Pema Chodron

http://video.pbs.org/video/1383845135/

I'm not Buddhist, but I must say that this is one fascinating person.  If you can spare less than an hour from your frazzled, hectic, overwhelmed life.....   click on the link above.

Post-Christmas Woes

Do you like UNdecorating after Christmas?  I don't. 

Do you run out of ideas for how to use the leftovers?  I do.

Do you find yourself groaning when faced with anything sweet?  I most definitely do.

Do you discover pine needles in the strangest places?  Yeah, me too.  But that doesn't happen only at Christmas.  With an outdoorsy, rugged Sweet Hubs like mine, there's a constant stream of twigs, leaves, pine needles, sawdust, gravel....you name it.  It varies by season, but something is always migrating into my house as a stowaway in his boots and clothes.

One Christmas Morning....

My Mom is a very loving Mom, but she was never an especially demonstrative Mom.  I don't recall Mom ever sitting down to play with us, or coloring with us.  If we got a bedtime story, it was generally Dad who read it.  Mom showed us her love in other ways, but she is not playful or impulsive.

My Mom is also an insomniac.  (Thanks for passing THAT on, Mom!!)  You might find her up and about at any time of night.  One very early Christmas morning, when I was about 14, I got up to get a drink of water. 

It must have been about 2 in the morning, and as I tiptoed down the stairs, I noticed the glow of the Christmas tree lights stretching across the room.  Wondering who left the lights on, and knowing that we always shut them off at bedtime so to not dry out the tree, I quietly went downstairs intending to unplug the tree and get a drink..

There was my Mom, sitting cross-legged on the floor, ever so gently...............holding presents up to her ear one at a time, and shaking them.

I turned around and went back upstairs, my thirst forgotten, and wondering about this side of Mom I had never guessed at.

**************.

Snapshot

Sometimes, there simply isn't enough time in the day to eat all the potato chips you want.

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A Perfect Christmas

I don't exactly love the holidays.  I used to love them.  I want to love them.  I think I could learn to love them again.  In actual practice, though, I am thwarted in my quest to love the holidays almost every year.

When I was a child, we had a lovely tradition.  We had many nice traditions, but this was one of my favorites.  We children would get up on Christmas mornings, open our stockings, and then we would set the table with our Christmas china and prepare breakfast for our parents.  The sun rose late at that latitude, so we would have a candlelight breakfast.  Mom and Dad got to sleep a little later, which I'm sure was the origin of the tradition, my big sister did the majority of the cooking, I set the table and we all had a lovely quiet breakfast together.

We received nice presents, but I don't recall Christmas being about the presents.  We looked forward to the whole experience, not just the gifts.  We went to midnight mass. We spent time together, both the immediate family and extended relatives, too.  We laughed a lot.  We listened to carols and feasted and enjoyed being together on that special day.

It was that way everywhere, even in school.  People looked forward to Christmas as a holiday, instead of an opportunity for some competetive shopping.  I can remember hearing adults humming carols in the grocery store and then hearing other adults join in.  No, they didn't stand around and sing together (magically accompanied by an orchestra) in the store, but there was a definite sense of joyous expectation at the coming of Christmas.

Christmas doesn't feel that way anymore.  We still love getting together with our loved ones.  But Christmas as a HOLIDAY isn't about that anymore.  Turn on any radio, tv or web page and it seems like someone is demanding that I buy something for someone.  

Our National notion of the Christmas spirit isn't about the birth of a Savior anymore.  In our culture, Christmas has become about shopping.  And conspicuous, ostentatious displays of decorating.  I honestly do not remember my Dad hanging any lights on the outside of our house.  I expect he did, but maybe not.  We lived way out in the woods and no one would have seen a decorated house anyway.  Mom decorated the inside and that was always fun.  That was decorating for US, not the neighbors.  Who do you decorate your house for?

I think I want to recapture the Christmas of my childhood.  I want to see the light of childlike joy and anticipation in my sweet hub's face.  I've never seen that.  I want to be excited to see the visiting relatives.  I want laughter and love and joyful singing to fill my house. 

I want Christmas to go back to being about miracles, love, redemption, joy, reverance and wonder.  But I want it to be that way everywhere, not just at home with my family and in church.  I want to hear children singing Christmas carols, instead of asking for a Wii and a big screen TV of their own and an Ipad.  

Wouldn't it be cool if the gigantic superstores of today had window displays and decorations and Christmas music playing, but the expectation was to find simple, meaningful gifts instead of bringing them into the black for the year?  I mean REALLY.  Does anyone need another boxed gift set with flavored coffee and unusable mugs shaped like penguins?  Did anyone ever need a singing bass to hang on the wall?

Giving is a joy.  I'm not against giving;  I love giving!  I love finding that perfect gift for someone I care about.   It doesn't HAVE to come from a store, because giving and shopping are NOT interchangeable ideas.


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Many A Truth Is Said In Jest

I thought I was only half-kidding.  I used to tell people that someday, they'd see my name in the Barnes and Noble.  This isn't exactly what I meant when I said that, but it's getting close!!

"A Gathering of Light" is now available at Barnes and Noble (.com)!

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Nagging Question

Isn't there a way we could require some minimum level of intelligence or common sense, before we permit people to vote?

On Silence

There was an interesting post I read a few weeks ago.  It's a post about silence. 

Are you good at silence?   Can you stay content, not talking and no one talking to you, no music, no artificial sound, for more than a moment or two?  A lot of people find silence very uncomfortable or even downright scary.

On Tuesday morning, I was sitting (once again) on a hillside, looking for elk.  The sweet hubs was there, but we weren't talking.  Not that we "weren't talking" as in not speaking, we were both just silent.  We sat there, a few feet apart, for several hours and said very little during that time.

I admit I spent part of that silent time thinking how cold my toes were.  Mostly, I listened to the silence.  There were a few birds hanging out in the scrub oak, busily doing bird things, but other than that it was silent. 

It's amazing how much thinking you can do when you aren't distracted by the ordinary trappings of daily life.  There was no phone to answer, no chore to attend to, no refrigerator to raid.  When your thoughts turn inward, you might find that you have time to examine your life, yourself, your motives, your ambitions, your desires, your joys and your sadness.  You might become reacquainted with your strengths and your weaknesses. 

My normal life contains quite a few opportunities for silence.  On the weekends I am often alone in the house and I usually spend part of that time with the most perfect silence I can achieve--neighbor dogs notwithstanding.  But during that time I am also distracted by making battle plans for attacking my housework, deciding what to make for dinner and the myriad of other little bothers and blessings of life.

It puts me in mind of Henry David Thoreau.  "I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately."  Sometimes, we need to get out of our regular environs and get reacquainted with our own hearts.  We need to put away the distractions of the day and reconnect to ourselves.   Our modern lives are so full of attention-grabbers that we seem to get caught up in the whirlwind of demands on our time, effort and focus. 

Stepping back away from television, cell phones, newspapers, Internet, people, problems, pets, stores, traffic....... (it's a long list, isn't it?) helps us embrace the silence again.  It helps us become re-centered. Henry David Thoreau decided that he couldn't live deliberately, giving his full measure of attention to each moment of the day;  he died in 1862!  How much more attention-diverting is life today?  We all need to find a little space to breathe, to think our own thoughts without distraction, and just BE.

Sitting on a frosty hillside, dressed in camouflage, might be just the way to do that.

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Another Day of Hunting

You might not know this about me, but I'm short.  Some people don't notice because I usually wear high heels.  Some people don't notice because I am generally seated at a desk.  But I'm short.  A short, middle-aged woman with a desk job.  In other words, I'm not exactly a graceful gazelle out there in the wild.

My sweet hubs and I were sitting on yet another hillside, looking for elk.  The two previous days of hunting were fruitless for me, so we were at it again.  At last, Sweet Hubs sees an elk a long way off;  we put on our packs and pick up our gear and plan to trudge over there, close enough to try to get a shot.

This is central Arizona we're talking about here, folks.  We grow two basic kinds of brush:  the kind with stickers and the kind with BIG stickers.  Most of it grows about up to my neck, which is oddly appropriate. 

We are picking our way down a steep, brush-covered, rocky hillside, when I, with my pack on and my rifle slung on my back, get my size 6 feet tangled up in some of that thorny brush and slowly...slowly....ever so slowly......... over I go. 

The barrel of the gun sticks down into the mud like I was trying to turn it into a fence post.  My pack is caught under the small of my back, pitching my legs way up into the air and my head is on the downhill side of the slope.  And there I laid, like a giant overturned turtle. 

If momma had signed me up for ballet lessons, maybe this wouldn't have happened.  I wallowed around for a minute in the rocks and mud and thorns, chuckling to myself because this is all so damn ridiculous, while my sweet hubs tries to clean the mud out of the barrel of my gun.  OK, it's actually HIS gun, and he can keep it.  It carries no luck at all for me. 

Just call me "The Turtle".


