Jul 25, 2012

Heads Up, Memories in the Making

My last few posts were all photos, and this one is story time. If you feel like a story, then grab a coffee, or a lemonade and join me  - or just wait till next time to see more pretty photos. I won't be offended. I know there are readers and then there are lookers. I am just glad if you stop on by once in a while...

It is pretty much right smack in the middle of the summer and I am feeling very nostalgic lately. I was driving in my neighborhood the other evening and I saw my neighbor and his cute little boy playing in the sprinkler. 

I haven't seen that in some time. His little boy is six, and was wearing goggles and a snorkel and their dog was also joining in the fun. I idled my car and rolled down the window and felt the blast of heat hit my face as I leaned out and called out to them, "Now that looks like a good time!" And Mackenzi (the little boy) smiles big behind his mask and motions me to come over and play with him, and yells, "Why don't you come on in?"

Photo by she is Dallas

Yes...why don't I? I tell Mackenzi I will jump in next time I stop by.

Then only a day or two later, I am on the sofa, typing away on my laptop and I hear that familiar "thump" that only a kid's head hitting a sidewalk can make, and I pop up and look out the window, and it is Jacob, the little three year old across the street, and his overturned tricycle on the sidewalk. He has his head down, crying, and his arms up in the air, as he walks slowly down the sidewalk towards his father. He can't see where he is going at all. Head down low, his arms high in the air waiting to get picked up as he makes his way down the hot sidewalk. His father, smiling, slowly reaches down to pick him up as the "thump" was not life-threatening. And as I stood there watching for a moment, I smiled too.  Oh, how I miss those days when my world fell apart and all I had to do was lift my arms and not even know where I was going, but felt very secure in knowing that I would be picked up and all would be well again. I can still do that with my heavenly Father, but many times, I just don't.

And sure enough, before I left the window, Jacob was scrambling to get down out of his father's arms so he could master his tricycle once again. 

Summertime, in the heat of the heat, really makes me think of my youth. Having grown up in Texas, I didn't grow up with air conditioning - nope. Nada. Not once did we have a summer as a kid, where I could sit in a cool house. But as a kid growing up in the 1960's and 70's, I really didn't know much differently. But we did have fans. You know, those minty green, oscillating fans that would clank ever so slightly if the blade was off. They weighed a friggin ton.

Photo by W5RAN

I was recently talking to a friend of mine, and she and I were talking about how much even the simplest of things have changed in our short lifetime. I know my readers all know this, but it isn't until we stop a moment and really think about it, it is sort of amazing, how something as simple as a car trip can change the family's dynamics.

Our family vacations never, ever, included plane tickets or fancy hotels or fancy restaurants. There were five kids, but since one was much older, usually "only" four of us kids went on vacation, while Mark, the oldest, was in Vietnam. Our vacations usually entailed a 15-hour car ride from Texas to Nebraska to visit relatives or when older, a 9-hour car ride to Padre Island for a beach vacation. Either way, it was a very hot and long drive. 

Mom would pack up the station wagon the night before (many things packed on the roof rack) and then wake us kids up at 3AM to get "an early start." We all would be excited in the car for about 5 minutes and soon would be zonked out and asleep in the back, stretched out on blankets and pillows for the next four hours.  

No seat belts - just stretched out in the back of the wagon, still in our pajamas. We would change into our shorts and tops at the first rest stop, or sometimes, right there in the car. Yes, while moving.

We didn't have water bottles back then either. We had a big, red, round thermos with a large handle. It also had a screw-off spout cap that was held on with a metal chain. I was about five, my brother Bill, four, my sister Louisa was seven and my brother Andrew was nine. We would pass this large thermos around that mom filled with ice and I remember hearing it slosh around.  My brother Andrew had to help hold it as we sipped from it and we had to time it that we would sip it on a road without potholes so our teeth wouldn't get knocked. 

This is very close, not quite like the one we had, but pretty darn close. Found on Ebay!

My friend pointed out that back in those days, sharing thermoses and cups helped build our immune system and there was no such thing as sanitizing gels. Just a wet napkin that mom first licked and then used to wipe our faces. That's about as clean as it got until we got to a rest stop on the side of the highway where we could really get "sanitized."

Yes, we actually not only stopped at rest stops, but used them to wash up back then.  We would all pile out, use the bathroom, which actually had paper towels, not hand dryers, and mom would take the paper towels and "dab" herself under her neck and put on lipstick and tie her headscarf on neatly. The kids would run around and then go read the giant map that was framed behind glass. We would go inside the information building, because back then, most rest stops actually had real buildings you could go in and get real maps and get real information from a real person. Some still exist, I know, but they are the exception, not the norm. 

Postcard found on Ebay

Mom and dad always had fun noticing how many different license plates were at the rest stop and wanting to see which one was the furtherest state away. "Wow...all the way from Georgia! Wouldn't want to pay their fuel bill..." my dad would say, referring to gas prices. Back then, there were quite a few different state plates parked and people actually would sit on the benches and picnic tables and eat homemade food from their own coolers, not fast food. Mom usually made cold fried chicken and had saltine crackers and some cookies for us. And we would see other families eating their lunches as well. 

