(Whose woods these are I know, I know!) :)
I ran errands alone back to the town where we lived for 15 years, even driving a different route and not getting lost (always a plus) and then just in time, I remembered seeing online that their library has Joanne Fluke's mysteries which our new library does not. I'd not been there for over a year and when I asked the librarian how long they'd had their beautiful new front desk she said, "Since February. You haven't been here in awhile, have you?" So I chatted with her about our farm.
Then I drove past Autumn Cottage for old time's sake, shopped at Salvation Army, went to the supermarket where I stocked up on non-perishables for winter (I'm determined to be prepared this winter, unlike last). Nearly everything I needed was on sale and you should have seen me dancing in the aisles.
I remembered my history with that town while inside every store and upon each street. How this was where I spent my 30's, the mom of a middle-schooler then a high-schooler then a college student, all the chauffeuring, all those shopping trips together and all those mom lessons and emotions. All those people I knew there, sat on our porch with or attended church with, many with whom I've lost contact. And I drove past businesses which had changed owners and names and ones bulldozed years ago. I recalled weeks when I sang inside my car and other times when I had to try not to cry.
So much growing-up happened in that town! Much of my current happy foundation was built brick by brick in that place (while, simultaneously, God tore down my self-made sad foundation there, too). And how amazing that I can return, unlike when, as a child, we moved every two years. Back then when we moved, we moved, hundreds of miles away and this was way before email and when long distance calls cost fortunes and if your friends were bad at snail mail, you never heard from them again.
And so today I found myself grateful for short moves just a country drive away and email and Facebook and blogging. Never again will I lose people unless they or I wish to become lost.
I headed out to the next town over where I'd agreed to meet my buddy, Donna, at the theater so we could watch Julie and Julia.
Wow. Loved everything about it. The blogging references, of course, and the clothes from the 40's and 50's (and even today's Julie inspired me to wear more skirts). And the decor from both then and now captured my eyes, causing me to miss pages of dialogue while I stared at pretty wallpaper and furniture. Loved all the kitchens (even Julie's), the hairstyles and all that food!
I. Must. Buy. This. Movie. Why? Because many afternoons I just do not feel like cooking. After 30 years of being Mrs. Happy Homemaker I too often resort to opening cans and sloshing the contents into pans and calling it dinner. But with every viewing of Julie and Julia I'd be assured of enough creative culinary inspiration to last me two weeks, minimum.
And that, my friends, is worth any price.
Gee, am I ever glad you weren't at my house on Monday.
I was beyond cranky. Our yard felt like the size of four football fields, all of which needed to be mowed. And I was mad at our house, because it's not really at all a 'Blondie House' like I wanted. Like a neon sign, "Buyer's Remorse" flashed in my brain.
And Tom brought home a bookshelf from the curb, one which would have looked great painted white, but was not the right height for the plan we've discussed--and he knew it. But I walked around the whole house anyway, desperately seeking a place for it, and found space only upstairs in my little blue library, yet even if we could have lugged it up those (steep, boxed-in) stairs, we'd have broken our backs doing so. We then walked out to the barn and, not having been in there a few days, I was horrified that Tom had shoved junk into the walkway to both storage rooms, making it impossible to get inside either, and my lawn mower was wedged-in tightly in a corner, making it useless, too.
Seeing all that, I told him, "I can't handle this! I'm going back into the house," and stomped back inside. After which Tom straightened the barn (lest he incur more of my wrath, I suppose) and later we shoved the bookshelf into one of the storage rooms (after I talked him out of keeping it in the walkway...?) where it fit just right.
And rather than make you embarrassed that you even know me, I'll leave out a few other gruesome details.
Of course, I have my excuses. This is our third staycation of this summer. Our third! And like the title of that great Berenstain Bears classic says, we've had Too Much Vacation. On these staycations, Tom and I eat bad, bad for us food, lay like slugs in front of the tv watching Netflixed Stargate and drive around to yard sales till we're bleary-eyed from Thursday till Saturday or Sunday.
