Last week, I lifted a box of books and the bottom fell out. The books lay on the dirty garage floor like a pile of lifeless rubble after a a demolition. No one saw it happen, so this cliche event that gathers volumes chuckles at the movies, did not feel funny to me at the time. My nephew, Alan, came to help us load the moving truck a couple days latter, and did the same thing with another overloaded box of books- we all laughed out loud. Slapstick is more merry with an audience, so writing about the dumb stuff in life turns the tragic into something joyful. The majority of the books were transferred to smaller file folder boxes with better bottoms. They made their journey To Tampa and now await the perils of Hurricane Irma. Bethany is taking her doggies and her best friend, Ashley, to Gainesville for a safer haven today. She has sorted through nearly one hundred books. I donated over one hundred to the library in Ashtabula before the truck loaded. Our family has done a fair amount of reading which exercises the brain. It certainly has been a work out for the body as well when we box and carry them everywhere we move. Among the boxes were several bibles. My first bible from eight grade confirmation, a huge family bible given as a wedding gift, and a bible that got tossed because of mouse damage (I hope they read it and all go to heaven). These books are good for the spirit. So books do offer a spirit, soul, and body enrichment that I highly recommend. Our first grandchild will be rich in reading material that we hope she enjoys as much as our children did. Technology is a tempting diversion from reading, so there will be new challenges. I am sure most of the books will be on-line in the future. This will save us the physical exertion and comical mishaps. If the flood waters come and saturate the books, we will have to depend on oral storytelling, unless the insurance coverage includes a new library. We wish all our children safe passage next week. Ours sons-in- law Matt and Lewis will be at the zoo protecting the animals. Maybe they could take some books and read bedtime stories to the restless beasts. And mama Jane James will be bravely helping the birthing mothers at the hospital in Miami. Will the girls be named Irma? We pray dear Lord for your protection of all the Volunteers and First Responders who will save lives and help the living piece their lives back together. Theirs is a heavy load to bear. If the bottom does fall out with the torrents of rain and the destructive winds; help us find ways to rebuild with better bottoms. The storms and evacuations are a reminder that lives are more precious than anything we collect and store. If you are watching the storm advance, as I am, and packing up to leave; keep your load light. May the joy of the Lord be with you where ever you are.
Yesterday, I tried to spice things up. My tuna and green pea salad needed some pepper. I feel certain there was a jokester who rigged the pepper grinder, because one twist of the bottom, and the shaker fell apart with the contents pouring over my peas. I was not going to waste this salad and throw it out- that is against my nature, especially when hungry. I tried to carefully dump the pepper corns into the sink and then pick out the ones stuck in the tuna. While finally eating my salad, I got an occasional chunk of pepper stuck in my tooth. There are consequences to adding too much spice. I am guessing that this conjures up scenarios in relationships. How do you keep a marriage interesting, or a friendship from being boring with out a little zest? Many foods we eat are flavorless- like meat. A little salt or savory herbs are necessary to add some flavor. In a marriage it is crucial to have some common interests and share them on date nights. Daily routines can spice it up with time set aside for non distracted conversation. You know that means to unplug from all electronics. When hubby and I talk about finances, it can be like adding red hot sauce, so it is important to dilute that with a little humor. “What do you mean we went past our budget this month? Okay, I will sell my yacht and furs, and stick to meals from a can for a week.” Spicing it up in the bedroom is way too personal for me to write about, but I am acknowledging the importance because I know most of you were thinking about it too. Friendships need a little flavor but never drama. Gossip is akin to dumping cayenne pepper into a recipe. It ruins it completely. A great tragedy, in my opinion, is a boring worship service. I feel certain that millennials have left churches because their purpose became bland. It was a huge step for us to seek a church that spices it up with contemporary music, and sermons that challenge us to serve others in new ways. We have found just what we needed and it is refreshing to worship in a place that is bursting with people and opportunities to connect and serve together. I hope you find the right spice in your life. There are so many to choose from. There is no reason to ever be bored when there are many ways to connect. Relish your quiet time as well, to pray and seek the Lord. Today, I shall be careful with my thyme and seek sage advice about those finances.
