifts?

If I ever illustrate that kind of imagination-barrenness in this blog, please leave me a note (a kind one, I hope) in my comment box.



******


"A man's steps are directed by the Lord.
How then can anyone understand his own way?" ... Proverbs 20:24

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

A Life Worth Watching




Last night Tom and I finally saw the movie, The Greatest Game Ever Played

Have you ever noticed that, when it comes to biographical films, the most difficult lives make wonderful movies? The best inspirational films are about folks who constantly were chosen last for teams and lonely, ignored or taunted. Never handed anything for free, often discouraged by their parents.

Always, there was something to overcome and what makes their life incredible, is that they overcame--conquered--what had threatened to yank them under and crush them.

The lives of conquerors are the most inspiring. 

There's a Bible verse we all know:

"No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him who loved us." ... Romans 8:37

Something funny? We all want to be conquerors, but we don't want to actually have to conquer anything. 

Conquering can get messy, downright uncomfortable and challenging.

Many bloggers have spouses living with chronic pain-- I have one of those, too. In fact, this morning I'll travel with him for one of his quarterly pain injections for his back. The wait is usually three hours so I'm thankful they put in a tiny coffee shop in the hall two years ago. I take my canvas bag of books and magazines and wish for more light in that hall while I sip my coffee and try to read with these 46-year-old eyes. 

In good weather? I escape out to our car where the sun enables me to read easily. But the best part? These waiting times become dates with God, quiet times in a public places.

Anyway, what I'm hoping to convey by this post?  A reminder that the most hope-filled, inspiring lives are those in which someone has huge trials to overcome. Lives where joy, faith and love are tested on a regular basis, but still, they keep moving forward. Getting out of bed.

And may we remember people are watching, God also, and He's constantly there to pick us up those times when we can't lift ourselves.


******

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Permission to be Happy




"...we count them happy which endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen ... that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy" ... James 5:11


******

One thing which changed my life? Giving myself permission to be happy.

For too many years I only allowed myself to be happy if I'd been "a good girl". If I'd--

Cleaned my house.
been a sweet wife, a great mother, a good friend.
Hadn't watched too much tv.
Read enough of the Bible for the day.
Or if the front page news wasn't too disastrous, the weather was nice and I felt well.

You know, if all those tiny gold stars shone proudly on the big To Do Chart inside my head. Oh, and if the world ran smoothly, too.

As you can guess, I wasn't happy real often.  ツ

But now I've found a better way. I consciously give myself permission to be happy each day, each imperfect day, because God is good--not because I am. Or other people or the weather or the world is, either. 

You see, God is always good.

Something happens when you base how you feel upon what God does and not upon what you do. You start to feel free and in your freedom? You cease bashing yourself over the head when you make mistakes. 

Love that.

In your freedom, you crawl back up on the horse right after you've fallen and you let God brush you off and whisper encouragement in your ear. You realize God is your biggest fan--not the harsh critic you once thought He was, that's He's in your corner, even when you mess up. Loving you. Anyway.

So today I'm giving myself permission to be happy. Tomorrow I will, too. And that happiness will help me endure anything along the journey's road.


******

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Your Perfect House


Today, right this minute, I am living in the perfect house.

And so are you.

No, really. You are.

When we first moved into this house, I tried to "Victorianize" it. I unloaded our boxes and hung up lace curtains and Victorian paintings. I blithely scattered around the doilies, dried flowers, white gloves, white china, floral hats, and candles.

But my 1935 Craftsman Bungalow rebelled! It suddenly trumpeted a war between the heavy dark oak trim on the walls and windows and the lightweight Victorian delicate foo-foo stuff.

The heavy Craftsman doors and trim won. It got there first. It was built-in, set the tone, was there to stay. And afterward, when I weakly suggested to Tom that we paint all the woodwork white so that the Victorian look would stand a chance, his eyes and head almost popped and splattered. 

(Let's not go there.)

I changed my strategy: I declared I wanted to move. So on weekends, we drove down streets with tilting For Sale signs, peeked inside houses, and well, most of them had that same heavy woodwork. I couldn't escape it. Or the other houses were either all wrong or all right--but too much money.

So we ceased the house-hunting, the house-envying and started, instead, our house-accepting. And that has made all the difference.

Now I'm glad we didn't bail out on this poor old house which was just trying to be its Craftsman self. And now I'd be less a decorator, less a carpenter, a painter and less in my imagination and stick-to-it-tiveness and creativity if we'd have bailed.

