Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Measure Twice, We Might Be Alright

Soon after the election of Trump as president, I told my daughter if things did not settle down soon, our country would be in civil war.

She looked at me as if I were nuts.

This morning (a couple of months in) I read that the esteemed economist Ben Stein has very recently said that indeed, this land is now essentially in civil war.

We are now so at-odds, with almost everything and anything, that it appears to even the most-optimistic, there is really very little to be done to advance harmony in the homeland. No one wants to give an inch, lest the proverbial mile be taken.

And why WOULD anyone give an inch, when each day "victories" are won and scales seem to shift? When each day presents opportunities to advance AGENDA, who cares about harmony, really?

Of course we all care about harmony. But the "cost" of it forever moves the bar, and so peace and harmony waits for another day.

Social media is prime for wearing our hearts on our sleeves. We post about what matters to us, what enrages us or breaks our hearts, what seems so evidentiary in appeal toward other minds "getting" where we come from. In the course of this, we either tighten bonds or make those who thought they liked us just fine, decide they do NOT like us, after all. OR we post light-heartedly only, selectively and about things that rile no one.

Whatever approach we take, we are not avoiding becoming informed about controversial topics and matters of the day. We have opinions on them, revealed in varying degrees and waves, according to what each day and our willingness brings.

Somehow that day has brought us if not to civil WAR, then to the civil UNREST that precedes and often does not deter the impending war.

Who amongst us ever dreamed we'd live to see this in our lifetimes and in America? Wasn't the first Civil War dramatic enough to last several lifetimes?!

But if civil war/unrest we must live with, this is my plan: I'm going to roast marshmallows with the grandkids. I'm going to see vistas I haven't seen before and make the best of my God-given circumstances, each day I am given health and wherewithal. I'm going to acknowledge that while the vitality of my circumstances hinges on my belief in one almighty power, this is just not the case for everyone.

We can all try to lead or point the way to the water, but we can't make each other drink. We can't argue anyone into the heavenly realm, and God forbid an unbeliever lead a believer toward non-belief--there's a millstone around a neck for that! (Matthew 18:7) If there's such a thing as a very liberal holy-roller, don't we still ALL have to rid the log in our own eye before trying to take the speck out of anyone else's?

We are living in times of wanting to do and be "right", whether we are biblically-inspired or whether we base our thinking on political-socio ideals of any thinking spectrum--conservative, liberal, independent, or anything in-between.

We wish all people felt our way, and it's not as easy as it used to be to "live and let live." Why is this? I think not because it's so hard to let others live as they will, but because we have come to a time where acceptance and approval is required as never before. If equality in rights were a bottom-line issue, respect of such would extend to ALL persons. We can have our courts argue constitutional, conscientious objection or freedom-of-religion rights for us, but these all involve FORCED-UPON decisions to one party or another--and where is the live-and-let-live in that?

It's all complex, and muddled. Fairness and equality is anything but easily-arrived at, because despite a system that proclaims justice for all, somebody most usually suffers injustice in the end.

As we know, the "right" side of a war is the one we align ourselves with; this is how we roll. Only time truly reveals the "wrong" side of a war, and history often debunks the certainty of even that.

Humankind was made to yearn for peace but die fighting for it. Maybe THIS war will simply be exhausting, futile, disheartening, frustrating, maddening--to each and all. Maybe there will be no body-casualties. Maybe its toll will be experienced mentally, spiritually, emotionally.

BUT. We cannot "melt", if you catch my drift. We also have to hold to honorable form, be helpful to our causes but measured in our responses, cherish what applies--God, home and family, friends, kindred spirits, the natural world and even some man-made facets of it. We have to carry on, and hold in good cheer, to hope that this turmoil will pass as it has always passed before.

We have to know: Trust is required that resolution is in progress. There is a Book that tells us this as no other, and it is ours for the picking up. In its own way it tells us there are marshmallows to be roasted, and sticky faces to be wiped!


Friday, March 10, 2017

Who Knew??

Who knew one could feel so positive about government, in the midst of chaotic government?

First, can we acknowledge government has at all times been chaotic, to one eye or another, but so often most-noted in respect to one's self?

