Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Having Trouble Finding Mayberry?


A few of you commented that you're having a hard time finding the old-fashioned things in your city. My entire life I've cultivated a sort of Internal Old-Fashioned-Finding Radar so I thought I'd share my discovery.

For me, old-fashioned living begins in my own home. I'm learning to take my decorating hints from the old Blondie movies, 1930's decorating books--and now--from the blogs of my retro kindred spirits. I have a record player and from thrift shops and yard sales I've collected Big Band Era albums which I enjoy playing when I'm home alone and cleaning house (in an apron, of course). Or I'll listen to old tv series on dvd, ones like Leave It To Beaver, The Waltons and The Jack Benny Show.

When it comes to cooking, I peruse my vintage cookbook collection, ones with gorgeous photos, tweaking the recipes by lowering the sugar and fat content. Often I browse through my 1920's and 30's The American and Good Housekeeping magazines there at my dining room table--and if my Big Band music is playing and I'm in the aforementioned apron--well, it's awfully easy to imagine a 1930's world out my front door, rather than the 2007 one.

I realize many of you have old-fashioned living down to an art in your home, and it can be outside your home where it's difficult to find Life As It Used To Be. Life Mayberry Style. Maybe I can help there, also.

For fun, I shop at our local supermarket, the one which has served our town since 1930. This is one hopping place--many seniors shop here and the atmosphere is always that of a party.  There are butcher and baker counters where you take a number and are waited upon by folks in white coats and aprons. I say hello to people in the aisles and receive an old-fashioned hello in return and when I push my cart outside of this store, all day The Old Days cover me.

Perhaps you can look for one of those near you.

In our more modern supermarket? I watch for the (usually) older women who dress-up to go shopping, ones who you can almost see their neat old-fashioned homes in your mind just by noting the style of their clothes and the cut of their hair. I look for well-behaved children and old-fashioned printing upon signs and friendly employees at the check-out stands. Just the whole supermarket experience can be a blast-from-the-past, because let's face it, though some changes have occured, the buying groceries process is still much as it was when June Cleaver wielded her shopping cart.

I drive around our town and note the architecture of our oldest buildings (most towns have at least some old buildings) and if they house 'hole in the wall' retro diners, Tom and I enter and find original counter stools with cracked vinyl and quirky aproned waitresses. Dining there, we feel we're doing a small part to keep local businesses going--and that, I feel, is rather old-fashioned in itself. 

Nearby we may spy an ancient barber shop with an aproned customer sitting reclined in the window.

I might visit our local Farmer's Market, stroll around and watch the people there, and then drive to our city park and discover not only stationary retro stuff, but things such as families playing together in a place where families gathered (in my town's case) 60 years ago. 

I take walks through old neighborhoods, noting the details on the houses and the way people care for their yards, flowers and how they decorate their porches. I smile when neighbors stand outside chatting with one another and I notice the occasional shined-up classic car. 

And when old trains blow their trumpet-like horns at crossings, I imagine people traveling to faraway places through the countryside.

And if you've read this far, perhaps you've realized that finding retro, seemingly-gone things in any town, anywhere, is often a result of viewing things through old-fashioned eyes. 

Old days and ways still exist! We just have to develop our own old-fashioned radar system and keep it working via much use.



******

Sunday, July 29, 2007

What Squirts Out When You Squeeze The Old Woman?




Heh. Read further and you'll understand that title.

Lately, my memory has been awful. I'm hoping it's due to interrupted sleep patterns and good old-fashioned pre-menopause, both which I've read can have an influence.

I mean, I hate it when Tom says something like, "I gave you the tickets days ago." And then I say, "No, you didn't! I'm positive you did not."

"Oh yes I did!"

"Oh no you didn't!"

And then we discover, that yes, he did give me the tickets. They were in the drawer all the time. Razzle frats.

So that has me thinking: what kind of an old lady will I be? Will I be a crabby, sneering old thing without a memory, one who snaps, sputters and pops with indignation if you cross me?

Or will I be a gentle, sweet old soul, who may have lost her mind, but not her manners? Who may not remember your name, but who remembers to be nice?

Obviously, I hope it will be the latter. 

I've watched others grow old and seen that, whatever their heart was most full of during their adult years, that is what intensifies. Usually.

And in order for me to be that kind, elderly woman in the future? I must allow God to rid me of the junk inside me--now--in my present. 

