Turn the Page

As summer clings for dear life in this hemisphere while autumn pushes through the womb of seasons I occasionally see a leaf, once vivid green, lose its verdant hue, revealing the color beneath (and reminding me that I need to start making sweaters for the winter).  For those whose seasons change very subtly, if at all, because you live in the tropics, mourning the passage of summer may seem odd.  It’s actually more like turning a page rather than mourning a loss.

As we turn the page of the book of seasons we find that we will soon start the chapter of autumn: children and young adults have gone back to school, teachers and professors are back at work, summer shorts and sandals give way to sweaters and long pants, and we start to eat the bounty of our summer gardens and orchards.  Food is perhaps tastiest and least expensive at this time of year, since there is usually so much of it.  I know one can get a watermelon in February, but do you really want to eat a watermelon in February, when it has to be picked somewhat underripe and transported hundreds or thousands of miles to your local supermarket?  I usually follow the rule that if it’s tasty from the garden in August, it’ll be bland in the store in February.

While you’re turning the page on the book of seasons, consider for a moment the seasons of your life.  Think about the loves of your life: did it feel like spring when you met your beloved even though the snow was two feet deep?  When your first child was born or adopted was it like summer vacation as you learned to see life through the eyes of this new person?  When your youngest child left home to go be an adult, did it feel like your life was entering its winter phase?  When your grandparents went to Eternity did it seem like your young years were gone, shriveling like the last tomato vine of the season that finally gave up the ghost?  Have you been trying to recapture those young years with surgery and hair dye, forgetting that during your actual young years you did some really dumb things but managed to live through them?  When your parents went to Eternity, did you feel that you were next?

Like the seasons of the year, the seasons of your life are cyclical: you are reborn with every child you bring into the world or every child you bring into your life through adoption.  When your children achieve certain milestones in their lives, whether it’s eating their first bite of solid food or cooking their first solid meal, you get to see the world through their eyes.  Even if their eyes are watering because they thought that baking a cake at 700° Fahrenheit (if you “speak” Celsius, feel free to do your own conversion) would bake it in half the time and your kitchen is now smoky gray where it was once off-white, you can laugh as you and the child clean up the smoke smudges, remembering when you did the same thing to your stepmother’s kitchen.

With all the births in your life, there have to be some deaths: a divorce (or two), the loss of a job, the decline or death of a grandparent, a jail sentence, graduation from high school or college, the death of a pet, the first blizzard of the year.  Know that death, too, is a chapter in the book of seasons; it can’t be summer all the time, but it also can’t be winter all the time, either.  When the snow flies it eventually blankets everything in a coat of white, protecting some plants from the cold but also providing future water for the ground for springtime.  With death there comes rebirth; as Jesus of Nazareth died on the cross, He promised a repentant sinner beside Him on another cross that he would be with Jesus in Paradise (let’s not forget that Jesus was crucified between two sinners), thus giving that sinner a chance to be reborn in Eternity rather than suffering in the Other Place.  Every flower that dies releases seeds containing life, so nothing truly dies.  We, too, are products of those who have died before us (in a removed-generation way), so no one really dies.  Death doesn’t even have to mean physical discontinuance of life, for every transformation is a death of sorts.  With each transformation we undergo we are reborn as new people (and, oh, yes, we must transform) with the knowledge that will guide us  through each new stage of life.

Don’t be afraid to turn the page, for people who don’t turn the page and adapt might as well close the book, for they’ve died long before their last breaths.

V.

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A Moment of Silence

Let us take time to think as we take a moment of silence

to honor those who lost their lives six years ago today:

  1. in New York City at the World Trade Center,
  2. in Arlington, Virginia at the Pentagon, and
  3. in a lone green field outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

Though these people met their Creator that day, they will live on in the minds and souls of those they left behind and in the history books that have yet to be written.  God bless us all on this very solemn day.

V.

