I might be a redneck.

I don't know if this is evidence that I've been brainwashed, or this is actually as a cool as I think it is.

The sweet hubs is a finder.  He finds things.  Anywhere, anytime, all sorts of things.  It adds a dimension of surprise to our lives.  One thing he finds a lot of are shed antlers.  For you city folks, antlered animals drop their antlers (late winter to early spring in our area), and grow a new set every year.  It's pretty amazing.  People like my sweet hubs go out into the places where the elk are in that season, and look for the shed antlers. 

And sometimes, if your sweet hubs is creative.... you build your Christmas tree out of them.  The picture does not do it justice, I promise.


Merry Christmas!

A BIG Deal

Something happened to a friend last week that I've been wanting to write about.  It's a big deal.  I mean a BIG FREAKIN DEAL!

My dear friend Tina (the artist I wrote about previously) sold her first painting.  Maybe that doesn't sound like a big deal, but I think it is.

Your friends and family can tell you a bazillion times how great you're doing.  You can love the work yourself, and feel good about it.  But then....someone wants to BUY it.  It isn't about the money (even though money is mighty nice). 

It's a whole new level of affirmation for anyone who works at something subjective.  It's a little like the difference between your friend telling you that your new 'do looks great, and having a perfect stranger ask you for the name and number of your hair stylist.  Do you ever really know if your friends are protecting your feelings, or if they really like the new look?

Take that times about a million, and you have the feeling of someone thinking enough of your art (whatever form of art you do) to pay for it.

There's another side to it that I think maybe applies most specifically to artists who work on decorative art.  Not so much for musicians and writers because the people who commit to purchasing their work don't necessarily show that off.  But if you buy a painting, you hang it up in your house for other people to see.  You are supporting that artist in a public kind of way.  If you love polkas and buy the latest CD by Hans Frickenschmacker and the Lederhosen, you probably listen to it alone, and shove the cd cover behind your collection of Hoobastank and Twisted Sister.  Hang a painting on your wall and you tell the world, "Look!  I love this!  Share it with me!"

All kinds of art touch each of us in some way.  My friend found a way to capture something on canvas that touches people.  You look at her work and you see the light of the African savannah.  Look into the eyes of the mountain lion she brought to life....a deep, primal chord is struck.  What do you feel?  A mesmerizing intrigue, tinged with an ancient, buried fear?  What else does that, except art?  It reaches into your atavistic self and shows you all that you are.  If you look.

I think when you buy someone's work of art, you are telling them in a profound way that you looked.  And you saw.

Where Have You Been?

Isn't it amazing how quickly your life can become a runaway train?

My final project for my class is done and posted.  The final exam is tomorrow and I should be studying.  But I'm not, am I?  Truly, I don't need the grade, I'm not trying to become a bachelor of anything.  I was after the knowledge so the grade shouldn't matter.  But dammit, I still want that "A"!  Funny thing about knowledge:  the more you learn, the more you discover how much more there is to learn.  God probably had it planned that way, so we wouldn't wither on the vine as we age?

The company Christmas parties are all done, and the Christmas shopping has not yet begun.  (That was a short poem.)

I made one batch of holiday cookies, because the sweet hubs is watching his triglycerides and our only child at home is more of a pretzel guy than a cookie guy.  I'm glad he inherited SOMETHING from me!

I usually do a little family newsletter at Christmas, but so far this year I haven't had time.  Hopefully everyone will forgive me. 

Ah...if only I could take my present desire to learn and work ethic, and give them to the teenager with the quick brain that I used to be.  Is that possible?

My darling soldier boy is safely at his new post in Texas, which is an easy drive from home.  Maybe we'll get to see him more often now?

I'm going to sit on my butt for a while tonight, for the first time since..............I don't know when!

Bad Moods and All

It's an interesting phenomena...the way one person's bad mood can snowball into an entire group feeling edgy and irritable and cranky as a teething baby in a soggy diaper.

So, I'm going to focus my mind on all the good, cheerful, upbeat things I can think of.

  • There's a bottle of Moscato chilling in my fridge right this VERY second.
  • Soldier boy is home for a few days, on his way to a new duty station that is much closer than his previous assignment. 
  • There's a bottle of ...  wait... did I say that already?
  • It feels like real autumn out there and I love that.
  • I have about 3 more meals to make out of the left over turkey, and then I can move on.  This always feels like a feat accomplished to me--when we finally run out of turkey.
  • It's the end of the day.  A long day.  Goodnight. 

Forgive My Ranting

Pardon me, but I just have to rant a while.

I am sick to pieces of hearing about Jon and Kate.  Pardon me for thinking they were colossal idiots to put their lives and marriage on television and think everything would be fine.  A marriage without privacy is no marriage at all.  I don't care about Paris, Lindsey, Brittney or Nicole.  I don't care about the balloon boy's parents.  I think we need to just let Michael rest.  In peace.  Forever.  I don't give a rat's patootie about who in Hollywood is dating whom.  I don't even care who in my town is dating whom, unless it's my husband dating someone.  Then I'd care.

You better duck, folks, 'cuz here it comes....

This is all OUR fault.  Every time we click on a story about these pathetic human beings, a little hit counter somewhere tells the powers that be, "they want to read about this".  Stop clicking, dammit!   We buy those stupid celebrity rags, we bid on their chewed up gum on Ebay and we tear our clothes and cry when they walk through the airport.  To borrow a saying I read recently, sweet fancy Moses!  What is wrong with us?

Those stupid balloon parents are just the latest in a long line of publicity whores and I'm sick of it.  Can't we do something about this?  What if we all commit to STOP CLICKING on this crap, would it go away?  What if every one of us only clicked on a story that was of some actual significance, would it improve the national news?  If we only clicked on news stories that either mattered or uplifted, would we do away with the trash?

Close your eyes and think about it for a minute.  If bad behavior didn't earn the stars, starlets and wannabes any sort of recognition, but making a positive contribution to society did earn them recognition...what would happen?  Gasp!  Could it be?  Might that encourage them to do something good with their notoriety?  I admit it's unlikely, but what if?

What if playing your six-year-old as a pawn in your bid for spurious fame landed you quickly in jail, with no news coverage at all, and no one ever talked about you again?  Would people continue to try those stunts?

Did you ever read Jean Auel's Clan of the Cave Bear?  The protagonist of the story is cursed with death at the end of the story.  She doesn't really die, but she is dead as far as her clan is concerned.  They stop talking to her, stop paying attention to her, stop "seeing" her.  It was a horrible sentence.  Think about it.  We are social creatures, even we shy ones.  What if your whole world pretended you didn't exist?

That sort of punishment is part of the root idea of solitary confinement, banishment, shunning, exile, ostracism and every other painful way that societies have of making us behave.  I'm starting to think that shunning might just be the perfect answer.  Celebrities who misbehave, people who endanger others in their cry for media attention and all the rest of the "look at me" crowd...shunning might put a quick stop to all of that nonsense..

An Open Letter to All Our Veterans

Dear Veteran;

No words could express our gratitude.  Please don't believe what you hear from America's liberal media regarding the sentiments of the people.  We honor your efforts and your sacrifice.  America's opinions are not accurately reflected in polls, which are taken on the East and West coasts.  There is a whole big chunk in the middle over here, and we need you, love you and 100% support you.


 

I can say it. I was wrong.

I had a lot of misconceptions.  Really, I did.  I probably still do, but I haven't been smacked upside the head with any corrections lately.  So I'll share with you some of the things I was wrong about.
  • I like salt.  I thought you really couldn't over-salt things.  Well, you can.  I can even get things too salty for MY taste.  When my dinner guests fall on the floor and twitch like a dying beetle....?  I over-salted the dish.
  • I never paid much mind to the instructions on the sticker on a glass baking dish.  Certainly, not enough to remember those instructions for always.  At the expense of a pork tenderloin, I realized I was wrong to not remember the instructions.  You CAN get the oven too hot for those glass pans.
  • Mischievous is NOT pronounced miss-CHEEVE-ee-yous.  I said it that way for years.  Duh.
  • Is it feed a cold and starve a fever?  Or starve a cold and feed a fever?  Either one is wrong.  Now I think the answer is to eat if you can keep it down. 
  • 29 years ago, I did not attend the wedding of a dear friend.  It was her second marriage and my ultra-conservative dad forbad me from going for religious reasons.  Yvette?  Where ever you are...I was wrong.  This was one instance when I should have defied my father and followed my own conscience.  I'm as sorry as I can be.
  • When my youngest son had a mean, evil, mentally unbalanced teacher, I told him he had to stick it out.  He had to learn how to get along with all sorts of people in this life.  I was wrong.  I should have yanked him out of her class, told her to her face why, and found him a sane teacher.   It was only first grade.  That lesson could have waited for another day.
  • Contrary to what I would like to think, and what I did at one time believe, I can not carry a tune.  Not even with a bucket.
  • Yes, I CAN drive at Sky Harbor Airport!  I was wrong.  It scares me to pieces, but I can do it.
  • Momma always told me that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach.  I believed her and adopted that theory for my own.  I was wrong.  The way to a man's heart is a lot further south than his heart.
  • I was wrong.  Men don't necessarily like high-maintenance women.  Oh, sure, they like to look at them, but that doesn't mean they want to keep one forever.  So I was wrong.  Men want real woman, with real curves, an actual appetite, the ability to laugh at themselves and ...  um.....  well.... see my previous comment.
  • Watching my parents, as I was growing up, I thought I knew what love looked like.  I was wrong.  It's different for everyone.  My sweet hubs doesn't demonstrate his love for me in the same way (HEY!!  This is a new topic here, so forget the previous two entries for a second!!) that my Dad showed Mom that he cared.  My husband is a quiet man of action.  (OK, maybe it's not so far from that topic...).  I kept expecting him to show me he loved me by bringing me flowers or taking me to fancy restaurants.  I was wrong.  He shows me in ways that suit me and him.
  • Years ago, I thought my biggest flaws were my bumpy nose, oily skin and disappointing hair.  I was wrong.  My biggest flaws are my big mouth and my lazy bottom.  But I'm working on those.  I can live with the flaw of my mathematical ineptitude.  Maybe being able to live with that is another flaw, too, but I might be getting myself into an unending trap.

