Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Purr, purr

I finished this painting of our dear kitty just before the holidays hit hard. She's so darned picturesque, you know? Most cats are, come to think of it. And on days like we had today, a cat is a fine example of how to behave if at all possible. Find a comfortable spot with some filtered light, or make a spot if nothing measures up. Get cozy. Nap. Wake, and nap again. Look out any nearby window, be thankful you don't have to be "out there," and then drift off once more.

Perhaps you're reading this from a warm, sunny place where you prefer being outside. That's great, but it's not that kind of day here. When I ventured outdoors earlier, I was pelted with tiny ice balls. They piled up, but not like fluffy snow—this stuff accumulated like the fake snow at ski lodges, all sharp and unnatural. I couldn't make a snowball out of this substance if I had to. And why, I ask, would I want to spend time surrounded by such an unwelcoming, unyielding surface? I wouldn't. Hence the cat example.

I only wish I could have napped. With a 7-year-old who'd already been on the sled, no cable TV, dirty laundry from holidays spent running, dishes in the sink from people home on vacation, and toys strewn across every flat surface, there was no napping here.

But that's okay. I'll leave it to the cat. Napping screws up my sleep at night, anyway. And I didn't have to drive on hazardous roads to a job today, so I'll count my blessings. I hope this post finds you safe in the place you most want to be.

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Merry Christmas to all. May your observations be healthy and safe, and may your eyes be focused on blessings aplenty.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Hope for healing

In light of my last post, I thought I'd give everyone an uncomfortable glance into what the lower portion of my face looked like the day after I fell on it. However, in the event that some of you don't want to look upon such hideousness, I thought I'd better show the "healing in process" photos first. So, here are images of the current state of my countenance.

Scroll down.

Scroll down some more.

A little more. Skip right past the next pic, if you'd like.

And here (grimace, cringe) is a "before" photo.

The lessons from this experience keep multiplying. First, I thought the lesson was simple: Don't run, even in jest, when your hands are in your pockets. Foolish. Now I know; lesson learned.

But it turns out the lessons were many. Never minimize the emotional impact of a physical injury. Never assume that something is covered by insurance. Keep your chin up, especially in front of your small child. Try to be a good example, even under duress. Remember the kindnesses of friends, and pay those gestures forward whenever circumstances allow. And so on. And so on.

Then, just as things were getting back to normal, I watched the news and was horrified at a story of another school shooting. Small children, heroic teachers and leaders, a town shaken to its core. I have since turned off the rarely watched television, stopped reading the e-headlines about the event; there's just no point in reliving the awful but familiar stories. It's too upsetting.

Yet something keeps occurring to me, every time I look in the mirror: We are made for healing. Our bodies are designed to knit back together when things are broken. Not all injuries can be undone, I know that. Not all bodies have the same abilities to mend. There are some breaks that can never be repaired, and some defects that are innate and cannot be undone in this life, in this place. Perhaps the young man who caused that school tragedy could have been healed; perhaps not. We'll never know.

But I do know this: Most of our cells keep renewing, splitting and growing, replacing themselves. Our bones, too—with some placement help, our bones know how to join back together. Every time I'm putting oil on my newest scar, each time I rub the oil into my skin and feel the odd, tickling itch that follows, I am reminded that even now, new skin is forming, replacing the damaged. Blood is flowing through that area, bringing the necessary building blocks, bringing life.

Will my face ever be as it was before? No. Will that bleeding Connecticut town? Absolutely not. Healing doesn't mean that it will be the same as it used to be. Often, there are lasting, indelible marks left from pain. Those marks might be tender, or even sore, forever. On the flip side, like in stories of healing from the Bible, the healed person is better than before, not just restored but also improved.

Is it possible that improvement through healing doesn't have to be a flip side? Can scars and healing and improvement all happen simultaneously? Maybe.

I don't know what every type of healing looks like. I know only that healing does happen, and that we were created to heal. I am praying for healing that goes beyond our understanding, for all the people in that little Connecticut town. For people everywhere, in fact.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Odd correlations

So, I took a little tumble Saturday night, while enjoying an evening walk with my little boy... Had the stitches removed earlier today, and I'm looking forward to some dental work on Monday and Tuesday...

Yeah. Stinks. More details to come at a later date, after I've emerged on the other side of the horror.

Anyway. It reminds me of our car. Let me explain.

Our last automobile purchase was a big, old, green station wagon. We found the machine on craigslist, took it for a spin, and bought it on the spot. It's not perfect, but it's reliable, American-made (hence, less expensive repairs), and we can haul reasonable amounts of stuff in it.

But it was an older woman's car, a widow. She'd bought it when her husband was still alive. They shared it, drove it to nearby locations, did the grocery shopping with it, etc. Then he died, and she kept the car and continued to use it to get around... But it's a big car. Long. Ungainly. She had an incident with the side of the garage. And then, she had another incident. Her kids repaired the first one, but after that, the marks didn't seem to be such a big deal.

When the car came to us, it still sported the dents and dings from the last Missus. We planned to fix them, but we'd bought it right before a trip to the beach; we drove it with dings intact, and began to wonder en route if perhaps our less-than-perfect appearance made other drivers steer clear of us. Did we seem to be reckless? Unconcerned? Because this forest green beast showed such evidence of past run-ins, did people give us a slightly wider berth as they passed?

It seemed that they did. And I know that I am a much more bold driver with a "beater" than I am when my car is flawless.

So we left the dings and dents alone. And then, since we already had the old attempted bumper repair with slightly un-matching paint, had the scratches on the doors, it seemed pointless and unnecessary to keep the wagon washed. I mean, what was the point, really? You could barely tell it was clean anyway. Polished? Pshaw. It just didn't happen. It's not going to. I suppose we've grown fond of the freedom that imperfect (dare I say unattractive?) provides.

Oddly, having a singularly messed up, hideous countenance has had a freeing effect on my efforts to make myself look my best. My ragged, until-recently stitched together face? My bruised skin? The jagged tooth issues? They're sort of like the points of impact on the green car: No makeup is required for now. What's the point? No one will notice because they'll be looking at me surreptitiously, wondering if my husband beats me or whether I stumbled drunkenly into a pole or something. They won't even notice if I skip eye shadow or lip color.

In truth, no one was really looking before. Now, if they're looking, it's only because they can't help themselves and they're morbidly curious. Either way, I'm definitely off the hook.

All the same, I'll hold onto my war paint. This, too, shall pass—and I do still have a husband and son to consider.

Prayers are welcome. Lots of healing prayers. Thanks.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Wow, life has sped up recently and doesn't show signs of slowing anytime soon. I am trying to find my [figurative] sneakers so I can keep up.

And once again, Thanksgiving is upon us. A lovely holiday, truly. Like any holiday, though, it can become fraught with idealistic expectations and high drama. Will the turkey be perfect? Will everyone make it to Grandma's on time? Will anyone eat too much and feel ill? Will someone make awkward comments about when so-and-so might finally get married and/or have a baby? Will anyone fight in public, or loudly discuss matters that should remain private?

Well, you'll have to see for yourself. We'll all be celebrating in our own little worlds, or choosing not to participate in the over-fed madness. Some folks will not be celebrating at all, and will be alone; I am hoping God puts those people on my heart, because for many folks, that emptiness will be a sad state, and it doesn't have to be that way...

Re: expectations and drama, I'll say only this. In the Bible study I'm taking, we met in our small groups, and were all instructed to take turns telling about the happiest time of our lives. Many of the women in my group mentioned the obvious big days: birth of children, wedding, anniversaries... But one woman who's a cancer survivor mentioned how she's begun to cherish the quiet, un-momentous occasions in her life—those moments when she is subtly aware of contentedness, when she can hear God's still, small voice, when she feels blessed and fully aware of her blessings. Those glimpses are more precious to her now, because they offer views into a deeper happiness that is based on much more than circumstances.

And she is right, I think. I pondered how big, happy moments tend to make me feel uneasy, suspicious—when I experience that state, I immediately begin waiting for the proverbial other shoe to drop. In my pre-diabetic sensibility, I suppose that "happy" has begun to feel like a sugar rush to me... A rush that, as we all should know by now, is followed shortly thereafter by a blood sugar crash.

So, like my acquaintance, I'll be seeking the softer, subtler happy. It's unlikely that the upcoming holidays will be perfect, and that's okay. We are, after all, more than our food and families. We are more than what we buy, or what we experience. Our lives are a tapestry, not all bright colors and splashy designs, but tattered sections and dull, sparrow-like shades, too. We need to adjust our vision to see all the moments around us, even the quiet beige ones. To my way of thinking, sugar-rush emotions will never compare to simple delights of this world.

