Saturday, June 30, 2007

I'm positive that I bug some people and I'm certain that some people bug me. Especially these sorts of people:

Ones who make broad, sweeping generalizations, very often using sentences with words like, "Everyone, no one, people today never, people today always...," (as if anyone could know the habits, thoughts and actions of everyone on the planet!).

And the people who go out in a crowd and arrive home complaining, speaking only of the negative actions or words they saw or heard.

And also, people who believe the whole world is like the newspaper or the nightly news... and pine for Days of Old (which they've forgotten had their bad times, too).

I will confess here... those kinds of people make me crazy. I feel a claustrophobic desperation when cornered by them and have been seen sneaking away when I could take no more (or clicking away madly from their blog, if I found them there).

My opinion? I think we--ok, not always, but most often--find what we expect to find. We reap what we sow... we experience the ol' 'be it unto you, even as you have believed' thing much more often than when negative times just appear to 'happen' out of a clear, blue sky.

The simplest thing I can do is to drive away from my house and find negatives. It's as easy as falling out a window for me to note the yard which isn't kept nicely, the house with the peeling paint, the price of gas stated up on the station signs, the driver who appears to have escaped from an insane asylum, the mother who yells at her child in the supermarket.

But anyone can do that. Anyone can complain and actually do nothing to make life sweeter. A--n-y-b-o-d-y. And usually if you expect things to get worse and worse, well, they do, coloring your perception of the life the rest of us are living.

But it takes skill and a different sort of attitude and a new set of eyes to walk or drive around--year after year--and discover the myriad of good and right things which are still around today...

... the gorgeous houses, the loyal families which are still crazy about each other, the well-behaved children, the supermarkets which have been in business for 80 years... long friendships.... the people who still love hanging clothes on clotheslines... happy dogs and the owners who adore them... tree-lined streets and sounds of Big Band era music still wafting down them... yard sales, blue skies, flowers... people who hold doors open for you at the corner convenience store... drive-in hamburger stands... barns and farmhouses in towns with fewer than 2,000 people... good, funny and helpful books, movies and tv programs, ones from Today, even... farmer's markets, churches, potlucks... Internet friends you'd never met otherwise... couples celebrating 50 or more years together... neighbors who share tools and flour and stop and chat with those who still spend evening hours out on the front porch...

...stop me, before I go on all day. For I could, you know.

I've become an experienced, professional seeker of all that is good. And if that bugs you, well, I would say that I'm sorry... except that I'm not.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Ha. I should re-title my blog, Adventures in Solitude. At least this recent section of posts, perhaps. I'll not try figuring out why I'm writing about these solitary journeys--I'll simply assume they are meant for someone's encouragement.

There's a wonderful shady park down the street from our house--I've shown you autumn pictures from this park before and the old 1940's swimming pool, above, as well.

Well today, after driving Lennon to the vet (and coming away with something different--a good report), I dropped off Lennon at home and then picked up some lunch and drove to the park and had myself a merry little picnic, complete with the blanket (you might call it an afghan)we keep always in the car for such impromptu occasions, as well as my current books.

I spread the blanket beneath a huge maple tree and since we've dropped back down into sane temperatures, within the ceiling of shade, the breezy air felt perfect. I even removed my shoes and used one of them as a cupholder. I nibbled my lunch and gazed at the kids of every age along the gleaming white of the pool's outer rail (it all appeared so Happy Days from my blanket), and also the tinier children standing beneath the giant dripping mushroom in the kiddie pool area across the park.

But I also watched a mom with her two dripping-poneytailed daughters and their towels and paraphernalia walk past me on their way home and zip! Instantly I was hurtled back to my Nevada Years, the ones where I was so lonely I could--and did--taste it. When the boredom got especially bad I'd take Naomi's hand and hike over to the nearby park, appearing to her and everyone else as fine and contented as average people, but in reality, dying a little more each day due to the poison of loneliness. The kind of loneliness where you try squeezing from everyone outside of you what can only be found inside between you and God. You know, that haunting kind. I longed to race up to women in the park and ask, "Will you be my friend?" but I was way, way too shy for that.

Anyway, I remembered those dark, black Nevada Years and after comparing them to these current New York Years, well, my simple blue afghan picnic in the shade became a downright celebratory party. God has brought me not only thousands of miles away from those days, but light years, too. I am so not that same wimpy, whining person due to--finally--cooperating with God instead of insisting I just couldn't help it if Life was pushing and shoving me around and the ol' "how-can-anyone-be-happy-in-this-dreadful-Nevada-desert-anyway?" groanings.