We are too old to live this sloppily, unconsciously, but we are taking too long admitting that, or rather, finally living the way we should now that we're past 50.
So there was that.
And too, I'd not been praying lately, "Restore unto me, the joy of living out here." That's one important prayer, indeed. Because when you pray that, God reminds you, "Hey. If your house and yard aren't the way you like them, then it's your own darn fault":
You've gotten lazy. Ungrateful, too.
You've stopped searching for new ideas and inspiration.
You've started seeing problems as burdens instead of challenges.
You've lost your creative spirit and the fun factor.
Alas. Lessons and reminders abound everyday for me. How about you?
"Count it all joy when you mess up?" (last part is my interpretation). Well, I think I get that, because I'm actually glad that I sometimes have those types of Mondays. Why? Because now I can totally understand when you have them. If you tell me you both love and hate your house--I understand that. If you tell me you're struggling with eating right--I get that. If you tell me you have a husband with zero organizational skills (to put it sweetly)--I can say I have one of those, also.
Cranky Mondays help keep me relevant in this blog. If I didn't have them, I'd be all Life's Just One Big Peach Pie All The Time and who can relate to that? There are quite enough blogs out there which share only the good stuff and hide the rest. And though I'm oh-so tempted to do that at times, my longing to be relevant is greater.
On Friday Tom and I traveled to our favorite sort of estate sale. Inside the house, a very old ranch, everything appeared as though Time stopped around 1965.
The bedrooms were the 'mandatory' colors of such places, one was turquoise, one was pink and the other was that 40's shade of green. The bedroom furniture was from the 40's or 50's, the closet poles held 1960's clothes and there were even linens, still in packages, from the 50's and 60's.
I searched through boxes of books from the 1920's, the kitchen drawers held wood-handled utensils and cookbooks from the 40's. The appliances were old, due to the fact they made them to last back then, unlike today, where they make them to fall apart so you'll have to buy new ones soon.
Down in the huge (for a ranch house) basement there were boxes of aprons, tablecloths, glassware and Christmas decor. Down there, too, was the old tub wringer washer we expect to see in such places and furniture long ago banished to the basement's depths. And a workbench and child's blackboard on an easel.
Wandering through these old family homes is my highest form of fun (a sobering type, though, considering estate sale circumstances). I imagine what it's like to live in one home for 60 (or more) years and almost can I hear the walls talk in such places. Always, I've been the type who can sense happy houses or seething ones and on Friday, I believe we walked through a happy one. Contented, also, since the family did not feel a need to buy the latest gadgets or redecorate with the decades (unlike me, who redecorates every ten minutes).
And you know? These homes (we've probably walked through 70) inspire me to keep mine as peaceful as possible. And since I believe the air of our home reflects the air of our hearts, it behooves me to keep things peaceful inside there, as well.
A dose of contentment wouldn't hurt, either.
We all have those times when everything bad seems to happen at once.
Your appliances break down. Your child gets into trouble at school. You get a speeding ticket and discover your registration has expired. An in-law dies. Your favorite tv show gets cancelled (as well as your vacation). You lose your wallet. Your best friend moves away. And the rain just won't stop.
I've been thinking about those times lately--not because I'm currently experiencing one--but because Naomi is and has been for at least two months.
The latest thing? Her favorite cat has been diagnosed with impending kidney failure and is now on dialysis. He's only seven (eight?) and these next two weeks will tell a lot about his future, whether he'll have one or not.
We all love Oreo The Cat. He lived with us for two years before Naomi moved to her own place and he's the most nearly-human cat we've ever known. This is hard on all of us, but especially Naomi and her former boyfriend and his brother, as well, who moved in with him when Naomi moved away. For Naomi, this has been one of those 'the thing I most greatly feared has come upon me' things.
We'd really appreciate your prayers if you are into praying for cats and for the people who love them.
