Saturday, November 21, 2015

Fashing, fretting and baking !

It is a well known truism that everyone else seems to have a normal family, except for the person considering his or her own.  You know who you are.

I always say that every family has a crazy Aunt Sally or a nutty Uncle Harry.  And if you read many biographies, as I sometimes do, you soon realize that many families have a whole slew of oddballs.

As I heard someone say recently, "This is just getting to be crazy."

To which her companion archly replied, "Oh, we passed crazy quite a while ago."

Maybe you did, too.  Maybe your whole familial construct was a little off-kilter.  If so, fret not.  Or as the Scottish poet Robert Burns said, "Don't fash yourself."  Meaning don't fret about it.  It is actually fairly normal ... whatever that is.

Humor writer Patsy Clairmont wrote, "Normal is just a setting on your clothes dryer."

Well, don't I just wish someone had mentioned this to me about fifty years ago, before I spent so much energy "fashing myself" about how abnormal my own family was.

For example, my grandfather never cooked breakfast for my grandmother once in his entire life.  But he had a trio of pure bred hunting dogs, for which he would step lively on most mornings to cook them their favorite mash, and then humbly serve it to them out back in their kennel.

I mean, who does that?  Perhaps my arms-length attitude toward cooking is rooted in this memory.  I have long had a love/hate relationship with food and cooking.  Love to eat, hate to cook.  It is a dilemma.

Recently I read a book by John Ortberg entitled, Everybody's Normal, Till You Get to Know Them.

Well, hallelujah!

We can all relax - except for one thing.  The holidays are almost upon us.  Oh, rats.  And here I thought that I just about had this "it is okay that our situation isn't typical" thing handled.

The holidays, however, often bring out the worst in all of us, don't they?  Some of us are wont to go into fashing, fretting, baking overload.  You know who you are.       
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Sis likes pepper in her mashed potatoes.  Okay, so she can just pepper her portion after it is on her plate. Right? Oh no.  She stoutly maintains that the flavors do not blend enough, unless the pepper has been added at the same time you put in the butter, salt, and milk.

So then later Uncle Joe asks with indignation, "Who was the idiot that put pepper in these mashed potatoes?"

And so it goes. One year I experimented with white pepper, foolishly thinking Sis would get her pepper-fix and Judgmental Joe would never know the difference.

Clearly, I live in fantasy land.  Sis claimed there was no pepper in the potatoes, because she could not see it.  And Joe complained that a mysterious something in the potatoes had given him heartburn.

Sometimes you just cannot win for losing.

My mother-in-law loved giblets in her turkey stuffing.  Such "giblets" - for those who may not be so informed - included the chopped up liver of the turkey.  Yuuuccckk!

All I am going to say on that aberration is, thank goodness for Stove Top Stuffing.

Still, I naively thought that everyone liked chopped celery in the stuffing (or "dressing" if you prefer).  I was quickly made aware of the error of my thinking, when someone, could that have been my own son, asked what was the green, stringy stuff in the stuffing?

There is just no pleasing some folks.

And don't get me started on those who put cloves in their pumpkin pie recipe.  Cloves?  Really?  Yes, yes, I know many recipes do call for this.  I, however, would just as soon put mustard in the cranberry sauce.
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So 'tis the season of unlimited opportunities for comparisons.  Uhhh, nope. I refuse to play that game anymore. 

The few people who know me well, and still like me, are some of the sanest people I know.  Either that, or they must be as crazy as I am.

Well, at least we are comfortable with our own company.  The normal folks will just have to fend for themselves.
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Hope your Thanksgiving is filled with good people enjoying good food and one another's company. 

I try to be thankful every day of the year; but I am truly grateful that I do not have to cook to demonstrate gratitude too often. :) Happy Thanksgiving!   ~ Marsha

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

On Mending and Musing

Sitting here doing a little mending, while listening to James Taylor on the old Bose.  Carolina is still on his mind.  And he is still advising that we "shower the people [we] love with love".

I am not much of a sewer as my mother did not sew and what little I ever knew of the skill, I learned the hard way.  There are few domestic activities wherein self-stabbing is fairly routine; but mending is one of them, at least in my experience.  And yes, I do own a thimble, but have generally found it more useful for illustrative purposes than for actual sewing.

Nevertheless, hems do fray and buttons pop off.  These two tasks represent nearly the entire range of my mending skills.  Actually "skill" is too fine a word for what I do with needle and thread. A more accurate description would be that I make rough repairs.

I do not really sew, I just take a stab at it now and then, and usually end up stabbing myself.
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As I was performing my basic mending tasks I thought about the word itself - mending.  It is only found twice in the New Testament:  Matthew 4:21 and Mark 1:19.  (And then only in the King James Version.  The NIV uses the word "preparing".) These verses are two different authors' accounts of the same event. Jesus, when he was first calling his disciples, came upon James and John who were mending their fishing nets at the time.

They were fishermen repairing the tools of their trade since it is pretty hard to catch many fish using nets full of holes.  Their nets were valuable, useful and costly to replace.  So they mended.

Mending involves taking something that has already been used extensively, so much so that it is now ripped, torn, worn through, or missing something.  It no longer "works" if you will.  