And I continued to watch that mom and her two tiny girls until they reached the street and I hoped, prayed even, that she'd not entered that park attempting to relieve her heart's core loneliness the same way I used to so very long ago. For--at least with me--true, lasting companionship began only when I found it inside, first... and then, like a tree, its branches spread comforting shade all around me wherever I've stepped since then. And oh my, how things have changed. Everything, in fact.

Be encouraged.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Sitting Alone--And Loving It

During my one-and-only-thank-goodness year of college, I dreaded sitting at tables alone in the busy cafeteria. 

Oh, sitting with just myself felt fine to me, welcomed, even, but what I hated was believing fellow students were staring and pitying me for my aloneness. Always I carried a book with me both because I adored reading while eating and so that I could avoid any sad glances at Lonely Little Loser Girl (as if anyone even noticed mousy me anyway).

I am beyond-words grateful that those days are so over!

Now I go to myriad places by myself and think nothing of appearing alone.  Because I'm so not. In fact, two weekends ago I traveled half-awake one morning to Tim Horton's and my table felt very crowded, indeed. After all, there was me, my decaf cafe mocha and bagel, my Bailey White library book, a sweet contentment and best of all, Jesus. Anyone glancing at me probably just saw an aging, greying mousy me, but alas, our eyes miss so much when we look only on the surface.

How marvelous to sit alone, to spend my so-vital daily quiet time this way. To watch whole groups of people and wonder what sorts of lives they lead. To meditate and pray and number my blessings and to relish not having anyone pull at me, whisking me away to distraction. To lazily scribble lists of things to do and then tuck those lists safely away for their appropriate time.

How amazing to feel that you matter, even alone! And also, to grow-up enough to know your quiet time with God was meant for variety, not boring ruts.

There's freedom in being happy to visit places alone. If Tom is working or just prefers to stay home after working all week, I can still go over to the river or the movies alone-but-not-alone. I can grab my purse and a book and hop into the car smiling, feeling grateful that I didn't (like in the old days) nag Tom or throw a fit just because we wanted to do different things.

For again, technically, I never walk or drive anyplace alone. There is a Friend who sticks closer than a brother and what a glorious day it was when He became more real to me than any friend or husband, even. Especially more real than anyone sitting cluelessly nearby, believing I stepped between the doors alone.


Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Summer Game

I am not a huge fan of summer. Heat + humidity = one worn-out, spaced-out, dragged-out Debra.

But I do love My Summer Morning Game, otherwise known as Beat The Heat (Before it Beats You).

Here's how I play (I would say 'here are the rules,' but rules are like legalism and that would spoil it).

I awaken between five and five-thirty, often because Lennon and McCartney The Cats jump upon the bed to hint it's time for breakfast. So I arise and walk around our house opening wide all the windows for cool air, brush my teeth and check my email, then feed the cats and give Lennon his shot and make some coffee. Then I carry the coffee (real somedays, pretend on others) upstairs to my turquoise-like-a-day-at-the-beach Dream Room for some quiet time, which lately, means watching Leave It To Beaver on dvd in bed (I'll have all afternoon to read books and think deep thoughts so those can wait).

Then my yard calls from below, so I get dressed and brush my hair, slip on my gardening shoes then bring up a glass of birdseed from the basement, which I take outside to the awaiting sparrows and cardinals. Nearly always our nights here cool way down so my gratitude is great. (If nights in Richmond remain hot, please don't tell me. I prefer blissful ignorance.) Then I water the backyard the old-fashioned way--with a plastic yellow bucket. Stuff just grows better for me that way, rather than using a hose, and besides, it accomplishes a sort of work-out for my arms.

I may clip the fast-growing bushes and trees back there or yank up weeds or pick strawberries and place them in my purple plastic plant pot, and then I move out to the front yard and do similar things until the sun gets to a certain spot where it stares at me, as though concentrating on making me hot. Then it's back inside where I toast Ezekiel bread with cherry jam and microwave some pretend bacon, and I take them and Lennon outside to the front porch where I read and watch the neighbors leave for work.

I come in after sitting awhile on the wicker loveseat and straighten the house and maybe I'll toss in a load of laundry--and if it's eight o'clock--I wake Tom up, make him some oatmeal or eggs (only one yolk) and then often I choose someplace fun to go. Maybe I'll drive down to the river with some coffee in a thermos (or buy some from Burger King on the way) or I'll walk or drive over to the Farmer's Market to buy flowers or I'll go to the supermarket where the parking lot will be cool and the store will be quiet and calm, way too early for marauding, screaming babies. Or I might just choose more time out on the front porch until the sun makes the whole thing glow white.

