Thursday, December 8, 2016

I've Grown Accustomed to His Face

I love this guy.  He is the mascot for a small-engine machine shop in the next neighborhood over from mine. This shop tends to be open on weekends only and I suspect some beer drinking is involved.

Here's his face close up.  They must have spent a fortune at the dentist getting those straight teeth.
I've become accustomed to his face.  The Tin Man is jealous.


Wednesday, December 7, 2016

A Day Which Will Live in Infamy


Having lived at Pearl Harbor many years with a poorly placed street sign making it seem that the Arizona Memorial was in my backyard, this is an important day.  

The Memorial was often right in front of me in the Harbor when I worked for the American Red Cross.  You can't be affiliated with Pearl Harbor without feeling the pathos, the horror, and the valor which the Memorial represents as it still exudes a sheen of oil on to the water.  

Every day, a lei will be thrown in the water from tourists or service members who still remember the sacrifice of these men.  I'm sure that there will be hundreds of leis there today in their memories. Dorie Miller, pictured below receiving the Navy Cross, is a tangible hero of the War for me.

He was the son of a large family of Texas sharecroppers.  A high school drop out, he was a "messman," serving food and attending to officers' staterooms and laundry.  The rate doesn't exist anymore.  I guess the Navy figures that officers can do their own laundry now.

On December 7, 1941, Dorie Miller heard the call of duty.  He had been below decks attending to breakfast and laundry, but headed up topside. 

Although he had never been trained on using Navy guns, two officers coached him and expected him to load ammunition only. When they turned back to him, he was firing away.  

His years shooting squirrels to help feed his large family surely helped him. Just remember that God never, ever wastes the experiences in your life. This was just a bigger gun with bigger stakes  Dorie Miller shot down 3-4 enemy planes in addition to other heroic duties moving shipmates out of harm's way.

Sadly, he was killed in action in 1943 when a Japanese sub torpedoed his ship.

As my favorite poet, Langston Hughes said, "When Dorie Miller took gun in hand, Jim Crow started his last stand..."

I remember him today.






Friday, October 21, 2016

A Botanical Surprise

My Nana Dunn had a green thumb.  In fact, I think she had a green hand, she was so good at making things grow.  Nana and Pop's house at 15 Maynard Drive in Farmingdale on Long Island, New York had a lawn which looked like green velvet.  Their phone number was MY4-5696.  Here is the house on Google, but it isn't nearly as pretty as I remember it.  It is the split level home in the middle with gray shutters.
Nana and Pops

If any errant dandelion dared besmirch anything in her yard, she was on the ready with an old screwdriver and the top of the metal trash can turned upside down to rip them from the ground.  She would hold the lid in front of her like a shield; kind of like Joan of Arc!

The back yard was all grass except for two feet around the fence perimeter which they filled with zinnias in every color.  At the back wooden fence which separated their yard from the Noto's yard, they planted these beauties, called "Chinese Lanterns."
Tricia Noto and I would pump as high as we could on the swing set while Nana hung laundry out in the fresh air.  At night, the adults would sit out on the concrete patio and sip a beer, while we kids caught lightening bugs in empty mayonnaise jars.  

Nana didn't have a lot of inside plants, most likely because she didn't want to clean up dead leaves or flowers. She was a meticulous housekeeper and an immaculate woman whose house was always tidy and smelled of Fels Naptha soap.

She did have one inside impatiens plant, which was gorgeous. Nana babied it like a child.  The impatiens sat in front of a sliding glass door where it received perfect light.  Frugal woman that she was, Nana didn't go out and buy a plant stand for it.  Instead, she artfully draped an old, paint-spattered stool with a pretty tablecloth and arranged the bottom of the cloth just so on the carpet.  It was beautiful.

I've never been able to keep an impatiens going inside until a few weeks back, I noticed the pink flowers at the bottom of a green plant given to me years ago by a very old woman named Grant Creekmore.  Only she said it as , "Grant Creekmo"  Grant was a matriarch of my church who taught school in the building across the street from me. 

Grant had snowy white hair piled on the top of her head and often wore a silver necklace with cut outs of little children all around it, like charms.  She was drafted during World War II because of her unusual first name and had to go to the Draft Board here in town in person to fix it.  She's organizing things in heaven, now.

I guess some would say that I picked up seeds on my shirt from outside and somehow transferred them into the house.  I'd like to think that Grant and my Nana got together in heaven to let me know that they are thinking of me.  

My Nana didn't get drafted during World War II, but she was such a formidable woman that she could have given Hitler a good butt kicking and a piece of her mind, as well.






Saturday, October 8, 2016

Frugal Finds - Library Card Catalog

I've been yearning for a library card catalog since I saw this beauty in the living room on Big Bang Theory:

They look lovely and can store so many things.  

A local vintage shop was selling a recently made catalog for $620 - Jeepers!

Here's an amazing example, reassembled from two broken down ones and rebuilt - on line for $1,000:
Card Catalog Redo

Each time I see one, I am transported back to the East Hartford Public Library - Wickham Branch. Located just two blocks away, I could walk there from my grandmother's house.  Looking down, I can almost see my little feet in red Keds trudging along, making sure to not to step on the sidewalk cracks and break my mother's back.

There was always that "library smell," hard to describe, but redolent of book pages, paste, and age. Eau d'library. I still feel a thrill when I see a big ole pile of books at a library, a junk store, or a yard sale. The entire world opens up through reading.

My neighbor, Bob, had a yard sale.  He's a carpenter.  I noticed a shelf of drawers that stacked and excitedly talked to Bruce about how I had found the little pulls on line for $3 a piece.

