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Friday, September 28, 2012

Which? Resolution or Perfection?

A comment left by a reader triggered additional thoughts about tulips. I love those massed beds of tulips you see in formal gardens. They're one of my favorite sites to visit in springtime. I've always yearned to duplicate them here on my sandy acres of East Texas. But have never been able.

Each of my past efforts, whether they be tulips, lilies or any of the other flower-producing bulbs I've invested in, have rewarded me with one, and on rare occasions, two seasons of blooms. I've never taken the time to have my soil analyzed or consulted an expert as to the reason. I always blamed the infertility of my dirt or marauding underground critters who enjoyed the delicacies I buried just for them. One fall, I watched as a squirrel dug up a bulb or two.

One year I even went to the effort of creating wire cages for each bulb before setting it into the ground.

This year's experiment is to plant groups of bulbs in large pots. At least the clay pots offer protection from one of their enemies.

All of this leads me to my thought of the day: there is always more than one way to solve a problem. The eventual solution may not be the first bright idea you had--it may not end up being the most satisfying resolution to your problem. But looking at your dilemma from different perspectives, you will expand your imaginative capabilities to see a solution.

In the long run (and I've had a seventy-plus run), I've come to understand that whatever means you eventually employ to solve your problem will give you a satisfied feeling.

Now...does that indicate I lean more toward resolution rather than perfection?

Monday, September 24, 2012

What's Your Slant?


                                                              
                                                                   
With the first hint of cooler weather, I ventured out of doors for some garden clean-up time. Maybe I’m rushing the season, but one of my chores today was to plant a bag of three dozen tulip bulbs. This act is a always step of faith.

In the past, I’ve not had success with reoccurring blooms from bulbs. Especially tulips, I suspect they are a favorite snack of moles that consider my place a gourmet stop. I have to be satisfied with that first flush of bloom because seldom do they bloom a second year.

This year to break the cycle, I am planting all my tulips in large pots, safe out of the reach of any marauding critters looking for a snack.

When I plant flower bulbs, I receive double pleasure. First comes the initial planting, working with fertile soil to fill the waiting pot, nestling the bulb securely in position, then carefully sifting a covering layer of earth, finishing with a slow soak until the water runs out below signifying a thorough wetness.

The second round of joy comes when that first poke of green shoots breaks the surface after months of anticipation. With growing impatience, I check daily the slow growth  as leaves slowly unfurl  and a bud emerges atop a slender stalk that seems to lengthen every day. Since this is a bag of mixed colors, I have no idea what surprises will greet me when the petals eventually open. But whatever the resulting show of blooms, I don’t expect to be disappointed.

Not all of my efforts are rewarded with satisfaction. There have been times in my life when, despite my best efforts, things do not work out the way anticipated and I learned to live with disappointment. At the time, it seems like such a difficult lesson to learn.

They say there are two kinds of people—those who see the glass half-empty and those who view that same glass of water half-full. I tend toward the second type. Even in the midst of a grave disappointment, I look for the silver lining, that glimmer of hope that portends everything will work out eventually.

Heck! Why go through life looking at the dismal side of things? Isn’t this experience of living difficult enough without seeing it with dark glasses. Now…where did I put those rose-colored spectacles?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Collecting a Lifestyle


 Most people are collectors at heart; an inner urge to gather to themselves some unique objects that give meaning to their lives. The phenomenon of E-bay and appeal of magazine articles devoted to the subject reveals many of us are enamored with objects and avidly collect them.

I’m a collector of figurines. Not just any type or style, I focus on figurines depicting old men and women dressed in the attire of our country’s frontier period. These plainly dressed people are engaged in simple activities like throwing feed to chickens at their feet or carrying a basket of carrots just pulled from the garden. 

This collection began with a gift from an older woman I’d befriended. “This will remind you of me,” she said, handing me a six-inch bisque statuette of an old woman. The model wore a plain skirt that reached her ankles.Her hair was pulled back into a bun at the nape of her neck. That began something of an obsession.

I wandered second-hand stores, flea markets and yard sales, keeping a lookout for companion pieces. At first, I concentrated only on female figures. Then one day I came across two elderly folks who obviously had spent a lifetime of companionship together and had now entered their twilight years. He sits and plays with the puppy at his feet, tempting the animal with a possible snack in his outstretched hand. She stands with hands folded, looking down at the cat winding itself around her feet. How could I separate this charming pair?

My collection multiplied as husband, family and friends showered me with new additions. One came from a sister whose hobby is painting ceramics. She sent me a woman seated in a rocking chair, open book in hand. I especially treasure that one because I love to read.

As the number of figurines increased, I called on my husband’s carpentry talents to build custom shelves on which to display them. My collection now numbers over fifty and gives me great pleasure.

At times the adventure of seeking out and finding unique figurines not yet in my collection takes over my life. However, after several years, finding a unique and different figurine to add to my collection of old men and women becomes more and more elusive. yet, I continue to get enjoyment from my burgeoning display of figurines.

