Friday, July 29, 2011

Thoughts To Ponder


Personality is what we project because we want people to think that’s who we are.  Character is who we really are.

Insanity is hereditary: Parents get it from their children.

Success is not getting what you want, but enjoying what you have.

Happiness is not a destination, but a journey.

Those who are too smart to engage in politics are punished by being governed by those who are dumber. ~ Plato 

When you let your outgo exceed your income~ then your upkeep is going to be your downfall.

Spoken words escape from the brain, while written ones are extracted from the soul.

Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning. (Psalm 30:5)

Forgiveness is the key that unlocks the prison that someone else put you in.

Our parents provide a barrier between us and death ~ and when both of them are gone, there is nothing left between us and our mortality.

What is a Cigarette? 
A cigarette is a roll of paper, tobacco and drugs, with a small fire at one end and a large fool at the other. Some of its chief benefits are cancer of the lips and stomach, softening of the brain, funeral processions and families shrouded in gloom and grief. Many people know this, yet they still smoke, thinking, “This will never happen to me.”

As a rule, man’s a fool.  When it’s hot, he wants it cool.  When it’s cool, he wants it hot ~ always wanting what is not!

Definition of Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again expecting a different result.

He who troubles his own house shall inherit the wind. (Proverbs 11:29)


Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Ivan


When Ivan’s wife divorced him, she left him with nothing but his recliner and a 19” TV.  He was forced to move out of the big beautiful home the two of them had shared and move into a rented apartment in a nearby city. After working his real estate job all day, Ivan would go home, sit in his recliner and watch his 19” TV until he fell asleep. He had very little contact with his only son and felt like his life was over.

I met Ivan when I went to work for the same real estate company. When the office manager introduced us, she said that we would be sharing the office that had formerly been his alone. Poor Ivan must have felt uprooted once again by a woman! But if he felt that way, he never let it show.

We hit it off from day one. Sitting in the office – just the two of us, when business was slow – gave us a lot of time to get acquainted. We liked each other. We had a lot in common. We liked the same music, read the same books and saw the same movies. We talked about our children and their plans for the future as well as our hopes and plans for the rest of our lives. We became good friends, Ivan and I.

He once surprised me when he said, “You know, Peggy, when a little boy is born, he is taught to love his mother, his grandmother, his sisters, his aunts, and any other woman in his life that he deems lovable, but when he grows up and chooses that one ‘special’ woman, he discovers abruptly, that she is the only woman he is allowed to love for the rest of his life. What a contradiction!"

“I never thought about that,” I said.

I never asked Ivan why his wife divorced him, but I suppose this remark provides a clue.

Please understand that ours was only a friendship! Ivan knew that I’d been happily married for many years and, thankfully, my husband is not a jealous man. He has always been well aware that I form friendships with men much easier than I do with women. I never keep anything from him. He knew that Ivan and I were good friends and understood. He’s one in a million!

However, as all things – good and bad – eventually come to a grinding halt, so did this enjoyable time of my life. Because it was a challenging time for my growing family, I was needed at home and, therefore, quit my job. Ivan and I stayed in touch. A year or so later, finding that he could no longer survive in the real estate business; Ivan took a job in another state and moved away. But our friendship continued by way of telephone and letters. It was before the days when everyone had a PC—before e-mail and Facebook and Twitter!

Ivan wasn’t a big letter writer, but he sent cards for every occasion and sometimes, for no occasion at all except that he was thinking about me.  He’d scribble notes on the cards. He loved getting my letters. He wrote: “Please keep writing. You write such nice letters.”

The last phone call I got came in June. He said he’d been in the hospital; he’d had a stroke, but was much better. He told me to take good care of myself because what he’d been through wasn’t much fun. I sensed his deep sadness. “I will,” I promised.

At Christmastime, I sent him a card. But I didn’t get one from him. How unusual! His was always the most beautiful card I received. Usually, the first. But not this year. Some instinct told me Ivan had passed away.

After Christmas, I searched my cards from him. The last one had been on my birthday in April. On it, he'd scrawled:

“Good Morning, Peggy. Thank you for remembering me. I think of you often because I know how special you are. I remember the first time I saw you – and the last. I felt a connection of some sort. Please stay in touch. Getting a letter from you makes my day.   Love, Ivan”

Some people come into our lives and quickly go. Some stay for a while and leave footprints on our hearts. And we are never, ever the same. ~Anonymous



       

Monday, July 25, 2011

An Unexpected Assault

I did something yesterday that made me feel pretty stupid. Again.

