Friday, November 28, 2014

All Around the Table

Yesterday, after the overgrazing on the Thanksgiving foods, we sat around my sister Kathy’s table and sorted through most of the photographs that my mom, Sybil, and my dad, Carl had saved and stored. Even though they aren’t there any longer to enjoy the meal, we felt them close as we looked at the photos. There were photos of past generations and ones of those who have grown to adults now.
School pictures, those awkward bookmarks in each life, separated one growth spurt from another. They showed the “in” fashion of the time, hair styles, and glasses. These are pictures that make us smile now, but to “fit in” was desperate stuff, back then.
We found one photo of my great-grandfather Austin Beck and several of my great-grandfather Rugg. I remember him and a great uncle Wesley. There were other old photos of Great-uncles and great-aunts as well as photos of my Granddad Beck and Anna, my grandmother Beck together. We found some of my Granddad Raymond Miner and some of my grandmother Rebecca Rugg Miner.
Some photos of young people that are no longer here, but passed. I think those were the hardest, most of them were just into their early, early adult years. The pictures were in no specific order and the randomness of finding the sad ones among the amusing and funny increased the impact of both.
My sister, Kathy, said that she had the same expression on every photo, “Get away. I don’t want my picture taken” even the one in the frilly dress. One photo (black and white, of course) was of her with a hat on drooping down over her eyes as she played with Mom’s purses.
Some were of all three, my pigeon-toed stance prominent on many. Some were of just my brother Ken and me, playing in the yard or sitting on Dad’s car.
Many were gifts of wedding pictures and graduations. We decided to pass them along to family members who will cherish them more than we will. Maybe they will display them instead of locking them away in an attic.

Memories and stories floated around the table as did the aromas of our meal just past. Memories are meant to share.

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Thanksgivings at Home

As I look back, I cannot remember any special moment or memory that stands out in my mind celebrating Thanksgiving at my parent’s house. I am unsure why, but imagine that it is because there is no major celebration attached to it. There is no giving and receiving of cards as on Valentine’s Day. There are no fireworks and picnics as on Independence Day. There aren’t any scary costumes or passing out of treats like at Halloween and Thanksgiving is tucked between Halloween and Christmas. Retailers push the Christmas sales closely after Halloween and smother the thankful holiday. Then there is the celebration of the New Year.

I am sure that the other holidays have something to do with Thanksgiving being a less appreciated holiday. Much goes reason goes back to the belief in a divine being, the provider of all of our blessings. Without a belief in God, to whom are we thankful? Do we thank ourselves or are we only thankful to agencies and to the government for a free meal and handouts? When a society isn’t thankful to God and only places demands, it will not long last. God judges the people who push Him aside and are not grateful for all of the things that He has done for them.

I believe the reason that I do not have outstanding memories is that they all blur together. The warm feelings of food, family, and friendship meld into one pleasant memory. Sitting around a table laden with food, I share the memories of the family, strengthening those ties. Our laughter fills the room as full as the aromas of the turkey, dressing (Mom always called it stuffing, whether in or out of the bird.), and the spices of the pies and cookies.
It isn’t that I’m not thankful for my blessings, but the celebration was the low-key joining of our hearts that blended one Thanksgiving celebration into another. Each year became a block in my life and love is the cement that binds the years into one.

Monday, November 24, 2014

November to Remember

I thought that October was going to be my busy month, and it was, but November has been a whirlwind. October has traditionally been a busy month in my calendar book. I was glad when it slipped into my past and was looking forward to winding down and living a slower pace. Was I wrong! I have felt so very busy. I belong to three writers groups, an organization to support artists in the area, church work days, and finishing my shed.
My shed about did me in. I sprained my ankle and it still gives me fits intermittently. I have been babying it and taking ibuprophen. This month of November has kept me busy to say the least. I’ve gone to my meetings and still have a few to look forward to, I was an escort to a wedding party by a fine lady. I think that she wanted someone who would drive for her in Pittsburgh. It was her grandson’s wedding, how could I refuse?
The ceremony was in Morningside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania at the Catholic church of St. Raphael. The groom was proudly wearing his Navy dress blues and his bride a lacey, sparkling gown. The colors of the stained glass permeated the sanctuary as the sun dropped lower on the horizon. As an escort to the groom’s grandmother, I was placed in the front of the church.
I was thankful that someone had given the Grandmother written directions, because I don’t often drive in Pittsburgh. The reception was held at the Priory Hotel on the Northside of Pittsburgh. Again, I don’t have the slightest idea of how to get there. When I asked if anyone knew how to get there, I was answered with nos. Most people were relying on their GPS. As I was escorting my friend to the car, I saw a beautiful younger woman in front of us, so I asked again, and she said that she knew the way. I was so relieved.
By following her, we made it.
The next day, I went with friends to the Golden Corral for an evening meal. It was where the birthday girl wanted to eat, so that is where we went. Sunday I went to church as each Sunday and now trying to get work done around the house. My daughter is sick and Thanksgiving ahead.
There is Christmas beyond that. I don’t think things will slow down for December either, SIGH!

