It’s Never too Late

Monarch Butterfly

We live in a world of second chances.  How often are we offered the opportunity to turn our mistakes around? The Christian faith is a religion of second chances. We mess up and God forgives us. Again and again.

Saturday was Earth Day — a time when we celebrate the gift of our beautiful world. This year many used the occasion to try to bring attention to humanity’s misuse of the planet.

We hear about holes in the ozone layer, climate change, glaciers melting, certain creatures becoming extinct, and the steady depletion of our resources. Some are frightened by what we hear. Some would say that this is simply the natural order of a world evolving. It has happened in our history before. Probably true, since scientists say California was once a huge glacier and dinosaurs roamed about. Should we try to be more responsible, work to turn things around? Some say that there is no point. A controversy, for sure.

By the way, I’m kinda glad the world evolved to the point we are now. We’re not living on an icecap and dinos are no longer with us. I mean, the commute is horrible when it sleets  …. and hitting a deer is bad enough, a dinosaur would really mess up your car. So ultimately things work for the best. But I digress.

Most of us have heard of the Dust Bowl of the Dirty Thirties. Years of over-using the soil finally took its toll. There were several suggested solutions to our ecological crisis and Franklin Roosevelt, in his first 100 days in office, began soil conservation programs. Congress argued about what needed to happen, about spending money on a lost cause. It took years, (too long a story for this blog) but there was recovery.

So, we can turn it around if we want to. My wonderful niece, Leah*, has a farm that she and her husband have made into a way station for Monarch butterflies. Each spring she hosts more than she can count. Just a few years ago Monarchs were believed to be vanishing. People like Leah have intentionally invited them to stay, offering them a safe place to rest as they migrate.

And just yesterday, the wild flowers (aka weeds) in my yard were nourishing several honey bees!

Well, you certainly got the “Limited” side of my point of view today. In school, science was my worst subject and I took it only because I wanted to graduate. You might be wondering what the point of this message is. If I’ve done my job, I’m not supposed to have to tell you. But here goes:

All is not lost. Whatever mistakes we have made, wherever we are in life, it’s not too late to turn it around.

*Visit Leah May Horsley on Facebook and like her Butterfly Bluff Gardens page for information on plants that attract butterflies and many other gardening tips. Thanks to Leah for the lovely picture at the top of this post.

 

Just the Fax

Wonderful opportunities come my way as a result of having access to a Fax machine.

I have had several offers for bargain weekend accommodations at Branson or Cancun. I’ve never taken advantage of these invitations. I’m just a little skeptical. I have to wonder what sort of hotel room is available in a resort town for the price they quote. “Certain restrictions apply”? “Available only during hurricane season”? or “Double occupancy only”?

I know. Usually the “guests” are subjected to a hard-sell presentation for a time-share somewhere in the vicinity. So much for the vacation lures.

However, a fax message that caught my attention recently stated that I am pre-approved for a $69,000 small business loan. Whoa! I don’t own a small business but I might just start one. After all, I’m pre-approved.

My latest correspondence informed me that I am “being considered for inclusion into the 2017 Women of Distinction …”  I will be listed among “the most accomplished professionals . . . for having expert status” in my field. All I have to do is fill out the form and fax it back in. (It’s interesting they want to include me when they don’t even know my name.)

What is it about my life that inspired this recognition? I’m a Mom, a Grandma, and a (Great) Grandma Dot. I will admit I excel at that. When I kiss a boo boo it stays kissed.

I’m a writer. Wow! How exciting if I were being honored for my fiction. But, alas, I doubt it.

I’m also an amateur actor. But applause during the curtain call is really all the kudos I need there.

I’m a secretary, which is the position that gives me access to the fax. Perhaps this is where I have gained distinction. I answer the phone promptly – usually – and operate a mean copy machine. I can shred like nobody’s business. I can also perform “other duties as assigned.” Let’s face it, a good secretary/ administrative assistant keeps the place running and everyone on task, but seldom wins awards for her/his job performance. Satisfaction comes from knowing that the lowest person on the totem pole is often what holds up the whole cotton-picking totem pole.

