Thursday, July 31, 2008

Comment on Babies and How We Carry Them

From my journal of some years back written as I sit in a hospital waiting room:

I think I've seen three of them this evening...those handy carryalls with handles that people use these days to carry their infants. I think they are a car seat maybe. When you get out of the car you just invert the handle and carry it like a basket. You go striding down the street and carry this basket wherein lies your newborn. I think to myself that this kinda makes the baby a "thing". You when you used to carry a newborn you carried him/her bundled up in your arms, tucked in close to your heart and where you could reach out your hand and pat the the tiny face or tuck the blanket, where eyes could meet eyes, where a quick duck of the head could plant a kiss on new baby-skin forehead or cheek. Where you could gently tickle forth a smile. Or whatever other delight awaits when you hold a new baby. But now...with this just carry a basket at knee level and baby's eyes see no mother's smile. Instead, there are blue-jean knees and maybe a friendly doggy face as you walk down the sidewalk.

It seems so impersonal.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Today I am Serious

I didn't wake up this morning thinking about today's topic. But someone emailed me this quote by Martin Luther King: "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

I know what he means, of course. He's not talking about the end of life; he's not talking about death. He's talking about moral cowardice and failure.

Death, real Death, is deeper than that...deeper than moral failure on our part. More insidious. More deadly (if I can use "death" to define "death").

Biologically, our lives begin their trek toward death the moment we are conceived. Yes, I recognize that at conception rapid growth occurs. Our cells multiply and divide more prolifically at that point than ever again. But if I consider life as a "time" thing, that we live in "time", that each moment in time is a moment closer to our death, then I recognize that my march toward death began the moment I began conception.

The moment of death comes to us in many ways. Some live a "natural" lifespan and die of old age. Some die premature, violent deaths. Some linger long and painfully as some disease or bodily dysfunction ends their living days. Somehow we see natural death as "better" than dying prematurely by accident or disease. We see painless death as "better" than a death that comes painfully. We see certain deaths as tragic and senseless while we view other deaths as normal or natural.

But it is really not the manner of death that is so terrible. The tragedy, the human tragedy, is that we die at all! That death exists! That death awaits all!

It behooves us, then, to take into consideration where and when death entered into the world.

The Bible tell us "The wages of sin is death...", Romans 6:23.

If that is so, then which of my sins causes my death? The one I committed yesterday? The day before? The first time I deliberately chose wrong over right? Which Sin? And if it is sinful action on the part of the individual that brings that individual's death, then what about that newborn infant? The one who took two breaths and died. What sin did that infant commit that was worthy of death?

In regards to myself, some might answer that it is all my sins that bring about my death. That I am guilty of all. And that is true. I am guilty of all my sins. So in a sense I could say that all my sins cause my death. ( a Christian, I also am completely aware of and thankful for the forgiveness that Christ gives at the Cross.)

Death entered into the world long before I was conceived and born. I'm talking about the death that we are born into. Read Genesis, Chapter 3. My death comes about because of Adam's sin. It is Adam's sin that brought death into the himself, to his posterity, and to all the animal kingdom. Death reigned in Adam. He entered into a condition of death. And as his children we are conceived already entering into death.

The Bible speaks more about death, though, and gives us promise. It tells us that while in Adam we die, in Christ we live. (Romans 5:12-20). It also says that death will someday be destroyed (Rev. 20:14) and that death will not have the victory (1 Corinthians 15:55).

As Christians we can have confidence that death is not the end, that death will not have the victory, that we have life in Christ.

Dennis Ngien, in Christianity Today, puts it this way... "While we should be aware daily of the inevitable reality of death, we can live as those who have been freed from the curse and sting of death. Luther wisely reminds us to ponder "the heavenly picture of Christ," for in Christ, we have passed from death to life. Death is no death to the believers whose lives are hidden with Christ in God."

Today I am serious.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Tiger Lilies, Gramma, and Memories

In an earlier post I mentioned my grandmother Elise Susanne. (Click on her name to read how she and my grandfather first met.) In their declining years they lived in a small house in a small town in eastern Nebraska. In back of the house was a huge garden. Half of it was taken up with a raspberry patch and apple trees. The other half was for vegetables. To the side of the house grew a patch of flowers, including a stand of tiger lilies.

