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Sunday, May 13, 2018

"That Wonderful Old Streetlight"

It's Mother's Day evening, May 13, though outside today it has felt much more like summer. (Psstttt! I don't like summer.) I just came in from the porch and the heaviness has lifted a little. It's bearable at least - for this Fall-Winter-Spring person. As I was sitting on the swing, I realized that I heard nothing but traffic going by. It was kind of deafening. I think my favorite outdoor sound in the summer is the wonderful cacophony of kids playing, like that old Neil Diamond song, "A Beautiful Noise". Don't know it? Look it up.
Anyway, in the absence of that kind of noise, I just sat there thinking - about the days when I/we were
young and we were the ones making those joyous summer day and summer evening noises. Growing up, we were fortunate to live in an out-of-the-way neighborhood where there wasn't any through-traffic. We rode our bikes without a care and didn't even check in a lot with home. We went in and out of the neighbor kids' homes like they were our own, as long as they were with us and we felt such slow, relaxed freedom. Smile. I liked Summer then.
During the days, when we weren't at the swimming pool, we played GAMES. Try explaining that
to today's kids. We played Indian ball and tag. We had lemonade stands and were excited if we
made 63 cents. In the evenings we caught lightening bugs in jars - with holes in the lids. And then we'd let them go before we went inside for the night.
As we got a little older, as summer evenings turned from light to gray, my sister Charmaine, Mary Ann Woolcott and I would stand under the streetlight at the head of the street - just a few yards from our home. Her parents could see her from their back door and ours could see us from our front door.
Other neighborhood kids would join us for a while and then mosey on. But we'd stay, discussing
things that just had to be discussed RIGHT then. Every once in a while, Mary Ann's mom or dad would flip the porch light on and off. And every once in a while, mother would call to us to "cut it short; it's getting late." But we'd "push the envelope" for a while, just hating to say goodnight, hating to give in to the enveloping darkness, using that wonderful old streetlight as our beloved gathering place.
I miss that old streetlight. Don't you? Because, in one way or another, I know you had it too. Those
wonderful, slow, slow days and nights.....the summers of our youth. Every once in a while, a sound,
a smell, a song - will bring it all back for just a fleeting second.

And something else I miss so much is the sound of my mother's voice, calling us home for the night.

My female friends, I'm hoping, as we close out this Mother's Day, that this day has been a lovely one for you. As our pastor pointed out this morning, it doesn't matter if you have borne children or if you have mothered other people's children. It doesn't matter if you are a mother of fur babies. A mama, a grandma, an aunt, a dear friend......women everywhere "mother" in some way. It's what we do.

I will "cut this short" this evening. "It's getting late". :)  But Happy Mother's Day to all of my female
readers. Mothering is not an easy effort. It takes determination and endurance and tears and laughter. It takes great strength. I am reminded of the popular slogan we have all read. 'Here's to strong women. May we be them. May we know them. May we raise them.'

I believe I will close out the evening with a walk around the yard and a few more moments on the
porch. I'd better do it while I can. Have I mentioned that Summer is coming? (I really don't like
Summer.) :)

Sunday, April 15, 2018

God's In His Heaven But Where Is Spring?

Great Day In The Morning!!! I mean, is it Spring or isn't it? Someone today said it's the 105th day of January. I have to wonder! On the news this evening.....tornados (before typical tornado season), more wild fires, floods, rain, thunderstorms, SNOW, ice and FREEZING temperatures! And that's across the entire country!

I'm not a gardener by anyone's standards, but I like to play and pretend. I most often purchase and transplant to the ever-receptive earth and by some magic I don't understand, most plants thrive. Most. Not all. But I continue to try. My hyacinths actually bloomed this Spring, but I was forced on two occasions, after listening to weather reports, to cut the blooms and bring them in - just to enjoy a day or two of their wonderful scent. My beloved pink tulips came out of the earth in great mass and it thrilled me as it always does. I actually got two tulip blooms, which promptly froze in place - never opening.

By now we are usually ON THE PORCH watching and enjoying our humming birds. Although on a warm day recently we did put out two of our feeders, no humming birds have arrived. I'm thinking that's a good thing, as they would surely freeze! I wonder where they are and if they're as confused as I am.