Meatloaf and the Art of Weblog Maintenance

When I mentioned that I’m accepting meatloaf recipes, I wasn’t kidding: meatloaf is one of the most American of recipes because, as The United States is an amalgam of people and cultures from all over the world, meatloaf is a mixture of many different ingredients that are bonded together to make a delicious meal.  Feel free to send in your favorite meatloaf (or soy loaf or bean loaf) recipes.  One caveat: the recipe cannot contain tree nuts or eggplant (aubergines, for my international readers).  I am allergic to both of those things.  Otherwise, go ape (please don’t put ape in your meatloaf; they’re gentle creatures that deserve to live peaceably. 🙂 ).

V.

A Time to Chill

DISCLAIMER:  Names used in this post do not represent real people or TV characters!  Don’t sue me!  I just picked these names out of thin air!

It’s Saturday once again, and for many people it’s a day off from work and/or school.  For me, I get to write this post and then take Sunday off to meditate on the word of God through the Bible.  Hopefully, I’ll also get to commune with fellow Christians in a worship service (as I happen to be Christian).

Right now, my primary employment consists of being a homemaker and writing uplifting, inspirational messages to share with all of you out there.  I was a child in the 1970s, when women were busy being liberated, so the images of women I saw were of women in the workplace bringing home the bacon and coming home with that bacon to fry it up in a pan.  I also saw images of women from longer ago (the 1950s and before) that had Mother in the kitchen cooking in a dress and high heels.  Weird, huh?  It messed up a lot of little girls’ psyches who had conflicts with those images.  In the ’70s girls had to choose between being a ‘regular’ mom or being a working mom; in the 1980s girls had to choose between being a ‘regular’ mom or being a stay-at-home mom.

Neither woman, however, seemed to have a time to chill: Mommy ‘Carol’ was so busy with the children that she didn’t have time to kick it with her girls while Daddy tended the children, while Mommy ‘Claire’ was so busy climbing the corporate ladded to the top that her feet were swollen when she got home to work her second job as Mom.  Dad, in both cases, always seemed to have time to kick it with his boys after work.  Dad also, in both cases, never had to start an after-work shift as Dad: fixing dinner, washing dishes, doing four loads of laundry, feeding a sick baby while three children under age 7 are begging for his undivided attention on three totally different issues, grocery shopping, vacuuming, — ‘women’s work’.  Doesn’t sound very liberated, does it?

For the heavy-laden among us: declare the day of your choice National Vicki Day (use your own name to commemorate the day, of course).  Send any children you have (two- and four-legged) to Grandma and Granddad’s house (or your children’s favorite relative), send your lover/spouse/pet person somewhere for the day, and revel in the beauty of the fact that you have the whole damn place to yourself to refresh yourself and recharge your soul.

On National Vicki Day, :

  1. bubble baths are mandatory unless you are allergic to the detergent in bubble bath,
  2. chocolate is a heart-healthy food,
  3. calories do not exist,
  4. you must eat peeled grapes and barbecue for breakfast, ice cream for lunch, potato chips for dinner, and snack on whatever you choose throughout the day,
  5. diets are forbidden,
  6. the most exercise you are allowed to get on that day is reaching for that twelfth slice of pizza,
  7. being pampered by your beautician, your manicurist/pedicurist, your makeup artist, your massotherapist, and your personal clothes shopper are a must, and
  8. if you must do anything more strenuous that getting dressed and blessed for the day, dancing the night away followed by an early-morning breakfast at the greasy spoon across from the disco are always acceptable activities.

You may, of course, choose your own favorite activities that recharge your spirit (yes, even a fishing trip counts), so long as you don’t harm anyone or break any laws.  Hey, even God took a day off; He mandates that we do the same and keep it holy to exalt and regard Him as our Father in Heaven.  If we take a day off to acknowledge that He made us in His image, rather than in the image of a robot, we will find it easier to carve out a time to chill.

V.

Shark People

If you are within reach of a zoo or public aquarium, check out the shark exhibit.  Notice that many of the sharks move constantly.  In some species of shark, the respiration is such that if the shark stops swimming it’ll die; it is unable to pump oxygenated water through its gills while at rest.

