Thursday, March 31, 2011

New Toy!

Do you remember when you were a child, and a new toy came into your possession? Remember the excitement you felt and the anticipation you had before you had a chance to try it out?  I do!  One Christmas my Dad built stilts for us. Actually, I think they were for my brothers, but I didn't have a pair. Still, we shared pretty well...sometimes...and I looked forward to having a chance to try them.  I wasn't good at it, as it turned out, so I left them for Tom to play with alone. He had mastered them immediately!

The boys got pogo sticks on another Christmas. None of us could stay on those for long, but we had lots of fun trying.  Another year Dad built a go-cart for us, with a lawn mower engine and two real bucket seats from an old car, and a real steering wheel.  The first time I drove it, I tried to turn the wheel and hit the brake at the same time, but didn't quite do the trick. I ran it straight into the brambles and briars at the end of our cul de sac!  I sat there laughing so hard, until the boys came down the road to pull me out of the underbrush!

Thus far, I've spoken of the boys toys. I had plenty of my own new things too! One of my favorites was a gift from my father on my birthday. It was a 'doll making kit'.  It had little wooden heads with faces painted on, an assortment of plastic wigs that snapped into a hole at the top of the head, and a bunch of pipe cleaners to twist into bodies. Then there were scraps of fabric with which to make clothing for them. I had hours of fun with those.

I didn't mean to get into childhood toys!  I started this because I wanted to tell you about my new, grown up toys!  I'm as excited about them as I was as a child.  They are paper racks from a scrapbook store that closed!  I now have tons of proper space for my many scrapbook papers and card stock!  It took awhile to get the thing in place and bolted together, and we still have one  more to do today. But, oh! how wonderful and organized things will be once they are all in place! 

Yesterday, after the first one was put together, I began to load it. The hard part was to figure out how to place the papers, in color order. I want it to be easy to go to just the right pile for my project, so I've stacked the neutrals at the top, with piles of red, blue, green, etc beneath them. Some of the stack pack pads are left in tact, I can always get those free if  I can't find the perfect sheet in the rack.

My daughter will be so pleased!  So will I...finally I'm inspired to truly get that spot organized!

Monday, March 28, 2011

That Kind of A Day

The other day was cool and gray and rainy.  I didn't mind having that kind of day for a change. The area needs the rain, for sure, and I needed a break from getting the house in shape for guests who would be coming soon.

Something seemed to be missing, though. It felt as if it was the kind of day where a fire on the hearth would be most welcome.  It wasn't that cold, but it seemed to me that the warmth of a fire would improve the atmosphere. Then it occured to me that there was a second ingredient missing. The fireplace.

We bought a farmhouse style home, a newly built one in a subdivision. I love the floorplan and the room, but there are certain things not here that I'd have been pleased to have included, should I have built the place.  Yes, the  deep fireplace of brick, with a swinging crane to hang a cast iron pot from, for nights of cooking on an open flame or popping corn in the long handled metal popper.  It would be framed by a rustic wood 'surround' which included a simple mantle.  Another thing would be wood floors throughout the home, preferably wideboard pine, in warm honey tones.  I agree that it's very nice to wake up and put your bare feet on fuzzy, thick, warm carpet, but I don't like having to clean it or even look at it. It's just not my taste.

The only other things I think I really wish for in this place are two more windows in the living room. Our room faces north, and the front porch roof shields the light, so the sitting room is quite dark and a bit chilly, as well. A window each side  of a fireplace on the side wall would suit the room well. 

Then, of couse, an old-fashioned deep, single, cast-iron kitchen sink, the kind my Grandmother had with the drainboard and backsplash built into it would be perfect.  In my opinion, these stainless steel, small,  double sinks aren't worth the trouble they take to install. You can't get a cookie sheet into them or a large frying pan either.  And one more thing...a deep, cast iron, claw foot tub!  Oh how I miss the one we had in the old house. You could fill it and lie there for a good while, covered by the hot water. When you pulled the plug, the water would still be warm!

Do I sound as if I'm complaining? I hope not. I am just dreaming...  Am I being covetous?  Perhaps I am. I truly am grateful for this house and for our happy life within its walls, but there are things that I think of that would make it even more comfortable. Maybe in time they will make their way into our lives.  In the meantime, I will concentrate on being content with such things as I have. 

Sometimes I do too much thinking. I guess it's just that kind of a day.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

A Lazy Saturday

It's  Saturday, with the rain pounding on the roof. I  love Saturdays...and I love rain.  I don't feel particularly ambitious, having spent a restless night...again.  This weather causes me to feel sleepy, too, so I'm thinking that today's work load will be lighter than usual, letting machines do most of the the laundry and the dishes.

I have a lot of 'busy work' to do too. I've got to think of a menu plan for guests who will be here next month, and see what's in the larder and what needs to be shopped for. There is mending waiting and my cards to make for our church people's birthdays, etc.  I'm making a gift for a new baby, too, so perhaps I'll get to that in awhile.  The heavier things will wait until next week, I guess. 

My plans to do some sanding and painting of some wooden items for the house will have to wait too.  I started yesterday, and got the bench painted. It needs another coat, though, before I can sand the spots I need to in order to make it look more primitive.  How silly is that, really? To purchase a wooden bench, newly made by an Amish man, John Bieler, many years ago in New Holland, Pennsylvania, hold on to it all this time, and then sand it, paint it, and scuff it up to look old?  Well, silly or not...that's what I'm doing.

I seem to have a want to make things look old, even if they aren't, in my decorating. It's my current fad, while I do my best to ward off my own aging!  It's kind of ironic, I guess. I don't go overboard on trying to make things look older, most of them already ARE pre-used things. More than that, I don't put a great deal of exertion in trying to preserve my own youth, either.  I sort of go with the flow, doing the best I can to look as well as I can, while preserving as much health as I am able. 

But today, I barely have the energy to put moisturizer on my skin!  I'm grateful that I have nothing pressing to do and absolutely nowhere to go.   It truly is a lazy Saturday!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

A Different Kind of Blog, Part 2

Bible sighed as he watched Owner, who had risen from the chair and was pacing. Looking at the day through the rain splatter window pane, Owner  noticed that there were a couple of people walking up the driveway toward the front door. "Oh great," he muttered. He was not in the mood to see anyone and certainly not a couple carrying what looked like Bibles. He went to the wooden front door and stood behind it where he couldn't be seen. The doorbell rang loudly. He ignored it.
It rang twice more before the couple turned and walked away, down the driveway to the street.  Owner waited a few minutes and then returned to the window where he could see the couple getting into a black car and driving away.

He went to the kitchen and made a cup of coffee. He sat in 'his' chair at the table and took a long gulp of the strong, hot liquid. It did nothing to steady his shaken spirit. He was feeling down and hopeless. The phone rang. He rose and went to the phone, flicking the switch so that he wouldn't hear the ringing.  He wanted to be alone  to come to grips with his situation and to try to think up a resolution.  He picked up his coffee mug and went back to his recliner chair, where he plunked himself, staring off into the sparcely furnished room.

He sat like that for a half hour until he heard the mailman slam shut the stubborn door of the mailbox.  He gave the mailman a moment or two to move on to his next stop, and then Owner went to collect the day's mail.  As he lifted the handful of envelopes from the box, a small folded paper peeked out from between the Lowe's ad and the water bill.  All he could see of it was  "Got Problems?" written on the glossy little booklet.  He pulled it out of the stack, and held it in his hand as he tossed the pile of mail on the table next to his chair.