*****************************

Opening Day

I was dressed in camouflage, sitting on a hillside and using my sweet hub's binoculars.  Scanning the hillside, I was looking for a bull elk and hoping to get a shot at one.  The sun was shining on the hill and I was looking in all the pools of shade under the trees.  I tried to pick out the shape of an antler, an ear, the white rump, anything.

Antlers!  I looked and looked and looked some more.  There were definitely two antlers, and a big tan body with brown legs kind of splayed out.  The more I looked at that bull, the more I was sure he was dead.  He was utterly still and lying in an awkward-looking position.  Some other hunter must have seen him before I did, and was probably tracking that bull right then.

I looked away and looked back many times and the bull never moved.  No question in my mind, he was dead.  And then the sweet hubs and our towering baby came hiking up the hill toward me (while I was looking on another ridge) and the dead elk must have heard them because he got up and left.

To Be Needed

I am very blessed. 

My house is a disaster.  The laundry I washed two nights ago is still on top of the dryer.  At least it's folded.  The shower doors are hazy, there's hair in the bathroom sink, dishes in the kitchen sink and a spot (more like a REGION) of something sticky on the kitchen floor.  The windows are so dirty that I don't really need window blinds.

Half my house plants are about half dead.  Altogether, that means they're all 3/4 alive, right?

There are all the ingredients for a Thanksgiving feast in my house.  Fruit, veggies and the turkey are in the fridge.  Everything else is in the pantry.  They are all waiting to be transformed into a Norman Rockwell scene.

Clearly, I am needed.

*******

Creative Parenting

I am the youngest of four children.  Now, I know this is going to be hard to believe, but sometimes we children fought.  We argued.  We bickered.  We didn't play nice.  I know, right?!

Mom had a great "mom look" that warned us we were about to cross the line.  It usually worked, too.  But sometimes, we just couldn't help ourselves and we kept bickering.  One of Mom's strategies was to  separate us.  "You play in here, and you play in there, and you play over there.  You just pretend you're an only child. You are not allowed to play with each other."  It didn't usually take very long for us to get bored and beg to be allowed to be brothers and sisters again. 

I was about 13 or 14 when my brother Steve (four years older) and I had been picking at each other all day.  Mom finally had enough and told me that if we didn't stop bickering, she was going to punch me.  Don't forget she has a Dutch accent, because the threat of a punch isn't nearly as funny without the Dutch accent. I rolled my eyes and said, "Yeah, right."  Mom had never spanked me, so I thought she was bluffing.

POW!!!  She socked me on my left arm.  You know that meaty spot at the top of your arm, near the shoulder?  Yeah, right there.  The same place where they gave the small-pox vaccine. As it turns out, she wasn't bluffing!  Who knew?

The bickering stopped.

(so did the eye-rolling)



********************************

Snapshot

Isn't it funny how we spend so much of our younger years making our lives more complicated, striving for a bigger house and a fancier car and a more demanding job, only to spend our middle and end years looking for a way to get simple again?

Word Power

I once read somewhere that certain Native American tribes would not refer to a disease or an illness by name. They would use a sort of euphemism, such as “the important thing” when referring to illness. This stemmed from the belief that naming a thing gives it power. I think they were on to something.

It seems abundantly clear to me that the way we think and speak has a profound effect on the way we act. The way we act as a profound effect on the world around us, and sometimes we are completely unaware of the effect we are having.

As children, we were taught that honesty is the best policy, to say what you mean, don’t beat around the bush and if you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all. I’m starting to understand about that last one.

Here’s an example. The hubs and I agreed very early on to not carelessly throw the word ‘divorce’ around. We were both of the opinion that once you say a thing like that, it starts to work into your brain. Listen up, folks! We were right! Trot that old “D” word out at every argument like some kind of weapon and, sure enough, it becomes the sword that kills your marriage. We don’t use the word, lest in naming it we give it power.   Another reason is that we both agreed that if the "D" word ever did come up, we needed to know to take it seriously, and not dismiss it as an empty threat.

It only makes sense. We all know we shouldn’t say unkind things to our children. We don’t want them to grow up scarred by our words. Same deal with marriage: we don’t want it to grow carrying scars from our careless words.

I think our thoughts, words and deeds are all aspects of the energy we put forth into the cosmos. All that I am or ever will be is encapsulated in those three things, and maybe that is the composition of my soul….my thoughts, words and deeds–touched by a divine spark. Yeah, yeah, maybe it’s heresy, but it makes sense to me.

Changing the way you think can change the way you act. Being mindful of your words will keep you careful in your thoughts. It’s a great circle, each portion having small value except that, taken with the other parts, it makes a powerful whole.

It’s a theme that draws a strong connective thread through cultures, time, distance and duty. Think about the old saying, “Be careful what you wish for. You may get it.” Other variations of that same idea include fickle fate, tempting God, tempting fate, and so on. Reveal your fears and the gods will enjoy testing those very fears. Boast too much and the gods don’t like it. They will find a way to humble you.

What does it all mean? We all get our lifetimes to figure it out. I’m a long way off from achieving wisdom, but I’m starting to get an inkling:

Speak carefully. Speak well.

Act carefully. Act well.

Think carefully. Think well.

I’m learning to do it. I make a new resolution to be better at it every day. I tell myself I will keep my rapier wit within the bounds of kindness. I will put my fears aside and choose to be braver. I will NOT reveal my fears to the universe, as my fears are already strong enough and require no additional power. I will trust my faith more, question my heart less, remember that my words can be weapons, and be sure to keep the gentleness in my hands, and in my face. I will put forth into the cosmos the positive, pleasant, joyful energy which I hope to receive.

A New Endeavor

My novel has been e-published.  !!!   You'll find it, "A Gathering of Light" on Amazon and Smashwords. It's very exciting to see it there, and I hope to someday see it in print.  Random House?  Are you listening?
Funny thing, though.  Once I saw my baby on the website, available for sale or a free sample.... it felt a lot like sending my child off to school.  Except this school was going to be full of judges!  My tender baby who has been in my care for so long, is out there, facing the world all alone.  All I can do is hope that I did a good job getting her ready, and then see if she flies!

Also, check out my new blog page about "A Gathering of Light".


Confession

Hi.  My name is Payson Cousin and I am a messy cook.  I am.  I keep my house straight, but my kitchen after a big dinner is a disaster area that deserves FEMA attention.  I also cook by seat of my pants, as it were.  Almost no recipes.  This is not a quality my sweet hubs especially admires.  He wants my lasagna to taste the same way every time.  I haven't managed to get it the same TWICE in 25+ years.

I added a dash of smoked paprika to my salsa and he hated it.  Sorry, honey.  I didn't mean to screw it up on you.  Then I made a pot of Posole and for flair, threw in some chipotle peppers.  It should have been good, but the green chilis I used came from our garden.  They are so hot that you can't exactly TASTE anything.  You just burn.

So Thanksgiving is coming.  Can you imagine what my kitchen looks like after Thanksgiving?  I cook everything from scratch, mind you.  No instant or pre-packaged anything.  No frozen pies.  My kitchen will be covered with flour, splattered with fruit and divinely fragrant.  Every bowl, knife and pot I own will be either full or dirty.  I have my tried-and-true ways of getting a moist turkey and smooth, flavorful gravy.  But my cranberry relish is a little different each year.  This year, I thought I'd throw in some pomegranate and see what I think.  The pies?  Who knows.  Whatever grabs me.  I have to make pumpkin pie because it's my favorite.  And I have to make pecan pie because the sweet hubs likes it.  The rest is up to my whim.

Snapshot

There's a chill in the air, along with the scent of woodsmoke and freshness. 
I love autumn.

This Is News?

There's an article on my favorite news site telling us all that retail therapy doesn't really work and we'd be happier if we went for a walk or went to church instead of strolling the mall.  No kidding?  You mean....gasp!  Could it be so??  If we slow down, take the time to pay attention to the gifts from our Creator, we might find satisfaction in that?  You mean we can't buy happiness?  Even at the MALL?  Wow.  Who woulda thunk it.

Really, now, kids.  Do we have to be told this?  I sure hope not.  The only thing I get at the mall is a bad case of crowd anxiety and an impacted bank account.  To be fair, the nearest mall is 90 miles away, so maybe I'm not the best judge.  I go to the mall when I need or want some particular thing.  I go there for Christmas shopping.  Being a very mission-driven person, going to the mall is stressful for me. 

The people who stand in a knot right at the narrowest part of the walkway bug me.

The people who drag their exhausted, petulant, bawling toddler into yet another store bug me.

The people who walk around with a giant drink in their hands and their feet overflowing their rubber flip-flops bug me.

The people who swear very loudly even though there are children and grandmas within earshot bug me.

The people who are carting 5 big bags and still shopping, but will go home and NOT pay their bills, bug me.

Those kiosk hawkers who practically tackle you to point out your crow's feet or your grimy jewelry bug me.

The poor guys sleeping in the easy chairs out in the middle of the mall bug me, only because I envy them some.

And quite honestly, I'm only human.  Seeing all kinds of things that I really like but can't afford BUGS ME.