Wishing you a grateful heart that can see blessings,


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Picking up the brush again

Finally, after a hiatus of sorts, I was able to pick up my paint brushes and work on something for an hour or two. It was blissful. This funny little gourd came home with Marcus last week; its green skin had been impaled with eyes, rainbow hair, and various other facial features (craft project for Halloween). I quietly emptied it of its recently added characteristics, and painted it outside in the healing sunshine. It's for sale in my shop on Etsy.

Friday, November 9, 2012

He said it better—so I'll let him

I sat down to try to explain why I've been physically ill since Election Day. I penned a long-winded, hot-headed rant that meandered from one point to another in a huff. Thankfully, I saved it for possible posting on another day, and then I found this fellow's work, which said all I felt but with well-spoken, intelligent candor instead of emotionally driven wrath (that was mine).

So, without further delay, I share with you the wise words of Andrew P. Napolitano, a former judge of the Superior Court of New Jersey, and the senior judicial analyst at Fox News Channel. Judge Napolitano has written six books on the U.S. Constitution.


Only in America can a president who inherits a deep recession and whose policies have actually made the effects of that recession worse get re-elected. Only in America can a president who wants the bureaucrats who can’t run the Post Office to micromanage the administration of every American’s health care get re-elected. Only in America can a president who kills Americans overseas who have never been charged or convicted of a crime get re-elected. And only in America can a president who borrowed and spent more than $5 trillion in fewer than four years, plans to repay none of it and promises to borrow another $5 trillion in his second term get re-elected.

What’s going on here?

What is going on is the present-day proof of the truism observed by Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton, who rarely agreed on anything in public: When the voters recognize that the public treasury has become a public trough, they will send to Washington not persons who will promote self-reliance and foster an atmosphere of prosperity, but rather those who will give away the most cash and thereby create dependency. This is an attitude that, though present in some localities in the colonial era, was created at the federal level by Woodrow Wilson and Theodore Roosevelt, magnified by FDR, enhanced by LBJ, and eventually joined in by all modern-day Democrats and most contemporary Republicans.

Mitt Romney is one of those Republicans. He is no opponent of federal entitlements, and he basically promised to keep them where they are. Where they are is a cost to taxpayers of about $1.7 trillion a year. Under President Obama, however, the costs have actually increased, and so have the numbers of those who now receive them. Half of the country knows this, and so it has gleefully sent Obama back to office so he can send them more federal cash taken from the other half.

It is fair to say that Obama is the least skilled and least effective American president since Jimmy Carter, but he is far more menacing. His every instinct is toward the central planning of the economy and the federal regulation of private behavior. He has no interest in protecting American government employees in harm’s way in Libya, and he never admits he has been wrong about anything. Though he took an oath to uphold the Constitution, he treats it as a mere guideline, whose grand principles intended to guarantee personal liberty and a diffusion of power can be twisted and compromised to suit his purposes. He rejects the most fundamental of American values -- that our rights come from our Creator, and not from the government. His rejection of that leads him to an expansive view of the federal government, which permits it, and thus him, to right any wrong, to regulate any behavior and to tax any event, whether authorized by the Constitution or not, and to subordinate the individual to the state at every turn.

As a practical matter, we are in for very difficult times during Obama’s second term. ObamaCare is now here to stay; so, no matter who you are or how you pay your medical bills, federal bureaucrats will direct your physicians in their treatment of you, and they will see your medical records. As well, Obama is committed to raising the debt of the federal government to $20 trillion. So, if the Republican-controlled House of Representatives goes along with this, as it did during Obama’s first term, the cost will be close to $1 trillion in interest payments every year. As well, everyone’s taxes will go up on. New Year’s Day, as the Bush-era tax cuts will expire then. The progressive vision of a populace dependent on a central government and a European-style welfare state is now at hand.

Though I argued during the campaign that this election was a Hobson’s choice between big government and bigger government, and that regrettably it addressed how much private wealth the feds should seize and redistribute and how much private behavior they should regulate, rather than whether the Constitution permits them to do so, and though I have argued that we have really one political party whose two branches mirror each other’s wishes for war and power, it is unsettling to find Obama back in the White House for another four years. That sinking feeling comes from the knowledge that he is free from the need to keep an eye on the electorate, and from the terrible thought that he may be the authoritarian we have all known and feared would visit us one day and crush our personal freedoms.


Thanks, Judge. I'm with you. I just wish you weren't so right.

I'd add only this from the book of Daniel, which has brought me hope, peace, and the sincere desire to seek truth even when many around me pursue dust:
The Lord reigns forever; he has established his throne for judgment.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Heavy sigh

Well, it's over.

I'll need a little time to come to terms with this.

Please pardon my absence; I'm going to go watch the stock market fall now.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Checking in

Hey, Gang! All three of you!

You might have noticed that it's been a couple of weeks since I was able to write anything on this ol' blog. October, especially late October, was pretty busy here. We finished fall ball, the kid got sick, then I got sick, then I stayed sick, then we did more house projects (while sick), then Hurricane Sandy scared everyone and did some major damage elsewhere, then we met the teacher and had a couple of school events, then we visited with different branches of family, and lastly—I actually had some freelance work.

I feel like I lost an entire month. Gone. Zip. I detest being busy, especially when not healthy.

And now the election is tomorrow.

Regarding the election, people: Please vote. Do NOT believe the news channels, the predictions, the premature counts. Just turn off the idiot box (I think Jack Kerouac called it the great glass eye) and pay no attention to any of those fools. Your vote counts. Do your research, figure out which candidates match your desires for this country, and then go support them.

The past few days have been unusually ugly ones. You might have heard about the horrible incident at our very own beloved Pittsburgh Zoo. Marcus always loved the wild dogs best; they were his favorite animal to visit. I guess we forgot, while admiring their painted beauty and frolicking puppies, that they are still wild animals that hunt and kill.

So, we've been reminded of the fierce, ferocious nature of beasts. And I have been reminded, again, that you simply cannot make anything perfectly, 100% safe for all people. It's impossible.

Thanks for stopping. I hope to resume both a more cheerful and less hectic pace this week... after tomorrow, of course.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Unwelcome insight

So we have this neighbor. I'll call her Edwina (not her real name.) From day one at this house, Edwina has inserted herself firmly into every single moment possible. She has come traipsing over to our driveway and door through every single home project, especially those within clear view, to offer advice and general observations. She has accosted each of us in our own ways, not just my own family but the other neighbors as well, to question us about intricacy upon intricacy. She seems to have no verbal filter whatsoever, and although her intentions appear to be merely friendliness borne of boredom, her curiosity can range from slightly annoying to downright rude and intrusive. She tells us what to do, tries to tell our child what to do, points out unfinished house business, and pries at us until we snap a bit. Even my unbelievably patient husband has grown weary of it.

When I'm in the wrong mood, I covertly check through shaded blinds to see if she's outside before I hurry into the yard for any reason. When I'm in the right frame of mind, I try to placate her endless queries with generalized but good-natured answers. I wish I could say I am in the right frame of mind most of the time, but remember? I'm a self-admitted loner and a privacy freak... so I often don't appreciate her nosey questions.

While I've been repeatedly dealing with Edwina's boundless curiosity, I've been simultaneously participating in a Bible study at a nearby church. We began by tackling the ancient book of Job. Wow. Short name, long suffering. Much wisdom about the character of God can be gleaned from that book. Each week, we've worked our way through more chapters, and the other women in my group and I have all discussed the depths and nuances of Job's ordeal.

The biggest lesson I've taken from it has been my need to question God less and accept and praise more. Even though Job is a righteous man to begin with, the humility that he learns by the end of his book is astounding. Who are we to question God, His ways, His means? Where were we when the world was formed? Do we know what all the animals are up to? Did we arrange the cycles of life, the rotations of the planet? Did we create any single living thing around us, including ourselves? And Job sits with his hand over his mouth, frankly embarrassed by his own impudence, listening to God and feeling small.

We were discussing the way that Job had initially questioned God's purpose, how he had wanted to know why things were happening the way they did. That led to some talk about our own questioning nature as humans. A few of the ladies in my group went on to say that often, we mere people want to win God over to our own plan, to "help Him" get things done in a way that pleases us. Sometimes we ask God too many questions, or try to insert ourselves and our desires into His plan. And God doesn't appreciate that; God works independently on a need-to-know basis, and honestly, most of the time we don't need to know. We probably wouldn't understand anyway—our perspective is pretty selfish and skewed.

And then, in the midst of this discussion, God poked me in the side and reminded me of Edwina. Her nosey ways. Her constant questions. Her advice. All unsolicited, unwelcome, and—here's the kicker—totally uninformed.

