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8.30.2012

IN EXCESS


I was struck by a conversation I was in recently. Telling it was of our culture's art of acquisitioning stuff - the lengths we go to get, possess, acquire and have.

Possessions, things, stuff, belongings are a necessary part of life. I get that. I have things as well. The pendulum though from necessities or simplicity has definitely swung to excess. And why I wonder do we stockpile and have more than we usually can use? Is it fear, a nice diversion in our lives, a feeling of security or power or worth?

When I was a realtor I was in houses built during all different eras. Some differences I noticed were; architectural style and design, quality of building materials, general layout differences, and sizes of rooms. Typically houses built before 1960-ish had rooms that were smaller with closets that were a fraction of the size of houses built later. In modern day real estate, a room cannot be counted as a bedroom without a door and a closet. Culturalism has now dictated housing standards of definition!

My dad will be 72 this year. When he was a boy being raised on a farm in the 1940-50's, he had several hooks on the wall in his bedroom that served as his closet. He had 3 pair of pants; 2 work pairs so while one was being washed you had another pair to wear, and one pair that were your good Sunday-go-to-meetin church pants. Maybe you had 4-6 shirts and two pair of shoes, but not much more.

Fast forward to today, some 60+ years later, and watch the show "House Hunters" to see people's desires to have enough closet space. It is deal breaker for many if there are small closets. We now need WALK-IN closets to house our clothes and accessories. The amazing thing is there are still only 7 days a week, 168 hours in a week with only approximately 112 hours of that time not spent sleeping thus requiring we wear clothes. And yet we have walk-in closets full of stuff of which we probably still only wear and gravitate toward a small portion of for like-ability reasons.

The woman standing near me, carrying with her luggage two Vera Bradley bags, commented that she bought 4 bags at the Vera Bradley show for $200. Normally, she stated, they would have cost her $500 or more. I smiled, giving her faux accolades for her "bargain money saving" over purchase! I stood listening to her while carrying a resale shop purse I bought for $4 still feeling excessive because I had 4 other purses at home.

We justify our bargains even. We rationalize the clearance rack. We applaud ourselves over coupons and hoards of food stashes that cost us pennies declaring we will eventually use it.

Our culture could no more live with 4 hooks on the wall for a closet, 3 pair of pants and 2 pair of shoes than astronauts could survive without space suits on Mars. We are in excess on just about everything in our culture - clothes, belongings, size of houses, our weight, our intolerances, our rights, our privileges, our consumption of food, and our debt. Having too much is just another form of neediness.

8.29.2012

LOOK AT THEM DOGS



I read the other day that Baylor University's Brittney Griner stands 6 foot 9 inches tall, wears a men's size 17 shoe and has a wing span of 86 inches.  There are ways to hide a wing span; never raise your arms, keep your arms bent resting on your lap at all times, and never wear sleeveless shirts.  6 foot 9 inches on a woman is just tall.  Even that height on a man is probably stare worthy if sighted.  But, I would dare say that a men's size 17 shoe on a woman is something most definitely worthy of snapping an Instagram picture to post to Twitter or Facebook with some sort of sarcastic comment to accompany it. 

Feet are interesting.  Some people have beautiful feet.  Even without a pedicure they have perfectly balanced toes and beautifully soft skin and heels.  I hate those people.  Ok, all of them, except my sister Diane whom I love in spite of her beautiful, almost model like feet.  Other people, including myself, have feet that look like they roamed Israel around 62 A.D. wearing only sandals as their only shoe and mode of transportation.  There is a third category that I will only elude to and not dive into.  Suffice to say it includes those who have succumbed to; bunions, yeast infections of the nails, strange variations in toe lengths that are freakish, and toes that have a higher arch than the arch of their foot. 

I have always hated my feet.  Some people look great in sandals of all heel heights.  I do not.  Though, I live in my flip-flops most of the summer when not at work.  Flip flops work for me as I am sporty and sporty can allow yucky feet as part of its style and make it look ok.  Genetically I was given the predisposition for cracking heels.  My mom has bad crackie dry skin on her heels, I do, and so does my daughter.  I do not like nail polish as it just draws attention to the foot.  And why would I want that when I hate my feet. 


Though I do not love my feet, I do like the fact that I was born with feet that were perfectly designed to wear flip flops.  The space between my big toe and pointer toe was made with a small gap.  The thong part of a flip flop never rubs my toes raw.  My husband's toes are too close together and he can't wear flip flops comfortably.  Speaking of which, he says I have the cutest feet.  Personally I think he is a bit off on that call. Way off! 
 
My feet are well-worn.  Presently, which is the norm for me, I have a blister on my foot from running.  This week it is on the tip of my right big toe, the result of trimming my toenail shorter than what I need to run.  Usually on the inside ball of my right foot is a callous which is created from running.  My pointer toenail is recovering from me opening the basement door on top of it causing it to bruise badly.  And, currently you will spot a small cut on my pinkie toe from when I dropped a can of dusting spray onto it right before I climbed on my bike to ride to the chiropractor.  My feet are average sized 7 1/2, a bit bony, narrow from mid point to my heel, and are a host to prominent veins.  It is an image that you will now not be able to get out of your head. 
 
I've only ever had one pedicure in my whole life.  That's the only time they actually looked taken care of.  My brother-in-law has, a time or two at holiday functions, filed me and my two sister's and mom's heels and  then massaged our feet with foot cream.  His does that for my sister Diane, his wife, regularly.   That same sister once bought me for my birthday a heated wax vat to soak my feet in to keep them soft.  I loved using it twice I think, but never seem to remember to take the time to use it.  I am finally married to someone who notices feet, comments on my mine, and lovingly files my heels and massages my feet.  He says, "Let me take care of your feet."  Now I'm not sure if that's because he totally loves doing it, or if he knows I run full boar through life and my feet take me there.
 

