Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Every day is a new day....

even if it seems like the same ol', same ol'. One of my favorite movies is Groundhog Day starring Bill Murray and Andie McDowell. This total creep of a sleaze weatherman gets a great gift--to live the same day, Groundhog Day, over and over and over. Day after day, the same things happen, the same town, the same lines, the same people. You get to see how his reactions, attitudes on those days changes things, but most of all changes him. In one part of the movie, Phil tries to change the outcome of a man dying. He is able to save quite a few people around town, but this one man dies day after day and he finally realizes that he can't change this--but he does make the day better for the old man. I love that movie.

So, each day I do try to live better than the last, even if that day appears crummy, like today (cold, bad roads, snowing, family getting sick,etc.) I was especially thinking about this last night when my husband came home from taking the boys to their guitar lessons and told about a minor thing that happened to him.

He went to a downtown pharmacy while they were in their lessons, and said that while standing in the checkout line, he got out some change and dropped a penny. There was a long line,and a woman picked up his dropped penny and did something you don't expect--she pocketed it! Now, one penny is nothing, really. So what? But think about this for a moment--what would make a woman pocket a dropped penny right in front of the person who dropped it? What kind of a person does this?

I came up with a brainstorm of possibilities:

1. She is desperate. This penny will be the difference for her starving children.
2. She actually did not see him drop it and thought it was just lying there. A penny found is a penny earned.
3. She thought she dropped it herself.
4. "Oooooooh! It's so shiny!" (That's blonde inside the scalp...)
5. "Just one penny a day will save a young boy who has no food and no school books in Outer Siberia."
6. "Wow! A real old penny! I'm hoarding mine for when they discontinue pennies!"
7. "The old coot will never miss this."
8. "Mooooo haaaahhahahahahahahahahaa! I'm rich! Rich! Rich beyond my dreams!"
9. "Find a penny, pick it up, then all day you'll have good luck."
10. "Meh."

Two and three were the most generous thoughts, really, that I could think of for her. Regardless of what good you would do with the penny, it wasn't yours to begin with, no matter how small the amount. Thinking that you could do more good with someone else's money is arrogance. I tend to be cynical. Mostly, I just kept thinking, "What kind of a person doesn't offer to give anything dropped back to the person who dropped it??!"

I am afraid that I wrote into my brain something about the stinginess and moral decline of society(and especially this woman.) I compared her to the generation who would give the shirt off their backs, the last of their stone soup and a ride into town during the '30s, '40s, '50s. I thought of the European generation which hid Jews from the Nazis, feeding and clothing them, at risk to themselves and their families. I thought of those Midwestern people(a many who had lived in my community) who hid runaway slaves in their walls, giving them shoes off their own feet, warm clothing and food for the cold trip north, and risking life and livelihood for what was right. I think about countless others who just picked up the penny or the grocery list you'd dropped and smiled and said, "Hey, you dropped this."

I thought of one more thing. One of girls I knew in college had the opportunity to go to Russia with a singing troupe. Some of them took their one Bible they were allowed for personal use on the trip, and each decided to conveniently "forget" it on a bench or somewhere. (Their personal Bible happened to be in Russian and this was before the fall of Communism.) The girl I knew left her Bible on a bench and walked away, feeling pretty good about her act and that someone might actually find it and it would change their life. Well, as soon as she left it behind, someone snatched it up...and ran after her! "Hey, you forgot this! (you dumb American!)" She wasn't prepared for this. She wasn't prepared for someone actually having a sense of moral kindness in a country at that time that was full of poverty, moral decay, no God--theft and killings and suicide. It was a funny lesson to learn.

As you read the headlines, bump into someone who cusses you out for tripping into them, and a multitude of other angry, selfish, bitter actions we see too often, you wish you had the power of granting Groundhog Days to a lot of people. You might even wish you could have a few Groundhog Days of your own.


