As You Were

Along with reunions of the summer come lots of memories and thoughts about them.

Family reunions are usually of the picnic variety.  Ours is, I know.  Younger and older cooks bring casseroles, salads and desserts for which they’ve become known over the years.  Before, during and after the eating we tell stories.  We ask how others have been.  We exclaim at how tall the kids have become.

Like Christmas, it’s as if no time has passed when you see cousins, aunts and uncles.  But there are always poignant absences of those we’ve lost, among those who remain.

Class reunions require more planning for the meal and entertainment, and draw people who haven’t seen each other for five or ten years, or maybe since graduation.

People come from all over to their reunions, be they groups related by blood or by experiences of school days.  But they usually find some peace and laughter because the ones who are there want to be there.

And appreciate the time spent with those who remember and accept you, as you were.



On the Road


Did you ever wonder what a road trip was like 150 years ago?  Assuming there was a road to where you wanted to go.  You probably wouldn’t be on vacation, but more likely going to town, to visit someone, or to a new place to find a home.

Railroad companies were still laying track cross country.  If you lived in the east you might be able to buy a train ticket.  But most people walked or traveled with oxen or horses.

Were covered wagons on wooden wheels the SUVs of the day?  People carried their furniture, fortunes and family with them going west.  The time it took to travel by horse-drawn vehicle was considerable.  They camped under the stars, cooked with what they’d brought with them, and hunted game along the way.  No McDonald’s for a quick Big Mac then.

If you were already in the west, which could mean anywhere from Illinois to the Pacific Ocean, traveling by stagecoach was popular.  I doubt if it was as fun as movies have made it seem.  The ride would be rough and dusty.

Hotels were available in towns.  No running water, of course, but it seems like a pitcher of water and a bowl would be as good an opportunity as any to wash up.  Hopefully you didn’t have to share a bed with someone you weren’t acquainted with.

Do you suppose there were occasions of road rage?  A light buggy driver cutting in front of a farm wagon?  “GIddap!  I’ll show him!”  And the wife would say, “Honey, is it worth it?”

Or maybe, “I want to make it to the next county.  We can stop for water and feed for Bessie then.”

Or, “Pa, I have to go NOW!”

“Well, there are some bushes.  Jump off and when you’re done, run and catch up with us.”

Swifter, more direct fare by river or canal was available, and passengers were able to sleep on board.  Some beds were shelves turned down from the walls at night.

Like today, people took trips to homes of their relatives.  They just didn’t get to see each other that often.  Maybe letters informing them their kin was coming didn’t make it there before the people did.  But it’s always been good to see familiar faces.

We’ll leave a lantern lit for ya.

i         i         i

This was composed in Minne”soota” at a rest stop along I-94. while the driver was taking a nap.

In the Air

Thoughts running through my mind while sitting on an airplane:

How long will it take the chevron imprints from these compression socks to leave my calves?

Does anyone else get claustrophobic from an overstuffed neck pillow?

When will I make good on my vow never again to carry a large tote bag through the airport?

What happened to the cute luggage tags I bought two years ago?

Why don’t airlines add another button overhead next to the light and air to dispense Dramamine?




Me and My Paper

I could go straight to the computer on Sunday morning to read about what’s going on, but I still walk out to the mailbox in the dark to get the newspaper.

The Sunday paper is not instant.  I like that.  I dissect it slowly, separating ads from the rest.  The ones from stores I’m likely to shop at go into a special pile, along with the comics, coupon circulars and Parade Magazine.

I’ve found Parade interesting since I was in junior high school when my Social Studies teacher referred to an article I’d seen.  After that I figured if he read it, there must be some good material there.  Its editors have toyed with me recently though, reducing its dimensions and therefore the type size.  Don’t they know their clientel likely have to use glasses to see it?

Earlier than that, comics were one of the first published pieces I was able to understand.  They will always have a special place in my heart.  Hi and Lois Flagston haven’t kept up with me, having gone from my parents’ to my contemporaries’ to my childrens’ ages, but they have kept up with the times.  I still think their kids’ feelings are right on.

News stories in the paper are more telling that ones you hear on TV.  Thanks to the good old inverted pyramid, I can read the first paragraph to get important stuff, but am more likely to read all of it because there is useful information I can use to substantiate my opinions and awareness of the world.  This is sadly missing from TV and radio newscasts — not the correspondents’ fault, for it is the nature of the medium and its audience.  I just like to go back over information to let it sink in.

The noisiness (and channel noise – remember Marshal McLuhan?) of electronic devices inhibits my reception.  And, in this land of the free, I turn the page and go on if I don’t care to learn about something a newspaper offers; with a television, I’m just one of a large group being held hostage until the next story which I may be interested in.

Halfway through I make a cup of tea or coffee to rest on a coaster on the coffee table.  I have to do all I can to make the experience last.  It comes only once a week.

After parsing off the sports section and Sudoku puzzle for my husband, who’s fine with getting news that bounces off a satellite and rides the silent radio waves into the blast of television, I get into features and opinions.  I’m glad people still write in to the editor and am interested in what they’re thinking.  Also glad that they are willing to back up their opinions with names and addresses, which we don’t get from trolls who contribute little but disturbing responses to otherwise useful pieces on the Internet.

