Racing the Rainclouds

Yesterday, I went for a ride on my new aubergine colored Schwinn bicycle. It was so comfortable that it hardly felt like exercise. The Historic Harbor in Ashtabula is only twenty minutes away, so a stop at the Harbor Perk for a smoothie is always good incentive to ride. The afternoon was warm and the sun shining, so I did not need a jacket. A few clouds were over Lake Erie like the day before. Those clouds can roll in fast, but I felt confident that I would be safe with my speedy pace and the protection of God smiling down from the heavens. I got to the Harbor and ordered my icy beverage to rehydrate while sitting outside to enjoy the view of the lift bridge. Suddenly, I realized there was a dark cloud overhead and its growing billows told me to head for home. Up the hill I went and heard a walker proclaim, “You’re going to get caught in the rain”. ” I don’t think so”, I thought to myself, “I am quick like a bunny on my bike and I see plenty of sunshine ahead. I will take a path that keeps me away from the dark clouds”. Five minutes into the ride home I felt sprinkles. “I can do this,” I kept thinking and I picked up my pace. The sun was now gone and the rain came harder. I stopped under a tree and thought it might pass right over. The rain came even harder. I was getting wet. On I went into the rain getting soaked to the skin and wondering where God’s sunny smile went. For a moment I thought of knocking on the door of one of the many neighbors I know along the way and to take shelter,image but being soaked through, I decided just to forge ahead. I slowed down and carefully peddled on the slippery street and lifted my feet while going through the puddles. ‘Weeee”, I was a kid again. With five minutes left the sun came back out but I was dripping wet. A baptism you say? Yes, definitely a reminder of being washed clean and set free. When I got home, I saw that my hubby came home early and wouldn’t he shake his head and roll his eyes. Instead, he brought the fluffy white robe and warmed me with a big hug. What did I learn? We may lose a race even when we are confident, but the welcome home hugs can not be beat.

A thousand pictures is worth a word.

Yesterday, I took on the daunting job of going through family pictures. Specifically, pictures my father-in-law took, printed doubles, and stored in shoeboxes along with the negatives. There are at least thirty years of these photos taken with various cameras that the family has given him as gifts over the years. Thrown in were some older pictures of my husband and his brother and sister in their childhood fifty years ago. It is truly fun to see the evolving hairstyles and the nolstagic cars and clothing. My husband bravely made executive decisions on throwing out the photos of landscapes, flowers, buildings in unidentified countries, and pictures of people we don’t know or ones so out of focus that they looked like they were taken in a downpour of rain. This narrowed the number to nine boxes with an estimate of two-hundred pictures per box- or maybe five-hundred, I am not counting. There are literally thousands! While trying to organize them and consider making albums, the question arises, ” Who will look at these in the future, and who wants to keep them”? Our children have looked at my scrapbooks once. They look for themselves and then discuss who I love more by the number of pictures I used of each of them. Which means I don’t love myself at all because I am rarely in any of them (being that I was the photographer). Perhaps our children are smarter by going digital and storing their thousand photos each year in a cloud somewhere. When these clouds burst there will be a deluge of images in a rainstorm of memories for someone to wade through. We try to capture events and history in our photos. We make time stand still. We might also as Native Americans believe; steal a little of our soul with each image that is taken. Who doesn’t look back and complain: ” I was so fat, my hair was ridiculous, those dresses were ugly, when did I get a double chin, I look like my mother!?” Perhaps family photos are a vain pursuit. We truly want to remember our loved ones, but why do we take so many pictures? Awaiting in the attic are singular portraits of great grandparents and even great great grandpartents plus and uncle or two. We could fill a hundred albums or start a museum. But who will care? There is usually one person in every generation that enjoys genealogy and preservation. I might be that person and so might my middle daughter be that person for her generation. So back to my project of organizing. A thousand pictures leads to one word- HELP! I really can’t do this myself. Calling all family to get involved and then have a picnic. We do have applesauce from the project my husband most enjoys. Enjoy your Memorial Day and your memories. Pass down the stories that make you laugh and smile. Honor those who have provided freedom and praise the Lord for all creation.

