IS THAT HONEYSUCKLE I SMELL?

Learning to ride a bicycle is a rite of passage…that of leaving behind babyhood and entering the exciting world of real mobility. My second son learned when he was four, my daughter when she was ten, their brothers when they were five. I don’t remember how old I was but I do remember my parents thought I was way to young and small. I had such a burning desire to learn however, that I’d position my brother’s large bicycle alongside our high porch and climb onto the seat from the porch. I’d then have to lean to each side as I pedaled because my legs were so short…and stopping, well, that was more of a crashing scenario. For a time I was black and blue but oh how I reveled in actually being able to ride that big bike. When my father saw the fruits of my determination ( or maybe it was the sight of all my bruises) he quickly rewarded me with my very own bicycle; a beautiful blue girls bike more in keeping with my size.

My brother and I lived on our bicycles, especially in the summer. We frequently rode several miles to a little country store where we redeemed the soda pop bottles we collected from the roadside ditches for candy and gum. Since my bike had a basket where we carried the bottles, my brother rode amicably alongside me to the store but once we had divided our booty he’d ride off and leave me. No matter how hard I pedaled I couldn’t keep up with him, my legs and smaller bicycle just wasn’t up to the task. I’d soon tire from the effort and usually wind up walking and pushing my bike the last distance home where he’d be resting under a shade tree.

My husband on the other hand learned to ride on a girls bike that was left behind at a house their family bought and moved into. He rode it to school every day but was ashamed to be riding a girls bike so he hid it in the bushes just before reaching school, and retrieved it on his way home. He washed dishes every evening after dinner and did other chores to earn money to buy the bike of his choice. He finally did earn enough and ordered the best bicycle Montgomery Ward carried. From then on he always had the best of bikes….until he became old enough to drive and his interest turned to cars. Later in life he once again became enthralled with bicycles and rode one to work a few times a week until he sold his print shop.

My sons and their bikes were inseparable, they rode them all over town. One son became especially good at fixing bikes so their bicycles were always in tip-top shape. Several of my sons are still pretty serious bikers and love to ride on the weekends or take mountain biking vacations. One son, in addition to riding his bike to work and mountain biking whenever he can, is very proficient on a unicycle, riding, to everyone’s amazement, on winding trails through the forest…he has carried his love of cycling to the extreme.

Why this talk about bicycles you might wonder. Well the truth is, when I was young riding a bicycle was strictly for fun and two wheels were better any day than two feet for going long distances in a hurry. As I got older, riding a bike lost its allure and became exercise which I strongly disliked. I’m not sure when exercise and I parted company for good but it was sometime after the television craze of exercising to music and leaving my water aerobics class at the gym. I was just done with it all. My husband and children devised plan after plan to get me exercising again, some of them even adding me to their gym membership. Somehow I managed to stand my ground and refuse to indulge their rabid, and sometimes heated insistence that I do some kind of exercise.

All but one son gave up on me. About two months ago he used a very sneaky approach and bought a state of the art recumbent bicycle and had it sent to my home, afterwhich his son came over and put it together. He also sent me a set of hand weights. Well to make a long story a bit shorter, it was just sitting there making me feel guilty that he had wasted his money on such a thing so I grudgingly decided I’d give it a try. Imagine my surprise when the old thrill of riding a bike returned. Of course it isn’t quite the same, but it’s close enough to be fun and I’m actually getting some much needed exercise. I can also increase the resistance and make it harder to pedal (but why would I want to make it more like exercise?) whenever I wish. The monitor on it tells me how many calories I’ve burned and how far I’ve gone among other things, which is rather fun as well as instant gratification for my effort. I’m also using the weights to increase my upper body strength and oddly enough, that constant nagging pain in my back has disappeared!

Who would have thought the sneaky approach would get me exercising again, and even more importantly, get me to like it. Hats off to you Dan, I’m grateful to you for not giving up on me. I’m grateful too for all the fun memories that spring to mind as I pedal away. Time has a way of sliding backwards as I watch television or listen to music and relive those happy carefree summer days of my youth…oh is that honeysuckle I smell?

