Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Having Trouble Finding Mayberry?

A few of you have 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 what I've discovered.

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 old cookbook collection, ones with gorgeous old 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, too.

For fun, I shop at our local supermarket, the one which has served our town since around 1930. This is one hopping place--many seniors shop here, but there are all ages, as well, and the atmosphere is always that of a party. Folks greet old friends with hugs and inquiries as to how their families are feeling and there's much laughter while the music plays over our heads. In the back, 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.

But 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 experience, because let's face it, though some changes have been made, 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, I would imagine, have at least some old buildings still standing) and if they house 'hole in the wall' tiny diners, Tom and I enter and find old details inside...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 an old-fashioned thing to do. We walk outside these diners and nearly always glimpse a tiny, retro-to-the-hilt barber shop with a man in a windowed-chair, leaning back, covered in white.

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. And sometimes I even believe I glimpse those long ago families right beside the modern ones (but don't tell our local asylum. heh.). And I take walks through old, safe neighborhoods and note the old details on the houses and the way people care for the flowers in their yards and how they decorate their porches. I smile when neighbors stand outside talking to 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 old ways are out there--you just have to develop your own old-fashioned radar system, keeping it ready and working by much use.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Organic Update and a Recipe

I thought both my men and women readers might appreciate hearing how Tom feels about this total switching over to all organic foods and no longer using a microwave. (We all know that the average man can be as suspicious of new foods and ideas as the average child.)

Mostly? Tom loves the whole organic thing. We've both noticed that organic, on the most part, tastes better. More like food we remember eating as children. Gotta love that.

And as for foods heated on the stove rather than the microwave? Tom says he's noticed a big difference there, too, and he even has stopped using the microwave at work to heat his lunches and uses the toaster oven, instead. (He would use the stove top, but upstairs in the control room where he spends most of his time, there is no stove.)

And so far we've run into only one organic food which Tom did not like, a certain brand of raisin bran. But alas! I told him I'd simply use the remainder of the box's contents for cookies.

So that brings us to the aforementioned recipe. Since I couldn't find a recipe for Raisin Bran cookies in my cookbooks (and I was in too much of a hurry to search online), I greatly tweaked a recipe for butterscotch brownies. And how did the first batch of my newly-christened Raisin Bran Bars come out?

We loved them. Yummm.... What a pleasant surprise! So with no guarantees that you will like them as much as we did, I will, with fear and trembling, include my tweaked recipe here:

Raisin Bran Bars

3 tbl. brown sugar
1 packet Stevia
1/4 cup oil (or half oil, half applesauce)
1 egg
1/2 tsp. butter (or butter flavoring)
2 tsp. vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. ginger
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1 cup raisin bran

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Oil 8-inch square baking pan. In large bowl, cream sugar and oil. Add egg and extracts (or butter). Blend well.
Over a dish, sift flour, baking powder and spices. Add to oil mixture and mix well. Stir in raisin bran.
Spread into prepared pan (may not reach to all sides. That's ok). Bake 20 minutes. Cool slightly and cut into bars.

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.

But anyhow, that's gotten me to thinking. What kind of an old lady will I be? Will I be a crabby, sneering old thing without a memory, one who snaps and 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 what I'm thinking is this: In order for me to be that kind, old woman in the future, I must allow God to rid me of the junk inside me--now--in my present. I believe if the crabby, always-must-be-right garbage is taken out today, then most likely, it will still be missing years from now. For I've seen that when God does a work, He does it well. Completely. And all that remains is for my continued cooperation with, and reliance 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 have 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:

You can become a foreign missionary when God planned for you to stay home. You can stay home when God planned for you to become a foreign missionary.

You can eat yourself into an early grave, dying way, way before God planned for you to die, missing hundreds of opportunities to share Him with others. You can also drink yourself into an early grave or take enough drugs to get you there.

You 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.

You can arrive at your retirement years not having saved-up money for them and then find yourself having to work hard at an elderly age and just trying to survive.

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

You can wait too long to become physically active. You can wait too long to learn to roller skate, become a gymnast, play sports, at least not without great risk.

You can take lousy care of yourself, remain ignorant of what stress and poor diet and alcohol consumption and drugs will do to your body and then live in chronic pain, thus being unable to live a healthy, vibrant, peace-that-passes-understanding kind of example life.