Wearing socks with holes in them can give you a blister. Wearing a shirt or a blouse with missing buttons will be uncomfortable. Cuffs  flap open, plackets gap.  Other things may show which were meant to remain covered.  Mending is in order.

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I have not always been skillful in mending other things in my life either.  Relationships have sometimes been frayed or even torn.  Some have been used so extensively that they have worn thin.  Others definitely have something missing - and things flap around, or things which should have remained covered are suddenly on display.

However, as clumsy as my mending efforts are with needle and thread, I do, nevertheless, make the attempt to mend.  But I only mend things which are still too valuable, too useful, too needful to discard or give away.

So it is with relationships.  One may need a new button of understanding, while another requires some darning, perhaps notes of appreciation or a gesture of kindness, where holes of over use have left the connection threadbare.

Mending is not my favorite thing.  I am not very good at it.  But I do it because to not do so means that items which would otherwise be lost to me are regained for use and enjoyment.

Taking the time, and making the effort, to mend a relationship can mean that something which may otherwise be lost to you, can be regained for mutual comfort and enjoyment.
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If you need to do a little mending, there is no time like the present. Some things are too important to leave frayed and torn.  Does mending work every time?  No, but it is still worth a try.

Hope your mending efforts are rewarded with good results.  Until next time ~ Marsha

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

No One Teaches Us How To ...

So there we were, two ladies of a certain age, sitting on a nice patio having a delectable brunch.  I had the eggs Benedict and she had some kind of fruit compote thingy with fresh crusty bread.

We chatted about this and that, in a desultory sort of way; most of our energy was being directed at the food which was being consumed with a good bit of energy.

After covering the weather, recent political events, mutual acquaintances, kids, grand kids, and the like, she mentioned a recent discovery she had made about her person.

"Marsha", she said a bit plaintively, "I am getting bumps on my fingers."  And with this declaration she held up both hands for my inspection.

I just smiled at her sympathetically and held up both of my own hands for her to see.

"Hon, we all get bumps on our fingers if we live long enough."

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Here is a thought that struck me recently. I recall it distinctly only because I don't get a new thought all that often and it almost made me twinge.

We teach babies to walk and toddlers to how to hold a spoon.  We teach youngsters how to become adolescents and then, a few short years later, try to teach those same teens how to become responsible young adults.

There is a veritable publishing bonanza of material on becoming parents, early career choices, and then dealing with a middle-aged crisis.

And yet, no one teaches us how to grow old.  (Oh, yes, there is the redoubtable AARP, but I don't really find their literature all that helpful.  It is more like pablum for the geriatric set.)

Art Linkletter, of "Kids Say the Darnedest Things" fame, once observed that "Growing older isn't for sissies."

In my opinion, old Art knew whereof he spoke.

I am not just referring to well-known challenges like the fact that you cannot see to apply your makeup without your glasses, but you cannot apply your makeup while wearing them either.  That old cabbage has been cooked before.

Therefore, in case no one has mentioned the following to you, and you happen to be interested in the topic, here are a few things to watch out for:

No matter how dexterous, ambi or otherwise, you may have been, there will come a time when your fingers no longer do just what you want them to do.  They may point in directions you had no desire to point toward; and they may, indeed, develop certain anomalies (like my friend's bumps for example) which catch you unawares.

It can be disconcerting.

Upon close examination of your other set of extremities, you may discover that all ten of them are no longer marching in quite the same direction.

That can be confusing.

And do not get me started on finding a comfortable set of shoes that do not look like you need corrective orthopedic surgery.

Furthermore, no one informed me that your feet keep growing,  as long as you live.  For several decades I wore a size 6 1/2 but in recent years realized that, while I might choose to continue to wear that size, I would do so at my own peril.  I relented and went to a size 7.

Few people have anyone in their life brave enough to tell them when it is time to turn in their driver's license.  Certainly no one told my stepfather, until after he rear-ended a stopped vehicle at a rail road crossing; and oh, by the way, it happened to be a local police officer's patrol car.  He was about eighty-six at the time, and had just recently purchased a brand new pickup.  What was he thinking?

Of course, toward the end, he also spent considerable time petting a dog that had died forty years earlier. That is to say, he spent a lot of time stroking thin air, thinking old Fido was still there.

Talk about unnerving!
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So what am I saying?

Just that it comes to all of us, one day at a time, this business of growing older.  For some it sneaks up on them and catches them completely unaware.

Some of us need lessons on how to age with some dignity.  And hopefully with a shred or two of sanity in tact. 

Still, for those who are paying attention, they may learn that despite the bumps and lumps and the odd hair here and there, or no longer any hair at all, there is still joy to be had in a sunrise, or a bird song, or the smile on an old friend's face.

For rest of it, here are two pieces of advice that shouldn't go amiss;
a)   use plenty of lotion on anything and nearly everything, and
b)   for Pete's sake, eat your fruits and vegetables. (But don't put lotion on them.)
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Hope you have not been surprised this week by the face looking at you in the mirror.  Herein ends this lesson - until next time, your older, but still learning, fellow traveler ~ Marsha