Our granddaughter, Carson, was visiting and we decided to treat ourselves to a before dinner popsicle (her mother wasn’t home from work yet). So... down the stairs we dashed – to the extra freezer in the basement.

Getting a couple of the cold treats out, I handed one to her and opened the other for myself. She started eating hers right away. So did I. Wrapping my lips around the icy indulgence as if it were a lollipop, I almost felt like a kid again, but whoa! Something unusual happened. It stuck to my bottom lip and wouldn’t let go! When I pulled, it threatened to take my lip with it. Logic told me it would get warm and come off soon, but I sort of... panicked! Too eager to be free of this ice cold thing that was clinging tenaciously to my lip, I pulled a little too hard and off it came – along with a big chunk of my lip! Carson, who had been amused, stopped giggling when she saw that I was bleeding. But no real harm was done. I stopped the bleeding, enjoyed my treat with Carson, and we had a good laugh.
I wonder... could incidents like this one be the reason my grandchildren sometimes ask, "What do you want to be when you grow up?"


Monday, July 18, 2011

What Will Happen To Lucy?


An old friend died yesterday.

It was quite a shock when my husband blurted out the news this morning as he read the obituary. Why do we assume that people we care about will live forever? I suppose it’s because we can’t envision our life without them in it – no matter how far away they are or how seldom we see each other.

Our friend was old. Eighty-nine. His wife of sixty-nine plus years survived him. Lucy.

What will happen to Lucy?  How does one go on alone after living that long with the same person?

I’m sure it will be difficult. Lucy is such a sweet, gentle, loving person. They had no children. I never asked why. Figured it was personal.

Lucy alone. 
Without Denny.                  

How sad!



Sunday, July 17, 2011

A Rare Luxury Lost


Mid-July: Hot, steamy, buggy, oppressive!

It's a time I’m not fond of; in fact, I don’t like it at all. But many, many years ago, when I was a child spending summers with my grandparents, mid-summer was more joyful than a carousel! The most memorable time was just after dinner when the sun had gone down, an hour or so before dark. One evening, in particular, stands out.

My Aunt Betty and I were about ten years old. After we’d finished our dinner, we headed outside to get in the final remnants of our day’s play before dark. Mom shrieked as the screen door slammed behind us. “Girls! Must you always slam that door?” We looked at each other and giggled.

A warm wind, laden with scents of fried chicken and okra, accompanied us as we made our way to the front yard. We’d no sooner gotten there and were deciding what to do with the rest of the evening, when we saw a man walking up the dirt road toward us. As he came closer, we saw that it was my Uncle Buck, Betty’s big brother. He was carrying a large bag. We were curious.

“Whatcha’ got?” Betty said.

“Come on inside and see,” Buck answered, grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Back around the house we went – following closely behind Uncle Buck – certain there was something wonderful in the bag just for us!

Once inside, Buck hugged Mom, then placed the bag on the table and began taking out its contents. Betty and I squealed with delight when we saw that it was ice cream in little cardboard cups with wooden spoons attached to the sides. In those days, in a remote coal camp, ice cream was a rare luxury!

After removing the cardboard lids, Buck handed each of us a cup of the creamy vanilla treat and, with a quick “thank you” and a big smile, we hurried outside, letting the door slam behind us once again.

Betty ran ahead of me, enjoying her ice cream, but I managed to take only two bites of mine before disaster struck! Suddenly, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a black streak, felt a jab at my foot and then saw the streak disappear under the house! Screaming wildly, I threw my ice cream up in the air and began crying. Mom and Pop came running to my side. Examining my ankle and finding only a couple of small red spots, Pop deduced that it had been a black snake, and harmless.

Mom cleaned the wound with alcohol and covered it with a band-aid. But I kept crying hysterically. When she assured me that my ankle was fine and asked why I was still upset, I whined, “I dropped my ice cream!”

 
Ah, sweet memories of childhood!







Friday, July 15, 2011

Is It Better To Give Than Receive?

Some people have a knack for giving. I don’t. And I have even more trouble accepting a gift with grace. I always feel a little embarrassed and at a loss for words when someone gives me something unexpectedly. I’d really rather they didn’t.

