Tuesday, January 31, 2012

My Private Fear Going Public

I'm in a blue funk today.  Our friend lost his long battle with cancer, and my own mortality has annoyingly come to sit on my nose.

Death leaves a gaping hole in a small town like ours.  We live in our own homes, but we walk and drive the same streets, we wave at each other, visit at the corner post office, and spend our lives in a family sort of way. Not only that, but his parents' farm was next to our farm when we were growing up.

What can a person do to show we care?  Well, I've got two loaves of cranberry-orange bread in the oven as my fingers type this.  Food seems to be the first thought for a tangible showing of sympathy.

Tomorrow night is the customary wake at the funeral home.  I'm going to take a risk here and confess a fear that stems from when I was a little girl.  Mom and Dad made me go to a wake... that was held in the parlor.....of an old spooky farm house... to look at the dead body... of a scary old woman... who always dressed in black like a nun.  They never knew how that one night terrified me and scarred me for life.

As an adult, I've naturally lived through losses of loved ones, and I've secretly struggled my way through every single wake.  There were times I'd have rather had my fingernails pulled out than tolerate them.

Oops, the timer just dinged, so the breads are done.  Thank heaven for timers, or I'd have burned the house down long ago.  My mind flits, and I forget that somethin's in the oven.  Man, that reminds me of my dear mother.  She was notorious for burning our carrots.  It wasn't like it happened once in awhile, but probably 80% of the time.  Omigod, it was so funny the time she forgot about the roaster of caramel corn she put in the oven.  I kid you not, our house smelled from burnt popcorn for months.  Ahhh, the silly memories we have of when things went wrong!

There's so much Catholic ingrained in me, now I feel like a priest should be giving me absolution and penance for confessing my wake phobia.  Maybe I should have kept it to myself.

Monday, January 30, 2012

We're All the Same

The alarm woke us at 6:30.  Today's agenda warranted setting it so we wouldn't oversleep.

My dear mother used to complain of not being able to sleep the night before a day's outing.  She said her mind raced from one thing to another while she wondered and she worried and she prayed.  When she tried to explain her feelings to me, it was like throwing a rubber ball against a building.  Mom couldn't understand me not understanding, and I couldn't understand her not understanding me not being able to understand.

It's easy to have regrets about things like that, but regrets aren't fair to us. Time cleverly distorts the important details of all situations, and more often than not our memories grow into inaccurate reproductions. I have the tendency to be too hard on myself, and that's not a good thing.  We have to remember that at the time we did our very best, and that's all there is to it.

Try as we may, there is a noble way for us to understand one another based on five human truths.  These truths are absolute, they span the oceans, the genders, the cultures, the generations, the races, the religions, the lifestyles, the wealthy and the needy, the skinny and the obese, the famous and the secluded.  Every human heart on this planet responds to these truths............

People feel the need to be respected.
People would rather be asked than be told.
People have a desire to know why.
People prefer to have options over threats.
People want to have a second chance.

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Lamb of God

Worship is something not just for Sunday morning,
 but for every day of the week,
 in all we say and do.

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Secrets in the Walls

Last evening we met another couple at a small-town tavern for Friday night fish suppers.  I'm a sucker for quaint taverns with bar stools up against the bar, a happy-go-lucky bartender that calls you by name, a functioning kitchen the size of a closet, and a few round tables for eating or playing cards.  Nine chances out of ten the chair cushions have holes in them and nobody cares.

There's a timeless charm to these rustic joints.  One can almost hear their walls telling the secrets and tall tales left by the old regulars and the younger ones who come to town for a beer.  Maybe the reason I'm so comfortable in these taverns is because that's where my grampa and daddy went when I was a little girl.  Back in those days, it was customary for men to take a break from farming, go to town to the tavern, have a few beers, play cards with their buddies, and then come back home.  Their wives were at home and would have a home-cooked meal waiting on the stove.

This tavern we went to last night has Friday night fried fish, with choice of baked, hash brown, or french fried potatoes, old-fashioned baked beans, and a generous and tasty help-yourself salad bar.  Their deviled eggs are one of their signature foods, and I'd be curious how many eggs get boiled to satisfy their hungry crowds.  The four of us ordered refreshments, sat down at a table for four, visited and had a bunch of laughs before we put in our food order.  A man and woman sitting next to us commented how nice it was to see someone having fun these days.

When we were ready to leave and got out to our cars, the windshields were covered with ice.  We had to wait a while for the windshield wipers and the defroster to clear them.  A freezing mist was still coming down, so we took it slow on the s-curve road back home.

This morning blue skies and sunshine welcomed me downstairs.  Housecleaning was done yesterday, so today hubby can watch his guy shows on t.v., and I can fiddle around with this, that, or nothing.  Don't they say that weekends don't count unless you spend them doing something completely pointless?

Friday, January 27, 2012

Native Americans, England, and Rivers

Have you ever wondered what influenced the naming of our 50 beautiful states?

Alabama - Alabama means "tribal town" in the Creek Indian language.

Alaska - derived from the Aleut word alaxsxaq, meaning "the object towards which the action of the sea is directed."

Arizona - some historians think it comes from the Spanish phrase zona arida (arid zone) and others think the state was named after the Aztec word arizuma, which means "silver bearing."

Arkansas - derived from the Quapaw word kakaze meaning "land of downriver people" or the Sioux word Akakaze meaning "people of the south wind."

California - believed to have derived from a Spanish novel about a mythical island off the coast of India ruled by a Queen Califia.

Colorado - was named after the Colorado River, which starts in the state.  Early Spanish explorers named the Colorado River the Rio Colorado, or red river, for the red-brown silt that the river carried from the mountains.

Connecticut - comes from the Mohegan word quonehtacut, meaning "place of long tidal river."

Delaware - named after the Delaware River, which was named for Lord de la Warr, the first Governor-General of Jamestown.

Florida - comes from the Spanish Pascua Florida, meaning "feast of flowers," but more commonly known as  Easter, in honor of its discovery by the Spanish during the Easter season.

Georgia - is the feminine Latin form of George and was named after King George II of Great Britain.

Hawaii - comes from Hawaiki, legendary homeland of the Polynesians.  Hawaiki is believed to mean "place of the gods."

