Who Are You Watching?

Who are YOU watching?  No, I don’t mean watching as in creeping around, peeping-tom style looking in people’s windows at night. That’s a whole different kind of “watching”. That kind will get you a first class ticket to watching from behind a set of bars.  I’m talking about the role models and the people you watch, consciously or sub-consciously, those who influence you and your decisions in life. You may not have given it much thought, but the people you watch or look up to or seek advice from are critically important to your future.

As I was growing up and especially as I entered my teen years, my mother was my very best friend, confidante’, laughing buddy, role model, Christian influencer and “fixer-of-all-problems”. When I left home to go to college it was the hardest thing in my young life at that point.  I was terribly homesick and missed my mom and her ever-ready words of comfort and guidance. I was a very fearful, insecure and “nervous Nelly” type. For this reason I hated being the oldest child. I always wished I had had an older sibling…especially a brother, to look out for me and to “blaze the trail” ahead of me. I hated being the first one to have to step out and experience things alone. Oh not outwardly, I was always pretty good at keeping that under wraps from all but the most discerning eye. 

This departure from my mom and the place in which I felt the most secure created a “void” that seemed to follow me pretty much everywhere I went for many years. New things and changes were always the hardest for me. With every new situation and every new job I always found myself gravitating towards the older, more “mother-figures” in the group. In their presence, I felt more secure and safe from the ever-changing, “scary” unknowns abundant in people my own age. I think it also made me feel more like I was with my dear mom, who I still missed so much.  Perhaps this is why I have always felt a strong love for senior citizens and a calling to work with and for them in my career.

The people we “watch” and follow have a huge impact and “footprint” in our lives, even if we don’t always realize it at the time. Like a bird gathering bits and pieces from here and there in order to build her own nest, we gather “bits and pieces”, attitudes and values from our “mentors” and those we spend the most time with as we are building the “nest” we call life.

In recent years I have looked back over my life and my nursing career and noticed a very interesting pattern. In all but one of my different jobs, there has been at least 1 person who has filled this “position” in my life.  Someone I look up to, whose advice I seek, whose behavior I observe and sometimes model and who I usually hold above others in many ways.  In my case, I have been mightily blessed in the fact that I believe God chose all of those women to go along beside me in each of those difficult jobs in much the way my mother would have. Thankfully all these ladies were….and still are, wonderful Christians and very good “role models” and influencers. Whether they knew it or not or even regardless of whether I always was aware of it, I was “watching” them. They were having an impact on my life…..good or bad. 

You may be asking, what about the one job where there wasn’t a person for you to “watch” and be guided by. Well, I wondered about that myself, especially since, for the first time in my life, I was almost the oldest one in the large group in which I worked.  I came to the conclusion that maybe God had decided it was time for me to be the one “watched”. To help guide those younger and/or in need of comfort like I always had needed. That was a new and rather startling thought for me, and me being me didn’t necessarily feel worthy of that possibility. I now believe, though, that He was introducing me to that as a concept that I needed to embrace.

I think it’s a pretty well-known fact that the values, beliefs and life-styles of the people we “watch”  and hold in esteem often become our own over time. That is why it is so critically important that we choose wisely the people we spend the most time with. Each of our days are made up of choices….hundreds of them. They may seem small but when accumulated over time, they can create BIG results…..good or bad. 

In my devotions today, I’m reading in 1John: chapter 2. In the footnotes I found something very very important and perhaps “convicting” in one way or another to most of us, myself very much included.  It talks about having the right “values” and urges us to be sure that we have GOD’S values and NOT the “world’s” values.  It notes that having the “world’s” values is characterized by 3 attitudes:

1). A craving for physical pleasure – a preoccupation with gratifying physical desires

2). A craving for everything we see – wanting and accumulating THINGS; bowing to the god of materialism

3). Pride in our achievements and possessions – obsession with our status or importance

On the opposite side are God’s values, that we should strive for:

1). Self-control

2). A spirit of generosity

3). A commitment to humble service

 Then it asked the million dollar question, “do your actions reflect the world’s values or God’s values?”

Obviously, there is much more to the development of our attitudes and values than who we are spending time with and who is “mentoring” us. Whether or not we know Christ as our personal Savior is first and foremost in that development, but WHO we are “hanging” with the most, who we hold on a pedestal, who we seek advice from often determines whether or not we actually ever even find Christ in the first place. 

So, this begs several questions……WHO are you “watching”?  Who might be “watching” YOU? Do you need to change who you’re watching?  Do you need to make changes in your life and make better choices for the benefit of those who might be watching YOU?

How Healthy is Your Tongue?

Have you ever said the wrong thing at the wrong time and ended up creating a terrible mess, hurting someone’s feelings …or ruining a long relationship?  Unfortunately, I daresay we all have at one time or another. I know I have. Some of those things I remember, and regret terribly; others, I honestly don’t remember, but I’m sure that does nothing to lessen whatever impact they may have had at the time. My devotions today included the reading of James, chapter 3; an entire chapter devoted completely to the subject of controlling our tongue and having genuine wisdom…the kind from God……as opposed to that NOT from God.  What an eye-opening book James is!!!  Truly!!  It gives believers very detailed information on how we should be living…..and speaking……and likewise, how we should NOT.

James starts out by comparing our tongue to the small bit in the mouth of a large horse…it is totally what directs his path. Or the small rudder on a large boat….it totally directs its’ path as well.  Likewise, our tongue is a very small member of our much larger body. However small its’ size though, its’ effect should not be underestimated. Its’ power to control an outcome is huge….just like the bit and the rudder.  What we say and what we don’t say are both very important. Examples of an “untamed tongue” include gossiping, putting others down, bragging, manipulating , false teaching, exaggerating, complaining, flattering, and lying. We are advised to ask ourselves 3 questions before we speak:

  1. Is what we want to say true?
  2. Is it necessary?
  3. Is it kind?   

James then reminds us that a tiny spark can set a great forest on fire. Likewise, “the tongue is a flame of fire. It is a whole world of wickedness , corrupting your entire body. It can set your whole life on fire, for it is set on fire by hell itself.”  Yes, you heard me correctly. The Bible … the best, most riveting non-fiction book you could ever read, tells us that the tongue’s wickedness has its’ source in hell itself. Satan uses the tongue to divide people and to pit them against one another. Shallow and hateful words are damaging because they spread destruction quickly and no one can stop the results once they are spoken.  We dare not be careless with what we say, thinking we can apologize later, because even if we do, the scars remain.  A few words spoken in anger can destroy a relationship that took years to build. Before we speak, we need to remember that words are like fire – you can neither control nor reverse the damage they can do.

So then, if no human being can fully “tame the tongue”, why should we bother trying? Well, listen up…..I’m about to tell you. Even though we may not achieve perfect control of our tongues, the Holy Spirit will help us learn self-control. Remember that we are not fighting the tongue’s fire in our own strength. The Holy Spirit will give us increasing power to monitor and control what we say, so that when we are offended, the Spirit will remind us of God’s love, and we won’t react in a hateful manner.  When we are criticized, the Spirit will heal the hurt and help us to not lash out.

