Monday, February 27, 2012

The Cold Within

 Six humans trapped in happenstance in dark and bitter cold,
    Each one possessed a stick of wood, or so the story's told.
Their dying fire in need of logs the first woman held hers back,
    For of the faces around the fire, she noticed one was black.

The next man looking across the way saw not one of his church,
    And couldn't bring himself to give the fire his stick of birch.
The third one sat in tattered clothes. He gave his coat a hitch.
    Why should his log be put to use to warm the idle rich?

The rich man just sat back and thought of the wealth he had in store,
    And how to keep what he had earned from the lazy, shiftless poor.
The black man's face bespoke revenge as the fire passed from sight,
    For all he saw in his stick of wood was a chance to spite the white.

The last man of this forlorn group did naught except for gain,
    Giving only to those who gave was how he played the game.
The logs held tight in death's still hands was proof of human sin,
    They didn't die from the cold without, they died from the cold within.

                                                               ~ James Patrick Kinney

Reprinted from the Dear Abby column, Sunday, December 18, 2011

Thanks to my friend, Hugh Jones, for sharing!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

All In A Day's Work

I’m afraid of heights. Even climbing a flight of stairs makes me dizzy. Every time I’m on an elevator, I visualize how high it is and wonder, “What if this thing malfunctions?” Once when we stayed at a beachside hotel, our suite was on the 21st floor! I didn’t know it until we checked in. The ocean and surrounding scenery were spectacular from way up there, but looking down from the balcony literally made me sick!

I guess that’s why when I heard a loud buzzing noise this morning and looked out to see where it was coming from, I was immediately unnerved by what I saw. 

It was a young man high in a tree – very high!  Studying his position: between two spindly looking branches with a lot of bare trunk below him before he would reach the next sturdy fork to stand in, I couldn’t imagine him coming down from that tree alive, although Mr. H. assured me he would. “He knows what he’s doing, he said. Just watch.”

So I grabbed my camera to record what I saw. I’m no photographer, but can manage to get a reasonable reproduction if I’m determined enough. At least, trying to focus on getting pictures kept me from watching his every action and therefore, relieved my fears a little.

 As you can see in the above picture, he has cut one of the branches and is all set to cut the other one. This is where it gets “hairy!” Maybe not for him, but it's making me extremely nervous! 

Although he looks pretty comfortable, doesn’t he? But he still has to cut the other limb and get down to the fork – looks like a long step to me!

The other branch is gone. Here comes that long step...

Well, I’ll be darned!  He did it! Right on down that trunk he goes just like a monkey! Mr. H. was right. He knew what he was doing after all and there was no need for me to worry.

It was all in a day’s work for him! With the limbs that towered high into the sky taken care of, he and his helpers finished the job in no time.

And somebody has been blessed with a big pile of firewood!

Click on pictures for larger view.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Who Doesn't Love Chocolate?

All I really need is love, but a little chocolate now and then doesn't hurt!  ~Charles Schulz

When a friend recently told me she didn’t care for chocolate, I didn’t know how to react. 

“I thought the world was full of chocoholics,” I said, “with me at the top of the list. I can’t get enough of it, especially the dark stuff.”

“What do you like in place of chocolate?” I asked her (as if anything could replace chocolate)!  "Peppermint?  Butterscotch?  Lemon?"

She explained that she prefers salty snacks – especially popcorn – to sweet ones. Always has.

I guess when something seems like the norm to us, it’s hard to accept that others may be different. We once took our grandson to an ice cream store that had 36 different flavors. When he ordered vanilla, without even considering any of the others, I laughed at him, and then promptly ordered chocolate for myself.

I was born loving chocolate! Once, when I was very young, my mother baked a beautiful cake for a church dinner. She placed it on the kitchen table and went to get ready for the event. I kept eyeing that cake, with at least half-inch thick chocolate frosting swirling all over it, until I couldn’t resist the temptation any longer.

She’d never know if I just scraped a tiny bite off with my finger and tasted it, I thought.  Ummmm!  It was every bit as good as it looked. Maybe just one more tiny taste. So my little index finger helped itself to one more bite... and another, and another until the poor cake was almost devoid of frosting.