8.28.2012

REPOSITIONING OURSELVES


Ever wonder why older music swells in popularity with time? There is power in nostalgia. Why do we listen and re-listen to songs from an earlier time in our lives? What power do memories and associations of things from our past hold?

Nostalgia is an interesting thought process and/or emotional reaction to all types of triggers, including; music, memories, smells, sights, even people themselves. It is said that nostalgia is a bittersweet longing for the past. You can know it cannot be repeated or held or experienced again in real time but the longing accompanies the memories. It can be swellingly powerful.

It would seem that many song writers hone in with lyrical precision a reminiscent nostalgic longing. Whether it be for better days, a loss back, a missed chance, a lost love, a do over regret, carefree times, for time to slow, or youth, we connect powerfully to nostalgia's voice.

The amazing part of nostalgia is the dichotomy we can feel at the same time; sadness mixed with love, sorrow stirred into joy. How can they reside seemingly congruently together almost unable to be separated from the other? I'm not sure exactly how our minds (the know of us) and our hearts (the feel of us) play off each other, but they do. It is a brilliant and life feeding reaction that gives us hope and comfort and even sustains us.

I met a 91 year old man today who recently lost his wife of 63 years. I wanted to know what he thought and felt with such great loss. "What is the hardest part in losing someone you have loved in the flesh for so many years?", I asked. "Tempering her absence daily with the power of experiences we shared together all our lives.", he replied.


"Nostalgia....it is remembering that finds meaning in what we have experienced,
who we were, who we have become, and who we can be".
(Krystine I. Batcho, Ph.D.)

8.27.2012

TO THE MOON!



Wasting time this morning while four new tires were being put on one of our vehicles, I walked next door to a Goodwill store.  For those that may be unfamiliar with that establishment, it is a resale shop, a used items and such sort of place.  Everything from clothes, household goods, shoes, furniture, bedding, bits of this and that.  Revenue generated by the stores help those with special needs; seniors, disabilities, criminal backgrounds, veterans, immigrants and youth learn job skills to help them obtain meaningful employment.  4.42 billion dollars in 2011 was generated through Goodwill Industries, their programs, and stores with 82% of that revenue spent directly on programs.  It's a great organization, and if you are a bargain hunter, a great place to garner a find.

Shopping at a Goodwill is like searching for sand dollars on a beach - sometimes you find one, other times you don't.  You go in with an open mind and nothing specifically particular as it is a mish mash of changing items from week to week.  Rarely can you you go in looking for a three-quarter length sleeve black shirt and find exactly that.  You gotta have an open mind!  Though recently I had on a pair of shorts that needed a brown cloth or canvas belt.  I walked in, perused the belts and found one for .75 cents.  Rare.  I also found twelve cents in the parking lot.  It was a stellar day! 

I wasn't necessarily looking for anything today, just trying to fill an hour instead of sitting in the tire store's waiting room where the air conditioning was turned to -32 degrees!  I wandered up and down the aisles.  There it was!  Sitting on the top shelf of the housewares aisle of glass vases, pitchers, glasses, etc, was an old TANG pitcher.  It was nearly the same as the one my Grandma had in her refrigerator when I was a kid.  My mind and palete were being bombarded simultaneously by thoughts, feelings and tastes! 
 
TANG was created in 1957 by General Mills scientist, William A. Mitchell.  He also created such items as; Pop Rocks, Cool Whip and a form of instant Jell-O among other things.  Personally I am not a fan of any of those items!  TANG really didn't have a big marketing presence until NASA picked it as one of its foods to be tested in space on the Mercury space flight with Astronaut John Glenn in 1962 and subsequent Gemini flights.  There is a bit of a misconception about TANG.  It was not created by NASA or even for them.  It was created by General Mills though they have NASA to thank for exposing it to the public in an astronaut crazed 1960's.  TANG is still produced, though KRAFT foods now owns it. 
 
If you have never tasted TANG you have not missed out on anything.  TANG is in essence, a chalky, powdered orange drink mix.  In the 60's and 70's it was sometimes sold in a marketing promotional with a version of the pitcher you see above.  It was touted as a "breakfast" drink and must have been cheaper than real orange juice to buy as I can think of no other reason why people bought it.  It swept the nation.  TANG was a pre-cursor to Sunny D and much, much worse tasting.  Why my parents bought it and made us drink it for breakfast, I do not know.  I hated that TANG pitcher and what it held.  It only solidified my hatred for breakfast items in the Weldy household; cornmeal mush and TANG!
 
It was a fakie, very opaqueish orange color making it almost mirky looking (and tasting too!).  When swallowed you were left with a strange chalky sensation on your tongue and in your mouth.  It almost seemed to make you thirstier than before you drank it.  

My hatred for TANG was directly connected to the fact that as a child I could not swallow pills.  We had to take a multi-vitamin every day.  That vitamin was essential to replace the nutrients that TANG depleted your body of!  There I sat most mornings before school, glass of tang and a Centrum swallow vitamin that I had to CHEW up and chase down with my TANG.  If flavors have distinct smells, then that combination of chewing an iron fortified vitamin designed to be swallowed, followed by TANG poured from that gaudy pitcher, was a metallic chalky smell that would nearly make me gag.  It was like smelling the mercury from an old filling being drilled out and yet having to swallow it!
 
TANG is still produced today.  Who buys it, I'm not sure.  My oldest sister has some goofy drink recipe she likes to make called Frosted Orange Creme.  It is basically powdered Tang crystals mixed in a blender with ice, water, milk, vanilla and sugar.  She says it tastes like an Orange Julius.  I say not!  But go ahead, if you don't believe me, and try it yourself:)
 
My grandma eventually used that pitcher for cold water in the refrigerator.  I never could drink a glass of water from that pitcher without feeling like I could still taste and smell TANG!