Yesterday, I watched Jeopardy with four members of my family. Hubby and I usually watch the PBS News Hour or Business Report, which can be rather dry. It was scintillating to switch to the show my parents used to watch everyday. All five of us were shouting out answers before the contestants. Lewis knew the Science questions, Amanda knew the Medical, Alan knew that a bullet holder on a soldier is called a bandolier, and Hubby knew so many random questions that it astounded us. He has vast knowledge in many areas. I had a few proud moments of guessing correctly, and we all knew the final Jeopardy question. “What is Avant-Garde?” The moments of brilliance are easy from the arm chair. I certainly don’t think I would be able to spew forth the answers quickly enough under pressure as a contestant in front of a camera. I would be making faces and clowning around. I would not know how much to risk when wagering. The Daily Double is the chance to wager all the points and catch up to others without the them clicking to answer. Few people take the opportunity to double their points, concerned they could lose them all if they don’t know the answer. Hubby says we have the Daily Double in our daily lives. When there is conflict or questions to be answered we should bet everything on Jesus. It is a sure winner. I love his analogy. If we depend on our own wit or believe we can manage without the love of God, it puts us in jeopardy. I truly want to play a game of life with all the skills that are necessary, and accept all help I can get. We are not on earth to to be isolated. The arm chair and ottoman are a comfy place to be while watching pseudo life on the TV. There is so much more that we can enjoy when we leave the chair, the comfort zone, and the false knowledge that we have all the answers. Substitute time with family and friends whenever possible to do things that are enriching and helpful. Play the sport instead of watching one, sing with a group in public instead of listening to the Voice, team up to clean up in the garden or the parks instead of cleaning out your inbox. Take a walk, get on your bike, get creative and invite me. I need to get away from the screen more often during the day. Facebook is losing its fascination because I need more face to face. A little quiz show can be nice interlude to make sure our memory bank still works, as long as we don’t for get the wonderful world outdoors. A mammal that has two or three toes and moves slowly in the rainforests of Brazil: “What is a sloth?” You got that right.
Last week, I knocked a bottle of my hubby’s Acqua di Gio aftershave off the shelf. It landed on the hard surface of our bathroom scale and broke into pieces. Naturally, my first thought was, “How do I save the fluid so it does not go to waste.” I imagined the bathroom would smell quite nice for a long time to come, but I did not want to throw all the contents in the garbage. I carefully removed the glass, still considering a method of mopping the liquid up with towels that I could preserve and put in every room. It would then seem as if my hubby was present where ever I went in the house. My daughters once took comfort in driving their daddy’s car because it smelled like him, with the aftershave lingering on the steering wheel. That must have also reminded them of his prayer that they drive safely. The presence of God is much the same; a sweet aroma that reminds us that He is with us. He desires for us to make good choices and to be protected by His love. When I take a walk and smell the lush fragrance of flowers and trees, I am thankful for the marvelous creation and truly feel the presence of God. Oddly, the smells at the zoo invoke the same feeling as I watch the animals and marvel at the beauty of every creature. I wish I had the same love for spiders, ants, and roaches who have a short lifespan in my house. Our sense of smell connects us with memories, alerts us to dangers, and delights us in so many ways. Many of us think of our grandmothers every holiday when we smell a turkey roasting. I do not eat turkey anymore, but still love the aroma. Many of us run from the room when the odiferous and noisy after effects hit from overeating. It is not just the men in the family that find flatulence to be funny. I prefer aftershave. This may become less popular as men give up the razor and sport more facial hair. I have given up my favorite perfume so I will stop attracting mosquitoes and bees. Luckily, there are essential oils that are delightful and ward off bugs. I know the effects of a perfumed house will not last long. I am thankful that the presence of God is everlasting. He is described as an ancient one that has glowing hair and a flowing beard. I have replaced my childhood vision with the sweet smell of all that is kind, good, gentle, faithful, peaceful, joyful, loving, patient and true. We cannot always cover up the stinky, but we can clean up and focus on the fresh scent that is so pleasing. Right now my garbage can is the best smelling part of the house. When that dissipates, I will look forward to when hubby returns home, and follow him around the house. He loves that he can lead me by the nose.
