Archive for January 2011

I Should Have Eaten Ice Cream

January 30, 2011

Icy Lakeshore Rocks

Maybe it’s the fact that this past week had more cloudy days than sunny hours.

Maybe it’s the adrenalin letdown from finishing my edits and sending them off to my editor last Monday.

Maybe I’ve reached my breaking point…

Last night in church I fought tears through the whole service—and trust me the service wasn’t worth the emotion. Honestly, I’ve felt this way since late Friday afternoon. Probably around 4 o’clock. I got a phone call and I wanted to skip back in time, a time when life didn’t pummel me on a regular basis. (You catching a bit of the pity-party me here?)

I flashed back to my grandmother’s kitchen. We had just finished scrubbing the floor. Now this was a pretty regular occurrence since my grandparents lived on a mink farm and no matter how often boots were scraped off, mud or snow or worse got tracked into the kitchen. Once we finished the floor and it dried, my job was to lay down newspapers in the areas which got the first tracks into the house. Those areas were simple. My grandfather and my uncle who wasn’t married yet would come in the back door, remove their boots on the thick rugs, remove their coats, head to the kitchen sink to wash up, then to the fridge to get carrots which they loved to snack on. So just inside back door, kitchen sink, fridge—those were the dirty catchers.

I always liked putting the comics section down in front of the fridge. And this day, I was bent over the funnies on my knees, my elbows on the floor while I sounded out the words in the quote balloons. (Of course, I didn’t know that’s what they were then.)

My grandmother heard me, then she slid down next to me. (I think she may have thought I was making up my one words as I was about 3-4 years-old then.) But I wasn’t making up the words. I was sounding them out and doing it correctly. Needless to say, that was a great celebration and the talk over lunch. I remember being very happy that I could do something that was a “big girl” thing. I may have started with the funnies page but I quickly was going to the library and getting books. By the time I started school I quickly moved into later grades for reading activities. But I’m sure that special time with my grandparents and uncle fueled my love of reading to this day.

It was also a time I had no worries. Life was simpler then—at least as I viewed it. And the memory of that special time in my life fortified me to get through the emotions that bubbled up after that phone call. And I’ll be honest; part of me wished I was that little girl again.

But I’m not. My grandparents had difficult times in their lives. So did my uncle, but their love of family, for their spouses, for their faith, helped them get through those times. To survive, to continue loving, to laugh.

I realized again later Friday afternoon and have been reminding myself constantly since then, I come from a family of survivors. I have many strengths. These will help me make the best decisions I can at any given moment. Yeah, I’m not perfect and in the first few minutes, I didn’t act with grace. For that I will have to make amends. But I’m not sorry for saying what I did because my words reflected my concerns and frustrations.

Homemade ice cream hits the spot

And that reminded me about my grandmother also. One summer in the 1930s their farm was hit by a fierce hailstorm, just as their crops were ready for harvest. All the crops were ruined by the huge hail. You didn’t by ice cream by the gallon at the grocery store then; you made it at home and ate it right away. My grandfather collected enough of the stones to make ice cream from some berries my grandmother and her daughter and nieces had picked a few days before. Lots of ice cream. But Gram never ate ice cream after that. So she took her frustration out that way. 🙂

That phone call concerned one of my sons. My reaction reinforced to me that while our children may grow up, make their own adult lives, and choose their own paths, in our eyes they are still our children. We will always be “mothers.” And we will be sad when bad things happen to them and we can do nothing to ease their pain. It’s a lesson to remember.

Have a good week.

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Holly, Ice Storms, & Me

January 23, 2011

Icy Holly D Maher

This has been a nose-to-the-grindstone week. It’s also been a week with weather challenges days and nights of zero (F) or below actual temperatures, even colder wind chill factors, freezing rain turning to snow and then snow. I saw a weather map about mid-week which showed only one state in the 50 US states without snow. No, it wasn’t Hawaii, but Florida. At least those of us in the Midwest knew others felt our “pain.” 🙂

Just as my grandmother used to say whenever I’d grumble about bad things happening to me, “Every cloud has a silver lining,” a writer friend of mine who lives in Pennsylvania posted a photo of what she saw after a horrific ice storm had pretty much closed down her area.