You might have noticed, if you've read this blog for very long, that I have made a few changes to the page and format. My blog is the one place where I can actually do a Groundhog Day kind of thing. It's a great feeling to be able to change things and I needed a pick-me-up (especially a good time to do it since I needed to change over to the new blogger.)

I like finding new systems. Improving on the old systems. Systems, systems--what works and what doesn't? So, go ahead and comment--like the old look? Like the new?

Friday, January 26, 2007

1000 Gifts....
I am behind on counting my 1000 gifts that I started with Christian Women Online. I need to count a few gifts today.
Also, I have tried to change over to the new blogger format. Sigh. Not sure this is working, but I'm trying to stay up-to-date.
417. my birthday boy, Jordan (on the 25th, 2nd from left)
418. laughing at dinner over kids' stories
419. the great sense of humor that all my "guys" have (all five of them)
420. friends
421. the privilege to stop to pray for someone grieving
422. beautiful cards that I can pick out in the store or online to send that help me to say what I mean when I'm not sure what to say
423. Lynn and her fast wit
424. Karen's cookbook sharing!
425. the color royal blue
426. Tina and Chris and our new jackets
427. Judy's great email (hi!)
428. Sabrina always dropping in to say she cares
429. anticipation of Jan. 31 and seeing 3 good friends
430. all the band contest doors are filled! (I'm a band mom)
431. safe and sound boys
432. a husband who takes care of us
433. a special delivery Kringle from Wisconsin from two authors (yum!)
434. Colts and Bears in the Super Bowl!
435. Fuze (have you tried it? I like tangerine grapefruit)
436. a new recipe
437. garlic mashed potatoes
438. very warm hat, scarf, gloves in royal blue
439. hard-working boys
440. a book package from AMG Publishers
441. red foxes running around in the woods
442. the call of the red-tailed hawk in my woods
443. red poppy seeds in the mail for spring
444. gardening magazines
446. Bonnie's gorgeous photos that bring joy

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Technology is Only a Generation Away...

This photo was taken when I was a little girl and my brother was just a baby. These are my Warren grandparents--my dad's parents--who had come up to Indiana from Tennessee to see the "new baby" and to get a dose of me (they had kept me for several years when my mother was ill in a Ft. Wayne TB hospital in the 1950s, so I was "their" baby, too.)

Now, this was big stuff. You got into this booth and a camera would take a photo. You put money into a slot and out would come a roll of small photos. You can tell we are all rather crammed into the booth, but they took home some photos and we kept some. That was big time technology back then.

Today I got photos from across the world in a matter of seconds. I can download them onto my computer, print them off or save them to a flash drive no bigger than a thumb (and is in fact called a "thumb drive.") My grandmother in this photo is now 92 and she has seen amazing jumps in technology.(Getting an indoor bathroom with toliet, indoor running water and a bath was a big deal--I remember when they put it into her house...) I was able to put together a nostalgic photo album by printing copies from my computer that I had scanned into the hard drive and take her on a trip down memory lane. (And me, too.) So, I've been thinking a lot about things used to be in comparison to how it is now.

I cannot even imagine what the technology will be when my boys are parents and I'm a grandparent--or even when they are grandparents! I remember the first time mom took moving pictures. Once she got that camera,she was always shining this bright light into our eyes (you would go temporarily blind) and all the films have people with one hand across their eyes, and the other out in front of their faces trying to get her camera out of their faces like a movie star and unwelcome papparazzi.( was just able to check the spelling of that word with the touch of a button.) They smiled, but in an annoyed kind of way. That didn't stop my mother. She loved filming family events. We laughed until we cried looking at some of those old movies.

Now my boys (from the time they were in elementary school) have all kinds of films and know more about filmmaking than the movie directors of the 1950s. They put together all kinds of productions for class projects. They put stuff up on Power Points and can do graphics that would have taken me days, or maybe weeks, to hand draw.

But I look at this photo and I remember. I remember one moment in time, one that I have kept all of these years. I still have the same sentimental feeling for these people and though one of them has died, I can keep it until the day I die, and pass it on to my family. Someday someone will say, "Now I wonder who those people were?" and will toss it into the trash. Or maybe someone will keep it as an example of antique technology of the early 1960s.

