Thursday, December 31, 2015


Today Thursday's Child explores Firsts and Lasts--partly because it's an appropriate thing to do on the last day of the "old" year and an appropriate lead-in to the "new" year.

This morning as I walked the track at the Y, one of the guys who often walks when I do, named Duane, said, "I've made a resolution--this is the last time I do this (walk the track) this year."

I laughed and said, "Oh, an early resolution."

He replied, "Tomorrow I'll make another one."

Guess it was also the last time I'll walk the track this year.

Time is a funny thing--not funny ha-ha, but funny-peculiar. We turn a calendar page and another day, or month, or year has passed from our view. We say we're letting go of the "old year" and welcoming a "new year." But the same sun rises and sets. The same moon goes through its phases. And, more often than not, we go through the same old-same old in our lives.

Long ago I discovered that New Year's Resolutions did me no good at all. I diligently thought them through, wrote them down, put them in a place I'd see them every day . . . and in less than a week, I'd not only got off the track, I'd replaced the resolutions (which, obviously, weren't very resolute) with different ones.

So instead of resolutions, I prefer Good Intentions. 

For one thing, a Resolution sounds 'way too much like high school debate, or a corporate act. "RESOLVED, that the president and treasurer of XYZ Corporation be and hereby are authorized . . . ." I typed many a corporate resolution. And I hated debate in high school.

Resolution has a positive, definitive, finished ring to it. It says, "Here it is, folks. Take it or leave it."

Instead, I look at my life: what I can do, what I hope to do in the near (or far) future, what is practical or advisable (given the many factors that play into a decision). After some deep thinking, I make an intention. 

Intentions have planning built into their nature. There's a kinetic sense of Something Going to Happen. And if it's something in progress, it may--perhaps--grow into something other than what I first intended.

Here's an example from a few years back. I knitted a prayer shawl for a woman in my church. Another woman saw it, told me they used to do things like that and they could do them again. In a couple of weeks, I was heading up a knitting (and now sewing) ministry. I hadn't even become a member of that church yet. And my intention was not to start anything at all. I was just making something warm for a woman who needed it.

So, the moral of this story is: Be careful what you do--it might just become an Intention.

(Or you might end up chairing a committee you didn't know existed.)

But the knitting/sewing ministry is going strong--and will start its fourth year next week.

When I was growing up, my mother had a ready supply of sayings and good advice. The one for this time of year was:
     "Whatever you do on New Year's, you'll do all year through."

Naturally I tried to avoid cleaning the house, doing laundry, washing dishes. But it never worked out--I did those things, and more, all year through.

I have no advice for you. Much better if you make up your own. But I do have Good Intentions.

This year, I have three Good Intentions:
1. Practice kindness and forgiveness as often as possible.
2. Read three new authors.
3. Reduce the clutter and get rid of excess possessions.

That covers the spiritual, mental, and physical aspects of my life.

Good luck with your own Good Intentions.

And have a happy, healthy, and creative 2016!

PS--If you stay up till midnight, say "Happy New Year!" for me.

Thursday, December 24, 2015


Today is Christmas Eve. Gift-giving is a tradition at this season. We’ve searched for just the right thing for Aunt Susie, ordered what we hope will tickle our grandchild, maybe even made some gifts for special people.

If I could give each of you a gift, I’d wrap up four nice boxes and in each one there would be a word you could treasure the rest of your life.

In the first box I’d put Hope. Without hope in our lives, we can grow afraid of the future. It all looks bleak. Or endless nothing. Or terrifying. But with hope, we can see something greater than the fears we live with.

In the second box I’d put Peace. My favorite definition is on a mug I use to drink tea each day. It reads: “Peace. It does not mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of those things and still be calm in your heart.”

In the third box I’d put Joy. A few days ago I read in a small devotional book this thought: “Joy feels deeper than momentary pride, satisfaction, or relief. . . . A sense of joy brings deep contentment and is often expressed by gratitude for what we’ve been given.” (Lelanda Lee, author)

And in the fourth box I’d put Love. Love encompasses Hope; it brings Peace; and underneath all Joy you’ll find Love.


Have a Happy Christmas!

Thursday, December 17, 2015


It’s one week before Christmas Eve. Are you ready? How do you know?

This year is turning out to be much different from past years. Less flurry and scurry at my house. Fewer moments—actually, none at all—of anxiety and breathlessness about “being ready.”

