Thursday, December 7, 2017

WHADDYA MEAN, CELEBRATE?

Do you remember an old song that went like this?
Grumpy the Dwarf

     If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands,
     If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands,
     If you're happy and you know it,
          then your life will surely show it,
     If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.

I'm singing a new verse, that goes something like this:

     If you're grumpy and you know it, frown and growl . . . .

There's no really good reason for my current grump. But there are a lot of little idiotic reasons. Such as:

--my credit card payment, mailed 10 days early, at the Post Office, didn't arrive at the company that processes payments
--the credit card company wants me to pay up--I'm holding out for the check to clear
--the wind has picked up again, gusting along at 35-45 mph; certainly cuts into my going out for errands and exercise sessions
--my sleep patterns--if I can dignify them with such a term--are all topsy turvy, through no fault of anybody I know
--days melt away and I don't know where they go

That's enough to give you the idea. You probably have your own list.

The reason I frown and growl is . . . I can't do anything about the above items. Except fret. Or frown. And growl. None of which does any good.

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It's pretty bad when Mickey has
the grumps.
The weather thing--windy/cold/wet/cloudy stuff--can't change it, but I've decided how to handle that. If I have to stay home, I'll do yoga stretches for exercise. Or watch a fitness video on the computer. Or take a nap. I've even done some of my shopping online (I know, some people do ALL their shopping online)--but that requires using a credit card, which, as we know, needs to be paid, and if not paid, or not recognized by the company as paid, results in a nasty-nice email . . . .

Okay. Enough of that. If I can't change the way things happen, what can I do--really--to adjust my attitude? (I can't afford the professional Attitude Adjustment, so it'll be DIY.)

1. I can find somebody much worse off than I am and recognize just how blessed I am. (This might lead to feelings of superiority, so I'll look for something else.)
2. I can quit buying things online. And stop using credit cards. (Last I heard, cash still works.)
3. I can declare a moratorium on the grumps--one way to do that is to schedule the grumps, say, every Thursday at 2:15 AM, for 5 minutes.
4. I can read something funny--humor does a lot to shift my mood. But it has to be real humor, not satire or the sarks. Funny movies or TV shows can do the same thing.
5. I can complain (if I really, really must)  in my journal, thus protecting my family and friends from the contagion of the grumps.
6. I can do something nice for somebody else. (You're on your own with this one--my something nice might not be your something nice.)
7. I can play some upbeat music--Vince Guaraldi Trio's CD, A Charlie Brown Christmas, makes me want to dance. 

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Writing about the grumps and knowing you're right here with me (you are, aren't you?) lightens the load. 

May your days be merry and bright, and may the grumps never visit your abode.


Linus can put a positive spin
on nearly everything.


Thursday, November 30, 2017

A TIME BETWEEN

A week ago we celebrated Thanksgiving Day in the U.S. For the past month, many folks have taken the challenge to find 30 ways to express their gratitude. 

In my neighborhood, the day after turkey day signaled the lighting of the Christmas lights, inflating of  the snowmen/Santas/reindeer that crowd every lawn, and decorating of outside bushes and trees and fences with glittery garlands and bright bows.

On Monday I made a foray into necessary shopping (no gifts, just food and paper products and vitamins)--and was greeted by the Salvation Army bell ringers in the foyer of Walmart and Christmas music on the PA system.

I'm. Not. Ready.

I don't mean: Help, my gifts aren't done! Or, what am I going to get Aunt Martha? Or, the house will never be ready for the family gathering.

None of these scenarios apply to me.

I'm not ready: Not ready to celebrate. Not ready to sing carols about a babe born in a manger. Not ready to bake and make candy and write Christmas cards and fill stockings....

It's too early.

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I treasure this time between the autumn harvest festival we call Thanksgiving Day and the approaching winter solstice celebration that heralds Christmas. These few weeks of darker and darker days slow me down. There's time to pause and reflect--what is this time all about, anyway? Have I learned anything about myself and my relationship to the society I live in, and the people I know? Am I part of the eternal gift-buying, gift-getting? Does the idea of a Christmas gathering--a party by any other name--sound inviting?

