Yesterday, I was really embarrassed, which is always better than taking a dangerous risk. I was in the kitchen having soup when the Carbon Monoxide alarm started beeping. I took this to mean that it needed new batteries, so I pulled it off the wall and put in replacements. The reset did not work, so I rearranged the batteries and then all was back in order. I checked the stove of course just to make sure the gas was completely off. Then, two hours later while watching the news, Anderson Cooper put me right to sleep. I tried to wake up several times and kept drifting back to the land of nod. Suddenly, the alarm went off with a persistent and demanding repetition of bleeps. I dragged myself downstairs and dialed 911 while still quite groggy. I was told to go outside away from the house. Two fire trucks arrived lickety split and three fully armed firefighters went in the house with a detector. Meanwhile, my neighbor, Chip came over to find out if I was okay. The handsome men in uniform came out and said all was safe and clear. Apparently, a new alarm is needed every ten years. We have been here for five years, so no telling how old it is. What a lot of hubbub for a faulty alarm. Thankfully, it was not the gas making me groggy, but the compelling news about the Candidates that conked me out. I was very tempted to ask for a photo session with the dashing rescuers, but did not in case it would lead them to believe that I set the whole thing up. So glad to have good neighbor Chip there as a first responder and hopefully no one else was disturbed by all the flashing red lights. I went in and removed the batteries to stop the bleeping and get to sleeping. By this time the Colbert report was on and isn’t he lively so late at night. The lesson is to heed the alarm, but make sure the alarmist is current. To often we spread alarming information that is incorrect or disproven. Healthy foods and products are constantly being analyzed, so it is good to be up to date and educated on trends. Sometimes our choices are risky, but the worst choice is to ignore the signs alarms. Investigate pain and discomfort with a professional health specialist. Research trends and reports. Proceed cautiously when you hear an alarm, and always keep fresh batteries handy.
Yesterday, I took a decadent chocolate cake to a group of volunteers who said they were craving chocolate dessert all week. These men from Samaritan’s Purse have been working hard on removing all wet and moldy walls and floors from homes that had filled with water from a rainfall that measured twenty-four inches in many South Carolina cities. I wanted to do something special for them. The cake recipe was Duncan Hines Devil’s food, with a cup of sour cream, instant pudding, and chocolate chips- all things I now consider to be unhealthy. Why would I do such a thing? Because, I knew how much they would enjoy such a rich and sweet treat. And boy did they! In fact Pickeney, the eighty-two year old homeowner, took a bite and said, “This is just like kissing my wife for the first time”. That is surely the best complement I have ever had about my cooking! This was a culmination of a week of cooking and providing food for friends. I just love reading cookbooks, planning menus and trying new foods. Lately, I have been making squash soups with my Vitamix. Why I was in the mood for so much shopping and cooking suddenly occurred to me. I was the recipient of Theater Tickets (from Ollie Thompson) to see “The Little Shop Of Horrors” at the Dock Street Theater. The show features a man eating plant that often says in clear English, “FEED ME”. The plant is only satisfied with human blood and grows to astronomical proportions. It then eats people who are abusive and oppressive. I wondered what the message of this musical was and left befuddled yet entertained. Now, the message returns to mind to feed people. Feeding with food, feeding with good thoughts, feeding with the WORD; these are all to eliminate a hunger for health, peace, and happiness. Feeding the hungry is a directive from Jesus in the gospels. My friends at Totally Fit encourage eating a whole foods plant based diet. It may sound foreign to those who thrive on juicy steak, but it certainly beats being the unhealthy victim that the monster plant in the Flower Shop of Horrors craved. I will try to be more mindful of how I feed people so they crave good things. Feed me with with those sweet compliments and I am bound to cave in to unhealthy cravings occasionally. In the end, I would like to be known as a Proverbs 31 woman.