Bob heard me and brought out those very pulls out from his garage, giving them to me for free.  I paid him $25 for the drawers.

And this is the cobbled-together result in my front hall:

Bruce added the drawer pulls and created the labels:
I think I like my $25 version better than the $1,000 one!  I get a kick out of doing things on the cheap. My library card catalog makes me think of kind Bob Sauls and my wonderful Bruce every time I use it.

Anyone can spend a lot of money to make a house look special. 

Here's to all those bloggy girls like...

...and countless other creative women who cast household magic from items discarded by others.










Friday, October 7, 2016

Work Views - First Sgt.'s Hat

I was using a desk in the office, unusually for me as I am typically in the field.  Doesn't that expression sound like I'm plowing the north 40 or something? What I mean is that I work away from the office most of the time. 

I came back from lunch and saw this hat on the desk.  Thinking that someone had left it behind, I turned it over to see if his or her name was inside.
Instead I saw this 2014 funeral bulletin for a fallen trooper secured in the hat's dome.  I teared up.

First Sgt. came back for his hat and saw me looking at the inside.  "First Sgt.," I said.  "That is so beautiful."

He is tall and lanky with a Virginia twang to his voice.

First Sgt. carefully secured his hat on his head, giving it a slight tilt with a thumb and index finger to the brim. He said in a matter-of- fact tone,  "Yep, I carry Tommy wherever I go."


Valor     Service     Pride


Thursday, October 6, 2016

What I've Been Reading

I read voraciously, almost to a fault.  My mother is a great reader.  I even remember the first word I learned to read.  It was the word "look" and my mother had made the O's "looking" eyes, so I got it right away.  I think I was 3.

As a kid, I would snitch Victoria Holt novels before my mother was even finished with them!  I would be content for hours reading such classics as A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, Little Women, and The Witch of Blackbird Pond. My most exciting Christmas gifts each year were always the big stack of hardcover books. My sister is also a great reader, but her daughter, my Piper girl, beats all of us hollow!

Here's my Mom on the beach at Cancun last week reading.  Pretty nice legs for nearly 80.
And here she is off the beach...the birthday girl.
Over the last little while, I've been reading:

1. Mosaic - Diane Armstrong

A moving and extremely well-written nonfiction book which reads like a novel.  Diane writes about the 5 generations of her Jewish family, before and after World War II, up to present times.  She tells an amazing tale of survival and a sorrowful tale of those who did not survive.  I downloaded it on Kindle.  
Mosaic by Diane Armstrong

2.  Quartet in Autumn - Barbara Pym

Laurie Colwin, sadly departed from cancer before her time,was an author I dearly loved.  (Home Cooking and More Home Cooking). She referred to this writer as the "incomparable" Barbara Pym. I found this book at Goodwill yesterday.  Barbara is extremely skilled in painting pictures of personal idiosyncrasies.  Autumn Quartet describes the lives for four British office workers of a certain age.  I find a great metaphor this story as we learn how suspicion, inward thinking, and selfishness ultimately hurt the person who holds these acidic emotions more than anyone else. The book also paints a compelling picture of older folks who have lived through World War II clashing with the Swinging Seventies.  Quartet In Autumn - Barbara Pym

3. Eleanor and Hick - Susan Quin

This was a very well-researched and well-written book about the relationship between our most memorable First Lady and the pioneering newspaper reporter Lorena Hickok. Their relationship has become somewhat controversial after the release letters the two shared. The reader may draw her own conclusions.  I like to read anything about the Roosevelt family. 
Eleanor and Hick - Susan Quin

4. Under Magnolia - Frances Mayes

This book is a recent publication from the bestselling writer of "Under the Tuscan Sun."  I enjoy memoirs and Under Magnolia didn't disappoint.  I was sad to learn of her religious views, but I enjoyed her look back at her Southern beginnings in a very dysfunctional family.
Under Magnolia - Frances Mayes

5.  Our Chemical Hearts  - Krystal Sutherland

Piper mentioned that she was just starting this book and she talked it up so intelligently that I downloaded it on Kindle.  The narrator is 17 years old and I don't usually like young adult books. I've gotten engrossed in this one, not only for its own merits, but also because it draws me closer to Piper's way of thinking. 
 Our Chemical Hearts - Krystal Sutherland

If you read one of these, please comment and let me know how you enjoy them!  I do not receive any consideration for these links, just wanted to make it easy for readers to find them.  I share out of pure love for reading.

Five Frugal Things

Kristen, over at Frugal Girl and some other bloggers, run an occasional feature called "Five Frugal Things."

The Frugal Girl

Here are my five frugal things:

1.  I save $2.50 per shirt because I launder and press my husband's shirts vs. taking them to the dry cleaners.  The price is based on the lowest price around here.  I save some more when I use an old spray bottle filled with water instead of spray starch, which I rarely use.

2.  I wash zip locks and use them reuse them .  I rinse and run them through the dishwasher. They dry on a multiple skirt hanger in the laundry room.  I haven't purchased any zip locks for over a year and a half.  Not only is this frugal, but it helps the environment.
3.  Instead of using plastic wrap, foil, or bags, I try to use glass containers which do not add to landfills.  This can difficult to do when packing lunches, but again, it is cheaper and more environmentally friendly.

4.  I pack my husband's lunches and dinners (when he teaches at night).  If he ate out instead, this would amount to a total of over $40 per week or $160 per month. I base the cost on an average of $5 per meal, which is low.  I can provide a meal much more cheaply than that.