Some people wonder if I've reached curmudgeon status. I say, not yet. I'm not bah-humbugging my way through the store. I'm not avoiding my relatives and friends. It's just--well, as Winston Churchill says, a time of reflection. 

So here are some thoughts about Christmas, and the celebration thereof for your own reflection:

God never gives someone a gift they are not capable of receiving. If he gives us the gift of Christmas, it is because we all have the ability to understand and receive it. 
     --Pope Francis


Christmas is a bridge. We need bridges as the river of time flows past. Today's Christmas should mean creating happy hours for tomorrow and reliving those of yesterday. 
     --Gladys Taber

Unless we make Christmas an occasion to share our blessings, all the snow in Alaska won't make it 'white'. 
     --Bing Crosby

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And for a light-hearted view:

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don't clean it up too quickly. 
     --Andy Rooney

What I don't like about office Christmas parties is looking for a job the next day.
     --Phyllis Diller

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Wherever you live, however you celebrate Christmas (if you do), keep an open heart. Look for blessings.





Thursday, November 23, 2017

A THANKSGIVING POEM FOR YOU



Blessings from
     Thursday's Child

Thursday, November 16, 2017

COMFORT FOOD--AUTUMN STYLE

If it's rainy/damp/chilling/windy where you hang out, you'll feel right at home with today's visit from Thursday's Child.

Yesterday I had lunch at a favorite local restaurant, where they serve what a friend of mine calls "tavern food," like Swiss Steak, mashed potatoes and gravy, green beans/corn/broccoli, and then there's a blue million sides you can choose from, and another dozen or so pies (or apple dumplings, now that the weather has changed).

One of my favorite meals there is chili--homemade, not too spicy, full of beef and beans and thick, and stove-hot. I even ate a couple of saltines (not gluten-free, but the only thing I'd put in such a heavenly chili.

To help you plan your shopping list or menus for the next few days, consider some of the following choices. They'll warm the cockles of your heart! (Whatever those are!)

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5-INGREDIENT CHILI
(probably serves 6, if you add corn muffins on the side)

2 pounds ground beef, or whatever you have
1 32-ounce can chili beans
      3 6.5-ounce cans tomato sauce
      1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
      1 package chili seasoning

  1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Cook and stir beef in the hot skillet until browned and crumbly, 5 to 7 minutes; drain.
  2. Stir in remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil. Ready to serve.
You can add extra chili powder, if your taste demands it. But that makes 6 ingredients!

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MY FAVORITE WHITE CHILI (4 INGREDIENTS)
(serves 4-6, depending on appetites and how cold the day is)

2 c. (or more) leftover cooked chicken breasts, cut into 1/2-in. pieces
2 cans Bush's Beans for White Chili
Chicken broth, as needed for thickness you like
Small can (about 4 oz.) green chilis

The most work you have to do is cutting the chicken into little pieces. If you don't have leftover chicken, you can use canned. Or you can cook some chicken breasts and cut them up later.

The Bush's Beans contain all the seasonings--read the label; Bush's makes something for every taste!

Put all the ingredients in a soup pot, bring to a boil, reduce heat, and let it simmer a while. Stir whenever you think of it. Since everything is cooked, it doesn't take long.

This one is great in a slow cooker, on LOW. Great to come home to....

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CHICKEN-VEGETABLE-RICE SOUP
(serves 6 or more--depending on how much you use of everything)

1 large can chicken (27-oz. size)
1 or 2 bags frozen mixed vegetables for soup
Seasonings: chopped onion/celery, minced garlic; salt and pepper to taste; herbs, if you like them
Quart of chicken broth or stock
Rice

This is another one for the slow cooker. Start it on HIGH in the morning, reduce to LOW if you're leaving the house, and it's ready for supper. For the above size can of chicken, add 1 c. uncooked white rice. Check later to see if more broth is needed.