Yesterday, I used a whole canister of Clorox wipes. Today when I put my glasses on, I realized that I did not get things completely clean, and I have started round two. No, I am not a neat freak. I am cleaning all the items that were in storage for five years, that will finally be shipped to our children. The mice were having a party in there and making little nests from the children’s books. Mice are cute, but they do not clean up after themselves! Every Rubbermade lid was scrubbed down and every stick of furniture polished. Several children’s books that were in cardboard boxes are now history and will decorate the landfill. Who knew mice liked to read the classics? They didn’t touch “If You Give A Mouse A Cookie”. Seems ironic or maybe that was respectful. I did spread around the dreaded mothballs to chase the mice away. Now I cannot get rid of that smell from my sinuses and memory. All clothing is being washed in hot water and toys are being given a bath. I found my fifty year old dolls, so I am feeling sentimental, but I will sell them to collectors who will hopefully treat them with more attention. I honestly regret having a basement, attic or storage unit where things lay forgotten and neglected. Take Heed Millennials, live simply and don’t fall prey to the market that wants you to buy new stuff every year. Where have all the phones and old computers gone? Next to the used disposable diapers I suppose; where they will morph into smelly transformer zombie monsters. So, how can I twist this obsession with storage, cleaning, and doom into a positive message? Maybe it is simply to be quick to share what is no longer being used. Do not save it for the future, because no one wants the broken and tattered stuff that smells like mouse and mold. Antiques and collectibles are not very popular with millennials, so give them things they really need now instead of expecting them to prize a family heirloom that will not fit in their home in twenty years. Saving for the future might be better in the form of healthcare insurance and retirement funds. Now for the spiritual aspect: moth, rust and mice will corrupt your treasures on earth, so consider the treasure of eternal life in heaven. Treasure your friends and family. Appreciate all they do for you. Store your happy memories in your mind instead of a hundred albums, videos, picture frames and digital cloud space. No one will know what to do with all your scrapbooks. Eliminate the bad memories to make space for more good ones. Eliminate the storage rooms to make more room for dinner guests and sleepovers. And now for a non sequitur: get outside and breathe the fresh air every beautiful day. We were not created to hole up in our man caves and she sheds. I am now going to take a bike ride to air out, and sit in the Harbor Perk for a bit, to fill my olfactory with the fragrance of fresh ground coffee beans.Those Clorox wipes have wiped me out.
Last week, I went to Mooseburger Clown Camp in Buffalo, Minnesota. It was five days of fun organized by former Ringling Bros./Barnum and Bailey Circus clowns. There were seventy-five students and twenty-five instructors and staff. Half the students were alumni, including a few that have returned more than ten times. Never before have I heard so many men talking about their makeup, or women talking about their size fifteen shoe. Never before have I had to choose between workshops on puppetry, ukulele, and juggling. Yes, I learned to juggle scarves- I am a failure at the balls and bowling pins. Camp was a gift from my family who are all supportive of my Bumper T Caring Clown ministry. My goal was to learn something new and to expand my skills to “clowning with a message,” which can be used for presentations at schools or library programs. There were workshops on illusions, using music and song, face painting and balloon twisting. I attended everything that was music and dance related, including the morning wiggles and giggles. I never made it to the 9:45pm offerings- the youngsters always filled me in the next day. Age range was seventeen to eighty something. Many of the students are volunteers like me, but most of them clown professionally for parties, events and presentations. Professor Flutterbuster is a full time doctor who does school science shows for fun. He was the coach for the gag my group did in the final show. I was the clown with the biggest pants hiding a fifteen foot banner that unfurls to say THE END. Of course my pants fall down and I have to pull them back up after I reveal my polka dot bloomers underneath. Hubby drove me to Camp and was there for our final All Star Show. You can ask him to see a video. In retrospect, the most incredible aspect of camp was that every person there was NICE all the time. Five days of positivity, compliments, encouragement and pleasant repartee beats the pants off a wellness center. Actually, camp was at a Catholic retreat on Buffalo Lake. Imagine pictures of clown faces hanging under portraits of Mary and Jesus. I did not hear one complaint or difficult discussion the whole week. Perhaps everyone needs a clown in the family to lighten the burden that is part of daily life. I was transformed by the kindness and the new rainbow wig that makes me look twenty years younger. The red nose that originated with the happy man who took a little nip too often is now a symbol of the people who bring joy and laughter to those who could use a lift. There may be farce and mishaps when clowns are around, but guffaws spill out to gladden the heart. So much silliness sucked me into an adventure that taught me to take life a little less seriously. Kindness is kin to love and the most important part of each day. If you like to clown around and want to make it your mission to manufacture laughter, let’s double up our efforts. For those of you who are afraid of clowns, I have a suggestion. If a mob of clowns attacks you, go for the juggler. Funny isn’t it?