So, there it is. Fill out the form and be included in the Secretary Hall of Fame. I’m being seriously considered. Maybe even pre-approved.

 

And the TP Controversy Lives On

What a surprise for me to find that some were offended by my letter to the Arkansas Democrat Gazette.

I was trying to be funny.

Okay. One of the first things writers learn is that humor is subjective. What amuses one, goes over their neighbor’s head. What makes one laugh, might anger another. Someone takes your hyperbole literally. Perhaps I should have put quote marks around “wrong.”

What I had hoped to convey (in a humorous way) is how we pass over the important issues and let the trivial raise our hackles. It was (supposed to be) a hint that maybe we all should lighten up a bit. Another thing writers hear is: don’t try to explain your humor. So I’m done with that.

However, I was NOT criticizing the artist. If I knew his/her name I would give credit. I would never be critical of anyone who can draw a picture in which the object is recognizable.

While I may be stupid, as one insinuated, that is a matter of opinion. I am not ignorant (there’s a difference) to the original instructions for hanging toilet paper. I knew the U.S. Patent office cleared that up years ago.

I just find it ludicrous that anyone who doesn’t live in my house should care so deeply about how I install the TP roll. Again, an attempt at humor.

So, consider me properly chastised. Now we can get back to the important issues.

Is it INvelope or AHNvelope?

The uncredited drawing appeared in the Arkansas Democrat Gazette on February 17 and again on February 18, 2017. The letter to the editor appeared February 22. This post is not intended to speak in any way to the issue the Op-ed and Editorial addressed.

How to Kill a Perfectly Good Saturday

Once or twice a year I vow I must clean the closet in the guest room. This is my indoor, long/short-term storage space. Every time I clean or straighten it I find items I had forgotten existed or else something I had been hunting for months.

I remembered that on the shelves above is the long-term storage of board games rarely played and 1990-era Happy Meal toys. The 18 gallon plastic tub in the floor against the back wall holds Legos. The side shelves house rolls of Christmas wrap, boxes and bags, tissue, and various types of gift-wrapping supplies.

The remainder consists of short-term items I needed to get out of the way temporarily because a guest was arriving to use the guest room. I had pushed them inside this space to deal with later. And later is now.

I begin with strong resolve, sorting the new-and-used gift bags and tissue into two categories to store in plastic bins: Christmas and not Christmas. I make a mental note (not the most effective sort of note for me): DO NOT EVER BUY TISSUE PAPER AGAIN. EVER. Also, do not purchase a gift that does not fit in a bag.

Continuing, I find 6-7 afghans. Most were knitted by me at different stages of my knitting expertise. One belonged to Pokey, our chocolate Lab who died this year. Okay. Too soon to get rid of that. One afghan goes to Good Will and 4 in a sturdy plastic bag. One rests on the back of the recliner, its fate to be decided later.

The next box I unearth has the potential to halt the momentum. Journals, circa 1980 -1999. I moved to Arkansas in 2000 and I knew this box had come along with me. Don’t remember putting it in this closet. This is suitable reading for a cold winter day. If we ever have one.

I choose a book at random. 1997. I was a widow with an 8-year-old boy. Stuck in front was a loose-leaf page of written reminders. I’ve always been a list-maker; wonder why I kept this?

Pay rent
Go to Target
Iron shirt

(here the printing changes to a childish script.)

pay Phillip’s alowinse

help Phillip ride his bike

take Phillip to mickdonalls

buy him something

Ah yes.

Reading for a cold winter day.

Or for a perfectly good Saturday.

This time I won a few . . .

It’s always a good day when you gain more than you lose. And the week just past was pretty good for me. I learned a couple of new things and re-learned a couple of golden oldies.

Saturday morning I lit my water heater. A first for me. I live in a 1940’s era house that had an old water heater when I moved in 15 years ago.  Every time the wind blew a little bit the pilot light went out. Since said heater was old, to relight it meant to lie on the floor with a fireplace match or something similar (my youngest son rigged a bent clothes hanger with a go-fer match). Then the process was to hold down the button while poking the lit match into the center of the tank and hoping after the task was complete you still had a full head of hair.