Just like my ways. I have been known to play Edwina to God.

Yikes, that was a disturbing thought. I remembered all the times I had bitten my tongue with frustration when Edwina asked yet more pointed questions about things that did not concern her, that she had no need and no right to know.

Just as I have done with my very own Maker.

So. There it is. I need to trust God more. When I do that, then I can stop asking God all those unnecessary questions. I'll bet He would really appreciate that.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Autumn—the big flirt

Yet another finished painting! I feel so prolific. (It's available in my Etsy shop.)

I've been painting more than usual lately, probably because I'm trying to pull myself out of the doldrums. Why doldrums, you ask? Because it's fall.

I find autumn to be depressing. I know some people love this time of year, but I think I hate it a little bit more than I love it. The incredible skies, the crispy leaves, the aromas of earth and dried green things and occasional wood smoke, the promise of—


That's the only thing that's promised to me in all this last-gasping beauty: Cold, dead winter.

See? I told you it was depressing. It's like that handsome, older boy I once knew; he'd smile at me and the sun would shine brighter on my day, and then I'd see him later with his date and he'd pretend not to know me. All stunning, dazzling bluster, with a chilly finish. That is autumn to me.

Still... It's here. I'll keep painting outside for as long as I can, and will breathe in all that fabulousness for as long as it's available. After all, I'm only down in the dumps—I'm not foolish.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How now...

Here's my latest painting. I hurried so I could finish working on it in the back yard, which is very pleasant when 1) rain isn't falling, and 2) the wind isn't trying to blow the canvas off of my easel.

("How Now" is for sale in my Etsy shop.)

If you live around here, then you already know it's likely I won't be painting outside today.

The only thing I've missed from our old house is the covered patio. I hope there is one in the near future for this dwelling.

Stay dry!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Harvest memories

This post was something I wrote recently, then submitted to a little weekly newspaper per my father's urging (this particular weekly is published in my childhood hometown). I sent it in with some other samples (because that's what the editor had requested in the printed paper) and then I heard nothing. I finally followed up with an email a couple of weeks later, inquiring whether she'd received my submissions. She replied tartly that she had, in deed, responded and if I hadn't heard back I should check my junk email. She also informed me that she only accepted pieces that had to do with Greene County. (Ummmm... I thought this did? Directly???) I checked my spam/junk folder. Nothing there. I responded to her note, informing her I'd found no communication from her anywhere in my email, and also pointing out that one of my submissions, in fact, described a Greene County event. Her last note confirmed that she had received my stuff, read it, and replied to me, even if I didn't receive it. Her last sentence was a curt, "I think I will pass." Ouch. Am I being overly sensitive, or does that sting just a tad?

I must have been in need of a knocking down. I guess it'll make me stronger, right? ; )

It's fine. I just wish she would have shared her reasoning instead of being so short. "I have an abundant supply of better work," or "Not my style," or simply "You stink." Anything to give me some indication of why I was refused. Because that's the part that gets me: not the refusal, but the fact that her response about only accepting local themes indicates she may not have even read my work. And that makes me crazy. I don't care whether I'm liked, but by golly, I want to be accurately represented.

Regardless, here is the piece for you fine people. You don't have the ability to veto my writing, only to click elsewhere. Enjoy!!! Or, click elsewhere! Up to you!


Throughout my growing-up years and well beyond, my mother and father instilled a distinct sense and appreciation of history in my sisters and me. Family vacations often took us to places of historical significance, such as Gettysburg and Williamsburg. We were expected to know about America's important, tide-turning dates, events, and names. (I am more aware of Pearl Harbor Day than my own birthday most years.) Knowing where you came from, to my parents, was and is crucial to shaping who you become.

In light of my parents’ respect for the past, I guess it's no big surprise that the Greene County Historical Museum's Harvest Festival was an annual occasion for my family.

We'd watch for announcements about the dates, mark them, and then decide which day to go. Many times, various members of my family were in attendance on both Saturday and Sunday. I can still remember the excitement I'd feel as we came upon the museum grounds, with hundreds of cars parked along surrounding routes and in nearby fields. The timing was nearly always perfect, in that the autumnal weekend of the festival coincided with what we call "sweater weather"—those autumn days when one dons a sweater, jeans, and some sturdy shoes that can handle a slippery hillside. The sun often shone brightly, and I recall that most years, the sky was an unbelievably rich shade of blue. Leaves swirled in breezes, and those same breezes brought wonderful scents to your nose: homemade bread and cornbread, pork, candied apples, fruity pies, real popcorn, and apple butter and cider.

The noise level at the festival was always deafening, because set up right inside the entrance was a bevy of ancient machines blasting and popping out a strange, steam-powered rhythm. I had to cover my ears as we passed, and my father (who knows everyone) always saw people he wanted to chat with who happened to be standing right beside the machines. A shouted conversation would ensue, and then finally we could move forward and wander through the craft stands, the various old-time displays, and the crowds of soldiers. (Since there are war reenactments every year, you were bound to rub shoulders with both soldiers and American Indians. It caught me off guard only once, in middle school, to see my history teachers cleaning muzzle-loaders in traditional outfits.) A few times, I knew some of the crafters; my aunt and her friend sold intricate baskets they'd made, a potter we recognized displayed lovely glazed pots to buy, and there were rugs and afghans and wood crafts and so many other things I can't even recall anymore.

The inside of the museum was unchanged most years, with a huge number of rooms that seemed to be frozen in time. Lacy old clothing lay on even older beds; the rooms held chamber pots both large and small, pretty wash pitchers and basins, oddities like framed pictures made from twisted pieces of hair... It was as if we've stepped into another world. I loved the children's room best, with weathered but still beautiful toys and a doll's crib. My favorite thing in the whole building was a miniature model of an old homestead, complete with tiny people and a dog, minute vegetables, even miniature rocking chairs on an old front porch. It was enclosed in a big glass case, and I could have stared into that small home and its many accoutrements for hours.

And there was always music. We couldn't leave without lingering near the hammered dulcimer player and listening to the strains of old folk songs. If a sound could capture the free, windblown spirit of the Appalachians, my vote would be for that dulcimer. The old fellow who played it would move easily from piece to piece, delighted as a crowd gathered. The music drifted out through the ever-opening-and-closing front door of the museum, drawing more people into the already crowded rooms. It was hard to leave those beautiful, haunting melodies.

Heading for the basement of the museum made it easier to leave the music, because the lower level of the structure was where a lot of the food could be found. Big steps led you into the cellar, where many wonderful people plied you with amazing goods. (They did expect you to pay, but you always got more than your money's worth.) My personal favorite, apple butter on homemade bread, was usually to be found closer to the entrance of the festival instead of the basement, which worked out fine with me; if I’d already had that treat when I first arrived, then I'd be ready for the other goodies by the time I made my way to the rest of the foods later.

The smells of dry leaves and fine foods, the sounds of voices and folk songs and reenacted gunshots, the dappled sun shining down on a lovely brick mansion that had stood solidly for over a century—all of those wonders were a yearly joy that marked the presence of fall just as surely as the first genuinely chilly high school football game.

I returned to the festival last year with my little boy, and it's as fun as ever. I am always so delighted when a childhood memory lives up to itself in adulthood. I wish the same for you—and enjoy the lovely fall days.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Mental gristle

Not a pretty picture, that subject line. Yet, that is what I feel I can offer to you today: Some thick, tough matters to chew on in your mind.

In a surprisingly helpful, public-minded move, Google's home page today is featuring a link to a voter registration URL. Are you currently registered? Are you certain? The deadline is coming up in the next week or two. If you've moved recently and have not yet updated your driver's license, then you are not registered in your new location—thus rendering you unable to cast a vote. Now, if you'd moved here illegally from across the border? That probably wouldn't be a problem...

On Saturday, I took my son to get his hair cut. He sat very still and looked so cute afterward that I treated him to a bagel at Panera. We sat at a table, inhaling the wonderful aromas, enjoying our buttery, bread-y delight, and we couldn't help noticing the older gentleman next to us. His posture was amazingly upright. When we we leaving, we stopped to tell him that we'd been admiring his posture. The fellow explained that he'd spent time in the military, and good posture had been ingrained in him then. The kind, obviously blind fellow then informed me that he admired my beauty. (No, I'm not kidding.) I burst out laughing, and reminded the poor guy that there were many more beautiful sights all around him; the restaurant was practically crawling with lovely young things. We walked out the door, and I experienced a revelation: Every charming old, white-haired man you see was potentially a girl-crazy, inappropriate pervert. I'll never know what those elegant elders were like when they were young, unrestrained upstarts.

It gives you pause, doesn't it?