He looked at the front of the tract.  There, under the question that had caught his attention, was a photograph of a man who sat, running his hands through his hair. He looked as if he was under some real pressure. He looked as if he felt just the way Owner was feeling.   Owner began to read the small black type beneath the photo.  "Come unto Me, all ye who are weak and heavy laden. I will give you rest." Matt. 11:28    "Come unto who?" Owner said as he kept reading. He read the entire tract, seeing words that said that God loved him and cared how his life was spent. It said that God was there for him and no matter what the circumstance, that God would help him through it.  The little pamphlet explained how a person could get 'saved' from sin, from a life that displeased God. It went on to say that once the request for forgiveness was made in earnest, God would send His Spirit to lead the way, to protect and to help the reader to grow in the Light of God's Love by the reading of His Word, the Bible, and by getting involved in a Bible believing church. Then.... it asked the reader to make a decision for Christ.

Owner's heart was beating hard.  He hadn't even thought about God in years. He'd gone to Sunday School as a child, but it wasn't continued after he was in the sixth grade. His head was swimming with the disaster that his life had become, and the thoughts that there was Someone who said He cared and could help.  Owner reread the entirety of the small four pages. Then he read it again. With every word, he felt, "I need to give this a try. If it's true, it's going to help. If it's not true, well, I'll be no worse off. But I won't know if I don't give it a try."

Owner held the paper between his fingers, as he read aloud the prayer for forgiveness. As he did, he felt his heartbeat slowing. He felt his spirit quieting. In a moment, he realized that he had read the prayer...but he didn't think it was more than reading. He felt that he needed to put it into his own words. He sat, with his eyes closed, quiet for a moment, and then he spilled it all out to God in his own words. He didn't stop with the asking for forgiveness. He asked God to really be there, to really be his friend through all of his life. Owner asked Him to show him how to live a more pleasing life in God's ways, not his own.  He  finished his prayer. He'd found relief in the meaningful, tearful talk he'd just had with God.

He looked again at the little tract. On the last page it read, 'Get to know Jesus. Start with the Gospel of John."  Owner got up, walked to the bookshelf, scanned the titles, and he gently picked up the book with black leather cover. The gold letters read, "The Holy Bible. "  He slowly walked back to his chair and began to thumb through the pages, until he found the book of John. 

Outside the sun was breaking through the gray clouds. Inside of Owner, the Son was breaking through the gloomy spirit. Was this the beginning of a new outlook? What would this mean for Owner's future. As time goes on, we may find out. In the meantime, we will wait to see.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Aunts: Part Five

The fact is that I had two more aunts that really should be mentioned, although I didn't know them at all. They were my mother's half sisters. My grandfather had been a young man with two babies when his first wife died of diabetes. His mother took the role of caregiver to her granddaughters, as he was a working man.

When Grandpa remarried two or three years after the death of his first wife, the babies had known no other 'mother' than the grandmother. I suppose that's the reason they remained with her rather than coming to live with my grandfather and grandmother. I'm not sure whether I agree with that decision, but it doesn't matter, as it was not mine to make.

I did meet both of these aunts in my childhood. I went to school with some of their children, and my children were in classes with their children, but we had no real 'family' relationship with them. I know very little of any of them other than what I've written. I hope they were secure and happy being raised by grandparents, rather than parents, and I pray they didn't feel as if they'd been abandoned or unwanted by their father and his new wife. I think, if I was in their place, that thought might have crossed my mind. But, this was not my story... it was theirs, and I'm afraid I must bring it to an end, for lack of information.

Monday, March 21, 2011

A Different Blog Entry

This morning I'll present a different sort of blog entry.  Sometimes you get 'writer's block'  or feel that what you have to write is 'flat' and not worth presenting. So, for fun, I looked for an idea that would kick start my creative engine. The idea here is to write about two characters, with the Bible being one of them.  This is  what the result was, once I started writing.  I don't know whether I will return to this, or whether it is finished. We will see in the future.

Bible sits upon the book shelf, lonely, silent and ignored. One day, Owner comes to the bookshelf, scanning the titles, anxious for something to read that will take his mind off the many weighty issues he thinks about. Bible whispers, "choose me, choose me! I can help you."

Owner chooses a crime novel, not a light-hearted story, for sure. Bible slips back into silent retreat, the whispered desires have been unheard. Owner walks away and plunks himself heavily into his arm chair. As he begins to read, the words wind around his inner thoughts, and briefly take him away to a world darker than his own life. But it doesn't last, and before long, Owner's life invades his thoughts again.

Bible watches as Owner puts the book down on his side table and lays his head against the back of the recliner. He put his hand up to his forehead and rubbed his temples. As he did, he tapped his foot as his stress returned. His life was plagued with upset these days. His place of employment was cutting jobs a few at a time, and he felt that his might be one of them in the near future. It is never a good time to lose a job, but now would be the worst. In his area, work was scarce, and he would be over-qualified for anything that might be available. On top of that, his life had been one big party-time, and he was reaping the benefits of that.

Bible could see these looming clouds and knew that there were things between his covers  that could help to encourage Owner. But, Bible would not shout out. He would not plunge himself into the hands of Owner when the books were being scanned. Bible sat patiently waiting. Perhaps there would come a time in the future when Owner would notice that Bible was there.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The Name Game

Names have always interested me. I like to explore their meanings and I like to see how families use the same names in multiple generations.

Do you know why you were given the name you bear today? I was not named Kathleen for any other reason than my mother liked the name. I was meant to be called my full name, but someone shortened it to 'Kathy' when I was little, and it stuck. When I was about forty years old, I decided that I was too old to carry that childish version, and whenever I'd meet someone new, I would introduce myself using my full first name rather than the trimmed down model of it.

Names are serious business! You really have to put some effort into thinking far ahead of the present time. Children are very good at turning the most beautiful name into the worst possible , most embarressing thing they can find. Sometimes parents aren't very kind when they think it's 'cute' to name a child something like Holly Bush, Rose Budd or Kelly Green. The poor kid never live it down.

 In doing my husband's ancestral research, there are Elizabeths and Margarets and Williams and Johns and Thomases  on both sides of the family, making things difficult to keep track of. To make matters worse, it seems that the Marshalls married into the Mortland family more than twice, and there are also three different Ward families interspersed, with no relation to the other Wards. There are those in his families who used old family surnames as middle or first names, so we've got Marshall Mortland and Marsha Mortland and Margaret Mortland whose father was a cousin who died young, leaving a widow who married his cousin, a Marshall. Are you confused yet?  Try doing that family's Family Tree!

I'm grateful that I have my own name.  I don't have to live up to anyone else's reputation or better yet, I don't have to overcome a namesake's past mistakes.  No one will get me confused with another member of the bunch, if ever they try to untangle the family roots. My brothers might create some bit of confusion, being Tom and John, named for my Dad and great grandfather and his grandfather, and others who had the names further back. Thomas lives on in my nephew who bears it as his middle name.

Sometimes a name just doesn't seem to fit the child who wears it, and before you know it, for one reason or another, the kid has been given a nickname.  And what about the professionals who work in a field that complete fits their name? Stay tuned. Those are topics that I'll visit on another day.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Aunts: Part Four

There was one more aunt in the family. She was my father's sister. Our familiess lived only five or six miles from each other, but we rarely saw each other. Aunt Esther was eleven years older than my father, and she married young, so they had little time to get to know one another as children. Her first three children were born within a few short years, and  she was busy with them, while Daddy was growing up. His neices were born when he was a young boy and I don't imagine he had a great deal of interest in girl babies when they would visit.

