Saturday, January 31, 2009

Good News, Bad News, Good/Bad News

First, the good news: You know the old saying, "Spring is in the air"? Well, always each winter there comes a morning when I step outside and feel and smell Spring even though the temps are in the single digits.

This year, that morning was this sunny morning today. Oh my, I smelled spring! And with that scent came all the magic and dreams of warm, sunny mornings and opened windows with breezes blowing the sheers and sitting in the sun outside reading magazines and drinking coffee or lemonade.

I felt it, I really did. Today. And now I can survive the remainder of Winter...... Happy sigh.

Now the bad news. I heard this week on the news that They (whoever they are) have discovered there's mercury in corn syrup. Good grief. You can read about it here. I'd wondered for months why everyone I know is loosing their memory--what one thing is it we all have in common? Well, this could be it. (Find mercury poisoning symptoms here.)

High fructose corn syrup is in nearly everything outside of the organic food aisle. I think we'd all heard that and we all knew it makes us fat, rots our teeth, is hard on our kidneys, etc. But now it's even worse. It appears to be loaded with mercury. Ack.

And here's the good/bad news part. This is what I'm thinking: God has just about had it with our nation and He's doing a first-wave (second-wave?) exposing of corruption and deceit and that 'love of money being the root of all evil' thing.

All our 'Another Corrupt Person Has Been Caught' headlines are not just coincidences. It's happening too much, too often. Bam, bam, bam. And I see God behind it. You may see someone/something else. But I see God doing some cleaning.

And what I am hoping? I'm hoping the FDA will be next. Oh, all the poison they have approved and let slide by knowingly! And actually, the exposing of them has begun. A little. For weeks I've watched the nightly World News show stories about medications which only make things worse and products which should never have made it to the shelves and well, on and on. They've told how autism, ADHD, asthma and allergies have doubled and tripled and become even 400 percent more common than they were years ago. Read about it here, but the information is everywhere. (Here's the video which first alarmed me weeks ago.)

Don't get me started.

But, again, I consider all that exposing to be a good news/bad news thing. Our Country needs to be cleaned up. It's way past time and too many people have suffered for what's been kept hidden and done all for money, money, money.

Please read the information and watch the video before you tell me I'm overreacting, okay? :) There's just too much going on right now, too many young people (especially) who are sick and dying like never before and I, for one, cannot just close my eyes and quip, "It's just the way things are."

Okay, after Nancy's comment, here is the point I think I'm wanting to make... Doesn't anyone else think it odd/suspicious that after all the millions of dollars poured into medical research and all the med's being produced and approved--the numbers of problems/sicknesses/deaths are rising exponentially? Anyone? Shouldn't the numbers be going down?

Friday, January 30, 2009

"A merry heart does good like a medicine."

Now there's a terrific verse for another annoying snowy, bad-economic-times kind of day like this one.

I've heard that 80 percent of people in doctors' offices are there due to stress-related symptoms. Hmmm... perhaps my goal should be to stay calm and happy with God and my life. I'm thinking trust and relaxation just may be like general health booster shots.

I'm a big believer that our pathetic thoughts and worries can make us sick and leave us vulnerable to diseases. You might disagree. But in my nearly 50 years I've been a 'watcher' ... a 'ponderer of things in my heart' and I've seen that the worriers and complainers and 'poor me types' are generally those who go downhill the fastest, with hardly a push from anyone or anything else. It's like they whisk themselves down the hill into years of disease.

Again, you might not agree. (And too, I'm not saying all sick people are worriers.) But I'm thinking that as I near 50, more than ever, I need not only to change my diet in revolutionary ways, I also must watch--more closely than ever--the way I respond to hard times (small, daily ones or huge ones). Rather than allowing that overwhelmed feeling to spin me to dizziness, I need to choose booster shots of peace and trust and knowing that my times are in God's hands. For Life within those hands should be the healthiest, least fearful and calmest way to go.

"As a man thinks in his heart so is he..."

" My son, attend to my words; incline your ear unto my sayings.
Let them not depart from your eyes; keep them in the midst of your heart.
For they are life unto those that find them, and health to all their flesh.
Keep your heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life." (From Proverbs 4)

"The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? the Lord is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?" Psalm 27:1

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Out Of The Box

I keep forgetting to tell you that I've finally begun labeling my blog posts. I'm in the process of labeling over 1,400 of them--ack! That's what I deserve for all my procrastinating. Anyway, I'm discovering posts which I'd forgotten and that's partly why you've seen so many reruns here lately. This post, below, made me smile... I hope it makes you smile, too.

Naomi has moved more than half her possessions into her new apartment and last night was her first night there.

I am so excited for her. I remember the months I lived alone at age 19 in my own little two-story house. I paid just $120 rent per month and even back in 1978 that was a terrific deal. I felt gratitude for God's watchful eye upon me and I was ecstatic to finally be on my own.
To succeed or fail on my own.
To stay up as late as I pleased, even into the wee hours of the morning if that is what I chose.
To bring home paper bags of groceries and place them in my own (old) refrigerator and yellow cupboards.
To decorate my little house however I wanted (albeit with tons of imagination and almost no money).

I had four months on my own in that cozy house in a tiny mountain town, and then Tom and I got married and continued living there. Oh my, there were fights and fireworks as we struggled to live peacefully together, but there was fun, too. We often felt like the kids we actually were, just playing house. Just starting a new adventure together.

I awoke this morning feeling the same way.

I felt giddy. Tom and I are alone again playing house, yet with many pluses we lacked all those years ago.

