Thursday, July 3, 2014

Wings and Cherry Blossoms

As a follow up to the previous post on happiness, I ran across this poem the very next day.  It echoes some of the same themes, which I found interesting.  

 Halleluiah ~ 
by Mary Olivar

Everyone should be born into this world happy
   and loving everything.
But in truth it rarely works that way.
For myself, I have spent my life clamoring toward it.
Halleluiah, anyway I'm not where I started!

And have you too been trudging like that, sometimes
   almost forgetting how wondrous the world is
      and how miraculously kind some people can be?

And have you too decided that probably nothing important is ever   easy?
Not, say, for the first sixty years.

Halleluiah, I'm sixty now, and even a little more,
   and some days I feel I have wings.

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Thank goodness we are not where we started!  Hope you have had a few days lately where you could "feel your wings."  Until next time ~ Marsha

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Rollerskating in a Buffalo Herd

You might not have thought that Roger Miller (singer/songwriter from the 1960/70s) and Abraham Lincoln would have had much in common.  I certainly would not have; but we would have been wrong.    
Roger Miller

Although it never became the mega-hit that his "King of the Road" block buster was, Miller's "You Can't Roller Skate in a Buffalo Herd" got a good bit of playtime in my early 20s.

It was not great songwriting, more like a limerick really.  But it was the juxtaposition of seemingly unrelated comparisons that stuck with the listener. That and the catchy rhythm.

"You can't change film with a kid on your back..."

"You can't roller skate in a buffalo herd ..."

..."but you can be happy if you've a mind to."

Really?  Who knew?

I was not raised to think that way.  Happiness was something you hoped for, worked very hard to achieve, tried to manufacture, and often just simply pretended to be.

But it was not something over which you really had much control.  It was more along the lines of good luck - either it came your way or it didn't.  (And our bunch did not believe in luck, so you can imagine where that left us.) Maybe you hit the happiness jackpot, but just as likely you were destined to slog through a morass of misery.  

No way to predict how things would turn out.  Even within the confines of the strict religious background in which I grew up, happiness was often more elusive than a miracle.  In fact, maybe there was not a lot of difference.

Thus, when Miller's little ditty came along I was flummoxed.  What to make of it?
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It was quite some years later that I read Lincoln's quote:  

Most folks are as happy as they make up their minds to be. - Abraham Lincoln
I had long since dismissed Miller's hapless lyrics as creative fantasy; but Lincoln?  Good grief, this guy had gravitas to spare.  He knew whereof he spoke.  

I began to reassess my thinking on the whole happiness issue.
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Perhaps it was not about controlling the outcomes, or even playing the roulette-wheel-of-life ( you pay your money and you take your chances).  Could it actually be more about attitude - outlook - a choice?

Lincoln seemed to think it was. Whew! What a stunner.  

I decided I needed to "make up my mind" in a more positive direction.  Not just "positive thinking" although that can be helpful, it is not a panacea.  And you will notice Lincoln did not say "all" folks, but rather "most folks".  There are those whose lives are simply too grievous to allow for much happiness.

But still "most" certainly tilts the matter in our favor, does it not?  So here is where I landed.  If I have a choice, I choose to be more happy and less miserable.

Admittedly I have not always been able to pull it off, but as the years have rolled by, it has become more of a habit.  Try to find something worthwhile in the current dilemma.  Look for a break in the storm, be ready to take a walk if the rain lets up.  No I am not, nor ever will be, a true Norman Vincent Peale devotee.

Just not my nature.  Silver linings tend to escape my notice with some regularity.  But when I am aware, thoughtful, then I can choose.  And when I do, I choose to make up my mind to be as happy as I can manage- at least as often as possible.  And thankfully, I have not seen a buffalo herd anywhere in my neighborhood.
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How about you?  Do you think happiness can be a choice?  Just wondering.  Until next time ~ Marsha

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

A Charming Respose

No one can truly appreciate the charm of repose unless he has undergone severe exertion. ~ Dr. David Livingstone - medical missionary and African explorer     

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At this time of year, I sometimes justify my own lassitude by making sure that I read at least one "serious" book from the New York Times Bestsellers List while I am whiling away the summer afternoons.

It has been too hot to cook, too hot to clean house, and due to the drought, I cannot spend much time just standing in a tepid shower trying to avoid heat stroke.  It is so serious in our area, the water company is handing out free five-minute timers for making sure we do not inadvertently enjoy an extra drop or two as we bathe.