What I knew of Aunt Esther, I liked, but I must admit that I didn't know her very well. She would come to visit us occasionally while I was growing up. She was soft spoken, kind and she reminded me of my grandmother, her mother. In her middle age, the same year that two of her daughters gave her the first two grandchildren, Aunt Esther had her son. With the first part of the family being 14 years or so older than I was and the last child being a good bit younger and a boy to boot, I didn't know those cousins well either, when I was a young girl. However, as I grew older, I got to know them, and their children better and am in contact with some of them via Facebook. Those are the children of my older (first) cousins who have passed away. Their brother is still alive, never married, and has no children.

I digress. Aunt Esther was built much the way my grandmother was. She had the features of the Case family too. The last time I saw her, she was beautiful at 79 years old, with snowy white hair, like my grandmother's sisters had. Aunt Esther always had thick gray hair with enough wave so that she never needed to put a curler in it. I've determined that she and Daddy both got their wavy hair from Grandma, as Grandpa's hair was thin and poker straight.

This aunt of mine was as talented as the aunts on Mom's side, but in a different way. She was able to draw and paint quite well. I've determined that she and Dad both got that talent from Grandma, as well. I don't have any idea whether Grandpa had an artistic bone in his body, but Grandma drew pictures and painted with me, so I know that she did. When Aunt Esther had free time, she painted boats, the ocean. Things that she knew and things that she loved.

The ocean was dear to her. Her home was near enough so that she could hear the ocean if the wind was right. She spent much time walking on the beach, and when the weather was right, she swam in the strong sea. If the sea was too wild, she would opt for swimming in the bay. She knew them both well, and enjoyed them both.

I wish I had one of her paintings of the sea. It would hang in a special place in my home, but her son, and grandchildren too, will not part with her work for love nor money. I don't blame them, and hold no ill toward them for their decision. Still, it doesn't not quench my desire for one. When she died, in 1997 I believe, there were many of her painting surrounding the casket. It seemed a fitting send off, her family thought, to surround her with her precious art work.

Whenever I see the ocean in Amagansett, I cannot help but think of Aunt Esther, and wonder how it would have been if I had known her better. What would I have learned of her, of my grandparents and my father, had I had a chance to visit with her often? I can only imagine, and I'm left to wish that I had known that part of my family more intimately.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Decorating: Part 2

Waiting seems to work. If I keep listening and remember, things fall into place. There were a collection of 'ideas' gathered from things Mom has said over some period of time. "I'd like a rug with a border around it, but a pattern in the center, not a plain center." "I'd like a rocking chair." "I want to use burgandy in my living room." So, when I spotted a large area rug with burgandy, cream and a little leaf green, I knew it would be perfect. The price was good too, so I immediately called Mom to tell her about it. She trusted my judgement, and I purchased it. It turns out that it's perfect! Whew!

Now...the couch is covered with a burgandy slipcover, with cream throw pillows. The rug is in place, the rocker is in the corner. Mom happened to have some burgandy fabric with a slight pattern with which to cover the wicker chair cushions. I had some sheer drapes which I gave to her that will work well in the room. So far, so good.

Since Mom doesn't watch tv much, I would truly like to either remove from the room and put it into her computer room or to find a small, taller unit in which to place it. It currently sits on a heavy table. It's an older, 'bulky' model, rather than a sleek flat screen. It works fine, so there's no need to replace it, but it does cause the eye to take note of it's husky shape. Maybe we'll get to that. I'd also like to see a nice book case for the wall between the living room and the kitchen, and perhaps some standing lamps, rather than the too-short table lamps. I think the table lamps prevent Mom from seeing to the best of her limited ability.

The next step in the process now is to get the samplers and photos in place on the wall. She also has a small quilt that she made which she wants to hang over her couch. We just need to figure out how to hang it so that it is best displayed. Personally, I think the quilt pattern is a bit too 'busy' for the room, but it is Mom's decision and I'll do what she likes.

It's surprising how uplifting a 're-do' is, whether it is to our physical appearance or to our surrounding space. The job is nearly done, and thus far, Mom seems to be very happy with the way things look. We'll stay on the hunt for whatever idea comes up, and before you know it, Mom will be sitting in a room that is completely renewed!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Decorating Plans, Part One

This time it's not my house....although I'm always 'tweaking' things around here, moving things from place to place, or finding something to add or subtract. I have a new project going on.

For some time now, Mom's been wishing she could make her house look different...more cozy. She's not awfully good at telling anyone what she likes, and often says that she can see it in her mind, but doesn't know how to make someone understand what it is she imagines. For the longest time she was on a search in consignment shops and thrift shops (our favorite haunts) for a new dining set. Nothing pleased her, and I finally determined that it was just useless to keep going out looking for one and coming home with nothing. I thought that if it was meant to be, we'd just 'run into one' when we were least looking. I was right.

One day I was out running my errands, and without any thought, I stopped at my favorite shop. There it was! Just what I thought Mom wanted in the way of a new table and chairs. I called her and told her all about it, and she decided to take a chance and let me bring it home, knowing that she couldn't return it. She was so pleased when she saw it and kept saying, "That's just what I've been looking for!" At last! That challenge met a victorious end!

Then, a good many months ago, she began to talk of redoing her living room. Uh oh! What would I be looking for this time? I like to help her, but it's hard if I don't know what she wants or how she wants to do something. I offered her some of my books, in the hope that I could at least figure out what style she was hoping for. She said she thought 'cottagey' would be perfect, which it would, for her small little white home with the green shutters. So, I showed her my books on Cottage decorating. No, she doesn't like the 'splashy flowered furniture' (Cabbage Roses) or soft colors because they are hard to keep clean. She's 'not wild about' stripes either and she doesn't want wicker. Ok... now what would I do with this? I guessed it wasn't Cottagey she wanted after all. So....I waited. I knew that sooner or later we'd 'get there'.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Papa's Hats

My husband has never liked hats much. However,in summer and in winter, he does yield to the need to wear one. The sun is bright and the rays can be severely damaging to skin, especially an almost bald head. It's a sort of Austrailian 'out back' type of hat, with a brim all around, and netting in the crown area for free air flow.

In winter, the air is cold, and since he spends so much so much time outside, he has chosen a very special one to keep his head warm. I think it is his favorite. He calls it 'the rat'. He looks like a mountain man all through the cold months. It is made of a nylon, with quilted lining, and fur sections that he leaves folded upward, forming a circle around the crown. Only on the very coldest of days does he fold the fur down to cover his ears. When he does that, there are two little 'animal ears' that show at the top sides of his head. I call them squirrel ears.

My own favorite, however, is his felt Stetson. He looks so handsome in this article of clothing, and I do wish he'd wear it more often, but am happy to see it whenever he does. He owns a number of baseball caps but he doesn't choose to wear them. I don't know why. He just says he feels weird wearing those.

Our grandchildren seem to love their Papa's hats, especially Abigail. Whenever she is visiting, or we are visiting at their home, she invariably will grab whichever chapeau is in season, and she will run off with it. She will return, and remain just out of our reach, making silly faces, playing a sort of 'catch it if you can' game with Papa. I don't know why this is such fun, but it brings many giggles, so obviously it brings both of them pleasure.

Abigail has her own assortment of hats, but I'll keep the sharing of those for another day.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Dress Up Box

When I was a little girl, sometimes I'd go with my aunt to visit her friend, Jeanne. She lived in an old house with an attic and I was allowed to go up there and play with lace curtains and fabrics that I could wrap around myself, creating imaginary gorgeous gowns and furs. I must have been a real sight, but in my mind, I was a beautiful bride in lace, or a movie star in elegant dresses, or a queen in full regalia.

