Tuesday, May 30, 2006

That Time of Year

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

That time of year 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. For then, oh my, you should see me. No, actually, you shouldn't. Because on hot, steamy afternoons I turn into Dorothy's wicked witch and can be heard to say, "I'm melting!" Because I do, you know. I do melt and I 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, too (except that my complaining can be quite un-genteel-like, indeed).

So that is why, on broiling days, I arise at 5:00 in shadowy light and dress, then open doors and windows wide. I feed the cats and give Lennon his insulin shot and then microwave my pretend coffee and carry it, along with my books, out to the front porch where it's now or never, because soon the sun will beat down upon my wicker out there. But in the early-morning coolness and silence, with God sitting across the porch from me, I lounge in my quiet time (and find it hard to pull myself out of it).

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.

Then into my little dressing table closet to apply my make-up, quietly, so not to awaken Tom in the next room (when he's not working day shift). That done, I brush my hair and grab my keys and it's out to the shed for my new Old Bike, then we head out together for a two-block ride--Old Bike reminds me just how pathetically out of shape I am. You should hear me huff and puff as I'm nearing home, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.... I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Yet in my defense, this is an old 1-speed bike (or as Tom said, a no-speed bike) and it's harder to ride than those cinchy 10-speeds.

Then Old Bike gets tucked back into the shed and I'm off again, back down the driveway, this time for a walk. Though by now, my town is waking up... kids are walking to school and people, on the avenue, are driving past me on their way to work. Mostly I stick to the old neighborhoods, though, the ones, especially at this time of morning, which whisk me back to 1930--and I go with that. I pretend I am there.

Then back home...to hang up the laundry, then a little breakfast in my secret corner, tucked away with a book... classical music beside me on my old radio and Lennon on a chair beside me, staring at me and my plate.

And then it is 8:00.

Time to awaken Tom...

...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 I can do is change my attitude about it...and change my schedule, too.

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 I sat on our porch, four-steps-high, and reveled, once again, in 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 are part of the usual any-warm-day parade.

It's Memorial Day Weekend and I am remembering all that we are supposed to remember on these days.

And more, much more.

I have a feeling that, in Heaven, God will ask me if I paused to remember His extreme goodness ... the people He sent to inspire me... 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 want 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.

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 just about 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 sooo bizarre/pointless/just-plain-dumb, that I was sorry we'd even watched it.

Except for one amazing thing.

About halfway through the movie, 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 was like something out 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 myself, my real self, there on the screen. And suddenly I wanted that to be the real me-- not just inside me--but outside as well.

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 very, very rusty and 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 just this past Monday, I remembered the dream... and how Keri Russell looked on that bike... and how I still didn't have the bike, the sweater, nor the skirt. I told Tom, "Hey! We never did get a bike for me." He said we'd have to do something about that. I said it was important that it have a basket.

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 throw them my so-very-long huffy spiel about why I do watch tv.

(Hmmm... I think 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 what I was trying to say and B.) Assume that people are reading every finely-crafted word before they comment.)

So here goes...Why I Watch TV:

1. I watch tv because my own little life, at the moment, is too darn near perfect. And it's way 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 little darn near perfect life also.

2. TV shows me the hurting people 'out there.' I am made aware of unmet needs... of broken homes and violent streets and communities. And in response, I am reminded to pray for those who are trapped inside a darker, bleaker world than my own. And through watching and praying, I am 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, reality shows, contest shows 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 happens to be at the current time...tv shows me 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. I watch (nice) comedies and comedians because I love to hear people laugh. Heck, I love to laugh, myself. I watch shows where people are counseled with common sense because I just plain love common sense, to live by it and to pass it along.

6. TV challenges me to keep my imagination brushed-off and outside of the same ol' dusty box where I tend to keep it.

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 so much to God--and for whatever strange reasons, tv reminds me of that. And right now, my own little world in my own idyllic neighborhood, as I said--is pretty little. Narrow. Too good, even sleep-inducing, maybe. And I don't mean the kind of sleep God heartily approves of.

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

Good Ol' American Idol

Gotta add my two cents about American Idol...