If the crabby, always-must-be-right garbage is taken out today, then most likely, I'll still be without it in the decades ahead. I've seen that when God does a work, He does it well, completely, and what remains is that I continue my obedience and cooperation, relying upon Him. His strength, not mine. His patience, not mine.

So the work continues--and I hope when this old lady is squeezed in the future, sweetness will gush out of her, not bitter.


***

"...for out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks..." Luke 6:45

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

Friday, July 27, 2007




So, like, you all know by now how I can go all Pollyanna on you at any moment on any day of the week.

But this is not one of those times. If you needed a light-hearted-la-dee-da post today, well, you'd better click to the next blog because actually I'm going to speak against a Pollyanna-ish sermon which is preached from many pulpits. The one which says,

 "It's impossible to mess-up God's plan for your life. If you disobey Him, He'll just put a band-aid on your boo-boo, ignore your whole 'mistake' and let you proceed without any discipline or reaping from what you've sown or feeling pain from your regrets or seeing any real harm happening."

Disobedience, to me anyway, comes with a much higher price tag than that.

I'm going to list just a few examples of the high price of 'missing God', true examples which have happened to me, people I have known, or people I've read about. You can decide for yourself if it's possible--as Christians--to mess-up God's plans for not only your own life, but the life of others:

We can become a foreign missionary when God planned for us to stay home. We can stay home when God planned for us to become a foreign missionary.

We can eat ourselves into an early grave, missing hundreds of opportunities to share Him with others or drink ourselves into an early grave or take enough drugs to get us there.

We can be like the Israelites and spend forty years making an eleven day trip and like Moses who disobeyed God and died without entering into the promised land.

We can arrive at our retirement years not having saved-up money for them and then find ourselves having to work hard at an elderly age, struggling to survive.

We can ignore the voice which told us to send a Christmas card with the plan of salvation to your elderly neighbor who most likely didn't know Jesus and then, years later, watch his 90-year-old body being carried out of his house.

We can wait too long to become physically active, take lousy care of ourselves and then live in chronic pain.

We can wait too long to learn to roller skate, become a gymnast, play sports, at least not without great risk. (That quote, "It's never too late to be what you might have been," does not always apply.)

We can hear that an elderly woman in our church would like us to visit her on her deathbed, wait too long out of the shyness, and then hear she has passed away.

We can not control our emotions and find ourself having an affair, destroy our marriage, wound our children. 

We can be obnoxious and critical at our 'God Blog' and cause people to race away from God, rather than toward Him.

We can ignore the voice which tells us to prepare for a different occupation/job loss, then in a few years, be fired/released from our job, unable to find one in a different field and be full of regret that we didn't have money saved up. 

Wow, downer Debra today, right? Oh, but sometimes we all need warnings, to wake up, to walk wisely so the road ahead won't be pitted with regret ruts.

Am I saying we should go around feeling guilty or afraid? Of course, not. I've written tons of posts saying just the opposite. Here's one as an example.

No, I'm just saying that disobedience to God--the ignoring of that still, small voice--can come with a huge price tag. There's a reverential fear and awe of God which I believe we're losing, something which has been replaced by a,"Whatever will be, will be" attitude.

Uh, no. That, my dear, is too scary to even imagine. God provides something miraculously better--when we listen and obey.



******


"My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge..." ... Hosea 4:6


******

Waited For An Angel Lately?



Around eleven years ago, during the days when I finally started letting God deal with me about some lifelong issues, I told God, "I'd love to jump into this 'random acts of kindness' thing. 


So, many weeks later, there I was in the check-out lane right behind a Goth-like teenager whose friends were waiting for him outside the glass doors. He searched for the extra change for his tiny pack of cookies and chocolate milk as the checker lady stood there with an impatient face. Well, bam! I realized I should give him the change he needed, but oh my. I didn't know what to say. I was frightened I'd say the wrong thing, afraid I'd ask the wrong way or stumble over my words, or stutter, lisp. Yada, yada.

Pathetic, I know. So I did nothing and the poor kid had to leave the chocolate milk behind. I felt horrible. For days.

I walked out of the store very upset with myself and even--yes--with God. A little, anyway. I mean, why hadn't He given me this great electric surge of courage? I'd felt so much bolder in recent months, what had gone wrong back in the check-out lane? Why hadn't I automatically known what to do, especially since weeks ago I'd asked for this opportunity?

