Friday, November 13, 2015

Crazy chair lady

My husband and son think I'm insane with my craigslist addiction, my need to scour the listings for things I must have. Our tiny home bursts at the seams, trying to hold all of my fantastic finds. Oh, for a storefront, to help other [literally] poor, wayward home-shoppers find just the right items to make them smile each time they gaze upon their own abode.

But it's the chairs that really break my heart, people. The chairs.

I am a crazy chair lady. I cannot pass the sad, abandoned pieces on the roadside without a deep sigh, or (if they look promising) a quick-as-I-can U-turn to further peruse the cast-off.

I cannot tell you (and would be too embarrassed to tell you, even if I could) the number of times I've tried to save homeless chairs. I truly cannot help myself; it is an illness. I acknowledge this. Our home has been an ongoing parade of ever-changing chairs, from my single days onward... But I can't leave them, alone and unused. It's a crime to me. Even if I merely play the part of deliverer, hoisting them into the trunk of the Honda, where they hang out halfway, bungie-corded into submission, whilst I drive them to the "chair rescue" (Goodwill)... I drop them off in hopes that someone else can finish the mission I've begun.

What is it about chairs? Especially small ones—those petite resting places, so hard to find in modern furniture stores, where the entire showroom floor is awash in gargantuan, overstuffed monsters that wouldn't fit through our front door. Those diminutive forms, the ones that hug you when you sit down? Those are my chairs. When they rock or swivel? I sigh with delight. The low profile styles are my favorite. Even sweet wood dining chairs, or stools, the precursors to poufs... All of them make my heart go pitter-pat.

And I am sickened when I think of them languishing in a landfill. Why?! Why do I care so much? They are not alive. They have no souls, no feelings. But it breaks me. Secondhand stores, flea markets, yard sales–in each one, there hides a sad assortment of haunch holders that have been left behind in the rush to clutter our homes with chairs-and-a-half. What body could possibly need more than a single chair? No one will sit with you in that spacious, oversized mockery! Even if they did, what would it matter? Real intimacy can only be found when close proximity is chosen within a tight space.

So, my life's work has been reduced to this: save the chair. The cute little boudoir chair, the darling mid-century slipper chair, the dear barrel chair, the unaccompanied desk chair... All alone, all still full of purpose, some with weary upholstery but sporting those fabulous bones, and begging for a bright new interpretation.

Won't you join me? Better yet, for cryin' out loud: won't you be my patron? My kingdom for a storefront!

Friday, October 23, 2015


I've been in a strange season for the past year. Longer than that, actually—but the last 11 months or so have been the strangest thus far. I'm not alone in this season; others, mostly family members, are in it too. We're waiting for the other shoe to drop. Have you experienced a season like this? Where you cannot escape the (to coin a double entendre) "terminal awareness"? Where your thoughts constantly hover between the facts that our lives are finite, and that you can never, not for a moment, escape that reality?

I truly hope that it's not the new normal for me to wake each night, while the little world around me sleeps, and lie in bed pondering all the terrible potential scenarios of my own life and the people closest to me. I'm hoping that the night frets are just part of this *#!&?$ season. I suspect they are going to stick around for a long time, but I'd happily be wrong about that suspicion.

Either way, I haven't been up and out of bed really early for quite some time. This morning, though, I rose while darkness was still settled over our home. I poured a cup of coffee, began to do dishes, and noticed the overflowing recyclables container on the floor by the garbage. I'll take that out, I thought.

When I unchained the kitchen door and stepped out on the side porch, my eyes were instantly drawn upward, to the deep midnight-blue sky hanging above. I carefully, quietly deposited the items in our recycling container, then simply stood staring into the heavens. The night had been clear; stars stared back at me, some bright, some dim and twinkly, representing galaxies that were light years away.

Words to a church worship song popped into my head: "You made the stars in the sky, and you know them by name." I studied those hand-placed balls of fire and considered the power behind such arrangements. I thought again of my mortal nature here on Earth, of illness, of worry, of broken hearts and homes. It was still so dark outside.

And then, over the trees at the tip of the hilltop, a flash, a quick arc of light, there and gone in a fraction of a second. A shooting star. Not a star at all, but a piece of something, meteor, chunk of planet, whatever—being burned up. Dying. Ending.


And I thought to myself, that is the message for me today: that God is in this—even this.

I have to be reminded that God is in all things, not just the lollipops and unicorns of life. Not just the sunny days, not just the happy healthy moments. In all things, He is God. (I especially need this reminder in mid-winter. Bleeeech.)

I always get annoyed at people who say, "If we didn't have winter we wouldn't appreciate summer." I suspect, however, that there is some truth to that sentiment. My son had to read Tuck Everlasting, so I read along with him, about a family that accidentally drinks water from an eternal fountain. They can't die. And it's a burden to them, to be everlasting in this messed-up world with their human emotions and needs and pains. The book, while not my favorite, made me consider how pointless would be a life without end in this setting.

