Where I Find God

This morning was cool and crisp and sunny and beautifully unusual for August. I enjoyed two cups of coffee, Facebook, Instagram, Bible study, a crossword puzzle, reading and a little writing outside. I think I could have stayed in the hammock all day, but alas, responsibilities awaited me inside.

Part of the reason I didn’t want to leave the deck was that it felt almost holy to me. I’ve been very contemplative lately and my thoughts have gravitated more towards discontentment than gratitude. This seems particularly unsettling to me because there is nothing in my life that warrants such negativity. My guess is that it has more to do with this stage of life and coming to terms with the fact that our family dynamics have changed. With all the first day of school pictures posted today, I can’t help but feel a little nostalgic. This is the first time in 22 years I haven’t had a child starting school somewhere.

Suffice it to say I was feeling the teensiest bit tender as I settled in for some quiet time. But in true God fashion, he reminded me of all I have to be grateful for and filled me with such peaceful contentment. He awakened each of my senses, revealing himself to me as I sat on the deck:

SIGHT

The beautiful blue sky dotted with wispy white clouds glimpsed behind the trees.

TOUCH

The cool breeze brushing over me and the soft warmth of Sookie’s fur as I give in to her wet-nosed nudge.

SMELL

The faint hint of far away ocean carried on the wind, along with a mixture of fresh earth and fragrant flowers mingled with the aroma of a steaming cup of strong, black coffee.

SOUND

The sound of birds at the feeders, of children laughing at the bus stop, of singing cicadas and the muted voice of Todd as he talks on a conference call in his office.

TASTE

The delicious burst of flavor as I sip my morning beverage.

I will always remember the various stages of raising kids with fondness and there will forever be a part of me that yearns for those days again. I’m grateful for those memories, but those joys have passed and I find myself discovering new ones.

I want to enjoy this stage of life, too. Even in all of its weirdness, because that’s how it feels to me. Weird. And when I start to feel melancholy over days gone by, I’m going to find my joy in the presence of God, thankful that he shows up in every beautiful sight, every comforting feel, every delightful sound, every refreshing smell and every exquisite taste that points me to him.

And next fall I’m probably going to go through all of this again.

 

 

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Hidden Emotions

I finally saw Hidden Figures yesterday. Katie is home for Spring Break and even though she had already seen it, she went with me so I didn’t have to go alone. Because I was prepared to go to the movies all by myself. I don’t remember the last time I wanted to see a movie this much.

Knowing the gist of the storyline, there were no surprises. At least not where the movie itself was concerned. I knew I would be mad and I knew I would laugh and I knew I would be in awe of the brainpower portrayed. What I wasn’t prepared for, however, was how much it made me miss my dad. I wanted to discuss just about every scene with him. I wanted to chat about the space program and computers and women in the engineering field back in the early 60’s and the Civil Rights movement and race issues in the workplace and, and, and. Even though he didn’t work for NASA or the space program, he was an engineer working as a civilian with the Defense Department on big computers just like in the movie, using the same programming language (Fortran) just like in the movie. And he wore the same glasses as a lot of the men in the movie, so there’s that.

Apparently the movie had a very similar effect on Katie when she saw it the first time. As sorry as I was that it made her cry (apparently buckets), it made my heart sing just a little that she thinks of her Papa in the same way I do.

Nostalgias aside, it is truly one of the best movies I’ve seen. What amazingly smart women! Witnessing what these brilliant minds had to endure simply because of the color of their skin and, to a lesser extent, because of their gender, was appalling! There were a lot of slanderous comments from the small audience, myself included. I’m not usually given to violence, but I did have the strong desire to cause bodily harm to some of those ignoramuses on the screen. By the end of the movie we were clapping and, if the tiny crowd had been in closer proximity, I’m pretty sure there would have been high-fives all around.

If you haven’t seen the movie, I can’t recommend it enough. I look forward to watching it again when it comes out on DVD. Next time I’ll be a little more prepared for those tugs on my heart, though.

 

A Voice From The Past

phone-1610190_1280

Yesterday I had a bunch of errands I wanted to run. The weather was fairly mild and I knew today was supposed to be bitterly cold. Life, however, had other plans so I only managed one errand. I’m not complaining, though, because I did get to take lunch to my convalescing friend and then meet another friend for dinner.

