Friday, March 31, 2006

I Am From ...

You may have noticed I don't do the meme thing. Just feel too awkward/plain ol' weird trying them, I guess. 

But oh my, I found one I love, so this is gonna be a rare day in my blog. I read Ilona's "I Am From" and was awed by it--simply awed! And if I've copied any of her responses, it's only because we have a ton of things in common. 

If you'd like to make your own, please visit Fragments From Floyd here for an outline, an explanation and a boost.

But first, here is my "I Am From":

I am from backyard clotheslines on hot afternoons,
from Ivory soap and red-checkered tablecloths. I am from church parsonages with tiny rooms and doors always open
and from roasts baking in ovens as the sun goes down and children stop skipping rope.

I am from roses hanging over picket fences,
and fields of wild lavender blowing warm scent through our Ford's windows on road trips. I am from mornings spent with Captain Kangaroo and Friday evenings with the Brady and Partridge families.

I am from Christmas at grandparents' houses and travelers always searching for a better place,
from people near and those very far away.
I am from the quiet ones who are lost in thought and those who spend their lives loving simple things which others never pause to see.

From reading in bed when the rest of the house lay dark
and from stories of family long gone. From people-are-watching-so-you-need-to-behave and folding down my ankle socks just right.

I am from old Baptist churches with hard wooden pews
and services on sweaty summer nights with people waving fans labeled
Owl's Drug Store and Fountain on a stick.

I'm from the busy shores of California, from a people who migrated from silent, muddy mid-western plains,
from mashed potatoes and fried chicken on Sundays with company after church.
I am from Yosemite summers in tents and swimming in ponds just down the road.

From the days of plaid dresses and ponytails and hopscotch and hula-hoops.
From moms at home wearing aprons, from Batman on tv during your after school cookies and milk, and from that scent of sprinkler water sizzling on sidewalks.

I am from family reunions potluck-style and cousins who you saw just once a year.
I am from scrapbooks and photo albums all yellowed with age,
and from hundreds of memories playing in my head like fading, speckled home movies.


Other "I Am From" posts in Blogdom:

Nearest Distant Shore
Miss O'Hara
Is There Anything of Interest?
Magically Mama
Owlhaven (Mary)
Owlhaven (Mary's son)



In her comment to my last post, Saija mentioned that contentment saves a lot of money.

My oh my, yes indeed it does.

Paul (the Bible Paul) had to learn contentment and so did I. I had to learn to stop coming away from my friends' houses and wishing I had a couch like theirs, a kitchen like theirs, and cats and tv's and dishes and cars and paintings like theirs.

I had to learn to stop sighing, "If I just had ____, I would be happy." Because you know how that goes.... You get _____ and then 8 days later you are saying, "Hmmm, well, no really! If I just had _____ too, then, I mean it, I would be happy." And so it goes, for like, the rest of your life because happiness from things is wispy, like smoke.

I had to learn to get happy today. Happy with my own couch, my own kitchen, my own cat and my own everything else. I had to learn to use my God-given creativity and rearrange my oh-hum furniture until it pleased me. I began to clean what I owned and feed what I owned because God was watching me inside my very walls to see if I was ready, truly ready, for new stuff. He stood there and took notes and decided if He could trust me with more.

He watched me while I walked around my house... I think He stood there with a clipboard each time I gave things away, because when you let things go, you make room for more. And when you give away what you love, well, you make room for more than new stuff--you make room for God to bless you with something beyond just stuff. A spirit of giving opens a lot of good doors, and well, maybe this is just me, but I think it keeps some bad doors closed.

But beyond, beyond, beyond all this, I had to learn to become content with God, Himself.

A.W. Tozer said something like, "We get into trouble when we start saying, 'All I need is God and--.'" I didn't know what he meant at first, but I eventually learned, especially when God took me through a l-o-n-g stripping away process. He kept pruning my life of things and places and jobs and people I'd always sworn I could not live without. I mean, nobody died and I didn't end up in a hospital, or anything--I want to make that clear. But in ways only God, Himself, could manage, He stripped away the props and crutches I'd clung to to help me through Life. And He tore down walls brick by brick, the very walls which had obscured my sight of Him--and I saw that He was Life, instead.

