Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The thick green rope is wound tightly. It is attempting to squeeze the life right out of that black metal fence. When I planted those Morning Glory seeds I had no idea of the power that would be unleashed. The picture on the package seemed so innocent.
The flowers are a beautiful purple/blue trumpet-shape that attracts bees and hummingbirds. They flow in the breeze during the morning hours and are a delight to see right outside my bedroom window. I braved the hot sun yesterday afternoon and took a closer look.
The vines of that monster are about 1/2 thick and are wound around all the nearby plants. The lilac bush is choking, the day lilies are bound tight and the fence posts look like they've been painted stripes of green.
How can something so beautiful on the surface be so dangerous underneath?
Reminds me of some of the folks we've seen in the news over the past few years.
Wicked stories of lies, adultery, tax evasion, racism, even murder have been exposed. Lives and reputations that seem so beautiful have been drained of life by those choking deeds done in private. I hope we've learned the lesson that it really DOES matter what we do when no one is watching. Those small little incidental acts of dishonesty and selfishness grow and strangle. Trust is suffocated right out of a relationship.
Redemption is possible, no doubt. But it is painful and recovery takes a long time.
Isn't it just easier to steer clear of such consequences? I've got to be sure those seeds of worry, discontent, selfishness, superiority, inferiority, hatred, racism, greed, entitlement, etc....don't find a place to grow. (I'll be warning my grandchildren about these seeds, too.) I like my glorious life and I want it to thrive.
I don't think I'll be planting Morning Glories next spring.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
"Laughter is an instant vacation" Milton Berle
"What soap is to the body, laughter is to the soul" Yiddish Proverb
If those two quotes are true then my clean soul experienced an instant vacation last night! Honeybuns and I drove to a "mystery" location as he revealed one more birthday surprise. We ended up at the home of good friends where I was greeted with that famous birthday greeting "SURPRISE, HAPPY BIRTHDAY!" The members of our small group from church had gathered for dinner together. The wishes were genuine, the food was fabulous, and the setting was very beautiful.
There are NO words to describe those extraordinary people.
Talk about a riotous time! It was wonderful. We told funny stories until our jaws and tummies ached with pain. It was an incredible time of transparency. That particular trait often shows up when friends past the age of 35 get together. It's that time of life when everyone has experienced all sorts of personal triumphs and tragedies, raised children through teen-age hysteria, moved around a few times, and known several different employment challenges. In this era no one is trying to impress anyone and everyone knows that boils and warts exist in every family.
Perhaps authenticity is another word to describe the dynamics of that group of people. We've all learned that it's o.k. to be unique and be accepted and appreciated at the same time.
And now it's the "day after" and I am still smiling at some of the visual images those tales impressed upon my brain. Our group will never be the same, we've bonded in a new good way.
I look forward to "doing life" with these people for a long time to come!
And when I need a vacation or a good soul cleansing, I'll just spend a few minutes remembering my birthday surprise party and laugh again!
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Who doesn't love OLD quilts? Nothing says comfort like a "bankie" that has been well loved!
I look, touch and admire them everywhere they are displayed or are for sale. It's an art form that is intentionally created to be hugged. There are several stored away at our house, some thrown over chairs and one hung to brighten that dead space above the washing machine. I make quilts, read about them, envision news ones at fabric shops and try to get down to Houston once a year to the annual huge "over the top-only for quilt addicts" International Quilt Festival. I've given quilts away, entered quilt contests and shows and once took a bus trip to Paducah, Kentucky to compare stitches with those ladies there. They are magnets for fabricaholics and those that like to put tiny puzzle pieces together.
Again, I repeat, the OLDER the better.
Old quilts are worn, wrinkly, tattered around the edges and usually have one or two permanent stains. They have embraced babies, comforted new moms, warmed the injured and shielded hurt feelings from the cruelty of the world. They contain stories that no one will hear but that a lively imagination can sense. There is wisdom gained through age interwoven with the binding around the edge. They are all different, made from cloth that once held flour or perhaps clothed a small little girl. The colors were vivid at one time but that was long ago.