Some time after my grandparents died we made the two-hour trip to their home. The house was to be sold and family members were invited to take any of the belongings inside the house. While there, I dug a small clump of the tiger lilies and transplanted them to our farm home across the Missouri River in Iowa. I was about ten years old.

Over the years as I've moved from one home to another, I've managed to take along a clump of the tigers. I like their sturdy hardiness, their willingness to grow in hard soil. They put up with harsh sun and dry years and still they keep blooming. Gorgeous orange tigers with purple-tipped whiskers.

They remind me of my Gramma (no, she didn't have whiskers!!) and as I type I can see her home in my mind's eye. I can smell the not unpleasant smell of a home where old people dwell. The raspberry patch out back is vivid in my memory as is the large circle of ornamental variegated grass in the front yard. I remember the summer visits when adults sat in the shade and talked and we kids played softball on the school playground across the dirt street and sipped kool-aid as a treat. If we chanced to stay overnight we little ones were placed on the floor with our heads tucked underneath the library table. It seemed a cozy place to sleep and we didn't seem to notice the hard floor beneath us. A blanket and pillows made our bed.

There was no plumbing in that house. An iron pump stood just outside the back door. An outhouse stood at the end of the back sidewalk, out near the alley.

I visited that house on Memorial Day in 2001. The windows were all knocked out and I stepped through an empty window frame to go inside and walk through the house. I was amazed that this tiny home could have contained all the things of my memory.

The living room, now so tiny, had once held Grampa's heavy wood rocker with the black leather seat, an old Stickley type sofa with hard wood arms and which opened into a sofa bed, an oil burner heating stove, an upright piano, a library table, a small oak buffet with plate rack, and Grampa's oak roll-top desk. They must have been crammed in side by side but my child-mind did not see them that way.

The kitchen held Gramma's celery/cream/green wood-burning cookstove. Behind the stove was a wooden box that held the chunks of wood for the stove. A counter in one corner functioned as work space and sink. There was an oil-cloth covered dining table, a cot against the wall behind the table, an upright victrola atop which sat an ancient television with a screen only about six inches across. Off one corner of the kitchen was a tiny pantry and on one shelf sat a blue depression glass cream pitcher with a picture of Shirley Temple. At the time I didn't even know who Shirley Temple was. The front porch was barely large enough to hold an old trunk and the short path to the outside door. In back was another porch where Grampa had a small cot and where he shaved. A mirror hung above an enamel wash basin on a stand in the corner.

As children we were not allowed to run willy-nilly through the house. The one time that I entered the bedroom as a child was the week my grandfather lay dying. He must have been close to death for we were brought in and we stood around his bed and were then ushered out again.

That visit to the long-empty house five years ago made me recognize that some memories can be false. I had always remembered there being a doorway near the sofa that led to an upstairs bedroom. That afternoon that I climbed through the broken window I was surprised that there was no such doorway and never had been. Somehow my mind had tricked me into 'remembering' a room upstairs. But, no, this was a single story house and had always been so. There was never an upstairs room. The memory must have belonged to a different house or perhaps my mind invented it.

I like where we live now. But if we ever move again to a place that has any kind of a yard, I will take along some of Gramma's tiger lilies. I think she would like that.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Batman Mania

I may be critical of certain movies but I'm not a movie critic. Therefore, I encourage readers to read carefully Allen Barr's review of "The Dark Knight" before considering this movie to be just good entertainment. Secondly, I remind parents that a PG-13 is actually a cautionary rating, one that reminds you as a parent of your responsibility as a parent. Read more about the PG-13 rating here. And thirdly, I will say this....not everything classified as "art" is indeed "art", nor does everything created by man indicate that his creativity is "good". I've read enough gushing about both in regards to this movie to point out that little truth.