Idaho - was possibly named as the result of a hoax (the so-called Idahoax).   Lobbyist George Willing suggested the name Idaho, claiming it came from the Shoshoni word Ee-dah-how, or gem of the mountains.  Later he admitted it really wasn't a Native American word, but was a word he made up.

Illinois - the early French explorers' name for the Illinois people.  The name Illlinois has traditionally been said to mean 'man' or 'men' in the Miami-Illinois language.

Indiana - means Land of the Indians, or simply Indian Land in Latin.

Iowa - was named after the Iowa River, which derives its name from the Ioway people, a tribe native to the area.

Kansas - was named after the Kansas River, which derives its name from the Kaw or Kansas tribe.  The tribe's name Kka:ze is said to mean "people of the wind" or "people of the south wind."

Kentucky - no one is sure, but most likely it comes from the Iroquoian word kenhtake meaning 'meadow' or 'prairie.'

Louisiana - named after King Louis XIV of France.  When Rene-Robert Cavelier, Sieur de La Salle claimed the territory drained by the Mississippi River for France, he named it La Louisiane, meaning "Land of Louis."

Maine - has an unknown origin.  In 2001, the state legislature adopted a resolution which stated that the state was named after the ancient French province of Maine.

Maryland - named after Queen Henrietta Maria of England, wife of King Charles I.

Massachusetts - named after the native population, the Massachusett, which has been translated as "by the blue hills."

Michigan - is a French adaptation of the Ojibwe word mishigama, meaning "large water."

Minnesota - comes from the Dakota name for the Minnesota River (Mnisota) which can be translated as "sky-tinted  water."

Mississippi - named after the Mississippi River, which got its name from the Ojibwe word misi-ziibi "Great River."

Missouri - named for a group of Sioux Indians of that name.  The word  itself meant 'town or people of the large canoes.'

Montana - derived from the Spanish word for "mountain."

Nebraska - most likely comes from an Otoe word meaning "flat water" after the Platte River that flows through the state.

Nevada - from the Spanish word meaning "snowfall" after the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

New Hampshire - named after the English county of Hampshire.

New Jersey - named  after the British Channel Island of Jersey.

New Mexico - comes from Mexico, "place of Mexitli," an Aztec god or leader.  The name Nuevo Mexico was first used by Francisco de Ibarra who explored  far to the north of Mexico and reported his findings as being in "a New Mexico."

New York - named after York, England, to honor the Duke of York.

North Carolina - named after King Charles I of England  (Charles translates to Carolus).

North Dakota - named after the Dakota tribe and means  "ally" or "friend."

Ohio - comes from the Iroquois word ohi-yo, meaning "great river."

Oklahoma - from the Choctaw phrase okla humma, meaning "red people."   A Choctaw Chief suggested the name in 1866 during treaty negotiations with the federal government regarding the use of Indian Territory.

Oregon - has an unknown origin.  One theory is that the name comes from the French word ouragan which means 'hurricane.'

Pennsylvania - was named after Sir Willlian Penn, who received the first land grant for the area Sylvania, which means 'woods.'  The name literally means Penn's Woods.

Rhode Island - means red island, named after the red clay that lined its shores.

South Carolina - got its name from Carolus, Latin word for Charles, with reference to King Charles I.

South Dakota - the southern half of the Dakota Territory, originally named for the Dakota Sioux tribe which inhabited the area.

Tennessee - got its name from the Indian Cherokee village called Tanasi, which means big bend and was used to describe a river in Tennessee, which eventually got the name Tennessee.

Texas - comes from the Caddo Indian word taysha, or "friend," which was used to refer to the larger Caddo nation.  The name was borrowed into Spanish as texa, plural texas.

Utah - comes from the Spanish designation for the Ute people, yuta, in turn perhaps a borrowing from Western Apache yudah, meaning "High."

Vermont - hails from the French words vert (green) and mont (mountain).

Virginia - was named after Elizabeth I of England, who was known as the Virgin Queen.

Washington - named after George Washington.

West Virginia - broke away from the State of Virginia during the Civil War.

Wisconsin - was named after the Algonquin name for the Wisconsin River.  French explorer Jacques Marquette recorded the name as Meskousing in his journal, but this was later misspelled as Ouisconsin.

Wyoming - comes from the Munsee Indian word xwe:wamenk, meaning "at the big river flat."

*from www.ask.com.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Burls and Pearls

Two tree burls next to each other
What is more intriguing in this picture.....the two burls or the layered blue-pink-blue sky in the background?

Inside of a tree burl

Somewhere along the line I watched a television program about a guy who creates one-of-a-kind bowls and centerpieces out of tree burls.  His finished products were exquisite. He pointed out the spiraling, the knotting, the twisting and the gnarling of the wood grain inside these burls that is responsible for the intricate patterns and colors that cannot be found anywhere else.

What causes these burls, or abnormal growths, on trees?  Some think that fungus or insects can stress the tree enough to cause the disruption in growth, others think it comes from injury to the tree, while still other theories lean toward genetics and environmental pollution.

A pearl growing inside an oyster
This reminds me of the oyster and the pearl.  When a grain of sand, or other foreign substance, gets inside the oyster shell, it's kinda like when we get a sliver in our finger.  Only thing, the oyster isn't able to go to the medicine cabinet for the tweezers and take it out.  Instead, the oyster's only natural solution is to cover the bothersome foreign object with the same material its shell is made of.  Eventually this covering grows into the valuable and the much sought after pearl.

Just imagine the number of these healing miracles that are happening on Planet Earth right at this moment.  We can't hear them and we can't see them, but they are near us and are everywhere.  If we want to find them and be aware of them, all we have to do is look for the things with flaws and defects.

"I think miracles exist
 in part as gifts
 and in part as clues
 that there is something beyond
 the flat world we see."
  ~Peggy Noonan  

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Walmart Confusion

When we go shopping, each of us takes a cart and does our own thing.  That way hubby doesn't have to linger in the  lipstick aisle, and I don't have to chew my fingernails in the fish bait aisle.  It works for us.  We carry cell phones to let each other know when we've had enough shopping and are ready to pay and go home.

Okay, here's a recap of our confusing experience at Walmart last week.  My cart and I were finished traipsing up and down, back and forth, forth and back to the tune of an 8-mile walk.  (Why the hell do they keep moving things?)  I'd not seen the other half since we went our separate ways, so I retrieved my cell phone from my purse and called him for status and location.  This was our conversation.......