We made yet another purchase from craigslist recently—a loft bed for my son's tiny bedroom. (I keep trying to make space in my life where there truly is none.) But my one-ness with craigslist and all things scrounged and secondhand often makes me think that my epitaph should read, "She knew how to make do." Perhaps it will. I could put that in my will.

Which, by the way, needs to be updated. One of the witnesses to our will died a few years ago, and although my lawyer friend says it will hold water anyway, I feel funny about it. Plus, it needs to be notarized to be really tight; we didn't do that because in Pennsylvania, technically the notarization isn't necessary. But.

Even if we don't touch the will, my husband and I both need to appoint each other as Power of Attorney. Did you know that isn't an automatic thing? This is important stuff, people. Do you have your affairs in order? I won't even go into the whole living will, although that's strongly recommended as well.

Better to address these things, right now, than to risk the fraught-with-disaster alternative—someone else addressing them when you're either gone from this earth or not able to do so for yourself.

See what I mean? Mental gristle. I wasn't kidding.

NOTE: I just noticed this is post #400. Wow! Hurray for me!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Flag Abuse

Speaking of the flag, here's an abuse of the American flag, plain and simple.
flag abuse

People, I try to keep politics at a minimum here on Melmoirs. I do. But honestly, at this point, I'd have to find out something unspeakable about Mitt Romney or Paul Ryan to make me vote for anyone else.

I urge all of us to open our eyes. Understand the bloated and unfounded ego, the unhealthy agenda. Please try to grasp the threat to America that is clearly evident in one man's utter disrespect for what made this country great.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012


The American flag.

You should display it somewhere.

Especially today. September 11. Do you remember?

Yesterday, I reminded my husband and son that this anniversary was upon us once again. My son said, "Yeah, I know, we talked about that at school." We quizzed him: did he really understand? "Yes," he said. "Our teacher said it was the day when there was a, um, an accident and people were hurt—"

My husband and I immediately jumped in. "Honey, we've talked about this. It was no accident. It was deliberate," I said.

"Yes," added my hubby. "It was an act of war."

"I know," said my son. "The people flew the planes. They flew them into the buildings."

We revisited that awful day in our minds, Todd and I. We re-explained to our son why one of the planes had landed in a field in Pennsylvania. We re-lived it, for a moment. The shock, the feelings, the dread that grew in my chest that day and will dwell there forever.

I will not forget. I will not let anyone misrepresent this day, not to me or my son or anyone. Listen to the roll call. All those names, all those lives. The ripples continue; the water's surface is not smooth.

The war goes on.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Fuzzy curiosity

I finished a painting yesterday, working from a photo we had taken when we visited an alpaca farm last year. I had been wanting to tackle this one for awhile, and finally got to it—such fun. The best part was that the weather cooperated during the painting sessions, so that I was able to work "plein air" all three times I painted.

It's for sale in my Etsy shop.

Our baseball game for this morning was just cancelled a few minutes ago; rain, and more rain expected. Oh, well. Guess we'll whip up some pancakes with our unexpected calm morning at home. If you needed rain, I hope you got some. Enjoy the weekend!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Not my scene

(I thought about titling this post "The Seventh Circle of Hell," but when I revisited Dante's descriptions of the various circles, then that title seemed a bit harsh... so I toned it back a bit.)

Last weekend, we went to Kennywood. Most of you know that Kennywood is a Pittsburgh amusement park with a long, storied history. It's a great place, clean and well-kept, smartly laid out, with old favorites as well as re-designed new interpretations of now-defunct rides. I haven't been there very often, having grown up in a small town farther south of the 'Burgh. My first trip to Kennywood was a school field trip in 8th grade, and since then, I've been there perhaps five times. A couple of those times have been with my young son.

This most recent visit was an evening foray, and the place was packed beyond comfortable levels. Line waits lasted a minimum of 30 minutes, with some of the stands for edible favorites boasting hour-long waits. The food-service employees appeared to be working in slow motion, as did a few of the ride operators; I'm sure they were simply bushed. It was warm but not terribly hot, thank goodness. And everywhere I looked, I saw spoiled people—and incomplete families.

There were many spoiled children, whining or throwing tired fits, bolting away from parents, arguing incessantly on every point. Some of the spoiled people were grown-ups, waddling along and panting as they simultaneously stuffed their faces. A handful of folks were pretty foul-mouthed; some of the younger ones were hanging all over each other. They were, by and large, slobs, over-exposed and under-dressed—a pretty sorry-looking bunch overall. I was right in there with them, equally unimpressive, but I'm happy to report that I managed to refrain from spouting the F word repeatedly, baring my midriff, or eating more than I could lift at one time.

Many of the children came in packs—apparently big families are back "in" these days—but an alarming number of the little ones belonged to disheveled and often pregnant women with nary a wedding ring in sight. I'm hoping that the impending birth of yet another child might have caused swollen extremities that forced the temporary abandonment of tight-fitting jewelry, but I have my doubts in many cases. That's because I also overheard a couple of disturbing conversations about the various daddies of the children (one mom, indicating various heads in her pack, grumbled about one dad not paying, another not calling her back... and not a one of the children could have been over 6.

I hope I don't sound like a disapproving snob. I don't think I am, truly. I am just bothered more and more by the blasé way that our culture has ditched decency, discipline, self-restraint, and committed relationships between men and women, especially marriage. In truth, what I witnessed over and over at Kennywood was nothing new, really, and it wasn't limited to a certain type of people group or ethnicity. It's prevalent everywhere. And it becomes increasingly undeniable to me when I'm in a big crowd of people.

The sheer American-ness of Americans is overwhelming and often embarrassing to me. We seem to be leaving behind a legacy of poor health, overindulgence, and avoidance of responsibility and effort. I know I'm over-stating all this, and I also know that the abandonment of marriage is far from an American phenomenon, but I can't take any comfort from either of those facts right now.

Even if I loved big crowds of people, I think I would have been disturbed by this last Kennywood visit. I fear for America's future. Things are going terribly wrong in the country that I love. We've lost our way, our means, and our compass. And a second order of Potato Patch fries won't save us in the end.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Oceanic thoughts

My son has eyes the color of the sea—
Sometimes a blue-grey, other times grey-green.
The twinkle of the sun upon his gaze?
The sweetest sight my own brown eyes have seen.

We visited the shore last weekend. Cape May, NJ is one of my favorite places. To walk through that town is akin to stepping back in time. Families go biking together, huge farm horses clip-clop along, pulling rubber-necking tourists in buggies, and everywhere you look are grand, elegant Victorian homes decked out in luscious colors and fine details. Not to mention the salty air and the crash of waves upon sand.

There is no other realm like the seashore. It's one of the few places where I can honestly say that my mind is a blank page. In the real world, my brain is in overdrive, poring over plans and thoughts, fighting through moments of confusion or anxiety, trying to extricate facts and memories. But on the sand, watching the waves roll, feeling the power of those countless gallons? Nada. Empty brain.

Majestic, land-locked sights can transport me, too, but they have to be pretty darned huge and impressive to actually clear my mind of thoughts. Rocky Mountains, canyons, waterfalls, yes—but even those beauties do not have the power to erase that the ocean has.

Now we're home, and school has begun. That cleansing salty air is nowhere near. It's up to me to seek that same mental place, here amid the crowded green hills of western PA.

Wish me luck; it ain't gonna be easy.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

At last, creative outlet

Our busy summer-of-many-changes is winding down.

I'm happy to say that I finally found a free evening to paint. The boyz were canoeing with friends, and I located my easel in the basement (it was glaring at me accusingly from a dim corner) and hauled it up to the back yard.

One fresh, white canvas + a glass of wine + some paints and brushes = a nearly finished painting and a more relaxed Mel.

I completed it in a couple of quick follow-up sittings, and then—I walked away. (It's very important to know when to walk away. I may have mentioned that already in several previous posts.)

It's good to be back in the saddle again.

(This dog belongs to a family friend who has helped us out with some arduous tasks. His name is Sam. Isn't he sweet?)

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Feel-good stuff

We've been doing plenty of reading here at our home. Summer is great for that, you know. Not to mention, since a lengthy to-do list for our newly purchased house cannot peaceably coexist with a cushy vacation budget, reading allows us little escapes via the back yard and our imagination...

So my son and I were reading together (taking turns, but mostly me) and one of the mystery stories we read featured a slightly silly story about a scientist mom and her inquisitive daughter, studying penguins during an oil spill. In the story, the daughter explained to a friend that the oil-soaked penguins try to preen their feathers, and even if they've been bathed, they still find and ingest enough oil to sicken and often kill them. In addition, the spilled oil, the baths and the extra preening strip away the necessary, binding oils on their skin and feathers—the very stuff that seals their coats and keeps the penguins warm in freezing water.