I mean, what had I expected to happen---the checker lady and the kid to both turn to me, simultaneously in slow-motion, and ask, "Do you have some spare change?" Was I waiting for angels to appear, lift my arm, and miraculously find my hand full of change and heading toward the boy as if by magic? Had I expected God to literally speak through me with the correct words?

Well, yeah.

Lessons learned. Gah. I asked God for another chance to come to the rescue in the check-out lane, but there's never been that exact chance again. Although, He's had me do other little things for folks while waiting to pay for my groceries--offers of prayer, a listening ear, the giving of sympathy and understanding and, when asked for it, advice.

But not the spare change thing. Not yet.

Anyway, it's scary how much responsibility God gives me. Us. How sometimes we might miss a once in a lifetime chance just because we weren't listening to Him or obeying. Because we lagged behind Him or were angel-waiting. 

It's that still, small voice and the obedience to it. It's that daily, step-by-step walk which tends to be oh so quiet, but oh so vital which will always matter the most. 

And it's that kind of responsibility which, some days, blows me away.



******

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Anti-Procrastination Day




Every once in awhile I make myself take an Anti-Procrastination Day.

This is one of those every once in a whiles.

Today I'm paying the bills I've put off paying and sending emails I should have sent ages ago. I'm ordering postage stamps online, answering your comments in my blog and catching up on my ironing.

I'm actually reading the instructions to the new juicer I found at a yard sale--five weeks ago and finding recipes online for my new homemade cookbook, one I'll create like the ones here

Well, you know, that stuff easily put off until poof! It must be done, which then stresses us out.

(Look out--if I've owed you an email for eons, you may just receive one from me today.)

Tomorrow? I'll feel fabulous without all that procrastination weight upon my shoulders and head. Woo hoo! I feel lighter already, just breaking through the wall of Procrastination--and beginning. Anything. Everything.

Anyone else wish to join me?


***

"Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task." ...William James

"Procrastination makes easy things hard, hard things harder." ... Mason Cooley

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Happy Blogiversary


So what do you know...? Today is the third anniversary of my blog. Three years. Wow.

Seems like only six. :)

***
A special thanks to each of you who have been hanging around here for these three years...

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Forty-Eighth Summer




I hope you've read Seventeenth Summer.

You know, the one by Maureen Daly which she wrote around age 20 and was published way back in 1942. For me, summer isn't summer without rereading that lovely book.

I grabbed it from behind our bookcase glass today because I was nearing Bogged-Down-And-Bummed-Out by all those websites I gave you this morning. Those, and all the extra reading about our Country's corrupted food, what with all its chemicals and the whole microwave oven cooking being bad, bad thing. And I'm still kicking myself for allowing Tom and my parents, one night 20 years ago, to talk me into setting aside my concerns and agreeing to buy a microwave. I even remember sitting at the table with them and saying, "Well, ok. We can buy a microwave. But if it turns out to be dangerous, I will blame all of you."

Sigh. I so often obey that still, small voice and now I'm discouraged, sad, that I ignored it. And not just 20 years ago, either.

So that was how my day was going. What I needed? Some old-fashioned balance. So I snatched my nice old 1945 red copy and snuggled down on the wicker love seat on the porch and read some of my favorite portions:

"... The garden was still wet with last night's rain and the black earth was steaming in the sun, while between my toes the ground was soft and squishy--I had taken off my shoes and left them on the garden path so they wouldn't get caked with mud... The little tomato plants were laid flat against the ground from last night's downfall and there were puddles like blue glass in the hollows. A breeze, soft with a damp, fishy smell, blew in from Lake Winnebago about three blocks away. I was so busy thinking about the weather, the warm sun, and the sleek little onions that I didn't even hear Jack come up the back sidewalk."

...and ...

"My mother always lies down in the afternoons--at least, she has for the past three years, anyway. Right after lunch she went upstairs as always, turned down the chenille bedspread and drew the shades. Out on the side lawn in the shade of the house Kitty was sewing doll clothes and talking to herself in a quiet, little girl singsong. From Callahan's, across the back garden, I could hear the drone of the baseball game on the radio. All the little children were in taking their naps and already our street had settled into the quiet of the afternoon. I had to ask my mother soon for I knew that in a few moments she would be asleep."

Add to those a few more hundred such lovely passages which whisk you back to 1942, especially when you know that Maureen's book was quite autobiographical.