Those four hours sail by like the boats I see on the river, but I play this summer game of Beat The Heat slowly. If I rushed instead of savored it, the coolest portion of my day would be ruined. Instead, there is a natural pace to summer mornings, one quite close to the pace of the old Captain Kangaroo Show. Do you remember him? I can recall being six and lying in front of the tv with my head propped up with the heels of my hands and watching, especially, the films of countrysides and steam engines puffing white smoke across fields and farmers outside their barns and old men sitting outside of shops on wooden sidewalks and kids licking ice cream cones. Always there was music--a man playing the guitar and singing sometimes happy, lilting tunes, other times, slower sentimental songs, and all the while the simple and best parts of Life played upon the tv screen.

And as a child I appreciated those peaceful trips, especially since my home was more stressful than the nature I'd been given by God. I craved peace, even then, as I do now and these mornings--ones I smile and call Captain Kangaroo Mornings while puttering in my cool and shady backyard-- are about as peaceful as peaceful gets. At least where I live.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Sometimes we have a perfect day. Yesterday was one. Even the weather gloriously cooperated... sunny, around 70 degrees, breezy with blue skies and the kind of puffy white clouds you remember as a child.

Tom and I drove around town to yard sales and the weather being remarkable, people practically sang in the streets everywhere we went. I told Tom I needed an electric mixer because mine (free with a supermarket promotion eons ago), gagged and died. So what did we spy at the next yard sale sealed, unopened in its original box? Yes, a mixer, and for just $3. We even played with the owner's adorable rat terrier puppy and laughed as he raced around us in utter glee.

We drove through McDonalds and ordered from their oh-so-healthy menu (heh), then took our breakfast to the river where, oh my! Ten of the sweetest, tiny baby ducks waddled around with their mom along the lawn right in front of our car as we sat and munched and read. And one seagull told all his friends to buzz-off because we belonged to him--and we did... he was patient, silent and we tossed English muffin pieces and egg out the windows to him.

More yard sales, then we drove home to place our new toys away upon hutch shelves and Tom even tried-out the reverberating mat which he'd bought for his back. He laid down upon it on the living room carpet while I sat upon the love seat watching the sun and leaf shadows dance across the floor. I stepped out to the front porch to soak up the breeze and sun and then Tom came out, said the pulsating mat had made him feel rejuvenated and so why not go to more yard sales?

Which we did.... A couple out in the countryside and then some over in the next town. And to end our perfect day, we stopped at just about the most old-fashioned hamburger stand you could ever hope to find in 2007. It's a little place tucked into a tiny old town on the river, with tables below a yellow bug-lighted covered area and umbrella patio tables stretched over the river. (I won't mention this is all practically beneath a rumbling thruway overpass. The ambiance and ice-cream cone caricatures artwork are 1950-ish enough to make you forget that part.) Tom and I sat at the best table on the deck, he ate a hot dog, I shared his fries and drank a strawberry-banana milkshake and we both gazed down at the river and listened to the people around us.

I also stared at a large old white house with awnings and a lawn which sloped down to the river over on the other side and tried to picture the street which must lead to it and we wondered aloud if we'd buy that house even at a giveaway price, given it's proximity to the overpass. We discussed emissions and noise and decided, probably not. But after we left the hamburger stand, out of my own curiosity, we decided to try to find the way over to the house and alas! I was right to wonder how one approached the house--from a regular street you must turn right and drive about half a block down a gravel road --a gravel road! Imagine, a gravel road in the city. Well, to glimpse that type of seclusion, I changed my mind and decided I'd buy that house for a just-take-it price, thruway next-door, even.

And so we drove home, slowly coming out of a 1950's fog and back into 2007, out of a day which felt more like a week's vacation... back to perfect blue skies and breezes and our wannabe Blondie and Dagwood house--and each other.

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Do you ever do things and think, "I wish I'd done that sooner!"?

That's how I felt after I painted our hoosier cabinet white. Before, it looked ok in green, but now it sits as a much-loved member of the kitchen. As though it truly belongs.

There are hundreds of details to making a home and this is my season for paying attention to them all. There's a certain feeling you get after you've replaced the old ratty bath towels you've had since your now-adult daughter was in high school... and the bed pillows you've had since then, too, as well as the pillowcases, bedspreads and sheets. Strange how you live with all this stuff and only, usually, think to replace it when it develops stains, rust, or shredded, gaping holes. Or how a piece of furniture arrives in one color and it never occurs to you to paint it or even place it in an opposite corner or a whole different room.

Oh, and about the contentment thing.... sheesh! God, still, continues to be overly strict with me. If I murmur just a couple simple complaining, poor ol' me sentences about how long it's taking for us to move and how exhausted I am of living amongst these packed-like-sardines-in-cans houses, well, poof! I feel myself spiral down into discontentment. Also happens if I dwell on complaints inside my head for more than, say, a mere two minutes.

So I ask God to give me a break but does He? Nah. But then I see this: as long as I meditate upon the good things--not even big, holy, spiritual stuff--but just the everyday blessings and projects and the dailiness of my life, well, I'm fine. Content. Able to imagine creative thoughts in a single bound.