You probably guessed I don't like this movie.
She said with a grimace.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Tending the Garden

One winter we spent some time in a small apartment on the beach. The lady who was overseeing the place lived down below our balcony. One morning I watched her paddle around in sandals and sweats, moving from one plant to another, trimming, watering, weeding. She had a cactus, two small trees, an assortment of geraniums, succulents, and other plants in pots scattered around the lot. The lot itself was an asphalt parking lot for tenants but she had created a "garden" with those pots, adding beauty to what was bleak, growing things green and colorful.

It made me think, that after all these generations from the beginning (from Eden), man still has a message inside to "tend the garden". We love to plant, water, watch things grow, whether it be vegetables for sustenance or flowers for beauty. In my case when I visit the garden early in the morning to water a single plant I end up there for hours, wandering from one plant to another, pulling tiny weeds, trimming dead leaves, moving plants from one place to another because they are in the wrong place. "Tending" is built into us from the beginning. In spite of living in this broken world that is marred by sin, we still "tend".

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Did You Ever Notice the "Green?"

So many products are listed as "green" these days. Many makers of clothing, personal care items, and others tell us that they are "green" stores or carry "green" products. In other words they claim their items were produced in a manner not harmful to the environment (the rain forests or other current environmental focus). It's as if they are telling you that their products are somehow more moral than the products of their competitor. (Methinks they have an ulterior motive...hoping that the consumer will prefer THEIR product because of its green label. It translates to "profit".)

I have no problem with "green". After all, God told Adam and Eve to tend the garden, to oversee Creation, to take care of the Created Earth. We are to be wise stewards, good caretakers, responsible citizens of this Created Earth. So I agree that "green" is good. Nothing wrong with "green". Nothing wrong whatever with taking care of this Created Earth.

But I wonder when those who appear to be so diligently concerned about the earth and all that it holds...I wonder if they would so gladly accept a label that indicates a product has not violated the rights of the thousands of preborn being aborted daily in this nation.

Sadly abortion is one of those issues where pro-abortion people use one fallacious argument or another to defend their viewpoint. Read this one that I copied from the net this morning...and I quote...

"Do you kill spiders in your home? Those are living too! Do you kill weeds at your home? Those are living too! Come on now, lets be consistant! And like you, I will fight to keep the right to keep my body mine and until you want to support MY Body, then back off!!!!

How ridiculous is that argument!? Using her own argument, one might argue right back...Since we kill living things such as spiders and weeds, what problem is there in killing each any age, at any time, for any reason?

Sadly, there are TWO people involved in an abortion, two bodies, two lives. One insists she has the right to do with her life as she pleases. At the same time she insists that the second person has no voice in the matter. Under current civil law, she is correct. Under moral law, she is dead wrong (no pun intended). How can you argue for a "right" for one person without advocating a "right" for the other? Do only certain human beings have rights?

I am speaking as an older woman. I've made plenty of mistakes in life. I've accumulated plenty of my own sins. I am not sin free. So when I speak, I speak kindly and with truth. I say this...for readers who may have experienced abortion, do not be afraid to look at this issue in blinding truth. Stop believing the false arguments. Stop believing the lies. Be of great courage and look at the truth straight on. And then go to God in deep prayer, asking forgiveness. Our Beloved Lord is faithful and just to forgive. He died on our behalf in order that he CAN forgive.

John 12:46 "I have come as Light
(truth) into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness (untruth)."
I John 1:9 If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

P.S. I'll bet many, a majority, of pro-choice people would angrily lobby against animal shelters who might abort kittens and puppies. And I'll bet any farmer knows that the calf his cow is carrying in her belly is, indeed, a real live calf and not a worthless blob of flesh. If the farmer aborted calves on the premise he could sell the cow for meat, there would be an uprising amongst the animal rights people. How contradictory is that!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

We're Here to Help You Anytime Day or Night - Whatever is Convenient For You

Those are the words I recently heard while attempting to contact by phone a business with whom I had to do some business. "We're here to help you anytime day or night - whatever is convenient for you."

And all the while I'm listening to the background music and waiting for a REAL LIVE PERSON to speak to me I'm thinking to myself, "What do they mean by anytime? And what do they mean by convenient?" Thankfully I can set my phone to speaker phone and go about my business while I wait. I can't leave the room, however, for then I won't be able to hear when that REAL LIVE PERSON comes on the line. And where do they get That Music anyway? It's excruciating to my ears and to my musical preferences.