Me:  I'm ready to go.  Where are you?

He:  I'm done, too.  I'm standing in number 12. 

Me:  Okay, I'll be right there.

(Push my cart from the bananas back to aisle 12)

No hubby in sight.

Gave him another jingle.

Me:  Where the heck are you?  

He:  In 12.

Me:  No, you're not.  I'm standing in 12 and you're not here.

He:  Yes, I am.

Me.  No, you're not.

He:  Well, I sure am.  I'm standing right here at check-out number 12.

Me.  Oh, for god sake, I'm standing by the cake mixes in aisle number 12.

He hangs up.

Me hangs up.

I laugh.

He laughs.

We pay.

We go home.

Still laughing.  

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pine Nuts and Hickory Nuts

Anyone who watches the Food Channel has heard of the pine nut.  Most of the chefs are using it to make pestos, salads, and other good stuff.  My question is:  what the heck is a pine nut?

Pine cone nuts
Unbeknownst to me until now, they're the seeds found in the cones of certain varieties of pine trees, and they've been part of the human diet for a very long time.  The ancient Romans made them into wine, preserved them in honey, and even used them in sausage.  In the Southwestern part of the United States, the kernels of the American Pinon tree were supposedly a staple food 10,000 years ago.  The harvested nut looks like a cream-colored tear drop.

Hickory hulls and nuts

When I was a little girl, in the fall of the year, our family took a day to go picking hickory nuts in local timbers.  That was back when farmers welcomed people to their property.  No one wanted food of any sort to go to waste, and there were a lot of hickory trees.  Daddy knew the farmers personally and always asked permission before we picked.  Gramma and Grampa went with us, which really made it an extraordinary annual outing.  For me, it was the equivalent of a kid today going to an amusement park.

Each of us took a pail and split ways to find our own hickory tree.  I couldn't have been the greatest nut picker, cuz my memory bank still holds too many pictures of squirrels chasing each other through the dry leaves and up and down the trees and back and forth on the branches.

Hickory Nut Meats
Mom and Gramma spent the winter hours cracking the nuts with a hammer and digging out the nut meats with a silver nut pick.  It was fun to sit close by, cuz once in awhile they'd hand us kids a nut meat to munch on.  Those days hickories were a prized ingredient for baking cakes, breads, pies, and cookies.  My Mom used hickory nuts instead of pecans for our Christmas pies.  Omigod, they were over-the-top scrumptious. She placed perfect hickory halves on top, blue ribbon style.  Pecan pie is my Ferrari choice of pies, but the hickory nut pie was even better.  I suppose that was because of the fun we had gathering them.

What they say is true.  The older we get, the more we re-visit our childhoods and the more we realize that we never grow out of them.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Weathering the Weather

Note the goldfinch coming in for a landing...
at the base of the two evergreens.

Last week's snowstorm brought droves of birdies to our feeders.  You know me well enough to know that I couldn't resist taking pictures out the kitchen window.

This morning is blustery, with snow blowing off the rooftops and trees doing their winter branch dance.  Whirlwinds whip the snow in circles like mini tornadoes.  Definitely a day for us to stay off the highways.

But, it's nothing compared to this date back in 1916, where in Browning, Montana, the temperature plummeted 100 degrees in 24 hours, going from a mild 44 degrees to -56 degrees.  This has been credited as being the greatest drop in temperature ever reported in the United States in 24 hours.

Makes me shiver just thinking about it!

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Einstein Said it Best

Few things push my buttons more than people waving their intelligence flags, leaving the rest of us cookies feeling like somebody forgot to put us in the oven.

If there are over 7 billion of us now, there are over 7 billion individual heads computing individual perceptions, thoughts, situations, feelings, interests, goals, and abilities.  That's why it's so absurd for any one to boast about themselves, the things they've done, the places they've gone, and the experiences they've encountered.  Every human has his/her own list of things they've done, places they've been, and experiences they've lived through. It's okay to share them, but not use them as ladders.

While raising us kids, mom and dad both used old adages to get their points across to us.  Lord only knows how many times we heard, "Self brag stinks."  Another one was "Don't judge me by what I don't know.....judge me by what I do know." 

It's good to feel good about ourselves, but bad to fling our accomplishments and our knowledge around like spit balls.  Sure, we all have our highlights that we'd like others to know about, but sometimes it's the way we go about it. 

The best advice we can give ourselves is to stop and recognize and cherish the gifts, talents, and level of competence we have.  Life is all about balance, so it's equally necessary that we recognize and appreciate the gifts, talents, and level of competence of those around us.  No one ever said life is a competitive sport of who is better, who is smarter, who is more of this and that.  Life is like a recipe, with different amounts of each ingredient, when mixed together, turns out to be the perfect formula for the ultimate goodness of all.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bichon Frise Saved My Life

Looking out my kitchen window...
a special cardinal keeps watch over me!
Our temperatures this morning are below zero.  Yesterday, Mother Nature snapped her finger and a winter wonderland magically appeared.  Oh, I know, it's real easy for me to call a heavy snowfall a  wonderland, because I'm not the one who has to go out and clear the walks and driveway.  But, someone has to play the part of the Appreciator, and that's me!

It's a mighty special day at our home today.  Fuzzy One's 10th birthday.  When I look at her, my mind rewinds back to the day we got her.  My family, just months before, lost my 16-year-old nephew to a tragic suicide.  From the day the little guy was born, a heart string went from his heart directly to mine.  We both knew it and joked about it.  Losing him the way we did just about took me down for the count.  It was a struggle for me to take the next step and the next breath.  Hubby talked me into getting a puppy to help heal my despair.  We went to the Humane Society and adopted a needy little Shih Tzu.  Char-Lee's first, and only, Christmas with us brought us renewed joy as we watched him rip open his presents, play with his new toys, and chase freely around the house.  Two months later our little guy started having problems, and we lost him to a brain tumor.  If my heart was ravaged before, now it was even more so.

A co-worker told me about a lady who raised dogs out on her farm.  I didn't want to listen because I was not ever again going to set myself up for another loss.  Then, yet another co-worker sat with me one day and asked me if the love another gives us doesn't outweigh the pain of losing them.  At first his words didn't sink in, but when I got home and thought about it more, I realized he was absolutely right.  Love wins over all else, and my heart had all this extra love to give.  That's when we decided to get who ended up being our fuzzy one.