Book reviews can be seen online, but I like to read them, like the books themselves, savoring the touch of pages of thin, organic substance (not to mention the snackle sound and ink smell).  This reader finds that computers and their screens work better for writing and for catching up with friends.

I have a plan for when major newspapers start to fold.  I’ll save Sunday editions for two years, filing them in a cabinet which will resemble 104 stacked mailboxes in a 4×26 array.  When there are no more printing companies and paper deliverers, I’ll go to the slot which corresponds to the week on the calendar, make my cup of coffee and settle down to divide the sections.  Only that already will have been done.




A Lot of Dif-fer-ent People Who Look a Lot Like Me

Some time ago there was a short-lived TV series starring the Smothers Brothers in which Tommy came back to earth after he’d passed on.  He surprised Dick by popping up here and there in different roles, but what I remember aside from the humor was the theme song.  I could sing it for you.  Not that’d you’d want me to.

“Tonight you’ll meet two brothers who just happen to be us, though Tom is slightly different — the problem we will now discuss…”  He went on to clue in the audience that his brother would be seeing “a lot of different people who look a lot like me.”

Every time we’re at a family get-together, I am amazed at the resemblances.  To grandparents.  To aunts and uncles.  To cousins.  Dominant and recessive genes run rampant among us.  Square jaws and hairlines of the boys can be traced along branches of the family tree to great-uncles, while thick hair of the girls is like their mothers’ and aunts’ in photos of the ’40s.

Once on a visit I was talking with a relative, caught his eyes and thought, “His mother is looking at me!”  I read in one of my grandmother’s letters that someone had commented she looked sad when she really wasn’t.  I’ve had that said to me, too.

Finding the same thing so funny we can’t talk sometimes afflicts members of three generations on my mother’s side.  I imagine onlookers shake their heads.  I don’t know.  I’m so bent over laughing I can’t open my eyes.

On the other side of the family it happens all over again.  Mannerisms of our daughter remind me of a cousin I went to school with.  A recent picture of another cousin looks a lot like our grandfather.  When I found for the first time a turn-of-the century photograph of a great-grandmother, I could have sworn it was my youngest sister at the same age.

Most importantly, though, family is never qualified by the blood in our veins, but by the love in our hearts.

Cherish yours this Christmas.

Suds of the Present

(Spoiler alert: You may catch a whiff of something you’re getting for Christmas.)

I don’t know why I think so much of soap: it’s just a means to an end.  But I guess “the medium is the message.”  How else to explain the amount of time I spend browsing the fancy paper-wrapped bars on the shelves at Marshalls?

I tried making some of my own for our church bazaar and for holiday gifts.  I’d seen it done on a talk show, and if a nationally-known broadcaster can be successful at this, why can’t I?  But I had missed the recipe so looked it up online.  Right there — a step by step process for milling soap without the caustic chemicals.  All you do is find some nice old-fashioned white, Castile (not to be confused with White Castle) soap, grate it, add water, melt in the double boiler, add color and fragrant oils, and pour into molds.  Voila!

I won’t show you the mistakes.  But remember those dried apple ornaments that shriveled up to look like old people?  That would be an accurate description of my first batches.  Then, like all good consumers, I visited a pre-holiday craft show in a nearby town.  I talked to a soap-seller, whose products were beautiful, though his were the start-from-nothing and using lye kind.  He suggested something called “Melt and Pour.”

In less than a day “Melt and Pour” was on its way from Amazon, and on the inside of a week I’d used this wonderful stuff.  With goat’s milk, even!  It makes the best soap and doesn’t dry up after it cools.  Now the fun part is finding more molds to use.  Square margarine tubs and round frosting containers have worked as well as ones made of silicone; some fun ice cube trays I’ve had in the back of the cupboard turn out little heart-shaped bubblies.

It’s not even close to the soap my grandmother made outdoors in a kettle, wearing a mask to protect her from the fumes.  That was, along with the butchering, one of the necessities of life back then.  I am fortunate enough to buy the soap I need and like, and also to be able to treat it as a craft.  Now laundry detergent — that’s a different story.

Because He Said So

I added some photos you might enjoy – a morning view of the Sea of Galilee, and an old-fashioned hornbook from which students learned to read. How textbooks have changed! I also revised the poem.



(Proverbs 3:13, 5:23, 13:24; Col. 3:21)

As I wonder at the wonder of God

I realize how a facade

On the part of parents for their children

Can lead to journeys flawed.

Discipline lacked and folly gained

So what if an offender complained?

Better that authority set the bounds

Than abstained.

Early in a child’s life

Patterns begun by husband and wife

Correcting with love, careful and swift

Avoids later strife.

“Firm, but kind,” must persist

Or opportunities will be missed

Show in your home the wisdom of God

Quarreling?  Desist.

Correct your progeny with love

Follow the example of our Maker above

Trust in Him, for He knows all

Do it because — He said so.

June 2014

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