We now have a history. We've learned to live peacefully together (well, most days).
We are reaping good things from our 26 years of Life Lessons learned.
We have cool stuff. We don't need to save-up for more furniture and things.
We can play our old-fogey music as loudly as we wish (respecting the neighbors, of course).
I get to make my own Dream Room upstairs out of one of Naomi's former rooms.
I get my kitchen all to myself (too many cooks in the kitchen...and all that good stuff.)

And on and on.......

Naomi lived with us for a whole quarter of a century. I feel blessed that she was with us that long, since she was the only child we were able to have 'the old-fashioned way.' We once looked into adoption, but did not feel Grace nudging us to pursue it. So we chose, instead, to just be happy with the one child God gave us.

And that made all the difference. Naomi became the type of child who made us feel like we had two or three children. That's hard to explain, but her creativity and friendliness afforded her many friends who were in and out of our home. And well, Naomi just being Naomi, made our lives so rich--and challenging, too, in ways that made Tom and I grow in wisdom and compassion.

What is my point? (I usually always have one.)

My point is that life with God is amazing. With Him, I don't have to feel a certain way when certain things happen. What would destroy those who've not yet met God, does not have to destroy me. He and I have a history now, too. With Him, I can be happy for my little-girl-all-grown-up and I can be excited for the fresh beginning for Tom and myself.

God does all things well and makes all things new. I don't have to feel this is the end of everything.

I never have to feel how everyone expects me to feel.

And neither do you.

"There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning." ... Louis L'Amour

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

It's official. As of today, January 28, 2009, I am sick of winter.

Phooey! We've not seen our lawn for months and this deep-freeze is weeks deep and snow has fallen all day long and I'm longiiiiiing for our first ever Spring on the farm and to be awakened by the sun (oh, how I'm missing that).... But yes, I am thankful that it's not the ice which other states have gotten. Ice is worse, I realize that. (Freezing rain unravels me.)

Sigh. Complaining, though, will only make this winter feel longer than it already does. I need to switch to Thankful Gear. One easy thanks? Our neighbor trudged over here twice today with his snow blower to clear our long driveway. Bless him. (I say little prayers for him whenever he's out there.)

So what remains is for me to pull up the ol' boot straps and think of more projects and ask for more grace to complete them. And while I'm there, to ask for more creativity and inspiration and gumption. After all, it's only January and where we live, Spring does not come early.


"You have not because you ask not..."


I loaned my vhs copy of the movie, Housekeeping, to our friends, John and Donna. They watched it last night and when Donna emailed me this morning I sensed that Housekeeping had left its mysterious, odd impression upon her. It's a movie unlike any other and haunts you for days.

So I'll run this post again for the sake of sharing beauty when just the right words are strung together. Always, that is a treat, no matter where you find them.


I think I am waxing poetic lately because I am rereading the book, Housekeeping, the first novel by Marilynne Robinson. Please tell me you've read it. To me, Marilynne is Queen of Beautiful Similies and Metaphors. The same-named movie is in my top five favorites of all time and it places dreams in my head long days afterward.

If you were to delve into the book, Housekeeping, here are just a handful of the golden jewels you'd pull upward. And I'm sharing them because, as we all know, nothing in this life is appreciated fully until it is shared with a friend...

"Her children slept on starched sheets under layers of quilts, and in the morning her curtains filled with light the way sails fill with wind."

"They had no reason to look forward, nothing to regret. Their lives spun off the tilting world like thread off a spindle, breakfast time, suppertime, lilac time, apple time."

"And she would feel that sharp loneliness she had felt every long evening since she was a child. It was the kind of loneliness that made clocks seem slow and loud and made voices sound like voices across water."

"She felt the hair lifted from her neck by a soft wind and she saw the trees fill with wind and heard their trunks creak like masts."

"For five years my grandmother cared for us very well. She cared for us like someone reliving a long day in a dream."

"Lucille and me she tended with scrupulous care and little confidence, as if her offerings of dimes and chocolate chip cookies might keep us, our spirits, here in her kitchen."

"I remember sitting under the ironing board, which pulled down from the kitchen wall, while she ironed the parlor curtains and muttered 'Robin Adair.'"

"We stayed awake the whole night because Lucille was afraid of her dreams."

"Sylvie always walked with her head down, to one side, with an abstracted and considering expression, as if someone were speaking to her in a soft voice."

"If someone had asked me about Lucille I would remember ...that she smelled dully clean, like chalk or like a sun-warmed cat."

"That evening Lily and Nona were taken by a friend of my grandmother's back to Spokane and we and the house were Sylvie's."

And after the town flooded:

"Downstairs the flood bumped and fumbled like a blind man in a strange house, but outside it hissed and trickled, like the pressure of water against your eardrums, and like the sounds you hear in the moment before you faint."

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

What Memories Am I Making Now?

(Another re-run, one from a few years ago, one I recall sometimes.)

Magazines like Reminisce or Good Old Days are filled with childhood memories. I take notes, albeit mental ones, of what these now-grown children remember from years long gone. Funny how you can sit at a table with a cup of coffee and relive a day of someone's life all over again, even if that day happened before you were even born.

Sometimes I go back into my own childhood and relive a memory. I spend time with the good ones and tend to leave the bad ones alone, perhaps believing they will die from neglect.

But the pleasant memories make me smile and they make me wonder, "How am I spending my adult life? What memories am I making now?"

I have a friend I've known more than fourteen years--sweetest person on Earth. But every time I've talked with her she's spent half of our conversations saying she hates her job. She's afraid to look for another career so she stays in the same one, year after year. Her adult children make her crazy and sad with the choices they make and she has an emotional (and physical) war going on with her old house. And more.