A couple of years ago, I bought a new water heater. Imagine my vexation the first time the wind blew out the pilot light! Admittedly, it was hurricane force winds that also broke tree branches, not the slight breeze that had accomplished this feat in the past. But still!

Not to worry. The new little beauty has a striker, similar to the one on a gas range, that relights the pilot. Eventually.

This past week was windy, but mild. Those stiff breezes should not have had enough energy to blow through the vent and extinguish the flame, but I noticed Friday afternoon that the hot water wasn’t hot.

Since the directions for the relighting of the pilot were printed on the bottom 1/4 of the tank, sitting on the floor was necessary. I did all the things it said: turn knob counter clockwise to “off”. Then turn clockwise to “pilot.” While holding the button in, push the striker once a second for as many as 90 seconds! Italics and exclamation point mine. Supposedly, before 90 seconds passed the monitor light would commence flashing to let you know the pilot was on. Do you know how long 90 seconds is?

I was not sure I was brave enough to do this, but determined to conquer, I held the button down with one hand and pushed the striker with the other. The pilot caught on the 37th strike!  Thankyoulord.

Another challenge met this week: I learned how to work Sudoku. I love crosswords and other word puzzles but I have never mastered the number game.

My children are all in the “There’s an APP for that” generation, so at Christmas, my daughter, Kathy, put a sudoku app on my Kindle Fire. On it I can play the easy easy easy game (that lights up the number when it’s put in the wrong place). I have played it every day.  Last weekend I tried to solve the sudoku puzzle in the newspaper, using the same strategies. Sure enough, (after several hours and lots of erasures) I had success. All the numbers lined up correctly. Now that’s something I thought I would never be able to do.

The things I relearned are a little personal to go into here, except to say I may have once again become aware of the truth of certain cliches: “Don’t sweat the small stuff.” But it’s not all small stuff. So “choose your battles,” otherwise when something important comes along you won’t have energy to respond because you have ruptured your eccrine gland sweating the small stuff.

I also re-learned the admonition: Never rent a movie if the last word in the title is “2”.

Blessed to Be a Blessing

arkansas

What a wonderful weekend!

After recent maladies (see last week’s post) kept me home, this Saturday I was finally able to drive over the (Arkansas) river and through the (Saline County) woods to spend some time at Couchwood, home of my BFF, Pat.

Pat is a poet, novelist, and accomplished musician.  Her first career was as high school music teacher, but she also served as choir director, pianist, and/or organist in her local church before retiring a few years ago. She was lured out of retirement in December to assist in worship services at a small church in Grant County. Which leads me to tell of the blessings I received this past weekend.

Sunday morning we drove through the beautiful countryside below Saline County to Ebenezer United Methodist Church in Tull, Arkansas (Pop. 486. The town not the church.). A white steeple appeared as we rounded the last curve on Highway 35. Just past the cemetery and up a short rise sits the white building that houses a congregation established in 1885. A poster on a side door gives the dates and hours the food pantry is open.

The inside of the sanctuary looks much like the typical country church with the sign (available at Cokesbury Books) announcing the number on roll (35), the attendance and offering the previous Sunday.

I am recognized instantly as a visitor, of course, and introduced from the pulpit as “Pat’s friend, Dot.” As the service begins, the pastor shares the whereabouts of the few members who are absent. Now that’s a close knit congregation. If you’re not there they know why. The membership in many small rural churches tends to be senior citizens, but the group gathered this day is made up of mostly Baby Boomers or younger.

The hymns, chosen by the pastor, have something for everyone. Opening is “Morning Has Broken”, made popular during the “Jesus Movement” of the Sixties. The Hymn of Preparation: “The Old Rugged Cross”, an old old favorite, and closing with “Hymn of Promise” a newer song by Natalie Sleeth.

After prayers and offering, Pat began the introduction to “The Old Rugged Cross” with gusto. I had never heard her play that style, reminiscent of Old Time Methodists at camp meeting under a brush arbor in August. It was wonderful. I’m sure she used all 88 piano keys. That accompaniment had everything but a glissando. And did we sing along!

Joining our voices together left us lifted and prepared for the message from Mathew 5:1-12. Not a brag-list of how blessed we are, but an assurance we are indeed blessed and in turn are called to be a blessing to others.