Wait. I AM complaining. Because as we all know, it’s part of my charm. I mean, I’m not complaining about sharing meals with friends. Those were the highlights of my Wednesday to be sure! What I’m complaining about is that I had to get out today in the bitter cold to run those errands.

It was 20 degrees with a wind chill of 3 as I was getting ready to leave this morning. Some of you live in Southern California and have no idea what 20 degrees with a wind chill of 3 feels like so let me try to explain it. Put on a bathing suit or, if your more modest, shorts and a tank top and stand in a meat locker. Then have someone direct a leaf blower at you from about 3 feet away. If the wind from the leaf blower is cold then yes, that’s kind of what it’s like.

I started the car and then ran back in the house to do a few things. I threw on a scarf and gloves and my jacket and pocketed my cell phone. As I was getting into my car I heard, “Hello? Jen? Hello??” That’s when I realized I had butt dialed (or maybe side pocket dialed would be more accurate) my friend, Lynne and it was coming through the car’s blue tooth. So we chatted for a few as I drove away and it was lovely! I haven’t heard her actual voice in years and I hadn’t realized how much I missed it. (Our schedules didn’t work out to get together when Todd and I were in Arkansas last summer.) And get this – we talked politics AND religion and it was still lovely! We didn’t have to do too much family catching up because we do keep up with each other on Facebook.

Anyway, chatting with her for that 10 or 15 minutes made me a little nostalgic and I thought I’d share. Unfortunately, I haven’t scanned in most of my pictures. (You see, there was a time when pictures weren’t digital, but you took pictures with this thing called film. Then you had to take the film to a store and have it developed into pictures.) But here are a few at the bottom that are sure to be met with hilarity by some, humiliation by others.

Lynne and her family moved into a house up the street from us many, many moons ago. Her two youngest and my two stair-stepped and became fast friends. Lynne and I were the kind of moms who kicked our kids out of the house when A) it was really nice outside; and/or B) they were on our last nerve. Her kids were just part of the family as my kids were a part of hers. I got onto her kids and she got onto mine. I loved her kids and she loved mine. It was a thing of beauty. Now they’re all grown. The youngest of the lot (Katie) has one semester of college left. The others are real adults doing real adult things like grownups. But whether they like it or not, they will always be just like this in my heart.

Jazz Hot, Baby

So another year has come and gone. While some are making their resolutions for 2016, I’m cleaning the kitchen and listening to Spotify. I found this new-to-me group called The Hot Sardines and they’re fabulous. It’s Bourbon Street Jazz at its finest and it makes me ever so happy.

There’s a little bit of melancholy nostalgia with it as well. My father would have adored this group once upon a time. I can see him in my mind’s eye, stogie in one hand, fingers of the other hand snapping to the beat while his feet tapped out the rhythm. Embarrassing to a young teenage daughter at Disneyland, and yet I can’t deny the pleasure of watching him enjoy something so much. As I do practically the same in my kitchen (minus the cigar, of course) I understand the inability to stand still with the swinging tempo.

“Your Feets Too Big” by Fats Waller came on and I sang it proudly and giggled in turns.

Funny aside here – when I was little I thought my mom was singing, “My dear Mr. Shane”, but the song just came on and it’s actually “Bei Mir Bist Du Schoen”. You learn something new every day!

I have decided to break with tradition and actually make a New Year’s resolution. I resolve to listen to more jazz in 2016. I’m pretty sure I can make good on this one.

Reminiscing Re: Rhubarb

I went ahead and made the rhubarb-strawberry crisp the other night.

Rhubarb Strawberry Crisp Collage

 

It was delish. Just ask Taylor. Or Katie. Or Todd. Um, no. Don’t ask Todd.  Poor guy didn’t get any. Guess I’ll just have to make another one.

All this talk of rhubarb reminded me of a funny story from long ago. Shortly after Todd and I were married my parents came to visit us in Arkansas. While I was at work one day my mother called and asked if I wanted her to make a pie out of the rhubarb in the fridge.

I was momentarily stunned/excited because I had never seen rhubarb in the store and frankly, I missed it. It’s not that I had it all the time in California, but my grandfather grew it and my grandmother made the tastiest of rhubarb pies at Thanksgiving.  After being so far from home for a while I had a powerful hankering for a little sweet and tart nostalgia.