It took twenty minutes flat for this business to come to my aid anytime and conveniently!

I'm Sorry, but I'm old enough to remember when a REAL LIVE OPERATOR dialed the numbers for me. I simply picked up the phone, gave the operator the number I wished to call, and she made a connection for me and a REAL LIVE PERSON answered on the other end. In a moment's time, in almost the twinkling of an eye, I was in speaking contact with the intended party. No computer responses, no "if this, press 1" or "if that, press 2". And then onward to another list of "if this", and "if that", ad infinitum.

Today, technology and efficiency require me to waste half an hour to get a simple answer to an important question. My time is not important????

But, Hey! If you would like to live a simpler phone life, you can call me at my old number. Just ask your local operator to connect you to 45J11. When the phone rings it will ring one long and one short. My neighbors down the road, whose number is 45J12, will know that the call is for me and not for them. Their signal, as you might guess is one long and two shorts. They may pick up and listen in on my conversation, but they will be smart enough to wait a moment or two to insure that I am already on the line before they do so. That was the old party-line system, a swift source of neighborhood news. It may have been aggravating to suspect your neighbors were listening in on your private conversation, but at least it was a simple matter to talk to REAL LIVE PEOPLE!


Friday, July 18, 2008

I Have Recurring Dreams and Some of Them are Colorful

I didn't realize I have so many recurring dreams until I began to write about them. You can read about my dream about flying (if you can call hovering over the carpet as 'real' flying) and my recurring dream about commemorative pennies. And you can read about my recurring dream of flying down stair banisters. The funny thing is these are always pleasant dreams and maybe that's why they are recurring ... I just plain like them.

When my daughter told me of her dream that featured puppies born with colored fur ... not black or brown or white, but colors as in purple and blue it reminded me of my own recurring dream of colored pets. In my case it was kittens, not puppies. In my dreams the kittens have fur of 'natural' turquoise or magenta or some other color. It is a color they are born with and in the dream I realize that this color will be genetically passed on to the offspring. What a cool, colorful dream.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Things I No Longer Buy or Consume

Recently I was thinking about Jell-o. I don't know why. It just crossed my mind. It's been years since I've bought a box of Jell-o. Click here to see where gelatin comes from and why I have a difficult time considering it "food". The process makes this a very un-yummy "food" to my way of thinking.

That made me think of a number of other things I no longer buy. Here's a short list.

Crisco - Ugh! Read here about the history of Crisco. This site calls it the "quintessential imitation food". I haven't quite figured out how an imitation food can be so high in calories but there it is. These days I generally cook with olive oil and in very small amounts. I seldom make cookies anymore and when I do, the recipe I use calls for oil, not for solid fats. I keep butter on hand for special times when I need a "solid" fat or want the buttery flavor. I don't over-use it, but I figure it HAS to be more healthy than the quintessential imitation food.

Pre-Decorated Birthday Cakes - the kinds you buy at the big super grocery stores. The cake itself I can tolerate even though I recognize that it is baked from the most unhealthy ingredients. But the frosting!!! It tastes like Crisco! Or worse, an ugly imitation of Crisco. Do I ever bake cakes? Yes, and usually from a box. But I make my own frosting using powdered sugar and a dab of butter. Healthy? Well, it's not classified with veggies and fruits in regards to nutrition, but at least it is less artery clogging that that purchased, over-colored, ugly spread they call frosting. Here's a suggestion - if you HAVE to buy a pre-decorated cake, go down to the local Dairy Queen and buy an ice-cream cake. It may not be super-super-healthy, but it's a whole lot better than this.

Liverwurst - I quit buying this one in 1968 when I noticed the ingredients included "pork snouts". Yes, I really want to eat the noses of pigs.

Hotdogs - Similar reasons to Liverwurst.

Deli-salads - the kind made with lots and lots of mayonnaise or imitation mayonnaise. I don't care if they've put it in the case barely an hour ago, it LOOKS as if it has been there three days. I don't generally keep foods more than three days in my own fridge! Why would I want to buy something that already looks past its time?

