Friday, July 29, 2011

The Meaning of Words

There are things my mother never told me would thrill me and cause me great wonder and anticipation.  One of them is that I would receive such an absolute thrill from knowing that someone read my words.  I don't have to get paid or published or receive acclaim in the press.  Any indication that my words were read by anyone is highly reinforcing.  They don't even have to like what I said for me to be supremely gratified.

Sometimes I get a whole new take on a subject when someone argues with my ideas.  Sometimes I start a new quest for information when someone brings up an obscure point.  But they read my words!

This whole thing goes back to the importance of words, the power of words.  Words inform, enlighten, enthrall, and mystify us.  Words brings answers to questions and satisfaction to needs.  When the words are placed and shaped into a sentence, I have captured a thought.  The sentence may tell a story or impart great knowledge, but the words came from me.  God created the Universe with a word.  Jesus calmed the storm with a word.  My husband loved me with words.  With words I touch people and share events and create joy.  

The words I hear are powerful too.  The words become an expanding web that encloses and includes people and events and history and art.  I am excited by that vast network of words that relate me to the world.  How can anybody not thrill to the flow and cadence and meaning of words?  What do the words mean?  That is another post!     
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Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Going to the Dentist

Cover of "A Visit to the Dentist (Little ...Cover of A Visit to the Dentist (Little Bill)I feel sorry for the dentist and all the other people whose service causes pain and discomfort.  Their intent is good, but their practice is uncomfortable.  I often refer to a visit to the dentist as a session with a man in rubber boots and a tool chest in my mouth. 

Of course it's necessary and preventative.  It will prevent or anticipate worse problems later, but the immediate thought today is AAGGGHH!  My mouth will be three sizes too big for the rest of the day.  I already have an ulcer on my gum, and this is likely to increase the pain there.  He may find all sorts of little problems to pick at.

Sometimes humor helps reduce the anxiety of going to the dentist.  In this case, the only thing I have to laugh at is my own anxiety and misery.  Sometimes that's not as funny to me as it is the those who don't have an appointment.  My kids or my friends are laughing at my terror in the presence of this very nice man who is providing services to me.  It seems so foolish.  It is.  Maybe next week I will laugh.  Today I am dreading it.  Don't expect me to laugh!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

My Summer in a Bog

I took Ecology when I was in college.  It was my lab science course.  I took it as a requirement, but I came to love it as a science.  One of the often cited studies of ecological importance was the work by Katherine Dooris Sharp entitled Summer in a Bog.  In the class I learned the tremendous power the ugly, foreboding bog can hold for development in the ecosystem.  The bog in temperate zones is like the jungle in tropical zones:  Its diverse creatures populate the rest of the landscape with new individuals and new species.  It provides food, water, and protection

A bog does not offer the beautiful grace of a meadow or the serenity of a clean, white beach.  A bog is muddy and the water is thick and smelly.  The tiny creatures that leave delicate trails in the mud may bite or sting, and the ones that buzz and whir around you nose and ears do too.  Vines and bushes make walking treacherous for your shins and face.  You may see tadpoles and frogs, but rarely fish.  Birds move in the trees or above them.

Even when the heat of summer is intense and drought is abroad, the bog is still the last resource for the water-starved deer and wild pig.  The bog is humid and the stench of stale water irritates your nose.  The trees here will still be green when those on the hill are suffering heat stress.  The bog becomes a refuge for all the wildlife. 

Eventually rain blesses the earth and the bog comes alive with new sounds of insects and the rustling of coons and squirrels and birds in the branches.  Grasses come up green from the crusted soil, and even in late summer the bog is fresh and new.  In a few days the murky water and summer heat return, and the bog, renewed, continues its job.

I like the bog.  Even though it is not always beautiful, I have learned to see the beauty in it.  There are boggy times in my life, too.  They are messy with pain and anger, and I am weighed down with heat and my shoes are muddy.  The new life that is born in the bog flourishes in the sunlight.  Like all birth, it is painful and tedious, but it has potential.  We will have to see its maturity to know what that is.

Monday, July 25, 2011

100 Words: Inspiration

I bought new curtains for the computer room to block the afternoon sunlight.  The room gets hot and I don't like the light in my eyes.  They are a woven textile pattern of shades of brown and hang without any style or shape from a plain rod.

I hate them.  They do what I wanted them to, but they confront me with a uninspiring stretch of space.  Shouldn't a writer have  exciting surroundings?  Maybe not.  Maybe my memories or my imagination are the ingredients I need to draw on.  Who would have thought that ugly curtains were the key to inspiration?

Friday, July 22, 2011

100 Words: Pain Is a Wall

She stood carefully, deliberately, slowly, testing the integrity of her feet to hold her.  Her face twisted into a  grimace as she bore her own weight.  I held her arm to steady her and give support, but she pulled away to move toward the bathroom gasping and crying with each halting step.  Finished, she returned to the chair.

Wrapping her ankles didn't seem to help.  She returned the chair to its position for TV and focused on the screen closing me out.  The pain was a wall that she breached rarely except for necessity--pain medication, meals, or bathroom visits. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Homemade Rolls for Dinner

Bread rollsImage via Wikipedia Tomorrow I will lead a class in how to make bread.  I love to make bread, and the opportunity to teach others to make it is blessing.

My mother and her family always had rolls for dinner and sometimes I got to help.  I could hardly wait when the bread was rising--cook it now!  The house filled with the aroma when the bread was finally in the oven.  That meant dinner was almost ready.  Break the roll open and add butter to melt and fill your mouth with that special taste.  For a real treat add a teaspoon of sugar to melt with the butter.  Oh, heaven!