Digression is needed: A few years ago I was in the midst of running a small café, always struggling to get the best price break I could, from my food service representative. Oh, what a losing battle that was. Only chain or "big" restaurants or institutions get the breaks, he told me. The little guy pays huge, and gains the least. They just don't really care about you, he very frankly divulged.

But the guy liked me, I could tell. He worked with me the best he could, and we laughed good-naturedly when he repeatedly said over several years, "Pick that up at the market up the road. You're just going to lose with me."

On the days I actually did rate a delivery, the truck driver was even MORE brutally honest. Just before he got to me, he'd dropped off the school district's order for the week. One morning he brought in my goods and we struck up our usual conversation, centering once again on the topic of my "minimum" order.

"At least you don't overdo things," he noted. "I just left off an extra-big order at the school, and they are scrambling now to make room in the freezers--they already have too much of a bunch of the same stuff and just ordered more."

Really? Why do they do that, I had to wonder aloud.

"Because they have a budget for it. It doesn't matter they don't need it, the money is there for ordering more, and so they do."

Wow, what waste, I thought, and is it by the school, or the government, or both? I didn't think to ask if the money could be saved or steered to another sort of purchase for the school. I wondered about it afterward. I also thought of my part-time pie baker who also substituted in the school cafeteria; she had described all the quality, wholesome and even untouched produce pitched straight into the garbage after every lunch hour, amongst other good foods and beverage.

I thought further about the customer at my shop who'd said to me her government-agency office was kept so cold that coming into my almost-warm atmosphere was kind of a relief, even on a hot summer's day. I didn't know if she was back-handed complimenting me, or pointing out that I COULD lower my thermostat just a tad bit, if I wasn't so.....cheap??

How about just struggling not to push one utility bill only partially-paid, from one month into the next? I would have liked to say this, and more. I did not. Nobody goes into entrepreneurship without a lot of optimism, and people rarely stay in it without at least a measure of negativity--negativity best left unsaid, to keep your pleasant business looking, well, PLEASANT.

Truths emerge, reality bites, we do our best, we eventually move on, if into retirement.

Retirement is a great place for soaking and absorption of the many things that affected your earlier life. It is a time to say: "If I knew then what I know NOW, I think I should have...."

Which takes me to another aspect within school corridors, the current displeasure so many have with what it means to have "school choice."

First let me say I love (good) unions. A good union (my spouse's) is what has made for our good retirement thus far; if I could promote unions like his I would every day of the week. I have family members who rely on their good unions, teachers and otherwise, and I am not about to bash a union mindset!

I AM about to say I know many people whose children suffered at length in a non-viable (for them) public school situation, mine at times included. I know dedicated parents with innate teaching "credentials" that surpass some of those within school walls, who have the interests of their children at heart and who tailor their lives to act on this responsibly and with integrity.

These parents pay into the system but do not use it, at least not to a close measure of their "allotment". They are billed (taxed) for the school-related expenses of their communities, and pay out-of-pocket as much or more to home-school, enroll privately, or transport/enroll their child toward an alternate venue...IF their circumstances allow.

Like you, I have also seen the wonder of really good public schools and their professionals, of late more so than ever. Dedication here too is impossible not to recognize and appreciate--but like the café owner who saw the divide between self-supportiveness and others' reliance on government tax dollars to operate comfortably, I see that many families really WOULD benefit from some aspects of school "choice."

So I don't know the whole picture of anything...we rarely do until something affects us deeply. I am saying the obvious, we can't know what we don't know firsthand. It is hard to walk in someone else's shoes when our own are ill-fitting, but we're still intent on breaking them into a more comfortable walk--to our own struggling end.

How does all this tie into being happy with a government that seems so chaotic, of late more than ever?

Well, I want you try feeling (it's not hard!!) disgruntled and hopeless about something governmentally, and then (with reason and forethought) contact your local legislator. I want you to present a (real) problem that bespeaks how poorly an entity is run, or how short-changed or over-charged you feel. Take something legitimate, and don't whine or cuss or threaten, don't offer which political party you belong to, don't offer who you voted for, don't offer if you believe in God or are atheist. Also don't look for the "R" or the "D" on their letterhead, or wonder anything personal about THEM, either.

Just present your humanity. Just present yourself, in an attitude of, "I hope I am not alone in this."