It was the only place I played dress up. Remembering that fun, when my children were small, they had hats and shoes and jewelry. Basically, all they had was accessories.

Thinking back, when I became a grandmother, one Christmas I made a few costumes for Lisa and Darren. Aside from an assortment of crowns and helmets and hats, Lisa had a few easy 'girly' gowns, shoes and jewels. Darren had a cowboy vest a sheriffs badge, and a fireman's raincoat.

I thought that I'd go a step beyond and provide the children with actual outfits, not just accessories. So, I scoured thrift shops for small sized semi-formal gowns and fancy shoes that were not too high or too huge for tiny feet. I even found a real fox collar, which, when wrapped around the shoulders of a young glamour girl, made a perfect fur stole.

The girls were all set, but boys are a little harder....and there wasn't much at Grammie's house for my grandson to dress in. It didn't matter, because by that time, he wasn't as much interested in it as the girls were, and he found other ways to entertain himself. The little ladies, though, especially the two who lived with us for a number of preschool and grade school years, never ceased to enjoy the dressing up. We were the honored guests at many a wedding, fashion shows, fancy tea parties and Cinderella balls. Sometimes there were plays and we were the audience, sometimes we were the victims of a 'magic wand' placed upon us by a winged urchin. Whatever the case, it was always entertaining.
The two "Little Ladies" who lived in residence moved away...900 miles away. When we moved closer to them, we brought the costumes with us. About 6 months after we moved into our new home, two hours from them, their mother decided to move back 'home'. They still came to visit, though, each summer...and the first thing they would do when arriving at our house was to go to the Grandkids bedroom. Within minutes they would saunter down the stairs in clear plastic children's high heels or pink satin slippers with feather trim, wrapped elegantly in a light blue chiffon ruffled mini gown (which reached their ankles) or a shimmering silver 'icicle' dress. The eldest of those two is now thirteen years old, and my thinking is that she will still enjoy the costuming and imaginative play when here on her next visit. I'm sure that one item that I purchased when she was four years old, which was her favorite for all the years before this one, will no longer fit her. It is a strapless, black lace, and was made for the tiniest figure of a young woman, and was meant to fall somewhere mid thigh on a proper model wearing it. Of course, when Kimbie got it, I put darts in the top to keep the bodice up, the waist fell somewhere below her hips, and the full skirt reached the top of her foot. If it fits this year, it will fit the way it was meant to.

I remember one time when she put that dress on. She came out, with a dish towel on her head, held in place by some sort of stretchy headband. A baby blanket was wrapped around her shoulders, and her dress was the black lace one. She carried her baby doll, and told me she was Mary, the mother of baby Jesus. Oh my! Can you picture the expression on the real Mary's face upon seeing that image! I'm sure she would be amused, to say the least...that is, if she didn't burst into gales of laughter!
The dress up box is not idle while my "Little Ladies" live their lives in NY. The two Georgia girls called "Tsunami" and "Aftermath" by their Daddy are still at the right age to enjoy the costumes. I have added a number of things to the box since Kimbie and Becca played with it the last when Selah and Abigail come to visit and, like their older cousins did, make a bee-line for the Grandkids' room, they have a greater assortment of choices. There is a shimmery white dress, which was made as an 'ice princess' costume for one of Kimbie's masquarade parades at school. It easily becomes a bridal gown with the newly added veil and bouquet of fake roses. There are matching green chiffon and gold lame gowns that I made for the box. There are strands of shiny beads, collected when people on the parade floats threw them to us. There are tiny purses and long lengths of purple net set with sequins to use for trains or shawls. There are dance costumes, tutus and leotards. That box is a full box of fun and pretend, just waiting to happen!

If I've ever done anything right for the kids in this family, it was providing that costume box. It's provided years and years of imaginative fun for the young ones, and I, for one, will miss it when they have all outgrown it.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Aunts: Part 3

Today let me introduce Mom's youngest sister to you. She was about eight years younger than Mom, and approximately thirteen years older than I was. I don't remember much about her before I was four or five years old, but there is a photograph of me at the age of three that showed what she'd been up to that day. She had 'dolled me up' in red lipstick, one of her striped skirts, and lots of jewelry. I'm sitting next to Gramma in the photo, on the steps of the front porch.

Aunt 'Nita (Anita) was a 'fun' aunt. She had a sturdy frame and was a bit round. Her personality can only be described as 'jolly'. She married at a young age, to Uncle Ros. They would invite their little neice (me) to spend a few days with them from time to time. There wasn't a hint of jealousy in her when I said that I was going to marry Uncle Ros when I grew up! In fact, she thought it was quite amusing, knowing full well that I'd change my mind many times before I reached the marrying age.

When I was six years old, the young couple became parents to my only girl cousin on Mom's side. We became as close as sisters, in time, but I don't remember too much about the baby when she was little. About three years later, a little boy was born to the family, and being a little older, I was able to be helpful in caring for him and playing with his sister. I loved to push the baby in his carriage when we would sometimes walk downtown. I remember changing his diaper one day, in my church clothes, feeling like a 'big girl' to have been given the job. The little stinker turned into a water fountain, and I was his target! Aunt Nita covered him and laughed and laughed until her sides hurt! At first I didn't find it funny, but Aunt Nita's sounds were coming out in 'ooooo, oooooo' as she laughed, and I soon found myself in a bout of extreme giggles.

Around the time of my wedding, Aunt 'Nita began to have some health problems. She seemed to have problems eating certain foods. She lost some weight and, since she'd been fighting the battle of the buldge for as long as I could remember, I'm sure I thought she was dieting. Now, looking back, it probably had something to do with the ailment she was dealing with.

The time came when I was expecting my first baby who was due in the middle of January. Aunt Nita crocheted a sweet little pink sweater with matching hat and booties, even though she didn't know if the baby would be a girl or a boy. I guess we know what she was hoping for! At any rate, the sweater set was given to me at my baby shower, with a card from my grandmother, who was unable to do handiwork any more. Aunt Nita's gift was another creation she'd made. It was a knitted yellow and white sweater and hat, with a matching pair of knitted pants to keep little legs warm. I still have the tiny pink set, packed safely away. Each one of my baby girls wore it, as did some of my granddaughters too. There was also a cute pair of pink knitted slippers for baby, with a pom-pom head on the toe, with pointed ears and wiggly eyes.

Aunt Nita was sick and was lying on the living room couch, day after day. She couldn't keep anything on her stomach. My Aunt Sis and Mom would take turns going to help with the kids and meals and housework. The doctors said she had colitis, an intestinal ailment. Eventually, they determined that she needed to have surgery. When they opened her up, they discovered that she was riddled inside with cancer. They closed her up, and we waited.

On the Saturday before Easter, I went over to the house and asked my cousin, who was then sixteen years old, if she'd like to walk downtown with me. We had a nice afternoon together while Uncle Ros went to the hospital to visit with his 35 year old wife. When we got home, Uncle Ros looked funny, and he struggled with what he had to say to his daughter. "Mommy died this afternoon." We all stood together, in a huddle, crying together. My ears burned, my cheeks stung as the tears fell. I stayed only long enough to compose myself so that I could drive home.
Their little family needed to be together to let this news penetrate. They didn't need me in the way.