You can hear that an elderly woman in your church would like you to visit her on her deathbed, wait too long out of the shyness of visiting the home where she's staying, and then hear she has passed away.

You can not control your emotions and find yourself having an affair and then destroy your marriage and deeply wound your children. You can, while married, treat your spouse like dirt and irreparably hurt him/her and your children, as well.

You can wait too long to express appreciation for a grandparent, a parent, a pastor, an author or anyone who's impacted your life wonderfully-- and they can die before you've said a word. And you can have to live with that regret.

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

You can ignore the voice which is telling you to prepare for a different occupation, then in a few years, be fired/released from your job and have an incredibly hard time finding another one (and experience financial disaster and ruin because you did not save money ahead of time, either).

Sigh. And this was the 'less-dramatic side' of other examples I'd intended to post.

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, huge price tag. There is a reverential fear and awe of God which I believe too much of the church has lost, something which has been replaced by a type of kay sera sera attitude. "Whatever will be, will be."

Uh, no.

You won't find me singing that song here or in my real life, either. I've lived too long, experienced too much and watched too many shattered lives to even hum those words.

"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. Like, if someone in the supermarket check-out lane runs short of cash, I want to be un-shy enough to hand them the money for their bill. And stuff like that."

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 he needed 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...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 been 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? Had I expected 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.....lessons learned... 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, I said all that to make this point. Sometimes it scares me 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 Him. Because we weren't in the right place at the right time due solely to the fact we lagged behind Him. Or because we were waiting for angels and trumpet blasts and golden twinkling lights to give us a nudge.

Even now, with this possible move to Richmond... or how we are nearing the time Tom really should retire from the power plant and find something less strenuous (and the need to prepare for that now, not later)... and should we do all that now and use our retirement fund which is largely in the stock market, (401K and all that), and with the stock market being what it is (and how I don't have much faith in it for the future)... How his back is not getting stronger or straighter, nor his polio-ed leg any straighter or stronger, either.... and how much longer can he work twelve hours and collapse in his recliner? All of those kinds of decisions are before us right now and I so do not want to mess them up by waiting for angels to come swooping down with banners waving with precise, in black-and-white instructions in lovely calligraphy...

... or even just waiting for mysterious-but-wise men in suits to walk around the corner and tell us exactly what we should do.

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... it's all that 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.... sending the emails I should have sent ages ago..... ordering the postage stamps online I've been meaning to order... answering your comments in my blog.... catching up on my ironing... 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 which is so very easy to put off and put off and put off and ...

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

I am greatly anticipating tomorrow when I'll feel fabulous without all that procrastination weight upon my shoulders and head! Woo hoo! Earlier this morning I paid the bills and ordered the stamps... I think I feel lighter already (I am so not kidding)...

Anyone want to join me today by celebrating Anti-Procrastination Day at your house?


"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 Seventeenth Summer.

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, 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 fears 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, though I knew I would feel better after making another trip to the supermarket for more organic stuff to replace the poisonous stuff in my pantry (believing pro-activity helps in these cases), but until that time, I thought, what I need is Seventeenth Summer. What I needed was 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, where there was 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 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 and when I opened my blog, something I'd not rearranged in over two years, I realized it needed a change, as well. Wednesday will be my blog's 3rd birthday--an opportune time to switch templates, I think.

I'm homeschooling myself again. You should see our dining room table, well, you almost cannot see the top for all the instructional books and 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 am so tired of eating, sipping and breathing chemicals!

You won't believe this (and I'm not suggesting anyone else does this or anything else I mention in this post), 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. Maybe I will change my mind in a week. I don't know--I hope not.

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, except that I call it forward. I want to 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, not inside a microwave. I want to raise my own vegetables, use 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 use Vitamin C and cranberry juice to clear-up infections and use natural soaps for my skin and the laundry and use 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 am crossing over to the natural side a final time--and remaining there. Already I'm feeling better--and I've only just begun.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

What I Wish

Oh, I so enjoyed Linda's What I Wish List, and well, I just had to make one of my own, even though right from the start I realized mine wouldn't be as fun as hers!

What I Wish

1. I wish that the thick, oh-so-yummy cappuccino drinks from mini-mart machines were so healthy for you, that the more you drink, the healthier, stronger and more gorgeous you become.

