THE TRAVELING BOOKCASE

The literary gene runs deep in my family coming through my mother’s  line and including such notables as F. Scott Fitzgerald, Samuel Clemens, Emily Dickinson, Robert Frost, William Faulkner and Ernest Hemingway.

My mother was a prolific writer and many of us not so famous or talented have the same inherent desire to write and the all-consuming love of reading. My aunt Ollie was one blessed [or was it cursed] with the love of reading as was evidenced by her collection of Reader’s Digest Condensed books. Many of us in that particular time period acquired them through a membership in a book club, getting each new one as it was released.

My aunt, while in her eighties, [she being the second oldest child of my grand parents twelve children and 20 years older than my mother who was the youngest] devised a way to contain  her growing number of those books by building a bookcase to house them made to the exact dimensions of said books. In this way dozens could be corralled in the same location. I admire her for her carpentry skills especially in light of her age at the time. She was never a shrinking violet and never let anything, certainly not age, deter her from her goals. The bookcase itself is not fancy, being constructed of simple two by fours stained a dark brown, sturdy and serviceable.

When my aunt left this earth for her heavenly reward my mother inherited that bookcase and soon made good use of it filling it with her own collection of the same sort of books. I remember that each time I visited her I’d browse through them to see if there were any new ones I wanted to borrow and usually without exception, there was one or two.

After my own mother left this mortal realm, I in turn, inherited my aunts bookcase along with all of my mother’s books. By this time I had quite a collection of books myself including a growing number of Reader’s Digest Condensed books I had acquired on my own. But I also had a large home with many bookshelves and as they say “You can never have too many books.” I used  my aunts bookcase to hold my favorites and placed it in my bedroom where I could easily choose one for nighttime reading. Thus many happy seasons of reading passed.

Fast forward several years to my husband’s retirement and our drastic downsizing. I didn’t have room for that bookcase in our new retirement home so I reluctantly gave it to one of my sons with the admonition that he keep it in the family for by that time it was a family heirloom. He moved it from Arkansas to Texas and has proudly displayed it for many years although it was filled with knack knacks instead of books.

Now he’s moving and will have his furniture in storage for a while and, as circumstances would have it, I find myself in need of a bookcase of just that size with the perfect spot for it in my apartment. This time the main purpose for it will be my CD and DVD collection which I’ve had no place for since my move to Texas. How happy I’ll be to finally unpack them and put them out where I can see and use them. And how special to display them in “The” bookcase because my son is graciously allowing me to use it again with the understanding that it will go back to him when I no longer need or want it.

Who would have thought this elderly aunt’s action, born of necessity,  would have helped so many people for such a long time? Who would have thought that a simple bookcase would be so widely traveled and used? I’m certain my aunt had no such thoughts. It’s a tribute to her fortitude and strength and the times from which she came; frail though she seemed, she was made of stern stuff and when she wanted something done she did it herself. This bookcase is still as stable and strong as when first built and barring fire or tornado damage it will live to bless other generations. I hope its future remains bright and the one lucky enough to inherit it from my son will appreciate and treasure it as more than a place to keep books or other objects, for my aunts legacy lives on in its solid construction. Who knows, perhaps it will continue traveling around the country for years to come.

The fury of Mother Nature 

The mother of all hailstorms rolled through tonight and it was the fiercest I’ve ever seen. I was in bed asleep when it hit in all it’s fury but woke in an instant from the loud pounding noise. It left devastation in it’s wake, breaking my bedroom windows, shredding my blinds and covering my bed with glass, pieces of broken blinds and hail. This debris was driven all the way across my apartment into the kitchen while I took refuge in my bathroom. This morning I even found shredded leaves blown into my kitchen sink.

Those deadly ice balls were piled up in front of my living room door three inches deep and after my daughter in law came over and had cleaned up the mess in my apartment [mostly by herself because she’s so efficient] she then shoveled the hail away from my door with the only implement we had that would do the job….a dustpan and plenty of elbow grease.

