Thursday, August 10, 2017

THE GIFTS OF AUGUST

Every month is a gift. We didn't plan for it. We didn't shop for it. We didn't even, perhaps, know we wanted it. But it arrived anyway. 

August is a gift that brings even more gifts with it. 

A quick scan of my neighborhood reveals surprise lilies in every other yard. Mine appeared on August 2nd. Surprised me! 

Another beauty is the hibiscus--pinks of every shade from delicate to intense--flowers as big as a dinner plate.

And everywhere in my town I see snowball bushes. Mine, alas, was old and got itself involved with bad company (a lilac and some poison ivy); all three had to go, and that was years ago. But I've never forgotten the snowball bush and its tight-packed white blooms the size of a small soccer ball.


Besides visual delights, I'm enjoying cool nights--in the 50s most weeks--that we always called "good sleeping weather." My a/c still runs to keep the humidity at bay, but by morning the fan is off and I leave for the Y with a sweatshirt on.

A couple of days ago my Ohio daughter gifted me with some of her garden produce--just-picked cucumbers (baby size, just right for a salad), colorful little tomatoes, and early yellow summer squashes. Yesterday I passed the Farmer's Market, already busily shifting the good stuff from farm to town.


My friends and relatives with school-age kids report that football has started. Seems a tad warm for sports, but then school starts earlier than back in my day. Before long, though, we'll be enjoying bonfires and fire pits, parades, marching bands down the main street and around the court house square.

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My favorite gift of August is the love I have from friends and family, and special people in my life. Birthdays this month are writer friend Liz Flaherty, great-grandson Bayne (the 6-month baby I wrote about last year who will soon be one year old!), and my confirmation mentor at church, Anita. Each one blesses my life in ways I never anticipated. Thank you!

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August has never been my favorite month, except that when it arrived I knew I had to endure only one more month before school started. Now that I'm far removed from the school year influence, I value August for other reasons.

Have a blessed week!






Thursday, August 3, 2017

FRIENDSHIP

[Something happened to remind me that I'd written about Friendship last year . . . and when I reread last year's post, I liked it so well that I wanted to share it with you again in 2017. Hope you enjoy it the second time around.]


I should wait a week to write about friendship—August 7 is friendship day. [There are several dates celebrated in various countries.]

But the subject has been on my mind and heart lately and I want to explore some definitions and thoughts on what friendship is, and what it is to have—or to be—a friend.

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The most elemental definition I’ve ever seen is the title of Joan Walsh Anglund’s book, A Friend Is Someone Who Likes You. It was published in 1958 for children 4 to 7 years old. A friend is…someone who likes you. Simple. Direct. Easy to understand.

But as we all know, we grow older, and life takes twists and turns, our experiences cause us to make leaps and bounds. Or go backward. Or fall on our prats. Sometimes what we go through is, well, less than joyful. Here are some thoughts to keep your hearts and minds engaged in friendly paths as you find your way through the jungle.

* * * * *
Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art... It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things that give value to survival.   --C. S. Lewis (1898-1967)

Who among us has not had a friend who kept us sane, even for a little while? Or who held our hand in a dark time? Who talked us down from a scary place—real or metaphorical—to continue living?

* * * * *
Sometimes being a friend means mastering the art of timing. There is a time for silence. A time to let go and allow people to hurl themselves into their own destiny. And a time to prepare to pick up the pieces when it's all over.   --Octavia Butler (1947-2006)

If you have a friend, then you, yourself, are a friend. It’s a reciprocal relationship, not one-sided, but a meeting of equals. So if you are a friend, you know what it means to remain silent when they “hurl themselves into their own destiny.” Sounds scary, doesn’t it? But we know we can’t live other people’s lives for them, no matter how much we care, how much more experience we have, how clearly we can see the pitfalls they will face. We can “prepare to pick up the pieces,” and I would add, resist the temptation to say I told you so. Even if you never said it in the first place.

* * * * *
One more idea:

We call that person who has lost his father, an orphan; and a widower that man who has lost his wife. But that man who has known the immense unhappiness of losing a friend, by what name do we call him? Here every language is silent and holds its peace in impotence.  -- Joseph Roux (French surgeon, 1780-1854)

Ignore the out-of-date pronouns and focus on the thought.

No one wants to lose a friend. Friends are more precious than silver and gold, than perfect gems, than all the possessions we can ever amass.

Yet, sometimes a friend is lost. To death, yes; but that is not the harshest loss. The loss that stabs our hearts and wrenches tears from our souls is the loss we have caused—or have been unable to prevent—for whatever reason.

John Donne (1572-1631) wrote, “Any man’s death diminishes me.” I would add, “Each friend’s loss takes a valuable part of me, and I’ll never regain it.”