Friday, November 21, 2014

Another Rewrite

I just finished the rewrites of my last two stories in my Tommy Two Shoes series. Who would have thought that a simple challenge to write a detective story would have stirred me to write so much? Before the project to write a story of a detective on vacation, I had no desire to delve into that genre.
Once I started, the words flowed and I had the basic first story written and typed within twenty-four hours. The character grew on me and stories evolved from the introduction of Tommy Two Shoes, retired Pittsburgh cop.
The strength of Tommy and the other characters grew as I became familiar with them, what they would say and what they would do. Some stories drew them together, while others were forced apart. Tommy and his mystery solving aptitude are at the center of each plot. He is assisted by the spirit of his deceased uncle Aidan LeClerc.
Aidan slips Tommy oblique clues that connect at the end of the story. By collecting them, the reader can foresee the ending. Words can be misspelled, but are clues none-the-less. Tommy knows when Aidan arrives because of the fumes from various cleaning supplies. When he was alive, Aidan was a fastidious bachelor and that ad carried over into the afterlife.
The editing has to be a huge burden for my editor. She has to have the patience of Job. I write a great story, but my phrasing and my punctuation would make my English teachers cry. Sorry. I was always interested in the words and not so much with the periods and commas.
I have always liked to play with words, most of all the ones with a hidden meaning or a double-entendre.
Well, the rewrites are over, unless she finds other faults as she goes over the manuscripts with her fine tooth comb. She tells me if all progresses well, the second Tommy Two Shoes should start to be available just before Christmas.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Thunder and Lightning

His rudeness was monumental. It was harsher, coarser, and more grating than a bastard rasp. His tongue was as sharp as a freshly stropped straight razor. The worst of his special talent appeared when he was driving his car. When the term was coined for “road rage,” he was the poster boy. The fact that he was driving an old clunker, a 1962 Chrysler didn’t boost his feelings of well being.  It was little more than patches of rust held together by putty and paint. The engine just turned over 200,000 miles and had been rebuilt twice.
His vile attitude cost several well paying jobs. He now flipped burgers in a small diner. His work station was the narrow kitchen, hovering over a hot grill. The heat did little to mellow his attitude. He worked alone, other than a mute dishwasher. The deaf man was the only person who could stand to be in the same room as him. He was a great cook and the smallest complaint felt like an unpardonable insult to him.
“I need another burger,” the waitress called. “I got a customer who said she found a hair in her burger and that it wasn’t seasoned enough.”
The hurled spatula barely missed the waitress as she ducked. A string of curses filled the kitchen. He ripped off his apron and stomped on it. The swinging door flew open with a loud bang, almost popping off its hinges. Dishes stacked on nearby shelves rattled.
The waitress cringed behind the counter, holding her breath and waiting for the obvious and inevitable confrontation.
The frail, gray haired lady sat with her back turned toward the approaching storm. Her head was bent over as though she was saying grace.
The thundercloud hovered over her, then rumbled, “What do you mean, coming in here and….”
A withered face looked up at him with tender eyes.
The lightning bolt fizzled, then went out. “Hi, Mom. What can I do for you?”