I packed up my baby and left, saying I would see them soon, and to let me know what I could do for them. I drove home, fighting the tears, but not really able to believe what had just happened, until I placed my baby in her high chair. I was still crying and the baby looked at me with a wondering look. When I said to her, "It's ok. Mommy's just sad. Our nice Aunt Nita has gone to Heaven." That's when it became real to me.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Aunts: Part Two

The other day I told you of my beloved Aunt Sis, the first-born of my Grandparents four daughters together. Today will be about the second-born daughter, named Phyllis. To the neices and nephews, though, she was always called Aunt 'Puddy.' From what I understand, she was dubbed this pet name when her youngest sister was learning to talk and couldn't say Phyllis properly. 'Puddy' she was, ever after.

Aunt Puddy was Mom's companion and probably 'best friend' while they were growing up. No one has said so, but I believe it was because there were only a few years between them, and greater distance between the other sisters. Anyway, they were 'thick as thieves' to coin a phrase. They were involved in the same church groups and double-dated in those years. They were married the same year, and Aunt Puddy was my mother's maid of honor. When I was going to join the family, so was Aunt Puddy's first son.

The two sisters remained close as the young mothers each raised three children, with me being the only girl among them. Aunt Puddy always had hoped for a little girl, but she was the Mom of all boys. She always said that if she had a little girl she would have named her Rebecca, after her grandmother (and her great-great grandmother too, as I have since discovered, though Aunt Puddy never knew that fact.) Rebecca was the middle name given to Aunt Sis, so that might have been another reason she liked it so much. Because she didn't have the chance to use her favorite name, I gave it as a middle name to my middle daughter...and since then, my granddaughter also was given the name as her first name. I'm sure Aunt Puddy would be pleased and would love each of those who bear the moniker.

Mom and Aunt Puddy accompanied each other to the American Legion auxilary meetings. They marched in holiday parades wearing their navy blue uniforms, with a red poppy on their lapels.
They went to weekly Bible studies together, learning even more how God would have them to live their lives. I was often a part of those meetings too, and though the women were a generation or more older than I was, as a young woman, I didn't feel out of place with them.

She had always been a good aunt to me. When I wanted to learn to paint, she said she'd help me, and she tried, but though her heart was in it, she hadn't learned a whole lot in her art classes. Truthfully, she wasn't very good at painting, but I was young, and I thought she was the best! Anyway, I appreciated her efforts in trying to help me, and liked spending that special time with her.

She really liked Shirley Temple movies, and sometimes she'd invite me to go to see one at the local theater. I don't know if she want me as company, thought I'd enjoy it too, or whether she would feel odd going to see a 'little girl' movie as an adult without a child with her! Anyway, I learned that I really liked those movies too, and have a number of videos, which I've shown again and again to my granddaughters, who enjoy them as much as we did in the theater.

Another entertainer that was a favorite of Aunt Puddy's was Elvis Presley. It was quite comical to me to watch her and Aunt Sis get all 'silly' over his movies or songs. Between the two of them, they had quite a collection of his records and they saw every movie he made. I liked him, but I was more interested in other artists than I was in him. However, if I was invited to see one of Elvis' movies with my aunt...or the two of them together...I'd gladly go.

Aunt Puddy was a Sunday School teacher and she got me involved in teaching a class, too, to little tiny three year olds. I don't know how much they learned, but it was a good beginning for me in sharing God with others. Each Sunday morning she would come to pick me up and drive me to the Session House, where we'd separate and go off to teach the children, her class a few years older than mine was.

When I was engaged to be married, it was Aunt Puddy who opened her home to friends and family, giving a bridal shower in my honor. When I was expecting the arrival of our first baby, once again she gave a party, showering me with beautiful, tiny garments and gifts for the new member of the family. She was so excited to have a baby girl to cuddle and love. I didn't disappoint her...I gave her four baby girls to love ...and a son.

A few months after my second child was born, Aunt Puddy became a grandmother to her own little girl! Oh, there was never a baby like that one...but she did not forget mine. She seemed to love them almost as much as her own grandchild. She ended up with another granddaughter and a grandson, too. She didn't get to spend as much time with them as she would have liked to, because she worked full-time in the office of a building contractor and land developer.

There came a time when my aunt needed to have surgery which would require her to take some time for recuperation. She invited me to take over for her while she was unable to work. It went well, and everyone seemed happy with the arrangement, despite the circumstances. When she was well again, she took her job back, and I got back to the business of caring for my children again, with a few dollars extra in the household. Sometime later, I worked at her job again. This time she didn't go back.

She had cancer...but I was not aware of it at the time. She didn't want anyone to know, and so I have no idea how long she had it before she entered the hospital at the end. It seemed that she wasn't there long before she faded away and went to be with her Lord at the age of sixty-two.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

PS: A Give Away at:

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Aunts: Part One

My mother was one of four daughters. Each seemed to me to be as different from each other as the next one. I loved each of them for who they were and how they treated me. I'm sure, as a child, my thinking of one of them as my favorite fluctuated from week to week. It's just the way children are. They love you, then they don't like you so much, then they love you more than ever.

Let me tell you about these ladies, as I knew them. The eldest was Mildred, known to me as Aunt Sissy. She was a little bit of a thing, never reaching five feet tall, and weighing under one hundred pounds for the majority of her life. It made for a challenge when she wanted to purchase clothing, as for many years, there weren't stylish women's things in her small size. This was my 'style conscious' Aunt. She was always impecably dressed in tailored, classic clothing so she could wear her outfits for years without them going out of style. She and her husband formed their own business in the field of property development. For years they bought land and built homes in areas where there were bay beaches. They made quite a living.

As a result of their success, they were able travel extensively, taking ocean liners to Europe, to South American countries, to Middle America, the Islands. Her favorite place seemed to be Italy, and she returned there a number of times after my Uncle died, accompanied by her sister or a friend. As a child, I looked forward to their return, as she always brought me some little gift from a foreign place. When I was sixteen years old, her gift to me was an all expense paid trip to Bermuda, on a cruise ship. What a fun time we had!

Aunt Sis and her husband had no children, so her nieces and nephews were special to her. I was the oldest of the eight of us. I was blessed because I was, as I had Aunt Sis in my life longer than the rest, which meant I probably knew her best. She was a professional seamstress for a time, and also worked in a little dress shop for awhile, so she knew what was 'classy' in the fashion world. She made many dresses for me over the years, and also passed down some of her clothing to me, when I grew to fit them. I always felt as if I was quite attractive in these things, as Aunt Sis always looked so nice in them.

There was one prom dress that had been hers. When she wore it, it was a taffeta with 3/4 length sleeves, a V neckline, and a gathered skirt that went down in a V where it met the bodice. It was an irridescent pea green color which turned gold in certain lights. When I wore it, she had transformed it into a sleeveless dress, and I liked it much more. The color drew the green from my aqua-colored eyes. I felt lovely in my dress at the school dance.

Aunt Sis had bought my first bed, after I vacated the crib for my new baby brother's use. I don't know how she found it, but it was bought from a rooming house across from the school in Amagansett. The little bed was an antique with scallops at the head and foot of each side rail, and a short headboard which had a carved design. When she bought it at the auction there, it came without a mattress. So, it was fitted with a foam mattress, and painted with a new coat of paint, and I was soon sleeping in a 'big girl bed.' I used that narrow, short bed for all the years I lived at home, and then my children used it, one by one, until they outgrew it. It was always my hope that my grandchildren would sleep in it, as well, but none of them have. It is stored in my garage as I write this.