For every gift given, there is a gift received. Therefore, it seems strange that, although most of us have no trouble giving, still many, like me, are not comfortable with receiving a gift. We struggle with the humility required to receive a gift graciously.

Perhaps it's because we are taught that “it's better to give than to receive.” In receiving a gift, we are immediately acknowledging the gift giver and returning the favor with a show of appreciation and kind words. Therefore, both the giver and the receiver can experience the benefits associated with giving.

Receiving is a social skill and must be practiced. Gifts received for a birthday or holidays are perfect opportunities to master this skill. Whether we are thrilled with the gift or not, we must express our appreciation by complimenting the giver’s thoughtfulness and generosity. And if possible, we should always open it in the presence of the giver.

Basically, to receive graciously requires more than just the words, “Thank You.” It requires focusing on someone who has done something special for you. Remember the old saying, “It’s the thought that counts?”

It really is!



Thursday, July 14, 2011

Today's Daily Word


Inner Peace
I am calm and serene.
Nothing can disturb me without my permission.  For that reason, I begin my day with a choice for peace. Regardless of external events, the length or urgency of my to-do list, or the activity of my busy mind, I find peace within.

As I become quiet and aware of my thoughts and emotions, I am not sidetracked by any rash reaction to turmoil.  I focus my attention on my breathing, close my eyes and envision the tranquility of Spirit. I am calm as I make a few simple choices for peace: I smile; I turn the television off; I shut down the computer.

A few moments in prayer or meditation attune me to the serenity within.  In Spirit, I am calm, serene and undisturbed.
Those of steadfast mind you keep in peace.--Isaiah 26:3

Monday, July 11, 2011

Annoying Intruders

Some people call them gnats, others call them fruit flies. By any name, they’re intolerable! I detest the nasty little insects! When you try to eat, these unrelenting pests dive toward your food like kamikaze pilots and then into your face so quickly that you begin to feel as though they’re literally fighting you for your meal! 

With cantaloupe, apples and bananas in my kitchen at present, it’s no wonder I’m being annoyed by these pesky intruders. I love fruit but would rather not eat than do battle with these critters. So, in my determination to rid my space of the elusive pests, I did what I always do. Research.

First and foremost, I found out something I never knew and didn’t want to know. They bite! The female actually needs a blood “fix” from a mammal in order to stay fertile. And once she mates, she will lay hundreds of eggs. Isn’t that encouraging?

But hope reigns. I also found a suggestion about getting rid of them. And it works! My source said to mix apple cider vinegar with a tiny drop of vanilla flavoring, put it in a small container and place it wherever you’re seeing the gnats. Though a little skeptical, I did it without delay.

Later this evening, I discovered one of my little blood-sucking intruders floating in the concoction. Just for a moment, I felt like dancing around my kitchen singing "Ding-dong the wicked witch is dead!"


But I didn't.


   

Saturday, July 9, 2011

A Routine Appointment


I went to see a friend yesterday. We’re the same age. She has recently learned that she’s terminally ill. A few months ago, we were talking and laughing, sharing recipes and political views and news about our grown children. Life was good!

Then she had a visit with her doctor – a “routine” appointment, nothing out of the ordinary. But, sadly, this ordinary visit turned out badly! An abnormality reared its ugly head, and the testing began: a blood test, MRI, X-rays and numerous other analyses were done. After evaluations by countless specialists, a diagnosis was reached and it was determined that she had only six months, at best, to live. Devastating!

She plummeted from 140 pounds to a slight 96 very quickly. It was difficult for me to look at her without tears clouding my eyes. Her once beautiful face is now gray and drawn; the two vertical lines between her eyes appear to be chiseled in stone. How cruel illness becomes as it ravages the human body! 

Today, as I was thinking about my friend and pondering life's fragility, a sleeping memory awakened: six of my female acquaintances passed away in the past five years. All were within five years of my age. From some secluded corner of my mind, came this reflection: The River of Life flows on forever and ever, but for some, the destination comes sooner than others. Like the other six, my friend has almost reached her destination. Suddenly, I felt anxious and more than a little vulnerable.

And then, my grandson, sixteen, made an intense statement. At first, I thought he was kidding and laughed, but then realized he was serious and that his quote may have merit. He said: “The only thing I dislike about my life is that I can’t control what happens.”