5.  The cost of cable television in our area is ridiculous.  We have no other options but to use Cox Cable or have no cable at all.  We chose no cable at all about 2 months ago.  We are thrilled that we did so.  This decision saves over $100 per month.  We have digital antennae now, a one-time $25 purchase.  We can get about 20 channels this way, including ION, MeTV, the three networks, and PBS.

Netflix and Hulu give us access to wonderful programming at a low cost. Bruce and I watch the local news and the national morning TV shows and then turn the television off. The exception is during weather concerns, such as today as we await hurricane news.

Rather than vege through programming we are not especially interested in just because it is on, we watch programming we love (60 Minutes, Law and Order SVU, the new NBC drama "Timeless") and then keep the television off.  I listen to the radio via the computer  We find other things to do, in my case sewing and in Bruce's puttering around fixing and improving things, such as repairing a well-loved vintage necklace for me.

I do not want to stand before God and have Him show me many wasted, mindless hours watching television and be reminded that while basic needs of the poor went unmet, I chose to spend over $1,200 per year on television and wasted time that I could have redeemed for good. Ephesians 5:16.

Most evenings these days, we listen to classical music on XM via computer and read.  Both of us find it very cozy to have our showers and then relax reading in bed with a certain angelic dog in between us.
The other night, GASP, we didn't even watch the vice presidential debate.

I asked Bruce what his thoughts were about cutting the electronic leash of cable and he told me that he feels more peaceful.  I agree.

Wednesday, October 5, 2016

Not Eating Out in Portsmouth, Virginia

"Not Eating Out in New York" is a blog I truly love,written by a young woman with a background in Taiwanese cooking.  She has been publishing this thoughtful blog for 10 years.  


Listed in the blog are numerous reasons for "not eating out" ranging from saving money to cooking with friends to controlling what you ingest to the ability to eat fresher, more natural, and more local foods.  She spent an entire year at the beginning of the blog by never eating out even once.  I strive to emulate her by "not eating out in Portsmouth, VA."

Two weeks ago, I made a commitment to eating cleaner.  I started by ending my 42-year-old love affair with diet soda.  Six months ago, I got serious about recycling, deciding that I didn't want to leave all this garbage for my nieces' generation.  I was appalled by how much soda I was consuming and how many cans were left behind.

Researching "aspartame," (the sweetener in diet soda) which was originally invented to be a rat poison, I was appalled at all the damage that ingesting it does.  Aspartame is considered so harmful that it cannot be sold or added to food in Europe.  I am noticing a marked difference in how I feel, including more mental clarity, as well as not being hungry all the time.  

I've also gotten serious about ending fast food at lunch, Sometimes it is tricky to have home-cooked food in the middle of a work day, but not impossible.  I heated leftover roasted vegetables in red pepper sauce in which I poached a fresh egg from a chicken who lives a block away on Chesapeake Avenue.  I shredded a tiny amount of leftover cheese on it and enjoying eggy perfection.

Do you think you don't have the time to eat healthier?  You do.  Tonight's menu was prepared at oh dark thirty this morning.  I put lean pork chops in the crock pot with caraway seeds and two sliced up apples, along with sauerkraut.  It cooked on "low" all day.  

I shucked corn and quickly boiled it for two minutes with two bay leaves.  Finally, I broke off the tough ends of asparagus and par-boiled them in a scant amount of water for another two minutes. When I got home, all I had to do was reheat the vegetables.  Total initial prep time was under 7 minutes.  We all have 7 minutes.

I used to think that only tree huggers and extremists stressed out about food.  However, I understand now that we are losing our connection to food, to the growth around us, and to our families as we constantly eat out or bring home fast food. When we do, we often consume substandard food, preserved with chemicals, grown thousands of miles away, and then laced with fat, sugar, or salt (or all three) to make the food more palatable.

My roasted vegetables and poached egg from a chicken who lives in an adorable red chicken house down the street ground me a lot more effectively than chicken nuggets. Just sayin'.

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

On Fresh Eggs, Good Neighbors, and a Silly Dog, Indeed

I was awakened this morning by one of Lulu's little friends who wanted her to come out to play. Surely you must think Lulu is a child.  Well, she is, but Lulu is classified by society as a D-O-G, please don't mention this to her as it will tamper with her self esteem.  Lulu is convinced she is a person and even sleeps with her own pillow.  In our bed.

Lulu's friend is Spunky, the guy across the backyard, a hoodling hound of unknown provenance who knows to go toward our bedroom window and holler if we're not in the kitchen when he arrives.

Spunky is often joined by Roscoe, his cartoon-character cautious younger brother, a purebred Boston Terrier so careful that it took him two years to come to the back door.  Amusingly, when he was still unsettled about us, he would bark when we went out back, as if we were trespassers on his turf.  Go figure...

Her other friend is mighty Merlin, a German Shepard, and the dignified older gentleman next door. She will bring Merlin into the house.  Lulu can open the back door.  Merlin is extremely well behaved.  Lulu doesn't let Spunky in.  He's an indoor terrorist.

While Lulu and Spunky got out with Milk-Bones (I should buy stock in Milk-Bones), I had some fantastic double-chocolate infused coffee bought on the cheap at El Lotto Grande (Big Lots) as my buddy Alex of Living the Small Life would say.  Fancy flavored coffee is one of our guilty pleasures, so when we find it marked down, we buy 10 or 11 bags and store the extra in the deep freeze.

I digress a lot.

See those eggs above?  They came from my friend Nancy's chickens and all of them live a block and a half away.  I made a delicious egg sandwich with a beefsteak tomato sliced on top.