Say what??!!! Who is “the Holy Spirit” and how on earth would he do any of this?  This doesn’t make a bit of sense!  As I said in my last post, if you are an unbeliever or a “scoffer” in regards to all of this ….. someone who has not accepted God’s offer of salvation, this will all seem like silly, stupid mumbo jumbo and you may be tempted to stop reading and laugh all this off and decide that I’m a “total whack job”. Pump the brakes…and I’ll explain.  The Holy Spirit is part of God. I know it’s hard to wrap your head around because it seems so unlike anything we have experience with. The Bible does tell us that some things truly are beyond our understanding and only God knows about and understands them fully. This is where trust and faith in His word comes into play.  God has a “triune” or 3-part “presence”, if you will.  God himself, God in the Holy Spirit, and God as Jesus.  Don’t overthink it. None of us will ever fully grasp it until we get to Heaven….those that have that as their final destination, that is. The Holy Spirit is that part that God promises to place inside each of us who make the life-changing decision to accept His offer of total forgiveness and salvation. When we make this choice….and it IS a choice that EACH AND EVERY ONE OF US IS GIVEN TO MAKE… kinda like when Ethan Hunt chooses to accept each of his assignments in the Mission Impossible series….God then fills us with the Holy Spirit. If you haven’t made the choice to accept Christ’s offer, you do not have the Holy Spirit living in you and are missing out on all this help that we’re talking about here. He has many jobs, once He is part of us. Things He wants to help us with and WILL help us with.  One of those is to help us control our thoughts and our wiley, wicked tongues.  Talk about a TALL order!!  He really has his work cut out for him, because we all have trouble in this area and need His constant love and guidance where our speech and thoughts are concerned. 

Speaking of thoughts, James has some pretty profound information on true, genuine wisdom in this chapter as well. It has absolutely nothing to do with intelligence. You may have a PhD in astrophysics or biology or math or psychology or you might be a brain surgeon…but that doesn’t necessarily mean you are “wise”. You may just be intelligent. Intelligence is just the acquiring of knowledge about something. Intelligence allows someone to give several reasons WHY his car broke down. True wisdom is practical and helps us take ACTION…..it helps someone choose the MOST LIKELY REASON WHY the car broke down and then TAKE ACTION. If it is wisdom from God, it is also “divine”, which means it goes beyond common sense. It allows us to CHOOSE joy, even in the middle of horrific trials. True wisdom from God is also “Christlike”. It does not include a critical attitude. It does not involve thoughtless or selfish requests. True wisdom can be measured by someone’s character. Just as you can “identify a tree by the type of fruit it produces”, you can evaluate your wisdom by the way you act. As the footnotes to James Chapter 3 point out, “foolishness leads to disorder, but wisdom leads to peace and goodness. Careful, winsome speech and wise, loving words are the seeds of peace. God loves peacemakers. Bitter jealousy and selfish ambition are inspired by Satan. It’s easy for us to be drawn into wrong desires by the pressures of society and even well-wishing Christians. By listening to the advice: “Assert yourself”, “Go for it”, “Set high standards”, we can be drawn into greed and destructive competitiveness . Seeking God’s wisdom delivers us from the need to compare ourselves to others and to want what they have.”

In contrast, “wisdom from above is first of all pure.  It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others.  It is full of mercy and good deeds.  It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.  And those who are peacemakers will plant seeds of peace and reap a harvest of righteousness”…verse 17.

I don’t know about you, but this chapter has given me a TON to consider and think on. The need is great…..to be more mindful of what we say and how and when we say it. To be ever-sensitive to what God’s Word says about our speech and what it is….and ISN’T supposed to be, which is usually the total opposite of what our horribly messed up society tells us.   Kindness, sincerity, and gentleness are superior to the thoughtless, selfish, aggressive “bull-in-a-china-shop” manner so prevalent in our world today. The challenge to accept or ignore this directive is ‘on the table’…..which one will you choose?

Hidden Treasures …

I don’t know about you, but I love to discover “hidden treasures”. They can be found in all different forms, shapes, and sizes. No, I’m not talking about physical treasures….although I definitely love to find those as well…..things you forgot you had, a super-good deal at a store on something you’ve searched for….the possibilities are endless. No, what I’m referring to are the treasures I’ve been finding in my daily devotions and prayer time. Life-changing little ‘nuggets’ of gold that I just love to come upon out of the blue.

I’ve been working my way through the New Testament over the last several months and have never felt more interested in a topic nor have I ever felt as close to the Lord as I feel at this point in my life.

I have had a time of prayer and devotion most mornings for years now but with varying degrees of attention, comprehension and interest, to be fully transparent with you.  One of the blessings, for me, of this time of COVID quarantine, however, is added time. Since I’ve been working from home from the beginning of this ordeal, I no longer have a 40 minute commute every morning and having that extra time with God has been a monumental blessing to my spiritual life. I’m not kidding…..”monumental” is quite literal in this instance. I now never miss a morning of devotions and look forward to it like never before. I have felt myself changing more and more with each day, becoming more peaceful, more content with all the different aspects of my life….both positive and those not-so-positive. I am so eager to open my Bible each morning and read another chapter. The Lord has truly filled me with a sense of awe and wonderment over everything I find there. As I pray and ask Him for wisdom and discernment to help me understand it the way He wants me to and to then apply it to my own life, He does just that. I, who love words and love to use them very descriptively, find it hard to adequately describe to you how this new, more intense time spent with Him affects me. I am a lover of many things and tend to feel very deeply about everything I do. I love to learn new things in my hobby of drawing and painting. I love to listen to new music, try new recipes and on and on. Nothing, however, draws me in quite like this has. Even though I grew up going to church and have been a Christian all my life, I feel like I have entered a new and different “level”, if you will. The best “level” yet. The things I’ve read before are now NEW to my eyes and my heart and I feel so “renewed” and hopeful. It’s truly like what Paul describes in Acts 9:18 when God blinded him for a few days and then all of a sudden something like ‘scales’ fell from his eyes and he could see again…..truly see….and he was a totally new man from that point on. Totally devoted to serving Jesus.  That’s how I’m feeling more and more. Oh, do not think for one minute that I think I’m perfect or will never sin again. Absolutely not! Unfortunately I will still sin, because I’m human. Only God is perfect and without sin. But I feel myself changing…becoming less sinful, with my desires and priorities slowly lining up more with His. I am not the same person I was even a year ago. I need nothing more to remind me than to go back to the beginning of this blog about 4 years ago to see how very much I’ve changed. As I do that, I’m a little disappointed in some of my thoughts and areas of focus from back then and have been tempted to delete previous posts. However, I think maybe it’s best to leave them….as a reminder of how far I’ve come. 

I’m currently in Hebrews Chapter 8 right now and I personally love my New Living Translation, Life Application Study Bible because not only is the verbiage written in an easier to understand way, but then there are TONS of deeply meaningful and helpful footnotes for most of the verses.  The footnote for today’s reading really REALLY popped out and spoke to me.

It’s for Verses 10 & 11:

If our heart is not changed, following God’s rules will be unpleasant and difficult. We will rebel against being told how to live. The Holy Spirit, however, gives us new desires, helping us want to obey God. With a new heart, we find that serving God is our greatest joy. Under God’s new covenant, God’s law is inside us. It is no longer an external set of rules and principles. The Holy Spirit reminds us of Christ’s words, activates our conscience, influences our motives and desires, and makes us want to obey. Now doing God’s will is something we desire with all our heart and mind.”