So There!

Alright, my dear friend!  If you can steal my ideas, I'll just steal yours right back! :-)

So this is stuff you might not know about me, Part II--What I Like (in no specific order):.
  1. Having coffee with my sweet hubs on the porch on a Sunday morning.
  2. Fried green tomatoes.  I can eat myself sick on them.
  3. "Lonesome Dove"--the book and the mini-series.  I also love the rest of the Call and McCrae books by Larry McMurtry.
  4. Roasting green chilis on the barbecue.  When we had a big garden, it was one of my joys to pick a mess of chilis, light the barbie, turn on some good bluegrass and pour myself a glass of wine.  We had a gorgeous barbecue gazebo and it was a gorgeous place to just enjoy a simple moment.
  5. The satisfaction of visible result:  a beautiful loaf of homemade bread; a skirt that I made myself; the arrangement of pine cones and fall leaves and pumpkins that sits on my kitchen island right now.  I work at a job that yields no visible evidence of how hard I work.  It's a pleasure to do something that I can see and touch.
  6. The way that my willful, opinionated dog gets into a game of fetch. 
  7. A really good, tree-ripened nectarine.
  8. A little time to myself.  Which is only special because it's the exception.  So, no, I wouldn't trade away the sweet hubs, the towering teenager and the ornery dog for full-time solitude.
  9. The furniture and other things my hubs makes in his spare time.  He's an artist in wood and antler.
  10. The way it felt when I had a couple of my essays published.  I really need to get back on that.
  11. My dearest Aunt Francine.  She is a ray of sunshine in my life.
  12. A song from your past that brings up all the good feelings that were once associated with it.
  13. Being able to go barefoot all weekend.
  14. Good hair days.
  15. Trying something new and succeeding at it.
  16. Being needed.  Making a positive contribution to my home, my workplace, my community and my world.
  17. Happy memories and funny memories of loved ones who are gone.
  18. Old black and white photos of my ancestors.  I have one of my great-grandparents with my grandpa as a three year old, taken circa 1893.  Very cool.
  19. The way our little town smells on cool mornings:  pine trees and wood smoke.
  20. Sunsets.

Pieces of Happiness

I realize how silly this sounds, but I rather enjoy how hard it is to get out of bed this time of year. There is something very pleasant about "sleeping weather" so good that you have to force yourself to get up. The room is very cool and the light is dim. My blankets are heavy and soft: always the best way to sleep. Since my dear honey is an early riser, there is usually the smell of coffee in the house. Hitting the snooze one more time is a treat in the autumn.




My grandma always told me that happiness is something you make for yourself. It doesn't happen to you, no one can make you become a happier person. You have to create it for yourself from the bits and pieces that make up your life. I think she was absolutely right. If I sat around waiting for something to happen that would make me happy, I'd be moving backwards. All I have to do is take a good look at every day, and I find all the building blocks I need.

 

I love each season in its turn. Right now I revel in the arrival of autumn. I'll enjoy winter just as much when it begins.

You Might Not Know...

Just for fun, I thought I'd post some things you might not know about me. 
  1. I miss being able to drink chocolate milk.  Being lactose-intolerant...I can live without cheese pizza and ice cream, but I sure do miss chocolate milk.
  2. I am the youngest grandchild on my paternal side. 
  3. My first car was an olive green Plymouth Volare station wagon.  I know, huh? I recovered from that unfortunate beginning with the help of minimal therapy and more horsepower.
  4. My mother sometimes forgets my name.  I think this is because I am the youngest.  But I can't prove it.  And no, it isn't her old age...she's been doing that for... always.
  5. Red licorice is gross.
  6. I have two middle names.
  7. I was rejected for kindergarten.  That's right.  They wouldn't take me.  I had to wait a year and start with first grade.  I still feel cheated.  And I never learned how to share.
  8. The first pet of my own I ever had was a yellow parakeet I named "Buttercup".
  9. I shot a bison.  And ate it, too.  It only took me a moment to shoot it, but it sure takes a long time to eat one.
  10. My Dad used to take me fishing. 
  11. My husband used to take me fishing.  Do you see a trend forming here? 
  12. I have moved or been moved 11 times in my life.
  13. I was fired from my very first job, as a typesetter at the local newspaper.
  14. I was a stay-at-home mom for almost 10 years.
  15. I don't know how to swim.  Or ski, or play tennis, or golf, or rollerskate, or play volleyball or....
  16. My hair color is natural.  Nobody would choose this color on their own, I promise.
  17. I weigh more now than I ever have, except for when I was pregnant.
  18. Dogs belong to the order Canidae and the platypus belongs to the order Monotremata. 
  19. My car is pretty fast.
  20. I make amazing chicken tetrazzini, but my chili will kill you.  Or at least, wound you.
  21. My ancestry includes Dutch, Belgian, German and French.  75% Dutch and the other quarter is a little bit of the rest of those.  I guess it is only natural that I like Dutch chocolate, Belgian endive, German bratwurst and French wine?
  22. I am still a little bit afraid of dogs.
  23. I have cooked Thanksgiving dinner 21 times.  In a few weeks, it will be 22.
  24. When I was about ten, I accidentally found my Christmas presents where Mom had hidden them.  It RUINED Christmas for me.  It really was an accident, but I've never forgotten it.  I never try to find out what a gift is ahead of time now.
  25. I miss my Dad and my Grandmas.

Three Virtues, and Voting for a Fourth

I’ve been thinking about the three theological virtues: faith, hope and charity. It’s been a long time since I studied my catechism, but maybe age and experience is a better teacher than the Baltimore Catechism anyway? My Dad was the best teacher of religious theory in my life, and he’s gone now. He wouldn’t have approved of all my ideas, conservative man that he was, but it was his teaching that launched my own quest for understanding.   (By the way, if you are not in the mood for a spiritual contemplation, here....click 'back' or something.)

Can we talk about why these three virtues are considered to be different than other virtues such as prudence and temperance? I don’t know what the church teaches about it, and I don’t especially care. (Do I hear thunder?) It seems to me that what makes faith, hope and charity different from all other virtues is that these three are between me and God in a way the others are not. Prudence and temperance are about my behavior, and are not really demonstrations of devotion, unseen by others.  Theological virtues are a private matter between me and God. (When I get to charity, I’ll tell you why I think charity isn’t a behavior.)

Faith. What is it? Really? Is it the unquestioning acceptance of what you’ve been taught, a firm belief in God? I think it’s so much more than that.  No, I don't think it's that at all, in fact.  I think faith is a genuine, deep examination of what you think, see and feel, and arriving at a positive assurance in your own heart about the presence of God and His intentions for you.

Did you ever give your spouse a book of coupons for personal favors? (Stay with me here…) Either the storebought sort you might buy at Spencers or maybe a handcrafted set, promising that upon presentation, you will wash his car, fix her breakfast in bed, do the dishes, whatever?

Would you give your spouse a coupon for “anything”? Pure and simple, whatever they ask, you will do. Bungee jumping off the Leaning Tower of Pisa, making love in a tool shed on display at the Home Depot, sell your car, move to Australia, get his mother’s name tattooed on your rump…whatever they ask, it is theirs. OK, I admit that last one would be mighty disturbing on a lot of levels.