My spouse and I did this recently. We didn't know we could walk unannounced into a congressional office; we certainly didn't expect anyone to do anything other than take our phone number and say perfunctorily that they would get back to us.

But a huge governmental entity had made a big error against us, one that was going to have a terrible (and not-correct) effect on us, for years to come. The entity itself was not helpful; we had just left its regional headquarters with a "Sorry, there's nothing we can do," declaration.

We took a wild stab, and walked into this office. Two hours and much conversation later, we drove home--to a phone call from the office we had just visited. We had left with a sense of wheels spinning, but the congressional aide notified us she was beginning to sense "traction" and would be working in the coming days toward our concern.

Two letters and about four phone calls later, our issue is being resolved.

Do you know how wonderful it is to not feel alone? Sure you do, but this mostly hinges on your family members and your friend's care and concern for you, perhaps your reliance on the Higher Power. I think the last "entity" I hoped for the sense of help from was my government, especially in these troubled and chaotic times!

Obviously the good and fruitful outcome cannot always happen, and there are bigger fish yet to fry for matters more world-impacting than ours. But this encouragement I give: all is not lost when people look at people as PEOPLE FIRST and not as "I wonder what side of the divide" they are on!

I love this. I hope for more of it. For one thing, if I'm going to be indoctrinated by a "side" I want it to be from the Originator of Indoctrination (the Almighty Father I believe in) and not by scores and scores of fallible, opposing minds. These would be the "authors of confusion" we are warned against!

For me, the Source who has proclaimed from the beginning of time that we should love our neighbors as we love ourselves is the Indoctrinator worth listening to. Somehow and through the ages, He has imparted that we should look to each other as people first, and leave judgement of affiliations to Him. Send souls to His word, yes, and always be guilty of looking at people as people first!!

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

The Dividing Seclusion of Inclusion





We can admire who we like but eternity with a self-chosen idol is not a choice for any of us. Only one Almighty Father is, and if one doesn't believe in His existence, there is no choice at all. That's it, you're done, just as science predicts, just as most non-believers generally accede is the cold hard truth. There's nothing after this, so live one's earthly life fully, and when it's over, it's OVER.

For a very long time humankind has seemed peaceable with this. It's true in this nation at least, more persons believed in God than didn't, so yes, it was an easier pill to swallow when fewer folks dissented. They were the exception, not the rule; as long as they didn't stir the pot, the conversation could be avoided, the thoughts subdued, people left to live and let live.

The eras bringing us to this one must seem such stagnant waters, to the bold, fresh wave of disbelievers. More have been swayed to that side in a short time than any believer could ever want to imagine, but here we are, in the thick of it.

How are the most invigorating waves swaying? With zealous certainty that love between humanity supersedes all, and by development of quantifiers for love that are wishful thinking. By not accepting that God's ways are not our ways, by not looking at the handbook that words things utterly clear. And more so, when only hearing secondhand about it, dismissing even the possibility of one true God who loves with expectations that HIS standards shall be fulfilled.

As an interviewer/writer for articles of human-interest nature, I was once asked to profile a beloved father by his son. The elder was a bulwark patriarch to all members of his family; they respected and loved him dearly and wanted to honor him.

I was happy to do so; these are my favorite kinds of subjects. Or so I thought, until we spoke...the man was a fire-and-brimstone preacher I was totally unprepared for. I was a church-goer but not a bible-reader, a choir-singer who prayed perfunctorily, a believer certain I was "on track."

Imagine my chagrin with this "old codger" who quickly and sternly turned the interview on ME. Within a minute he wanted to know if I believed in God. When I said yes, he asked with point-blank audacity, "What do think will get you to eternity?"

Good Lord, I thought. This was not the interview I expected! But his authoritative, volatile tone defied me not to answer. And so I said, nearly quaking in my shoes, "Being a good person..." and might have added more about what I thought being a good person entailed, except the man interrupted me with pure, apparent, SCORN.

"That is NOT what matters to God," he pronounced. I'm pretty sure, if I were in the same room with him (I was not, it was a phone interview) spittle would have flown. As it was, I pulled back from the phone, but listened to a tirade of how wrong people are, how poorly they listen, how poorly they regard the importance of reading the bible.