NO ROOM IN THE INN

I’m certain that you, like me, have your favorite Christmas stories. One of mine is The Littlest Angel; my favorite one however, is a true one told by my mother of when she was a little girl and learned that there really is a Santa Claus and his other name is love. If any one is interested in reading it again, it can be found on any of my blog pages under the category of Christmas.

The sweet story below is another favorite of mine and in it’s heart warming content is a message for each of us.

For many years now, whenever Christmas pageants are talked about in a certain little town in the Mid-west, someone is sure to mention the name of Wallace Purling. Wally’s performance in one annual production of the nativity play has slipped into the realm of legend. But the old-timers who were in the audience that night never tire of recalling exactly what happened.

Wally was nine that year and in the second grade, though he should have been in the fourth. Most people in town knew he had trouble in keeping up. He was big and clumsy, slow in movement and mind. Still, Wally was well liked by the other children in his class, all of whom were smaller than he, though the boys had trouble hiding their irritation when Wally would ask to play ball with them, or any game, for that matter, in which winning was important.

Most often they’d find a way to keep him out, but Wally would hang around anyway–not sulking, just hoping. He was always a helpful boy, a willing and smiling one, and the natural protector of the underdog. Sometimes if the older boys chased the younger ones away, it would always be Wally who’d say, “Can’t they stay? They’re no bother.”

Wally fancied the idea of being a shepherd with a flute in the Christmas pageant that year, but the play’s director, Miss Lumbard, assigned him to a more important role. After all, she reasoned, the Innkeeper did not have too many lines and Wally’s size would make his refusal of lodging to Joseph more forceful.

And so it happened that the usual large, partisan audience gathered for the town’s yearly extravaganza of beards, crowns, halos and a whole stage full of squeaky voices. No one on or off stage was more caught up in the magic of the night than Wallace Purling. They said later that he stood in the wings and watched the performance with such fascination that from time to time Miss Lumbard had to make sure he didn’t wander on stage before his cue.

Then the time came when Joseph appeared, slowly, tenderly guiding Mary to the door of the inn. Joseph knocked hard on the wooden door set into the painted backdrop. Wally the innkeeper was there, waiting.

“What do you want?” Wally said, swinging the door open with a brusque gesture.

“We seek lodging.”

“Seek it elsewhere, the inn is filled,” said Wally vigorously as he looked straight ahead.

“Sir, we have asked everywhere in vain. We have traveled far and are very weary.”

“There is no room in this inn for you.” Wally looked properly stern.

“Please, good innkeeper, this is my wife Mary. She is heavy with child and needs a place to rest. Surely you must have some small corner for her. She is so tired.”

Now, for the first time, the innkeeper relaxed his still stance and looked down at Mary. With that, there was a long pause, long enough to make the audience a bit tense with embarrassment. 

“No! Begone!” The prompter whispered from the wings.

“No! Begone! ” Wally repeated automatically.

Joseph sadly placed his arm around Mary and Mary laid her head upon her husband’s shoulder and the two of them started to move away. The innkeeper did not return inside his inn however. Wally stood there in the doorway, watching the forlorn couple. His mouth was open, his brow creased with concern, his eyes filling unmistakably with tears.

And suddenly this Christmas pageant became different from all the others.

“Don’t go, Joseph,” Wally called out. “Bring Mary back.” And suddenly Wallace Purling’s face grew into a bright smile. “You can have my room.”

Some people in town thought that the pageant had been ruined. Yet there were others–many, many others–who considered it the most Christmas of all Christmas pageants they had ever seen.

We each have the opportunity, just like Wally did, to make room in the inn. Not only at Christmas, but every day of the year. I hope we will all be a little bit like Wallace Purling and open our hears to what is truly important. Merry Christmas.