Thus, my Kindle is providing distraction and this week I am reading Into Africa:  The Epic Adventures of Stanley and Livingstone by Martin Dugard.

Talk about someone who knew something about severe exertion!  Livingstone literally walked all the way across the African continent at a time when much of it was still completely unmapped.

Okay, that makes my exertions of yesterday morning, digging and transplanting some decorative grasses (drought tolerant and deer resistant), watering, fertilizing, digging some more, etc., look like child's play. I'll admit it.

But you know what?  Although I no longer engage in "severe exertion"; I have known what it was like.  Aching back, aching feet, times when "I hurt all over more than anywhere else" - and no rest in sight. My guess is that we have all been there at one time or another. 

Yes, there is indeed a charm in repose.  An appreciation for a restful moment, perhaps a serene patio scene.  A frosty glass of iced tea, held lightly while swallowtail butterflies flit hither and thither.

That's charming enough to satisfy me. Add to it, the fact that all my hostas from last year came back up this spring, and are doing well now, and my ceanothos bushes are multiplying on their own... what can I say.  My repose just charms me silly.
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Hope your garden grows merrily, and that you are able to enjoy a little charm in your repose this week.  Until next time ~ Marsha

Friday, June 20, 2014

DO NOT - DIY ...I beg you

About seven years ago my husband decided to take care of a small plumbing problem himself.  It was simple.  It didn't cost very much. What could go wrong?
You will be sorry you asked, because for wrenching a $2.38 flex hose on too tightly, we ended up with a flooded downstairs at 2:00 a.m. the next morning because the thing blew off. This resulted in our house being over run by contractors and insurance adjusters for the following two months. A dozen extra-large drying fans running 24/7, dry-wall ripped out,carpet torn up.  Let's just call it what it was:  a blinking nightmare.

Two months and fourteen thousand dollars later - why we were all fixed up.  I wish I could tell you we were sadder but wiser, but I am not going to lie to you.  I was madder, not sadder - and in light of yesterday's goings on, apparently the guy who lives here is still no wiser. And Tool Time Tim, he isn't.

Sighhhh..hh..hh..hh.....  (At least we are now in a one story house.)
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Here is how it all went down.

"That faucet in the hall bathroom is really sticking.  I can barely pull the knob out to wash my hands."  (I have arthritis in both hands and this pull-knob faucet was getting to be a real pain - daily.)

"Yes, I noticed that myself.  I'll take a look at it later."

"But I thought that is why we have a home shield policy, so that all we have to do is call someone and they come fix it."

"True.  But there is still the house call fee.  I think I can fix it."
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Suddenly I am having seven-year flash backs.  I have heard all this before.  I have lived through this before. - 

"I am asking you.  Please lets just call a plumber."

"Now calm down.  This is no big deal.  I can fix this."

Whereupon, I betook myself to the farthest corner on the opposite side of the house, when the above mentioned repairs began.  

"I'm shutting off the water for a little while.  Just so you know."

Things clanging and banging.  

"I'm headed down to Ace Hardware to get a part.  Back in a few."

I do not reply.  I am in deep fear and dread.

Back from the store, small parts jiggling in a paper bag.  More clanging and banging.  Semi-quiet grunts and huffs.  Quick trips outside and back in again.

And suddenly - there it is.

"Marsha, can you come here quick and help me?"

Nope.  At first I just sat there and watched it all happen in slow motion.
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Water gushing everywhere.  Already a half-inch deep in the bathroom floor and heading rapidly into his office and down the hallway.

Common sense requires that I try to minimize the damage to my own domicile.  Towels being thrown hither/thither all over the hardwood floors.  Grab a big one and wrap it around the gushing faucet while the big guy dashes outside to turn the water off - again!  Haul in the shop vac from the garage.

My grandmother had a saying:  "Madder than a wet hen."

Well, this wet hen did not get mad (other than momentarily.)  Instead, I got even.  Once the immediate flooding was stopped, I returned to my chair and read a book.  I'm not proud of myself, but at least I am honest about it.

Someone (who shall remain nameless) sopped, and wrung, and mopped, and wiped ... oh, I really don't know how long that all went on.  I was reading a pretty good book, and the afternoon slipped quietly away. Occasionally I would hear a pitiful remark to the effect, "She really isn't going to come and help."  I guess directed at our dog.