I can hear you groaning at the idea. “What if he wants me to hunt brown bears on Kamchatka? Ugh!” (I’m sure you can think of more heinous requests than that.) Think hard. Would you trust your spouse to not ask of you anything that would hurt you, shame you, or endanger your relationship? Could you really give them carte blanche in such a way?

If you said, “Yes, I could.”, then I would say you have faith in your spouse. You are confident that you can trust them with your heart, body and soul. (And reputation). Isn’t that what we are doing when we have faith in God? Not blindly believing, but trusting that He has our best interests at heart. Choosing to trust, eyes open, that what He decides will be good?

Faith is a tough one to really DO, isn’t it?

Let’s talk about the second one: HOPE.

I was chatting with my favorite email philosopher about hope. For a long time, I had trouble with the idea of hope and what it really means. It seemed to me that the concept of hope was at odds with my firm belief that God helps those who help themselves. I would hear people say, “We’ll just hope for the best”, and then they’d sit back and expect the heavens to open and their problems to vanish in a puff of pink smoke or something. It can’t possibly work that way, can it?

Then I read (in some book, somewhere) the sentence: “The gods like the taste of salt.” In other words, the sweat of our brows is appetizing to the gods. Hmm. Eureka!  Clarity, at last!

Which gifts received mean the most to us? The quick last-minute-picked-up-at-the-airport-gift-shop sort of thing? Or the thing that the giver made especially with you in mind? Even if the gift itself is imperfect, the love and pleased expectations of the giver make it a gift to treasure.

What does this have to do with hope? Hold your horses and I’ll tell you. I think to hope is to have an expectation for a positive outcome of your labors, whether those labors be prayer or work or having babies or making a souffle’. I think when we hope, we are putting forth our best efforts, with the HOPE that those will be pleasing to God and that ultimately, good things will result.

Failing to hope is to give in to despair. And to despair is to say, “Things won’t improve, I can’t do better, God doesn’t care and I give up.” How would you feel if your child said to you, “I can not please you, you don’t like me, I’ll never amount to anything and I give up.” If one of my sons were to say such a thing to me, it would break my heart. How must God feel, when He is so infinitely loving?

We aren’t talking about good works, here. Putting forth your well-intentioned labors for others is its own reward and a way to demonstrate your affection for God and your fellow human being. Hope is about keeping a positive attitude that lets you continue to work on, even when you aren’t seeing the immediate results you might want.

Hope is your absolute trust in a better day, given to you courtesy of The One who gets to hand such things out. Hope is about putting your best effort forth at all things, knowing that God likes the taste of salt and that a cheerful heart will bring you to a happy result–sooner or later.

Every one of us feels thwarted in our efforts, disappointed in our results and discouraged by our setbacks. These things do not excuse despair. To despair is to turn your back on God. Even in those darkest hours at the end of a painful illness, there is still hope. Maybe you can’t hope for a full recovery, but you can hope for comfort, surcease for your loved ones, and the ultimate positive outcome of your life’s labors.

Now, charity. Charity is a funny word. We use the word charity when we really mean something else entirely. It’s a noun. It’s an adjective. It’s even a proper name.

I have some very specific opinions about the meaning of charity. (I know this will surprise you if you’ve been reading my blog–that I might have an opinion.) There are hundreds of examples of false charity available for your viewing pleasure; just look in any direction or turn on the television.

My personal definition of charity came from a variety of religous schools of thought, distilled down through time and consideration into my own formula. I believe that charity is a way of working on God’s behalf, doing those things that you think God Himself would personally do if He were in your metaphorical shoes. God wouldn’t do a good thing and then go around bragging about it. He does His thing and says nothing. Did you ever look into the autumn sunset, admire the gorgeous color and then see the clouds shape up to say “Look what I did!!”? No. God does His thing and leaves us to do ours and we should all just shut up about it.

I think if you do a good thing and turn it into a television show — figurative or literal — you have subtracted the goodness from it. You turned it into entertainment and shot charity right between the eyes.

True charity should not hurt the pride of the recipient. Maybe this is too easy in our current Age of Entitlement. Far and away too many people feel entitled to receive charity and hence, have no pride. That’s for another rant. A talented altruist can help other people without making them feel small. In a perfect world, the recipient of your help wouldn’t even know it was you. Not always easy but it can be done.

This one is a little more difficult: giving away something you don’t want is not charity. It isn’t!!! To be an act of charity, it has to hurt a little, folks. I can give you my old clothes and be glad for the closet space, but that isn’t charity. Now if I gave you my car because you needed one? That would charity. I love my car! To count as charity, there must be some quality of effort on the part of the giver.

Here is where the rest of America and I will diverge. Helping doesn’t always help. I still struggle with this, but time will give me clarity, I am sure. If someone is hungry and you feed them, maybe all you did was feed them, not help them. Helping the poor to make a better life is helping. Helping the poor so that they never attain the skills to rise from poverty is not. That old saying about teaching a man to fish, right?

Giving money to a charitable organization is not necessarily an act of charity. Neither is picking an angel off the Angel Tree at Christmas. They are certainly acts of kindness, but maybe not charity. Just because it barks doesn’t mean it’s a dog.

Charity isn’t always giving away some tangible thing. Charity can be as simple as reserving judgement, holding your tongue or giving someone the benefit of the doubt. Charity can be not saying something. Charity can be saying something that is hard to say, but needs to be heard. Charity can be going, or staying at home.

Charity is looking at world around you with clear eyes, an open heart and a wise mind, rolling up your sleeves, and making it happen. Silently.

So, I’m thinking about getting up a petition to appoint a 4th theological virtue, but I can’t decide which one I’d vote for.

How about the virtue of humility? Patience? Gratitude? Alacrity is sure one of my personal faves. Kindness? Compassion? Empathy? Honesty? Integrity? Loyalty? Oh…so many to choose from.

Humility seems a likely candidate. One thing I really can’t stand is being around someone who thinks they’re all that (and a bag of chips). Most of those folks have very little to crow about, as far as I can tell. I admire someone who does much, says little, listens rather than talks (trying to learn to do that better myself), and is genuinely aware that they do not know everything.

Patience is good, but can be a double-edged sword. Too many times I patiently wait for something, past the point of reason and then the next thing I know my patience has transmuted into inaction. Not good.

Gratitude. I like gratitude. I have much to be grateful for (which is another post). I don’t want your gratitude; I want to be aware of how much is mine only through the grace of others. You will understand, I'm sure, that I’m not talking only about the tangible.

Alacrity is a fine thing, too. Nothing brightens my day in the same way as a person who works with cheerful quickness. If that person is my own son, then I feel like they learned something important to the success of their life. If that person is a colleague, it makes everyone else’s day brighter and easier.  And if that person is someone with whom I am doing business, it makes me feel like a valued and appreciated customer.

Honesty and integrity are wonderful virtues, but too often conceal a darker side. Many a hurtful word is said under the pretense of being honest. And integrity can sometimes go hand-in-hand with unyielding stubbornness. Each is a virtue on its own, but each one can also be a cover--or an excuse-- for a less admirable trait.

I’m in favor of kindness, compassion and empathy, too. Those are all lovely virtues to have.

You know what? I think I know what the fourth virtue should be. Balance. We need all of the other virtues, but we must have balance to them or we may fail to temper our honesty with kindness, our integrity with compassion and so on. Yep. Balance. That’s where it’s at, baby.

WTH???

Something happened at work today which was disturbing.  I'm not going to tell you that it rocked me to my core, because I've been getting other indications that this was coming.  Still, it was disturbing.

I received an email from an underwriter, asking me for more information on an antique/classic auto that was being referenced in an insurance policy.  I open up the file, and review the auto in question.  It's a 1980 GMC Pickup. 

A 1980 truck is an antique?  Let me get this straight.  A vehicle that came onto the market when I was old enough to drive it...is an antique??????????  Oh.  My.  Gosh. 

I should have known it was going to happen.  I've seen toys on the Antiques Road Show that were just like something I played with..  Yeah, and even the lunch box I carried to school...admired by some darn appraiser for its great condition, considering its age.  Sheesh.

I should have known when the cable-sweater tights that I wore as a girl came back into fashion.  Or when the "golden oldies" stations stopped playing Nat King Cole and started playing Three Dog Night.  I even heard Blondie on that station.  And Pat Benetar!

A "retro" look in a fashion magazine looks a lot like my high school year book.  Hmmm.  People get nostalgic over big hair, shoulder pads and dolphin shorts. ??  Oh, here's a good one:  One day my youngest son stopped by my office and saw the Brother electric typewriter in the back corner:, "What is THAT thing?".  Yeah, I know.  He had a similarly agog reaction to carbon paper.  "Why don't you just print it twice if you need two copies?"  What would he say if he know about mimeograph sheets that you had to correct with a little ether?  Or how excited I was when they came out with correction strips, instead of those horrid erasers that would erase a hole in your paper, or white-out which you had to wait for it to dry?  Do you remember when IBM invented the self-correcting "Selectric II"?  It would erase the last letter, if you hadn't typed anything past that point.  If I remember right, both pitches (10pt Pica and 12pt Elite) were available on interchangeable balls.  It was all that and a bag of chips, I'm telling you.