So, how do we have a “changed heart”…..a new heart?  Well, it starts when we accept God’s free gift of salvation. So what does that really mean? He extends the “invitation” to everyone…..yes, I did say EVERYONE…..but we have to take action to accept it. We have to confess to Him….not to anyone else who walks this planet….that we have sinned in our lifetime….we’ve made bad decisions, we’ve had wrong thoughts, we’ve had times when we have not done the right thing….maybe we’ve hurt people…..the possibilities are endless. It matters NOT. If we truly repent….and there is a difference between “confess” and “repent”… confess just means to list off our offenses , but to repent involves listing them, feeling sorry about committing them, PLUS we also then have to take action to CHANGE our behavior in such a way that we are sinning less and less instead of staying the same or sinning even more. We have to stop engaging in things that set us up for continued failure and “infractions”, if you will. If we TRULY repent and TRULY believe in Jesus and believe that He is God’s holy Son, who literally allowed himself to be nailed to a cross in order to forgive YOU and me for our sins, so that someday…..IF AND ONLY IF we accept this sacrificial gift from Him…..we will spend eternity with Him and all the others who also accepted this gift….in Heaven. When we make the decision to take this step, God blesses us with a “new heart”……a changed heart. You will never be the same again. In a GOOD way…….a very good way.

Now, if you happen to be a very staunch “non-Believer”, this will all seem like ridiculous science-fiction mumbo jumbo to you. You may even be laughing your socks off right about now. We know that. The Bible tells us that that is the exact reaction of many people who have rebelled against this whole topic.  Take note, though…if you rebel too hard for too long, you are in danger of the Lord just letting you harden your heart….and you may never soften it enough again to see the Truth. This is no surprise. Scripture lays it all out. Just like your physical heart, with it’s arteries all clogged up, your “spiritual” heart, if hardened, leads to death. Death. There are no second chances with death. No opportunity to turn around and say, Oops…I think I made a mistake..can I please have a “do-over”. Nope, nada, not happening. Death is 100% final. Death without Jesus, though, is literally Hell. Yep, I said it. People “pussy-foot” around about that a lot these days but that’s the bottom line. A bottom line you don’t want. So unbelievably terrible that none of us can even begin to fathom the horrors it beholds.

As I wrote this today, I was reminded of a very important time when my life  took a very hairpin curve. Exactly thirty years ago this month, I experienced both the worst and the best days of my soon-to-be 60 years on this earth. After my 1st round of chemo for Stage IV lymphoma, when I was so terribly sick….too sick most of the time to even care for my 18 month old daughter, the Lord spoke to my heart and I went through a very profound “born-again” experience. I remember vividly the feeling of utter joy, despite the dire situation I was in. Those two events changed the entire trajectory of the rest of my life. Sometimes the Lord has to use drastic measures to get our full attention. I’m so glad He did.

There’s a lot to unpack in this today. Lots of food for thought. Serious, life-altering thought. Hopefully, though, you will do more than just think about it. As I write this, I pray that God calls to your heart ….maybe via someone you know or something you read….that you will soften your heart, open it up enough to be willing to hear what He has to say…..and take His outstretched hand and hold tight. Allow Him to hold and hug you tightly and love you into His everlasting arms. The wonderful hidden treasures that will unfold from that point forward will be beyond your imagination and understanding. His love and forgiveness knows no bounds.

Have A Car? Doesn’t Mean You’re Going Anywhere …

If you’re like me, you love to hear about acts of kindness, those true “feel-good” stories we just don’t hear enough of. They’re especially impactful to me when they involve young people just starting out on their journey through life. Even more specifically, I love to hear of young people going out of their way to be kind and helpful to senior citizens…..or at least to folks much much older than they are.  It gives me a shot of much-needed hope for our future. If there’s anything we need in bucket-fulls right now, it’s hope! Here’s a little squirt of it for YOUR bucket.

When going from a married “state” to an unmarried “state”, there are many  challenges for the newly single woman. I am not “newly” single but I could give you quite a long list… but that’s not what this article is about. One of the things towards the top, if not the very top, for me personally, is the challenge of dealing with car problems. I have dealt with many issues personally and in my long career as a nurse that are much more serious but, quite frankly this one always pushes me over the edge. I confess … I tend to push the panic button. I’m not proud of that…but it’s my reality….so I’m owning it.  It’s an area where I feel totally out of control and at the mercy of people who I hope will not take advantage of my ignorance.  That is quite a terrible feeling.  When you’re married, your husband usually takes care of all the car issues, thankfully so, and I was always very grateful for that. Even if your particular spouse isn’t “car-savvy”, at the very least , you have someone you can discuss it with and who can help you make intelligent decisions, drive you around until your car is fixed, etc. When you’re single, it’s ALL ON YOU.

This morning I had a 10am appointment to get to in Wooster. I decided I better leave at 9:15 so that’s when I went out to get in my car. I was totally shocked,especially since it’s only 3 years old, to find that my car wouldn’t start. It has a push-button start… no key like the ‘good ole’ days. I tried it a second time….nuttin’.  My stomach took a nose dive and the adrenaline started surging. One of my many faults is that I HATE asking for help. However, knowing that I needed to get to that appointment,  I sent out a couple S.O.S. texts. Immediately after that….because, as you probably know, when you’re panicking, you usually aren’t thinking clearly… I remembered that I had purposely purchased a handy little gizmo several months ago that I keep in my car that is intended to jumpstart it….without assistance from anyone else…. in just this kind of case. Of course, that requires that you first remember that you have it and then you need to know how to use it. Neither was the case this morning.  I quickly got it out and started frantically reading the instructions. About this time I saw my brother-in-law and increasingly frequent “rescuer” walking down the street with a similar device to help his flustered sister-in-law.  Within 5 minutes, my car was started and he had shown me how to use my own “rescue device”. As a bonus, he was also kind enough to show me the PROPER place to put the end of the “stick” that holds open your hood.  Low and behold, it is NOT the “hole” I have been using for the last 43 years that I’ve been driving. Insert emoji with huge big eyes and look of shock.  If I’ve said it once, I’ve said it a thousand times…..someone…perhaps some nice retired man who is mature enough to be patient with women and won’t yell at them or make them feel stupid for asking dumb questions…… needs to provide very basic car care and home maintenance classes for us women folk !!!  Please……men….get on it!!   I digress.   Kindness number#1 encountered.

So, I went on over to Wooster and took care of business and while driving back, decided that, based on the fact that a battery in my last car only lasted 2 years and this one in my current car was 3 years old, I decided I should probably just bite the bullet and go down to Advanced Auto Parts and buy a battery and ask them if they could please install it.  My brother-in-law offered to install one if I decided to go that route, but…..as I mentioned above, I HATE asking or having to depend on anyone else, whose responsibility it is NOT.  A new battery was not in my budget whatsoever but I felt stressed just thinking of the possibility of getting stranded somewhere in the dead of winter with a car that won’t start. As you can clearly see, I’m still not remembering the device I own to mitigate this type of scenario.  So, this seemed essential.