Fosomax - Read here to see why I'm happy I stopped taking this bone-density drug three years ago.

Ciggies - This one speaks for itself. It's been twenty years since I quit ciggiebutts and it was an excellent decision! I could jump for joy about this one!

My list could include numerous other things as well, but today is Tuesday, and Tuesdays are busy days or me.
Also, a disclaimer, I hold no personal grudge against any of these products or their makers...I simply choose not to use or consume based on personal reasons. You, on the other hand, have to make your own decisions. And I hope Liverwurst is not your very favorite sandwich fixin'.

She said with a smile.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

In Spite of the Work I Think I'm In Heaven!

This week we purchased three cases of Rainier cherries. These babies are so beautiful it's almost a shame that you can't keep them forever simply for their beauty. However, they're fragile and in spite of having eaten as many as we can personally eat, and having given them away to friends and family, we still had plenty left to can.

I've never canned cherries before. So I got out my Ball Blue Book, checked the instructions, and began work. I packed the first batch with whole cherries but my Beloved suggested we pit them. He helped which was a big factor in changing my canning methods.

It was pretty easy, really. Pull the twigs. In the case of the whole cherries, prick them slightly with a knife as I dropped them into hot syrup. And in the case of the pitted cherries, two pair of hands made work fairly quick.

I do have a cherry stoner (or cherry pitter), one of those hand-cranks. I've used it before on smaller sour cherries but the size of these beauties made it impossible to use the crank. So back to the quad-hand method we went.

A large bowl of fresh cherries is in the fridge and we'll eat them for a couple days more. The rest are lined up in a row on a basement shelf. Aren't they beautiful!?

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Little House in the Big Woods

I think that Laura Ingalls Wilder would have loved my version of the Little House in the Big Woods. When I spotted this little ceramic house at a yard sale last year I knew it belonged in my flower garden.

As for the Little House books, they were a favorite part of my life in fifth grade. That was decades ago. Actually, it feels as if it were eons ago but I recognize that "eons" would make me ancient indeed, so I'll stick with decades.

Our fifth grade teacher, Mrs. Hattie Linden, was a brusque no-nonsense woman. She was tall and in appearance somewhat resembled Eleanor Roosevelt. She insisted on decorum in her classroom, she was fair to all, and she taught us well. Each day after noon recess she would quiet our exuberance by having us put our heads down on our desks or sit quietly while she spent 15 or 20 minutes reading to us. First from the Laura Ingalls Wilder books and when those were completed, she went on to read about fur trappers Jedediah Smith and Kit Carson, and other adventurers of the Old West. She seemed to love reading to us. And we loved listening.

Thank you, Mrs. Linden. From the bottom of my heart.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Sometimes a Bouquet Needs No Blossoms

I like to bring in flowers from my garden. Particularly roses. My beloved spouse thinks roses belong in the yard where they certainly do look lovely. But I like to put them in a vase where I can enjoy their beauty and their fragrance every time I walk past.

However, there are other plants in my yard that look nice as a non-floral arrangement. Hosta leaves, for instance, do nicely in water and make a bold statement either alone or with other plants added to the mix. Their glossy shape and texture are lovely.

But this second bouquet? What is that, you ask? These are onions gone to seed and their sculpturely shape shouted "We Look Great!!". I brought several inside, placed them in a vase, and thought, "Whooeee! Cool Arrangement!" Until the next day, that is, when I noticed that the water was beginning to have a sour onion odor. Out they went. Still....they look kinda cool, don't you think? Think of them as a "short-term" ornamental.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Bone Cyst and Sympathetic Critter

Our grandson has a broken arm. It's a weird broken arm. Several weeks ago he was hanging from the monkey bars at the playground when he heard a "pop". His humerus (upper arm bone) has a bone cyst near the upper part of the bone just under the growth plate. This weakened the bone and his swinging weight caused it to snap clean across. Fortunately he does not have to wear a cast but he does have to keep his arm in a sling for several weeks.

