Rainy Day Unblues

sad moonie

I’m pretty sure my dog doesn’t possess as extensive a vocabulary as I credit her with. Still, I could swear Muňeca just rolled dejected, puppy-sad eyes at me in a look that said, What kind of a day is this when a girl can’t even get in one decent walk, between the cold and the rain and the wind?

 

I shot her back a cocked-eyebrow look of my own that said, “Just be glad we don’t live in Montana. Missoulans are trudging through ten inches of snow about now.”

 

Funny thing is, this damp and cloudy day didn’t leave me feeling drained and depressed and wanting to crawl back into bed. There was certainly a time in my life when it would have.

 

This is not because everything is peachy-keen in my little corner of Texas, either. I don’t have close friends nearby. Nice, younger neighbors, but no long-term confidants. I haven’t set aside enough to ensure my future well-being should an economic ripple interrupt the delivery of monthly Social Security checks. And people I love and thought I could trust inexplicably turned on me after my husband passed away last December.

 

Then, all last week I wasn’t feeling so hot. But I weathered it with prayer, serenely meditating my way through a string of housebound days that I feared might herald a new normal. I am, after all, approaching a birthday that I can hardly believe has snuck up on me, when I actually—usually—feel decades younger than the number would suggest.

 

So today the sage’s voice that hunkers down in the left half of my brain whispers to its opposing side, she actually has acquired a little wisdom in the autumn of her life. The wisdom to not beat my head against the brick wall of things over which I have no control. The understanding that a satisfactory life requires my greatest efforts, but also my greatest faith in an entity I cannot see or touch. And the knowledge that none of this rests in my ability to conquer the world but in the omnipotence of a Creator God, who hears my plaints but knows better than I how to resolve them.

 

Patience. Did I mention that older me is more patient, too? It’s not a trait I taught myself. It came from an active relationship with that Creator. Can’t explain how all of this works because I’m hobbled by the limits of human intelligence. But I can guarantee a good result once the practice of daily contact with Him is established.

 

Another funny thing? For the first twenty years of my adulthood, I wouldn’t have made that claim. Probably would have laughed at it. Did laugh at it. I’m not laughing any longer. But I am smiling. Even on a dreary, cold, rainy, windy day.

 

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November 11, 2017 at 4:36 pm 1 comment

What Color Is Your Happy Place?

open-plan-dining-room-interior

Gray. It’s the color of . . .

-The clouds that hang low and dark and heavy overhead on a dreary day.
-Those unwelcome and rebellious wiry hairs that spring up to announce advancing age.
-That ugly, murky “area” between good and bad, and truth and falsehood, that leaves room for moral wavering and political double-talk.
-The dingy shade of your favorite white T-shirt by the time it’s ready for the rag bag.
-That cold, dirty, crusty apron of receding snow that resists the arrival of spring.

So, I ask you: How did this unworthy and depressing hue ever become the New Neutral in virtually every interior designer’s palette in the country in 2017?

You may think that’s an overstatement, but I see it on cable T.V. every time I work out at my friendly neighborhood SNAP Fitness Center. Each day, I climb onto the same treadmill (I think it actually has my name on it somewhere), insert my ear buds, and listen and watch as the national experts on HGTV lead me through house after house after house dressed in calming shades of the non-color that Dictionary.com defines as resting somewhere between white and black.

Oh, and definitions two and three? “Dark, dismal, or gloomy; dull, dreary, or monotonous.”

Yes, whether it’s Love It or List It, The Property Brothers, Flip or Flop, or even many of the recent remodels on Fixer Upper, the affinity for cool and clean with “pops of color” has reached epidemic proportions.

I get the Zen of it all. And I get wanting a restful, uncluttered environment to return to at the end of a busy workday. What I don’t get is how the trend toward Industrial Sterile, with enough stainless steel to equip an operating arena, has so thoroughly supplanted the concept of home that people once yearned for—a comforting cocoon to provide shelter and a sense of being cosseted from the cold and impersonal outside world.

Guess I’m just a sucker for the cozy, inviting feel of earth tones and nubby textures. Call me old-fashioned. (No really, stop that; it’s just a figure of speech.) I also object to vaulted ceilings and enormous entryways that lead to cavernous great rooms more reminiscent of a commercial property than a family residence.

And while I understand that tastes differ greatly, give me an earthy sage-green bedroom with cherry wood furnishings, a boring creamy-beige den with lots of rich umber accents, and a buttery yellow sunroom any day. Unfortunately, a search of available properties on the internet isn’t offering up anything of the sort right now. Wonder how many years—or decades—I’ll have to wait before warm and comfy gets popular again?

 

October 28, 2017 at 5:14 pm 1 comment

I Know It’s Fiction, But Puh-leeze!

8-18-17 fiction books blog pic

It disturbs me that so many contemporary fiction writers—who apparently don’t actually know any Christians, personally—consistently reach into their drawer of hackneyed stereotypes in order to round out their character lists. (This happens with screenplays, too, of course. But today I’m talking about a failure of imagination in the literary arts.)