TIS THE SEASON

I may never get used to Texas winters; seventy degrees one day then thirty degrees the next. At least Mother Nature isn’t boring, although I’d prefer a little more sunshine. The sun helps get me through these shorter days. I’m on the count down to the winter solstice and the beginning of longer days. I always feel like I’ve turned a corner when I make it that far and the daylight hours are even a couple of seconds longer each day. I know it’s all in my head but I feel it throughout my body as hope soars with each additional second of light. How I managed to live in Alaska for two winters is a mystery.

I’ve had something to focus on this last month that has somewhat diverted my attention from the shorter day light hours, and for that I’m grateful. If you have followed my blog for any length of time you know that I HATE exercising and of my failed attempts at doing so, or more accurately, of no attempts at all. Well one of my sons took the bull by the horns, in a manner of speaking, and sent me a recumbent bicycle along with a set of weights. His son then came over and put the bike together and adjusted it to my short legs so I wouldn’t have any excuse for not using it…darn it!

I guess guilt got the best of me (I mean my son did spend good money buying it and my grandson did spend a couple of hours of his precious free time putting it together) so I decided to give it a whirl. Well no one could be more astonished than myself that I actually like it. In fact, I may almost have an obsession with it. I can peddle away while watching T.V. and then see on the monitor how fast I’ve gone and how many calories I’ve burned; that’s pretty satisfying…and addictive.

I guess the moral of the story is that not all exercise is created equal and that one just has to find the right fit. It has certainly taken me a long time to find that fit. In addition, I can be as aggressive as I like with my new weights since I have them in three sizes. I’ve discovered that using them each day has almost eliminated a certain ‘pinch’ or catch I’ve had in my back for a while. Who would have imagined that result? Certainly not me!

Don’t tell my son but I think I’m hooked on this form of exercise. It has been a blessing during these gloomy, cold days. I hope that I continue to enjoy it and that I’ve made it so much of a habit that I will continue even in sunny warmer weather. Thanks Dan for getting me to exercise!

Tis the season…to exercise (did I actually just say that?), to hibernate, to eat comfort foods, to think more deeply of others, to cherish family and friends, to reflect on our lives and how we might make a change for the better, to be thankful for all our blessings, to be of service to others, and most of all, to remember the birth of our Savior and all that means for us. During these cold dark days It’s comforting to remember that Christ is the true light of the world. Let our lives be a reflection of this positive thought.

 

POETRY ANYONE?

My three year old grandson insisted they FaceTime with me so I could tell him the poem ‘Little Orphan Annie‘, which is one of his favorites. My children  loved that poem too and I read it to them so often that I soon knew it by heart and still recall it these many years later. He also really likes ‘The Dark House’...see a theme here? He likes vaguely scary things, with goblins and ghosts.

I’ve always loved poetry and can still recite some of my favorites, partially or verbatim. For instance: Trees, Disobedience,The Cremation of Sam MaGee, Father William, Casey at Bat, The owl and the Pussy Cat, The Highwayman, and Jabberwocky, to name just a few. It must be the rhyming that makes them stick so firmly in my mind. Reading poetry is also very soothing to me; again I attribute  that to the rhyming.

My husband also loved poetry and went through a phase of writing some of his own. One year for his birthday I typed all his poems and put them in a binder. He loved that and when the grandchildren visited he’d take out his book of poems and read them out loud, to the delight of all. Somehow, in down sizing a few years ago and much to my dismay, this book was lost.  Recently, my son who bought our home after my husband passed away, found the earlier hand written copies of his poems. He just sent all of us copies of a couple of them. How happy I am to know that some of these special poems have survived for the younger grandchildren to enjoy. Because of these poems ‘Snard‘ is a new word that has been added to their vocabulary. Though fictional, a Snard is a delightful little creature. And who would have guessed that one must call a watermelon a ‘pumpkin’ because ‘watermelon gives me a belly ache’.

in addition to this wonderful turn of events, I found tucked away in a box, a few additional stories and poems that my mother wrote years ago which I had never read. I spent the morning reading them and yes, crying over some of them. My mother was a prolific writer and she lives on in her writings, many of which were taken from personal experiences of her developmental years. Some time ago I typed all of them I could find and gave copies to my children and my brothers. Now they can look forward to some additional ones when I get motivated to type them. They are all written in longhand, and in some cases a little hard to dicipher, so this will be a chore albeit a pleasant one. It feels like my mother just keeps on giving us secret glimpses into her life and feelings although she has been gone for sixteen years.