You become a better, more creative decorator when you face challenges. When you spend time considering, "I've always wanted a ________ in my house. Hmmm... How can I create a ________ in this house where I now live?"

Instead of studying everyone else's house (and my own discontent), I began studying the whole Craftsman movement of the early 1900's from books, photos and magazines. We gave away/sold our Victorian stuff and bought Craftsman stuff which God, I think, snuck into big scratch-and-dent rooms just for us at 70% off. (He also sneeked some of it into yard sales and right on the curb for free). We brought it all home and wow! The war ended. There was peace.

Finally, I had a foundation. And you know? A foundation gives you something to build upon. It's a starting point--not a finish. A foundation becomes a guide, a springboard, a stepping-off place into your own creative pool where you can splash around and make new discoveries.

This is all why I said at the beginning that, today, you are living in the perfect home. Buying, renting, leasing--doesn't matter. It's just up to you to discover its perfect, custom-made foundation. It has one--every house does. And then you go from there. 

You become a more creative, intuitive, contented person from there.

Besides, perfect homes are not built by a team of carpenters and sub-contractors anyway. A truly perfect home is built by those who awaken in its rooms, its beds, each and every morning, by those creative enough to make a beautiful home on the inside. 

And those brave enough to call it good.


******


The challenge then becomes to create something you love out of something you barely even like at all.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Favorite Corners of My Home

My current Secret Corner. I move it around a lot so to avoid ruts...

Not really a 'corner', but hey...

I love this area... I stare at this at night when it's all shadowy during tv commercials. My starched and ironed 1950's aprons and handkerchiefs fill the drawers.

Most of everything we own we found on the curb...or at yard sales... or in the big scratch-and-dent rooms of furniture stores.

1950's salt & pepper shakers? Nope! Target just last month.

The matching napkin rings.

The Victorian corner of my kitchen.

Our bedroom.

My oh-so-mature (not) dresser.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

A Little Story of Me


See the word which Debra painted on her back door? It's the word, 'Imagine.' Debra likes to imagine lots of things around her house and she enjoys reminding her guests to imagine things at her house, too, otherwise they will not 'get' what she is trying to create around here.


For instance, Debra likes to imagine that this is a curvy blue stream of water.

She likes to then pretend that the curvy blue stream is leading to this white foamy pool (which looked bluer and garden-show-award-worthy last week. Sorry you missed that. heh.).

And see this porch? On breezy, humid days, Debra likes to imagine she is lounging on the swaying deck of a Caribbean cruise ship while inhaling the moist air. She closes her eyes and almost, she can taste the salt and hear the seagulls.

And see this whatchamacallit? Debra likes to imagine her town's streets are gold mines. She strolled down her neighborhood one afternoon and came across this whatchamacallit on the curb, so she dragged it home, even though it is missing a leg and one of the doors falls off a lot. She hauled it up to her front porch (oh, the things she does to get free stuff!) so that it would keep her books and magazines from getting all summer-faded and dusty.

Debra also imagines that her two Japanese Maple trees in front are not dying and that her back yard is huge, farmlike, and borders a gauzy morning lake.

She imagines lots of things. Life looks prettier and more interesting through imagination-colored glasses.
Trust her. She knows.
The End.


******

Backyard Dreamin'



Saija asked to see my backyard sooooo, here it is, fresh from my camera which, after having ignored the poor, dusty thing for many months, I had to re-learn how to use it all over again.




Monday, May 15, 2006

Coming Away Changed


Probably, you've never heard of Dallas Lore Sharp

In the early 1900's he was a New England author/naturalist, a college professor, a farmer/husband/father, and at one time, a minister. I peer at his books beyond my glass bookshelf door and feel rich.

This morning at my secret corner table in my sunroom, I read a passage from his book, The Hills of Hingham. Oh, you must also read this! Back there in 1915, Mr. Sharp described the wonder of sitting upon a stump out in his own hillside meadow laced by trees in mists -- of getting to know the Quiet and himself and God. How necessary it all is. And then he writes this:

"Now I can go back to my classroom. Now I can read themes once more. Now I can gaze into the round, moon-eyed face of youth and have faith--as if my chair were a stump, my classroom a wooded hillside covered with young pines, seedlings of the Lord, and full of sap...