How many of us know people who seem always on the go — the shark people?  People who seem unable to breathe while at rest?  People afraid to rest for fear that they will cease to be?  People who routinely work double and even triple shifts?  People who seem to exist on two hours’ sleep, pep pills, and pots of coffee?  People who feel they must work constantly just to keep up with what they think is life?  People who schedule their children for three afterschool activities while they themselves have after-work activities?  People who run for the city bus with a sandwich in their jaws?  People who drive with one hand, eat an ice cream cone with the other, and talk with a cell phone tucked between their head and shoulder? (I’m not kidding! I saw this last night when my pet man and I were coming home from the grocery store!) Are you a shark person, or have you ever been a shark person?

Pull over.  Breathe.  Sit.  Dream.  Chill.  Have a cup of tea (or perhaps a cocktail).  Fix a real meal, one that requires you to sit down at a table and eat with flatware or chopsticks.  Eat a real dessert, not a packaged cream cake that may not exactly be wholesome or even fresh.  Take a nap, complete with stuffed animal and favorite blanket.  Call the person you send text messages to all the time and invite him or her to your place for tea, goodies, and conversation.  Write a real letter with paper, pen, and proper grammar to a loved one who’s out of town.  Let the children spend their free time playing or reading or dancing or even daydreaming.

What’s the big rush?  A day is still twenty-four hours long, whether you rush through it or take each moment slowly.  Cramming things and actions into every moment won’t add one more second to the day.  Don’t worry; your children will still be wonderful people even if they’re not going to soccer, cheerleading, baseball, basketball, hockey, tennis, and football practice; karate, ballet, and guitar lessons, and horse riding camp every day.  Yes, children need structured activities to make them well-rounded people, but they don’t need to do every activity under the sun.

Come to think of it, neither do you.  When was the last time you heard a dying person wish he or she had spent more time at the office or at the factory?  Ain’t gonna happen.  When was the last time you put on some soft music on your home stereo, snuggled up with a cozy book that has little or no literary or informative value, and just dug into it?  If the answer is longer ago than a month, you need to slow down.  If you have to work 16-hour workdays just to put food on the table, clothes in the closet, and a place to lay your head, you may want to consider getting the skills needed for a better job that you love.  If you’re working 16-hour workdays, however, so that the food on your $1000 dinner table is fine-dining quality, the clothes in your walk-in closet are fashion-runway originals, and you just bought a million-dollar house, scale back your lifestyle.  As an infant, you didn’t know you ‘needed’ a $700 vacuum cleaner when a $70 one will still pick up dirt; what’s so different now that you’re grown?  I’m not saying that we should take vows of poverty; however, there is so much in the world we just don’t need, and God always provides us with what we do need.

For the overburdened parent: do you even remember how many children you have, let alone their names and ages?  These are people you either brought into the world or brought into your life via adoption; each one needs you just as much now that they’re nearly grown as they did when they were small.  Take time to find out who they are, but don’t bulldoze over them.  Make it easy for them to approach you; young people’s lives may have different stressors from adults’ lives, but they also feed off the stresses of the adults in their lives.  If you can’t chill, they can’t chill.  Worse, they may find bad ways to chill, such as drugs, alcohol, or sex.

Are you still watching the sharks at the aquarium?  Good; you’ve just proven that you do have the power to relax, that you are not a shark person.  Now go see the other creatures.

V.

Porch Swings and Grapevines

Come on out.  Have a seat.  Yes, this is a porch swing.  No, you’re not too old to swing on a swing.  Move the swing, glide the glider, swing in the hammock chair, just sway in the mild summer breeze.  Every step a mother-to-be takes swings her unborn child in a somewhat more complex way, and even as adults we have to satisfy this pre-embryonic need to be rocked to sleep, or at least to peace.  Watch lovers, young and old, cuddle on a porch swing or in a two-person hammock, often with one partner’s head resting on the other’s lap.  See a father and his young children snuggled up on a chaise, father holding his children as if never to let go yet shifting ever so slightly as if it’s his turn to carry the children inside him.  See a grandmother sit in her recliner or rocking chair and hug her afghan that she made when her grandmother taught her to knit or crochet.