Many thoughts wind through my mind when I think of Aunt Sis. I cannot write them all. She'd spent all of her years, after babyhood, being a healthy woman who took care of herself. Still, with all the good choices she made in her eating habits, it could not ward off the end. Her last months were plagued with suffering as she fought the cancer which stole her life at the age of seventy-seven.

I miss her and love her still. All the memories we made will live on, for as long as I do. I remember them...and her...with great joy.

Friday, March 11, 2011

A Special Woman's Birthday

It is a special day for a special woman. It is my beloved mother's 85th birthday!

She came into the world in a bedroom in their rented duplex home in Amagansett. She had two older sisters, one who was old enough to know what was happening, the other younger, and thinking that the baby's early cries were that of a cat wailing.

She tells me a story of being about three years old when the children were playing in the yard. She hopped up on the 'running board' on the passenger side of Mrs. Ryan's car. About that time, Mrs. Ryan started the car and carefully drove it to the post office about a half mile or so down the road, all the while unaware that her tiny neighbor was clinging with her little hands to hinges of the car door! All turned out well, but how grateful I am that it did! Had things gone another way, I might not be here to share this happening.

In 1938, a devastating hurricane hit the community. Mom was then in the seventh grade in the new brick school. She recalls standing in her upstairs classroom and watching out the windows as huge elm trees were toppled and uprooted, leaving gaping holes in the grass and pulling up sidewalks. The storm had caused deaths and destruction all over the coast, wiping out homes, stores and cars.

Mom had an active church life and youth group. She was a member of a group called Christian Endeavor. Her Christian salvation came during her mid teens, and she's lived that humble, quiet life ever after.

The high school years brought World War II. She saw a good many of her male school mates leave school and go into uniform to fight for their country. She was supportive of the war efforts, and became a Red Cross volunteer where she rolled bandages. She knitted sweaters, hats, socks and gloves for the soldiers.

After high school graduation, she worked for a time at Bulova Watch Factory where she got to know my father. She had gone to high school with him, and because the school was so small, she knew who he was, but didn't know him personally. They began to date, and before long, they knew they wanted to be married. Each could not have chosen a better mate for themselves. Though they certainly did not share the same opinion on everything, they were well matched.
They worked side by side for all the years they were given, she, taking care of three children and the home, and he working jobs to support his family.

Mom believed the adage, 'Idle hands are the devil's workshop.' She never had idle hands. During the hours when we were in school, she took care of the household chores, baked tasty cookies for our lunch boxes, she created quilts, sewed clothing for us all, and knitted mittens and sweaters for her family. She volunteered in many ways for many years. Many a child in an Appalachian orphanage wore clothing that she'd made and sent off to them. New babies born to mothers she'd never met were presented with layettes, sweaters and tiny afghans she'd knitted and donated to Birthright, an organization that helps unwed mothers. Somewhere a lonely serviceman in the Viet Nam War was reading her letters. A veteran somewhere sat in a wheelchair with his knees covered by a colorful laprobe created by Mom's hands. Large typed words sprung from a special typewriter while she typed books for the legally blind. Someone was rescued from the evils of alcohol because she made donations to a ministry who helped people with such problems. A child was able to go to church camp because of her help. I could go on, but you get the idea.

When Mom's youngest sister got sick in her early thirties, my mother shared the caring for her with her oldest sister, while still taking care of her own family and finding time to visit my elderly grandmother who was living in a nursing home after breaking her hip. When my youngest Aunt passed away from the cancer that ravaged her body, she left a sixteen year old girl and a twelve year old son. After a year of living with just their father, he chose to remarry and moved to a neighboring community. Because my cousin was in her last year of high school, Mom and Dad took her in to allow her to finish school with her class. Her brother went with their dad. Then, when my cousin was ready to marry, it was my Mom who helped her plan and accomplish her goal.

She saw Dad through two years of his cancer, and was devastated when he died. A few years later, another Aunt got cancer. Again, Mom was there to help her. Then, the oldest of her sisters also was stricken with cancer. Daily Mom was there to help, until my Aunt went to the hospital and slipped into her last sleep.

Today my special, caring, and loving mother lives with the challenges of being legally blind herself. She also suffers from some hearing loss, but still she is able to live independently. Oh, and independent she is! I live across the street from her, and I try to help as much as I can...or should I say 'as much as she will allow.' My brother and I share the transportation to doctor visits and grocery stores and other such trips. My brother mows her grass, my husband takes care of her landscape plants, and we often take her a prepared meal or have her come for dinner. But, for the most part, she takes care of herself.

I would have loved to gift her with something so meaningful, something that she would truly be surprised and pleased to have. But, Mom's needs are simple and her wants are nil. I would have enjoyed throwing a big party for her today, but the family is scattered hither and yon, and life doesn't always fit our plans. I know that the grandchilden and greatgrandchildren will send their greetings, but it would be so nice to have a big gathering in her honor. My brother, my husband and I will take Mom out for dinner to her choice of restaurants tonight, and we will celebrate the life of this woman who I was blessed to have as my mother.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

One Big Family

Mom and her sisters were best friends. They spent their 'social' time mostly with each other. Because of that, the husbands, too, were friends and we were a close family. We 8 cousins were all raised together and spent lots of fun times together.

I've told you of our Sunday nights at one house or another, where we'd all gather to share a meal. The men would grill the meats, the women would prepare and bring potato salad, tossed salad, cole slaw, corn on the cob, baked beans, three bean salad, and desserts. My favorite of the desserts was strawberry shortcake. Usually I would get to slice the berries that had been hand-picked on Saturday by Mom and probably one of her sisters. If I was cutting up the berries, it meant I could 'taste test' them!

We used to meet at the bay beach on the weekends, and we'd spend the afternoon together. The adults would swim, soak up the sun, and talk together while we kids would take splash, swim, try to avoid getting nipped by crabs and play in the sand. The boy cousins, especially Buddy, would torment me by chasing me with sand crabs. Why that bothered me, I don't know, since I would dig and when I found one, I'd pick it up and put it into a paper cup. Sometimes he was friendly enough to share his fishing towel with me, and together we would work to catch minnows. Most of the time, I tried to steer clear of him as he was not usually nice to me.

The other children were my two younger brothers, Bud's two younger brothers, and my youngest boy cousin and his older sister. She was six years younger than I was, but still, my only girl cousin on Mom's side and I were as close as sisters.

Sometimes I long for those days of closeness with all of the relatives on Mom's side. Life has a way of bringing changes, even if you wish you could keep things the same. Mom, who was born third of the four sisters, is the only surviving one. Daddy passed away twenty-five years ago. My oldest brother died in 2006. My uncles, too, are gone now. That leaves the cousins and our spouses and all of our children and grandchildren. Only of them two remain in our old home town, the rest of us have scattered. Our closeness has faded, and that gives me some heartache.

I try to keep in touch, but everyone is not as responsive as I'd wish. Miles and time stands between us, and we know little about one another at this point in our lives.
All we really seem to have now is memories... blood that runs through our veins. That blood means we are still family members, but sadly, not the same type of family as we once were.

I often think that if we hadn't moved away, we'd be better connected, but there are some things that cannot be changed.

A Hairdresser's Mistake

My dolls had, for many years, endured the many creative hairstyles I'd given them. Now it was on to real people. I was approximately 8 or 9 years old, and Gramma and I were enjoying the day from the front porch of the house where our family lived with my mother's mother . I was issued a verbal invitation to comb Gramma's hair, and I never turned that down. It was my first step toward my chosen future-career.