As the young acolyte left, symbolically carrying Christ’s light into the world, my feeling was that this group of people certainly fulfills that command, as they go about being the Church in their scattered jobs and their presence in that community. I felt blessed to have worshiped with them.

Chatting with folks after the service, I learned that the pastor’s son lives in my Dream Hometown and that another congregant originally came from Carlisle, AR, just a bit to the east of us. He knew my dentist, Dr. Burleson, who has written two books about his childhood in Carlisle. I might have found more “small world” stories, but it was 10:30, the Sunday School hour and time for me to start my trek home.

Blessed indeed.

Visit my BFF Pat Laster’s website

James Burleson’s books: The Redneck Chronicles found  here

Never a dull moment . . .

Firetruck

We’ve all heard “what goes round comes round.” “It’s easy to dish it out, but hard to take it.” The boomerang theory: What you send off will most likely come back … maybe to bite you. And we all know what they say about Karma. Today it happened to me.

Let me lay a little groundwork. A week or so ago, I suffered a sinus headache that should be in the Sinus Headache Hall of Fame. Just as I was recovering from two days of that, a muscle spasm hit in my hip and traveled clear to my toe.  (Google said this sort of thing often happens to people who sit too long. Of course I was sitting. I had a headache!)

Skip forward a couple of days. I tagged my youngest son, Phillip, on Facebook with a post showing the sort of drama Moms can imagine when their kids don’t answer their texts. I’m sure he was embarrassed at the tag. He replied with a cryptic, “Very funny.”

Now, today.

Just as I pulled into the parking lot, I got a call from a co-worker. We spoke a minute and then I stuck my phone in my jacket pocket. I guess I “pocket-dialed” Phillip (who lives in the Pacific time zone and was most likely asleep). He said later that what he heard coming over the thousand miles between us sounded like I was in great distress. Knowing about my headache/ vertigo/ hip/ leg issues of the past week, he dialed my land line. When I didn’t answer, he called the local police and asked them to go to my house and check on me.

They sent an ambulance and fire truck — thankfully without sirens. Another co-worker, dropping her child off at school, saw the emergency vehicles at my house and alerted everyone at the office where I work.

In the meantime, Phillip thought to call my office. When I answered, he just said, “Omigosh, Mom” several times. I could hear the panic in his voice, which scared me.

He told me what he had done and I said to call the police right back and tell them false alarm before they broke down my door.

All this happened just as I was trying to direct educators to three different workshops, find a Chromebook charger, and answer the phone, which kept being Phillip. Bless his heart.

I rang my 93-year-old neighbor to let her know the situation, in case she had seen the commotion in my driveway.

Later, the church secretary called to see if I was okay. Did someone in the congregation see the ambulance, at my house?

In fact, I spent most of the morning telling folks I was fine.  And I am.

Just a little Karma having its day.

How Sweet Are His Words

Sweeter than honey

How sweet are your words to my taste,
sweeter than honey to my mouth!

Psalm 119:103

In addition to preparing our hearts for the coming of the Christ Child, the Advent season (or pre-Christmas) is also the time for getting together with friends. These gatherings always seem to include food. Pot luck dinners, or ‘bring your favorite party food’ or even Cookies with Santa, all challenge us in our quest to eat mostly healthy food.

For several years, one of my New Year’s resolutions was “lose ten pounds.”  Every January, I set the same goal. I never achieved it, more often than not I gained. To lose weight I needed to adjust my teen-age eating habits to my aging metabolism. Or, as the old joke goes, grow taller until my height/weight ratio was correct.

I readily confess that I don’t eat only when I’m hungry. I eat because I love the taste of food. And it has occurred to me that if I consumed God’s word with the same enthusiasm, I would be a Bible scholar.

What better time to start the habit/discipline of reading the Bible than during Advent, the time set aside for preparing for the coming of Jesus into the world.

Start at the beginning of Luke and read about His birth, flip over to Matthew to read Joseph’s point of view. Continue through the book of Luke to learn about Jesus’ life and ministry and then read Acts to see what happened next.

Join me in feasting on His Words: Sweeter than honey.