If someone would build a mall that contained a good clothing store, a great shoe store, a wonderful housewares store and a Panda Express, I'd be satisfied with that.  In the holiday season, they could have a calendar kiosk, but the salesperson would not be permitted to chase anyone.

Moments

One time, my oldest brother found a part of a shingle leftover from when Dad put the roof on the house.  He had the brilliant idea that if he climbed on the roof, and put the shingle on the spark-arrester in the chimney, the fireplace would smoke and Mom and Dad wouldn't want fires very often....and he wouldn't have to split as much firewood.  If my brother had applied all of his brilliance to work, instead of getting out of work, he could have solved half the world's problems.

I hated P.E. class so much that I once forged a note from my Dad.  I got busted.

About 40 years ago, I had just learned about how rifle cartridges and shotgun shells work, with a powder charge, a primer and a projectile.  So, applying that new info to all guns, I asked my brother, "Do BBs explode?"  He said, "Yeah, you throw them like hand grenades."

My first sewing project in Home Ec was a t-shirt.  Mom had already taught me how to sew but I missed the part about pattern and nap, I guess.  The t-shirt fabric I picked was an adorable jersey with an all-over pattern of sunflowers in different sizes.  When I finished my shirt and tried it on, I had one giant yellow sunflower centered perfectly over my right boob, and one giant yellow sunflower over my left boob.  I guess I still had something to learn.

We had a pony named "Lucky".  He was a mean-eyed little stinker who would run for the nearest low-hanging branch as soon as you lit in the saddle.  We even used one of those devices that twists his nose to make him behave (they probably have a proper name, but we always called it a Persuader).  Lucky was standing in his corral, glaring mean-eyed at the world, when a rattlesnake bit him square on the nose.  He wasn't so lucky that day.  I wouldn't be surprised if the snake died from biting him.  (Oh, quit groaning.)

My best friend, Suzy, was the most gullible child on earth.  We had her convinced that we had an alligator living in a wide spot in the stream.

Our favorite Uncle Jack played baseball in the minors.  He had just been called up to the majors when he got drafted.  By the time he got out of the army, his ball career was shot.  But, oh, the fun when Uncle Jack would play ball with us kids! 

The year that our FHA convention was held at the Broadmoor in Colorado Springs was the same year they were filming the movie, "Ice Castles".  I got to see the very spot where they filmed that scene where she crashes into the patio furniture and loses her sight.  It was very exciting to see it on the big screen and say, "I've been there!"  I'm easily amused.

My sister's dog, Cinnamon, puked a lot.  I have a dog who pukes a lot.  Is this a trend?

I had a friend in school whom I used to go ice skating with.  We were about the same size, but whenever I fell on the ice I landed with a **CRASH**!!!  and Carrie just kind of floated down like a feather.  **whoop**.  Why?

If Mom and Dad bought a case of Pop Shoppe soda, the empty bottles went in the closet in the foyer, to return so they would get the deposit back.  That was also the closet where our shoes went.  When an especially bad smell was coming from the closet, Mom went looking for the source.  She was sure it was my brother's stinky sneakers.  It was actually a mouse that had gotten into an empty bottle and died.  But don't blame Mom;  brother's shoes smelled equally, if differently bad.

Snapshot

I finally had to ask my neighbor to make their dog stop barking.  I hate to be that way, but enough is enough.

The same night the dog stopped barking, it got too cold to sleep with the windows open.  Ironic, yes?

Mothers and Mothers-in-Law

I've been listening when you talk, sisters!  I hear you, brothers!

This is another one of those posts that will probably get me in hot water, but I could use a soak right now anyway.

I am determined to NOT be the kind of mother or (someday) mother-in-law (MIL) that I've been hearing about.  My kids are grown.  They no longer require my advice on how to wear their hair, or clean their home, or do their laundry.  Since I am no longer responsible for them, I am choosing to BUTT OUT.  I know that this is not how all women approach their relationships with their grown children and their spouses.  Here are some things I promise to not do, my ten commandments for Moms:

  1. I promise to not get all weirded out when one my sons spend a holiday with HER family.
  2. I promise that when I am a dinner guest in my son's home, I will behave like a guest.  I won't dust.  I won't instruct.  I won't discuss my gall bladder, or any of my other organs.
  3. My Ohio grandma ate at our house very often, and my Momma is a wonderful cook.  Mom would do the dutiful-daughter-in-law thing and call her every day to check on her.  When Mom called Grandma on the day after she'd eaten dinner at our house, Grandma would say, "Oh, I don't feel so well today.  It must be something I ate."  She did it every time.  I vow before all that is holy, I will never do that.  Even if my DIL poisons me, I'm not going to blame it on her dinner.  I promise.
  4. I promise to keep the embarrassing stories about my son's childhoods down to a minimum.  I can't promise to never tell them, but I'll try to control myself. 
  5. I promise to remain calm if I hear my son refer to his MIL as "Mom".  I've had the sole title for over 22 years so far.  I know I can't be the only one forever and I understand that loving your MIL doesn't mean you are throwing your Mom away.  Speaking of which, my son's girlfriend doesn't really call me anything.  Not Mom. Not by my name.  I think she doesn't know what to call me.  But I digress.
  6. When I was expecting, Mom told me that all of her children were completely potty trained right after they were two years old.  By the time my son was born, she said we were all under two when we were potty trained.  And by the time he was learning that valuable skill, Mom reported that we were all only 18 months old when we had complete control of our bodily functions.  I promise to keep my mouth shut on the subject.  Except to relay that story right there.
  7. I am sincerely hoping that one of my DILs or maybe a someday-granddaughter will want to wear my wedding dress when she marries.  If none of them do, I promise not to pout.
  8. If my sons and their love interests will promise to not discuss their sex life with me, I promise to not discuss mine with them.
  9. I promise that I will only offer marital advice when asked.  If my son should really need a slap upside the head, my DILs will have my unqualified support in administering it.  If my DIL needs to be told that she's being a drama queen or something, I'm going to stay the hell out of it.
  10. I've brought you this far, boys.  You'll have to figure it out from here.  To the women who commit yourselves (and commit might be a good word there), I've done the best I could.  All the rest of it is for you two to work out on your own.  Don't ask me.  I see nothing.  I know nothing.  (Name that TV show character?)  I love my sons and I will love the women they choose to spend their lives with.  I promise to act in a way that lets you love me back.

Snapshot

Just so you don't think I'm imagining things (in my previous post about there being something grumpy in the air)...and just so you don't dismiss this as a local phenomena....here is an email I received today from someone over a hundred miles away:

"Ok, so your next article needs to be about people's understanding of cell phone technology and how cell phones work. Specifically why the user no longer needs to shout his conversation into the phone to be heard. The manufacturer put a microphone inside the phone for this very reason. Now, when you call your spouse or friend 10 miles away, you don't have to shout as though they are actually 10 miles away. Its called progress. Embrace it.


That's my gripe for today. Thank you for listening."

See?  It's an epidemic!

Snapshot

I love this picture.  Can you find my sweet hubs in it? 
Look close............... maybe he'll make your little heart go "pitter-patter", too.


Something In The Air

Can you sense it?  Do you feel it?  There's something in the air this week.  It's something......something..........something..........GROUCHY.

I've been yelled to, cussed to (not AT, thankfully...cussing at me never gets you great results), cried at, grilled, questioned, cut off, interrupted and dismissed.  What is in the air?  We've had phone problems and technical troubles.  Paper jams and traffic jams and heaven-knows-what-else. 

Our dog has been barfing even more than usual, if that's possible, and the neighbor's dog is barking more than usual, if that's possible.

But it's Friday night and it's going to be alright now. 

**************************

Snapshot

Thank you, Lord, for my wonderful boys.  They are both smart, capable, balanced and RESPECTFUL young men.  After the young woman I met today, I'm doubly grateful for those two.

*******************

Snapshot

My sweet hubs would like to teach me how to cut the hide off of an elk's head.

There really just isn't much more to say than that.

Welcome to my world.
_____________________________

A Very Wise Woman

I was talking to a cherished client a few days ago, and let me tell you, folks:  she is one WISE woman (I'll call her WWW:  Wonderfully Wise Woman).  Her words made me really stop and think about what it means to be a loving human being.

Mr. WWW had surgery recently, and WWW was telling me how he was recovering.  It was only a passing comment, but WWW mentioned that she made sure to take out the trash and that sort of thing when Mr. WWW was busy.  She didn't want him to feel unneeded, an invalid and weak. 

On the surface, maybe that seems small and insignificant.  Look closer, because that is one of the most thoughtful things I've ever heard of.  WWW knows that Mr. WWW would feel bad to see his lovely wife doing "his job".  Mr. WWW isn't stupid, and he knows that the trash isn't magically disappearing.  By taking the trash out when Mr. WWW is busy elsewhere, WWW is giving him the opportunity to not think about it.  That is a great kindness.   You don't need a lecture on the fragility of masculine pride, I'm sure, so I won't go there.

