Invisible Me

I ALWAYS, almost, get a shower in the morning.

I ALWAYS, almost, do my hair and spray it for the day.

I ALWAYS, almost, put on make up.

I NEVER, almost, wear gardening shorts to the store.

Did you ever just want to run out quickly – fast like a bunny – and pick up something at the store? Not a social event, not a meeting, just a quick jaunt out and back - INVISIBLY!

Recently, I just needed a couple of 6X9 envelopes for mailing books. I think I can accurately say that I have gone to our local Target 45 times and NEVER seen anyone I knew.  As far as anyone was concerned, I was not there.  I went in, looked around, bought what I needed and left again – all without seeing a soul I knew.

But no, the one day this year that I went, not showered with straight as a stick hair.  (People often ask if I’m feeling sick when my hair is straight, that’s why I ALWAYS, almost, curl it.) With no make up to cover the many imperfections and scars from way too much sun poisoning all my life, and wearing less than flattering shorts with an equally unflattering top – I was recognized.

“Are you Mrs. Walls?”

Looking around to see who else was there, my first response was to say,  “NO!”

That’s what I wanted to say, but the young bearded man was so polite, I confessed.  I didn’t recognize him at all.  But lo, when he was just a teen, before he was old enough to shave, he worked in the warehouse where I was supervisor.

I just wanted to crawl under the table and look invisible.  Instead, after a pleasant but brief conversation, I went to the car and as I was putting the key in the ignition, my friend, by the same name walked right in front of my car.

Having no more sense than the man in the moon, and before I could stop myself, I honked my horn.  SHE DIDN’T RECOGNIZE ME. Great – it’s not a good sign when a little bit of spray in a bottle and makeup on the face makes that much difference. Still, we had a wonderful time catching up with each other’s lives.

However, the next time I’m tempted to walk out the door like a spring chicken, I need to rethink things!  You young chicks are beautiful when you wake up after you’ve wrestled a pillow and haven’t had a chance to wash your face.  At my age though, I need to take a minute, or even two, to get ready before I leave the house.  Call it vanity, call it wisdom, call it anything you like, but I have been reminded:

 

I AM NOT INVISIBLE!

Math: The Other Useless Subject

IMG_1384I am being totally facetious!  The older I get, the more I wish I’d paid closer attention in math class.

Seriously, my youngest daughter and I are both mathematically challenged.  Between us if we’re in a restaurant and the bill for this person is so much, and the bill for the other is different, and we want to pay for a third person’s meal and leave a tip – we’re stumped.

Stumped like, “Just give the waitress our wallets and let her pick out what she needs to cover the bill, then give us the change.”

Recently we wanted to make strawberry jam.  Directions were pretty straight forward until it came to “for 2 eight ounce containers”.  We had 12 ounce containers.  Hmm!  Then it spoke of using 2 1/3 cups.  We wanted to make 6 containers.  Six containers, a third cup, eight ounce containers – there appeared no common denominator.

Literally, it took us longer to do the math, than it did to make the jelly.  We have a chart now that’s been sealed away in a locked box so we never have to do that math again.

At least that’s what we thought, then we read the directions for another kind of fruit.  Different fruit, different combinations.

We just laughed.

It may not be perfect jam, but it was perfectly fun!

Can’t wait to make some more.

The City Mouse and the Country Mouse – Part 2

After I’d moved back to PA, my “city mouse” friends drove in to see me.  They were totally intimidated by the beautiful back country roads they had to drive to get to my house.  Though the rolling hills of PA are quite scenic in the daytime, the shroud of darkness changes everything. These poor girls trying to negotiate the unlit roads would have been hysterically funny if it hadn’t been so very dangerous riding with them.  They all but stopped at the crest of every hill because they couldn’t see down the other side.  Every twist and turn of a country lane made them panic.  The poor “country mouse” drivers behind us must have been ready to pull their hair out.

As much fun as we had together, I think they were very anxious to get back to the lights, the horns and the traffic of the city.  At least there they could see what the obstacles were.  In Chicago, even the alley ways were lit by streetlights to help decrease the crime rate. In my little hometown, not even all the streets were lit, let alone the alleys.