I have always put a high degree of faith and value in “experience” and therefore usually gravitate towards someone in my general age-range, give or take a few years, when it comes to things of this nature. When I walked up to the counter at Advanced Auto,  I was greeted by a tall young man….emphasis on young…. as in even younger than my own daughter. Now, I need to pause here to share a little factoid with you that is important to this story.  There are places I am very comfortable in and others that I would choose to avoid like the plague.  Walking into a car repair shop, the service area of a car dealership and even places like this auto store that are known to be largely occupied by men fall into the latter category for me.  I am HIGHLY uncomfortable and intimidated by such settings. Thankfully, I also possess the ability to hide that feeling fairly well to the casual observer. So, it’s not like I am coming in to their domain looking like an hysterical nut or anything but inside I’m wishing I could be just about anywhere else at that moment. So, in light of that fact, the reception I encounter is critically important to me, and a determinant of whether or not I ever patronize that business again.

Well let me tell you. That young man was so very polite and such a great customer-service-minded employee that I hope his boss realizes his worth. He offered to go out and test my battery before ringing up the sale.  I took him up on it. Guess what, my battery is just fine. However, there was quite a lot of corrosion seeping out all over the terminal.  He proceeded to educate me about batteries in great and interesting detail, how they’re made, how they work and he answered all my questions in a very intelligent and educated manner. He then proceeded to tell me about a little kit there that I could buy that would take care of that corrosion. I bought that and 2 gallons of washer fluid. Like a gentleman, he carried out the washer fluid for me and put it in my car and then proceeded to open that little kit and cleaned off the corrosion and applied the contents himself. All while sharing important information with me that I need to know. And he did it all in a very kind and patient manner….the epitome of conscientiousness. He saved me quite a chunk of much-needed money today but also cemented my decision to go back there when I DO need a new battery…and for anything else car-related as well. In the kind of world we live in today when so many people are so focused on themselves and really don’t care about the quality of their work, good customer service is what makes many of us choose one business over another. It’s the “bees knees” to this grandma!

I learned a lesson today too, as I often do. Don’t assume that just because someone is very young, that they might not know what they’re doing or talking about.  Also, don’t assume that all young people are going to provide a less than ideal  experience. Note to self: you were young once too. Imagine how young parents must have felt when you, the 22 year old nurse fresh out of college, was starting an IV in the scalp of their precious, sick baby’s tiny head. How soon we forget. 

So, there’s your “squirt” of kindness for today….and some hope for our future.  Kindness is king. Pass it on.

To Be Thankful … Or Not… Your Choice

If you’re reading this, you have at least one thing to be thankful for this Thanksgiving.  Our Lord, in His great wisdom, mercy and grace, chose to wake you up for another day.  That alone is cause for great thanks and celebration.  Chances are, though, there’s more to be thankful for…..much more. Let’s explore that.

First, I have a confession to make. Despite the “political incorrectness” of it all, as well as the big “hit” it may deliver to my “witness” as a Christ-follower,  in recent years, I have not always felt “thankful” at this time of the year.  In the last 9 years, since my divorce and then the death of both of my parents, I have hated the holiday season. Yes….I said it….I have HATED  all the happy-go-lucky holiday festivities and decorations and sappy, unrealistic Hallmark movies that feature seemingly happy couples and families EVERYWHERE. I’ve dreaded it BIG TIME….and privately breathe a sigh of relief on January 1st when all the festivities…..and expectations of “joyfulness” are over until the next year.  For me and millions of others, this “magical” time of year is a painful reminder of loss and hardship. The nature of my work with senior citizens over the last 16 or so years brings the faces of dear old souls to mind who have very few resources and no friends or family who will spend any time with them over the much acclaimed holidays. So sad. For me personally, this season brings memories of beautiful times and beautiful people that can never be experienced again, which equals pain. With all of the typical family-related movies and events of the season, I remember happy family gatherings….big ones as well as those with just the 3 of us. Christmas mornings filled with joy as my little jammie-clad family opened treasures from each other followed by even more fun when my parents arrived. Big gatherings with all my aunts and uncles and cousins….great food and great stories. Music was also a huge part of the Christmas holiday. Now, I can barely listen to any of those treasured songs without a waterfall of tears because I hear my mother’s beautiful soprano voice in all of it…..pain again. 

As a born-again Believer, I feel shame that these feelings often overshadow what I know to be a life full of many blessings. They are not right or worthy to take up real estate in my brain. Yes, I am forever thankful for God’s great gift of salvation and that very fact is the most important one I cling to. However, I am still human and still struggle with certain tough things, like we all do. I’ve learned over the years, though, that the best way to get yourself out of a “funk” is to make a list of the things you are or should be thankful for. Once I get started, it’s hard to find the end, there’s always much more than I remembered. Life is like that. If we’re not careful, we can allow ourselves to wander way too close to the edge of the “pit of despair or discouragement”.  The edges of that pit are very squishy and slippery….made worse by our tears….and it’s way too easy to lose our footing and slide into the pit. Satan cheers up and down when that happens, because he knows how very hard it is to get back up and out of that pit once we fall down in it…..and he doesn’t want us to get out. He loves to see us in misery. That’s why it’s critically important for us to steer clear of the edges of the pit in the first place.  How do we do that?  Well, ladies and gentleman, I do NOT claim to have all the answers, because as you can clearly see, I am 100% human, fallible and a constant “work in progress”. There is a place, though, where I have found and am continually finding the answers….truly….and that is in God’s word, the Bible. It is 100% true and factual…..the total opposite of “fake news”.  The answers I’m finding there, as I read a chapter every morning before starting my day, are gradually working to ease that pain around the holidays as they urge me…and all who find themselves in similar situations… to focus on what we DO have…..those things we should be thankful for.  For me there is much. I’m thankful for the large, obvious things as well as those that may seem very insignificant. It’s easiest to start with the obvious, materialistic things …. a warm home that protects me from the elements, clothes to wear, food to eat, a car to get me from point A to point B, art supplies,  etc. The non-materialistic things come slightly harder…..a good, safe neighborhood, a decent job that allows me to pay my bills, the beautiful scenic area in which I live, family and friends that are close by and those not so close, my cats, a body that, despite being “broken” with illnesses  and without any visual appeal anymore….still allows me to function and to think and to work productively.  The last category is more subtle, perhaps, but no less important. The ability to notice and be appreciative of the little “treasures” that God lovingly hides in the nooks and crannies of my days in order that I might happen upon them and experience a little joy in the moment……a smile from a stranger when I’m feeling blue, a letter from a friend when I’m feeling particularly lonely, a hug from someone when it’s been a very long time since the last hug from anyone, the chance encounter with the ‘critters’ I love to see out in “nature”, the beautiful shining sun, a friendly store clerk or the stranger you encounter in the grocery who shares a word or two with you. My day is FILLED with all these kinds of things, and I could go on and on. We all have them…we just usually take them for granted and overlook them. Make no mistake my friends, nothing is “random”…these come from the “air traffic controller” in the “control tower” of our lives.   I challenge you to sit down each day and examine it for all these kinds of little things. 

When I choose to dwell on all the many things I DO have to be thankful for, I begin to feel a lot better about everything….including the holidays.  Even this “COVID Thanksgiving” that I will only be sharing with my cats.

I’ll never be perfect or even close to it and I suspect I will always have a bit of a struggle with the holidays, as many of us do….as I’m always going to be a work-in-progress. God will never be totally finished with me until the day I walk through the “Pearly Gates”.