Yet these are the same youth who yesterday wrote the "Autobiography of a Fountain Pen," ... It is I who am not the same. I have been changed, renewed, having seen from my stump the face of eternal youth in the freshman pines marching up the hillside, in the young brook playing and pursuing through the meadow, in the young winds over the trees...


I come down from the hill with a soul resurgent--strong like the heave that overreaches the sag of the sea--and bold in my faith--"





Oh my... do you get that?

I believe we, also, often pray that everyone around us will change. "Please Lord, change my family, my co-workers, my neighbors, my job, my house, my situation, my circumstances."

But if only we'd come away from our quiet times, alone with God, ourselves changed. Because when God fills us everything changes, even when nothing else appears to.

We get new eyes.

We start to see as God sees and when God's kids mess-up? He does not worry about them until His stomach hurts. When He looks around at this fighting, unstable world, God does not dish-up a huge bowl of chocolate-swirl ice cream, sit on the couch, watch tv and lose hope. He doesn't get on the phone and tattle on the lady who offended Him, but rather, He bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

God views Life differently. And so can we, but only when we choose to be more full of Him than of ourselves.

Only when we let Him take us to that quiet place--and change us there.


***





Here's a photo of Dallas Lore Sharp which I like better than the one in the link above. His book, The Lay of the Land, can be read online here.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day


Happy Mother's Day to mothers who have memorized the blueberry muffin recipe (and to those who buy their muffins from the supermarket).

To those whose toddlers refuse to sleep in their own beds (and to those who stand at windows late at night worrying about their teenager out there in the dark somewhere).

To those whose children appreciated the camping trips and the cozy home and all the little mom-made sacrifices (and to those whose children didn't).

To those who have a loud, crazy and full nest (and to those whose nest is full only of echoes of children now-flown-away).

To those who tried so hard to slow it all down and make it last (and those who wished everyone would hurry and grow-up--and then got their wish).

To mothers everywhere-- Happy Mother's Day as you smile and remember the good times, forgive the bad ones and anticipate the rewarding times yet to come.


******

Friday, May 12, 2006

Potpourri Post


An Enchanting Blog:

Always I'm searching for charming, well-written, make-you-dream-and-want-to-do-better blogs. About once every three months I start wildly clicking on sidebar after sidebar, traveling deep into Blogland in a desperate search for another magical blog.

Well, two days ago, I found one. Oh my--it's nice! It's like traveling to France anytime you want. It's called Tongue in Cheek. Be sure to check out her photo albums in her sidebar.



Where Oh Where?

Does anyone know what happened to Sarah Lynn at Not Awake Before? The link in my sidebar no longer works. I miss her.

I hate it when bloggers disappear. It's like having a friend suddenly vanish from your life with no explanation. Some people don't look at bloggers and email pals as real people, but they're very real to me. Extremely so.



C.S.I. and LOST:

(Spoiler warning if you didn't see C.S.I. last night.)

Oh my! Tom and I were biting our nails during last night's show because we just knew, before Captain Brass even entered the motel room, that he was going to be the one who would be shot. Man, we really like his character on that show and we're hoping they will not kill him off next week.

Mostly we're getting burned-out on the crime shows, except for perhaps Numb3rs and C.S.I. Miami, yet we did watch C.S.I. last night because of the previews. Anyway, our best wishes for Captain Jim Brass. Heh.

And LOST! What a shocker last week's episode was. Darn that Michael anyway. :)


Do You Feed The Birds In Your Yard?

Way, way back when I was newly married, I lived in a tiny mountain town (pop. 1,100) and washed dishes in a cubbyhole called Birds' Cafe.

Well, now I have my own Birds' Cafe in my backyard with its three bird feeders and two birdbaths. A crowd flies in every morning and afternoon and this week's special on the menu? Lilac Water. Everyone loves it. My lilac 'trees' are in full-bloom and lie, weighed down, into the birdbath next to them, scenting the water both for drinking and for baths. Even the bees lean into the lilac water, sipping deeply, and then fly away a little lilac punch drunk.

I run my Birds' Cafe for many reasons, but here is the most important one:

"Are not five sparrows sold for two pennies? Yet not one of them is forgotten by God." ... Luke 12:6

That's one of those verses which, the more you think about it, the more it blows you away.



******

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Whatever You're Doing--It Matters


(For the men reading this--hang in there. This is for you, also.)