The first time I looked at one of those surveys and my age-range was over half-way through the list of choices, I should have noticed.  I definitely noticed it when a client sat at my desk one day (and I'm sorry to report this was quite a few years ago) to discuss professional liability insurance for his dentistry practice, and he was much younger than I.  He was old enough to have gone through all the years of school that it takes to be a dentist, start a practice, get married, have kids....  but he was still younger than me.

I called someone in her late 20s a "kid" the other day. 

I need to call that underwriter about the antique auto.  It might make me feel better if we can re-classify that.

A Peek Into Your Soul

I'm working on a project for a friend.  She's also my boss, but I'm going to talk about the friendship part.  It's a project that gave me an insight....

I've known her for about ten years.  We've seen each other at school, when she was my child's teacher.  We sat next to each other at a fundraising banquet.  She's been at my house, where we laughed about life in the country.  She likes my bread pudding and I think her lemon bars are TO DIE FOR.  I know her kids and she knows mine.  Our husbands went to high school together.  I even plagiarized the colors of her living room walls for my own.  (She was very generous about the theft, too.)

Today I saw something completely new in her.  I got a peek into her soul.  You see, my friend is an artist.  I've seen her art many times and I am jealous of her talent in the most friendly, loving sort of way.   She needs a website, and I'm working on building it for her.  Today I was looking at about 40 pictures of her as she is painting.  And I saw someone I had previously only guessed at.

The pictures themselves are beautiful, I think.  The light in the room is lovely and the colors are warm and inviting.  The painting she is working on is beautiful.  But the part that made me really stop and look and smile was her.  She's relaxed.  Glowing.  Completely in her happy place.  Even her hair is shining more beautifully than ever.  Yeah, I'm jealous of her hair, too.... The tension is out of her arms and hands, and her eyes are lit from a place within, heretofore unseen. 

Since my dear friend hates having her picture taken, and since I understand that completely,  I chose a picture that leaves her in some anonymity.  This is temporary, because I (she calls me her evil webmistress...) am MAKING her include some photos of herself on her web page.  While I'm working on building a web page, she is getting used to being in the public eye by blogging.  You can read her blog here:  http://www.tinacrabdreeart.blogspot.com/




Once in a great while, you get to share a moment with someone.  You get to feel their joy, or their peace, or even their sorrow and connect to them in a whole new way.  I don't know squat about painting, but I know what peace looks like when I see it.  And it's beautiful.

Have you found that place in your soul?  That comfortable, peaceful, blissful place that lets you know that all is right and you are where you belong?  I find moments of it when I write, or when I turn out an especially nice loaf of bread.  Sometimes I find it when a friend asks for guidance and I am able to help them find the light again.  So far, I haven't managed to take the time to really apply myself to any of those things. 

I think that those moments, however long we get to enjoy them, are about as close as we get in this world....to God.

Ode to Spelling

I'll confess it right here and now, folks.  I'm a little uptight about spelling.  I sit here in front of my window, and I write in a chatty, casual style.  Sometimes I make typographical errors, but since I don't have a proofreader, those errors might slip past me.  Oh, I can write very formally if I need to.  There's just no fun in that on a blog.  I do try very hard to not let spelling mistakes get through to your tender eyes.  I might disregard some of the rules of grammar I learned in school, but at the very least, you should not have to try to figure out which word I am trying to use.

Tuesday, I sat in a class on website design, with a bunch of young snots (the age of my baby), and our homework assignment was to make a little pretend web page.  When they were all 'live' I could click around and see everyone else's work.  Many of those pages were a mess of run-on sentences, poorly punctuated and woefully misspelled.  Do you know what the really sad part of all of this is?  There were some very interesting and entertaining thoughts contained in those train-wreck writings.  Some of those young people have something to say, but who will get their message if the message is too garbled to comprehend? 

I am not a patient woman about this.  If I click on your web page, your Craigslist listing or your Ebay ad and I have to try to translate your gibberish into English...I will simply click away and look elsewhere. 

Some girl (I'm assuming it's a girl) wrote on my son's truck window in that wipe-off window paint you see on all the high-school kids' cars.  She said, "You're hot! Mmmmm......!"  And I was so pleased that she said, "You're hot!" instead of, "Your hot" or even worse, "UR hot".  Is there something wrong with me that I'm not offended by a girl announcing that she thinks my boy is hot;  I'm just thrilled she understands that she needed to use the contraction instead of the possessive form?

I think I need therapy.

Questions About Myself

I've been wondering about the "me" I present to the world every day.  The reason I'm wondering is because very often on my little 5-minute commute, I see this lady out weeding her yard.  In her nightgown.  Weeding her front yard, facing a busy residential street.  In her nightgown.  And not that I want to paint too graphic a picture for you here, but let me just tell you that the sun shining behind a cotton nightie...uh...conceals very little.

You have to admit it's a strange way to face the world.  What is she thinking?  What does she see when she looks in the mirror?  I have a great many more questions about this (up to and including whether or not this is evidence of insanity) but it also makes me consider what other people might see in me that makes them wonder.
  • What do people think when they see me driving down the road singing?  If they know me, they're thinking, "Thank God I can't hear her singing."  What about the ones who don't know me?  For that matter, I'll even ask the people who do know me:  do I look crazy, singing "Crazy" to myself?  Now that they've invented hands-free communication devices, I hope people just think I'm on the phone.  But I doubt it.
  • People who read this blog might remember my confession about a perfectly stupid fear of mine, which I really hate to even admit.  But if you know me, and you know what I confessed to, does it make you think I'm a little wacko?
  • I like skirts and dresses.  That isn't TOO crazy, since I am a woman, after all.  I truly prefer them to jeans.  I blame it on my strict upbringing, but that's an excuse.  I simply prefer a dress.  I guess I could say I think my legs are better than my ass, but I'm not sure about that.  People ask me all the time what I'm dressed up for.  It sounds a bit crazy when I say, "comfort".
  • My relationship with my dog is a little puzzling.  We still struggle somewhat for the title "dominant female".  She is not alllowed in the house (and I don't want to hear your lectures about it, either.  My reasons are very valid, and you probably wouldn't let her in your house, either.)  but she is still an integral member of our family.  I love her, but I'm not sure I like her.  Is that a little crazy?
  • I think it is absolutely disgusting to mix your corn in with your mashed potatoes and gravy.  I don't mind soup or stew or Chinese food, and all of those mix vegetables up with other things.  But the corn stays out of the spuds.  Period.  And honestly, I am NOT a picky eater.  It must be the texture.
  • I salt my toast.  I can't even explain that.
  • My children are the greatest.  I love them beyond reason.  I think they are cool and handsome and all things good.  But I don't especially like your children.  There are a few exceptions to this, but very few.  How can I have such boundless love for my kids and so little patience for yours? 
I wonder what the outside world thinks of me and my quirks.  Don't tell.  I probably don't want to know what you think.  The next time you go out to weed your front yard in your nightie, you might want to wonder what the world is seeing when they look at you.

Mom's Milestone

Mom had her 80th birthday a month ago.  We had a very nice party for her, and even though she is an anti-social creature, she enjoyed the company and the attention.

I, being the embarrassingly rotten daughter I am, called her last night (for the first time since her party....).
Mom has reached a milestone.  Two months ago, she talked about being an old lady with just a hint of sadness and dismay.  Since her birthday, she sounds proud.  Impressed with herself at having achieved 80 years.

It is remarkable that she has achieved these 80 years in good overall health and with a such a sound mind.  Between the starving time when the Nazis occupied Holland, her native country, to the difficult time she had bringing forth the four of us, to tuberculosis and I don't know what else.....  it's impressive that she's here today and doing very well.  She smokes. (SHAME ON YOU MOM!!!)  No exercise.  Her diet...well, this is starting to sound like a lecture, so I'll lay off.  All in all, it is a wonder that she is so well.

There is something about the way she is embracing her age that I really like.  She laughs.  She jokes about it.  She holds her head high. Her mom was like that, too, and so is her older sister.  I like it that the women in my family do not become crabby, cranky old whiners.  Even at 80, and beyond, they embrace each day with a joyful spirit and a twinkle of humor in their eyes.  My mom takes that twinkle of humor to the next level and all the way to mischief.  But she's always been that way.

I don't know if the attitude is what helps the women in my family be so "with it" into their golden years.  Maybe it's that being "with it" lets you stay cheerful?  No.  I think it's the other way around. 

Life's Block

A million ideas pop into my little pea brain every week.  And then they pop right out again, leaving no shadow of the great idea I thought they were at the time.  What causes that, anyway?  (Yeah, I know...  age, too much on my plate, the presence of a teenager in my life....  take your pick.)