And I'll just add this. Although we all hate those times when bad things happen all at once, I think I'd prefer that over something bad happening every two weeks all year long. We'd never get a break that way, we'd never have those stretches of a few months where we heal and Life feels so golden and sweet that we forget about those occasional weeks of constant hard times. Instead, you'd just begin to get over one thing and head into another, then another. You'd almost feel like going through Life always ducking your head.
I'd never thought of it this way before, but rather, I'd just dreaded those occasional two or three months which will invariably bring along their share of annoyance, angst and sadness. But again, I'd prefer to get it all over at once.
And oh, how grateful I am that, during those times, God holds our hand and hugs our heart.
I'm glad that I try not to make decisions according to the way I feel.
Yesterday, if you would have walked into my yard and handed me a fistful of money as I yanked out giant squash plants, I'd have sold you this old farm. The house and the yard felt like too much. "The honeymoon with this place is officially over," I kept hearing inside my head.
But alas. Today I (finally) painted the closet area of our living room, rearranged a few things on our front porch and mowed part of the lawn. And well--today--I would tell you to keep on walking with your money. Today, Life here feels doable.
Oh, how important it is to listen to God in the deeper parts of my heart and not to my finicky feelings. My feelings can crawl all over the board, but I'm thankful that I, myself, am not yanked around with them (well, not constantly, anyway). That would be way too exhausting--and there's too much work to be done.
And I can't afford to let my changeable feelings exhaust me.
P.S. I ordered some Odd Couple dvd's and guess what? Oscar and Felix had orange kitchen counter tops! Wow. Makes me like mine better. And too, I'm enjoying all the colors and accessories of the 70's used inside their apartment, hints of Kim's Daisy Cottage, even (the 2nd season and beyond episodes).
Who would have ever believed I'd be watching The Odd Couple for decorating ideas?
Tom and I had the best time watching Stargate SG 1 over the past weeks. Many was the lunch we ordered-out and munched while sitting there, waving the occasional French fry and quipping, "Watch out behind you, Teal'c!" or, "Hey Tom. Have you ever realized Daniel Jackson looks like you?" or, "Get Sam in there at the controls! She can fix anything!"
Tom and I hate it when people in movie theaters do the running commentary thing, but we don't mind it when we talk during shows at home. We laugh at what each other says and think ourselves quite witty.
But now, as I said, we have fewer friends, yet there are no contests and boy, are we happier. And for these past months we've had Stargate SG-1 and all those lunches and all those memories of sitting just three feet away from each other, quipping funny lines, sometimes holding hands and usually sighing at the end of each disc, "Oh, how I wish this could go on and on forever."
Last week I, for the bazillionth time, regretted so ruthlessly ridding ourselves of stuff during our big move from the house where we'd lived nearly 15 years.
Always the penny-pincher, I didn't want to pay the movers a single cent more than necessary, and in hindsight, it was practically as though I flung stuff out the windows in a fevered frenzy. I also let go of things so to declare my unattachment to stuff, to illustrate to myself, (and you), that I'm no hoarder, no, not me.
So last week I especially felt sorry that I'd let go of my Ramona Quimby and Henry Huggins book collections and especially Emily's Runaway Imagination (what was I thinking?). As well as all except my favorite two of the Little House series.
My ruthless reasoning was this: I could always check-out these books from any library, and alas, that's true. But sometimes I just must have an emergency re-read of Ramona The Brave, you know?
Also, decades ago an old friend of my family dropped by with a fun box of old kitchen items, in which was a cookbook from the 1960's, one I used avidly for nearly 30 years. But before The Big Move, it was one of the cookbooks I tore much-used recipes from, placed them in plastic sleeves in a binder, then tossed the rest away.
And well, I regretted that, also.
Fast-forward to this past weekend. There Tom and I were, driving along in the middle of cornfields after having visited another disappointing-to-me swap meet created mostly for men. Oh, the acres of car parts and car books and tools and greasy-looking stuff! Fortunately I came prepared with my book bag and, after a quick perusal of the place, I sat at a picnic table with a donut and read.