No one knows how to dress at this point. We're either dressed too warmly or not warmly enough. I am most often found with leggings and sandals. I think that's a good balance that seems to be working for me. As usual, people think I'm crazy.  No problem.

My wiener babies are horrified most mornings. They just can't believe it when I turn them out to do their morning duties. They look at me as if I have either lost my mind or I don't love them anymore. They too are longing for warmth.

Now, I know I've told you before that I AM A WINTER GIRL. I don't like summer, don't enjoy it - at least when it gets HOT. I growl and whimper, whine and complain. It's not pretty. I like Spring. I LOVE Fall and Winter. If you know me well, you know this. I know, I know. Chastise me. Preach at me. It won't phase me. I am not a summer girl. Period. Never will be. But, come on!!!!!!!!!!!! Even I have my limits! Something must change and soon - and not just for a day! We all need to feel the warmth of the sun and with some degree of confidence that if we blink, it won't be gone.

I don't know who to be mad at. Do you?

I'm not giving up. I will be ON THE PORCH at the first and every opportunity. Honk and wave. We have to believe. I believe. I believe. ........ that God's in His Heaven and all's right with the world.

Monday, February 5, 2018

"Let's Be Delightful"

Following the Christmas holidays and toward the end of the year, I began to wonder what my
next blog would be about. For some reason a specific word came to my mind. Don't ask me why.
Others, long before you, have questioned my mind to absolutely no avail. The word and its
derivatives were Delight. Delightful. Delighted. For some reason, perhaps the time of the year,
I think I longed for pure delight. Peace. Quiet, Tranquility. Assurance. As all of you, I'm sure, I was exhausted. And pure delight seemed impossible to attain. I just wanted to bask in something delightful.

Then, as soon as the new year arrived, so did influenza. I lived, though for a few moments,
doubted that I would. If you're reading this, you have also survived - so far. Hallelujah!!! And if you're one of the myriad of people I unintentionally made ill, please forgive me. I had no idea that I was Typhoid Mary until I hit the ground.

Aside from being ill this year, I have to admit that I never really like or enjoy January. I think there's more to it than just muddling through gray days, possible boredom after the holidays, etc. I always see it coming and think I can ward it off, but I seldom succeed. When January arrives, I have trouble
connecting to the new year. I can't seem to adjust to the brand new calendar and its obligations.
I'm always surprised at Monday and for that matter, the days that follow it. Smile.

And then, as if there is hope (and of course there is), it's February! Suddenly I don't mind the
gray days, because as you know, I do love Winter. I'm connecting to the new year. My calendar
makes sense again. I'm on it! Well, mostly. And finally, things are clearer, more colorful, more
lively, more exciting. Well, ok, maybe not exciting. But better, definitely better.

So, let's get back to the word. For some reason in late December, I heard the word....delight,
and it stayed with me. Such a beautiful word. If we find something to be a delight, it's a beautiful
thing. A great event, a warm and wonderful feeling. It causes us joy. It stays with us,
reminding us that things are good. Cheerful. Happy. So it just stands to reason that if we want
others to have those feelings, then we must strive to be delightFUL. Yikes. Sounds difficult and
it is, after all, only February. Perhaps it would be easier to be delightFUL in June or July. But
I'm DELIGHTED to share with you, because I so need to be reminded, that in all honesty and
with some soul searching, it takes so little effort to be delightful and therefore, to cause delight.

My first cup of coffee in the morning is often delightful and if all goes well shortly thereafter, I may
be able to maintain that attitude. I know that my glass of warm, dry, red wine this evening was
delightful. Sunshine on these cold days is certainly delightful and sitting by a window yesterday
afternoon, watching the large snowflakes fall was absolutely delightful.

Dear, dear friends of ours have recently returned to reside in Chester and I am absolutely
delighted! Over the weekend we had dinner with couples who always delight us and it was
so DELIGHTFUL to share that time with all of them. Watching my precious tail-baby, Albert,
sleeping soundly on the delight.

