Autumn Has Arrived!!

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Autumn has arrived in beautiful Colorado as well as the northern hemisphere and it is just gorgeous this year!  Autumn is my favorite season, I must admit.  I love the colors, I love the temperatures cooling down, I love the way the light slants across the sky in a softer manner that seems to make everything look new and different.  When I was a child, I looked forward to the beginning of every new school year and the new clothes and shoes we would buy so I could start off the year all sparkly and new.  I’m even one of those people who, to this day, loves the smell of pencils and erasers and chalk boards, pens and all kinds of paper, and even the crisp newness of notebooks.  Can I make a confession to you?  I still buy school supplies when they’re in the stores, on sale, because they’re less expensive then and I love wandering up and down the aisles with all those lovely school supply aromas.  Autumn is my favorite season hands down!

I grew up in west Texas where we had fall, but it wasn’t the same as fall in places farther north.  We got cooler, but mostly that was when we had our heavy rains and so gray, foggy days seemed to go hand in hand with the new season.  I loved walking home after school and walking into my house to the aroma of soup or stew that Mother was already cooking on the stove.  Those were some of my favorite moments as a child and I miss those moments now.  I LIKED wearing more clothes in the fall and winter months.  I loved sweaters and corduroy pants, long-sleeved dresses and coats, hats, and gloves.  I was born in November and always loved that November’s flower is the chrysanthemum.  I loved the colors that were used to represent fall–pumpkin, sweet potato, maroon, dark green, browns, burnished golds, and darker blues.

Autumn is the season for Halloween and I recall my favorite Halloween costume as a child. I believe I was in the second grade and I decided to dress up as a gypsy.  Mother made me a long, full skirt made of a fall-colored paisley print.  I adored that skirt and wore it all the time, even when it wasn’t Halloween.  I liked going trick or treating, but my favorite part was coming home and all of my friends and I dividing and sharing the spoils of our evening.

My favorite holiday of all is Thanksgiving and not because of the largely mythical stories of the pilgrims and the Indians having a big feast together after the harvest.  I love Thanksgiving because, to me, it represents a time for family to get together for no other reason than to share a good meal and quality time together.  I have grand memories of all the women working in my mother’s kitchen preparing the big feast for the day.  I loved the food too, don’t get me wrong, but I loved even more being in the midst of the women, hearing the latest news about what was happening in the family, the joking around, the camaraderie and the love.  I think I love preparing the Thanksgiving meal now because even though it is harder to gather family together for it, the recipes and preparations remind me of those days when there was a big crowd to prepare and eat the meal.  Making cornbread dressing reminds me of my sister Judy, who was the official dressing maker.  Making pecan and cherry pies reminds me of Mother and her explaining each step to me.  I loved putting the chicken and dressing together into the oven and the aromas that arose as it cooked. (Mother never baked a turkey.  She thought they were too greasy.)

As you can tell, I’m on a nostalgia trip this morning!  🙂  Now, as I’m older, I’m realizing I need to institute some new traditions in our family so someday my grandchildren will have such ardent memories as I do of my childhood Thanksgivings.

Last week, my husband and I took our annual trip into the mountains to see the beautiful trees and leaves around Colorado.  As we did so, I was filled with joy and peace that I just don’t experience throughout the rest of the year.  My husband loves it when it snows.  I love it when it cools and the trees turn into a riot of lovely colors.  I get this almost uncontrollable urge to cook soups and stews, turkeys and dressing.  I even get this weird urge to draw and cut out leaves and pumpkins and turkeys from construction paper and tape them to the  front window.  Instead, I’m crocheting and knitting shawls from autumnal colors.  That works too…  What is your favorite part of autumn?  Were there special rituals and traditions your family participated in?  Let me know in the comments below.  I’d love to know!