She does have a terrific husband. And I try to bring a little happiness into her days, but there's only so much another person can do. So I watch her spending her years like money--using it up on stressful, worried days, one after another.

And that is the life she is remembering.

It takes a lot of letting go to have a happy life. Letting go of fear, of perfectionism, of believing things must always be one certain way... and a certain releasing of our adult children as they live their own lives and learn from their own mistakes.

It takes letting go of guilt and condemnation. If I am always a guilt-ridden, sin-conscious mess, I will never be filled with joy. They cannot exist in the same place at the same time. A joyful life requires that everyday we leave our sins at Jesus' feet--and then toddle forward as a baby with her fingers squeezing, even crunching those of Someone who walks with ease.

When I look back at my life, I want to remember reading books on quiet afternoons. And sitting on my husband's lap in the recliner. And laughing with my daughter in the kitchen or chasing her cats with the cat-nip mouse. I want to recall kindnesses both received and given. And painting my walls while Leave It To Beaver blared on the tv. And looking at those walls and these rooms by lamplight at night while thinking, "Heaven must be pretty great if it's going to beat this."

My days are a gift and they are flying. Each year passes more quickly than the one before.

May I always spend my days wisely and with a whole lot of joy mixed-in.

The greater part of our happiness or misery depends on our dispositions and not on our circumstances.
-Martha Washington

"I have yet to find that God ever uses a man that is all the time looking on the dark side...and is discouraged and cast down...There is no life in (him). Now if we are going to succeed we have got to be of good courage, and the moment we get out eyes on God and remember who He is...then it is that we will have courage given us." ...D. L. Moody

Monday, January 26, 2009

The deep freeze is still here and yet the sun is shining! And that makes all the difference.

This, above, is the meadow outside our house. We awaken in the mornings to see new deer and rabbit and squirrel prints in the snow and this window, this window where I took the photo from upstairs, is the one where Lennon The Cat sits and watches the nighttime action. I imagine the moonlight shining down upon the animals in our snowy meadow while they wander and scamper. And I imagine Lennon being enchanted by it all, wishing he were outside, too, especially since he believes outside is always warm because always it is warm when he goes out with me Spring or Summer or Fall.

Yet although our Winter nights hover near zero, they are not still nor frozen, not according to the morning animal tracks we find. Not according to Lennon who keeps all these secrets to himself, night after night, sitting in the silent, dark window upstairs.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Part of our upstairs closet...beyond dreadful, right? (Try not to gag.)

Well, here it is after Phase 1:

What a difference some paint makes. The paper on the shelves is some wallpaper I found, new in the package, at Salvation Army for 50 cents. Don't you love it when a great deal sits there waiting for you to discover it?

We didn't have an official linen closet in this house so I am making one. I am all about creating what I need rather than sitting around wishing for it.

You've read them, I know you have. You know, those 'forwards' with stories or poems about how the author has finally learned that it's the simple things in life which mean the most and how her family comes first now and so she'll be doing less dusting, less cleaning in order to spend time with her children. Nice, sweet lessons for us all.

Man, those things irk me.

I mean, why can't we have time to clean and time to spend with our children? Why do the only alternatives appear to be obsessive dusting or not dusting at all? How is it better to live inside a dirty house as long as you're spending quality time with your kids?


This is what Debra has said for years: The key will always be balance. There's a time for cleaning and there's a time to spend playing with your family. There's even a time to spend cleaning house with your family. For isn't it also our responsibility, as parents, to raise our children to know how to care for their future homes so that they will live responsibly within their own four walls?

It was in the 1980's that all this "play, don't clean" stuff began. I know--I was there. I read all the magazines and saw it over and over. And look where it's gotten us! TV shows like Clean House, Clean Sweep and Life Laundry are huge ratings grabbers--people everywhere long to learn how to dig themselves out from beneath their clutter-piled homes. They're gasping for air, some limits and some common sense, as well.

And yes, often all that is a result of the 'me first, I deserve to buy everything I want' mentality saturating our nation. Yet, I believe messy homes also happen because of the thinking that everything in life must be fun... and the ol', "It's beneath me to clean--wasn't that what those sad, un-liberated June Cleaver types did in the 50's? Clean house? Me do something so trivial?"

Alas, cleaning is no small thing. Just ask those folks with all sorts of dust allergies or those living in so much clutter that they struggle every morning to find their keys or their wallets, purses, permission slips, books, sweaters, reports, briefcases or the items they bought and know they have--somewhere--but now they must go spend money to buy another one.

Balance, balance, balance.... Spend time with your children, play with them, but have them help you clean the home you all share, too. Do it all together and it will become a habit, something you do with barely a thought (or a complaint). Who knows? You just might find yourself dusting the coffee table one day, automatically, without realizing you're doing so. And not minding one bit.

And what a pleasant day that will be.
"Teach your children well..."
(Speaking of which, here was something fun for old times' sake.)

Friday, January 23, 2009

Oh good grief.

Here's an anonymous comment I chose not to publish (at first) because this is exactly what I said not to do in my last post:

"... let me see if I understand what Obama's done so far. We won't torture bad guys who want to blow up our buildings and planes and take innocent American lives, but we will make money available for the killing of unborn innocent humans (abortion). In addition, he's also beginning WWIII by the swift removal of our (volunteer) troops." (Anonymous)

Here's a hint to whoever wrote those words: leaving a comment like that in my email box will not change our government's way of doing things. No, really, it won't! Surprise, surprise. As I wrote yesterday, complaining is the easy way and the easy way is nearly never the path to huge change.