The whole area was hit and much damage was sustained by many individuals….luckily my car was was in a carport and seemed to be fine but in the light of day I’ve noticed that it has suffered damage on the back portion. My grandson was camping with friends in tents on the lake and after my son checked on them [thankfully they were safe and had the adventure of a lifetime] and brought them home he came over and taped cardboard and a tarp on the inside of my broken windows.Hooray for duct tape!

I don’t know how long it will be before my windows are repaired since quite a few others in my building and the adjacent buildings have damage too. I do hope it won’t be too long though as it makes me feel somewhat unsafe to have nothing substantial between me and the outside world….not to mention the wind that still manages to seep through the cracks.

The rain and hail always seem to come from that direction and I’ve never worried about it even though those same windows are lashed by the storms each time. However tonight before I retired I had the distinct thought that I should lay out clothing I could put on quickly, so I did. And boy am I glad I did! After getting dressed though, I received a chilly shock as I slipped my feet into shoes only to discover they were filled with ice pellets even though they had been nowhere near the window. Oh the fury of Mother Nature! It could have been so much worse. I feel fortunate considering the damage others have had from storms and tornadoes. I have no reason to complain…..someone continues to watch over me, even giving me a heads up that I needed to have clothes ready to slip on tonight. And I feel fortunate that my son and daughter in law are so diligent about checking on me and coming to my aid.

BISCUITS THIS MORNING

I’ve been in Texas almost two years now and you can count on three fingers the number of times I’ve made homemade biscuits. Once a daily occurrence for a husband who’s favorite meal was breakfast and who must have them, I no longer make them for myself; actually , I no longer want them. Perhaps it’s all psychological, or maybe after making them for 53 years I’m just tired of them. Anyway, a number of circumstances caused me to make biscuits this morning along with good ole southern ‘thickning gravy’. I have to admit by the time I got it ready my mouth was watering, but I also have to admit that my taste buds weren’t impressed. Even though my husband would have been enormously happy, I won’t be making this breakfast for myself again anytime soon….if ever.  But at least I know I haven’t lost my ‘magic touch’.

When I was a new bride I wanted desperately to please my husband with my cooking skills, which were very few unless we wanted to dine only on pies, cakes and cookies. So I watched my mother-in-law make biscuits and practiced her method often. At first the results were less than desirable since they could have been used as hockey pucks. But my husband appreciated my efforts and gallantly ate them without complaint and I knowing how bad they were doubled my efforts to make edible ones. Somewhere along the way my biscuits went from awful to edible to good to fantastic. The highest compliment my children’s friends could offer me was that they tasted like the Kentucky Fried Chicken biscuits. I accepted their compliments sweetly knowing that my biscuits were in reality, much much better, and I actually became famous locally for them.

My other cooking skills improved too and since I had six boys to feed I got lots of practice. I often wonder whether I would have persisted in learning to cook if my husband had been snippy and hateful about the meals I set before him in those early days. I attribute much of my success to his good nature and fortitude in chockeing down my first attempts. Unfortunately, as I became a better cook he became a more picky eater until in his later years he was extremely picky. But he never, never turned down my biscuits….or gravy. Sometimes I could skip a day making biscuits if we had leftovers for if there was anything he liked better than a biscuit fresh from the oven, it was a warmed over one…made crispy and brown in the oven by the warming process. That particular culinary delight was, for him, pure heaven.

So the biscuits this morning were for you Bruce. Our granddaughter mentioned a memory of you in a Facebook post which brought you to the forefront of my consciousness. I know you would have enjoyed them and I’m sorry that you are not here for me to cook for…even at six a.m. I promise I’d not sigh about making biscuits day after day. It’s become clear that we must never take for granted those precious times we have with our loved ones for they won’t last forever. I only have memories left of you, but as luck will have it, they are good memories and will sustain me until we meet again. I hope somewhere in heaven you can find a good biscuit to enjoy, if not, just wait till I arrive and I’ll fix you right up!

NOTE TO SELF…

I woke up this week and realized that I’m dissatisfied with myself….again. I’m too fat, too gray, too wrinkled. I assume that I don’t look any different than I have for months but I must have been living in a bubble not to have seen it before now. My heart skipped a beat as I glanced in the mirror this morning and saw a stranger standing there. I briefly wondered how someone had gotten in my apartment before I realized it was my own reflection. Remind me to get rid of my mirrors, or at least turn them to the wall.

