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 always 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.  :-)