Oil-soaked, oil-poisoned, too-cold penguins. That's bad. And the solution? The scientist mom designed a pattern for penguin sweaters. The kids publicized the situation and the pattern. Knitters all over the world responded, and sent the tiny sweaters... and it worked! Penguins were saved!

Nice story, I thought. Whatever. Couldn't happen.

But it could! It did. My son kept reading and found sections in the back detailing true stories that inspired the fictionalized ones we'd read. You can see for yourself! penguins

And then, our searching on YouTube (which was carefully filtered by me, of course) brought forth another gem: swimming

You have to watch almost all the way through, to see the little creature be lifted out. Make certain you have your sound turned up, because its utterance is the best part.

Watch them both, and I dare you to not say "Awwwwwww" at least once while viewing.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

From rats to bats

You may recall our unhappy little run-in with rats at the last house (note to self: do not feed the birds black oil sunflower ever again!) and how difficult it was for us to shake those critters.

Well, a couple of weeks ago, the kid and I were shocked to find a bat hanging on the living room curtain one morning. Yes, inside the living room. In our new home. I went to open the curtains, looked up to the top of them, and proceeded to shriek like a banshee. There, gazing back at me, was what appeared to be a bat. My son noticed I was behaving oddly and I asked him to confirm that, indeed, there was a bat atop the curtain... and yes, he agreed shakily, that was a bat.

We ducked lower than normal and ran to get out of PJs and into real clothing—because we wanted to be properly dressed when we hurriedly met some new neighbors (preferably someone with testosterone, thus all the better to assist us in removing said bats). After a couple of strikeouts (no one home), we lucked out three doors down the street with a poor fellow who was just preparing to enjoy his day off. He was less than enthusiastic about helping us evict the visitors, but tried to put on a brave face and marched back to our house with us.

To make a long story short, one bat had become two bats by the time we came back into the house, and in the process of trapping those bats behind a large fishing net against the curtain and carrying them outside, they morphed yet again into three bats... one of which appeared to be smaller. I'm not sure the small one could fly yet; apparently, it had been clinging to one of the other, larger bats.

We prodded the bats with broomsticks (as gently as possible, to get them off the curtain) and then watched them crawl across the grass and climb up the side of our house to a shady spot behind the gas meter. They can't walk, you see; they move by this strange, awkward but oddly quick gate on the "fingers" of their wings. It's both repulsive and fascinating. Then we began trying to discern the point of entry. (We think they sneaked in around a huge gap in our side storm door. That'll need replacing. Even if that isn't where they entered, it still needs some serious work.)

(And oh, by the way, my husband watched 12 of them exit the unprotected, unscreened attic vent the other night on their way out to feast on bugs. Which, granted, is a good thing. I know they do good work. I know. Still... not sharing the house permanently with them. Sorry.)

We've been doing a lot of research since then. Did you know that bats are protected here in western PA? That you can't hire anyone to eradicate them? That while you are encouraged to not let them live in your attic, since their guano is toxic, technically you're breaking the law if you kill them? And also, that since June and July are typically when the moms are nursing their "pups" (no kidding, that's what they're called) that you're not advised to kick them out because the babies can't fly yet and will be trapped inside your home to die... all while the frantic mommy bat flies crazily around, seeking any entry into your home to save her baby? (Did I mention that they can squeeze through holes about as big as a dime?)

So, yes, we have some house guests for a few more days... just to ensure that the babies are flying and we won't wreck any families. And then, somehow, when those babes are definitely airborne, we'll get them out. There are humane ways (one-way exits shaped like giant net stockings, basically) and we'll try that, I suppose. The clean-up? We might have to call a professional. All the scary discussions online about the poison poo, the respiratory infections it causes, and the inevitable bat mites that linger after the eviction have frankly got me rather spooked.

I never thought that I'd have to permit and share space with these squatters who lived in our home before we did. Nor did I ever expect that my rights would fall secondarily to theirs... or at least it feels that way.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Hot, hot, hot

Have you noticed that the weather is unseemly, unseasonably, un-Godly hot? Especially for this early in the summer? What the h***???

On another note, we are now official residents of the South Hills of Pittsburgh.

It's different but good. The traffic is worse, but we knew that going in. The new street and neighborhood have been swell so far, with friendly folks and plenty of peace and quiet.

There have been, and will continue to be, some home repairs, yard fixes, adjustments and such. We knew that, too, although I don't know if we envisioned quite this many. Alas, the place is our little money pit now, so we'll grin, bear it, and prioritize long, long lists of projects.

We have no regrets. (The only things I've missed are a more flat backyard and the central A/C we left behind...) I do believe that this is the place God had in mind for us. And if it's possible for a house to feel, then this little house is content— happy to contain a permanent family again after years of solitude.

Stay cool and check back soon. I hope someday to resume painting, to actually complete unpacking and organizing tasks, and to write a meaningful entry about the trials of the sale/purchase/move/baseball playoffs/last days of school all within about a 48-hour period of time. (Although, I've noticed that already, my mind has begun to block the unpleasantness of the entire experience...)

Please say a prayer for blessings on all our troops who daily defend the freedoms that many Americans take for granted. We celebrate Independence Day for more reasons than cook-outs and fireworks.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Guilty pleasures

Every now and then, something slightly off-kilter or mildly inappropriate makes me giggle. I am genuinely not amused by crude humor or jokes that aim to offend, but the funnies that reach out a toe to wiggle it over the line? Sometimes, I can't help myself.

There are a couple of websites that are often riotously, hilariously funny. One is Cake Wrecks and it details poorly illustrated or verbally expressed cake toppings. Another site that never fails to bring laughter is Awkward Family Photos, because it is exactly what it says: photos from personal collections that are just uproariously ridiculous for a variety of reasons.

Seeing as it's card season here, what with grads, dads, and the end of baseball approaching, I found myself in the card section at Target. And there, lo and behold, they have a section of greeting cards created by the folks at Awkward Family Photo.

People, I chortled aloud, by myself, in Target. Maybe I'm just a weirdo, but something about these cards cracked me up.

So, yes. I confess. I laughed out loud at real people on cards at the department store. And it felt kinda good.

P.S. If I drop off the face of the earth for a few days, it's because we're packing, playing playoff baseball games, finishing the school year, closing on two houses in one day, and then physically relocating to our new home. Did I mention that it all goes down this week, to be completed by mid-day on Saturday? Yep. Prayers are appreciated. Thanks.

Friday, June 8, 2012

Falling out of love

I come from a history of "stuff" people. I'm not saying that any of my ancestors were hoarders or anything; I'm just saying that a lot of my relatives really liked (and still like) to surround themselves with their favorite objects—all one billion of them.

Perhaps your lineage is similar to mine (rampant with collectors); or, it's possible that you just happen to be in love with stuff, like most of the folks in our country. If I'm talking about you, and you'd like to change, I have a wonderful solution. Read on.

First, get big piles of your belongings—not the stuff you use every day, mind you, but the stuff that you like and that isn't sentimentally loaded with meaning. For example, the bowl set you got on sale (but not Aunt Mary's measuring cup). The funky little lamp that was on clearance but doesn't really match anything in your home, the kitchen "convenience" that has been responsible for more dust bunnies than culinary wonders. Or you men: the third tool set, perhaps, or the great gift, years old now, that has never left its box.

Now, put all those items in containers and hide them completely out of sight—in the attic, a shed, the darkest corner of your basement.

Then, wait at least six weeks. Don't peek in the boxes.

And then, peek. Ponder how little you've missed the items. Think deeply about how their absence made not one iota of difference in your day-to-day life.

Take it a step further: picture in your mind all those same items, along with all your other truly necessary possessions, being hoisted, lifted, and cursed quietly by your friends who have to pick them up and move them to another dwelling.

Now, take all the items you've suddenly realized you can easily live without, and cull any truly valuable pieces for secondhand sales attempts on craigslist. The rest of that stuff? Place it all in the back of your car. Drive to a nearby charity. Leave it there, and drive away.

(Regarding the re-sale attempts, establish a firm, short sales window and stick with your deadline; if the items don't sell, get rid of them the same way you got rid of the rest.)

Finally, breathe deeply. Life is all about perspective. You just had to gain a new perspective about a significant chunk of your household trappings. All that was required was a mental image of people you know and like, sweating and struggling, working to transfer all those unused space stealers.

It's so easy to fall out of love. Isn't it?

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Random things I am loving

We proceed with caution through the approaching move/home sale/home purchase/chaos. While this all unfolds, we are trying to remember to praise God for every blessing—and there have been many.

I am also praising some other stuff of late. Allow me to share.