Maybe something as apparantly tiny as taking out the trash is the truest demonstration of love that I could show.  Not that a sack of garbage is that important, but the thoughtful consideration of the needs and feelings of my spouse is.  WWW made me think about what I'm doing.....and not doing..... to show the sweet hubs how much I care and how pleased I am to have him in my life.  Here's one thing I could be doing differently.  I don't like to ask for help.  I will usually fight with something past the point of reason, rather than ask someone to help me.  I love TO help, but I hate to ask for it.  The sweet hubs also loves to help his fellow man and does so happily every day in ways small and large.

We manage our lives together very well, I think, and very seamlessly.  We don't struggle about who is going to do what.  But I hardly ever ask him to help me with something.  Even if it's only something as small as opening a jar of pickles for me, maybe it's nice for him to be reminded frequently that my life is better, happier and easier because he is mine. 

All through the years of our lives, the people who care about us have opportunities to demonstrate how much they value us and love us.  I remember how much it meant to me when my Daddy would stop what he was doing and listen to me yammer, and talk with me.  I was a very talkative child and got ignored a lot.  (I think the sound of my little voice was like the sound of the refrigerator running:  so constant that you eventually stop noticing it?)  When was the last time you sat down with a child and really listened to them?   It was always such a joy when one of my older siblings would play with me.  How long has it been now, since I showed my sister that I still look up to her?

When was the last time you asked your parent for some kind of advice?  I hate to admit how long it's been since I showed my Mom that I still need her and love her.  Maybe I'll call her tonight and ask her how she made that Crabmeat Spaghetti that I used to ask for on my birthday.

Am I telling my friends how deeply I cherish them?  Do my kids know that, even grown and gone, they are the light of my life and will always be my babies?  I could be doing more.  We all want to be cared about, loved, liked and admired.  I can do more to show my loved ones all of those things.

What WWW didn't say, didn't have to say, is that Mr. WWW is her hero, her champion.  In sickness and in health...happily this was a temporary setback.  Men want to be our heroes, ladies.  If your knight should happen to fall off his horse, the loving thing to do is help him back on without ever quite admitting that you saw him stumble.

Snapshot

I can't explain why, exactly, but I know all the words to this song. 





Snapshot

I was so gratified to visit our college boy's apartment tonight and find REAL FOOD in the fridge, that I was able to overlook the condition of the bathroom.

Must be a MOM THING.

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Snapshot

Literally!  I was here just a week ago:

Yaak Falls in Montana

Childhood

My earlier post reminded me of some of the fondest memories of my childhood.  I thought I'd share some of those childhood moments with you, because I bet you had some of these same experiences:

  • My big brother sat next to me at the dinner table.  Once in a while, we'd "get the giggles", for no good reason, and I loved it when he'd get to giggling bad enough to make milk come out his nose. 
  • In the summer we didn't really have a bed time, so we kids would play Monopoly until way late, eating popcorn and sometimes even getting to have soda from the Pop Shoppe.  Do you remember Pop Shoppe soda?  They had flavors like pineapple, strawberry, grape and the best cream soda ever.
  • Do you remember how it felt when you came home with your brand-new back-to-school supplies?  New pencils and new notebooks?  I liked those better than new clothes!
  • My Dad hung a swing between two trees in our front yard.  He'd made the swing out of regular rope and a short board.  When it had rained, the damp rope would stretch and the seat hung only a foot or so off the ground.  During a dry spell, the rope would shrink up and I'd have to jump to get in the seat.  Do you remember playing on the swings so long that when you laid in your bed at night, you still felt like you were swinging?
  • We lived way out in the country.  Mom would turn us loose after our daily chores and we had to be in by dark (unless we had special permission to stay out and play).  It was a safer world, back then.
  • Once a female dog showed up at our house and had a litter of puppies right on our front stoop.  I had never seen a newborn puppy before.  We didn't get to keep any of them :-(
  • My sister, seven years older than me, taught me to read.  I don't know if that was her intention:  we played "school" a lot and next thing I knew, I could read.  Our play "school" apparently had no math classes.
  • Remember the smell of a new tub of  Play-Doh?
  • Laying on the living room floor on a Sunday morning, reading the comics while Mom clipped coupons and Dad read the rest of the paper.
  • Holidays were so much fun:  all our relatives would come to our house because Mom is the best cook and was not daunted by all those guests.  There would be Dutch words flying all over the place and a lot of laughing.  After the feast, all the adults would go in the living room and talk and nap, and we kids would go outside to play.  If the weather was bad, the kids played in our giant kitchen, but I bet that prevented napping in the living room.
  • I loved it when Dad would break out the projector and the screen and we'd watch home movies.  I am the youngest child, so I didn't appear in very many of the home movies or the family pictures.  They were tired of taking pictures by the time I came along.  I loved the movies, anyway.
  • Remember the first time you were old enough to be allowed to stay up until Midnight on New Year's Eve?
  • Mom didn't cook dinner on Sunday;  it was her day off.  We ate whatever we could grub up for ourselves.  The kids would get together and make sandwiches or homemade potato chips or something, but we'd all be in the living room and settled in for "The Wonderful World of Disney".  Remember the opening score?  I think nearly everyone in America was parked in front of their TVs for Disney.
  • Picking wildflowers.
  • Catching fireflies.
  • In the early 70s we had one of the worst snowstorms ever.  I was not allowed outside because the snow was so far over my head.  Three weeks indoors, no school, no power, and melting snow water to wash dishes with.  It was an adventure for me and a trial for my parents.
  • I got a play telephone for Christmas one year.  Dad ran the wire from my room to my brother's room, and we could talk to eachother on the orange-red plastic phones.  We didn't really have anything to say, though.
  • Looking through the big Montgomery Ward, Penneys and Sears wish books at Christmas time.  Penneys had an Oster Automatic Pulp Ejector Juice Extractor and we went around for weeks trying to see who could say that the fastest, three times.
  • My Holland Grandma's chair was always placed near a window.  I loved to see her knitting, with her mouth tightened into a straight line as she counted the stitches, and the sun streaming through the window onto her gray hair.  She was a rock of love, patience and wisdom in my childhood.
  • The kitchen floor was so cold in winter that we kids would eat our breakfast perched up on our chairs like so many chickens, with our feet tucked up under us to keep warm.  My Dad thought that was darn funny.
The list could go on all day.  I hope my own children will look back on their childhoods with as many fond memories as I have of mine.

Snapshot

On my way home tonight, a Plymouth Barred Rock hen and her brood of 5 chicks were scratching around in the weeds beside the road.  As I approached, she and her chicks walked to the other side.

Why? 

(Oh, come on, think about it!)

Simple

We had 12 days of simple.  No television, no phones, no newspapers.  We ate simple meals and enjoyed the simple quiet.

I love simple.  I want more of it in my everyday life!

We are truly on our way to achieving that.  We got rid of our land line, and discontinued our satellite TV service.  I'm not getting rid of the internet service, though, because then I couldn't visit my favorite blogs!  Oh, yeah, I couldn't blog either without it.  That was an afterthought.

So I cut down to only sugar in my coffee.  Trying to cook more one-pan meals with fewer ingredients because I often work late.  I'm paring down my makeup routine and I picked a simpler hairstyle.  The hardest thing of all?  I'm trying to cut back on multi-tasking!  I might be addicted to multi-tasking.  I don't know if I can quit cold-turkey.

I usually have so many windows open on my computer that there seems to be a breeze coming out of the monitor screen.  My job does require an ability to multi-task, but maybe not an addiction to it?  At home, I read, watch a movie and polish my nails all at the same time.  This is all very good and well until I notice myself not finishing anything, or not giving any one thing my full attention.  That's how you wind up eating the entire bag of potato chips or the whole carton of cookie dough ice cream....by not paying attention.

Tonight is going to be simple.  I'm going to roast some fresh garden green chilies while I barbecue chicken for dinner and sip a little sweet wine.  Then a green salad and chicken for a quiet dinner on the patio.  A little music and some good conversation.  They are the simplest of pleasures, and therefore the most pleasing of all.

How often do you hear someone speak with a wistful sigh of cramming for their college exams?  No, when we look back, we remember eating watermelon on the front step in the summertime, or playing tag in the dark when it was the most fun of all.  We remember sitting in Grandma's lap, or the family gathered around the dinner table.  The simplest of pleasures.

When we look back at our own children as babies, we don't think about the paperwork for insurance, or getting them vaccinated.  We remember how it felt to hold them in our arms and how much it meant to be the only ones who could comfort them when they cried.  The simplest of pleasures.

And then the day comes (hopefully) when all we want to do is sit in the warm sun, with a little yappy dog in our laps, and watch our great-grandchildren sitting on the front step, eating watermelon.

Snapshot

Gifts from gardens and a day's work has given us 3 peach pies, a peach cobbler, 3 loaves of zucchini bread, a bowl of salsa, 4 bags of shredded zucchini in the freezer, 4 bags of roasted green chilis, a string of red peppers drying and brown stains on my nails from the peaches.  And the house smells wonderful.