And something wild happens when you finally become content with God. You discover that He can trust you now... He can lavish you with your secondary desires because He knows they will not capture your heart and take you away from Him. It's as though this verse starts happening to you:

"And all these blessings shall come upon you and overtake you, because you obey the voice of the Lord your God..." Deuternomy 28:2

... it's like you find yourself running down a street and being overtaken by a mob of blessings...and you are amazed! But the more amazing thing, now, is that God hangs-out at your house and keeps you company. And what more could you ever need?

"O satisfy us in the morning with Your lovingkindness, that we may sing for joy and be glad all our days." ... Psalm 90:14

"For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, and the hungry soul He has filled with what is good." ... Psalm 107:9

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Living On One Income

Minutes ago I visited a certain message board (which shall remain nameless), one in which the current topic was: Is it possible to live on one income?

Basically there were two groups of women posting:

Group A listed all the problems of living on one income (it wasn't working for them).
Group B listed all the good points of living on one income (it was working for them).

And never the twain did meet. Well, not really. It seemed neither group was actually--gasp!--listening to the other and both were determined they were right. Which, ok, is the way of most Internet message boards. 

(Hey, you know it's true.)

Anyway, I didn't post anything there, myself--I thought I'd save it for my own blog (safer territory--things were turning scary.). And basically, all I want to do in this post is share a skeleton list of ways I save money. 

Living on one income requires a whole different way of thinking/living/being.  You must be willing to learn new, odd-to-you things and become very good at what you do. You have to do research and invest time, effort and energy into succeeding. You have to be intelligent and willing to do math. So. Much. Math.

You need to view problems as motivating challenges, instead. (Spending hours at message boards, complaining, won't solve problems. Er hem.)

It takes a determined, motivated person to step-up to a challenge and conquer it. To remain hopeful and optimistic when the sailing for the first couple years is not smooth.

A few ways I save money and enable myself to stay home?

1. 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. Oh, and I usually make homemade lunches for Tom to take to work.

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

3. We buy our clothes second-hand. Now, don't scream! If you know where to go, what colors/styles look best on you, and what to look for in these places, well, you'll walk away with incredible bargains. After you've saved a few hundred dollars you start to think of yourself as pretty darn clever.

4. Speaking of education, I use both the Internet and the town library to teach myself not only how to save money, but about anything-- history, cooking, economics, writing, decorating and health. I try keeping myself inspired. 

5. We saved tons of money this winter by keeping the thermostat at 62 degrees (lower at night) and just using a small electric heater in whichever room we occupied at the time. I use other major appliances during off-peak hours.

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

7. I paint our rooms myself and do all my own decorating. Talk about doing much research and self-education over the years! Deciding exactly which look you're aiming for saves a lot of money and leads to far fewer money mistakes and clutter.

8. We currently do not pay for tv cable (though we have in the past). Instead, we bought an antenna (a one-time charge of $50 ), the kind you place in your attic. It pulls in 14 stations which is plenty for us.

9. 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). 

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

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

12. I grow a garden each year (container gardens are easy and require little space). We do all our own yard work, wash our own car, shovel our own snow and make our own coffee (well, 98% of the time). 

13. We've tithed for 27 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.

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

Again, that's just a starter list. 

Mainly, Tom and I try to be careful of what I once heard called "leaky hose spending." You know, all those little ways that money swirls down the drain foolishly. But we've noticed it takes a lot of honesty to face leaky hose spending and to plug it up. Sometimes it takes help from God, Himself, to acknowledge where we've been careless and foolish and to forgive ourselves afterward. 

But then, that's partly why He's there.


Tuesday, March 28, 2006

How To Avoid 800 Arguments (At Least)

Elizabeth's comments to my last post reminded me of certain, rehashed, pathetic arguments Tom and I have had.

There's the one where Tom asks to have some space, and I would get all wild-eyed offended, believing he didn't love me as much as I loved him--totally not realizing I get lots of space each day at home, but he gets almost none at work.

There's the one where I lecture Tom over and over because he forgets to lock the back door, when I simply could have just locked it myself. I might've closed the bedroom closet door,too--without squinty-eye-lecturing Tom--when he constantly left that door open, exposing the mess inside.