Peace and love, today and always,

Elaine

Humility

You know, sometimes, just when you think you have life pretty much figured out and know how to take care of all the basics, you find yourself utterly defeated by something completely ridiculous. In my past I’ve found myself challenged by big things like aging parents, angsty teens, mental illness, poverty, sexism, racism, and even sexual harassment. Those things are “normal” in the course of a lifetime I think unless you live on a pink cloud all by yourself where nothing ever happens. With God’s help, I have managed and can manage to face all those things, I think.

So, I’m feeling pretty confident about my life and myself this morning when my husband asks me to go buy gas for the lawnmower. He hands me the little red gas jug and proceeds to start mowing the back yard. No big deal! I’m happy to do it! So Buddy (my 10 year old Chihuahua) and I go to the small gas station a block away and I pull out my little red gas jug. I then proceed to fight with it for at least 5 minutes, trying not to swear at my husband beneath my breath as I do so. “Sugar bear!! Why did he ask me to do this anyway? Just because I’m incapable of mowing the lawn, that’s why! I know I don’t mow in straight lines and can’t turn corners, but this is too much!! Drat that man!” I struggled and I twisted and I pinched and, I couldn’t get it off! I couldn’t tell if I was doing something wrong or if I just wasn’t strong enough to squeeze the appropriate places and twist at the same time. I was about to give up when I noticed a young man pull up behind me to buy gas. He had a little boy in his back seat so I decided he looked safe and humbly went over and asked for help. (Women, as you know, this is something we have to be careful about. Some guys aren’t safe.) The young man said “Sure! No problem!” and then, of course, flipped something, twisted the cap and voila! The cap was off the jug in 2 seconds. I blushed at my lack of ability and humbly thanked him for his assistance. He couldn’t help himself. He grinned wryly at the old lady, i.e. me, and said, “Those things can be complicated until you’ve done it a time or two.” I laughed, he laughed and I went back to my gas pump, filled the jug with gas and the car with the gas and slinked humbly back home.

You know, we never will know everything or have all the answers. There will always be something that we need help with in this life. Whether it be getting a stupid cap off of a gas jug, getting help with our kids, parents, spouses, family at large, or even accepting help from complete strangers when we need it.

There are even those of us who have gone to church all our lives, read the bible all our lives and given ourselves to Jesus, who think we have all the answers down pat and, suddenly something comes up that leaves us questioning our previously held pat answers. I think society at large is in this state right now. So much about our society, social mores and values have changed over the last 20 years. Some of them are really good, some of them aren’t and some of them I don’t know about. Some of them I’m still wrestling with and so, I go to God’s word and try to find the answers. I have decided one thing for sure. Even if I don’t have all the answers, I know God does. I know He knows what the big picture looks like and that if I just submit to His will and “Act justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with Him,” (Micah 6:8) it will all work out okay in the end. I’m not God. I don’t have to have all the answers for every question or situation. I do need to act justly, treat people with love, dignity and mercy, and walk humbly with God. I might not agree with everyone else or anyone else, I might not be of the same religious beliefs or non-beliefs, political stripe, the same race, the same socioeconomic bracket, or of the same sexual orientation as someone else. It doesn’t matter. I am still asked, no, required, by God to act justly, treat all people with love, dignity, and mercy, and walk humbly with God. Especially when I can’t even get a stupid cap off of a gas jug, it occurs to me that I’m not in a position to act superior to anyone, ever. Do you?

Peace, blessings, and love for the week ahead to all of you,

Elaine

P.S. I have problems reading crochet and knitting patterns sometimes too. Everyone seems to think I know all there is to know about those hobbies, but let me tell you, they confound me sometimes! Here’s my current project. If I finish it and it actually ends up looking like this, I will let you know. 😀

Sunday Dinners

I found a recipe making the rounds on Facebook for Southern Banana Pudding and suddenly I was back in the kitchen of my childhood on a Sunday morning after church making banana pudding as Mother instructed me on how to make it.