Self Help

Do you read self-help books?  I’ve noticed that there are 3 kinds of attitudes toward self-help books:
  1. Reading them, soaking in everything and believing it, living and preaching it….. until the next self-help book you read, when you start over.
  2. Reading them, measuring their words against your own insight and experience, and using them as a tool to learn more without necessarily gulping down every word.
  3. Skipping them entirely.
I’d be in that last category. That's right:  I don’t read them.


When I was a little girl, attending catechism classes, I asked my Dad a question of great profundity. In catechism, I was told that God was a part of each of us. I was only 6 or 7 years old and this was beyond me.


Here’s what my very wise Daddy told me: God IS within each of us. He is that small voice that tells me when I should do or not do something; He is in that part of me who cries for the pain of someone I have never met; He is that place in my heart that wants to take home every orphan, and feed everyone I think is too skinny, and embrace every lonely old soul. When I feel my patience is at its very end, and a warm feeling of compassion comes over me and lets me be patient for a while longer, that is Him. And IF I learn to listen, God is working in me when my limited wisdom comes to me in flashes of clarity.


Flashes of clarity. You know those times when, for some reason, another person’s true intention is clear to you even though they try to conceal it? Maybe the clarity comes when you are faced with a problem, or a friend needs guidance, and you discover that somewhere from your own brain comes an answer of beautiful simplicity. When someone is hurting or in need and you can see what they need to heal them or help them? That is your flash of clarity. Is there a greater evidence of God within us than this?



What can a book really tell you, then, except maybe remind you of what you already know?



++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Snapshot

Don't you just hate it when you call someone, and by the time they answer the phone, you forgot who you were calling?

Ears

Thanks, Scott, for the inspiration for this post.  And, no, Scott is NOT the one who clears his throat a lot. LOL.  Honest.

Have you ever noticed that men and women have different ears?  Oh, sure, men's ears and women's ears might look similar, but they sure don't work the same.


If a woman says to a man,


"I'm really tired. Are you ready for dinner? It's ahi tuna, wild rice and I'm steaming some broccoli. My sister found out the sex of her little baby bump today, but she isn't telling. I'll call her tonight and get her to tell me."
He only hears every few words:  "I'm really blah blah blah ready for blah blah blah, wild blah blah steaming blah blah blah sex blah blah tonight blah."


She says he should take the time to fish a few quarters out of the change bowl for junior's milk money.  He hears that he should take the time to fish.


She say she loves it when his mother takes those long vacations in Bermuda.  He hears that she loves his mother.


And when she says the trash stinks and he needs to take it out, he might hear no sound at all.  Men's ears work like that.


Women, on the other hand, have very different ears. We don't skip words our man says, WE hear words that aren't even there.  If a man says, "I saw Julie from high school, and she has hardly changed."  SHE hears, "You've gotten old.  Julie is still young and pretty and you're a fat old hag.  I'm going to run away with Julie tomorrow."  So she goes to Dillards to get a new dress to make herself feel better.


A man says that the lasagna at their business lunch that day was the only bright spot in the meeting, and she hears that her lasagna isn't as good as the caterers.


He says it's a beautiful blue sky, and she hears that he would like it better if she had blue eyes instead of brown.


And if a man says, "What size are those jeans you are wearing?"  ........


Well, at that point, a smart man would duck.


(Naturally, this is all observation.  The Sweet Hubs never fails to pay attention to my words, and I never ever blow things out of proportion. Never. Really.)

Click here for the chance to win a slot in The Bloggess sidebar for a month sponsored by freefringes.com

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Snapshot

I came home from work last night, threw my giraffe-print handbag in the bar stool that sits at my kitchen peninsula, and started right away making dinner.  I made Bacon Tomato Capellini (missamy's recipe!), using a whole pound of bacon.  It was amazing.  Run right out and get you some.

Today, my handbag smells like bacon. 

A smoked giraffe.

_______________________

Changes

Once we had two young boys, a flock of about 12 chickens, 4 turkeys, 2 heifers, 3 dogs, one cat and a grandma living at home.  Now we have one dog and eachother.

We used to see quail scooting into the chicken yard to help themselves to the feed.  Now we have a bird feeder and the doves scratch around on the ground underneath it.  Doves are funny.  Have you ever watched doves?  They land way back from whereever they're going, and walk the rest of the way.  Sweet Hubs and I used to like to sit  at a waterhole behind a former house and watch the doves.  They'd swoop in, land in a big group about 20 feet from the edge of the water, and walk in.  They bob their little gray heads when they walk and just crack me up.  As much walking as they do, you'd think they would have drumsticks like a chicken.

I used to keep an eye on the chickens because of predators.  Now I pay attention to the doves.

We grew a big garden every year for many years.  Now we have one about the size of your office conference table.  Our lives are slimming down.  The house isn't bursting at the seams anymore.  The refrigerator is finally big enough.  I only cook a few nights a week, rather than just taking Sunday off.  I can do all our laundry in two loads, three maximum.

It's all very strange.

_________________________________________________

Guessing Games

I like to play a guessing game at the supermarket. Maybe you do this, too.  Not only is the supermarket a place for some very good people-watching, I like trying to figure people out by the groceries in their cart.

Here are a few of the people I saw yesterday:

One tired-looking woman (it was only 10 am) with six boys in scout uniforms.  She had a cart full of hot dogs, buns, juice drinks, that popcorn that comes in a foil pan, graham crackers, chocolate bars and marshmallows.  And one large bottle of Mudslide.  That makes me think she doesn't have to GO on the camping trip.  What do you think?

One young woman, with one young baby, pushing one of the fullest carts I've ever seen.  Seriously.  That cart was at least as full as the carts I used to load up (sigh) when I had two teenage boys at home.  Either the rest of the kids are home with Dad, or they live way out of town...or both.  Any other ideas?

One guy.  Long-ish dark hair, dressed a little artsy-fartsy, like maybe he used to play in a band in the 80s and hasn't quite recovered.  His cart was full of organic frozen entrees, some fruit, few veggies lots of healthy crunchy snacks and 3 kinds of "craft" beer.  He had a box of the cheapest laundry soap on earth, no fabric softener and a bottle of Windex.  And one, count them, ONE roll of toilet paper.  This disturbs me.

One young guy, maybe 20 years old.  His cart contained ramen soup, macaroni and cheese (the buck-a-box kind) and a gallon of milk.  I looked twice, but it was not my youngest son.  

There was one elderly gentleman.  He was wearing a faded blue plaid button-down shirt that was so worn you could almost see his skin.  His cart contained 3 jars of that dried chipped-beef, a butt-load of bologna, pickles, canned biscuits, ginger snaps, pudding cups, milk and beer.  Mickey's Big Mouth, to be exact.

I also saw an elderly lady.  She had cheese and crackers, some frozen veggies, cookies, cat food, a small can of coffee and a crossword puzzle book.  I wanted to grab her cart and drag her over to meet the old man.

They were memorable little snapshots into the lives of those people.  And in the interest of fairness, here is what was in my cart:  (I'll group them for easy perusal,you're welcome to make your guesses about my life!)
  • paper towels, a 12-pack of t.p., dish soap, 2 bottles of bathroom cleaner, lavender-scented Mr. Clean and fabric softener also in lavender
  • Dove sensitive skin soap, toothpaste, shaving cream, clarifying shampoo
  • an eggplant, cantaloupe, a bunch of leeks, 2 red peppers
  • sugar, canola oil,
  • Cheez-it snack mix
  • Peach-mango juice, ice tea bags, a big can of coffee
  • 2 cans of Herdez salsa verde
  • A bottle of TGIFriday's Orange Dream and a bottle of Moscato.
To be fair, you must consider this was a very light shopping trip for me.  Just filling in the gaps in the pantry.

What do you think my cart says about my life?


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A Day At The Office

This is dangerous ground, but I'm feeling adventurous.  I'm going to share with you some of what I love and don't love about my workplace.  I know, right!??  Risky stuff, since everyone I work with AND FOR has this web address.  I hope you all still love me in the morning.

  • I like those soft mints in the candy dish at the reception counter.
  • I don't love the sound of a typewriter.  It's like gunfire in our quiet office!
  • I love the fast internet connection.  I am not a patient person.
  • I don't love the sound of sirens going by.  They always worry me and distract me.  I make a quick mental inventory of where everyone I care about might be right at that moment.
  • I don't like the smell of onions in the kitchen trash.  Especially when those onions were pulled off a sandwich on Monday and I'm smelling them on Friday.  OK.  I'm sensitive to smells. :-)
  • I love how comfortable we all are with each other.  We know each other's "don't go there" subjects, mostly, and what will always make another smile.  And we can talk about pretty much anything.
  • I love it that we all have a lot of autonomy. 
  • I like the smell of french fries, coming from Wendy's next door.
  • I love the angle of sunlight as it plays across my office wall.  God's clock, even if I'm not much of a clock-watcher.
  • Chocolate has been flowing as freely as water around here lately.  LOVE that!
  • One of us clears his throat a lot.  You'll have to figure it out for yourself whether I like this.
  • There are a jillion tiny lizards outside the back door.  Some of them are not as big as a quarter.  This is very cool.
  • I don't have to cross the crazy-busy highway to get home.  Love that, too.
  • I love the smell of fruit that comes from my neighbor's office.  She snacks healthy. 
  • I love the smell of the tortilla chips in my office.  I don't snack so healthy.
  • Everything is new and fresh and clean.  I almost hate to eat at my desk because I worry about crumbs.  Notice I said "almost"?
  • Bits of paper on the dark carpet drive me crazy.
  • We have quite a few snails around the front entrance.  Snails are just disgusting.  Tiny snot-monsters, that's all they are.  At least they're not squirrels.