There has been time to shop for food that will be consumed by my two daughters and me during their visit next week.

Sewing and knitting projects I took on for other folks have been completed and delivered, leaving time for my own endeavors.

Our family Christmas get-together was moved to January 2—and that move opened up extra days for me to build little quilts for great-grands.

Decorating is not a big thing for me, and hasn’t been for many years. I find the Advent season a quiet time of preparation; my house will grow more festive next week, but for now, it’s just right.

Baking? I baked two kinds of brownies and took them to a local business that has helped my house stay warm and dry for many years.

Cooking? Not really . . . just cleaning veggies and arranging them on a tray with one or two kinds of dip (made from scratch), slicing cheese and adding pickles and little beef bites, covering with plastic wrap and delivering the whole thing with a smile to folks who also have kept my life on an even keel for years.

In ways that count, I am ready. My heart and mind are focused on the coming Christmas season as a time of celebration—when God sent love into the world, wrapped in swaddling clothes and laid in a manger.

All the trappings—large or small—point to that event.

Are we ready? Check in with your heart and mind. You may be more ready than you realize.

[No pictures again this week--my ISP and I are rapidly coming to a parting of the ways. Hope to have better service next week. Have a good one!]

Thursday, December 10, 2015


Confession time: I’m not much of a shopper.

I never go out on Black Friday. I seldom shop the online specials that clog my cell phone’s memory. Many of my gifts are handmade, and the shopping for the fabric or yarn has been purchased during the year.

That said, I do have to be out and about in my community during the holiday buying season. There are groceries to purchase. Toiletries and household paper products run low. The gas tank on my Big Old Buick requests fuel.

So far this year—with the holidays only just over two (2) weeks away—I haven’t stressed over any of it. Some of my gifts are partially finished and require very little more work. Our family’s get-together has had to be delayed until after December 25 because of the day of the week and people’s work schedules. That’s a plus for Handmade Hannah who wants the gifts finished and wrapped by the day they’re due.

Over the years—and there have been plenty of those—I’ve developed some useful coping strategies. You may not like them—you may have been doing these for decades—you may laugh right out loud at them. But I swear they work.

So, here goes:

Make Lists. These include what has to be done each week, possibly each day. Lists are the foundation of prioritizing. Don’t like that one? Not a list maker? Okay, try the next one.

Trade Tasks. If you don’t have time to bake cookies/muffins/pies, because you’re revved up the sewing machine, check with your sewing friend who does have time to bake. Maybe her machine broke, or she’s not using it this year. (And maybe she’s better at prioritizing than we are, hm?)

Downsize the List. I know you won’t like this one. I don’t really like it myself. But it has bailed me out of the Stress Abyss on more than one occasion. Besides, it helps tremendously when you’re (1) out of touch with members of your family, (2) unable to find out what they like, want, or currently have, or (3) low on funds for purchasing all gifts, never mind the high-priced, overpriced ones. My solution was to give the grandchildren and their spouses cash—I remember being 30-something, traveling a long ways to get to Grandma’s house, and hoping I had enough money in my purse to fill the gas tank at least once. 

Downsizing my list leaves me free to make things for the great-grands, sometimes for my own children, and guess what? I enjoy the season of creating gifts! Not for myself, but knowing I’m doing things I like doing and (I’m told) I do well, and they’ll make somebody else happy. Worth the trade-off.

The main thing that will make these work is a little secret I learned long ago: “Let go of the results.”

That’s it in a nutshell. You have good intentions. You do your part. Now, let go of the results. If the kids don’t like money, or the gift you saved to buy, or already have three copies of the CD you thought they wanted—let it go. You can’t change their lives or persuade them that they can always use cash. Their good manners—or otherwise—are no longer your business. Smile and let it go.

One of the most important lessons I’ve had to learn is that the holidays aren’t all about me—or my children—or my grands and great-grands—or even my church. The holidays are all about celebrating an important event in your history—Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, many others.

If you aren’t involved in a religious organization, you can help others enjoy a holiday dinner at an inner-city mission; or give food to a food bank or other collection point to be distributed to folks who have very little; or share out-grown or no-longer-useful clothing. 

And who knows? That experience during the holidays might strike a spark that lights a path for you to help other times of the year. Not all shelters are for homeless people. Some are for military veterans working to overcome substance abuse. Some are for women and their children who have broken away from an abusive home. Check around, ask somebody. You may be surprised.