What a fun season this was! I'd watched seasons 2 and 4, but this last season was my favorite. The kids were cute, unique and memorable--oh yeah, and talented--and I wanted the whole top ten to win the grand prize. And it was a nice change this season that, as each contestant was voted off, none of them acted as though their lives were over forever. Instead, they spoke with gratitude about having made it into the top ten and were quick to recall they'd be touring this summer with the rest of the gang. I guess I sensed a lot more old-fashioned gratitude and appreciation this year--and it blessed me.

And when Taylor won--wow! You should have heard me hoot with joy (I'm sure the neighbors heard me). Both Katharine and Taylor were winners 'in our book', but Tom and I both leaned more toward wanting Taylor to win. We like variety, and well, Taylor is surely different--that's partly why we were thrilled last year that Carrie won, though I was shocked there, too. Weeks and weeks earlier I'd told Tom, "No way is the American public going to vote for a country singer to be their next American Idol!"

Okay, so I was wrong. Everyone is entitled to make one mistake in their life. :)

But back to when Taylor was announced last night as the winner and for the remainder of the show... You should have seen Tom and me... We just sat there with tears streaming down our faces. We were so deeply happy for Taylor that we were crying even though we didn't realize we were crying, tears dripping off our chins.

Life feels extremely good when you can be so thrilled for another person's good fortune-- and have absolutely no jealousy of what they've earned.... when you've grown-up in Life and in Love and now you can, with purest joy, celebrate with those who have what you, most likely, never will. And after all, real, godly love means wanting others to be even more blessed than you are... and doing, happily, whatever it takes to help them get there.

I think 1 Corinthians 13 has a lot more to say about all that...

But let me just say here--congratulations, Taylor and Katharine, and everyone else involved with American Idol in any way--it was a delightful season and I'm grateful that I didn't miss a single fun moment.

The Dwindling Scope of Imagination

I read that the average 40-year-old has just 2% of the average 5-year-old's imagination. Or another way of saying that is, by the time you reach 40, you've lost nearly all the imagination you once had as a child.

Probably, that is one of the saddest statistics I've ever read. But 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...

... when we eat the same ol' meals at the same ol' places...

... when we never rearrange our furniture or our schedule...

... when we believe the same ol' things about the same ol' people, places and principles...

... when we become suspicious of new ideas.

And here's one I've been thinking about since yesterday... since 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):

... we show our lack of imagination when we criticize teachers, preachers and evangelists who approach things differently than we would... or our denomination would... or our own pastor would. Because when we make comparisons and others don't make our grade, we've shown that we've totally disregarded, totally forgotten, 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

It shows a sad, sad lack of imagination to believe that only those who speak as I do, share as I do, believe as I do--only they are, truly, helping people. And how sad to, in reality, be lecturing God, "You messed up when you gave ______ that gift. He/she is not sharing it the way I believe he/she should."

Oh, we are 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-barreness in this blog, please leave me a note (a kind one, I hope) in my comment box.

I like to believe that in Heaven, comparisons are unheard of. Unimagined. I like to dream that, instead, statements of appreciation are made for each person's gifts and talents which came from God's hand... that the specific necessity of each individual is seen as clearly as the brightest light and God is thanked for creating us all so uniquely...

... that we are seen, recognized, appreciated and valued.

Oh, for a little bit of Heaven here on Earth... and here in our blogs.

"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. Of course, we loved it. We love most inspirational sports' movies and too, Shia Le Beouf has amazed us ever since Disney's series, Even Stevens (yes, I'll confess--we used to watch that show. Worse, we, both of us, enjoyed it to pieces.)

But, er, anyway...

Have you ever noticed that, when it comes to biographical films, the most difficult lives make the best movies? The best inspirational films are about those people who were constantly chosen last for teams in gym and those who were 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 lives. Other people watch those lives, whether on film or not, and feel renewed hope seeping into their pores. You don't have to show your life upon a movie screen for it to be watched.

There is 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. That can get messy, after all. Downright uncomfortable and challenging.

It amazes me how many other bloggers have spouses who live with chronic pain. I have one of those, too. In fact, this morning I will travel with him to get one of his quarterly pain injections for his back. The wait is usually three hours. I am 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. But the best part is that, in reality, this time becomes a date with God... quiet time in a public place... time to catch-up with one another about new things.