A Cyber-walk Down Memory Lane

I've been working on my family genealogy for years.  Every now and then, I revisit genealogy websites to check for new info.  I was doing that the other night, flipping through the pages of the enormous binder I have.  I look for a family name that has been a dead end and try again. 

Then I noticed that in the family stories my Uncle Bob has been writing to me, he had a few street addresses.  http://www.maps.google.com/ and I was looking at today's picture of the house my Dad grew up in on Pennington Street in Paterson, NJ.  I looked at the church where my mother was baptised in Rotterdam, and browsed around the towns of Kalida, Ohio, Biervliet, Terneuzen and Sas Van Gent in Holland.  I visited all sorts of places named in my book of family history. 

I couldn't remember the house number of where I lived in Toms River, NJ, but I virtually walked around the neighborhood.  Then I went to see the school I attended in Woodland Park, CO.  I cruised along Tranquil Acres Road in CO, and looked for the spot where I waited for the school bus.  I could see our old driveway, but of course the house was too far back to see from the street views. 

So I zoomed out and up and looked at the house I grew up in from the air.  I could see the little house that my Ohio Grandma lived in, which was on my way home.  I could see the chicken house and the big house my Dad built.

As I clicked my way along the road in Colorado, I could see my own childhood again.  The area has grown a lot, naturally, since the day 30 years ago when I left it.  The trees were the way I remembered them, though, and the view of Pikes Peak is unchanged.   I have heard that the house my Dad built was burned in the fires they had a few years ago.  Either the satellite images are from before that date, or it was just a rumor.  I hope it was just a rumor, because I would like to think of that house as still standing.  It was the container for a great many happy memories, funny stories, words of wisdom and family love.  It was also a lot of dang work, and I hate to think of all my Dad's work on it vanishing in smoke.

I took a quick trip to our place in Montana and sighed with the emotion it always brings up:  that deep love you can have for a place that feels like home, tinged with good sense that you know it's not time to move there yet.  If I spend too much time looking at the place, the good sense part starts to struggle, so I clicked away.

It amazes me that we can sit at our own kitchen table and look all around the world.  I looked at my sister's house in Tucson and noticed her car was in the driveway (at the time the picture was taken).  I feel a little bit like a voyeur, but I love to speculate about such things.  What time of day was it when the picture was snapped?  The shadows were short on the ground so it must have been the middle of the day. Why was she home in the middle of the day?  Was it a weekend?  Was she home for lunch?  I could also see a patch of black in the back yard that was probably one of her dogs.

What would you see if you took a snapshot moment of my life?  It could be anything.  If it was a weekend, you would most likely see the sweet hubs outside doing something.  Building furniture, turning something on the lathe, landscaping, gardening, or maybe just throwing the ball for our OCD dog.  You'd probably have to be able to look through the roof to see me.  And you'd find me in either the kitchen or the laundry room.  Where else IS there on the weekend?

Wouldn't it be wonderful if we could also visit such places at different times?  I would love to see what New York City looked like in 1680.  Or have a quick look at the Pyramids while they were being built?  I'd love to see the view of America from Ellis Island, through an immigrant's eyes.  Or to take a walk down the Oregon Trail.  I would love to lift the roof on my Grandmother's childhood home and peek in.  Or maybe not.  She had a sad childhood.  

I wonder what new perspective we would all have if we could have that bird's eye view of places and people and events of the past.  It might ruin our notions of "the good old days".  It would certainly give us a clearer view of the people in our lives.  Would you understand your father's strictness better, if you could see how much he wanted you to grow up well?  Or if you could see how he was raised?   Would you think differently about a teacher you loved or hated, if you could see them in the totality of their lives? 

And how would it change the opinions of people who know me, if they could see all of my life, from an objective distance?

Guts

It takes guts to be a parent.
It takes guts to have parents, too.

A new phase in my life:  my children are grown and gone and seem to be able to take care of themselves.  My mother, on the other hand, is beginning to need someone to take care of her.

I'm sitting here in an empty house.  My youngest baby flew away yesterday afternoon.  We didn't eat dinner last night.  We sat at the kitchen table and bawled, laughed and admired what wonderful children we have.  And then we bawled some more. 

Oh, and we drank.  He drinks beer and I drink wine.  So now I have a wine headache and an empty nest, with a mixture of pride and worry and feeling old...all competing for what little attention I have left to pay.

The sweet hubs is surprised at how hard this is for him.  Pobrecito.  I  have a theory about this.  Daddy has a certain role in his children's lives, and no matter how close they are, there is still a little bit of distance.  But Mommy?  My children started moving away from me when labor started, and they continued to move away in little steps all through their growing years.  So, as sad as I am, I've been feeling the separation in baby steps since forever.  At first they needed me for everything and gradually they stopped needing me for anything.  For Daddy, it's one wrenching day and they leave.  I feel for him.  I wish I could truly comfort him, but only time will do that.  Anyway, it's good for him to be confronted with his own tenderness.

I expect great things from my children.  They are both wonderful young men with enormous potential.  I'm not sure what to expect from my empty nest, though.  My son's room is so ...  so...  empty.  What will I do with that? 

There are things I am sure of:   I am blessed to still feel connected and close to my sweet hubs.  I don't think we will look at each other and decide we have nothing in common without the children.   I am blessed that my children are healthy enough to grow into their own lives.  My brother may never see this day with his son.   I did the best job I knew how, and my children survived my mistakes.  They are strong, healthy, balanced, intelligent, capable people. 

But I'm opening up another bottle of wine.

Snapshot

I was stopped at a red light, waiting to turn north onto the main highway.  WHIZZZZ a yellow hot rod vroomed on by, dark tinted windows and just the very top of a golden blonde head visible in the open sun roof (passenger side).  "Wow" I thought.  "That must be some hot guy and his hot girlfriend, roaring through town in their hot ride!"

So the light turned green, I made my turn and up ahead, I see the same car just taking off from another light, and turning into Burger King.  I rubber-necked as I drove by, curious about who the jetsetters were in the Vette.  The door flew open with a purpose.....  and out came the walker.  Somebody's 90-year-old Grandma wrapped her poor crooked hands around that walker, hooked her hand-crocheted purse on the hook and worked like crazy to stand up.  Grandma's golden retriever was sitting in the passenger seat, and Grandma was hobbling in to the BK to have a fish sandwich or something.

That's what I get for jumping to conclusions.


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All That Is Old Is New Again

On July 12, 2010 a man passed away.  You may have never heard of him, but there is much we can learn from him.

That man was Mau Piailiug.  I was in 6th grade when he made a famous voyage and I still recall the teacher talking about it.  It was my first experience with dissent.  The teacher brought in an article from a magazine and read to us from it, talking about Mau's amazing feat.  He sailed his double-hulled Polynesian canoe from Hawaii to Tahiti, using the ancient navigation skills of the Polynesian culture.  No compass, no gps, just his skill and the knowledge passed down to him through the generations of island seafarers.

My teacher talked about what a remarkable thing it was for a primitive culture to have made such voyages in the distant past.  The word "primitive" struck me like a lightning bolt.  Maybe THAT was the day when words became so important to me.

Since that day, I've been frustrated with all the anthropologists, archealogists and other scientists who presume to tell us that ancient people did these wonderful things with their limited skills.  Limited skills?  Really?  I think it's more than arrogance for a modern person to discount the knowledge of their ancestors:  it's hubris.

I know for an absolute fact that I know some things my grandmothers did not.  But they knew a great many things that I do not.  My knowledge is not superior, only different.  If you could somehow pluck your 10th-great-grandfather out of his village and plop him down at your desk for a day, he would be utterly lost.  But the reverse is also true.  Could you survive in his world?  I doubt it.

From the Sphinx to Stonehenge, the statues on Easter Island to the great mound at Cahokia, our ancestors proved again and again that they had the intelligence and intestinal fortitude to make great things happen.  Imagine how you would feel if your great-great grandchildren treated all that you know and do as trite, because it doesn't fit into the world they created for themselves.