“There isn’t any rhubarb in the fridge,” I told her. “You can’t even buy it in the store here.” She swore there was rhubarb in the vegetable crisper and my feeble little brain couldn’t quite compute this scenario.

All of a sudden it hit me. “Oh mom! Don’t make a pie out of that! It’s not rhubarb! It’s old celery!”

Yup. The celery had been in the crisper so long that it had molded a reddish hue and looked just like rhubarb! To this day I thank God that she called to ask instead of just doing. Though I’m pretty sure she would have figured it out when she cut into the first stalk.

I am proud to tell you I’ve never had celery turn red since.

 

Halfway Through

16 Days of Christmas

On the 6th Day of Christmas…

20131220-DSC_0018We played the tourists. I thought the kids should see Hollywood and Beverly Hills and Venice Beach. So we drove through the crazy, East L.A. traffic to get to Grauman’s Chinese Theater, which isn’t even Grauman’s anymore, but it’s still pretty cool. We walked around and looked at the foot and hand prints by all those famous people – my favorite being Shirley Temple. She was very young – maybe 4 – when she did it and those talented little feet were barefoot and super cute.

Chinese Theater

hollywood CollageAfter that we walked down to Mel’s Diner. You remember. From American Graffiti and Happy Days. Mel wasn’t there. Nor were Richie or Potsy or Fonzie or anyone else. But our waiter’s name was Gonzo and you don’t see that every day. The food was delish and the music was retro and good.

On our way back to the car we stopped in at Hard Rock Cafe because, well, because it’s a thing. We didn’t buy anything, but we met a guy named Rocky who’s from Reading, PA and knew all about the area we’re from.

They were showing “Saving Mr. Banks” at the Dolby Theater and check out the really cute display:

Mr. Banks

Then we drove down Rodeo Drive and Katie slept through the whole thing. Which was not much of a thing. It was just a bunch of really rich people and/or tourists walking in and out of really rich stores. I looked for Julia Roberts in her Pretty Woman get up, but she was nowhere to be found. When Katie woke up, though, I told her we saw all kinds of famous people. Movie stars everywhere. She didn’t believe me.

From there we went to Venice Beach to see muscle men. There were no muscle men to be found. What there was to be found were crazy drug people. I mean, I don’t like to assume or anything, but seriously. There were people holding signs that said, “Will take food or pot” and stuff like that. Some dude walked up to Todd and said, “Throw money at me. The harder the better. I like it when it hurts.” And he was one of the more normal folks on the strand.

By this time the sun was getting pretty low so we decided to head for our old stomping grounds. First we drove by the Hermosa Beach house Todd lived in when he was little.  The streets, the house, the alleys, they were all so much smaller than they used to be. I don’t know how it shrunk, but it totally did.

We continued south, drove by the house he lived in when we were dating, drove by our high school and then by the house I grew up in. It was dark, though, so we didn’t really get to see much. We finished our little trip down memory lane by eating at Y-Not Burgers – Patty Melt and Onion Rings, just like when we were dating. And it was still as good as it was back in the day.

Nostalgic eating and vacation are a really bad combination. I had to unbutton my jeans when we got back in the car. I make no excuses or apologies. It was totally worth it.

On the 7th Day of Christmas…

We went to see our good friends in Long Beach. Todd and I haven’t seen them since March of ’05 and it’s been even longer for the kids. Cathy and I don’t keep in close contact, however, we didn’t miss a beat. It was so great to see them – made my heart so very happy. Except for the fact that Cathy happened to mention an incident or two from long ago in front of the kids. And all this time I’d had them convinced I was a super good girl and never did anything bad. Ever.

Okay. That’s a lie. They weren’t surprised in the least and, in fact, when we left Taylor said, “I can see why you and Cathy were such good friends.” I asked if that was a good thing and as I’m writing this I just realized, he only grinned. What does that even mean?

Their oldest daughter has graduated from college and she’s off doing her grown up thing so we didn’t get to see her. But the other girls were there for a bit and it was fun to see them.

And their powder room smelled really, really good.

When we got back to home base, Todd’s brother and his family had arrived from Northern California.