If you prefer brown rice, cook it before adding to the soup.

If you don't want the rice, try quinoa or small pieces of pasta.

After several hours in a slow cooker, the rice or pasta may disintegrate; that's okay, because it thickens the soup.

You can also add frozen spinach or kale late in the cooking process for extra nutrition.

-----
All three of these soups freeze well. I make one batch per month, then freeze in serving size boxes.

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And as a plus, you can always substitute leftover turkey (light or dark) for the chicken. Saves you trying to figure out what to do with all the turkey people didn't eat at the holiday dinner. I recall getting tired of turkey sandwiches day after day.

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By this time next week you'll either be back in bed after getting that monster turkey in the oven at some stupid hour of the night or you'll be enjoying a lazy late breakfast. See you then!






Thursday, November 9, 2017

THE MESSAGE IN THE HEALING QUILT
Brick quilt in
horizontal arrangement

I've long been a fan of the Tony Hillerman Navajo mysteries, featuring Lt. Joe Leaphorn and Sgt. Jim Chee of the Navajo Tribal Police. The setting is the U.S. Southwest area known as the Four Corners--where Arizona, New Mexico, Utah, and Colorado meet. 

One of the attractions of these stories is the interweaving of Navajo culture. Jim Chee yearns to be a hataalii or medicine man. Yet he understands that his job as a policeman is philosophically opposed to the beliefs and practices of a shaman. Chee is a traditional Navajo.

Joe Leaphorn, somewhat older than Chee, is sometimes described as a pragmatic Navajo or an agnostic. His wife was traditional; and though Leaphorn knows the culture's mythology and beliefs, he cannot completely embrace them.

An ongoing theme in the series is Chee's desire to be a shaman--also called a singer--who performs healing ceremonies. Here is the important part of the concept: HEALING is understood to be a restoring of the patient to harmony--returning him/her to the beauty of the Navajo way. In the case of terminal illnesses, restoring the patient to harmony before death can bring peace.

[As an aside: Other ceremonies performed by the shamans are indeed for the curing of certain conditions, such as traumas experienced by military personnel who return to their lives in the Navajo culture; others are for blessing.]

-----
Many years ago I was introduced to another kind of healing service in the church. It was explained to us that this is not about curing a disease or condition; it is about reconciling the person to God.
Brick quilt in
vertical arrangement

Much as the Navajo longs for a return to harmony, to beauty, the healing service in the church where I worship now achieves the same sense of returning to one's original relationship with God. We might call that harmony. Or beauty.

-----
About the same time I understood the difference between healing and curing, I discovered people I knew who were facing surgeries or treatments for cancer. And in the convoluted way that our own experiences meet and transform each other and intertwine, the concept of a healing quilt was born.

During my recovery at the hospital after my own surgery for cancer, my youngest daughter brought a quilt she had purchased at an estate sale, and placed it on my bed, to keep me company. She knew my interest in making quilts. She knew my grandmother had made many, many quilts in times past. 

I don't remember what that healing quilt looked like--it seems to live in memory as a blue and white quilt, with some red squares here and there. It had been well-used by its former owner, and had the softness of age.

But I do remember the sense of that quilt being there in the hospital with me for a purpose--just for me--no one else had one like it.

-----
Since that time, I have made many healing quilts. They're made with love and prayer. They're made especially for one person, often in the colors they love or with which they decorate their homes. If possible, I make the quilt before the person has surgery.

Healing quilts are larger than lap size--usually 50x60 inches. I use three different patterns--a brick design in horizontal rows; a larger brick design in vertical rows; and two-inch strips. 

The healing quilts make no claims to cure illness; rather, they carry a message of love and good wishes and comfort and caring by the maker.



Recent healing quilt for a
friend at church






Thursday, November 2, 2017

THIS 'N' THAT



Another week of variety . . . some things cancelled, others rescheduled for someone else's convenience; changes I could do nothing about, some I initiated myself.