But right now I'm sharing it using technology and theoretically, anyone in the world with a computer could see it.

Remembering is a wonderful thing, and little prompts are nice to have.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Sally Pierson Dillon: Meet Me at the Half-up Party

Party Half-way Up

Sorry. Haven't posted a blog for a couple weeks. Amongst kids' events, flu and work, I suddenly grew quite melancholy. My cousin, Sally Jo, died from pancreatic cancer. She had suffered with lupus for years, often landing in hospitals, nearly dying, but never quite giving up. With a spirit that reminded me of my mother, she would fight on. Then, came the cancer. It was a battle she couldn't win in this life.

So, I thought I would be too sad in any post I would write. I just couldn't seem to get past it. I couldn't go to the "celebration of life" that they had after her funeral, so I just couldn't seem to find any closure. She was younger than I am. She had published quite a few children's books, articles and children's Bible lessons. She taught Bible classes and often spoke when she was able. She even got up and spoke at my mother's funeral. Her father, a pastor and man who had spent many years in Africa, England and then back to the states as a missionary, and her tough-minded mother had raised her around the world (along with her two little sisters, one who was born in Africa.) Back in those days her dad would record a tape (instead of writing a letter) and send them to my mother.We'd sit at the kitchen table with photos he'd send and imagine their lives in Africa. Amazing stories. Stories of adventure and danger and God's amazing grace. My mother and her dad were close in age as brother and sister, and also in heart. They were the two youngest of 11 children born to Aaron Pierson.

Sally was a wild teenager. She was brilliant and like most imaginative and passionate people in youth, she wanted to try everything. She graduated from high school at 16 in England and came to the states to go to college. It was more freedom than she had ever experienced. Somehow, God in His plans and mercy, allowed her to live through those turbulent years. She rededicated her heart and soul to God. And boy, when she did, look out! She never lost her heart for the rebellious teens of the world. All that passion and exhuberance went into raising her two sons (after she had gotten married,) and into her nursing career. Then, she started writing.

The one article that I remember the most was in this column she used to write for a Christian magazine. The column was called "Sally Sez" and it was full of her typical humor. This article was about when we die how we wait until God calls us and the dead in Christ rise first, and meet with the others in the sky "half-way up." She talked about when we all met up together we'd party right there in the sky, "half-way up" on the way to meeting up with Jesus. At my mother's funeral she talked about doing this very thing with my mother one day. It sounded like a lot of fun--and Sally was all about fun.

Her suffering was tremendous in this life as an adult, but she didn't lose her humor or her spirit of vitality and zip. I know for sure that when I get to that party I will recognize her. She won't be in the body that she left earth in. She'll have her fun and party body on.

And thinking about it in that way makes me smile. I can still picture her in pedal pushers (you have to be a certain age to know what those were...) hanging upside down on the swing set in my cousin Mary's backyard, yelling like a warrior and turning cartwheels when she'd finally fall to the ground. Eyes sparkling and freckles all over her face, she would've given Dennis the Menace a run for his money. That is how I choose to remember her in this life. And that is the spirit I'll recognize at the Big Sky Party on the way to Jesus.

Monday, January 08, 2007

Taking Care of Business--TCB

Elvis Aron Presley was born on January 8, 1935 in Mississippi. He was a twin. His twin brother was stillborn, and of course, the rest is history. How does this relate to me? Ok, maybe you didn't know this about me, but I'm a big fan of his music. And I've been to Graceland. I lived in Tennessee for a short time. I play guitar (not as much these days.) I've performed on stage in front of, well, an audience. I have a pink Cadillac (it is inches long and sits on my shelf...)

So, on January 8th every year, I celebrate (a little) and think of how someone who wasn't privileged, but just had guts AND talent AND perseverence, became one of the all-time greats in American music.