She was the only girl of seven Bichon puppies, laying in a heap one on top of the other, beneath a warming lamp.  The lady picked up the 6-week-old little girl and handed her to hubby.  He cupped the little soul in his hands, put her to his face, and then I saw the smile that told me something very special had just happened.  He handed her to me and said, "Don't you think this is the one?"  Words couldn't and didn't come from my mouth, but tears had no trouble coming from my eyes.  That, my friends, is the story of how we got our fuzzy one.

Just as we carried her to the car to take her home, snow flakes starting falling down on us from a sunny sky.  The soft flakes felt like strikes of lightning.  I knew my nephew was sending me a message that to this day eases my broken heart.

We'll be celebrating with pink cupcakes and ice cream.  Both of us sang happy birthday to her, solo.  She looks back at us with those feisty black eyes, and she knows she's our Princess.  She wears my Gramma's name for a crown.  Others would say she's insanely spoiled, but we say she's excessively loved.  It scares me to think she's already ten years old, but I hear words from the past reassuring me that the love she gives us, and we give to her, is all that matters.

If I could have one wish today, it would be that all who read this could come to our home for a pink cupcake and a scoop of ice cream!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Inspired by Bev Doolittle's Camouflage Art

Our surprise piece of
camouflage art
Something told me to take a picture of these two animal dens situated close to each other.  We were out on a snow-packed gravel road that was kinda slippery, so we were going slow enough for me to have spotted them.  The dens were the central theme of the photo, until I looked at the picture on screen and found it to be a piece of camouflage art.

Mother Nature painted faces with a snowfall atop limestone.  Can you see the four faces that my imagining eyes are picking up?  Maybe your eyes will see something mine aren't.

  This reminds me of Bev Doolittle's coveted camouflage art that I have grown to recognize and appreciate.  Her western art is, as they say,  "crowded with intricate visual detail, haunted by presences seen and unseen, her paintings captivate the viewer on many levels."

Bev Doolittle's
"Three More for Breakfast"
A few years ago, after my retirement, I bought a Bev Doolittle jig saw puzzle at Walmart.  For only $8.95 I got a winter pastime that, piece by piece, eventually became a piece of art for our home.

The title of my Doolittle puzzle is, "Three More for Breakfast."  In the round mirror hanging on the birch tree, we can see a mountain man eating his breakfast. He thinks he is alone and doesn't expect guests to join him.  But, company is on its way.  The mountain man can't see who's coming, but we can.  Three bears are masterfully painted amid the white of the birch and the brown of the rocks and the bramble.

"To the attentive eye,
 each moment of the year
 has its own beauty ...
 it beholds every hour, 
a picture which was never seen before,
 and which shall never be seen again." 
 ~R. W. Emerson

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Stretching Ourselves

It was Oliver Wendell Holmes who said, "A mind stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions."

The life of Mr. Holmes honorably mirrors his words.  He graduated from Harvard University.  Served in the Civil War.  Was gravely wounded three times, once taking a bullet through the neck at the battle of Antietam.   Taught law at Harvard.  Served 20 years as  Supreme Court Judge in Massachusetts.  He was described as neither liberal nor conservative, but rather a steadfast defender of the rights.  He believed in the notion of law as accumulated experience rather than a science.

We can learn much from his eloquent quotation.  The key word is "s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d."  Every difficulty we  work our way through, every noble move we make, and every new thing we do stretches us into a bigger and better person.  We stretch like elastic, except we never go back to our old dimensions.

Yesterday we stopped for lunch at McDonald's.  Across from our booth sat an elderly, heavyhearted-looking gentleman.  Alone.  With a cup of coffee.  Watching the people.  When we were finished eating and got up to leave, my hubby (out of habit) walked over to this man and stirred up a conversation about the weather.  I wished for a camera just then to photograph the bright beautiful smile that came to the gentleman's unshaven face.  Hubby won't ever come back to the size he was five minutes earlier while we were eating our salads.

I'm pretty sure this is what Mr. Holmes meant.  It takes so little for us to stretch so far.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

This Day in History

"History never looks like history when you are living through it."
  ~John W. Gardner

Seems like yesterday I was sweating blood in Mr. B's history class in high school.  Mr. B. assigned us chapters to read, he told us to find the answers to the questions at the end of the chapter, he gave us written tests and surprise pop quizzes, and harshly placed judgment on our efforts with grades ranging from A+ down to F.  History class was regimented.  Read-memorize-test-grade.  It didn't matter a flick if we understood.  All that mattered was if we could provide the correct answers to Mr. B's testing questions.  His tests were intermittent true and false, multiple choice, sometimes fill-in-the-blank.  We guessed and we prayed.  I've always felt that tests were the biggest barrier to my education.   

Maybe that was okay, because when I got out of school and no longer had to fear the fight for good grades, history started to infatuate me.  Even this morning I thought it would be fun to see what historical events took place on other January 18ths.....

1778 - Captain James Cook first sighted a group of islands in the Central Pacific.  He named them the Sandwich Islands after his friend John Montague, the 4th Earl of Sandwich, England, and first lord of the Admiralty.  Cook's name for the islands was used until the 1840s.  The natives' dislike for the name, a formalized government, and American influences all factored into the eventual change for them to be called the Hawaiian Islands.  Hawaii is said to mean "Place of the Gods." 
1861 - American Civil War - Georgia joined South Carolina, Florida, Mississippi, and Alabama in pulling away from the United States.
1862 - Confederate Territory of Arizona was formed.
1896 - 1st demo of an x-ray machine in New York City.
1943 - United States rationed bread and metal.  Can we in America today imagine what it would be like to have our food rationed?  Especially bread?  This was only 69 years ago.  
1943 - Pre-sliced bread sale was banned to reduce bakery demand for metal parts.
1948 - Ted Mack hosted the first Original Amateur Hour, and the airing of his show continued until 1970, 24 years later.  I never knew Ted Mack's real name was Edward McGuiness.  When he became a band leader and his name wouldn't fit on a theatre marquees, the theatre manager shortened his name to Ted Mack....and it stuck. I'll be darned.  