As Gramma sat with her hands in her lap, I gently removed the large,gray hairpins from her bun, allowing the soft, silky hair she had never cut to fall down her back. First I brushed the hair back, with long, even strokes. After a time of this, she requested that I use the comb and give it some pressure across her scalp. I did as I was asked, and then, after a while, decided that it was time to 'curl' Gramma's hair. It wasn't long before I realized that twisting the comb upward on locks which fell well below her shoulders was not a good idea. She could not tell as she sat what was happening, but I could see that I'd made a bad decision, and I worked to release the tangled comb. No amount of effort on my part was producing good results. Before long, Gramma sensed that something was not quite right. She felt behind her head, and realized that there was an implement wound up in her hair, and it was feeling to her hands like quite a mess.

We called in the aide of my mother and my aunt. Oh dear! I felt as if I was going to hear a good tongue lashing over this one. I don't know if I felt worse by then about what I thought would be my fate or over what I'd caused in the first place. One at a time they tried to remove the comb, and though they had some success in moving the item further from Gramma's scalp, they could not release it fully from the length of hair. Nothing was to be done, but to clip off the strand at the lowest point possible. I knew I was in trouble then! I felt awful as Gramma was close to tears and fretting as I'd never seen her do before.

After the deed was done, Gramma sat with the comb in her hands, pulling the wads of her hair out of it, she gently instructed me to never do that again. My mother gave me a scolding too, letting me know that I was to use the tools to only brush and comb, not to try curling. I thought that I'd never need to worry about it, as I feared I'd never again have the invitation to 'play' with Gramma's long hair.

However, I was wrong. With a soft reminder to not try to curl the hair, I was soon back in business. I learned to make a braid on Gram's head, and often at night I would brush it many times before I braided it for bed. When I was a little bit older, I was asked to wash her hair and put the bluing in it for her, so that the color would be more silvery than the dingy, yellowy-gray that she thought it was. From then on, it was my job to do, and I knew I'd been forgiven for my past mistake.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

More Hairdressing

When I was eleven, we moved from Gramma's house, and into our newly-built one a mile or so away. Our new neighbors took notice of the dolls hairdos when we girls would play together. One mother was quite 'impressed' by my young skillfullness, and asked me if I would set her hair in her rollers.

I had begun using them some on my own hair by that time, and I knew I could do it. At the appointed time, I went to her house and was surprised to see a can of beer on the table. Our family didn't drink any sort of alcoholic beverage, and to me, the smell of that stuff was awful. Another surprise awaited me when she asked me to comb the beer through each strand of hair before it was rolled! I certainly hadn't heard of such a thing before, but she explained that when it dried, it would hold the set longer, and would have no odor at all. Well, I supposed in my young mind that wearing beer on your head would be more healthy than drinking that awful smelling stuff.

Her trick did seem to accomplish the desired result, and she was pleased with my neat rolling of her hair. She asked me many times in the years we lived side by side to set her hair in that way....and to my recollectiion, I never turned her down. It was my first paid hairdressing job. Another neighbor, too, sometimes had me set and style her hair. I was grateful that she, too, didn't use the beer applications.

Thus began my road to becoming a 'real' hairdresser!

Reconstruction of Mind and Heart

For some reason, I have always been curious and intrigued by the ways of the Amish people. Whenever we would go to Pennsylvania, I would request that we go to Lancaster area for a day or two. Though I did not appreciate the tourist traffic or the over-growth there, I always enjoyed riding the roads through the neat farm lands owned by those who live a simpler life.

Perhaps that is what tugged my heart most...the simpler lifestyle. Their ways appeared to be that of people who lived a hundred years or so before we do. Without electricity, without modern transportation or machines or technology. The clothing worn by the people of the sect appeared to be neat and clean and simple, yet so out of date in today's world. They were a people, at least in my eyes, who kept to themselves, not speaking first, but would answer politely when spoken to. I've always wanted to know more about them.

Recently I discovered a blog, composed by a woman who was born into an Amish family. At this time, I do not know why she and her husband decided to leave the Amish way of life, but as I follow her daily postings, I'm sure I will discover their reasons. She has, thus far, captured my full attention with her honest and humble thoughts, and I'm thoroughly enjoying this peek into a life that is so mysterious to most of us.

I've discovered on nearly every turn that my notions of what the Amish people are like and how they live their lives are nearly all wrong. I suppose much of my thinking has come from articles or books written by outsiders who don't know any better than I do what the truth is about these 'plain people'. Now that I'm getting to know this woman through her words, I must erase much of what I've ever believed about them, other than the thought that they are hardworking religious people. I've always admired them due to what I thought was true. In fact, after exploring several excerps of her writing, I find that I am examining my own life to see how I measure up to the way God would have me to live my own life and beliefs.

It is always a good thing to do a bit of self-examination and perhaps some reconstruction. This new reminder is a blessing, for there are some spots in me, in my attitudes, in my work, that need refining. As this gentle woman continues to share her journey from then 'til each new dawning, I believe I will discover that she and her family,too, have done some true soul searching and have been shown where and how they can make changes to best live as their God wants them to.

It is a joy to follow this blog and to learn from it.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hair Care

As a child, Saturday nights always meant hairwashing and setting. After a bath, I would towel dry my hair and sit at Mom's feet, on the floor. There, I would endure the combing out of the snarls, and I remember 'singing' quite loudly at times, when a stubborn knot was being untangled.

Following the detangling, I would sit for a little while longer while strands of hair would be would around Mom's finger, and clipped in place against my head. Row after row of pin curls would be placed from my left temple around to the right side, until at last they were finished at the nape of my neck. Then, off I'd go to spend the night, sleeping on bobby pins or clips. I don't believe I could put up with sleeping on those things today, as I'm a fitful sleeper these days, but somehow, I was fine with it when I was much younger.

In the morning, we'd pull all of the pins out of my wound hair, and brush the dickens out of it. Eventually, we'd get control of those wild curls, and I'd go off to Sunday School with a shiny head of flipped up curls.

A few years later, when I was a teenager, I learned to set my own hair with rollers. They gave my fine hair the fullness I desired, especially when I backcombed it a bit in a method called 'teasing.' 'Tormenting' would have been a more appropriate word for that procedure, as it caused split ends and broken strands, but it was the 'fad' of that time, so I did it too.

Before long, I decided that I'd like to be a hairdresser after high school, and began my practice on other people. I'll share more on that at another time.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Hair Cuts

As I found my barber shears and the comb, and sat my husband in the chair for his monthly haircut, I found myself thinking back on other days of 'shearing'.

When I was small, Mom would get out a set of electric clippers, and I'd watch as the buzzing machine in her hand trimmed away his deep,wavy hair. Dad didn't care much for his hair being long enough to show the waves. It was harder for him to keep that way, so he'd have her cut it close to his head. What a shame! I thought the wavy hair was so handsome on him! His last haircut was done not long before he passed away 25 years ago, the evidence of which still remains in his beat up old felt hat that is in my closet.

My brothers, too, were sometimes the victims of that machine. Every summer they'd get crew cuts at Nat's or Augie's barbershop, but in between times, as their hair grew out, they'd get a scissor trim or a full-on close cut.

I was lucky. I didn't have to endure the sound or the use of that little electric monster. I got my share of 'just straight around' cuts, though, with a pair of none-too-sharp scissors that could pull my hair. But, as bad as those scissors were, I was far more enthusiastic about them then those clippers! I hated haircuts back then. No matter how much towel or sheet was wrapped around me, the clippings always managed to get down inside my clothes. No amount of baby powder applied or brushing off could keep the annoying little hairs from causing my back to itch until I had my bath!

