Friday, December 19, 2014

Take Some Time To Remember

Somehow, across miles and miles of years and time, Christmas has lost its magic.
Once fresh pine trees, decorated with colored lights and home made ornaments, adorned the center of the home. It didn't matter if the tree was crooked, the decorations a bit tattered, or the tinsel a bit thick in places where little hands helped. It was the symbol of family time, of giving, of remembering baby Jesus. Moms and dads and kids would sit around it in the evenings, dreaming of days to come, praying for good health, and whispering quiet thanks for what they had been given.
There may not have been a lot of presents beneath the tree, but what was there was treasured and appreciated for a long time.
And always, yes always, there was a star placed on top. Shining in all its tin-foil glory, or sparkling with glue and glitter and simple unadorned love.
Now days the tree must be perfect. Live or artificial, the ornaments must match, hang uniformly and placed precisely. The lights must be small and bright -cool and thickly wound - shining brightly in front of the window so the neighbors can all see how pretty it is... And how much time and money you spent to make it impeccable.
Families seldom gather round the tree anymore. There's a Santa or a giant bow -or Frosty's hat- adorning the top, and there's barely enough room for all the gifts. They overflow into the dining room or onto the side table. And they are mostly taken for granted.
Years ago, one of the greatest joys of Christmas was not knowing was Santa would bring you. No idea. 
Sure, you would write letters or go sit on his lap in the little elf house on the square, and name a doll or a game or special item you wished for. But you never really knew for sure what Santa had given you until that wrapping paper was peeled off.
It all had to be magic. Most families couldn't afford toys and games -or even candy. So once a year, at Christmastime, dreams and wishes came true.
Now kids make lists as long as their arms, on paper and on Amazon, telling mom and dad what they want and need and then add the famous guilt trip line, "I'll just freak if I don't get it".
Let's go back. For just a little while, forget about the misplaced ornament, the pine needles in the carpet, the string of lights half burned out. Forget that you couldn't afford the gift they asked for, couldn't find their favorite dessert, couldn't pull off that beautiful tree like your neighbor did. Forget the TV, the computer, the iPhone, the other things that distract from what is important. Don't worry that the cookies burnt, you've got a pile of laundry waiting, and your hair is a catastrophe. For just a little while, turn off the house lights and turn on the tree lights. Sit around it as a family. Take some quiet time to think and dream and pray. Remember to be thankful, no matter what may come. Remember that " for unto you is born this day in the city of David, a savior, who is Christ the Lord".
Let's go back. To the sprit and joy of a true Christmas. To things that matter.
Let's bring back the magic.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Keeping Promises

My husband used to scold his mother whenever she would start bragging about her grandkids. "Mom, no one wants to hear that!" he would say. And then he'd roll his eyes and walk away embarrassed. But that never stopped her from sharing all the good things they were doing, be it milestones of growth,  their grades,  or little things they did on a daily basis that made her proud.

We are all guilty of a little bragging once in awhile. I do it, too. I always beamed when they learned to share, exercised good manners and achieved awards in school. I bragged when they graduated, were married, and had children.

But I used to be extra proud of them when they learned to keep their promises. To me that showed a strength of character and compassion for others.
"I'll be home by ten o'clock," one would say.
 "I'll study harder next time," said another.
"I'll take the trash out after this show, I'll feed the dog, Ill call you when I get there," they promised.

And somewhere along the way, they promised that they would grow up and leave home.

They kept those promises.

Rooms of toys and clothes and school backpacks seemed to disappear overnight. Half eaten pizzas, wasted soda and wet towels on the bathroom floor soon became rare. Hearing their voices in the hallway before bed, listening to them singing with the radio, watching them as they opened presents on Christmas Day....those things happened less and less.

And before I knew it, I turned around and their rooms were empty, their voices were silent, and Christmas Day had lost its magic.

Yet, how could I be upset that they kept their promises? How could I deny them the wings they grew? the dreams they followed? or the lives they made for themselves?