8.23.2012

CHOCOLATE ROULETTE



Forrest Gump's famous quote from the movie bearing his name is simply descriptively profound, "My mama always said, 'Life is like a box of chocolates'". It is a surprise, a mystery, an unknown, an adventure, a disappointment at times, sweet and decadent or possibly a bad taste to swallow.

If you've ever opened a box of chocolates they are all fairly similar with only slight variations in color, swirl on top or shape. I have been fooled a time or two when biting into one hoping for a raspberry cream and landing a taste of maple or some weird yucky filling. It is said that good candy makers mark ever so slightly the top of each piece with the swirl design noting the letter of the filling inside. It's like reading chocolate calligraphy or hieroglyphics to me though. Those loopy swirls can be deceiving - O, M, C, S, R.

I've known people who, with no chocolate etiquette at all, push up the bottom of each piece to see a bit of the filling before settling on one they like. If someone offers you a piece of chocolate from their box, turn it over first to see if it has been previously handled! I think that a box of chocolate needs to be approached like a roulette wheel - what you get you get. It's an adventure. If you don't like variety, eat a Hershey bar!

Knowing the outcome of things, or trying to ascertain them, sometimes takes the joyous in-the-moment pleasure from spontaneity and living what is in front of you. Medical ultra sounds are great technology that probably have saved lives and detected serious problems. But, they have removed that moment of impact at birth at seeing gender as part of the wonder of the whole giving birth process.

I cannot control everything. I want to though! It is exhausting to pick up each chocolate and push the bottom trying to control the situation, the circumstances, others, the events even of a normal day. God created life to be eventful, with hidden delights mixed in with, at times, yucky tastes. I think God uses the chocolate box method to try to get us to be very present, in the now, engaged, connected to one piece at a time.

There is a huge measure of marvel in just experiencing. No juxtaposing allowed.


8.22.2012

GREEN NO MORE



When I got remarried a year and a half ago we combined household belongings.  We were both middle aged, and though neither of us stuff collectors, had multiple sets of most things that you need to function in life; furniture, towels, kitchen stuff, etc...  We did the; yours is nicer than mine so let's keep yours thing.  That was the deciding factor along with what would fit in my 1100 square foot house, what fit the decor and whether it had any sort of sentimental value to either of us. 

Doug had some cool items that we kept which rounded out my sparsity and fit perfectly into the decor I already had going.  We have more towels and sheets than any two-person house needs.  He also had a great shiekishly modern sugar shaker, a Keurig coffeemaker that he thinks I love more than him, some great bowls and utensils that were way nicer than mine.  Neither of us are overly attached to "stuff" so it was easy to get rid of and combine.  We made it about each other and not things.

Doug not only got me, but a house that I was in the process of remodeling.  When he moved in, my kitchen was still unpainted including the cabinets, the tile back splash was still ungrouted, the outlets were half-way re-wired and hanging from the wall, the tile on the floor was losing its grout about as fast as hair seems to fall from my head.  It was a work in progress.
Who lives like this!
In progress - old!
These are the before and in the progress of remodelling shots.  Living without cabinets door for a spell makes you realize how much crap you have and how disorganized your cupboards really are. Yes, that is avocado green paint - the original cabinet color inside and out!
 
Process of new tile being laid
After removing four layers of flooring including tile, two layers of linoleum and an extra sub floor, we re-laid new tile in a diagonal pattern to make the kitchen appear wider.  Diagonal patterns require way more cuts.  WAY!!  A regrettable decision in work but not in looks.
 
Our semi-professional finished job
The tile project was finished relatively inexpensively since we did all the labor.  Its cost though was high in the tiredness of our bodies removing four floors and crawling around on our knees for weeks!  Actually, it was expensive in the long run as Doug's back went out requiring some doctor visits and several weeks of therapy.  Ah, but we "saved" money and had the satisfaction of doing it ourselves. (sarcastic tone implied)  For two wanna-be contractors we struggled on the math side of measuring and geometric angles so we created paper templates for tough angled pieces as we didn't trust our math skills!
 
 The saying "satisfaction is a job well done"  though true was modified minutely with, "satisfaction is a job finally done"......
Free of avocado green


 
 
 
Snowman made by grandkids displayed
on refrigerator highlights the completion!

 
 
This 1950's brick ranch finally got brought up to speed.  All disorganization now fully hidden by new cabinet doors.
 
 
 
 
 

8.21.2012

MY MENTAL MENAGERIE



I had a stellar thought for a blog post yesterday when running.  It stemmed from something I had been deep in thought over for a few days.  There was a great word that had planted itself in my brain that needed to be used.  I connected the dots from that word to another phrase.  While running I kept reminding myself to write it down upon getting in the house.  Don't waste these words and thoughts, I told myself over and over again.  How quick my mind is to think brilliance and then, like a bird flying through my back yard, it is gone!

True inspiration usually can't be repeated exactly.  Think about that.  Whether it's an amazing athletic showing, a musical performance, a world record of some type, a business phenomena, a moving speech, a New York Times bestseller.  Literally I have spoke before a group in the past or written things that later I cannot, for the life of me, figure out how I came up with that information, that delivery.  If I had to repeat it, I could not.  It was for that moment, that time, that place or person. 

Many times I have read what I have written, either to be read or delivered in a class or speaking, and wondered who in the world could have gotten anything out of that.  It didn't have clarity or purpose.  It didn't nail it home.  I sounded dumb and flat.  Only a few times have I read something I have written and wondered who wrote that!  They were brilliant!

On the last two blocks of my run I heavily concentrated on that word and that phrase that developed what I had been pondering.  Two blocks is not that long.  That is approximately only two-tenths of a mile.  That equates to approximately 1 minute 30 seconds - give or take the day and my speed. (I just used my toes to calculate that.  English was my strong suit in school, not math!)  I got distracted as I ran up the driveway by our crab apple tree.  Those crab apples were strewn about calling all yellow jackets to the yard and sidewalk we use to get to the front door.  In that split second of transferring my thoughts from my magic word and phrase to deciding to pick up the 12 crab apples before yellow jackets swarmed, the thoughts evaporated. 

