Thursday, April 19, 2018

ADD-ONS


Back in the 1950s we began seeing the word enriched added to our foods. Enriched flour (with niacin, a B vitamin, and a number of other enrichments). Enriched flour, we were encouraged to believe, was superior to the plain old flour our mothers and grandmothers and aunts and neighbors had always used to make award-winning pie crusts, fabulous cakes, melt-in-your-mouth shortbread, and anything you care to name that uses flour. (Think: gravy, white sauce, biscuits/cornbread/muffins. . . .)

Before long, we were assured that our lives would be much better if we took supplements

Now those words--enriched and supplement--are old school. Today it's add-ons.

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I looked up some words--one of my very favorite pastimes, as you may have gathered--to see if I could learn something about adding stuff to other stuff. Here's a sample of what I found:

In my Super Thesaurus, the word enrich listed the following synonyms:

(verb) enhance; add; upgrade; improve; endow; cultivate; embellish; sweeten; refine; beef up.

My Merriam Webster 10th Edition says a supplement is something that completes or makes an addition.

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Fine, you say, so what's my problem?

Have you looked at something as everyday, taken for granted, as toothpaste lately? Do you know how many kinds there are?


Toothpaste isn't just regular or mint flavored. Oh, no. It's for super-sensitive teeth. It's for cavity control. It's for enamel health. Or enamel repair. It's for whitening. It has fluoride protection, or it doesn't. Or it's specially made for kids. (Why is that?)





Or let's consider water. Plain old water is darn near as difficult to find an unenriched flour. Water isn't just water any more. It's flavored, with zero calories. It's colored, for some reason. It's enhanced to give you and me electrolytes, and minerals. (Do I want electrolytes? Do I need them?) Water has become a Life Source, which, in my ignorance, I thought it always was, water being necessary for the continued good health and well-bring of mammals and other flora and fauna. 

Those are just two of the everyday things I've encountered that Mad Ave has enhanced, upgraded, refined, beefed up, and, in my opinion, ruined. But don't forget, I'm definitely old school.

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I can live with the toothpaste and the water. There are still options that don't send me into orbit when I'm shopping.

But my phone? My once-a-luxury cell phone, now my absolutely-necessary mobile?

They've gone and added stuff to it. They tell me so every other day. Fortunately they also give me the chance to accept or reject whatever enhancement they're offering; but if I don't make a choice, the same message returns day after day. Apparently "We won't take no for an answer" is the attitude of the phone company vis-`a-vis add-ons.

The computer people have been doing that for decades, but they're a little more considerate--when I say no, thank you, they accept that. Well, sometimes they ask if I'm sure, but eventually a repeated no is accepted. I'm a little cozier with my computer than with my phone, for obvious reasons.

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Why am I getting wound up about this? I'm glad you asked.

I'm wondering what it would feel like to live an unenhanced, unenriched, un-beefed up life.

What would happen if I peeled away all the supplements and enhancements and add-ons? What would I be left with? 

I'd use plain toothpaste. I'd drink plain water. 

I suspect I'd have plain food--fresh veggies from the Farmer's Market on Wednesday and Saturday. I'd eat meat, poultry, and fish processed minimally. And I'm sure I'd be preparing all my meals from scratch. My recycling bin would weigh less because the bottles, tins, and cardboard would be missing.

Is this all just nostalgia for a simpler time? I don't think so. It strikes me that enhanced/enriched life is about living at one remove from The Authentic Thing. Whatever that Thing is.

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We have many good products in our lives. We have access to health aids that can help us have better life quality. We can buy pre-made meals or partially prepared meals to free up time we can use differently. 

I'd love to see us enrich our lives in other ways--with people; with continued learning; with simple things, like walks in our neighborhoods, or planting a small garden, or teaching a kid to fish.

And even though I recognize the safety measure of kids having cell phones (parents can track where the children are quite easily; kids can get emergency help on their own), I smile when I see kids and parents enjoying each other's company. And kids playing ball with other kids, or chasing each other around the farm in a game of tag. No phones in evidence.

As Spring unfolds, we think of new beginnings--after all, Nature is sighing and singing and bursting with color and scent. We can begin again--with natural enrichment.

Have a rich week!


Thursday, April 12, 2018

In Just-
spring


[Another re-posting . . . going through a rough patch at present and I'm a little distracted because a good friend is very ill. Also, April is the month my mother died, and to this day, 62 years later, I live through those last days and weeks all over again. Re-reading this post has helped me--I can now celebrate the opening-up of another spring.]