Sometimes they are found at flea markets, stored in dusty attics, or displayed at expensive boutiques. The ones that are appreciated the most are priced well beyond the normal budget.
Some things age very nicely.
I'd better remind Honeybuns that I have a birthday this week!
Sunday, July 18, 2010
Who ISN'T headed for Las Vegas ? That's the question these days. It seems that everywhere I go someone is telling me about their upcoming trip to "Sin City." Hopefully all these visitors will help those folks get their economy going once again. For it is certain that WHOEVER goes will be leaving a trail of money behind them.
My first glimpse of the casino in the desert happened a few years ago. Honeybuns had a business meeting out there so I tagged along. Seeing that place with my own eyeballs was such an enticing thought that we actually took Philip out of college a few days and flew him from Baylor at Waco, TX to meet us in Las Vegas! As a sophomore in college he was pretty involved with "poker nights" at his fraternity and was feeling pretty lucky! He was shocked that we would invite him along to the mecca of all gambling.
I saved my pennies for several months with the expressed purpose of giving our "lucky" boy some casino money. Never before had I EVER sacrificed anything just to have money to throw down a rat hole. But I was convinced that this was going to be an experiment in the rule that "the house always wins." And thus the fascination with actually "hitting the jackpot" would be buried once and for all.
We stayed at the beautiful Treasure Island Resort, walked the streets of the strip and looked at all the fancy people, shopped in Caesar's Palace (where the statues actually move and talk every 15 minutes!), watched the dancing fountains at the Belagio and ate M&M's at the candy store by the same name. We took in a couple of fabulous shows, one being Siegfried and Roy which was mesmerizing and magical. (That was before Roy became a snack for one of their white tigers. I'm thrilled to report that he is STILL alive and functioning!) The guys rode the roller coaster at New York, New York, we sat in on the humongous show at Circus, Circus and toured the Lexor. One day we took a bus ride out to Hoover Dam! We had a great time in "Sin City." It IS a treat for the eyeballs. I've heard that when the lights are on the city can be seen from outer space!
The time came for the blackjack lesson. Honeybuns and Philip headed off to the tables with their pockets full of coin.
I waited in the hotel room. (I had had my fill of that constant and loud...DING, DING, DING, DING, DING and decided to sit out the big hand.)
They returned after a very short time. Honeybuns had timed the experiment. It took them 12 1/2 minutes to lose every penny they had.
Money disappears REALLY FAST in Vegas. My own roll of nickels lasted about 10 minutes matching wits with the one armed bandit. My sister has adopted the plan of just handing the casino cashier her $20.00 when she first goes INTO the hotel and thus saving her a lot of time and blood pressure worries.
Everybody should see Las Vegas once, I suppose. The trick is to take along "throw away money" because that is exactly what happens.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
It was the craziest thing I've ever seen. We were sitting in the surgery center signing all the papers, getting Honeybuns ready for shoulder repair. (He'd injured his shoulder last Christmas day scooping snow off the driveway! Nothing like WAITING to see if it would heal itself!) There were pages and pages of forms and consents. We read all the fine print which permitted everything imaginable to be done to him within the next couple of hours.
On one such form was the question, "What is your present level of pain?" Easily answered, right? Surely the potential surgical patient would be able to come up with the right answer there. Is there a wrong answer? Evidently it is harder than it seems.
There on the page were 10 cartoon circles with faces drawn in, much like the typical yellow smiley faces you find on children's stickers, WITHOUT THE YELLOW. There were eyes, eyebrows, noses and mouths all penciled in to portray various levels of pain. Pain level 1 was depicted as a happy face. #2 circle showed squinty eyes and a straight line for a mouth, #3 showed wrinkles around the nose area and the mouth bending south. You get the idea. They progressed to #10 which was absolutely scary. I'm still having nightmares about that one.