There is nothing more powerful and long lasting than the written word. Especially when the author is someone you know and love. How blessed I’ve been to have people in my life who taught me the love of reading; and how extra blessed I’ve been to know people who love to write.

 

THE MEMORIES FONDLY LINGER

Some of my happiest memories have been associated with libraries. The public library in my hometown of Conway, Arkansas remained in the same location throughout my childhood and until after I had several children of my own. I often walked there after school and spent an hour or two selecting books before walking to my father’s downtown business for a ride home. The librarian was a tiny prudish spinster who kept her eagle eye on the books I checked out. She often called my mother before letting me have certain books because ‘they were too risque for a young girl to read’…books like Zane Grey westerns or Perry Mason detective stories, or A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. She would certainly be shocked to see what kinds of books are available now, and at the click of a button. Of course my mother always gave permission for me to read those books because she was quite familiar with them having read them herself.

The summer my father was in Alaska, my mother taught herself to drive and we often made the trip to the library. Once while there she sideswiped another car as she was parking and was terrified she’d get hauled off to jail so we quickly left. Sorry mama, I’ve kept your secret for almost sixty years and it’s time to clear my conscience on this matter.

After I was married with children of my own we made regular weekly trips to the same library to load up on books, each child getting so many it was hard to carry them all. They were always as excited as I to visit that establishment. I loved the musty, bookish smell associated with it as well as the numberless stories to choose from…it was just a matter of which world one wished to be transported to for a time. I felt it was a sad day when a new library was built and the old one discarded. The new library was much larger and nicer but with it in place a very important part of my life was gone forever…but the memories fondly linger.

When we moved to the nearby town of Morrilton we lived on the same street as the public library. We couldn’t have planned it any better if we had tried! We frequented that library as much as the previous one but we had to be careful not to get so many books we couldn’t carry them the two blocks home even though we could go there multiple times a week. Each child was very excited to have his own library card when he became old enough, indeed, I don’t believe the excitement was any greater when they acquired their driver’s license. After the children were grown, one of my sons lived with us for a year after he was married and they took their child down the street to the library for story time. So began the love of books for another generation.

I still read as varociously as ever I did but for many years I’ve not been in a public library, reading books instead on my kindle. While I love my kindle, something has been lost in not checking out physical books from a library…or even going to one. So I’m excited to soon be visiting the library in Morrilton once again. My son Chris is now a published author and will be doing a book signing in that very library in conjunction with its centennial celebration, so it will be with two fold excitement that I enter therein. I can imagine it now, I’ll soak up the scholarly atmosphere and the nostalgic smell of old books and ink and do a bit of reminiscing as my son adds his novel to the already crowded bookshelves. Can it get any better than this?

SMALL NUGGETS OF GOOD

I’ll be the first to say how much I enjoy social media but I’ve become ‘fed up’ with all the negative information posted and all the outlandish horror stories that fill the Facebook feed. I feel if one lives and breathes this kind of information daily one can’t help but become the same. Therefore I skip over 99% of it.  I may be the exception but I don’t like to see critically burned persons, or deformed babies, or mistreated animals, or violence of any kind, or read about the latest dirt on some celebrity.

I like to read about happy things; something nice that has happened to someone, or sweet pictures of children or grandchildren, or fun trips, or a great new recipe someone has tried, or a success someone is experiencing. Call me old fashioned but I don’t enjoy anyone’s misfortune or unhappiness. On the other hand, I do want to hear about friends or family in real life situations even if they aren’t always happy ones simply because I love these people and I’m interested in what happens to them. 