2. I, (like Linda), wish that all my favorite people in the world lived on my street. (I've wished that since I was a teenager and moved around all the time.)

3. I wish that beautiful flowers grew with the ease of ugly weeds.

4. I wish that, as a teen, I'd have had the wisdom I have now at almost 50. (I also wish that 'almost 50' didn't sound so darn old!)

5. I wish that every summer was like this one at my house--high temps only around 78, low humidity and skies like I remember as a child.

6. I wish I could remember everything wonderful and forget everything not-so-wonderful.

7. I wish I could fly (and I'm not talking inside an airplane, either).

8. I wish I'd been eating organic the last 25 years and that I'd never grown so used to using a microwave.

9. I wish current tv shows all resembled shows of the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's.

10. I wish I was as creatively-minded today as I was at age 10 and during my 20's when I was first-married and without extra money (and could create marvelous things from nothing every day of the week).


Now it's your turn...What do you wish?

P.S. This was just for fun. I considered going all "I Wish This World Was Different,' but then I said, "Nah. Just keep it light."

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?

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, had begun some rebellious behavior, doing things like smoking and 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 and found themselves starting to doubt 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. I heard that sermon 13 years ago and I've never forgotten it, mostly because I'm often 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 it.

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 do not panic and stay awake at night, but trust God to help us fix it.

And on and on.

Now of course, please note that I'm not saying we do nothing about problems we initially didn't sow seeds into. No, what I'm really saying is we're careful about what we allow to grow on the inside... in those places around our hearts. Those important places from which we view and perceive and live much of our lives. Those places where Real Life takes place... and where the truth is still known--God is still God and He is still good.

It's in those places 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 are watching us farm our way through this Life.


"Let not your heart be troubled..."

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 have that job.

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'd suspect that something in my letter had upset them and now they were mad at me. Or that they were too busy too care about me anymore or that they'd heard something about me from someone and were purposely ignoring me.

Good grief.

Even now I must lecture myself if those thoughts creep in after I've not received email from old (or new) 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 not to be offended, but rather, 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 or Hope or Forgiveness. It's like expecting the best and receiving it, only in a different form than you'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. And well, keeping in mind the stress-related diseases thing, as well. Oh my... There's plenty of stress in this world without me creating more of it and then suffering for that bit I made because I could not extend the benefit of the doubt.

Now, if I can just remember that... my life may just brim over with even more peace.


"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 and teachers and city workers to the way people walk across their lawns, the way folks amble down the street instead of on the sidewalks, 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 searching for things to complain about. 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 a couple hundred 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 nice old 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, some which had served country travelers many years. Places where they would look at you funny if you handed them your credit card.

Then yesterday I ate lunch at our city park and watched part of our 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. Over and over.

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, too.

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 (nothing like waiting until the summer is half over....). 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. Table after table 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 of the planting of mums.

Prices were slashed--they had to be for plants in such a sorry state. 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? But what cinched it was, 23 years ago, our pastor shared how, in an experiment, a scientist holding a pair of sheers walked into a room full of plants which were connected to sensors of some sort. He then started hacking away at some of them and left the room. Later he returned and suddenly the sensors began jumping around as though the plants were afraid(!).

Some things you never forget. For me, that was one of them.

Anyway, I told Tom this afternoon that if *I* was working in the garden department of Walmart, I would still be watering 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 unfair her landlord was.

I would have watered the plants instead of gossiping. I would have watered the been-around-all-summer plants, even if my boss ordered me to let the flowers die and only water the new mums. I'd have sneaked some water to those poor, dying baby plants.

And that is why I don't have a real job.

Lessons Learned

For Christmas, Tom asked for Carrie Underwood's cd, and well lately, going along with my tendencies to play one song over and over for months in our car, here is my latest 'Play it Again, Sam' song.... Though it's best with Carrie's great voice and the music, the lyrics are, I think, terrific as well, and I find myself nodding my head in agreement each time I listen and sail along on country roads:

"Lessons Learned"

There's some things that I regret,
Some words I wish had gone unsaid,
Some starts,
That had some bitter endings,
Been some bad times I've been through,
Damage I cannot undo,
Some things,
I wish I could do all all over again,
But it don't really matter,
Life gets that much harder,
It makes you that much stronger,
Oh, some pages turned,
Some bridges burned,
But there were,
Lessons learned.