Here's my homage to chickens and eggs in  my kitchen.  I picked up this little coop for taking chickens to market in Los Angeles of all places.
There's nothing like fresh eggs.  Bruce knows this having grown up on a farm, but I've just learned their delights from Nancy's chickens.  The yolks are bigger and are almost orange.  Her chickens, depending on their individual breed lay eggs in pale tan, brown, and a blue-green shade that's quite striking.  

Their taste is just, well, "eggier" than store bought.   If I was saying that in Spanish I would call them "huevisimo."  If I was very smart as well as extremely pretentious, I would call her hens' eggs the Platonic ideal of eggs.

One of the things I've learned along the years is to delight in small things, for the small things are more frequent than the big ones. 

Blessing abound all around me; beautiful zinnias planted by the Olde Towne Civic League, a hot cup of double-chocolate coffee in my Starbucks mug with the New York City skyline and a yellow taxi, a silly dog standing on two legs at the back door, homemade chicken salad shared with a friend, and a neighbor who provides fresh eggs and tomatoes better than money can buy.

And the steadfast love of the Lord never ceases.  That's a big blessing and not one of the small things.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Tom Selleck Has Always Been There for Me

Whenever I feel stressed out, I will end up having a dream that I've taken a quick trip to Hawaii.  There's always the sense that I shouldn't be there, like I have someone else's key to an unused hotel room or I only have a few days to stay because I am supposed to be somewhere else.  

Last night, I was supposed to be guiding a very famous retired general around, but decided to leave him chatting at a cocktail party while I went out to have a swim.

In this recurring dream, I always arrive at Waikiki Beach at night and walk on the white sugar sand beaches in front of various waterfront hotels.  Whatever else I do, I always swim and walk on the beach at night.
In dreamland, I go back to my old job near the Aloha Tower and hear folks "talk story" (visit and have long conversations) as I go by.

One morning when I worked in downtown Honolulu, I actually thought that I was having a dream, but it was real. My office was in a very tall building called the Amfac Center. My boss wasn't the most pleasant person. My husband had recently left for a six-month deployment.  I could have been moping. 
The building was so big that it had its own mini-post office where we all picked up the mail.  I exited the elevator and noticed electrical cabling all over the floor.  I thought that a contractor was working on the building.  I turned and saw THIS leaning against a planter:
Seriously.  Dressed almost identically to the pic.

I thought I was having an hallucination for just minute and stood there.

"Hi, I hope we're not in your way."

"Oh no Sir, not at all.  I just wasn't expecting this."

"We're on a break, did you need to get the mail?"

"Yes, I'll go do that. " And I stood there for another minute and got the mail.  I think my mouth was hanging open.  

The producers used a conference room on an upper floor to film when Magnum was supposed to go to see someone in the Navy.  I wondered later why they didn't send out a notice to everyone and then realized that there would be fans mobbing the Amfac Building.

So, peeps, Tom Selleck is an extremely nice man.  I feel even better about him now that he is the New York City Police Commissioner.




Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Happy Fall Ya'all

Yes, I know I am rushing things, but I love Autumn!  I cannot comprehend as I see God's creation around me, when I watch His artist's brush paint nature in colors of bronze, gold, red, maize, yellow, and orange -- how could anyone fail to believe that a loving Creator fashioned such splendor for us to enjoy?  

The notion that this all came about when the "whole universe was in a hot, dense state" (as is sung in the beginning of each "Big Bang Theory" episode) and matter sort of bumped into itself?  Well, believing this takes more faith than I have.  

Sunday, in our continuing meandering drive adventures, we happened upon Weldon, NC along the Roanoke River.  Weldon was a stop on the Underground Railroad and also has a Confederate Cemetery and a 7-mile hiking trial.  

Thank God for my continued healing as I was able to walk for about a half mile. We'll come back when I'm further along in getting well and the temperature drops a littlle more. Last month, I had to grocery shop in a motorized cart because I couldn't stand or walk long enough unaided.  I know I was inspired Saturday to continue on to see this:
If you look closely, you can see that the tree area in the middle left of this photo are just starting to turn.

I decorate as soon as possible for Autumn, so I can fully enjoy it until Thanksgiving weekend.  This year, I had a little supervisor, as you can see.  
You can see our beautiful neighborhood center, the former Shea Terrace Elementary School, in the door's reflection.  A beautiful white-trimmed brick school, built in 1920 on land donated by my home's builder (John Shea), the old building is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places. Sun Trust bank owns this property, which is currently an elderly apartment building.  

Did you know that city planners and architects have found that neighborhoods with strong centers and strong boundaries flourish? That's why many neighbors advocated to save the school from scheduled demolition.  The school was our strong center. 

The Civic League also supported the creation of a linear park on a block fronting the neighborhood which previously had substandard, absentee-landlord houses.

As the seasons change, I celebrate by creating a new mantel vignette. I challenge myself to use found objects, natural things like braes or pine cones, thrift store finds, or raid the attic, rather than buying new. Anyone can just go out and buy things.  

It takes an aspiring Proverbs 31 woman to make treasures, search every box at the yard sale, or arrange vases or pitchers differently. I feel the most inspired when I set up a new vignette without buying anything. I can't draw, so this is my form of artistic expression. 