... and it comes to me--again--to be thankful that God knows what He's doing and if I'd just cooperate with Him, Life, even the daily stuff, would be much more amazing that I allow it to be. Even here. Even now.


My funky yard sale find of the morning! Most are in rough (chipped, yellowed) shape which makes them perfect for adding to my collection (the bowls, though, look seldom-used). Some will go upstairs in my turquoise Dream Room, as well as on the high open shelves of my kitchen and perhaps a couple I'll keep on the oval table upon our front porch.


"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

Monday, June 18, 2007

I don't know.

Lately I've been having too much fun to write in this blog. Or something. It's as though God is helping me live what I've been preaching here (many of my own posts haunt me in a good way) and mostly it's all feeling so darn enjoyable. Again, mostly.

What helps, too, is that while wandering around our city library's "what-are-you-gonna-do-for-the-rest-of-your-life?" section, I discovered the perfect book for this current place in my life. It's called, My Time: Making The Most Of The Rest of Your Life. Gracious. The author interviewed many people over 50 about how they felt and what they're doing after their children left home and after facing the facts: they could quite possibly have more than 30 years left to fill! So I'm reading this book and feeling as though I'm in great company and becoming inspired to boldly make some changes in myself and the way I live and breathe and have my being (as the verse says).

I highly recommend My Time for those of you who've contacted me (or not) about feeling stuck or extremely curious about what you're supposed to do now that you've got this empty house and extra hours. And well, I can't recommend every word in this book, but long gone are the days when, if a book or preacher or tv star said one or two things I disagreed with, I'd race away and plug my ears. Those kinds of picky people become one-dimensional and dull... trust me, I know. I can learn from every person on Earth now--what freedom!

On that same trip to the library I discovered an essayist with a dry sense of humor which I love. She's Bailey White and I devoured two of her books this weekend: Mama Makes Up Her Mind: And Other Dangers of Southern Living, and the other, Sleeping At The Starlight Motel: And Other Adventures On The Way Back Home. I could not put these books down--both were crammed with funny, poignant essays and both inspired me to become downright eccentric. And free.

I love books like that. They help me lighten-up--and for someone who's always leaned toward being overly serious, especially as a teenager when *everything* was a great big hairy deal--that's a Good Thing.

P.S. If you ever read a book or watch a movie because of my recommendation, I hope you'll tell me. Whether you loved it or hated it doesn't matter--I'm always curious to hear other's impressions of what I recommend. Always!

And below, some of my latest finds for my new collection:

Saturday, June 16, 2007

It's summer re-run time here in my blog, even though, yes, summer's not even officially here yet (but it certainly feels as though it is)... Early this morning before our neighborhood awoke, I clipped some roses from our side yard and while I placed them in a vase on our porch, I recalled this post and smiled:

Years ago, our then-church held a Sunday picnic in the park once each month of summer, beginning in May.

I remember the first picnic... Families shared tables, so as we walked along to secure a place to share, I stopped at the table of some friends-- I was enchanted! They'd covered the scarred, old table with a pretty sky-blue linen cloth and in the center sat a glass jar filled with water and blue, purple and white flowers. "Oh! How pretty!," I told my friends. "What a lovely setting."

And actually, I was mesmerized. Inspired. Truly. I'd been on many picnics, but never had I thought to bring a pretty cloth and a vase of flowers.

On the next picnic, I brought one of the white linen tablecloths Tom had found on the curb, a white vase, flowers and something different--my favorite dishes, instead of just plain ol' paper plates. It was fun. Always, I've enjoyed being creative and a little different. And this time people stopped and commented that our table looked like a picture from a decorating magazine--like a table set for a backyard party.

The following month, the creative table ideas had spread like a good disease... A handful of other families brought their nice things from home to share with their friends at their own picnic tables. I loved it. Our church picnics were beginning to look like genteel, Victorian parties--well, kind-of. In our own imaginations, at least. And I even scattered a few small Victorian-times photos (more curb finds) upon our table, too, for added decor and conversation starters.

But that's about the time I began hearing murmurs from some of the women. They stood in little groups near our table and smiling, said to each other,

"You start something like that and then everyone expects you to keep it up."

"Yeah, or top it," another woman said.

"Right. I'll just be bringing the usual paper plates and cups. Count on it..."

And then a bit later one woman (who never liked me much) stood in the food line very near our table and asked, "So, Debra... Does the food taste better out here on your real china dishes?"

The people around us got quiet and looked at me. I sat down my stainless steel fork, smiled my most beguiling smile and then looked up at the woman and said, "Why yes, Tricia, I believe it does."