Anyway, Tom, spur-of-the-moment-like, decided to take a different route home and it was on that route where we found that free desk for our kitchen I showed you. But before that, I told Tom, "After that dreadful swap meet, I have a gigantic urge to look through boxes of books." And that's when we saw a yard sale ahead. We stopped, got out, and guess what they had? Two huge boxes of books! And guess which books I found while wildly searching through those boxes?
Three Ramona Quimby books.
Two Henry Huggins books.
The Emily's Runaway Imagination book.
Two Little House on the Prairie books.
And that cookbook from the 1960's.
Oh wow. Does that give you chills, or what?
Now, I left the cookbook there because it is bulky and takes up much room. But I stood there, smiled over it and thought, "Never have I seen this cookbook at a yard sale." Got a bit teary-eyed and oh my, at nearly 50 years old, it looked like shiny new. I dragged Tom over there and told him I'd just thought about this cookbook days before. And I showed him all my other books, just 25 cents each, and told him, also, that dear, sweet God did this for me. He led me here to that very yard sale.
God is with me all the time, I know that. I couldn't survive one day if He wasn't. But sometimes, oh--He enjoys making Himself so very, very obvious.
I can't believe I'm going to tell you this, but God is nudging me to do it, and well, I can see His logic. This might comfort some of you and help you lighten-up and not feel, well, weird if you're doing the same thing.
What in the world?? Well, it's this: Tom and I sleep in separate bedrooms.
There, I said it.
See, Tom snores. I snore, also, and he says I make a weird clicking sound in my throat and sometimes I talk in my sleep or try to squeal for help if I'm having a bad dream. Tom also wheezes and groans and talks in his sleep. We are both quite the noisy nighttime pair.
So back at our former house when Naomi moved-out, I made-over her room just the way I wanted it and I began sleeping up there (though still calling it a 'guest room'). And, oh the sweet, sleepable silence. Finally Tom and I could stop grumpily waking each other saying, "Knock-off all the noise!" Finally, we both got a good night's sleep and were chipper and cheerful in the mornings. And boy, is that important for our health--just take a look at any website about sleep deprivation. Not to mention helpful for our marriage, too.
And hey--I heard on the news recently that tons of people are having houses built nowadays with a bedroom for him and a bedroom for her. It's like the latest thing and I so understand.
So there you go. If you and your spouse sleep in separate rooms for the sake of preserving your otherwise terrific marriage, then relax. Stop the guilt. Stop the shame. And stop all the hush-hush, what-will-people-think? stuff.
Many of those people just may be sleeping in separate rooms, themselves. :)
I must protect my own sanity. I mean, like, if I don't, who will? And especially that is true in these days which have arrived for all of us.
Goodness, things are not getting any better in this world nor will they according to the Bible. But it still feels a little weird to actually be living during these days of high stress, low morality and 'signs in the skies', as I call natural disasters of all types.
And well, if a person isn't careful, she can go insane today pretty easily--just go with the flow and worry and keep tabs on all the bad news and live stressed-out. Easy.
But I'm not planning on it.
No, I try to march to a different beat and basically do the opposite of what the world tells me. The world--ha! They're urge me to hurry and worry about everything and to buy this and travel there and hurry some more and take these pills and drink those drinks if I wish to feel better.
Well, most days I don't even want to keep up. No, I'd rather go backward, back to simpler and quieter ways of living. For it's in that quiet where I find my strength. After all, it's rather like Paul in the Bible stated:
"That I might know Him..."
That is and has been the key for me. Not, "that I might know about Him," (though that's not bad. Reading the Bible is truly a helpful, amazing thing.). But there is more, you know, and there is a difference. Rather like, I might know about President Obama, but I don't know him. Not personally, for myself.
And for me, knowing Jesus makes all the difference for He calms me, encourages me (especially when everyone else forgot to). He heals me of all the junk of 2009 and Life On This Tired Old Earth. Knowing Him-- spending time in His presence snuggled up together on my reading couch or the wicker loveseat on our porch... Nothing else is like that.