I’ll think about you while I finish binding the little quilts I’m making. And when the holidays are over and my gifts have gone to their new homes, I’ll begin again sewing blankies for the Neo-Natal ICU.

Blessed holidays for you and yours, from Thursday’s Child.

And do yourself a favor—try not to stress!

PS--No photos today--the Internet threatened to give me stress and I refused. I said no, thanks, and walked away.

Thursday, December 3, 2015


Well, it arrived, this new month, trailing all sorts of expectations, connotations, wishes and promises, surprises galore.

Yep, that’s December, all right.

The list makers among us—of which I am currently reigning empress—have gone into overdrive. Some of us (I won’t name names) have even begun early, which is clearly against the rules. So is using last year’s lists. What’s with that? If it’s last year’s list, it’s old stuff. Each year brings out new possibilities. Live a little, folks!

Here’s a thought I like: From a one-page reading in a daily devotions book I use, I read about helping Christmas come day by day. Many churches celebrate Advent, a time of preparation and waiting for the birth of the Christ Child. Along with the preparing and waiting, the church folks don’t hurry up Christmas—they ease it into being.

The writer of that particular selection has developed a practice of doing one new thing each day—find greens in her yard and trim some for hanging on the front door; winding evergreen boughs around porch posts and rails; arranging ornamental grasses from the yard in a jar on the porch; letting wreaths appear, one by one, on different days . . . .

I don’t have the kind of yard that yields natural greens and grasses in any abundance for decorating. But I can make my own brand of Advent preparation.

So far, in these first three days of December:

--I’ve watched a movie whose story ends on Christmas morning. The whole story is preparation for the ending.

--Each day I’ve practiced music for the coming Sunday—mainly Advent hymns and the prelude and postlude I’ll play.

--Yesterday I searched for, and found (!) the yarns I’ll knit into some of my Christmas gifts. The yarns, along with their patterns and notes about each recipient, are in a medium-sized tote in my living room where I can’t fail to see them, waiting for me to settle down with needles and another movie for company.

--Oh, and today I hung a wreath on the front door. The wreath was a gift from a friend who had too many decorations and wanted to share them with somebody. She also gave me two short pencil-trees that will fit beautifully on the hearth of my non-functioning fireplace and save floor space.

In the big picture: The sewing machine is up, and the first strips of cloth have been run through to start one of three quilts I’m making for great-grandsons this year. Another day or two and the whole house will look like Santa’s workshop--yarn here, fabrics there, tissue paper on that desk, oh—and cards. Will I have time to write Christmas cards? Maybe a Christmas letter instead? Decisions, decisions . . . .

In another week, I’ll be wishing for some elves of my own to help with those quilts, and the baking, and the rest of the shopping, and the wrapping, and . . . .

If I disappear from view, look for me under the nearest pile of fabric, or tissue paper, or perhaps hiding out in my cave with a blanket over my head.

But don’t look too hard. I may need a mid-winter sleep.

Thursday, November 26, 2015


Couple weeks ago I got a hankering for pumpkin pie.

I am not the pie baker in the family for our Thanksgiving dinner (which we will foregather to consume tomorrow). My second daughter is the best pie baker in her generation of my family—a direct descendant from my mother and Grandma Jenkins. Thus, when I have a blue-ribbon pie baker, why should I go to all that work once a year? Besides, what someone else’s pie/cookies/casserole always tastes better than the one I made, if only because I didn’t have to clean up after it and the aroma is new to me.

So, why did I bake a pumpkin pie?

Because of the aforementioned hankering.

Let me digress here a little: Hankerings are dangerous things. They lead you into deep, dark tunnels of experience. They begin whispering in your ear, promising great things. They can push you into trying the new, the different, the dangerous—or the downright foolhardy.

Pumpkin pie . . . pumpkin pie . . . firm but melt-in-your-mouth pumpkin/egg/milk/spices . . . in a tender crust just the right color . . . .

I let myself be led and pushed into making a pumpkin pie.