They not only evaporated, but from the crap apple tree to the front door they slipped into my mental black hole.  What is even worse, I did not remember that I had even forgotten them when I entered the house.  I did not say, Now what was that word and phrase!  Nope.  I just went about the day oblivious.  That is until this morning when I ran again.  About a half mile from home I remembered I had been inspired internally in my brain regarding something yesterday but didn't even remember it long enough to write it down.  Those damn crab apples!  Yet another reason I hate that tree.

I did my own Alzheimer's test; spell WORLD backwards, what county am I in, who is the President of the United States, what city do I live in.  I easily answered those questions.  But for the life of me though I cannot find that word again, that inspiration.  It was destined for yesterday and I lost it.  It would have been brilliant:)

8.20.2012

THE PEOPLE PLEASING PLACE?



When I was a youngster there weren't but a handful of fast food restaurants as compared to their numbers presently. People just didn't eat out in the 60's and 70's like they do now. Rephrase; as a rural quasi farmer-ish family we almost never ate out. When questioning my mother on never going to restaurants or stores her response was, "We didn't have money when you were young!".

I can remember the first time my family went to McDonalds. The year was probably 1973 or 1974. It was the first and only time my family ever went to McDonalds. We sat down at the table with our order of regular hamburgers and french fries.  My dad took a couple of bites of the hamburger and fries and declared, "This is cold!  This is junk food!!"  It was the end of the discussion and the end of going to McDonalds ever again.  Having only really eaten at McDonalds a handful of times in my entire life (it is crappy bad-for-you food!), I can attest that my father was correct.  Anything though, fast food included, is always better if it is served hot and has not sat around under a heat lamp.  He may have had a better first impression had it been made fresh and was warm.  I have a dear friend who would not agree with my stance on McDonalds and who I funnel all the coupons I see in the paper for McDonald Shamrock Shakes or McRibs- buy one get one free.

Recently following the van you see in the picture I got tickled over this local/regional fast food restaurant, Penguin Point's, slogan..... The People Pleasing Place.  This crappy hole-in-the wall restaurant has around 13 restaurants in the region which started in the 1960's.  Their decor, food, slogan, and quality has not changed one lick since I was born in 1966.  My paternal grandparents loved Penguin Point which was ironic to me since they were farmers all their lives and knew what good food should have tasted like.  Penguin Point is not GOOD FOOD.  It is fast, greasy, cause your gallbladder to go into overdrive, leave you smelling like you were deep fried yourself from just merely stepping inside the restaurant. 

The thought that this fast-food burger/fry joint does catering to offices/parties/events was comical to me.  I could not picture a business using them to cater lunch for an in-house meeting or training session.  And yet, according to my daughter who works for one of the local banks, she has been served  Penguin Point's catered food at bank training sessions.   No doubt their catered food is more than burgers and fries, but I'm sure still not a healthy sort of spread.

The People Pleasing Place.  One of my walking/running/biking routes passes by a Penguin Point which gives me cause to remember with fondness and love my grandparents.  The greasy aroma that billows from its vicinity can be smelled in its surrounding blocks.  I never really see cars parked in the parking lot.  I would think if your slogan is, The People Pleasing Place, you would be full to over flowing with customers constantly as you have stated that people are pleased with your product, quality and environment.  Why was it named Penguin Point when it was started in the Midwest no where near where penguins reside?  Why did they use penguin in the name of a burger joint? I'm just not catching the logical inference they are making.

If you make your way to the Midwest I don't necessarily recommend you stop in for a meal at Penguin Point unless you are running low on money and have a very healthy gallbladder.  It's cheap food that will probably give you a great colon blow!

8.16.2012

VEGETABLE BONDAGE



Right at this very moment I have 6 huge beefsteak tomatoes on my kitchen counter from my garden, with another 6 ready to be picked tomorrow.  Still on the vine are a plethora of green ones which indicate I will have tomatoes for quite some time.  Right now I also have 13 zucchinis in my refrigerator.  Yes, you read right - 13!  Human population of this house; 2.  That is a lot of vegetables per capita.  

We have had BLT's with our fresh tomatoes amped up with amazing maple bacon and the romaine lettuce we grew.  They are pretty much to die for and way better than any restaurant would serve up!  We also have consumed; broiled cheese and tomato sandwiches, turkey sandwiches with tomatoes, and I have eaten many a tortilla with a kick of real mayo and slices of right out of the garden tomatoes.  About a dozen times (me more) we have had a fresh zucchini, tomato, onion and mozzarella salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar drizzled through it.  In fact, I ate that salad 4 out of 6 meals in a two day period.  Hey, when something is good I'm all about it!

I am all about zucchini; zucchini pizza crust, zucchini bread, grilled zucchini, zucchini cake with pineapple, zucchini chocolate cake, zucchini cupcakes, raw slices on salads or dipped in ranch dressing, zucchini soup, baked zucchini/onions/tomatoes with Parmesan cheese.  Believe it or not, but raw zucchini and peanut butter are a great combination.  Try it!  I have given a fair share away trying to dwindle my vegetable stockpile to amounts that are more manageable and don't involve the use of zucchini at nearly every meal. 

Every year I plant a garden I forget that from 4 zucchini hills planted come thousands upon thousands and thousands of zucchini.  Every year I forget that 6 tomato plants produce more tomatoes than two people can consume without having to take an antacid from the over consumption of eating acid producing vegetables.  Every year, as I kneel to put seed in the ground in a bare garden, my mouth waters thinking of the first BLT made with a fresh tomato from the garden, or a bowl of raw zucchini/tomato/onion salad.  Especially do I get giddy with excitement as I cram the seeds into the ground licking my lips thinking about fresh zucchini cake with cream cheese frosting that will come froth from my crop.   My over planting in the garden is akin to going to the grocery store to buy groceries when you are hungry.  You always over buy and over spend in that famished state.