So, it goes without saying that I must make every effort to try to be a delight to others and
to spread that kind of JOY (obviously I'm over using the word delight). And, if we think
about it, it's not difficult. In order to do so, we must: Say hello. Smile, really smile at each other.
Inquire as to how one really is. Then listen. Hug (carefully and cautiously, as it is flu season).
Go the extra mile - whatever that means in any situation. Say excuse me. Did I mention smile?
Find a reason to send a card or make a call. Just be delightful. We all know how it works,
what it means and what it costs us, which is absolutely nothing. So why do we sometimes go
through a day without administering this antedote to others? Well, it's because we bog down.
Life is hard. How often have you smiled and spoken to someone at the grocery or elsewhere
and they don't even respond? They carry a frown. They're lost somewhere without joy and
maybe, just maybe the smile we give them may help their day - whether they respond or not.
Again, it has cost us nothing.

I'm not preaching. I am so in need of reading what I am writing. And after re-reading what I've
written, it all seems way too fundamental. But maybe that's the key. Perhaps. And as is usual
for me, I must share a couple of quotes - by people way smarter than I am......quotes that I
hope will apply to what we've been talking about here.

"The time to be happy is now. The way to be happy is to make others so."...Robert G. Ingersoll

"I like nonsense. It wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope - and that enables you to laugh at all of life's
realities." ... Theodor Geisel (Dr. Seuss) --- Now that's delightful.

The year is young. Let's be delightful when and if we can. Stay warm. Stay well. Hug daily....
then wash your hands. And for those of you who really don't DELIGHT in Winter, Spring
is over the horizon!

Sunday, December 10, 2017

"It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year"

Oh, my goodness! I haven't posted a column since October! And yet, writing these columns is one
of my fondest passions! No apologies, however, since in the meantime I have been about the business of living. If you're reading, thanks for jumping back on board.

This is not my Christmas blog. Hopefully that is still to come. I'm not even sure if this is my
December blog, though it is indeed, December. I, like most of you, am currently in the throws
of December.....pre-Christmas preparations, completing my shopping, preparing to mail, doing
the cards, planning the baking. The Christmas decorations are all up and blazing (if you know
me, you know this to be true). In the midst of all of this, I am also in my pre-Christmas mood,
where I start to say to myself, "You need to do more Christmas reading. You need to do more
Christmas soul searching. You need to think more about what is important than what is not. You need
to slow down, take a breath, enjoy the season, the reason and the joy." So, this is my first overt
effort. Go with me, if you will. I covet your company.
I have a book called "Kneeling In Bethlehem" by Ann Weems. It was given to me thirty years ago
by the dearest of the dearest to me, Mary Limbaugh. This will probably not be the last time that I
quote this book. So beware. This book is priceless in its insight and if you have the
chance to peruse it, please do. It will prepare you for the Advent season in a very special way.
In this book, Weems takes us through the season of too much busyness, too much freneticism, into
the direction of finding Bethlehem. One of Weems' entries goes like this:
'"The whole world waits in December darkness for a glimpse of the Light of God. Even those who
snarl 'humbug' and chase away the carolers have been seen looking toward the skies.
The one who declared he never would forgive, has forgiven. And those who left home have returned,
and even wars are halted, if briefly, as the whole world looks starward. In the December darkness,
we peer from our windows, watching for an angel with rainbow wings to announce the Hope of
the World."
I guess, suffice to say, it is a season of expectancy....and not expectancy of what waits under the
tree on Christmas morning, but of what will arise in our hearts along with the re-birth of the Christ
Another excerpt in Weems' book says, "In each heart lies a Bethlehem, an inn where we must
ultimately answer whether there is room or not." Wow. Just one line of an entry and yet so
powerful. Does Bethlehem really live within our hearts? And if so, does our sign read, "Vacancy"
or "No Vacancy"? Each of us must ponder that on our own.
So much of the Christmas season, if we are fortunate, revolves around gathering together to
celebrate friendship, family, love. I was fortunate this past week to gather with women with whom I have enjoyed friendship for possibly over 60 years. We ate, we laughed, we talked and reminisced about old times and were brought up to date with current lives. It was good to share this time together with girls with whom I graduated from Chester High School. It was fun and heartwarming. Though our lives have taken much different directions, we always seem to find more similarities than differences. We celebrate our pasts and our presences and even our differences. Our kinship is more important than our differences.
On somewhat the same track and yet, much different, today I attended the funeral of a very good
friend, a friend of nearly thirty years. Though sad, the service was definitely one of celebration
for the blessing of this person in our lives. Thank you, Eric, for the friendship, the laughter and the
commitment. I celebrate your life and the friendship we knew.
Wow. I have gone from the stresses of Christmas prep to the expectancy of the long awaited Jesus,
to friendship. Such a leap. Or is it? I think not.
Whatever your focus tonight, just days from Christmas, I hope and pray that you are able to find
joy and peace......that you find forgiveness where it is needed and to forgive where you need to do
so. It is so possible to forgive even if we do not accept behavior or attitude. It is so possible to
love, even where we do not find it offered or even deserved. Is this easy, simple? Gracious, no. Such a struggle. I know this because it has been given to me from above and also from dear ones along the
way who show the light of God in their lives. I am so blessed to be loved by people who humble me
with their loving spirit. And still....I struggle.
So - though this is not my Christmas column, Merry Christmas. Enjoy the days ahead with excitement and expectancy. Fight the urge to be stressed. (Note to me: Listen to myself).
It's Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year. Don't miss it!