My family is heavily involved in music, but to almost all of us, it's a hobby or pleasure that we engage in for fun. (No one has quit their day jobs yet.) My oldest son has the "talent" and we'll see if it becomes a part of his own story. (I know for a fact that he plays every day--I hear him.)

If you love Elvis' music, too, then you understand this post. If you think of him only in light of his weaknesses, then you missed the real story. It's an All-American story of working hard with passion and faith.

So, here's to you, Elvis.

Happy Birthday to my cousin Annette and to Ryder, too.

1000 Gifts....

401. Delia and her Gatorskunkz and Mudcats
402. sunshine! Lots of it!
403. Jared's art
404. Elvis's music and voice
405. Memphis
406. My family and their dedication to music
407. my washer and dryer in the house
408. my cousin Annette
409. my Tennessee family
410. pink Cadillacs (even if mine is small)
411. internet
412. down comforter
413. heat
414. light dusting of snow and clear roads
415. did I mention sunshine?
416. my melodic chimes, blowing in the wind and making music

Sunday, January 07, 2007

Peace with Purpose

"We need to be at peace with our past, content with our present, and sure about our future, knowing they are all in God's hands." Joyce Meyer

January always brings several things for me: evaluation of the old year, plans for the new year, weight and workout angst, diet evaluation, what can I do better questions, relationship evaluations. How ‘bout you? I’m a naturally introspective person, so this is nothing new, but we should look at where we have been and where we are going. The one thing I haven't had in the past is "peace" with myself. Over and over again this word keeps coming up, so I know it is something that will be a theme for me for 2007.

Which leads me to discuss my less-than-peaceful existence with myself.
I guess you can call me an expert in diet, foods, exercise and health. Not that I practice or am the picture of health. Oh, no. But I qualify in that I have read everything in that area. I have over 200 books on the subject and subscribe to several magazines about it. And yes, I actually read them, study them. I was a P.E. teacher for two years and coached some, too. I completed a boot camp course—3 times. I have been in topnotch shape—and not so topnotch shape (like now.)

That is why when I saw a link to Prevention magazine’s article/quiz, “What Is Your Exercise Personality?” (the link is at the end of this--hang with me)that I had to follow it. I took the quiz. After years and years of trying every diet, every exercise regimen, being an athlete, and searching for how I work best, one little less-than-five-minute quiz actually nailed my personality. I sat there thinking, “where were you, oh, Little Quiz, all these years?”

I joined a gym last year. For six months I went several times a week and did my weights program, used the elliptical trainer, and ran/walked on the indoor track. People were unfriendly. It was boring. But I stuck it out because I had a goal—to play golf, hike the dunes and eat whatever I wanted on our 25th wedding anniversary trip to Upper Michigan. And it was a blast. We had fun. I had lost weight, too. (I was following a planned eating regimen, too.) Then, it all fell apart. I was bored and no longer had an overriding goal. It’s just not enough for me to “be in shape.” Plus, I don’t enjoy working out for working out’s sake.

So, my results on this quiz says that I need “dual-purpose” exercise. Working out is only engaging when it’s more than just about my health or body. (True!) My personality type, according to Prevention’s quiz, is INSPIRATIONAL.

Here’s what it said:
“It’s about being part of a community or about exploring your inner self. To enhance your spiritual side, try listening to music to set the mood for a peaceful workout.

Best choices:
Dance classes
Water aerobics
Martial arts
Trail running
Tai chi

Leisure Activities:
Your first priority is to work regular exercise into your week. But also think about using your leisure time to burn off a few extra calories. Here are some extracurricular activities for your personality type:
Nature walks
(end of my evaluation results)

It also reports what my obstacles will be—and again nailed it exactly according to my personality. Not stopping there, the report also gave me solutions for overcoming my obstacles. I’m telling you, I was amazed.