Just for the heck of it, if anyone cares to see if history repeats itself.......on this day in 1986, the New York Lotto paid out $30.5 million to one winner  (#s were:  19-20-27-34-41-46).

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

God's Coffee (author unknown)

A group of alumni, highly established in their careers, got together to visit their old university professor.  Conversation soon turned into complaints about stress in work and life.

Offering his guests coffee, the professor went to the kitchen and returned with a large pot of coffee and an assortment of cups...porcelain, plastic, glass, crystal, some plain looking, some expensive, some exquisite...telling them to help themselves to the coffee.

When all the students had a cup of coffee in hand, the professor said...

"If you noticed, all the nice-looking expensive cups were taken up, leaving behind the plain and cheap ones.  While it is normal for you to want only the best for yourselves, that is the source of your problems and stress.

Be assured that the cup itself adds no quality to the coffee.  In most cases it is just more expensive and in some cases even hides what we drink.  What all of you really wanted was coffee, not the cup, but you consciously went for the best cups.  And then you began eyeing each other's cups.

Now consider this:  Life is the coffee.  The jobs, money and position in society are the cups.  They are just tools to hold and contain Life, and the type of cup we have does not define, nor change the quality of life we live.

Sometimes, by concentrating only on the cup, we fail to enjoy the coffee God has provided us."

God brews the coffee, not the cups.
  Enjoy your coffee!

I like mine full of flavor, good and strong!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Bloggers Block

Words don't come easy today.  That happens to bloggers sometimes.  One simply must strive to put words on the page and pray they make some sense.

My head swims with ideas 24-7.  No matter where I am, or who I'm with, I'm on the alert for ideas to write about.  Mother Nature is my best inspiration, and that's why the digital camera comes along on our trolleys.  Hubby is by now as vigilant as I am for ideas.  Many times he's first to make a suggestion.  Two minds are better than one, don't they say.

My head wonders about the silliest things sometimes.  For instance, wouldn't it be cool to know how many thoughts have run through a person's brain since we reached the age of reasoning?  While we're awake, thoughts flow through our heads like a river.  Even during our sleep hours when we dream, that river keeps right on a rollin'.  What's the most incredible about that is that we're able to retrieve thoughts with our memory bank.  How many gigabytes of storage space do you suppose we have in our noggins?

Just yesterday I read an article someone wrote about future generations having twice the intelligence we have now.  Imagine what that would be like.  Good?  Bad?  Don't know.  There's something quite comforting about the old adage, "Ignorance is bliss."  What I don't know ain't going to hurt me.  Knowing isn't always the best.

Maybe it's because my head is exhausted from 65 years of constant use and abuse.  My overly curious nature doesn't help  me either.  Sometimes my head feels like the fox chasing the rabbit.  The rabbit being something I don't understand.  My brain feels like it has to chase and keep chasing until it falls dead tired to the ground.

Who can possibly imagine what it's like to have the brain of a nuclear scientist or a brain surgeon?  If my little world was too big for me to carry sometimes, what must it be like for them?

Life seems to be one darned thing after another.  One problem gets fixed, and the next one is close behind.  Often we feel so overwhelmed and fed up, that we want to go hide under the bed where no one could find us.  The pace is picking up, and yet there's really nowhere to go.  We can't get to tomorrow any quicker if we fly around like maniacs.  Twenty-four hours is still twenty-four hours no matter how you slice it.  What I get a kick out of is the statement, "I don't have enough time."  Well, the person who says that should be reminded that we all have twenty-four hours.  It's what we are doing with them that causes the problems.  A good idea may be to review what needs done and what 'we think' needs done.  A good part of my life was spent trying to help others who really didn't want my help in the first place.  Now, here I sit, all tuckered out, and for what!

Hey, look at that.......I just wrote a blog!!!!

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Sacred Sunday Silence

Another sacred Sunday morning appearing out of the darkness.  Reminds me of the way a flower blossoms.  A tiny bud slowly opens, hinting what color it will be.

Our holiday poinsettia is beginning to lose a few of its leaves.  Oh, she has been a faithful soldier in our home, serving with grace, honor, and dignity.  Poinsettias are that way.  They speak a language for all to understand, and they command a reverence that makes one feel like genuflecting.  Her Majesty knows we enjoy her presence, because I make it a point to say something nice to her every day when I moisten the soil she lives in.

I'm downstairs by myself as I write, the other two still upstairs sound asleep.  I'm perched in the snuggler beside the fireplace.  Coffee is perked, and a coffee mug awaits hubby.  We've got this jumble of souvenir mugs in our cupboard that we use for everyday.  The gypsy in me likes them, because they remind me of our wanderings.  It's silly to think that I may be the only person in the world awake at this moment, but that's the way I feel. I'm feasting on small-town Sunday morning silence.

Just had a thought.  Wouldn't it be something if Our Creator is keeping an album for each of us?  Imagine if every day is a clean sheet of paper and our actions are the crayons.  When we die, Heaven will host a celestial ceremony exhibiting our daily drawings for God and all to observe close-up.  Our Album will then be given back as the only tangible thing we can take with us to Eternity.

Oops!  Just heard the paper boy drop off our Sunday paper.  I'm gonna check the classified ads to see if I can sign up for an art class. I've successfully disrupted my sacred Sunday by scaring myself into thinking that my daily drawings may someday embarrass  me when (or if) I get to Heaven.

Gotta go.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Chili for Supper Tonight

Fuzzy one and I stayed home this morning while hubby went to a nearby town for the ingredients to make a kettle of chili.

Last week both of us ordered a bowl of chili at a little restaurant.  Hmmmm.  We found the size of their bowls and the size of our bowls here at home to be comically different.  The portion we were served was less than what we normally taste when seasoning ours!

When we have chili, we use garnishes.  Fritos, grated cheese, ripe olives, sour cream, and chopped fresh green onions.  If a person is going to have a chili experience, yah might as well kick it over the top!

No two chili recipes are alike.  Some cooks use chili beans and some use kidney beans.  My palate is pleased with either.  Some chilis are thick, and some are juicy.  The only concrete requirement I have for the perfect bowl of chili is that it be piping hot.  I've grown accustomed to calling waitresses back to our table and asking them to please take my bowl back to the kitchen and nuke it.

