Friday, April 3, 2015

Chapter 13

"If wishes were horses, beggars would ride." 


I used to quote that to Naomi a lot, probably because my own mother used to say it to me.

It's hard for me not to become bug-eyed impatient with people who loll around wishing for friends or changed lives or pretty things or money or for a president who will turn our Country into a 1950's Happy Place (good luck, especially, with that last one).

Wishers have always made me nuts. Especially the times I've been one.

Even as a child I realized that if you want something, well, you can create it! You can either work for money to buy things or you can work to win and woo a friend. Your imagination, your hands can create something with stuff you already own and you can read books or watch movies (or Life) to become inspired. 

The only insurmountable problem is when our imagination breaks or sours.

Not that I've always lived by that. Nope, I've had my months of self-pity, my low times when my imagination felt too weary to even try. Times when I laid around wishing the world outside would suddenly meet the needs growing on the inside of me. But eventually God or others or my own spirit would eventually yank me out of those pitiful places.

And then the dreaming would begin again, the envisioning, the planning and soon, the work to make it all happen.

It's useless (I've found) to sit upon my couch wishing my daily life was more. Trust me. I know. Most often, better days are as close as my imagination and my desire to follow God with all my heart. 

What remains is to keep that imagination in good repair with much determination and use.


Man oh man oh man oh man.

Did you notice the ghost town feeling of my blog? We were offline for three days.

It felt more like three weeks.

It's been test after test after test 'round these parts.

For starters, after the barn renovation, we have no money left. Well, just enough for groceries till next payday. I hope. :)

Then there's that stock market thing. Tom says we have less money to retire on now than we had fifteen years ago.

I do hope he's mistaken about that.

The reason our computer wouldn't go online is that Tom (unknowingly) turned the 'online button' off on the modem when the tv cable went all cattywampus Tuesday night. Then for two days he was super busy at work, too busy to discover the problem. I tried fixing it, but stopped when I realized (quite fast) that I had no clue as to what I was doing.

Remember how I'm always saying Tom is working too hard out here on and how I'd not planned for him to do anything? Well, this week he hinted to my 70-year-old mother about how the bottom rows of our (rusty-nailed, splintering) barn wall needed to be torn off.

So she got out there with a hammer and pried them all off. Right before climbing up a ladder to paint the new barn trim.

I tried talking her out of it, (so, like, how do you forbid your own mother from doing something?), yet I knew it was hopeless. But when she wanted me to hold the ladder so she could climb to the top rung--the one which has stickers on it showing a tiny stickman falling backward and the word, "Danger!" written all over it--I stood my ground and said, "No way." I told her she could tie the paint brush onto a piece of plastic pipe.

Sigh. It's been one of those weeks. Two weeks, actually. Two weeks of --again--coming to terms with the fact that I have so little control of anything. No control of anyone else, nor the weather and appliances and so much more.

No, but I do have control only over where my own thoughts take me, my words and my behavior and reactions. And even there, well, it's pretty hit and miss. But at least with God, controlling myself is possible.

And well, lacking control of my world should be ok with me. There's so much in this life which I must accept and let roll off my back.

Where trust is real, there will always be peace. Always there's much to learn. Let's just hope I am learning it.


"But the fruit of the Spirit is ... self-control."


We're back. Tom and I, that is, from leaving my mom at the airport. We arrived there early (traffic was good except when it wasn't) so we sat with my mom at the diner beside the security line with coffee, dreading good-byes.

Ack. I wish we had a mother-in-law house in our yard so my mom could live with us longer and yet have her own place, for some space, both (or all) kinds. I mean, right now I've got that we-had-company-for-three-weeks-and-I-feel-like-a-train-hit-me feeling. You know, when you stay 'up' for weeks so you can be entertaining and a good hostess (usually floundering in patterns), and forego routines and then, afterward, you crash, muddle-headed, and all that sounds good is a 16-hour nap.

