Thursday, August 30, 2007

"This Is Only a Test"

Life becomes a million times easier (I think, anyway) when you understand that many things are just simply tests... and God is watching to see what grade you're getting... and how much you've learned--or yet need to learn.

Take this morning. I could no longer sleep so I got up at 4:00 a.m. (I hate it when that happens. But oh well.). While heating water for my pretend coffee, I peered out our kitchen windows and spied something moving in the shadows, just out of range from our motion-sensor light. At first I thought it was the neighbors' annoying pure black cat who tip-toes right up to our front porch and stares through the glass of our storm door, the same cat who we must make certain is nowhere near when we allow Lennon to sit with us on the porch.

But then I saw that this black creature had white feet/lower legs and it walked more like a dog. "Hmm...," I thought. "I've not seen any dogs like that around here and why would he be out at 4 in the morning anyway?" Well, it remained in the shadows and I stepped away to pour the hot water and forgot about it.

Fast-forward 5 hours later when, in the daylight, I walked to the backyard to pour birdseed in the feeders. As I walked back toward the house I smelled a subtle, more-than-annoying scent of skunk. Oh dear. That must have been what I'd seen. Not a cat, not a dog, but a skunk. And I instantly recalled that all this week I've smelled skunk scent first thing inside the house each morning--subtly, but even so--since I leave the windows partially opened (in a locked position) and upstairs we leave a fan blowing air inside.

Good grief. And I thought having a woodchuck living in our tiny backyard was a nuisance! Perhaps the skunk even kicked out the rabbit family which lives underneath the shed.... and maybe he lives there now.

So all day I've been repeating, "This is only a test. This is only a test." Far better is it to reassure myself that way, than to imagine the skunk will never move away.... that I'll always be afraid to go in the backyard now (especially in evenings), that this will have an effect on selling our house and yada yada yada to eternity.

But compared to my next test, that was nothing.

Ever since Tom left on Sunday, (he's due back late tonight), I've been watching Monk Season 5 dvd's (thanks to Netflix). Hours and hours of Monk episodes--it's how I'm spending my vacation. :) It's important that I tell you that so you'll understand where I'm coming from...

At 4:30 today I got a call from a stranger at the Reno airport saying he'd found a cell phone on the floor, this phone with which he was now speaking to me. He said he'd be upset to lose his cell phone so he pushed the 'Home' button and was now wondering what I wanted him to do.

So of course (after all those Monk episodes) this picture came to my mind: My sweet little husband was sitting at the airport when suddenly a couple thugs came along, grabbed him by the arms, his cell phone dropped to the floor, and they ushered him outside, telling him to keep quiet or he'd be sorry.

(Hey, don't tell me you've never imagined anything like that...!)

Well, I asked the guy (who sounded very, very kind) to have Tom paged and I thanked him for calling me, etc. And then right away, yes, you guessed it, I began repeating, "This is only a test. True, it's odd that Tom was at the airport way before his flight, but it's not odd for him to lose things. Not even."

This is only a test.... this is only a test.

So I prayed for Tom's safety and prayed, too, that I'd pass this test, and then I washed the French door glass in our Cozy Room (to stay busy) while I watched Oprah. And around a half-hour later Tom called me. From his cell phone. A bit sheepishly. They'd paged him, he had his cell phone back and all was well.

Whew. Always I'll be grateful for having learned about the whole 'this is only a test' thing. Rather than worrying about what might happen in any adverse circumstance, instead, the worry shifts to, "What should I do to pass this test so that God will be pleased?"

And that's a type of worry I can handle.


"You will remember all the way the Lord your God led you in the desert these forty years, to humble you, and how He tested you to know what was in your heart to see if you would keep His commandments or not." Deuteronomy 8:2


For a more detailed post about tests, here's one I wrote years ago.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

This and That

Yesterday was fun. I met with a woman from the Maud Hart Lovelace online email group and we did the 'Tacy Tour' here in my area. (No axe-murdering took place...heh... She and I shared stories of how our mothers, especially, get concerned when we visit with people we met online.) The real Tacy of the Betsy-Tacy books moved to Buffalo after her marriage, Maud Hart Lovelace (Betsy) often visited her here, and both 'Tacy' and her husband are buried nearby. For photos from our day together, go here. But if you've not read the books, the photos will probably, well, not exactly thrill your heart.

Then after lunch at that Happy Days-like place on the river, she followed me in her car miles and miles out to the countryside, the road Tom and I take amongst all the farmland, barns and cobblestone houses, the road which would take her home. We stopped at the secluded book cabin I've mentioned here before, left our quarters and bills in the metal box by the door (remember, this is the tiny place run on the honor system) then said good-bye. Ah... another gold star day for my diary.


And then there's today.

My, my... After all that whirlwind, memorable activity yesterday and after all the cleaning of the house the past week and a half (and all the people walking through it, even last night), well, today has been quiet. I keep feeling I should GO somewhere.... DO something... SPEND some money... but God keeps saying, "Just enjoy the quietness of home. Read some books," He says... "Sit on the porch... RELAX. Spend some extra time with me."