Truly, I wanted to hang up. I hadn't signed up for the judgment and I didn't mean to show up for the sermon. The man's son had called ME, entreated ME to help honor his dad. Somehow, I did not hang up. I let the man speak momentarily more about the key to heaven being BELIEF, and then I gained my footing. I steered him, to speak of what it was that his family most wanted highlighted about their dad. Of course, this still involved "God-speak", but he touched on his experiences with the farming life and with raising a big family.

I got enough for a piece and then I got OFF. His words and attitude so offended me if I had been near to picking up the bible I was set back, literally a good ten MORE years. I had little interest anyway. I really had thought being "good" was the key to heaven and I was not in a place to believe the man's impatient, belittling approach was anything a loving God would endorse.

No, I was more into a loving, forgiving, kindly Father, and Son. I just was; it was so much more palatable, more in keeping with my soft, sensitive personality who never sinned anyway, at least of any real consequence or with malignant deliberation. Any sins I committed were a result of who God made me to be. How could he not forgive and accept me just the way he made me?

Do not ask me how I came to care about reading the bible. It was never that fire-and-brimstone preacher. I look at it as a gift, the curiosity that came to me. I had a mix of friends, some who openly doubted God, others who openly believed. I had a foundation given by my parents, in my upbringing, but even they had ceased going to church by the time I was a young adult. So I think of the curiosity as something innate that resided in my core, a gift not rescinded.

It wasn't a "carpenter's son" who prodded me to read the bible, but it WAS a carpenter. A neighbor was working in our home, building our cupboards. He commented one day that he didn't think he had ever been in a home where it felt more "spiritual." He was not a man to give compliments, and I bit. I spoke of how I had picked up the bible many times, but was put off by it. I didn't get it, the loving God so many refer to didn't seem to really be in there. "Weird" stuff went on in its pages, there was violence I wouldn't have fathomed, whole cities wiped out in apparent non-forgiveness.

I've tried but I put it down, I said. I remember that he paused his work to look at me, to say that the God of then is the God of NOW. I should read the whole thing, he said, but I could first look at certain chapters and verses to be assured of the loving God I was searching for. He recommended them to me, and having recently given our family BIBLE to our son, I soon went out and bought another.

My eventual, more dedicated reading took place. The carpenter's suggestion helped, and in time I went back to the beginning. As opposing scholars will attest, the Bible is not an easy read! Much of it is not just "above our heads" (because God's ways are not our ways) but just flat-out hard for the human mind to absorb without question.

But without question it must be, and darned if that old codger's words didn't come back to ring in my ears. Good works do matter, loving humankind does matter, but BELIEF and trust in God's words matter MOST OF ALL. Belief and trust that He knows best, that as the ultimate Parent His strictures are for our own good. No questions, no endless self-justification. Hope for forgiveness, yes. Work toward satisfaction of His expectations, always. Change. Repentance.

If a non-believer can't believe, so be it. No one has to live up to what doesn't apply to one's self. Even a non-believer sees and categorizes this as free will and is not prone to coax a God-believing parent, for example, toward ceasing to believe. That would disrespect another loved person's rights and freedoms--to resist a non-believing tide.

Earnest, mutual respect between these opposing tides--can it happen in a meaningful, unifying way? I have one thought that prods me each and every day, in regard to a current catch-word of the times: inclusion.

We all want to be included. Some yearn to be accepted, equal(human) beings of a global society--and that will be good enough. Others deem it far better to be accepted and equal(spiritual) beings of the heavenly realm. Biblical teachings tell us that to achieve heavenly residence, we cannot accept and include forbidden things that void our eternal lease.

Our Landlord holds the key to OUR inclusion, but we're taught to want inclusion for all. So too are non-believers taught to want inclusion for all. The "preacher-man" so wanted inclusion for me that he did not hesitate to shame me toward it. By the looks of each and every day on social media, non-believers are preaching inclusion too, as never before.

Can we see that inclusion can make for exclusion? Can we also that exclusion very often is only taken for the hurt it causes in the here and now? Can we stop with the naivety of not wanting to see truth that opposes our truth? Doubtful, I agree. There is only one true Source for discernment of God's word, and it is the same Source many will NEVER pick up, for their own convicted certainties.