Yesterday, it was a gorgeous sunny day in Charleston with little evidence outside that there was historic rainfall and flooding a week ago. Inside so many homes is a different story. Fans blowing to dry the sodden floors and demo teams taking out drywall that has hazardous mold growing and ant colonies forming. This is what team Totally Fit encountered when we joined the Samaritan’s Purse organization to help victims of the flood. So, how could Linda, Laura and I possible help with our limited construction skills? We started with a 7:30 video at the First Baptist Church that explained the importance of safety and bringing hope and love to the family we were to visit. We were warned it would break our hearts to experience the devastation that the family had to cope with. It did. Crystal greeted us with an 8 month baby boy in her arms and a three year old darling daughter. Our first job was to pack up all their belongings and move them to the front of the house away from the ceiling that was caving in. While we did this we listened to Crystal’s story and played with Bethany and her kitties. Her husband JR is a firefighter in North Charleston. They have no homeowners insurance and FEMA is not likely to help replace a roof that was unstable before the incredible storms hit. The team leader Paul, Stara Peter and Todd helped to put a Blue tarp securely over the roof. These volunteers came from New York, Minnesota, and North Carolina to spend several weeks coordinating clean up efforts. We took a break for lunch outdoors in an area where we had raked leaves away and covered wet spots by the perimeter of the yard. We prayed at church. We prayed with Crysral when we arrived and now our third prayer of the day before lunch gave me a sense of peace that the Samaritan’s Purse organization would stay until the job was done. Our big prayers that the Bunch family will be able to return to a safe home I know will be answered. The big question is, can the home be saved? Linda and I stayed to help take down the playroom ceiling, so Todd could see what was needed. Look out for Linda when she has a crow bar! The plaster was flying and the fiberglass gave us an extra glisten on our clothes. Even with googles and a mask, I started to cough and knew it was time to retreat back outside. Our back up team arrived and we said our goodbyes. We are not sure what we accomplished. We would dearly love to provide a brand new mobile home for this unfortunate family. We certainly learned from Crystal that hope is a strategy to get through the day. While they cram into her mother-in-law’s home for now, they are ever so grateful for those who care enough to stop and helps heir neighbor. We believe our day will lead to another visit and a connection that is God inspired. So many of my connections through Totally Fit have inspired me to go beyond the usual routine, the normal day, the easy path, the popular choice, or the traditional way. Because we are all like cities after a tragedy and can appear fine on the outside but are crumbling on the inside; we must take the time to look a little closer by listening to our neighbor and then allow the Holy Spirit to work wonders.
Yesterday marked the end of our harvest for this season. My tomato plants were pitiful. My wonderful neighbor offered to till the garden plot as he does each year. I declined because we decided to plant only three tomato and three basil plants. There was a little fertilizer left from last year that I added and plenty of rain in June. Then came the drought. Unfortunately, we took a ten day trip and did not ask anyone to water while we were away. Oh dear, the yellow leaf with black spots took over as I tried to coax the plants back to health. I weeded around them, sang to them, and watered in the cool mornings. The cherry tomatoes eventually started to ripen and produced a tasty topping for our salads. The basil was unhappy and probably jealous of the oregano that was so hearty a family of bunnies made it their bed at night. The two other tomato plants still have a couple of green promises clinging to the vine, but a freeze is sure to happen soon. I might have to grab those last tomatoes and take them to Charleston for a cooking class on fried green tomatoes. The apples are done demonstrating Isaac Newton’s theory. The neighbors all are busy making sauce and pie with them and we quit at fifty pints and four pies. Something about produce that brings a community together- yes it is the best food on earth! We went to the farmers market every Sunday after church to buy fresh food and to chat with friends. Thank you dear farmers for feeding our body and soul, especially when our own efforts fail. Is there anything happier than being with good people, listening to music and enjoying healthy food? Maybe a little dancing to top it off. It was a summer full of these things. Nearly perfect. My tomatoes are reminders not to neglect what is important: planting, nurturing, sharing. That may be my mission statement. Just don’t forget to add water.
Yesterday, I did something outlandish and no one said anything. I did a little shopping therapy after a week of feeling home bound with a sore throat. In Ashtabula there are few stores with women’s clothing, so I started at the Goodwill in the Harbor. My friend Mary believes that I would never shop there or find anything in my taste- but I did! A Harve Bernard designer jacket and a cotton sweater set, each piece under $5.00. I have donated at least a thousand items over the last thirty years, so I do not feel that finding a bargain for myself is inappropriate. The outlandish part is when my retailing impulses kick in. The straight racks are all in line and merchandised by size and color. The design is not to entice or influence impulse shopping. I started pulling interesting pieces and putting them on the ends of the racks until there was a style statement. It was visually appealing to my eye without messing up the size and color organization. I just bet those colorful plaids will fly off the racks now. Next, I went to the Ashtabula Mall. KMart and Penny’s are the only places left with women’s fashion. Again with the long racks of sales items by size. Summer clearance never looked so uninviting. I pretended to consider pieces until the end of each rack had coordinated colors and styles. Crazy, I know. But harmless and maybe even helpful? I worked for four years total at Joseph Horne, Higbees, Carlisle’s, and Ralph Lauren Polo Stores at various times in between college education and teaching. I loved creating an appealing environment for customers. I like doing the same in my home; creating a comfortable space for conversation and entertaining friends and family. This has been a challenge to coordinate items over the years when using “hand me down” furnishings or unexpected acquisitions. Do you ever find yourself rearranging a person’s home in your mind, or wanting to change an environment that you feel is out of balance? I know my friend Linda is laughing right now. Balance and appeal is different for everyone, but we all seek to find both. Finding balance usually means time management for work, play, prayer, and rest. I have that one down now that I am retired from teaching. Appealing environments usually mean creative use of space and resources. For me that means clean and colorful. A pop of color inside or out can completely change a landscape. All you gardeners and decorators know what I mean. This month we join nature in displaying splashes of orange everywhere. I found a persimmons sweater for my daughter’s birthday at Penny’s and then admired my display as I strolled by the racks on the way out. I can’t compete with the colors of the sunsets or changing leaves, but I am happy to play with the pallets I encounter in my daily life. Wether you use crayon, watercolors, clothes or flowers; find your design and balance to color your world wonderful.