Heh. She looked a little confused, started to say something, then moved along in the line.

Oh, I want to enjoy my life! I want to create and dream good things with the gifts God has given me... to inspire others... and to never become so jaded, so bored, so average-seeking that I walk only the easy paths and never smile from my eyes. Jesus died to give me more than that... and may I always be searching for that 'more,' even during something like a simple church picnic.

"...I came that they may have and enjoy life, and have it in abundance (to the full, till it overflows)." ... John 10:10

Friday, June 15, 2007

The Cream of Wheat Man

Appreciating good news news stories, I was happy to read this one this afternoon. Just a funky, small thing, probably, to most people, but I thought it was cool.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Just checking in... I'm still reeling because of what choosing contentment can do and feel like and change. These summery mornings are cool and exciting again and I have all these plans for our current house, projects galore (mainly painting furniture and knick-knacks an aged sort of white). And I'm anticipating more yard sales and estate sales with Tom (we visited tons last weekend and just enjoyed being together) and yesterday found me at Salvation Army's half-price day, fingering piles of white china and glass vases and fluted custard dishes.

My previous discontent was rather like that, "...a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump," verse and yes, I'd become one large lumpy complainer. But what a grand difference to choose to go there no longer... to leave the future alone and instead, brighten and make sweet my present. Bloom where I am planted and all that.

Anyway, I am actually already rereading Thoughts of Home after having bought and read the sequel, If These Walls Could Talk. Both books are perfect summer books, and well, there's a paragraph from the essay, The Love Nest, which I want to share with you. The author describes how she felt when she and her husband moved out of the home where they'd raised their family, this after a time of clearing away and cleaning out and asking their grown children to come and haul all their stored stuff away:

"By moving day, the feelings had spent themselves, and as Our Van was taking things away to storage and Their Van was bringing things in, I felt light of head and heart. I felt footloose and emancipated and about twenty-five years old, something in me had shifted into another gear. It has been this way from that hour. Miraculously for both of us the letting-go was swift and complete, accompanied by a huge surge of energy propelling us toward the new, the uncluttered, the small."

My eyes widened when I discovered that paragraph because it described how I've felt since Naomi, at 25, moved into her own place. And I guess I've been shocked ever since to have felt so free over something I'd dreaded, at times, over the years--the saying good-bye not just to our daughter, but to a whole era from my life. But like many things, this was one which could not have been foreseen until it was experienced, no matter how much I'd read or heard about others' experiences.

And just this whole thing of "waiting well" has reminded me of the years when a teen and young adult Naomi could not seem to appreciate my tendencies toward, and love of, all things domestic. She often hinted that Life's best things were ones you garnered outside of home... that because I didn't have a real job, I knew nothing about the real world... that washing dishes and gardening and sewing slipcovers were for those who had no life.

And of course, that hurt, especially when all along I'd hoped she'd come to appreciate, if not all things domestic, at least the fact I stayed home and did them to sweeten life for the three of us.

But I waited anyway, hoping she'd see the light--that so often the small domestic things are amongst the best things in life. Yet I did not always wait well, and that is my regret today... that I saw the present and feared the future would look the same. Oh, sometimes I trusted God to keep Naomi from crossing totally over to that side of humanity which sees us homemakers as wastes on society... but other times I waited in fear and discouragement and without a whole lot of hope.

If only I'd have waited well for Naomi these past ten years or so... She is becoming domestic around her home in her own creative ways, making me often smile. She visits Salvation Army on its half-off days and finds cute curtains and couch pillows and dishes and then arranges them when she gets home. And too, she loves to cook healthy meals inside the blue glass casserole dishes I gave her.

And you know? I've not even planted a vegetable garden this year, at least not yet. But this weekend Tom and I stopped by at the yard sale Naomi and her neighbor were holding together and what did we see in front of Naomi's half of her duplex?

A vegetable garden... with tomatoes and squash and the strawberries she'd asked me to let her bring home from our yard... and the lemon balm and purple basil from back there, too. She walked us around her garden's edge, told us about each plant and even asked for advice about how to make things grow...

... and I thought, if only I'd waited well while waiting for this.


"Well done, thou good and faithful servant." ... Matthew 25:21

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Outside My House This Morning

I spend scandalous amounts of time here...

I love these 'mystery roses.' They are ancient, here long before we were, and I do nothing to them except cut them back when they hang over into the neighbor's driveway.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Choosing To Wait Well

"A double-minded man is unstable in all his ways." James 1:8

Ain't that the truth!

Last week I mixed bitter with sweet and contentment with discontentment and created some pretty pathetic hours.