In fact, I used to almost cry when she'd describe going to Pete's in the evenings, an old diner on the lake with even a beach for swimming. I wanted a Pete's so badly. And well, now I have a Pete's, though it's a hamburger place on a river and there is no swimming. But it's quaint and oh-so-cool and time travels me back to the 1950's every time. 

I'll take it.

As I said, I hope you've read Seventeenth Summer. There's a reason it's had a bazillion re-printings since its young author first blew people away with her gorgeous prose 65 years ago.



******

Websites for 'Back To Natural' Folks




For those of you who told me you, too, wanted to 'go more natural,' here are some websites which might help and inspire:

HealingFoodReference.com (Learn which foods and vitamin supplements may help cure certain sicknesses and diseases.)

The Value of Eating Organic (Why going organic could save your life.)

Mary Jane's Farm (Order organic foods online, learn about living a healthy lifestyle and find other people who wish to do so.)

Ten Ways to Avoid Cancer (After the introductory paragraph, there's a link which will take you to the original article.)

Buy Organic Groceries Online (Did you know you can buy organic groceries at amazon.com? Thanks, Elizabeth, for the tip!)

Natural Homemade Cleaning Products (Make your own safe cleaning products.)

Organic Cleaning Recipes (More recipes for cleaning your home safely.)

Renewing The Countryside (Hundreds of stories of folks living in the countryside and making a difference there.)

Organic Consumers Association (Regarding all things organic. Find your own local organic suppliers and sign-up for OCA's free online newsletter.)

The Fluoride Controversy (Surprising information about the use of fluoride.)

Microwave Dangers (Microwaving food--is it safe?)


***


I'll be adding more links throughout the day so check back if you'd like to read more.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Where Backward Is Forward




I am making changes around my home.

I'm homeschooling myself again and you should see our dining room table. All the instructional books! Mary Jane's Farm Magazines and lamps and paper and pens. For years I've made tiny upgrades in our diet and lately I'm making huge changes. 

I'm so weary of eating, sipping and breathing chemicals.

You won't believe it (and I'm not suggesting anyone else does this), but today I unplugged our microwave and lugged it all lopsided down to our basement. Well, after phoning Tom at work to see if he would mind. It's just that I read that microwaving food (and even water) changes the molecular structure. That makes me nervous. And since I found myself, even after hearing that bad news, popping food into the microwave like an automated zombie, I thought the basement would be a more proper place for it. 

Of course, on a trial basis. Perhaps I'll change my mind in a week. Who knows.

Some people want sprawling, modern, stream-lined kitchens with all the latest, shiniest, space-age ovens and step-saving gadgets on Planet Earth and cupboards stuffed with boxed mixes for everything from whipped cream to fruit pies to a three-course meal inside a box.

Me? I want to be more like my grandmother. I want to travel what many would call backward and slip on my apron and bake from scratch using organic flour and making pies with un-chemical-laced fruit and lemon juice. I want to return to baking in an oven, raising my own vegetables, using vinegar as a weed killer and never sip another diet soda or eat a fast-food burger again.

And I want to dry my clothes on a clothesline in the backyard and take Vitamin C and cranberry juice to clear-up infections and use natural soaps for my skin and the laundry and baking soda to clean my sinks. I want to make potpourri from the roses and lavender in our yard instead of spraying more chemicals inside my house to make it smell 'fresh.'

Through the years, I've done it both ways, natural and unnatural, unprocessed and processed-beyond-belief. And lately I'm crossing over to the natural side and remaining there. I hope.

Already I'm feeling better--and I've only just begun.



******

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Summer Finds


First... If some of you tried to comment yesterday but were blocked, please try again. The problem has been fixed, well, hopefully! 

Moving on...

Just wanted to share with you some of my latest finds. See the birdbath? I bought it yesterday at a yard sale for only 50 cents. (Yes, 50 cents!)

The Homer Laughlin platters (in this photo and the next) were only 20 cents each. They could not be more perfect for my collection! The coffee cups were a quarter a piece and the (heavy!) silver salt and pepper shakers were only $2.

The creamer was 50 cents and so was the old white Fire King bowl.

The old Victoria Magazines were free (only some are pictured), the let's-just-call-it-milk-glass vase was $1 and the lavender came from our yard.

Don't you just love summertime (well, minus the heat and humidity)?   γƒ„

Friday, July 20, 2007

If You Didn't Sow It, Don't Reap It




Years ago, a visiting missionary told our congregation that while over in Africa, his son, at 16, began some rebellious behavior, doing things like smoking, sneaking out of the house at night, causing trouble in town. 