Normally, I have no problem just hanging-out. Normally, I pray for days like this. But you get used to a faster pace and it becomes harder to come down from that. There's a sort of jarring deep inside and you--no, I'll get back to me--I start asking God, "Are you sure this taking a break for a whole day is ok?" Then he says, "If I'm telling you to take a break, then of course it's ok!"

But all that reminded me of something else--so often I only think I want something, when really, I'm not even certain I'd like it if I got it. I mean, many times I'll be out and about and busy--and wishing to be home alone in the silence, able to read or just lounge peacefully. Or so often on Tom's (many) days off he's wanted me to watch a movie with him or to travel someplace and I've thought, "Sigh... I wish I could just have a day all to myself."

Well, Tom's away and now I have these few days to myself. And frankly? Having Sunday afternoon mostly to myself was enough. Enough freedom to do whatever I wished whenever I wanted to. Those hours felt long enough for no constraints upon my time.

And already I find myself happily anticipating Tom's return. And more, I've been reminded that interruptions aren't so bad after all... and a To Do List isn't something to dread, nor is structure a curse... Not always having my own way means I very often have adventures I never would have had otherwise... and most often, what I really desire is only a tad of something--it could be anything--instead of a whole lot. Usually what I need is just a small change--not an enormous one. And sometimes just a tiny tweak in my attitude can make my whole life appear new.

But it remains for me to always be open to asking this--what is God after? What is He wanting to change within me? And then pausing, lest I miss His whisper.


Most days? What I need isn't more money or a larger house, but more wisdom and creativity. Not more attention or fame, but more humility. Not more time, but more wisely-spent time. Not better friends or relatives, but more forgiveness--and mercy.

So this weekend I dropped Tom off at the airport so he could fly away and take care of some family business in far-off California.

I am unofficially on a vacation, myself. Well, of sorts.

On my way home from the airport (driving the long, scenic back route, of course), I bought coffee and sang along with Carrie Underwood and felt light of heart, even though I was headed home for two hours of cleaning before the real estate lady arrived for the open house. Amazingly, I looked forward to cleaning house that day. (Can't figure that one out, myself.)

Anyway, nearing home, I stopped at an estate sale inside a house where time stood still decades ago. The home, obviously, had been decorated in the late 1960's and then left mostly unchanged.

I love it when that happens.

I stepped from vintage-papered-room to vintage-papered-room, smiling, letting myself slip backward four decades and getting a little lost in mind and body. It was a smallish two-story house, but the type where rooms appeared in odd places, like a surprise, and your eyes fell upon boxes of Modern Miss magazines from 1967 or the tops of beds with gauzy scarves and black fake leather purses beside hat boxes and green formals.

It was the type of house where you could picture daughters in the fluorescent-pink upstairs bedroom buttoning their mini-skirts and putting on thick layers of mascara. It was the type of house where possessions were cared for, treasured and appreciated.

So in a retro fog I drove away, inspired, more anxious than ever to return to my own home, my cozy Craftsman bungalow, to care for what I've been given, making it presentable and sweet for those who would soon walk through my own rooms, wondering what kind of lives had been lived here... wondering if they'd like to create a life inside these walls and windows, themselves.

So much living goes on inside a house. So much living goes on inside of ourselves, where we create memories daily... and may I consciously choose to create peaceful memories I'll cherish seasons far away from now, when everything has changed, not ones I'll pray to forget.


Psalm 37:11
"But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy great peace."

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The good news: My dad is doing better. My sister called and said the infection hadn't reached his blood, as the doctors had feared, and well, he's improving now. Finally.

Thanks so much for your prayers! Things were pretty shaky there for awhile (I spared you some scary details).

And thanks, too, for your comments to my last post. I appreciate hearing from those of you who have been where I am now and where I have been for some years now, too. I mean, years ago I felt alone amongst Tom and Naomi when it came to making some healthy changes, but now, thank-goodness, Naomi is even more on board than I am. And Tom is trying to play along, even though it's hard for him sometimes.

All my life I've watched people lose the Game of Life too early. I've seen some folks become old, frail, sickly at 50.

I want to win the Game of Life. So I am making changes.

Of course, you talk about change and people get scared. That's the first thing to remember. Years ago I heard in a sermon that if you are making some changes, get ready to receive some flak and criticism from those closest to you. Why? Because seeing that you are changing is a reminder that they are not. And that is threatening. And just downright annoying.

When I talk about 'going natural' mostly I'm just talking about leaving fancy, new-and-improved products alone. Like leaving aluminum cans, microwave ovens, plastic wrap alone. And returning to basics. Back to foods which have not taken showers in pesticides or been chemically altered. Back to foods God invented--not ones man invented and then poured into boxes, with contents living longer than even I will. Or food from animals led down the winding antibiotic trail.

I'm talking about making the majority of my diet about organic fruits and vegetables--and doing so creatively. Making them the main part of the meal, rather than just the tiny circle of color on the edge of my plate. About eating sprouted alive wheat bread instead of processed dead wheat bread (and using peanut butter made with just peanuts). Taking daily doses of pure pomegranate or cherry juice (or others) rather than doses of pills or liquid medications which come in eerie shades of green or red or brown.