We looked at each other and laughed aloud! Honeybuns circled #4, drew a little hat on the head and felt he'd answered correctly.
There must be a very good valid reason for the existence of those drawings. Perhaps those faces help folks that can't read English, but then how would they read the question "What is your present level of pain?" Perhaps it helps children relay how they are feeling! Maybe they lighten that moment of pre-surgery jitters for all ages. There is no doubt a very useful purpose that I just don't understand. Are we to the point that we have to communicate by pictures now? Maybe that's a good thing! It just seems a bit odd in this day of super-duper technology.
The shoulder surgery went well. Honeybuns is no longer taking pain medication and physical therapy will probably start in a week or so.
At the moment he's still a # 4 "not so smiley-face" and I'm just thankful to be a #2 today.
Thursday, July 15, 2010
Every family needs an ANDY! 35 years ago today he entered this world. He had a head full of black hair standing straight up and we were in love instantly! We'd been talking to him for 9 months and waiting for his entrance while decorating the nursery in puppy dogs. (It was the time before sonograms were common but we just KNEW he was going to be a he! )
Holding him for the first time was euphoric! Watching him grow has been nothing short of Mr. Toad's Wild Ride.
He's IS the adventuresome sort! The first clue that we were in for some interesting times could have been the day he flipped his little circular walker completely upside down from a still position. That happened in his pre-walking days. He was quietly sitting in this little contraption on wheels smiling sweetly, perfectly content to watch the birds fly by and the grass grow. The next minute the thing was upside down, his legs were in the air and his head was smashed on the concrete sidewalk. We never did figure out just HOW that happened.
Next came the usual elementary events, first bike ride, first fight with the neighbor kid, first heartbreak when his new bicycle was stolen. At age 12 he won a trip to England and Scotland as one of the 52 newspaper carriers of the US. We LET him go on that international trip with complete strangers for 10 days. That was his first clue that the world was very large and he needed to experience every corner of it.
Next came Little League tournaments, basketball play-offs, school plays, piano recitals, before and after-school jobs, girlfriends, car wrecks, church camps and graduations.
How did we pack all that into 18 short years? And how did it go so FAST?
Today he is a terrific husband, father of 5, minister, President of his own company, athlete, Christian author and international speaker. He has the ear of today's teen and is sought out by parents for help, advice and comfort. When he speaks the audience is mesmerized because he has something profound to say to them. He introduces them to God and challenges them to think. Lives are changed. It's an incredible sight.
He and his beautiful wife are building a spiritual community in Durango, CO that is a model of the purity of the Christian life, loving God with all their heart, soul, and mind and their neighbor as themselves. Young people are flocking to the message of Christ and rejecting phony religion. His vision now includes reaching teens in Rwanda, the Philippines, China, Saudi Arabia and as of this past month RUSSIA!
Do I sound a little biased? If so, it is because I am filled with pride and immeasurable love. My son has grown in statue and in favor with God and man. And this mom couldn't be more "well pleased." He is now my friend, confidant, and counselor. I can not imagine life without him.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ANDY....You have re-defined the word LIFE for this mom and dad. We love you!
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Home repairs always take twice as long as you think and always cost twice as much. It happened again!
My elderly uncle lives alone in a tiny block house in central Illinois where I spent my childhood. My sister and I were raised by our grandparents there and this much loved bachelor uncle was part of our family. Time passed and we all grew older. She and I married and moved out. Our grandparents, his parents, moved on to glory. He remained single and stayed.
The house is constructed of sturdy concrete blocks with that new-fangled modern siding attached. It's small and cozy and he wouldn't want to be anywhere else in the world. It has been home for him for far too long to change things now. His body is wearing out, much like his house, but we're all committed to helping him stay there for the remainder of his golden years.