* * * * *
To send you off with a happier thought:

If instead of a gem, or even a flower, we should cast the gift of a loving thought into the heart of a friend, that would be giving as the angels give.  --George MacDonald (1824-1905)

Celebrate your friendships. They may not number in the hundreds or thousands, they may not be virtual friends you’ve never seen. True friends are the ones who know you, warts and all . . . .






Thursday, July 27, 2017

WHERE DID SUMMER GO?

I do know that the summer, as a season, lasts until the third week of September. I mean, I know that with my head.

But with my heart and soul, I know summer is over the minute the big yellow school buses appear on city streets to pick up students and carry them to the halls of learning.

Next Tuesday, August 1st, our school district begins its new year. Too soon! The students had, perhaps, 10 weeks off. Of course they'll have fall break, a longer winter break, and a longer spring break. That's the new idea of school time. Maybe it works better. I hope so.

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So, what did you do with your summer vacation? Many of us are long past the early morning agony of getting up, eating (maybe), brushing teeth (sometimes), dressing in something-or-other that Mom approves of (rarely), and trudging out to the bus stop to await our ride to school.

Yes, I'm long past that time...both as student and as Mom...but I never get past the feeling that vacation time is over and (yay!) school starts again.

What did I do with my summer vacation? You already know I read more books than required. The point was not to compete with other people, but to read as much as I liked without guilt. The laundry wasn't done? Okay, there's another day, probably, when I can do laundry. Dishes in the sink? They'll still be there tomorrow--no elves have ever helped me with dishes--or laundry--or scrubbing floors--or, you name it. 

The longer I live, the more philosophical I get about life. For today's entertainment, I gleaned some quotations and pics that seem fitting for that end-of-summer feeling. Hope you enjoy them.

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[I'd add a few things--a cup of tea, a little pillow, a lightweight cover-up for windy days.]











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[C. S. Lewis understood the important things of life.]










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[Think about it....]




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[Mary Oliver is an American poet--this is from her poem, "The Summer Day."]









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[Sounds very wise, don't you think?]










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Love each day for what it brings . . . count every blessing . . . be kind to one another.





Thursday, July 20, 2017

SEEMS LIKE OLD TIMES.....


Guy Lombardo, Canadian-American band leader from the 1930s on, wrote "Seems Like Old Times." It was a love song of its time--1946--when love affairs ended and all people were left with were memories.

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This post is not about a sad ending to a love affair. It's about wonderful remembrances that come around when I experience certain iconic phenomena. Such as:

A 1955 Ford 4-door hardtop convertible 

[The pictures I searched don't do it justice. Hardly any of them were 4-door and only one or two had the hardtop convertible feature; and those had only 2 doors. ]

This was my second car--the first was a '49 Ford that served me well for a couple of years before my dad got the itch to trade it in for this classic beauty. Mine was gold and black. Had dual carburetors and rattled windows all the way down 6th Street in my hometown.

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Any library, anywhere



This picture reminds me a lot of the one in my hometown, where I spent a lot of time from age 8, when I was allowed to receive a library card and take out two books at a time. During the summer, I walked to the library, checked out my two books, read one on the way home, and read the other one that night. Next day, back to the library. (Clearly, this is the beginning of my addiction to the written word--still reading in the 50-book challenge.)

Nowadays, I can take out an unlimited number of books--oddly, I almost never check out more than three at a time. I want to read them all before I return them.

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Carpenters working on houses



Any time I see a house being built, I think of my dad. He began building houses shortly before I was born, and continued as a builder until his death forty-some years later. In the early days, he did everything--dug the foundation, put in plumbing and electricity, installed a furnace, finished the house inside and outside. The only thing I know he never did was plaster the inside walls.

For many years, we never lived in a finished house because Dad built the house to a near-finished state and sold it, using the money he got to start another new house. In that way he was a practical man, as well as a creative one.

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Fresh-baked apple pie






My mother learned to make pie crust from her mother, my Grandma Jenkins. I don't recall that they used lattice, but this picture looked so delicious, I knew it was the best illustration for one of the juiciest memories I had growing up.

Mom never used green apples--Granny Smith hadn't invented them yet, apparently. Just thinking about Mom's pies makes my mouth water.

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These icons trigger strong happy memories for me . . . but they don't make me wish I still lived in the old times. For instance, I don't want to give up my car (going on 18 years old)--I'd miss power steering, power brakes, a/c and reliable heater, the magic of defrosting windows (front and back) at the touch of a finger on a button. Creature comforts have their appeal.

My childhood library had steps (similar to those in the picture)--nowadays I can still do steps, but I appreciate a hand rail. The library I patronize has a long L-shaped ramp, plus shallower steps (with handrails). There's even a button to push when I don't feel up to pulling open the heavy doors.