What they invariably end up with is the standard, tiresome, pursed-lipped hypocrite who “tsks” and lectures her way through the dialogue and is universally despised by the other reasonable, open-minded types who populate the novel’s pages. This is especially apparent when two other ubiquitous characters, the token gay guy and the unmarried young mother, are introduced, only to be shamed by the Christian fusspot and affectionately accepted by those of nobler disposition.

Sure, there are plenty of obnoxious individuals out there—some of them claiming to be believers, some not. But a lot of the people I hang around with nowadays are Christians, and not one of them fits the unflattering typecasting I encounter in my bedtime reading adventures.

The fact is that we all do bad stuff. Some of us have accepted that fact and some of us haven’t; some of us feel remorse and a desire to overcome our baser inclinations, some have no grasp of those concepts. The Christians I know struggle mightily to reconcile their fondness for—and fear of offending—the particular, unrepentant sinner with their grave concern for his or her spiritual welfare.

This concern is an expression of love, not a judgment. After all, mere mortals didn’t write the rule book. The code for moral living comes from a much higher source. And it certainly wasn’t invented by the annoying, small-minded, holier-than-thou, pleasure-thwarting goody-goodies I come across far too often in the realm of cozy mysteries and mainstream story-telling.

This pigeon-holing trend makes me sad. Yet, like Christo-phobic Saul/Paul who was brought into the Light by a God who sought to turn his evil deeds to good, I was once among the stereotypers. I scoffed at anyone, especially people of faith, who dared to define shalts and shalt-nots in black-and-white terms. Ironically, I also condemned them.

Then I fell in love with an earnest Christian man. Met his delightful, fun-loving family. Saw true faith put into action as selflessness and generosity. Developed friendships with devout people who lived by conviction but were nothing like the disapproving Pharisees I had let myself be convinced they would be. These were kind, forgiving souls who accepted me right where I was—on the cusp of unbelief—and gave me plenty of elbow room to find my way home.

That’s my reality-based experience with Christians. Now, I urge the disseminators of the musty old cliché described above to step into the real world to research their next projects. Could be a revelation!

Meanwhile, back to gritting my teeth through the last few chapters of Murder at the Book Group. Is that Karma I feel nibbling at my derriere?

August 18, 2017 at 5:41 pm 2 comments

Thundershirts for All!

pexels-photo

Pulled up from the archives, a revised version of a post from a few years back, with my best wishes for a happy Independence Day.

Some days, it doesn’t pay to tune in to the evening news. Between rogue doctors shooting up hospitals, raging wildfires in Central California, escalating murder statistics in Chicago, and urban gang violence closer to home, the fear and trembling can be tough to shake off.

Turn to the internet and you learn that common-sense efforts to protect our citizenry from preventable terrorism threats are being fought at every level of the judiciary system. So now I’m afire with indignation. That’s hard to shake off, too.

Yes, sometimes the world seems like an upside down and backward place, where staying sane and tranquil plays out as Mission Impossible. The ads between news segments—or yahoo headlines—offer plenty of pharmaceutical solutions for the disquiet caused by too much exposure to the raw facts of modern life. But I don’t fly that way.

Enter the pet care industry. I’m serious. Semi, anyhow.

A few years ago at about this time, I was complaining about the dreadful effects of booming fireworks on my eight-pound chihuahua-papillon pup. (Quaking like partially-set Jello in a 6.3 earth tremor and panting with anxiety—highly contagious responses, I might add—the clock had blinked 3:00 a.m. before I finally convinced her that the evil noise gods had retired for the night.)

That’s why my ears pricked up when, shortly afterward, I saw a promotion for the ThunderShirt®–a swaddling garment designed to calm and comfort your furry companion through storms and other loud events. Since I’m not big on drugs for my pets either, I made a point to look into the merits of this product.

Bottom line: My vet’s office offered it for a lower price than online outlets or pet warehouse chains, and the goofy looking little spandex kimono proved to be quite effective. We survived both the following year’s July 4th celebrations and seasonal thunderstorms with very little trauma for Muñeca or her owner, and sailed into the next day better rested and much less angry at the pyrotechnics industry.

Lessened anger is a good thing. It clears some emotional space for the angst that goes along with those nightly news reports.

But wouldn’t it be great if we could come up a human equivalent of the Thundershirt®? Maybe a stretchy, velcroed version of that ultimate in fad Christmas gifts, the Snuggie®? Please contact me if you are interested in a little joint-entrepreneurial effort in this area. I have plenty of ideas, but I’m a bit challenged in the action department.

 

July 5, 2017 at 12:38 am 1 comment

Hero Dads

jaknsak_reunion

Ah, Father’s Day. A large dose of joy for those with children who venerate Dad with sincere tributes and meaningful gifts, and maybe even a kid-catered outdoor barbecue.