Mom's chili was the juicy type.  She used to add instant mashed potato flakes, which gave it a bit more substance plus an extra level of flavor.  Oh, how I wish I could have just one more bowl of her chili.  (sigh)

The fuzzy one's tail wags when she sees chili being mixed in with her doggie food.  Pets grow to be so much like their owners, which is sometimes funny and sometimes scary!

Our recent snowfall has prettied up our world.  We're cuddling in today, with no plans of leaving the house.  How blessed we are to be safe and secure.....with chili bubbling on the stove!

Friday, January 13, 2012

Ice Fishing on the Mississippi

My hubby is happy to see colder temperatures return.  One of his retirement joys is ice fishing with his buddies, but, of course, they need at least 4-5" of ice before they can safely go.  Personally, I prefer there be more ice than that, but....    

Northern and Blue Gill
Few hobbies pay off like ice fishing.  Not only do the guys spend a guy day in Nature's finest and freshest air, but they bring home meals of wonderful fish.

Hubby Jigging Inside Ice House
Ice fishing has changed since I tried it (and didn't like it) years ago.  Technology now gives the winter angler the fun of using a camera to watch the fish down in the hole.  Hubby gets a real kick out of this.  At first, I thought it was cheating.....until he brought home his catch.  Man, that quickly swayed my uneducated opinion about the use of these modern gizmos.

The jigging rods they fish with are so darned cute.  The fisherman holds the jigging rod and works the tip of the rod in an up-and-down jigging rhythm to attract the fish to their bait.

Another gadget the winter angler uses is the 'tip-up.'  When a fish takes the bait, the flag tips up, and he grabs the line and pulls the fish out of the water.  Tip-ups give the angler a bit of freedom to go stretch his legs and check how the fish are biting in other spots. The round cover also keeps the augered hole from freezing up.

I gotta confess.....when I hear those crisply fillets sizzling in the fry pan, I start praying for colder temperatures, thicker ice, and a day when his buddies are free to head for the Mississippi.

Me?  Heck, I'm content to stay back with the fuzzy one, my own hobbies, and keep the home fires burning until they return with more fish to sizzle!

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Quotations Teach Me So Much

You know me and quotations.....I collect them like pretty stones....and, here's another one that made it into my pocket.....

"You were born an original.
Don't die a copy."

Isn't it a shame how some people try to mold us into the person they want us to be?  Yet, they themselves wouldn't dream of changing to be anything other than how they are.  (Doesn't that scream of control, control, control?)

Growing up, I remember asking my girlfriends what they were going to wear.  It bothered me to be different and wear slacks if the rest of the girls were wearing skirts.  I desperately wanted to fit in, and I didn't want to feel inferior.

Well, the years changed all that.  Somewhere along the line it sunk in that life is a whole lot easier if I follow my heart and my head and be okay with my kinks and crinkles.  Even today my friends will see me going barefoot when others are wearing shoes, I may not be wearing makeup if I don't feel like it, and for sure I'll be wearing comfy clothes rather than dressy ones.

We humans are incredibly necessary.....just the way we are....expected to fulfill a duty on earth.  I can't buy this business that we're brought into the world just to have fun and party.  The world doesn't owe us a fig.  It's the other way around, and we have to find our helpful niche, like it or not.

What did amaze me, though, was how, after 42 years of job dedication, I knew it was time to pass the torch to the next generation and get myself out of the way.  Something clicked in my head, and I just knew my gig was over. My duty fulfilled.  Does Our Creator have more planned for me to do?  I suppose so.  I just go about my days, kicking around my kinks and crinkles, staying under the radar as best I can.  My time on-stage is over.  I'm content to be in the audience.  I did my best and gave all I had to give.  Now, it's beyond my comprehension the gifts that life is giving me in return......my little family of 3 here, my dear friends, family who sticks beside me, neighbors who are just like our family, good health, security, cozy little home, needed possessions, hobbies and time for them, good health care, strength to get through the tough times, and a heart to be grateful.      

So, if we think we might have a kink or crinkle about us, hey, let's not struggle to cover it up.  Our Creator gave it to us for a very cool reason.  That one kink is exactly what qualifies us a good faith original.  And, we don't have to be antique dealers to know that originals are worth a heck of a lot more than copies.

Thought you might like to look out my kitchen window this morning......

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Chicks and Weasels

In the 1950's most small farmers raised chickens.  In the spring we'd drive 13 miles to the local chick hatchery and bring home flat boxes filled with the yellow fluffy baby chicks.  Oh, they felt so warm and soft when I held them next to my face.  Every year I fussed  to keep 'just one' baby chick in my room, but eventually realized that my family powers amounted to zip.  The chicks went out to the brooder house, where a heat lamp kept them warm.  Eventually, they graduated to the chicken coop where they'd live until their final destination.....our kitchen table.

Keeping chickens and their eggs safe from wild predators was daddy's constant challenge.  The fox, the weasel and the raccoon were tyrants that made their clever ways into the chicken coop and left feathers as evidence of their nighttime raids.  

Yesterday I overheard two guys talking about weasels and how they turn white in the winter.  The only part of the weasel that doesn't change color is the tip of its tail.  In the spring, this color-changing process reverses itself, and the weasel turns from white back to brown.

Who knew.    

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Mass Body Index

Yesterday's eye exam went okay.  I have a cataract on my left eye and an Epiretinal Membrane on my right eye.  So far, the wrinkled-cellophane-like membrane isn't affecting the macula or my vision, and for that I'm thankful.  There's also a freckle on the back of my right eye.  The doctor said we can get freckles anywhere, even on our eyes.

There were a couple of new steps to the routine exam, one being a weigh-in to determine my BMI (body mass index).  It's a mathematical formula created to measure one's fatness.  The computer's software wants to know what we weigh and how tall we are.  Then it magically calculates our BMI......one more frustrating number like blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar.  This BMI number binned me in  the Skinny Bin, the Overweight Bin, or the Obese Bin.  The Skinny Bin wasn't an option, so common sense tells me I was ranked and filed either overweight or obese.  And, that's one heck of a way to be tagged, in my opinion.

They detected only a slight change in my eyesight, so I opted to stick with my current lenses until mid-July when I go back to see how my resident cataract, membrane, and freckle are faring.

A thought just struck me.  I wonder if their computer cares what color my eyes are.  Hmmmmm.