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

"My Time Of The Year"

Fall is in the air. It's brisk in the early morning and brisk at night. Shivery. So far, the midday temps are still higher than I would like, but we're getting there. I am hopelessly and forever in love with
Fall......enough so that I don't even mind that it's followed by Winter. Definitely my time of the
year. If you're a reader of "On The Porch.......", you know that my house turned orange weeks
ago, inside and out. At this abode, we love the antics of Halloween and I'm always a little sad to
take down and pack away the Halloween/Fall decorations. But I will do so, on schedule, and
they will be down and put away by November 2. Yep. Even though I own quite a lot of turkeys
and pilgrims and such, there's just not time to put them up in the house and still get the
Christmas extravaganza up in time to enjoy it. I won't turn any Christmas lights on until Thanks-
giving, but to me it's calming to know that, long before December 1, my Christmas world will
light up with the simple flip of a switch.......switches........many, many flips of switches.

And so...................talking about Fall and Halloween, it just follows that we are closely on the
heels of the holiday season..............I know. I know. It may seem that I'm getting ahead of
myself. But stay with me. I'm going somewhere. We all know that people do their Christmas
shopping earlier and earlier these days. I can't judge because this is October 18 and I did some
today. I start early for various reasons. It alleviates last minute stress and I enjoy it. It brings
me joy to know that some things are already selected, paid for and tucked away. Now, unless you
sit at your computer and select and order gifts online, you will be shopping in stores (Don't forget
Chester!) and you'll be standing in lines. You'll be dealing with other shoppers who may be
tired and grumpy - as you may be. You'll be dealing with clerks who, believe me, are more tired
than you are. It takes a special kind of person to be a store clerk, especially at Christmas. Am I
right? God bless them.

I am the type of shopper, not just at Christmas but all year long, that just might drive you crazy because I talk to people I don't know. I say hello. I tell them if I like their hair. I tell them if I
think their children are cute. I say excuse me, even if they stepped in my way. If I determine that
they seem stumped or lost about something I will offer my assistance. l have been known, when
shopping for a child I don't see often, to ask mothers for their advice on children's clothing sizes.
You know those women at the entrances to dressing rooms, who give you a number and direct
you to the changing rooms? Sometimes we get to know one another really well - in a very short
period of time (smile). I smile at people who seem to need one - or even if they don't. I'm incorrigible. I even do this in the grocery store. And people are really serious in the grocery store.
I don't share these things about myself in order to boast. It's not about that. It's because I REALLY
can't help myself. Sad. It seems I have no shame and I cannot be stopped. But women, you'll never know this first hand, because I'm not the type of shopper who shops with other women. No. Never. I'm a solo act. All the way. I will shop with Bob and he's a pretty good shopper - but he didn't come that way, all wrapped up in a box with a red ribbon. Training was involved, but he was receptive.

If you are a silent shopper, that's ok. I find, in my shopping escapades, that the public seems split
about 50/50. Some are like me; some are not. But for the most part, the silent, less outgoing ones usually put up with me and stop short of running away in terror. Regardless of our proclivity to be gregarious shoppers or not so much, let's just all make a concerted effort this year to be kind as we venture into the holiday "traffic". We're living in a tenuous time. On top of it, people are tired, stressed, worried, sad. If a smile or an 'excuse me' at any juncture can alleviate any of that, then
the cost is certainly not too high.

