Thursday, February 22, 2018

26 DAYS . . .

In 26 days, the calendar will read March 20. And my calendar reports March 20th as the First Day of Spring.

I'm ready.

We had plenty of snow this winter in the northern hemisphere. Now we're having the January thaw (a little late) and creeks and rivers in our corner of Indiana are overflowing. Add to that, early seasonal rain. River Floor Warnings come up on The Weather Channel every day.

So I bought some cute boots to wear and ditched my old umbrella with the bent ribs for a nicer one (still black, but at least the ribs are straight). My last year's raincoat is again doing duty to keep me dry when I have to dash from car to store and store back to car.

If I complain about the rain, I get the usual response, "Rain makes the flowers grow!"

Yes, yes, of course it does. So does sunshine!

All right, I'm ahead of myself--26 days ahead--but I can't help it. I've been indoors too long this year. There are no new movies to watch except on Netflix. There are no new books to read, especially when I don't want to go out in the rain to pick them up at the library. And my budget stretches only so far when ordering books or movie to arrive at my door.



I'm more than ready to sit on my patio with a mug of coffee and just watch the world open up. No need to stick my nose in a book--I can watch kids trying out bikes they got for Christmas. Listen to birds I can't identify (though I suspect a lot of the songs are from cardinals--did you know cardinals have 28 distinct songs?). If I'm careful and don't move much, smaller birds come to the feeders for breakfast, brunch, lunch, midafternoon snack, dinner, bedtime treat . . . . (I wonder--is this their version of catching up on the news at the water cooler?)

Spring opens up time. No need to keep doing things. Just sit--listen--watch--sniff. Pay attention to what Nature brings back to us each spring. And give thanks.




Thursday, February 15, 2018

KEEP COUNTING.....


Four weeks and five days--Spring arrives March 20th!

In the meantime, Thursday's Child is taking time off to shovel snow and melting ice off the driveway and patio; fill a shopping cart at the local Walmart with all the things she's used over the past two and a half months (pantry shelves, like Mother Hubbard's cupboard, are bare-bare-bare); set the alarm a little earlier to start the day at the Y with a walk on the track; and come back next week with something to say.

Have a blessed week!





Thursday, February 8, 2018

BOOK REPORT

School has been back in session for a few weeks, and I've heard that some students had books to read over their holiday break. So, in keeping with the school spirit, here's my book report for the last quarter of 2017.

October
8 mysteries
2 romances
2 never-before-read books!! (More on these later)
Total - 12

November
7 mysteries
5 Christmas stories
Total - 12

December
3 mysteries
3 Christmas stories
1 non-fiction
Total - 7

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The new reads for me were:

The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society, by Shaffer and Barrows
The Woman Who Smashed Codes, by Jason Fagone

(These were discussed in detail in the November 2 post.)

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Books are among my favor gifts to give. This past Christmas I learned one of my greatgrands is reading The Land of Stories series by Chris Colfer. I gave her Book 3, A Grimm Warning; and I heard later that she was discovered reading it instead of eating her Christmas dinner.

My Ohio daughter works with healing herbs, so I got her a huge encyclopedia of herbal information that she refers to often. Her other gift was The Pioneer Woman Cookbook--she's already used recipes out of that one.

Books are also favorites to receive. Before my birthday arrived in January I'd already received All My Relations: Living with Animals as Teachers and Healers, by Susan Chernak McElroy.

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Not all experiences come from books. Yes, I love reading and owning books. But they'll never take the place of interacting with people in my town, my church, my family.



Once the weather settles down--I've had more than one week of staying in the house for five straight days--I'll get back to the Y for exercise; my sewing group for our joint projects of making blankets, hats, and pillow cases for the NICU; and my church for Sunday services.

If you were stuck inside for days on end, I hope you had enjoyable times to share with others. Or a good book to read. Or a movie or two to make you chuckle or think a little.

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My reading tally for 2017 was 163 books. Many, many re-reads, because those books were like comfort food, without the calories. 

And I have to say--I'm thrilled to quit writing down every single title I've read! That takes time away from, um, reading.

P.S.--I thought about telling you the dog/cat/hamster ate my homework, which is why my book report is late. But unfortunately you already know I no longer have a dog or cat or hamster. I'll have to think of a new excuse.

Have a lovely week--read if you want to--shovel snow if you live up here in the snow belt--or enjoy your snow-free climate.



Mesa, AZ Arts Center


Thursday, February 1, 2018

THE VOICE OF AUTHORITY
[Here in mid-winter--only 6 more weeks of winter weather, so we understand--I find this post from 2017 helpful in keeping my perspective. Hope it speaks to you also.]