What have all these people in common?  They have managed to carve out a niche of time to return to the womb and regroup.  Even Jesus of Nazareth said to Nicodemus, “No one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again.” (John 3:3, NIV*) Although He was speaking of a higher, eternal rebirth, the rejuvenation of which I speak is more down-to-Earth.  Of course, reentering one’s birthmother is impossible, but a womblike state has been scientifically proven to help prematurely-born and low-birth-weight infants to both survive and thrive.  Even as we get older we still have the need to sway, supported, to a certain natural rhythm, to feel as if we fly (or at least float).

Don’t believe it?  Swing on a porch swing for about an hour or so.  If you’re not asleep, I can almost promise you that you will remember the most pleasant day or days of your life.  Can you taste the grapes from the grapevine in your grandfather’s backyard, their earthy, foxy aroma flooding your nose and brain with a flavor store-bought grapes can’t even begin to match?  Does your cat jump into your lap, curling up on your favorite comic book?  Are you sipping the iced tea you just made?  Do you feel like going to the dollar store and getting a bottle of soap bubbles so you can deplete half the bottle in one day blowing soap bubbles, most of which tend to burst immediately but a few of which seem to enter outer space?  Does the neighbor’s nine-year-old daughter dare you to jump into the old pond by the old apple orchard, even though there’s more algae than water in the pond?  Are you ready to chase the ice cream truck with about fifty other children on your street?  Have you just introduced your new child to his or her first outing in the sun, the baby freshly bathed and dressed in a sunsuit and lying on a blanket beside you?  Is it your honeymoon morning, you awakening for the first time next to your brand new husband or wife?  Wherever your true bliss is, feel free to go there with your porch swing as your car and the grapevine as your road.

V.

There’s Always Room at the Table

Come on in.  Have a seat.  There’s always room at the table for you.  Even if you see yourself as unfixable, irreparable, or just plain incorrigible, park a cheek or two and know that everyone and everything needs a home.

I’ve set up food on the table.  Maybe it’s your favorite fried chicken.  Maybe it’s bologna sandwiches with the edges cut off from the bread.  Maybe it’s that hot, steamy platter of paella that your grandma from Spain fixed especially for you.  Maybe it’s Kansas City barbecue that your Uncle Eddie fixes oh-so-right.  Or maybe it’s your daughter-in-law’s vegetarian lasagna.  The point is, food is one of the strongest things tied to memory, whether Stepdad’s slicing a turkey that’s falling apart at the seams but tastes like butter or whether it’s your six-year-old child’s first attempt to fix Mother’s Day breakfast for you (complete with burnt pancakes, burnt-and raw bacon, and runny eggs).

Now, for the side dishes: macaroni and cheese, salad, glazed carrots, antipasto, creamed spinach, fruit salad, barbecue potato chips, — whatever you care to eat, whatever you are able to eat, it’s on the table.  The side dishes really add variety and nutrients to the meal, not to mention they can be a meal if you choose.  Besides, a slab of meat alone on a plate is so 2,000,000 years ago.

Now, beverages.  As the human body is 70% water, we all need living water to flush out the poisons and toxins in our minds, our bodies, and our spirits.  Slake your thirst with your favorite beverage, but for strong drink like coffee and more potent potables moderation is the key.  And, for Heaven’s sake, don’t drink and drive: it alters too many lives and there’s not a thing you can do to uncry the tears of a person whose loved ones are gone due to drunk driving.

Save room for dessert.  Blueberry/peach pie, apples and cheese drizzled with honey, Red Velvet cake, Crème Brulée, gelatin with fresh berries, cookies and ice cream, — always leave room for something sweet in your life, even if it’s nibbling on your beloved. 😉 Sweets let us have something to look forward to, when done correctly.

Most importantly, there’s companionship and love at the table.  People gather to eat not always because they’re hungry; one may as well eat alone to alleviate hunger.  People gather to eat because at least one person at the table is looking forward to someone he or she shares his or her heart with to be at the table.  Never think that you eat alone at the table of life, for at least one person loves you enough to hope and pray that you are alive and well.  There’s always room at the table… for you.

Now, who wants to help me with the dishes?  Don’t everyone stand up at once.  Hello?  Hello?

V.