I'm writing a book.  Or, I WAS.  I'm stuck.  Oh, so stuck.  I'm at that jumping-off place in the story, and now I have to decide which way to take the tale.  Once I decide, I'll probably be able to just pour out the ideas again.  We'll see.  Writer's block.

All out of ideas for dinner, too.  It doesn't help that it's really too warm to cook.  When the weather cools more, which is supposed to happen in two days, I think the inspiration to start cooking will hit me again.  We'll see.  Cook's block.

I need to clean my desk.  It's a mess.  Need to get my hind end in gear and fix this problem.  The trouble is, I have developed a very serious case of Metallurgic Transfer.  You know, where the iron in your blood becomes lead in your ass?  Yeah.  That's the one. 

The ceiling fans in my house are all disgusting.  A summer of constant whirring has collected a layer of junk on the leading edge of every fan blade.  The trouble there is that I was cheering so enthusiastically at my son's soccer game (it was a real nail-biter, which is odd in high-school soccer).  When our team scored the winning goal, all the other parents and I threw our hands joyfully in the air in the "goal" sign.  Wouldn't you think that a person with joint problems would know better?  Apparantly not, because I can't lift my left arm above about 20 degrees.  This, I must tell you, makes shampooing my hair a real challenge.  Pathetic.

What does that have to do with cruddy ceiling fans, you ask?  Strange thing:  when the electrician installed all those ceiling fans?  He put them all on the ceiling.  And since I am a whopping 5'5" tall, the ceiling is somewhat above my head.  I tried cleaning one of them yesterday and proved to myself again that it's a two-handed job:  I need one hand to hold the silly thing while the other one cleans the science-project off the blade.  I wonder what I'd have to give the hubs to get him to do that job?  Well, there IS always that one particular kind of.....uh..... marital currency.  Don't even need both arms for that, and it will buy almost anything. :-)

Sewing Lessons = Life Lessons

My Mom taught me how to sew. Obviously, Mom taught me how to do a lot of things, but the way she taught me how to sew became very important. It wasn't THAT she taught me how to sew that was so important.  It was how she taught me that gave me tools I needed for the rest of my life.


First, Mom had me make a brown-kraft paper copy of the pattern, including all the tailor’s marks. Then she told me to use the paper copy to cut out the pattern in muslin. “But Mom,” I whined, “I want to make the dress out of this gingham.” Nope. Make the first one out of muslin.


First the muslin copy had to be basted together, fitting the darts just so and marking everything on the muslin copy. Mom helped me fit it, of course. When it was exactly perfect, I sewed over the basting in regular stitches. It was checked again for fit, a few adjustments were made, and I was permitted to take it all apart and transfer the marks to the brown paper pattern. Now I had a pattern that was made especially for me.  I wondered why I needed a pattern fit especially to me when I was growing "like a veed", as Mom told me so often in her accented English.  Then I pinned the heavy pattern onto the pretty pink gingham I had picked for my dress.


Again, I basted the entire dress, fitting everything as we went. And when it was perfect, I finished the dress in a small running stitch. I wore that dress proudly until I outgrew it. Several other projects followed, and soon I didn’t need Mom’s help very often.


Years later, when I took home economics in junior high, the first quarter was devoted to sewing. At the end of the quarter, I showed my Mom my sewing project. She looked it over critically, and pointed out a few flaws. Then she told me I had done a good job, overall, and atta girl.


I told Mom that this had been a much easier sewing project. “They’ve learned a thing or two since you went to school, Mom.” I reported. “They taught me some pretty slick shortcuts.”  I couldn't decide if Mom was just out-dated, or if she was being mean to me on purpose to make me work that hard.


“How did everyone else’s projects turn out?” She asked.


“Not so good. I got the best grade in the class. I don’t think anyone else can wear what they made.” I answered.


“That’s why I didn’t teach you the shortcuts. If I teach you the right way, and you take shortcuts, you still have a good end-product. But if I teach you the shortcuts, you take shortcuts on the shortcuts, and then what do you have? A lot of effort into something you can’t even wear.  You also need to know what all the marks mean, how it all goes together and why you are doing what you are doing.  You won't always have a me or a teacher to help you if it gets complicated.”


My Mom, she is one smart cookie.

The Peppermint Plant

My oldest son was my father's first grandchild. 

From the first time they laid their round, deep-set eyes on each other, it was love.  They understood each other.  Even as a small baby, my son was as content to be with Grandpa as he was with me.  Grandpa loved that baby with all his heart, and felt as if he had been given a chance to do all the things he couldn't with his own children.  When he was a young man, supporting a large family, there simply wasn't the leisure time to take long walks with babies in strollers.

My son worshipped his Grandpa.  By the age of 2, he could name every tool on the jeweler's bench.  They'd go for walks along the creek that ran behind the house, and pick wild peppermint.  Rubbing the leaves between their hands, they would inhale the summer-fresh scent.  They went fishing.  They played with trucks in the back yard.  And when my little boy was fighting sleep, Grandpa would waltz him around the living room to Eddy Arnold singing "He'll Have To Go".  They understood each other.

Around Thanksgiving of 1992, when my oldest son was 4 and I had a new baby boy, too, Grandpa found out he had colon cancer.  The doctors performed a complete colostomy, with serious doubts that Grandpa would make it to Christmas.

Maybe it was because of Grandpa's indomitable will, or maybe the doctors were just plain wrong, but Grandpa saw both that next Christmas, and the one after.  He did very well for 16 months, and spent every minute he could with his two grandsons.  He held his oldest grandson's hand, and balanced the little one on his hip, and they took long, lazy walks where the peppermint grew.  The oldest one still held a special place in his heart, for what they had together was something more meaningful and deeper than the usual grandchild-grandparent relationship.  On some deep level, they understood each other.

By the early spring of 1994, it was plain to see there would be no more Christmases with Grandpa.  He had taken a serious turn for the worse, and the entire family (there's a heap of us) held our collective breath:  we were all afraid that he might die on his oldest grandson's birthday which was coming soon.

We brought our little boy to see his beloved Grandpa in the hospital.  At the time I thought it was strange that my highly-inquisitive son didn't ask any questions.  He sat next to Grandpa on the hospital bed, held his hand, and just smiled into his Grandpa's eyes.  Grandpa smiled back.  They didn't need to talk.  They understood each other.

The day before my son's birthday, Grandpa was taken to the nursing home.  There was nothing more to be done for him in the hospital.  We took shifts to sit with him so he would have some family with him at all times. 

The next day, while my son was having a dinosaur birthday cake with his kindergarten class, Grandpa quietly passed away.   My sweet hubs had picked up the two-year old from me at the nursing home and went to get our oldest boy from school.  He didn't have to tell our little boy what the news was;  it was written all over his face.  I expected a million questions when I came home that day.  I was wrong. 

With a troubled expression in his round, deep-set eyes, my little boy asked me the question I was most afraid of:  "Why did God take Grandpa to heaven on my birthday?"  I don't know where the answer came from, I only know I didn't think of it:  "Well, honey, that makes him your own special angel now."  He accepted that answer in the simple, peaceful way of a child, and asked no more questions.  He had not cried a single tear, and daddy and I were both concerned by that.

When my sister and I went with Mom to make the final arrangements, the sweet hubs took our two boys out to the nursery.  It was spring: time to plant the flower beds.  With the little guy in the stroller, daddy looked over the flowering plants to make his choices.  He turned to discover our older boy gone.  Missing.  Nowhere in sight.  Anxiously looking all around, he finally found him.  Standing at a rack of kitchen herbs, with a leaf of peppermint in his little hand and enormous tears rolling down his little face.

The hubs, he has an amazing presence of mind.  He bought all the peppermint to be found that day, and planted one whole, enormous flower bed in mint.  Our little boy could often be seen to pick a few leaves and crush them in his pudgy hands.  A distant look would come over his face and he would smile.  I tell myself that the smell of the leaves brought him back to his Grandpa...and his Grandpa back to him for that moment.  They understood each other.

He's 21 now, and much like his Grandpa in many ways.  Strong and silent and stubborn, disinclined to take advice, unexpectedly tender, with dark hair and round, deep-set eyes.  And still, I see him pick a few pepperment leaves and crush them between his hands, now strong and calloused, and breathe in the summer-sweet scent.  And smile.

Choose Joy

It's the simplest recipe for happiness I know of.  Easy to say, and not so difficult to do.  Let me repeat it, just to make my point.  Choose joy.