Fill R Up

Yesterday, I drove six hours from West Virginia to Ohio. That is a long time for this girl to sit without much variation of position. So of course I did stop for gas. I love this drive time to get on the blue tooth and chat with my family. I make sure it is when there is a long stretch of road with no forks or turns, or you know I would miss every turn completely. The other issue is those beautiful rolling hills where there is no reception. I lost sister Susan Harper somewhere in Virginia when I first entered the embrace of the Blue Ridge. But, yesterday I got a chance to catch up with my daughter Elise James who was clearly trying to get ready for work so we kept it short. The Jim Croce song came to mind, “Cat’s in the Cradle”🎶 we are definitely experiencing a reverse of roles now. My busy looks like play time to my daughters in the corporate world. Then I got on the phone with Karen Cordell and still no danger of missing a turn. Luckily, she was in her car and said it was time to go. This saved my life as I finally noticed that my gas light was on and I remembered that there is an indicator of how many miles are left in the tank. Five! Only 5 miles to get off the highway and to a station. 4-3-2 to the exit, 1 to the station, hold on Nelly, up to the pump. Whew! The strong fumes and a breath of God got me out of walking to the station in my flip flops in 34 degree weather in Ohio. Multitasking mothers know how to pay attention to multiple things, but take an eye off of one and certain trouble comes knocking at the door. I like problem prevention more than problem solving. I even got an oil change (with out being reminded by my husband) before I left Charleston. So what is the lesson? Can we keep an eye on our own spirit, soul, and body? Do we remember to stop and fill it up before we are running on fumes? Are we paying attention to the road signs and staying on the right path? A long journey is hard on the back and our muscles long to move and be free of constraint. I think this means that in the long quest to serve others and live a good life to glorify God, we must stop to stretch, listen, and fill up on the fuel our body, soul, and spirit needs. It shows when we neglect the body, it even shows on our face if we neglect the soul. Hair color and makeup can hide a little of the stress that time draws on our faces, but there is only one fix for the spirit. If your heart has the low fuel sign flashing, God can fill you up. Prayer, praise, and reflecting on all the gifts from God will put you back on the road. All my meters are on full now that I am together with the gift I call Stuart. Continue reading

Hedge Trimmer

Yesterday, I finished cutting the whole hedge down by half. The experts told me they were old and that we should pull them out completely. The voice in my heart said they still have life and need a chance to grow back. They were all wrapped up in themselves fighting for sunlight. The branches twisted and choked each other. The winter freeze killed much of the new growth from last year. But, if we looked closely deep

in the middle, little green leaves were starting to emerge. There is hope. I am perhaps looking for a miracle to bring these fifty year old shrubs back to life- well you know I believe in miracles and have witnessed a couple. So, these little boxwoods planted by Grandma Ada Warren and pruned by Hal the garden keeper, were then nurtured by my father in law, Jim Cordell, as he reached shoulder height with the electric hedge trimmers; and now I have tried to save them for the last three years. I can’t give up. I used the mighty pruners and clipped one branch at a time feeling the trapezius muscles screaming at me. You know that I prayed in my quiet surgical task. I prayed for happy memories of every dear person that has left my world. I prayed for new growth to come with power and beauty. I prayed for life with my husband in Ashtabula to have meaning and purpose. These little bushes may not look promising, but I feel it in my heart that they with flourish.

North and South

Yesterday, I took a walk on the North Coast Beach of Lake Erie. It is much cooler and quieter than the East Coast Beach at Isle of Palms. There are ripples instead of waves, stones instead of conch shells, ducks instead of pelicans, and tons of plastic parts and drift wood instead of jellyfish and sand dollars. The beach glass is always a fun shining treasure to spot among the stones, but where does the rainbow of plastic bits come from? It is like a toy factory blew up and washed on shore. I can understand an occasional bottle or can left behind at a bon fire -even though that is littering – shamey shamey. Why on earth do I see a Barbie shoe, a hair curler, a toy soldier and those of you have walked along the shore know the unmentionable item I can’t bear to name. These are not just beach toys, they are mostly obliterated pieces of something once made and imported from a Chinese factory. Well, very clever people have turned the glass into jewelry and art. Some artistically inclined have painted the rocks and incorporated driftwood into useful designs. What can be done with all the plastic? It isn’t going to disintegrate and is not biodegradable. It is most likely “clean” from the water and ice pounding over it, and the stones grinding it down. Yet, few beach comers would find it attractive to collect. Some neighbors diligently pick up the litter to improve the natural environment, but it is truly hard to keep up with what the winds drag in. These are private beaches too! It can’t be that boaters and freighters are going by with their children’s toy chests and dumping them in the middle of the lake. Why there is so much is just a mystery. Throw your glass bottles in the Lake, we just love finding big chunks of polished gems. And it can’t be from Canada even though it is just fifty miles away; they are far to polite to send their garbage this way. So, my original thought was to compare and contrast the the Northern and Southern cultures as I noticed the beach differences. I just couldn’t do it without worrying that it might offend someone or seem trite to say how friendly and warm people are in South Carolina and how cold and private people are in the sub zero climate of Ohio. We all know that most everyone in Charleston is FROM Ohio after all. Truthfully, I am delighted to be back in the North and happy that everyone in Ashtabula stops to chat even though they may not have seen me in ten years. I am so glad that people still recognize me, and I hope that if I am different, it has been positive changes. I know I have slowed down a little – which I may have learned in the South; and I like to say, “y’all” which is definitely not Yankee talk. What I feel is my biggest change is an inner spirit of peace. North or South, we all seek a little more calm in our lives. So, the plastic on our beach is NOT going to upset me. Be looking for some crazy sculpture at the next art festival.