I remembered how God told me to, while we're waiting to move, live a new way inside this old house and town and I tried to do that. But I said good-bye to our house and this town too soon. And simultaneously, I allowed myself to stay a little impatient and discontented, everyday wishing (for the zillionth time) that we weren't squeezed between two other houses, that we had a large yard, a clothesline and a new old house, one with every room sighing (pleading?) for help.

Even a tiny dosage of double-minded stuff can cause a huge amount of trouble. Tom got annoyed with my complaining and suddenly I felt like my creative spirit got tired, packed up and moved away. I could think of nothing to do, except to complain more and sit outside on our porch appearing pathetic for all the neighbors.

That under-the-surface stuff can mess you up. The stuff you can't see clearly, even though it's going on right behind your eyes--inside your head--and inside your heart. It's all rather like being careful to drink only a vial of poison, not a pitcher full.

So I had to die some more this week... had to go down lower in order to come up higher (as they say). I made myself cease wishing for things outside of their timing and instead, I accepted Life As It Is. I thought I'd learned that, but again, I had to learn it at a deeper level (you can know something and yet not really know it)... especially since God doesn't let me get away with much anymore. You go walking with Him a few years and all that 'to whom much is given' stuff comes into play, way more than you'd like.

And I must have succeeded because everything has changed, even though nothing really has changed. A head can only hold so much, and now, since the complaints are gone, there's room for creativity, instead. I've so many changes in mind for our house and its decor. I'd somehow believed I couldn't touch this house since the realtor approved of it last month when she gave the evaluation, but now I realize I can switch around all my knick-knacks-- if that's what I want. I can create the kinda-beachy look I've wanted for months, but have put-off for invisible reasons.

And I can do what I've procrastinated during the years we've lived here. With some boldness, I can advertise to begin an empty-nester tea party group. Tom and I can visit the shops and museums and restaurants we've always meant to (we began this weekend--fun!). I can meet for coffee in shops with old friends I've lost touch with here in town, even if it's just for one more conversation before we move away. I can even fill a whole tablet or binder with decorating ideas for the rooms of our future house, even though I've not seen those rooms--I can at least choose the colors and some new ideas for them.

Waiting well.... being single-minded, with true patience, the kind that trusts God to know what He's doing, even when I don't. Being very, very ok with that ... growing to love Him more so that, wherever He and I are together, all is well... and having wonderful, creative weeks and months in the meantime...

...those are my new goals.

Last year, Judy said this issue of Mary Englebreit's Home Companion was her favorite and so, since she and I are obviously twins separated at birth, I bought this issue on Ebay to see if it would be my favorite, too.

It is!

So anyway, yesterday I played Rose Hicks, clever woman from Texas. Here, below on the left, is a hutch from Rose's house and on the right and farther down are hutches from my house.

A fun time was had by all, er, me.

(Click to enlarge... I reserve the right to switch things around in my hutches a bazillion times in the future.)

And speaking of changes..... here are some I made this afternoon:

*******A girl has to have a hobby....

Friday, June 08, 2007

I'm still here... Just taking a bit of a computer break. Sometimes owning a computer feels like such a luxury, other times it feels like such a burden, especially when you're a recovering procrastinator like myself. And well, I guess I'm at that burden season (I'm sure many of you know of what I speak).

But I'll mention a couple things... Tom and I watched a wonderful dvd from our town library yesterday, one that is family friendly, even. It's called Behind The Mask, which you can read about here. We nearly always enjoy films based on true stories, and we also loved this because we're fans of Matthew Fox (of LOST) and I, personally, enjoyed watching Donald Sutherland's face and comparing all the similarities with those of his son, Keifer, having watched all the seasons of 24.

Anyway, I believe many of you would appreciate Behind The Mask and cry through the whole thing like Tom and I did. I'll not try to explain it, but rather, I'll let you read about it at the link I provided.

And one more thing before Tom and I leave for yard sales this morning... Since last year I've left a certain Patty Griffin cd in our car's player and here are a few lines from the current song I play over and over, one about an elderly man riding home from the funeral of his wife. The highlighted lines are the ones which convict me every time I listen to them:

I've had some time to think about you
And watch the stone set like a stone
I've had some time to think about you
On the long ride home

One day I took your tiny hand
Put your finger in the wedding band
Your daddy gave a piece of land
We laid ourselves the best of plans
Forty years go by with someone laying in your bed
Forty years of things you wish you'd never said
How hard would it have been to say some kinder words instead

I wonder as I stare up at the sky turning red.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Outgrowing Your Motivation (Or, Reasons You Might Feel Stuck)

"Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.'The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'There is no commandment greater than these." Mark 12:30,31

In my 40's, I've become more comfortable with Life, people and the ways things work (or do not work) and even with God (in some ways). And as the above verse says it's correct and proper to do, I've grown to love myself--not in a me, me, me kind of way--but to accept and forgive myself, to pamper myself for a couple days, take naps even, if I feel ill or have experienced a huge disappointment. To research ways to care for my body, this keep it healthy, purring--not crumbling on the path so early that God must drag me Home way, way before He meant to.

