Thursday, May 27, 2010
We're approaching Memorial Day Weekend! The experts are predicting lots of travel, picnics, K-4's and K-10's, etc., parades, golfing, boating, beaches and sunburns. We'll be on the road to Colorado to visit the Fab 5.
It didn't used to be that way. As a child there were no picnics, family gatherings, or water skiing on a lake. It was all about the cemetery! Our little 4H Club consisting of about 12 girls and their 3 leaders would gather at the local church basement. We would disperse throughout the community to go knock on doors to ask very kind ladies if we could have the flowers in their yards to put on the graves of the soldiers at the cemetery. Every one always said yes, after all it was "Decoration Day" and the community took great pride in decorating those grassy plots of land. Flowers gardens everywhere were stripped naked. The flowers were placed in buckets of water and carted back to the church basement where we spent hours tying them into neat bundles. They were laid out on newspapers on the floor until all were wrapped up in ribbon. It was a careful procedure, mixing Iris with Peonies, petunias with Queen Anne's Lace, etc. (Only later in life did I learn that Queen Anne's Lace was a weed and that it was the culprit that caused the itching.)
The flower bundles were then loaded into cars and we were off to the cemetery which was about a mile away on the edge of town. The headstones we were to visit were clearly identified by a small US flag placed by the granite earlier in the morning.
It was a beautiful sight. We scattered like flies and soon every brave soldier was remembered by a wilting bouquet. There were others decorating graves of their loved ones, usually with a potted plant, a homemade cross or a plastic wreath recently purchased at the local dime store. The cemetery was the place to be for all the action on that day.
Memorial Day itself followed preparation day. It was then that relatives of the deceased would fill the small cemetery walking from one end to the other, sharing memories and telling stories. Sometimes whole families would gather, hold hands and pray or even sing. I would go with my grandparents and they were always very quiet, holding back tears as we walked toward the small white tombstone of their only daughter, my mother.
Years later I repeated that walk and visited them, my father, some cousins and townspeople that were also resting there. Two WWII veteran uncles are located by the bronze memorial stones the government provided.
It's still important for that small town and probably many like it across the land to keep up those flowering traditions. Seems like folks in small towns make it a point to REMEMBER!
REMEMBER, one of the most important words in the English language. Remembering the good gives reason to celebrate, remembering the bad gives pause with a promise of "never again." There are so many families in our country now that are remembering loved ones that never came back from our most recent wars. The soil is still freshly turned. I'm thinking of them today and praying that they'll be comforted by knowing that folks DO remember and appreciate their tremendous sacrifice.
Tuesday, May 25, 2010
Tonight I'm thinking a lot about expectations! That is such a dangerous word depicting a myriad of opportunities for frustration, hurt and the bitterness that follows that kind of pain.
I expect my computer to work perfectly and quickly all the time. I expect my vacuum cleaner to pick up dirt and dust balls efficiently. I expect my schedule to match the hours of the day and the interests of my heart. I expect approval and love from my family all the time. I expect respect and kindness from others. I expect to be understood. I expect my children and young friends to outlive me. I expect all children to be fed, loved and tear-free. I expect my husband to be all-wise and my sons to make good decisions. I expect good health until my very last breath is taken. I expect the marriages that I admire to last until death. I expect my loved ones to be safe. I expect my home to be a sanctuary.
And all that adds up to perfection, doesn't it? How foolish is that?
My mind tells me that perfection is a curse and an illusive vapor, but my heart still EXPECTS it at times. Perfection achieved in this life is a lie from the pit of hell. It is a joy stealer and time waster. It is the root of unforgiveness, bitterness and wrinkles.(And who needs more of them?)
A wise older friend told me years and years ago that he thought I'd be the happiest person in heaven because I knew what it would be like. Perfect! But...he added, that kind of happiness would not occur until then!
Life is sometimes hard, but its made intolerable by unrealistic expectations. I often hear people say..."but, God can do anything!" Yes, He can, but most often He chooses to work within the realms of physics and mankind's free choices. His book never once promised a life of perfection anyway! In fact, just the opposite. He said, "in this world you will have troubles, but never fear for I have overcome the world." If we had no problems, we'd never know or need HIM.
SO...I'm ditchin' 'em! An unrealistic expectation is a sting operation and the result is it's painful poison.
Better to live in the present, savoring each moment as it comes, no matter what it brings. All of life is sifted through a loving Father's hand. All of life's situations are the best for me, even when they're not PERFECT!
Laying down those expectations makes for a happier me! Joy and humor return! I can laugh again. I can wait for perfection!
32 years ago today was one of the most defining moments in our lives. Our second son, Philip Richard Braner was born. He was the baldest, skinniest little thing and we were in love with him the moment he took his first breath. He was quickly nicknamed "onion head" and "tooth pick legs". That was cruel, wasn't it? All spoken with affection, I assure you.
It didn't take him long to fill out, grow some hair and START TALKING. When I enrolled him in kindergarten and filled out the paperwork I was asked, "when did this child start talking?" I answered, "At birth and hasn't stopped since." I wonder if anyone ever reads those applications. I remember holding his little face in my hands and pleading with him, "please stop talking....for 30 minutes!" He didn't!
Little boys are just grand! We've had so much fun watching him grow through Cub Scouts, piano lessons, elementary school programs, basketball games, church camps, driving, dating, graduations, college, wedding, and now husband and Daddy. Oh, so many stories! He's very kind and fun...and because of that has many wonderful friends. He's thoughtful and very wise. He thrives in his profession, which I do NOT understand. (Too many zeros) He takes his marriage very seriously and delights in his lovely wife. His children (two girls and one boy)are his best work! They are fabulous, too.
The transition of child to man happens all too quickly, but what a ride!
Sons begin as little boys and grow up to be your friends. I am SO blessed by my sons.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY PHILIP! We love you to the moon and back!