I'm talking about growing gardens. Taking daily walks and doing stretching exercises before I even leave my bed. Using detergents which don't harm my hands, my brain or my planet. Recycling. Not worrying, but trusting, instead. Relaxing, even in a crisis. Forgiving people and handing out lots and lots of mercy--realizing that's just as vital as anything I let slide down my throat or rub across my skin.
I'd appreciate it if you could pray for my dad.


He's in the hospital with either a bladder infection or an infection from the prostate surgery he had last month, and as of yesterday, it sounded like the doctors are clueless about the whole thing. And in the meantime, my dad is not doing well at all, wasn't eating and was barely drinking. He has a whole list of medical conditions. A long list.

In the last month while researching natural cures and organics and health and wellness, I've been growing beyond-upset with the FDA. I can't even tell you how upset I am that natural cures have been hidden and ridiculed because they won't bring in any money to the powers-that-be--and on and on and on. And how popping pills is advised, nutrition is usually ignored, and the effects of stress/worry/unforgiveness are rarely mentioned. Well, don't get me started.

When my mother called yesterday to tell me all this, I asked her if they'd been giving my dad plenty of good, strong, pure cranberry juice for the bladder infection. I already knew the answer. My dad is one to take medication after medication and through the years has grown only worse. But my mother did say, in a surprised voice, that a nurse did mention the cranberry juice thing.

Sigh. I've been using cranberry juice to clear up anything which even resembles bladder or urinary tract infections for more than a decade and always--always--it has cleared things up almost instantaneously. My mother sounded as though she'd never heard of such a thing.

So my anger at the FDA jumped off the scale yesterday and today God is telling me to calm down, saying that anger will only make things worse. It will not help, especially, it will not help my own body.

What will help? Spreading information. Letting others know what I am learning as I do research of health and wellness online. And doing as our daughter is doing--she's helping a family next door to her learn all about eating right and using natural cures (they once lived in Love Canal and have lost loved ones to cancer). And well, they are experiencing downright miracles in their home. And our daughter is finding a purpose in life like never before and is more excited--and healthy-- than I've seen her in years.

I realize this is a controversial post--you won't need to point that out to me in my comment box. But this is my blog. This is what I'm feeling today. And again, I'd appreciate prayers for my dad at this time. Thank-you.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

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

If there's any verse which pops into my mind nearly every day, it's that one.

I mean, there's a season for EVERYTHING. A time to be and act like a child--and a time to grow-up and act like an adult. A time to be in your 30's and a time to be in your 50's. A time to have young children in your home and a time for them to move away and make their way into adulthood. A time to have a large house and yard, and a time to downsize so you can more easily care for what you own. A time to travel to faraway places and a time to stay closer to home.

I find that I feel and know such incredible peace when I cooperate with my current season. It's when I try skipping seasons or jumping into the wrong ones that I experience trouble and discomfort. When Naomi was ten, I began worrying and fearing the time she would leave home--and leave us. There was no grace for me to ponder Naomi's leaving when she was only ten--the grace arrived when the time arrived for her to go. In fact, the last two years she still lived at home--from ages 23-25--the grace to have her there was, well, thin. A case of mixing-up the seasons again?

Tom and I have a small yard now, but we'd like a larger one next time. We figure we have around ten good years left in us to work a bigger yard, and perhaps a larger house as well. Sometimes we still kick around the dream of creating a bed and breakfast inn within our home. And maybe having a foster child or two. Again, we figure these next ten years will probably be our last ones for taking on such big dreams. After we've turned 60, well, who knows?

And truthfully? We're ok with that. With the not-knowing our exact future or just how many more good years we have left in us. Oh, in my younger years I used to declare I would always, even at 90, live in my own house, even alone if it came to that (heaven forbid), as long as I could remain independent, dwelling inside my own place (with a few cats thrown in, as well. Uh-oh.).

But guess what? I find myself changing with the years. I find myself changing with wisdom. And I have days--even now at just 48--where we drive by the senior apartment building in our town and as we pause at the traffic light, I watch the elderly women sitting upon the benches beneath the trees out front--and I think, "That looks fun. I'll bet they play tea party in their homes." They sit and laugh and sow seeds of friendship and reap gardens from those seeds. They're not alone, but have companionship, not only lest they fall, but lest they feel lonely. And as Tom and I turn the corner after the light, we see the senior community hall where parties are held. I smile at the crepe paper streamers there, and well, crepe paper just says party time, I guess.

I can think of worse ways to grow old and trust me, I no longer hold onto what I grasped with all my heart before--that thing of preferring to live on my own, alone, rather than move with others close to my age. However old that age may be. No, I've let go of that. Why? Because I've learned to respect seasons, their ebb and flow and their differences. And to treasure and bask in the jeweled moments and opportunities each season brings--during its own hour, not waiting until after that hour has passed.

Besides, when God truly is the most important person in your life--when your greatest delight is a cup of coffee in the morning with Him--then you have positively nothing to fear. For you realize wherever you are, whichever season you may be in, He will be right there across the table from you. And He will always be enough.