I found it surprising that the “city mouse” people at my bus stop could stand with the same strangers, to get the same bus, at the same time Monday through Friday and never introduce themselves to each other.  Trying hard to fit in, I observed the unspoken rule until one night as I was walking from the bus stop alone, I met up with my next door neighbor.  He was an old gentleman who, if you asked me, had too much time on his hands.  He’d retired at the young age of 55 with enough money to live the rest of his life without working.  Apparently, now being well into his late 70′s, he employed his time with lecherous thoughts of the young women who passed by his home daily.  

He and a friend were chatting about a block and a half up the tree lined street from our apartment.  As I approached he extended his hand to me.  I thought that he wanted to introduce me to another neighbor.  Foolish “country mouse” girl.  This dirty old man pulled me in and kissed me, right there in the middle of the street with his old friend right beside him.  I was speechless!!!!!  It was then I decided never to walk that street alone again. The next morning I was on a mission.  As soon as I got to the bus stop, I introduced myself to the first person who showed up.  The next day I introduced myself and my new found “city mouse” friends to each other. Ultimately, there were five of us who walked the same way every night, but now we weren’t alone.  There really was safety in numbers and great friendships developed.

Another rule for fledgling “country mice” is the requirement to enter and exit public transportation promptly. No dilly dallying is permitted.  You jump on, you jump off, or you miss your chance.  Whatever you do, you must keep all pieces and parts together.  Don’t let a straggling parcel behind because it

In the country when it gets dark, it's just DARK.

In the country when it gets dark, it’s just DARK.

will be taking a ride without you if you do.  On one sunny afternoon I arrived at my stop after a rather rainy morning.  With purse and umbrella in hand I marched to the back of the bus.

Unfortunately, as I exited the bus my umbrella somehow got stuck in the door and the bus pulled away to the next stop.  Being married to a full time student didn’t leave a lot of extra money in our wallets at the end of the week and buying a new umbrella was not in the budget.  I did the only thing I could do, tightly budgeted “country mouse” that I was.  I chased the bus down the street trying to make it stop.  Once again the “city mice” looked on in stunned disbelief. Their deadpan stares followed me as I jogged down the street in my three inch heels for the sake of rescuing a nondescript umbrella.  Not a smile was broken.  When the doors opened two blocks away, I retrieved the stuck umbrella and left my dignity behind as the doors closed.

You might wonder what I could have learned from the bus chasing exercise.  It’s this: Don’t take yourself too seriously.  I learned to laugh at myself.  I may have been just a blip on the “city mouse’s” nightly ride home radar, but perhaps when they thought about it later, it gave them a smile.  That’s okay with me, a smile trumps a frown any day of the week. I don’t set myself up to be a buffoon, but it’s okay if you laugh WITH me.

 

 

 

The City Mouse and the Country Mouse – Part I

The thriving metropolis of Chicago was such a different atmosphere for a “country mouse” girl like myself.  I remember a “city mouse” co-worker returning from a trip out West saying that there were animals right by the road.  She was shocked that they were allowed to be so close to the passing cars. Since Chicago was as far west as I’d ever gone, I inquired about what kind of animals she’d seen.  In my imagination they could have been bobcats, coyotes, even bears.  But no, they were cows and horses that amazed her.  It was finally my turn to chuckle, knowing that in my “country mouse” little town, this was a common occurrence.

So, riding my new found means of public transportation to work one sunny morning, I spontaneously stood and announced to my “city mouse” neighbors on the bus, “A dog!  Look, a dog!”  The little spotted, four-legged friend was nonchalantly ambling down Irving Park Road, checking out all hydrants and parking meters as he went. He was the first dog I’d seen since arriving in the city.

It was one of those, “Did I Say That Out Loud” moments.

I got the standard deadpan stare from the other riders who wondered, I’m sure, if I was going to do something even more drastic, like – talk to them individually.  Everyone knows that you only do that on public transportation after your train has been delayed for 20 minutes because someone decided to end their time here on planet earth by jumping in front of an elevated train, going breakneck speed to its next stop.  Then it’s completely appropriate to have a minimal conversation with the person next to you.