Some kinds of collections come together with ease. Once you begin, the need for more grows.

But there are some collections that people should never begin; the collecting of grudges, jealousies, self-pitying and envies. That type of collecting does not bring pleasure. We all know someone who keeps a mental checklist of hurts and slights received through the years. He or she takes it out for reviewing on a regular basis, recalling over and over those inflictions as if polishing something cherished. 

Some collect reasons for self-pity but never seem happy with their collections and find it easy to add to the accumulation. They sometimes show a radar-like sensitivity to exchanges that will enhance their collection, sometimes rearranging events to position themselves on the receiving end–just to add another item to their collection.

It’s hard to befriend someone who collects jealousies and envies. Nothing satisfies; they’re never content with what they have. This discontent places the other person in opposition. No matter how hard you try to get along, they will always question your intent, twist your well-meaning words around, make something you said in innocence become a put-down or slur.

There’s a way to avoid allowing those kinds of collections from growing in our lives. Galatians 5:22 speaks about the right kind of collecting. As we gather the fruit of the Spirit this passage talks about–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control–there will be no room for those other collections 

Instead of grouching because the checker is slow, send that tired cashier a gentle smile. Driving an older friend to a doctor’s appointment is guaranteed to earn you a hug of gratefulness. Now that’s a collection I can make room for! 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Lesson from a Wren


Sometimes the most ordinary of occurrences can prove to be a learning experience. I'm thinking about an incident that occurred earlier this year. Spring had finally sprung and the fertile earth called to me, saying "Come out and plant something."
Hot and sweaty, I headed for a cool drink.  As I passed the far corner of the house, a trio of orange streamers blowing in the breeze grabbed my attention. I stopped to consider their significance and wonder what my husband was up to now. Oh well, he'll let me know all in good time.
Sure enough, the next time we were both outside together, he motioned toward the corner of the house. "You see those markers?"  I nodded and he went on, "Twice I"ve cleaned out a nest some bird is trying to build under that eave. This time those things flapping should keep her away."
Less than a week, he came back with a new report. "You looked at the corner of the house lately? She"s gone and built that nest back...all in one day." He shook his head. "There wasn't anything there this morning and tonight we got a full-blown nest."
What could I say? In the first place, I never considered the newly-built nest a problem. To give my husband credit, he did eventually acknowledge defeat and that little wren succeeded in raising her two young-uns that spring.
Which is where the lesson comes in and what I learned from it. I decided I needed to have the determination of that little wren whenever I took on a project.. Despite any bumps in the road or even if I feel my efforts seem to be getting nowhere, when God sets a purpose in my heart, I need to persevere and see the matter through to completion. The path may be strewn with boulders, but if I just keep putting one foot in front of the other, pick myself up when I stumble, eventually I'll reach my goal. Just got to keep remembering that wren..

Friday, September 14, 2012

Growing Out Of Season

During this past summer, a volunteer tomato plant appeared in a pot full of soil. Now, anything that expends that much energy converting from a seed to two tiny leaves on a skinny stem gets my sympathy. So I've been giving it water once in a while, encouraging it along. Of course, now that fall is nearly upon us, I will be forced to make room for it inside the house if I want to encourage its growth and eventual fruiting. (Hey! I can hope, can't I?)

So...you may ask...what does this have to do with anything? Well, it gets me thinking about late bloomers...people who don't reach their full potential until long past the period of their life that conventional thinking have determined should be "peak time."

There are many people whose “normal” follows a different pattern; sometimes there is something inside us that wants to bloom but hasn’t yet. Sometimes it’s not until midlife that one has the breathing space.  Some are like slow-boiling pots, who need time to gather wisdom and make sense of the world around them. 

Consider Linda Bach, who did not enter medical school until she was 46. She now is a doctor in private practice. http://amzn.to/S3TaSD Or what about Glady Burrill, a 90-year-old Waikiki woman preparing for her fifth consecutive marathon. http://www.hawaiinewsnow.com/Global/story.asp?S=9314809 Charles Darwin didn't begin to write The Descent of Man until after he was 60. Grandma Moses, who took up painting in her late 70s to worldwide acclaim, continued painting into her 90s.

So...if you have a dream, something that's been nipping at your initiative, a goal you'd like to strive for but felt the time has passed...I say, go for it. It's never too late to try. Just make a start and even if you run out of time to reach the finish line, just think of the satisfaction you'll derive along the way. And what do you lose by trying? 

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sharing Biscuits & Water Bottles

I have this friend who every week goes to love on ladies in a rehab center...ladies who are serving out their prison terms and working on getting their lives straightened out. I've yet to meet a person with a bigger heart.

It was a family member who spent time in that facility that connected us, knowing we were both writers. Pam & I became Facebook friends and when her new book all about her experiences with these ladies recently became available, I excitedly bought a copy. If you're looking for something that will tug at your heartstrings...and make you laugh out loud, go to  http://purpleladiesinrecovery.blogspot.com/ and learn all about Pam Kumpe and her newest book.