Yoplait Greek Yogurt in Coconut flavor

People, if a yogurt could be custom-created for me, it would be this one. Thick, not too sour, with tiny flecks of coconut wonderfulness hiding in its creamy, protein-rich glory. Imagine Homer Simpson making his donut-induced salivation sound right now; yes, that's the sound I make when I indulge in this spectacular, palate-pleasing treat.

Birds, especially baby birds, their parents, and mockingbirds

I kept hearing an insistent chirrup in the back yard. Further investigation revealed a baby robin, tufty and under-developed in tail feathers. He hopped around, occasionally fluttering his fuzzy wings and taking short, unstable flights. His mom or dad was hovering nearby, staying a bit ahead of him, trying to encourage the little one but not making it too easy for him. Now, two days after the initial discovery, the baby has managed to avoid becoming feral cat food, and he's improved sufficiently to fly away from me when I approach. It's a good thing Todd snapped a few photos when the "kid" was still unable to flee; I couldn't get near him earlier this morning.

Mockingbirds have the most amazing vocal talents. I don't know how they manage to imitate so many different birds and their very distinct songs; I just checked on the incredibly non-factual Wikipedia; that ever-evolving virtual tome of fantasy claims that mockingbirds can make over 400 different sounds, songs, and calls. That seems like a lot... Regardless, mockingbirds are large but not scary, attractive, relatively friendly birds who sing up a storm. Like Harper Lee said, they don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy. I hope you encounter one soon if you haven't already. Delightful.

Being an old hag of a mother

Being an older mom of a 7-year-old has its advantages. Just as being older in general frees me from excessive concern about what others might think of me, being a "mature" mom of a primary-grade son helps me to shuck off any of the silly parenting trends that sweep our confused, under-disciplined nation on a daily basis. Perhaps having a background as a teacher helps, too; nothing but experience with kids could possibly prepare you for the attitudes and trickery employed by that young population. Either way, I can see where extra years bring extra value to parenting.

Even more important, though, is the fact that my surplus birthdays give me an appreciation for the sheer miracle of life: conception, pregnancy, birth, babies, toddlers, first words and steps... if I'd been a fresh-faced, rubber-hipped child myself when I had my boy, I would have missed the wonder of the whole thing. I feel some pity for those slim, energetic moms and dads. Yes, they bounce back into shape, do without amazing amounts of sleep, and can keep up with the newly mobile; yes, they can juggle three at a time in the grocery store (with the help of fancy race-car carts). But do they really grasp just how amazing and awe-inspiring the whole thing is? Even in my late 20s, I don't think I could truly grok this fleeting, fabulous gift we call life. How could I carefully mark those special moments of my child's life if I hadn't even begun to really take note of them in my own existence yet?

I'd better wrap up. There's much to do, and only my hands to do it. What are you loving today? There are little blessings all around us when we remember to adjust our gaze.

Saturday, May 19, 2012


A rare, quiet, calm Saturday morning—a chance to ponder one of God's amazing gifts:

Heavy, pink, with sweet perfume
Must be the wondrous peony bloom,
My very favorite petal bearer.

Its heady, old-world scent steals out
To every ant that lurks about
And lures them to that flower fair.

They try to peek in, as do I—
When will its brilliance greet the sky?
We watch, wait on appointed time,

And then, a pale magenta shade!
The very sight for which I'd prayed:
I lean in close, inhale—it's fine.

*My mom tells me this was the preferred pronunciation of my grandmother. She loved them, too.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Chaos reigns

So, we're moving. It's pretty certain. We have a buyer, a place to go, and far too much to do. Mid-June will mark the big shift, and it's hurrying toward us with more speed than the typical American beats a path to the free samples counter. It's rather crazy. I have several different posts that I've been mauling, but none of them can happen quite yet. I will be back, hopefully in a couple of days. Stay tuned, please.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Married to Mr. Rogers

I love Mr. Rogers. I grew up with him in our living room, and then he came back to visit regularly when my son was very small. He's a gem, that Mr. Rogers, a real national treasure.

He's actually an ordained Presbyterian minister who chose to share God's unconditional love through the medium of television. Mr. Rogers' gentle affirmations, exaggerated character voices, and deceptively simple musical compositions live in the minds of countless people in this country and well beyond.

He's awesome.

But I never thought I'd connect him to my marriage.

And then my husband bought these shoes.
I like the shoes a lot. They closely resemble a pair of my own shoes. And a pair of my son's shoes, as well. They're the ultimate spring and early summer footwear: comfortable, casual but not sloppy, fun without being too faddish. I am actually the one who found them in the store and recommended them to my hus.

I didn't realize how much this particular look connotes Fred Rogers' style until I began to trip over these canvas beauties around my own home. Each time I spy them under a dresser or tossed aside by the back door, laces wandering loosely, I think of Mr. Rogers. I have half a mind to find a cardigan sweater of some woodland color, perhaps a vintage style with wide blocks of vertical color on the front, and present it to my guy for Father's Day.

Would you be mine? Could you be mine? Won't you be my husband?

Friday, April 27, 2012

The waiting...

The waiting truly is the hardest part.

Things might be brewing with our home sale attempt, but they also might not. We wait for more information, more details, more possible deal-breakers or deal-sealers. We wait.

All this waiting, and trusting, has me thinking more and more about how God grows faith in His people.

It's not a pleasant experience sometimes, at least not for me, because the helpless waiting forces me to realize and acknowledge that I control practically nothing in my little realm. I never did, but for many years, I thought I did. I happily meandered down the path of my life, believing that I had the final say and that I would determine my own destiny.

And I do have a say in what happens, I suppose; my decisions, my reactions, whether or not I pray fervently—all these factors play a part in what befalls me and my loved ones.

Yet, there is so very much that I cannot control. I can see only a miniscule section of the world around me, and I can't begin to understand most of what I see within that section. Not only can I not grasp it all, I am only able to imagine the visible, provable part: I believe there is also an entire reality that is invisible to us, where good forces and bad forces are always quite busy with conflicts. The more I see, the less I am able to see...

I can understand though, in hindsight, how these uncertain times have forced me to lean more heavily on God. When all is predictable and feels steady and easy, then my mind turns happily to things of little consequence: art and music, fun activities, worldly gossip. And when the rug feels as if it might be yanked out from under my hesitant feet, then I find it much more difficult to focus on even remotely shallow brain fodder. Suddenly, the stakes are higher and I feel somber. I think heavier thoughts. So, it's nice to have the advantage of memory in the midst of rickety circumstances. I look back at God's faithfulness, at how past issues have been resolved (often in ways I could never have dreamed). In this current trial, I can grasp with much more depth than I could in the past just how reliable God is, and how unpredictable, and how creative.

The older I get, the more I realize how limited is my earthly intellect in the face of the big stuff. Indeed, we are all severely limited. We can all study and ponder amino acids, but I don't know a soul who can fathom how they were initially combined to form proteins that became life. We know at how many weeks a baby's heart begins to beat, but no one can explain what causes that action to begin. Scientists guess the ages of mountain ranges, or ocean beds, try to pin histories on blobs of solidified lava, try to explain arctic ice layers, and really, their means are childish at times, their laws determined by their own manly methods. No one really knows very much, when you get right down to it. We suppose a lot, we hypothesize and educate ourselves, but I don't think most of it is certain. It's supported by more man-made data, and discussed and confirmed by people who are deeply invested in the truth of such data. That's just not good enough for me anymore.

I will admit that there appear to be some inarguable truths on this little blue orb, but I can also see that a great number of intellectuals are slapping that "truth" label onto statements at will. It's all expensive, government-funded guesswork inspired by the pursuits of a few.

Someone lent me a book recently, and I started to read it, really I did. I tried to give it a chance. But it attacked a lot of the very things by which I choose to define my role in this place. The writer tried to provide logical reasons for doubting Jesus's virgin birth, the miracles that the Bible claims He performed—that author attacked the very character of God Himself—because Jesus is God and man. If I'm going to believe the Bible, I have to believe it. Period. I can't make it logical. I can't dumb it down to fit this world's knowledge base. God told us right up front that His word would be nonsense to the nonbeliever. He didn't try to hide this from us.

So, I gave up finishing the book. I felt as if I were really getting somewhere in my faith, though, because I didn't even take offense at it. I was reading this fellow's charges, his many pompous words as he expounded on the inaccuracy of the Bible and tore it down, and I was just shaking my head as I read. He doesn't get it, I thought; he still thinks he has a clue, that author. He still thinks he can figure it all out.

We are itty, bitty fleas to this universe. We'll never wrap our little minds around it. And I'm increasingly at peace with that. How could I begin to dissect God's ways? They're not for me to comprehend.