That's really all I have to say right about that. Oh, and this, which happened to turn up in my Daily Bread for today:

The Lord comforts his people and will have compassion on his afflicted ones. Isaiah 49:13

Thursday, September 3, 2015

Trusting in a season of loss

The past seven days have brought much loss—many endings. Some expected, some unexpected. All painful.

Summer (the school-free part, anyway) ended. My long stretch of no illness ended (thanks, stomach flu from hell). And on a more serious note, a few lives ended here on Earth. We lost an older woman my husband knew, mother to a close friend of his who preceded her in death, at 41, from cancer. I'm hoping he was there to greet his mom on her arrival. Another friend left us unexpectedly, of a heart attack. He was only a few years older than I am, and left a wife, children, and parents who never thought they'd outlast their youngest.

When people die at an old age, we can take some comfort in the length of their lives. When people die young? Suddenly? When widows are bereft with children still at home, and the one who is gone leaves big, gaping holes in many lives? There is honestly no comfort then, none that we can find here. It is tragic, and awful. No question.

I waver between acceptance, and argument. Why? I ask God. Why are evil people roaming, healthy? Why are sick, tired elderly clinging to life while elsewhere a young family mourns Dad?

There is no reply. I must return to acceptance: Acceptance of my place in this universe (quite lowly); acceptance of my gratitude that good people are among us at all, and I've been blessed to know them; acceptance of the fact that I have created nothing, and therefore have claim on neither the extension nor the snuffing out of life.

I know in my heart there is a Creator. I know He is great; I see His works and His wonders. I know the Holy Spirit is real, because I have heard that voice inside me, so sure and true and clear that it cannot possibly be attributed to any other source. I know that this world around me now is not a good one, that it is fueled and ruled by a force that wishes me to be discontent, depressed, disconsolate, and doubtful. Lastly, I remember who I was before I knew that Creator and his saving Son. She was a miserable girl, and I don't miss her.

So, I trust. I think of this hurtful place, in time and space, as a stop on a longer ride to my true destination. I will visit here, and find good here; I will try to be good here. I will also try to hold tight to promises of salvation, and an eternity of pure love and worship so fabulous that I cannot imagine it with my small, pea brain.

Sometimes faith, like contentment, is a choice.

Thursday, August 13, 2015


Always leave while you're still having fun.

That's it. Honestly, that's the mantra. So simple. And yet, so hard for some people to do.

I guess it began in the "early summer" of my lifespan, when I was venturing out at night with friends, winking at occasions and locations that skirted the edge of "trouble," and partaking of legal libations in said situations. I began to see that sticking around, late at night, usually resulted in my wishing I'd departed earlier. I had some friends, too, who never quite absorbed the truth of this realization—those people who never knew when to quit. Eventually, our different philosophies caused some tension at times... And then, we simply got older, and/or parted ways due to unrelated circumstances... and over-staying night-life events became a non-issue.

But I still fall back on that mantra. It's my own, it has served me well—and it's still true today. Although nowadays, we're not talking about clubs or parties. Now, it applies to family life: vacation, Kennywood, school events, picnics, canoe excursions. Leave while you're still having fun. Leave so that the good memories prevail, instead of being erased by memories of tempers flaring, or crowds surging, or sunburn and bug bites overtaking all else. Leave while you're still wide awake to drive home, before you overeat, or injure yourself pretending you're still youthful. Leave the park before you become nauseous from one more ride; depart the lovely beach before you have sufficient time to grow weary of sand in your undergarments. Be decisive, be disciplined, be a leader, and declare a finish time. Then, stick to it within reason.

Since I am the ruiner of fun in my home, this forthright task usually falls on me. Most of the unsavory tasks do. I'm at home more; it's inevitable. But I resignedly don my bleak crown.

Does this mantra work in all things? No, of course not. You can't apply it to marriage; there would be very few marriages remaining! You can't apply it to jobs, at least not on a daily basis. (However, I do believe that for those of us with choices, you can apply the mantra in a bigger way when you see an emerging pattern of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, or poor management in a workplace). You can't apply my fab mantra to family, either. You're sort of stuck there. I've learned the hard way, too, that you shouldn't apply it to church life within short spans. Some folks do, skipping from place to place each time they are bored or offended... only to find that other churches are full of flawed people, too. All of them.

I have found, though, that the melmantra makes sense for excursions of all kinds, and for hobbies and pastimes. My family grows weary of hearing it. I tire of repeating it. Yet, I think back on times when I did not apply it... And I press on.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Night-time patio writings by moonlight

In summer months, I ponder oft
Cuisines that I adore the most.
Fair Italy's tomatoes soft
And salty, rich on garlic toast?
Or olives dripping brine, so fine
Adorned with mozzarella roast?