I had a hard time learning this lesson though.  At one of the big name department stores one day they were having a sale in their basement section on purses.  I stood in total amazement as a clerk literally aimed purses toward the sale table, throwing them over the heads of shoppers.  When I finally eased my way to the side of the table, I helped an elderly woman grab a bag that was just out of her reach.  Handing it to her, I said, “Good Morning.”  Her response, “Do I know you?”

The city and I spent many interesting days together.  It was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about people in general, and myself in particular.  God sometimes puts us where we don’t feel secure and confident to show us He is in control and we can trust that His ways are perfect.  I learned so much from my “city mouse” friends about life, love and contentment. God used the city and my “city mouse” friends to change this “country mouse” for the rest of my life.

IMG_0464

 

Let Them be Kids

Driving home late one evening, my daughter Sarah-Joy and I were the only ones awake in the car.  It was a crystal clear night, and as we drove I spotted a falling star cascading across a cloudless sky.  It was a rare and dazzling sight.  Cresting the last hill on the highway close to our home, Sarah looked out at the landscape dotted with light.  She excitedly told me,

“Look, Mommy, that must be where that falling star landed!”

House light/ star light – I wasn’t going to disillusion her.  I’d already made that mistake once.

While we were strolling through a parking lot on our way back to our car, Sarah noticed a puddle with beautiful colors of blue, green, red and yellow swirled in it.  She thought it was a rainbow caught right there on the pavement. I corrected her so she would know it was just an oil leak from a car.  Her response,

“Oh mommy, I wish you hadn’t told me that.”

So did I, as soon as I said it.

Sometimes we just need to leave well enough alone.  When they’re 15, 16, 21, they won’t believe their stuffed animals talk anymore, they will understand that daddy can’t actually “smell” McDonald’s french fries when he’s driving down the road, and they won’t think that stars land, or rainbows live in puddles.

Let kids be kids!

They grow up soon enough

All grown up with her own hubby and littles to raise.

All grown up with her own hubby and littles to raise.

and so much of the fantasy of imagination is replaced by cold hard facts.

Back in the Day

 

 

Before ballpoint pens, when space travel was relegated to the imagination of little boys reading comic books and the speed of your bike was dependent on how fast you could pedal; when gay meant brightly colored and politically correct had something to do with etiquette; back in the day when the street lights coming on were the only clock you had in summer to tell you it was time to head for home and you walked to the local drug store to buy the sheet music for your favorite song so you could memorize the words; a really good babysitter got 50 cents an hour and the height of independence was when your weekly paycheck finally cleared $100; that was my time.

Before xbox and wii, pocket calculators, and phones that you wear on your ear; we still played games (Monopoly, Chinese Checkers, Parcheesi); we still added and subtracted, and we still communicated with our friends by phone, sometimes sharing a phone line (called a party line) with several other families to keep down the cost, or calling home and asking the operator to place the call person-to-person then asking to speak to yourself so your parents would know you arrived at a given destination safely. Writing letters was in vogue and young women waited patiently for the mailman to bring word from their loved ones who’d been drafted.

Back then you could use a playing card and a clip clothes pin to convert your bicycle into a motorized sports car.  If you had a red handkerchief from your dad’s dresser drawer and the right sized stick you were a cowboy in the wild west, and if your front porch had a railing around it, you could ride your bucking bronco into the sunset.  A blanket thrown over the clothes line provided a tent for the night. Soup cans dug into the yard gave you a golf course.  You could spend hours putting together a model airplane then climb to the top of a garage and set it on fire to have your own WWII.

Being sick you might have measles, mumps or chickenpox and all the associated side effects. Doll babies did nothing but lay there, they didn’t speak, didn’t eat, and for sure they didn’t poop. Sitting on the back porch on a lazy summer evening watching the fireflies light up the night air while sipping Kool Aid. The commercial still rattles around in our brains, “Kool Aid, Kool Aid, tastes great!  We love Kool Aid – Can’t wait!” That was my time.