My teaching others how to make bread came from a friend who asked me to teach her.  I agreed.  She invited eight people to her home and bought the ingredients.  It was a wonderful party.  Everybody made two loaves of bread.  She only had one oven, so getting it all cooked was an exercise in strategy.  It was a wonderful experience.  From that beginning, several ladies from church formed a very loosely organized group.  Anyone was welcome.  We never had more than about 15 at one time. 

We planned for a three hour time frame.  That gave us time to make the dough, let it rise, cook it, and eat lunch.  Even if you never made bread before, you made two loaves and had lunch.  The rule was you got to keep one and give one away.  During the rising time, we learned what the Bible had to say about bread, and we shared and laughed and prayed.

For a year or two we did it pretty often, but when things got busy, we went on to other pursuits.  Each summer the little kids continued to have a day of bread baking.  Even little kids love it.  By the time they have done it a time or two they are very good.  If they can't read yet, they need someone to help with the recipe and the measuring, but they understand the mixing and kneading quickly.

Recently I led a class from another church.  I am always blessed by making bread and by teaching someone else.  You get to vent all your hostilities and anger when you make bread.  You remember the meaning of bread when you are cooking it.  You get to share it with family and friends.  And the taste is God-sent.

For my recipe, click here.
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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Prayer Blesses Those Who Pray

"Praying Hands" (study for an Apostl...Image via WikipediaCarolyn Bradley and Carolyn Hendrix are friends who have been a part of my prayer life for more than year.  Carolyn H. and I went to Carolyn B. home for our weekly prayer time because Carolyn B.'s husband was incapacitated with injuries from a car wreck.  Jerry had lived with the consequences of the wreck for a over a year, and he still could not stand or walk. 

After a few weeks we asked Jerry if we could pray for him.  He seemed to enjoy our presence and after a week or two of listening to our prayers, he began to pray too.  One day we asked the preacher to meet with us and serve communion.  Jerry was very pleased to share in this service.

Our schedule changed and we began to hold our prayer time at the Church.  We often prayed for Jerry.  About a week ago we went to Carolyn B.'s home since we weren't meeting at the Church during the summer. When we started to pray, Jerry called us and asked us to come to his room for our prayer time. 

Carolyn H. and her husband Joe visited with them on Sunday, but on Monday Jerry was taken by ambulance to the hospital with sepsis and pneumonia.  This is a very grave time, and I continue to pray for Carolyn and Jerry.  I am so glad we went to their home last week to pray.  I am so glad he wanted us to pray in his room and share in God's blessing. 

I hope Jerry was blessed by our prayers for him and with him, but I certainly was.
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Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Going to the Movies

Cropped screenshot of Clark Gable from the tra...Image via WikipediaWe left the house in the evening after supper to walk the block and a half to the theater, Daddy. Momma, and me.  Daddy still wore the suit he had worn to the bank all day.  Momma was dressed nicely, though not elabrately, and I wore ordinarly play clothes.  Though this was not a special event, seeing a movie always held the potential for a rare experience.  There were always the cartoon shorts. 

We waved at friends and neighbors on the way.  I always enjoyed dragging a stick on the picket fence of Dr. Henderson's back yard.  I was not really a graceful child, and Momma fused at me to hold my shoulders back. 

We never owned a car, so there was nothing unusual about walking to town.  It was a pleasant ritual.  Late evening was a time to relax and enjoy mental stimulation, and Jimmy Cagney or Clark Gable, Carol Lombard or Marlene Dietrich were glad to provide it for a price.  An adult ticket was $.35 and a child ticket was $.12.  Counting the 5 cents each for a bag of popcorn, it would have cost almost a dollar for us to go to the movie.  There was a one element I have not accounted for:  Daddy was an accountant, and he kept the books for the theater owner, so she never charged him for going to the movie.  We got a bargain!

It was the late 1930s and early 40s.  The adults looked to the movies to relieve their fear of the Depression or the anxiety of war.  I just enjoyed the fantasy lives I saw.  The small town, backwater existence did not seem dull or lackluster because several times a week I was transported by Hollywood.

Now as I reflect on that time, I see the entrance the movies gave me into stories and music, and I remember that my parents walked with me, and the world was a place of safety and endless delight. 
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Friday, July 1, 2011

My Mother Told Me Stories

Railroad TracksImage by StevenW. via FlickrI loved stories, and my mother told them to me.  Sometimes she would take a traditional story and change it to add excitement and flavor.  When she told me Cinderella, there were two balls.  Cinderella left the first one and did not lose her shoe.  Then, she returned on the second night and her carriage turned to a pumpkin at midnight.

She had studied literature and enjoyed telling me stories from the classics.  I loved them.  She introduced me to Pandora and Achilles.  These were better stories than the fairy tales, but I love stories from her childhood.  They were special because I visited the house and the rooms and the people in them.

Some of the stories I tell are about her.  She loved to read popular novels of the day, but she wanted to share them with my father.  They managed this by reading to each other in the evening.  Sometimes she couldn't stand the suspense and would read a chapter alone.  Then he would have to catch up.  I find it very romantic.  I have two books of poetry by Edna St. Vincent Millay that they gave each other for Christmas.  Very romantic.

The most romantic and thrilling story she told was about her honeymoon.  She said they rode to Deport, about 5 or 6 miles, on a railroad handcar.  She never gave any details other than a ride in the moonlight.  More romantic.

Years later Daddy dispelled the fantasy.  Their honeymoon consisted of going to dinner at a restaurant with the maid of honor and best man after the wedding.  This isn't the bummer it could have been.  She had that romantic fantasy and shared it with me.  There was romance in her soul and I got to enjoy it.
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