How about if you try these ideas next time, instead?

Become extremely educated in exactly what's happening in the area which most concerns you. Read and study much. Watch what's happening in our world, closely. There's nothing worse, nothing more humiliating, and nothing which makes all conservatives look just plain idiotic than people passionately shouting words which are not true.

Write (educated and informed) letters to your congressmen and state senators voicing your concerns. Or call them. Encourage others to do so.

Comment (calmly, with facts, please) after online news articles which allow you to do so. Respect others' rights to disagree with you and never resort to name-calling, which only destroys any credibility you may have gained.

Make a protest sign and march with it downtown with others who share your beliefs. Or march with a sign in a protest-legal area alone, by yourself, for all to see. I dare you.

Befriend those people who believe differently than you do. Get to know your neighbors. Get to understand them. Become a loving influence in their lives and maybe they will change their ideas. Or maybe they won't. But at least you will have made friends and become a person who can disagree without becoming miserably disagreeable (and friendless).

Self-publish a book of all your research and your most passionate beliefs.

Pray like you have never prayed before. And while on your knees, ask God for more compassion for those who have not yet met Him. Go on a fast if God directs you to do so.

Read your Bible and make certain your beliefs line-up with God's.

Run for public office or volunteer to help those who are already there.

Form a group. Meet regularly to brainstorm and encourage one another.

Create a blog where you can freely share your beliefs and find others who do, as well. But be prepared to hear from people who believe the opposite. As they say, "if you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen."

Send out a monthly snail-mail newsletter as an educational tool, one which will encourage others, too. Or send monthly email newsletters.

And never, ever forget this:

"If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing." (1 Corinthians 13:1-3)

You never know... That just may be the reason many people aren't listening to us.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

It's so easy to complain. Anybody can do it. Anybody.

Personally? Personally I don't enjoy doing what just anybody can do. That's average and well, I don't like being average--I never have. I don't believe God's goal for each of us is to become average so we can blend right in with all other average folk.

I just finished reading a couple blog posts in Blogland concerning what's wrong with our Country now that we have a new administration. Well, those posts are easy to write. Why not attempt the harder post? Why not write about what's good about our Country? About the freedoms we still hold and how there's still so much kindness to be found in our people. Or what can be good about it if only we'd ______ (insert your own ideas here...) What? You don't have any solutions? Hmm... Why not switch from 'complaining energy' over to 'solution energy' and blog some new ideas after prayer and some use of imagination?

(Sometimes we are exhausted simply because we used-up our energy in all the wrong places.)

For eight years a bazillion people have complained about the Bush Administration and now? Now I pray that all the rest of us won't take up complaining chants for the next four or eight years regarding the Obama camp.

Need something? Go out and find it. Or stay home and find it or create it or share it with someone who needs it more than you do. Rather than wishing our Country was more old-fashioned, more peaceful, more kind, why not become more old-fashioned and peaceful and kind, yourself?

Want something changed? Change it. Ask God what you should do, then do things His way (His ways tend to bring miracles.) Can't change something huge? Ask God to help you change something small. Perhaps He'd rather you change the atmosphere of your own home first, anyway. And that is something very doable, especially with Him. Charity, after all, begins in the home--it always will begin there. Why? I believe it's rather like when you toss a stone into a pool of water and suddenly water rings begin circling outward, spreading far.

It's amazing how far rings of love and peace and grace can spread from just one home, one person... especially if God is there to begin the first ring. Home will always be a truly amazing starting point of any Good Thing. Indeed.

Instead of a wishbone, we need more backbone. (Joyce Meyer)

Bloom where you are planted. (Mary Englebreit)

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

First Impressions--Always Lasting?

For various and sundry reasons, I am rerunning this post today...

Okay, so you might remember this post where I mentioned Tom's and my addiction to C.S.I.-type shows. But back then, the program, N.C.I.S., was my least favorite (Tom usually watched it alone). Never having been a huge fan of Mark Harmon, I found it annoying to the millionth-degree when he would slap the backs of the heads of his subordinates and talk down to them, like, throughout the whole hour.

Well. Out of all the C.S.I.-type shows we enjoyed when I wrote that post, there is only ONE which I now watch regularly. Guess which one? Yep, N.C.I.S. (Did you guess correctly?) With the others, I just grew bored with their predictability and gore factors and the characters seemed under-developed, as though they ceased to exist outside of their jobs. And although N.C.I.S. probably isn't more well-written than the other programs, the characters have grown on me. I can actually picture who's on N.C.I.S.--as opposed to guessing, "Now, is so-and-so on C.S.I. Miami or C.S.I. New York or is she on Without a Trace or Cold Case?" (Come on, you know you've done that, too.)

The characters on N.C.I.S. make me laugh, even Mark Harmon's character now (who no longer hits his team in the head every single week and has toned his sarcasm way down). Tom has always preferred N.C.I.S. over the others so now we're on the same page there--and that makes it fun.

Okay... I probably went on too long about that--but quickly--my other examples are of first impressions regarding friends. How they are not always the end-all factors we've been told they are.

I had an awful first impression of one of my current favorite friends when she got after me about not paying enough attention to her child during children's church--at a time when I was the only teacher down there in the church basement with 25 kids (wild, chair-hopping ones of every age) week after week. But now she and I are great buddies, the best friend I have nearby.