The photo drew me in. I kept going back to it and finally asked Deb if I could use it with on this week’s blog. She agreed so thank you Deb Maher for sharing the silver in your ice-storm cloud.

But what drew me to that particular photo? Why did it speak to me over and over and then over again? How could I relate it to what I try to do with this blog each week: give my readers something to ponder and perhaps grow from, or at least help them get through another week.

So I did some research about the holly plant which was the photo’s focus. Sure I knew it was the symbol of Christmas and as such, prominent in one of my favorite Christmas carols, The Holly and the Ivy. Early Christians used the holly as a symbol for being hardy and withstanding adversity. The plant also had significance for pagans so Christians using it provided new Christians to retain elements of old.

Kind of like me who tries to straddle peacefully the old and the new.

Holly is also a symbol for truth. That also appeals to me. I’m truthful and hate being lied to.

Holly is hardy and withstands bad weather, poor soil, minimal sunshine. Sure it would like great weather, excellent soil conditions, and perfect amounts of sun and rain. But it survives; it may not be at its best but it keeps on going. It perseveres. I’ve been told I’m a survivor, and I’ve learned I am. Tough times have made me stronger. Again another reason I felt drawn to the photo. I expect that plant to survive this trauma and bloom once more.

Berries for the Birds

So, I think this photo had many characteristics that drew me to it. It forced me to think about the plant and its history. Another silver lining in the cloudy, crummy weather we’ve endured this past week.

So what do you think? Am I like the holly? Or something else? Or was this whole digging into the relevance of this gorgeous photo one more exercise in futility?

Let me know and have a great week. 🙂

Goddess of Gunk

January 16, 2011

With a Cold in Her Head

 

I’ve encountered a tenacious opponent. Wily, nasty, one which shows no mercy. We’ve battled since Christmas Day.

It’s Armageddon in my home.

I think I’ve been victorious, only to have my enemy return, doubly determined to lay me low. Take me down for the count. With its armory of insidious weapons, it overcomes every near victory I achieve.

What is this enemy? A bug, I call it the gunky bug and I don’t mean a computer virus. Not that I want to do battle with that kind of bug either, but I’m really getting exhausted with fighting this congestion, achy, sneezing, hacking gremlin that’s decided to fight my body, rob me of my voice and my sanity.

It’s winning. That makes me mad, but I don’t have much energy left to beat it up.

I’ve become a connoisseur of snot, expert on sore throats, shaman of home remedies and over-the-counter meds. I’d gladly give up the titles. I want my life back.

I want to once again have a busy day and not be drained of energy for the following two days following, plus two. For example, early this week I celebrated a birthday. I was feeling pretty good so I did a load of laundry, a couple hours of ironing, a few household chores, and enjoyed several phone conversations from friends and relatives calling with good wishes. The next two days I suffered, couldn’t talk at all, coughed more, felt chilled to the bone—well, you get the idea.

On Friday, I felt good enough to run an errand. I was gone maybe an hour and a half. I got home, exhausted and so chilled I couldn’t get warm. By late afternoon, my voice was gone, my throat sore, and I was coughing all the time. Ditto yesterday, and not much improved today.

From my window...

I’m doomed. If my life were fiction and I my heroine, this bug would be long gone. You can’t have boring repetition, day after day, chapter after chapter. If wishes were cars, I’d have a new one. Or my revisions finished and perfect.

So that’s it for the week, folks. I’m taking off my Wise Woman mantle and donning my Goddess of Gunk tiara. I’m thankful the weather’s snowy and cold so I keep this gunky bug with me and don’t spread it around. You should thank me also.

Have a great week. See you next Sunday.

 

How to Bake a Perfect Book

January 8, 2011

During this past week I read a novel by Barbara O’Neal titled How to Bake a Perfect Life. This book continues to resonate within me. I find myself at least a couple times a day stopping whatever I might be doing and thinking about some detail in this book which twanged chords of memories from so many parts of my life which is why I think she baked the perfect book.