That's where I am. Again. Especially after eating too much sugar (cookies, sherbet, candy etc.) which Tom freely lugged home because he knew I'd not yell at him in front of my mom. Actually, he did scads more things which annoyed me immensely. In fact, on the way home I got vocally snippy with him and told him it was like all the yelling inside of me had been bottled up for three weeks, very much like when Almanzo Wilder, as a boy, fed his pig some taffy and when he removed it the next day, the pig raced everywhere squealing all the squeals he'd not been able to squeal for hours and hours. :) 

And of course, that made us both laugh, me a tad hysterically, given the soppy way I felt at the moment.

My most often repeated personal slogan is, "I hate complication" and I do wish family relationships weren't so darn complicated. But they are. Mine, anyway. Yet some things you must just accept because the time for change has passed--and that needs to be all right. Acceptance and mercy go far to uncomplicate many a relationship, smoothing potential wrinkles.

And so can the aforementioned 16-hour nap which I believe I'll just wander upstairs and see about.


Down a country road from us there's a mobile home park, perhaps the loveliest one Tom and I have ever seen. No, really.

There, people have huge yards with sprawling green lawns and tall, ancient trees (forests, some of them) and white picket fences around flower gardens. Oh, the patios, bistro tables, sunflowers, colorful birdhouses on posts and hammocks. Most all these well-maintained homes have a full-size, attached garage and almost no yard is 'overdone'.Nearly all resemble miniature countrysides.

Tom and I drive its quiet lanes often, usually while discussing how simple, picturesque and serene it appears and wouldn't it be peaceful to live there someday?

I know, I know. What are we thinking? We just moved to a sprawling farm this summer.

I guess what we're thinking is ahead. Especially since we discovered this week from Tom's friend at work that--at that mobile home park--you must be over 50 to live in the best parts.

We speak of having a house sale when Tom retires and afterward,
perhaps we'll move into that lovely old mobile home park with the manageable yards and that 'playing house' feeling of the apartment will return. Frankly? Sometimes we miss that apartment and its true simplicity. Maybe we didn't live there long enough to tire of it, but how pleasant to live with only half our possessions. How nostalgic to feel as we did thirty years ago when we first married and owned nothing much and felt free and less bogged-down.

We know people who swear they'll never leave their present home, even should they grow too old to care for it. That's not who we are--and I'm, frankly, thankful we're not dreading an unknown future.


"To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven... a time to be born, and a time to die..."


Can it really, truly be November 25th, 2008 and Tom's and my 30th wedding anniversary? My oh my--half the time I feel only 29 years old so how can this be? And sometimes Tom and I still feel like the totally clueless kids we were when we said, "I do."

But all the time I still anticipate awaking Tom, having him again in my world, talking with me about whatever is on my mind, be it important or (usually) not. Either way, doesn't matter. We still chatter like proverbial magpies.

And where probably most couples would throw a big party for their 30th, Tom and I choose to celebrate all our regular days, instead. Always we feel we are celebrating something. Maybe that's how real love is supposed to feel.

We are as happy together as we can be.


Eons ago, Tom wrote a song which contained this Bible verse:

"Restore unto me the joy of my salvation..."

Well, lately I've been humming that song, but with lyrics I tweaked a bit:

"Restore unto me the joy of cooking..."

Good gracious.

The first early years I was married, I loved to cook and I became good at it. But lately? Ugh. Often I push myself into the kitchen and force myself to open a cupboard. And that's when I start praying that I'll enjoy cooking again. Amazingly, that prayer usually works--eventually a joy of cooking returns to me.

I watch a few episodes of Rachel Ray or Martha Stewart and peruse cooking magazines--or better--my collection of 1920's and 30's cookbooks so to seek cooking inspiration. Sometimes it's just enough to see old photos of cakes or roasts placed upon old Fiestaware in front of a hoosier cabinet.