And, of course, there's the one where Tom thinks the guy in the old movie is Spencer Tracy, which triggers, yet again, this typical living room scene:

Debra: "Are you crazy? That's not Spencer Tracy. That's just some Grade B actor. I know Spencer Tracy when I see him and that's certainly not him."
Tom: "Yes it is."
Debra: "No it isn't!"
Tom: "Yes it is."
Debra: "No! It isn't! And when this movie is over, I'm going to run down to the computer and the IMDB website and I'll prove it isn't Spencer Tracy."
Tom: "Fine."
Debra: "Fine."

(Please tell me we are not the only couple who has done that.)

Of course, there are the times I would've rather died than let Tom have the last word, the last dollar or the last cookie. And sadly, there were the years I spent more time and effort putting 1 Corinthians 13 into practice with my friends and church people than I did with my own husband.


But I think God finally got tired of all that. And one year, there came a day, a time, when I realized it wasn't that I needed more teaching-- I'd gone to thousands of church services.  I knew the right things to say and do and be.

I'd been taught, but I hadn't been changed. There's a difference.

And only God could change me. So beginning that one year, I finally let God catch up to me. it was like He caught the back of my collar and s-l-o-w-e-d m-e d-o-w-n.  Then over time (much of it alone with Him) He change me as only His presence could.

Years later, bricks are still crumbling, falling from all the Pride Walls I'd built up. And when barriers come down, everything looks clearer and brighter--

--and all the teachings I could barely hear through the huge, thick Pride Wall, well, they start to make sense.

And now, it's the old arguments which no longer make sense. They appear as jibberish and they can even make me laugh.

How good to be set free.


"You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy, at Your right hand there are pleasures forevermore." ... Psalm 16:11

The Things I Hide From My Husband

(Intriguing title, huh?) ツ

I have been married a real long time and well, I've learned there are, generally speaking, two kinds of arguments:

The ones you cannot avoid.
And the ones you can.

And that's what I wanted to mention today--the arguments I avoid by hiding things.

Like what, you ask? 

Like my very own toolbox. Around 20 years ago I bought a toolbox and began collecting tools for it (cheap ones, Dollar Tree types. It's not like I use them everyday). I'd become extremely tired of needing hammers/screwdrivers/stud-finders/nails, etc., while Tom was at work and having to wade through piles of his tools to find them--or not find them. Which, of course, required that I nag Tom about his lack of organization and my frustration thereof.

A real marriage-saver, that one. My toolbox is my responsibility. I keep it hidden and so if a tool is missing? It's my own fault. End of where's-the-tools? arguments.

Something else I hide? A chunky black indelible marker which I find indispensable for my kitchen. After probably 25 years and 300 did-you-lose-my-chunky-black-marker-again? arguments, I finally got the idea to hide my marker in my hoosier cabinet, a cupboard Tom never peeks inside. Oh my, Life feels so good when I know my chunky black marker is still where I placed it. 

And now no needless chunky black marker arguments.

Know what else is inside that little cupboard? My very own flashlight. It only took me 27 years to finally start hiding one of those.  No more why-can't-I-ever-find-a-flashlight-around-here? arguments. Oh, how sweet that is! 

I also hide my own scissors, stapler, glue and measuring tapes.

Get the idea? I'm not talking about keeping secrets from your spouse,(lest you thought I was going there. Heh.) No, it's more like this:

Lots of arguments saved(avoided) = equals lots and lots of peace and harmony earned.

Well, at least, that's what I have found.


"The tendency to whining and complaining may be taken as the surest sign symptom of little souls and inferior intellects." ...Lord Jeffrey


Monday, March 27, 2006

When Your Encouragers Are Out To Lunch

Well, now it's official--reruns are everywhere. My post today is a rerun from last year. I hope you don't mind.


The only bad thing about keeping a blog is that I get tested on just about everything I write.

Like today. Awhile after I wrote that piece about emotions, Naomi came home to get more of her boxes to take over to her apartment. Things started out well, then they collapsed into the one thing Naomi does which pushes all my buttons and makes steam come from my ears. She once again insinuated that I know nothing about Real Life, that somehow, somewhere, my brains fell out, that although she is half my age, she has somehow had twice my experience.

And I'd been having such a lovely morning, too. Sigh.

Well, I partly passed the Naomi Test. I didn't sink to her level and say a bunch of stuff in retaliation. I only gently said a couple things to defend myself. For me, that's big. And then I went back into my dream room--my peaceful place of escape at the top of the stairs, and quietly closed the door. In the old days I would have slammed it.