So, now I have to match up what is available to me and doable. There lies the problem. Several of the things listed are “group” things or require me to find someone who teaches these classes and which accepts more than senior citizens or only children. Sheesh. The only thing that might be readily available to me is trail running. I live along a river and we own a few acres of woods. However, this isn’t the safest thing. I would have to take steps (har har) to find security for my person. Or find a partner. (Not likely to find a partner in this area. Sigh. No one wants to commit to working out with me, I've found.)

But I can get a DVD to do dance and/or yoga. Maybe I will. As an expert health book reviewer for a magazine, I sometimes get these DVDs to review. Maybe something will come across my desk. Or maybe I will aggressively find one. (Or maybe you all have suggestions.)

Next is to find an eating program that will work for me. Let me tell you—I’ve tried them all(and have stacks of books, papers, diaries to prove it! Ask me anything!) This is one of my biggest weaknesses and also, my strength. And this IS the Chat ‘n’ Chew CAFÉ’, isn’t it? Eventually, I knew I would get to this—talking about food and maybe some of my hangups about it. Food is not one of those things you can just go cold turkey on quitting. Which makes it a “Catch-22” (a literary term.)

One of my friends just found out that she can control some health symptoms she is experiencing by controlling her diet intake. This is tough. She actually has been experiencing mourning over what “she can’t have,” because it changes the dynamics in her family, her cooking schedules/menus (making it more complicated) and her social atmosphere. This is a legitimate experience because not only is food used for nutrition, but it also can provide comfort, pleasure, social experience and spiritual fulfillment. We tend to focus more in diets on what NOT is there, than what we can have.

Go take the quiz. I’ll be talking about my food hang-ups and my quest for what to eat to stay healthy in the coming days, along with goals I am working on making. In this year I want to find a good stride for me. I am not Spartan. I cannot live like that. So, the key may be in my exercise routine and to find peace with myself.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Hang On and Rock the Baby

Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me for I am gentle and humble in heart and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.
Matthew 11:29

I have reached capacity and am heading into overload. I cannot hold one more thought, one more hand, breathe one more prayer. Have you ever felt like that? At that point you either sit down and try to hang on, or you drop everything and lose it. You don't move another step. You're tired.

In Indiana at this time of year it is usually snowy and cold. One year we had an ice storm and it knocked our electricity out for seven days (we were lucky--some people didn't have electricity for two weeks.) We held on with a lot of candles, peanut butter sandwiches,board games and cards, water by the bucketloads from a neighbor with a generator, and a gas log fireplace. I have never felt so grungy in all my life (and desperate for a hot cup of coffee.) You really couldn't go anywhere because the roads were littered with not only ice, but tree limbs (or sometimes whole trees.) We finally got out on the 6th day and were able to get a shower and ate meatloaf and drank coffee at my sister-in-law's. What a gift that was!

But this year it is over 50 degrees and it keeps raining. Our creek in the woods looks like a mighty rushing river instead of a little babbling brook. And our creek feeds into the Mississinewa River. Mississinewa means "laughing waters" in Miami tongue (or so I've been told.) It isn't chuckling anymore. More like a maniacal laugh. The skies are dark nearly every day. Not just dark, but those dreary gray-white skies that can crush the spirit of a sunbeam. (My favorite hymn these days is "Heavenly Sunshine." I sing it, edged with desperation.)

If I look at my own history, I realize that every year in January I get like this. It's like I need to break a pattern--go to some tropical island in January. Do something different. But at this point in my life, this isn't possible. So, it's only taken me nearly half a century, but I guess I need to find something to do about it right HERE. Hmm. I'm going to think about this. I might report back to you.

There have been many moments in my life when I have reached breaking points. Where I'm barely hanging on and one more thing will crush me. It's like a 1000 pounds are sitting on my chest and if a little pebble falls to the pile, that is what will crush the air out of my lungs. Everyone has these times. If you haven't had this happen to you yet, well, you just haven't lived long enough. They have always been serious things, too. Life threatening or grief-stricken. And it's not like I don't dump this stuff at the Lord's feet. I do. As fast as I can carry it there. It's like trying to shovel the walk while the blizzard is still raging.