And after that? Heaven. And oh, what a season that will be.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Lennon(r) and McCartney(l) on a Wednesday afternoon.

Ten years old. Brother and sister.

My buddies.

And my sunny livingroom today, as well...

(Click for a sunnier effect.) :)

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Isn't it wild how everything always seems to happen at once?

I mean, on the vast majority of Tom's typical days off, you'll find us sitting (reclining like slugs) in our Cozy Room, pondering that vital question, "Which of our two Netflix movies will we watch first?"

Or I'll turn to his recliner from my own and say, "Tom, we need to find new hobbies. Or just go someplace. This is pathetic. We are pathetic."

So either our life is like that, or it's like it is now.

Our house is up for sale. I have to keep it clean all the time. We have plans to move to Richmond, but nothing is on paper. We may have to move to a rental somewhere here first. Tom is flying out to California next week to meet with his family and help decide where his parents should live (of course, that means Tom's planning his itinerary to the millisecond and getting everything in triplicate). After I drop him off at the airport, I'll drive back here (40 minutes, the slow, sane back route I take) and meet with the real estate lady for our open house. While Tom's gone, I'll be keeping this house clean for showings (and repairing a few things, too), pouring through Richmond real estate online, packing, and I'll be meeting with a woman from a listserv I've been part of for 7 years for a book-related outing (but that's a fun thing I can hardly wait for!). And of course there's the thing where I'm totally overhauling our diet, going organic and trying to learn all there is to learn about nutrition (which involves unlearning a whole heck of a lot of stuff). And I'm not even mentioning that McCartney The Cat, had to go to the doctor for a tooth absess and giving her an antibiotic each night is like force-feeding a toddler spinach (ever seen a cat hold its breath and then purposely drool out all the medicine you gave it?).

It's like going from 0 to 60. From one life to a whole other one.

But you know? This is good for me. It's good to be tested on all I have shared with you here, to be challenged: will I choose my ideas or His? Will I lose my joy and thus lose my strength? It's good for me to see for myself just how real and strong my peace is--or isn't. The places where it can too easily be punctured. And it's good for me to be reminded that this is how many of you live every single day... with that Life-is-just-one-long-merry-go-round-ride feeling.

Because sometimes I forget. But trust me, lately I've been reminded. Oh, how I've been reminded!


John 14:27 ... "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

Ones peace should not be a fragile sort of thing.

I'm still here...

Our house has been shown three times so far and a large parade of realtors will be whisking through this morning at 10:00.

Our house has smelled delicious--mostly--for days now. Want to know the easy way to scent your home? I have two secrets:

1.) Use your coffeemaker. Make at least half a pot of something aromatic and keep it brewing for an hour or more. Currently, (because we've switched to organic and we got this other kind, in unopened cans, at a yard sale for 50 cents each)I'm using Folger's French Vanilla. Yum. Our house has three stories and French Vanilla is presently wafting through each and every one.

2.) Buy a small bottle of scented oil (I get the cinnamon kind for less than $3. And think oil, not water.) Then go around the house placing drops in bowls of potpourri, rub a little on the underside of furniture, place on wreaths or dried-flower-valence thingies, etc.

That's it! Unless your house smells downright vile, these two ideas make a quick, ten-minute fix. People have been stepping into our house exclaiming, "Oh! It smells so nice in here!," and well, trust me... With ten-year-old burbour carpet and two (formerly 6) cats, that's really saying something, indeed.

See you soon... And thanks so very much for your comments of the past few days!

Sunday, August 19, 2007

So the For Sale sign is on the front lawn and already two couples are scheduled to tour the house, one for this afternoon and the other for tomorrow at 3:00.

And I am surrounded by such incredible peace about selling our house.

No, really! Of course, it helps that I feel Grace all over this. Of course, it helps that our high temperature yesterday was only 68 degrees and today will be around the same.

Besides feeling beyond-ready for a new adventure, the first-born-neat-freak-June-Cleaver part of my personality loves keeping a neat, ready-for-company house. Part of me delights in walking through the finished, pretty rooms. Part of me wishes it didn't take so much energy and foresight to keep them this way. And I still need to declutter and make nicer our guest room and basement, but even as they are right now, they're much more presentable than when it's just us around here.

Of course, you may want to bookmark this post and rub it in my face later if we end up moving, like, three different times in the next year and I'm whining and crying about it all. Heh.

But for today, I'll just continue the decluttering and straightening and cleaning in a peaceful, grateful fashion... enjoying the process.... enjoying the progress ... and enjoying Grace and God in all the details.

Friday, August 17, 2007

There's just something about Buffalo...

Yesterday on the subway, Tom and I sat behind a dad and his 11-or-so-year-old son and, not being certain which stop to get off for the Bison baseball game, I told Tom that we should simply follow this father and son because, most likely, they were going to the game, also. The son wore a baseball cap and resembled every kid you'd ever seen at a movie baseball game.