Why do I feel so overly obligated to use all that I planted?  Why can I not just say enough is enough and let the rest rot in the garden?  Why do I feel wasteful if I don't utilize what my hand planted?  How did I get in such bondage to vegetables?  That bondage is a passed on trait from my parents who plant a garden big enough to feed the county and refuse to waste one thing.  How do I get out of that bondage?!

If by chance you have any great recipes that involve either zucchini or tomatoes, I would love them.  Just email them to me under the tab CONTACT.  DO NOT though send me the recipe for tomato cake as the thought of that makes me audibly say UGH!

My husband has declared no more zucchini in raw form for him.  Evidently it is nature's laxative in him.  It's a (vegetable) colonic and some people in Hollywood pay big bucks for that procedure!

8.14.2012

OBSERVATIONS FROM AN OUT OF TOWNER



It's good to occasionally change our scenery.  Whether it's going to a seminar or a con-ed class to garner a new perspective, visiting another church to see how other people worship, or vacationing in an area that is different than our home.  Geographically, economically, culturally exposing ourselves to things outside of our small rotish worlds can be enlightening, even catalytic.

My husband had of late a new idea for a reality show called, "So, you think you have it bad?"  It would be a comparative visual on topography, economics, social, mental, relational and physical issues.  Granted if we spend our lives comparing ourselves or situations to other people, and if we do it enough, we can always find some poor soul far more destitute, bombarded with trials, down on their luck, fatter, or more generally messed up than we are.  The premise isn't to compare to feel superior, but to feel grateful.  To go back to your own life/place/circumstance with a better set of eyes in which to view what you are living. 

When we are around something for a long time it can become blase to us.  We are easily droned into be unaffected by it.  If you live with a remodel project long enough you sometimes lose the push to finish.  Easily do we become acclimated and comfortable living with no trim, unpainted walls, etc as we continually walk past it daily.  I am case in point.  Walking downstairs in my halfway painted basement for the past 2+ years I note I need to finish the job, but am used to needing to get it done and not progressing to getting it done.  I know it looks like shit, but it is familiar shit to me.  Not shocking to me any more.  And not as pressing as it should be!

Sometimes we need stuff outside of our normal routine to re-charge us, re-focus us, re-energize us, paint a better more accurate picture of this place in the world that is ours. For instance, I live in an a 55,000 person city in the Midwest.  It has seen better days economically and has, like most regions in the U.S., taken some hits in the real estate and job market.  Those hits have caused a ripple; less tax dollars in the city due to foreclosures, businesses pulling out, people moving for lack of jobs.  Less tax dollars means things are not kept in impeccable order; city maintenance issues, parks, upkeep in general in the things that the city cares for.  They too have been hit with a reduced work force.  It ripples in homeowners not spending to improve properties or sometimes even do the needed maintenance on them.  People have to cut back.  So, simple things like replacing mulch, or windows, putting in a new driveway, taking down an old tree all get put on the back burner. 
Collectively those put-off projects, neglects, or bare-minimums take a toll on the look of a city. 

I went to Oil City, Pennsylvania with my husband yesterday for a meeting he had.  It was a whirlwind trip out - 6 hours, and a rush back - 6 hours today.   Oil City is a great comparative tool for the town in which I live.  My town looked wealthy in comparison to this probably once thriving region. 

Oil City's wealth started in the 1850's with oil wells being drilled.  It thrived on oil, hosting headquarters for companies like; Pennzoil, Quaker State and Wolf's Head.  Tourism also played a role by showcasing those oil sites, nature trails and its Victorian architecture. 

Oil City was a thriving place during the last part of the 19th century and well into the 20th century.  It is known as the location for the exploration and development of the oil industry.  But by the 1990's all three oil companies relocated their headquarters elsewhere as only a few wells continued to produce a supply of petroleum.  It is estimated that somewhere between 19-22% of the population in Oil City are below the poverty level.  The median income for an average family of four is $36,000.  Oil City is the location where the Allegheny River and the Oil Creek converge near the foothills of the Appalachian mountains.

As we drove back to our town today the once yuckiness of my own town seemed bright and cheery in comparison to Oil City's depression, almost empty downtown, and poverty.  I noted some trashy properties here but not in the volume that region had.  Smoking is not nearly as prevalent here as it was in Oil City.  There was also just a general lack in the manner of cleanliness and dress, even in professional business attire.  The poverty, despair, this is all we got, our better days are behind us, was clearly felt and seen in the buildings and people.

Home is always good.  I felt blessed to be home and live here.  It seemed even better today, comparatively.

8.13.2012

I STILL DO


That is the name of a song, "I Still Do". Its meaning very evident by the title. A declaration of sorts if you will. It says; life may have changed, there might be distance, circumstances or choices that have altered proximity, but nothing changes my heart. I like that because issues of the heart are deep and rich not flippant and or easily emptied.

"The heart wants what the heart wants" is a familiar saying. Its first manifestation can be seen in kids. Ever see a child bawling because they did not get something their heart wanted? I remember my own daughter's heartache when the first boy she really liked went to college leaving her to finish high school without him. His heart moved on long before hers did.

Our hearts are a powerful force. They are like the rudders of our lives. Sometimes, and thankfully, they are
what sustains us amid a swirl of chaos and change. It is the place of unchangeableness in a shifting world of relationships or circumstances. It is a deep well of hope and love.

Still other times it can be a place of unmet desires that constantly show us our lack. Painting a repeating looping picture of missed love, or creating a fierce angst between our deep longings and the contrasting present realities.