When my mother walked into the kitchen and saw what I’d done, she almost fainted!  Shrinking from her angry glare, I said meekly, “I just wanted to taste it.”

As I’ve said before, my mother was very strict. It was her belief that no teaching is effective except as it springs out of experience. So I had to learn a lesson from experience that day. Again.

She said, “Okay. You tasted it. Did you like it?” I nodded.

“That’s good, because now you can eat the whole cake – every bite of it – all by yourself!”

That wasn’t good news for me because, although I loved icing, I didn’t care much for cake – especially cake without icing!

Didn’t matter. For the next several days, every time I wanted a cookie or a piece of candy, Mother would hand me a piece of cake. At first, it wasn’t so bad, but after about three days, that cake was beginning to dry out and I was having a hard time getting it down.

When my parents enjoyed after-dinner dessert, I was given a piece of dry cake! I finally began to pick at it, sulking, until my mother would tell me to go to my room. I was beginning to think I’d never finish that cake, but, when there was about a third of it left, I got up one morning and it was gone. I looked all around the kitchen~ even in the refrigerator, but it wasn’t there!

Sheepishly, I asked, “Where’s the cake?”

“Funny thing,” Mother said, “When I got up this morning, the cake was gone; there were only a few crumbs left on the plate. Maybe your daddy took it to work in his lunch box.” Even at that young age, I recognized pretense when I heard it. And followed suit...

“Or maybe a big rat came in and ate it during the night,” I said gleefully.

“Maybe,” she agreed, with a big smile.

Needless to say, I learned my lesson. The hard way. But, looking back, it wasn’t so bad! 

It was, after all, a chocolate cake!

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Let It Soak In

Well, we finally got about an inch of the white stuff I’ve been wishing for—and 19°. It’s a very good day to stay inside doing something you like to do and drinking something hot. Being Saturday makes it better, too. Many are off from work and can enjoy what I just described. For those who have to work, I apologize for making it sound so inviting.

I spend days like this writing or reading or “just being.” I used to think “just being” was wasting time until a few years back when my blood pressure shot sky high and I kept ending up in the hospital. Doctors were certain they’d pin down a reason for my problem and “fix” it, but after every test known to man that should have turned up a reason for the abnormality, nothing was discovered and it was finally decided that the only thing it could be was stress. The numbers seemed to react to the simplest things. They would jump to unbelievable – and scary – heights, literally reacting to my thoughts.

So I had to stop thinking. How does one stop thinking? According to my doctor: meditation! I pooh-poohed that idea at first, but then decided since nothing else was working, not even the three pills a day I was taking, perhaps it was worth a try.

The first time I tried, it was useless. This mind simply would not go blank; no way! Every second I sat there with my eyes closed, there were pictures in my head of all the things I was concerned about and the things I needed to do.

My doctor said, “Keep trying. It’ll happen. Make sure you have complete silence – no TV or radio within earshot.”

That evening, I went to our downstairs family room, closed the door, sat in the most comfortable chair, closed my eyes—and promptly fell asleep!

Talk about going from one extreme to the other!

Several sessions later, I was still doing the same thing. Every time I’d sit in that chair and close my eyes, I’d drift off to sleep. Not for very long, but long enough to relax, and to be slightly embarrassed when I jerked awake. I felt like I was doing something wrong; surely I wasn’t supposed to go to sleep!

But when I reported this to my doctor, he threw back his head and laughed heartily. “Well, that’s great, Peggy!  If you go to sleep, that means it’s working. And it shows how much you need it. So, just take a nap. The world won’t come to an end if you do.”

And then, this wonderful doctor laced his hands behind his head, leaned back in his chair and gave me “the lecture.” He said, “We have to balance our lives; we can’t work all the time. There must be time in our lives for “just being,” he said. “Take the time to do things you enjoy: Read a good book, listen to your favorite music. I don’t mean while you clean the house; I mean, sit down or lie down and really listen to it – let it soak in.” And then he looked into my eyes and said, “Do you ever go for an early morning walk in the rain?” I had to admit I didn’t. He said, “Try it. You’ll be surprised what it does for you.”