The father, especially, was blown away. 

He went to God and asked why his son was behaving this way, especially since he and his wife had raised him according to biblical principles and with much love in their home. Both parents became depressed, doubting their parenting ability and sadly, the wisdom of the Bible in this area.

Then the missionary told us that God, one day, seemed to tell him, "You did not sow into your son's bad behavior, so do not reap from it. Don't reap poison or depression from that which you didn't sow as seeds."

Wow. Thirteen years later? I clearly recall that. Often I'm reminded of those words.

When I'm accused of something I didn't do--and if my explanations cannot repair it-- I do not allow myself to reap confusion and misery from what I didn't sow.

If my adult daughter behaves in ways her dad and I never did, I do not reap an inner unrest or hopelessness. I pray, instead.

If we have a financial problem, one which arrived not because of unwise spending, I don't panic and stay awake at night, but trust God to help us fix it.

And on and on.

Now of course, please note I'm not saying we do nothing about problems we initially didn't sow seeds into. No, if there's a way to fix a problem, we'll fix it--yes!

Yet m point today? Don't allow guilt, condemnation or shame to grow on the inside around your heart, that important place from which we view, perceive and live much of our lives. 

It's in that place where we guard, carefully, what we allow to grow, not allowing weeds where we only planted flowers--

--the same way we watch diligently what we're sowing on the outside amongst those who watch us farm our way through this Life.


***

"Let not your heart be troubled... guard it with all diligence for out of it flow the issues of Life."

***

Thursday, July 19, 2007

The Ol' Benefit of the Doubt Thing




Being a suspicious person is a full-time job. I know, I used to work there.

Back in snail mail days if I didn't hear back from a friend for a few weeks, instead of giving them the benefit of the doubt, I suspected something in my letter upset them and now they were mad at me. 

Or they were too busy too care about me anymore or they'd heard something about me from someone and were ignoring me.

Good grief.

Even now I must lecture myself if those thoughts creep in after I've not received email from friends. I remind myself how, too often lately, it takes me eons to answer email. 

Or if an acquaintance drives or walks past me without a wave I remind myself how often I, with my aging eyes and preoccupied brain, have done likewise. Or should I receive a cranky email, comment, or phone call, I make choices to figure-out where the crankiness originated. It just may not be all about me(!)

Extending the benefit of the doubt, I've found, is like handing-out packages, presents wrapped around Grace, Hope or Forgiveness. It's like expecting the best and receiving it, only in a different form than we'd expected.

Giving the benefit of the doubt is like giving mercy and since I so need mercy for myself, I try to hand out much of it, keeping in mind the sowing-and-reaping thing. 

Oh my, how I ever do need mercy!



******



"Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy." ...Matthew 5:7

"Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ..." ... 2 Corinthians 10:5

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Seeking And Finding




Recently I sat at a bistro table drinking coffee at our local supermarket and an elderly gentleman sat down at the next table. We exchanged greetings then he wondered aloud why the store had removed the previous dining tables and the short privacy wall surrounding them.

"Oh, I think it was just because they added the health food aisle and the frozen foods freezer section sits there now," I said.

"You don't think it's because people were stealing things when the wall was around the tables?" he asked.

Good gracious. Not once, not even once did that ever occur to me. Not even.

I assured him that, no, they'd had to make room for the health food freezer aisle, for which I was grateful, because I'd always had to travel a few miles to a different store for certain health food items.

There's a "Sound Off" section in our local paper where people call in to complain about everything from local government, teachers and city workers to the way people walk across their lawns or amble down the street instead of on the sidewalks or how nobody should be allowed to cook food over a fire in their backyards and how, if you don't fly a flag on Memorial Day, you are un-American and an example of what's wrong with this Country.

I read Sound Off for a laugh, but always I feel sorry for my neighbors who are spending their lives complaining these ways. Those folks who peer outside their house and car windows, searching for Life Gone Wrong.

Tom and I search for the Life Gone Right. Most of the time we even find it.

Last week I discovered a sweet little teapot in the "free box" at a yard sale. Later we drove through a tiny, Back To The 1920's Town where, on somebody's lawn, they'd placed many older Victoria and Country Living magazines on a round table with a sign which read "Free." Tom pulled over and I grabbed some magazines and even chatted with the woman who'd placed them there.