I have had both of those places firing full cylinders in my heart over the course of living. You probably have too. It is both a comfort to go to the "still dos" of the heart and a hard place to leave our unmet desires. Both never leave us. Whether they bring hope or hurt, a know or a worry is a choice we have to make with some of them.

Everything about us; thoughts, feelings, personality, experiences, dreams, hopes and hurt flow to our heart. There, in that hidden away from others place, is the sum of the real us. It all converges there.

The heart does not easily let go. That is both good and bad at times. It is a highly private and intimate place. It is a place sometimes that we don't want to speak about to another living soul. It though is the place where God himself waits to be invited in to share in all we are - hopes, dreams, loves, and unfulfilled longings.

8.10.2012

DO YOUR EARS HANG LOW, DO THEY WOBBLE TO AND FRO?


Do our eyes, ears and noses really grow in our older years?   Have you heard that before? Have you seen evidence to support that claim?   Are you presently experiencing what appears to be a snout that is larger in your aging years than in your young adult years?   Do your now large eyeballs rival the likes of Gene Wilder?

I can't say I have ever been overly fond of my nose. When I was young, and not fully grown into all my parts and pieces, I hated looking at my profile. It seemed to highlight a nose that was way too pointed and stuck off my face in a Pinocchio sort of fashion.  Looking at me straight on you weren't covered by the shadow my nose cast.  But if off to my side profile, wow!  If only I could have just directly faced people and never had to walk by them or turn my head!

My eyes were already somewhat on the big, cow-eyed side of the size chart even as a kid. Being skinny as a young kid did nothing but highlight both my large nose and overly big eyes. You combine that with an overbite and you got one out of proportion situation on your hands.  My ears thankfully were untouched by abnormalities.  No ear pinning needed or hair styles to hide their Dumbo-ness. 

Lately I have been noticing, or rather freaking out slightly, that my nose seems to be growing.  When I look at pictures of myself I see a big flipping nose that dwarfs all other features next to it.  Since it does stick off my body further than anything else, it gets sunburned constantly (I am horrible at sunscreen!).  Why all of a sudden is my nose so predominant on my face again? 

WC FIELDS
In all reality, our noses and eyes DO NOT keep growing as we get old.   It is somewhat an optical illusion. Technically our eyes, ears and noses do grow a bit larger from birth to around age 18 or so.  But, they do not spontaneously start enlarging again in old age.  If you are immediately thinking of W.C. Fields' nose - bulbous, large and red, his was a result of heredity and alcohol.  A deadly nose combination that was present and accentuated by his love of hooch.  I guess if you  have a large nose you might as well embrace it - trademark it even.  Some might even say Barbara Streisand, funkily big nose and all, is beautiful in her own way.  Possibly. 

BARBARA STREISAND
We lose collagen and elasticity in our skin as we age. (Um, along with brain cells, hair, vision, hearing, flexibility of muscles.  Sign me up, please!!)  Without those things in as great of supply supporting us in the world of skin cells, stuff falls -all stuff.  I will let you use your inner screen to play the images right about.... now.  Gravity naturally, without a staying mechanism in place, will pull anything down. Skin around our eyes falls. So does skin in all our face, thus causing protrusions; eyes, ears and noses, to appear larger.
 
Now that is not to discount the fact that if genetically you were given larger versions of eyes, ears and a nose at birth that it won't be worse in old age.  It will.  Gravity.

8.09.2012

AM I A GOOD COOK? CAN TURKEYS FLY?


Recently someone asked me, "Are you a good cook?" 
That is a loaded question I told them.  If I say yes, then it appears I might be a bit arrogant, possibly misguided about my own cooking skills.  It might make me like the contestants on "American Idol" who claim they are amazing singers but when they audition there is nothing "good" about their talent - an extremely skewed view of self!   He rephrased, "Do others say you are a good cook?"  That line of questioning made it easier to put the misguidedness or wrong opinion of my cooking ability on others thus taking the burden off my own opinion.  Yes, I said. 

I don't typically cook with recipes but by look and feel and taste.  If I use recipes it is usually as a guideline and I will mix parts of two or three recipes together to create.  Usually then later I cannot, when wanting to make something again that was a big hit to the eaters, totally get it exact again.  A great much of the time I can't remember how I did it at all, what 4 recipes I perused to create a variation.  Since I do not write proportions down, substitutions or the like it usually varies from making to making.  A bit like a slot machine in Vegas!

It makes sense that I am loosey-goosey with cooking.  That coincides perfectly with the way in which I approach a great many things in life.  Since I really whole-heartedly believe that anything can be done and, that I have the ability to do it or garner information from someone who knows more than me, I possibly overly confidently approach most things - cooking included.

My middle sister and mom are follow-the-recipe-to-the-T cooks using exact measurements and the exact ingredients.  My oldest sister follows recipes too but without the cooking love or passion.  She has no great love of cooking and does it mostly because her family feels they need to eat!  Though I always like what she makes.

Invariably I will make a salad or some other dish for an extended family gathering and my sisters will ask, "Did you make this up or use a recipe?"  I cannot usually repeat what is in it, how I created it to taste like that or in what proportions my recipe following clan would need to make it.  How do you say, "Well, I just dumped some of this in, and then added some of that, tasted it and then decided it needed this." 

I would not survive one round on Chef Gordon Ramsey's "Hells Kitchen", cooking skills aside.  It's not that I am opposed to combining swearing and cooking, hell I do it frequently myself.  But I would probably start laughing at his and others intensity over FOOD!   Passion I get, wanting a good meal, being the best, I can get in line for those beliefs.  Come on now though, it is not a lasting piece of art that will be around for hundreds of years.  It's duck ala rouge that at tops will be ingested, digested and expelled in just under 6 hours! 