By the Grace of God and the help of this wise young doctor, my blood pressure has been under control for several years. Occasionally, things happen that cause stress and I feel myself losing control again, but I now know what brings me back. All I need is an hour—or maybe two—of “just being” and I’m as good as new.

An occasional rainy morning doesn’t hurt either!

Monday, February 6, 2012

What Will You Do In Heaven?

Preparing dinner was particularly difficult for me this evening. I don’t especially like to cook, and it seems I have more than my share of bad days in the kitchen! I burn my fingers, make unnecessary messes, overcook things, and have trouble getting everything ready at the same time. You know. I’m sure it happens to everyone at one time or another.

When it was finally time to sit down and eat, I was feeling a little irritable and said to Mr. H., “When I get to Heaven, I hope they don’t put me on “kitchen duty.” He laughed, and said, “I don’t think we’ll be needing food in Heaven, so you shouldn’t have to worry.”

“Oh, good!” I answered. “That means no grocery shopping either! I hope I get to do something I love.”

 “I’m sure each person will be allowed to do the things he or she loves,” he said, going along with my foolishness. 

“That’s wonderful,” I said, “I love to read, but if I know everything after I die, there won’t be any reason to read, will there? And how will I write the stories I love to write?”

Smiling, Mr. H. said, “Uh-Oh! There will be no computers in Heaven.” 

“Hmmmm... how will people get along without computers?”

He shrugged.

Thinking a minute, I said, “I know! I love music. I’ll just sit around in Heaven all day listening to music. What could be better than that?” I was pleased with myself until it struck me...

“But what will you do?” I said.

In his easy way, he smiled and said, “Oh, I don’t know. I’m sure there’ll be something for me to do.”

And then I remembered something this man loves – little babies. Tiny infants just home from the hospital! He held and cuddled and rocked our five, and then he did the same when our grandchildren came along. He never tired of it.

“I’ve got it!” I told him. “Rocking sweet little babies would be the perfect job for you throughout eternity!”

He smiled, and my frivolous dinner conversation was over, leaving me in a much better mood.

I wonder... How is it possible for things that start out so bad to end up so great?


Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Expecting Something Good

February 1st

One-twelfth of another year – gone forever! If you read my blog posts regularly, you know that I am much attuned to time – especially the way it moves so quickly. And seasons. I love the changing of the seasons. For that reason, I could never live in a place where every day is the same. I enjoy wondering what it’s going to be like tomorrow and the delight or disappointment of finding out when I awaken. Sunshine makes me happy. Snow makes me happy. Dreariness and rain – not so much! But we take the bad with the good, and appreciate the sunny days much more after a few cloudy ones.

We all know life is much happier when we’re always expecting something good.

Some would say we’ve been lucky this year not to have had much snow, but I’m longing to wake up and look out the window to find that my world has changed overnight from a drab, dreary landscape to a glowing white scene from Dr. Zhivago. Just for a day!

Last winter, it snowed and it snowed and then it snowed some more. I loved it, even though I’m criticized often for saying it.

“You wouldn’t love it if you had to go out every morning and scrape ice and snow off your windshield, and then fight icy roads and crazy drivers to get to work!” say some. But I let it roll off and continue to revel in the beauty of the season that’s full of surprises.

When my son was in third grade, his teacher asked her students to write a book of “Winter Poems.” She wanted a dozen or more, complete with a table of contents and a cover. This was difficult for my son. He was no poet, nor did he have any aspirations in that direction. His first love was baseball! In the week that he had to do the assignment, we heard a lot of grumbling as he sat at the kitchen table each evening after dinner writing and struggling to find rhyming words. A time or two, he became angry and shouted, “I can’t do this!” Or worse. But he finally pulled it off. The project was finished and it wasn’t half-bad! His teacher wrote “Nice work!” on the first page of his booklet. We were proud of him... and when we told him so, he beamed.

When I think of his accomplishment, I always remember this simple poem above all the rest.
I woke up this morning
And felt something in the air
I can’t describe it, but it was there;
I ran to the window and looked around
There it was –
Snow on the ground!

On this page, his teacher wrote, “Isn’t this true?”

I’m expecting a nice surprise like that before winter is over! How about you?