That same day Tom bought some die cast cars from a junk shop and the elderly owner relaxing on a chair out front Mayberry-style, gave me my chosen salt and pepper shakers for free.

And all that week Tom and I visited Mom and Pop hamburger drive-ins and fruit and vegetable stands dotting the countryside. Places where they'd look at you funny if you handed them a credit card.

Then yesterday? We ate lunch at our city park and watched part of the town's weeklong festival activities. Children and adults everywhere laughing on a Monday afternoon, little guys and girls in potato sack races and foot races, too--their parents cheering like crazy at the finish line. "Hooray, hooray!"

Tom and I keep our eyes open for friendly people and for old-fashioned 1940's simplicity and fun. We expect to see them wherever we go. And we keep finding them.

I hope you do, also.








******

Monday, July 16, 2007

Murder At Walmart




Ok, you'll think I'm one of those scary tree-hugger types after you read this, but honest, I'm not.

I drove to Walmart today in search of some more flowers to plant in my yard (rather late, yes). I entered the garden center through the big, opened doorway and stood there--shocked. Why? Before my eyes was a Petrified Flower Garden. Whole long poles were strung with hanging baskets of dried-up, dying flowers. Tables held neglected, flowering plants in various stages of near-death. I saw a hose on the ground near the new shipment of mums--those looked marvelous, but then, they'd just arrived and now is the time for the planting of mums.

Prices were slashed--they had to be for pots of near-death. I walked around for a half hour and longed to rescue every shriveled, gasping little potted plant.

For many years, I've believed plants had feelings, too. After all, we can all agree they're alive, can't we? 

Anyway, I told Tom this afternoon that if *I* was working in the garden department of Walmart, I'd still water those poor little plants-- I don't care how late in the season it is. And it's not like the workers didn't have time--mostly while I was there, they stood around talking about the house one of them rented and how mean her landlord was.

Watering plants or gossiping? Gee, I wonder which one matters more? Maybe it's Walmart's policy to let those flowers die, but even there, I'd sneak water to them. I couldn't help myself. Hey, we're talking life or death here!

And that, Folks, is why I don't have a real job.   γ‚·



******

Saturday, July 14, 2007




Today while Tom slept (back to work for him last night), I drove my friend, Laura, to a belated birthday lunch at that 1950-ish hamburger stand on the river. I mysteriously drove her there, uttered not one hint about our destination. I assumed she'd eaten there before, but alas, she hadn't and it was a double delight that she loved this tiny place, too, with its deck and umbrella-topped tables.

So with all my recent adventures during Tom's days off, I've again, stepped back from this blog, lest every thought in my head begins with, "How shall I describe this activity/thought/journey in my blog?". You know, that nagging voice which makes you feel as though you must Tell All to your readers, lest, well, I don't know lest what, exactly. 

Gee, that voice! It becomes insistent at times.

Anyway, how lovely to just live! To not be how I was for years--planning to live. Meditating, reading or teaching people about living, but not actually doing much living, myself.

And whew, I love not cringing over whether God is mad at me because I turned right when I should have turned left. You know, no more postponing happiness as in, "I'll be glad when ___ is over." Or "I'll be happy when I finally get ______."

But being happy now.

Yes, how much better to celebrate even imperfect days and no longer wait for bigger events or a better, more deserving me.

No, may I just gather joy today and scatter it all around while I can.



******

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Of Children and Grandparents




"...children are an heritage of the Lord: and the fruit of the womb is his reward." Psalm 127:3


****

While at the supermarket and way down the frozen food aisle I spied a young woman with a couple sweet little children in her shopping cart. She resembled Naomi much and immediately I thought, "Oh, I hope someday that Naomi will be able to experience raising a child or two and all the good which comes with that."

Fast-forward five hours later when Naomi dropped by to pick up some things and to chat with us. I told her that, last week, I'd run into a couple we'd all known from a former church and discovered that their daughter, a few years younger than Naomi, had had a baby, albeit, without a husband. How I'd then exclaimed to my friend, "Oh! You're so blessed! Everybody except for me is a grandmother now."

Well, Naomi had a tiny fit. "I can't believe you said that! You know I'm not planning on having any kids. And now more than ever. All my friends who have kids--all of them-- are telling me they wish they'd never had any. They tell me not to have any, if I can avoid it. They just cry all the time and are a whole lot of trouble."

Oh my goodness. In a part of my brain, I've been bothered by that ever since. Not the part where Naomi said she doesn't want children--she's stated that for years, sometimes changing her mind, though.