A little sliver of sadness for those of us whose fathers have long been absent from our third-Sunday-in-June celebrations; we who must settle for reminiscences and family photographs to satisfy sentimental yearnings.

A goodly slab of a heartache for those of us who have lost beloved fathers or husbands in recent months or years.

I don’t have any children, but my Sweetie had three. And from Day One of our courtship, he impressed me with his loving and forgiving fatherly ways. On June 20, 2010, I told him this in a one page letter.

Dearest Hank,

The approach of Father’s day inspires me to tell you that you are my hero. How so, you ask? Let me count the ways:

-Back in high school, when I learned that you had diabetes—a rare and exotic condition in 1965—I saw you handle that challenge with dignity and grace. Even then, I admired and respected you. Even then, while I was still a doofy adolescent and you seemed light years ahead of me in wisdom and maturity, you were a hero to me.

– Your gentle ways, your decency and kindness, these also shone through back then. I carried that image of you with me through the years following graduation.

Then we re-met in ’86, and I slowly came to understand your immutable values; to witness first-hand the way you lived your faith with integrity and consistency. And I knew even before I knew that I loved you madly that you were a hero to me.

-After we married, and I came to know the full story of your adult experiences, I marveled at your thoughtful approach to difficult situations and your sincere efforts to always put the best interests of your children first.

The patience you showed to those children through their most challenging years left me in awe. And oh, how that solidified the certainty that you were a hero to me.

-Over our years together—through failures and successes and medical challenges, through grief and joy and all points in between—I could always depend on you to help me put the rudders of reason and rational analysis to this ship built of raw emotion on which I navigate my way through life. For this I will always be grateful, and for this you are a hero to me.

This is only a partial list. I wanted to be brief . . . for a change; to leave the focus on the Man of the Hour: one of the most honorable fathers I have ever had the privilege to know—my Love, my Hank, my Hero.

Forever yours,

Hanes
—————————————————————————————-
Note to readers: If your father—or your husband—is your hero, please do tell him that today. Some things just shouldn’t be postponed. Besides, it will make a lovely dessert to go with those char-grilled hot dogs and burgers.
Blessings on your Father’s Day festivities.

 

 

June 18, 2017 at 8:42 am Leave a comment

Memorial Day Plus One

 

A number of sad-making events have occurred in my life over the past six months. The trouble with sadness is that it pushes you into yourself. Absorbs your attention like a thirsty sponge takes up water and wastes the energy you would rather be spending more productively.

 

Because I am so isolated these days, I write as a means of connecting with others. The irony in that is that my subject matter is often highly personal. I don’t question that paradox, I just follow where my instincts lead me. Hopefully you are willing to join me on the expedition, and God will provide the compass.

 

—–

 

May 30, 2017. I pick up a salmon-colored rock on my morning dog walk. My husband, Jack, was a rock collector. I pocket this interesting specimen out of habit, then grimace a bit. I will lay it on his abandoned dresser and hope that some like-minded visiting family member may take an interest in it in the future.

 

The gesture is interesting, symbolically. He was my rock, and today would have been our thirtieth wedding anniversary. I rummage in his top drawer, through the large collection of homemade cards he saved over three decades of my composing them for him. One in particular touches this tender spot inside of me that yearns to have him near on this special day. May it stir sweet memories for you, as well.

 

To My Love

 

L is for . . . the way your lower lip grows tight whenever you are deeply moved by something.

 

O is for . . . the overwhelming ache that invades my soul when I try to imagine how I ever lived without you.

 

V is for . . . the priceless examples of virtue and character you have given your children, a legacy they can treasure forever.

 

E is for . . . the exceptional qualities of patience and respectful forbearance that make you:

 

forgiving of my faults

 

my all-time favorite person to shop with

 

and

 

someone I can always trust to “not look” when lesser men’s eyes would wander.

 

***

 

I adored you so when we married that it brings tears to my eyes to recall.  But the depth and the breadth of my love for you now is my most treasured earthly blessing of all.

 

Happy 21st Anniversary

Wedding Day 1987

May 30, 2017 at 6:16 pm 3 comments

Survival Skills 101

  “Don’t forget to breathe.” This is Cristy calling out. She’s the trainer at my local SNAP fitness, where I spend seventy-five minutes of my day, six days a week. Cristy sits twelve feet away from me as I push out 48 repetitions on the biceps press machine this rainy afternoon. I had noticed feeling […]

Continue Reading May 19, 2017 at 7:30 pm Leave a comment

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Recipe. According to Encarta, "a list of ingredients and instructions for making something." The thesaurus offers the alternate terms, "formula, guidelines, directions, steps, technique."

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To that end we offer inspirational real-life stories about PEOPLE OF FAITH AND COURAGE; menus and cooking directions meant to fuel your creative inclinations and your healthy body in the form of MUSINGS OF A MIDWESTERN FOODIE; and ADVICE FOR LIFE from the perspective of those who have lived it to maturity. (Click on the green category tabs at the top of this page to learn more about each section.)

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