"Begin believing that the time, energy and emotion you invest daily in the soulcraft of homecaring--carving out a haven for yourself and those dear to you--is a sacred endeavor. Life holds no more guarantee for us than it did for our Victorian foremothers yet they faced the future with full hearts, determined to create a lasting work of art; a happy, secure, and beautiful retreat of love and laughter. We can, too." (From Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach)

Something amazing happened when I finally realized that when I'm washing dishes, planting my garden, folding the laundry, mopping the floors -- it matters.

Whatever God's asking me to do is important.No where else on earth could anything be more so. Personal obedience to God is big stuff--it doesn't get any bigger than that.

The most discontented people I know are those who travel to work believing they should be doing something else. Something better, higher, more meaningful and important.

Nothing we do is unimportant. 

Every task we complete means something to God, if not to anyone else. And where we get into trouble is when we believe that isn't good enough, that our worth is measured only by appreciative people. 

But to receive appreciation from God? We need to lean closer toward Him to hear Him better.

But we too often lean the other way--toward people and what they think and say about what we do. 

Whatever our job--it matters. It matters how we do what we do. The discipline matters, the faithfulness, the lessons we learn in the middle of it all. All of it, vital.

God rewards faithfulness. And promotion first goes through God's hands before it comes down through 'the boss' and then to us. Promotion comes from God and He knows just the right time to hand it to us. He's been watching all along and He knows when we are ready for the next thing. 

Everything matters more than we realize:

Time with God
Time with family
Our home
Our yard
Our friendships
Our job
Our chores
Our blog
Our choices
Our car maintenance
Our personal maintenance
Our kindness to strangers & animals
Our words
Our tone
Our deeds
Our smile
Our attitude.

Vital, real, eternal. All.





******

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Enjoying The Empty Nest


Many women in Blogland are approaching the empty nest. 

I'll admit it--it's a wild time. A sad and scary time and yet it's a marvelous, re-awakening time, too.

Yet basically? An empty nest will always be what we, ourselves, make it. 

It doesn't have to be horrible, but it can be, if we so choose. But me? I'm making my empty nest the marvelous kind, the type I wish to share with you who will soon enter yours.

Below are a sampling of suggestions of how to make the empty nest phase into a fun, all-things-made-new phase. I'll bet you can think of a hundred more ideas!

Rebuilding Your Empty Nest:

1. Think "now I can do some of what I've always wanted to do, but couldn't." Think 'anticipate' not 'dread.' Think 'a beginning' and not 'the end.'
2. Go back to school and get your degree.
3. Use your computer and your city library to become an expert in an area you've always wished you knew more about.
4. Redecorate a few rooms in your house. Study the art of home decoration and the use of color. Help friends decorate their own homes.
5. Plant a garden ( a container garden counts, too). Study and learn all you can about making things grow.
6. Become a volunteer anywhere help is needed in your community.
7. Write a book.
8. Become an excellent photographer. Enter some photography contests or just share your photos online.
9. Begin a collection of something you've always loved. Go treasure hunting at junk shops and yard sales.
10. Make scrapbooks with all those family photos you've been meaning to organize.
11. Make the most of having a freer schedule. Leave earlier and shop before the crowds are out. Or stay out later and have fun without worrying that the kids are home wondering where you are.
12. Volunteer at church.
13. Get into shape. Walk with a friend each day or start a support group for others who wish to get healthy.
14. Take lunch to the beach or to a park. Have picnics with your spouse or with yourself and a good book.
15. Organize your home. Start with one room at a time and get rid of the clutter you've been meaning to toss for years.
16. Read all those books you've never had time to read before.
17. Join online email groups who share your same interests. Or start one.
18. Regularly visit a house-bound neighbor. Take her little surprises.
19. Become an expert chef. Create a custom-made cookbook. Enter cooking contests.
20. Create the incredible home library you've always wanted. Search used bookstores and places like www.Bookfinder.com and www.Amazon.com for favorite books and dvd's. Organize them alphabetically so you can easily share them with your friends.
21. Start a tea party group in your home which meets once or twice a month, taking turns in each other's homes. The group can occasionally go on 'field trips', also, to fun places.
22. You've paid for lessons for your children, how about taking your turn now? How about taking lessons in singing or dancing or rollerskating or writing or?
23. Use this time to get to know God better. Sit with Him on your sunny porch each day or go out for coffee with Him. Listen to Him. Learn from Him. Enjoy Him.
24. Enjoy Life!