Saving money, building traditions, and respecting God's beautiful creation by reusing or recycling is what inspires me these days. The world doesn't need need any more junk in landfills.
Ahhhh....the anticipation of these late summer days waiting for the season to turn.  Tomorrow's weather report calls for temperatures in he '70's.  Bliss.  It was cool in the backyard as I let the dog out first thing. When Lulu came back in, I felt her cold ears as we snuggled on the couch. I haven't felt cold ears since last April! During my Starbucks meeting this morning, the smell of Pumpkin Spice lattes surrounded me in Autumn goodness. A few leaves have started to turn. I can go back to having my morning coffee on the front porch.  
Bliss, people.  Pure bliss.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Gratitude

My dining room is also my laundry room extension.  I was folding linens this morning, thinking about all the things for which I am truly thankful.  I can sit down in my own dining room using my own washer and dryer instead of using a laundromat...or a washboard, or a rock along a river.

I was thankful that I could see the tops of the crepe myrtle trees through the window; one pink and one pure white.  They are messy in the yard, as they shed both flowers and bark which ends up in the house...but so beautiful.  They remind me of a high maintenance girlfriend, so gorgeous and beguiling that her beau puts up with anything.

Naturally, I won't show you my dining room table with its alternative function, all rolled up socks and tidy whities and towels.  No, this is Blogland, so I show  you the view after I put all in the laundry basket and leave it near the stairs.  At first, I thought having the small laundry in that spot off the dining room was odd, but now I am thankful that it gives me such a nice sorting and folding space.

I used to find the laundry room depressing with its hodgepodge of ugly Rubbermaid buckets and laundry products all over the place.  About a year ago, I decided to do better than that.  I was going for a 1920's - 1930's look and didn't want to spend much.

I went back to how our great grandmothers did things and replaced the ugly plastic buckets with metal ones, found traditional laundry baskets, and put two old-fashioned irons (called "sad irons" probably because it was pretty sad to use them on a hot summer day) I already had in there.  I love the result, so much improved, and now I like to look in there!

I disliked the sink cabinet, so I bought a vintage sheet for 99 cents at Goodwill and made a skirt for it using a skinny tension rod.
Then I found a really sweet wall hanging, I'm note quite sure what to call it, for half price at Michaels.
The laundry room is long, narrow, and hard to photograph, particularly on a cloudy, soggy day like today.  We can just barely fit a stack-able washer and dryer in the space which used to be a shower. This was a 2/3 of bathroom:  a sink and a shower stall.  But, I'm so thankful that it DOES fit, because otherwise, I'd have to give up the eat-in part of my kitchen for a laundry room.

The Bible says that godliness with contentment is great gain.  I probably could spend the rest of my life trying to figure out the exact way to apply this to my life, but I know this:  the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years spent with much ingratitude, grumbling, and complaining.  I don't want to wander through my "deserts" for years longer than needed for the same reason.

The most uncomplaining person I've ever known was my dear grandmother, Helen.  I called her Helen because I was the first grandchild and everyone forgot to tell me to call her Grandma or Nanny or Gram.  Not Meemaw, though.  We don't do Meemaw up north.  I called my grandfather Bobby - hilarious in retrospect.   He was a skinny, grumbly ( I think I just made up that word) man, a lawyer with spectator shoes and a bow tie who looked nothing like a "Bobby."  

He should have been a "Norman" or an "Edward," but there I was at age 2 playing with a blue toy phone. There was a party that night.  I looked up at him, phone in hand, and said, "Bobby, you better behave yourself tonight."   Bobby drank a lot and I had overhead my mother worrying aloud about it.

Anyway, back to Helen.  She had what seemed to be hard life with a difficult man who drank.  She had two sons in Vietnam at the same time.  She had ulcers, problems with her feet, and towards the end of her life, heart trouble. She felt tremendous grief when my parents divorced.

Sometimes I'd call her "working grandmother."  I was the only kid I knew whose grandmother worked  She was a school secretary and retired after many year's service.  Then she worked at my uncle's dental office, confirming appointments, pulling files for the next day, and picking up everyone's lunch...making it.

Here's the key to her life lived in Jesus. I never heard her complain.  She thought the best of everyone.  I never, ever heard her say a bad thing about anyone.  Even when Bobby was at his worst moments, she would say, "I know he loves me." She went to church services every day, not because she felt that she had to, but because she wanted to worship as often as she could.

Helen worked (without complaint) when women often didn't. Bobby's income often was affected by his alcoholism. She blessed hundreds of children at Norris School and many of the teachers.

Helen changed what she could and accepted what she could not, all with gratitude. She was a thrift-store, auction, and curbside girl when no one else did that.  My grandmother created an elegant, but comfortable home filled with plants, light, and treasures she had brought home.  The collections she created are quite valuable now, but what I value is her uncomplaining example.

I still dream of her there at 23 Wind Road coming up from her laundry room, basket in hand, ready to hang clothes.  I see her pulling a roast out of the oven and mashing potatoes for a family dinner.  In my mind, she is still knitting amazing Irish pullovers, needles clicking as her fingers fly.  My grandmother was industrious and when we encouraged her to nap, she would say, "I'll have plenty of time to nap when I'm six feet under," which would crack me up.

That silver service in the top picture is a precious possession.  It was hers, lovingly passed down to me.  We would polish it together when I was small enough to need to stand on a chair to reach the sink.  Grape leaves and vines twist around it, "I am the Vine and you are the branches." A life lived in God.

Below is a beautiful newspaper photograph from Ireland, an engagement announcement.  It is from a scrapbook belonging to a relative who did not come to America.  Some kind Beausang (Helen's maiden name) relative put this picture on line.  God bless him or her.  I cannot tell you what it meant to find this treasure last month.


Gratitude

My dining room is also my laundry room extension.  I was folding linens this morning, thinking about all the things for which I am truly thankful.  I can sit down in my own dining room using my own washer and dryer instead of using a laundromat...or a washboard, or a rock along a river.