Yesterday, I went down a flight of rickety wooden stairs behind our house to get to the beach. The water level has eroded the sand and earth away to the point of shifting a concrete base securing the stairs, so the final descent was twisted and broken. I clung to the rail and felt like I was walking in a Escher painting. I knew it was dangerous to ignore the sign at the top that blocked the entry and said, “Under Repair”. I really wanted to get to the bottom to cool my feet in the water, and since there was no other way to get there, I took the risk. You might imagine the next part of the story continues with the stairs breaking away, and I fall and hit sense into my head or float out to the middle of Lake Erie; but nothing happened this time. I cooled my feet, found some beach glass and returned to the top. Why did I take the risk when a bathtub could have given me the same refreshing result? Exploration might have been my primary motive, or maybe there is a little part of me that rebells against authority, convention and caution. Most of my days are logical, methodical, and routine. Everyone needs to break away from those days sometimes in order to experience creative rejuvenation. Today, when I went to visit the staircase to climb down, our wonderful neighbor was making a Herculean effort to repair them by anchoring the bottom with bags of cement. It looks like their efforts will be successful until the water rises again to wash out the sands and stones. The winter icebergs can create enough power to push things around as well. Nature always gets her way. Given time, the earth heals from all that man has manipulated and vegetation grows over every human path and pillar. There may be buildings five hundred years old, but after a thousand years, all we find are ruins that were well buried. Five generations from now everything will be different. This is where I must recognize that God will be the same power and glory forever. We shall face challenges, take risks, and try to control our environment, but there is really nothing we can do to improve what God gives us. Whatever exploration I am on, my focus should be to find those who need love and pour it over them abundantly. Man made materials and machines are always exciting in their advances and seemingly the best way to invest our time and money, but they won’t even last our life time. Our words and stories make a lasting impression, so it is important to use our words wisely and share stories of God’s love and Power. I wish I could find a way to make a hug last and last. No matter how risky, I don’t want to miss a chance to to share the love of God. Go, therefore, into every nation; climb every mountain and ford every stream to complete the task God gives you. Make every exploration and mission a part of a stairway to heaven.
Yesterday, I went to the drugstore. There are so many of them now, practically one at every major intersection. Back in the Sixties, there was one; The Ben Franklin Five and Dime. It was a fun place to spend our refund money after collecting pop bottles from construction sites. Getting a candy bar or a comic book was a real treat. Then, when I became a teenager, I might go in for lip stick or other beauty supplies, a magazine, and a diet drink. Now that I am sixty, I bought hearing aid batteries, compression socks, and medications. What happened to me? Good golly Miss Molly, I now qualify to be a grandma. That is actually happening this year and tonight I will know the gender so I can go shopping for pink or blue clothes! Forget the drugstore. Here I come infant department of every major department store! My sisters have alerted me to Goodwill for infant clothes that still have tags or look brand new; a smart choice when babies grow out of their wardrobe every two to three months. My girls wore matching KMart play clothes, hand-me-downs or back to school clothes from Carlisle’s. it has been a long time since I have shopped for little ones. It will be far more fun than my current drugstore trips. We saved a couple outfits from our children’s infancy, and most all of the furniture. The conundrum is how do we ship it all to them in Florida when it would be cheaper to buy all new, state of the art stuff. It seems smarter to sell it all or give it away and start fresh. Or, if anyone is moving to Florida, perhaps we could give you a few more things to take down? This decision making gives me heart palpitations and will land me back in the doctor’s office and the dreaded drugstore. “Breathe, take one concern at a time,” says my sage hubby. My thoughts easily go to places where people have next to nothing, or have to flee their homes and leave behind all their treasures and heirlooms. We put far too much value on our stuff. The Bible has much to say about this. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” I know whether it is a boy or girl, this pending grandchild will steal my heart and suddenly nothing else will matter. All my friends tell me this is so. While our children prepare the baby’s room and create a safe and comfortable environment for their family, I will dream about being the best Grammy possible. Hopefully, health issues will never prevent me from loving the grans with my whole heart. Soon, very soon, we will walk holding hands into the drugstore to get a treat, like a smoothie and some kale chips, even though it will cost more than a nickel or a dime. The lesson today is: shopping is more fun when done with a buddy, and what we think we need now will be entirely different every decade we grow older. Which aisle can I find the Slowpokes please?