So far, so good. But then, as I sat back on my floor and continued sorting through my magazines in the sunlight, I came very close to crying. All right, I cried a little. But then I remembered what I'd written this morning and how this was most likely a test to see if I really believed those words. I did. 

And then God was there sitting beside me--He even nudged my shoulder like a friend and said, "Come on. You're doing fine. You know she's young and still has so much to learn. Cheer up."

And that reminded me of Encouragement 101. The best thing I learned in that class?

"But David encouraged and strengthened himself in the Lord" ... 1 Sam. 30:6

Basically? We can't wait for a truckload of Christians to come along and peel us off the Highway of Life. Sometimes we just have to ask God to do it. We must let Him be The Great Encourager when all our regular encouragers are out to lunch. When they've not picked up the signals--spoken or otherwise--relaying the fact that we need kind, uplifting words.

Sometimes, in fact, God purposely scrambles those signals in hopes that we will come to Him for encouragement. So really, it does no good to get upset with the people who failed to race to us when we needed them. Often it's God wanting us to run to the Throne, instead of the phone in times of need. (I am stealing that statement, I'll confess.)

I'm so thankful for Encouragement 101. Kind, healing words from other people--really, they're wonderful! But sometimes even the best encouragers fail us, for whatever reasons.

There is only one Encourager who never, ever fails.


Saturday, March 25, 2006

The Poor Old Days?

All of that "Suzy Homemakering" yesterday reminded me of those years when Tom and I were first married. Gee, were we ever poor back then! Money-wise, I mean.

Whenever I peek backward at our lean years, I see myself in various kitchens of our little homes, happily creating something from nothing.  I could make two casseroles from one pound of ground beef and two pies, not just one, from a little can of pumpkin. I baked all my own pie crusts, cookies and cakes--my wooden rolling pin was always coated in flour, it seemed.

I borrowed books from the library, almost never bought any unless they were nearly free. Half of these books taught me how to save money and time and money and energy and did I say money? A money-saving artist--that's what I became.

And you know? I smile when I remember those days. 

Heck, being poor was almost fun. Oh, not the kind of being poor which comes from spending money foolishly or making unwise, hurry-and-get-nice-stuff decisions. No, that feels too much like bondage. But the kind from starting-out with nothing and then, willingly, with hope and godly wisdom, working and s-l-o-w-l-y acquiring nice things, appreciating them more for the wait.

Yes, being poor was more fun than awful, but only those aproned afternoons when I chose to see it as a challenge and not a problem. A challenge is something you rise above and conquer. A problem, if seen and left only as a problem, is too easily turned into a big, ugly, hairy deal, something to complain, argue and whine about.

And I think it was way back around 1980, or so, that I learned that problems are better-handled and more bearable when they're--poof!-- turned into challenges, instead. 

Challenges are interesting. 

They lead you to libraries and learning and to people who know more than you do. They take you to places you'd never have traveled and they stretch you until the discovery that hey! You're stronger and more optimistic and unafraid than you'd have been otherwise.

Challenges teach us that problems down new roads are guaranteed, but by now we know that each, conquered, makes us a little bit richer. 

And I'm not just talking money-wise, either.


Friday, March 24, 2006

The Incredible Day Ahead of Me

I'm excited about today. I can hardly wait to live it.

Here is a multiple choice test for you. Can you guess why I'm so excited about this day? Choose one:

A.) Tom and I are traveling to Disney World and we'll be there a whole week.
B.) I won $1,500 in the lottery and I'm going big-time shopping today.
C.) A dear old friend from Nevada is coming to visit.
D.) I'm going to a Victorian tea party.
E.) My first book is hitting the stands today!
F.) Tom and I are taking a romantic river boat ride.
G.) All of the above.
H.) None of the above.

Ok, so which answer did you choose? Are you ready for the correct answer? The correct answer is..... drum roll.... H.) None of the above.

Heh. Not that I wouldn't love any of those things (how do you think I came up with that list?). 

No, but still, I'm thrilled about today because it's one of my altogether-rare Suzy Homemaker Days. Yep, that's all!

Tom drove away at 6:30 a.m. to work day shift so now I get twelve whole, golden hours to myself. And ok, so I am car-less, but who cares?