I simply don’t know how this transformation took place right before my eyes without my even noticing. Talk about self complacency! I would like to lose a little weight and I might just try a method a friend of mine has used to get thin. She is actually too thin but I wouldn’t have to go that far. She just doesn’t eat after three p.m. This is not a new way to lose weight but she is certainly a walking testament that it does work. Maybe I’ll try it….then again maybe not. Notice I said nothing about doing more exercise, that word just doesn’t compute properly in my brain.

There’s not actually much I can do about my wrinkles short of getting a facelift and I’m not playing that game, so I guess I’m stuck with the wrinkles. As for the thin gray hair, well I could get a dye job but I can’t quite bring myself to commit to that and it might make my hair look even thinner; oh how I long for the days when my hair was thick and beautiful! Strange that when I dissect the problem I’m just not willing to do what it takes to make any changes. I guess the only option left is to avoid mirrors at all cost. I mean surely none of these problems have anything to do with my age, right?

So the question remains, how to quit being dissatisfied with myself. Well shopping always brings a lift, temporary though it may be. Doing things for others has a longer lasting effect and focusing on my inner being reminds me that one doesn’t have to be trim and young looking to be happy (though I’ll be one of first to say, it does help). We are each in charge of our own happiness and can choose to be happy regardless of our circumstances and looks.

Note to self: learn to put makeup on and style hair without a mirror….

THE SWEATER WITH 9 LIVES

Old man winter finally arrived with cold blustery wind, rain and hail. I’m so glad I don’t have to be outdoors in those raw bone chilling elements; It’s armchair viewing for me as the hail accumulates on the ground. I’m thankful I live here in Texas and not further east where a monstrous snow storm is marching steadily forward creating havoc in its wake.

Another thing I’m thankful for is that warmer weather is already on the way with temperatures forecast to be in the sixties by Sunday. I’m really hoping this is the extent of our winter, here today and gone (literally) tomorrow…I won’t hold my breath though for this is, after all, Texas and still January.

I got a little chilly watching that nasty storm so I decided to wear my husbands favorite sweater. I didn’t keep many items of his clothing but this particular sweater was so ‘him’ that I couldn’t part with it. He wore it daily for years, and like a little child didn’t want to wear any other though he had several more. I had to wash and dry it at night after he was ensconced in his easy chair so it would be clean and ready for him the next day. Occasionally I had to sew new buttons on when he lost one or two. It must be a good sweater because it stood up to constant wearing and occasional washing and drying. Anyone who remembers him will recall that he always wore western shirts and when it was cool, that particular sweater. The year before he passed away my daughter got tired of seeing him in it and got him a beautiful new one for his birthday which he seemed to like. He did wear the new sweater when he went somewhere of note but he still reached for the old one when working and for every day use.

Anyway I wore his old sweater yesterday and it was warm and comforting. I was transported back to happier days when my big worry was how to get that sweater off him and into the washing machine. I can see why he liked it, it is warm and wearing it was like having a big hug from him all day long. Funny how a simple article of clothing can evoke such a nostalgic feeling and flood of memories. I sort of wish I hadn’t washed it when I decided to keep it for it no longer smells like him, a sweet spicy scent that was totally his own. That’s funny too how each person has their own unique fragrance. My father always said he could pick my mother out of a crowded room blindfolded just by her fragrance which was like freshly baked bread. I don’t know what I smell like but I hope it isn’t bad…it surely couldn’t be as good however as my husband. I wonder if he will still smell like that when I see him in the sweet by and by?

I have dozens of sweaters but I think I’ll make his my ‘go to’ sweater for wearing around the house when it’s cold. I’ll make  it a point too to wear it the next time my daughter comes for a visit and see what she has to say. I’m pretty sure she thinks (hopes) it’s long gone. I wonder if it will last another 30 years? No worries on that score, I’m certain it will last as long as I will.