Yet South America's spice, so bright—
The nutty, toothsome pop of corn
That with a bean, and pepper's bite,
Will many happy plate adorn?
A tomatillo green, so keen
To make its cousin red, forlorn?

How could I choose when both are best
Depending on the harvest's cull?
Whichever type of plate I've messed
Most recently is all in all,
Because it's clear that both are dear!
All day could I this subject mull.

It matters not; I'll love them both
When golden sun is high and hot.
For winter, bring on stew and broth,
Those remedies when cold is caught.
But icy gale? The sting of hail?
These things, my favorite foods know not.

Thursday, July 9, 2015

The Diplocat

So, our cat... Yeah, the one I mentioned in this post. She's become quite naughty of late. Little "surprises" have been left for us. She's done it before, but never with regularity until recently. (Let me say here that none of my past cats have ever partaken in such rudeness. Sigh.) Anyway, at first we thought it was a health issue, so we had various tests run; all was well. She's been put on various expensive cat foods, is now gluten-free for crying out loud, but to no avail. She is, quite simply, a very nervous and temperamental beast, but she's perfectly healthy.

Yes, she has an extra litter box. And yes, I clean it at least once daily. Sometimes the prizes she leaves are in very deliberate places, such as in front of her favorite person's workbench... or in my son's Croc sandal. Niiiiice. That makes me think she's letting us know when she's angry or hurt. Not that it makes her actions acceptable, mind you. Not at all.

I've thought many times of re-homing her. Of hurting her, even. In rage, as I spray yet more Resolve and pet scent remover (she never defecates in the same place twice), I've had fantasies of releasing her into the wild... And then, just as I ponder her unfortunate fate, she behaves herself again; she's incredibly cute and sweet, she rubs her scent on us, she shares a rare purr. I never forget how bad she is, but I do let it go and try to hope she'll stop her obnoxiousness. Until inevitably, she is obnoxious again.

I have declared, vociferously and repeatedly, that she is the last cat for me.

Except I keep meeting other cats that do not disappoint. Take my parents' awesome cat, for example: a delightful female who found them by appearing under an outbuilding one morning as a tiny kitten. That incredible cat hunts, stays outdoors, and never leaves inappropriate piles in places where someone is sure to step (unless you consider dead rodents to be inappropriate...) She's a great cat.

The most recent wonderful cat showed up at my son's piano lesson. As I sat on the "waiting couch" to read while my dude played for his teacher, here came a huge, solid-looking orange tabby with light green eyes. He jumped immediately onto the couch with me, proceeded to climb onto my lap, and then, oddly, he sat up and placed his two front paws over my left shoulder. Then he looked at me, imploring me to give the feline species another chance. I asked his name (Mozart—he does belong to a music teacher, after all), and we all chuckled at his very forward behavior. Mozie stayed with me for about 5 minutes, hugging my shoulder, gazing at me meaningfully while I rubbed the top of his head and neck. After a bit, he settled his heavy self next to me on the couch cushion, and napped while I read and the music played. I remembered that not every cat is as ungrateful and ill-mannered as mine. I felt a bit of the bitterness toward our own awful pet leave me, as the weight of that diplomatic orange fellow lifted from my shoulder.

She's still the last cat, though.

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Jagoffs and jackaninnies

Driving in our fair city can be rather trying. In even the idyllic suburbs, well beyond Pittsburgh proper, it's quite clear that post-modern driving skills continue to decline rapidly. I'm not sure how some of these people were legally granted driver's licenses... Alas, they were.

I am not proud to tell you that my personal battle-of-the-potty-mouth is waged most strenuously when I am behind the wheel. (Hey, I'm not a sailor's daughter for nothing! It's a constant struggle.)

Lately, other drivers have been even more lax, more rude, and more self-absorbed and distracted than normal. So, I've come up with a whole slew of other words to use in place of the vitriol that springs to my lips after I am cut off yet again, or watch a person cross the center center repeatedly only to find upon passing them that they are texting illegally, eating a meal, or fixing their hair...

Jagoff is always a nice word to swap in, being specific to Pittsburgh and rather enjoyable to utter. Jackaninny works well, as does asinine person or simply "big git" (thanks, H. Potter, for that one!) I won't lie, though; none of these substitutes can deliver the same mean satisfaction that the true bad words offer... However, these weaker word choices also carry less guilt than the "real" words.

That is, they used to carry less guilt. Then, we were re-reading the big commandments in Exodus. The one about murder. And the other one about lust. And how even just thinking about such acts was pretty seriously bad.

Which took me to Matthew 5. There are various references therein about how out of the heart come evil thoughts, and how to look upon a woman with lust is the same as committing adultery with her... Which, of course, translates to the concept of speaking about a fellow driver with murder in my heart... Yep, even when I use my cutesy little psuedo-swear words, God knows what I meant. He knows my heart—and therefore knows the word that I was thinking when I subbed in a less offensive moniker for that other driver.

There goes my awesome plan to stay verbally pure while driving.