And every tear that had to fall from my eyes,
Everyday I wondered how I'd get through the night,
Every change, life has thrown me,
I'm thankful, for every break in my heart,
I'm grateful, for every scar,
Some pages turned,
Some bridges burned,
But there were lessons learned.

There's mistakes that I have made,
Some chances I just threw away,
Some roads,
I never should've taken,
Been some signs I didn't see,
Hearts that I hurt needlessly,
Some wounds,
That I wish I could have one more chance to mend,
But it don't make no difference,
The past can't be rewritten,
You get the life you're given,
Oh, some pages turned,
Some bridges burned,
But there were,
Lessons learned.

And every tear that had to fall from my eyes,
Everyday I wondered how I'd get through the night,
Every change, life has thrown me,
I'm thankful, for every break in my heart,
I'm grateful, for every scar,
Some pages turned,
Some bridges burned,
But there were lessons learned.

And all the things that break you,
Are all the things that make you strong,
You can't change the past,
Cause it's gone,
And you just gotta move on,
Because it's all,
Lessons learned.

And every tear that had to fall from my eyes,
Everyday I wondered how I'd get through the night,
Every change, life has thrown me,
I'm thankful, for every break in my heart,
I'm grateful, for every scar,
Some pages turned,
Some bridges burned,
But there were lessons learned,
Oh, some pages turned,
Some bridges burned,
But there were lessons learned,
Lessons learned.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

I'm still here... Once a month, if things run smoothly at Tom's job, he gets seven days off, so during the summer we treat those weeks like vacations, even if usually it means making scads of just day trips. Well, it's been Day Trip City around here... drives out in the glorious countryside (can anything compare with early morning in the country?)and along the Erie Canal with its parks... and yard sales, even treasures from the 'free box' and old issues of Victoria magazine free on a little round table beside the road... and winding our way down skinny aisles in dark, ancient junk shops with layers of dust.

Then 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 river and umbrella-topped tables.

So with all that adventure, I've been, again, stepping back from this blog, lest every single simple thought in my head begins with, "Hmmm... 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 you irreparably scar them when they pop in and find nothing new. I always step away when that voice whispers in an obsessive sort of way... I know some of you completely get that disjointed thought.

How fun to just live! To not be how I was for years--planning to live, meditating about living, reading about Life, teaching people to live, worrying about the right way to live and whether I was living the correct way and whether other folks were, also. Cringing over whether God was mad at me because I turned right when I should have turned left. You know... no 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 just walk around enjoying this business of living here, there and everywhere... to live now, to celebrate today--to not store joy away in a drawer somewhere for a perfect time, a brighter future day or after I become something or someone else better...

... but to gather up joy now--Today--and scatter it all around.

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

Last week on a typical morning, I was 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 Tom and myself. 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... In a part of my brain, I've been bothered by that ever since. Oh, not the part where Naomi said she doesn't want children--she's stated that for years, sometimes changing her mind, sometimes considering having children one future day.

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 those who are, as of yet, childless (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'm saying is that the decision to have children should be made because of what one is hearing 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.


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 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 find some children who need a grandmother and I'll offer to babysit them and treat them like grandchildren, taking them places and giving them surprises and listening to them. That is, if I can find parents who are willing to have me do that.

I have a feeling that won't be an impossible thing to find.


"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 and 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 large 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 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 viewing Life differently, I think--realizing that no one is going to come around and force us to take some risks ... Nobody is going to 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've been taking baby steps by visiting places which, for years and years, we just drove past, one of us usually saying, "We'll have to stop at that restaurant some day." Or that museum... that park... that antique store... I don't know how it is where you live, but here, businesses come and go like clouds on a windy day. Wait too long to visit that mom and pop hamburger stand, and you'll regret it. You'll drive up to it and find the windows boarded-up and trash rolling along the parking lot.

That happened to us just last week. Again. This time, at a darling round-shaped hamburger stand on a country lane, one whose parking lot always was packed with cars all the previous years we drove past. And the drive-in movie theater in Buffalo? It closed this year after being in business more than 60 years. (We do have one left in nearby Lockport.)