GOODBYE 2015

Tonight we say goodbye to 2015; some will celebrate riotously, some are loathe for the year to end and others just see it as an inevitable event. I suppose I fall into the the last category, I’m neither happy or sad. The year has actually been a relatively good one, zipping by at the speed of light….what’s up with that? I read somewhere in the bible that in the last days the Lord will shorten days….I think that must have happened. Either that or I’ve gotten old while I slept, and that’s a distinct possibility since I sleep more now than I ever have in my adult life. There’s something to be said for not having to answer to anyone but yourself and after 53 years of marriage and seven children that’s still quite a novelty.

I quit making new year resolutions a few years ago because all that did was make me feel guilty when I faltered or, more often than not, completely failed to keep them. Instead I make goals for myself as I feel the need, and that works out much better for me. Sometime during the first week of this year I decided to write down the good things that happened that day before retiring for the night. When one concentrates on recognizing the good things in ones life it’s surprising how many good things seem to be happening regularly. I now have a years worth of good memories and sweet happenings that bring me joy whenever I care to read them. The key here is to not write down anything negative; something good and positive must be recorded no matter the kind of day one had. This worked so well for me that I’m doing it again this next year. I enjoyed the experience so much that I didn’t miss writing one single day and I actually purchased a journal for 2016 instead of just using a tablet that I already had. I’ve tried various methods over the years of keeping a written record of my life, such as a daily or weekly journal or the calendar method my mother so successfully used, but they all fell by the wayside. I think I’ve finally found the right one for me in concentrating on writing about the good and positive things (blessings) in my life. I hope that when I leave this mortal realm my children will see (if they take the time to read my journals) how many of my happy memories and good times are tied directly to them; family and friends are, after all, what make life worth living.

I’m ending this year in the company of family and tomorrow I will ring in the new year with the traditional black eyed peas (for prosperity and health), greens (for wealth) and cornbread (for gold). I’m not a firm believer in the merits of eating said foods for those reasons but old habits die hard and being a true southerner I enjoy eating them any time so why not on New Year’s Day?

I wish all of you a very happy new year, I hope it brings you happiness and prosperity. Though I must caution that much of our happiness, and even our prosperity, is totally up to us. Spend this year looking for the good happy events in your life and I think you’ll be surprised at years end to see that the good overshadows the bad. Perhaps like me you won’t even be able to remember the bad….I might just add that concentrating  on your blessings can be quite addictive! Happy New Year!

SURVIVE AND THRIVE

I’m very excited about Christmas this year; not for the presents, the tree, the stockings or the goodies, but because most of my family will be here with me. That hasn’t happened in a very long time and probably won’t happen again anytime soon.

I’m reminded of past Christmases when the children were young and the excitement was at a fever pitch, so thick it could almost be cut. I’m near that point now just thinking of everyone being together again. I still have three young grandchildren who will enjoy Christmas in all its glory and wonder and I will enjoy watching them.

It will be a warm Christmas this year but that doesn’t hurt my feelings at all and I’m happy for good travel weather for my family. My oldest son left the cold and snow behind in Denver to travel here to Texas but somehow I don’t believe he minds that.

I didn’t put up a tree this year (instead I have pots of poinsettias) but I do love Christmas trees, especially live ones. They are a symbol of life and hope.

For many years there was a spruce tree that grew all alone right next to the highway that went into Grand Junction, Colorado. There were no other trees around, in fact trees don’t grow in that area, but there against all odds was that fat spruce tree that survived the cold, heat, drought, highway construction, and big trucks whizzing by. One year someone put a lone Christmas ornament on it. That led to others doing the same as they drove past. After that the tree was decorated for years each Christmas season. It was a colorful sight to behold and could be seen for a great distance. I’m sure it was a delight for weary travelers to see but more than that, it was the essence of hope and survival. A thriving tree in such a barren spot spelled hope that no matter how bad circumstances are one can survive and even thrive.

I believe that’s a good thought for us all to keep in mind because isn’t that what Christ wants for us….to survive and thrive?  To be happy and of good cheer, to make the most of all we have, to be a light to others, to make those who pass glad to have known us. This Christmas I will certainly make the most of each day I have with my family, taking their love and warmth with me through the rest of the year and making it a point to not only survive but also to thrive.

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