I’ve heard it said that many people tend to give what they themselves like or need to receive. Other people…not so much.  Either way, though, it’s true that ultimately, “what you sow, you shall reap”.  So right now would be a good time to sit and ponder all the many things, great and small, that you have to be thankful for and then go out and share some kindness with any and all in your “sphere of influence”. It will come back to you, giving you even more to add to your “thankful list” next year.

Thankfulness is a choice. Choose wisely.

Words…”Cheap”…or PRICELESS ?

When’s the last time you sent someone a card, a note or a letter?  No, I do not mean an email. Nor do I mean a “message” through Messenger…. or any other electronic form of communication.  When is the last time you took the time to sit down with a blank note card or a piece of paper and a pen and wrote at least a few sentences to someone, addressed an envelope, put a stamp on it and dropped it into the nearest mailbox?  If you’re like many in this world, it has been a LONG time……too long.  I’m on a mission to change that.

As I ponder my 59 1/2 years on this side of the dirt, one of my happiest memories that began very early was when I received mail. I use the generic term “mail” because back when I was a young lass, I was so tickled to get ANY mail that I went through a phase where I would send for FREE information of all kinds……..things like travel brochures, clothing catalogs, and information on beauty products, etc…..in order to experience the “thrill” of finding something with my name on it in the mailbox.  Of course I’m referring to the years I was still living at home with my parents. I can’t really explain it other than to say that for me, getting something in the mail (other than bills of course) has always felt kinda like Christmas. The travel brochures and catalogs were fun but the real JACKPOT was when something personal arrived.  I’m talking about a card or letter sent specifically to me from another human being who knew me. This person actually decided to take time from their life to sit down, compose their thoughts and share them with me via pen to paper…put it in an envelope, attach a stamp and drop it in a mailbox.  I didn’t know it then, but this happens to fall into the category of what I now consider to be “quality time”……someone taking their valuable time to specifically think of and communicate with ME…one of Gary Chapman’s infamous “love languages” from “The 5 Love Languages”. That is probably my top ‘love language’ and perhaps why it has always meant so much to me to get cards and letters in the mail, albeit very rare these days that that happens. To me it feels like a little slice of “encouragement pie”…..a delicate, life-affirming and life-sustaining “pastry” that we all need on our tables every day.

Speaking of encouragement, I have a rather interesting story about that very thing. Many of you know the bulk of this story already but almost no one knows this next little part I’m about to share. As you may or may not know, I was diagnosed with Stage 4 lymphoma (Hodgkin’s) 30 years ago this December. I was 29, had only been married about 3 years and had a sweet little toddler to take care of. Four months prior to my diagnosis, my young husband……young in the sense of our marriage,…not the fact that he was 10 years my senior, had an emergent and life-threatening cardiac event that had life-long implications. So, it came as an extra shock and burden to us when my diagnosis was uncovered just a few months later. I’m sure you can well imagine the thoughts and fears running amok in my brain. Thoughts like I may not live to see my daughter go off to kindergarten or be here to teach her all the things she will need to know to navigate life, let alone just be around when she needs a mother. I am, however, a woman of faith and about a month after my diagnosis and the beginning of a very tortuous chemotherapy regimen, I felt the Lord speaking to me in a very big way. No, not audibly…..in my heart and mind…..and He was calling me to turn around and become an Encourager of other people. At that time, I completely renewed my faith and my life as one of His children. I immediately began to hunt for cute little cards and sent them to people who helped me and people who I thought might need a little sunshine in their day. That connected a few “dots” for me…..maybe that is why I loved getting mail so much. God was preparing me for a Job Posting he was designing just for me.  I now knew even more, first hand, how encouraging it is to receive a card or letter in the mail that the sender wrote and sent purposefully……and how very fulfilling it is to be the sender of such love for your fellow man as well.  From this I went on to making my own cards out of all kinds of pretty little bits of this and that. I started collecting rubber stamps…of which I have way too many… that I also used in this card making adventure. That lasted a couple years, I suppose.  Fast forward to now. Much has changed…especially in the last 9 years. My household has gone from 3 to 1, unless you add in my 2 cats. My rubber stamps have been untouched for years now and I haven’t made a card in my former method for years as well.  Life is very different.  However, I am thrilled to share that my “calling” has been re-energized over the last several months…..perhaps a positive result of the long period of solitude thanks to COVID.  I have been diving back into my love of art for the last couple of years now and have been doing a lot of experimenting and learning new things.  I have found a way to combine my love of art with my calling of being an Encourager. I am turning my original watercolor paintings, in all of their humbleness, into note cards, and having the time of my life doing it!!  Trying to learn all the technology involved with that has been a challenge and I’m still learning every day but it is so rewarding to hold each card in my hand and hope that it will make it’s way into the hands of someone who needs a little sunshine, a little original handmade art and a generous helping of encouragement in their day. The birth of “Teresa Miller Art” at TeresaMillerArt.com is my new “baby”.  

My hope is that taking time to write a card or letter to someone you care about or even a total stranger that you want to encourage for some reason will once again be “a thing”. Because to my way of thinking, it’s a very good thing for all of us, no exceptions. Now more than ever, people need physical confirmation….something they could hold in their hand and read over and over…..that there is another human in this world that is thinking of them and cares about them.  Let’s resuscitate and breathe life back into the grand old art of letter writing!  Help someone find joy in the simple act of going to the mailbox…..how easy is that!!! We ALL need something to look forward to each and every day.  I urge you to grab the nearest pen and a card or piece of paper and jot down a heartfelt little sentence or two to someone you know who could really use it. If you’re someone who sends Christmas cards, why not take a few minutes to write a couple sentences in it….don’t just sign your name and pop it in the mail, anybody can do that and it doesn’t really carry any “warm fuzzy” feeling to the recipient .  Tell them how much they mean to you or how much you enjoyed something they did or said, share an old memory with them or just say “Hi”.  You may never know how much of a difference that could truly mean to someone. You may end up on the receiving end of a blessing you could never have imagined or experienced otherwise.

I’m Done!!! It’s Over …

I’m done…..kaput…finished!!  No need for separation papers or a restraining order….this devil and I will never go near each other again!  I’ve tried and tried to be tolerant and accepting and even tried to conjure up a sort of “love” at the advice of many. Today, though, I came to the end. I don’t care how beautiful or colorful you are or how many supposed benefits your “lovers” proclaim….frankly……and quite literally, turmeric, you leave a nasty taste in my mouth!!!

Have you ever tried and tried to like something because  it’s supposed to be good for you?  Ever pinched your nose shut and chugged something because of the reported health benefits?  This has been my relationship with the well-known spice, turmeric, found abundantly in Indian cooking and health food smoothies. Let me explain a little…..the short version. 