 

Say what you will

Wrigley Field

Call me a bandwagoner or whatever you like but I enjoyed watching the World Series. I’ve liked baseball all my life, playing games of work-up in the school yard, following the local farms clubs in various small towns in the Fifties, watching my kids in Little League and beyond, and, in the Eighties, reveling in the chance to drive to Dallas once a month to see the Texas Rangers. But, recent years have brought fewer opportunities to witness a live game, and I find TV coverage less than satisfactory.

Though the farm teams I cheered for back in the day belonged to the American League, I have always had a sentimental spot in my heart for the Chicago Cubs. Because . . . really . . . 1908? . . . I mean, bless their hearts! I have a fondness for the Cleveland Indians too for a similar reason.  Bless their hearts, too.  Also, Bob Hope owned a piece of the Indians and I had a fondness for Bob Hope.

My husband was a big Cubs fan. He had the hat and shirt and watched them play every chance he got, though he never had the opportunity to travel to Chicago to see a game.

For all the above reasons, I felt I should be allowed to root for the Cubbies in the 2016 World Series games. Or at the very least it’s my constitutional right.

So, I watched every game … on television in my living room. And I discovered once again why this manner of experiencing a game is less than satisfactory to me.

I want to comment on the plays. I need to make a suggestion to the umpire now and then. It’s just not the same when you’re alone.

I often mute the play-by-play announcer. I can see what’s going on, and if I miss it no problem, it will be instant-replayed several times. And now there is new technology that allows someone to second-guess the umpire? What is the world coming to?

By game 7, the trivia guy was on my last nerve. He sat in the booth with Google or something, pointing out to us how many ways this series was history-making.

“This is the first time a retiring catcher has hit a two-run homer in the 8th inning of the 7th game in World Series play in November with rain in the forecast.”

PLEASE!

All in all it was fun to watch history being made in the World of Sports. And I just have to say it:

How about them Cubs?

You are what you wear … I’m in trouble

Department Store

If  there is any activity more problematic for me than clothes shopping, well, I can’t think what it could be.

I have identified myself in this blog as a Middle Kid. Middle Kid Syndrome is a valid emotional condition, though not a clinical disorder. When the family contains three children, the second child — not the oldest (medical marvel) nor the youngest (sweet baby) often feels invisible and neglected. Usually for very good reason. Middle Kids tend to be easy going, go with the flow, play the peacemaker, be the ‘good’ one.

The middle children of my generation never had the pressure of choosing patterns or fabric for Easter outfits. Shopping for school clothes was never a problem. Clothing decisions were made by older siblings. Middle kids wore hand-me-downs. I never learned to shop for myself.

Another difficulty (for me) is that I have no natural sense of style and color — which has nothing to do with my birth order but, still. Some people can buy an accessory just knowing it will match that outfit hanging in the closet back home. I may coordinate an outfit in my bedroom only to find it clashes in the bright light of day. I think I originated the one-blue-sock-one-black-sock fashion statement.

I probably inherited this attribute from my father, since after my mother died he started wearing plaid pants and striped shirt with a paisley tie. But I digress.

Over the years I have learned to play it safe and wear mostly solid colors — a lot of black. I have five pairs of black pants and an obscene number of tees in various colors. Long sleeved turtlenecks for winter and short sleeved round neck for summer. No bling.

Occasionally, I think I would like to change my look. Maybe buy some brown pants. Maybe a shirt to wear over the tee. So, after receiving a gift certificate for a recent birthday, I took myself shopping. Okay, I went to one store.

First of all, no brown pants of any size anywhere in the store. What’s up with that?

Next, the choice of garments in my size was very slim. Which I’m not by the way. That particular store is a treasure trove for the skinnies out there. Or else women of my girth have already purchased anything I would consider appropriate.

I found a cute tunic — only to realize it was a dress! There was also a collection of skirts in my size. But have you noticed that most of the skirt material nowadays is see-through? And I don’t know if they even make half-slips any more. Not from what I observe. I am not going to wear a shear skirt without a slip. No one wants to see that.

Well, while “window shopping” inside the store was fun, it wasn’t very productive. However, I didn’t leave empty-handed.

I bought a black tee.