So we got off the subway when they did, but alas! I guess they weren't going to the game, because the stadium was still two blocks away. But call it a mistake? No way. For Tom and I walked along those two blocks to the beat of an amazing rhythm and blues group who played to well-dressed, released-from-the-office crowds in front of the bank for the daily lunchtime concert. They were sooo great, creating a soundtrack for our stroll past happy people and even tables for the Thursday Farmer's Market, with rows of bright gold and green and red fruit and vegetables.

And every few feet there stood busy hot dog vendors, and yes, we succumbed and ordered hot dogs. We slathered them with mustard then sat upon a short wall amongst trees resembling a city orchard, an orchard growing out of concrete, with people sitting upon benches beneath them. Couples eating together. Friends smiling, talking with heads bent close. Laughing. Oh, everyone was in such a great mood with all that music and the hot dogs and sodas and the gorgeous weather.

When I first, 14 years ago, got off the plane to come live here in Buffalo, I felt in my heart that the people here were singing and dancing in the streets. And yesterday--not for the first time, either--I saw it with my own eyes there in downtown. As I said, there's just something about Buffalo.

Yesterday Tom and I, both, felt we'd been invited to a party. And something else? I felt I'd glimpsed a tiny bit of Heaven. For here were streets where people danced and sang and laughed and ate or just walked or sat with smiling, grateful eyes. At least, I'm sure those of us who were free on the inside felt that way as we watched every activity on the outside.

After all, that's where freedom must always begin--on the inside. From there it colors everything seen with the eyes and felt with the heart. From the inside, freedom spreads like music played so all can dance and celebrate.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

The realtor came yesterday and all went well... The sign goes up on the lawn tomorrow, the wandering group of bleary-eyed realtors will walk through on Tuesday, then we'll have open house on Sunday, the 26th. And today we are off with our daughter and some friends to a Buffalo Bison baseball game downtown guess-where. Tom received a bunch of free tickets from work.

So in the meantime I will leave you with a fun passage from one of my all-time favorite books, one called My Life's History, the autobiography of Grandma Moses, the artist. Long ago and far away in Susanville, California, when I was a young (read: perky, cute, thin) mother, I, thankfully, discovered this book. Some of you will be scandalized by this passage, others will, I hope, let it help you relax a little as you raise your children. While Naomi was a teen, this passage often haunted me. And I'm glad.

Here's Grandma Moses:

"The children were always full of pranks, always in mischief with their young friends. One summer the two Reel sisters, whose brother Loyd had met at school, boarded with me for two or three weeks, and of all the frolics and mischief they got into! One day at the dinner table, after Thomas had gone out, someone threw water, then someone else. Then the battle was on, some were running out of doors, out to the pump and commenced to throw it by the bucket-full. Some ran upstairs for protection, and they threw water out of the window, nearly drowning the ones under the window. The battle grew hotter, and they threw the water into the window till it ran down the back stairs into the dining room. Then one of the sisters said, she would not stand for it if she was me. I told her to let them have fun while they were young and could, it would be something to laugh about when they were old--and now they do.

It was a rollicsome, happy house, and their father would join in with them, he really was one of them."

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Choosing Over "I Can't Help It"

So I'm getting our house ready to, washing and painting, even. And it keeps coming to me that this is one of those times.

One of those times when I can choose my reactions to my circumstances, my situations and even the results of my own procrastinations(which are usually varied and sundry).

Your whole life changes when you realize you are the queen of your own emotions (or that you can be, anyway). You can choose to be upset and worried and a mess when everyone else you know would also be upset and worried and a mess if they had your problems.

Or not. As in, you can choose to remain calm. You can choose to pray--and then not worry after you have prayed. You can choose to put into practice all those thousands of sermons you sat through at church.

With God's help, you can act nice, when you'd rather slap somebody.
You can forgive and let go, even when you feel you have a right to stay angry and hold on.

You can. Or you can choose to be and act like people who don't even know God exists. And go with the flow (and probably end up downstream with a bunch of other people who are floating around all upset and fearful and biting their nails and munching stomach pills).

Well, anyway, these are my thoughts today, this is my lecture to myself.

This is what I have learned.

Monday, August 13, 2007

The realtor is coming on Wednesday to list our house for sale which means tomorrow, all day, I will be cleaning. And cleaning. And cleaning some more.

So today I will show you pictures from around my house as it looks today and may not look so tomorrow, I am not sure. In fact, I am not sure about a few things, one of which is how often I'll be able to post here in my blog these next few weeks and months. But I'll try to write as faithfully as I can.

The above photo is from our dining room and so is this one:

All this turquoise (not so dark in real-life) is upstairs in my Dream Room.

And these last two photos are from our guest room.

Laughter, Like Medicine

I just finished rereading my favorite part of Betty MacDonald's, Anybody Can Do Anything, the part where she finds a job tinting photographs back there in the 1930's in a shop where, to the owner, the more ghoulish and garish the photo tinting, the better. I had to slip down here to the basement because Tom is sleeping (graveyard shift last night) and I was afraid my guffawing aloud would wake him.

I love Betty's books, at least, the one I mentioned above and also Onions in the Stew and The Plague and I. Her first book, The Egg and I, well, on a few levels, I didn't like, though I do own the movie.