If I were writing instructions for a non-pie baker who had never before made a pumpkin pie, I’d be very, very specific, along these lines:
  • ·         Purchase a ready-made crust. (I did.)
  • ·         Purchase “Pumpkin Pie Mix”—not individual ingredients. (I bought the can.)
  • ·         Read the label on the Pumpkin Pie Mix can carefullymindfully—make sure you understand what you read. (I, alas, did not.)
Well, I did understood, more or less, but I was not careful enough, mindful enough, and therefore, here’s what happened:

The Pumpkin Pie Mix label says you’ll need four things:
o   The can of mix you’re holding in your hand
o   A 5-oz. can of condensed milk (2/3 cup)
o   2 eggs
o   A 9-inch unbaked deep-dish pie pastry (4-cup volume)

That’s it. Easy-peasy, right?

I must’ve been living in another time (the time warps in this house can be tricky to negotiate) because I just knew I needed a 12-oz. can of condensed milk. After all, I've made pumpkin pie for, well, decades. The cans of milk that size are right there, next to the cans of pumpkin, on the big central aisle display (impeding the flow of traffic, I might add—but that’s another story). So, I bought the 12-oz. can of condensed milk (which nowadays—I told you about the time warp—is 14 oz.).

For eggs I use egg substitute. No problem there. I repeat: No problem there.

No problem with the crust. Well, not exactly. It wasn’t quite deep enough, so I had pie filling left over—actually, quite a lot of filling left over. (I’ll explain my brilliant solution to that problem in a minute.)

Back to the pie filling, waiting patiently on the counter:
  • ·         Empty can of Pumpkin Pie Mix into large bowl.
  • ·         Pour in can of milk (most of the 14 oz.)
  • ·         Pour in egg sub equivalent to 2 eggs.
  • ·         Have Moment of Awful Truth—“That’s too much milk!”
  • ·         Hastily use a measuring cup to dip out as much milk as might equal 5 oz., taking with it some of the liquid egg sub.
  • ·         Take a moment to breathe and decide: Should I scream and throw the whole thing at the wall, bowl and all? Cuss? Cry? Stamp my feet? None of the above?
  • ·         Calmly fill the pie shell (as if I knew what I was doing all along)—put in the preheated oven—set the timer for 15 minutes.
  • ·         While pie was baking, I googled “Crustless Pumpkin Pie” and found a perfectly practical way to use the leftover (excessive, wasteful, redundant) pie filling: Pour it into a shallow pie plate, bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and bake for 30-40 minutes more. Sprinkle top with pecans before baking, if desired. I did so desire. And it was good. (By the way, this was the brilliant solution referenced above.)
The crusted pumpkin pie seemed to take longer to bake; even though I’d covered the crust edges with a shield, it was darker than I like. To fix that problem, I left the dark brown edge on my plate and ate the rest. With real whipped cream. And it was very good.

Pretty straightforward, don’t you think? After all, I’ve done it once before.

Wishing you a wonderful, joyful, thankful day, full of good times, good food, laughter and love and life in abundance.

May all your pumpkin pies be beautiful ones!

Thursday, November 19, 2015


I have a childlike fascination with the leaf vacuum truck. A couple days ago I watched the truck inch its way along while the worker on foot swung the big tube across the leaf piles.

My yard man and I had raked or blown leaves to the curb—some over into the street, some still a few inches into the lawn. The truck made its tortoise-speed way along and the tube man sucked up the leaves—except for the ones on the grass!

I was disappointed; I sighed, and mentally added “Leaves” to my ever-growing list of Things To Do.

When the truck reached my driveway, I was ready to go about my indoor business (cleaning carpets). Then I heard the familiar “Backing Up!” signal; the driver backed to the place where Tube Man could make a second pass and suck up the leaves on the lawn. How about that?!

Later in the day I left to go to some appointments and was proud of the lovely clean-up all along my little street. Opposite me are several cars and trucks that have no garages to call their own, so they live on the street. Leaves collect around and under them. The Leaf Men had made a special effort to clear up around the vehicles. (Other years, I’ve seen some “lick and a promise” clean up.)

This year, I’m giving kudos to the municipal street department for their thorough attention to leaf removal.

My fascination with big machines is, I think, related to my joy in seeing order come out of chaos.

Growing up, I watched my dad create houses out of stacks of wood, kegs of nails, a few tools, and a noisy Skil-Saw that woke me up on Saturday mornings before I was ready. (Teenagers have always had trouble with Saturday mornings.)

But maybe it’s more than order out of chaos. Maybe it’s the beauty that comes through when people use their tools or equipment or instruments or their talents, their minds, their hands, their bodies. I’m not an athlete, but watching gymnasts go through their routines is breathtaking. And ice skaters. And dancers.