On the 8th Day of Christmas…

We chillaxed. A lot. Katie and I went for a walk with Rachele and the kids (6-year-old twins) and that was pretty much all the exercise we had for the day. Except when Taylor and Katie and I ran to a very crowded Target. Managing the human obstacle course with a shopping cart should count for something. And it’s just a good thing they sell wine at Target in California because it was a medicinal necessity after that short little trip. Not only that, but it went really well with the crab dip Rachele had made with fresh crab that Tim and the twins had caught.

We’re now halfway through our 16 Days of Adventure Christmas. I wonder what the next half holds in store.

1927

Today is my dad’s 86th birthday. If you’re slow in math like I am that means he was born in 1927. Here’s a little snippit of what happened that year:

  • Calvin Coolidge was president.
  • Two days after his birth Ty Cobb and Tris Speaker, two of the greatest outfielders in American baseball history, were both exonerated of charges of wrongdoing by Commissioner Landis. Both had been accused, by Dutch Leonard, of conspiracy to throw a game in 1919.
  • Babe Ruth became the highest paid baseball player at $70,000 a year in March. IN 1927!
  • April saw The Great Mississippi Flood of 1927 which affected 700,000 people in the greatest national disaster in US history
  • In May Charles Lindbergh flies The Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic nonstop and solo, direct from New York City to Paris, as the first solo transatlantic flight.
  • That same month an earthquake measuring 8.6 on Richter scale strikes Xining, China killing 200,000
  • Work begins on Mount Rushmore in October.
  • In November the first underwater twin tube tunnel – The Holland Tunnel – opens between New Jersey and New York.
  • December sees the opening of Duke Ellington’s Cotton Club in Harlem and the first broadcast from the Grand Ole Opry.
  • Shortly thereafter Leon Trotsky is expelled from the Communist Party and Josef Stalin takes control.

 TECHNOLOGY:

  • First transatlantic telephone call – New York City to London.
  • Ford Motor Company ceases manufacturing Ford Model Ts after making 15 million cars and begins selling the Model A with several body styles. Prices start from $460.
  • Pan American Airways is formed.

INVENTIONS:

  • Color Television by John Logie Baird in Scotland
  • Talking Pictures – USA
  • Videophone – USA
  • Pop Up Toaster by Charles Strite
  • Quartz Time keeping Hans Wilsdorf from England (in Switzerland)

POP CULTURE:

  • The Jazz Singer opens October 6th and becomes a huge success, marking the end of the silent film era.
  • Ain’t She Sweet
  • Blue Skies Irving Berlin

THE COST OF THINGS:

  • A child’s toy steam engine which was a 20’s children’s toy
    Toy Steam Engine $3.98
  • Not everybody had electricity so these hand cranked washing machines were still sold
    Manual Washing Machine $15.95
  • For city dwellers who had electricity an Electric Washing Machine
    Electric Washing Machine $79.00
  • Other Camera’s were available but the box brownie was still popular
    Kodak Box Brownie Camera $2.29
  • The astounding thing about this Radio was the price (about $1,000 in today’s money)
    Radio Receiver $74.95
  • 20’s Ranges were not only used for cooking but a form of heating so were left on all day
    Wood Fired Kitchen Range $69.85

1927 IMAGES:

1927 CollageMy how times have changed. The one thing that hasn’t changed (in the last 46 years, anyway) is that he’s still my very favorite dad ever!

Happy Birthday, Daddy!!

A Follower of Marxism

marxismMarxism seems to have a cycle and it morphs just a little each time it comes back around. If you were a teenager or thereabouts in the 80’s, then you are probably familiar with the particular form of Marxism I want to talk about today.

Richard Marxism.

richard marxI admit that I crushed on him back in the day. My favorite Richard Marx song from that time period is “Don’t Mean Nothin'”. That’s when he met his video costar, Cynthia Rhoades (also known as Penny from Dirty Dancing), who has been Mrs. Marx for the past 23+ years. Which makes me crush on him even more. If I was into crushing on men other than my husband, that is. Which I’m not. Because he’s been Mr. Jenster for the past 24+ years and I find that hot.

Let’s just take a moment and watch that video, shall we?

He’s cute, isn’t he? And she’s beautiful. And they make a cute couple and I love that they are happy and raised their three boys and are not Hollywood.