I've always kept my promises, too. I'm sure my mother was proud once. I bet she bragged a little bit on all of us kids.

When my kids were born I promised that I would love them forever. That I'd try to be a good mom. That I would give them room to fly when the time came. That I would always be here for them. That I would try to listen and advise, but never tell them what to do. That I would always smile and be happy for their choices.

I've kept those promises.

Oh, and that I wouldn't brag on them too much.

So I won't.

But I'm proud of them all. They bring me joy and love and memories beyond imagination. They keep me young and adventurous and in tune to what's going on in this big old world.

Simply put, they amaze me!

So, just remember...someday your kids are gonna keep their promises. Someday they will leave for college or a job in another town -or to marry the love of their life. And they will never ever come back to live under your roof.

This Christmas, no matter how old your children are- hug them. ( until they roll their eyes and walk away embarrassed).
Indulge them with treats and attention...share their laughter and tears...memorize their faces, touch their hands and remember their voices.
Listen to their stories, give them your time...and tell them you love, love, love them -

Promise me.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

True Confession

It's happened.
I've become that needy, materialistic, shallow person that I always try to avoid in my life. ( Hard to do that now that she's staring back at me when I look into the mirror...)
I've always prided myself into being satisfied with the things I'm given. I've learned to actually enjoy reusing and redesigning and rethinking the dull, ordinary things that surround me in my home. I've been happy and satisfied living in this little cabin for over a year and a half.
But, lately, something in me has snapped. A giant dream virus has taken over and all I want to do is plan and imagine and covet all things beautiful. Sofas, dishes, thick, thirsty towels...coffee table books, chandeliers, soft rugs...duvet covers, throw pillows, giant art and sculpture...
Need I go on?
Well, there's a canister set I need, some cute cloth napkins I've Pinterested and paint chips I've chosen for every room of my new " yet to be built" house.
This is the giving time of year. When you reach out to others. Give thanks for all you have. Enjoy friends and family and simple pleasures. And here I am- all strung out on the perfect sconce choice, the layout of my living room furniture, and those sweet dinner plates with the deer dressed in gingham.
I'm a mess. A total loser. I've neglected cleaning my fridge. And every time I open it and the spilled pickle juice wafts into my nostrils, I just shut it, get on Lowes and search for some gigantic super fridge that will fit in my new kitchen someday. That search leads to a new dishwasher, microwave, range and cookware. Then to throw rugs, drapery, and even spoon rests.
I'm obsessed. And shallow. I should be finding that last little Christmas gift. Or mopping the floors. Or dusting the DVR that looks like it's been snowed on...
Is there help for me? Can I shake this "I want everything" attitude? Am I going to have to destroy my computer and attend therapy?
It's pitiful. But is it really so bad to want a place to roll out dough? A bathtub to soak in? A cabinet lined neatly with soup cans and jars of dried beans and rice? A cute cookie jar on the counter? A big window where I can watch the birds? A bedroom with a door? A microwave I can use without having to shut the bathroom door first? A private place? Lots and lots of lighting? A place I can play music and open windows and enjoy dusting and cleaning and living in?
So sorry. This is a rant. Yet, a true confession.
I do love my little cabin. We still lay awake at night and say, "We live here". And we laugh and breathe deep and talk about how beautiful and peaceful it is here. How lucky we are to be together and have this place and enjoy the nature surrounding us. How the stars hang like giant diamonds and the moon lights up the woods like black lace and the pine trees sing songs we are just beginning to learn.
Maybe this crazy needy thing is just temporary. An old age phase I'm going through. Maybe it's just my way of sorting out ideas and creativity and plans I'm going to have to make later anyway.
Whatever it is, I'm not really liking being shallow. It's unattractive and selfish and doesn't pair well with the lifestyle we've chosen for ourselves.
I know I'm going to have to wait a few more months on my house. It's going to be beautiful no matter what. I'll just wash up a few of my rugs, fill the old cookie jar, throw a favorite quilt on the bed and bring out the ugly China.
There's no doubt I'll be happy. I'll be whole again. I'll quit wishing and wanting and just learn to be thankful.
And I just might even clean the fridge.