You just never know. It really 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 chance to get it right.... and often 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 enjoy Life more.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

If We Could Rip Up Agendas

Yesterday Tom and I attended block sales in the next-town-over, but his back ached so we drove home earlyish (and also because we'd both bought enough treasures). I microwaved sweet potatoes and made eggs and while Tom reclined in his recliner, happily viewing Wimbledon (which I'd rather munch on rocks than watch), I decided to go see a movie, maybe afterward returning to that 1950-ish hamburger stand I told you about. I felt restless, what with the whole afternoon stretching out endlessly.

So he'd not starve, I gave Tom a list of foods in the house to eat (a mighty short list since at our age, we're not allowed to eat anything anymore), and then 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,indeed, I loved it, 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 avoided the main street and took the old neighborhood roads, instead, 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 as I had last time (vowing to save half for Tom) and a diet coke and since the shake is made fresh, it took awhile so I stood at the outdoor window and watched the laughing, teasing teenagers inside... and I 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 (and yes, to those of you in your 20's, I'm officially old as dirt now). But for various and sundry reasons, I'll not be going--though if my old hometown were less than 2,500 miles away, I'd more likely attend. I've so enjoyed the emails sent to us all collectively, announcing the detailed party plans and naming a few memories, most which I did not recall, because I spent only my senior year at that particular school (I told you we moved around a lot). Can you believe we had only 55 in our graduating class?

So anyway, I carried my strawberry shake and soda over to the deck with its white round tables and white picket fence and tall posts with plastic frosty lights topping them--all glowing in the sun--and sat there alone, watching the water and feeling as though I, instead, was sitting in a foreign, exotic place, rather like I felt 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 to read my book, but my eyes were pulled to the dark green river and my head was pulled back to high school. High school--probably the ultimate of the ol' "it was the best of times, it was the worst of times" experience, indeed. Funny how most of us think back to high school as to how it treated us, not how we treated it. 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. You know, like when I feel Him saying, "Go over and help that woman pick up all the oranges which cascaded to the market floor when she took one" or "It's time to answer all the emails you've procrastinated" or "I'd like you to give away your _______ to _______ ." You know... the kinds of requests where He expects instant obedience... and where you feel unsettled and just-not-quite-right-inside if you disobey.

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 going--would be all right by Him. Either was ok. 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(!).

No, God had a better idea. He said, if I went to my 30th high school reunion, I must go agenda-free. With no plans other than one simple plan: 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--and love and accept what I found there. And then pray some more. And if anyone wanted to take me aside and talk, well, to drop everything and do so willingly... allowing God to speak through me, instead of sharing my own old, worn-out opinions.

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.

Friday, July 06, 2007

The 'Supposed To Be' Disease

I'm going to re-run this one because, well, I have to remind myself of it, like, every week. So you might say it's for my own good.

During my Nevada Years so much joy totally bypassed me because I'd contracted the dreaded 'Supposed To Be' Disease.

Tom's job was 100 miles away out in the middle of the desert (literally) so he and his co-workers would live out there for four days and then be home for four days.

And well, of course, (I thought), things just are not supposed to be that way. As a husband and father Tom was supposed to be home every night for dinner. He was supposed to be home whenever sinks and drains got plugged up or Naomi had a concert or when we had loud lightning storms. He was supposed to be home just like every other husband was home. Right? And while I was at it, people (like us) were supposed to live near their relatives, not in the middle of nowhere... and we were supposed to be able to have more than just one child... and Tom was supposed to get every holiday and Sunday off like my friends' husbands did...

Well, wrong. I mean, I was so self-absorbed in my assumptions that I didn't even consider all the wives living at the nearby Naval Air Station--wives who sometimes lived without their husbands lots longer than just four days. Not to mention the millions of single women 'out there' who no longer even had husbands or any children at all or enough money or... (on and on). But Self is like that-- it blows a thick fog of selfishness somewhere behind our eyes, one which blocks out any view of others in need and we concentrate on our own misery rather than relieve the misery of others. Self rolled in a fog so thick that I too often ignored how blessed I was to have Tom home for four whole days out of eight--I was even blind that, actually, he was home more often than many other husbands we knew.

There is more than one way to live! And amazingly, if we'll let Him, God will give us grace and strength and happiness while we are marching to different beats and different drummers and living differently than we assume everyone else is living... and accepting, making better, those things which cannot be changed.