But anyway, what I'm hoping to convey by this post is a reminder... A reminder that the most interesting, hope-filled, inspiring lives are those in which someone had something huge to overcome. A life where your joy and faith and love are tested on a regular basis--and yet it's obvious to all watchers, you, the main character, have conquered what threatened to knock you down.

And instead, you came up, even smiling, because on your way downward, you met the living God, the lifter of heads--and that has made all the difference--to you and to all those within the film of your life.

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 of the amazing things 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.
If I'd been a sweet wife, a great mother, a good friend.
If I hadn't watched too much tv.
If I'd 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.

Basically, if all those tiny gold stars were shining proudly on the big To Do Chart inside my head--and if the world was running smoothly-- then I could allow myself to be happy.

As you can guess, I wasn't happy a whole lot.

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 good. Not because other people are. Not because the weather is.

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 stop bashing yourself over the head when you make mistakes. People who beat themselves do not travel very far bruised, wounded. People in self-imposed pits of condemnation do not condemn themselves into acting better the next time--God's grace makes us better.

In your freedom, you stop punishing yourself for days--losing whole weeks when you could have blessed people who needed your help.

In your freedom, you crawl back up on the horse right after you've fallen. You let God brush you off and whisper encouragement in your ear right before you gallop back into the journey. In your freedom, there is happiness while riding on the way to where you are going--not just when you reach the goal. And God becomes your biggest fan--not the harsh critic you once thought He was.

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

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Spa Weekend

Mostly, there's just one bad thing about being in my late-40's--

I can no longer spend Tom's week-off eating Burger King, Mc Donald's and Taco Bell--and get away with it. No, it's official now... In my late-40's I pay mightily for that kind of devil-may-care behavior.

Last week I think I broke my hormones. Or, at the least, I think I knocked them all out of alignment.

Poor me...I have been paying. Aching joints. Sad thoughts. Snapping at Tom like a rabid dog. And there's been a sort of reunion going on in my head, one in which my old feelings of insecurity have returned for a riotous Old Home Week. I've found myself wildly thinking, "Must... have... more.... jade-ite.... Must... collect... more... than.... anyone.... else...."


"Must.... read.... more... books.... Must... have... the... longest... list... of... books... read... this... year..."

You know... those sickening, high-school-revisited feelings spinning in your head, driving you to catch-up with people (the popular kids) who appear to be more, have more and do more.

Well, that's not me. Not the real me. Not anymore, anyway.

So since yesterday, I've been giving myself a spa weekend. No, not at some fancy, schmancy place on a beach. Nah, just here at home. I'm trying in just two days, to get myself sane again. To re-align these old, abused hormones.

So what takes place at a spa weekend at Debra's house?

You sit outside in the sun, quietly, peacefully. You heal. You listen--to birds, to breezes, to God.
You use your trowel and putter in some garden dirt.
You take walks around the block and breathe-in deeply.
You read comfort books.
You eat good food. You eat from the list of foods which are good for your blood type and good for your moods. You do a little more research and print out lists which you take to the supermarket.
You drink glasses of water, fizzy and non.
You take your vitamins.
You take baths. You pray.
You watch old black and white movies.
You do not lecture yourself for having pretended you are still in your 20's and can get away with eating junk on a plate.
You give yourself a break. You treat yourself with kindness.
You learn from your mistakes and make hopeful promises not to repeat them.

And then you skip-hop back into Real Life wiser, healthier, more peaceful. And while there, you pause as often as you can to listen to birds, to breezes, to God... to never again stray so far away from common sense.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Inspiration Training

Back in the old days when Tom and I had cable tv, I used to watch Kitty Bartholomew's decorating show and always at the end, she would tell us to keep our eyes open. I'd imagine spending time with Kitty--probably it would be like walking down a sidewalk with a small child, one who points-out and squeals about sights and objects an adult would otherwise miss.

In other words, some people see inspiration everywhere. But other people totally miss being inspired because they stare, instead, at their problems. Or at their children's problems. Or they walk forward while staring behind them at their past.

I don't want to be a problem-starer. Been there, done that. No, I want, like Kitty quipped, to keep my eyes open.