And if it's having children around your home that you miss:

25. Become a Big Sister/Big Brother to a child who needs a friend.
26. Volunteer at local schools or Vacation Bible School.
27. Babysit, but not with the old attitude. Instead, see it as 'grandparent practice' and enjoy the kids you care for. Take them places, cook with them and teach them the things a grandparent might teach them.
28. Start an after school or summer program for kids in your neighborhood. Have them meet in your backyard to play games, have snacks and have stories read to them, etc.
29. Start a neighborhood children's library in your home. Spend time setting up an organized library, complete with cards to sign books out and little prizes for your own summer reading program.


The possibilities truly are endless so I hope you'll begin soon.


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Monday, May 08, 2006

When I Was Ten...


I've heard that what you loved at ten years old, you probably love even as an adult. Well, some of the things, anyway.

Now, before you say, "Phooey!", think about it. I found this to be true for me.

At ten, I liked to write. I started writing a book, one about three animal pals lost in the forest. I got to page 6 and quit, but hey! And well, you can probably guess that I still like to write, even though I took a bunch of years off, like the ones between 25 and 45 (though I've always written letters and poems).

At ten, I enjoyed visiting junk shops with my parents and as all my readers know, I still love to do that, except now I shop with Tom.

At ten, I was enchanted at those above-mentioned junk shops anytime I'd see advertisement art with Victorian women. Oh, that art still thrills me.

At ten, I loved shows like Leave it to Beaver, I Love Lucy and Davey and Goliath (anyone remember that one?). I still enjoy them.

At ten, I loved spaghetti and mashed potatoes better than any other food in the whole world. I still do(unfortunately. heh.).

At ten, I had a great imagination and loved to use it. At 47, I'm relearning to use my imagination. Somewhere along the way it suffered the usual fate of most adults when it became too tame, sensible. 

It's sad to lose your imagination. Maybe that's partly why we freak-out when Change happens--perhaps we're unable to dream-up anything to replace what we have lost. 

At ten, I loved sitting outside, gazing at trees, cloud formations and dreaming away the hours. I still do.

At ten, I felt like Jesus ran around everywhere with me and these past years, that's been returning, also. And maybe that's partly why I feel so much more rejuvenated than I used to.

Anyway, I just thought I'd share the "what did you love at 10?" thing. It is still making me think, still changing my outlook on Life. Maybe we are our most real at ten, perhaps that's right before we're talked out of being real, so ten becomes both a hello and a good-bye. 

I'm not sure. I'm only guessing.

What did you love at 10 that you still love now?


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That Monday Thing


I don't get it. I really don't. Why do so many people hate Mondays?

I mean, I love them. To me, Mondays feel like new beginnings and just think--I get a Monday, a new beginning, every single week. Mondays remind me of all the patterns of my week and how I now get to live them all over again. Patterns like sitting on my front porch, discovering new books on my shelves, watching favorite tv shows, enjoying my morning quiet times, driving around town for errands, sending surprise emails, feeding the backyard birds, spending time with my husband. 

Mondays remind me of those much-enjoyed rituals and I like being reminded of them.

Maybe Mondays remind people that they do not like their lives, that once again, they will have to deal with jobs, people, recipes or ruts they hate. But Mondays can't help that--people can help it, though. People can change how their eyes see and how their attitudes look at things, too.

On one issue of Country Home Magazine was the title, "Live For The Weekend."

What?

Live for only two days out of seven? I don't think so.

That's the kind of thing that brainwashes people, that sets them up to dread a perfectly good day of the week. The kind of idea which convinces them that certain days are good and others, bad. Well, to me, that's like saying God is good on some days and He is bad on others.

Huh. As if!

God is good every single day, whether I am good or not,whether my circumstances are good or not. And whether the weather is good (or not). Whether it's Monday, Wednesday or Saturday. But perhaps we're not living near enough to His heart to know God is always good, always standing beside us waiting to give us a song, a creative idea, a prayer, a happy, hopeful, delicious thought.

Even on Mondays. Especially on Mondays.


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Perhaps Haters of Mondays could keep a tablet with a Monday List, a list of good things which happen to them on Mondays. Its pages might turn out pretty shocking! 


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Saturday, May 06, 2006

Magazines


So what do you think about women's magazines lately? 