First of all, I love BREAD. Bread, the process of creating it and recipes for different types of breads are all part of the book. The main character Ramona owns a bakery known for its breads. During different parts of her life, bread, the recipes, the making and baking of it and the recipes that evolve emerge from these crucial times in the heroine’s life or in those of her grandmother, great-grandmother, aunt, daughter, step-granddaughter.

Ms. O’Neal’s lyrical descriptions of starters and yeast, different kinds of flour reminded me of my early childhood when I spent much time with my grandmother and asked about the yeast she was always talking about or using as she made bread and rolls. I remembered the kneading, the dough raising, the special clothes to cover the rising dough, the pans. Nothing tasted better than warm bread, slathered in butter.

Bread--

Ms. O’Neal mentioned dark, heavy, East European bread at one point and mentioned its unique and rather earthy flavors. Memories of Easter weekends when my dad would make a special trip to a bakery and bring home a similar-type bread. None of my brothers or my mother would eat this heavy, fiber-rich bread because of the different taste. Believe me, it wasn’t flavorless, mass-produced white bread. He and I would share the bread together, one of the few times we ever shared between us. And it centered around bread.

But the story isn’t about bread, but of mothers, daughters, female relatives and the tensions and joys, the differences and similarities, the compromises and disagreements. It even had a lovable dog. All those also resonated with me because who hasn’t lived through them? They also were great ingredients to create this story.

Ramona’s life hasn’t been easy, but each of her crises up to the current ones in the book have baked her into who and what she is. Just like many of us—if we take the time to see the value of our good experiences as well as our bad ones.  In fact, I believe our lives get better through these difficult times in our lives if we aren’t afraid to let them settle, work their magic and their learning, and emerge even better and more complex because of the stresses and strains that add to our character.

Thus my blog title was born. Barbara O’Neal baked the perfect book with all the ingredients I love: love story, family problems and relationships, a smidge of suspense with the crisis, interesting characters. Even better it made me think about my life as a woman, wife, mother, sister, aunt, friend, writer. Her use of these ingredients spoke to me.

We aren’t born with the promise of a perfect life. Unless we live in a bubble, have the ability to control everything about ourselves and our environment, and don’t relate much to other people, the chances are minimal we’ll achieve the perfect life. We might be given a plan or recipe that will help us live a good life, but perfect lives like perfect recipes rarely happen.

Why? We aren’t dead. Glitches happen, problems arise, disasters descend on us, a crisis is just around the corner. However, if we keep ourselves open to learning and change, we can take what’s been happening in our lives and environment, work on it by analyzing the situation to see what we could or should do differently, then try out the revised recipe. We might be, and often are, surprised at the excellent result.

I’d say my “recipe” in all areas continues to evolve. Sometimes I might come pretty close to being “perfect” for the moment. But it isn’t easy. If I want a perfect life, I’ve got to keep tweaking things, just like I do as a writer in my books. But I think writing books is easier than living the “perfect” life.

I leave you with a question. Can we really create the perfect life?

2010 in review

January 2, 2011

Happy New Year! I hope 2011 will bring prosperity, peace, and good health to all of us.  Well, mostly me as I celebrated the New Year by being sick and having NO VOICE! Don’t even feel like I have a creative bone or wise bit of wisdom in me. So I resort to posting this notice which came from WordPress. Hopefully by next week I’ll be in much better form. 🙂

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 4,100 times in 2010. That’s about 10 full 747s.

 

In 2010, there were 50 new posts, growing the total archive of this blog to 114 posts. There were 109 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 39mb. That’s about 2 pictures per week.

The busiest day of the year was October 31st with 53 views. The most popular post that day was Winter Blahs.

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were lianghin.wordpress.com, maryjoscheibl.com, google.com, en.wordpress.com, and mail.yahoo.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for casey clifford, sailboat, casey comments, vancouver airport, and sailboats.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

Winter Blahs February 2010
7 comments

2

Sailboats, Weather & Wagons April 2009
4 comments

3

Spring? Let’s Hope So March 2009
4 comments

4

Some Peope Travel July 2009
6 comments

5

Sighting Beauty January 2010
4 comments