In His presence there is fullness of joy and it's that joy which is our strength. And oh my--do we ever need that joy, that strength, nowadays if our sanity is to remain strong and motoring on peace in the days ahead!
Last night I had an odd dream about my grandfather, though it wasn't the dream which was important, but rather, my thoughts when I awoke.
Namely, I recalled times, low-key family reunions I guess you'd call them, when my family and my grandparents and my dad's sister and his brother and family would gather at my grandparents' house. We'd sit around and talk and laugh and eat at the red-checked, oil-clothed table and sometimes sing old hymns and folk songs, and well, that's about all. But it was amazing.
Oh those times! Even as a child I did sort of pinch myself to make sure it was all real.
But still. God reminded me this morning that I'd better not be missing these amazing 2009 days He's given me right now. I should be squeezing from them, He said, every splendid drop of love between the family I have left, those with me here and those spread out and every drop of friendship wherever I find them. And all the sunshine, songs, breezes, meadows, lakes and the neighbor children playing as my sister, brother and I did so long ago.
He's put it all here for me, for you, and may I notice and treasure it all. Tomorrow, in its own way, will be good, but it will be different and Heaven help me if I sleepwalk and miss Today's wonder. That's what He said, that's what He's been saying all this slow, lovely sunny September day.
Where Tom and I live, there are probably 8 Indian reservation gas stations within a ten-mile radius. Two stations are located on one of our most frequented supermarket and yard sale routes and one of those has a "we always pump your gas for you" policy. Rain or snow or shine, you don't need to get out of your car--you just sit there while one of the guys fills your gas tank for you, sometimes in a rain coat, getting all pelted with raindrops.
Always, Tom asks the attendant to give us either $20 or $40 worth of gas and always while we're waiting, I'll hand Tom an extra dollar bill to go with that $20 or $40. He places the dollar bill on top and when he hands the money to the attendant that's when we hear the surprised, "Oh!" Which is always followed by a sincere "Thanks." Have a great day."
We love hearing that surprised, "Oh!" The following, "Thanks," is pleasant, too, but that "Oh!" reminds us of how easy it is to bless others. To make them feel appreciated and no longer invisible. It also reminds us that most people go to these reservation gas stations to save money and so there's no way they're goinna add a dollar they just saved to some guy whose job it is to pump gas. Not all people think that way, but face it, many do. Hence the surprised, "Oh's!" we hear.
Tom and I choose to live a different way. The occasional times we go out to eat we always tip more than required (unless the server was awful, but that's extremely rare). Or we slip a dollar into the tip jar at our local hole-in-the-wall take-out place or the jars at the supermarket for special causes.
Spread seeds, fling them everywhere. Give, give, give. That's what I remind myself often lest I become a fearful hoarder. Lest God has nothing to work with so to bless me back ("Give and (then) it shall be given unto you.") Lest we plug up the flow of good things just waiting to come streaming into our life.
Besides, there's just something sweet and musical about those surprised, "Oh's!"
Alert! Forgot to tell you the Spring Peepers returned last week! Oh happy, happy day, for truly they mean Springtime whether it looks like Springtime or not.
So I've been rereading my own blog, chunks of it, anyway, and this morning I returned to our early days on this farm. Wow, those posts resounded quite loudly with "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times" stuff, didn't they?
And oh, I remembered back then how every place I looked on these four acres, inside-outside-upside down, my eyes saw things that needed to be pulled, painted, rearranged, mowed, planted, wall-papered, built, watered, vacuumed, pruned, dug up, composted, moved and --
Gee. My love-hate relationship with this place had a cause, after all. All that work crying out to me in every square foot! But more? My own remaining insecurities caused my most frequent angst. "Gotta get this place in shape!" I'd think. "Gotta keep up with the neighbors!" And although I reminded myself Rome wasn't built in one day, I still tried to build my own Rome in one year. That, and the humidity of the summers, the cold of the winters, the tiredness down to the bones when you're 50 and lazily-inclined, well, there's much one can complain about on an old farm.
I told myself to just enjoy the process--and often I did. (Thank-goodness.) Yet often I didn't. My wanting to get it all done became the stress that drove me, usually into a ditch which required three days from which to pull myself out.
Tsk. Tsk. I know.
Things are different now, though. Yesterday we had 47 glorious sunny degrees and I made some trips out to the compost pile and used the wheelbarrow to move a couple bins to the barn. Picked up a few pine cones, filled the birdfeeders. I swept a corner of the patio then Tom and I sat out there, eating cookies, with that 'observation deck feeling' as we looked out to our winter lake and tried to spy the many frogs and peepers singing from the cold waters gleaming in sunlight.
It was awesome. Gone was the I-am-totally-overwhelmed feeling, for oh, the garage is built, the patio is finished, the barn is sided (most of it), the new lawns are in and the orchard trees are pruned. Inside the house the majority of rooms have been repainted, the new windows are in, the floors are refinished (downstairs, anyway), the house is insulated and well, presentable.
So I'm no longer overwhelmed. Because so much work has been completed? That's partly the reason, yes. But also there's this: Remember how we named this place Healing Acres so that city-tired folks could travel out here and rest in the silence and have their poor, weary heads and hearts healed? Well, I don't know if any city-tired folks have gained their healing on this farm, but I'm certainly gaining mine.
But only slowly. Yet it's happening. One finished project at a time, ok, but God is doing a deeper work in me, a work which, when completed, will enable me to be happy and contented anywhere, in any state, in any type of weather, even. It's been a huge challenge for Him, indeed!
He's growing me up and showing me the error of my ways and my thoughts and my attitude. He's challenging me to go down deeper into Him so that I'll rise higher during the hard times, so that I'll stay balanced, contented, no matter what Life may yet throw at me.
It's one huge, ongoing project, let me tell ya. But God is ever so patient and doesn't even mind picking me up again and again as long as I'm willing to repent for my stubbornness, and to cooperate so I can become one with Him and steady as He is steady.
And so He can lead me to the next phase, the next place ahead on this amazing journey--His way.
Teach me to do your will, for you are my God; may your good Spirit lead me on level ground.
So. Tom and I, as we did in 2008, are once again living in a one-bedroom apartment. Sort-of.
Naomi has moved back home.
She and her three cats (and one fish) now dwell in the three rooms upstairs so that means Tom and I again live in a limited area, rather like our apartment before, except now we have a real dining room, a nice enclosed front porch and a not-so-nice back porch. (You have never seen pictures of that back porch--and until some miracle improvements happen--you never will. It's ghastly. Just ghastly.)
Anyway, are Tom and I grumbling and complaining about our downsized living quarters? Nah. Not at all. Oh, some nights I have a bit of trouble sleeping since I was used to my own room upstairs, but at least down here it's cooler, what with the air-conditioner, my mattress is a zillion times better (after Naomi leaves that mattress is so headed upstairs, believe me) and I can sleep on the couch if Tom's snoring keeps me awake or if mine awakens him.
We have 8 rooms down here including the tiny baking pantry and the ghastly back porch (which really doesn't count) and not counting the wet, spider-draped basement. The front porch is usually an oven, so you can count that only in early mornings and late evenings. So usable rooms? There are basically 5. Small-ish ones.
And that's enough. Especially when you have peace between two people and Grace and God to keep you happy and contented.
It still surprises me how it's not what you have, but rather, what you are and Who you know. Who you know is the most important, when you value His opinion above everyone else's and listen to His ways of thinking first. Then all the hype and what-you-must-have propaganda which is constantly blown into our ears doesn't latch on, trying to appear as Truth.
After all, when you have Him, you have everything you really need.
It's yard sale day down on the farm! Naomi is wanting to sell nearly all her retro collection of vintage clothes and decor so she can live a more nomadic lifestyle, so Tom and I are contributing our clutter, also. For two days the three of us will sit outside and meet nice people and try to sell them things they probably do not need. :)