Of course, it depends upon the individual magazines, but to me, they're just not what they used to be. Especially the decorating magazines--what's up with that stream-lined/boring/white/hospital-like look which the majority of the magazines are saying is "In" for our homes?

Well, for my home, it's "Out."

You know how some blogs (and people) tell you what's wrong with this world, yet rarely tell you what's right? I don't want to have a blog like that. I mean, don't we already pretty much recognize when something is disappointing/evil/sinful? I'd rather hear about the alternatives which are good/encouraging/inspiring. I'd rather hear about ways to counteract the darkness.

So along those lines--

Yesterday morning I ventured out to the big city, to Barnes and Noble, and bought the highly-anticipated latest issue of Mary Jane's Farm Magazine. I'd waited over a year for this and like always, it did not disappoint.

Do you remember how Victoria Magazine made you feel as though you'd entered a whole different world? One with afternoons of grace, beauty and peace? Well, Mary Jane's Farm takes you to a land of 1930's-hearted, down-home-folk. To people who are passionate about old-fashioned values and making a sweet, homespun, healthy homelife for their families. To a land where old tools and ways of working are preferred,respected and not just remembered fondly, but still used today.

Mary Jane's Farm introduces me to people I grew-up yearning still existed. And the older I became, the less hope I had for meeting them. Yet there they are--right inside those beautiful pages and at Mary Jane's website, too.

In other words, Mary Jane's Farm is a dream-come-true for me. It's an old-fashioned world I can travel to when this modern one gets on my nerves.

Other magazines which I feel haven't sold-out to blah-ness?:

Mary Engelbreit's Home Companion
Reminisce
Country Almanac
The Good Old Days
And a certain cottage decorating magazine whose title I can't recall...

And sometimes I like:

Romantic Homes
Somerset Studio
Reader's Digest
Guideposts


A couple weeks ago I did glance through a premiere issue of a Christian woman's magazine. Hmm. I was going to remember the title-- and well, of course, I forgot it already... (**Thanks, Laura!** Yes, it was called Lily.) I thought it was done quite well.

I like any magazine which inspires me to live my life better and do all my jobs with excellence, also. I love it when a magazine becomes like a textbook for me so I'll become more skilled at what I do. And well, currently, Mary Jane's Farm does that best.

Speaking of which, I'm off to spend more time in the Mary Jane world of farms, aprons and embroidered pillowcases and home-baked apple pies.

Which magazines do you like?



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Thursday, May 04, 2006

Of Monk and Change


As I mentioned, Tom's birthday was last week. 

I gave him the third season set of Monk dvd's--he loves that show and since we no longer have cable, all these episodes are new to him (us). He was tickled pink that I bought these.

But uh-oh! In the middle of the season we discovered that Monk's nurse/sidekick, Sharona, was replaced by a new gal, Natalie. Yes, we were surprised and a tad disappointed (Sharona was a riot), but hey! We thought we'd give the new girl a chance and see where the powers-that-be were going to take her and Monk. And ok, Natalie is no Sharona, yet she and her daughter have added a whole new dynamic to Monk--it's like watching the old Monk, only in a whole new way. We like it!

But oh dear. I surfed a few online Monk message boards just to see what other fans said about the Sharona/Natalie change and good grief! People were having cows.

I mean, hey. I realize everyone is allowed their own opinions about what they do or don't like. I get that, ok? But wow. Whatever happened to giving new things a fair chance? 

The message boards were practically on fire with stuff like this:

"Sharona is gone? I will never watch Monk again! Good-bye forever."
"Bring back Sharona or else!"
"Monk's and Sharona's relationship was the whole show. This show will die now."
"It's the end of an era. I'm sick about it."
"I watched one new episode. Natalie is mean. I can't stand her. I'll never watch again."
"Sharona was gorgeous. Natalie is ugly."
"Yeah, and the new theme song stinks, too."

Man oh man. It really is true that most people hate change. I saw it so clearly just by reading a few message boards and being reminded that, I, also, used to be that way if you even hinted at changing something I loved. 

And then I'd complain about being bored and in a rut. Imagine.

But there is no growth without change. There is nothing new without change. There's no chance for creativity without change, no new friends, no new births. Without change, stagnation will eventually take over.

With every new discovery there is change and with every new discovery there is new life.

I'm thankful that this whole Sharona-Natalie thing has reminded me of that. I'm glad Tom and I hung in there and watched the remainin delightful shows on the discs. 

We're both anticipating Season 4.



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