Monday, November 17, 2014

Out to Lunch

The Mount Pleasant Library has been very good to our writers group. The librarian has allowed us to use one of their areas for our meetings. It has been a real joy to gather there and I believe it has been mutually beneficial. We have done several writing projects that have drawn publicity from the local newspaper and it has drawn more visitors the library to read out stories. I’ve met quite a few people that have become more than acquaintances, if not friends.
I was unaware of the group and their purpose until I joined a newly formed group of writers. Slowly, over the past year, I learned of the Friends existence and their purpose. I have met and talked to many of the members. They are good and unselfish people. I got a closer feel for them and got to know several more at the used book sale at the library.
Arriving early as usual for the writers meeting, I began to help them sort and display the books for the sale in ways that might be more easily seen by the shoppers. Although my knees were sore when I stopped, I had a great time with these charming and gracious people.
Last evening, I attended a buffet that was sponsored by the Friends of the Mount Pleasant Public Library. It was my first time at such an event. The men and women Friends have dedicated themselves to the sole purpose of increasing literacy in the area.
The funds that they have raised over their five years of existence have gone to modernize the infrastructure of the library and have provided monies to purchase new books. Most of what is done by these individuals is a behind-the-scenes type of work. They volunteer, donating so much of themselves to this cause.

The food at Nino’s was delicious and plentiful and I was wondering where Nino got the vast array of cookies that filled two tables. I didn’t ask, but later at the end of the meal, I found out. When the speaker for the Friends was sharing the names of officers and board members, she was thanking them and the others who had worked so diligently to make the buffet a success. She also announced that the cookies were baked and donated by many of the Friend members. All in all, it was a special event and something that I will add to my storehouse of memories.

Thank you, Friends of the Mount Pleasant Library, for all of your hard work.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Shed of It

I am so glad that I finished the major part of my shed yesterday. I only have some pieces of trim left to put on it. I finished the last few pieces of the siding and hanging the door. It is a homemade door of two by fours, aluminum pieces to strengthen the corners, and covered with a sheet of the siding. The door is heavy, fits well, and has a coincidental advantage. It closes by itself. Unless it is propped open, it shuts on its own with no need for a piston or spring.
The cold, snow, and wind would make it very uncomfortable to work outside. I am a couch potato by choice. Working outside is a “do only when necessary” for me. Mowing, weeding and gardening used to be something that I enjoyed, now, not so much.
My shed was made with scraps from pallets and leftovers that I’ve had around the house. The base and flooring were two pallets four foot by six foot, placed end to end, they made a shed four foot by twelve feet. My kids call it a corn crib, but it is a place to store shovels, rakes, and hoes in the off season. I don’t plan on storing power tools or anything expensive inside. Too many people think that what others own, belongs to them and are willing to take it.
The framing for the walls were made by using deconstructed pallets and nails pulled from them. Building with used nails is nothing new to me. I think that I was almost a teen before I knew that nails came from the store straight and shiny. All we had ever used were rusty, straightened nails.
I had windows in the basement given to me by my dad and they were the ones I used to light the shed. Other than time and electricity for the power tools, the only costs were for a roll of felt paper, a bundle of shingles, some galvanized nails, two hinges, a lock hasp, and eight sheets of T 1 11 exterior siding.
My progress has been slow. I tear apart a few pallets and plan how and where to use the lumber. At first the framing was wobbly, even after I put on the roof. The roof was made from plywood covered two by sixes and very heavy. Angled braces nailed to the outside helped to steady it until I was able to apply the T 1 11.
I am the reason that the T.V. cartoon character is called Builder Bob and not Builder Tom, but for less than $350.00. I was able to put together a solid, snug shed. It isn’t the most beautiful, but it was built for utility.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

The Stroke of Love

The small clapboard building was the center of the community, located at the head of a valley in the backwoods of Tennessee. The families could only reach their homesteads by foot or riding their mules or horses. Single file trails were the passages through the mountains. Their running water came from springs or streams and indoor plumbing was nonexistent.
The building was a church on Sunday and a schoolhouse on weekdays. Pews were backless, plank benches. They had no preacher, so elder Harden ministered to the rural community. His messages were always Hell-fire and brimstone. Each sermon spoke of an angry God who wanted to punish sinners. He preached of a harsh and judgmental Father.
In the school were eight children in five grades, taught by a single teacher. Chance was an outstanding pupil and read every book that he could lay his hands on. When he read every book in the community, he walked nearly six miles to borrow books from another town’s library. His appetite for knowledge earned him a reputation and a scholarship to a Bible college.

After years of sermons on an angry God, Chance discovered the attributes of a loving Father. He learned that God sent his Son, Jesus, to die as a ransom for man’s sin debt. Chance graduated, carrying the message of God’s love in his heart and to his community.
Back home, Chance found that Harden was still preaching on a wrathful God.  Chance attempted to breach the walls of a vengeful God, but Harden fought back.
“If you’re going to try to teach that love foolishness in my church, I will throw you out!” Then he addressed the rest of the congregation, “Listen to him and you can leave the church as well.”
Chance countered, “Brother Harden, 1 John chapter four reads ‘God is love.’ It doesn’t just say, God loves, it says God is love. He sent his Son, Jesus to die for our sins. That’s a Father’s love, not someone who hates mankind.”