Sunday, May 23, 2010
For the past 4 days we've been in Scottsdale, AZ. Honeybuns had a business trip and I like to tag along. It is my opportunity to interact with people he does business with most of whom are long time friends connected to each other via the airplane business. Since I've been tagging along for several years now I know some of them and look forward to spending time with them, too. What a great eclectic group of people!
One delightful fellow is the founder and chief operating officer of a non-profit organization named GRACE ON WINGS. This doctor along with his doctor wife own and operate a FREE air ambulance service for folks needing immediate transportation for medical treatment. His airplane is equipped with the latest medical technology and staffed by top-notch professional medical people, all volunteers. The stories he tells of how this effort is financed makes one laugh aloud in simple unbelief. The number of people he has helped is simply incredible!
Another friend is a funny, funny Jewish man that has just planted a vineyard in Napa Valley. He knows nothing about grapes but he's reading books and has tales of "babysitting" the vines between flights from his home in San Francisco and his new house in Mexico. He's positive that in three years, when his grapes are ready to harvest, that he will know everything there is to know about making wine. He's going to practice the art of winemaking with his neighbors grapes this year. He's already purchased barrels for his new product. The man he has hired to help him in this adventure doesn't speak a word of English, somehow they communicate by hand signals. When he begins to tell these stories I'm sorry that we didn't sell tickets. He's hilarious, and tremendously successful in all he does. There is NO doubt in my mind that he'll be sticking his private labels on his bottles in no time.
Our head also began to spin when another comrade told of his latest financial investment. He's in ca-hoots with the INVENTOR of the 360 degree visual "goggles" designed so the "pilot" of the drones used in Afghanistan and Iraq can see the total landscape. The "pilot" is usually sitting in a cubicle somewhere a world away from his unmanned plane. It's a video game with severe and very important consequences. How can it be??? Very interesting!
That conversation was then followed by the "oohs and aahs" of news of the new aerodynamic sport: Rocket Racing! That's another technological wonder that gained attention from that group.
Another pilot friend told of his son who was the ringmaster of a traveling circus based in Oklahoma a few years ago. He's since run away from the circus and joined the deep-sea treasure hunters. He's now their sonar master and you probably saw him on the Discovery Channel not too long ago.
Another's grandson just opened up a posh restaurant in Scottsdale and we helped them celebrate that event with a last-night-in-town dinner.
As we left we were loaded down with a box of grapefruit the size of Frisbees and lemons as big small pumpkins that another pilot had grown in his Scottsdale backyard.
He had a great time telling us about the pomegranates, figs, and peaches also in his orchard! His passion is to share the bounty.
The list goes on and on.
I've come to believe that the world is full of folks that are making exciting things happen. We just happened to cross paths with some at this particular event.
I'm so encouraged! There are some very creative people that just keep inventing new things, coming up with new ideas, working hard and focusing on tomorrow and how great it will be. And having fun all along the way! It's healthy to be around such brains. I had a really good time.
Added to the intellectual treat was of course unbelievable fine shopping, beautiful pools surrounded by flowering everythings, gourmet food and sunshine that just never quits.
Scottsdale, AZ is an oasis in the desert for body, mind and soul.
Wednesday, May 19, 2010
Steve and Kim were the cutest young couple. We met them at church and they soon dwelled in our hearts. At that time their family consisted of 3 lively boys all under the age of 5, two of which were twins. The boys kept things hoppin' at church gatherings and were loved by the whole congregation. Kim soon became the pianist for that congregation and Steve the life of every party. They were in our young adult Sunday School class for a time and then became very involved in the youth department.
Our boys enjoyed the transparency and fun they brought to the mix.
Life changes put distance between us and that wonderful group of young married couples. We headed off to other states and job changes as did they. But not long ago Facebook united us once again. They had built and sold a business and were now semi-retired dividing their time between their home in AR and a new place in Pagosa Springs, CO. It was fun looking at pictures of their grandchildren, their great outdoor adventures, their cute dogs and their now all grown-up sons. It was so good to "see" them via the Internet as they were enjoying this season of their life. We made cyberspace promises to get together the next time we were headed west and found ourselves in their neck of the woods.
Kim and Steve's life together and their plans for their future ended yesterday morning when Steve suffered a heart attack and passed from this life to one that the rest of us only dream about.
His life was all too short. The shock of this event has left many unable to breathe today. It doesn't seem possible, this must be a nightmare. How do we deal with news that tears huge holes into our hearts?
Steve's precious family has the comfort of their faith in Jesus Christ, the Risen One, who promised that the eternal life experienced at the moment of death is glorious and far beyond anything we can even imagine. They'll be longing for the day to come when they'll be reunited once again, free of pain and tears, loneliness and separation. These next days and months and even years will be very difficult. Yet, I'm sure they'll be surrounded by supportive friends and family members.
They are loved by so many.
Steve is home .......and the rest of us are just "homesick".
This Saturday our neighborhood is once again hosting the "Bobber Bash". Bass Pro will be bringing bait, prizes, and fun to the children of our area. Across the street from our house and just a short walk down the path is a beautiful little lake fully stocked for fishing enthusiasts. Each year it's a delightful sight watching little children line the edges of the lake and hear them squeal as they pull in their first "whopper".
We've taken two granddaughters fishing in that lake and it is a hoot of a good time.
They'd never experienced anything like it. Honeybuns puts the worm on the hook after much concern and wide-eyed wonder from those pre-schoolers. They wouldn't dare touch one even though he tells them that the only way they'll catch a fish is if they kiss the fishing worm before he threads him on that pointed hook. They screw up their faces in protest and laughter. They love to watch him cast their bobber out into the lake and then they promptly reel it back in. The fish they catch have to grab that hooked worm on the move! And they do! The first time we went Gracie caught 16 fish in a couple of hours on her pink Barbie rod. We clapped hysterically, took a picture of her with each fish and then promptly THREW THEM BACK IN THE WATER. What's that all about??
I grew up on a fishing bank before the phrase "catch and release" was coined. Usually after lunch on a spring or summer day Grandpa would yell out, "anybody want to go fishin'?" We were piled in the car in minutes. Granny grabbed her old straw hat, a long sleeved chambray shirt and two or three old cane poles. We drove out into the country where her favorite pond was located and mashed through the tall grass to park ourselves on an old quilt on the bank. And there we would sit for hours, whether we caught anything or not. It was a familiar sight as we would go fishin' every day or so during those warm days. Sometimes when the uncles were around we'd go night fishing, complete with a little fire on the bank next to the quilt. That was real exciting! Most of the time we came home with a bucket of catfish that Granny would skin and fry up for dinner. They were delicious! Only those 2-3 inches long were tossed back to meet that hook another day.
And now when we go to Colorado to visit our son and his family we watch him "fly fish" in the cold rushing waters of the river that runs through their camp site. Teenagers there at Camp Kivu get all decked out in their waders and learn the correct moves. They catch beautiful and sometimes pretty big rainbow trout. When I see them pull those fish into the bank my mouth starts watering. Nope! After sufficient admiration time the fish get tossed back into that frigid river. I'm positive I can see them smile as they rush by me. I guess cold water vs. hot grease would make one smile!! When I first protested the "release" end of that phrase I was told that the purpose of the day was to have fun, not to eat the fish. A foreign concept!
It's a sign of the times, I suppose. But I personally am not going to spend all that time and energy catching a fish I can't eat.
Monday, May 17, 2010
This past Sunday we had the rare opportunity of going to church with our youngest son and his family. Everyone got dressed in their Sunday best and we made the trip through the Dallas traffic to Park Cities Presbyterian Church. It's an old building surrounded by even older buildings with almost no parking available. Families were parking their cars along the narrow tree lined streets and walking through the brilliant sunshine to the front door. We paraded through the heavy narrow doors and the marbled foyer. A kind greeter escorted the children to their age appropriate classes with promises of great fun and maybe even a cookie.
It was our first visit to that particular church. The sanctuary is far from contemporary modern, but instead supports huge silver pipes from the pipe organ that adorned the front wall. The musical notes from that ancient instrument soared through the high and lofty ceilings. The furniture is antique and ornate. The music sung was very traditional and the congregation followed the order of service by a well designed and printed bulletin. The robed choir performed flawlessly. The young minister was brilliant in his explanation of I Corinthians 13. People were friendly, the atmosphere was reverent and very pleasant.
All was perfect, it is truly a wonderful temple.
And surprisingly the most delightful element of the morning was the fact that we were sitting in the same church pew with our son and his lovely wife. There was a peace in my heart that defies explanation. He looked so handsome, so grown up, so attentive, and committed to hearing the message delivered. It's a settled peace of mind to know that he is interested and purposeful about leading his family to know God, that he re-evaluates his lifestyle regularly to be sure he stays on the right track. We talk about such things regularly.
But, beyond pride, sitting in church with my grown children gives this mom a sense of "home"! I'm thinking that it's a foretaste of heaven, when all Christians will bow down together at the throne of the heavenly Father, all united spiritually and physically in one place. I'm counting on everyone that I love being there!
Today is the anniversary of the wedding of our oldest son and his bride. It was a beautiful sunny Ozark spring day 13 years ago, filled with family and friends and all that goes into that sacred ceremony. My heart was filled and overflowing with gratitude and excitement. The girl that would soon be my new daughter had been in our lives and hearts for a few years and we all adored her. Andy and Jamie had been best friends during their college days and everyone knew they were meant to spend their lives together. We'd visited often with her family in their home and even vacationed together. We loved them too.
The wedding weekend had really begun a few days prior, but we were in Waco, Texas just 24 hours before the ceremony at Andy's college graduation, having flown in from Savannah, GA where we were living at the time. We were spending time with him and Philip, making last minute memories of our family consisting of just the four of us. Immediately after he'd shaken hands and posed for the picture with Baylor's President on that stage that Saturday morning he darted out the back door and we were off to Branson, Mo. Jamie's father had arranged a private plane to whisk us from one state to another. It WAS important that we arrive in time for rehearsal dinner which was our responsibility and joy to host. We got there in plenty of time to greet everyone at the saloon at Silver Dollar City following the rehearsal on that Saturday night. To say it was a busy time is truly the classic understatement.
Our big extended family had driven many hours from Illinois to gather for the occasion, several friends had come from Little Rock, AR and my best friend had flown in from Pennsylvania. Jamie's family and all their friends made it a big crowd. The officiating minister had come from England. Yes, it was a gathering, a weekend of celebration for many.
Guests of all ages filled the hotels in Branson. Most all the cabins of Lakeshore Resort held the Braner clan. For that many to gather together for such a happy event was a rare and cherished time. Memories were made and still discussed.
The ceremony itself was held in a beautiful serene chapel in the woods on the property of Kanakuk Kamps, Jamie's home and their family business. The pews were packed as the radiant bride made her way down the aisle. Her father gave the opening remarks, Honeybuns (best man) expressed how we had prayed for Jamie and how grateful we were that He had answered our prayers for our son in her. Philip was groomsman and had on his "game face". He'd confessed to me earlier that this was a very emotional and happy day for him as well.
Andy and Jamie made their promises to one another and to their God in view of all. It was a very precious and intimate moment. Pictures of the ceremony itself, the wedding party and family become more valuable with each passing year as some of those loved ones are no longer with us.
The reception was held on a grassy field covered with white tents, white roses, an abundance of delicious food, and much love. On that day even nature was shouting "glory", the grass could not have been greener, the sun never brighter. The PLATTERS provided the music for outdoor dancing and many light-hearted moments. The guests provided the warmth and laughter.
God had ordained and given us perfection! 5 children and years of memories later, HE continues to bless us through the new family that was birthed on that day.
HAPPY ANNIVERSARY to two of the most important people in my heart and life!
Friday, May 14, 2010
48 years ago today Israel became a nation! Well, that was before my time but nevertheless it is worth celebrating today! And as they say, "we've come a long way baby".
I doubt that as the news was shared around the world back then that anyone could have predicted the state of Israel today. It is the most hated and adored spot of real estate on the planet, in the headline news every day. Such a tiny spot of earth to be involved in constant turmoil! It is being threatened by it's neighbors even today. There are folks on the planet that exist to make sure Israel does not. (No time or space for a history lesson here.)
A few years ago we had to most wonderful privilege of boarding a plane for the 10 1/2hour flight to that Holy Land. It is the birthplace of all the major religions and occupied by all such pilgrims. The tension can be felt in the streets of its capital as it has been divided into "sections" to accommodate all different religious persuasions. Jerusalem must be the most exciting place on the planet. Every time a shovel is plunged into the earth history is uncovered. Various languages can be heard in those narrow stone pathways along with rising levels of anger. The fight to exist is evident every day! Wars have been and will be waged into the foreseeable future. Treaties are made and broken, land is acquired by battle and then given back with promises of peace. It's a crazy and fragile political game.
And having said all that, if given the opportunity to board a plane to Tel Aviv today I'd have my bags packed in 10 minutes, ready to go. Our visit there was one of the highlights of our lives. We spent those days walking the hills of Caesarea, floating on the Dead Sea, singing aboard a fishing boat in the Sea of Galilee, kneeling in the Garden of Gethsesame, tasting exotic foods, climbing up the steep peaks of Masada, watching my best friend being baptized in the Jordan River, wading into the Red Sea looking for Moses, examining Solomon's stones in Eilat, and shopping in the narrow streets of Jerusalem. It was truly the most bizarre, educational, and enlightening trip of a lifetime.
We also experienced countless searches of ourselves and our bags, scary moments in a screaming Arabic crowd, shouts of hatred from Muslim men in the Upper Room, darkness in a strange Boudein tent, and a moment on a bus when we were sure a bomb had exploded.
We also spoke to "people in the know" about the Israeli governments preparedness to protect itself and it's citizens. All who listen to those military professionals are absolutely convinced that all is ready and only the order to "pull the trigger" is needed to end it's neighbors threats once and for all. Hopefully that directive will be unnecessary in that fragile atmosphere. The results would be tragic and catastrophic.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY ISRAEL......and many more! SHALOM
Thursday, May 13, 2010
When I looked up the young woman sitting across from me had tears streaming down her cheeks. Very attractive, educated, sweet husband, darling kids....what could be wrong? She confided to me that she was having an affair and the excitement was not worth the guilt. She poured out the details, more than I wanted to hear, more than I wanted to believe. There was no one to blame but herself and she was feeling miserable. After comforting her and crying a tear or two myself, I told her I had a plan. I would wait for her as she gathered her phone and went to a quiet place nearby. She would call the young man that she'd been seeing and tell him that the affair had ended at that moment, that she would never be meeting him again. I would wait. I promised that I would become her best friend, cry with her, stand beside her and encourage her. She would have to tell her husband the story when she was strong enough. We would pray together that he would have the strength to forgive her. She agreed!
After a few minutes she returned to the table with a visible change in her countenance. A load had been lifted but the hard part was yet to come. I held her hand as she cried some more. I had no idea how this was going to play out. It could go either way, a beautiful reconciliation or perhaps a divorce was in her future. As the days and weeks went by I checked in on her regularly. Her smile returned and the happiness she'd once known was present again. She and her husband had long talks and he reached down into the depth of his soul and forgave. Their marriage was held together by tears and sheer will. Eventually I saw her less and less but often wondered how they were faring. Years later I received a lovely note telling me that they'd had another beautiful child and that their marriage was stronger than she'd ever imagined it could be. She was blissfully happy with the husband of her youth. She thanked me profusely.
I love to think about her and the results that come when doing the right thing is so difficult. Not knowing the results beforehand is frightening! There are no promises that "things will be fine." It's hard to admit a terrible mistake has occurred and there's no one else to blame, and it's hard to confront someone who desperately wants to be confronted. It's a blending of grace and truth. Grace to continue to love without judging and without compromising the truth.
Love can survive if given the chance.
We sure can get ourselves into some "fixes".....but thank God for second chances, and third and fourth and .......etc.
Tuesday, May 11, 2010
I remember my first airplane flight! Honeybuns and I were very young, college-age, not yet engaged, and he was taking flying lessons at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, Illinois as part of his education there. During one of my many visits to that campus he rented a plane and we, along with his roommate and his girlfriend, bravely boarded that Cessna 172. I was in the co-pilots seat, scared to death! He went through all the check-lists and we confidently taxied down the run way. I remember begging to just take a ride around on the ground, please!! Did we really have to fly? I was content with circles on the ground! I'd never even enjoyed roller coasters, still don't and it seemed that this ride would far surpass anything I'd avoided at the county fair. He reminded me that he didn't pay that exorbitant price just to play on the ground.
We gained speed down that runway and soon experienced LIFT! I couldn't believe the sight and the sense of freedom. The ground grew farther and farther away and I had to take some deep breaths to keep from hyperventilating! And I'm positive that I "blacked out" every time he banked the thing to the right or left.
His roommate in the seat behind me was filling up the barf bag. I tried not to look! I was having enough trouble taking care of my own bodily functions. The clouds grew near while the fields and roads below took on cartoon quality. Why would those airport people rent an airplane to a bunch of 18 yr olds anyway? Ludicrous!!
After an hour or so we safely landed and I remember the sense of pride. I'd done it! Face my fear of heights and lived to tell the tale. I learned that I have a need for speed AND heights!
Since that day we have flown thousands of miles, a couple of trips have taken us halfway around the globe. I'm so comfortable flying that I can now read, eat, play cards, knit or visit with the person in the next seat at 30,000 ft. Soaring through the clouds is just as common as driving down the interstate. Actually it's better because you can get to your destination quicker!! (After you clear security, that is!)
And a couple of weeks ago the Tulsa Air and Space Museum sponsored a "Rocket Race" at the Tulsa International Airport. Yep, manned, privately owned ROCKETS are the latest and greatest mode of shooting oneself into the upper atmosphere. Honeybuns spent the day and night out there right in the middle of the mix. He would climb aboard one of those rockets in a minute, he's waiting for the invitation.
Not me, I'm drawing the line at 2G's. My life doesn't need to be going any faster than that!
Today I'm cooking! It doesn't happen often, but every once in a while it must be done. Since I don't have any pressing appointments or friends available for a sit down visit I'm heading to the kitchen. A Dallas friend sent me a recipe for baby back ribs that she swears is terrific. I think it involves marinating for hours, we'll see. Usually if something takes longer than 10 minutes I pitch that idea. Since company is coming in a couple of weeks I'm going to practice today and see if it's fit for them! Honeybuns loves to be the guinea pig for new entrees. Well, most of the time!
Remember the "Cook Once for a Month" fad? I probably still have that cookbook somewhere. The premise was this: shop and cook 200+ recipes in one day, freeze those precious little bundles and have food for a family of 4 for 30 days. Sounds great! Our youngest son and I rolled two shopping buggies piled high that day we checked off the list of everything needed for the plan. The total was well over $300.00. NEVER in my life have I spent that amount at a grocery store! Now at yarn shop or quilt boutique, you bet, several times...but NOT on FOOD! Everything was hauled into the kitchen and the next day I cooked from sun up to dark thirty. I put on the cutest little apron and laid out the recipes. The day started out good but as the evening hours wore on I was exhausted and careless. At one point I dumped a pot full of hot spaghetti water all over me and the floor. Our eldest son rescued me and insisted I stop the cooking immediately before I hurt myself or burned down the house. I gave up and we went out to dinner.
Those frozen bundles DID last all month in the freezer but they did NOT all win family approval at the kitchen table at mealtime. At one particular sit down family dinner we just all stared at it, Honeybuns and the boys afraid to speak, until I blurted out, "let's go to Wendys". They cheered and we raced for the car laughing. That was the end of the "Cook Once for a Month" plan. Never again!
I think I do my best cooking when I'm in the mood, which occurs about every 6 months. (And WHEN I'm in the mood it is gourmet time!!!) However, Honeybuns has this crazy idea that he should have something to eat for dinner EVERY DAY! Where did that idea come from?? I'm convinced that is why God invented restaurants!
Sunday, May 9, 2010
Every once in a while we'll happen across the weather channel when "Storm Stories" are on. There's always a tornado tale complete with unbelievable pictures accompanying the solemn voice of an announcer retelling the statistics of some awful day in American history when one or more monster storms raced across the plains. The awful magnitude of those twisters makes one sit up and take notice. So much damage, so much loss of life results when one comes to town. I'm still at a loss as to what conditions birth such a killing wind, but I do know about the fear it can foster.
As a child I lived with my grandparents, a bachelor uncle and my older sister. We shared the small spaces of a 5 room cinder block house on a piece of land large enough for a garden, playhouse, chicken coop, a doghouse or two and a plastic child's pool. AND a storm cellar! From the upside it just looked like a mound of dirt complete with grass growing on top and mushrooms popping out in the spring. The slanted wooden door with the big metal handle was the only clue that something was beneath. After slinging that heavy wooden door open the only way to proceed was down. There were three huge concrete steps that led into the darkness. On both sides of the narrow room were bins holding potatoes and onions from the last harvested crop and along the back were shelves filled with Granny's canned green beans, tomatoes, corn, & peaches. Clear quart jars displaying all those different colors was a beautiful sight. Lined against the potato bins were folding stools, one for each family member. The underground room smelled musty, damp and spooky. A grandaddy long legs or two was a familiar sight as well. (I fell like I've just described "Life on the Prairie")
Often, and for some unknown reason it was always in the dead of a summer night, we heard Grandpa shouting, "get up, get up, a storm is comin" and we would immediately hop out of bed and run to the back door. Everyone knew the drill. As we raced toward the cellar the rain would pelt us, the wind would blow our ponytails and nightgowns in all directions. He held the flashlight as we all clamored down those concrete steps into the darkness of the cellar. Each person was assigned a folding stool and each assumed a perch. Grandpa would swing the big door behind us and sit on a step peeking out through a crack in that big door, waiting for the twister to pass. The rest of us were just impatient to hear the "all clear" signal so we could go back to the warmth of our beds. Sometimes the wait was longer than others and then we'd have to entertain ourselves in the dark. Singing, story-telling,and re-hashing old jokes were all part of the talent show held in the blackness of that place. It was there I learned the game "Simon says, thumbs up" and the words to "Red River Valley". Knock, knock jokes were a standard. The longer the wait the wilder those lyrics became. Granny was the master of ceremonies and an expert at keeping two little girls calm while her husband was in a near panic. The laughter shared in that unusual place is surely held in it's earthen walls.
Evidently Grandpa had experienced the real deal as a young man. He'd seen first hand what a fierce wind could actually do and he was determined to protect us. Interestingly he was the ONLY one in the family that battled that terrible fear of storms. I guess first hand knowledge of a frightening event prints pictures in the mind that last forever. Thankfully, the worst damage I can remember was one or two downed limbs off the maple tree. Once or twice we heard the roar over us but nothing ever touched down in our neck of the woods.
And now it's tornado season in tornado alley where we live. Terrible storms have devastated the Oklahoma territory in the past few years so we need to take note. The warning whistle is located right in the corner of our backyard so if that thing works in time we should get a little notice that the big one is on it's way. Hopefully we'll have enough sense to grab a pillow or two and hunker down in the bathtub! I'm pretty sure it'll be more comfortable than that old cellar, but I'm just as certain that it won't be as much fun!
Saturday, May 8, 2010
Because my most favorite thing to do is speak at women's events and retreats I am always looking for better ways to communicate ideas. When I find myself stumbling over a concept I cannot rest until I've figured out a way to relay that thought in a clear and concise manner to my audience. Such was the case recently. The subject of the value of a person came up in conversation. People of all sizes, shapes and ages struggle with worth. It's a universal battle. Several times in the course of the day I heard the words broken, wounded, and aching to describe that emptiness and longing of the soul that resides in every human being.
Enter into my thought process a story.
Several years ago I was attending a lovely woman's event that was held in a fabulous antique store in Dallas, TX. The large room was filled with very old extremely valuable items. Tables from long ago England were set with fine china and delicious food was served. I happened to be sitting in a chair that may have at one time held the behind of someone of English descent during the 16th century. It was OLD and creaky and very uncomfortable. When I first sat down my rear end took a dive toward the floor and the chair frame caught me about mid-thigh which left my feet dangling about a foot from the floor. I was folded up like a pretzel and stuck! A few tiny nails scraped my legs. Too embarrassed to say anything I simply smiled continually and stayed in that position until the event was over. At that point it it took all my power to get myself OUT of that hiney-trap. What a piece of junk! Surely the owner would toss that thing out, it was not worth donating to the Salvation Army! It was not safe. It was worthless!
Nope! I learned later that day that one of the ladies attending the luncheon purchased that very chair and a few others exactly like it....for $900.00 EACH! She was thrilled! The value of that chair was determined by the amount she was willing to pay for it. It meant NOTHING to me...but quite a bit to her!!
I am convinced that the value of a person is not determined by looks, quality, beauty, purpose, accomplishments, talent, education, race, pedigree, work ethic, personality, or status.
We humans are ALL broken, wobbly, worthless, dirty, uncomfortable and sometimes OLD. No matter! The worth of a person is determined by the PRICE that was PAID. Jesus paid the ultimate high, blood-draining cost of His very own life for each of us and therefore we are PRICELESS in His estimation! The deal is sealed. There is not one thing I can do, think or accomplish to deserve such love. I think that is the definition of Grace!
I have much in common with that rickety, old antique chair.
When Uncle Tony died it was decided that Honeybuns would drive my sister and I to the funeral. After much discussion her husband agreed that he would stay behind tending their farm while we were gone. We had a new van at the time so the long journey from central Illinois to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan would be comfortable and we truly wanted to visit with our lovely aunt who was now a widow. Through the years we'd only visited with Uncle Tony and Aunt June a few times but they were always memorable. She had a delightful sense of humor and he loved us as his own. They never had children so my sister and I were their substitutes for holiday gift giving and summertime stays at their "bear camp" in the dense woods of Michigan. Throughout our childhood our Dad spoke often and longingly of his home state always referring to his teen-age tromping grounds as Iron Mountain. The stories of Iron Mountain, Michigan were told and re-told until we thought we'd lived them ourselves. This particular journey would not be characterized by the raucous laughter and tales of youthful excursions, or so we thought.
We loaded the van and headed out. Honeybuns had the route mapped out and we drove for what seemed like forever, carefully watching the signs, heading to Iron Mountain, Michigan! It was in the dark wee hours of the morning when we saw the city sign. In just a few short miles our journey would be over and we'd be reunited with our Michigan family. Honeybuns quietly made the announcement, "we're here..in Iron Mountain, where's her house?" My sister and I suddenly looked at each other with instant recognition of what had occurred. We both rolled over with outrageous, laughter much to Honeybuns surprise! "What?" he demanded to know. Almost simultaneously we both blurted out, "Iron Mountain? We don't know anybody that lives in Iron Mountain, Michigan! Aunt June lives in CASPIAN, Michigan!" That particular city was in the opposite direction!! We had driven way out of the way to the WRONG town. He was completely and utterly stunned. Why, oh, why had he been driving in the wrong direction? This is a very serious dilemma for an ex-truck driver. He stopped the car and could hardly breathe. I thought we were going to have to call for an ambulance! Still in a state of uncontrollable laughter we found the map and helped him re-route his thinking. He made a legal u-turn and we headed in the opposite direction. We arrived in Caspian, Michigan a few hours later with promises of finding the right house if he would just drive around the town a while so we could gather some memories from our past visits. We'd recognize it the moment we saw it. He was NOT convinced. Amazingly, we both spotted the house about the same time, each of us remembering some small detail until we were convinced that it was the right one. He was not about to be the first one to knock on the door!! We were positive it was her home and approached the house at that ungodly hour. There she was, waiting for us to arrive. I remember him shaking his head in utter disbelief.
It was during that particular trip that I earned another nickname, Mrs. Magoo. And that story is still the joke at family gatherings. When the words "Iron Mountain" are blurted out laughter begins again. We all agree that it's fun and perfectly fine to live in a cartoon! My sister and I will never be accused of taking ourselves too seriously! The joy of the journey is far more important than arriving in record time, right?
Friday, May 7, 2010
All the news about the Times Square failed bombing attempt brings back memories. Evidently the incompetence of the terrorist saved many lives last weekend. Buying the wrong type of fireworks and the wrong mixture of fertilizer turned a would-be disaster into a law enforcement chase that ended with the culprit in the slammer! Hence, memories of my own bomb story. (Why is it I even HAVE a bomb story?)
Years ago, I had come home from running errands, parked the car in the garage and walked back up the driveway to pick up the day's mail. Leaning against the pole that held up the mailbox was a large plastic yellow margarine tub. You know the kind. Very unusual! What in the world could it be? Thinking that a neighbor or lovely friend must have left me a surprise, maybe homemade cookies, I picked it up and popped off the lid. A murky, gooey, sticky, white cloudy substance dripped from the Fleischman lid. I closed it up and set it back on the ground. What a mystery! When our youngest teenage son came home with his good friend in tow I related the story. They checked it out. Quietly, pensively they suggested that they thought it might be a bomb! A BOMB? You've got to be kidding me. Why would they even think such a thing? With no other ideas as to what to do about it, I called 911. Maybe someone could advise me. I told the dispatcher what I had discovered, that I had removed the lid and the nature of it's contents. In a very calm voice she assured me she would send someone around to take a look. In 3 1/2 seconds we heard the sirens as they sped toward our house. The Little Rock, AR fire department arrived with two big red trucks, the police department's cruisers screeched to a halt in the street, an ambulance appeared and a big boxy van with the letters BOMB SQUAD emptied out men in haz-mat suits. The street was blocked off and traffic re-routed. There must have been 50 suited up, very handsome, extremely competent dedicated first responders scurrying about our lawn. The boys and I watched from the foyer window. I remember turning to them almost laughing, "Do you think this might be called overkill?" Their eyes were big as large Mazzio's pizzas. Those very professional dedicated men approached my mailbox as if it were a boa constrictor. Oh, my....I started to take the situation seriously! All noses were pressed to the window watching the strange activity. After what seemed like an eternity the head fireman came to the door. "Lady, you are one lucky gal....you are alive because that chemical bomb failed to detonate. It was designed to explode the minute the lid was removed." IT REALLY WAS A BOMB!! After a while a policeman joined us and asked, "Do you know anyone that would want to harm you?" And to the boys, "Do you know anything about this?" They stared at him with unbelief. We all simply shook our heads "no", unable to speak. My mouth was dry enough to spit a cotton ball! To say we were all stunned is an understatement!
They took the butter tub away in a sealed barrel gingerly lifting it up into the bomb truck. I heard later that they interviewed the mailman to see if he saw anything suspicious that day. He reported that he found the container inside the mailbox, took it out and set it on the ground so he could deliver the mail. So, by my count three people, four if you count the person that put it together, touched that thing before the professionals got to it. In hindsight I realize that it was incompetence that averted disaster that day also.
The experts tell us that eventually evil will discover the correct recipe and the news pictures will reveal a very different reality. But the why of it has me puzzled. The concept of "no regard for life" is foreign to my brain. Life is precious and so fragile. Today I'm thankful that God uses incompetence to preserve it.
Thursday, May 6, 2010
Spring! Typically it's the season for celebrations and June weddings are right around the corner. Because I'm a people watcher I'm always amused when I find myself in the department stores amidst the young couples registering for gifts they dream about receiving on their big day. The bride is always so beautiful, her groom so handsome. One of the major decisions they must tackle is the issue of CHINA! No one enjoys fine china, 1000 count linens, silverware and porcelain more than this mother of sons and my friends agree that the older we get the more we appreciate pretty things. Our houses are usually filled with them. When our boys were smaller I tried really hard to pull out the "pretties" once in a while to make Sundays and holidays different by being a little special. However, I'm convinced that college-educated, handsome, stylish, confidant in the ways of the world, marriage-able age young men could care less about such finery. Watching grooms in the dept. stores and my own personal research among my girl friends has sealed the hypothesis. Rare is the young man that cares whether his broccoli is served on Royal Doulton or Royal Chinet. A bag of chips and a can of something fizzy on the end table during the championship game is most young men's idea of civilized dining. For most men presentation is not the critical factor as we women believe but taste reigns. The China search for the groom needs to last about 12 1/2 minutes. After 15 minutes his eyes are glazed over and he's trying to smile for his beloved but it's that "happy crappy" smile that women can spot in a micro-second. After 25 minutes the frustrated bride must go searching for him in the electronics department of the store which has been strategically placed 14 steps away from the Johnson Brothers china display. When she finds him pricing the latest and biggest and flat-est screened TV that he thinks can be crammed into their studio apartment she becomes so disappointed. Sadly he then becomes the most miserable of all men. Why oh why is he not interested in something that is extremely important to her? If he's astute he has just learned one important lesson of wedded bliss. The needs and emotions of the love of his life must be placed on the front burner of priority. Smart men recover and together they move on to towels. Isn't it interesting that it's usually during the most unexpected daily decisions that we learn the largest lessons...a concept worth celebrating.
Wednesday, May 5, 2010
The empty grass lot across the street from us has a big SOLD sign on it! YIPPPEEEE! New neighbors! After investigating the issue I discovered that a young family with children hopes to be in their new house by Christmas. When the trucks and machinery arrive any day now I plan to put my lawn chair out on the front sidewalk and watch it happen. I might even make cookies for the roofers! It'll be so fun to watch children playing nearby and hear their laughter through my windows.
I woke up this morning thinking of houses. I've lived in 12 different abodes, 11 since we were married. They've been all different styles and located in 9 different cities across America. Each house and each city had a different personality. After the boxes were unpacked it usually took about 3 years before I felt "at home" in my new place. Experience has taught me that it takes 1 year to get the house in order. I spend the 2nd year attending, joining, working, volunteering and basically getting to know what opportunities are available and what people are friendly. The 3rd year is spent "ditching" things I found boring during the 2nd year. By the time year 4 comes around I'm settled with good, good friends, a new church home and interesting things to do. The process just cannot be rushed! (Evidently I'm slow when it comes to change.) New friends USUALLY come from other transplants, people that realize that time is short and you can't sit around and look at folks for a year or two before you decide to befriend them. The moving van might be pulling in just when you make the decision that you like that person! I remember a conversation with my dear mother-in-law years ago when she was telling me some news about the "NEW" people that lived nearby her. When I asked when they'd moved in, she thought about it, smiled and replied, "Oh, it was 10 years ago." Still new?? I suppose everyone is NEW when you've lived in one spot for 60 years as she had. And there are certain areas of the country where it is just impossible to adapt quickly because the population is cold and stand-offish. But that is NOT the case in Oklahoma. We're beginning year 4 here now and there are some very friendly, wonderful, lovely people in this area. My transplanted friends and I try to FIND something to complain about and just can't! And there are some locals that have reached into my heart and will be my buds throughout eternity.
I'll try real hard not to be a noisy neighbor, but my goal is be sure that the family moving in across the street will never regret having chosen that spot of America as their own.
Tuesday, May 4, 2010
We lost the car! No big news flash in my world, it happens regularly. I jump out of my big red truck and take off like a crazy woman on a mission paying no attention whatsoever to where I've parked. Reality hits when I finish my errand and decide to head back to the house. It is then that I discover that I have no idea where I put that thing. But, this time was different because Honeybuns was with me and he NEVER loses any vehicle he's recently driven. Last weekend we arrived at the Orlando International Airport in our freshly rented full-sized Grandpa-car. You know the kind, shaped like a boat and just about as big. We parked in the parking garage and headed into the terminal to meet and pick up the granddaughter. After hugs and squeals we headed back to the parking deck only to discover that YEP, someone had stolen our car! It was NOT in the spot where we'd left it. We scoured that place investigating all levels. My instinctive position was to stay calm, happy, and carefree so as not to frighten our little girl. I told jokes, stories and sang a song or two. Her contribution to the situation was to provide solutions, "let's just leave it and go get another car", "where's the bus?", "can we just call a cab?" and "let's ask that man over there if he's seen our car." She also thought it important to whip out her cell phone to call her mom to report the incident. Her Mommy's reply? "PAPA'S lost? And to think that I trusted these people with you." Her fathers response? "Happens to me all the time! No big deal!" We've known for years that he inherited MY sense of direction. We both have a difficult time finding our way out of the driveway. Any and all suggestions were no help to Honeybuns who just could NOT believe he was in this situation as smoke began to seep out of his right ear. This was a totally NEW experience for this man who was born with a great and perfect sense of north vs. south. He was gaining a new appreciation of my relationship with automobiles and parking lots during this very humbling ordeal. After an HOUR of searching in that hot Florida climate, going back to the spot where it should have been SEVERAL times hoping that it would simply reappear, we gave up and decided to retrace our steps. The plan was that one of those steps would include calling the police and reporting the thing as missing. Back in the terminal we eventually learned that there are TWO terminals, A and B. And therefore there are two parking decks, A and B! The two structures are MILES and MILES apart. Alas...we'd parked in A and had been searching in B! Once aware of the layout we noticed big signs everywhere. A blind person with a dog would have done a better job of navigating that place. Evidently in all the anticipation of meeting Maggie we'd turned right when we should have turned left, etc....and ended up in total confusion. (I'm hoping age has nothing to do with this!)
So began our weekend of fun memories. That unexpected memory is probably the one that now brings on the most laughter. And isn't that the way it always works.
But once is enough, I'm packing bread crumbs and a large ball of string from now on.
Monday, May 3, 2010
Want to see something fabulous? Drive by my yard! The Iris are screaming!
It's amazing eye candy! Blue, black, orange, pink, blue, purple, yellow, white and this magnificient plant above are doing their thing. Most came from a company called Schreiners' from Salem, Oregon that specializes in this flower and all began their life as ugly hairy brown rhizomes with little tendrils sticking out. The white ones were a gift from a good friend who is a Master Gardener and expert on all things beautiful in the garden. They're pretty easy to grow and they multiply like rabbits. This is the time of year when the inside of my house smells like a funeral parlor as I fill it with vases of cut ones and the outside is the talk of the neighborhood. How can something that started out so ugly transform into something so amazing? I have to admit I've gone a little over board, but who can resist such beauties with names such as Rio, Summer Olympics, Victoria Falls, Midnight Oil, Red Hawk, Change of Pace, Witches Wand, Above the Clouds, Kind Word, Immortality and Decadence. (Sounds like the line-up for the Kentucky Derby, doesn't it?) Would they be so stunning without those exotic names? Sure, but it adds to the story.
These few weeks in May prove every year that there is a creator GOD and HE makes things lovely. I'm SO glad!
WHEW! What a whirlwind trip...but I'm happy to report THE MAGIC CONTINUES. Maggie is back home in Colorado after flying by herself from Durango to Orlando Thursday and then reversing the journey Sunday. What a delightful time we had at the Mouse House! Her squeals and smiles were worth it all. Her favorite rides just happen to be the ones that scared me to death! She is a delightful little girl with great imagination. We both were instantly transformed into giddy 6 year olds the minute we saw the CASTLE! We soaked up every thrill we could possibly pack into 2 days.
BUT...alas another observation! There are way too many folks visiting Minnie and Mickey's place. There were surely a ka-billion people tromping around in the hot Florida sun. (Recession?) I'm thinking of staring a petition that states that no one under the age of 5 or over the age of 75 be allowed in the park. Those two groups of people were the most miserable of all creatures. I watched in amazement as young parents struggled to keep their sanity while caring for infants and Grandma at the same time. No one in those families was smiling. I felt so sorry for them all! My mind could not even imagine our own sons taking their little ones to such a place. How on earth would you corral 5 children or even 3, keeping them comfortable, fed and happy? Yes...6 is the age to be. Old enough to understand "wait" but young enough to allow the magic to absorb your mind. The best of all worlds is being the Grandmother of a precious 8 year old girl experiencing MAGIC through her wide child eyes. Yes, this Grandma's world is where magic lives.