Except that in Nevada, I did not let Him. No, I just complained and nagged and whined and threw tantrums. And I missed out--terribly. So many secret joys just zipped past my heart because I did not believe they existed if Life was not as it was Supposed To Be. Remember "Be it unto you even as you believe?" Well, for five years I believed Life to be unfair, the power plant industry to be unfair and Tom to be unfair for hauling us out to the God-forgotten Nevada desert in the first place.

And that is sad. It saddens me whenever I recall our years in Nevada--not because of what took place there--but because of how I acted there... How I way too often allowed the Supposed To Be Disease rob me of simple joys and appreciation and the realization of how I was becoming, in some ways, better equipped to handle Life's little emergencies, especially the ones which only seem to happen while your husband is out-of-town.

There are many ways to live. There are many ways to be--even within the confines of the Biblical mandates and examples we follow. God made us all so unique--and even though we hear that constantly and nod in agreement, why do we still use our blogs to tisk tisk when other Christians do things differently than we would?

(Don't get me started.)

How freeing it was for me to finally 'get it'-- to realize it's ok if my life is not like everyone else's. As long as I have God's stamp of approval and His encouragement to get back up when I fall, well, it becomes just one of many, many different and amazing ways in which to live for Him.

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

It's A Rainy Fourth of July...

... but we are so grateful! I've been standing at the windows this early morning watching our much-appreciated rain and feeling heart-grateful for it. Though we've had such perfect weather for weeks, we've had no real rain since I can't remember when and most lawns in our area are straw-colored and go crunch-crunch when you walk on them. The majority of people here would no more water their lawns with our expensive water from a hose than they'd rob a bank. They'll water their flowers, but not their lawns which "will just turn green again when we finally get rain." All these years I've heard those words more than I can recall.

Anyway, today is the 4th and I'll be alone all day 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--I'll be looking online for more in the weeks to come, and if you'd like to add one or more in my comment box, I'd be grateful!

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 naturally low-salt tomato puree.

Instead of buying ice cream or even frozen yogurt, I make homemade 'ice cream' in an electric freezer by using soy milk (a brand with only three ingredients). I use 2 cups soy milk, 2 packets of Stevia (and/or a couple teaspoons sugar), three teaspoons vanilla, and a cup of frozen or fresh fruit. Makes just enough for two bowls of 'ice cream.'

I also use soy milk and Stevia (and/or a couple teaspoons sugar) for homemade puddings, either chocolate or vanilla or vanilla with banana slices.

Instead of ground beef burgers, we like the frozen Philly Cheese steak burgers made by Morningstar Farms, the veggy people. We also love their bacon (I went without real bacon for lots of years and now I get to have two slices daily of this as-good-as-the-real-thing-to-me stuff.)

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.)

Instead of adding 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!)

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

Have a very happy Fourth of July!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

On his way to work yesterday, Tom found a like-new, dark green Queen Anne recliner for me on the curb. Ah, to be able to sit in comfort, finally, in our Cozy Room! I'm thankful God cares about the small things in Life (perhaps to Him, there are no small things...).

Speaking of our Cozy Room, (that place where we watch way too much tv, albeit mostly always the decent stuff)... For months Tom and I have been Netflixing the old Perry Mason tv series. We Love That Show. Not just the courtroom drama or Perry's not-always-legal ways--no, there's so much more. There's Perry's snazzy dark convertible and Paul Drake's sleek, so-cool-you-can-hardly-stand-it T-bird convertible and all the other nifty 1950's cars as well. (After most episodes we feel as though we've visited a classic car show. We often pause the film just to stare at--and yearn for--the vehicles.)

And then there's Della's cool sweater sets and the lovely satin and embossed formal and casual linen dresses of the guest stars, as well as the without-a-wrinkle suits of the men. I'm not one to pay much attention to men's wear, but Perry's and Paul's suits often grab my attention. Paul, period, grabs my attention. (Don't tsk tsk--both Tom and I agree William Hopper was one handsome guy.)

Anyway, just thought I'd recommend the Perry Mason dvd's if you're searching for something new/old and different. The clarity of the dvd's is almost startling--the scenes practically pull you into the screen (we've watched so much Perry Mason that I've had dreams at night about hanging-out with this group, even with good ol' love-to-hate-him, Hamilton Burger).