Monday, January 09, 2012

Eye Care

Doesn't seem like winter where I live.  Very little snow has fallen, and ice fishermen are taking risks.  Yesterday we drove around the lake, and three little kids were running and sliding on the ice within feet of obvious open water.  The two men were intent on watching their poles, not the kids.

Today I'm off to the eye doctor to get my brownies examined.  This will be the first appointment with the new lady doctor.  I'm always a bit apprehensive handing over my body to professionals I've never met before.  This gal came highly recommended by my retiring doctor.  He assured me he was handing over his lifetime practice to someone who has earned high honors and superior recommendations.  Those were heavy words coming from he who himself earned my sincere trust and respect over the last thirty-some years.

A cataract in my right eye has been successfully removed, and another is sprouting in my left.  My right eye has a condition that's being monitored, and that's my main concern today.  At my age, one has to stay on top of problems that can be fixed with surgery.  Otherwise, we start going down the tube. Gotta say, the eye doctor is the least dreaded doctor to see, cuz I can keep my clothes on and the only real discomforts are enlarged pupils and bright lights.    

Eyeglass frames are ridiculously expensive.  Silly-Nilly me likes the trendy ones, and they come at the premium prices.  When I think about it, though, that is the only fashion fetish that I have!

See you tomorrow.

Saturday, January 07, 2012

Paw People

An animal's eyes have the power to speak a great language. ~ Martin Buber
We can judge the heart of a person by his treatment of animals. ~ Immanual Kant
Dogs are not our whole life, but they make our lives whole.  ~Roger Caras
Teaching a child not to step on a caterpillar is as valuable to the child as it is to the caterpillar.  ~Bradley Millar
Our perfect companions never have fewer than four feet.  ~Colette
It often happens that a man is more humanely related to a cat or dog than to any human being.  ~Henry David Thoreau
Lots of people talk to animals.  Not very many listen, though.  That's the problem.  ~Benjamin Hoff
Until one has loved an animal, a part of one's soul remains unawakened.  ~Anatole France
Animals love us with constant hearts.  They offer us pure joy, a place to love with simplicity and purity.  ~Julia Cameron
My little dog, a heartbeat at my feet.  ~Edith Wharton 
You think dogs will not be in heaven?  I tell you, they will be there long before any of us.  ~Robert Louis Stevenson
Old age means realizing you will never own all the dogs you wanted to.  ~Joe Gores
A house is not a home without a pet.  ~Anonymous
If having a soul means being able to feel love and loyalty and gratitude, then animals are better off than a lot of humans.  ~James Herriot
There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.  ~Ben Williams
The dog was created especially for children.  He is the God of frolic.  ~Henry Ward Beecher
The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.  ~Mahatma Gandhi
Every boy should have two things:  a dog, and a mother willing to let him have one.   ~Anonymous
A dog has lots of friends because he wags his tail and not his tongue.    ~Anonymous
The average dog is a nicer person than the average person.  ~Andy Rooney
He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog.  You are his life, his love, and his leader.  He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart.  You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion.  ~Unknown

...he will be our friend for always and always and always.  ~Rudyard Kipling

Roadway Prayer

Two of our 'dearies' are on their way to a warmer climate for the winter, and I offer up this Prayer for them and for all who are 'snowbirding to the south.'

Dear Creator, You have given us feet to move
 and a mind to imagine new things and places and people.
  You have made us to travel and explore your wonderful world.
  Thank you for this gift. 
 Still, this world over which we move 
is filled with dangers and threats. 
 When we travel, we are vulnerable.  Please protect our steps. 
 Protect us on the roads we take.
  Send an angel of protection to accompany us.
  Shield us from harm. 
 Bring us safely to our destination and back home again.
  And, while we are gone, protect those we leave behind. 
 Keep the peace and secure the boundaries of our home. 
 Assign an angel of protection to stand guard
 over our property and our loved ones, 
our children, our grandchildren, friends and family. 
 Keep us healthy and guard us from sickness,
 injury, accident and violence. 
 Give wisdom to those who share the roadways, 
and please keep the vehicles working properly.
  Moderate the weather on our travels. 
 And, begin to prepare us and the places we will visit,
 so that we can meet you there. 
 In fact, Dear Creator, come with us. 
 Join us on this journey and be
 our companion
 and guide
 and protector
 and provider.

Friday, January 06, 2012

Respect for Mother Earth

I pray.....please don't take my home away.
With nearly every turn of the steering wheel, we see timbers, sloughs, and fence rows being ripped out of the ground.  A savage human mania is making it acceptable to rape Mother Earth.  Small animals and birds watch their homes being toppled down and taken away.  Whatever happened to the human heart in only a couple of generations?

(~ written by Joshua Isham
to call attention to the way we treat
this earth we live on)

This mother Earth,
who gives us life;
This mother Earth,
Heart filled with strife.

We love her not,
Though love we should;
Her death we plot,
For life's 'own good.'

She gave us air, and food, and home,
That's not enough we humans scream;
With greedy lust our mouths do foam,
With evil hopes our eyes do gleam.

Her air we fill,
With smoke and death;
Ourselves we kill,
For lack of breath.

The sea once clean,
Now choked with waste;
To drink we fear,
Will death make haste.

The soil once  pure,
And full of life;
Now barren sand,
The farmer's strife.

No longer she,
Can stand our 'love;'
Now we must flee,
Like scattered dove.

She gave us all,
Unto the end;
Now we appalled,
Our lives defend.

P.S.   "So bleak is the picture...that the bulldozer and not the atomic bomb may turn out to be the most destructive invention of the twentieth century."  (Philip Shabecoff, New York Times Magazine, June 4, 1978) 

Thursday, January 05, 2012

Wine Bottle Artists

Our efforts to go green are lighting the creative fires within.

We happened upon this blue wine bottle landscape on one of our holiday trolleys.  Someone went to a lot of work designing this house yard charmer, rather than adding to that glass mountain at the local landfill.

Famous landmarks and glitzy tourist attractions are fun and educational places to visit, there's no doubt.  But, the genuine deeply-rooted galleries of the human soul are discovered when driving the back roads, where gentle souls feel comfortable enough to show off the masterpieces of their inventive and ingenious spirits.  