In the last few years a very nasty form of arthritis, a sibling to rheumatoid , has crept into my life and become my constant…..and unwelcome…companion. Because of my near-death experience with cancer almost 30 years ago, I cannot/will not take any of the commonly prescribed, “big-gun” medications most people take for it because of the possible side effects causing something similar to happen again. So, I am constantly on the prowl for “natural” remedies that can reduce inflammation and thereby pain and hopefully joint damage. One of the big players constantly touted in this field is turmeric for its’ supposedly huge contributions as a natural “anti-inflammatory” substance.  So, naturally, I thought I’d give it a try. I’ve tried it in teas. I’ve tried it in capsules….much to the pain of my sensitive stomach. I’ve tried it mixed into a big spoon of honey.  Now THERE’S a method of torture that could replace waterboarding!  This past week I was cruising through Pinterest, as I like to do now and then, and there were about a gazillion pictures of beautiful bright orange drinks all nice and icy and tantalizing. Of course the verbiage was all the same…..”BEST ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRINK”……”DELICIOUS ANTI-INFLAMMATORY DRINK”……etc. etc….you get the idea.  They were ALL a combination of freshly juiced carrots, the core of a fresh pineapple — juiced, and, yes, you guessed it TURMERIC.  Being the life-long sucker for just this kind of PR that I am, I got all excited, remembering that long ago I discovered that I LOVE fresh carrot juice and that I just so happen to have a juicer squirreled away upstairs in storage. So, this past week I added a boatload of organic carrots to my Kroger click-list along with a few fresh pineapples and dug out the industrial, eternal -life-size pouch of turmeric that I had pushed to the back of my cupboard after my last attempt to get it into my body. 

Today was D-day…the day to finally start the infusion of this beautifully-colored libation. The beginning of the end to this life-altering pain and stiffness. Yeah….right. Whoa Bessie…..stop the presses!  I wanna know who is drinking this swill. Who on earth can tolerate this nasty stuff?! I can’t even find the words to describe it. I think I might find it tastier to go sit in a big pile of dirt with a spoon and go to town.  Oh I choked it down, but only because pineapples aren’t exactly cheap and I had used about 8 carrots and I didn’t want to waste all that. No more!!  I have tried it in so many forms…truly. I feel, though, that I am of an age where I am no longer willing to purposely endure things …..emphasis on PURPOSELY…..that I find extremely unpleasant or disgusting. NOT DOING IT. Oh I’ll definitely do just the pineapple and carrot, because pineapple has an enzyme that is purported to have similar effects on inflammation and of course it tastes great and carrots are equally healthy. Alas, however, turmeric and I have come to the end of our tumultuous relationship.

So, there you have it…..or you CAN have it if you want it.  I have a life-size pouch of turmeric that’ll be taking a one-way trip with Rumpke this week.  

Walk With Me … Part 2

Hello walkers! If you read Part 1 of this tale, you know that we’re headed out today for a leisurely stroll down Memory Lane to visit the shops, as they were in the 60’s and 70’s, in our quaint village of Loudonville, Ohio. So have a seat on that bench there….put on your walking shoes, grab a bottle of water and let’s get going. We’ve got a LOT of ground to cover today!

We left off at People’s Drug Store so we’ll just mosey on down that side of the street. Of course there were many more stores than what I’ll be mentioning here…I’m just recalling the ones I have personal memories of. First stop, The Loudonville Restaurant, a family restaurant and gift shop located in the most eastern portions of what I believe is now Amish Oak. Back then there was a laundromat and McClain’s Appliance’s squeezed in there too but I think the part that was the restaurant is now the furniture store. When you first walked in, you found yourself in the gift shop filled with all kinds of interesting treasures. It just so happened that I was the Hostess/Gift Shop Clerk the summer between my sophomore and junior years at Ohio State. It was a good job for me but would have worked out better, had I not met my first boyfriend in Columbus about 6 weeks before school let out. You know “young love” and all that….we thought the world would come to an end if we didn’t get to see each other!  I didn’t have my own car until I graduated from college so he loaned me an extra one he had … an olive green Dodge Dart that, as I recall, was not overly dependable. Needless to say, though, I drove that beater down to Columbus late Friday nights after working at the restaurant all day, stayed at his parent’s house on the far west side of Columbus and drove it back home every Sunday night…usually in the wee hours. Now, as a parent myself, I can clearly see why my own parents were less than thrilled with this arrangement. It’s no wonder that I ended up with mono by the end of that summer….burning the candle at both ends as I surely did. I was always thankful on Monday mornings that I was the hostess and not one of the girls who had to do a lot of “memorizing” of orders and such. That restaurant was the meeting place for lots of locals and a lot of young gals got their waitressing start there back in the day. 

As we go on down to the corner, when I was REALLY young there was a bakery there at Main and Spring, where Amish Oak originally started. I have limited but fond memories of standing in there at the case of goodies with my mom, breathing in the heavenly scent of donuts and other pastries. I put a “call” in to my intel “source”, Mr. G, as to the exact name of this bakery but he was unable to produce any results. I believe it was Porter’s but I wouldn’t “take that to the bank”. 

How are y’all doing? Ok? Do you need to stop for a drink of water ? 

This next stop is a ways down the street. We’ll cross over the bridge now…..the NEW bridge.  The old bridge was much different with all the steel girders high overhead. There on the right we find the Loudonville Canoe Livery. For me to include it on this stroll you might think I was a frequent canoer….and you would be wrong. Actually, I have been canoing precisely twice in my 59 years, and only one of those trips was from this livery. No, the reason I have very fond memories is because it was owned by my aunt and uncle …Hezzy and Virginia Nave…and my memories are more centered around their gift shop/snack bar. My grandma used to help them out there in the shop and I used to love to go in and examine all the cool “Indian theme” items that, as a small child, I had never been around. I found it all fascinating. They all lived there too above the shop – my aunt and uncle and my two cousins – and hosted some memorable family get togethers there. 

Next stop is the Party Shop, where the Loudonville Equity is now. It was a very popular spot for those “thirsty” folk or, in my family’s case, those wanting a good ice cream cone. Peanut butter crunch for me please. Celia Anderson would always greet you with a kind smile. Later they moved about a block away but most of my memories are from this original location.

Come on now….keep up….we need to cross the street here. Be careful, it’s a very busy intersection. 

 Let’s head up to the corner of Main and Spring again, this time on the south side to where we find D’s Dariette. It was a real treat to stop here on a hot summer day for a cone or a slushy. My grandmother worked here clear back when my mother was just a young thing. She had lost her husband when my mom was only 13 and walked every day….in her old cuban heels, mind you,  clear down from the corner of Haskel and Union,  where she worked until closing and then walked all the way back home very late at night, alone.  My mom used to say that the police chief way back then – old Rhinie Schnitke – used to try to give her a ride home to help her out but she was very “old school” and didn’t want anyone to get any wrong ideas about that. She would have been exhausted….and in those HEELS…..up hill for a great stretch of it!  She never did accept his kind offer.  This corner still serves up food, but now it’s tacos and nachos and such since Taco Bell replaced old D’s.

We’re rollin’ now!  Another block or so before we stop again. You doing ok? Any blisters on your feet?  Need a bandaid? Potty break?

As we walk into this next stop, the wonderful sights and sounds come pouring in from all directions. Strang’s Department Store …now Four Seasons…. was an institution in my mind and probably in many others’. The glass encased displays at the sidewalk were always filled with interesting things. As you opened the big door and the “old timey” bell rang, you stepped into a wonderland of treasures, the first of which was the old wooden floor that creaked with every step. There’s something about walking on an old wooden floor…it transports you back in time. As I recall, I think the front end of the store was linens and things and as you walked towards the back, you would find clothes for women and children. It was a rare treat for us to get any clothing from Strangs, as per Part 1 of this saga, you already know that most of my “duds” came from the old Sears and Roebuck store. Once in awhile, though, I can recall getting a nice sweater or something from there. My mom loved to browse there, as she had memories of it from back in her day as well. As with People’s Drug Store, one of my favorite things about Strang’s was that, believe it or not, my dear Aunt Virginia worked here too!  I believe it was after her years at People’s. I can almost see her now, standing just outside the little “alcove” in the center of the store where the huge old antique cash register was, watching as we walked in the door and up that stretch to the center. As I recall, there were jewelry displays close by that old register, and being the “dyed-in-the-wool” jewelry-lover that I am, I would always make a beeline to check out all the pretties. Great old memories for sure.