Friday, November 7, 2014

Little Yellow Dresses

Years ago, when I was a new mother, I rarely had an opportunity to shop for my baby girl. Hand-me-downs, yard sale onesies, and shower gifts made up the wardrobe that I tucked neatly into a white chest of drawers. 
But one special present I received was a beautiful yellow dress. It had sweet appliqu├ęd  daisies on the hem and a thin gauzy overlay like a silky apron. It was a fancy dress and not an everyday outfit. So I hung it carefully on a little hanger, put it in the closet, and waited for the right occasion.

Once in awhile I would run my hands along the daisies when I reached in for my jacket or a pair of shoes. I smiled and imagined how beautiful my baby would look in it...the yellow against her pink baby skin and sprouting curls.

But time passed. And my baby grew.
And the dress hung on the little hanger until it was too small and too late to ever see her wear it.

I thought I learned my lesson those long years ago. But I didn't.

There were always good dishes I was afraid to use. They might get broken. 
A crystal gravy boat I hid away in the top cabinet, because it was too pretty to set out.
A scented candle I saved, tablecloths never spread for dinner, a bottle of cologne that eventually lost its perfume, and nice towels I saved for company.

I was always looking to the future to when I might need these things. I was saving them. Sadly to a time that might not ever come.

Somewhere in the attic of the barn is that gravy boat. And I swear when I get my house, it will be set out at every meal that includes gravy. 
And the good dishes will be brought out even for grilled cheese or hot dogs. Who cares if one breaks? Why not enjoy it?

There are nice towels in a cardboard box waiting to be washed and used for the first time. Can't wait. I'm gonna hang them out and use them myself. If they become raggy and thin...well, I'll just buy some more.

The candles, perfume , tablecloths and other treasures are all things I wish I had now. But until I have room to utilize them, they will have to continue to be stored away. Having to wait has made me appreciate them more.

 Nothing should ever be saved in anticipation for a better time and place.

I've learned you have to grab all the good things in life... use them ,enjoy them..wear them out! 
Because things don't last forever.

Just like little yellow dresses...



Tuesday, October 28, 2014

To Build a Dream

5a.m.
The day winds up and I ready it with coffee. Steaming, black and in my favorite cup, I sip slowly at first and then gulp away the sleepiness still fogging up my head. I think ahead of things to be done today. Plan how my hours will be spent.

We will handle lumber today and make everything level and square...the sawdust spinning like snow from beneath a new saw blade. The nail gun will scare the birds off for awhile... the " pop, pop, pop " building walls in minutes, and a hammer nearby correcting crooked mistakes.

Metal goes on soon. Sheets of barn red that are taller than  Sasquatch and awkward to dance along the roofline. Drill in hand, we will soon have sides and a roof and I will shout with joy. This has not been a fun game for me. I am thankful, but I am weary. 
(Good thing I realize that weary will wear away, but thankfulness is forever.)

I dream ahead...far off...to drywall and smooth paint being stirred with long paddles and rolled on in color that licks the walls.
I dream of washing new windows I've never seen, opening doors not yet purchased, cooking in a kitchen I only imagine.

How comforting it will be to have a closet!  Line up clothes and shoes and linens in perfect rows, soak in a hot bath with a good magazine, drink coffee at a dining room table that is still just a log beside the garden. 

I imagine scented candles and a Christmas tree. Coffee table books, fluffy towels and music drifting through the hallway that can make you want to dance.

I see a door mat and tasteful curtains and a cookie jar on the counter full of Oreos. I see slumber parties with the grandkids, watching old movies in the arms of a comfy couch, sleeping with the windows open and seeing the stars.

I  look forward to watching the snow fall in thick, fast flakes while timid deer wander close by and entertain us with their beauty. Of counting wild birds that frequent our feeder, their feathers the colors of a hundred crayons, each unique and free and spirited.