And to end this--Tom and I drove through a book today. Well, it felt that way. We drove out in the countryside and then through the huge 1800's brick buildings and Victorian houses of Medina and Angola. In both places, you first drive down the middle of all those Victorians with their gardens and the quiet of a summer afternoon humming over them and well, you can't help but feel you crossed a time warp. We even watched two groups of children laughing, walking over the canal bridge with fishing poles over the shoulders of the pre-teen boys and innocent smiles upon the 12-year-old girls as they met up with them. And in other neighborhoods we saw children sitting on front steps and cartwheeling on lawns, lolling away the summer just as the children of my day did.

Those simple childish activities made an impression upon me, I guess because it seems I see so view children outside in our own surrounding neighborhoods while taking my walks. Always I wonder where they are.

In both these towns, the pace was slower and I rolled down my window in hopes of carrying it home with us.

And back out on the main country road, we even got to walk through part of an 1800's farmhouse, one for sale and whose owners were having a yard sale, with items also inside. I whispered to Tom I was now spoiled, totally spoiled, concerning the search for our next house. This place had nooks and crannies and the perfect front door with glass panels at each side and a stairway with the original scroll work and two acres along with an in-ground pool and what looked like a grape arbor over the patio table and chairs, but what was really some trees they'd trained over it.

Well, you get the picture. Another magical day, indeed--well, the parts where I didn't grow all whiny and impatient, again, about having to wait so long to move. Another test, but I'm learning... I'm starting to anticipate the trick questions and get a few of them right... and to be happy for the people with the houses I'd love, instead of wishing everyone one of them was mine.

Monday, July 02, 2007

"I am the one who indulges in the bread-baking orgies. And the sewing. And, once in a blue moon, the enormous family meals... A part of me wishes that life were made of only those things. As I race from meeting to train to meeting, the rhythm of home seems like a holy peace, a serene continuim for which I yearn." .... Rev. Barbara Cawthorne Crafton

I read those words this morning out on our sunny, cool front porch and remembered oh so well that exact feeling back in the years when I was overly-involved with our church. There were too many meetings and too many conflicts as I was learning to deal with people. And well, one day my very soul cried out to just stay home more with that 'rhythm of home (which) seems like a holy peace.'

And so here I am. Grateful beyond what I can describe.

And to top off everything, today is, for me, a rare shining gem--a Suzy Homemaker Monday. I'm home alone for twelve golden hours in which the possibilities for enjoyment are almost endless. I can play Big Band music while I dust or watch tv while washing dishes or I may putter in my yard's flowers. I can take walks or ride my bike or do fifty tasks around here which I've procrastinated ... and then read and nibble snacks on the porch or even paint the dining room hutch white.

I can mix it up and speed it up or slow it down. I am my own boss.

Tom and I went to yard sales Saturday morning then picked up lunch for an impromptu picnic at the park on that afghan I told we keep in the car for such times. Teen boys in uniforms were playing baseball so we sat in the shade of a maple tree and watched them as well as the kids up along the rim of that pool I showed you last week. And it was summery 1940's magic all over again.

And then yesterday afternoon we took our lunch over to the canal to watch the boats and parked the car very near the dreamiest boat we ever saw. It looked very like a wooden troller from the 1930's and the owner looked like the perfect skipper from every 1930's summery island resort book I'd ever read--thin, tanned, shirtless, grey crew-cut and grey beard. We sat and dreamed about retiring with a boat like that one in the canal with the sun streaming in upon the blanketed couch along the windows (where I envisioned myself curled up with a book). Even though, of course, deep down, Tom and I realize--give us a month out on a small boat upon the sea alone and we'd be snapping at each other like turtles.

But we spoke with the captain and his wife and they told us the boat with all it's old-fashioned oiled-wood paneling had been custom-crafted by its creator just three years ago(!) and this couple had begun their journey in Lake Michigan, gone down through the Mississippi on over to Florida and were now on their way to Lake Erie and back home. It all sounded like the dreamiest kind of adventure and we came away with our eyes reflecting sea journeys... and thoughts of trading-in everything we own for that kind of boat life--and risking the snapping turtle thing anyway.

It's fun to dream together.


The above quote was taken from Crafton's book, The Sewing Room, a collection of essays about her life which I'm enjoying much. If you like Phillip Gulley or Philip Jerome Cleveland, you'll like The Sewing Room.