Sunday dinners (which in the South means the noon meal) were the biggest and fanciest meals of the week. Inevitably they meant we had either pot roast, which cooked in the oven while we were at church, chicken fried steak, fried chicken, or some other delicious meat that we didn’t ordinarily have during the week. Along with that, we’d had mashed potatoes (always!), homemade gravy and two or three other vegetables, often picked right out of our backyard garden. Then, of course, we’d have one of Mother’s delicious cobblers or pies. Mother sometimes made cakes, but as she was always quick to point out, “Your Aunt Mary is the cake expert, while I prefer to make pies.” Mother had the best pie crust I’ve ever eaten and her cobblers were so delicious that often I would try to skip the meal right on over to cobbler, but Mother never allowed that, of course! If Mother hadn’t made what she called a “real dessert,” we’d make banana pudding or we’d whip up a lemon meringue pie or chocolate meringue pie.

I loved Sunday dinners because that was when Mother’s wonderful cooking shined and when she taught me how to cook. Sometimes it would just be Daddy, Mother and I eating these huge meals, but oftentimes other family would come over too. If it was just Daddy, Mother and I, we’d save the leftovers and eat them for Sunday supper and continue eating them throughout the week. My favorite was Mother’s pot roast dinners because that meant on Sunday evening we’d have roast beef sandwiches with warmed gravy to top them off. I think I enjoyed that almost more than the big meal at noon.

Isn’t it funny how seeing one old recipe can spark so many wonderful memories in our minds? As I’m writing this, I’m seeing our old kitchen in my mind with the yellow countertops, antique white cabinets, and our old O’Keeffe and Merritt stove that cooked better than any stove I’ve ever used. It was huge, old-fashioned, and I was always a little embarrassed that we didn’t have a built-in stovetop and oven like my friends’ homes had, but in all honesty, that old stove was far better. I’ve seen a revival of interest over the last 20 years in these stoves. I’ve especially seen them in many television sitcom kitchens and am always surprised.

We also had an old Frigidaire refrigerator that wasn’t really very old at the time, but always seemed that way. Those, too, have become very popular again in vintage kitchens. I guess it is true that given enough time, everything comes back in style!

I must admit, I’d give anything for one more chance to cook a Sunday dinner at Mother’s elbow. She used every pot and pan in the house to cook these wonderful feasts and I had to wash the dishes afterwards, but the meal was worth it! So are the memories…

Thanks for going down memory lane with me today! I must admit, there are days when I really enjoy these trips!

Peace and love always,

Elaine

Cutting Back Our Front Yard Rainforest

I live in Colorado Springs, Colorado where the average precipitation per year is roughly 11 inches. This year, I’m not certain how many inches we’ve received, but I know we’re well over double that amount if not nearing triple that amount. El nino is definitely affecting our weather pattern to say the least. As a result, plants that usually grow to be maybe 5 feet each year and then bloom beautifully in late August, early September have grown to about, well, I’m not a good judge but at least 7 feet tall! Wild sprouts off of the roots of our elm trees have grown very tall and fast too. Okay, everything has just about burst right out of the stratosphere to tell the truth and our front flowerbeds were literally looking like rainforests! Even our mint plants were about 5 feet long/tall.

So, yesterday we had the biggest storm yet here at my house. At one point we were getting hail and rain from every direction and it was all hitting HARD! My cat tried to use me as a tree to escape the noise. I don’t know where she thought she was going, but apparently my body was her escape route! My dog just froze in the living room floor, not moving throughout the entire storm. It was quite fun! It looked like this in the middle of it all:

Rain storm 8.10.15

We ended up with 2.25″ of rain in about half an hour yesterday when all was said and done. Flash floods were the fear of the day in many areas of town. Thankfully, we live on the top of a hill, so we rarely have flooding problems here at home. This morning, while it was nice and cool, I decided to attack our rainforest and see what kind of good I could do. I worked on it all for about an hour and this is all I accomplished in that amount of time:

I realize it doesn’t look like I’ve accomplished much, but you must realize that before I started, you couldn’t see any of the red sidewalk in these areas and I think I disturbed a new small ecosystem of squirrels, a crazy cat, and many, many spiders and creepy crawlies in my efforts thus far. Our neighbor came over for a few minutes, after which I gave myself time for a midmorning tea break. Now it’s back to the rainforest for more chopping and hewing. Hopefully by the time my husband comes home this afternoon or at least before it starts raining again, I will be finished! I’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, peace and love, always,

Elaine

My Yard Is A Rainforest

My yard has become a rainforest this year.
When you get more than twice as much rain
as the average each year,
in a usual arid environment,
one day you open your front door and realize
that somehow your front yard has wandered
to the Bahamas or perhaps to Brazil.

There are sunflower plants and thistles taller
than I’ll ever be.
There are trees that never existed before,
in places I’ve never seen.

The ivied vines are growing on bricks
like we’ve been transported to New England,
with colonies of very odd insects
invading our spaces.

Once there were only rocks, flowers
and an occasional wasp in the season,
now there are these weird bugs,
that bite without reason!

Yes, it looks like my work is cut out
for me today,
so I can see the blue skies and flowers
and neighborhood again.

I have to admit, though,
as I sit here
in awed wonder,
should I leave nature alone
and enjoy the rare trips
I feel I have made,
to other continents and places,
simply by the green forest
that the bountiful rain has made
in my usual brown spaces?

© Elaine Wood-Lane
7/24/15

What Are Your Hands Doing?

I was reading Guideposts this morning and came across a quote so profound, I felt I had to share it and some other thoughts I have on the matter.  Here is the quote:
“Our hands are really servants of our thoughts, so if you want to understand what you’re thinking, watch what your hands are doing.”   Jewel, singer

  What are our hands treasuring?  What are they doing each day?  I like the idea that our hands reveal our thoughts, and to a greater degree, our hearts.  I wish I could say that all of my days are spent using my hands to help others, to do good works, and to enourage, love, and build others up.  I would be lying if I said that is what I do all the time.  For, my hands are often spent serving and entertaining myself, especially online on my iPad.  I also use my hands for housework, some gardening, knitting/crocheting, petting my animals, and touching people, hopefully in a loving way. I waste a lot of time, though, when my hands could be serving and loving more.

I did a search on my Bible app (via my ever present iPad) for the word “hands” in the New Testament. Do you know what came up over and over again?  Jesus or his disciples laying hands on people to heal them.  Jesus laying his hands on the  little children to bless them. Jesus lifting his hands in prayer to his father in heaven.  In other words, Jesus used his hands for the same things we can use our hands for–laying hands on people, helping them and praying. I’m not suggesting that all of us have the spiritual gift to heal people when we lay hands on them. I am saying that as a people we should be touching others in love and encouragement, more. We don’t do that anymore. Our hands are too full of things to reach out and touch someone. Our hands are even clenched into fists of anger, frustration, and protests so much that reaching out in a friendly manner and touching someone has almost become a taboo activity. Why is that? Have we become a society so filled with fear that we can’t be human?

I like to touch people, especially babies and old people. Now, before you start thinking I’m a pervert, I’m not. These two demographics of people seem reach out their hands to be touched, patted, and/or in a request for help. The interesting thing is, these people seem to inherently know when they see me, a complete stranger, that I’m a person whom they can trust and will touch them with love. I’ve had complete strangers walk up to me in public places, take my hand, and ask for help or just start talking to me. Babies, in public, when I pass by, whether I’ve seen them or not, laugh spontaneously when they see me (yeah, I’m funny looking and make lots of people laugh!) and then reach out their little hands to touch me. I’ve even had babies out in public spontaneously jump into my arms! I can’t explain this phenomenon, but both groups are right. They can trust me. I won’t hurt them. I will do what I can to help them. I actually love it when people reach out to me. It’s always a blessing to me and fills me with peace and joy the entire rest of the day!