I tie on old shoes, worn jeans, and a tee shirt that reminds me that bacon grease does stain. I gulp the last of my lukewarm coffee. Slap on a cap, grab my gloves... and go help to build our dream...

Thursday, October 16, 2014

High School Reunion Reality Check

Sometimes it takes stepping out of your comfort zone to find yourself. Seems, ironic, really, to realize who you are when you're in the middle of strangers in an unfamiliar room...pretending you are forty years younger and telling yourself that not much has changed.

But a lot has changed. 

We don't have those eyes bright with wonder anymore. They are dull and too experienced and we know the hard times are yet to come. We know that hitting sixty and seventy years old will be as challenging as anything we have ever experienced in our lives. It takes a bit if the spark from us, knowing that if there was something adventurous we haven't done yet, we probably never will.  

We don't have those young bodies. Thin, tan, agile and soft. And though there were a few that kept their " figures", realistically we can't hide the wrinkles and spots and leather fingers...the painful joints, the graying hair, the added bulge of too many cheeseburgers and too little jogging.

I felt like a imposter. 

I had my hair done at the stylist that morning, spent $125 on an outfit to wear, dug out my old jewelry and wore shoes that haven't seen my feet in two years. I sucked my gut in with a cheap "shaper", dusted myself with perfume, and even sported more makeup than I've ever chanced before.

I smiled and smiled and shook hands and hugged and pretended that high school was the most exciting and amazing time of my life.

But it wasn't. 

I should have been truthful. 
I should have been me.

 I should have showed up that night in my favorite faded jeans and a loose hoodie. With a sports bra and no shaper and my hair " home-fixed" like I do every day of my life. I would have nixed the jewelry, cologne and uncomfortable shoes. I would only have on my wedding ring, smell like I just showered, and have on flip flops. A little mascara, a bit of Oil of Olay, and an honesty that could not be masked...

High school was just something I wanted to "get through". Four years of my life that I spent worrying and wondering and dreaming of who I would be afterward. To say it was "fun" would be stretching it. To say it was tolerable would be more like the truth.

Don't get me wrong, I treasure each and every person that I met during those years. There were those I envied and admired, trusted and respected...those I wanted to be like, look like, act like. And each person touched my life and made me who I am today. Thank you.

But I am not who you saw at the reunion. I'm fatter and older and more unkind than you realize. I'm content to wear my pajamas pants forever, never carry a designer purse, and not ever care to know how it feels to parasail -or be promoted -or drive a red sports car.

I love my life. 

I love when I don't have to smile and talk all day. When I can sit quietly and dream. Paint. Write. Let my chin hairs and eyebrows go unchecked. Eat another slice of pie. Go braless and shoeless ...and clueless about all the things going on in this world.

I wouldn't change it if I could. 

But I don't begrudge any of you who are still hoping to find that bit of high school excitement, that newness, that feeling of belonging, of learning, of advancing forward.

And please believe me,  even though I honestly enjoyed the visit, I could not wait to get home and throw off my disguise.

It's funny how you can find yourself in a group of friends you haven't seen in forty years...how suddenly you can have this epiphany...

So, thats the real truth.

Now, I think I'll have another slice of pie...

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

If I Had A Hammer

You've no doubt heard the old saying, " be careful what you wish for" and today I'm living proof that sometimes even the most simple and well- intentioned wishes can backfire. Like in "explode".