It is a wonder how we made it this far, and that we remember.  Going on a trip meant following state roads through one little town after another, with all the associated stop signs and red lights.  McDonald’s hadn’t been thought of, fast food was determined by how quickly you could eat it. Eating while walking outside was unheard of, and certainly eating french fries with your fingers was just not done.  It was the end of another war and the beginning of an era now referred to as “the good old days”.  And they were good.

When we finally got a television of our very own it came with doors on the front to make it a console, a piece of furniture to enhance the beauty of the room when it wasn’t being used.  After a while, people started getting color tv’s.  We were happy to not have to go to the neighbors to see their tv, but all the same wanted the color effect that was so highly acclaimed.  My dad purchased the latest in adapters to make a black and white tv into a color model.  It was a piece of very heavy plastic that you rolled out across the screen and watched as Lucy and Desi walked from one color band to another, turning from red to green to yellow to blue.  What a wonder! A color tv of our very own.

A new fangled invention back in the day was the decorator wall clock, other than the old Regulator clock that hung in train stations, wall clocks were not decorator items prior to this time.  My mom called me into the kitchen one day to unveil a surprise she had created.  The kitchen door to the back porch was opened, concealing her surprise.  With a bit of flourish she swept it to the side to reveal our very own wall clock.  We were just as  fancy as anyone on the block.  She had hammered a nail into the trim behind the door and hung a watch that was missing one of the leather bands on the nail.  Fancy!  We were movin’ up, you just had to remember to wind it every day.

We still remember the evening gowns for the prom in the high school gym that had been transformed into a wonderland with parachute material draped from the ceiling and artificial grass and a gurgling water fountain in it’s center.  The more crinolines under that gown and the higher the beehive teased up on your head, sprayed with some sort of lacquer to stay that way for hours (or the rest of your life), the better.

Walking home from basketball or football games and their dances at 11:30 at night and not being afraid. After all you’d just danced to songs like, “One Eyed One Horned Flying Purple People Eater”, “Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weeny Yellow Polka Dot Bikini”, “Lets Twist Again Like We Did Last Summer”, and the trusty old favorite “Does Your Chewing Gum Lose Its Flavor On the Bedpost Overnight?”.  All of your friends chipping in to buy a couple of gallons of gas for the car might cost you a quarter a piece.  You’d have two gallons of gas and cruise town for hours.

Looking back we see mostly the good with smatterings of dark clouds scattered on the edges of our memories. All of this while at the same time we still had people riding in the back of the bus and drinking from separate water fountains, the Cuban missile crisis, the Bay of Pigs invasion, air raid drills in our schools, children huddled in school hallways with their heads on the floor and their hands over the backs of their necks till the all clear was sounded, black outs and brown outs and peeking out through the window blinds to see who would be the first person on your street to relight their lamps, our President gunned down while riding in the car with his wife, so much tragedy but for the most part, we grew up in the  good old days.

Girls still cried over the loss of a boyfriend, mothers still watched their boys go off to war, fathers still were demoralized by the loss of their jobs, and sons still drove cars too fast and suffered the consequences.  “But God is faithful and will not suffer you to be tempted above what you are able, but will, with the temptation, make a way to escape that you might be able bear it.”  I Cor. 10:13

Some of our adventures were our way to escape that we could bear the most difficult of times. So we are perceived as the “Ozzie and Harriet Generation”.

 

 

MOVING – An Adventure?

U-HAUL used to have a sign painted on the side of their trucks that read, “An adventure in moving.”

Now tell me, who needs an “adventure” when they’re moving? Relocating in and of itself is adventurous enough.

Take it from me, an habitual mover. For the first twelve years of my married life, I didn’t ever have to do Spring and Fall housecleaning – we just moved to a new home. In fact, I didn’t want to marry my hubby while he was in the military cause I didn’t want to be transferred all the time.

Then we got married, we lived in 11 houses in 13 years. That was after he got out of the USAF. The thing is, the longer you’re married (it’ll be 46 years in August), the more kids you have (we have four), and the more stuff you accumulate. And it’s not all your stuff. After a while you start storing everyone else’s belongings too.