Pam also attends church with homeless folks under the bridge of a large city nearby. When I met with her recently, she shared how just that week she’d made bunches & bunches of biscuits to go with the donated water bottles she had to give out. After the church service, one man asked if she had made the biscuits herself. "With the help of a can and an oven," she replied. She told him she'd forgotten to get some jelly so she used a whole pound of butter to slather the biscuits so they'd be tasty. "Them's the best biscuits I've have in a good while," he told her.

The Bible tells us envy is a sin but it’s hard for me not to envy my friend and the way God is using her to bring joy to the forgotten ones of our society. Then I remind myself there’s been times in my life like that. I look back with much joy to the years I volunteered at a Montessori pre-school located in Dallas’s inner city. The director and I crafted most of the teaching tools we used back then but those little ones learned new things anyway. I recall the sense of satisfaction I got the first time someone I’d been tutoring passed their GED examinations.

It doesn’t take much to reach out and give a helping hand, share yourself with others. Sometimes all it takes is having your eyes open to the opportunities and be willing.


Friday, September 7, 2012

Coppers & Screws


Author Tony Levy wrote a fascinating account of his 25-year career as a prison officer in the British prison system. (A Turnkey Or Not  http://amzn.to/OWHpjZ)

As I read, I came across the term "screws" used to describe himself and others in the same occupation, and became curious as to its origin. I emailed my question to him and he kindly responded with the following:

“The term screw for a prison guard is based on the fact that screw was originally slang for "key." One of the most important functions of a prison guard, or turnkey, as he's often called, is to see that prisoners are locked up at the appropriate times -- and that involves turning the "screw." 

Interestingly enough, Henry Mencken reports in The American Language that in the 1920s deskmen and bellboys in hotels used screw as a slang term for room key. Another theory is that screw refers to the thumbscrews used by jailers in ancient times to torture prisoners into confessing.

There is also a theory that before there was work for prisoners there was some sort of treadmill device inside their cells that they had to turn so many revolutions before they earned their food. If a prisoners was very fit and could walk the treadmill easily, there was a screw on the outside wall that the guard could come along and tighten down and so increase the resistance, making it harder for the prisoner to earn his food.

Hence the expression 'Here comes the Screw' not sure what is really the correct answer but hope this hasn't bored you. All the best Tony”

 Isn't the history of words interesting? He also told me the term "bobby" referred only to a police officer which brought to mind other slang terms associated with the police field such as "coppers" and "brass". So, it's off on a search to hunt down their origins as well.

This led me to a fascinating website: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_police-related_slang_terms
Here I was introduced to the origins of such terms as:
       Buttons - used in a black neighborhood, referring to more-traditional police uniforms with brass buttons.
      Coppers - Another name for police officers. The name "copper" comes from the copper badges that police used to wear back in the day.
      Bobby - derived from the British Home Secretary, Sir Robert Peel (Bobby being a nickname for Robert) the founder of the Metropolitan Police. It occurs in fixed phrases e.g. "bobby on the beat", "village bobby". Commonly used as a name of an officer in a helmet walking the streets. Special Constables are sometimes referred to as "Hobby Bobbies".

See what mind-expanding things you learn by reading my blog postings?




Monday, September 3, 2012

A Senior Dream


Exchanging Texas for New England

After fifty-plus years of living in Texas, I yearn to return to the land of my beginnings. I want to experience once again, the distinct differences of each season. There is something breath-taking about that flush of Spring’s arrival when everywhere you look, trees are bursting into bloom, reminding one of a covey of bridesmaids. Or the intense richness of fall’s color show as hillsides are swept in reds and oranges.

I dream of occupying one of those cozy cottages along the New England coastline, something within walking distance of the shore. I envision a tidy nest with piles of books strewn about its simple but comfortable furnishings. A worn sofa long enough to stretch out upon for an afternoon nap.

Sunny days will be spent walking a sandy beach beside a never-still ocean. Or I'll nestle in a rock outcropping, soaking up sunshine and being occasionally misted by spray. Overhead, whirling and dipping sea gulls will entertain with their acrobatics, their harsh-sounding calls like music to my ears. I envision myself seated on a washed-up trunk from a distant shore, watching moonlight glitter on the water.

Long dreary winter months I will fill with lazy days curled into a lounge chair beside a flickering fire. There I will fill pages and pages of my journal, jotting down glimpses of old memories as they flash upon the screen of my mind. When I choose, I will lose myself within the pages of a book's imaginary world. Or I may occupy myself in my craft room, piecing a quilt or dabbling with oils If I become bored, just a short drive down an uncluttered road are shops and museum to enliven my days.

Some people foresee their retirement as a time to travel the world or cruise to exotic places. I long for a life of simple pleasures, a gentle sun upon my face, a patch of earth to dig in and the ever-changing drama of an ocean’s tide reminding me of my brief interim on this earth and the need to make the most of every day.