“Out! Out!” Harden screamed. Spittle flew from his lips.
Chance turned to leave when Haden collapsed. He helped the other men of the church carry Harden home. Chance stayed by Harden’s side.
The stroke left Harden weak. Chance worked Harden’s farm and his own, often eighteen hours each day. After many weeks, Harden was able with help, walk to church.
As he entered the building, a hush fell over the congregation. A fly could be heard buzzing overhead.  Harden shuffled to the pulpit.
Pulling himself erect, he said, “God is love.” Turning, he stepped away from the pulpit and took a seat on the plank bench.



Monday, November 10, 2014

Who Would Have Thought

I was just reading a post on Face Book about chronic pain and ways other than medication to relieve and lessen the discomfort. Some I could have predicted, but one I was surprised to see, pleasantly surprised.
The first of the tips was to use Tiger Balm for topical application. It was said that it stimulates circulation and helps joint flexibility. It suggests that it eases headaches, brain fog, and stress. I hadn’t heard of this unguent, but it was described as having a hot/cold sensation. I wonder if it is similar to the analgesic effect from the menthol Bio-gel that therapists use. I will have to check this out.
The second and third sort of run hand in hand, Yoga and meditation. Yoga is to allow body, mind, and spirit to connect, while meditation allows you to face the pain and see it in a different aspect. People tell us that the brain is more powerful than we now know and that can help the body to relax and heal.
The fourth is good old Epsom salts. Soaking in the warm brine increases circulation, relax the nervous system, soothe muscle and joint pain, draws toxins from the body, and even strengthens the walls of the digestive tract. Soaking for about twelve minutes is optimal.
The fifth of the recipes for lessening pain was to watch your diet. Certain foodstuffs are hard to digest and are inflammatory, while others allow healing and are easier to digest. Think of mealtimes as heal times. The article suggests we refrain for dairy products, refined sugar, processed grain products, alcohol, and vegetable oils. It suggests that we eat avocados, fatty fish, olive oil, pastured eggs, brightly colored vegetables, and spices like ginger, nutmeg, and turmeric.
The sixth was the one that surprised me as a writer. It suggests journaling. List pain management attempts and how well that they work, it may allow you to find the triggers for your pain and that will allow you to avoid those pain inducing ingredients. Not only will journaling allow you pinpoint the things in the environment, but will give a sense of empowerment to you so that it becomes easier to face and deal with your discomfort.
I think that writing in general, not just journaling helps the person in pain by drawing attention from the cycle of distress and to concentrate on the ideas that a person wants to express. Writing can take the author to other worlds and other times. It frees the spirit to share with others your thoughts and viewpoints. There is power in words and a writer can use that power in a multitude of ways

Friday, November 7, 2014

I must apologize for my last poor post. I was under the weather and not thinking well. I knew that I needed to share something and I think that I did. What it was, I don't think well when I am ailing. Again, so very sorry.
Super-dooper Pooper Stories
A friend posted on Facebook an article about the fifteen worst poop stories. Accidental evacuations to super clogged waste receptacles. My family would have some to add, including a few of my own. Let’s go back a few generations. I got a call from my mom asking me to give an enema to my grandfather, Beck. He hadn’t gone and me, being a nurse, was the prime candidate to complete this task. I fortunately escaped. While I was donning garb to make the trek, Mom called back, saying, “Your grandfather called. He had a ‘wonderful passage’.”
Now, to the other side, Granddad miner had come to the house for lunch, after being in the barn. We always wanted to sit beside him at the table. When my sister pulled her stepstool chair away from him, Grandma asked her “why?” Kathy said, “He don’t smell like no gardenia.”
My dad always had loose bowels and carried a wad of toilet paper in his back pocket for any type of emergency runs. When we hunted, my brother Ken commented, “I know that dad was here. There are shit-cicles on the bush over there.
My mom was the opposite and had to struggle to have a passage. She often told the story about the constipated mathematician, who worked it out with a pencil. It almost seemed apropos for to like this joke.
I take after both, fluctuating between the firm and the fluid. The need to go has struck in the most inappropriate places. Once in an under-construction building, it was necessary to unload. Another when I climbed to the top of a tree. The moon came out and my grandmother’s neighbor told her that she’d seen it all.
Many times, I have had to do the boot and scoot shuffle, with cheeks puckered tightly trying to make the marathon run to the toilet goal line. The hardest thing about this test of endurance is when I encounter a Mt. Everest of stairs. It is an almost unachievable roadblock, an insurmountable challenge.
My sister never speaks of her tragic waste removal other than her need to empty her bladder. It is often as formidable as the need for me to find a bathroom. Her husband often presses the issue by driving slowly, using the window washer and wipers, or just talking about consuming huge quantities of liquid.
To hear my brother speak, he only passes flatus and he is proud of that accomplishment. He doesn’t care who knows, he flaunts that it was him. It doesn’t matter whether it is ranked by a thunderous clap of noise or whether Saddam Hussein would have bottled the odorous detonation for use in biological warfare; he throws out his chest and claims it as his own.
I was a nurse for over thirty-five years and did a stint a corpsman and a nursing student before that. I have many more stool samples to share, butt not about my family, lest all of our secrets are made bare to the light.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