All I know is that there's very little I know, that I am so small...but when I go to Him in prayer, He is there to meet me. I'm supposed to go as a child; I'm not to bring my childish, argumentative, proud manner. Those are not the same at all.

In the last few chapters of the book of Job, God sort of smacks down everyone who questions His decisions. He makes it clear Who is large and in charge. I know it's Old Testament, and that Jesus brought the gospel of love, but it still bears my consideration, this idea that I am "dust and ashes." There are far worse things to be.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

The slobs who live in my house

I have never realized what a slattern I am until now.

I am cleaning my house not for company, not for a holiday, but for strangers. Complete, total strangers who walk through the rooms, opening our closets, peeping into cupboards, possibly noticing with contempt the dust bunnies that populate the undersides of all of our furniture.

Strangers are perusing the contents of the medicine cabinet.

Strangers are peering into the dark confines of the attic access.

We're trying to fool these strangers, you see. We want them to believe that we don't have a lot of stuff. That this small, 2-bedroom home can easily accommodate them and all their tchotchkes. We also want them to believe that we are tidy and clean, that our beds are always smooth and unslept-in, that our dirty clothes never spill over the edge of the baskets, that everything, simply everything, is pretty and contained.

I don't like trying to live this way day to day. It's exhausting. And it's disturbing, because frankly, I'm realizing that we are rather piggish here in this house. I never knew it until I had to see my home through someone else's eyes: our realtor.

She is sweet, and kind, and utterly polite and professional. And she sees that we have clutter and refuse in every corner, and she courteously explains what we need to do. Get rid of that chair. Take down that privacy curtain. See if there is another place to put those boxes of papers. Pack up some of the many breakables atop the dining room cupboard.

We do what she says, and she is right; her suggestions create significant improvements in the appearance of the rooms. Suddenly, they're slightly more airy—I don't feel the walls squeezing in on me anymore. I see that her ideas are right-on and impactful. By the time I press her for more, and she offers up the brilliant motion that we scrub the tub until it's actually white, I am so convinced of her wisdom that I don't even take umbrage at the comment. Because, you see, she's right; it's filthy. WE'RE filthy. Who in their right mind could live in this foul place? How did we not see how unsightly it was, what a fire hazard all those stacks must be?

You get accustomed to looking at a place, and you stop seeing it. It's the same way with your face, your body; this is how people become old without realizing it, gain 20 pounds without any real alarm until their clothes cease to fit. You don't really see things after a while. You have an image in your mind, completely fictional in many cases, and that is the image you rely upon. It's much easier to choose that happy, pleasing image than it is to actually see what's around and in front of you.

It's been rather humbling, having to prepare my home for other people, and in doing so having to really open my eyes and see the mess before me. I like some of the improvements we've made... yet I feel like an actor on a sterile stage. This isn't really our home anymore. It might be again, if no one else buys it. It might not be anymore if someone else decides it's the place for them. But for now, it's a setting for a carefully plotted scheme we're attempting to run, a perfectly legal little sting operation: We're neat. We're clean. We don't collect anything. And we never, ever post pictures of ourselves. How utterly gauche and overly personal.

Now. Can I please have my home back? Somewhere? Anywhere?

Friday, April 13, 2012


This will have to be quick. It's been a busy time. Our home is on the market, and must always be "show-ready" which is not a simple task when you are simultaneously actually living in said home. But, one must do what one must do. So, I continue to attempt to stem the ever-flowing tide of stuff.

I think that most of the time, I am not a sentimental person. I have a few possessions I like, but most objects I could jettison without a lot of thought or regret. I don't feel quite that flippant about our house, yet we have spent a number of years here, and many memories have been woven into the bricks and grass.

I was weeding in the garden today, spraying Round-up madly, pulling vile plants by roots, listening to birds, and it suddenly occurred to me that if we sell, this will be someone else's realm. Someone else might let the weeds take over; someone else might not step outside to hear the bird melodies, let alone to encourage them with seeds and suet. Someone else might not like the butter-yellow cabinets in the kitchen, and paint them a hideous shade; they might even do a poor job of it, eschewing painter's tape and drop cloths and ruining the lovely countertop and floor.

Someone else might not appreciate all the work we put into the yard, the pretty perennials we lovingly placed in what had been considered and deemed to be the perfect spot. Someone else might not keep a little throw rug inside the front door to catch muddy shoes.

It was a bit of a stab, to think of that intruder in my—I mean this house. I was flooded with melancholy.

When we sold the last house, it was with relief. Zoning issues and an uncooperative and crooked borough government made us eager to leave and begin again somewhere fresh and untainted. I have never missed that old place.

This one is different. I do want to sell, for various reasons—but not because this place has ever let me down or disappointed me, not because this place fell short or became associated with negative things that I'd rather avoid. This place has been good to me, to us. I know it's just a place, yet I still feel a little pang when I think of it changing hands.

I want it to. But I don't. It's exciting to move; it's scary to move. We may not go anywhere, because perhaps no one else will see the charm and easy coziness of this small dwelling like I do... or we could get an offer this weekend, and set the wheels turning to start over again somewhere slightly south of the city.

I don't know how to feel, really. It's much easier to be callous than it is to actually care. I know that I am growing a tad weary of uncertainty, of tidying, of the daily reminders that I control nothing and must simply wait and pray and see.

It is hard to completely trust in God, but I'm doing my best. When we've been in challenging, uncertain times before this, Jesus has always shown up, and I'm going to see how He shows up in these circumstances, too.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Why a guy must buy

There have been so many posts swimming around in my head of late. Things are still rather hectic here, for us at least (our lives are still only a fraction as hectic as everyone else we know, but that is intentional because no one in my home handles chaos very well, IMHO...) Throughout the days, though, I am mentally composing blog post after post.

I won't lie: most of these posts are not fit to write, let alone to display anywhere that is public. Many are rants, mostly about the economy, the culture, money, idealism, unreal expectations, and men in general. Those are the posts that I think about, plan half-heartedly, and then toss out. Nothing good will come of putting those thoughts on virtual paper.

However, here's one that seems to be acceptable—men and the need to pay for food. Why is this? I know it's a performance thing for a young man and a special young lady. Fellows like to be able to pay, or at least that used to be the standard. (That's not to say they always did that or were able to do that...but it was a preference for many.) In this day and age, honestly, I can imagine that many young women have just as much if not more means to cover a meal eaten out.

But I'm not talking about dates; I'm talking about friends. Guy pals who happen to have lunch, or get together for coffee or a drink or something. The guy I know best seems to always feel it is his job to pay. It doesn't matter which one of them initiated the occasion. It doesn't matter who the other man is. The friend could be incredibly comfortable, not struggling in any way, a well-to-do co-worker who's comfortably ensconced in his second or even third decade of cushy employment, a person who co-owns a successful business, etc. The whole thing could have been the other party's idea... and yet my hus wants to get the check.

Why is this?

I get together with gal pals and we happily Dutch treat every time. There is no awkwardness, no real arguing about whose responsibility it is. The important part of the meeting is that we're together. We're talking, sharing, laughing. It does not matter who's paying.

Is it only my fellow who is like this? Are all men? And is this need to pay a pride thing? I realize more and more every day how much pride motivates us all, and I am seeing how it's a powerful (and frequently destructive) force especially in men. How they are perceived by everyone around them, especially other men, is hugely important to them. So is that what drives this need to pay for others? To prove success, to show without doubt that they can and will "take care of it"? It feels like more than just a kind gesture when the recipient of the meal originally suggested it, and/or is obviously in a good place and does not require the favor in any way, shape, or form. I understand that it's a nice thing to do at any time, for anyone... but does that mindset outweigh common sense even if money and finances are more of a concern for the person who insists on paying?

Thoughts? I'd honestly welcome other feedback here; I've been accused of being tight-fisted.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Popping in to "crow" a little

Hey, I miss this thing! I have already thought of several posts that I'd like to write. When my little world stops swirling so much, I will be back. I don't have any real news yet, but I figured I'd share my pal Roostie with you. I just finished him today. I hope to paint more soon, but life has suddenly become busier and it's just not happening.
Enjoy the unbelievable, almost frighteningly warm and sunny weather with which we've been blessed. It's weird, but it's good—for now, at least. Wonder what's coming down the pike for summer...

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

The future of Melmoirs

When I began blogging in 2007, I was in the company of about 1800 people in the Pittsburgh area alone. I just checked a few minutes ago, and if people are telling the truth about their locations, then Pittsburgh and vicinity is now host to over 25,000 bloggers. Yikes. I'm wondering if blogging has turned the corner and become just another form of social-media self-promotion. (There are some folks who believe it didn't have to turn the corner to achieve that low.)