The day we all absorb this is the day we can all discern where the other is coming from, and yes, be able to leave it at that. Until then, I suggest a start with the encouragement of the Psalms.

If nothing else, it is pure poetry.

Sunday, November 27, 2016

The Trouble with the Times

The trouble with the times is that Godless passion is the new religion, and moderation is a mortal sin.

Societal harmony is no longer an option, because even benevolent silence is now disrespected. Don't have a crazy-hard opinion on social or political issues? Then get ready for derision; your complacency makes you a part of the problem. It means you are "not listening", that you are apathetic, that you don't care, that you are ignorant and uninformed.

No one has to tell you these things directly. All one has to do is care about reading up on current events, and be curious enough to read the commentary, and the commentary on the commentary. Used to be becoming informed was a noble thing; now it is a trash thing. People trashing people for thinking differently, for trying to form enlightened opinion, for seeking the contrasting view but holding to one's own.

In the course of holding to your own, do you ever dig your heels in? Of course you do. Even mild-mannered people dig their heels in; it is second nature to survival. Holding to one's own validates everything we are about--what inspires and drives us, what makes us beings of integrity. It pays honor to the conclusions we've come to, and upholds the principles and values we cherish.

Principles and values--in the eye of the beholder stuff. I am the first to agree that a "churched" life has little to do with innate principles and values, so YES, the Godless passion of some can lay shame to the God-claimed passion of others.

"Live and let live", so long almost anyone's sacred mantra (at least in theory) is now an outdated, or if used, dishonest mantra. It doesn't pass the sniff test, when people talk the words but actively stomp the march to pass the legislation to obliterate the true "live and let live" out of society.

Does not marching mean you don't stand for anything? It seems so, more and more. We live in an era where simple, earnest prayer is scorned as an exercise in futility by many, more than ever before. But many DO still pray, and simple and earnest contemplation in itself will never be scorned.

I don't know what is "enough" to bring back more possibilities for harmony. But I experienced harmony yesterday, by mixed minds finding common ground and maximizing on that. A beautiful thing, and time will have to tell for the rest. We can pray, and we can hope! In the meantime, with moderated passion I love the timeless words of this hanging that accompanies our door; I hope the message will carry us through this and all seasons yet to come. A blessed Christmas season to you, and happy holidays, too!!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Potato Chips in Heaven

In what ways do you revert to your childhood, and does frequently "going back" mean the end of your world is on the horizon?

For all our maturations and hard-fought wisdom, what does finding ourselves longing for our past mean? Does it mean regression of what we have struggled for in our recent modern history? Is it acquiescence to aging? Is it depressing? Mustn't it be disheartening to experience a breakdown of all we have strived to identify with as "grownups", seemingly beyond our will?

A novel line, (literally, a line in a novel) once told me that the first fifteen years of life are the ones most vividly recalled throughout life. While later years represent the parts of our independent adulthood and all the events of struggle to become "who we are", it is these earlier years that eventually override our thoughts in simple recollections. For good or bad or both, those times of our lives are not just formative, they are reformative.

Because they reform us, back to who we were. Who were you as a child? We were the essence of who we would become, I think. Time and experience can transform sensitivity into callousness, or stubbornness into mellowness...somewhat and for some time. But our traits never really leave us; they are only managed, subdued or highlighted, to accommodate our realities. While we are influenced by our outer worlds, our inner beings are rarely shaped beyond our recognition.

Don't we all both love and hate that we are who we are, come hell or high water? Don't we all both love and hate the experiential times that shaped us?

The thing about childhood is the innocence. The sponginess, the ability to absorb and never forget the very best and the very worst. Amazing the dark times we all had, the detestable dark times that lighten with the ages. The same increasing years that rob us of so many good things also replenish our spirits with selective recall. Most of the time, when we choose to recall, it is of the things that bring about happiness, and away with the grim reminders.

Not so when we are trying to "find ourselves." When our days revolve around who we want to become, it is as if shedding our past skin is the only way forward. We obsess about the shaping of our formative years, dwelling and blaming and shuddering to break free, to be the forgers of our future way.