I'm not preaching, believe me. A long wait in a long line after a long day can certainly cause me to 'harrumph' and want to scream. But if we can, let's remember to be kind, just kind. I'll try if you'll try and that will be a start. We'll be tired and our feet will hurt. At some point our backs will seem to be
breaking and we'll be hungry. We'll wonder why in the world we're even doing this. But let's
give it a try. I'm in if you are. And if by chance we run in to one another on one of these little
shopping ventures, don't you dare turn and run from me. I'll try to keep it to a minimum, but
we're gonna' talk, at least a little. And we're gonna' smile at one another! Ya' hear me?

And remember, the coffee's on and the wine's on tap. See you on the porch. I have blankets!

Wednesday, October 4, 2017

"The Knife & Fork Drawer"

How long has it been since you walked in to a friend's house, went in to the kitchen and knew
just which drawer to open to get a spoon to stir your coffee? Odd question right off the top, isn't it? Well, I've been thinking lately about this very thing. I guess, admittedly, that I'm talking mostly to
women this time. I don't think this would be a subject most men would "get". But I believe that
by the time I've signed off this evening, most of my female readers will be thinking about it.

You have to know a person pretty well to be able to just automatically know where the knife and fork drawer is. Oh, you can find it by process of elimination, but that's not what I'm talking about. And
this little test isn't only about can also include family. If you're blessed enough to still
have your grandparents or mama or daddy or a sister or offspring within reach, then I'm sure you'll pass this test without fail. It's been many years since I've been that fortunate. If you have it, appreciate it.

Years ago, as a younger woman, I could say that I had a small handful of friends in whose
homes I could do such a thing. But times change. Situations change. Living arrangements change.
And although I still have good friends, I can honestly admit that if I need a piece of silverware
while I may be in their homes, I'm going to have to ask for it.

Ok, Ok, I guess the silverware analogy is a little specific. But to me it is indicative of other things.
I don't think people of my era actually spend time at friends' homes the way they used to. As I said,
I still have friends, we may go places together, talk on the phone, just stay in touch in general.
And that's all wonderful. But there's just something warm and intimate about being able to open
the screen door, stick your head inside and yell, "It's me! Anybody home?"

When I was a little girl, my Grandma Hasemeyer always had quilting frames up in her "front room".
There was always a quilt in progress. Sometimes hers - mostly hers. But sometimes someone else's.
It didn't matter whose it was. Neighborhood women just wanted to sit and quilt. They'd just
drop by and say, "Mary, do you mind if I quilt a while?" And of course she didn't. She'd hurry to
finish whatever she was doing and within minutes, she'd be in there too, quilting away. Part of
the goal was to quilt. The larger goal, I think, was to visit. And she'd always put the water on to
boil so she could fix them both a cup of Sanka. IYIYIYIYIYI! Sanka! But I digress.

If you still enjoy that kind of casual and relaxing camaraderie with neighbors or friends, I think that's wonderful - and I also think it's amazing. Because it just seems that those days are gone. I hope
I'm wrong.

I long for the time when I felt as comfortable in a friend's kitchen as I do in my own. And here we
are, back in the kitchen. But we all know that's the heart of the home and where everybody tends to
want to be when there's a gathering. You get two women talking in the kitchen, over a beverage,
warm or cold, and that's when the secrets and dreams are shared. Tell me I'm wrong. I'd love to
hear from you all on this one.

To my dear friends, don't panic. I'm not coming over anytime soon to invade your kitchen. But
when I do happen to be there, I'm hunting for that drawer - like it or not.