I feel that Richard Marx has been greatly underestimated over the past 25 years. He’s incredibly talented and has not only written all his own songs, but he’s also composed and produced many other artists – Barbara Streisand, Keith Urban, Luther Vandross, Hugh Jackman, Natalie Cole, LeAnne Rimes, Daughtry, Lifehouse, Vince Gill, just to name a few.

Let’s just say for a second that I was a stalker. If I was I would totally be stalking him right now. He’s in Pennsylvania this very minute. He was on QVC with his three sons the other day (they’re very talented singers as well), in York last night and in Sellersville this evening. I told Mr. Jenster that if he wasn’t in Ohio he would be taking me to see Richard Marx tonight.

Why this seemingly sudden interest in Marxism?  I saw this video on Yahoo. It’s his new Christmas song, but he’s hardly in it. Instead it’s full of his friends – several that you will know – lip synching. See how many you recognize.

 

I think I’ll embrace my Marxism and go listen to his new Christmas album that I bought yesterday.

This Week in Review

No, I have not received my new computer yet. No, I am not typing this on my phone. I’ve hijacked Katie’s computer until I get my new one next week. Shhh.

I have a full plate today, but thought I might throw a few words up on the page while I have a minute or two. Taylor came home for spring break last Saturday. It’s been an enjoyable visit. I even took Wednesday off just so I could hang out with him for a bit. It was a glorious day and he and I went on a walkabout on one of our local trails. It was a beautiful walk and we just chatted and chatted and before we realized it, we’d been walking nearly an hour. One way. Which meant we had to walk back that same distance. All said and done we were on the trail about an hour and a half and our round trip mileage was somewhere between 8 and 9 miles. THAT translated into 7 Weight Watchers activities points so I had pie that night! All around great day.

Yesterday he drove about 2 hours to Carlilse where he met up with his girlfriend, Shelby, and her grandmother. She lives in Pittsburg and is spending the rest of the break with us. Shelby. Not her grandmother. Todd and I spent an enjoyable morning with them, getting to know Shelby a little better and drinking coffee. Not in that order.

Today they’ve gone into Philadelphia and tomorrow they’ll head back down to Lynchburg. And then Sunday I’ll be wishing it was closer to Easter so we could go down there and see him again.

Speaking of Weight Watchers activities points and all that, I am continuing to go down. Slowly, but surely, and that will work for me. I even pulled a pair of pants out of the back of the closet this morning just to see if they might almost fit. Guess what! They fit!! Perfectly!! Except they’re too short. But I’m okay with that. With spring trying to spring I now have a new/old pair of crop jeans!

On a sad note, my mother’s brother, better known to me and my sisters as Uncle Del, passed away earlier this week. He lived in Fresno with my Aunt Thea and I remember how excited I would get when they would come visit us in Southern California or when we would go visit them. They have two sons so Uncle Del was a bit protective of me and my sisters. The first time he met Todd he told him he couldn’t date me until I was 30 and asked if he had a problem with that. Todd probably said, “No, Sir” (with no intention of not dating me – smart man) and then we spent the evening playing Hearts with Del, Thea and my parents. Much laughter ensued. Of course, Uncle Del kept up the no dating thing throughout.

Here’s a picture that his grandson, Brian, scanned and posted on my Facebook Wall. It was taken in 2004 on a family get together in Durango, Colorado, which was the last time I saw Uncle Del. It’s now one of my favorite pictures. The man with the beard is my dad and the other man is Uncle Del. Brothers-in-law for nearly 59 years and two of my most favorite men. Don’t they both just say “huggable”?

As sad as it is to lose someone you love, I’m thankful he is at peace and breathing easy now. I also know I’ll catch up with him some day. Maybe we’ll play a rousing game of Hearts for old time’s sake. I would take this a step further and say maybe Jesus would play, too, but I think he probably has an unfair advantage. You know, being the Christ and all.

More Treasures

Here are some more treasures that have been found in the garage.

Grandma D’s bowling ball:

My first piggy bank:

An upright piano music box that plays “As Time Goes By”:

A music box Grandma M brought back from Germany that used to play “Brahms Lullaby”:

A silly little plaque I got for Todd years ago:

And a few miscellaneous treasures: