Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Of Blogging Kindred Spirits


Tom and Naomi went online two years before I did. Those were back in the days when I believed the modern online world was certainly not for me.... back when I made assumptions based on what other people told me... when I made up my mind without checking out the facts... when I ran with a tiny bit of information and pretended I'd heard it all. And missed-out on who-knows-how-many delightful things.

But then I got some sense.

I went online for myself and found more kindred spirits in one year than I'd found in the previous 40.

And everything changed. I stopped thinking of myself as a, well, freak of nature and the only person left on Earth who actually respected June Cleaver, enjoyed being a homemaker and wearing aprons, and who took notes from old 1930's woman's magazines while humming along to Big Band tunes.

I'd always been like that. Even as a child I was out of kilter with friends from school, church, the neighborhood and even my own family. Only rarely (rarely!) would I find someone a little bit like me. Most times, people shook their heads or gave me lectures about how I, really, should become more like everyone else, even throwing in Bible verses to prove their point.

And well, just about the time I'd begun to believe I was a lone nut case crying in the wilderness, that's when I went online. And that's when I found many, many other nut cases just like myself. There are thousands and thousands of us here in Blogland and if others look upon us like poor, misguided souls, well, that's all right. At least we have found each other. At least we are happy in our own little retro world.

Yesterday, thanks to MN, I found yet another nut--, uh, kindred spirit. She is Amy and she lives on Petticoat Lane in Blogland. Her post/essay, Modern Retro Housewives made my heart sing and dance and even more free to be the Retro Housewife I really, really am.

And for those of you dear kindred spirits who visit with me here in my retro Blogland home, I just had to share Modern Retro Housewives with you. After all, the best things in life are meant to be shared, especially with ones friends.

Monday, October 30, 2006

Sometimes You Just Have to Laugh...


Now, don't get me wrong. Most days, I really appreciate God's sense of humor. Honest I do.

But for years there's been one area where, what He probably meant as funny, well, I haven't found funny really at all.

It's the area of, well, my daughter and her tendency to believe the worst, find the worst, look for the worst and expect the worst.

Good grief.

And well, I can just hear you giggling... Yes, I'll just bet you can see the humor in that can't you? Me, Mrs. Pollyanna, giving birth 26 years ago to a little thunderous, frowning, dark rain cloud, also known as Naomi.

Ha. Ha. Ha.

Naomi dropped over here on Friday and the three of us just talked about tv shows and all went well. There was peace. Blessed peace. Whew.

Then she came over today and we started talking about tv shows again, and once more, there was peace. But she stayed longer this time. Uh-oh. I got nervous. You see, stretch out a visit with Naomi too long and well, the odds go up and up and up by the second--tick, tick, tick--and most likely, some negative subject is going to enter the arena.... And if it does, Debra will try to bring out the silver lining of that subject.... and then Naomi will insist there is no silver lining and that Debra knows nothing about the real world. And then both Naomi and Debra will state their cases simultaneously, neither person will really listen to the other... and then Naomi will say she's had enough and she'll walk out the door, leaving a sad pall over our house.

I hate it when that happens. It happened again today. Another episode of Mrs. Pollyanna meets Miss I Hate America.

Argh.

Normally, I wouldn't share that, and yet I wouldn't want anyone to think I'm having some perfect la-de-da, pie-in-the-sky life over here, which I confess (being Mrs. Pollyanna) I do sometimes give that impression. Mostly, because I've become rather adept at thinking about, concentrating upon, good and lovely and right things.

So for the record, I just wanted you to know the way things often are. The way they have often been for, oh, say, the last 6 years, especially.

But I also want you to know that God is so amazing that, when I choose to forgive, He fills me with 'anyway joy,' .... joy which comes and stays anyway, even when the circumstances are far from joyful. 'Anyway joy' amazes me.

And I don't know what I would do without Him.... even though, like I said, sometimes His sense of humor leaves a little bit to be desired.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Time For Dreams


Somewhere I read, "Sometimes the most spiritual thing you can do is to take a nap."

Amen.

And similarly, sometimes the most spiritual thing I can do is take a little break from this blog. And that is what I've been doing (in case you wondered). Taking a break... coming away ... pondering things in my heart.

Probably I've thought about fifty things, one of those things being photography. For the last ten years, or so, I've toyed with the idea of learning to take pictures and well, perhaps becoming a photographer of sorts. But not until now, this year, has the time felt right to begin.

If there's anything I have learned, it's that, with God, timing is nearly everything.

In my life, nearly always He has given me dreams years before He meant me to carry them out. I believe I've seen Him do that with other people, too, especially with mothers who are smack dab in the middle of their mothering years. There they are surrounded with tiny, apron-pulling children (the dreams of earlier years?) and a huge, new dream--but almost no way to begin chipping away at that other, down-the-road dream. No, but many ways to carry out this current dream--this dream of raising children--if they'll but knock and ask and seek.

I think it's a test... Will we run ahead with the new, God-given dream, on our own, on only a far-off vision? Run impatiently, insecure in our current life? Or will we wait for God's blessing, His grace, and His way--and His timing?

I think, with God, the forming of our character to match His, well, that will always come first with Him, rather than our riding wild and undisciplined with our dreams. For, as I've repeated here before, 'our gifts can take us where our character cannot keep us.' Heaven forbid that any of us become another member of the list of shipwrecked dreamers, especially if we also dragged down a lot of other souls in our sinking.

But the other thing I've seen (over and over) is that Grace always appears when it's finally God's time for us to begin working on the dream. Grace always rides along in the vehicle of The Right Time. Frustration, though, comes when we attempt God's dreams for us too early--or too late--or when we rely, not upon Grace, but upon ourselves or other people only. Or ack! When we wander and toddle after dreams not born out of God's heart, first, for us. Dreams perhaps real for a friend, but for us, only a vapor.

Grace. Following Grace. Many years ago Tom's Dad told him never to force anything when working with tools, otherwise the tools would invariably get broken. Over and over Tom has repeated that advice to me when he's caught me frustrated and trying to yank and force tools and batteries and hammers and nails to fit or work or twist when they were created to work certain, different ways--not the ways I was failing at forcing them to work.

And well, dreams are like that.

There's a time, a birth, for each dream... a time to grow and mature while we wait for the birth...then times to work just a little or times to work and accomplish much...times to ask for help and times to work alone... times to sit back and meditate about what to do next, and times to jump in and swim for all we are worth. But heaven help us if we get the times all mixed-up!


***

"My times are in Your hands..." Psalm 31:15

"Where there is no vision, the people perish..." ... Proverbs 29:18

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Country Autumn Photos



I drove to the country alone today... I wanted to take pictures and Tom didn't feel like going and well, oh my! Had he gone with me it would have been a nightmare... one long day of , "Wait Tom! Turn around--we just passed a gorgeous tree." And, "For heaven's sake... pull over and let those people pass us so that we can stop if we suddenly come upon a photo op.." Or, "You wait here while I walk around that cemetery.", etc., etc.

Anyway, I took pictures galore and loaded them into my Autumn album if you'd like to see them. Although I'm happy with the way many of them turned out, still, I was unable to capture for you the gorgeous expanse of our countryside, even on a day so late in the season...

But I tried my best to give you Autumn.... You were on my mind every time I turned the car around.... and let people pass me.... and walked around in the mud (trespassing, probably)... With every click of the camera I thought of each of you who would see these photos and have Autumn waiting here for you, even later in barest, bleakest Winter.

Taking Out The Trash


In my family, I am the one who rolls the trash can to the curb on Thursday mornings.

Do you think I mind? No, not on sultry, never-did-cool-down mornings or even the snow-heavy, ice-blowing ones, because --always--something happens when I turn back toward our house with its lamps glowing gold at the windows.

Always, home memories fall upon me like fairy dust.

There's just something about those windows. I stand there before the house, there with my long coat thrown over my robe, and I hesitate to move lest I shake those sparkling memories and they fall too soon from me.

No, I don't mind taking out the trash because remembering happens when I turn back toward the house. It's those windows, I think, which do it... act like eyes to my memory and remind me of mornings so sunny, the light came streaming inside and made all our furniture look new... and as though I'd planned all along to have it blend together like magic.

It's the windows which remind me of times my family laughed together and were so one in spirit that the harmony was tangible and sweet and lasted for days... and we smiled instead of argued and didn't need words to convey that this home, for these days at least, contained a peace no one wanted to wreck.

And it comes to me that the shelves and shelves of books waiting inside, ones I only dreamed of having 15 years ago, books which are no longer a far-off dream, are sitting like other worlds there behind glass...

... and I remember the company-- families, couples-- unhurried around our dining room table, sharing meals and thoughts and compliments...

... and times I, home alone, played Big Band music to fill the house and pretended it was the 1930's, dusting the oak stair railing in my apron, or sitting and reading 1920's cookbooks and issues of Good Housekeeping when bolero jackets were all the rage...

... or sat on the front porch wicker chair on October afternoons watching leaves deepen to red, then dance while falling... and feeling the pulse of God in my heart and throat until I could barely breathe...

You know, memories like those--they are the ones which swirl all together in that fairy dust.

Did we only have good times here inside this house these thirteen years? Of course not.

But the good memories--the best and sweetest and warmest ones--those are the moments which rain down upon me when I take out the trash on Thursday mornings like this one.

It's only the good memories I see dancing in our lighted windows when I turn back toward our house, all while my neighborhood sleeps.



***
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things..." Philippians 4:8

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

In Front of the Candles


Bundled up in my long black coat and on my way out for an icy-cold walk yesterday, I found a card from my good friend, Wilma, inside my mailbox. I ripped it open and laughed right out there in front of my house. I couldn't believe how much this picture resembled me sitting in front of those 15 candles in our fireplace during those three days of no electricity and no heat!

Well, me as I see myself inside my head--always looking twenty years younger than I look in real-life.

Anyone else ever do that? And then shock yourself when you actually look into a mirror?

I guess that's just one reason why it needs to be "well with my soul" ... So that no matter how much I change on the outside, things on the inside will remain unshaken, at peace and confident--in God. Basing how I feel about myself upon such a changeable thing as how I look--a risky business, indeed, one not endorsed by the Creator.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

My Rebellious Side



You probably think I'm some sweet, complacent--nice--person.

Huh!

I can be very rebellious. In fact, being rebellious even makes me smile--at times.

Just how rebellious can I get?


I have a dishwasher, but I never, ever use it. And I even use a natural, toxin-free laundry detergent to wash my dishes.

I sometimes watch Dr. Phil (deal with it) and Oprah even though many of my friends would rather die than watch them.

I'm approaching 50, but I'm growing my hair long anyway. It's about halfway down my back right now and I like it that way.

I do not like parties or potlucks or most situations where there is only small talk and big, noisy crowds (and I will make excuses to avoid them). Exceptions would be the baseball games at our nearby stadium and estate sales (where, even though I love walking through old houses, I will still slip away early if people stand close and start breathing down my neck).

Sometimes in emails or in this blog I tell people how I feel about certain things, even though I know darn well I'm going to offend some of them.

I don't let people talk me into things I don't want to, or feel I shouldn't, do. I've nearly always been good at saying 'no.'

I moved to New York with my husband and daughter even though no one else thought we should (and have proceeded to have the time of my life for 13 years).

I raised my daughter differently than the way I, myself, was raised.

I am decorating my house with old furnishings even though most people I know prefer new stuff.

I read tons of kids' lit. even though most of my friends stick to adult books. I have never, ever regretted dropping out of college.

I wear aprons nearly every day. For many years I wore only dresses, no slacks. (But now I wear both.)

Sometimes I eat an apple without washing it first.

My, my.... I'll bet you never thought I was such a rebellious woman now, did you?

Actually, some of these things are humorous, but you'd be surprised at how many controlling, er, people I have irked by being the way I am. Many of these things about me have been known to make other people, well, crazy.

Oh well. If we really want to be used by God, sometimes He will use us to show others what is inside their own hearts just by being who we are (usually without even saying anything). (Will they judge us? Will they gossip? Will they toss us aside because we're different?) We don't have to like being used that way... we just have to be willing to allow God to do whatever it takes to get the job done... even if it means we are misunderstood in the process.

Sometimes, that's just Life.

The Lessons of Waiting


I used to hate to wait for pretty much anything...sometimes I still hate to wait for certain things. But waiting is a Good Thing.

I learn lessons while I wait.

Probably the list of lessons would fill both sides of a page, but here is one lesson:

While I am waiting, I learn whether I really want what I believe I want--or not.

Lightweight example 1: When I bid on books or jade-ite or aprons on Ebay, I never, ever actually place my bid on Ebay, itself. No, instead, I place my bid for the item through Auctionsniper.com. Why? Often while I'm waiting for the auction to close, I change my mind (no, really!). I realize I no longer want that book, that piece of jade-ite after all. Or I find the item cheaper someplace else. And well, it's a breeze to change your mind at Auctionsniper--you just use your cute little index finger to push the delete button. Change your mind at Ebay, and well, good luck!

Waiting gives me time to decide what it is I really want, helping me to make right choices and save money and time. Lightweight example 2: I keep a wish list at Amazon.com and do you know what? I'm surprised at how often I delete books and cd's from my wish list after a few weeks have passed. Or it amazes me that some items remain on my wish list month after month because I chose to buy something else with my monthly allowance instead. When something lingers on my wish list for a couple years, it's a sign, for me anyway, that it's not exactly a dream-come-true item.

Just tiny examples, I know... and there are many, many more lessons one gains during the waiting process we so often despise. But God knew what He was doing when he invented waiting.... He knew the wisdom of it... He knew if we got everything we wanted when we wanted it we'd not really appreciate anything. And well, our lives would be crowded--crowded with things and people and troubles we wanted on a whim or thought we'd die without...

...weighted down with mistakes and junk instead of walking light and free with the One who knows us like the proverbial book. He has a plan for each of us, a plan too important to be pushed back a few years because of moods and whims and flights of fancy.


***
"For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also." ...Matthew 6:21

Monday, October 23, 2006

You Will Be Sick of Autumn...

...by the time you finish looking through my Autumn Around Here album.

Well, you'll definitely get an autumnal fix, anyway.

I took a walk early today, accompanied by my camera. The morning was windy, probably around 40 degrees and my face froze, but I didn't care. I found myself more grateful for these gorgeous trees than ever before. They survived our historic storm and my heart nearly bursts with gratitude.

I came home and while I thawed, I overhauled my Autumn album. Made everything big so you will feel as though you are here. (Well, if your computer can handle the large pictures, that is... I realized my earlier small photos were making this glorious Autumn appear small. Heaven forbid.) These pictures are just from my neighborhood over the past month... I'd love to take a drive in the country so I can share pictures with you from out there, but we'll have to see... we are running out of time. The only problem with Autumn is that it evaporates faster than you can say wait!-let-me-grab-my-camera!

So if you need an Autumn fix, check Autumn Around Here... Maybe you won't be sick of Autumn, exactly, but you'll certainly have had enough of it--for today.

(Please let me know what you think if you have an extra minute...)

Walking Into a New Season



"To whom much is given, much will be required and from the one who has been entrusted with much, much more will be asked." Luke 12:48

Sometimes I don't feel quite right... restless... like something is wrong, but I'm not quite sure what it is.... Oh, not shaken and depressed or anything, just unsettled... unsure of what's missing... to the point where my peace just isn't what it once was.

For me, usually that means a whole new season is coming. Perhaps, it's even here.

And that sounds exciting when I write it down like that, but usually a new season means deeper humility (ever been humbled by God?)... and new areas of obedience, ones where it appears I can no longer get away with anything, not if I want to walk in contentment, peace and joy on normal days.

To step up higher, first I must always walk down lower... into deeper places of humility, obedience, forgiveness, openness and courage. Places which, well, one would never call fun.

That is, I must go to those deeper places if I want to keep growing. Always the choice is mine. It's these choices God gives me which throw me sometimes... all this freedom to do my own thing or His. The way He never forces me to do anything, but always invites me, instead.

But it's the peace which comes only from obedience which helps me choose His ways... and the history I have with Him--the remembering how good Life becomes when I set down the baggage of my bright ideas--shed my own ways like a snake's skin-- and pick up His ways, instead. And move on, more free, more confidently down the road.

I've had that restless feeling lately... and rather than panic or question or wallow in a confusing sense of guilt, I'm just becoming more quiet... and turning my eyes in only One direction, rather than many. Keeping my ears turned to One source, rather than to all the loud, varying voices out there telling me what I should do.

When there's a changing of seasons, the worst thing I can do is to make a wrong turn... or refuse to budge... or try going only where I have gone before. What I have done before will no longer work in this new season. That's the whole point.

No, there are new things to learn... old ways to shed... new ways to become... and there's only One Person who can lead me through all of that.... Only One Person who can initiate the journey in the first place. And all that's left is for me to cooperate.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

It Was A Dark and Stormy Night...


...so I took pictures of my tower room.

And yes, my camera came with a flash feature, but if I used it, you'd be able to see more clearly the dreadful curtains (which I'm trying to replace). And besides, that stark light just ruins the whole cozy effect I have going on up there on this, as I said, dark and stormy night, complete with rain lashing at the windows.


Have you ever seen the movie, Holiday, with Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn? Well, the playroom in that film has the feeling, the aura, of what I'd like for this tower room. (If you are familiar with the Melendy family of The Saturdays, the playroom in Holiday is the fleshed-out version of it, down to the piano and trapeze. One has to wonder if Elizabeth Enright was inspired by Holiday's playroom and wrote about it a couple years later--watch Holiday and judge for yourself.)

Anyway, considering I have none of the furnishings of either Holiday or la playroom de la famille Melendy, it looks like my imagination will be exercised to the maximum (as my dusty, rusty Jr. High French is being exercised).

But that's a good thing. It's usually a good thing, dare I say an enchanting thing, when I can look at things through the eyes of my imagination and be just as pleased as if I were simply looking through the blue eyes set inside my face at the perfect room in the house of someone else.

Not to mention it's always a lot less expensive.

Storm Story


Though I'm still mostly avoiding the newspaper, lately I have been reading about our October Surprise Storm (the one we were not warned about, which made it worse). Today's issue carried lots of peoples' storm stories, and though I enjoyed reading all of them, I especially liked this one which I'll share here. It reminded me how often we (especially we mothers) try to spare our children from work when in reality, we are sparing them from growing-up with a sense of responsibility.

Young Man on a Mission

Lisa Carney of Williamsville was stunned when her husband put their 11-year-old son, Brent, in charge of the fireplace after their power went out.

"Relax," the husband told her, "the kid's a Boy Scout."

She gasped as she watched her son tear up an old newspaper to use to get the fire going.

"I'll supervise closely, and by tomorrow, I'll be taking care of this and everything will be fine," she thought to herself.

Carney was amazed as she observed her son carefully tending the fire, day after day following the power failure.

"A man on a mission, without complaint, he would rise from under the warm blankets and endure the cold for wood," she said.

"When the power went back on Tuesday night, I was surprised to see disappointment in his face," she said. "I kissed the top of his head and asked him what was wrong."

Brent told her: "You know what, Mom? I really didn't mind the last five days."

Carney told her son that had he been a big help to his family.

"Now you think you are going to go back to being treated like a kid, huh?" she asked.

"Yeah," he sighed.

She then suggested he now scoop up the ashes in the fireplace, wondering if he would complain.

"OK, Mom. I've got it," the boy said without hesitation.

"I guess my October surprise is that my son is growing-up," Carney said.

*****

You can read more of our storm stories here and here

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A Bit More Normal


Today is feeling more normal for me... I am sure your prayers have had a good effect...thanks!

While still in my robe this morning, I rearranged my tower room and this picture shows my favorite corner. I'm not certain I'm crazy about the rest of the room, but I do know I like this part.

Last Tuesday, Tom and I began watching the movie, Waking Up Wally, and we finished watching it today. We both loved it-- extremely. It's the true story about Walter (Wally)Gretzky, father of hockey great, Wayne Gretzky. In the 90's he suffered a stroke and this movie is taken from his book about his long road back... or rather, the new road he has had to pave following the stroke. Tom and I cried (in a good way) through the whole thing and we both give it thumbs up--way up! There's some language (which our TV Guardian was unable to remove), but the rest of it is purely inspiring stuff, enough to nudge anyone forward who may be feeling sorry for themselves.

Tom McCamus, the man who played Wally...wow! If I were handing out awards I'd hand him many, many. Only toward the end of the film did my brain remind me that Mr. McCamus, in real-life, did not suffer a stroke. His performance was that good, that incredible, and after reading a few reviews, it appears I'm not the only person who thought so.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Learning and Living Wiser


I'm floundering a bit... Still recuperating from our area's worst, most destructive disaster in 137 years of record-keeping.

Last night the D.J. on our local news station (a very, very funny guy normally) said that, after receiving so many calls during the storm-survival call-in shows, he thinks most of us are going through a grieving process. We've lost 13 people... thousands of trees and the secure feeling we once had inside our homes (many families had trees crash through their roof, or their basements flooded, or electrical wires pulled from their houses or lost their electricity anywhere from 3 - 8 days).

And the more he spoke about it, the more I thought, "Yes! That would explain why I've just been sort-of wandering around my house, unable to step back into the pattern of my days... and feeling sad for what appears to be no definitive reason (having had no trees fall upon my house or harm come to people with whom I am acquainted). And not feeling like doing much of anything. It's been like going through a grieving process."

I've not told you about the deaths, but since two of you mentioned using Coleman stoves, I just have to say this... Of the 13 storm-related deaths in our area, 8 were due to carbon monoxide poisoning. And actually, there were over 230 non-fatal cases of carbon monoxide poisoning reported by area hospitals. These sad cases happened because people used their gas kitchen stoves to heat their homes (the biggest cause of poisoning), or they didn't place their generators far enough away from their houses or they put them inside an attached garage (even with all the garage doors opened, that's still dangerous). In one case, an elderly (91) tenant and his landlady died because they actually brought their generator inside their house and placed it in a downstairs hallway.

Our local news radio station over and over told people not to do those things. And perhaps I shouldn't even share these stories, but maybe they can help save lives...

One man died while shoveling the snow in his driveway beneath a tree which his wife kept telling him didn't appear to be safe. She helped him clear the driveway awhile then told (begged) him to come inside the house with her and leave the rest of the snow till later. But he wouldn't listen to her and said he'd be in soon. Well, a huge branch fell on him ... His wife, from the window, saw it happen, and she and the neighbors pulled off the branch from him, but it was too late. In the newspaper report she sounded so angry and frustrated because it didn't need to happen-- he could have shoveled later when it was safe (there was no place to go and businesses were closed anyway) and he hadn't listened to her concerns. I exactly knew and understood her same frustration--many has been the time when Tom gets it into his head to do something and there's just NO stopping him, no matter what I say or do.

Then today an elderly man died from injuries suffered from a fall from a ladder two days ago. Sigh... Elderly people and ladders do not mix. People have been helping each other like crazy and the 2,500+ electrical workers from out-of-state have been going out of their way to help people in neighborhoods, too. Had he asked (or kept asking), I'm certain he could have found someone to climb the ladder for him.

Well anyway, these are the kinds of things which have been happening to the people who live where I do and it's heartbreaking when it hits so close to home... to neighbors in towns so close by. There is a sense of grief very heavy in the air surrounding all of us... and it hasn't helped that it just keeps raining, day following day, from dark, dark skies...

But three days ago I finally got out of the house and over to the supermarket and as I stood at the check-stand I looked all around me at the people from my town. And I suddenly felt very proud of them. In the 13 years I've lived here we've all experienced lots of record-breaking storms (though this one was by far the biggest) and still, over and over, the people keep bouncing back. They hang in there and allow the storms to toughen them and make them wiser so that they deal with the next one better. They become better and stronger, not bitter and crushed.

And that's partly why I love living here.

And now I'm giving myself a break during this time of grieving... taking a little time out and just being gentle with myself. And chalking this up to yet another thing on the list which will help me be more sympathetic toward others who are going through something similar...

...so that I'll be able to give them something more than just a quickly-quipped Bible verse and a "God bless you." Any time I can allow hardships to mold me into a more compassionate person, my heart becomes larger and more aware and better able to give to others in their time of need.

And always a good place to begin in any difficult occasion, is to do for others what I wish others would have done for me.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Comfort Books And Etc.


I was feeling a bit melancholy today. For two afternoons I've taken walks around our neighborhoods, walking mostly in the streets, rather than the sidewalks, so to be underneath fewer branches which are still hanging precariously after that killer storm. The saddest part is seeing the piles of branches lining both sides of the streets, some piles higher than 7 or 8 feet.

It's rather like a war swept through our town, a war which the trees lost and now find their golden-leafed arms and legs lying by the road, dead.

And well, one needs comfort when one sees such tragic things which ought not to be.

So even though God is still the God of all comfort, I enjoy reaching for the occasional comfort book during such times. Probably my favorite comfort books are those by vintage children's authors such as Elizabeth Enright, Eleanor Estes or Catherine Woolley (and many more similar authors whose books grace my shelves).

But instead, today I chose a book by Grace Livingston Hill, my 1930's dusty hardback edition of The Christmas Bride. It was just right.

Now, I know how some of you feel about Grace Livingston Hill's Christian romances--I've peeked into your blogs when you wrote about her. But I've read Grace's books off and on since I was 14 and generally, I still find them comforting. Oh, there was a time, some years ago I suppose, when I felt they were more annoying than inspirational, but I got over it when I just let myself overlook some of Grace's old-fashioned tendencies. Ones such as, if a woman wore her hair short and painted her mouth with lipstick, Grace considered her to be a naughty, naughty woman, indeed. After all, these books were written in the 1890's through the 1940's and times were very, very different (and yes, Grace was about as straight-laced as they come). But still... And even though most of Grace's books followed pretty much the same ol' pattern and you always know (from the beginning) who is going to end up with whom, still, in certain of her books, I still skip the entire middle and read the ending because the suspense is just too nerve-wringing.

So perhaps you've never heard of Grace Livingston Hill? Here are two great websites dedicated to her--just the old sepia-toned photographs, themselves, are enough to warrant a visit:

Here.
And here.

So what are your favorite comfort books?

And does anyone else have a current car book? As in, a book you keep in the glove box of your car so that, while you're waiting for your slowpoke spouse or activity-ladened children, you can have something to wile away the time. My current car book is Forty Plus and Fancy Free by Emily Kimbrough. She was the co-author of Our Hearts Were Young And Gay, in which she shared her hilarious adventures of visiting Europe in the 1930's (I believe) with her friend while they were just in their early 20's. In Forty Plus, she returns to Europe, but this time as a grandmother with three of her friends who, themselves, are grandmothers. A delightful, funny book, indeed. So much so, that I've been known to get perturbed with Tom if he returns to the car in a quick fashion. Often I've whined, "Couldn't you have taken longer?"

Oh, and just one more thing, non-book related. For those of you who printed a copy of my emergency supply list, I would add two things:

An old-fashioned telephone. Cordless phones will not work when the electricity goes out and cell phone batteries cannot be recharged.

And one or two battery-operated or wind-up clocks, at least one with an alarm. We have four battery-operated clocks on our walls and they helped to make life feel more normal during our electricity-less ordeal. Our battery-operated radio also had an alarm on it, so that came in handy since, because Tom had to still work each day, we both had to be up by 5:30 each dark morning (technically 5:15 for me).

Oh, and personally, I would never, ever just have an electric stove and an electric water heater... I was listening to our local news station again today, the one with the call-in shows, and one woman said her family has not been able to bathe or eat hot food since last Thursday when the lights went out.

Oh my.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

What's In There?



"Deep calleth unto deep..." Psalm 42:7

So there I was... sitting inside my house for three days, mostly alone (Tom being at work 12 hours or more each day), except for Jesus and my two cats and the assorted mice in our walls which like to tantalize those aforementioned fat, lazy cats.........there I was with no electricity all those days and feeling squeezed--and not really liking what came gushing out.

Because when you have no electricity you have, instead, a lot of time on your hands, especially when your town has a driving ban and it's too dangerous even to step outside for a walk, due to limbs falling down right off the trees. And so as you sit there in your cold home in front of a few candles, wondering if you should risk the carbon monoxide thing anyway with your kitchen stove--well, as I said, you have a lot of time to think.

And you find out what it is really, truly, like way down deep on the inside of yourself. You discover how deep--or how shallow--is your own well.

Mine wasn't as deep and bottomless as I had previously supposed.

No, I whined a lot. I complained. I murmured about the cold and the candles which I must keep lit, which felt at times rather like keeping spinning dishes balanced on sticks. I groaned about not being able to read my email or to whine to all of you here in my blog. I felt sad about the trees our community lost and got morbid pictures inside my head of a treeless Buffalo next autumn. And I was disappointed that, until 8:00 that first night, none of our friends or relatives called to see if we were still even alive ("Does no one listen to the news? Or do they just not care about us?"). Then at 8:00, my online buddy, Saija, called and restored my faith in mankind.(Though, four days later, she's still the only person who has called. Hmm.)

So much of it has to do with that old issue of control. Yes, I could have used the time to catch up on all the books and magazines I'd been wanting to read, but well, I just didn't feel like it much. I mean, the situation wasn't perfect--no perfect reading light, no perfect circumstances, no normal, usual pattern to my days. (I did reread L.M.M.'s Anne's House of Dreams by candlelight and that felt quite nice.) But still, when you can't control your situation--when you can't even make a lamp work--you see for yourself that you're not quite the it-takes-a-whole-lot-to-ruffle-my-strong-feathers person you believed you were just last week. You catch yourself acting as though, "If I can't have it my way, I don't want it at all." Or something like that.

But by the next morning, after Tom left for work and another long, quiet day began, I took myself by the collar (figuratively) and said, "Debra! You are simply NOT going to ruin today like you did yesterday. Instead, you are going to stop complaining and spend this day finding the bright side of every tiny thing."

And can you believe it? I had a much, much better day. (Who would have thought it?)


I found a local news radio station and listened to people phone in with their storm stories and I counted my blessings .... and prayed for those people whose problems were much greater than mine. And I thanked God that no trees fell on our house and that we still had hot water and a new-to-us-from-God stove top which worked. And I confess--I reminded myself that at least I didn't have a whole houseful of bored, whiney kids to keep entertained... And too, I was grateful that our daughter was safe in her home.... and I wasn't sick.... and the majority of trees surrounding our neighborhood were still standing... and we were pretty much all stocked-up on our emergency supplies.... and maybe I'd find lots of email from caring friends when I went back online.

And so it went. And so the next day went, too, and both days ended up being much better than the first. Oh, they were no picnic and I still did catch myself complaining at times, but I tried to nip each moan in the bud.

And the hours did not feel like the eternity they had been on Friday.

Complaining only ruins things. It puts clouds on what could have been a darn nice day. Feeling sorry for oneself is only pathetic, because it shows a lack of understanding that others have it much worse than I do. And it shows that my eyes are on me instead of God and the people He gives me to help.

And besides, desperately missing electricity and all the technology it brings might just be a sign that I've based my happiness a bit too much on a switch on the wall or a computer or tv screen or radio or stereo. In fact, I can just about guarantee that was true in my case. I want to get to the point--someday--where I believe with all my heart that if I just have God, everything will be all right.

And I've asked Him to lead me in that direction, even if it means sitting in the dark awhile sometimes.




***
Silence and hardship introduce us to our real self.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Electricity (Or The Absence Thereof)


How amazing it felt to get our power restored to our house last night at 10:00 p.m.! We'd already gone to bed and were asleep, but I'd purposely left a lamp switched on just in case electricity was restored , a little fan, too--both as a sign of faith and so that I could run down to the basement and take Lennon's insulin out of the chest freezer which we'd been using as a refrigerator during this emergency (worked out great... Tom would just bring home a bag of ice from his ice maker at work each night and I'd stick it on top of everything in the freezer).

Anywayyyy.......The lights came back on and well, it felt like a miracle! We felt such joy. I thought, "Oh! I will never complain again for the rest of my life!" (Yeah, right.) Tom ran and turned on the heater and after I got the insulin out, I ran to the computer...heh... And suddenly we were both wide awake. Tom watched the football game, I read emails and comments at my blog and we both celebrated in our hearts that we had electricity again. I even remember thinking, "Hooray! Tomorrow I'll be able to do the laundry and vacuum the carpet!"

Oh, to always be that grateful for something so simple.

As Elizabeth mentioned in the comments of my last post, this kind of thing is a good reminder for people to check that they, themselves, are prepared for such emergencies. Sometimes the emergency preparedness lists you read are so huge and daunting, they discourage you from even trying to gather anything at all. But here is my simple list of the things we were most grateful we had on hand:

Flashlights and batteries. Both the regular type of flashlights and two which are shaped like a D and stand alone.

A radio and batteries. (I want to tape the number of our local news station onto the radio so I'll find the station right away next time.)

Boxes and boxes of candles (years ago Tom found around a hundred pastel candles on the curb, probably leftover from a wedding) and lots and lots of matches. Also, lots of candle holders, though you can make makeshift ones if you use foil to hold them straight up inside a short glass, etc. Also, thick round candles last a long time--I use unscented candles since we have pets. (Scented candles have been known to kill pet birds.)

Cash.

A tank full of gas.

Canned and boxed food, juice and coffee. (One guy on the radio said he used his coffee maker to make coffee even without electricity, so I tried it. Worked great! I just heated it up a little more on the stove afterward.)

Insulin for our cat and syringes. Food for our cats. Vitamins for us and Tom's meds.

We also had bottled water, but we didn't need it this time.

If you have nothing else set aside, I'd have at least these things. We have lots of other stuff in our emergency kit, but those things are the ones we used most often and found the most necessary.

And oh... I want to buy a little cassette player so I can play my oldtime radio show cassettes next time. Those surely would have helped time fly, especially when it became too dark to read.

And again, I am so grateful for wonderful, wonderful electricity... I stood at my dream room windows after 11 p.m. last night and saw lights in the windows across the landscape of houses where there'd been just eerie blackness the last four nights.

Suddenly we were all connected.
Suddenly we were all celebrating the light.



***
This is just a piece of the awfulness which I wrote about in my previous post...

Photo by Alison Hudson as found here

And this, also...

Photo by Bradley Neaderhiser as found here.

And this... a typical street scene last Friday everywhere in my area.

Found here. (If you go there, click on 'next' on top of the photo for more photos.)

I'm Back!



Oh my.

My poor area has been suffering since Thursday night. I've never told you where I live but I will now... I live in a lovely old suburb of Buffalo, NY and not only did 400,000 homes in Western New York lose their electricity last week, but hundreds of thousands of our huge, gorgeous trees were either damaged or destroyed. They came crashing down because they were at their height of autumn glory and the heavy, heavy snow clung to all the leaves which normally, later in winter, would have been gone. And when the trees and branches came down, they brought with them live electrical wires and telephone poles. Hundreds of streets looked as through a tornado had swept through them.

It's been wild. Tom and I were without electricity for exactly 72 hours... three whole days. See the picture above? That's where I spent most of those days, there in front of the candles trying to stay warm. Though fortunately, it never got what we back here call really cold outside. And too, we still had our hot water so we did the ol' fill-the-bathtub-with-hot-water-and-close-the-door trick so we had a place to go to if we did start to feel chilled.

Or rather, I should say I. For you see, beginning Friday morning Tom worked three of his 12-hour day shifts so mainly I was alone for the whole outage. (He'd come home tired and we'd both go to bed around 8:30.) Mostly, the first day was the hardest.... talk about technology withdrawal! I kept thinking, "Oh, if I could just read my email and take a peek at my blog just once! Just once!" And wanting to watch my dvd's and to read in good light...heh... And cringing at the sirens every hour and the chainsaws roaring and ripping apart brilliant orange tree limbs.

Earlier that morning I had to go out front with my black coat slipped over my robe and with a broom, push the snow off of our Japanese Maple which looked so sadly cattywampus-burdened. Fortunately I was able to save it, but our 30 - 40 year-old lilac bushes in the back, though I did take a broom to them, too, already had snapped in the middle bush.

The last two days felt better. The technology withdrawal eased, I didn't even care about the computer (well, I still cared about all of you) and I found the most delightful local news station on our battery-operated radio, one which had tons of phone-in talk shows where people could share their storm survival stories. The dj's were all a blessing, very good at what they did, and excellent at keeping people's eyes on the bright side and their hearts hopeful that help would soon be coming. Not to mention very informative as well as just keeping us all from feeling we were shivering inside our dark houses alone.

Basically, Tom and I had it easy. Our area didn't get as much snow, less than a foot, I think. Our basement never floods so we do not have a sump pump--tons of people now have flooded basements or have had to keep bailing the water from them every two hours. And if your basement floods, it knocks out the pilot light on your water heater which means you have no hot water, not to mention you can no longer walk around your basement after that, less you be electrocuted(!) And too, I'd just nearly completed the first phase of my winter pantry stock-up so we had tons of food and candles and batteries.

The driving bans are slowly being lifted, and although I've not left the house since last Thursday, part of me hesitates to go out today (Tom has the day off). Why? Because I don't want to see damaged or downed golden trees. Trees such as the ones I, just before the storm, added to my new blog here.

Please pray for our community... Power is being slowly restored, but a few lives were tragically lost, people are still suffering in their cold houses (and many elderly people are stuck in their upper level apartments because they cannot walk down stairs) and we've lost many of the trees which make our area the gorgeous place it is--especially in Autumn.


***
Want to see more about it? Go here and click on the link in the 4th paragraph. (You'll have to sit through a commercial first...). There will be two reports--be sure to wait for the second one if you'd like to see more film of the devastation (though it doesn't do it all justice).

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Guess What We Found This Time?


Yes, while driving around our neighborhood yesterday, we found this nearly-new stove sitting upon the curb. And well, guess what we just happened to need?

And believe it or not, this is the second nearly-new stove we've hauled home from the curb. We moved into this house 13 years ago and the stove which came with it, well, it was brown and the ugliest thing you ever saw (inside and out). So less than a year later Tom found a much nicer, off-white stove on the curb and lugged it home. All these years later it worked mostly ok, but the handle fell off if you didn't open the oven a secret way and the knobs were peeling, the chrome was all scratched, and well, the poor thing had suffered mightily at the hand of Naomi and myself.

So anyway, I just thought I'd share our latest curb story with you. (Oh, and the new stove works great.) And too, our neighbor helped us move the old stove out and the new stove inside just two minutes before snow began falling. Snow? Snow? So early in October? (Here's the scene from our front porch this evening.):

But even so, is God good or what?

P.S. I am so not making this up!

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

When I Just Enjoy God


When I just enjoy God--

I don't impatiently want things and stuff--
I feel like I have all I need,
(I just want more of Him).

I feel calm (or excited),
Life feels great--
The future looks bright
(Because there'll be more time with Him).

When I just enjoy God--

The day feels wonderful
(Even though nothing much is happening).
I feel love toward others
(Even if they're not exactly loving me back).

I feel anticipation, optimism
Because I feel connected to the One
Who has everything under control--
And my room becomes a cathedral.

When I just enjoy God--

It's like the sun shines on cloudy days,
Any ordinary day can feel like Christmas morning,
Walking around the block feels like freedom
And Peace accompanies me wherever I may go.

When I just enjoy God.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

An Empty Nest Is Better...


... than a full nest with no Grace.

That's what I've been thinking about lately, anyway.

I've been remembering how often, during the last two years Naomi lived with us, I wrote complaining emails to my good online friend in Florida.... emails about how living in our home was like trying to share a nest with a Night Owl when everyone else inside the nest were Day Owls.

...and how the Day Owls tried not to worry so much about the Night Owl who flew to dark, mysterious places, even in snow storms, and didn't fly back to the nest till wee morning hours.

...and how the Night Owl began complaining that she didn't like how the Day Owls cleaned the nest ... how she would clean it better if she had a nest of her own.

... how the Night Owl made choices the Day Owls would never make and yet the Day Owls knew they had to let the Night Owl make those choices so she'd learn how to forge her own way.

... and basically how you'd have thought the whole living arrangement would be getting easier after so many years and practice--yet it increasingly became harder!

More clearly than ever before, I see the problem now.

The first 20 + years, both the Day Owls and the Night Owls lived with Grace inside the nest. God sent Grace to keep everyone in harmony (that is, when both sets of owls relied upon Grace and not their own bright ideas). But then, when the right time came--when the season arrived for the Night Owl to leave the nest-- Grace moved away. In fact, Grace left the nest when the Day Owl should have moved on along with her.

Except that the Night Owl stayed behind, instead. And the Day Owls wrongly thought it was a Good Thing to keep the Night Owl in the nest just awhile longer.

Except that it wasn't.

No, there was everyone trying to get along as before--they tried to make it work-- but they just couldn't. Grace wasn't around to help. There was just everyone's bright ideas left, and well, you know how much trouble those can bring.

But eventually--after the nest became one pretty stressful place-- the Night Owl did fly away. All the owls inside finally had an aha! moment. Everyone saw the writing scribbled all over the wall: Night Owl needed a place of her own. She needed to stretch her wings and make them stronger.

And 18 months later, the Night Owl is at peace in her own new nest.

And the old home nest is one very peaceful place again, especially since Grace brought her suitcases and moved back inside.

Monday, October 09, 2006

While Strolling Through The Park Today...


... I ate my lunch inside our car at the park and then took these pictures for you. From every corner, our town looks like it is all dressed-up for a party...







And isn't this cool? It's our old community swimming pool which was created in 1944 in memory of those who served in World War II. You enter through the doors below into a circular hall then climb the steps to the pool above. This is one busy place in the summer!
And here's the opposite side of the pool... You can kind-of see the slide at the right which was added many years later. I like the old-fashioned lifeguard chairs, especially when their umbrellas are added.
(Click to enlarge.)

***
Oh! I just discovered a new-to-me blogger and she has taken some amazing Autumn photos (makes mine look like kindergarten, but then, maybe if I could ever get around to reading the camera's instruction booklet, my photos might actually look like something). Anyway, prepare to have your breath taken away here!

And of course, there's PhotoJenic... I come away from her blog any time of the year and always feel as though I've taken a vacation in the great outdoors.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

Of Mice And Me


Your comments about mice in this post are making me smile. And they made me remember the mouse-filled part of my life...

***

Basically, it was all Beatrix Potter's fault.

I read somewhere that, as a young woman, Beatrix used to keep mice inside a closet in her bedroom and she would bring them out not only to sketch them, but to play with them, too. One of the mice she would place on the rim of a lamp and it would enjoy falling down upon her bed which she always moved just below the lamp. It was the mouse's favorite trick (although how Beatrix knew that for certain.....?). Anyway, one day Beatrix placed the mouse on the lamp rim and just as the mouse jumped, she realized she hadn't moved the bed to just below the lamp. The mouse fell to the floor. She gingerly picked him up and he died, slowly, within her hand.

She was devastated and felt guilty for a long time.

I thought about that story for a few months. It was a sad story, yes, but still, it was just a mouse!

And then Naomi brought home two pet mice when she was 20, I believe. The mice were cute--both little girls, one black, one white. She'd hold the tiny, hairy things and it would give me the eebie-jeebies just to watch her. I told her I could never hold a mouse. Not in a million years.

Never say never. Eventually I did hold the black one a few times. It was the funniest mouse--for awhile it was in a cage where it could squeeze its way out and when I'd come in to check on it, the silly thing would take one look at me and race back to its cage and squeeze itself back inside.