I can feed the backyard birds, drink coffee and read books upstairs in my dream room and spend time up there with God, Himself. I can catch-up on my email or write an old-fashioned letter (remember those?).

During Regis and Kelly I might wash dishes and laugh with my arms in suds. I can make my own mixes and tuck them away in little sandwich bags in secret places. Maybe I'll wear an apron, iron clothes and watch a lovely movie or listen to Big Band era music and feel like I've traveled back in time.

I can take a walk past big old family houses built in 1910, houses where other homemakers are busy and happy inside or walk to the convenience store and smile at everyone I see. Oh, and bring home a snack.

Oh! After that list, I must begin this special day. (And may your day be even more remarkable.) 


P.S. Would you like to go on an incredible snow trip right this very minute? Go here and start clicking on 'previous'. Do not stop clicking until you reach the horse-drawn sleigh (you can stop sooner, of course, but I'd hate for you to miss the horses and sleigh in the photo labeled, At The Tree Farm). 

This woman is one amazing photographer and you are in for an unforgettable snow vacation!


"When you have only two pennies left in the world, buy a loaf of bread with one, and a lily with the other." ... Chinese Proverb

"Any day is what you make of it..."


Wednesday, March 22, 2006

King of Queens: Marriage Therapy?

Okay, I confess-- Tom and I often watch the show, King of Queens. In fact, Tom has been known to smile at me from his recliner and say, "Doug is my hero."

A scary thought, that one.

Probably my favorite scenes of King of Queens are the ones where Doug and Carrie argue. Why? Because lots of their fights sound awfully familiar. I watch them wildly argue about nonsensical, childish things and right there on the screen, the folly and utter stupidity of it all hits me. It makes me giggle, for their fights act like mirrors, reminding me of the hundreds of such loopy arguments Tom and I have had, ourselves.

Tom and I love Doug and Carrie because they show us what not to do and how not to be. 

They have helped us grow-up, for they illustrate that self-absorption requires tons of energy which could've been used for the good stuff, like going for drives, eating-out, sitting at the edge of lakes and having what one might call a good time. 

Basically, watching Doug and Carrie makes the folly of pride just so darn crystal clear.

Tom was 21 when we married, I was just 19. I always find it so sad when people who have been married 15 or 20 years divorce, sighting the reason as being, "We married too young." I always wonder, instead, truth be told, if it's more like, "We married young, and then we took too many years to grow-up afterward."

And maybe when Tom and I watch certain King of Queen reruns, laughing until we cry during Doug's and Carrie's fights, we're laughing at our own arguments of long ago. The ones we seldom have now because, having grown in years, in wisdom, we find they are just not worth the trouble or energy. (Not that they ever were.)

We've found that peace between us, as a couple, is a whole lot more fun and --in silly, you-had-to-be-there ways--we have Doug and Carrie to thank for some of that. 


"When you are older you will know that life is a long lesson in humility." ... James M. Barrie


Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Madly Searching For a Prayer Request?

... well, here's one. Poor ol' Debra is having her last wisdom tooth pulled today.


It's hard for even me to Pollyanna my way out of dreading this one. But oh well, by tomorrow it will all be just a memory, not a horrible one, I hope. And at least Tom has today off-- I told him since I pampered and served him during his five weeks after surgery, I'd appreciate at least a few hours of royal treatment today when I come home, less one tooth.

The big ordeal will take place at 11:00 this morning, eastern time. Any and all prayer would be appreciated.

I'll let you know if a good time was had by all.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Remembering Childlike Faith

Here's a special passage from Joyce Maynard's book, Domestic Affairs. When I first read this 20 years ago, tears stung my eyes. I was the mother of a 6-year-old and maybe that had something to do with it:

"I am a believer of rewarding children during the early stages of toilet training... This time around, Willy's prizes were tiny pink plastic figures currently much coveted by little boys across the nation, called Muscle Men. Every time he made it to the toilet on time, he got one, and though Muscle Men carry the fairly hefty price of around a quarter a piece, until one particular day when he was 2 years and a few months old, Willy's performance in the bathroom wasn't putting much of a strain on our budget. All day long I was mopping up puddles on the floor, while Willy smiled sorrowfully, commenting, "That's life."