To tell my story, I must go back in time...years ago when I was a young bride. When every unused surface of a wall was fair game for a painting, a doo-dad, an ornament, sign, or  shelf. And due to my lazy nature, it was beyond my efforts to walk out to the garage and retrieve a level from the tool bag. So most times it took four, five, maybe even eight holes in the drywall before the Mona Lisa of all garage sale  paintings was hanging straight and proper on the wall.
Because of this extreme lack of forethought on my part, I was suddenly banned from ever owning, using, buying or dreaming of ...a hammer.
It was cruel to say the least. That I was humbled to the point that I had to wait endless days (and sometimes months )for my husband to bring in his hammer and hang my treasures. It was embarrassing to admit to all my DIY friends that my punishment prevented me from crafting and creating a mass wonderland of Martha Stewart masterpieces and walls of photographic awesomeness.
There were occasions when I childishly thought my sentence might be lifted...times when my husband and I would walk through Home Depot or Lowes and I would admire a shiny new hammer...touch the fiberglass handle or the cushioned grip...
" You want that hammer, don't you?" my husband would ask ,as I ran my fingers across the nickeled claw in a gentle petting- like motion.
"Yes, yes!" I exclaimed with tears in my eyes.
" Not . Gonna. Happen.," he reminded me with that Grinch-y smile on his face.

So, there were years of sneaking around. Of using shoes and phones and rocks and spoons to hammer inconspicuous nails into walls begging for ornamentation. Of patching and glueing and hiding holes that accidentally fell short of perfection. Most times he never noticed. But once, for a whole week, I was prevented from using a spoon for anything! 

Okay, you are probably wondering what that has to do with wishes coming true. Well, I have finally been paroled. I have my very own hammer. With a soft black grip and a silver finish that shines like jewelry. And I've coupled it with a brand new 4-in-1 screwdriver to make my life complete.

But here's the catch. I have to use it. 
We are building onto the barn and there are walls to be made and wood to be hammered and nails pulled and all sorts of non- fun hammering things to do.
So now that I have it, I must utilize it. No matter if the result could very possibly ( and most likely) result in busted fingers, bruised arms, bloody fingernails and cracked bones.

I dread the whole " getting my hammer dirty" scenario, but I totally embrace this new found freedom. Once the barn is built and my new home is ready...and its time to hang pictures... there is no way he could possibly revoke my hammer rights.

Is there?


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

After The Rain

I awake this morning, and suddenly it is autumn. Cool air drifts in the window and brings the smell of rain. Fresh, earthy, and with a hint of pine.
The tin roof plinks with raindrops from a shower long passed, the wind tickling the trees till they give up their sprinkles and tiny acorns. 
The garden looks sad. Tomato vines bow and zinnias grow brown. Rows of herbs grow thin and spindly- and a few withered peppers give up the fight.
Wasn't it only yesterday we turned that rocky earth into a beautiful spring garden? How is it so much time has passed since we anticipated the first red tomato?... That we hovered over the cucumbers like new parents?
My eyes scan the horizon and see no sun today. Clouds are soft and gray and hang low above the woods. Some trees are vibrant red, others smoky orange, some canary yellow...like wet feathers they drop to the ground and are lost in the forest floor. In the coming weeks, the leaves will all be gone, blown away by an autumn storm, an early frost, or the inevitable hand of nature.
In a mangled pile of silver bark, firewood waits to be stacked. Soon, on a crisp, cold morning we will put on coats and gloves and carry the cut timber to a neat pyramid. There it will wait for the first quiet snowfall to be whisked into the fireplace and bring us heat.
The rooster crows and the hens cluck, pacing in their pen in hopes of being freed. Of getting the chance to run in the garden and catch juicy bugs and flying feasts. Later, I will gather smooth, brown eggs from their straw nests.
They watch me as though they know winter is coming.
So I make a pot of coffee. 
And wait.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Selfish Wishes


I've never been too materialistic. I've never had a need for a fashionable wardrobe, a sparkling box of jewelry, or the latest sleek designs in my home. In fact, I rather love the look of time worn quilts and quirky flea market finds and the ragged comfort of faded sweat pants. I choose plain black coffee over lattes and espressos, my mom's spaghetti instead of expensive Italian cuisine, and my favorite lumpy chair before a new Bellagio leather sofa.
That being said, there is one thing I do covet. It's childish, really. And foolish. But somewhere in my humble, second- hand, bargain loving heart, I yearn for the wedding I never had.
I know, I know. It's not the ceremony, it's the celebration. It's not the dress, the cake, the presents piled up in a mountain of silver and gold wrap. It's the person you vow to share your life with and nothing else is as important or as meaningful as that.
Don't get me wrong. We had the wedding that we wanted. At the time, we were carefree spirits that had no other need than to pledge our love, make it legal, and ride off into the sunset to an old
farmhouse, our dog, and true love that surpassed explanation. Even given an option at the time, we most likely would still have waived the fuss and fanciness for a unpretentious union at the preachers house.
But, perhaps it is the little girl in me that wishes my husband and I could snuggle together on a cushy sofa and watch our wedding video. While snow is falling outside in white, foggy sheets, we could be wrapped in one another's arms, drinking wine or hot chocolate, rolling our heads back in laughter...our eyes smarting with real tears...our faces frozen with joy - and the beguiling power of going back in time. Of seeing our young selves, our love so new and fresh and frightening, our hearts never more sure of anything ever in our entire lives...
I'd have an ivory dress of vintage lace, pearls from K-mart and a bouquet of just- picked wild flowers.
I'd wear my favorite sandals and rhinestone earrings and wear my hair up in a messy bun, clipped
with a tortoise shell comb.
My husband would wear a nice black dress pants with a crisp white shirt. A colorful tie and his crazy
Earth shoes; his short pony tail gathered with a stylish black rubber band. His face shaven and smelling like the spice of fragrant soap.
Our parents would be there, sitting in white wooden folding chairs on an expanse of green lawn, smiling with pride, yet apprehensive and hopeful. The video would capture the sun on their brows...our mothers with Aqua Net hair doos and new heels -our dads with starchy shirts and polished shoes.
There would be a lopsided, but delicious cake, and flowers of yellow and violet. And there would be music. Eric Clapton and Kris Kristofferson and Creedence Clearwater Revival. And catchy ballads that make a lump rise in your throat.
Yes, music! And a special song that we would dance to in our wedding video. A song that causes a spark, a leap of passion, a reassurance that there will never be any doubts. A song that, years later, can cause me to stop in my tracks whenever I hear it. Our song. One that can make me cry in the
grocery store, smile at a party, or sing out loud in the car.
And someday when we watch the video, we will see the aura that we share. We will see sweet kisses
and stolen glances and the way the sunlight played upon our hair.
Even though we will be old and gray, we will watch the video again and again, every year, every anniversary, every time we need to remember who we were and how we loved in the beginning.

Perhaps it's not the big wedding, the enchanting video, the still life photos of a special day...maybe
it's a yearning to be young again, to go back and hold on tighter, love deeper... embrace the falling away of time.
Perhaps that is what my heart really covets.
Perhaps that is it...



Wednesday, October 1, 2014

October

It seems this time of year pulls us inside ourselves. We reflect. We reminisce. We welcome the sweet slowing of time.
Things seem softer now, fringed in bittersweet. We grow mellow and sad and dreamy as the season changes colors beyond our window. Our senses are stirred with warm colors of lemon and pumpkin and ruby. Of rusty trees and turquoise skies and stars as bright as glitter. 
We breathe in the scent of leaves burning in damp piles, cinnamon baking in plump, home made cookies, the spice of sassafras and straw and and cider...
We welcome textures like flannel and wool...bring out the chenille throws and cotton soft blankets. And those favorite furry slippers that have seen better days.
We savor flavors like caramel and apple and merlot. Like cheesy chili and thick, rich soup...hot chocolate, hazelnut coffee and crusty pies dripping with honeyed fruit.
These are days when we grow closer to nature. To our God. To the importance of family and friendships. To the things that are truly important in life...like laughter, love, memories...
May your October be bright with golden sunlight, lavender shadows in the cool evenings, moonlit nights of velvety skies ...and bursting with huge, wonderful dreams.
It's up to you to embrace its beauty.