And just like that! I was grounded again. Of course none of us can control what happens in our lives. We aren’t supposed to. We must trust that God is in control and strive to live life to the fullest – one day at a time – forgetting about the destination and concentrating on the journey.

May we all learn to enjoy the journey before it's too late!




Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Memories Of The Fourth of July

This essay was published in the Kanawha Valley Neighbors section of the Charleston Gazette-Mail  ~




Independence Day, commonly known as the Fourth of July, is a federal holiday in the United States. It commemorates the adoption of the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, which declared our independence from the Kingdom of Great Britain. Each year, on July 4, Americans celebrate that freedom and independence with barbecues, picnics, and family gatherings. Many politicians appear at public events to show their support for the history, heritage and people of their country. The American flag, the most common Independence Day symbol, is displayed in front of many homes and buildings.

Although he’s been gone for more than two decades, I cannot think about Fourth of July celebrations without remembering my father. One of my most vivid memories of him centers around this special holiday.  

When I was a very young, we lived in a small coal-mining town. Every Fourth of July, my dad would have a three gallon container of ice cream, packed in dry ice, delivered to our house early in the morning. Refrigeration was poor in those days so it was important that all of it was eaten that day.

My father got the word out to every child in the neighborhood that there would be free ice cream cones at our house all day. He’d sit on the back porch and, as eager children appeared, he’d dip the ice cream into cones and hand them out, smiling broadly. Later in the evening, he’d slice up the biggest watermelon he’d been able to find and give the juicy slices to anyone who wanted them. He thought it was great fun to watch the kids eat it – spitting out seeds while juice dripped off their chins and ran up to their elbows. It was a big day for the children of this humble coal-mining town, and for my dad, as well.

It is hard-working, generous people like my father who helped make America what it is today.

Every day thousands leave their homeland to come to this great country and begin living the American Dream. Those of us who were born here are very fortunate!

Happy Birthday, America!                        
  




Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Dear God

Dear God,

I made a careless comment that hurt someone else. I feel terrible! My heart hurts and I don’t know how to make it stop.

A good friend said I did nothing wrong. He said I had no reason to feel bad. He said I should let it go. I love him for trying to help, but he is wrong. I must have done something dreadful or I wouldn’t be so sad. After I uttered the thoughtless words, I immediately apologized, but it didn’t make things better. I continued to feel like crying for hours. I talked to You about it, but You gave me no peace. Are You angry with me, too?
Perhaps time will heal the wounds for both of us.
  
That’s the bad thing about words. Once spoken, they can never be retrieved. How nice it would be if one could only inhale them back to where they came and erase them so they can never be heard. Mistakes are a natural part of learning to live in this world—just as falling down is a natural part of learning to walk. But when I make a serious mistake, I sometimes find it hard to forgive myself for what I’ve said or done. Yet, I know I cannot make amends if I remain in a cycle of self-blame or criticism. So I must take responsibility for my actions and do my best to resolve the situation. After a heartfelt apology and a change in my behavior, I trust You to guide me. By Your grace, I will be able to forgive myself - and perhaps, in time, the person I hurt will forgive me, too.

Thank You for always being there to help!



Friday, July 1, 2011

Seems Like A Dream

July 1, 2011

Just think. Six months from this day will be New Year’s Day! We are exactly half way through this year. What an astonishing thought!

I visited my ophthalmologist yesterday. When I checked out, the girl at the desk gave me a card with the date of my next appointment on it. It read January 23, 2012. Seeing next year's date on my very next appointment card was a bit of a shock!

My youngest granddaughter’s birthday was yesterday. I was there to welcome her when she came into the world twelve years ago. Remembering the tiny six pound, seven ounce infant and looking at her now – a beautiful young lady – boggles the mind! It seems like only months ago. It was. 144 of them!

When my grandmother died, a letter she’d written to her daughter was read at her funeral. In it, she reminisced about her life, emphasizing her love for her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. Near the end, she remarked about how quickly the years had passed and wistfully said, “It all seems like a dream – a beautiful dream!”

I thought her letter was “sweet” at the time, but now that I’m in the autumn of my years with the cold winds of winter breathing down my neck, I understand that it was much more than that. It was her way of turning the sadness of her last days into something memorable for those she loved.
  
And I realize, too, that my life also seems very much like a dream – a beautiful dream!