This is what I call the e e cummings season, "mud-luscious" and "puddle-wonderful." Today’s forecast calls for light rain, which begins any time now; my guess is that it’s holding off till I go out to run errands and will let go the minute I open my car door. But that’s just a guess.

Just-spring here in Northeast Indiana comes with a full basket of tulips and dandelions, mowed yards, birds courting, bushes in red and green and yellow, trees in pink and white and magenta and yellow-green.

Landscaping is newly mulched. Gardeners grow antsy waiting for the frost-warnings to lift so they can be the first kid on their block with annuals shoving each other aside in hanging baskets and flower boxes and any little patch of soil that doesn’t have anything in it.

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Spring returns every year (March 21st in the northern hemisphere), with new growth in the earth; with hope for new beginnings (Easter is a spring festival, you know); with beauty so abundant you feel it will run right over you.

It’s overflowing and everywhere. And it’s for everyone.

Spring (with apologies to Janne Robinson for her lovely poem) doesn’t care: whether you’re black, white, Hispanic, or other. If you’re super-sensitive to pollen or criticism or penicillin. If you’re grieving or rejoicing. If you’re too old to, too young to, or don’t give a damn. If your income exceeds your outgo or you have no income worth talking about. Spring breathes on us, whether we like it or not.

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All the therapy in the world won’t take away Spring. All the fervent prayers, tears, threats, tantrums—no effect on Spring.

We’ll have to deal with Spring--endure it, embrace it; enjoy it, avoid it. Spring doesn’t care.

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If you see a white-haired woman in a black sweatshirt and New Balance walking shoes, carrying a box of Kleenex, that’s probably me. I’ll sneeze my way around the block, or the Y track on rainy days.

Spring doesn’t care.

But I do.

Celebrate Spring! And I hope you enjoy what She has to offer.





Thursday, April 5, 2018

HARD LESSONS - Becoming



[This post was first published two years ago. When I reread it, I knew its message was still alive and well in my life. We are all in the process of becoming . . . and I pray we might be for all of the days and years we are given.]


When I was young, I envied other kids—their houses, their parents together, their siblings. I wanted the same clothes other girls had—or their looks—or their confidence. They knew when to speak up, they knew their place in the world.

I was stuck in my own growth because I looked at other people and saw what I was not, what I had not.

Later, I discovered other young moms lived in nicer houses than ours. Their children always wore pretty clothes. The family car was newer, or classier.

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Many years afterward, I learned a valuable piece of advice at a Weight Watchers meeting: “Don’t compare your inside to their outside.” What I saw in others wasn’t, necessarily, the whole truth.

Over time I began to learn a few things by observing the lives of others:
  •      Some young couples had huge debt to help them look good: big house, new car, pretty clothes.
  •      Some confident people were, in fact, pushy; some had no compassion for people in pain; some never saw below the surface in people.
  •      Some very talented people have unpleasant side effects--lacking in good sense, unloving to their children, gossipy and back-biting.

True, not all young people or confident people or talented people were like the examples I cite here. That’s one of the challenges of life—just when you think you’ve got it figured out, somebody comes along and makes you do a 180 in your preconceptions.

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Little by little I learned the nature of Envy, and why it is harmful. I read books, I listened to sermons, I began to ponder the details of other people’s lives.

The people I was drawn to most, the ones who remained friends for many years, were people who enjoyed the same things I did: a walk through the meadow at the farm where I used to live here in Northeast Indiana; or sitting and talking about literature, music, or art, while sipping herbal tea; or drinking wine and listening to Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony. (My first experience of Beethoven’s Seventh had me in tears.)

These lovely people took me out of myself. And by that simple, compassionate, caring act, they helped me banish Envy. Over time I began to be the person I wanted to be. Or, perhaps a better way of saying it is: I began to love the person I was becoming.

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I say becoming because there is no closure to this process of growing.

So I can say, with some regret, that the Envy I now harbor—I think it’s the only one—is the envy of people who are allowed to cry. To express their pain, their sorrow, their grief, their anguish.

From my earliest memories I was admonished not to cry. Not even when I got hurt. Not even—God forgive me—when my mother died. (My father couldn’t express his grief, therefore I shouldn’t grieve either.)

So as a young child I began to hide my tears, my feelings.

One of the first people to help me become a feeling person was Vira Marner Palmer. She was an outspoken, feeling woman who often voiced her opinion. When I married into the Palmer family, I gained a new mother.

More than anyone in my life, she knew what it was to be an only child whose mother had died too young. She was not a pleaser. I don’t recall seeing her cry, but I’ve seen her angry and heaping abuse on a man who was publically harassing her husband.