And I’m not particular—watching high school athletes go through their paces can be as thrilling as attending a pro game. Often, more so, because local athletes are kids we know, whose careers we follow.

As I write this, leaves are still falling. Rain and wind are doing their best to bring the last ones to the ground. In a few more days, leaf raking/blowing will be over for another season. The skitter of leaves across the patio will be a memory. Trees will show their bare branches against the sky. Squirrels and birds will raid the feeders. Autumn will be two-thirds of the way through her appointed time.

And just in case we think there might be a break—though why we’d think so remains a mystery—our little northeast corner of Indiana is expecting Accumulating Snow on Friday night and into Saturday. No one has hazarded a guess about the amount of accumulation. We’ll let that be a surprise.

Have a blessed week! Holiday time is fast approaching.

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Some of my favorite kid-time stories were “The Three Little Pigs,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and, probably the one I liked best, “The Little Red Hen.”

The Little Red Hen had several chicks, and in order to provide food for them (this is a nursery story, remember) she had to plant the wheat, cultivate the wheat, harvest the wheat, grind it into flour, and then bake bread. Her requests (always politely made, as I recall) for help with each of these tasks met with refusals from the other inhabitants of the barn yard.

“Who will help me plant the wheat?” said the Little Red Hen.

“Not I,” said the Dog.

“Not I,” said the Cat.

“Not I,” said the Rat.

And so on.

“Then I’ll do it myself,” said the Little Red Hen. And she did.

This goes on and on, through all the steps from planting wheat to fresh-baked loaf. (Such a story is guaranteed to keep a child interested for quite a long time. And, of course, out of mischief.)

Finally—we come to the best part: The Little Red Hen takes the fragrant loaf of bread out of her oven and says, “Who will help me eat the bread?”

Can you guess? Everybody! “I will!” said the Dog. “I will!” said the Cat. And on through all the animals.

The Little Red Hen reminds them that they did nothing to help plant the wheat, grind the meal, knead the dough. . . . 

“My chicks and I will eat the bread,” said the Little Red Hen. And they did.

The Lesson Learned—at least, I suppose this is the intention of the author—is that in order to enjoy things in life, we must be willing to put in some effort ourselves.

Okay, I learned that part.

But I also learned another lesson: If no one will help you, then do it yourself.

And I do. I have. Through most of my life.

This is natural for an only child. No siblings to help me build a tree house; parents with no extra time to teach me how to sew or bake a cake. Often, no neighbors—kids or otherwise—or extended family nearby to fill in for parents fully occupied in keeping the home going.

So, I did it myself.

The Lesson Unlearned, for me, is to allow others to do things for me.

A few years ago my son confided that his willingness to do a number of things in his church meant that others didn’t volunteer. Or didn’t learn to do that task. As he put it, “Just because I can do something, doesn’t mean that I ought to do it.”

I realized that I believed that also, and had, in fact, already stopped doing some things in order for others to do them.

The next step: Let people do things for me. Hmm, that’s not so easy. But I’m working on it.

Today I will have a handyman and his helper come over to move heavy objects from my living room—furniture, boxes of fabric in large plastic totes, and a few other weighty items. When they leave, I can begin using my daughter’s carpet cleaner on the living room floor. When that dries, in a day or so, I’ll have the helpers come back to move dining room furniture, etc. to the living room area, so I can clean that carpet.

I used to be able to do all the preparation, the furniture moving, and the cleaning. And I did. Now I’m willing to hire others to do those things for me.

This Little Red Hen has learned when to say, “I need your help. Will you help me?” And if the first person declines, well, there’s always someone else who might say yes.

Caregivers have become Very Important People in our culture. They come in all shapes, sizes, and capacities. I know two women who are caregivers for their handicapped husbands. Both have been married many years, and there is a sense of joy and peace in their lives that is obvious to those of us who know them. Other adults care for their adult children with disabilities or aging parents.

Still other caregivers are the parents or grandparents (even great-grandparents) of school-age children. And nursery school teachers, child care personnel, teachers in public and private schools, Sunday School teachers.

Some caregivers are so obvious, we might forget about them—clergy, medical personnel, counselors and therapists.

Make a list of people who are caregivers in your family, or neighborhood, or community. Then give thanks for them. Or thank them in person.