And one of my favorite online friends and I clashed about some important beliefs while we belonged to an email group, yet now I consider her one of the most interesting people I know--and one of my favorite online and blogging friends.

The lessons? Here's some hope if you've made a few bad first impressions, yourself. Not all bad first impressions are fatal (even if society tells you so. Society is not always right, you know, and neither are all old sayings.).

And too, don't be quick to write-off people or tv shows or books or shops--or anything else. You may just be erasing something very special. Something (or someone) you would have treasured if you'd given them a second chance.


Monday, January 19, 2009

So Kristi said there are no more RH Shumway seed catalogs available this year and that y'all will have to sign up for the 2010 issue. Major bummer!

So I thought I'd take some pictures of these wonderful pages so reminiscent of the 1800's style of catalogs. We do have a scanner but it's upstairs buried in a box somewhere (and likely will remain there), so please bear with these photos. You can click on each to enlarge. Sorry they appear sideways--usually Blogger sets them straight, but obviously my photos have totally confused them this time.

Seed catalogs--what an encouragement! They remind us in January that someday this deep freeze will go, snow will vanish, Spring will return and with it, the time for the sowing of seeds.

Even weeks ago Tom and I already agreed that--this year--we will not take even five minutes of bright, lovely, warm weather for granted. We promised to appreciate every hour of sun and warmth here on our little farm as well as in our tiny town and its farmland surroundings. I will take more walks and look at everything and memorize every seen of this Life which flows too fast, like water between my finers.

We'll each place our hands over our mouth if we even begin to complain about anything. At least, that is our plan. Good weather and golden days in the country are just much, much too precious and too swift to vanish unnoticed and under-appreciated.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

I'm not sure why, but when I go on a big search for new 'God blogs' it's usually a Sunday afternoon and I usually come away with not one new blog, but rather, just a disappointed heart in what I've read.

I don't know.

Maybe if we'd stop fearing we'll lose God's presence, we might just find it... and keep it. Maybe if we relied upon Him hourly--and not ourselves--we'd experience the wonder of Him every minute.

And maybe if we stopped being scared about the future, we might just have some joy right now. And therefore, some strength. Some headaches and pains and aches might just vanish, too.

Maybe if we'd just pray for our leaders--and not criticize and blog about them negatively--we might just come to love them. And understand why they feel and believe as they do. Changes might happen as well.

And maybe if we sought to know God, Himself, better rather than to know about Him, we might just experience a constant companionship with that Friend who sticks closer than a brother. A relationship which changes everything and makes old things, new. Hourly.


Today's post is simple.... One of my all-time favorite passages, a final scene from the Thornton Wilder play, Our Town. These words come to my mind nearly every day of my life~~and I am grateful...

Emily: (softly, more in wonder than in grief)

But, just for a moment now we're all together. Mama, just for a moment we're happy. Let's look at one another. (Pause, looking desperate because she has received no answer. She speaks in a loud voice, forcing herself to not look at her mother)

I can't. I can't go on. It goes so fast. We don't have time to look at one another (she breaks down sobbing, she looks around). I didn't realize. All that was going on in life and we never noticed. Take me back - up the hill - to my grave. But first: Wait! One more look. Good-by, Good-by, world. Good-by, Grover's Corners. Mama and Papa. Good-bye to clocks ticking. And Mama's sunflowers. And food and coffee. And new-ironed dresses and hot baths. And sleeping and waking up. Oh, earth, you're too wonderful for anybody to realize you.

(She asks abruptly through her tears) Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it? - every, every minute?

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Winter Thoughts

Finally (finally!) our tiny town has a tiny market. What was supposed to happen in 6 weeks took nearly 6 months and of course, all the groceries are priced too high, but hey... When you live in the center of the boonies, you accept that. And are grateful. I mean, all these months our town has not sold one fresh fruit or vegetable and now? How amazing to not have to drive 9 miles for a banana.

Oh, I loved this quote about winter over at Aunt Amelia's blog:

"There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself." ~Ruth Stout

Makes a person view winter a whole other way, doesn't it? Always, I've valued my privacy and I must confess, there's much about myself (and my beliefs) I don't share with you here. (I totally understand now why some movie stars appear rabid about protecting their privacy.) And it also explains, in part, why I'm ecstatic about creating my Secret Garden behind our barn--I'll not be so visible while I work.

Honestly, I don't appreciate being watched. I'd hoped to have more privacy out here in the country, but alas, I don't. This example pretty much sums it up: Just fifteen minutes after a large tractor-like-thing with a post hole digger was delivered to start building our new garage last October, our neighbor from across the street came over. He told me (Tom wasn't home) that he and _____ saw the post hole digger and they hoped we weren't putting in a fence for animals. Because I knew exactly where he was going with this I told him (a tad testily), "No, we're not. We're just building a garage."

He went on to explain what I already knew--the previous owners had raised sheep and many neighbors had complained, they'd had to sell some sheep, cart others to their new home........ yada, yada, yada. I told him we are in contact with the previous owners and we know all about the sheep fiasco. He said he knew it wasn't any of his business (you can imagine what I wanted to say to that), but he and ____ just didn't want us to put in a fence , buy animals, then have to undo the whole thing. They didn't want to see us lose all that money.

Argh. When he left, I was inwardly fuming. The post hole digger had only been beside our barn for 15 minutes! Suddenly it felt like the whole neighborhood stands at their windows 24/7 eyeing us. I felt like, "Please! Can't Tom and I be allowed our God-given freedom to make our own mistakes? Can't we be given some credit now that he's 51 and I'm 49? Can't we live here without feeling like our quasi parents live across the street?

I know, I know......Pride, pride, pride. But still...... some of you understand exactly what I mean. I hope so, anyway.

So, returning to that winter quote--at least now in January we have privacy. Well, here inside our house where most of our Winter Life takes place. Outside where I shovel snow and feed the birds there's less privacy because of all those naked trees out there. But in here? In here there's a whole other world, a cozy winter world, and I'm thankful for it.


"Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands..." 1 Thessalonians 4:11

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Saving Money Around the House

Anne emailed me and said she likes it when I share specific ways of saving money, so Anne, here you go. :)

I make my own maple syrup. You can find recipes online, but I usually use far less sugar. A tiny bottle of maple flavoring lasts forever at our house--you only add a couple drops when you make syrup.

Rather than use Rubbermaid-type plastic containers for leftovers, I use glass bowls. If they don't have their own lid, I just set a glass plate on top rather than using plastic wrap or foil ($$). Plastic breaks down after time and leaches into foods, so glass bowls are safer anyway.

About the only 'meat' I buy anymore is chicken, tuna and canned salmon. You can do a ton of things with just those, and besides, I'm learning to make lots of vegetarian dishes. If Tom or I want a different kind of meat, we order it during our once-a-week outings.

I make my own household cleaners using water and baking soda and vinegar (etc.). But (I confess) I also buy windshield washer fluid by the gallon (cheap), fill a regular window-washing bottle, then use it to clean countertops, stove tops, floors, and of course, windows. (At least this stuff doesn't smell as toxic as lots of other cleaners.)

I generally tear paper towels in half rather than use a full-size sheet. (Yes, I realize they make paper towels with perforated centers, but I only buy those if they're a great deal on sale. They usually cost a lot more, at least here in NY.)

And here are some hints taken from a post of mine years ago:

I often cook from scratch and make my own mixes. Yet, some things are cheaper to buy ready-made--I love to research that sort of thing and take notes (calculate energy costs of using an oven, etc.) and then decide for myself which way is cheaper and healthier. I love to make my own spaghetti sauce from my own tomatoes--cheap and so good!

I make homemade lunches for Tom to take to work.

We do not own a clothes dryer (by choice). I hang our clothes to dry on wooden racks or outside on a line.

We keep the thermostat at 62 or 63 during the day, 52 at night. I try to use major appliances during off-peak hours.

For exercise I walk around our neighborhoods and also work-out at home (way cheaper and more convenient than a public gym).

I paint our rooms myself and do all my own decorating. This is another thing which has required much research and self-education over the years. I always check "oops paint" first--often I've found the exact color I needed and for only 3 or 4 dollars a gallon(!)

We have cheapo (broadcast) tv cable through Time Warner. Just $8.95 per month for nearly 30 stations, though the rates are going up $1, which actually, I think is pretty fair, all things considered.

Only occasionally do we drive to the theater to watch movies--and the tickets are only $3.50 anytime day or night because it's a 'second-run' theater (I love that place--so 1940's old-fashioned). Our splurge, though, is that, for $14 each month we are signed up with Netflix. No late fees, no postage fees and the movies come right to our mailbox so no gas is involved, either.

Tom loves receiving the newspaper at home (I don't) but I try to make the most of the sales flyers (for groceries) and the coupons on weekends to help 'pay for' the paper subscription.

I try really hard to pay our bills on time (and then try not to kick myself when I occasionally pay one late). I use my own personal credit card only for online purchases and nearly always pay it off each month.

We keep a list of things we'd like to buy and then when summer comes around, we shop at yard sales for those things. We also use our income tax return for some things on that list and for major home repairs and improvements.

I grow a garden each year (container gardens are easy and require little space). We do all our own yard work, shovel our own snow (unless the neighbors help for free) and make our own coffee (well, 98% of the time. We do often buy coffee when we eat out once a week).

We've tithed for 30 years (highly controversial when you admit to that on the Internet, I know!). But hey, I truly believe in 'give and it shall be given unto you' and I've watched that concept work for us these many years. It's made a huge difference in our finances.

And a big one--we've always bought only houses we could afford.

The main thing? I try to view saving money as a fun, beat-the-system challenge, rather than a 'poor me' chore. What a difference attitude makes!

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Well, at least the sun is shining. Our high today is supposed to be only 9 degrees. And tomorrow? They've downgraded the high to -1. Minus 1 for a high!

But alas... Tom is home and will be until Friday evening so we will hang out and stay warm here in our old farmhouse. Sort of the "and since there's no place to go, let it snow, let it snow, let it snow" thing, except without the falling snow. We're still surrounded by the white stuff on the ground, of course.

Two movies will arrive today via Netflix, so one we'll watch this afternoon, the other, tomorrow. What are they, you ask? Prince Caspian and Eagle Eye.

I used to dread these long cold winters here in Buffalo, but you know? Since going online in 2000, winter has never seemed quite so long nor so cold. All those websites just waiting to teach me more about homemaking or history or gardening or decorating or anything at all. Weeks and months of potential lessons right within my home--no risky trek to the city library needed.

But mostly? Mostly it's the communication with all you kindred spirits which makes the difference... how I can send you an email and you can send me one minutes or hours later and we have communicated. We've reached across the miles and fellowshipped and shared and grown closer, all while sitting inside a house, in front of a computer, surrounded by 3 frigid degrees outside. And well, that's pretty amazing.

How in the world did the Ingalls survive their long winter?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Most likely, this post is too late. Alas. But I thought I'd go ahead with it anyway.

Now, I'm the type of person who, two days after Christmas, is sorely tempted to yank down and stash away all her Christmas decorations in the attic. Usually by December 27th, I'm, well, rather sick of Christmas baubles. That's just me.

But I've found it interesting in various blogs lately to see how many of you love your Christmas decor yet feel you must put it away by this week (or so). To which I must ask, "Why? Why do you have to take it all down now? Why not leave it up a few more weeks (or months?) if you love the ambiance it adds to your home?"

Oh, of course I don't mean leave your Christmas tree up forever. After all, who wants all those needles in your carpet and a major fire hazard? ...heh... But who says you must put away all your other Christmas decor even if you love the look in your home? Why not be funky and cool and different and leave it up till May or June or even longer? Or at least portions of it?

And of course, many Christmas decorations can pass for simple winter decor--snowmen, snowy wreaths or even tiny trees and certain old-timey toys. Oh, and strings of tiny white lights! Now, that's something I do leave up all year. Love those white lights and the glow they cast upon my rooms, my hutches and white dishes.

I guess all I'm trying to say is why do we find it so very hard to hop outside of the boxes the rest of our world seems to live inside? Why can't we have any sort of decor we love--even Christmas decorations on the 4th of July--if that's what warms our hearts?

Oh, if you have time, do pop over to Clarice's blog to read one of the sweetest posts in all of Blogland.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Remember when I went ballistic while our neighbor had his lawn sprayed right next to my vegetable garden? And remember how I decided to move my garden, next summer, to our Bunny Pasture (above) behind our barn, away from those chemicals of death wafting around?

Well, at first, it was all going to be so simple! Just four small garden beds in the pasture's center. That was it. Plan A, The Easy Version.

But now... oh my. Now while I'm surrounded by snow everywhere (and incapable of doing a thing outside, except to feed birds and shovel snow), I've moved onto a futuristic Plan B, The Extremely Complicated Version Which Will Require Years to Complete.

What's that, you ask? Now ol' Debra (who believes herself to be indestructible, obviously) is planning to create an enormous Secret Garden to fill the entire Bunny Pasture. The whole pasture will (if I survive this) become a half-hidden dreamy kind of place with flower beds, herb and garden beds, a bench, an arbor, a birdbath, stone walkways, a bistro table and chairs, tiny trees and plants in pots, statues in the centers of the flower beds, everything perfectly balanced and -----

Well, you know. And yes, I realize I'm totally ignoring my age and my body fat and my not-twenty-years-old-anymore stamina. But hey, as I'm always telling you, a person must have dreams... and if a dream is God-birthed, then always it will be beyond a person's natural ability. Why? Because when the dream comes to pass, it will be obvious to everyone that truly, God was in this place. Truly, He worked on this project. And then He will receive the credit (which is what it's all about, anyway).

So there you have it--the birth of a new dream here at Healing Acres. And I'm hoping that while I'm surrounded by gardening books and magazines and paper and measuring equipment, I'll not come down with cabin fever and go bonkers by longing for winter to Go Away. There's a season for everything and may I remember (please!) that there's a season for planning Secret Gardens as well as bursting outside and digging in them.

Oh! Are you familiar with the incredibly old-fashioned R.H. Shumway seed catalog? Do order one if you've always wanted to curl up in the middle of winter with the type of seed catalog your favorite old-timey authors decribed in their books. A copy arrived in our mailbox last week addressed to the previous homeowner (hi "Anna!"). Always, always I've wished for a seed catalog right out of the 1800's--you know how I'm always trying to travel back in Time. :)

Friday, January 09, 2009

I forgot to tell you something.

Our "Have-More" Plan Book arrived some time ago. It's terrific and I recommend it to anyone even a tad interested in buying some land and 'going natural' or getting off the grid (and all that). I've also been rereading Sylvia's Farm, a book about her adventures as a lone sheep farmer and I've just begun reading Peace At Heart, a book very similar (so far) to Sylvia's Farm, except that the author has a husband for a partner.

These books tell of birthing sheep--and how sometimes you, uh, (gross alert) must reach up inside the laboring ewe to help her deliver her lamb, lest you lose both mother and baby. And on Sylvia's farm, some of her adorable young lambs (always, she gives each a name) die in freak accidents... or they freeze to death... or catch fatal diseases. In The Have More Plan book, there are pictures about how best to kill chickens (and other animals). In Peace At Heart, she tells the story of a weakened chicken which was nearly pecked to death by its peers (chickens do that, she says).

So here's what I've forgotten to tell you. I've decided to become a vegetable farmer. A flower farmer. A fruit tree farmer. A No Animals Allowed on This Farm farmer.

Oh dear. I would die if I had to help birth a lamb. Or faint, anyway. And most likely, I'd get so attached to my chickens that, should I find a dead one in the chicken yard, I'd be broken-hearted. And kill one of them to eat? Are you kidding?

Sigh. I know, I know. But I do realize my limitations. Hey, from 2002 - 2004 I raised pet mice, 10 of them, down in our basement. And when they started dying one by one, I sobbed. I stood above them, watched them breathe final breaths, stroked their backs, spoke to them and cried hot tears.

And I'm still not over that.

So it's flowers and fruit trees and vegetables for this farmgirl. A gal must know herself and her limitations and her callings--only then can she walk in peace. For there is no peace doing what others are called to do, but you are not. (And right there is a major reason why zillions of people are unhappy--they're on someone else's custom-made-calling road, not their own.)

Though, okay... I reserve the right to change my mind about the chickens. Maybe I could handle a few of those. Maybe.