Did you know that the active ingredient in aspirin came first from the cambium layer in the bark of a willow tree?  The ancients knew it.  Could you make a bow and arrow that worked, and then bring home dinner using it?  Could you build a pyramid without using any modern equipment?  Could you capture wild yeast from the air, cultivate it and keep it alive year after year......giving you a way to leaven your bread for the rest of your life?  Could you hybridize a skinny little grain into a staple food that would productively feed you and your neighbors?  Can you make a bronze hatchet?  Can you make a paint that will last many thousands of years? You don't get to google any of this.  You have to figure it out by trial and error.  You have to take what you learned from your elders, apply your own experience and extrapolate an inventive solution.  You'll need inspiration and serendipity and pure doggedness.  Could you do that?  I don't think I'm smart enough to figure these things out on my own.  Who was the first person to comprehend the zero?  Or to contemplate the meaning of death?  Who figured out music?  Everything in your world has a name.  Could you think up that many names?  The Polynesian royalty memorized their genealogy back to hundreds of generations.  Do you know the names of your great-great-grandparents?

Have you ever thought about the first people to set out for a new place, such as those ancient Pacific Islanders?  They loaded their canoes with the things they would need to make a new home in unfamiliar land.  Think of the courage (and/or desparation) that would take.  What would they find?  Would there be food and habitable lands? 

Would you have the courage to take a few tools, some seedlings and livestock, extra clothing, bedding and some medicine, and head out into the unknown, with only your stuff and your knowledge?  Would you trust your family's life and yours that you could make a go of it?  That took guts, folks, no matter how bad things might have been at home.  The explorers who came later had yet another kind of guts, but equally daring. 

I want to go back and tell my 6th grade teacher that "primitive" was the wrong word.  Primitive (the way she used it) connotes crude, unrefined, unsophisticated.  There is nothing unsophisticated about the knowledge of the ancients.  In some ways, there is very much that is unsophisticated about the current state of knowledge.  We navigate our world in bits and pieces but hardly ever consider the whole of it.  We know how to run a video game controller and shoot down virtual bad guys, but we can't spell.  We have the stores in the mall memorized, but couldn't survive one night if we were lost in the woods.  We know where to find the latest "distressed" jeans, but have no idea how to set a zipper. 

How much of the ancient knowledge is lost to us now?  They knew far more than the artifacts of their cultures could reveal.  You and I know many things that leave no tangible mark behind.  As much as we are capable of doing, so were they.  If we could know all that they know and add it to all that we know, how much would that be? 

Our instant-gratification, don't-bother-me-with-details, everything at your fingertips, pasteurized, homogenized daily life is not an expression of the great potential of human ingenuity.  Yes, we find new ways to make a buck, but are we finding real answers to the problems of the world?  We have the ability.  We do!  We are the children of the people who invented beer and the fax machine.  We domesticated the dog, painted the walls at Lascaux and Eagles Reach, mapped the solar system and contemplated the eternal. 

So don't tell me that our ancestors were primitive as if to say they were ignorant.  All that we can be, they were.  And all that they were, we can be.



______________________________________________________________

Rules for Living

We all know the basic rules of life.  Don't spit into the wind, don't pet a tiger unless he's wagging his tail....  stuff like that.  I have a few more to add to the list:

  • If you are divorced, do not marry a second spouse who has a name similar to your first spouse.  The same is good, but if you can't get someone with the same name, get someone with a very different name.  If your first wife was named Christine, for heaven's sake don't marry a Krista!  You can't win at this.  You'll accidently call wife 2 by wife 1's name and this is never appreciated.
  • Do not name your children with names that all start with the same consonant.  You'll get stuck, I promise:  "Daniel, David, Donald....darn it!  Get over here!"
  • While I'm on names, be nice when you're naming your children.  I went to school with a Rose Budd.  Seriously.  How is a kid supposed to get through school that way?  Try out the names together and make sure they can't be easily twisted into something dirty, stupid or funny.  And don't forget to figure in what their initials are going to spell.  Life's hard enough without having strikes against you from the beginning.
  • Never underestimate the will of an old woman.
  • Don't believe everything you hear.... or anything that you see on youtube.
  • Bathroom scales are evil things and should be avoided at all costs.  Except to weigh stuff you're selling on Ebay.
  • Even if you are very comfortable with your parents and your in-laws, don't mention your sex life to them.  They truly do not want to know.  They might smile and nod their heads, but they don't want to know.
  • If a problem can't be solved by a kiss, wine, chocolate and/or ice cream, give it to God.  He'll know what to do with it.
  • If you want a really, REALLY good dog, then only have one dog. An only dog will think it's a person and act accordingly.  Put two dogs together and they suddenly realize that they're dogs.
  • Smile.
  • When you grow up and move out of your parent's home, you are no longer a child when you visit them.  You're a houseguest.  Act like one.
  • Invest yourself in the moment at hand.  You'll be a better listener, a better driver, a better parent, a better lover, food will taste better and flower will smell sweeter...if you give your full measure of attention to each thing as it presents itself.

Super Powers

I have a strange little daydream from time to time.  I wish for a superpower, just like the comic-book heroes get to have.  And what, you ask yourself, would Payson Cousin like to have for a superpower?

OK, you probably aren't asking yourself, but I'm still going to tell you.  I would like to be able to say whatever I think, without any negative ramifications.  More than that, I want people to get my message, take it to heart, and never realize that the message came from me.

Think about it.  Doesn't that sound like heaven?  What would you say to your mother-in-law?  Your noisy neighbor?  That rude customer or the salesgirl who is too busy talking to her phone buddy to wait on you?  What would you say to ogling guy, or the one that really needs a shower?

Imagine the possibilities!  Oh, the world's problems which could solved!  Drivers could become courteous! Kids would start respecting their elders and old people would start respecting their juniors!  You could TELL that 12 year old girl that she is too young to wear a thong for the world to see, and you could tell those slacker dudes to pull up their damn pants!

It gets better and better, the more I think about it! 

Summer Peach Cobbler

I love peaches.   And I love summer, so what's better than a simple peach cobbler?


Preheat your oven to 370 degrees.

In an oblong cake pan (I use glass for pretty), melt 1/2 cup of real butter.  No fake stuff.

In a medium-large bowl, combine 2 cups of self-rising flour, 2 cups of sugar, 2 teaspoons of vanilla, a pinch of cinnamon and 2 cups of milk.

Pour the batter over the melted butter. 

Place the peaches on top of the batter.  You can use fresh, peeled peaches, canned or frozen peaches in halves or slices.  Whatever makes you giggle.  You can also use apricots, plums, berries, or pears (although pears very nearly disappear in the final product.)  Don't bother trying for a pretty design;  you won't be able to see it later anyway.

Bake for 15 - 20 minutes until the top of the cobbler is nearly set.  Meanwhile combine 1/2 cup of graham cracker crumbs, 2 heaping tablespoons of flour, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and 2 tablespoons of melted butter.  Stir it around in a small bowl until it's lumpy and scrumptious.  Sprinkle over the half-baked cobbler, being careful not to jiggle the pan too much.

Finish baking for another 10-15 minutes.  The cobbler should be golden and fragrant and well-set.  In other words, if you shake the pan a little and the cobbler wobbles like a bobblety bobble, it isn't done. 

Serve warm or cold, however you like it, with ice cream or whipped cream or heavy cream or whiskey sauce or brown gravy, for all I care.

Payson Cousin's Moneysaving Tips

OK, America.  We all know that the economy is in the toilet and that our plutocratic society has mud on its face.  I don't want to get into politics;  I'm trying to keep my soapbox-jumping under control.  You know what a struggle it is for me to control my soapbox.

Here's what I know.  My parents and my grandparents knew how to pinch a penny when it was needed, and so do I.  I stayed home with my kids for 10 years and living on one income had its challenges.  I don't think my thrifty skills are enough to make living through the Great Depression painless.  Still, maybe you'll find some useful tips in here.