What I Know

I am not the smartest person in the world.  I'm not even the smartest person I know.  I do not know all the state capitals, I doubt I could name all the presidents (I could come close, though) and I never made it through algebra.  Still, I've learned some very valuable things in my 45 years on this revolving rock.  Just thought I'd share:
  • Regret is a heavy burden.  Do all you can now so that you won't have to shoulder that load later.
  • It is possible to vomit more than you have eaten.
  • Life is not fair.
  • Happiness is a choice, not a condition.
  • Everybody thinks they are the only normal one in their family.  I know I am.  My sister thinks she is.  One may be, but everyone can not be, right about that. 
  • I am not as wonderful as my dog thinks I am.
  • The weight I was so scared of when I was 20?  It's keeping me warm at 45.
  • Nobody notices when I don't sweep.  Unless I don't sweep for a long time.  A really long time.
  • Nobody notices if I don't wear foundation, but EVERYBODY notices if I skip mascara.
  • The things people do that drive you crazy now are the same things you'll miss about them when they are gone.
  • Live the moment.  Make plans, set your goals, anticipate the future, but live NOW.
  • Don't bother trying to keep up with the Joneses.  They're about to get a divorce, anyway.
  • God is not restricted to church on Sunday. 
  • There are lots of kinds of strengths.  One of the strongest people I know has trouble opening the fridge.
  • I am blessed.  Truly blessed.  Thank you, Lord, for all the many blessings I enjoy every day. 

What I Don't Know.

It's really too long a list to write.  I don't know a lot more than I do know.  I have some nagging gaps in my knowledge, though, and maybe you can help me figure these things out.
  • Why don't little dogs know they're little?  You see the little stinkers picking fights with Great Danes....  don't they know?
  • This one really bugs me:  who was the first person to eat a cashew?  Do you know why you never see cashews in the shell in the store?  It's because the shells contain an oil that is caustic to your skin.  So who was it that picked up a nut that burned their skin, and still wanted to try eating what was inside?
  • Why do men spit so much? 
  • In the movies, the roosters only crow at dawn.  Where the hell did anyone ever get that idea?  Someone who has never even seen a rooster, I guess.
  • I once bought a pair of maternity pantyhose.  I could stretch them up to my nose, but they wouldn't stretch OUT.  Who thought of that? 
  • Does whining ever get anyone anywhere?  It never works for me. 
  • I heard somewhere that anyone can sing, if they learn how.  Really?  No, I mean REALLY?
  • What exactly is that guy singing in the song, "Blinded by the Light"?  Wrapped up like a what????
  • Speaking of music and singing, why is it that we do this?  How did it all start?
  • If the Sumerians really were the first people to write (or even if they weren't), what was that very first sentence?  Of all the things a person might say, which was the thing they chose to say?  Gee, I hope it wasn't something like, "take out the trash".

Labor Day Weekend

Happy Labor Day, everybody!  It's the holiday devoted to celebrating the wheels that make our world go 'round!  It just so happens that it's also my Mom's 80th birthday this year -- just a little side note there. 

In the spirit of the holiday, I want to send a little shout-out to all of you (all of us) who labor every day to make it happen.

Thanks to the bagger at the grocery store who kindly puts the eggs on TOP of the canned goods, rather than under them.  You keep the ice display full, you fetch all the carts from the lot (many of which the patrons were too lazy to put in the cart corral), you ask me if I need help out with that, even when all I bought was a gallon of milk.  Or more likely a bottle of wine and a bag of chips, but whatever.

Thanks to every cashier, stocker, baker, butcher, deli worker and produce person.  You put the foods of the world at my fingertips, arranged attractively, and you always ask me when our son will come home from Iraq.  I could kiss you for that.

Thanks to the guy who picks up my trash every Thursday morning.  Very early every Thursday morning.  Even when I forget to roll the dumpster to the curb, you fetch my trash.  I'd be swimming in trash by now if it wasn't for you. 

Thanks to every single teacher who ever had me or one of my children in your class.  I don't know why you didn't beat us clear to pieces with your eraser, but you didn't and now we can all read and write.  And one of us can make change.

Thanks to the phlebotomist at the lab.  You took a blood sample and you did NOT leave a bruise the size of Ohio on my skinny arm.  I don't know how you do that.  Others have tried, and failed.

Thanks to the people who work at the sewer plant.  I'd be swimming in something else besides trash if you were asleep on the job.

Thanks to the United States Military.  (getting a little choked up here.....).  You stand between us and the bad guys of the world, at great cost to your selves.

Thanks to the housekeepers at the motels and hotels.  Does anyone appreciate you?  I do!  I did your job for a brief time, years ago, and it kicked my ass. 

Thanks to the servers at the restaurants.  I did that job, too.  My buns were in better shape, thanks to all the exercise.  I know you put up with a lot.  And I know that 10 nice, normal diners don't always make up for one real a-hole.

Thanks to the migrant farm workers.  I could not afford to buy strawberries, spinach or oranges, if you weren't there to get them to my market. 

Thanks to the rest of the farm workers, too.  You grow food.  I like to eat.  We're a perfect match.

Thanks to the custodians at the schools.  Yours might be the scariest job of all.

There are so many others.  Every person who holds a job, I guess!  Every trade, every profession, every minimum-wage (or even less) job out there.  I do not believe in the idea of a menial job.  Every job is absolutely required.  Well, I haven't figured out exactly why we need professional ball players, but that question is for another time.  If I stop to imagine my life without all of the services, conveniences, necessities, health care, food service, auto-related services, and OH!  What would my life be like without the people who make tortilla chips?  Or cheese?  Gasp!  Or coffee, tea and WINE?  It's too frightening to consider. 

So thank you, to each and every person who goes to work, or works from home.  You are the salt of the earth.

A New Place

I just finished a non-fiction book about the peopling of the continents.  The author discussed all the disparate theories about how and when and by whom that happened.  Naturally, I'm especially interested in the first people to inhabit the Americas.  I don't want to discuss the different theories about that event(s).  The subject might get too heated, even for me!

The idea is engrossing, isn't it?  To be the very first person to step onto a continent?  To see it, straight from God's hand, before anyone (else) has had a chance to goof it up?  I've always been fascinated by the lives of explorers, pioneers, mountain men and everyone else who was willing to pull up stakes and try their luck in a whole new place. 

We once talked (not seriously) about moving to Alaska and away from the world.  We weren't rash enough to do it, but it was still a lovely idea.  A little cabin.  No neighbors.  Except for bears, of course. 

No neighbors.

No neighbors.

Hmmm.  :-)

Insomniac Diaries

Hello. My name is Trish and I am an insomniac. I've been an insomniac for as long as I can remember. I can remember lying awake at night in my pink-and-white candy stripe bedroom and staring up at the ceiling, trying to find "constellations" in the glitter embedded in the acoustical popcorn ceiling texture. Who ever heard of a child who can't sleep?

The sad part of my problem is that nothing is keeping me awake. I don't lie there and worry, unless I really have something to worry about. I'm not wakefully considering my Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, or solving for y, or contemplating a cure for cancer. My mind wanders around like those Family Circus cartoons. You know the one where Mom tells Billy to put the hammer back in the tool shed, and you see Billy's path (by the dotted line behind him) and he goes to the tree house, the dog house, the out house, around the house, over the swing, through the car and under the porch in a squiggly path of distraction. THAT, in a nutshell, is my wakefulness. It doesn't make a bit of sense and accomplishes nothing.

Let me take you on a brief tour. Two nights ago, I stretched out with my eyes wide open, and thought about the first day of class. The instructor reviewed the rules, one of which was "no food or sweetened drinks in the computer lab room". No big surprise there...we all know what a Dr. Pepper can do to a keyboard. Uh oh. Here it comes. I see a bunny trail of foolish wakefulness coming on. What would I do if I spilled something on my keyboard? I've had to clean out keyboards before. (I eat at my desk a lot.) But a big spill? And I am NOT going to drink unsweetened coffee, so don't even go there.

I turn on my side and look out the window and notice the way the moonlight makes the red hummingbird juice look like a gem, my mind still on a sticky keyboard. The only way to clean it would be to unplug it, remove all the keys, and get started with a bottle of alcohol and a pile of cotton swabs.   Don't even bother to point out that it would be far simpler to cough up the $15 for a new one.  Logic is not in the driver's seat here.

Could I remember the order of all the keys to put them back correctly? I know where all the letters go, thanks to six years of training in "touch typing". Do you remember touch typing? What about the tilde? Where does that go, again? I'm not sure about the brackets and slashes, either. The cursor keys would be easy, but what about that mess above, with the "insert", "delete", etc. keys? Oh, and the number pad! Are the numbers laid out like a phone, with the 1 in the upper-left position? Or a calculator with the 1 in the lower-left? Pretty sure it's like a calculator. What about all the other things that are there? Num lock, +, - and few others. What were the others?

Let me think... what else is on the number pad? And thus begins round 2 of my mental bunny trail.

And this is the useless, silly drivel that cranks out of my brain when I should be dreaming.