What I do not do after praying my 'cooking prayer' is watch shows where homemaking is ridiculed and women who stay home, accused of wasting their lives. Nor do I peek at blogs which preach "any idiot can care for a home--your time and effort are more wisely spent outside in the real world." Uh, no. That would only guarantee my prolonged boredom with cooking. 

Sometimes the cause of my defeat is simply the place where I've been spending my time.

I've had other prayers, as I'm sure you have, too:

Restore unto me the love of cleaning my house...
Restore unto me the joy of early mornings...
Restore unto me good thoughts toward my next door neighbor...
Restore unto me patience with my husband and my daughter...

Prayer and God--they change things. Indeed.


"It's the little foxes that spoil the vine..."


See, I've always been somewhat of a neat-freak. Oh, not the clean-it-with-soap-and-water-constantly kind, but rather the keep-things-straightened type.

Hi. My name is Debra. (Hi Debra.) I'm a straightener. I love to straighten things.

But alas, I did not marry a straightener. No, thirty years ago I married a man whose largest weakness is his lack of organizational skills. I believe he wasn't born with a single one. heh.

It's been interesting. But guess what? Years ago I finally got the idea of praying for Grace over various piles of junk. I prayed that I'd be given Divine patience, tolerance and that I'd not even notice Tom's messes (or even my own occasional clutter). And it worked! Well, usually.

It's amazing, but now I can step right past these various Grace Piles and not shudder/grimace/complain or even run to Tom and nag. Instead, I can smile now and gaze at the remainder of the house which, usually, (unless I'm ill or mad at the whole world) is mostly straightened.

Grace Piles. Gotta love them.


So on Election Day, I took my friend, Laura, over to the village of Niagara Falls so she could get her car out of the shop, but first we ate lunch at Honey's before doing a bit of grocery shopping. And while there at the supermarket I heard it coming through the sound system--Christmas music. On November 4th!

My first reaction (I confess) was, "I can't believe this! It's not even anywhere near Thanksgiving yet, for goodness sake. Every year they do this sort of thing earlier and earlier. Yada, yada, yada."

But you know? Since that day, I've decided to just go with the way-too-early-Christmas flow. I mean, hey. Christmas is a good thing, after all. Look at what/Who started it all. And look at how it affects many people--it nudges them to give a little more to strangers, to smile more, to remember more of "Christmases of long, long ago..." And all that good stuff.

And okay--none of that is probably on the minds of store managers who blare Christmas tunes through loud speakers on November 4th, or those who display their Christmas goods in August and run wintry toy tv commercials the day after the Election.

I know, I know.

But right there lies a perfect decision opportunity: I can choose to complain about the earlier-than-ever Christmas commercialism or I can use all mentions of Christmas as reminders of the One who started it all. I can become insanely frustrated that the world isn't running on my approved time schedule, or I can, myself, start earlier than ever this year rejoicing that God sent His Son to rescue us. 

God does shed His love abroad in our hearts, sometimes resulting in extra smiles and compassion for strangers in supermarkets and notes or calls to friends we've lost touch with and how we will gather with family, hopefully overlooking all our collective faults.

And is it ever too early to remember all that?


Okay, so I lied.

Yesterday I did not drive to the antique barn to buy the small box of old white dishes. Someday I will, though.

No, yesterday was so November golden, so pleasant, sunny and heavily scented, that I chose to stay home. 

I stepped out the backdoor to breathe deeply of hot pine branches and grass and leaf scents and to pick up dead branches. And for hours on our bright front porch I sat with the sun heating my back, rereading Life Among The Savages and pausing to feel how good all this is. To watch the way a warm Autumn day paints our little farm.

I missed it all the day before (being gone), but today I beheld it all--the shiny wood floors, the sun slanting through the new windows, the birds playing outside at the feeders. The Fiestware and jade-ite, the meadow and barn outside the kitchen. I found it all good.

Everyone, I believe, needs to take an Appreciation Day sometimes to see, really see, what they've created so far. 


After six months, my house and I are becoming better, calmer friends.

Maybe you've read between my lines here. Perhaps you have surmised that my old farmhouse and I have our uncomfortable moments. For yes, we've peered askance at each other on afternoons and pondered if --truly--we were meant for each other after all.

All the money we have poured into her! Too many days I've written too many checks to too many workers who spent too much time updating this place. I've wished those guys would go away so I could pull weeds or dream in our meadow without being watched. And now it's winter and too late to make up for what I missed.

And Tom's buying all those tractors and my turning corners and discovering him--ack!-- up on a ladder (he's the last person who should be up on one) or lifting the heavy things his doctor says not to.

And being a typical first-born, I can get obsessive about being organized and so, move me into an old farmhouse with too few luxuries like drawers and hooks and shelves and then realizing we gave away some furniture we sorely need now and boxes still unpacked and well, my sanity has tip-toed to various brinks. 

 After nearly a year of cooking on an electric stove I am finally getting used to it, though, alas, this morning I did burn my French toast. And this house's heater--egads! Finally it has stopped turning itself on when it gets cold. Beyond annoying, that was. And its indecipherable instruction booklet, one written obviously by a nuclear physicist, was no help. The too tiny bathtub, the septic tank alarm always tripping, the eternal mowing of lawns--

Oh, it takes time to form a new relationship, especially with an old house. Time is required to discover a new rhythm. And here I'd thought that I'd moved at a more serene pace, that I was different than the rest of the 'instant everything' world.

So I guess, really, I should thank this old house for humbling me, for sticking the flashing neon Impatient Person sign before my eyes and for being patient with me while we're still learning to not only co-exist, but thrive. Together.


I think we forget how amazing this whole Internet and Blogland thing truly is. How easily we can find kindred spirits here! I recall whole decades when it seemed if I had any kindred spirits, they must have all tripped and fallen off the Earth into some cosmic Never Land. They were awfully hard to find.

But now? Kindred spirits are everywhere! And may I never lose my gratitude for this phenomenon.

I discovered yesterday from one of those kindred spirits that she'd decided to let her blog die because of a nasty blog stalker.

Of course, right away I tried talking her out of it.

Why? Because throughout History, always there have been people who tell inventors their inventions won't work and convince writers their stories aren't worth being told. They warn builders their buildings will fall down, encourage optimists to be miserable and dreamers to quit dreaming.

Just think of all the biographical books or movies of Great People you've ever read or watched--remember all the naysayers who tried to pull them back down to mediocrity? Remember the recurring theme? How, usually, the Great People almost quit, but then found new strength and continued--and succeeded?

Well, if you have a blog, then you, too, are a Great Person. No, really. I can't tell you the eons of times I've visited blogs which have encouraged me and improved the whole rest of my day. 

All blogs matter, homemaking ones where women write about the pie they baked that day. Man, you don't know how powerfully that affects me--how often just reading about your baking has gotten me out of this computer chair, off the computer and back to the cooking/housework I've been procrastinating! 

Your blogs about your families remind me to treat my own family nicer. Decorating blogs get me back up on ladders with a paintbrush in my hand, spiritual blogs get my head--and heart-- back where they should be.

Really, unless God specifically tells you to cease blogging (for a season or forever), please do not allow any person or any fear to stop you. Always there will be naysayers and always we have the choice to ignore them and continue changing the world.


Really, I have the sweetest husband. I watch him walk outside to our car and he pauses, turns toward our trees with the feeders, and then talks to the birds. You know, in that voice you use for cats or dogs or babies. And I stand there in our big bay window and smile, heart all warm.

Well, he wanted to give small Christmas gifts to our two neighbors who've helped us--the new, clueless kids--with our yard work, first with tractors, then snow blowers. He kept saying , "We should get them something," and I kept saying, "I am getting everybody else on our list something, so you take care of it since it's on your heart. Personally, I think a simple card would suffice."

So, after pondering and procrastinating and making things wildly complicated, Tom drove to our little Rite Aid here (the only place in our town to shop, not counting True Value.... I'm so not kidding), and bought a box of Christmas cards, two tins of cookies and two glass jar candles, different scents.

He spent an hour wrapping the candles and composing messages on the cards and then on Christmas Eve, in the rain and in the dark, we got in the car and drove to each neighbor's house where I got out and went up to the door, handed out the gifts, chatted a bit and wished all a merry Christmas. Each time I got back into the car and reported to Tom what was said and we smiled and laughed and drove down to the center of our one-traffic-light town then out to the country roads to look at peoples' light-decorated houses. We both felt pretty happy.

And then it happened. While I gazed through splattered windows at the lights in yards, I realized I was humming my favorite Christmas carol, the one which sneaks up on me while Christmas shopping amongst the crowds and brings me remembered joy. Except this year I'd not yet hummed it, not even once, and here it was already Christmas Eve--

"Angels we have heard on high, sweetly singing o'er the plain...."

There it was upon my breath, that dear old hymn which always brings Christmas to me. It finally found me that night because my sweet husband cared that our neighbors realize we appreciate them, their help, so very much. And in the darkened car out on country roads the joy of giving caught up with me only hours before Christmas Day. 


I don't know. I just don't know.

Maybe I'm not cut out for this Simple Country Life after all.

I've not much-mentioned our septic system alarm here, but it's been making us wild. The alarm, in the basement, goes off---riiiiiiiiiiiiing--about every other day or sometimes twice a day, even. It worked fine in the summer and early autumn--stayed silent. But the last few wet weeks I've too often had to race down to the basement to push the off button (with a hand over my ears to protect them from the shrillness. Remember that Star Trek episode? Kinda like that.).

That's the easy part.

Then I must go out the back door, circle around the house, and walk about ten yards to the inch-off-the-ground outlet with the tiny reset button inside a clear cover which sticks like crazy. I must kneel and practically press my face to the ground before I can see the microscopic reset button to press it, listening, feeling carefully by my fingertip for the correctness of the clicking noise, signaling the pump is back on.

Well. Try doing all that in pitch black darkness with howling winds, blowing snow in your face and a 0 degree windchill after traipsing through two (or more) feet of snow (snow which is covering the bucket we've placed over the outlet, so where is it?), no gloves (don't ask) and with no one in the house to care you're out there and the neighbors unable to see you or hear you if you fall and can't get back up.

That was the latest episode at Healing Acres last night. Tom was at work (I'd not have let him go out, anyway) and the alarm went off at 8:00 and I couldn't find my gloves, got the snow shovel and went out anyway-- and two of my finger tips still feel weird this morning (does that kind of thing heal?). And by the time the wind pushed me back into the house, (nightgown and robe all frozen at the bottom under my long wool coat) and after recalling those Little House stories of people being discovered, frozen, very near their houses, I was gasping deep gasps, trying to breathe and fuming and so mad that I was spitting nails. Or almost.

This is just a test.... this is just a test.... this is just a test...

There's some kind of a flaw in the septic's outlet/circuit/pump/whole design because the system was drained just over a couple years ago and you can usually go five years, or so, especially with just two people in the house, as was the case before us and with us now.

But this morning I've calmed down. We are going to call an electrician, first, to check it out.

I don't care that we have no extra money for this. I do not care what the cost will be (though, don't tell the electrician that). My life is worth a few hundred dollars. At least, I think so.


The good thing? Our neighbor across the street came yesterday morning with his snow blower and cleared our entire driveway and in front of the whole barn. Bless him.

Always, there is something good for which to be thankful. You remember that and I will, too, ok?


Alas, Tom thinks he has an idea, one involving a very long extension cord, an idea which would also show us just what is wrong, exactly. We'll see how that goes. If we can bypass the electrician, hooray.


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