And then comes the day a tuna sandwich, potato chips and a glass of Lipton iced tea just sounds so good again. Somehow, the "progression of time" made Mom's lunches passe', even unhealthy. Bologna? Spam? A Sunday fried chicken dinner? All poison now (for some good reason) but do we all know that Mom meant well?? Didn't Dad mean to give us an expression of his fondness for us when he piled us into the back of a pickup truck to take us to the country byways?

How will we feel some years down the road if and when our children mock the foods and experiences we gave them, are loath to pass them on to their own? How will we feel if and when science proves the healthy nourishments and the safety accoutrements we insisted they have were pointless, some even harmful?

Oh yes, what goes around comes around. Always has, always will.

Some of the best wisdom in the world, even unbelievers concede, is Bible-based. I speak of golden rule living, and encouragement that love supersedes all. My personal favorite rule is that bottom line, we must come "as children" to meet our final fates. Whether one considers eternal life a possibility or not, the essence of "coming as a child" maintains that humbling ourselves and acceding to our ultimate parent is akin to acceding to the parent(s) we knew as children. Seemingly harsh, they knew best and required much, toward our better interests.
What movie was that where it was said that most soldiers, when dying on the war field, call out for their mothers, likely their most nurturing parent? What do anguishing scenes like this tell us? For me, it says we are all children at heart, who never lose the need for a parent. The natural order of things dictates we most often go to our graves without one, but believers in the Father Almighty never will.

I thrive on that sustenance. I'm not so old I don't have hope for many more years to come, but already I have reverted to coming as a child to the God I believe in. His "nourishment" (word of the bible) I resisted long enough, because it was averse to the "nourishment" of choices I preferred. Now that I am allowing my "Parent" to direct me again, I love that I don't mind this, and wish I would not have minded it sooner. And, I wish, HOPE that I can be better at it.

It is not the end of my world! It is my happily-ever-after, started in good time. And I JUST KNOW...there WILL be tuna sandwiches and potato chips in heaven!!

Friday, January 29, 2016

"Clutter me Happy"

You're on the right page, the "Less is Plenty" page....but this is a post in defense of CLUTTER.

Why? Because the room I love most in my house--the kitchen--NEEDS to have clutter. I have found, if I can't have kitchen clutter, I can't have an ordered, "Less is Plenty" life.

Anyone serious about not wasting money on convenience foods or eating out, but who still craves lovely mealtimes, (versus porridge)knows this. You cannot have hidden blenders, toasters or accessories that require a ladder or serious stooping to access. You cannot have vital utensils stored in the nether-reaches, or you will never reach for them to make truly good meals every day.
I'm not a lightweight in the kitchen, but I am not any kind of obese, either. I'm lithe enough to yet climb and bend and access, and to see it all as good exercise while I work. But I also have a serious image of a dream-heroine in my mind, a matronly woman who nurtures and loves, who drops all her reservations about society-at-large and who just wants to be friends with everyone through food.

I can't be too skinny for this, and I can't be too orderly. I have tried both. It defies my reality now to believe I ever (as a young, skinny cook) asked my husband to construct a cabinet to hide my kitchen STOVE when not in use, but I did. And he did--he built it for me.

For some months, I lifted wooden doors up top my electric stove to expose the burners, and opened wooden front doors to get a sheet of cookies into the oven. All the time food cooked, horrendously gangly doors stood floppy and agape, a real precious sight in direct argument with my intent to hide a modern appliance I wasn't crazy about the looks of. I got the silly idea from a silly woman in a country-living themed magazine, and if the agent who sold us our homeowner's policy had seen it, he would have crossed us off his list of valued clients.

He didn't see it, and in a few months time, I didn't want to see it either. I shamefacedly admitted to my spouse it was a bad idea, and away it went. But do you think I appreciated the stove in all its exposed glory THEN? No. It was banished to the basement when I found an ancient "Monarch" combination wood-burning AND electric stove, and we (according to insurance regulations) installed it in the other's place. The "Monarch" had the "matronly" look I wanted all along, with a no-need-to-cover-it-up factor involved.

So, it's not that I'm not an "a place for everything and everything in its place" person. I go to great lengths for order, and if there's a problem, I fix it. Or my husband fixes it. Okay, so mostly my husband fixes it.