Today I celebrate those people who give of themselves to spend time and energy for others.

And I celebrate Life Lessons—both learned and unlearned—that help us accept help when we need it. We might become better helpers ourselves, once we get the hang of it.

Thursday, November 5, 2015


Long before “Lifelong Learning” became an educational policy, I’d enrolled.

So, most likely, did every one of you.

Think about it—we start out as totally dependent infants with only a few ways to communicate, mainly bawling our heads off. When we get satisfaction—food, clean diaper, a cuddle—we have learned how to get what we want.

From there, it’s easy-peasy. New stuff comes along every minute—noises, voices; lights, darkness; tasty foods, icky foods; same with smells; and tactile delights, or not. Learning is innate, not an option. That is, if you’re going to survive.

So lifelong learning has always been with us. It just got discovered, or rediscovered, and made into a virtue. And, as I said, an educational policy.

How do we learn? Let me count the ways . . . books, films, one-on-one teaching; observation (my youngest daughter asserts that she was “the good child” because she watched her older siblings get into trouble for this, that, and the other, and decided it wasn’t worth doing); osmosis (this is probably what the philosophers meant when they tried to say we become what we are by Nurture, not Nature); even deliberate choice.

What we retain, however, is probably only dependent on ourselves—our intent to remember what we learn, our need for it (good motivator, need), our interest or not.

Given that opportunities for learning surround us, what I want to explore today is the process of re-learning.

It goes like this: I have a method for doing something, say, cleaning up the yard in the fall before the snow flies (if I’m lucky and take the time). My method involves sweatshirt, work gloves, sunglasses, mask; rake, push broom (for cleaning off the patio and driveway), regular broom (for getting leaves out of corners and cracks); keys for all the outside doors, in case I want to get back in without walking all the way around; and a tarp for loading leaves and hauling them from back yard to curb out front.

(It takes longer to tell about than to do. Trust me on this one.)

That’s my method. Thus, a couple of weeks ago, when it looked as if the weather might be going to break and rain/chill/wind was the climate du jour—in fact, every jour—I went through my routine and went out for my first leaf-raking session. The day before’s rain had helped the leaves stay in place; it also added more weight than I was ready for. I hauled two heavy tarpsful out to the curb, and that was it for me. I was out of breath, out of energy, and out of patience with limitations.

I decided to wait for the yard man’s return from Florida.

And, I decided to buy a leaf blower.

When the yard man got back from his nice vacation, he mulched and bagged most of the leaves from the back yard (heaviest leaf fall) and mulched the (many fewer) leaves in front. We both knew the front was going to fill up again, minute by minute.

Yesterday was LB-Day. I got out the leaf blower, found the heavy extension cord, hooked the whole thing up, pressed the button, and hey presto! leaves scattered like magic.

I’d intended to stay outside 15, maybe 20 minutes, learning how to manipulate the new machine and decide if I really liked it. By the time I cleaned up a large chunk of the front yard and had a respectable percentage of leaves at the curb (of which I was shamelessly proud) I’d been out 40 minutes. Came inside—no back ache, no sore arm/shoulder. Had a cup of coffee and patted myself on the back.

I’d re-learned something. How about that?

I have to admit right here: The new method isn’t the be-all and end-all of leaf management. I don’t want to use an electrical appliance outside in the rain, for example. And I doubt if even the higher powered setting will lift sopping wet leaves with enthusiasm. But for these halcyon, sunny days of autumn, the leaf blower brings back some of my former enjoyment of yard work.

Re-learning, I believe, occurs in a spiral—not in a circle. We’re not repeating the same old-same old and getting nowhere. We’re starting at the same place, and upping our approach a notch. And then maybe another notch.

This works for nearly everything—woodworking, needlework, designing, cooking . . . .

The underlying question is: What If?

What if . . . I try cutting the boards this way first?
What if . . . I combine two yarns instead of using a thicker one?
What if . . . I change the shape of the house to an L, instead of a rectangle?
What if . . . I use allspice instead of cinnamon in the apple pie?

Once you start asking “What if . . .” you become creative. You dare to think of a different method, another view of something you’ve always done one way.

Kids do it all the time. They color a giraffe green. They use purple shoestrings in red shoes. They lie on the floor and put their feet on the couch while they read.

Try it! You might like what you re-learn.