If there were only one Voice of Authority, life would be a lot simpler. 

Instead, Authority is one of those concepts that varies from person to person. Not only does the definition change, but the spin each of us puts on what Authority says/advises/demands comes out of our own lives and experiences.

I'll start the ball rolling with my own spin--that ought to get your editorial juices flowing.

In my long life I've encountered three distinct types of advice from Authority:

1. Parental Guidance
2. Well-Meaning Advice, or One Size Fits Most
3. Self-Serving Advice

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When I was growing up, it was natural to hear words of wisdom or suggestions about behavior from my parents. The two things I remember most are these:

Mom: Put yourself in the other person's place.
Dad:  Don't get too close to people, you'll only get hurt.

Mom's advice always stayed with me. When I was critical of someone, or their words hurt me, I tried to put myself in that person's place--find out what lay behind the unkindness; and if I couldn't discern it correctly, I looked at several possible reasons. I still do that to this day, and I find it makes my life a happier place to inhabit.

Dad's advice has, alas, also stayed with me. It isn't quite the antithesis of Mom's advice, but it definitely puts a barrier between me and others. What I've learned on my own is that I'm always going to get hurt--by someone, by something, by matters outside my control. The getting hurt part isn't the issue; what I do with the hurt, or about it, is.

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A kid hears lots of advice--besides parents, there are extended family members (older siblings, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins), neighbors, friends of the family who feel they have a right to tell a kid what to do or not do. 

I call this kind of advice "One Size Fits Most." Examples: Work hard. Practice. Do your best. (And to little girls, Act like a lady.) Always be on time. Think of others. 

Now I'm not against working for one's goals, practicing the oboe/soccer/knitting/cursive writing, or doing one's best. They're all positive actions. Sometimes, though, those pieces of advice come at a time when a young person is vulnerable--tries too hard; breaks down; wears out too soon. And let's face it--sometimes we just can't be on time, or thinking of others means neglecting the self we're given that needs nourishing to be a positive force in the world.

As for acting like a lady--my all-time favorite coffee mug reads: "Well-Behaved Women Seldom Make History." Enough said.

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Self-Serving advice was another Voice from childhood. It said, Behave. Be quiet; speak only if you're spoken to. Don't go any place you'll be embarrassed to be seen.

Lots of negatives in that short and un-sweet list. Not bad advice, per se, but look at the emphasis: Each one isn't about what might happen to me, the advisee, but about what reflects back on the advisor. Hmm.

The same messages can be turned into positive statements. Or, they can be the springboards for a discussion with the young person.

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My last type of advice: Advice to Self. Or, Learning from Our Experiences.

We encounter all types of messages from others: positive, negative; practical, impractical. What we seize on comes out of our leaning--our own way of dealing with the world--and is likely based on our experiences.

My Note to Self: Beware of giving Unasked-for Advice! (There's already plenty of that around.)







Thursday, January 25, 2018

THOUGHTS THAT SURFACED

Recently I celebrated another birth anniversary--commonly known as a "birthday," although I, like everyone else, have had only one of true "birth day". . . anyway, I celebrated the day of the month on which I was born. It was a quiet day--unhelpful weather so no getting out and about; middle of the week, hardly a time to whoop it up; and the number of my new year is nothing special. (In a few years I'll have one of those numbers that ends in a "0" and makes people say, "Really? You're how old?" And I'll wonder if they're thinking, "Good heavens, I thought she was a lot older than that.")



As an aside--I bought a bunch of birthday greeting cards several weeks ago, ready for the onslaught of family celebrations coming up in the first three months of the year. One has a springer spaniel on the front, in a party hat, of course, and the message: "Wow! People years go by fast!" They do indeed.

This thing we call Time . . . not sure how to think about it nowadays. People, like the above spaniel, say, "Time goes by so fast." Does it really? Does it "go faster" than it used to? Or is that an illusion? Some cosmic sleight-of-hand that whirls the clock hands (or digits) around while our attention is drawn to some other part of this awesome universe?

If you want to experience time in a different way, read some of the short stories or novels of Jack Finney. They're science fiction, yes; but they're entertaining; they're engaging; and they suck you into the story before you realize it and once you've swallowed the premise that this world operates in this way, you're in for a treat. Finney's stories are easy to read, there's humor there, and the twist at the end  . . . . Well, just read some for yourself. The best ones are about time: Time and Again, From Time to Time, and so on.