Last weekend my husband and I had a piece of champagne raspberry cake at one of our favorite restaurants.  It was probably some of the best cake I have ever had.  Now on a quest to make it, I have searched through dozens of recipes on-line to get a feel for what makes a champagne raspberry cake good, how to get the texture right and if any old champagne will do.  I don't have a desire to be on the show "Cake Boss", but I would like to really learn how to make a cake that leaves em mmmmmming for more!   The kind of taste that makes you not want to put anything after it in your mouth, savoring it until all the flavor melts away.  Holy cow, I just started salivating thinking about that cake!

Bon Appetit!

8.08.2012

LIONS AND HORSES


Straight from bed....
Messy hair and forehead
big enough to write an SOS
message on!
Today is my 46th birthday.  Yes, thank you for wishing me birthday greetings as you read this.  How the hell I got to be 46 I can't for the life of me figure out.  Really I'm not sure how you are supposed to feel at 46, or how you are supposed to think.  I still think pretty much like I did when I was 25 - ok with minor revisions. 

My friend came over last night to "celebrate Nancy" as she succinctly put it.  We had dinner, laughed, drank some wine, talked serious stuff and then discussed the chicken skin I am getting on my body.  I pulled some skin off my arm and it stayed in that position in that chickenie drapie wrinkly way.  We both laughed and said there wasn't a damn thing we could do about it.

After she left, my husband and I went for a walk in the dark.  Holding hands and talking he began to describe what he felt every time he was with me, or looked at me. 

Post-running
Just earlier in the day, when he popped home for lunch, we were sitting on the back patio and he was gazing at me, "Babe, you are beautiful."  I laughed at him because I was still actually in my sweaty running clothes without a shower and hair that was in a messy, greasy, sweaty ponytail.  He claimed that no matter what, he saw beauty.  Love and cataracts make all things beautiful I tell him.

With Doug in DC 4/2012
I can start to hear a bit of emotion welling up in his voice....  "Nancy, I wish I would have met you 25 years ago.  The life we could have had.  The fun and adventure we would have shared.  The places I lived in my life that you would have loved, the jobs I held that you would have cheered me on in.  The love of the great outdoors that we share and would have explored in some of those places.  There is never a time or a moment that I don't look at you and find you sexy, get filled up with you, or get bored.  Every moment with you is new and I wake up more madly in love than the day before."

Wearing a shirt that my
daughter convinced me
to buy - out of my element!
Hair probably too long
for a 46 year old!

I'm still not sure how you are supposed to feel at 46.  I decide today, this my 46th birthday, that I feel vibrantly alive and thankful I got to start life all over again at 44 years of age.  I feel grateful, humbled, and excited for each day of a life that I always longed for to have come into being. 

If aging takes away things, it has more than compensated by giving me back ten-fold.  I resolve to fight "oldness" with all I have.  I will continue to run and do crunches until I take my last breath.  I will be the female counterpart to Jack LaLane I decide.  I will be a veggie eating, granolaish, adventuring, exercising old person.  Chicken skin and all!

I tell Doug, hand in hand last night on our walk, to please bury me in my t-shirt that says DON'T WASTE MY TIME, no bra and a shade of lipstick that looks good against pale-white dead skin.  He laughs and says that shirt appropriately represents all of who I am.

Bangs trying to cover a
hairline that starts near
the crown of my head!
I am a Leo in astrological signs, and born in the year of the horse in the Chinese zodiac.  They both claim me to be fiercely independent, driven by deep love, energetic and impatient.  My ruling planet is the sun and my element is fire.  Quite accurate those things are.  I cannot get enough of the sun, hate all things slow, love people powerfully, can do things by myself thank you!, and come through tough experiences refined and with grace.  I like the connotation of a lion, not a horse though:)

It feels good to be 46, to know who I am, to be free to be that person, to let regret go, to live in the present, to be loved in such a powerful way.  I vow to try to soak in and fully believe the words Doug speaks to me.  To let go of patterns of thought that cause me to doubt or not see myself that way.  

My daughters all texted me birthday wishes this morning.  So did both of my sisters, Big D, and even my ex-husband.  My mom called to wish me happy birthday and tell me when I was born.   Doug told me happy birthday at 12:01 a.m. today as he pulled me in close and then sang to me at 6:30 a.m. as he snuggled me tight this morning.  I went for a run, ate a no-bake cookie with a cup of coffee, looked in the mirror for a spell trying to remember that I would only be 46 once.  I thought about the freedom of a no-agenda day that stretched before me.  It was a perfect birthday. 


 

8.07.2012

LOCKSMITHS OF THE HEART


You cannot put a Fire out --
A Thing that can ignite
Can go, itself, without a Fan --
Upon the slowest Night --

You cannot fold a Flood --
And put it in a Drawer --
Because the Winds would find it out --
And tell your Cedar Floor --
    --Emily Dickinson  (1830-1886)
  

I'm not sure what the technical definition of a poet is.  Or, what makes you horrifically famous as a poet - death, volumes written, content?  Nor do I always fully understand or connect to some poets words and phrasings, or identify closely with the subject matter they are exposing.  But, much like music, when you do connect to a style, a prose, an angst, a declaration, it is like finding the final pieces to a 1,000 piece puzzle - crystal clear and satisfying.


It was not a heart, beating.
That muted boom, that clangor
Far off, not blood in the ears
Drumming up and fever

To impose on the evening.
The noise came from outside:
A metal detonating
Native, evidently, to

These stilled suburbs nobody
Startled at it, though the sound
Shook the ground with its pounding.
It took a root at my coming

Till the thudding shource, exposed,
Counfounded in wept guesswork:
Framed in windows of Main Street's
Silver factory, immense

Hammers hoisted, wheels turning,
Stalled, let fall their vertical
Tonnage of metal and wood;
Stunned in marrow. Men in white

Undershirts circled, tending
Without stop those greased machines,
Tending, without stop, the blunt
Indefatigable fact.
                                  --Slyvia Plathe (1932-1963)


Poets, like lyricists, use phrases/stanzas/rhythm/images in more parametered meters than does a writing blabber such as I.  They seem to be gifted to paint this almost life-like portrait with only an 8 1/2 inch canvas, limited paints, and one brush.  I bow to their ability and skill.  I freely acknowledge I cannot do what they do.  Whether you like Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, Slyvia Plath, Robert Frost, or more modern day contemporary poets like; Maya Angelou, Ros Barber, Jonathan Bohrn and the likes of others, they are architects of words and images.