" Then on a single day, everything changed. He woke up announcing that he wanted to go to the bathroom, and all morning long he kept his pants dry. That afternoon I took him shopping--wearing briefs, not diapers-- and there were no accidents. On the ride home, a trip of about thirty miles, Willy suddenly piped up, "I need to pee." So naturally, I slammed on the brakes and pulled over into the breakdown lane of Interstate 93. "I'm going to get another Muscle Man," Willy sang happily as I unbuckled his seat belt and led him down the embankment in some tall grass by the side of the highway. Any my heart sank, because I had left home without my supply of Muscle Men. I had no reward.

" He pulled down his pants. And just as he was finishing and we were both studying the ground, we spotted it. Nearly buried in the dirt, in the precise spot along Route 93 where my son had chosen to pee, was a pink plastic figure who looked as if he could give Arnold Schwarzeneggar a run for his money. "Oh, there's my Muscle Man," he said with total casualness, bending to pick it up. He put the figure in his pocket. I put my son back in the car. That was six months ago and he's been dry ever since."

That story reminds me that God does amazing, sweet things for us. Also that childlike anything-can-happen feeling, that dreamy hopefulness which made me spring out of bed in anticipation of the playful hours ahead. That giddiness of surprises-yet-to-come.

I think that was called Childlike Faith.

Oh,may we never bury our Childlike Faith beneath piles of Adult-like-Worry! 


Sunday, March 19, 2006

The Annoying Little Fact About How I Act At Home...

Years ago, I was taught that each of us are only as spiritual--as loving, patient and like Jesus--as we are in our own homes. As we behave with the people who know us best.


At first, my mind rebelled against that thought. My brain reminded me of all the 'important work' I'd done, all the Bible classes I'd taught, people I'd counseled, all the encouraging letters I snail-mailed every month and the long Bible passages I read each day. 

I longed, instead, to believe all those were proof of how spiritual I really had become.

But pretty fast, I knew that the teacher had been indeed, correct. I saw it, suddenly, like a lowest common denominator sort of thing. Remember those dreadful math exercises from elementary school? Well, once again I saw them as dreadful because I realized--with moaning--that my often-pathetic behavior toward Tom and Naomi (and various other relatives) was the lowest common denominator which brought down, lowered, the bright, overly-rated picture I had of my own spiritual standing. 

Oh dear.

Of course, this is a little hard to explain, and I can only hope you're getting my overall meaning. I'm not talking about being good so I'll get into Heaven (heaven forbid), nor am I talking about 'works,'necessarily, or earning or deserving favor by my own good deeds.

No, I'm talking about letting Jesus speak, walk and live through me. 

And well, I have only died to self and allowed Him to change me and take over to the extent of how I live that out around people who know me best. 

It's impossible for me to be more holy, spiritual, kind--in reality--than I am in my own home. Ain't gonna happen.

I hope that makes sense, for God used that one realization to humble me or phrased another way-- to deflate me flat as a pancake.

It was, and still is, a Good Thing.


"But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves." James 1:22


Thursday, March 16, 2006

Birthday Reflections

Well, guess who's having another birthday today? 

Now, don't faint or throw-up or anything, but so far,  I love being in my 40's. It's been my favorite decade so far in this journey. No, really.

Maybe that's because I've learned--

--throwing a tantrum or staying frustrated uses up a whole lot of energy I could have used in a better, creative way.

--my days are more peaceful when I stop expecting people to be perfect or to make me happy...

--being kind is better than being right...

--the world will not break apart or explode if I take an afternoon nap.

--winning an Ebay auction is only a temporary high, but God-given contentment lasts forever.

And right now it's not even 7:30 in the morning, but already I know this birthday is going to be a good one, simply because God is good.

So happy birthday to me--and many more.  シ


"No wise man ever wished to be younger."
Jonathan Swift

"And in the end, it's not the years in your life that count. It's the life in your years.”
Abraham Lincoln


Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Motherhood Glances

When Naomi was five years old, someone gave her Shrinky Dinks for her birthday. 

Do you remember Shrinky Dinks? They were annoying sheets of plastic-like-stuff which you would draw upon (good luck), then, frustratingly try to cut-up and then bake in an oven. 