Back to Time as we experience it--. Since this winter has been another one of those cabin-fever producing seasons, I noticed that days looked almost exactly alike. Which makes it hard to distinguish Monday from Thursday or Tuesday from Wednesday. On days I could actually get out of my driveway, or felt like wearing everything in my coat closet to keep warm and covered, I tried to maintain my personal Calendar of Events--Monday, sewing with Jane; Tuesday, shopping, etc. 

A few days ago I thought we might be in for an extended warm spell--what we affectionately call The January Thaw. Well, okay, stuff thawed. Ice build-up at the end of the driveway turned to its liquid state, and grass turned green again. But I wasn't prepared for the warm moist air to hover above the cold earth in a dense cloud. Fog, fog, fog. Deep, dense; enough to cause the weather people to issue weather advisory statements. And as I couldn't see much beyond the house across the street, I heeded the statements and stayed home.

Thus the third Sunday of January went by and I again didn't get to church due to weather. Also, two Fridays had passed us by and no sewing group met, again due to cold temps and high winds.

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With the universal human trait of perversity, not getting out to go places has come to feel like deprivation. Yet, there's always good advice to be had:

Snowed in? Read a book! 

Too icy to get out? Make tea and play solitaire! 

Wind too strong for easy breathing? Stay in and sew/knit/clean house/cook/listen to music/write letters/email everybody on your contacts list . . . .

Nothing appeals. Not after the third or fourth week.

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Confession: I've turned into a reader, not a writer. Three partial manuscripts lounge around in my computer, novels ready/willing to be finished. One is two-thirds along toward the end. It's a story I like, the characters are people I'd like to know, the conflict is altogether human and understandable, and to top it all off--I know how it ends!! But I can't seem to write.

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This is the time of year when I wish I could hibernate--sleep away the next couple of months until buds appear on trees, grass revives, birds waken the dawn, and us hibernated creatures yawn, stretch, and amble out of our caves for a breath of Spring.

Instead--I'm stuck with Winter, and with trying to make these days/weeks/months of inactivity into a blessing. 

This is a challenge, for sure. I'll be working on it for another, say, 60 days.

In the meantime, keep your spirits up--find your own way to survive cabin fever (if you have it), share some of your wisdom with the rest of us who desperately need it.

Make it a blessed week!





Thursday, January 18, 2018

GETTING UP IN THE MORNING

[I know the daylight hours are lengthening, but getting up in the morning is still, sometimes, a real challenge. So I reread this post published late in 2016 and decided to run it again--there are always things to get up for, even on cold I-don't-want-to-go-out days.]

When I was about eight years old, I sometimes got to stay all night at Grandma and Grandpa Jenkins’s house. It was a small house—only four rooms—but it felt cozy.

I was old enough to sleep in the spare room by myself. Apparently insomnia hadn’t reared its ugly head in that phase of my life, so I would sleep until the morning sounds and smells gentled me awake.

Grandpa gets up first. I hear him in the kitchen, lifting the stove lids to check the bed of coals left from the night before, then opening the fire door (it squeaks), pulling chunks of stove wood from the buckets in the space behind the stove and filling the fire box. Then I hear the rasp of a kitchen match against its sandpapery striking strip. After a short wait—fire snapping and popping—the stove lids are dragged across the stove top and clunked into place.

Those early morning sounds reassured me. Grandma and Grandpa’s house was a safe place to sleep and to wake up.

Later, after Grandma gets up, I smell bacon frying in one of the big iron skillets. When I get up and mosey out to the kitchen, Grandma will crack eggs in the bacon drippings and our breakfast will be nearly ready.

The eggs were fresh from Grandma’s hens, down in the barn. There weren’t many hens now. With her family grown and gone and only occasional company, Grandma didn’t need to cook big meals.

Grandpa has been out to check on something—maybe the chickens—and he now comes back inside. The big blue granite coffee pot has come to a boil. Grandma pours out two cups (I’m still too young to imbibe) and sets the table.

Coffee made in my modern drip pot doesn’t have the same nose-tickling aroma as the elixir from Grandma's blue granite pot. But I’ve been a dedicated coffee drinker since about age 14, like my mother and her parents, and all the aunts and uncles and cousins.

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Throughout my life there has been something—or someone—that gave me the extra push to get out of bed. In winter, the floor might be cold, the room chilly, the sun not yet up, but there was always some reason to give up the warmth of my comfortable bed. When the children were home, I had the morning ritual of getting them ready for school and getting myself ready for the office. Since I retired, I had a few years of dog duty with Joy—she was an especially good alarm clock, never barked at me, but managed to convey her wish to go out NOW.