Before her death when I was 28, she urged me to go back to college and finish my degree. She had graduated from high school, and she was married to a college professor; her sons were in college pursuing advanced degrees. Vira recognized the importance of education.

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Learning goes on forever . . . and I’m still learning about Envy, among other things.

One important thing I know is this: No one has all the gifts/luck/possessions/talents. Each of us has some. And what we have is important.

Do not envy.

(That is my goal.)

Celebrate the good others do, or have.

(I try to do that.)

Becoming. That’s what it’s all about.





Thursday, March 29, 2018

HAPPY EASTER!

The most joyous Easter celebrations in our family were, for me, the ones in the 1970s.

We lived in the country, on 169 acres of tillable land, woods, creek, and buildings in more or less habitable state.

The children were old enough to forego the chocolate bunnies and jelly bean eggs; but I recall we did color the eggs from our hens to decorate the dinner table.

Ham was always the entree. And here memory begins to waver--probably we had scalloped potatoes (because they could be prepared ahead of time--you'll see why in a moment); green beans from our garden that had been stored in the basement in Mason jars awaiting many a winter meal; a frozen salad/dessert made of cream cheese, dry custard powder, frozen lime juice, canned pineapple, and nuts, all mixed together and fluffed up with frozen whipped topping. I know, it sounds a little gross, but trust me, it was delicious. And there were always fresh-baked rolls, the brown-and-serve kind popular with busy families in those days.

Dinner was practically made ahead because we spent the morning at the little country church down the road. I was choir director then, and we always prepared and performed an Easter cantata. Always a different one each year. We had enough good voices to take solo parts, and an organist and pianist who made the whole thing work. By the time we'd brought the message of death and resurrection in song, we were all exhausted. A great feeling, that kind of exhaustion, with joy woven through.

After a short visit with other church members, we all headed out for our homes and whatever dinners awaited us.

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Easter Sunday is less hectic nowadays. There's no big dinner to prepare ahead of time. No cantata to practice for weeks on end. The service is familiar, and yet always new. 

Last year and again this year I'll serve as communion assistant (chalice bearer) during the second service. There will be many, many more worshippers than on recent Sundays--some are visitors in town to celebrate with families; others come only on Christmas and Easter, but we love to see them anyway. They are part of the church family.

I'll leave with a different kind of joy in my heart, made up of soaring hymns and choir anthems; familiar Scripture readings; good wishes from other parishioners; a sermon that reassures us of the hope of the resurrection.

Less hectic, yes. But no less joyous. The joy is now more in the heart than in the senses. 

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I love the image of butterflies for this time of year--we know the butterfly was once a lowly worm that spun its cocoon, hung around on dead branches for the required number of days and weeks, and when the time was right, it emerged as a butterfly. New life from an entirely different beginning.

Wishing you a joyous Easter!



Thursday, March 22, 2018

WHAT MAKES YOUR DAY?

“Go ahead — make my day.” 

Never mind Dirty Harry, there are lovely things that can make your day.

Here are some of mine:

February 22nd--Outside my writing room window I watched birds arrive for the early morning meal at my suet and seed feeders. One was an Eastern Bluebird. I'd never seen one in the flesh before. My photos were shot through a window covered by a screen, so they weren't very clear. But this picture from the Internet shows exactly what I saw:



It really was that blue.

Last week--I added a package of white no-show socks to my shopping cart. Yesterday I ran them through the laundry. When I folded the dry clothes, I had 28 socks! Twelve of them were the new white no-shows. Made my day!

Any day, any year--getting a letter or note or card from a relative or friend can make my day brighter. It's like having a visit without having to straighten up the living room or bake a batch of cookies. I usually make a cup of tea to drink while I read what I received in the mail. (Checks arriving in the mail are welcome also; they seldom come with a hand-written note, but they can make my day just as they are.)

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This is Day 3 of Spring! Morning skies are beginning to get light by the time I have my coffee brewed and sit down at my desk with my journal and pen, raise the mini-blind, and wait for birds to come by for the AM feed. The air may be chilly for a few more days, and I know rain is coming next week (several days in a row), but it's Spring here in the northeast corner of Indiana. What's not to love?

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Hope good things come to you to make your day . . . .







Thursday, March 15, 2018

10 THINGS YOU PROBABLY NEVER KNEW ABOUT ME


10. I don't like walking in the rain. It's not romantic, for Pete's sake, it's wet!

 9. I prefer Mexican food to Chinese. Either one, nothing too high on the spicy scale.

 8. Horror movies either (a) scare me witless or (b) make me laugh at how stupid they are.

 7. I love beautiful gardens! I just don't like having to make them or maintain them. Beautiful gardens are for looking at.