We all need places to recoup and I just realized that in January, I think I need to carve out a place of "heavenly sunshine" for the entire month. A place to rejuvenate to gear up for the year. Something to look forward to each year. It's knowing yourself and knowing what you need to do to keep yourself moving forward. Breathe in. Breathe out. But do so with "a hope and a future." I'm trying on new hats, trying to find a new outlook for my future.

The sunshine will break through. It always does. I just want to know which hat I'll be wearing when it does.

In memory of firefighter Sidney Hall of Upland, who fought the fire of his friend's house, and lost his life on earth yesterday to wake up in heaven. "a smoldering wick he will not snuff out." (Matthew 12:20)

Continuing gifts list....1000 gifts

313. fixed computer by Tyler
314. fixed MS Word program by Tyler
315. family and friends who were with us on New Year's eve
316. family and friends with us on New Year's day
317. kitty cat who thinks he is ours
318. brief moments of sunshine peeking out
319. breaks in the rain
320. boys who make me laugh
321. tv to enjoy movies with the boys
322. sweatshirts--especially my purple Pike's Market one
323. my friendly neighborhood pharmacist (who has been our friend since HS) who finds just the right thing at just the right price
324. friends who email
325. hot cup of coffee
326. my once-a-year donut with butterscotch icing
327. my January baby, Jordan (the 25th--came on his due date)
328. The History of Matthews and New Cumberland by Pete Mitchener loaned to me by Nila, my neighbor
329. rich history on the river--stories of perseverence and hope
330. Bible verses at just the right time
331. Imy
332. my husband who takes care of us
333. and over 100,000 other people
334. Kim who took a moment to remember
335. Donna who also took a moment
336. my great conversation with Mata--wish we lived closer
337. talking over manuscripts
338. Susan May Warren's notes on writing novels (lots of valuable stuff)
339. pizza.
340. ibuprofen
341. sleep, deep and refreshing
342. people who fight the fires
343. police who take time to soothe a kid who just hit a deer
344. insurance
345. art by son Jared
346. and notes from Max
347. humor from Bryce
348. music from Jordan
349. music from Chris
350. hitting the right notes with my voice the other night
351. caffeine boosts
352. toliets that flush!(sometimes they haven't)
353. Tim fixing our light and fan in the bathroom--looks great
354. people who take time to include me
355. Sabrina sending me guidelines
356. honey-scented lotion
357. the color pink which makes me happy
358. blue jeans that fit and comfort
359. clean surfaces
360. Hugs: Daily Inspirations for Women (Howard Publishing)
361. Tina taking care of my loved ones
362. routines
363. making moments of fun
364. clean, refreshing cold water to drink
365. Lizzie(my Westie) who keeps me going outside
366. Lizzie who adores me even when I'm unadorable
367. Lizzie who thinks she is a big dog and makes me laugh when she chases the deer
368. the red fox I saw in the woods (you don't see that every day!)
369. the tires on the Focus that held on until Mike could fix them yesterday
370. no accidents
371. lives who give
372. friends who keep in touch even when they are overwhelmed
373. friends who let you pray for them
374. Blogger (a fun thing)
375. Imy's pies
376. comics
377. Calvin and Hobbes
378. being able to laugh
379. hope
380. verses in the Bible which speak directly to me
381. my red purse with the heart
382. sunset red lipstick
383. royal blue
384. jean jackets
385. diamonds
386. pens, especially gel pens
387. croissants and roast beef
388. cows
389. bookmarks, especially ones friends and family have given to me
390. creme brulee' ice cream
391. bing cherries from Chili!
392. innovations in growing tomatoes which produced a really good tomato to reach my lips in January
393. lorraine swiss cheese
394. Camy's blog and contest!
395. smiles
396. my pink plates from Aunt Linda (who made them)
397. my Woolrich sherpa-lined jacket
398. no ice outside
399. warm weather for this time of year
400. good L.L. Bean boots for any kind of weather right by the door