The kids (who now have kids of their own) don’t have room for this, that or the other, “Mom, can we put this at your house till we have room for it?” Since there is no good reason not too, the answer is, “Of course.” On numerous occasions we’ve even “stored” other families in our house. But each time someone moves in or out, even if you’re not moving yourself, you still end up with all the same symptoms. In an effort to make everyone comfortable, even on a temporary basis, the whole house gets rearranged.

The kitchen is the worst, if I have oregano and an extra, and she has oregano and an extra, we then have 4 oreganos to put somewhere “handy” for when we run out. It’d be a l-o-n-g time till we used that much of any spice! Now multiply that times all the spices you spot in your kitchen cupboard. It’s tricky!

My youngest daughter is in the process of moving just ten minutes up the road from her current home, but to get those ten minutes away still requires packing every little knife, fork, spoon, potty seat, sweater, mitten, sock, pot, pan, photo album, blanket, stuffed animal, picture frame into a box that is generally either too big or too small. Box size, you know, can be corrected by the use of enough packing tape to go coast to coast – TWICE. The packing process is endless. Or so it seems at the time.

And this is the other thing regarding moving, once you have each darling little item snuggly, I might add, lovingly, slapped into a box, you then have the privilege of loading it into a truck. It then takes a quick ten minute jaunt up the street, where you take said box out of said truck, carry it into the house, and lovingly unwrap it, find a place to put it, and then decide what to do with all the packaging materials that you’ve accumulated that now appear as though a paper box factory threw up in your backyard.

I am so thankful for the diligence and industriousness I see in my kids. They are all workers and I’m proud of them. Right now my moving girl is like that bunny on the television ad that just keeps going and going and going. With an almost three year old and a five year old, wanting to know what is in every box, making dinosaurs jump enthusiastically off of cartons, “helping” tape up boxes, she still managed to sit down and do a meal plan for the next two weeks so we can know what items from the kitchen can be packed and what needs to remain till the last horn blows.

Yesterday, after helping all day with packing, I was in bed by 7. Yes, I said 7 o’clock. While she still had to make, serve and clean up supper for her family, get the kids to AWANA, go pick out paint for the new house, bring little people home and ready them for bed, and finally breathe. Her momma was sleeping soundly.

I don’t know where she keeps her cape and her phone booth, but I think I packed her blue shirt with the red “S” on it.

As an “empty nester” it is difficult to remember when I ever had that much energy. I think it’s like grace, you only get it when you need it.

You moms are to be congratulated and encouraged. Granted I’m 36 years older than she, but she looks like she’s going in fast forward, while my engine is stuck in reverse!

THE GHOST OF CHRISTMAS PAST

 

We’ve celebrated the birth of the babe who came to earth from His heavenly home. He left all his majesty behind and came to seek and to save the lost. Jesus gave the perfect gift and as a token we give gifts to each other.

Our tree is up and the lights are on, but the packages are nearly all dispensed to family and friends. The families are each in their own homes, or traveling to them, and I’m reflecting on Christmases that have past.

When there were only two of us  living in a far away metropolitan city, we were so anxious to get back to the familiar small town where we grew up. Anxious to be in the company of family and friends, who knew us and loved us anyway. There were always presents, my dad loved Christmas and one of his favorite sayings was, “I know where there’s lots of money.” So he bought prizes for all of our family and when a neighbor fell on hard times he bought their family presents as well. There was no spiritual application to his Christmas, but he so enjoyed being the “HoHo”.

When our children were small and we’d moved to the next county, he’d get up early so he and mom could be at our house before the children got up. Since we lived in a rural setting, locking the door was unnecessary and we’d be awakened by a “Ho Ho Ho, Merry Christmas! Where is everybody!”

Needless to say, children bounded out of bed and the party was on. Typical Christmas morning breakfast was coffee and cookies, especially since my mom only baked cookies once a year, we wanted them breakfast, lunch and supper.

Years past by and mom and dad aged, as we all do. No more early morning visits, but now grandchildren of our own to enjoy.

It’s hard to eliminate items from their lists. They’re all good kids and we want to share with them. Seeing pleasure on their faces makes our hearts joyful. Singing beside them in church is literally breathtaking. It is the living out of the verse that says, “I have no greater joy than to know that my children walk in truth.”