And by the way, it's very, very pleasant on my porch these days. I'm enjoying it so much!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Summertime, And The Livin' Is Easy

Wow. How time flies, fun or no fun, right? I meant to take a short sabbatical for the summer. Did
not mean for it to be so long. And now I'm itching to get back at it. Summertime, whether you
travel or not, seems to present events and activities that are exclusive to this time of the year. Friends
and families gather to celebrate the hazy, crazy, lazy days that fly so quickly into Autumn. As you
travel up and down the highways and byways, you see driveways crowded with cars - for Memorial
Day, 4th of July or just Sunday afternoon. People are on the patio, in the yard.....gathering to
celebrate whatever!
Restaurants and such places as wineries, etc., seem busier, more crowded. And if you see an
outdoor beer garden, it's usually jammed with people. Wednesdays and Thursdays become pre-weekend days. Why wait for the weekend!? As I relax on one of my porches on any
given day or evening of the week, I see vehicle after vehicle passing north or south, pulling beautiful
boats to or from the lakes. Just stepping outside in the evening, I can smell the aromas that tell of
nearby outside grilling. Oh, the hazy, crazy, lazy days.........wait. Lazy? I think not, anymore.

But I remember lazy and I'll bet you do too. As I so often do in this column, I think back and this time to the days when summertime did seem lazy and relaxed. Slow. Timeless. Careless. More gentle to the senses. Certainly as a child and teen, life was so very different. It wasn't perfect. Life had its
difficulties. But looking back, it seemed that from the end of May till Labor Day, time in general just stopped. We didn't have air conditioning - haha! Well, just a window unit that my father
wouldn't let us use. We had fans. But my sister Charmaine and I were outside so much. We rode
bikes, played Indian ball, croquet, badminton and tag with the neighborhood kids. We had
lemonade stands where we felt rich if we made fifty cents! We stayed outside late, sometimes
10 p.m. if we stood under the street light where mother could see us from the front door. And she'd
always let us sleep late in the summertime. Sometimes other adults would play the guilt card and
say that THEY didn't let THEIR kids sleep late. But mother didn't weaken. As long as we were willing to do our chores when we got up, we got to sleep late in the morning. And somehow the heat didn't seem to bother us very much back then. We just dealt with it. I deal with it now, too, by staying in the AC if at all possible! My, how time changes most things.

I was never quite ready for school to start. I dreaded it. But as it got closer to the end of August (because we actually stayed out till after Labor Day), I can recall feeling a thrill at starting back. I still remember the smell of the school building during those first few days back. Can any of you relate to that? Crazy how that has stayed with me. And seeing classmates I hadn't seen through the summer......that was exciting. Remember those oxford blue canvas three ring binder notebooks we all had? Starting back to school usually meant getting a new one that didn't have doodles written all over it from the year before. And there was always a new kid or two to get to know. Sometimes you'd
realize that an old friend and classmate was no longer there - they'd moved away during the summer.
Often through the years I've wondered what happened to those kids - gone forever from our lives.

Without a doubt, things have changed since the LAST CENTURY! Kids absolutely don't play
outside like we did. And I think that's partly our fault, as adults. And partly just the fault of "progress" which has provided so much technology.....the same technology that allows me to post this blog for you to read. I remember when Jamey was little, being able to hear the sounds of kids playing at dusk, around suppertime. That memory causes me to smile. But realistically, in this day and age, perhaps parents don't feel as secure letting their kids run the neighborhoods, out of parental sight.
I remember that Jamey was allowed to ride his bicycle as far as the Dairy Queen on Stacey Street,
just a few blocks from home. When I needed him to come home for supper or whatever, I would
go out to the back porch and scream his name - really scream. He said he could actually hear me
at the Dairy Queen! Smile. And in a couple of minutes he'd come pedaling up the alley or up
George Street toward home! Oh, how I miss those days. Sorry, too sentimental, I know.

Well, don't despair. Summer isn't over. There's still time to enjoy it, to do those fun things you still want to do before school starts, before the weather changes, before Fall is upon us. It's just been
so, so hot this summer and I'm really enjoying these few days of lower temps and less humidity.
I find myself sitting 'on the porch' probably way too late at night -after most of you are in bed. That's
one thing that hasn't changed for me. I never wanted to go to bed at night when I was a kid - always
afraid I'd miss something. I still feel that way. I push the day into evening and the evening into very
late night and the late night into early morning. And since I'm retired - I can sleep a little later in
the morning - just so I'm willing to do my "chores" when I get up. Mother would approve.

And so.....perhaps I'll see you 'on the porch'. And squeeze as much as you can into the next few
weeks. Make memories.