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?



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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.

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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.

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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.



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