For example:

Yesterday I changed my calendars (8 altogether) to a new month. Did you? Of course you did. So now we're all on the same calendar page, into the 11th month of the year. The joy for me in keeping 8 calendars (one in each room, basically) is seeing a new picture--sometimes nature, sometimes barns, sometimes family faces. One is based on Charles Schulz's Peanuts characters and there's a 4-block strip at the bottom of each month's page. November reports Woodstock, Snoopy's buddy, has decided to fly south for the winter--Woodstock then flies up and over Snoopy, lands on the other end of the dog house, and Snoopy says, "two and a half feet south."

Also yesterday I drove my friend Jane to the hospital for her colonoscopy; that turned into an all-morning event, as I waited for her to wake up after the procedure. While I waited, I wrote notes in two get-well cards and one (belated) birthday card; and I started a letter to my Arizona daughter. My current book reading is a nearly-500-pager from the library, hardback, newly minted in September this year, so I didn't want to risk spilling coffee on it or (gasp!) leaving it at the hospital. (More on the book below.)

Another of my self-initiated events, ongoing, is changing clothes--not just taking off nighttime clothes and putting on daytime clothes, but changing what's in the closet I use most. Little by little, corduroy slacks, heavy jeans, long-sleeved shirts, and sweaters/jackets/lined sweatshirts are front and center. Spring and summer wear migrates to the out-of-season closet. I know there are a few days of Indian Summer coming soon; I can suffer through that 60-degree temp easily--just take off a layer.

-----
Reading: My current book is called The Woman Who Smashed Codes, by Jason Fagone. The subtitle reads: A True Story of Love, Spies, and the Unlikely Heroine Who Outwitted America's Enemies.



The "unlikely heroine" is Elizebeth Smith Friedman--9th child of a Quaker couple, who went on to become one of the first codebreakers to work for the government. In 1917, she and her new husband, William Friedman, began codebreaking, and went on to decode messages for various government departments. Eventually Elizebeth worked for the Coast Guard and William for the Army. (And yes, Elizebeth is the correct spelling.)

If you like true stories about how our country survived during wartime, this is a book you might want to look for. The time span is 1917 into the 1950s. And the story could only be written at the present time because much of the information has been declassified recently, some of it within the past few years.

Another book you might like: The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows. This is a novel, told in letters and telegrams. It has a light-hearted appeal, but is definitely a serious story. Time frame: 1946, just after the end of WW II; Guernsey was occupied by German troops for 5 years prior to war's end. (If your geographic knowledge is about like mine, I'll tell you--Guernsey is one of the Channel Islands, between England and France.)

-----
I've settled the burning question of what to do about Christmas gifts this year. Since some of my family read this blog, I'm revealing no details. I mention it only to celebrate the removal of one thing from my always-full plate!

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Hope your days are happy and filled with good things to do. As our season winds down and more hours of darkness show up, try to keep yourself from hibernating. Turn on more lights, if that helps you. Read some good books. Have a cup of tea or coffee with a friend. Or--if you really want to go retro--write a letter, by hand! Quite liberating!





Thursday, October 26, 2017

AUTUMN, FINALLY

We're one month into our three-month season of Autumn, and in my neck of the woods, we're only just now getting real fall color in the leaves.

There are plenty of naked trees already; they lost their leaves early in the month. My back yard is filling up, but I'm sad to say they aren't the usual lovely gold, bigger-than-my-hand maple leaves that I've had year after year. On a cloudy day, I could look out and be tricked into thinking the sun was shining--those leaves reflected such brilliant light.

Last night's low was at or near 31 degrees, and tonight's won't be much higher. A quilt on the bed makes for a good night's sleep. Hot soup makes a substantial lunch, especially the thick kind with plenty of chicken, veggies, and rice. In a few days, I'll think about baking again--those banana brownies from last year are calling my name.

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Here's a poem for you--not an autumn poem, exactly--but one I've always liked. Hope you do, too.


THE ROAD NOT TAKEN


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I--
I took the one less traveled by,
and that has made all the difference.

                                                             --Robert Frost