"Let the beauty we love be what we do.  There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."  ~Rumi

Wednesday, January 04, 2012


Motivation doesn't come easy this time of year, especially when it comes to housecleaning.  At this age, I'm never motivated to houseclean.  My list of things to do focuses wholeheartedly on the enjoyable, rather than the necessary.  My saving grace is my hubby.

Facing a big project makes me nuts.  Baby steps make more sense.  That's why there's the coolest website, http://www.flylady.net.  Flylady tells how to always have a clean house and gives a 365-day schedule to do so.  In her videos she tells how she got the name Flylady!

I'm pretty sure that once your mouse finds her website, it'll want to run from screen to screen, chasing more appealing ways of tackling the mundane.

Flylady rocks.

Tuesday, January 03, 2012

100 Years Ago in 1912

  • The Girl Scouts of the USA was founded.
  • The Dixie Cup was invented.
  • The Googoo Cluster Candy Bar (marshmallow, caramel, and roasted peanuts covered with milk chocolate) was first introduced.
  • The luxury liner Titanic struck an iceberg and sank.
  • The U.S. government adopted an 8-hour work day.
  • A New York deli owner, Richard Hellman, first marketed his bottled mayonnaise.
  • Nabisco debuted the Oreo cookie.
  • Morton's Table Salt and Lorna Doone cookies were firs put on the market.
  • New Mexico was the 47th and Arizona was the 48th State admitted to the Union.
  • The first parachute jump from an airplane was made.
  • Massachusetts passed first US minimum wage law.
  • First radio communications from a naval aircraft to ship.
  • Lifesavers candy was designed to be a candy that would not melt in the heat of the summer.  Its inventor bought a pill-making machine, punched a hole in the middle, realized they looked like mini life preservers, and called them Life Savers.
  • The invention of the electric starter eliminated the need for the hand crank to start a car.
  • First eastbound US transcontinental flight landed in Jacksonville, Florida.
  • Discovery of the South Pole was announced.
  • Mrs. William Howard Taft planted the first cherry tree in Washington, D.C.
  • Arizona, Kansas and Wisconsin voted for women's legal rights.
I try to imagine what life was like 100 years ago when there were no such things as.....

Zippers, band-aids, frozen foods, television, penicillin, electric shavers, scotch tape, ballpoint pens, aerosol spray cans, microwave ovens, Velcro, cake mixes, credit cards, super glue, soft drinks, calculators, pop-top cans, post-it notes, video games,  roller blades, contact lenses, diet soft drinks, Doppler radar to check the weather, answering machines, perma-press clothes, DNA, computers, and Valium.

This sunny January morning I sit here, sipping coffee and trying to picture life 100 years in the future.  Of course, I won't be here, but perhaps the average mind doesn't have the capacity to imagine the leaps technology will take.  It's best to be grateful for the every-day conveniences that people in 1912 couldn't have imagined us having.

Monday, January 02, 2012

Kite Flying

At first we thought it was a skein of geese, but the closer we got, the more it looked like a kite.  Sure enough, that's what it was.  Someone had tied the kite string to a fence post to dazzle passers by like us.  We pulled our vehicle off to the side of the road, took pictures, and watched the tail gracefully crawl the sky.  What a thing to see.....four days before Christmas!

As a little girl, I didn't get to fly kites, but I sure remember my brother telling me to do so.  Resentment came easy to us farm kids toward the town kids who had freedom to do things like fly kites while we were stuck doing chores.

Hubby was a town boy, and now I find his boyhood stories fascinating.  He tells of building rafts and floating down the river during spring floods.....of his buddy shooting a bb gun, the bb ricocheting off of something, flying back and hitting hubby about an inch from his eye.  They smoked cigarettes under the east bridge and chased girls up trees.

Hubby tells back in the 1950s kites cost maybe 20 cents or a quarter.  They came rolled up in their own thin paper or plastic, with 2 light-weight balsam wooden sticks.  The sticks pivoted, so they shaped em into a cross, and then tightened the cross-piece to put a bow in it.  Hubby's mother kept a bag of old clothes for the boys to cut into 2-3" wide strips.  They tied the cloth strips together to make a 4-6' tail as a counter weight to keep the kite under control.  The length of the tail was critical.  Too much tail would weigh the kite down, and too little tail caused the kite to twist and dive.

Grocery stores and dime stores sold balls of kite string back then.  The boys tied a string to the kite, put a stick through the middle of the ball of string, ran through a field with the kite over their shoulder, and the wind would get the kite airborne.  Once the kite was up in the air, the wind currents held it up, and they'd release the string off the ball to get the kite as high as they wanted.  Hubby remembers dropping the ball of string, it taking off across the grass, the ball unrolling, the kite flying away, and ending up in a tree.

The boys always made sure they saved the string for the next kite flight.  They cut a V in both ends of a 4" x 8" scrap board and wound the string onto the board.  The next time it was easier for them to unroll the string from the board than it was from the ball.

Maybe I didn't get to fly kites like hubby did, but listening to his stories is second best.  Funny thing, all these years later I find that while we were envying the town kids, they were envying us farm kids for having animals, getting to feed and play with them.  It's that silly business of thinking the other guy's life is better than mine!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Google Calendar

Happy New Year!
Have to share a "double senior moment" that happened at our house a couple of nights ago.

Four of us friends made plans on Monday night for Thursday night.  Both my hubby and I somehow got it in our heads that the plans were for Friday. Our 4-some date fizzled because of our mental glitch, and we're still wrangling with how this could have happened.  It's either because we've been together for so many years that our minds have morphed into one, or maybe we had one too many holiday toddies!

Either way, this oversight won't go unheeded.  Google offers a free calendar, and already the icon is on my desk top and all dates and times and events are/will be immediately noted from now on.  The Google calendar can be kept private, or it can be shared with others.

Screw-ups, like this one, will be gaining number in the years to come.  We've made a pact not to get upset with ourselves when they do.  Why fret the afflictions of Mother Nature.  The trick is to "outsmart" and come up with ways to compensate.....thus, our 2012 Google calendar.

Our new agenda will not only remind us of where we need to be, but will let us track things we do. As an example, hubby loves to go ice fishing with his buddies, and already he has suggested we monitor the weather, where they fish, and amount of fish they catch.....a fisherman's reference for 2013.

To create a personal calendar, go to www.google.com/calendar.