A recent storm put a limb through the roof of that old house and problems began. This past weekend was the designated time to get the thing fixed. Family members climb on that steep sloping roof to assess the damage. After pulling the limb free it was decided that, yep, a new roof was the solution. Much to their surprise the men removed one layer of asphalt shingles, then another, then a layer of wooden shake shingles and then another! Who knew? Those two layers of old wooden shingles must have been hiding there since that house was built nearly 100 years ago. No one remembers ever even seeing those things.
(I wonder if anyone important ever slept there? George Washington? Abraham Lincoln? Barak Obama? We could have it listed on the National Register of Historic Places, maybe even put up a plaque!)
After much effort on a hot and muggy Illinois day the guys called it quits. They made plans to return to begin again tomorrow. It is a monumental project!
Knowing when to tear something down or when to do all in your power to preserve it takes a great amount of wisdom.
Knowing when and how to care for an elderly family member takes no thought at all.
Friday, July 9, 2010
It was my first time to visit the very historic sights in Philadelphia, PA. My best friend and I had visited the Liberty Bell and climbed the "Rock Balboa" steps. The cemetery that held Benjamin Franklin was next on the list. We made our way to Christ's Church Burial Grounds.
His grave was dutifully marked and just right on the other side of a black iron fence. My friend and I stood there peeking through, envisioning that grand statesmen alive and persuasive. We recounted what we knew of American history, recited parts of documents we remembered and re-told old Franklin stories. It was a heady moment.
It was a moment that needed to be preserved in a scrapbook. An elderly man INSIDE the fence within about 10 feet of that famous grave flashed a toothy grin our way. Thinking he was the gardener, I struck up a conversation and before I realized what was happening I was handing him my very expensive camera through the black metal poles of the fence. Why sure, he would take our picture together! We posed and re-posed positioning ourselves at just the right angle to include that famous tombstone in this pictorial memory.
The button on my camera clicked down again and again and again. The gentleman was stepping backwards two steps at a time, father and farther away from us. How nice of him to take such care to capture the moment. It WAS Kodak time!
My friends husband was standing a few feet away and began yelling. We were stunned, thinking he'd lost his mind, or at least been stung by a bee. "He's stealing your camera!"
Yep, I had handed my camera to a homeless man that needed a meal, a drink, or a bed for the night. He was probably inside that cemetery fence because that is where he'd safely spent the evening before.
I couldn't believe this was happening. I quickly faced the "thief " and our eyes met for a long, long split second! He slowly walked toward the fence and handed me the Canon which contained my recorded memories. He smiled and walked away. Evidently even homeless men have pity on idiots!
I was stunned and failed to offer him any monetary thanks. He'd surrendered his chance to make a little money at the local pawn shop and I was so ungrateful. He disappeared into the dark corners of that fenced hallowed ground.
My friends husband repeats that story to anyone that will listen, shakes his head and tears of laughter run down his face every time. He declares it to be one of the most insane moments he'd ever witnessed.
Honeybuns and I have since experienced many other fun times with this great couple. My best friend and I have decided that our purpose in life is to give these husbands fresh stand-up comedy material from time to time. Their lives would be very boring without us!! THEY have visions of Lucy and Ethel!
Thursday, July 8, 2010
We thought the whining of the motor would never end. Finally Honeybuns pulled the plug and the whirling can stopped dead. It was finished and the anticipation was great! Last weekend was the first time in years that we'd made home made ice cream. He wiped off the salt water and carefully pulled the paddle out of the metal can. All eyes were upon it.
The first spoonful came out! It was white, creamy with little bits of real vanilla bean mixed in. The race was on to see who could taste it first. There was NO disappointment.
The cold, creamy, summer treat was FABULOUS, STUPENDOUS, EXCEPTIONAL, SUPERB, FIRST-RATE, OUTSTANDING, TERRIFIC, WONDERFUL and nothing short of HEROIC! It was a stand-up, put your hand over your heart and recite the Pledge of Allegiance kind of moment. Our friends were delighted!