Always, there's inspiration to do better and be better anywhere you look--inspiration which works like a boost to lift us from hopelessness into a whole other realm of possibility. If my marriage needs help, I can look at other couples who are still crazy about each other and learn from them. If my family is in a rut, I can get ideas from fun families. And of course there are helpful books, seminars and tv programs. It's out there--inspiration is everywhere you look--you just have to look in the right places.

But this week since I've been sharing my home and yard, I thought I'd share some secret places where I discover inspiration to create a whole other world upon this tiny piece of land we kinda-sorta-own (mortgages being what they are).

When I keep my eyes open, I get ideas from other peoples' yards while taking my daily walk. One flower bed inspired mine. One family's blue front door inspired me to paint my back door blue. A few porches with wicker furniture made me realize that I much preferred wicker to our then-current wrought iron set.

In bookstores and supermarkets I sit with coffee and page through decorating and gardening magazines. I borrow magazines from libraries and buy them cheaply from yard sales or splurge on the occasional filled-to-the-brim-with-stuff-I-love ones. I tear out favorite pages of my magazines and slip them into clear plastic sleeves and place them into notebooks. I sit with these custom-made magazines of mine and note which colors appear most often in the rooms I love--they have taught me my favorite colors.

In restaurants, stores and coffee shops , I note favorite shades of colors used on walls and make mental notes as to how these colors make me feel. Which ones would I like in my own house? I come home, walk around my rooms, and try to envision the walls in the new colors which caught my eye.

In furniture stores I note the way furniture and accessories are arranged and which fabrics are most pleasing to me. I come home and rearrange my own furniture. In friends' homes I note what I find most beautiful and when bloggers share their home photos, I can glean ideas from those. By watching old movies from the 30's and 40's, I've realized the rooms from that era make my heart sing. I pay attention to all the little details, architectural and otherwise, in the homes of those black-and-white films. I also collect decorating books and magazines from the 1920's - 1940's for do-able ideas in my own 1935 home.

In antique shops, I make mental lists of trinkets, gadgets and objects I love and the era they are from. I try to imagine where I would place these items in my home. When I see paintings, I pay attention to color and scale and subject matter--what makes me catch my breath? What enchants me and makes me think creative, dreamy thoughts?

Inspiration to create the best home possible -- it's, as I said, everywhere you look.

But we have to be looking. We have to learn what we like--and give ourselves permission to like it, even if we like it alone. We have to stay awake to all that is good and right... and well, it's out there for those who search with eyes open wide.

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, the ones with crossed-out labels because we used to move all the time, 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, it set the tone and it 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, we peeked inside house after house, and well, most of them had that same, heavy woodwork. I couldn't escape it. Or the other houses were either all wrong or else 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 who it was created to be. For me, that would have been the coward's way out. And I would be less than what I have become by having stuck it out. I'd be less a decorator, less a carpenter, less a painter and less in my imagination and stick-to-it-tiveness and creativity.

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 automatically thinking, "This house does not have a ______. I am so outta here."

Instead of studying everyone else's house (and my own discontent), I began re-looking at my own house and its potential to become my dream home. I began studying the whole Craftsman movement of the early 1900's from books and 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 between the windows, doors, trim and the newcomers--the similarly-styled, replicated furniture from the Craftsman era.

Finally, I had a foundation. And you know? A foundation is amazing. 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 and bring home the treasures you spied along the way--the ones you now know, instinctively, will look just perfect in your home. The treasures you would love to surround you on your walls and upon your floors.

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. Decorate from there... research and learn about decorating concepts and tricks from there.... learn about yourself and what you love from there... put it all together from there. Become a more creative, intuitive, contented person from there.

Besides, perfect homes are not built by a team of carpenters and sub-contractors anyway. Not really, or rather, not wholly. 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 with imagination enough to create the perfect surroundings on the outside. 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 likes to remind 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 imagine that the curvy blue stream is leading to this white foamy little 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 a lot 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 look 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 just have to read this, too! 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 too 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 changes.

And we get new eyes.

We start to see as God sees and I can tell you this for certain--when God's kids mess-up, He does not worry and 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 and sit on the couch and 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)...

...and 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 and 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 times and anticipate the rewarding times yet to come...

Friday, May 12, 2006

Potpourri Post

An Enchanting Blog:

I am always looking 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 are very real to me. Very, very real.