Critics might say I live in a world of my own making, and to some extent that’s true for I do like to control the negativity that surrounds me. That doesn’t mean I’m not aware of the negative things in the world, I just don’t revel in them. Another thing that really disturbs me is all the election trash going around. I’ll be totally up front and say that I don’t like either of the candidates. HOWEVER, I do Love my country and I pray daily for it. Whomever I decide to vote for is no ones business but my own. One of our most important and vital God given freedoms is being able to vote according to our conscience without having others bash us because we see things differently than they. I’ve seen too much of this recently and I don’t like or support it. If we love our God and our country and try to be good citizens and neighbors, most of us will try to be informed and vote for the best possible candidate….whomever we believe that is, period, and no one has a right to disparage us.

I’m hopeful that once the election is over some of the trash talk will cease. In all reality though, there will probably be many “I told you sos” and finger pointings because the ‘other’ candidate didn’t get elected. Be that as it may, I will continue to skip over the negative and disgusting (to me) posts while seeking the few uplifting ones. Yes, technology is great but it comes with a cost. One must learn to glean the small nuggets of good from the ever broadening level of filth without becoming contaminated by it. I hope I never want to participate in those kinds of things or become so insensitive that they become appealing to me. Give me birds, flowers, books, music, grandchildren, and chocolate! Naive though I may be labeled, there is something to be said for having enough peace of mind to be able to sleep at night….after giving an accounting of myself to my Father above.

SOMETHING TO COMPLAIN ABOUT

School has been in full swing for a month now, the dog days of summer are over, Autumn is officially knocking on the door but we continue to be blessed with 100 degree weather. I say ‘blessed’ with tongue in cheek. This is Texas after all, and after two and one half years I still don’t have a good handle on what is considered normal for the lone star state. Or perhaps there is no normal; it seems the weather in northern Texas is consistently inconsistent. One thing for sure is that I’ll be on pins and needles come spring and storm season. Last spring arrived with unprecedented floods and hailstones 5 1/4 inches in diameter. The blue covered roofs still sprinkled throughout the area are a stark reminder of the far reaching devastation and the time consuming effort to get all the repairs finished before winter sets in. However, if this winter is anything like the last one it will feel more tropical than not. I’m really not complaining, but it seems there are severe repercussions for having warm winters and the piper must be paid at some point. The cost turns out to be more than most of us want to pay simply to have a mild winter. (And I haven’t even referenced the increased insect population that we are dealing with.)

I haven’t seen many squirrels here but I witnessed one this morning running down the sidewalks stopping at each door he passed for, I assume, any food morsels that could be found. Sadly for the squirrel this is a pretty clean place and it didn’t look as if he found anything at all. I do wonder if the intense heat has dried up all his food sources or if he just knows it’s time to prepare, however unsuccessfully, for the coming winter. I’ve heard geese flying overhead in the early mornings a few times and that raises my spirits a little and gives me hope that cooler weather is on the way. Maybe if I hang on a little while longer I’ll live to enjoy the outside air again.

It’s time for chrysanthemums and I’ve seen some in stores but so far I haven’t been interested in obtaining any. It’s just too hot to enjoy them, besides mums and their pungent fragrance need to be aligned with crisp cool air which is sadly lacking in my part of the world. This makes me wonder now if it’s actually the mums or the cool air that I so love and look forward to, most probably it’s a combination of the two.

I’ve been on a quest to enjoy my life as it is and to find something to be thankful for each day. So I’m thankful that it will only be 100 today and not 105; I’m thankful my outside patio plants are thriving despite the heat; I’m thankful for air conditioning; I’m thankful for my ice maker; I’m thankful for my sweet family; I’m thankful that I feel better than usual today; and oh, did I mention that I’m thankful for air conditioning? Maybe I’m hard to please but I’m thankful too that it’s not cold and icy, although that may be on the menu later in the season. In view of that thought I feel I really must not complain too much about present conditions for if there is anything I hate worse than hot weather it’s cold weather with ice. Thanks for reminding me that it could always be worse. In this life of uncertainties one thing we can count on is that Mother Nature remains unpredictable and no matter how educated and sophisticated we become we can’t change, or even predict with any degree of reliability, what she will do. My final happy thought on this matter is that this very fact keeps life interesting….and as a bonus always gives us ungrateful souls something to complain about.

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