Only Betty could give the Great Depression a funny spin and only Betty could make having tuberculosis in a sanitarium sound like one humorous adventure after another.

Each year I try to reread at least two of Betty's books, but always I know how I'll feel when I finish them. A bitter-sweetness will hang over me a couple days (Betty died at only 49 of cancer... back in the days when no one was talking about how dangerous smoking could be). But mostly I feel--once again--the yearning, yearning, yearning to have even one-tenth of Betty's sense of humor. (Or even less would be terrific by me. I'll take whatever I can.)

"A merry heart doeth good like a medicine."

There are many reasons the Bible says that. Without a sense of humor,well, we are sunk. Generally, old, serious sober-side-types (or saddos, as Betty called them) repel people instead of draw them. We can even repel ourselves from ourselves, not wanting to be alone with our old, negative self. And we can sink, even albeit slowwwly, into sad, murky-green depths where the whole world appears sad and murky-green through our eyes... while lots of other people are living and seeing and breathing a whole different, glad way--and perhaps leaving a God-is-good impression.

And no, I don't mean we're to laugh our way through Life. And yes, there is a balance and a time for everything. But as for me, I want to lean toward the happy side of the scale.

I'm glad I'm rereading Betty's books. They are like the proverbial shot in the arm and they are changing, as they always do, my eyesight as I look upon my current state of affairs.


"Happy is the man that finds wisdom, and the man that gets understanding." ... Proverbs 3:13

"I will be glad and rejoice in You..." Psalm 9:2

... Where She Falls In Love With a Livingroom

Oh my.

Color me enchanted.

I found this livingroom last night and immediately began making plans to steal all her ideas.

Can't you just see that room in the log house below? (Well, maybe?)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

My Hermit-Like Tendencies: Are They Returning?

Remember when I wrote about searching in the high school career box for the "Hermit card"? Well, I was looking through the Richmond real estate ads again and I found this log house in this woodsy setting. It keeps calling to me. Might help that it sits on one-half acre and is 'only' $105,900, which is great for down there. Might help that, lately, I have so wanted to 'get away from it all' and get back to the land... and all that stuff.

It has three bedrooms, one bath and a full basement and needs some work. So what do you think? I'd really like to know.

Friday, August 10, 2007

A Country Season Approaching?

I forgot to tell you that last weekend Tom and I went to our local, smallish County Fair.

We loved every moment and every little detail.

The baby pigs were so cute, that I wanted to pick them up and hug them. And as Tom said, you kept expecting one to step over to you and say, "Hi, I'm Wilbur."

The Bantam chickens enchanted us, the goats stole our hearts (though the ones without ears just looked, well, odd), the lambs were sweet and the bunnies were floppy and adorable. We drooled over the classic old cars and we even enjoyed the old-time gospel singers while we sat inside the shady tent with our Sicilian white pizza, even though that's not what you'd call our favorite type of music.

Clearly, we are becoming country people.

I mean, today at a yard sale I came across a box of free old Country Woman and Country Journal magazines, issues I probably glanced through years ago. But now I'm devouring them for information. I want a tiny farm so much!

I've seen myself change incredibly the past few years--and it's been fun, and even strange at times, watching myself becoming a woman I do not recognize. But who wants to remain forever as she was at 35? Perhaps some women do, but not me. I want to always be pliable in God's hands, responding the correct way to His ordained, current seasons in my Life. And I'm thinking lately that these upcoming years will be my country season.

And so what remains is for me to make the right decisions, to be in the right place at the right time so that I'll get the most out of this season. And may I not wait too long or be too afraid to step into these next years. The right years to live in them--the right window of time-- will not last forever. Some day I will be too old to plant a big garden, chase after chickens and walk a country mile.

Someday there will be a whole new season in which to live and I want to be able to glance backward at this one with gratitude, smiles and no regrets.


Speaking of which... Days ago I found a great new-to-me blog, written by a woman who lives not so far away from me. Her blog is called I Live On a Farm. I think you'll enjoy it.

The most contented people I know are those who realize--and accept--that nothing in this life on Earth lasts forever... and that everything changes.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

This morning I received a huge dose of patience.

According to Good Morning America, Richmond, yesterday, was 20 degrees hotter than we were here in Buffalo. Twenty degrees.

Good. Grief.

So today you may color me extremely, wildly patient regarding our someday move to the Richmond area.

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

For Those Bogging Down In The Health Food Aisle

Just a short pick-me-up for you who are also changing what you eat and use in your home...

Years ago I watched a Christian tv program about a woman who, two years earlier, was diagnosed with Fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome. They showed her shopping in the health food aisle, replaying the thoughts she'd had months after her doctor recommended that she totally overhaul her diet. Here were some of those thoughts:

"It's not fair that I have to give-up my favorite foods."
"It's like learning how to cook all over again."
"All these organic, whole foods are more expensive."
"I feel like I'm the only person eating this way."