I do wish--if I could go back to old times, and if it were possible to have a do-over--I do wish my father had made a better end to his life--he died resigned to die; and to my knowledge never accepted death. I found that sad, especially as he and my stepmother had found a church home 20 years before his passing.

My mother's end-of-life experience was spent in a hospital for six months (this was in the 1950s, when that was possible). I saw her every day . . . she was lucid, interested in life (mine, the nurses', friends' and family's), and she sneaked a cigarette if she had a visitor. She could still laugh and smile, even as she lay dying. What a legacy to live into!

Memories make "old times" come alive for a few moments, or hours. They're where I visit, but never live. Memories show me how far I've come, how much I've learned; they make me smile at the young, naive girl I was, or shake my head in wonder at near misses.

No regrets here. Just memories of times long gone. Celebrate your memories. They're who you are, and why you are.


Thursday, July 13, 2017

SNIPPETS

So many happenings in the last couple of weeks that I decided to do short takes on several subjects.

[BTW--did you know several means "more than two or three, but not many; of an indefinitely small number"? Surprised me! I thought several meant more than four or five. And please don't ask what many means. Just look it up. You won't be much better informed, though, after you do.]

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Best news: My oldest and youngest daughters--from Arizona and Minnesota, respectively--came to visit last week. On Saturday my Ohio daughter (middle of the pack) came to my house and the four of us traveled about 20 minutes to a splash park for the 10th birthday party of a great-grandson of mine. The day was absolutely gorgeous: 75 degrees, sun, plenty of breeze. The kids played in the water and the adults (so-called) hung out in the pavilion (one of several--see above definition) and caught up on news. 

The rest of the out-of-towners' visit was spent in cooking, eating, shopping (not my gig), and watching great stuff on PBS.org and Netflix. We crammed in as much fun and talk as we could. When they left Monday at noon, my house felt very, very empty. 

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Although I've become a "weather-induced shut-in" (we're talking heat and humidity here), according to my youngest daughter, I manage to do my regular shopping for groceries and other necessities. Recently I decided one necessity was new fitness clothes for walking. She and I agreed that just wearing the uniform for the job makes us more excited about working out. (I consider walking "working out"--otherwise, I'd never work out.)

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Saddest news: Our local library sustained considerable damage by fire in a recent disaster. The fire was determined "intentional." Within a few days a suspect was in custody. The actual destruction occurred near the circulation desk, which includes all videos/DVDs/CDs; the rest of the three-story structure sustained smoke/soot and water damage. Much reconstruction required. And probably most of the books will have to be replaced.

The good thing is--the library has four buildings within a two block area: the main building, which was damaged; an annex, which houses the Bookmobile and storage for books, and provides adequate space for the monthly book sale by the Friends of the Library; a teen library (now in use as a place to pick up books on hold from Evergreen Indiana); and the genealogy center, which has some of the adult collection of books--items returned that were checked out before the time of the fire.

The big question is: Why? We may never know.

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To leave you with a happier thought, here's a healing quilt finished for a co-worker of my Ohio daughter.





Have a blessed week!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

RANDOM THOUGHTS

Some days, nothing seems to jell.

Thoughts start out with promise--I can blog about that!--then after a few sentences . . . nothing.

Or I'll get on a roll in my morning journal--one thing leads to another, ideas pour in, jostling each other to be heard, waving their arms and shouting, "Me! Me!" I write them down, I develop several of the ideas. And then . . . when it's time to grab that idea and tease it into shape, it turns fickle and won't cooperate.

So today's post will examine some random thoughts.

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I can tell you about my last three months of reading. April, May, and June were good reading months. 

     April: 14 books--3 non-fiction, the rest mysteries
     May: 20 books--2 non-fiction, the rest fiction
     June: 15 books--3 non-fiction, the rest mysteries

From those 49 books, I wrote down 20 words I needed to look up. Depressing. I thought (erroneously, as it turns out) that English majors, no matter how long ago they studied, would be nearly as word-savvy as, say, the 10th Merriam Webster. Not true, alas.

Some samples: anaglypta; exigent; moiety; megrims; exiguous; cynosure; glacis, rodomontade . . . .

These weren't from scientific tomes or technical works. They were from novels or non-fiction general reading. Honest.

Sadly, the context of the words I didn't know gave me no clues. 

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Here's a happier subject. I think.

I've been noticing how people greet each other. For instance:

"Hi, how are ya?" (casual)
"Hello, lovely to see you." (more formal, but friendly)
"How are things with you?" (interested, but not nosy)

Do you adjust your greeting for the greetee? I certainly do. My main circles are church groups, a few family get-togethers, and one-on-one visits with friends. Plenty of variety for various greetings.