This ghost of Christmas past has stirred up the melancholy in me. The many sweet, sweet memories of years of blessing. God is so good to share the perfect gift of His only Son with us. How can we do less than share with each other by thoughts, words and deeds. Infinite love.

May you and yours have a blessed New Year!

The Blame Game

Rowan and Martin’s Laugh In. A blast from the past where stars like Steve Martin, Goldie Hahn, the Smothers Brothers and Flip Wilson got their start.

Flip was a good natured stand-up comic with a great sense of humor and impeccable body language.He often used the line,

“the devil made me do it!”

With his accent and the flick of his head, he had you laughing no matter what he was insinuating.

Of course, the devil he referred to was most likely dressed in red with pointed ears and a long tail. He was no comparison to the actual devil who is “seeking whom he may devour.” He’s so subtle and uses whatever is closest to you to cause you to stumble in your walk with Jesus.

We can say,

“it’s just the way I am!”

But that doesn’t excuse us from not being Christ like in our actions and our attitudes. We make it very convenient for the enemy of our soul to defeat us when we use that line and claim that we can’t help ourselves. Since we’re new creatures in Christ, we still have to deal with our flesh, but Jesus reminds us, “I have overcome the world.”

When the devil whispers lies in your ear telling you it’s okay to do what you know to be wrong, it’s time to sing. “God inhabits the praises of His people.” “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Satan is the father of lies, don’t believe him when he tells you that you have no choice, it’s just the way you are.

Make a conscious effort to never ignore that still small voice of your Savior who is speaking to your other ear, telling you that “Greater is He that is in you, than he that is in the world.”

Don’t play the Blame Game.

You’ll always lose, even when you think it’s the only way to win.

Lost and Found

Squinting and hunched over my lap top was how my son found me this morning.  I was trying to make an entry into facebook before going out to our weekly breakfast.

This was today’s post:  “The trouble with being 65 and wearing glasses is you can’t remember where you took them off and you can’t see them while you’re looking. (I think that’s what I typed!)”

There’s this old saying that goes, “Of all the things I’ve lost, I miss my mind the most.”  Don’t you hate it when you tell someone that you’re looking for a lost item and they reply, “Well, where did you have it last?”  Come on —- LOST!

I have lost my car on a regular basis at the mall.  It’s constructed like a wheel with four main spokes coming out from a central hub.  At the end of each main spoke there is a large department store and each store has four entries, one into the mall itself and the other three lead to parking lots.  I can’t tell you how often I have walked out the wrong door and searched in vain for my car, only to finally find it was parked on the other side of the building.

When I was single, some hundred and fifty years ago, it was the custom for women to wear gloves when going out on a date. (You thought I was kidding about the hundred and fifty years didn’t you?)  Anyway, I was in a flurry one night trying to be ready when my date arrived, but searching in vain for my white gloves.  My mom gave me a confused look and just stared for a minute.  “Mom, can’t you please help me find them!” “You mean white, like the one you’re wearing?”     . . . . .      “Oh.”

Children, I hate to admit it, but I’ve lost each of my own children twice.  I have four, so if you do the math, eight times I’ve been through a parent’s worst nightmare of not being able to find my child.  Why God would entrust me with other people’s kids is a mystery. I never lost anyone else’s child though, just my own, at the beach, at the mall, at Hershey Park, at Friendlys Ice Cream Parlor.  Really, God is so good to me and watches over the details of my life in a most particular way, as He does for each of us.

I’m reminded of Jim Elliot, famous martyred missionary, who said, “He is no fool who gives what he can not keep, to gain what he can not lose.”  God is in the business of lost and found.  “We were lost in our trespasses and sin.”  But by His grace we have gained eternal life  through the death, burial and resurrection of His Son.  He paid the price we can’t pay, so that we can have eternal life that we can not lose, “…no man can pluck you out of His hand” not because of our righteousness, “all our righteousness is as filthy rags”, but because of His sinless perfection “For He hath made Him who knew no sin, to be sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” taking on our sin, past, present and future.  I have found a new and remarkable life in Christ, not without problems, but not without hope either. What a Savior!