Joining the world of social media was never my goal when I started Melmoirs.

What was the goal? I suppose it was a challenge to myself. Did I really have that much to say? Was it worthy of recording? of sharing with others? And could I be disciplined enough to do it on a regular basis even amidst life's sometimes hectic pace? The answer has turned out to be yes, on all fronts. Yet now, as I look back, I wonder if I could have written a single, cohesive work within the hours I spent on Melmoirs. I believe I could have done that, or could have at least crafted a draft of some larger work in that time. Which is not to say that the blog hasn't served as a great writing format, and an excellent way for me to record thoughts and experiences during the first few years of my son's life. I am so thankful that I've kept this journal of sorts, and filled it with precious moments and glimpses into these first few years with our sweet boy.

I'm just not sure what direction the blog should take at this point, if any. And we—my family and I—are entering what I suspect will be an unpredictable time of upheaval; the plan to look for new digs and sell our home is no longer just an idea, but an imminent event (Lord willin' and our house sells), an event that's likely not too far in the future.

So, I'll be taking a break from the blog for a few weeks. Now begins a waiting period, to see whether I miss the blog, or whether I feel slight relief for the hiatus. I'll also be trying to focus my attention on a "real book" attempt that I began some time ago and then laid aside, to be picked up again when I had time... and so it goes. I must make time. The time will not come to me, nor the will, unless I am deliberately committed to the goal.

If you're a recent reader, I urge you to visit older entries. If you're a follower, simply remain one and you'll know if/when a "Melmoirs comeback" happens. I'll certainly be back at some point soon with and update and hopefully exciting news. Thank you, sincerely, for ever stopping by and actually reading what I've had to say over the months and years. I hope you stick around. This isn't goodbye by any means; I'm far too verbose to promise that!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Plumbing, human and otherwise

It's been a tortuous (and torturous) week-and-a-half here in our land. Stomach virus #487 entered my son last week, and then cruelly and deliberately made its evil way first into my husband's and then my own innards. All I can say is thank goodness for indoor plumbing. I'll stop there.

It's times like we've had here lately, when I'm lying prone and nauseous, that I ponder frontiersmen and women fending off similar illnesses 175 years ago. How in the world did they do it? Can you imagine the foul situation? Especially in winter? And how about those Ingalls sisters, all FOUR of them? You ladies know what happens to monthly cycles when multiple women share close quarters... A long winter, indeed. Oh my. I cannot fathom it.

These are the things I think about while I study the strange, amoebic shapes that slide back and forth across my closed eyelids, constantly changing form (another phenomenon that only occurs when I am ill). Aren't you glad that I'm feeling better today, so I can move on to more positive, encouraging thoughts? Hurray! Happy Friday!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Not all advertising is underhanded

I know I'm a Mel-come-lately, and most of you have already enjoyed this. Just in case you haven't, here is what I I suspect was the highlight of the Grammy Awards (which I confess I did not watch, but heard about today). This is awesome. I'll be patronizing this place soon:

Friday, February 10, 2012

The underhanded world of advertising

About a year ago, a new vitamin supply shop moved in on McKnight Road. The location is honestly not good, at an intersection but not highly visible; to make it worse, the parking lot is not obvious, so there appears to be little to no parking available for the new store. I watched the building grow, and its tenant move in and become operational. Yet I couldn't help noticing that within weeks of its big grand opening, there were huge "sale" banners flying madly out front.

I told my son that I gave it a few months at most, and then I predicted the store would close. I was frankly surprised that any lender would have funded a new building on the site, when there are myriad empty storefronts all along both sides of McKnight Road. It seemed downright foolhardy—the building and the business—especially considering that right up the road was at least one GNC location.

Well, apparently, the new vitamin store has hung in there. It's still open. It still sports the same sale banners, but it remains in business. And GNC isn't happy about this. They began the war by beginning to advertise on the large electronic billboard that sits, conveniently, right next to their new competitor. Each time we passed, there was a new GNC ad flashing periodically at just the same level as the other store's main sign. At first, GNC kept it innocent; they made heavy use of the billboard location, but maintained some class with a November/December Santa-themed campaign, which was actually sort of cute and eye-catching.

But now? GNC has gotten ugly. The latest round of ads is aimed directly at the new vitamin supplier. The old standby has targeted its younger competitor by creating snide one-liners that poke fun at the name of the newer shop. You sit at the stoplight, and you look at the new shop, likely struggling yet surviving, and then you see the GNC ads that make no apology about ridiculing the newcomer right in front of its face.

And I think that's rude. It's common, though—and it bothers me. I won't shop at Walgreen's, either, because they practice really obnoxious business tactics like building new stores directly across the street from other big-box drug stores. Not to mention they show no regard for ousting unrelated businesses that are already profiting in locations that Walgreen's finds to be desirable...but that's another story.

I guess this is why I shy away from the world of sales, especially among big, recognized brand names. Even if you sell a product you believe in, it seems that simply offering a good quality, reasonably priced item isn't enough any more. Now, you must be cutthroat. Now, in order to survive, you must be enemies with the other businesses who bear a resemblance to you.

Has it always been this way? It seems that towns used to be big enough for two general stores. Maybe they each had a niche; perhaps one offered a specialty item that the other did not, or received shipments of like items at different times. Has that changed? In this ever-available, increasingly cruel marketing world that caters to fickle consumerism, is it possible that unkind backstabbing is the only way to survive?

No. I refuse to believe that. I'm going to keep on intentionally shopping small, local, American-made companies that have morals and class. And when I am able to say "No" to the jerks? I'm gonna. I urge you to do the same. Vote with your dollars, even if it's a bit more expensive or slightly less convenient. If you're anything like me, you'll feel better about your choices.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Of couches and husbands

I had a friend years ago, newly married, who took it personally and injuriously that her husband fell asleep on the couch every night instead of coming to their bed in an intentional and timely fashion. Perhaps she was right to be concerned, as their marriage dissolved years ago... But anyway, when she told me this, I can recall thinking that I might be annoyed, too. Not because I'd take it to heart or feel slighted, but because the latecomer would disrupt my own already-sought-and-achieved slumber. Thoughtless.

And I was right. Because guess what? My own dear husband suffers from this same disease. Not on a daily basis, mind you, but often enough that it does affect my own slumber sometimes. He knows that falling asleep prematurely, outside of bed, negatively impacts his restful sleep patterns and causes him to toss and turn (yep, more disruption for me). We both know that research supports our findings, with sleep studies that show over and over how sleep is adversely affected by such behaviors. And he is fully aware that the minute he reclines on that inviting piece of furniture, and allows his eyes to flutter, he is a goner for sure. He knows all this. Yet, some evenings, in spite of my dire warnings and predictions, he persists in lying prone on the dastardly sofa and even covering himself with an assortment of fuzzy blankets. What the heck?! I guess I am a bit militant about such things, but honestly, once a pattern is established, and once everyone involved agrees it is not a healthy pattern and needs to be changed and/or avoided, I cannot comprehend a person's willingness to continue the pattern!

Am I crazy? Is it just a handful of husbands, or are they all this weak-willed when it comes to a cushiony divan in the dim of twilight?

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Precious is definitely related to fleeting

Our neighborhood is in a bit of flux. Two of our close neighbors who happen to live right beside each other are both trying to sell their homes at the same time. It's not because there's a neighborhood flaw (it's a great little street); it just happened that way. Which, of course, makes the prospect of slapping our home on the market anytime soon seem like a pretty poor idea. Small street, fewer than 12 homes total, and three of them for sale simultaneously? Not a good scenario. Alas, we stay put and wait to see what unfolds... (Which feels like the story of my life lately... but I digress.)

The entire point of this post, however, is not real estate markets. It's the idea that when we see an approaching end to something, then that thing begins to gain meaning and perhaps even value. For example, take our neighbors who are trying to move: one of the two homes seems to have found a buyer, and now I find that I feel sad and melancholy when I see the sellers walking their little dog. Each walk they take probably boils down to one of the last times I'll witness them strolling with the little guy (pictured here in a painting I just finished—would anyone out there like a commissioned pet portrait?)

I wanted to paint a portrait of their pup regardless, just because he's so darned cute and they've been such great neighbors. Now, it looks as if the painting might end up being a parting gift. When big upheavals are imminent and impending, small moments and glimpses are loaded with sentimental weight. I suppose I'm realizing that one more familiar thing that I took for granted is likely going away. We can keep in touch, but it won't be the same—it never is. Something I assumed was a given will soon be taken. And that in itself makes me examine the soon-to-be-taken in a totally different light. Is that true for everyone? Is it human to re-evaluate everything right before, or even right after, it is removed from one's realm?