Years later, I became a hairdresser. I was always very careful to wrap the neck as tightly as possible without choking my patron. The cape was always placed over the back of the chair, so that as few clippings as possible would cause my patron discomfort.

After I married and had children, I was the only barber or hairdresser they knew until they left home. My son had never been to a barber until he joined the Air Force. Today my children and grandchildren go to salons for their haircuts. I can't say that I'm unhappy about that. I've still got three patrons, Mom, my husband, and myself... but won't take on any others. Sometimes you grow weary of doing what you once loved, and I'm ready to retire from this occupation.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

A Grateful Woman

Each day we wake to new beginnings and new challenges. We have opportunities to make decisions or to change the ones we made yesterday. It's good to begin a clean slate....and to watch to see how life will write across it.

Sometimes when we are challenged with something, we find ourselves complaining about it. We seem to complain about so many things. What's the use? It doesn't change a thing, except our mood. I don't know why we bother! Wouldn't we rather just look the difficulty in the eye, and move toward overcoming it? There's so much more satisfaction when you finally get victory over the annoyance than there is in sitting and complaining about it.

There are times when there's nothing we can do but learn to accept a situation as it is and work around it. Those circumstances teach us to do what we can and trust the good Lord for the rest.

We're given so many gifts that we didn't have to work for...or things we didn't expect... we often become blind to them. We take them for granted, and we certainly shouldn't. When I'm reminded by that still,small voice within me, of all the wonderful things I have known in my lifetime, I am overcome with gratitude for these are all things I didn't deserve. That's what makes them gifts, that they came to me through no effort of my own...not even a request for them!

I find myself drowning in gratitude this morning. I'm blessed beyond measure! A God who watches over us and protects us, a husband who treats me with respect and special care, children and grandchildren to love and enrich my life, work to do with my hands, a lovely home to protect me from the elements, good health and enough supply to keep us living comfortably. I think of those who live beneath the bridges in the city...those whose families have abandoned them, or those with no families at all. There's no one to care for them, those whose hearts are empty, those whose lives are lonely. So many live in nursing homes with strangers who are paid to meet their needs, and others live in the confines of bodies or minds that don't perform in ways that are considered normal.

What is there for me to complain about? Nothing. And so, I revel in thanksgiving and pray that my heart will remain grateful. I pray that I will remember, moment to moment... I am truly a blessed woman!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Childhood and Horses

As a child, I had a great imagination. I don't believe I had a waking moment that wasn't full of thoughts and ideas and plans. I went through a time when I was enamored with horses. I was scared to death of them, but still, I loved them in books and seeing them from a distance. It was probably due to the many tv shows in those days, which included Fury, Black Beauty, Roy Rogers, Wild Bill Hickok, Lone Ranger, Annie Oakley and others.

Many hours were spent watching those shows. I loved watching those steeds, with the sense they had to run back to a person who could help in time of trouble. They seemed to be heros, to me, as they were hitched to a rope with the other end wrapped around a floundering child who'd fallen through the ice. Or maybe they were attached to someone who was stuck in quick sand. They seemed to be such obedient animals, backing up on command, until the victim was free from the dangerous encounter.

When I had a willing partner, we'd take turns being the horse, with a jump rope around the waist for reins. We'd hear the 'giddyup' and we'd take off running. At the sound of the driver behind us, yelling, "Yah, Yah..." we'd pick up the speed until we were running like the wind. The Cavalry might have been chasing our rider, or maybe a posse of lawmen tried to catch us after we'd robbed the stagecoach. Sometimes we were 'fancy' horses, prancing to the music of the circus band.

There were times when we kids would climb trees and straddle a command to our pony beneath us. The wind would blow through our hair, and the horse would bump us around as it cantored and trotted. When we lived in Bay Shore, the family a few houses up and across the street, lived in front of a deep stand of trees. Several large trees along the boundary between the woods and the row of neighborhood homes had been felled, probably by a bull dozer when the properties had been prepared for houses. Those large trunks made perfect horses for us. We'd sling a rope with loops on each end (our stirrups) over the tree trunk, tie the middle of the rope around a spot where a small branch had broken off (the horn of a saddle) and leave a portion of the rope at that point to act as our reins. Many an afternoon would find five or six kids lined up in a row on a tree, imagining that they were a posse riding off into the hill country in search of Billy the Kid.

It's been years since I've seen children playing this type of game. These days, I see them riding in motorized minicars at the age of two, or on very small motorcycles when it would be far more appropriate for the preschoolers to be pedaling a tricycle. What has happened to the world of children? I fear their little brains are not encouraged to 'dream' or to 'pretend.' Will they learn to invent new things, or will they ever be on the wait for the next piece of technology? Sadly, I think they are likely to opt for the latter. I'm sorry for them that it's come to that, and so glad that I was born before this era.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Weather Changes

Mother Nature must be hormonal. She certainly suffers from mood swings! After weeks of having our heat turned off, the house was below 59 deg this morning and the heat automatically turned on.

I've been enjoying the days when the thermometer outside reached 70. We can open the doors and windows and flush out the stale air in the house. We can sit on the porch and enjoy a visit with the neighbors who seem to hibernate in the winter. We can get out in the fresh air and use our new-found energy to accomplish some Spring clean up in the yard, before those higher temperatures hit.

Today, I think it'll be a good day to stay inside and clean out the closet. I've got a huge bag of clothing to go to one of the charities in the area. Since it hasn't found it's way out the door yet, I'll see if there's anything else that can go along. I'll also explore the pantry to see if I have all things necessary to make a pot of chili for supper.

Ah...wait! The morning news just gave the weather report, and though it was below freezing when I woke up, it will climb into the high 60's today. Now, I'll have to 'rewind my mind' and work on Plan B.

All I can say is, it's a good thing I'm flexible!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

My First Sewing Machine

For many years, I had been sewing. I remember that when I was about 12 years old, I would sit with the neighborhood girls while they played with Barbie dolls. I didn't so much take part in the play, as to sit and create outfits for the dolls, sewing them by hand.

The year that I married, someone gave me an antique treadle machine. I was excited to have a sewing machine, and I attempted a few times to get the hang of using it. Each time I tried, I would find that I was failing at making it do what it was supposed to do. In frustration, I finally closed it up and there it sat, in our apartment, until the day we moved out. At that time, I am ashamed to admit, I had it taken to the dump. What a foolish child I was, but I had no idea as a young bride, that the machine could be worked, or even used as a piece of furniture. I also had no idea that it had value as an antique or that I would one day like old things in my home far better than the new-fangled stuff.

Oh, how I've regretted the decision to discard that lovely piece of history! In the years since that first machine and I parted company, I have acquired two other treadles. One is just the bottom, pedal stand. The other is the entire machine, which I have learned to thread, place the bobbin in, and sew on. I do not use it for projects, though. I use the first electric one that I got for Christmas in 1969. It is a used Montgomery Ward model which will go like the wind and will sew heavy layers, even denims. I have a more modern, zig zag machine which sews nicely, but is slow, and will take only light layers.

So many things have been turned out from that first Mongomery Ward model. My children and grandchildren wore clothing sewn on it, and played with dolls and doll clothing from it, too. Halloween costumes and dress up box outfits, western shirts and quilts too, were stitched on my first and favorite machine.

Though my thoughts often return to my bad choice to getting rid of the first treadle, I think if I had actually learned to sew on it, I might not have gotten my well-used, well loved, long-lived machine which I still use today.

There are reasons for all things, I guess.