No, it's the part where parents have the gall, the nerve, to say they're sorry they gave birth to children! To blame tiny, helpless creatures for their own clueless, selfish inability to treasure the precious, moldable lives God entrusted to them. To be so wrapped up in themselves, so stressed-out in their marriages (Naomi said this was the case with most of those friends) so uncentered, unbalanced and unloving that they rue the day they gave birth. 

And then to go around sharing such poison, like the gospel, to the childless ones like Naomi (not to mention damaging the psyche of their children, should they overhear).

Now, (before you yell or something), am I saying good parents never get stressed-out? Of course not. And am I saying all couples should have children? Uh, not even! 

What I am saying is that the choice to have children should be made because of what one hears deep inside ones heart, from a decision made between God and ones spouse. Not from the rantings of stressed-out, on-the-edge, immature parents.

Sigh.

As for my own case, I've never been one to nag Naomi about her having/not having children. Since she was 16 she's insisted--most likely--she'll not ever have a family, something which I've never taken extremely seriously(as a teen, I said ditto), and yet, something which may, indeed, take place. 

Long ago I realized I may never become a grandmother the regular, old-fashioned way.

In fact, I've had a Plan B for years, one which I've occasionally mentioned to Naomi so she'll not think I'm one of those mothers who's wild/obsessive about having grandchildren. 

My Plan B? When the time comes that I desire grandchildren, I'll go out and find my own. No, really. I'll seek out children who need a grandmother then offer to babysit them and treat them like grandchildren. Taking them places, giving them surprises and listening to them. That is, if I can discover parents who are willing to have me do that.

And you know? I've a feeling that won't be an impossible thing to find. Most wise parents search and ask for help when they need it.


***

"As arrows are in the hand of a mighty man; so are children of the youth. Happy is the man that has his quiver full of them..." ... Psalm 127:4,5

Monday, July 09, 2007

"Remember When We Almost...?"




Last year Tom and I were driving along a country road and I pointed and asked, "Remember when we almost bought that house over there?"

I thought awhile then laughed and asked, "Do you realize how many things we've just thought about doing, but never actually did? How often we've just talked about big plans, but never followed through? 

Like, remember when we almost started a bed and breakfast inn? Or when we almost visited Prince Edward Island?"

"Remember when we almost moved to Las Vegas?" Tom joined in.

To which I replied, "Well, I'm grateful beyond words that one fell through. But let's see, remember when we almost adopted more kids? Or almost became foster parents?"

"Or when we almost bought that huge house in Niagara Falls? Or about twenty other houses around Western New York? Or when we almost took an ocean cruise? Or a train vacation?"

"Or when we almost went to the drive-in movies over in Buffalo? Or when we almost bought a boat?"

Well, we went on and on like that and laughed through some parts and groaned through others. But mostly we agreed on something: 

We play it too darn safe. 

We're not Risk Takers. We think things through, often to death, so much so that we usually end up doing nothing the least bit risky. Or new. Or exciting.

That can be good, or it can be bad (rather like most things in life). It's saved us from spending/wasting lots of money, but other times, it's saved us from lots of memories and adventures.

I believe that initial "Remember When..." conversation changed us, at least a small bit. We've loosened-up, had more fun, gone around with more of a spirit of adventure, even if so far, it's been mainly adventure 'in our own backyard'.

We're realizing that no one is going to come around and force us to take risks. Nobody will stand at the edge of our rut and yank us upward by the hair.

We'll have to climb out of that rut on our own.

Lately we're taking baby steps, visiting places we'd just driven past, one of us usually saying, "We'll have to stop at that restaurant some day." (Or that museum, park, antique store). These days? Businesses come and go like clouds. Wait too long to visit that mom and pop hamburger stand, and you'll drive to it and find the windows boarded-up and trash rolling along the parking lot.

That happened to us just last week. Again

Really, it is possible to have one chance to do or see something or even (especially) someone--and miss out forever. Sometimes we're given just one opportunity to do what God, Himself, wanted us to do, as well.

Tom and I are hoping to spend this last half of our life staying awake to those opportunities. To be more brave, more obedient--and to actually accept a few more risks.

Then see where they take us.



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Sunday, July 08, 2007

If We Could Rip Up Agendas




 I drove along with Carrie Underwood songs to that 1940's-like movie theater you're sick of me describing and I watched a scary movie which would shock you (hey, it was only PG-13, but your eyes would bug out if I named the title. Suspenseful and I was the only person in dark theater #3--just me and my eerie, creaking chair. Delicious.).