I was thankful that I could see the tops of the crepe myrtle trees through the window; one pink and one pure white.  They are messy in the yard, as they shed both flowers and bark which ends up in the house...but so beautiful.  They remind me of a high maintenance girlfriend, so gorgeous and beguiling that her beau puts up with anything.

Naturally, I won't show you my dining room table with its alternative function, all rolled up socks and tidy whities and towels.  No, this is Blogland, so I show  you the view after I put all in the laundry basket and leave it near the stairs.  At first, I thought having the small laundry in that spot off the dining room was odd, but now I am thankful that it gives me such a nice sorting and folding space.

I used to find the laundry room depressing with its hodgepodge of ugly Rubbermaid buckets and laundry products all over the place.  About a year ago, I decided to do better than that.  I was going for a 1920's - 1930's look and didn't want to spend much.

I went back to how our great grandmothers did things and replaced the ugly plastic buckets with metal ones, found traditional laundry baskets, and put two old-fashioned irons (called "sad irons" probably because it was pretty sad to use them on a hot summer day) I already had in there.  I love the result, so much improved, and now I like to look in there!

I disliked the sink cabinet, so I bought a vintage sheet for 99 cents at Goodwill and made a skirt for it using a skinny tension rod.
Then I found a really sweet wall hanging, I'm note quite sure what to call it, for half price at Michaels.
The laundry room is long, narrow, and hard to photograph, particularly on a cloudy, soggy day like today.  We can just barely fit a stack-able washer and dryer in the space which used to be a shower. This was a 2/3 of bathroom:  a sink and a shower stall.  But, I'm so thankful that it DOES fit, because otherwise, I'd have to give up the eat-in part of my kitchen for a laundry room.

The Bible says that godliness with contentment is great gain.  I probably could spend the rest of my life trying to figure out the exact way to apply this to my life, but I know this:  the Israelites wandered in the desert for 40 years spent with much ingratitude, grumbling, and complaining.  I don't want to wander through my "deserts" for years longer than needed for the same reason.

The most uncomplaining person I've ever known was my dear grandmother, Helen.  I called her Helen because I was the first grandchild and everyone forgot to tell me to call her Grandma or Nanny or Gram.  Not Meemaw, though.  We don't do Meemaw up north.  I called my grandfather Bobby - hilarious in retrospect.   He was a skinny, grumbly ( I think I just made up that word) man, a lawyer with spectator shoes and a bow tie who looked nothing like a "Bobby."  

He should have been a "Norman" or an "Edward," but there I was at age 2 playing with a blue toy phone. There was a party that night.  I looked up at him, phone in hand, and said, "Bobby, you better behave yourself tonight."   Bobby drank a lot and I had overhead my mother worrying aloud about it.

Anyway, back to Helen.  She had what seemed to be hard life with a difficult man who drank.  She had two sons in Vietnam at the same time.  She had ulcers, problems with her feet, and towards the end of her life, heart trouble. She felt tremendous grief when my parents divorced.

Sometimes I'd call her "working grandmother."  I was the only kid I knew whose grandmother worked  She was a school secretary and retired after many year's service.  Then she worked at my uncle's dental office, confirming appointments, pulling files for the next day, and picking up everyone's lunch...making it.

Here's the key to her life lived in Jesus. I never heard her complain.  She thought the best of everyone.  I never, ever heard her say a bad thing about anyone.  Even when Bobby was at his worst moments, she would say, "I know he loves me." She went to church services every day, not because she felt that she had to, but because she wanted to worship as often as she could.

Helen worked (without complaint) when women often didn't.  Bobby's income often was affected by his alcoholism. She blessed hundreds of children at Norris School and many of the teachers.

Helen changed what she could and accepted what she could not, all with gratitude. She was a thrift-store, auction, and curbside girl when no one else did that.  My grandmother created an elegant, but comfortable home filled with plants, light, and treasures she had brought home.  The collections she created are quite valuable now, but what I value is her uncomplaining example.

I still dream of her there at 23 Wind Road coming up from her laundry room, basket in hand, ready to hang clothes.  I see her pulling a roast out of the oven and mashing potatoes for a family dinner.  In my mind, she is still knitting amazing Irish pullovers, needles clicking as her fingers fly.  My grandmother was industrious and when we encouraged her to nap, she would say, "I'll have plenty of time to nap when I'm six feet under," which would crack me up.

That silver service in the top picture is a precious possession.  It was hers, lovingly passed down to me.  We would polish it together when I was small enough to need to stand on a chair to reach the sink.  Grape leaves and vines twist around it, "I am the Vine and you are the branches." A life lived in God.

Below is a beautiful newspaper photograph from Ireland, an engagement announcement.  It is from a scrapbook belonging to a relative who did not come to America.  Some kind Beausang (Helen's maiden name) relative put this picture on line.  God bless him or her.  I cannot tell you what it meant to find this treasure last month.


Sunday, August 7, 2016

On Back Pain, Heroin, and Kindness



I've experienced chronic back pain since I took a nose dive on some black ice when I was in junior high in New York.  I slipped on the top of our stoop, as we called it up North.  The term comes from an old Dutch word back when the Dutch owned New York, and the tidy Dutch housewives in the New World would vie with each other to see whose front steps would be the brush-cleaned brightest.

We lived on a hill in Kings Park.  If you're from Long Island, as I am, one needs to specify whether you mean Kings Park, the town or Kings Park, the State Mental Institution.  Thus, I was relieved when we moved to Stony Brook, a university town with a mill pond down the street,and only one step into the house.