So why don’t I reach out and touch more people? Why don’t I use my hands more often to help and serve others and God? Why do I waste so much time? It is easy for me to say, “Well, I have fibromyalgia and have a lot of pain and weakness. I can’t do things like I used to do because I don’t have the physical capacity to do so.”

A couple of years ago, God told me my mission, if I chose to accept it, was to simply “Knit, Pray, Love.”  That’s it. Three words. I started knitting/crocheting prayer shawls. As I would work on the shawl, I would pray for whomever was to receive the shawl and pray that through that shawl, they could feel my love and, more importantly, God’s loving arms around them. Sometimes I knew who I was making the shawl for, but, more often than not, I had no idea who would receive the shawl. Every time I finished one, I learned who it was for and would pass it on to them. I felt a great deal of peace, love, and usefulness in this work, but somehow let it lapse. Oh, I keep buying yarn and getting patterns, but I’m not doing what I was doing, what God asked me to do. I need to do that again. I need to use my hands for good instead of entertaining myself. I need to reach out and touch people in real life too. We all do. We’ve become a society afraid of touching and it is isolating us and creating huge rifts amongst family, friends, ethnic groups, religious groups, and the world in general. I think if there was more handshaking, pats on the back and hugging going on amongst all people, a lot of these tensions would melt away. I think if we used our hands to help and bless one another, no one would be able to take weapons up against one another in haste or hatred. Lives would be spared. All our lives would be blessed. 

What are your hands doing? 

  

Discombobulated

Discombobulated,
anxious,
all because of a
twelve-pound dog
who found me at a
truck stop ten years ago
and made me fall in love.

While he’s in surgery,
it’s like I’m at the hospital
waiting room in 1986,
while my mom is having
open heart surgery.

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Love isn’t reasonable
or logical.
It just is.

When we give our
heart and love to
someone,
no matter who
or what species,
that’s that.

We worry,
we fret, we pray,
when they aren’t well.

When they are well,
we enjoy their presence,
the little ordinary moments,
the laughter,
the comforting habits.

My little ball of fur
is part of my ordinary moments,
the laughter of my and my husband’s days,
and definitely part of comforting habits.

Obviously there is a difference in
waiting to hear if your mother is
going to live through surgery
and waiting to hear that your dog
is doing ok after surgery.

The heart doesn’t know this.
It just squeezes tight and
prays all will be well.

© Elaine Wood-Lane
6/5/15

An Ode to Mother On Mother’s Day

Before I was born,
you protected me.
You wouldn’t let
them do a necessary
hysterectomy on you
because you knew there
was me, hidden deep inside.
Thank you for being protective
of me before anyone believed
I existed.

You continued to protect me
in so many ways until the
day that you left us.

Even the last time you
spoke to me, you were
giving me advice that
I didn’t really want to hear,
but I see the wisdom of…
now.

You fed me, clothed me,
changed diapers,
and was there to catch me
if I fell, ever, whether it was
as I took my first steps
or if I fell while trying to
learn how to skate.

You were always there with
bandaids for the scrapes
and scratches, the bruises
and dings of life.

You were not the sort
to go on and on with
sympathetic cooing
and oohing.

You would patch me up,
get me going,
and tell me to not think
about it and I’d be much better.

You were right.
Every single time.
You gave me courage
and impetus to get going
so many times
when I just wanted to give up.

You always listened to me,
giving me the benefit of your
wisdom and your love.

Sometimes you made me
absolutely crazy mad
with your attitudes,
your absolutes,
your stubbornness.

Maybe that was because,
usually,
I knew you were right
and I didn’t want to hear
about it.

You were always the strongest,
most confident woman
I ever met.

Fix a faucet? No problem.
Sew a fancy dress? No problem.
Keep your house clean? No problem.
Hold me when I couldn’t breath
because of asthma? No problem.
Get out of the car to tinker
with it in pouring rain because it died? No problem.
Put together a three course meal with dessert
when unexpected visitors came? No problem.
Wear me out with a paddle when I
rebelled and acted like a brat? No problem.
Stayed calm and collected when I got
lost at JCPenneys? No problem.
Teach me about Jesus and
what was true and what was not? No problem.