 6. Too-friendly neighbors send my paranoia antennae twirling. Same goes for flaming extraverts at social gatherings. I itch all over.

 5. My favorite car is at least 8 years old, low mileage, looks like several hundred others on the road, and always starts.

 4. My favorite writing instrument is a not-too-wet gel pen; next favorite is a Uniball or Bic stick pen--definitely not wet.

 3. Currently I am reading 8 books . . . one fiction, seven non-fiction (mostly collections of essays).

 2. In the year 2017, I lost 14 lbs. And have kept it off.

 1. Every painting, photograph, and print hanging on my walls is a water scene, including a batik my oldest daughter made for me in high school.

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None of the above things is unique to me--but they make me different from other people you know. The amazing thing is this: There's a universal something that connects every one of us to the others. Some people say it's our species' use of language. Others say it's our innate goodness, or sense of community, or the gift of creativity.

Celebrate your differences! And then celebrate our likenesses.




Thursday, March 8, 2018

WAIT AND SEE

Three little words . . . "wait and see" . . . .

When I was a little kid, "wait and see" meant, very likely, "no." But it was a softer let-down than the absolute "no" to a question I asked.

As I got older, say, into the teen years, I realized "wait and see" had some value.

--Take a test--wait for the results and see if I've passed.
--Audition for a part in one of the school dramas--wait to see if I was chosen for the part I wanted most.
--Big dance coming up--Christmas formal, prom--wait and see if I get asked to go. (And then wait and see if my parents would let me go. Or if I had enough money to get a nice dress.)

Then there were the young adult years: lots of waiting and seeing during courtship, marriage, birth of children. But this period of time had a different flavor--no more just anticipating an event and then assessing how it turned out. This was more in the line of having multiple possible results. And making more decisions, rather than waiting for things "to work out" by themselves.

If you opted not to go the marriage and kiddies route, you might have considered these:

--Go to college, enroll in a course that will (one hopes) lead to a job. Study, get good grades, if possible; graduate. Look for a job. Keep looking. Possibly take any available employment to have income for a family. 

--Or, take another path, perhaps the military; employment opportunity, educational opportunity, travel. Then get deployed--wait and see where you'll be going. Family left in the states continue the waiting and seeing--keeping the positive view that you will return home.

--Find a cause you want to help with, make your life count by working in the Peace Corps, or work with church missions in faraway places; you don't even have to leave home--look for any size city or town where homeless shelters and other types of facilities work with folks whose lives have taken a turn for the worse.

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The older I grew, the less certain, the less clear-cut, were the possible outcomes of my choices and decisions.

I knew I would retire one day. Retirement was something to look forward to because I had many enjoyable activities that had been put on hold while I worked. So I waited for retirement . . . and what came was a lot of time to fill up. No problem there--I could do many of those activities I'd put on hold: work with a daytime group at the church; do my shopping early in the morning, instead of after work or on Saturday; spend most of a day cooking--results to be frozen for later use; or, spend most of a day putting a quilt together. There's almost nothing you can't finish if you can devote a whole day to it from time to time.

Now I'm less goal driven. My choice of activities doesn't have to lead to a job or a relationship or a path to follow. This blog, for instance, isn't slotted into any particular niche; thinking up possible topics and exploring them keeps my writing muscles working. But I'm not working toward an award or publication in some other medium.

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I don't like exploring the downside of topics here at Thursday's Child, but sometimes we have to acknowledge the less-than-positive in our lives.

Medical tests--very, very few tests can be done in one day and the results known a few hours later. What to do with the waiting time?

Well, there's always panic. Or ranting and pulling our hair. Or complete meltdown. 

These might help us relieve some of the tension and stress of not-knowing, but that's about all that comes out of kicking the furniture or hurling dishes against the wall.



You'll never find me on a list of gardeners--enthusiastic or otherwise--but I can attest that kneeling on the ground with a potted plant and a trowel to add a growing bush to my landscaping came close to being an other-worldly experience. Time ceased to be of any significance. Sun on my shoulders, breeze blowing through my hair, newly turned earth smelling pungent . . . the whole experience was sensory. No room for feeling of any kind.

You can lose yourself in a book, a movie, a walk in the park. Temporary, yes, but helpful.

You can find a friend to help you wait out the time until results come in. There's nothing so lonely as waiting alone for results you're afraid to get.

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Do I still wait and see? Of course. We all do at times. Not everything has a definite outcome right this minute.

But I find not knowing can be a good thing. I'm not crazy about surprises, but I do like a little suspense in my life. Beyond the suspense, though, there's a strengthening that comes when we've successfully navigated a "wait and see" journey. The next one may not be so hard.