Well, one night Naomi and I did the Shrinky Dink thing and then ever afterward when Naomi asked to Shrinky Dink some more, I fibbed to her. I'd say, "Later, Sweetie. We'll Shrinky Dink later." But (I confess) I'd hidden the dreaded Shrinky Dink box. And still Naomi would, occasionally, ask to haul out that mess once more. And of course, I would say, "Later, Sweetie. We'll Shrinky Dink later."

Well, later never came. And it's funny, but some afternoons I'd tell myself, "I really should haul out that messy, awful Shrinky Dink stuff for Naomi again. After all, it was for her birthday. And someday, I'll probably regret not spending more Shrinky Dink time with her."

Well, we never did Shrinky Dink again. And I did regret it a tad.

There are Motherhood Glances, and if you're a mother, you might know what I mean. There is a Forward Motherhood Glance and a Backward Motherhood Glance and both are important and can help balance-out this amazing thing called raising children.

I'm glad I most often used the Forward Motherhood Glance, the one which woke me up on days I took for granted having a little girl to mold, play and dream with. The one where I'd look ahead and ask myself, "Someday, will I regret not taking the time to ________ as a mother?" Very often, the answer was "Well, yessss. I will." 

And that simple thought would help get my tired, sleep-deprived self off of the couch so that I could go and make a Mom and Naomi Memory. Another one. One of thousands. Nearly always, afterward, I'd feel purest gratitude that the Forward Motherhood Glance nudged me out of the house or just away from my book or the tv or off the phone.

Now that Naomi is 26, most of my motherhood glances are of the Backward persuasion. Sometimes they bump into me, jar me, when I'm in toy aisles at Target--they whisper that Naomi's idea of a wonderful present is no longer a Barbie, a doll house or colored markers. Nor will it ever be again. Those days are gone. 

Yet, Naomi at 7 is not gone, not completely, because the Forward Glance urged me to look up from my crocheting and memorize Naomi, just as she was on the carpet with her scissors, her fabric and the dresses she scotch-taped for herself that year. Naomi at seven can never be completely gone from me now.

But years and miles later, with grey streaking my hair, the Great Shrinky Dink Debacle is one of the few non-regrets I find way back there in Naomi's childhood. It's right up there with the fact that we never took her to Disneyland, and well, a couple more such things.

The Shrinky Dink thing? The never having made it to Disneyland? I can live with those regrets. 

The Motherhood Forward Glance nagged me to gaze ahead and then it took my hands to the refrigerator and gave me the patience to color and dye all those bowls of Easter eggs with Naomi--and so much more.

Now all of it is far away--yet it's still close, memorized, too. 

But I do thank God, sincerely, that these Backward Glances do not hurt, but rather, they are oh, so sweet, with only an occasional regret to mar them. And Today is all the better for having been kept awake by the Forward Glances of long ago.


Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Some Childhood Magic Restored

Finally, Tom and I, the last of all the good people of Blogland, went to see The Chronicles of Narnia.

 Now, here in this great land I'd heard all sorts of comments about this movie (taken from a book I've curled up and read many a time), so I wasn't sure what to expect. Many, many complaints I read.

So what did I think of The Chronicles of Narnia? It was perfect. Just plain perfect.

Tom and I especially loved Lucy, and her scenes with Mr. Tumnus. 

The first movie I recall watching in a theater, ever? Mary Poppins, way back when it first came out. I laughed uncontrollably when the soot-covered chimney sweeps danced through the children's house. Also, the next day out on the school playground, conversation about Mary Poppins was rampant. All my friends loved that movie, and you know? No one picked it apart. 

No one said, I thought this actor did a great job, but that other actor was lousy or the movie lasted too long, didn't have enough special effects, could have had less dialogue, fewer songs or more action sequences.

No, out there on the playground, we were still floating in the movie magic daze. 

And you know? I believe many of us, as adults, have lost that movie magic, and not just because we are all grown-up. But rather, it's become so popular now to absolutely tear movies apart at their weakest seams as a sign we're as intellectual, savvy and cool as the big kids are. 

And all the while, many people moan about having forever lost what was good about childhood when perhaps some of it's been squeezed out because of something else chosen in its place. 

Or maybe it's just me who sees it this way.