Life never stands still. Have you noticed that, too? Things have shifted for me. With no one else in the house--person, dog, or cat--I wake up to the possibility of an event that I want to attend: walking at the Y first thing with my walking buddy (we keep each other accountable), before all the people get there; yoga or tai chi class; coffee or lunch with a friend; sewing or knitting with another woman who enjoys that activity as much as I do. 

Something different—unusual—or rarely occurring—gives me a sense of the day being an adventure. Big adventure, little adventure--all are welcome.

Often I greet the day knowing I’ll have a treat. Coffee and chocolate, both limited on my diet, are always a treat. Or a new book to read, a new movie or episode on Netflix. A shopping trip (even though I may not buy anything). [Aside: I once went to Barnes & Noble and bought nothing. Not even a newspaper. I know you don't believe me, but it's quite true. Sad, but true.]

Other times I wake with an overwhelming sense of joy. I’m rested, and warm; I have a sense of well-being—no problem in view; or maybe I wake with a sense that a problem has been resolved, a prayer answered. Something, somewhere, fell into place and the world can breathe easily again.

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No one starts the bacon or the coffee at my house. There are no little home-y sounds that tell me all is well and Grandpa—or somebody—is taking care of things. Life has moved on, and I’m the one taking care of things. Getting myself up in the morning.

But the memories live on in me. And I smile.



Thursday, January 11, 2018

AFTERMATH

Whether you started Christmas the day after Thanksgiving and took down all the decorations on December 26th or started Christmas on December 25th and celebrated the full 12 days (through January 6th), there's more to come.

Not more Christmas celebrating, exactly. But whatever transformations you felt, whatever new feelings you experienced, these you carry into the new year.

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In 1959, 20th Century Fox made a film called Say One For Me, starring Bing Crosby as Father Conroy, with Debbie Reynolds and Robert Wagner as major players in the story. One of the songs in that production was called "The Secret of Christmas."

Here are the words of the refrain, written by Sammy Cahn:

It's not the glow you feel when snow appears,
It's not the Christmas card you've sent for years,
Not the joyful sound when sleigh-bells ring,
Or the merry songs children sing.

The little gift you send on Christmas day,
Will not bring back the friend you've turned away;
So may I suggest The Secret of Christmas
is not the things you do at Christmastime,
But the Christmas things you do all year through!

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What are the "Christmas things" we do?

Well, there's merry-making! Parties (the ones you give, the ones you go to), gift-giving . . . .

There's the uber-busy business of shopping, decorating, baking cookies, making candy, writing cards, planning dinners, knitting scarves, buying new clothes . . . .




For some folks there's a Christmas pageant or play, a cantata, rehearsals and getting one's self and/or the kids to the rehearsal hall . . . .

Or how about visiting shut-ins who don't have family to celebrate with? Taking small gifts to nursing homes and hospitals for patients and caregivers? Buying poinsettias to brighten the patient's room?

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Those are some of the Christmas things people do. And as soon as Christmas is "over," whenever that is, we go back to regular activities. To be fair, I don't think we actually forget to do these things--they just drop to a lower place in the list of priorities.

As the song's messages suggests, Christmas isn't only one time a year. The things we do at that mid-winter celebration can be carried on throughout the next twelve months. 


So how would a list of Christmas Things To Do All Year Through look?

How about this:

~Give a no-reason party for a few people you love to see. Buy each one a little gift if you want to.

~Write notes to folks throughout the year--tell them how much you appreciate them; encourage them during difficult times; congratulate them when they have good news.

~Knit/crochet scarves for people who come to the shelters in your area. Or hats. Don't knit or crochet? Buy some inexpensive items and donate them to the shelter. If you're really ambitious, make lapghans (small afghans suitable to keep laps warm) for folks in nursing homes who sit a lot.

~Volunteer to help with school or church programs--backstage work, making costumes, helping actors learn their lines; or take part yourself--try out for a role, sing in the chorus, play the piano at rehearsal.

~Get a list of shut-ins from your church or neighborhood community center. Send notes. Order small bouquets and deliver them. If you have the time, go for a short visit (five or ten minutes means a lot to someone who has no visitors).

~Read to someone who has trouble seeing.

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Best of all, make your own list. You know what you can do and like to do. See what you can come up with to help someone else get a little better quality of life. If you're already into the All-Year-Through feeling, you are a blessing, and you are blessed. You don't get a badge to sew on your jacket or a pin to wear or a certificate . . . but the Christmas things you do all year through will make your life, and someone else's, merry and bright.