A couple doors up from Strangs was the Loudonville Public Library. Yes, can you believe it!!  Right there in the center of town. Obviously it was MUCH smaller than the beautiful big place it is today further up the street. Back then I recall that we sat at big round oak tables and hunted for our books by using the old wooden “card catalog” in the center of the room. For you “young’uns”, each book had a card in it and when you wanted to check out the book, you took it to the desk and the librarian pulled that card out and stamped it and the book with the due date by which you needed to return it. Computers weren’t even on the horizon yet.  My great love for books and reading got a good start at this place. I vividly remember Mrs. Yeager, the librarian, being very stern and strictly enforcing the “no talking” rule at all times.  

On the corner of Main and Water was the Big Plus store, where the Coppertop Gallery is now. It was a bit similar to a “dollar store” and yet things were not quite that low-priced. It was small and I remember the aisles were kind of close together but the shelves were full of all kinds of things. The floor in here was also wooden and creaked like Strang’s. I recall Mrs. Bookman working in there for many years.

Are you getting tired? Hot? I am too.  We’re almost done….two more stops.

Another “institution” in my young life was the Ben Franklin store, or the “dime store”, as we called it back then.  My oh my but I enjoyed just browsing through the aisles here. You could literally find just about anything … except food.  Well, unless you’re counting candy or nuts! Me being me, of course, the candy aisle was one I gravitated towards. That and the jewelry and art supplies. Some things never change! That was back when they had bulk candies in big glass cases and a clerk would have to weigh some out for you and put it in a bag. They also had glass cases of bulk nuts …maybe even the kind that was heated and lit up, as I recall. Many a week’s allowance was spent at this wonderful Loudonville landmark.

Ok folks, we’re coming to the end of our little journey here but I can’t quit before making a stop at one of the biggest “warehouses” of youthful memories for me and many others alike. The Loudonville Theater, aka the “Rat Palace” was the happening place starting around middle school. No, I never saw a single rat or mouse or anything of the sort and I have no idea how it ever acquired such an undesirable moniker. When I went, it always appeared clean and in good condition…yes, the seats were old and some torn and there was kind of an “old” smell to it but I LOVED going there and have many fond memories of eating popcorn and watching all those great old movies. I saw my all-time favorite there – The Sound of Music – as well as another movie I’ll never forget, for other reasons, “The Legend of Boggy Creek”, which terrified me so much that I nervously chewed clean through the vinyl strap on my purse, there in the creepy darkness with my equally scared  pals.  In my mind’s eye, I can also see Mr Leach, the very serious and strict owner, as he walked up and down the aisles telling kids to get their feet off the seats in front of them or to be quiet. His mere presence was enough to keep me from doing anything that would require his intervention. Good times.

Well, there we are. A stroll down my personal Memory Lane of some of the sights and sounds of Loudonville in the 60’s and 70’s. If you’re my age or older, I’m sure you have even more you could add. I find great pleasure in recalling these good times…while I still can. Memories, like time, are fleeting and I think it’s fun and also important to get things “down on paper” for future generations to come. Back then if you’d have told us we’d be walking around with little telephones that you could watch TV and play games on we would have searched your pockets for a “joint”. The reverse is true as well. Kids today have a hard time wrapping their heads around facts like us having to get up off our behinds to change the black and white TV channels by turning a dial on the set, or not being able to talk on the phone right when you want to because Mrs Smith down the street was part of your “party line” and when you picked up the receiver to make the call, you could hear her chatting away to Mrs. Jones….and you had to wait until she finished.  

Seeing where we are compared to where we’ve been is very enlightening and gives us perspective. That, of course, can be very educational and teach us a lot of important things about life. That’s all well and good but it’s also just plain fun….and even a little therapeutic, to sit back and reminisce about the good old days . Thanks for keeping me company along the way.

Walk With Me … Part 1

I’m not exactly sure why, but I’ve been doing a LOT of reminiscing lately. Perhaps it’s because I’ve been sequestered in my home 24/7 with no one but 2 cats for company and conversation for the last 4 months. Or, perhaps the fact that the world around us is in more turmoil than most of us have seen in our lifetimes. I’m sure the fact that I started a brand new job just a month before COVID hit and have had to learn a whole new set of skills has come into play; and the fact that that job entails about 40 hours a week of  thinking and breathing the very heartbreaking subject of Alzheimer’s disease and its’ relentless destruction of peoples’ lives. Or, maybe it’s the fact that I’ll be hitting the big 6 – 0 in about 6 months….trudging further down”the hill”.  In all reality, I’m quite positive it’s a conglomeration of all of it. “Whatever”, as the younger folk often say….the bottom line is that I believe my pea brain has been consciously and subconsciously seeking out things I associate with “comfort”, and one of those, for me, is in good memories from times past. No, it’s not healthy for us to pitch a tent and live there……and I don’t, because I can’t….I’m much too busy trying to keep my head above water learning new things every day. But, I confess, weekends and days when there might just be a little extra time, I feel a “pull” from that “campsite” that seems to get me started meandering in that general direction.

In my latest little stroll down memory lane, I found myself reflecting on the way our quaint little village was when I was growing up in the 60’s and 70’s. I really had fun purposely pulling up all those memories, the details of which I hadn’t thought about in ages. Those of you who are not from the Loudonville/Perrysville area will probably not find this the least bit interesting, so here is where you have permission to “leave the table”, as we used to say back in the “olden days”. However, those of you who also walked these streets and breathed that air may find it fun to lace up your old “tennies” and take a walk with me.

For whatever reason, my mind started at Zimm’s (or Mellor’s, as some of you will know it). Maybe I was hungry for shrimp or something… since that was my favorite thing to get there as a child……a shrimp basket followed by a square of green or orange “jello salad”. Oh not just plain old jiggly transparent jello……oh no, of that I am NOT a fan. No, this was “pimped-up” jello that had the addition of cream cheese and sometimes pineapple or other unidentified ingredients. We NEVER had shrimp in the Miller home when I was growing up, ditto with steak… but I digress. My grandma Young (Miller) used to talk lovingly of shrimp and I loved her, so maybe that was part of it, I don’t know, but my lifelong love of the “bugs of the sea” began then and there. Perhaps the biggest attraction for me were the outside “menu-speakers” that you had to drive up beside to do your ordering, if you were going to eat in your car.  We didn’t go very often at all, because, quite frankly, there wasn’t much room in our budget for eating out. As I look back, that was probably a good thing. Some things become more special and revered if they’re enjoyed less frequently….saved as a “treat” instead of indulged in regularly to the point of them losing their “shiny appeal”. I don’t recall us ever eating in the car there when Dad was along; as I think he preferred to eat inside. With Mom, however, the drive-in was an adventure for sure. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you I was generally a quiet, introverted, studious young child who really never gave my parents an ounce of trouble. That, however, is not to say that I still didn’t have an ornery streak running through me. It was around this time that I discovered the enormous pleasure of making people laugh. My dear, sweet, kind and  playful mom became my number 1 target. Like me, she had the funny but frustrating lack of control when it came to being able to STOP laughing, having once gotten “ramped up”. She would pull in to the speaker with me and my sister Lisa, 5 years my junior, and while we were trying to figure out what we wanted to order, I would begin my gradual assault in firing off one “funny” after another until she was a mass of hysteria and quivering shoulders….completely unable to verbally respond to the lady at the other end of the speaker who was trying to get our order.  My mother would turn to me with daggers in her eyes and quietly try to shush me in between almost crying….she was laughing so hard.  I was relentless. She feigned anger but then laughed it all off by the time the food arrived.  Great memories that we lovingly laughed about for years and years afterward.