FOOD:
  1. Break out your slow-cooker, America!  You remember, you got one for a wedding gift?  Stop bringing home fast food.  Just for kicks and giggles, do a little search on a recipe for slow-cooker lasagna.  I  assemble it the night before and refrigerate, and then plug in my trusty CrockPot in the morning before I leave for work.  (I add the water in the morning, FYI.)  I come home to a hot, tasty dinner and I didn't have to face the take-out counter.  Try it for soup, stew, whatever:  there are tons of good slow-cooker recipes out there.
  2. Pop your own popcorn for your movie nights or a cheap snack anytime.  Try sprinkling some parmesan cheese and smoked paprika on your popcorn!   Don't cheat and buy a bag of kettle corn (whoever heard of sweet popcorn, anyway???) and don't use the microwave kind. Remember how to pop corn using a big pan and little bit of oil? You probably even have an air popper next to the crockpot. Dust that off, too. And trust me: real melted butter is much better for you than that mysterious butter-like stuff in the microwave popcorn.
  3. Quit drinking soda. At least make it a treat, instead of your daily fluid intake.
  4. Wean yourself from convenience foods.  Eating more fresh food is not only less expensive, it will help keep your medical bills lower. ;-)   Cook from scratch.  Come on, team, you can do it!!!  You can make your own yogurt for very little money and flavor it however you choose.  Make your own bread.  Once you can make your own bread, you can make your own pizza, too.  How much do you spend on a delivered pizza?  My own homemade pizza costs me about $3 for an extra-large, and I never deliver the wrong one.   ***And before you start giving me that "I don't have time to cook" business, let me tell you:  it doesn't take that much more time!***  The total amount of hands-on time to make a pizza is about 25 minutes.  You spend almost that much just listening to Domino's specials before someone answers the phone.  Add in the time it takes you to get a consensus from the family about what kind of toppings to get.  The part that takes time in a homemade pizza is the rising, which happens whatever I'm doing.  It takes planning, not time.
  5. It's time to face it America.  We are a nation of conspicuous consumers.  I challenge you (shoot, I challenge ME) to look into your grocery cart next time and look hard.  What's in there?  Do we need the flavored coffee creamer, the toaster pastries, the single-serving size of whatever, the instant coffee and instant soup and brand-name everything?  Get your courage by the hand and put two things back.  You won't miss them later, I'm sure.   Be a sport now, and put them all the way BACK, not just stuffed in the rack with the National Enquirer by the checkout stand.  Spend a little money on some reusable containers, buy things in larger quantities and save the cost of the individual packaging.  There are times when choosing a certain brand or a convenience size has its merit, but for everyday face-stuffing, we can do better.
  6. I don't know if you know this.  I didn't know it for many years.  You can have meatless meals and not miss the steak.  It is possible.
LAUNDRY:
  1. Learn how to mend clothes. Do you remember the saying, "A stitch in time saves nine."? Better yet if you can learn how to alter clothes or even make them! Seriously, though. Mending your own clothes instead of having it done for you or giving the clothing away will save you mucho denero.
  2. Wash your clothes in cold water. You won't be able to tell the difference, except in your electric or gas bill. I only use hot if the clothes are stinky.  If your washer has a "spin only" feature, spin your washed clothes one more time. That will cut your drying time significantly.
LIFE:
  1. Look into the mirror and ask yourself a very difficult question: "How many channels do I really NEED?"
  2. A while back, I posted a list of things I like. Forgive me Olay, but I take those Olay deep-cleansing cloths and cut them in half.
  3. Quit buying expensive hand creams, though you should always happily accept them as a gift, and use a little plain olive oil instead. It absorbs into your skin very quickly and works wonderfully well.
  4. Go to the library instead of the DVD rental store. Our library loans DVDs for free and you can keep them for two weeks. Also a much wiser choice than the theater.
  5. Quit smoking. Yeah, yeah, yeah. Stop groaning.  You know it costs an arm and a leg......and a lung or two.  Stop it!! Do you hear me?  Stop it!!! 
  6. How many different household cleaners do you buy?   I mainly clean with white vinegar, plain ammonia, or good old Pine-Sol.  The vinegar will make your windows and mirrors shine, takes the hard water off the shower doors and leaves no streaks when I clean my laminate floors.  The ammonia works well to get the junk off of that stupid smooth-top stove.  I wish whoever invented that ridiculous stove had it shoved up their tailpipe, but the ammonia helps.  And Pine-sol does almost everything else.
  7. I like cloth napkins.  I have an antique crockery bowl on my table with napkins folded and arranged points-up.  It's a pretty centerpiece on the table and so useful.  Cloth napkins are greener, of course, classier, and so reusable that they're practically free.  I made mine years ago out of fabric I bought for $2 a yard.  One yard gives you four generous-sized napkins, and so far I've had over 8 years of use out of them.  That's about 2000 uses so far, at $2 a yard for a cost so far of about 1/100th of a penny for FOUR napkins.  And there are still many years of use left in them.  Just choose colors that can stand the barbeque sauce, brown gravy and pizza sauce.  
Let's face it America.  Life needs balance.  We've been leaning so heavily toward the disposable, instant-gratification style of consumerism that our economic ship is listing.  We're dangerously close to sinking the whole vessel.  Government bailouts aren't going to help us (and they've hurt us enough already), we can't depend on the mortgage companies to learn their lesson, or the credit card companies to lower their interest rates.  It's up to us. 

We have to pay closer attention to our spending, without taking all the fun out of life.  Just like diets don't work if they're only about deprivation, budgets don't work if they're all skimp and no spend.  We can make better choices, though.  And we can find the challenge in saving.  Most of all, if we can get back to the basics of running our lives, a more hands-on approach might actually be more satisfying than having everything done for us.   We can save money, tread more lightly on the planet and get more satisfaction all at the same time.

Makes You Think?

http://learningfromdogs.com/2010/06/10/a-way-forward/

I read this post on Learning From Dogs this morning and it stopped me in my tracks.  Ok, it stopped me in my swivel chair, but you know what I mean.  We talk about this very thing in my house quite a lot. 

I am a firm believer that we should hope for the best...and prepare for the worst.  Focusing on the trials and tribulations of life doesn't make them go away, it just makes them more noticeable.  Focusing on the joy doesn't make the trials go away, but it sure makes the joy more noticeable.  Seek and ye shall find? 

My two grandmothers were polar opposites in this way.  My American grandma spent her whole life focusing on what was wrong.  She thought about the things she was disappointed in, the ways she didn't get what she wanted out of life.  And even though she came through the depression and the war with all of her sons safe and sound, and lived the rest of her life in relative security, she was never a happy woman. 

My Holland grandma had a very difficult life and faced so many hardships I couldn't begin to name them.  She focused on the blessings in her life and paid as little attention to the bad stuff as possible.  She lived 15 years longer than my American grandma, and lived all of her years with better mental acuity and better independent function.  Could these things be related?  Absolutely!  Read more about how your outlook on life affects your life.

Come on, kids.  We all know this.  When you were laid up in the bed with chicken pox, and you couldn't go out and play, what did your Momma say?  Mine told me, "OK, so you can't go out and play.  But if you were well enough to go play, you'd be well enough to do your chores.  Enjoy the quiet time and quit scratching."

We don't get to live a life that is free of trouble.  (That would be Eden, and we blew that deal a long time ago.)  What we do get is the power to choose.  Free will.   We have the unqualified privilege of deciding what to focus on in almost any given moment. 

Here is what I'm focusing on today.
  • Jim Reeves is singing "He'll Have To Go" to me.  My Daddy taught me to waltz to that song and it's a cherished memory every time I hear it.  Isn't music wonderful?
  • I have two healthy, happy, well-balanced sons.  GROWN sons.  Each of them has a very nice girlfriend (one son denies that it's more than friendship, but I'm reserving judgment.)  Life is good. 
  • My sweet hubs still makes my little heart go pitter-patter, even 25 years in.  If that isn't a true blessing, I don't know what is.
  • My pantry is full.  My basil is growing.  The freezer is full.  My bed is comfy and my house is a comfortable temperature.  I have great neighbors, a nice yard and a whole gaggle of neighborhood girls to fill the air with children's voices and giggling.
  • I'm needed.  Who would do the laundry if I weren't here?
  • I'm not fat and I'm not skinny. 
  • I'm not young and I'm not old.
  • I'm not rich and I'm not poor.
  • There is plenty of work to keep me busy, and there's always tomorrow for what I can't finish today.
It's an upside-down world in a lot of ways:  full of injustice, greed, poverty, pain and prejudice.  But it still the only world we have.  We might as well make the best of it. 

Profoundly Profane

***

I heard my colleague say a bad word!  I never heard her use one before.  She was severely provoked, which has always been a good reason for profanity.  Still, I was surprised.  When this friend drops a swear word, you know that things are serious.

Can I just be controversial and defend profanity?  We need bad words.  We need 'em!  There are times when a simple, "shoot!" won't do.  There are moments when you are pushed to the point where only the F Bomb adequately describes what you need to say.  There are people for whom the name "jerk" does NOT tell the story.

We need the bad words.  We need all the words.  We need some more words, too....some that haven't been invented yet.  (My youngest son invents a lot of very fine words.  Maybe I'll give him an order to fill.)  When you think about extremes of your life, you'll find that the words we have aren't always big enough.  That moment when you first hold your newborn child in your arms isn't fully described by "happy", "love", "ecstatic" or "thrilled".  It's ever so much more than that.

And there are times (whole days even) when "angry", "frustrated" or "infuriated" are completely inadequate to the rage that boils inside you.   When things go wrong enough, for long enough, "Oh sugar!" doesn't release that much frustration.  But a good, solid, "OH SHIT!" can really relieve the tension.

We wouldn't have all these many words if we didn't need them.  They all describe the shades upon shades of meaning which is the human experience.   Good words, strong words, happy words,  sad words -- even the dirtiest, most vulgar word you know says something meaningful and describes something that no other word quite does.  That doesn't mean we should use the words carelessly, but then, if you've been reading me for any time, you know that I don't think we should use any word carelessly.

I'm a big fan of meaning what you say and saying what you mean.  The only way to do that is to choose the words which most clearly express what you wish to say.  And sometimes you just need to say "F it."