But.....even if you enjoy cooking or don't mind all meals quick and easy, when you've been swept away (as most of us sometimes are) by alluring meals from the freezer aisle, the deli, or take-out places or restaurants, do you ever tally up what it costs per month to not cook at home, even just some of the time?

I have, during stretches of our family-raising years, and it added up to a modest mortgage payment--at least one common to our neck-o-the-woods.

I've always liked to cook, but I've always also liked to NOT cook, too. I have waffled and wasted between the two extremes for many years, and I even owned a restaurant of my own for some of those years. Even as I gave surplus food away to my friends and neighbors, I sometimes just wanted to eat someone else's cooking, and we often did.

We did it often enough and long enough to know this: with few exceptions, food away from home is mostly not that good, overpriced, and rarely lingers for favorable in the mind. And it nearly NEVER lingers in the memory like Mom's food does.

I did have the best example for this, growing up. My mom managed healthy meals and general sustenance for a family of ten on a limited income. We never went hungry and we always went "delicious." I love to imitate her meals, to this day. My dad may have earned less overall than many other fathers we knew, but his hard work and Mom's creativity and enthusiasm for a good meal always provided our family a great sense of plenty.

As it has through the ages, "plenty" comes from a "waste not" mindset. If our sky has a ceiling, we figure what we can do with less of so that we can have plenty in more important areas. In recent years we definitely adjusted to eating out far less, and saw an improvement in our dollar "plenty."

Funny, but now, when my spouse and I CAN eat out more, and at least more "conveniently", the thrill of it is gone. We love this sense of plenty, in extra-good food, extra dollars, extra choices in leisure for other areas. Mostly, we like the sense of plenty in being able to do things for our children and grandchildren; it is the greatest worth "plenty" can exemplify.

BUT. I NEED the clutter in my kitchen to be efficient at what I do. The things I use regularly have to be at hand. With the counter-space of a "less is plenty" sized home, this means things show, they are not hidden, they are ready to be used. They do not get in my way, they MAKE the way for me to get things done.

"LESS" in the kitchen I cannot do, and for one other reason. In keeping with my matronly role model, I love to immerse myself in the "feel" of her aura, and era. I want to cook with the things she cooked with!! They are not all practical, but they are beautiful. They are ART. Vintage cutting boards are my backsplash, and vintage tools and kitchen accessories are my inspiration. Most I have used, many I use often. All are ready and set to go in apocalyptic times!!

Does my defense of clutter make sense, to the spirit of "less is plenty"? What in your life, do you sometimes think you have too much of, but then say NO, I'm good, thank you very much!? Please comment, either here or on my less is plenty Facebook page, and thanks for reading!!

Saturday, January 16, 2016

These Plates Were Made for Using

(More, new perspective on my favorite "Sterbuck Farm" Story)

In MY dictionary, if you looked up the meaning of "bittersweet" there would have to be a picture of my favorite pretty plates alongside.

Let me get the "bitter" out of the way first.

Although I'm happily using these vintage plates for everyday now, it is because I have come to a somewhat sad conclusion: I'm not going to outlast these dishes. They will be the last set I buy, the last set I will use. For a person who has "changed out" dish patterns all her married life, this is a little bittersweet.

But I have a bigger number of this pattern than I ever dreamed possible, and that is very sweet. It is a number bigger than can break in a routine course of use, and I just don't expect anything but the routine here. I'm not going to give them away, because I love them. And I'm not looking for, only hoping against, any act of God or "downfall" in the kitchen that would ruin any significant number of them.

In fact, I've always thought it was a special act of God who brought them to me in the first place. And NO, I'm not being dramatic.

The pattern IS one of the first that I truly enjoyed, actually, in my married life. The problem was it was just one single dish I found, at a flea market, for one thin dime. Oh, that I could have found more, I would have paid their price and brought them home decades ago, as a young mom and wife, trying in earnest to make her house a home.

For about a decade, I never saw another one like it. It must be its gorgeousness, I thought, that made this so. Pretty in pink and blue, I was covetous of more, seeking the pattern out evermore.

Alas, not to be, or so it seemed. I had found it in Colorado, where we lived for fourteen years, the last few in a financial and spiritual downturn for our little family. In crisis, we left, to work and save in California, where our families were. The plan was to eventually move into an also dispirited farmhouse in Wisconsin, one that had known thirty years of abandonment and revealed it openly, no matter how lovely its surroundings were, and even in its very yearning heartbeat.