I bet you younger folk will be surprised to know that we once had a Sear’s store in town. What??!!!!  Yes, you heard me….a Sear’s store.  No, not one with a big showroom….or any showroom for that matter. It was a small catalog-ordering version, as I recall. Perhaps some of you with a few years on me will remember more detail than that. It was in a building with another business right about where the Legion parking lot is today…across from the Post Office. What I do recall is that apparently there were no other places to acquire clothing or Christmas presents, or so I thought. I honestly remember pretty much ALL of my clothes coming from there. That might have been because apparently no other retailer in the whole US of A had the foresight to realize that not ALL children were thin and willowy…some of us were a little more “filled out” than others. Today that is somewhat more accepted and tolerated and provided for.  Back in those earlier days, however, it definitely was NOT and earned those of us in that club the disgrace of having to wear what Sears dubbed as “Chubby” sizes. I could write a whole book on that subject but I’ll save it for another time. For some unknown reason, Sears seemed to always and only offer their Chubby sizes in the colors of red, white or blue…or a combo of the three and the girls skirts and dresses ALWAYS had a great big ruffle/flounce at the bottom. For all the first and formative years of my youth, those were the never-varying identifiers of my wardrobe…. And the reasons why to this day, you will NEVER see me wear a dress or skirt with a ruffled bottom. I also shied away from wearing the red, white and blue combo for most of my life, having just recently added a bit here and there.  I do have fond memories, though, of going into that shop to pick up what used to be a big, thick catalog that was so fun to sit and look at and dream about…especially the Christmas catalog with all it’s colorful toys and things for kids. We generally never got much in the way of gifts other than at birthdays and Christmas, so it was a huge treat to go through the Christmas catalog and pick out a few items for our little “dream list”.  Maybe we’d get a few of those things maybe not, but it was fun to dream.

Since this “stroll” is taking longer than I had planned, and the sun is going down and the mosquitos are starting to bite, I’ll make just one more stop before heading back home. This last stop was extra special to me. From a very early age I was fascinated with the “girly” things on my mother’s dresser and then “girly” things in general, which therefore made it natural for me to find even more intriguing all the “pretties” like make-up and perfume and soaps and lotions you find in a general “drug store”, as they used to be called. With that in mind, when I walked in to People’s Drug Store on Main Street, on the alley just down from Creative Outlet, heard the tinkle of the little bell on the door and smelled the combination of perfume, candies and medicinal things from the pharmacy in the back, I felt like I was in heaven. I just LOVED to walk those aisles, gazing at all the lipsticks and nail polish in all their pretty colors and smelling the lovely scents of perfumes galore. I liken it very much to the drug store scenes in the old Andy Griffith series where you could find just about anything, including a large helping of kindness and great customer service.The fact that my dear Aunt Virginia worked there made it even more perfect. She was so sweet and welcoming and ALWAYS made me feel special no matter where or when I was around her. Mr Peoples, the pharmacist, was also very nice but seemed pretty serious too and since I always felt rather intimidated by men in general…..a quality that unfortunately I never seemed to shake…..I tended to shy away from him. I went on to enjoy many other similar stores but none could compare, in my mind, to People’s. Oh how I wish this place  were still there. What a treasure.

Well, it’s dark now and the lightning bugs are flitting around in a dance with those pesky mosquitos. Time to head home. I’ll be finishing this trip sometime soon with more familiar stops along the way…so stay tuned. 

The other shops on Memory Lane are dusting away the cobwebs and polishing their counters in preparation for the second half of our stroll.  Take care till then.

A Forever Kind of Love

I can’t really explain it. I don’t know why it began…but I do know it started early… very early. I’m referring to my lifelong fascination with and deep love of trees.  I can tell you I was under age 5 when it first began.

My first and still very vivid memory of being drawn to a particular tree was way back when I was just a small child and my parents and I would drive back to their childhood town of Loudonville from our home in Columbus. A trip that became much less frequent when we finally moved back there when I was starting first grade.  For the “little girl me”, that was a long trip that we made on more than one occasion. I remember noticing this particular tree along the way … partly because of it’s lush fullness, stately size and symmetry but also because I eventually imprinted onto my young brain that once we passed that tree, we only had a few more minutes until we were at our destination.  On the return trip, I’d bid it farewell from my little corner of the back seat.  That tree still stands … about a half mile or so south of Rainbow Springs campground, right where a township road intersects Route 3.  It’s been starting to show it’s age, as is the “little girl” who has watched and loved it these 54 or so years now.

When I find trees that draw my attention like that, I start to wonder about them.  How long they’ve stood there, what all they’ve “seen” in their lifetime, why it is that they ARE still there, when so many others have been uprooted … a new house here, a new business there, maybe a big boring parking lot or a strip mall or maybe just because someone didn’t want it around anymore. Who or what has saved them all these years?

I started reading a book several months ago that I need to go back and finish.  “The Hidden Life of Trees” by Wohlleben took me by such surprise for the rather mind-boggling and surreal report it gives about trees and their interconnectedness with each other and the plant life and creatures around them.  When I first started it, I thought the author was surely joking or completely insane…. trees communicating with each other?!!  But the more I ponder on all that, the more fascinated and in awe I become.  It makes me cherish and respect them even more.  It also increases my love and respect for God’s masterful artistry in designing such beautiful and intricate creations that are so uniquely interwoven and critical to our ecosystem.

There are many, many trees I have noticed in my travels near and far but really only this one and one other in this area that I’ve had the great pleasure of admiring for so many years.  When I come upon them, it makes me smile because it feels like running into a dear old friend I haven’t seen for ages.  A very happy encounter.  Much like me, though, these trees are getting closer to the end rather than the beginning of their stories.  Speaking of which, my other dearest old faithful tree has recently sustained what I fear may be a fatal injury.  As I was heading to Kroger this morning to pick up my grocery order, I came up over the little rise on TR 2704 and my heart just sunk.  There in the middle of the field where it has always stood alone with such grandeur and majesty, I sadly saw that my dear old friend has been damaged heavily. Half of it is on the ground.  I suspect it succumbed to the recent strong storms we’ve had.  It always made me so happy to see it’s gnarly old trunk and I’d wonder how many little animals and creatures had called it home over the years.  I’d marveled more than once at the bald eagle I’d see perched on one of it’s old branches or the occasional group of creepy turkey vultures that would camp out there too.  Perhaps the remaining portion of it will be able to survive…time will tell…but it will never be the same.

The same can be said of life in general.  For every beginning, there is also an end.  For me personally, though, there will never be an end to my love of trees. Unlike many other things that come and go, I can say with utter certainty that this love came early and will stay late ….very late.