Up on the stoop's first step, I had no idea that the area was covered in black ice.  My breath puffed out in a cloud in the dim early morning, still not totally light.  I slipped on the top step and went down the stairs and sidewalk on my back, landing in  heap at the curb.  I could hear the bus coming and needing to be a cool teenager, I artfully arranged  myself on the bottom step, nearly faint from pain, and sat there as if I was waiting for someone.  I waved as the bus went by.   Then, I had to crawl back up the hill.

Mostly, I am grateful that God has been with me over so many years of mostly being pain free with flare ups from time to time.  I am thankful for the 21 Navy years my husband worked under the water to ensure my medical care is extremely affordable.

However, I am in the middle of a flare up, so I faced Wednesday at work with grim determination.  I looked into our often malodorous waiting room, and saw people both sitting and standing in the too-small space.  One man stood near the door on one foot, with pain etched in his face, so I asked if he needed help.  He needed to do some business as a registered sex offender, which is what I do.

With my Sgt. sitting in the office, I  brought him in and assisted him in re-registering as required. Let's call him Mr. T.  Don't picture a big black man with bling, a Mohawk and an attitude, though, He was white, in his forties, a face showing a hard life, dressed neatly in old jeans and a nothing looking shirt that I can't recall.  He clasped his hands between his legs while I worked and my kind Sgt. assisted with looking up some information

He told me that he was in agony from back pain. I could see that this was true by just looking at him I worked as swiftly as I could, left a copy of his paperwork in his trooper's in-box, and asked if there was anything I could do to help him.

"I think I probably should go to the ER and get an MRI," he said, leaning on the door jamb.

"I think that's a good idea, " I replied.

"I don't have medical insurance," he said.

"Go anyway and you can work something out with the billing office,"

He thanked me profusely and limped out, past four people waiting for employment finger prints, squished uncomfortably next to each other on a small bench.   He wished me a blessed day.  I prayed for him as I filed the paperwork.

The next morning, I received an email from Tpr D, a dignified and accomplished law enforcement officer not given to hyperbole or wasted time.  It said simply, "Mr. T died last night from a heroin overdose.  Since you did his paperwork, I thought you would want to know."

I experienced this as a punch in my stomach.  No one who plans to end his life comes to us to register. What would be the point?  No, I imagine that he became involved in the use of street drugs as a method of self-medicating this intolerable, grinding,stabbing evil pain that I know too well. There but for the grace of God go I.

When I tell folks what I do for a living, they often recoil in horror.  However, the people that I work with aren't horrifying to me.  Sometimes they are truly evil people who have no sense of guilt. They grumble about the system being fixed.  They must be monitored carefully.

Often, they just people who made a mistake years ago and have to pay for it every single day for the rest of their lives.  As one older offender said to me, "Ma'am, if I had murdered someone, it would be easier than this."  He's right.

This whole issue illustrates the tension between personal rights and public safety.  How do we ensure that the community is safe, while at the same time not stigmatizing the person to the extent that he can't rehabilitate?  Interesting word, stigma. It comes from the Latin term stigmata, that is, Christ's wounds.

Sex offenders are the lepers of 2016; the untouchables, the irredeemables, les mserables, if you will.   If Jesus were walking the earth in human form, that's who he would be walking with. The Bible tells us that he was often in the company of tax collectors, sinners, and fallen women.  No one is beyond God's redemption.

Consider one offender who found God during a long prison sentence.  God gave him the gift of drawing and painting.  Not having any materials and no way to get them, he separated M&M's he bought from the prison commissary, crushed the shells to make his own watercolors, and painted the envelopes he sent home to friends and family with words from scripture.

Soon the prison chaplain took notice and corrections officers brought photographs of their wives and sweethearts for him to paint.  He did charcoal sketches of the life of Jesus and the chaplain sold them for him as part of his outside-the-prison ministry  Then this inmate was able to start taking courses and paying for them with his own earnings.  He was ordained in prison.

Then he was released, rented a house, and received permission to have three other offenders live there with him.   I met with two of them recently in a coffee house.  Before they left, they asked to pray for my back pain and very respectfully The Reverend laid hands on my head and prayed for me. Unredeemable?  I think not.

Remember, the Bible talks about us entertaining strangers unaware.  I once had a difficult offender who had health problems.  We would have to meet at his small apartment.  We talked about God many times.

When the local police called to tell me that he had died unattended, they advised that he was neatly tucked in bed, had not thrashed around at all, so they believed he died peacefully.  I was relieved by that

When I tried to get death information, it came to light that a man born on his birthday, with his social security number, in his home town, had died 7 years before.   Thinking I must be mistaken, I contacted our radio room, who had the same results.  Who was he?  I have no idea.  Maybe an angel sent to change my heart.

In the midst of a busy job which often causes me to work with difficult people, the unwashed, the unlovely, the smart-alecks, the liars, and the completely unrepentant, I must remember this:  I could be entertaining an angel unaware.  I may be meeting with someone on their last day on earth. Redeem the time, the Bible says.

Any of us may be encountering folks with untold grief, oppression, poor health, poverty and other issues which can make them difficult or hard to love. Try to bless them anyway:  the cranky-pants in the express lane with 21 items and a screaming toddler in the cart, the kid from another race who may scare you a little, the stressed-out husband, and the mother losing her memory.  Try a smile, try kindness, try a sincere compliment.  You may be entertaining an angel unaware.

Hebrews 13:2
Angel pic from Tekkan.wikia.com

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

West Point VA...Three Rivers, Two Bridges, A Nice Place to Live


Three rivers, two bridges....a nice place to live.  That's what it says on the welcome sign as one enters the village of West Point, Virginia.  True that!