Then back out in the made-me-squint sunshine, I  took the old neighborhood roads to that tucked-away hamburger stand by the river and nearly beneath an overpass. The one with the deck and the umbrella tables over the water and trees and an old house along the opposite side.

I ordered a strawberry-banana milkshake and since the shake is made fresh, I watched the laughing, teasing teenagers inside and thought about my own high school days and my cleaning job in the town's A&W restaurant.

Lately my high school memories have been renting space inside my brain.

No rocket scientist is needed to discover why--my 30th high school reunion will be held the last weekend of this month. If my old hometown were less than 2,500 miles away, hey, I'd go. 

So anyway, I carried my strawberry shake to the deck with its white round tables, picket fence and tall posts all glowing in the sun and sat there alone, watching the water and feeling like I did when Tom, Naomi and I took the ferry out to the San Juan Islands many years ago and lunched on a weedy hill behind a restaurant at its wobbly white tables overlooking the Pacific Ocean (that's as exotic as my life gets).

I tried reading my book, but my head kept returning to high school. High school--probably the ultimate of the ol' "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times" experience. Instead of the broad picture, we tend to peer backward and recall only our own tiny corner and our own varied emotions inside that corner.

And well, that's a whole other post.

But here's my point: Much of my life is about obedience to specific tasks God asks me to do. But this soon-coming high school reunion was one of those "I'll leave the decision up to you" things. I felt Him say either choice--going or not --would be all right. But with one catch--if I went, (He seemed to say), I'd have to go with no agenda.

No agenda at all.

No plans to make my old school friends think I am more than I am, no aiming to impress one single soul. No butting into conversations with my own stories, memories or accomplishments. No hiding in corners because I've gained weight the past 30 years and even--no plans to share my Christianity--unless someone asked.

He said, if I went to my 30th high school reunion, I must go simply to be available. 

To attend the parties as a compassionate listener, to hear what was not being said --and to pray for that. To pray for everyone as I watched them drinking and dancing, as though with no cares, no history, and to gaze into their hearts--to love and accept what I found there. 

And then pray some more. 

Simply, to return to my old town--not as the scared, shy, needy kid I once was--but as the woman who's learning to care more about others' feelings than her own.

I loved that idea. But still, I'll not be attending the reunion.

But what if--even here now, even each day-- I could leave my own agenda at home, shred it up, actually, whenever I step outside my front door? What miracles might I see then?


***
2 Timothy 2:21
If a man cleanses himself from the latter, he will be a vessel for noble purposes, made holy, useful to the Master and prepared to do any good work.


******

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

It's A Rainy Fourth of July...



... but we are so grateful! 

I'm standing at the windows this early morning watching our much-appreciated rain and feeling heart-gratitude.

We've had no real rain since I can't remember when and most lawns in our area go crunch-crunch when you walk on them. The majority of people here never water their lawns--flowers, yes--lawns, no. 

Anyway, today is the 4th and I'll be alone since Tom is back at work, but alas! We had our celebration yesterday and those magical memories still are draped over me and will remain while I do the Suzy Homemaker thing today and everyone else has picnics at parks and in backyards, mostly under canopies, I imagine. And while I putter, believe me, I'll be thankful for our U.S. freedoms.

And this is neither here nor there, but I'm trying to collect ideas for food substitutions. You know, healthier versions of the foods which tend to make you tubby, sick or dead. Here, below, are some I've adopted--

When Tom and I get cravings for key lime pie, we instead, buy key lime pie yogurt made by Yoplait. Hits the spot every time.

Instead of using salty tomato sauce for homemade Italian or Mexican sauces, I buy canned diced tomatoes.

Rather than buy ice cream, I make my own in the little freezer Naomi gave us.

Instead of regular butter, we use salt-free butter--and have never noticed a real difference in taste. (When it comes to butter vs. margarine health-wise, we're in the butter is better--in moderation-- camp.)

Rather than add oil to cake mixes, I add applesauce (or half oil, half applesauce).

Instead of soda, I drink seltzer water with only two ingredients. No sugar, salt or nutra-sweet. (It grows on you--give it time!)  ツ

Well, you get the idea. Little changes do add up, but of course, there's still that annoying 'everything in moderation' thing which comes into play.

Have a very happy Fourth of July!


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