It still wanted a family. We earnestly wanted a home. When we finally arrived in 1988, we joined together tentatively. "Sterbuck Farm" justifiably
wondered about what we were made of. It had been rejected countless times. Its story, we learned, was one of many "leavings" and in truth, from the moment we pulled in with the moving van, we considered doing so ourselves. The dream of it had been so romantic an adventure, its reality disappointed as mostly daunting and fearsome. It would wait us out, and we could do nothing but try to see it through.

And then the plate turned up, in its very soil, that very first spring. We were planting a garden, and up it came with a shovel, whole and perfect.

Can you blame us for the significance we saw in the pattern that emerged from the earth? It seemed to say, "Don't give up, don't feel dispirited. You are meant to be here. You are meant to give it the good, more cheerful try."

We needed to hear that. We needed to pick up the inspired pace. We needed to quit with the dejection and look up, look around. The farmhouse was habitable, and sound. It sat center of a work-of-art landscape that only God could be the signer of. The folks in our "neighborhood" were friendly and had reached out to us, and our little family had each other. We had to see the positive, and this THING, this physical item that I had searched far and wide for, in places much more likely and appropriate, had emerged from the ground in the middle of our "nowhere."

So it spoke to us all. We definitely perked up that day, knowing the "message" was something worth sustaining.

Our new neck-of-the-woods proved to be a region of the country where "my" dish pattern had obviously, in a previous era, been very popular. One shop keeper said he thought pieces were given away in oatmeal boxes, with others available for purchase either on store shelves or by order. In the late eighties, I started finding pieces everywhere, reasonably priced. Still perfect, still beautiful, to my eye and heart, so I picked up every one I came across. Close to our 25th wedding anniversary, I found a whole box of them complete with two platters and a creamer and sugar, vegetable servers, and much more. For a time, I stopped buying them, thinking what I'd accumulated we rarely used, and that we might never, really.

Craziness.

Why not start using them? I had said I should, and finally I did, for special occasions. Then a funny thing happened. Just like I hoped they would, they put me back in time. They put me back to the days of Sunday dinners and matronly mothers or grandmothers serving them up, of warm, steamy kitchens with aromas flowing out-of-doors, like the Johnny Cash lyrics (Sunday Morning Coming Down)"I walked across the street and caught the Sunday smell of someone frying chicken...and Lord, it took me back to something that I'd lost."

Ah, YES. Something many of us have lost...that Sunday dinner feeling, or of any lovingly prepared meal, capable of uniting families and sustaining not just bodies but souls, fit for memorializing a "feeling" unto the ages.

In her long-beloved series Laura Ingalls Wilder did this memorializing like no one else. When I was growing up in the sixties in Southern California, her "meal descriptions" transported me to another place and time, so that somehow, I wanted to capture those times and make them my own. It helped that my own mother had a "Laura" mindset about good meals around a family table, and between all such examples another kitchen nurturer was born. No. Modern Day. Apologies for loving the kitchen!!

I can't recall the plates my mother used, and I don't know that Laura's would have been quite this decorative. But I think both would have appreciated them as gems. I think both would have admired their pretty appeal, and that they were easily enough obtained so that they could serve for everyday, and yet suffice for special, too. I think both would have embraced, as I have, the gentle knife and fork lines that have lovingly scarred my plates. These creases, like the lines on a face, represent love forward, love accepted eagerly and love remembered. And no, I'm not being dramatic!

A plate is just a "thing", it's true. At the shop I owned for many years, I used many sets for serving, for selling, for decorating, for bringing home and using. My customers were as guilty as I was of loving pretty dishes; even the men noted and appreciated them. So it is something of a mystery to me that I am sure now
, I don't need another dish set in my life. I don't want another dish pattern in my life.

This is the one that makes me feel most like Laura, and honors most the homey legacy my mother also left behind. It's the one my kids know is nearest and dearest to my heart. And it is already the only one that my grandchildren have known in this household.

It is the one that reminds me a past I never lived, and it is the one I will take to my grave. Crushed, and mingled with my ashes. And yes, I AM being dramatic.