Huge loads of soaking towels going into the washer and dryer sometime later. The under-the-sink cabinet cleaned out, as he proudly announces that he has found the other bottle of hydrogen peroxide we were looking for the other day when we needed to clean a little sore spot on Holly (our old and ailing Lhasa Apso.)

I have a saying of my own.  Sometimes people can be well-intended but entirely misguided.

And some folks should not be allowed to own a tool box.  
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Yes, I finally arose from my chair and fixed us a light dinner.  And yes, we laughed (one of us more painfully than the other) about our own foibles.  But people, I am begging you, forget about Do-It-Yourself.  Call a professional.  Please.

For the love of Pete, spare yourself the aggravation.  Write a check and be done with it.  Or not, and turn it into blog-fodder.
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Hope you have dry floors with no impending dry rot.  A good book helps, too.  Until next time ~ your busy-hiding-the-darned-tool-box friend ~ Marsha

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Petunia Power

Flowers always make people better, happier, and more helpful; they are sunshine, food and medicine to the soul and can never be taken in overdoses. ~ Luther Burbank  

I saw on TV the other evening that there will be a new series debuting soon which centers on whether or not people are getting the satisfaction they want in life.  

Well, for today, just color me satisfied.  
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They told me not to do it.  It would not work out.  I was tempting fate.  Yada, yada, yada.  

It seems that petunias are like catnip to deer.  They not only like them, but as the song says, "they love 'em, can't get enough of 'em" .  They just slurp them up as if they were enjoying a good glass of iced tea on a hot summer day.

So our first two summers here I fore bore. And I am not usually strong in the forbearance category.  Not my favorite virtue.

This spring I just could not stand it any longer.  I went to the plant store and promptly went nuts.  They had just unloaded a whole truck load of petunias and I was immediately weak-kneed with desire and hauled home a trunk full of these lovlies.

After all, I had a new twenty-foot long redwood planter box just begging to be filled with all manner of beauty.  Seven dozen plants, two or three hours, and one back ache later, I had a petunia vista right off the back edge of my patio.  It was a veritable feast for the eyes and I pigged out!

Purple, pink, white, red, mauve, and crimson each vied for best-in-show.  Talk about a bunch of show-offs!  I grabbed my own glass of iced tea and just sat down and grinned.

True, I put them in the ground with fear and trembling, knowing full well that they might very well be gone when I got up the next morning.  I had, after all, been warned.  I would have no one to blame but myself if the local deer population strolled through and decided to throw a petunia-party.

Come on over - petunias at the Youngs!
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But guess what?  It didn't happen.  Week after week, they bloomed undisturbed and much admired.  One neighbor said to me, "I wish I had before and after pictures of your back yard."

David immediately responded, "Oh, we do."  I just smiled.

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Yesterday morning, two full months after I planted them, I opened the drapes to discovered seven dozen stems - but no petunia blossoms.  It was inevitable.  Had to happen.  Could not be avoided indefinitely.  The deer had dined.

This afternoon, I pruned, deadheaded, pinched and primped to my heart's content.  I misted them (petunia petals are delicate - at least the remaining ones were - both of them) and then gave them a good long drink of liquid fertilizer mixed in lots of cold water.  Finally, I sprayed them liberally with an organic pesticide. 

They look well-scrubbed and sturdy.  Naked but healthy.  Well, who wouldn't settle for that?

Just before dusk, I gave them a good spraying with deer-repellant; just like putting flea and tick drops on Holly.

So I rested from my labors.  Satisfaction may be fleeting.  Perhaps even illusory.  But I will take mine where I can get it, and today, I got it from rehabbing my petunia bed. I could try to draw some spiritual analogy, about people and circumstances and life's disappointments.  But really, this was just about the flowers.

It is true that right now I have almost no petunia blossoms.  Lots of plants, but very few flowers.  But I remember their glory.  And I have hope for their recovery.  Petunia power is a wonderful thing.
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Hope your blossoms are coming along nicely, and that the local marauders missed your garden.  Until next time ~ your satisfied gardener, Marsha 

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Fake Trees - Fake Fruit

Yesterday morning I was sitting in the dining room of the Hilton, waiting for breakfast to be delivered to my table, while I looked around at all the foliage in the area.  The dining area was open to the lobby, which was designed as a two-story atrium.  Very pleasant.  