If you are not a poetry reader, try it - more than once though.  Try different poets until you find one that strikes a cord with your soul, your mind and your spirit.  Then, you will be hooked.  Might I suggest www.americanpoems.com if you are unfamiliar with poetry in general.  Open up your mind and explore!


"I love you not only for what you are, but for what I am when I am with you.
 I love you not only for what you have made of yourself, but for what you are making of me.
I love you for the part of me that you bring out."
- Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861)

8.06.2012

PERFORMANCE ISSUES


Sports are interesting to me.  Elite athletes are amazing and mystifying all at the same time.   Watching the summer 2012 Olympics highlights those that qualify athletically to be among the best in the world.  That venue showcases men and women in track and field, gymnastics, basketball, volleyball, soccer, swimming, shooting (to me that's a skill not athleticism) who have spent most of their lives trying to get to a level that pushes the limits of speed, endurance, or performance that will create a win; a gold, a silver, a bronze.  I like to push myself physically, but do not reside even on the same planet as these world class athletes.  My kudos to them.

Greatly intriguing to me is that certain sports develop or create certain body types.  The question might be; do those athletes in each of those sports have a propensity to the body type needed to perform in that sport, or does the training for the sport develop their bodies in that way?   The physique differences between sports is very distinct. 

Swimmers have a less defined muscular frame with overly big shoulders and a bit of doughy flesh over them.  Sprinter runners seem to have very large leg muscles and lower bodies, while distance runners are leaner, less muscular almost appearing they need a high fat meal to fatten them up.  Gymnasts, girls anyway, are usually small framed with a marked rear end and power legs with no space between them.   Beach volleyball players have no boobs to speak of and tend to be taller with longer legs.  And shot-putters are well, humongously girthy!

I would not want to wear any of the outfits that I have seen on the Olympic athletes - no matter the sport.  How the gymnast girls vault, do the uneven bars, freestyle routines and balance beam in a one piece leotard without it creeping up their crack, much like a thong, is a mystery to me!  I also do not want to long jump in what appears to be a version of a two piece bathing suit.  Nor do I want to sprint or play beach volleyball in something akin to boy cut underwear and a sports bra.  And I definitely don't want to wear a spandex knee length unitard that is unflatteringly cut to highlight my ginormous shoulders and upper body as a swimmer.  Sometimes their "gear" or "outfits" distract me!  l will not address hair issues and clips and bobby pins presently.  That is best left for another rant.

It appears that NIKE bright yellow shoes are the running shoe of choice this Olympics.  Yesterday I saw a sprinter wearing one bright yellow shoe and one coral colored shoe.  I have a feeling these athletes are the reason I cannot find normal colored running shoes this year.  I much prefer my shoes to be neutral colored and to blend in with what I wear and not be the color of a construction cone.  I wonder if any of those runners would want my Asics ghetto black with hot pink running shoes that I refuse to wear any more because of their ostentatiousness?

Unlike me, I'm quite sure those athletes aren't fixated on the outfit but rather the outcome of their performance, race or match.  If the style or material made me faster, maybe I'd wear it.  On second thought, probably not.

8.01.2012

A BOWL OF OATMEAL AND PENNIES FROM HEAVEN



With my husband gone this week, I easily morphed back to my single ways - running at dusk, not turning on the TV, being engrossed in a book, and eating oatmeal every night for dinner.  I subsisted on Cliff bars, raw veggies, peanut butter, coffee, apples, and oatmeal during my single stint.  I do not miss anything about being single, except the oatmeal.  

Out for a run last night at dusk I was talking to God.  In particular, I was remembering His great love for me during my divorce.  I recounted to God how I felt covered by Him during that time of my life when most people ran the opposite direction.  Many times I had cried physical tears to God that really only held part of the pain I felt, the fear I was experiencing, the struggle I was having.  There weren't enough tears to hold the enormity of what I was experiencing.  So many times He provided His voice to me through this unbelievable peace and comfort, soft words to my spirit, the encouragement of a friend, a verse out of the Bible or a coin found on the road.

Coins and God and I have a thing.  It has been an avenue of God to visibly show me He is listening, He is loving, He is present.  It started many years ago when I was too ill to work and was beginning my slow and painful recovery.  Walking a few blocks daily I would talk to God about wanting to go back to work to earn a living, to feel whole again.  I began to find money on my walks.  God was showing me He was providing for me.  He heard me.  He loved me.  It would be ok.  I would recover.  I would work again.  To trust Him.

Last night running I told God again of my disappointment in the church and their reaction to me being a pastor's wife who went through a divorce.  I wasn't holding the volume of hurt I did six months, a year, or two years ago, but I still felt I wanted to keep the church a bit at arm's length.  I told God I did not want Him at arm's length and wondered was He growing tired of my slow journey through this process of letting the pain go?

I instantly heard God's reassurance....I still love you like that.  Watch.  I ran just a few feet further.  There, splayed across the road, were 9 pennies.  N I N E !!  In the same block I spied a nickel laying perfectly in a small indentation in the center of the road.  At first a wave of astonishment washed over me.  It wasn't the first time I felt that intimacy with God, but it felt brand new.  Tears trickled out of my eyes and ran down my cheeks, and then a smile stretched across my face that carried me the last two miles home.