And then she shared what she heard God tell her after she'd whined like that:

"Oh, I feel so sorry for you. You have to eat these wholesome, organic foods and now you are feeling a hundred times better. You're learning about nutrition, you're no longer feeling exhausted all the time, and you look like a new, vitalized person. Yes, you poor, poor thing."

She got the point. She quit complaining.

And years later, I still recall her story, especially while I'm standing in the quiet health food aisle, the one which usually gives me that lonely, ghost town feeling. (Insert the ol', "Hello? Hello? Hello?" echo here.)

And each time, I am encouraged.

I hope you will be encouraged, too.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Are We Having Fun Yet?

I had to smile when I read Maggie Ann's comment to my last post this morning:

"Sounds like you are having fun...."

Well, kinda-sorta.

Actually, it's major test-taking time around my house and around my life. More than ever I feel God watching me take these tests and we're both discovering whether I've done my homework these past months and learned how to keep my peace and joy in difficult times--or not.

See, last Thursday morning at 8:00 a.m., Tom's mom called and since that meant it was only 5 a.m. her time, we knew there was trouble. There was. While traveling down to their granddaughter's wedding, Tom's dad fell and broke four ribs. Oh dear. For months now, he has been falling. For months now he has had strokes. And for months now he--at 80--has refused to move into any type of a senior community (nice, safe duplexes) where he and his wife could live way more comfortably and with some help. He says he doesn't want to be with all those Old People (he calls them) over there and he doesn't want to give up any of his stuff.

And well, there's more, but I will spare you.

At first, Tom and I decided we'd both take a trip out there, even though my own parents would be upset that we couldn't travel the few hundred miles to their house this time. Even though I've never had anyone else give Lennon the Cat his daily shots of insulin and even though my yard would probably die and the house would get too hot for the cats and Naomi would have to keep coming over here to take care of all this. Even though I'd have to lose 10 pounds in three weeks. :)

But after trying to force things to work out, we decided two major things: Tom will travel--alone--later this month to see his parents. He'll have a meeting with them and as many of his sisters as possible to try to find some kind of a workable solution to his parents' living arrangements. Tom is a wonderful mediator, and well, we both know, no matter how hard I tried to stay silent, I would say something which would cause the whole situation to erupt like the proverbial volcano.

I'm funny that way.

And when I decided to stay home--poof!--instant peace flooded both of us. But alas! Will I be remaining here twiddling my thumbs? No, that brings me to my other announcement: We've decided to go ahead and sell our house. Or at least try, starting next Wednesday (the 15th). We both agreed that, should we sell it early, we'll just rent something so to be free to move when the time comes. Because we are moving--most likely to Richmond--but we are moving out-of-state someday, that's certain. And we are ready to release this house to the next family who will, hopefully, love it as much as we have.

Also while Tom is gone, I will do some major packing. And you know? Selling the house and packing stuff--to me--sounds much calmer, much more pleasant than going away with Tom for those few days. And to Tom, going away and doing what he must do sounds like a vacation to him. Following Grace is like that. Grace has a way of adding ease and strength and enjoyment to anything God has called you to do.

But without Grace, well, I'd be sunk. And I'd be failing all these tests. But so far, so good.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Giving Tea Parties For My Flowers (And Other Odd Behaviors)

So for years I've tried to like drinking tea. Honest. But sadly, I'm still stuck at the point where, if I dump in enough sugar and cream, I can tolerate a cup at the occasional tea party (where tea is the only drink served).

During the odd times when I tried to force myself to actually enjoy tea, I've bought cute, artful boxes of it at the supermarket (more to decorate my kitchen with, than to drink its contents). And I've collected tea bags for the good-intentioned tea parties in my home (which I am not brave enough to actually hold) and tea for times Tom, Naomi and I have colds (times I can drink gallons of tea because I cannot taste it then).

You get the idea.

So last week I read in an old-fashioned cookbook that you should only buy the amount of tea which you will use in two or three weeks. After that, it will begin going stale and not taste as delicious (as if it ever could taste delicious... heh... I couldn't resist. Sorry.).

Well, I thought, "So much for all my 8-year-old good-intentioned boxes of tea! Guess I may as well toss them in the trash."

But just in time I came across this wonderful gardening book: Yankee Magazine's Panty Hose, Hot Peppers, Tea Bags, And More--for the Garden. What a fun tips-for-gardening book! Always, I've appreciated gardening books which skip all the long-winded whys and philosophies of growing plants--and instead--just tell me what to do. The shorter the sentences, the better.

And this book told me to put leftover tea bags in my flower pots to give nutrients, nitrogen and organic matter to my flowering plants. Cool! So after years of wishing I could be like my neighbors and make my own homey-looking sun tea in a jar on the porch (having no reason to do so since we hate tea), yesterday I made my first batch of sun tea. For my flowers. Tea, tea bags, and all. I made another batch in the afternoon and another jar this morning, using those ancient tea bags I nearly threw away.

So now I get to make sun tea like the other kids on the block. Ah, simple pleasures.

I highly recommend the aforementioned fun book (wait till you see their ideas for coffee!). You'll find hundreds of hints on how to reuse household stuff which you'd otherwise have thrown away--and in the process--make your garden more lush, beautiful and a much more fun place to hang-out.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Going Organic: Too Expensive?