His friend in the photo is Fat Jack (aka Jackson), a quiet feline who is content to lie companionably on the carpet. I'm not certain Fat Jack could move very fast even if he wanted to for he weighs 20+ pounds. He's fed the appropriate portion once a day so it's not as if he overeats. He is lazy, lazy, lazy, and sits placidly anywhere, anytime, peering around the room, seldom moving, never getting excited unless he happens to spot a moth on the wall. He can't even get up enough energy to emit an occasional "MeoW".

He makes a perfect companion for a kid recuperating from a broken bone.

Friday, July 4, 2008

A Sparkly 4th of July

And speaking of the 4th, I've often wondered how "sparkly" we must look if one were to observe area fireworks from a small aircraft. Think of all those small town and back yard celebrations right now, 10:15 PM, evening of July 4. Seen from above there must be sparkles everywhere! Any pilots of small aircraft out there want to share their view (viewpoint) here?

Marching in the July 4th Parade

While I love the 4th of July and love the celebration of the Declaration of Independence, today's 4th was a rather quiet day at our house. No parades. No day spent at the beach. No huge celebration. Just a quiet day.

That wasn't the case fifty years ago. (Oh, My! I am OLD!)

Our small town band spent every July 4th marching in the local parade and providing the music for two days of rodeo. Except for one exceptionally hot 4th, we always wore our red wool uniforms, our ties, plumed hats and white shoes. We stepped smartly, too, for our instructor didn't put up with any sloppy laziness in the ranks. She stepped pretty smart herself, always marching just to the right of the lead baton twirler. If she could keep marching regardless of rain, snow or sleet, who were we to slack off!

Today's small towns seldom have the musical programs that we did. It's a pity. We gained so much. I still hold this instructor in high esteem. She taught both band and vocal to the entire school from first grade through high school. She pushed us, she encouraged us, she insisted we do our best! What a lady! What a dedicated teacher! How she did love us! Thank you, Mrs. Jane Matthews. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.


Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Let's Get Serious

From my journal of 1995:

When we were children, too small to expose to the sorrows and reality of funerals of any but the closest relatives, it was the older folks who were the mourners, the pall-bearers, the food-servers. The only funeral I remember going to as a small child was of my grandfather. I remember sitting with other grandchildren in the front row on folding chairs.

Today we attended two funerals. At 10:00 this morning we wept with friends and family of a six-day-old baby boy. We sorrowed for the loss of their infant son and grandson. A new life that was so shortly ended.

At 2:00 this afternoon we went to another church where we paid our respects (that's an old terminology with still current meaning) to a man who died at 52. We remembered him as a good and caring man, a family man, a courageous and quiet man who endured much personal physical disability, a good member of our community.

We heard two ministers present to those present the message that salvation (eternal life with God) is provided to us by God the Father through his son, Jesus Christ.

As we were sitting there in the hot summer warmth of the second service, I thought to myself, "We have become the old folks that we saw in our youth." We are now the mourners, the pall-bearers, the food-servers, and I think to myself that it is an honorable thing to be...members of a community struggling to see that even in the death of our loved ones, our Heavenly Father loves and comforts us.

We, each one of us, wait for that blessed hope of being with our Lord. In the meantime we comfort and are comforted with the Word of our Lord.

Tip Of The Day or How To Hang Two Pictures Vertically In Line Without Using a Level

Last week while visiting my daughter in Minnesota we went yard saling. We ALWAYS go yard saling for a different city has different treasures. And if you don't understand that then you are not a yard sale aficionado.

One of the treasures I brought home was this silver oval picture frame. I knew it would be perfect for one of two black and white photos I have. (It was difficult choosing which photo to use! I love them both!)

After looking around I decided to hang this framed photo directly beneath a vintage photo. The problem? How to place the nail exactly vertical to the first. Aha! Light bulb moment? I placed a necklace chain on the nail, let it hang, and marked the spot for the new nail.

Aha, you say, how will that help if I want the new photo ABOVE the first one? Simply hold the new nail with the chain looped over the nail and dangle it over the first nail until you find the right place to tap it into the wall.

Sometimes the problems of life are so easy to solve. She said with a smile.

Now, if I can explain to my spouse why I'm sitting here typing away instead of cooking pancakes for breakfast I'll have a second problem solved. Again she said with a smile.