You know what is worse? At some point in my mental meandering, I ask myself the question, "what started me thinking about this?" and I BACKTRACK through all this silliness, trying to figure out why I'm thinking about it.

Sigh.


I Love.....

The smell of onions when you saute them in butter.

The way my high TC sheets feel in the early morning...soft, warm, like a caress from my bed.

Lavendar soap.

The words, "Hi, Mom."

Roasting whole, fresh green chilis on the barbecue.

Bluegrass music.

Home.

Cooking dinner with good friends.

The angle of the autumn sunlight. It's so full of promise!

When the sun is low in the late afternoon, I close the shade in the dining room. And when the hummingbirds come to visit the feeder, there is a shadow play on the shade for me to watch while I cook. Should probably watch the cooking instead, but what can I say?

The curve of my hub's biceps.... yummy!

Watching my old blue dog try to cram a ball too big through the balusters so that I'll throw it for her.

Touch.

Puppy breath.

A great book.

A good joke.

The smell of a clean baby.

Teamwork.

Empty hampers. Completely empty. It's a very ephemeral thing so I have to look quick to enjoy it.

So much more. Ever so much more.

Never Too Old To Learn

I'm taking a class at the local college, and it isn't Knitting 101...although maybe it should be.

School is interesting, don't you think? About 22 other people, 16 of whom are far younger than I, all sit in a room together so we can learn the same things. How we plan to use that information is as different as we are. How quickly we grasp the information being thrown at us is also widely varied. As usual, I fall in the middle range.

It seems like there should be some great power in all those minds focused at once on the same thing. Of course, if that could be so, being a professor would be very dangerous. You might just evaporate in a puff of steam, with all that cerebral attention on you.

OK, to be quite honest, I'm not sure everyone in the room is completely focused. I was not a particularly focused, attentive person in my teens, and that trend seems to remain popular. There are also a couple of very nice people who might need to start with a more remedial course. They aren't focused, either. They're floundering. My heart goes out to them because I know that there, but for the grace of God, go I.

I'm not as old as the seniors taking personal enrichment classes. I'm not as young as the normal college crowd. I'm not wearing a track suit and orthopedic shoes, and I'm not wearing a belly shirt and Skechers. I think I am the only one on campus in a pencil skirt, blouse and stilettos.
A kid shouted at me from across the campus, and who was it? One of my youngest son's friends.

Let me repeat that. ONE OF MY YOUNGEST SON'S FRIENDS. My friend tells me I'm a hottie, but I'm still one of the Moms. I'm having an identity crisis. Or maybe I'm just embracing the many sides of ... me.

Snapshot

My neighbor was walking his daughters to school today. The youngest girl held Daddy's hand. Her blonde hair pulled up into pigtails high on her head and she skipped along. Have you ever seen a child walking along holding a helium balloon: the way it bounces and boings within its confines? That was little pigtail girl. She was an adorable balloon bouncing on the end of Daddy's arm.

There is something especially cute about a girl in pigtails, isn't there? I suppose I'm susceptible to that because I have sons, and they don't look so cute in pigtails.

Their older daughter was reading as she walked along. I guess she is past the years of skipping. Her pretty blonde hair was brushed into a smooth ponytail: far more dignified. She is very stylish in a cute skirt and flats and already very "put together". The two girls are only a few years apart, but what a difference a few years makes in the growing of child.

How Would You Feel?

I have decided I am guilty of a sin. At the very least, I haven't been kind.

All this time, I've been whining about Monday. I wake up on Monday morning and groan. "Oh, no. Another Monday." I've even been heard to say (out loud, even!), "Monday bites."

Poor Monday. Unloved. Mistrusted and unappreciated. Does anybody ever say, "Monday is my favorite day of the week"? No. I'm just as guilty of this as anyone, if not worse. But I have seen the error of my ways and I am rethinking Monday.

How could we ever have a happy Monday if all we do is insult it? From here on out, I'm going to tell Monday it's a good little day. I'm going to admire Monday just like I admire Friday. Monday shouldn't have to be the redheaded stepchild.

The reason Monday is different than the other six days is that it marks the time of the week which doesn't belong to me. OK, I like "me" time. But I also like my job, and let me tell you: my job is a blessing. I'm going to start treating Monday like the first day of a blessing.

Wish me luck.

A Day In The Life

Mondays really bite. But even so, it's a good day.

I woke up this morning, not to the alarm clock which was blaring earlier, but to the sound of my dog having conniption fits outside my window. You see, the sweet Hubs walks her early every morning. Hubs is an early riser anyway, and never a procrastinator, so the old blue dog knows that when the light comes on in the kitchen, a walk is near. She can't contain herself and starts to whine and 'talk' and otherwise remind him she's out there, waiting.

We had the windows open all night, so the room was chilly and fresh, but the bed was warm and cozy and oh-so-comfy. I was good and dragged my butt out of bed and stumbled in to take a shower. It was still cool enough to wear a fuzzy robe this morning, and let me tell you...THAT is exciting. The first time you get to wear a fuzzy, soft robe after the hottest part of summer is a delight.

So, anywho. I slept well. I rose from my bed unaided, feeling well and strong and sleepy. The water heater is working, spitting out hot water just like planned. I didn't nick my legs shaving, and I didn't get soap in my eyes. Sweetened coffee greeted me when I got out of the shower.

My teenage son woke up in a good mood, which is more rare than the Hope Diamond. My car started right up, the garage door worked and I didn't get into an accident on the way to work. So even though Mondays BITE, what do I really have to complain about?

A Wayward Wind

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yFuzHbM9EEc

Have you ever heard Patsy Cline's version of "The Wayward Wind"? Yeah, I admit it. I'm too young for that kind of music, but I can't help it! I know all the words to "The Rivers of Texas" and "Git Along, Little Dogies". That's DOGIES, not doggies.

It's rodeo weekend here in our rural Southwestern town. Flatlanders flock to our little mountain community to gawk at the rednecks. Real cowboys come here to compete in a sport that is older than the territory. Musicians and concessionaires and photographers arrive to try to glean a few greenbacks from the sidelines.

Rodeo weekend is a good time to hear some whoopin' and hollerin', some fiddle music and some good old-fashioned cowboy poetry. Oh, and a few sirens. Rodeo is not for the fragile.

I love the tradition of the west. I love cowboy poetry and old western songs. I bet I know the lyrics to more old cowboy songs than anyone my age has a right to know. But you know what? I don't go to the rodeo. You don't get to go and sit on the opry seat among your friends anymore. Crowds are just a little too much for me, so I avoid the snarled traffic and the flatlanders who drive up to ogle the quaint ruralites.

Now, I like to think of myself as a friendly person so I'm ashamed of myself for scowling at you city slickers. Maybe it would help me if you kind people were aware of some of the rules of small town living. Let me trot those rules out for you, and see if you can lasso any of them:

  1. It's no use to complain about the long lines at the grocery stores. The lines are long because of you, not because the stores are so backward. Smile. Be patient. And remember that you're on our turf now.
  2. Another grocery story tip: generally speaking, we do NOT park right in front of the door in the driving lane. You folks seem to think that if you're just "running in" you can do that. Please don't. God gave you legs. Use them and park out in the lot with the rest of us.
  3. Restaurants also become overrun with visitors. You simply must understand that it would not behoove us to enlarge the restaurant, hire more waitstaff and kiss your ass just for a couple of days a year. Just so you know.
  4. If you think that slapping a straw cowboy hat on your head makes you blend in with the locals, I'm sorry to disappoint you. You still stand out like a sore thumb. There's a good reason we wear boots in the corrals and stalls. Don't come crying to me if you get manure on your Mia Suri embellished wedges.
  5. You're going to see people riding horses around town. Don't honk at them. That ain't funny. By the way, it is also unwise to sneak up behind a horse.
  6. Study up on the events you might get to see at a rodeo. Learn the vocabulary. You'll get a lot more out of it. Find out how to pronounce words and what they mean. There's a status structure to rodeo, too. A good rule of thumb is, the bigger the belt buckle the girl has, the more vaulted a position in the Rodeo Royalty she holds. If she's wearing a belt buckle as big as her hair, you better be ready to bow. Mutton busting is great fun, and if you show up on a Sunday afternoon, you might get to see three preachers trying to put bloomers on a calf.
So we're holding a rodeo, folks, and you're all invited. I hope you enjoy yourself, and I hope you behave in such a way that we enjoy having you as our guests. On that note, I'll leave you with a favorite cowboy poem--not mine, I'm sorry to say.


HELL IN TEXAS

The devil, we're told, in hell was chained,
For a thousand years he there remained.
He never complained, nor did he groan,
But determined to start a hell of his own
Where he could torment the souls of men
Without being chained to a prison pen.