And then around 20 months later, Naomi went on a road trip with an all-girl band over to England for a whole month and she needed me to care for the one remaining mouse--the black one. And well, you probably guessed.... It died while she was gone. The morning I saw its still little body, I cried. And more--Beatrix Potter's story about her mice came back to me and suddenly I felt like a house, our house, was just not a home without a mouse in it.

So I went and bought another mouse for Naomi, a white one. I even trained it to submit to being held. Well, Naomi returned from her trip (I'd already told her over the phone about her mouse's demise) and after a couple days, she told me in a "well, uh, I hate to tell you this" kind of way.... She didn't really want another mouse. So the little white mouse became mine.

Two weeks later, she gave birth to nine more little mice.

Oh dear. All of a sudden I was the caretaker of 10 tiny mice. Fortunately, Naomi had extra cages because she'd also recently gone through a hamster stage (she had many hamsters, but one of them used to escape from her upstairs bedroom at the front of the house and all the way down to our downstairs bedroom in the back of the house). There are more hamster stories, but I'll spare you.

So there I was feeling rather like Beatrix Potter, herself. The keeper of 10 mice. Eventually I had to separate all the male mice--male mice are brats! Always one male must be king if you keep them together, and they fought and fought until there was nothing left to do but give each one a cage of his own.

The four female mice--now, they were sweet! They all got along wonderfully and cuddled together and took care of one another. (And I could make a little sermon out of those differences, but I won't.)

But then after a year and a half, the mice began dying, one by one, over a six month period. And with most of the deaths, I would cry. Especially when the mother mouse died, for she had been my favorite. Then I chose another favorite mouse, a male, and as he lay dying I stood over him and petted his tiny back and said, "No, Little Mouse, please don't die." I prayed for him and still he died... and I sobbed. Just sobbed.

And two years after I'd bought the mouse for Naomi, we were once again a mouseless house. (Well, except for the mice I often hear over my head as I sit at this basement computer. The ones I must buy some D-Con for this week--and then feel like a murderer afterward.)

Part of me wanted to start all over again--the part which loved watching the mice run up to the sides of their cages when they would see me. They acted happier to see me than most of the people in my life did. I appreciated that. I enjoyed holding them and listening to my old Bob Hope Radio Show cassettes while I cleaned their cages down here in the basement. They lived down here in their own little room.

But I just couldn't go through all those deaths again.

Yet now, a few years later, I sometimes toy with the idea of keeping mice again when we finally settle in another place (hopefully in the country). The mice were so cute and little and fun.... So who knows?

I mean, like they say.... never say never.

Of Quiet Time Ruts


For a long time I was having my morning quiet time here in my pink dream room. Then one day it was as though God said (now, don't laugh...), "For goodness' sake, Debra! Can't we go someplace else for a change?"


And then He suggested I sit in between these sets of windows across the hall in my tower room. He said this way we could watch the sun rise together.



"Or," (He seemed to say),"How about if we go downstairs to the sunroom sometimes?"

"Or perhaps outside in the backyard a little later in the morning?" (I do veer toward being rut-like. Obviously, He's trying to keep me out of ruts and boxes.)

"Or how about if you drive Me down the street to the river? We could stop and buy some coffee first and then sit in the car and look out over the water... and read... and dream... and pray..."

I have found that God hates ruts even more than I do. He's so incredibly creative (just look around you...)... the last thing He wants is for anyone to see time with Him as a plain ol' duty or even just a discipline (though that's a small part of it). No, hours with Him are much, much more--because He is much, much more.

Like, "To Infinity and beyond!" more... Way too much to just confine to one same room year after year after year. At least, not when one has a choice. (He can be mightily in a jail cell, too, of course.) But right now, today, I am in no cell of any kind.... and I believe I celebrate that--I celebrate Him--when I go where He leads. Even if it's only as far as the room across the hall.

Besides, if I can cooperate with Him and move over to a different room or place, I may be much more likely to move with Him when He asks me to reach out to a stranger in need.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Another House Inside a Book

One of the most beautiful books I own is this one, Wildings, by Duff Hart-Davis. It's the life story of Eileen Soper, the English artist and illustrator of children's books. It's filled with tons of sepia-toned photos and pages and pages of Eileen's art.

Eileen lived at Wildings from the time she was three until weeks before her death, having shared the home solely with her sister, Eva, after their parents' deaths. Here is a description of the house at Wildings as it was discovered when both elderly sisters had been taken to the hospital... and for whatever reasons, I love rereading these words and picturing the scenes they conjure up.

But let me make it clear--I, myself, would not, could not, live in a house kept like this (though truthfully, some dark winter days I am tempted to let my house go... to allow it to become something mysterious and crowded with all sorts of interesting objects wherever ones eye pauses. But that feeling passes... usually after a few hours or a few days.) No, I wouldn't want to live inside a house like this, but truly, I would love to visit one. To take a peek for myself and search among all the hidden treasure from eighty years of accumulation..

From Wildings: The Secret Garden of Eileen Soper:



"Most of the rooms were full to the doorways, partly of furniture, but mainly of apple boxes, cardboard cartons, carrier bags and bundles of paper. Always a human squirrel, Eileen had rarely managed to throw anything away, and now her nest was crammed with the detritus of a lifetime's work...

"The rest of the room was solid with cartons. Most of them contained papers: income tax returns fifty years old, bank statements from the second world war, copies of ancient correspondence with book publishers, drafts of poems scribbled on the backs of torn-up cornflakes packets... But there were also old magazines and newspapers by the thousand, books stacked in piles on the floor,, rolls of material ordered but never used, pairs of shoes carefully packed inside plastic bags and then stowed inside other bags.


"The high-ceilinged studio, on the first floor at the back, was also packed with books and papers, as well as with framed and unframed oil paintings by both Eileen and her father; another upstairs room contained box after box of empty jam jars... Mice were nesting not only in Eileen's slippers but also in the chest of drawers on the landing and in other comfortable resorts. From the stores in the kitchen it looked as though the sisters had lived exclusively on milk jellies and biscuits, but there were ample stocks of food for birds and other wild creatures."

***
And of course, this next part sounds more romantic than it is in reality. I realize that. Really, I do... but still...

"Dormice gave birth in the beds of the house, and birds customarily pecked the sisters awake each morning. If not Eden, it was enough for them."

***