Vows were made to NEVER eat store-bought ice cream again. We just couldn't help but compare these very simple pure ingredients coming forth from that silver tin with the chemicals that are sold for "ice cream" in our grocery stores.
Our bowls were filled with frozen heavy cream (lots of it), milk, sugar (lots of it), egg yolks (lots of them:10!) and one long vanilla bean that looks like it was plucked from the tree just last Tuesday.
The phony stuff seems so nasty compared with the original! I suppose that works with friendship, love, kindness, honesty, marriage, speech, relationships of all kinds, promises and gods. Once the real deal is experienced the counterfeit is plainly seen and understood.
Authenticity tastes much better than imitation.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Are piano lessons for children popular now? I hear of swimming, soccer, ballet, tennis, etc. It seems like there are all kinds of instructions for those little minds and bodies to keep them busy, engaged and competitive. It's all good. We parented by that old philosophy: "wear them out so they'll go to bed at night." I have great memories of Boy Scouts, piano recitals, basketball games, and Little League.
(Keeping them extra busy is sound advice especially for parents of teen-agers. Wear them out because nothing good happens after midnight anyway.)
It's hard to know what activity a child will love until they try it. So several attempts must be made, no doubt about it. And then sometimes an activity must be encouraged and endured because, well, "it's good for them."
We demanded piano lessons for the boys. I think they both started around 1st grade and continued through their senior year. At times it was simply a lesson in perseverance, for them and me. Attending piano lessons and practicing was difficult one minute and extremely fun the next. We had great teachers and they learned the Suzuki method, which involves careful listening first and playing second. (It did not include any sort of motor bike but I'm sure they would have welcomed that!) Sometimes they wanted to quit and that was not an option. They were required to go to school, church and piano lessons. All was good for them!
Neither son is a concert pianist, but that was not the goal anyway. They both have a wonderful appreciation of GOOD MUSIC, they can identify it. And statistics tell us that any form of musical instruction helps in other studies as well. (One son continues to play and owns a piano, I've apologized to the other for all those endless lessons. He forgives me.)
My own piano instruction started right down the block from my elementary school. Instead of playing with friends during the afternoon recess, I walked to the home of Miss Alma. She lived alone in a big and very quiet house. Her antique ticking clock was the only sound audible when a student was NOT sitting on her piano bench. She patiently taught me the basics and I am grateful to this day. I had a couple of other very good teachers through high school. It was a serious career choice for them and I thank them for that choice. Because of them I have had some fabulous experiences accompanying high school choirs, soloists, quartets, women's groups, children's choirs, & church congregations. I've played the piano for funerals and weddings. My best memory is playing for a large retreat in Dallas while 3000 people sang "Amazing Grace."
Learning to play the piano is tedious, there is NO fast forward way to accomplish it. It just takes a lot of time.
Enjoying the piano is the result.
Last night I picked up the music to Scott Joplin's "The Entertainer" and livened up this quiet house. Playing the piano for sheer enjoyment is incredibly rewarding. Teaching the granddaughters to pick out the keys for "Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" is PRICELESS!
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Heavenly Father, we come before you today to ask your forgiveness and to seek your direction and guidance. We know Your Word says, "Woe to those who call evil good" but that is exactly what we have done. We have lost our spiritual equilibrium and reversed our values.
We have exploited the poor and called it the lottery,
We have rewarded laziness and called it welfare,
We have killed our unborn and called it choice,
We have shot abortionists and called it justifiable,
We have neglected to discipline our children and called it building self-esteem,
We have abused power and called it politics,
We have coveted our neighbor's possessions and called it ambition
We have polluted the air with profanity and pornography and called it freedom of expression,
We have ridiculed the time-honored values of our forefathers and called it enlightenment.
Search US, Oh God, and know our hearts today: cleanse us from every sin and set us free. Amen!
Friday, July 2, 2010
It sounded like a good plan! We would get up very early, pull our bikes out of the back of the garage and roll around the neighborhood for about an hour, while it was still cool and very pleasant outside. Honeybuns assured me it would be the BEST time of the day.