For the flip side: How do you respond when people say, "How are you?"

"I'm well, thanks. How are things with you?"
"Could be worse."
"About half." (This one is reserved for only those closest to me. They expect honesty. And if I feel about half, I'll say so.)

The worst answer in the universe has to be, "I'm fine." But it certainly stops the asker from continuing a conversation about health, wealth, happiness, or anything in between. (Maybe that's the point.)

I learned about asking and answering questions about one's health from my relatives. My Aunt Dessie, who often had health problems, always answered, "I'm better, honey." I never heard her say she was well, or fine, or could be worse. Just, better. (She lived to be 94.)

Some answers reveal the person's emotional status: "I'd be great if my kids/dog/garden/truck/husband would just . . . ."

The one that wrings my heart, though, is the answer to my question about a friend's recent surgery.

     Me: How are you getting along now?
     Them: Pain level, on a scale of 1 to 10, is a 12!

Sorry I asked.

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Here's my last random thought for the day:

     This is July 6th. The year is definitely half over. 
     Remaining days before Christmas: 172.

The only reason this concerns me at all is that ideas about Christmas gifts have heretofore appeared early--usually during June and July. Some years I've seen gifts that were just right for someone in the family, and bought them before school started.

This year my idea bank is empty. 

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Hope you're having good summer reading, that your health is in top form, and you're not stressing about Christmas holidays yet.

Have a blessed week!



Thursday, June 29, 2017

SEASONING

Many years ago my mother-in-law, Vira, was invited to a kitchen shower for the daughter of a friend. Vira was a creative woman--she went to the grocery store and bought a variety of spices for the bride-to-be. Then she asked me to write a little poem to go with the gift.

I was flattered to be asked, but--! I was no poet. My ability to write in rhyme was along the lines of "The cat and the rat sat on the mat." I had to decline the invitation to write a poem.

Then Vira said she had come up with a couple of lines--what did I think of this?
     "Of all the seasons of the year,
     you'll find the most important here."

I thought it was just right, and I told her so.

That little rhyme has stayed with me lo, these many years, and not just because seasoning is important to good cooking. Seasoning, I've come to believe, is what makes life itself worth living.

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If we do a little virtual time travel, we can see how the years and events have seasoned us.

Childhood--if we were fortunate, we had good homes, enough to eat, clothes to keep us warm in winter, and plenty of love. We learned lessons at home, at school, and in the neighborhoods we lived in. Who we would become had its start in these early years.

If we weren't so blessed, what we did experience helped make up our adult self.


Adolescence--teen years are often fraught times. Adults say it's all about hormones. The teens themselves say life is unfair, or nobody understands, or even, why bother? But with guidance and love (always love), teens begin to metamorphose into the adult self. Without the love and caring, though, the process may take longer.

The sufferings of adolescence determine how we see ourselves and others, how we solve problems (or not), how we get through difficult or traumatic times. Lots of seasoning going on in this period.

Early adulthood--many of my generation married shortly after high school, or four years later, after finishing college. If they started their families right away, they soon learned a lot of life lessons--priorities being a biggie. 

As the children grew up and left home, parents found themselves again--all grown up, with a life still ahead of them. A career, perhaps; community involvement; or eventually caregiving to older adults.

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What makes me think about the seasoning that life provides is my refusal to say that I'm aging. (The A word is definitely on my list of no-nos.)  And let me say right here--I'm not pretending that I'm not getting older--moment by moment, actually--no, not pretending that. And I definitely don't want to remain young forever. (This is reinforced every time I hear a bunch of little kids running, hollering, and having a grand old time. My energy levels don't match up! And as we seasoned folk are fond of saying, "There's a reason God gave children to young parents.")

But I like knowing that all the experiences I've had, from childhood on up to yesterday's shopping trip, have in some way altered me--have given me a different perspective--have explained something I never understood before. In short, my experiences have seasoned me.

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When I cook, I seldom use salt, but I do use pepper. If I'm making a recipe that calls for unusual spices--curry powder, cardamom, white pepper, cumin, savory--I welcome a chance to try something new, or that give a little zing to a favorite dish. Fresh herbs often give a lift to a plain lettuce salad. Seasoning keeps meals from drifting into the area of hum-drum.

As most cooks will tells you, a little goes a long way. Season with caution, until you decide you like it.

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We can't always distribute our life experiences cautiously. We take what we get, when we get it.

But we do have the choice of how we react--do we rebel? Reject? Can we "find the good," as Heather Lende says? Can we even embrace the experience, and the life lesson, and come out with more than we expected?

Many choices, with seasoning. Savor yours.