To thine ownself be true....... even if your friends and neighbors don't get what you're trying to do.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

If Your Joy Switch Is Broken

Here's my own personal "Reasons My Joy May Be Gone" List which I pull out occasionally. The short version, that is....

My joy may be gone because....

I might be trying to control my world, albeit covertly (the fast way to ruin a good day--or a whole good life, even).
I might be eating all wrong.
I might be holding a grudge and not forgiving freely (as I've been forgiven, myself).
I might be gossiping (calling it 'expressing my opinion') about what someone else did, even though I've never been in their situation. And even if I have, I've still never been them nor understood God's specific plan for their life.
I might be watching too much tv.
I might have been avoiding quiet time with God, which pretty much sets everything else off-balance.
I might have returned to a selfish lifestyle without realizing it. I might be treating the people in my life badly.
I might be holding onto something which God told me (over and over) to release. I might be resisting change. I might be worrying about something.
I might be making excuses for my bad behavior. I might be trying to live a godly life with my own strength/ideas/efforts, not with Grace.
I might have fallen off the exercise wagon. I might not be sleeping enough.
I might be racing around trying to get, get, get rather than quietly receiving what God longs to give to me.
I might be longing for something or someone more than I long to know God better........... stealers, joy blockers, each one.

"The joy of the Lord is my strength..."

Eeks! Grammy in my comment box said she hoped I'll get my joy back-- so I'd better clarify here that I'm fine--really! This is just a checklist which I use when I lose my joy, but at the moment, I've still got it. Honest. :)

Mostly? We bought this house because the nearly 4 acres and the barn were what we'd dreamed of for, like, always. But the house itself, well, was ok, not great, not bad, and we saw it through eyes which imagined what it could become. The land we saw as it already was and we liked it just fine.

The more I do to this house, the better I like it.

Oh, and remember my near-death experience while crawling through that nighttime blizzard at 0 degree temps just to reset the septic system button? (And how I was just about ready to throw a stick of dynamite down the well out there?). Well, oh happy day in the morning.... the alarm has not sounded even once since Christmas Day!

See, that was when Tom and our daughter's boyfriend, Carl, ran a long extension cord from the outlet beside the septic system to the back wall of our house--and though I don't quite understand how it changed the whole dynamic--all I do know is that for two whole weeks we've had peace. Blessed peace. No alarm blaring and no more life-risking trips out to a tiny reset button through ice-pelting winds and utter darkness.

And thus you have one more reason I'm liking this house much better. That and my new green kitchen... and the new pretty windows with actual views outside of them (a huge deal when you've had no view for 14 years--or more)... my tiny blue library at the top of the stairs for my books... our cozy white and blue guest room... and promises of more changes to come. In Time.

The best stuff and ideas and happenings in Life will always require time and waiting and working. Someday I'm actually going to accept that. I feel it.


"He makes all things beautiful in His time..."


Thanks for your comments about my green kitchen both here and in your emails. I appreciate each note!

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

So I'm mostly finished painting the kitchen. I'll repaint the cupboard handles today--most people would remove them before painting, then screw them back on after, but not me. I prefer to paint them with a small brush afterward. Alas.

I knew the green would make the orange counter tops look good. I mean, hey... I lived during the 1970's, you know, and back then it was all about green and orange. But I didn't know it would make them look almost great. Okay, okay... almost acceptable enough for me to patiently wait another year to make major changes to our kitchen.

Hmmm... Actually? I almost love these orange counter tops now. Clearly, my sanity is slipping away.

Yet seriously? Most of Life, I believe, is a combination of making personal changes in order to live more fully --and learning to accept what cannot be changed. And yes, knowing the difference. And sometimes it's the tiny changes which make huge differences in how we think and feel and perceive Life. Tiny changes like a brush, a can of paint and a couple afternoons.

P.S. NancyR asked if I'd have to repaint the dining room now and the answer is yes. I'll be going with the 'autumn gold' color which I'll be painting the living room after I finally get to Home Depot to find the right shade.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

So guess who spent four hours yesterday afternoon repainting her kitchen because she suddenly abhorred the blue walls she'd painted last summer?

Yes, Debra.

And guess whose back is all stiff and weird this morning after spending four hours painting the blue walls she'd painted last summer?

Yep, Debra again. Sigh. Used to be when I was a kid of 40 I could paint walls for 6 or 8 hours and awaken the next morning with a back all perfectly aligned. Ah, I remember those days fondly.

But at least I love the new green of our walls (I mixed the paint myself with two cans of all-wrong green and some black). It astounds me how you can wake up to a kitchen of awful blue one morning, and then to a green kitchen you love, the next.

And the Christmas miracle of it all? Now I look at our repulsive 1970's orange counter tops and they appear as though we meant to use them in our kitchen. Wild, huh? Gone is the urge to rip them out with my tiny bare hands.

There'll be more pictures later. Three walls still require touch-ups and since I even painted our (way too few) cupboards, they need a second coat.

One final note for my fellow homemakers out there: Remember, there's more than one way to 'make money.' By my painting our kitchen myself, it's as though I saved hundreds of dollars... and since a penny saved is a penny earned (as they say), it's rather like I made those hundreds of dollars. The same for the bazillion meals we all cook ourselves--just think of all those restaurant dollars we've saved. And the numberless loads of laundry loads we wash rather than taking them to a laundromat or laundry service... And so the list goes on and on.

So, all you happy homemakers, remember that, ok? Most likely you're making thousands of dollars every year. Boggles the mind, right?
P.S. The green on our kitchen walls is darker than it appears above.