I crawled out, boarded my "old lady" bike and we headed off. There in the eastern sky was the largest, orangest, roundest ball I'd ever seen. I was stunned, I'd never seen anything like it before! It was too big to be a hot air balloon, I was mesmerized. Honeybuns informed me it was the SUN, and that is often came up in that same spot...everyday in fact! Sometimes he's just SO smart!!
It WAS a refreshing morning and we biked around the neighborhood streets, up and down the sidewalks, past businesses, and through busy intersections. It seems the rest of the world was also getting up at that ungodly hour and buzzing off to who knows where!
I was just about ready to enjoy the whole process when my front wheel unexpectedly dropped off the sidewalk and onto the grassy strip heading for the busy road. I quickly jerked the handlebars to the right and the wheel got caught in that "ditch" between green and concrete. The bike stopped but I didn't. Cars continued to whiz by my head as I lay on the ground bottom up. I thought I'd died and when I discovered I was still living I wished I HAD died. Every molecule of my being hurt. There was a big gash on my leg, blood was pouring down into my shoe, sweat was running down my face and I was sure I was going to throw up and then faint. It was another one of those near death experiences!!
I could see Honeybuns about a block ahead of me still pedaling. Finally he turned around to see if I was catching up and realized my dilemma. After a few moments of outrageous laughter he came to his senses and rode back to take my pulse! Trying to look sympathetic and nurturing is not easy for him. He leaned on his bike and waited for me to stop crying and to start breathing normally again with offers of "shall I go get the car for you?" I didn't need a car, I needed an ambulance or at least a cute paramedic.
We checked the bike to see if it was totaled, but alas, it still worked good enough to get it home, slowly, very slowly! I walked it. A few weeks later my body was as good as new!
I'm still searching for that fun physical activity that will strengthen a healthy heart, trim my body and jump-start the brain cells. I've been told that such a sport exists!
I'm not convinced. I think I'll pour a glass of tea and go watch the sun SET!
Granny was one of 17 children, that included two sets of twins! What were those folks thinking? Did they ever figure out where all those children were coming from?
How did poor folks from central Illionis back in the early 1900's even begin to feed that many mouths around the dinner table?
When all those people showed up at the annual family reunion it was an occasion equal to a worlds fair. Our little alleyway was blocked off and all those old cars were lined up and down the road. I remember Granny's brothers and sisters as all as being married with several children of their own...some approaching grandparenthood. Usually the whole tribe attended. If the party was in our back yard it took days to get ready. Long tables were made of doors and plywood perched atop carpenters "horses". Those make-shift tables were laden with the best food ever prepared by woman! There was always fried chicken, home-grown fresh or previously canned vegetables of all sorts, ham, home made sauerkraut, mustard greens, salads, fresh bread, cakes and of course every pie imaginable. No one could make a pie like Aunt Rene, I have her recipe! All those sisters were excellent cooks. Most owned or worked at restaurants at some point in their life.
We would eat, laugh, tell stories and play games. Usually two or three of the men brought their guitars which livened up the evening. After dark everyone under 12 would run rampant playing hide and seek while the adults sat around and visited. Nighttime fun was so mysterious. It was a carefree existence and my selective memory names it "easier times", everyone seemed extremely happy to just be together.
But of course a childs memory leaves out much of the adult worries of the day. Wars were discussed and young men were drafted into them. Death and accidents took a cousin or two almost every year. There were divorces and conflicts and a few court cases that required attention. One uncle was shot to death by his estranged wife! (Yep, she shot him right through the screen door and his siblings NEVER got over that!) I remember a couple of house fires and the devastation that brought to those families. All those experiences were rehashed at the reunion.
Life is full of joy and pain, often experienced simultaneously. It's always been that way. The "bad" times just make the "good" times all that much sweeter, I suppose.
Adult concerns and childhood innocence co-existing. It's called family.