This week we had a home incident that was not caused by my neglect, miscalculation, or buffoonery. Hubby and I entered the house after a holiday away, and I noticed a wine bottle cork on the floor. At first, I thought it was a large creature like we the ones that greet us in Charleston, but when I picked it up I was glad that it was not. Then hubby walked by and said, “What is this oil on the floor?” We both leaned over to touch it, and then looked around to see what was leaking. “Here is the culprit,” said hubby as he lifted a corkless bottle of Johannesburg Riesling from the wine shelf above the kitchen desk. “What in the world!” I exclaimed. Apparently, the 2007 wine bottle popped the cork under pressure that had been building. Half the contents glugged out on the desk below, being absorbed by a magazine and an old computer. Out came the Swifter to take care of the floor splatters as I contemplated what happens when pressure mounts beyond our limits. Okay, no snickering from the men on this, we all understand your anatomy. Extreme pressure is often caused by deadlines to complete a project or pay the bills. The pressure cooker I remember most in my life has been student performance in my classroom, especially when the superintendent and principal both walk in unannounced. “Please, Oh Lord, may all my children be on task and answer questions brilliantly,” I prayed. Everyday was a challenge; preparing meaningful and exciting lessons, motivating students, and managing the constant behavior issues of twenty to thirty little lives that all wanted my attention and acceptance. I wanted everyday to be perfect, but people just are not. We may all agree that confrontation is an occasion that causes our hearts to race and our emotional gaskets to blow. I will never get used to accusations and anger directed at me. There were a couple times when I confronted my own children and they saw me blow my top. Pressure may form diamonds out of coal, but that takes thousands of years. Who wants to endure a thousand insults in hope of becoming something valuable to others? Most moments that are extremely stressful situations cause a mess at the breaking point. This is never something we should do to another person. It takes more than a swifter to clean up a relationship in ruins. A sticky residue remains in unseen places in the form of mistrust and dislike. It take genuine love to forgive, and a good scrubbing in the way of confession and repentance to have full reconciliation. It must be from both sides with two people or groups. With God and man, the pressure has been released by Jesus’s sacrifice on the cross. He cleaned up our mess already and has open arms for everyone. If we see pressure mounting between people or political parties, it has to be released like the opening of a carbonated beverage- slowly without shaking. Hubby and I find de- escalating with a bottle of wine can be helpful. It may be ironic that my favorite is champagne. There is skill in opening a bottle under pressure. Don’t pop your top.
Last weekend, I was in the company of three lawyers for two days. How can a plebeian survive such an event you might wonder? There were deep discussions and intense questions about life choices. There were analyses of our theater and dining experiences. There were evaluations and high level thinking about politics, religion and ice cream. There were intellectual commentaries about legal matters and the judicial process. And I survived, actually thrived, because I love these three lawyers and respect them. One question still has me contemplating. Do I consider myself very religious? It seems a loaded question in today’s climate where religion can be equated with blind followers who are ignorant, or zealous opinionated people who are not enlightened by the current trends. My family might say I am very religious because they know I am devout in my faith, theology, and traditions. So in the style of Jeff Foxworthy, I have collected some ideas that may help define my answer.
If you believe there is a God and you pray to God, you might be religious.
If you go to a gathering place to worship with others most every Saturday or Sunday, you might be religious.
If you attend classes to learn more about the history of faithful people, you might be very religious.
If you like to sing songs of praise to God and read the stories about Godly people, you might be very religious.
If you meditate and read devotionals daily, you might be very religious.
If you teach others about your faith, you might be very religious.
If you are motivated to serve others according to the teachings of your faith, you might be religious.
If you establish programs to help the poor and needy, you might be very religious, or working for the government.
If you pledge money for missions and support a pastor in ministry, you might be religious.
If you are a missionary or pastor, you might be very religious.
If you look for answers to problems in the word of God, you might be religious.
If your issues have been solved through prayer and the words of God you might feel divinely blessed.
If you credit God for all good things, you might be religious.
If you believe you have a part in eternity, you might be very religious.
I believe the above qualifies me as very religious. I do not expect others to think or act the way I do because I am the product of several generations of Lutheran doctrine. I do expect the Holy Spirit to keep working wonders in the hearts and minds of everyone, so that they may find a spiritual purpose. What ever you believe in: work, love, magic, science, sports teams, people or God; it might be your religion. If you are passionate and share your enthusiasm for anything, you might be very religious. I will never be on the level with a lawyer and be able to articulate or defend the depths of my faith, or pretend I understand everything. I celebrate the anniversary of my baptism four years ago, it might mean I am religious, but that is my response to Jesus’s love and sacrifice. I hope that our family enjoys serving the community of God’s people for generations to come and that heaven includes regular ice cream socials. Make mine a coffee gelato please.