I am late posting today. I woke feeling tired and with a headache. It hasn't gotten better at all, so I have been dragging with anything getting done. I have not felt like writing my blog, writing another story, or on my next episode in the Tommy Two Shoes series.
I did some laundry, washed dishes, and made breakfast. That was about it before I pooped out. My little granddaughter had the sniffles. It was too soon for me to be getting what she had. I have felt tired for several days, so it must be something going around.
I wanted to do more work on my shed, but I did some measurements, but that is as far as I got. I didn't want to do anymore. I hate it when I have a day like that. I wasn't productive at all.
I am hoping to feel more like working tomorrow, whether it is working on my writing, my shed, or going out to work on the prophet's chamber at church.
I have a general idea for the next story in my Tommy Two Shoes series. I just need to have a clear mind, ignore the television, and concentrate on the story. Once I start writing, often the characters will write the words, I just need to copy them down.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Old Postcards

I have been sharing the old postcards that were lest to me by my mother-in-law, Retha Morrison. Some were sent to her, while others were bought traveling with my father-in-law, Bud. After Bud died, she gathered some as she travelled with her best friends, Conrad and Dorothy Auel. Conrad and Dorothy lived in Sheriden, Pennsylvania and were great friends. They met at Camp Christian, near Mill Run, Pennsylvania. Bud was the caretaker and Retha did much of the cooking.
Sadly, all of them are gone and I miss them terribly.

But, back to the postcards, there are well over five hundred cards some postmarked and sent, while others remain unadulterated. The earliest that I’ve found was 1938, but I haven’t looked at them all, yet. What I have been posting on Facebook has been a condensation and recollection of a camping trip for our church for the teenage kids. It was an experience that I look back on fondly.
There were things that we saw and things that we shared, that I will never experience again, even if I should live another hundred years. Two of the most lasting memories both centered around Sunday and the two different church services that we had.
The first was at King’s Creek Campground in Utah. We actually had the service on a Saturday night, because we had to get up early for the Sunday journey. It was an open air service in an amphitheater with tall evergreen tree walls and a starry sky roof arching high overhead. It was a feeling of closeness to God that I haven’t felt since then.
The other memorable Sunday was the one following our tour of Yellowstone Park, Wyoming was our overnight stay in a small church. It was located in Wapiti Valley, Wyoming. The word wapiti means white rump according to one definition, describing an elk.
The church was built from the timber and boulders that were removed from the site where it was build. The mountains surrounding it, only enhanced its beauty. Inside, were the heads of several antlered elk hanging on the walls beneath high, wooden, cathedral ceilings and over the doors. It was s if the members were paying special attention to one of God’s creations for which the valley and church were named and we were allowed to sleep in the basement and cook inside, instead of having to set up camp to stay overnight.
We would run late if we stayed for Sunday morning service, but how could we refuse to such gracious hosts and I am glad that we did. The most memorable incidents that I can remember were the sharing of music and the collection of the offering.
Unusual memories? Not really. Our group was the special music and the “passing of the hat” was literal. When the ushers collected the offering, they used two white Stetsons as collection plates. It isn’t a memory that will quickly fade, for me and the rest of our troupe.