Ok... So you've probably, at least once, tootled with your shopping cart down the health food aisle and gasped, choked and nearly dropped because of the price of organic groceries.

Hey, you're reading the blog of one of the biggest cheapskates in history. Well, a former one, anyway... So I was probably the gasping, fainting woman there in the aisle next to you.

But for me, after reading from organic websites such as this one, and discovering how many pounds of pesticides and chemicals are dumped on our food and the dangers of synthetics... and the effect it's having on our Country's health, well, there is no turning back. There is no returning to grabbing the cheapest stuff on the supermarket shelf (and being too afraid to read the ingredient list). No more trusting God for our health while naively trusting the FDA. Been there, done that, never doing it again.

So what's a cheapskate to do when she wants to get healthy and go organic? She gets smart. She reads. She plans. She researches. She writes things down.

In just over two weeks of having gone organic this is a little of what I've learned and experienced:

I feel better. My head feels better, especially. And who can put a cost on that? I will do without so-called luxury items and even my treasured retro tv show dvd's in order to keep feeling this way.

Since we're no longer going out for fast-food (or drinking diet soda or eating other junk), we are saving money there and using it for nutritious food, instead. (Though a couple times we've gone out to hole-in-the-wall-retro-diners and had potato and egg breakfasts. For us that's fun. For us that's not fast-food.)

Must I buy every ready-made jar or package of organic whatever? Nope, I can make or grow some of my own. I can make my own organic yogurt or salsa or muffins or pies or casseroles--all it takes is an initial investment in organic ingredients. I can raise my own organic berries and other fruits and vegetables in my backyard (and make juices from them) or grow herbs on a sunny shelf. And for the price of two Starbuck's coffees, I can make at least 20 cups of organic coffee.

As with other groceries, many organic products do go on sale, so I can stock-up. I can also learn more about organic beauty products, thing like, I can use coconut oil for a moisturizer and I can cook with it, too. I can use an organic bar of soap in place of (anti-freeze-laced) shampoo.

And something I'm noticing? We're eating less--so there's an instant savings there. Organic food, we're finding, is more filling. It's more wholesome and isn't injected with those hush-hush chemicals which give you wild cravings for more food. In less than two weeks, the rest of my dratted winter weight just fell off without my even trying to lose it. Gotta love that.

Yes, it does require more effort to afford to eat organic. I've been cooking meals for 28 years and these past two weeks I've felt as though I'm starting all over in both cooking and baking techniques (especially after kicking our microwave to the curb) and budgeting and meal planning.

But you know? It's been worth it. Already. And I'm never going back.

The OCA website is really a great one to learn more about going organic. To have your questions answered, just use their search box and various helpful articles will pop up. There's also a message board which helps if you're feeling alone in the organic market aisle. There are thousands of us there with you, trust me.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

It All Matters

Another disaster... The bridge in Minneapolis. Each time something of this magnitude happens, I sit and stare at some of the coverage (no longer allowing myself to watch hours and hours of it) and while watching, I view my own life, too.

I ask myself if I'd have been ready to die, had I been one of those killed. Would I have been caught-up on all God wants me to do and be for Him? Would I have remained calm, confident that I'd soon be standing in Heaven?

And this morning while I made the bed, I contemplated something else. I thought one of the saddest things for anyone in this life is the feeling that the way they're spending their days is unimportant--to God, to others, to themselves. How tragic to live each day feeling what you're doing does not matter... and always looking into the future, believing someday your life will count--but that today, it doesn't. Or worse, to feel you don't even have a pound of hope for the future at all.

When I make the bed, it matters. When I wash our dishes and our clothes and our floors, well, it's important. God has called me to be a keeper of the home and trust me, it matters to Him--a lot--that we not live in filth. It matters that I vacuum and sweep and do laundry just as it matters that Tom goes to work and runs a whole big power plant. Tom supports me and I support him by making our home a restful, healthful place to return to. And by caring for myself, I keep myself ready and able to meet his other emotional, mental and physical needs as well.

By doing my job, I help Tom do his job and together, in such a tiny way, we both help the world go 'round. And I'm leaving out all sorts of other things we do for the people in our lives... large and small things.... but are there really any small things in this life?

Whatever you are doing today--whatever God has called you to do--it matters. It's important and has far-reaching effects and if you were gone, you would be missed. There would be a gap and the part you play in this Life would be missed greatly. A part of all our lives would be missing, if you weren't here--whether we realized it, or not. We all make this world go 'round. Each of us.

I guess I just wanted you to know that today.

And if you have a blog, trust me, that's important, too. You never know when someone will glean a thought, an inspiration, or an ounce of hope from your words... and be forever changed.

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

Just Popping In With a Gift

So there I was today in Lee's old-fashioned beauty parlor having my hair permed (I know, I know... Chemical City. But hey...), when I read something sweet in Good Housekeeping. I enjoyed it on many levels and if you've read my blog very long, you'll be able to guess all those levels, I'm sure.

Enjoy it here: Dandelion Life.