Of course, you’ll find sometimes there’s no good reason to change—it’s the old “ain’t broke so don’t fix it” situation. Your choice.

One area of re-learning has caused me some grief. I refer to the matter of being Politically Correct.

My thinking is not naturally of the P.C. kind. Here’s an example:

When I was a kid, the Chicago Tribune ran a great, large, picture/drawing of an Indian (now, Native American) leaning against a tree smoking a pipe. In the background are teepees with smoke coming out of the top, the air is hazy, and all around the crops have been harvested. We didn’t need a caption or a story to tell us: This is Indian Summer.

[It’s called by other names in other places. St. Martin’s Summer and St. Luke’s Summer were formerly used in the UK, because the feast days of these two saints occurred in autumn.]

I mean no disrespect to Native Americans by using the term Indian Summer. What I recall from my youth is descriptive and conjurs up exactly how I think of this dry, sunny spell after the first killing frost.

Enjoy this season, whatever you call it. Celebrate the seasons, new inventions to lighten our work load, and the opportunity to change our ways of thinking.

Have a great week!

Thursday, October 29, 2015


A few months ago we explored Billboard Wisdom—lots of good thoughts right out there in the open air for all to read.

Sometimes Wisdom arrives unexpectedly. A chance remark by a stranger . . . an old saying pops into mind . . . a half-remembered quotation that I have to look up to get the proper wording.

Many folks go to the Bible for words to live by. They have favorite verses, favorite psalms committed to memory; or perhaps favorite hymns from their worship services. These bring comfort in times of distress or sadness. Brick-and-mortar bookstores have shelves sagging from the weight of such books—whatever direction your faith has taken you, there’ll be something for you to read if you want to. Or try the public library, or the library of your faith community.

Then there’s the Wisdom—or what passed for Wisdom—that we grew up with. Such as:

Waste not, want not!  How often did we hear that one in our youth? Folks who grew up in the Depression  (roughly, 1929 to 1941) would understand this one all too well. And they passed along the message to their children.

A penny saved is a penny earned. Well, not really, not in today’s financial climate; but there’s no denying, a penny saved is a penny saved.

See a pin, pick it up, All the day you’ll have good luck. Offering us good luck was one way to keep pins off the floor where little kids and pets might come to harm. Or barefoot adults. A good reminder for safety. And the corollary worked the same way: See a pin and let it lay, Bad luck you’ll have all the day.

If your nose itches, company’s coming. This was one of several dozen my mother quoted—if it wasn’t an itchy nose, it was dropping silverware, each type indicating the gender of the company to come. Later on I heard it another way: If your nose itches, you’re going to kiss a fool! Hmm, not a very exciting prospect. I’d prefer company coming.

My mother also told me about itchy hands—and to this day, I can’t get this one out of my head. If your left hand itches, you’re going to receive money. (Yay!) If your right hand itches, you’re going to shake hands with somebody. (Meet someone new.)

Another one about money: Foam on the top of a cup of coffee or tea was called “Money on your cup.” (I don’t think this includes cappuccino, though. Just bubbles that form when you pour the liquid into the cup. Sorry about that.)

Some sayings had honest-to-goodness sense behind them. 

Take this one: As the twig is bent, so grows the tree. That was about more than bending your young tree into an interesting shape; it was meant to warn us how to rear our children (twigs) is such a way that they would grow up into the type of adults (trees) we would like them to be.

Or, The apple never falls far from the tree. Seems obvious, if you’ve ever had/seen an apple tree. After all, the tree doesn’t fling the apples around, even in a windstorm, and the fruit is heavy enough to fall pretty much under the tree it grew on. This was another metaphorical piece of wisdom: Don’t expect your children to be much different from the parents. (I seem to recall the children so described were usually budding delinquents.) In the Nature vs. Nurture debate, this one seems to straddle the fence.

From what I’ve observed, what we glean from old sayings, proverbs, and family wisdom depends on our family’s history and experience. We were pretty much Midwestern agrarian—hence the practical nature of the quick pieces of advice I learned from childhood on up.

Dig around in your memory bank for those words to live by that your family treasured. Bet you haven’t heard them recently. But they’ll still resonate with you.

If you don’t think they’re especially wise, see if you can file them under Advice. Or Insight. Or, Old Sayings.

Here’s my current favorite saying (on a whiteboard at the Y)—hope it says something good to you: