Tuesday, December 29, 2009
Thirty years ago as a new wife, awaiting her first baby in her new home, I was attracted to a "Twelve Days Of Christmas" wall hanging I saw in a magazine ( Better Homes and Gardens?) Anyway, with all kinds of time on my hands I made one for our new home.
I didn't realize what a fond, childhood memory it had become before my now grown children, looking through the small mountain of Christmas Past photos I put out every year commented on how they loved it and "Where is it now?" There were howls when I said I had long ago sold it in a garage sale or donated it to Goodwill. I made a mental note that this might be a good idea for future Christmas gifting for the kids. ( These creative thoughts most often burst brightly in my noggin and then evaporate or common sense and reality remind me to "GET REAL!")
But...four weeks of THE flu and couch recovery time late this fall gave me plenty of time on my hands to take the plunge. I found an old photo of the original hanging on the wall in our first home and Steve blew it up and made a copy. I hand drew patterns for all the figures and details along with some of my own embellishments not in the original. Becky took my order for "a project for the kids" and picked out a variety of felt from Field's and I began cutting. ....and cutting...and cutting!
Thirty years causes one to forget painful circumstances...like labor and delivery. (We called it "natural" and did it totally drug free for our children in those days.) OR cutting 70 gazillion pieces of felt for three wall hangings ( The prerequisite for a child to get one of these is attaching themselves to a spouse...so I still have one on the drawing board. I borrowed my neighbor,Kathy's FIVE Harry Potter videos and along with other television, watched all five TWICE while I worked on these.) I did recall that the original had a felt backing which torqued and didn't hang correctly. I corrected that by gluing the felt pieces to a stiff canvas type fabric AND by inserting 3/4" oak dowels ( thanks, Steve!)in casings top and bottom.
These are big...36" wide by 42" long.
...and...all worth it on Christmas Day when Steve brought them from their hiding place and presented them to the Becky and Derek, Megan and Avery, and Adam and his Caity. Merry Christmas from Mom and Dad!
P.S. MY favorites are the "Eleven Lords A'Leaping"...blue with their little bright red vests and golden crowns akimbo.
Thursday, December 24, 2009
Once upon a time,in God's perfect timing, there was a young Jewish girl named, Mary. Mary was engaged to be married to a young carpenter from Nazareth named, Joseph. Mary and Joseph didn't have lots of money. They weren't important people, as the world looked at them, but they were both devoted to God and willing to be obedient to whatever God told them to do, no matter how difficult being obedient might be for them. When an angel came to Mary and told her that she was going to have a baby, THE ONE, God's own Son, the Rescuer of all people,Mary trusted God and said, "I am God's servant. Whatever God says, I will do!"
The angel was right! Joseph and Mary were on a trip to Bethlehem when the time came for Mary's baby boy to be born. There was no place for them to stay and they ended up in the only available place,an old stable. That's exactly the place God chose for His son to be born! Mary and Joseph wrapped him in cloths to keep Him warm and laid him in the soft straw of the animals' feed box. They named Him, Jesus, just as the angel had told them.
That same night, shepherds were camping in the dark, peaceful hills. The only sounds were the crackling of the campfire and the snoring sheep.ALL OF A SUDDEN!!!...the sky lit up like never before and an ANGEL appeared! Understandably, the first thing the angel said was, "Don't be afraid! I bring you the most joyful news EVER announced and it's for EVERYONE!" Then the sky filled with angels all singing so beautifully, "Glory to God in the highest and Peace on earth for all those pleasing Him!" The angel told the shepherds that they could find God's promised Son in, of all places, a manger in Bethlehem; that they should follow the bright star in the sky and run to find Him...and so they did. And so they found Him with Mary and Joseph, just as the angel had told them! They knelt down in the straw and dirt of the stable and worshipped the Baby because they knew He was The Light of the whole world... a Light to put an end to darkness forever!
There were, far, far, far away, kings, called Magi or "wise men" who studied the skies and when they saw the same star as the shepherds. They knew the star was a promised sign that a King had been born. They had been waiting for this sign and quickly packed special, precious gifts, gifts a king would give a great King, like frankincense, gold and myrrh on their camels and started out on the long, long trip to worship The baby King. Imagine their surprise when the great star in the sky unmistakably led them to a rundown stable in a shabby little town named, Bethlehem! But when they saw the Baby Jesus, they KNEW there was no mistake, and they took off their glittering, jeweled crowns and knelt in their beautiful robes in the same dirt and straw as the shepherds before them.
What an adventure Mary was on! The Bible says "Mary treasured all these things, and pondered them in her heart"
and for us, for ANYONE who seeks God's greatest Gift for us, His Son, our Rescuer. For us, for ANYONE who trusts God and responds to Him, "I am God's servant. Whatever God says, I will do."
For Anyone who will reach out to take it God will give them this wonderful ETERNAL Gift!...reborn to be the person God always intended us to be from before the beginning of time...OURSELVES, just as He created us!
Every other gift pales in comparison!
Friday, December 11, 2009
"Re-Set" was a word thrown out by one of the kids this year. Originally it was an exclamation used just after the grand babies were put down here for naps to signal a rapid effort scramble to pick up and put away the twisted mass of pulled out toys and books affording the adults the optimal quiet, organized, oasis of peace that oh so precious nap time provides.
But lately, I have found myself appropriating the term for many other areas in my life. For example,the never ending,irresistible "re-set" of interior design; of putting away all the pumpkins, Indian corn, and colored leaves and pulling all the Christmas decorations from under window seats and staircases, from stacked basement storage, closet shelves and drawers to transform our living spaces to a Christmas "RESET"
After our vacation to Nashville we returned to Avery's meticulous handiwork...our lower level "re-set" in Benjamin Moore Sandy Hook Grey. It was worth the eight years of indecision to have the area, as Becky so well put it, "the way it was always meant to be." It was so rewarding to gather pieces of furniture and accessories from around the house to complete the metamorphosis.
In the midst of Christmas cookie baking mania this week, "reset" was a welcome intermission period of washing all the bowls and utensils, cleaning off the kitchen counters and putting away all the ingredients and clutter to afford a renewed enthusiasm to pull out another recipe and plunge back into the sweet smelling fray.
"Re-sets" can be physical and emotional, too. Two days after our return from Tennessee I came down with THE flu, and was down for four weeks before I returned to "life". Three weeks on the couch. Three weeks of wondering if I was really ever going to feel better. Three weeks realizing that for people with chronic and terminal conditions, there is little or no hope for the day they will wake without their symptoms. When my day of finally feeling better arrived it came with a much deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation.
Finally, but certainly most primarily (essentially, chiefly, principally!) I am noting the strong work of the Holy Spirit in a "re-setting" of spiritual aspects of my life. Last year I felt the clear, familiar sense of God "calling me out of Bible Study Fellowship" involvement for this year. As has always been the case in these "sabbatical years", God has filled my time with a variety of "Independent Studies". He is powerfully "re-setting" my spiritual frame of mind in a wonderful variety of ways, providing continual, profound instruction through my quiet times in His Word as well as through a stack of potent books, among them, "Let Go" by Francoise Fenelon,"Seeking Him" and "Choosing Forgiveness" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, "God's Plan To Protect His People In The Coming Depression" by David Wilkerson,"Boundaries" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, "Speaking The Truth In Love" by Ruth Koch and Kenneth Haugk, "The Love Dare" by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, and "The Practice Of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence. My journal has been filled this fall in an effort to record and remind myself of Him speaking to me through outstanding sermons and conferences and seminars on applying what I am learning in LIVING with a growing focus on Christ; filtering my challenges through His model for living, not the worlds'. Perhaps sweetest, in the past year, He has brought, one after another, no less than twelve old friends back into my life. The times spent with these special people have taught, encouraged, challenged and healed me. I am MOST in awe of this precious method of "re-set" in my life and reminded that God knows us better than we know ourselves and always knows the "key" needed to unlock the closed doors in our souls. I am so very thankful for the great gift God has given me in these interactions...these INTERVENTIONS in my life!
The concept is simple and exciting...just push that RE-SET button, but EVERYTHING is a choice and most correct choices in life are NOT easy or painless....just essential since acquiring knowledge without applying it is useless without hitting "RE-SET" in my life.
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Ok. So who could conceive of it getting better? I don't think I am going to be able to leave here....Seriously. The beautiful colored leaves are on the trees and the sun is shining. All my fibromyalgia symptoms have subsided. And we are again reminded that IF we could convince our kids to move with us, we'd be here in a heartbeat!...Seriously....AGAIN!
It's everything, really. The charming homes with the rockers on long front porches and the twisting, narrow, grey rock bordered roads that weave up and down and around the hilly terrain. There are no shoulders on these two lane thoroughfares, only zig zagging cedar fences and in some places shallow stone walls built by slaves and former slaves long ago. The beauty on both sides distracts me from the fear I'd normally reserve for boarding a plane for a flight. People are used to the challenge of driving as though they are on a road rally. I mean, the two lanes are REALLY narrow, and there REALLY is no shoulder, just falls down into ditches or little ravines of brush, and when you approach the top of a hill, you hope, assume, pray that whoever is about to crest in the other lane is, in fact, IN the OTHER lane and not yours. Helen tells me that Eric sometimes terrifies her by turning his headlights off and speeding down the hills at night. That would be MY personal nightmare, but for today it is so unbelievably, glowingly gorgeous here that even I flip the "fear switch" to "off".
It's not only the leaves staying on the trees whose Michigan and Indiana cousins have lost theirs...it's the adventure of enjoying the more exotic Southern landscape. The impressive, glossy Magnolias and the storey and a half tall "nosegay's" of Crepe Myrtle. People here have taken their summer plantings out and entry gardens are now planted with pansies and kales and other hearty decorative vegetation to make winter not seem anywhere near as desperate as "up north".
Sleeping with the windows open here means waking to the sounds of unfamiliar birds. This morning there were two North Carolina Wrens on the deck railing. I've admired them in my bird books, but had never seen them. They are adorable with their little, perky, upturned tails and pretty, pretty song. The two of them sat together on the top of a deck post and sang at each other.
Last night we had the BEST adventure! Helen and Eric had been invited to their next door neighbor's home for Gumbo along with several other neighbors, and the hosts told them to bring us along. Oh, Oh, Oh! We are talking about AUTHENTIC Creole cooking...and two big pots of Gumbo File ( pronounced Fee-lay. A Creole spice made of powdered Sassafras leaves) rice, roast, collard or "glory" greens and an evening that was one of a kind in MY life to date. Our hostess, Lorraine is one of nine children, and three of her four sisters were in attendance. They'd all gathered in New Orleans for a reunion and then, with a car full of luggage and seafood, they headed north to Lorraine and Charles home in Hermitage. Having met these women, it had to be a WILD trip, and it is also hard to imagine what a house full of nine such animated siblings growing up must have been like! Hospitality and humor and vivaciousness to the max! There were two huge pots. One with Gumbo File with chicken, sausage, crab and shrimp....the other with all these PLUS okra and oysters. ?WHICH do YOU think I selected? Pearl, Lorraine's sister,( a 67 year old woman I feel obligated to mention had a body any 25year old would die for...REALLY) prepared my bowl for me and carefully explained the gumbo to me in her beautiful Louisiana drawl.
I will try to be succinct. You know that is not my style. I really don't know how to describe those hours, but must try because last night's "Gumbo Party" was something I will NEVER forget! More dreamlike than real to me since NOTHING in it looked like my life except, of course, Steve and Helen and Eric were there too. I sat in a room crammed with people of different colors and cultures, eating the most astoundingly "out of this world...there just aren't words" food, surrounded by people telling jokes and laughing to the point of tears. At one point I actually inhaled a piece of rice from my Gumbo File and was choking. I thought how embarassing it'd be to have to have someone to call an ambulance, but I looked around and everyone was howling at the joke and I thought the real trouble might be that I'd slip to the floor unconcious and no one would even notice as another, even more hilarious joke was shared!
What I really like is the civility of the Bible Belt South. The "Yessir" and "Nomaams"and the shaking of hands and the friendly waving on the street to strangers. The courtesy shown and expected. Extending a trusting friendliness, even to strangers as opposed to an aloof and defensive nature.
We're staying an extra day. Maybe we can use the time to come up with a plan to tempt our kids to move down here with us.....
Friday, November 6, 2009
We're back in Nashville with our dear friends, Helen and Eric and I am sharing a final cup of Teavana "Jasmine Dragon Pearls/Rooibos Tropica" with Helen and deprogramming from the day.
We didn't waste a minute this first full day in "Music City", deciding to start our vacation by trying something new. We traveled across town to see the newly released "A Christmas Carol" with Jim Carrey...in 3D...in an IMAX theatre!!!!!!All four of us were impressed to say the least.Although I am an exaggerator, it truly is more accurate to say we were "blown away" by the experience. Five minutes into it, I didn't want the movie ( and it's effect on me) to end. About two thirds of the way through I admit I started to close my eyes in flying scenes because my stomach was beginning to flip in ways it hasn't since my last Ferris Wheel or Tilt-a-Whirl experiences. REALLY. After the movie, Helen took me to most definitely "upscale" Green Hills shopping area of Nashville. We had a wonderful lunch at "The Cheesecake Factory" and spent time caressing books in a terrific bookstore on our way to J.Jill.
Yes,Megan and Avery and Adam and Caity, I finally used my carefully hoarded gift certificates! I got a wonderful grey corduroy jacket that was SO SO worth the wait. I loved it so much that I wore it out of the shop...along with a new pair of earrings that look terrific with it ( and my grey hair). So, THANKS AGAIN for the treat! After walking past shops I've only heard of (L'Occitane!!!) we drove to a newer shopping development to make my first visit to ( ...drum roll, please...) ANTHROPOLOGIE!!! I don't even know how to describe that, except I was not prepared for the resulting "creativity overload" to my system. Colors, textures, whimsy, retro ( I mean the thrill of seeing the inspiration coming from the "30's and '40's...not the 60's and '70's. I've been THERE, DONE THAT, and don't so highly recommend dredging all of that up!) This was just the most incredible exclamations of delight, one after another ricocheting between Helen and I. It made me realize that I have been on a starvation diet as far as creativity goes for too long! This one visit to this wonderful place just may have given me enough motivation to power through the coming dark months. OH MY!!!! On our way home, we stopped at Vanderbilt so Helen could retrieve something from her office in the psychiatry building. It was nice, after all these years of imagining her working in a place to actually SEE it. I am happy that when we talk in the future, I will know what her office looks like. We trekked home and I chatted via Skype with my Australian pal, Judy who is kicking off her summer with a garage sale tomorrow. After Helen's wonderful soup for dinner, we played back to back laptops on the kitchen table and talked and laughed until the energy plug was pulled on this day.
I know that despite the total stimulatory overload, I will sleep very well. And tomorrow is another day! It's Eric's birthday so we are preparing ourselves for those festivities, and who knows what other big adventures!(Please insert R.apid L.ittle H.andclap's here) Steve was right. This IS going to be a wonderful vacation!
POST SCRIPT: Okay. I COULD NOT sleep. The last time I looked at the clock it was going on 3:30am. Maybe the delicious Teavana was alittle too high octane for late night, or laughter to the point of tears is too stimulating. Guess we'll have to think about acting in a more sober manner later in the day.
Saturday, October 31, 2009
Imagine my surprise to find this little vignette at the dogs' dishes following a visit by the little Pompettes and Hannekenites! Thirty year old Fisher-Price farm animals thoughtfully led to eat and drink by some little someone.To watch different styles and stages of play emerging in Eden(3), Ellis(2), and Judah(1) is more fun than I ever could have imagined. Even Norah is obviously eyeing up her sister and cousins and struggles to "engage" though at 6 months, sitting up and playing peek a boo are her biggest accomplishments.
Being a "YaYa" is more fun than I could have imagined, even with the over the top descriptions of grandparenting by friends who "passed this way" before me. What I missed in "participation" twenty five years ago as I struggled to keep up with four urchins, five years old and under, I am making up for now as I frequently answer the call to "healing" albeit through the strange doctoring methods of a toddler. (Best purchase of the last six months...a Target Dr's Kit. I figured before I purchased it that if I was the "patient" I would be able to spend some time laying on my back on the sofa as I was "cured"...I particularly enjoy these healing sessions later in the afternoons) The kids are all most fascinated by the hypodermic needle and often go for the plastic pharmaceuticals before doing any testing. Ellis will cycle once or twice through all the diagnostics, however,punctuating the examinations with," Now do this..."
We do lots of coloring, which I like so much that Steve bought me my very own,virginal,telescoping mongo Crayola set which sits safely encased in it's cellophane in "my room". It is fascinating to watch the little one's fine motor skills grow through coloring. Eden has moved into a phase of carefully drawing intricate small interlocking figures while Ellis has a more vibrant, Jackson Pollack style and requests that I "Draw Baby", at which time I am required to draw a circle after which Ms. Hanneken tells me the particular facial part I am to fill in next. It is clear in ALL these games, WHO is the boss and who is the "bossed".
Judah just goes for the (new) Fisher Price Nativity scene. It has EVERYTHING he admires in a good toy: Animals, music when you push a button, more animals, light on when you push the button, a monkey, building parts you must snap together at his direction, lots of dogs from several FP sets, Strawberry Shortcake character "pets, and finally...out come the Pretty Ponies ( he loves 'em).
Eden has recently taken to a fuzzy duck hand puppet my Mom made for the kids when they were ittle-bitty. She repeats his sad, sad story. He is "Duck-a-lor" and he is very lonesome because one night his Mom and Dad and sister and little brother all left him and flew "far far away to Old Mexico"....and it takes three days to get there. ( It is difficult not to guffaw at these gems, but you KNOW it'd break the spell. As it is, sometimes, when I start playing with Judah and make the donkey talk, he will stop and give me a look that ABSOLUTELY says, "You DO know you are making a fool of yourself, don't you? These are plastic animals, you know that, right, YaYa?"
We don't give Judah enough credit, though. He understands everything we say. Yesterday Steve mentioned that the Small Sesame Street finger puppet of Bert with the mangled black dread locks had been in mouths of innumerable children over the past thirty years...as we grimaced over the thought,he looked us straight in the eye and inserted the nasty thing in his mouth and gave it a good tongue bath.
I think I should do an ad for Fisher Price toys. I am so thankful I held onto the kids favorite toys for these three decades. It is so gratifying to watch these little ones enjoy the toys every bit as much as their Mom's did once upon a time. Of course I have to watch them more carefully as thirty year old "little people" are choking hazards. But to see Ellis pick up the FP camera with the rotating "FLASHCUBE"(remember those?) and say "Take a pitcha...Say cheeze...CUTE ONE!"...or to have Uncle Christian see his nephew, Judah enjoying a little Tomy gas pump and exclaim, "Hey, that's mine!" It's really almost TOO MUCH FUN...but I don't really think that is possible, do you?
Sunday, October 25, 2009
Only complete color blindness could cause a person to miss the dazzling color reminders in the leaves. Every year I wish I could finally name the exquisitely dramatic color of the tree the Cardinals and Cedar Waxwings so love in our back yard... That and find some way to keep those breathtaking leaves on the tree to stare at for just alittle longer.
Just like a high school marching band after weeks of practice,the ragged, zig zag fluttering lines of honking geese are now sleek "V's" ready for the big trip south.
Steve's motorcycle is(safely) pinned into the nose of the garage by the golf cart which made it's way from Sandy Pines to hibernate in town for the winter.
Spring and summer birds have left, replaced by the Juncos, Chickadees and bossy Blue Jays. There are surprising new friends: male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks,a Yellow Shafted Flicker, and best of all a small colony of beautiful little Red-breasted Nuthatches.
The water is off at the lake. Three carloads of "stuff" that didn't get anywhere near enough use this summer have "come home" along with the contents of cupboards and refrigerators
Those brilliant Mercurochrome ( a good attempt at that perfect color name...)leaves are showcased by the grey skies. Time to begin early morning coffee "dates" with my little (life saving)S.A.D. Light Box.
All the shrubs and plants have been cut back. Following my Grandma's example, I am now enjoying my geraniums indoors on my sun porch. Best of all, my friend, Donna took what the marauding rabbits and moles left of my overgrown "cottage garden" and transformed it to a more Fibromyalgia friendly, minimum upkeep garden. Every time I look out the front door I see the new little flagstone path and bench. In the Spring, all kinds of new perennial "friends" will introduce themselves and finally, I will have DAFFODILS and new tulips that Donna has kept a "surprise".
The garage has been cleaned.The "flotsam and jetsam" left behind when Christian's Conestoga Wagon ( Ford Taurus) headed west to California has been absorbed into the basement leaving us ready to more effectively battle the trails of slush and dislodged ice chunks of the coming months.
The fall house cleaning has been done...even surprised the family with a turkey dinner with all the trimmings to further confirm it's "that time of year", and the huge bag of apples I "earned" in exchange for loving on Ellis and Norah while their Mom picked at Crane's Orchard has been turned into a stack of pies in the freezer to be parcelled out as comfort food as needed through the winter.
We are definitely "all buttoned up" for fall...and beyond.
Monday, September 28, 2009
During my first year in Bible Study Fellowship, a study of Moses which included God giving His Commandments to the Israelites, I was "blown away" by a fellow discussion group member's comment about the Sabbath. She told us that she had been raised to honor the Sabbath as a day of rest. When she went to Nursing School ,though it had been challenging, she had diligently rested, never studying or doing any school work on Sundays through her entire college career. I remember wondering if my face exposed the shock I felt internally as I juggled this example of obedience...with the realization of how MY Sabbath Day looked. MY day...that was obviously how I thought of it. My "catch up day"..."Get a jump start on the week."
I am still a work in progress...God continues to chip away at me.
Don't miss this video clip ...secure it firmly to the "refrigerator door" of your heart! (Thanks to Steve and Becky for enabling me, the technically challenged, to share this video played at our church service this past Sunday!)
Thursday, September 3, 2009
This morning we got out of bed and before the phone could ring to call us to some important task....we escaped.
Since I was a little girl I was raised knowing that before you leave the house for longer than a day, you thoroughly clean the house, do all the laundry, empty your ironing baskets and water the plants. For me it was an OCD-ish habit but it was so gratifying to have Steve express such
appreciation when opening the door on a spotless, clean smelling home after a journey that...well, let's just say the habit was reinforced.
..Until this morning.
We escaped. We ran away from the summer that never or barely was. From the "unscripted", fly by the seat of your pants, spontaneous summer. It has been a month since we spent a night out here and that was a visit with the Nashville Hatfields squeezed tightly between Steve's trip to West Virginia and our trip to Wisconsin/Upper Michigan....followed rapid fire with Steve and Christian heading to So. California via Nashville, Midland, Texas, and Phoenix, Az.
But this morning, we grabbed the essentials; laptops, dogs,Bibles and journals and our travelors full of coffee...and took off for the lake. I'm telling you that if for some reason the police found their way into our condo right now, they'd label it "ransacked", no doubt about it. But for this one day it was so worth it. Spontaneity today was a surprise visit by Becky and the babies ( I wonder how long that big girl reading Cinderella on her Boppa's lap is going to allow us to call her a "baby"?) No schedules, just feeding little one's who tell us they're "Hun -geee" when they asked for it. And don't tell anyone, but we fed them what was here. ( I did tell you that we escaped with the basics) Those kiddos had all the nutrients one could scrounge from Goldfish crackers, lemon-poppyseed mini-muffins, Lucky Charms, Craisins, and applesauce. Because THIS is summer and THIS is YaYa and Boppa's place at Sandy Pines.
Tonight it is so quiet and beautiful...Many kids are already back in school. Traffic will pick up tomorrow as people arrive for the big, holiday weekend. The last fling of campfires, fireworks, cruising of pontoon boats and golf carts. But for tonight, it's just the tree frogs and crickets and an outstanding sunset in colors which really have no names. THE BEST.
Tomorrow we dash back into town for a funeral. Then Steve accompanies Becky on a road trip to Traverse City where she is photographing a wedding this weekend. I dive back into training materials and scheduling for programs beginning next weekend...and of course, redeem that "ransacked" condo...you get the picture.
But for tonight, THIS is the life. THIS is our summer night to remember in the middle of February when we think summer will never return again.
Thursday, August 27, 2009
Nature plays a big part in it all. Nature is all around, controlling lifestyles more than it seems in metropolitan areas under The Bridge, in the land of the Trolls. The vegetation is lush and dense. The clumps of birch trees , expensive and temperamental in suburban landscapes, flourish for miles and miles along the sides of roads in the North. Rural buildings abandoned by once hopeful pioneers are rapidly swallowed up in vegetation as nature rushes to reclaim it's own. It's always impressed me as having such a sense of isolation. The Big Lake...Michigan, rolls in and briefly out of view, mile upon mile of breathtaking views, sans boats, sans people, sans anything but nature as it's always been there. It grabs your attention and humbles you somehow. The lake could be the ocean, deep and dark, beautiful and dangerous. We drove past the area my family always referred to as "Up on the shore". There, nature's harshness caused my great grandfather and his young sons recently emigrated from Sweden to throw their lot into commercial fishing with the neighboring Frenchmen when homesteading around the original sod home failed to support the family adequately.
And interestingly,"Cultural Diversity" takes on a new "complexion" when you drive over The Bridge, as well. It was never difficult for me to understand "Dutch Pride"and the tongue in cheek,"if you ain't dutch you ain't much" when we made the move to West Michigan because I grew up with pride in my Swedish heritage well blended with patriotism for America. But once over The Bridge, the sensitivities of anyone at all schooled in "political correctness" are quickly aroused. In the land of the Hiawatha National Forest, where roadways, lakes, and a multitude of town names point to Native American origin, there is grumbling about how the Indians ruined perch fishing with their indiscriminate use of nets, over fishing resulting in almost no perch left in the lake. Conversations with older people recounting some incident in the community will quite naturally add that a person is part Indian. Driving along a stretch of stunningly beautiful wilderness highway where signs warning motorists to watch for ELK pop up now and again also provides prime commercial frontage for "Honest Injun John's ReSale"... a rickety, hand painted sign in front of a rickety-er, unpainted house with heaps of all sorts of junk...'er "merchandise". Then there's the shock of contrast...encountering the offense of gaudy, blinged-up signs advertising the local Tribal Casino sitting in the middle of the stunningly untouched wilderness..the "forest primeval."
I'm not certain why this trip hit me in a more intense, emotional manner. Maybe it was the unsettling, totally "unscripted" nature of our IMPROMPTU summer leading up to the trip...or that I was attending my 40th High School Reunion ( how did THAT happen???). All I know is that a month later I feel as though I am still "processing" the powerful emotional dichotomy of being drawn to the incredible beauty and peace of the place ; hearing of old classmates retiring from careers around the country to return "home" ......with the sense that I needed to run as quickly as possible to escape the visceral pull of that undeniable peace and stunning beauty before I got somehow sucked back. It'd be so easy, maybe, really...to move to this very foreign land.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
I don't mind doing dishes and never have. I remember the special "sisterhood" shared by the Mom's, Aunties, and Grandmas growing up in the times before automatic dishwashers ; Of sitting on a kitchen chair, listening to the snippets of laughter and conversation whipping around the sink synchronized with the flapping of rapidly dampened, hand embroidered, flour sack dishtowels in the hands of the aunties. Out at the cottage, the water was first pumped into a big white porcelain pail, then brought in to heat on the wood stove before being poured into the huge metal dishpan sitting on the table. I can still hear and feel the ubiquitous sand at the bottom of the pan...and see my little 4'8" Grandma open the screen door to fling the pan's dirty water on her thriving grove of lilacs. It was no small task to feed and then clean up after 20 people eating my Grandmother's Sunday Smorgasbords or Thanksgiving dinners. The more I think of it, while I don't mind the few dishes in my Sandy Pines sink after breakfast for two, maybe I WOULD mind the dishes tackled by the womenfolk of my youth!
This morning, however, my thoughts were focused on Ruth Martin and June Cleaver...Timmy and Beaver's Moms. My addiction to television isn't a new thing. I had a weekly date to watch "Big Top" and "Circus Boy" at my Grandma's before we got our own "glowing rectangle" ( thanks, Adam!) I was a goner. I truly believe my love of blue willow dishes stems from all the blue willow dishes I watched Ruth Martin wash in her farm sink as Timmy's Dad, Paul drank another cup of coffee before heading out to the barn to help Gus. When I finally got my own set of Blue Willow in the early '80's I honestly felt I could finally emulate Ruth. What a role model. I mean, did June Lockhart ever play anyone not trustworthy, sweet and comforting? She's Mom, standing by her sink with her hands in the dishwater, always with an understanding smile on her face. "The Madonna of the Blue Willow".
June Cleaver wore rubber gloves. This was doubtlessly to spare her manicure. Anyone decked out in those neat as a pin shirtwaist dresses complete with earrings and pearls around the neck HAD to wear rubber gloves! How very CHIC!!! So Barbara Billingsley raised the bar for me. I decided that one day my children would drink their everyday milk in goblets, just like Wally and the Beav.....and there was formal dining room for DINNER. Not supper, DINNER. Now that was something.
Manners were NON NEGOTIABLE! We shared this basic tenet with Timmy, Wally and Theodore. White anklets with shoes. White gloves at the very least for Easter and often on Sunday's when your very best clothes were always worn, freshly washed and pressed. June and Ruth both in hats. I have not worn a hat since one was plopped atop my fresh, and most offensively Toni Home Permanented hair and while I certainly don't think the white socks, gloves and chapeaus are a "salvation issue" I confess to missing the underlying message of respect those trappings spoke to. This summer I have been to three beautiful weddings representing months of planning and expense. Wedding parties dressed in carefully selected gowns and formal wear, looking their very best for the "day of their lives"....only to be met by a handful of guests wearing ragged bottomed cargo shorts, wrinkled shirts and sandals.
And here's my point: I think people make a big thing these days of dragging down and disposing of the icons of the past as not necessary and a bother. The banner of "Whatever works for you is just fine" in the effort to legitimize poor behavior today. The Martin and Cleaver families are said to have never existed...just a stereotypical image foisted on the public. For those of you who weren't there to experience it, I must tell you that isn't true. It was a comfort to live in times when right was right and wrong was wrong...and everyone knew which was which. It never felt like the dark ages before "enlightenment." Rather, it felt secure and comfortable... without pharmaceutical support. There was nothing wrong with aspiring to be "the Cleavers" or "the Martins". Now, just as then, inherently sinful humans continually fall short, but how can striving to present yourselves in the most decent light be a bad thing? What is so noble about settling for the lowest common denominator in life? ...or worse, setting about to establish a lower low? We weren't oddballs, by the way. Everyone we knew was emulating the Cleavers. Dads and Moms, Aunts and Uncles, Grandmas and Grandpas , everyone at work and school and church...all worked hard to provide the best food and shelter and clothing they could afford for their families. I expect families were all functioning with a better sense of the difference between "need" and "want" and there was never a question that sacrificing for your family and those in need around you always trumped something that might bring personal gratification.
I mean, just as you KNEW Lassie was going to run into that dangerously unstable mine shaft to rescue Timmy, was there ever a question of Ruth or Paul or June or Ward not doing the right thing...usually the hard thing? In that same way you KNEW you could trust your family to do what was right and best if it was at all within their power to do so. Remember the sad look on Ruth's face when she had to send Timmy to his room without his dinner? She was standing there next to the sink full of dishes, dish towel in her hand as she placed Timmy's plate of food in the icebox....
Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Summer as a child stretched on and on in a seemingly never ending parade of empty days, hours, minutes it was my responsibility to fill with activities of my choice.
...Not so much summers these days. I admit to adopting a surly, completely anti-social attitude of late, frustrated by the constant egg timer ticking in my head reminding me that Michigan summer is short and slipping through my fingers and the plethora of obligations that drag me away from that winter dream of doing "nothing". Clearly I needed a change of attitude. I stood with a pout, arms crossed tightly across my chest until God threw afew "SPEED BUMPS" into my life to grab my attention.
The first "SPEED BUMP" came in the form of a large cherry tree outside our sunporch.On a calm, sunny day it was shaking as though weathering a wild wind storm. Closer examination revealed an amazing thing. The tree was FULL of Cedar Wax Wings plucking cherries from the tree branches as though competing in some sort of contest to see who could snatch and gulp most, fastest. I've only seen a couple of Cedar Wax Wings in my life. Here was a whole tree full of them right outside my window! A gift for nothing more than slowing myself long enough to wonder why the tree was shaking so...
But, we move on with all haste from these little "miracles" in our lives to the next tantrum over what seems to be an imperfection in our day. My next "SPEED BUMP" more effectively stopped me in my tracks.
Scooter, our sweet little dog very suddenly went from not being himself to obviously very ill. We were able to bring him to the clinic right away. The Dr. took Xrays and examined him but could not put his (very experienced finger) on what was happening. He sent us home with a couple of medications to treat the symptoms we had described. Scoot grew worse that night and I was truly surprised that he survived to morning. He stopped eating and drinking and a return Vet visit resulted in him spending a night and part of a day in the animal hospital to be re-hydrated and undergo more testing....which resulted in nothing...dog no better...still no diagnosis. We knew we would NOT go the route of a neurological consult at MSU. He is beloved but we are practical. So, he returned home on special food and four medications, still a very sick dog. The plan being that we would love him to pieces until his "quality of life" deteriorated to the point that we had to make THE difficult final decision. This episode stopped my life long enough to make me realize how I have been thinking of our two little dogs as something of a nuisance of late, and also how dear they truly are to us. We almost had to lose Scooter to appreciate how big a place Scooter and his fluffy sister, Idgie hold in our hearts. Which inevitably makes you realize HOW MUCH MORE IMPORTANT are the PEOPLE I am taking for granted in my life?
Slowly, day by day he has returned to his old, "normal" self. All the angst (and we won't mention the gobs of money spent at the Vet)... and we have no idea what the problem was....but we come away SO thankful that he is enjoying life with us and we with him again!
The third "SPEED BUMP" pinned me down for nearly two days in a row. Nasty, nasty storms went through our area . Violent thunder and lightning for a steady hour and a half the first night left people amazed at the amount of rain that fell ....until the second day when three storms "trained" their way through the area dumping "Once in a hundred year" amounts of rain which put "us" on the national news with washed out roadways, flooded basements and downed trees and power lines. We came through unscathed. Only a small amount of food pitched when power went out at the lake. A broken tree branch. A microwave oven zapped in the storm miraculously ( for one who is not technically inclined) reset itself.
"What I am trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving." Matthew 6:32 ( The Message)
Relax and Rejoice in what God is giving....Respond in gratitude for all He gives!
The Holy Spirit is ALWAYS tapping me on the shoulder, trying to get my attention, opening my eyes to what it really important around me.When I insist on ignoring Him and forging ahead, His "tapping" gets ever more persistent. How thankful I am for His never ending patience with my stubborn spirit! How foolish of me to be irritated by these things that are in fact blessings in my life..opportunities He places in my life hour by hour, day by day for HIS purposes, not mine.I am resolved to pay attention to that "tap". I truly want to CHOOSE to live life spontaneously, more in the moment, watchful for His assignments to fill my days, hours, and minutes.
Saturday, May 30, 2009
Moving out here for the season is always such a process. But because of the relative shortness of summer here we are determined to be out on the lake as much as possible...to squeeze out every last bit of warmth and sunshine and blooming gardens and barefeet on the beach and sunsets that look JUST like the old-timey pastel-colored postcards from the 1920's and '30's. And so, we load up carload after carload of clothes, food, books, knitting, laptop computers, coffee,dog paraphernalia, grandbaby paraphernalia, food, TV's, new plants for garden, food, games, wine, food,clean bedding and towels, toiletries, food and food and head to Lake Monterey.
We are in the second year of adjusting to this new place and slowly making it "ours". The inspirations...the things we want to do to recreate this place are exciting and daunting. There is no lack of inspiration . I have all sorts of wonderful ideas to make this the cottage of my (modest) dreams. But more often than not, when I consider the energy or funding necessary to pull these dreams off, it is easier to sigh and be distracted watching the Great Blue Heron fish for his dinner from the dock just across the cove from us. (He is there right now, beautiful and huge!) Or to find the nesting tree for which the female Oriole is so feverishly collecting materials.
Lake life teeters between the real sense of lowered blood pressure .....and ANGST over all the work that needs doing around here. Life slows and "obligations" back in town take a back seat to enjoying a new sense of multi-tasking: simultaneously enjoying a sunset, a sudoku puzzle and a glass of wine.
"Summer is so short and we really need to sit back and enjoy it!"
"Summer is so short and we really need to get these projects completed around here!"
For this weekend though I WILL BE CONTENT to:
Marvel at how quickly my Autumn Clematis is reestablishing itself on the trellis ( which I want to paint a cheerful color...oh oh!).
Become acquainted with our new neighbors who earlier this week dashed over to help Christian who was trying to get the dock into the water by himself . We will accept their offer to join them at their campfire...NICE people.
Go through my old design magazines to cut out ideas of fun things we COULD do to "scratch" my interior design itch AND make this place even more wonderful.
Watch the robins and orioles so busy with nest-building. And the chipmunks and squirrels gathering acorns and the little seeds at the ends of the "helicopters" fallen from the trees, dashing back and forth in such haste, as though there weren't ample oak tree treats for every rodent in Allegan County x10!
I really should do something...but I think I'll just have another cup of coffee, enjoy being able to have the windows open to the cool breeze off the lake, and watch the Blue Flag Iris spears open in my garden . As Miss Scarlett always says, "Fiddle de dee. Tomorrow is another day."
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Saturday, May 2, 2009
Monday, April 6, 2009
...OH NO!!! To the Euchre Card drawer with you!
A LISTING OF COLORS NOT UNDER THE CHRISTMAS TREE IN 1959:
Mango Tango, Tumbleweed, Mauvelous, Manatee, Outer Space ( I love this one!), Sonic Silver, Wild Blue Yonder Asparagus, Blush, Fern, Big Dip O'Ruby, Tickle Me Pink, Purple Mountain's Majesty, Bittersweet, Shadow, Purple Pizzazz, Mountain Meadow, Razzmatazz, Shimmering, Wild Strawberry, Timberwolf, Razzle Dassle, Eggplant, Steel Blue, Cyber Grape, Illuminating Emerald, Magenta Electrasant, Shamrock, Sheen Green, Macaroni and Cheese, Fuzzy Wuzzy, Metallic Sunburst, Jazzberry Jam, Blast Off Bronze, Alloy Orange, Pink Sherbet, Razzmic Berry.