And well, I don't want to be like that. Becoming a critic can turn into a habit--trust me, I know. It starts with movies then you're criticizing your spouse, your children, friends, government, church, pastor, neighbors and well, your whole darn life. The very life God, Himself, breathed into you and planned-out for good, not evil.

I want to watch movies, both new and old, and remember and discuss what I loved about them. 

And the same goes for my life, except that instead of watching, may I participate--but not in all the complaining going on. No, in all the God-breathed magic out there on Life's big screen just waiting to be appreciated.


"You tear apart the baby's rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest man that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond." ... Frank P. Church

"Do everything without complaining or arguing..." Philippians 2:14

Saturday, March 11, 2006

For Artists Who Are Sitting, Waiting...

I discovered Joyce Maynard's Domestic Affairs when it first sat upon bookstore shelves 19 years ago, and after checking it out from libraries in three states, I finally bought a copy for myself. 

This morning these are the lines I underlined:

"I asked Steve..., 'how many of your friends' mothers worked? At jobs outside the home...' He thought a moment. His own mother never held a job, until her four children were in high school and college. She is one of those women (that dying breed) who made running a home her art. More than once, over the years, I've heard my mother-in-law say, "I loved being a housewife. Those were the best years of my life."


Wow. Especially the "...she made running a home her art" part. I read lines like that and sometimes they are enough to make me slap the book shut, jump up and go play artist.

My home, and yours, too, has a menagerie of canvases. There are walls and floors and whole rooms waiting to be painted or decorated or rearranged--
--table tops screaming for an interesting still-life to be created upon them, kitchen shelving left wanting for dishes to be arranged in eye-pleasing ways and the great music of the centuries to be played like the soundtrack of my life...
--windows crying for just the right curtains, walls hinting for the perfect paintings and open shelving begging for better-placed books and knick-knacks...
--books about your particular house-style, and what look fits it best, waiting to be studied, pages to be ripped out of decorating magazines for ideas...
...pillowcases and dishtowels to be embroidered upon, pies to be baked, soups to be simmered on back burners--and so much more.

Actually, there are more canvases in the average home than an awake artist can ever fill in just one lifetime.

And yet, we pause, we wait to become home artists. We wait for permission, inspiration or just the perfect, distraction-free day. Most of all, I think we wait for the applause of unseen crowds cheering us on, shouting encouraging words about domestic, home-created art being important, vital art, even in 2006.

But that applause does not come and many people walk away because they cannot create in the silence.

Yet, for those who stay, there arrives a time when we must begin painting, molding and creating on our own, in that quiet place, because it suddenly hits us: the world is not saying what we have been waiting to hear. 

The world is not cheering for us; they're not applauding people who pick the Homemaker Card from the Career Box. 

But something life-altering happens when we reach for the paint brush or instruction books or maps or take a child's hand--and go ahead and create in the silence, with not a soul in those empty, imaginary seats. We feel the artist in us breathing first breaths when we just step back (with paint on our fingers) and admire our work and hear no cheering except our own or perhaps a child's or maybe God's.

The smile of perfect contentment appears and we discover it--all of it-- is more than enough.


Friday, March 10, 2006

But When It Comes to Books....

My last post, the one about letting go by T.D. Jakes, reminded me that all those words apply to my things, too--my stuff and junk and belongings--and my books. 

Oh dear, my books. Wow, to let go of my books is to experience a form of mental torture. And yet I regularly purge some of the books from my shelves yearly anyway. Why? Because:

1.) Hundreds of books take up a whole lot of shelf (and room) space,
2.) It's good discipline to release what you love,
3.) Just how many books does one person really need?
4.) Some people have never read even once the books I have reread 4 or more times so it's a good thing to pass books along to others by way of thrift shops and gifts to friends, and--
5.) Not all books are meant to be keepers. Some we won't read more than once--so why hold on to them?

And well, I'm still learning that just because I own something like dishes, furniture or gifts of trinkets from friends today, it does not mean I must hold onto all that stuff until I drop dead. 

Our possessions perform a service and then, honest, it's ok to release them after that service has been provided. Often the test is not if we can forever hold onto our blessings, but rather, can we release them to others if God nudges us to do so?

Again, I am still learning all that. All of it, especially concerning books.

It's one thing to sing mighty hymns in a church pew--it's quite another to drive back home and spend hours discovering the words are actually true--and that God means us to live by them.

Imagine that.