I've discovered we cannot truly love and accept and forgive others until we've truly learned to love and accept and forgive ourselves. Some people preach we should detest and be critical of ourselves, but I so disagree. The scariest Christians I know are those who hate themselves and in turn, hate the rest of us imperfect slobs, too.

So anyway, in all this learning and relaxing of my nerves and releasing lots of self-imposed pressure, I've often found myself, well, stuck. Without motivation. Wondering where I should go and what I should do next. And because I've grown comfortable within my own skin, I find that skin gaining some extra weight and my overall appearance, around home anyway, can get pretty sloppy at times.

I mean, for decades, my motivation came from desires to keep-up with my friends and people who intimidated me. I tried to dress myself (and my daughter) as nicely as they did and I was driven by not wanting to appear as less or strange or poor (or fat). And I'd buy things for our home for the same reasons--I'd redecorate because that's what all the ladies at church were doing. I turned college catalog pages because all my friends were returning to school or I'd sit at the kitchen table and read the job classifieds and consider getting a job, not because we needed money, but because I wished to appear like Mrs. Busy Career Woman who had it all together.

Back in my 20's and 30's the majority of my actions and decisions were made according to what people did and how I'd appear if I didn't do as they did. Throw in with that, some caving-in to people's expectations of me and ok--sometimes just doing things because I was young and could get away with it.

But while in my 40's, that is changing. And what I'm finding is that--now--my motivation must change as well because I'm no longer that same, insecure woman. Like I told you, I'm much more comfortable in my skin now, sometimes to the point of being too comfortable, too uncaring of what others think of me--the 'me' they see on the outside. It's as though the carrot of selfish ambition no longer dangles in front of my nose, or if it does, it's fading to invisibility.

But always there must be balance, I know that. Yes, we're not to be led by people's opinions or expectations, but neither are we to skip around not caring and oblivious to the godly example we're to be setting, the one outlined all over the Bible.

So here's what I am learning now--as I have changed and grown-up, so must my motivation. Instead of being driven by desires to keep up with everyone or getting away with bad habits, I need to be led by God.... to do what I do simply out of obedience to what God asks of me. I need to be led --not by fear--but by love, the unconditional kind written about in 1 Corinthians 13... a love which can simplify and soothe all those tendencies inside us to make everything so darn complicated...

...because He never meant Life to be as complicated as this world has made it. You realize that, don't you? And I like to think I'm doing my part to calm it by calming myself and walking--simply--in obedience and love and allowing both to become my new motivation for the remainder of my days.

We would frequently be ashamed of our good deeds if people saw all of the motives that produced them.
La Rochefoucauld, Francois De

Hebrews 4:12
For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Ever since I was a teenager--at times, but not always--I've enjoyed doing out-of-character things just to bug certain other people, usually relatives or stuffy church people. Or maybe it's not out-of-character stuff at all, but rather, doing the things from my heart and a breaking away from the good girl everybody expects me to be. "Perpetual Good Girl" can be a heavy title to wear sometimes.

Oh, I'm not talking about racing away and doing huge, sinful stuff. Nah, just tiny surprising acts to keep people from thinking they've got me all figured-out. And since many times I've been labeled Hard To Understand, well, I must be rather successful at keeping everybody guessing. I like that.

Anyway. Yesterday afternoon I went, with Tom's blessing, over to my zap-you-back-fifty-years theater to see the movie, The Invisible. My favorite reviewer didn't hate it, said there were some good lessons, so I thought it was probably a safe bet and besides, some teenage movies/tv shows still attract me for reasons only a psychotherapist would understand.

As usual in the theater, almost no one was there, and the few who were, sat at the back. Always, here in New York, Tom and I have been surprised at how many people sit in the last two rows of theaters here--and I'm not talking about teens or people with babies, either. But rather, people our age and older. Anyone have a clue as to why that is? I don't get it--when I go see a movie, I want to feel like I am up there on the screen, lost in the story, standing beside the characters. So I sit in the middle (but sometimes I wish I'd ventured even closer).

Anyway, I stepped past those backseat-sitters and walked straight into the deep darkness of the middle section (no modern little aisle lights in this old theater). It was like stepping through a dark wall, but I forged ahead through the blackness.

And I liked The Invisible--very much. Lots of suspense and lots of good lessons to take away with me and use in real-life. Always, I'm searching and listening for lessons, for morals to the story, mine and everyone else's, I guess, morals I can glean some wisdom from.