I always thought you had
all the answers to life.

I remember your pretty Sunday dresses,
your shiny high heels
as we walked into church.
The smell of Certs in your purse
when I opened it up to get something
for you.

Your ability to talk to anyone, anywhere,
and make them laugh and feel better
was amazing.
It embarrassed me to death sometimes
and I don’t know why.
You were simply being you!

There is so much I remember
about you Mother, that was good.

Then you grew weaker, sicker,
and eventually needed help
with everything: housecleaning,
showering, styling your hair or
dressing you in “that pretty robe, no,
not that one, the pink one.”
No problem.
I was happy to do for you,
what you did for me for years and years.

I cherish those moments.
I cherish all of the moments,
good, bad, and challenging.

I cherish especially a moment
as an adult when you were at
the end of your life and were
lost inside your own mind and
seemed unreachable.

I cried and prayed one day
that I just needed to “talk to my
mother!”

Two minutes later the phone rang,
and it was you, the real you.
You listened and gave me
some of the best advice ever.
Then you said you loved me
and was glad we got to talk.

I cried for ten minutes
afterwards for the blessing
of talking to Mother.

You weren’t perfect,
no one is,
but I always remember,
that you did the things you did
because you loved all of us so much.

Happy Mother’s Day, Mother.
I still miss you.
I still hear you in my head
sometimes when I
wonder what you would do
about something.

You were a great mother,
and I love you, still.

© Elaine Wood-Lane
5/10/15

Romans 12: 9-21

I love this passage in Romans. When I get all out of whack and grumpy, I read this passage and get straightened out right away. I love all the different translations too, but this one from The Message says it all very plainly and I like that. So, I thought I would share this today, both to remind myself and to encourage others too.

I pray your weekend is blessed and that if you’re a mother, your Mother’s Day is full of love and laughter. 💕 Elaine

Romans 12:9-21from The Message

Love from the center of who you are; don’t fake it. Run for dear life from evil; hold on for dear life to good. Be good friends who love deeply; practice playing second fiddle.

Don’t burn out; keep yourselves fueled and aflame. Be alert servants of the Master, cheerfully expectant. Don’t quit in hard times; pray all the harder. Help needy Christians; be inventive in hospitality.

Bless your enemies; no cursing under your breath. Laugh with your happy friends when they’re happy; share tears when they’re down. Get along with each other; don’t be stuck-up. Make friends with nobodies; don’t be the great somebody.

Don’t hit back; discover beauty in everyone. If you’ve got it in you, get along with everybody. Don’t insist on getting even; that’s not for you to do. “I’ll do the judging,” says God. “I’ll take care of it.”

Our Scriptures tell us that if you see your enemy hungry, go buy that person lunch, or if he’s thirsty, get him a drink. Your generosity will surprise him with goodness. Don’t let evil get the best of you; get the best of evil by doing good.

Starting My Day|A Hay(na)ku|NaPoWriMo Day 27

Sunrise
is purple
and gold now.

I
need to
write and pray.

This
is how
I start days.

I
pray you
peace and love.

© Elaine Wood-Lane
4/27/15


And today’s prompt – optional, as always — comes to us from Vince Gotera. It’s the hay(na)ku). Created by the poet Eileen Tabios and named by Vince, the hay(na)ku is a variant on the haiku. A hay(na)ku consists of a three-line stanza, where the first line has one word, the second line has two words, and the third line has three words. You can write just one, or chain several together into a longer poem. For example, you could write a hay(na)ku sonnet, like the one that Vince himself wrote back during NaPoWriMo 2012!

An interesting form I had not heard of before. I love short form poems, like the haiku and now the hay(na)ku. They require me to condense my thoughts and feelings and I really like it because what comes out is often more meaningful than a poem or essay with too many words. Less is more, to me, for certain!

Peace and love, Elaine