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, 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... but 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 where I have three birdfeeders and two birdbaths. A crowd flies in every morning and afternoon. This week's special on the menu is Lilac Water and 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 can be seen leaning into the lilac water, sipping deeply, and then flying 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, too.)

"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 am washing dishes, planting my garden, folding the laundry, mopping the floors -- it matters.

It is important. Whatever God is asking me to do at any given time--there is nothing more important anywhere on this Earth that I could be doing instead. Obedience to God is big stuff. It doesn't get any bigger than that.

The most discontented people I know are those who go to work believing they should be doing something else. Something better, higher, more meaningful, more 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 what we do only means something if people tell us so. But God would tell us so if only we would 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. And if they say nothing, we try harder, yet still there is no peace, not the permanent kind, anyway, because real, lasting peace only comes from the encouraging whispers of God, not man.

Whatever our job--it matters. It matters how we do what we do. The discipline matters. The faithfulness matters. The lessons we learn in the middle of it all-- they matter... as well as the tests which come to show us what we've missed understanding along the path.

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. But it will come only after we realize the importance of this present thing... when we replace complaining with gratitude... sloppiness with attention to detail... wishing with work... our worst with our best...

... and the desire to do everything through and for Him.

It all matters more than we know:

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...

...important--all of it.

(And wow... After looking at that list I wonder how I ever find the time to complain/whine/moan/groan!)

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

For Those of You Who Appreciate Vintage Stuff

Recently I discovered two wonderful blogs, each with photos of oh-so-cool vintage stuff which makes my heart go pitter-patter-thump-thump-wow!

So because I know that some of you who read this blog also appreciate all-things-vintage, I thought I'd share these blogs so that your hearts could go pitter-patter-thump-thump-wow! also:

Junk In My Trunk

And those blogs so inspired me, that I dragged out our digital camera to take some pictures of my own vintage junk. But alas, the batteries need to be charged soooo... I put together a photo album of photos I'd taken the last two years of my own vintage stuff. Sort-of rehashed, and some of you have already seen these, but well, I thought I'd share them anyway:

Debra's Old-Fashioned Stuff

Happy viewing on your trip back in time!

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Enjoying The Empty Nest

Lots of women in Blogland are approaching the empty nest. I'll admit it--it's a wild time... a sad and scarey time and yet it's a marvelous, re-awakening time, too. But 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 I so choose to make my empty nest the marvelous kind... and it's that type of nest which I want to spread around to those of you who are about to enter one.

Below are just some 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, but this is just to get you started.

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 possibilites truly are endless!

Monday, May 08, 2006

When I Was Ten...

In a couple different places, I've heard that what you loved at ten years old, you probably love even as an adult. Well, some of the things you loved at ten, 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! I've always remembered the dreaminess I had of becoming an author. And well, you can probably guess that I still like to write, even though I took a whole bunch of years off, like the ones between 25 and 45 (though I've always written letters).

At ten, I loved to visit junk shops with my parents. I still love to do that, except now I go with my husband.

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

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

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

At ten, I had a great imagination and I loved to use it. At 47, I am learning how to use my imagination all over again. Somewhere along the way it suffered the usual fate of most adults when it became too tame and too sensible. It's sad to lose your imagination. Maybe that's partly why we freak-out when Change happens--maybe we are unable to dream-up anything to replace what we have lost and then we panic because we can see only nothingness ahead. I am currently restocking my imagination.

At ten, I loved sitting outside and looking at trees and clouds and dreaming away the hours. I still do.

At ten, I felt like Jesus ran around everywhere with me. These past few years, I've been getting that back, 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 made me think... it is still making me think... it is still changing my whole outlook on Life. Maybe we are our most real at ten... maybe that's right before we are 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?

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.... Well, on and on. 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 or people or 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."


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

That's the kind of thing that brainwashes people... the kind of thing which sets them up to dread a perfectly good day of the week... the kind of thing which convinces them that certain days are good and others are 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... whether the weather is good or not... whether it's Monday or Wednesday or Saturday. But perhaps we are not living near enough to His heart to know He is always good and He is always standing right beside us waiting to give us a song, a creative idea, a prayer, a happy thought, a hopeful thought, a delicious, giving thought.

Even on Mondays. Especially on Mondays.

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!