So he asked the Lord if He had on hand
Anything left when He made the land.
The Lord said, "Yes, I had some land,
But I left it down on the Rio Grande.
The fact is old boy, the stuff is so poor,
I don't think you could use it in hell any more."

But the devil went down to look at the truck,
And said if it came as a gift, he was stuck;
For after examining it careful and well
He concluded the place was too dry for hell.
So in order to get it off His hands
God promised the devil to water the lands.

For he had some water, or rather some dregs,
A regular cathartic that smelled like bad eggs.
Hence the deal was closed and the deed was given,
And the Lord went back to His place in Heaven.
and the devil said, "I have all that is needed
To make a good hell," and hence he proceeded.

He began to put thorns on all the trees,
And he mixed the sand with millions of fleas,
He scattered tarantulas along all the roads,
Put thorns on the cacti and horns on the toads;
He lengthened the horns of the Texas steers
And put an extension on the jack rabbits' ears.

He put little devils in the bronco steed
And poisoned the feet of the centipede.
The rattlesnake bites you, the scorpion stings,
The mosquito delights you by buzzing his wings.
The sand burrs prevail, so do the ants,
And those that sit down need half soles on their pants.

The devil then said that throughout the land
He'd manage to keep up the devil's own brand,
And all would be mavericks unless they bore
The marks of scratches and bites by the score.
The heat in the summer is a hundred and ten,
Too hot for the devil and too hot for men.

The wild boar roams through the black chaparral,
It's a hell of a place he has for a hell;
The red pepper grows by the bank of the brook,
The Mexicans use it in all that they cook.
Just dine out in Texas and then you will shout,
"I've a hell on the inside as well as without."
UNKNOWN

My First Poem In 30 Years.

Quiet, in the still of night
Or dark of early morning
Contented notes of tender joy
Infuse a new day dawning.

Grandma’s words come back to me
Patient, kind and wise.
She taught me how to look at life
With clear and joyful eyes.


I used to really enjoy writing poetry in school. I even made a few side dollars by writing poems for other kids to turn in. Yeah, I know. I was bad.

What happened to that creative, open girl who felt so inspired?

Was That Necessary?

I have a question. This is a serious question, with profound implications. Hold on to yourself, because the way you answer this could rock you to your very core.

Why do teachers make shy children speak in front of the class?

I'm serious!! What good comes from this barbaric practice? If you're shy, did your evil teacher's enjoyment of your discomfort actually help you conquer your shyness? I challenge you to find a person who can honestly say that they'd be a recluse today, were it not for Mrs. So-and-so forcing him to stand before the class and make a spectacle of himself. I bet you'll find many more who will not speak before an audience to this very day, thanks to the remembered agony of being made to do so as a child.

Is there a glib, charismatic person out there who was a painfully shy child? I want to talk to you.

And what is so very wrong with being shy? Teddy Roosevelt admonished us to "speak softly and carry a big stick". We are always told that we have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. Well, I am here today to defend the quiet child.

Shy children are not stupid children. Some of the very smartest people I know are the quiet type. You can learn a lot by watching and listening, and very little by talking. Teachers, if you ask a shy child for an answer to a question without making it painful for them to answer, you might be amazed at the intelligence and insight of their answer. I think teachers should cease and desist immediately the debilitating practice of trying to force a shy child "out of their shell". It doesn't work that way, it doesn't help and it certainly hurts. Now and later, too.

Take heart, shy kids. I'm on your side. I trust a shy person far more than the loud ones. Let the class clowns gather all the attention, because I have it on very good authority that blessed are the meek.

Last time for a first day

This morning, I did something I will never get to do again. I woke up a son for his first day of the new school year. Yes, my youngest child is going to his first day of his senior year. Sigh.

Sometimes I wonder if there's something wrong with me. Other mothers I knew cried when their children started school. They grieved when their children entered high school, and bawled at graduation, as if each new step was about what they were leaving behind and not what was next. They grieve over their children's growing.

Not me. I've been as excited for my children as they were for themselves. New adventures, new stages in their lives, it's all good. The way I see it, God gave us these two boys to raise up, teach, love, guide, feed (!!!!!), care for and let go of. The idea is that we are supposed to rear our children to be honorable men, independent, capable, successful, happy, balanced, productive, loving, compassionate MEN. Part of our job is to give them the tools they need to do all of those things. I hope we got it right.

I cherished each of their stages as they grew, and enjoyed the time as it came. I didn't grieve for the babyhood when they became toddlers. Why would I? I got to enjoy all the wonder of youth again, through their bright young eyes.

Now my youngest is embarking on his final year as a "child". When this school year is over, he'll be 18, with the whole world before him. He'll be in charge of his own destiny and his own life in a whole new way. Do you remember how that felt? I do! Exciting, scary, challenging and intimidating, too.

I'm looking forward to what the coming years will bring. I enjoy the day, and where he is in his maturation right this moment, and I cherish all that I was privileged to see as he got to this point. I wonder who he will choose to marry, and what his children might be like. But that's for another day and I'm in no hurry. Where he is is a good place to be in. He's a senior: top dog in the pecking order of the public school system. He has friends and a loving family, a truck and a job and cool teachers and the lowest level of responsibility he will have for the rest of his life. Why would I feel sad?

For Shame

The top story in the news today is the funeral of a guy famous for bad plastic surgery, wearing one glove and dangling his baby over a balcony.

Yesterday, SEVEN United States soldiers were killed in Afghanistan.

People in this country have committed suicide because a singer died, but the loss of seven brave Americans doesn’t even make a ripple in our national consciousness.

Shame on each and every one of you who so much as *clicked* on a news story about that ridiculous man. It’s time to wake up, Americans. I am appalled and disgusted by the media frenzy and the celebrity-worshippers who are turning the death of one sad little man into some kind of a bid for sainthood. He could sing. SO freaking what??? What is there to idolize in that?

So here’s the deal. And yes, I’m pissed, in case you didn’t notice. You sad sorry SOBs who are bawling over the loss of this one spoiled, misguided singer: I’m going to help you find a new hero. They’re around, but you can’t look at TV to find them. And you won’t find the real heroes in the music store, either. Here are a few places you can start to search for someone who is worthy of your admiration:

  • Look in your own family. Look at the single mom who did without for all the years of your growing, so that you could have a decent coat.
  • Look at the father who worked two jobs and missed your ball games (which is where he would rather have been) because you needed braces and that emergency appendectomy.
  • Look at the people who volunteer their time, knowledge, effort and funds to help better your community.
  • Look at the men and women in the American Armed Forces. No one made them be there. They volunteered to put their lives on the line to preserve YOUR way of life, YOUR security and YOUR freedom.
  • Look at the teachers who gave you the education which opened up the doors of the world for you, the police officers who stand between you and the bad guys, the guy that fixes your overflowing toilet and the girl that stocks the grocery shelves so that you won’t have to reach WAY back for your Twinkies.
  • If you don't have any of those in your life, then how about you become a fan of the man who died on a cross, so that you could have a shot at heaven? Come to think of it, even if you have all of those in your life, you can still be His fan.

You can stop worshipping the basketball players and the rock stars and the other icons of American overindulgence. Some of those folks might deserve to be heroes, but not because they can make the scoreboard light up or because they have some hot guitar licks. If you can’t find something more redemptive in them than that, it’s a sad day for them, and sadder for you if you idolize them.

God help us, America. Our infrastructure is crumbling, children in this country will go to bed hungry tonight, there are soldiers dying in foreign lands, we have dangerous diseases to contend with and global warming and I don’t know what-all, but a messed-up, freak-of-nature pop star died, and THAT is the big news.

Memories.....light the corners of my mind?

Is that the line from the song? I don't know.

I was thinking about my memories of my lost loved ones. All my grandparents are gone now, my Dad, beloved uncles, my brother.....all gone. My memories of them are an interesting study in contrasts.

Some things I remember with perfect clarity. The way my father's hands looked, the way my Holland grandma used the pronoun "Ik", instead of "I"... somethings appear in my mind with an immediacy that makes them seem present and real and not thoughts of someone gone. Other things are softer-edged and misty: my mind's bokeh. (Look it up.)

I was very small when my grandfathers passed away, so the only memories left to me are the sharp, clear things that impressed me deeply at the time. I didn't get time to develop those amorphous impressions, my comprehension of others as human beings, that I had with my other loved ones. Those are the things that make up my watercolor-y memories of loved ones past.

For a time I was concerned that I was forgetting loved ones gone. I have come to realize, however, that I'm not forgetting them at all. My thoughts of them and memories of them are becoming more and more a part of the tapestry that is me. I don't have to have the sharp edges of every image to have a clear understanding. Time blurs the picture somewhat, but the image is still comprehensible and relevant.

I wonder, what will be the things which stand out for others, when it's my time to go? What will my sons recall about their mom with crystal clarity, a shining recall of who I was or what I looked like?