After the movie, I drove next door and shopped a little, bought some pillowcases, a pillow and a comfortable cushion for our wicker love seat on the porch where I loll away lots of hours. The radio over our heads played Amy Grant's, I Will Remember You and gracious.... as if it's not already a sentimental-enough-sounding song, it was like, suddenly, my shopping cart filled with old memories. We used to listen to that song back when Naomi was a teenager, back when we attended a church we've since left.

And it came to me as I pushed those memories down the aisle--when people walk away from you, it's good and kind to wish them well, wherever they may now be... and to recall only the happy times you shared with them and let the negative memories fall and drop outside of the memory sifter.

And as Amy slowly, sentimentally sang, "I will remember you," I recalled lovely times I shared with people I've lost contact with... and I wished them well... and I hoped each one was even more happy than I was at that moment...

...and I knew more than before that often we are parts of each other's lives only for a season and only for lessons which can be learned no other way or for our hearts to expand as God would have them...

...and I hoped those friends from my past seasons recalled me fondly as well, even the ones who always did consider me a mystery. Perhaps I stretched them as they stretched me.


Proverbs 27:17

"As iron sharpens iron,
so one man sharpens another."

Ecclesiastes 3:1

"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven..."

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Of Backyard Invaders

Yesterday evening as I closed an upstairs window, I startled a big, hairy, weird-looking creature in our backyard. He loped over my fading forget-me-nots into the assorted sprout-where-they-may trees behind our shed.

So I ran downstairs to tell Tom we'd been invaded by something rather like what a mad scientist might create using a rat, a cat and a beaver. By that time, the creature, Mr. What-The-Heck-Is-That?, stood boldly on my little brick patio chewing strawberry leaves from a planter like salad from a bowl. We watched him from the window and thought at first he was a muskrat, but no, his long, furry and kinda-flat tail was all wrong. And he was huge--the size of a Cocker Spaniel (well, nearly). I thought maybe he was a weird-looking teenage beaver, but Tom said no.

But finally today, after spying him still in the backyard munching leaves like he'd found rodent heaven, Tom and I did a search online and discovered that the big, scary creature in our yard is a woodchuck.

And now I hesitate to even go back there. I told Tom if he hears a scream it will probably be me. Or the woodchuck. Or both of us.

I've learned to live with wild rabbits (who have a hutch beneath our shed) and squirrels and once, for two days, we even had a possum (you should have seen me race--trying to look casual-- inside the house the first time I saw him!). And the cute little brown mice who I don't mind as long as they stay outside and birds, of course.

And now we have a huge, kinda ugly, kinda fascinating woodchuck. Here in our yard. Here in the suburbs.

Oh well. I keep telling God and Tom and anyone else who will listen that I want to move to the country. Perhaps God is bringing the country to me, first, to make certain that's what I really want. After all, there've been a few times I only thought I wanted something, but afterward, I was glad (whew!) God chose something I loved better.

Hmm... Maybe if I just get a yard big enough for a clothesline I'll be perfectly happy. Oh how I long for and dream about a clothesline!

But I can do without the woodchuck.

Friday, June 01, 2007

I am positively adoring the book I found yesterday, Thoughts of Home.

The book is filled with reminisces about the homes these various essay writers knew when they were young, as well as the ones they know now. Here are just two of hundreds of wonderful paragraphs which stick to me, told in a story of what happened to one family when they lost the farm they'd worked 19 years:

"Mother became depressed and the house became chaotic. We children scattered to the yard and beyond like baby quail and only returned at night to our baths in a tin tub. Then, one day, a neighbor brought a huge bouquet of Talisman roses and gave them to Mother. They sat in their vase and glowed in cream and coral splendor amid the debris and clutter of the little house that Mother was too sad to make into a home.

"It was later, when I was older, that she told me what the roses did for her. She said she looked at the glorious flowers that made the bungalow seem so pitiful and she got up and scrubbed the place until it shone. She vowed always to have a house that could stand up to roses, no matter how small or how poor it was. My mother lived on many different farms after that, and she kept her vow."

Many lessons in that, but especially about how the perfect, inspired gift can change a heart and do more than we realize.

And now I need to return to another magical morning. I love to awaken early, 5:00, when the afternoon promises to simmer and steam. In the coolness of early day, after I drink my pretend coffee out on the porch, I dress and go outside to water sections of my flowers, usually with a bucket, then I feed the birds. Then sometimes I drive down nearly-empty streets to the supermarket whose aisles are ghost-town-like, quiet and barely-peopled, and perhaps end my outing with a trip to the library.

I don't know... Cool early mornings just feel magical somehow, as though I've learned to live avoiding the heat and as though I've traveled backward to a simpler, more peaceful day and year. And I remain awestruck that all I must do to time-travel magically like that is give-in to the nighttime early and then pull myself out of bed at 5:00 a.m.. Amazing.