Bruce and I reward ourselves when our chores are done (sometimes referred to in our household as "detestable tasks) by taking drives in country areas.  We head out in all directions to have an adventure.

Keep in mind that an adventure for us could just be a cute country restaurant, a vintage shop, or a charming crossroads.  If we're in North Carolina, we might stop by a Piggley Wiggley...could you just DIE for that name?  PW's are a small chain of groceries in North Carolina, but the name just slays me!

Perhaps we find an entire little abandoned town (when the railroad took a different direction) which has been designated as a historic landmark.  Another time, I look to the right and see a sign carved into a rock which says, "Mason Dixon Line."  Our most special drive so far has been to the Virginia mountains to see the actual house "The Waltons" (actually The Hamner's) lived in and found the little Rockfish Post Office.

It was West Point this time.  The weather was breezy and wonderful, so we parked and walked through the delightful streets.  Stately old homes, lovingly restored,  A father and son playfully pummeling each other with inflatable boxing gloves three feet around while Grandpa acted as a referee.  A cute Boston terrier standing on the pool deck jumping off to swim with the kids and then mincing up the pool ladder to jump in again.  A guy sitting on his front porch calling out, "How ya'all doin'?"

Bruce said, "The only other thing that would make this totally perfect would be a local seafood or Italian restaurant."  Around the next corner, we found just that, Tony and George's.
As we were seated, guess what we saw!

There was an old-fashioned phone booth with a rotary dial phone inside.  I can just picture Rosalind Russell, removing her black gloves to put a dime in the phone.  She'll call her New York editor collect to scoop all the boys with her story!


Tuesday, May 24, 2016

NMCP Offers 'Mammograms While You Wait'


I was walking at the Naval Hospital the other day.  Do you think that walking in a hospital is odd?  Consider this:  I am safe, guarded by servicemen, in a facility open 24 hours a day which is climate controlled and cold drinks and clean bathrooms available throughout.  

The Hospital has been there since the War of 1812.  I walk among buildings one, two, and three. 

The wards are on higher floors, so I walk past food courts, various clinics which are usually closed when I'm there, a credit union, a chapel, and a sort of 7-11.  Basically it is mall walking with no Kirklands, Payless Shoes or Dillards.

As I walk up a steep incline to the command space, the harbor is spread out before me.  Ocean tankers and sailboats float by.  In other areas without windows, beautiful outdoor photographs from around the world brighten up the way.

While walking from the food court area to another building, I saw an informational poster board:

"Mammograms While You Wait"

Check out the link to a story right here:
MAMMOGRAMS WHILE YOU WAIT

Stop the presses Naval Medical Center!  

What is the alternative to having a mammogram while you wait? Don't you always have to go to a medical care facility, wait, and then have the mammogram? What other way would one have one of those big ole boob sandwiches?  What innovation comes next? Pap smears in stirrups or dental exams in a reclining chair?

How else would I get a mammogram but while I wait?

Could I have my mammogram during a commute through the Downtown Tunnel?  While cooking dinner?  During a walk or a bike ride?  How about while coloring my hair, that's about 25 minutes of down time?  I could have my mammogram while eating Thanksgiving dinner or at Starbucks, but it might make others uncomfortable.

I have no doubt that this poster went through many edits among the Health Promotion command, but it cracked me up.

So kudos to the Naval Hospital for relaxing its rules and being creative in helping women protect their health with this important screening.  However, I think that they actually meant to say that "Walk In Mammogram appointments" are now available.

Monday, May 23, 2016

Rainy Day Bouquet


This May day feels a bit more like March than nearly summer, with a cold rain.  I pulled out my trusty waterproof hooded winter coat, mistakenly put away for next November.  I kind of felt like Lulu, with her eyes squinting in the rain, and wished I could shake myself dry every so often.  I minced along, leash in hand, in expensive sneakers, trying sensibly to avoid puddles.  

Were I a sensible person, I would have continued to avoid puddles  I'm not so sensible.  Some people are in touch with their inner child.  I AM my inner child.  This child decided to embrace the rain. I jumped on every big puddle I could find delighting in the great splash as I squelched along in those wet sneakers, wishing they were red Keds.

Scotts Creek doesn't look like any creek I knew from my elementary school days in Connecticut. This "creek" is actually a tidal estuary, like the East River in New York City or the Hudson in its extreme southerly merge into Long Island Sound. The Creek empties into the Elizabeth River and into the Chesapeake Bay. 

This morning it was pearly in the mist and drizzle.
A heron sat patiently on a rock, looking more like a colonial silhouette than a living creature.  Right after I took this shot, he pounced on a tasty fish.
I trudge along and Brenda in the next neighborhood shouts out, "Girl, you are soaked.  C'mon in and have some hot coffee!  

A stately goose family floated by.
I squished on home, dog leash in one hand and a growing wet bouquet in the other,,,lagustrum, purple weeds, a glorious pinky maroon stalk of some sort, deliciously sharp and astringent-smelling rosemary growing over a fence, white blooms from an unidentified tree, and a yellow African daisy from my front yard.

Lagustrum, (also called "privet") when flowering has a faint sweet smell which reminds me of warm milk.  That smell also reminds me of my dear friend Deb, who was terribly allergic to lagustrum. Nonetheless, the lovely smell reminds me of her:  a charming Southern belle, a romantic, an avid reader and writer who suddenly went blind, who faced death with acceptance and gratitude for those who loved her.  You'd be honored to learn about her from my old blog here:  Debbie's Story

So I breathe in the rosemary and lagustrum, blink back tears for Deb and remember...