Most of the foliage was real.

However, as I glanced at the two trees nearest to my table, what to my wondering eyes should appear but apples hanging from the branches.  Apples?

Dusty plastic apples.  

Suddenly I realized that skillfully placed among the genuine ferns, potted palms, ficus trees, and vines, were two fake apple trees. 

Truly, I have no idea why someone thought this was a good idea.  But given the size of these two fake apple trees, they must have cost a pretty penny; so likely someone thought they were a good idea at some point.

I was just checking out of the hotel after spending two and a half days at a women's conference, headlined by a nationally known speaker on women's issues, their relationship with God and with one another.  It was a pretty good conference.

If one did not allow oneself to become overly distracted by the strobe lights, a worship band that could blast praise into the stratosphere, and five thousand clapping women - there was a lot of good to be absorbed. Admittedly, I am an introvert and that much razz-ma-tazz wears on my nerves; so I tried to stay focused on the content and ignore the delivery system.  (Yes, I am an odd duck, I know.)

Nevertheless, I was reminded of another setting many years ago, wherein someone referred to "pink plastic Christianity."  There is still some of that around.  You know how hard it is to destroy plastic - it will last a hundred years in a landfill - or so I have read.

Still, most of what I saw and heard these past three days was genuine and potentially helpful. And I truly enjoyed the fellowship of the women I traveled with from my local church. That was a bonus.

So here is my point.  You can place a really good looking fake tree in the midst of a beautiful garden setting.  But you just cannot get real fruit from a fake tree.  Can't be done.  Just saying ...

I do not know which women were "real" and which were "fake" at the conference.  I just want to pay attention to the lumber in my own eye, so that I do not inadvertently find myself in the latter category.  I have been around long enough to know that I am easily as capable of being a phony as the next lady.

I really want to avoid becoming a dusty plastic apple on a fake tree. Don't you?   Until next time ~ your former fruit inspector, Marsha                                                 # # # # #                                         # # # # #
Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.. (Matthew 7:20 NIV)

Friday, May 30, 2014

Etched in Sand - Another "Why?"

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Last night on the evening news, the closing story on ABC News was about a young man who is his high school's valedictorian this week, despite the fact that he has been homeless off-and-on for the past twelve years!

This story really resonated with me due to the fact that I had just finished reading Etched in Sand, an autobiography by a woman who was homeless for most of her childhood.

Regina Calcaterra was in and out of foster care most of her childhood, and anytime her alcoholic mother could regain custody of her, she and her siblings lived in anything from the trunk of the car to a horse trailer. It was a tough read.

At one point, Regina yells at yet another foster parent, "Why does God make little kids suffer?"  The horrified woman - one of the few decent foster parents in the book - responds, "God does not make little children suffer, bad people do that."

Nevertheless, two of Regina's few possessions that managed to survive the constant moves, dragged hither and yon in the garbage bag of whatever meager things she could carry, were a couple of plastic Jesus figurines.  She does not know where they came from, or how she came to have them, but they are precious to her.

As I read this harrowing account I could not help asking "why."  Not why did this happen; since we know that such things happen every day all over the world.  And not "why does God allow it" - as that is a bigger eschatological question that I can ever answer.

The simple answer is that evil is present in the world, through Satan's devices and man's own sin.  But the reality of little children who suffer innocently, that is just too grievous to contemplate at any great length.  It is too painful.  It makes us squirm in our own skin.

From time to time in Regina's life, people did know what was being done to her and her siblings.  But they did nothing, because they simply did not care enough to be bothered.  It just wasn't their problem.

Yes, there was a happy ending:  Regina survived, went to college, became a lawyer and today advocates for foster kids who are "aging out of the system" and have nowhere to go.
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I wonder sometimes whether we, too, carry around a "little plastic Jesus" instead of diligently serving a real One who suffered and died for us.  Those little artificial ones are easier to ignore when we do not wish to be disturbed.  When it is easier to look the other way.

The real, living, Christ says to us "In as much as you have done it unto the least of these, you have done it unto me."

I don't know about you, but sometimes that reality scares me.  Have I done enough?  What is "enough"? I do not know.  Only He knows.
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If you read any sad books this week, I hope they were worthwhile and caused you to ask yourself some valid questions.  The one I read sure did.  Until next time ~ Marsha