The last leg of the drive was the hardest because it was the hottest and everyone is getting tired. The inevitable, "Are we there yet" begins, and that is how I became an excellent navigator. Now, I can't find my way out of a box, but give me a map, and I can get you from here to Tibet and never make a wrong turn. At a very young age, mom would hand back the map over the bench seat and let us figure out how far we were to getting to our destination every time she heard, "Are we there yet?"

Photo by View Liner LTD

We also didn't have any videos or personal DVD's to occupy or time on our drive. No, we had good old fashion talking or games. Crayons, Etch-A-Sketch, barbies.... and I always got out the hairbrush and braided my sister's hair. And at some point, I would stand on the seat (yes, stand) and lean on the seat in front of me, and start "styling" my mother's hair. Mom would put a towel down on the seat for us to sit on because the vinyl would become hot and sticky on our bare legs; like I said, no A/C in the car either. Just roll down the windows for nature's air conditioning (no button to push, we had to roll). 

Photo by Ads by Dee

My friend reminded me that on road trips, as a kid, she remembered having to drink her bottle of Yoo-Hoo really quickly because she would have to put the bottle back in the rack - I had forgotten about that! But in  my case, it was orange crush. We would also play eye-spy and car tag games. Mom would carry a fly swatter to reach behind her and start swatting like crazy when we four would all start acting up and going nuts in the back seat. She was really fast with that thing. I learned to duck pretty quick.

We all learned that we had to "simmer down now" when dad was in traffic in "a big city" and he "must concentrate." But these things taught us to respect driving, our dad, and to pay attention to things we would surely have missed had we been texting, or plugged into our own DVD movie, or blasting a song with our own earbuds. Sharing the thermos and having our big brother "hold  it still" while we sipped it, meant we had to hold onto his arm to brace it, while trusting someone else to look over the bench seat, at the road up front, and yell "NOW!" because it appeared pothole-free and safe to take a drink.  Mom would laugh and dad just sat there, putting up with a kid who had no idea that he/she was yelling in his ear.

Photo by DOWDEL Folk Art 

It was an era of blissful stupidity too. No seat belts meant freedom to roam and climb and play, but also sudden death. It was a time where mom was always smoking and would smash her butt and toss it out the window, along with gum wrapper, with no thought at all, along with the rest of the population. We wouldn't want to dirty up the car, now would we? It was a time when we didn't lock our car doors when we went into the grocery store before we went to our relative's house - or ever really - mom just tucked her purse under the seat....that will trick'em. 

It was a time where a billboard advertising "The Reptile House only 3 Exits Away..." would illicit excitement from the back seat and then grant a tired dad many hugs around his sweaty neck when he agreed we would all stop to see snakes and lizards and apparently the largest alligator this side of the Colorado River. It was a time when billboards might have advertised smoking, but I don't ever remember once seeing "Gentlemen's Clubs" or "XXX" billboards strewn across the interstate highways like I now do between Rolla, Missouri and OK City. 

Photo by Cardigan Empire

It was a time when we kids would whine, "I'm hungry," and parents would actually say, "No. You will spoil your supper, and stop whining," instead of just reaching into the purse and handing out candy to shut them up, or pulling over to the next fast food joint at the first sign of revolt. And the kids actually would stop whining and just waited as told. It was a time when gas stations were service stations. We would pull up and an employee actually came out in uniform and would check the air in the tire, the oil, and pump the gas all while dad always felt like he had to get out of the car and stand there and watch for some reason. It was a time when kids would pump their fists at the truck driver - a common signal - and he oblige with a loud toot of his horn and we would all cheer and laugh. And then the driver would give a little two finger salute to mom and dad as he drove off. It was a time when you weren't afraid to look at the driver next to you; and when you did, you actually waved or smiled, and they actually waved back at you. 


Tinted windows were not introduced yet. 

If we ended up spending a night in one of the roadside motels due to bad weather or traffic, oh what a treat! There would be a tiny, tiny swimming pool, but to us, it was the Ritz. The flashing neon light was Las Vegas to us, and air conditioning! Many of those motels did not have TVs back then, and certainly in those days, the Internet was not yet born. But we somehow managed. No TV, no cell phone, no Internet, no movies....sigh. 

Photo from Viewliner LTD

And yet, we were happy when mom came back to our tiny room with a bucket of ice and our little paper cups were filled and we shared a bottle of soda. A real treat after a swim in the pool. Dad wasn't much of a swimmer, so he headed out and brought back a bucket of chicken from the old reliable colonel. I didn't care so much about eating, I wanted to be in my fancy pool. No slide, no music, no special waterfall, just a cement hole filled with water in a parking lot. I was in pure bliss.

But that was 1968.

A very different time. 

It was a regular station wagon (not a huge van or SUV) with six people in it and lots of luggage and don't forget the pillows. But somehow it seemed roomy to me. No A/C, no electronics of any kind. I think we all thought we were "advanced" because dad had cruise control. We had a thermos, a cooler with snacks, a map (no GPS), and if lost, we just found our way. If we got a flat tire in the middle of no where, we (rather Dad) changed the tire. No cell phone or auto service GPS to find us. If serious car trouble? Then dad had to walk to get help while we all stayed behind and just had to wait. 

Photo from Spare Parts and Pics

Just had to wait.

That is something the current generation, I think, got cheated out of.

There is something about learning to wait that develops your character. 

All those road trips and there was a lot of waiting....

waiting to take our turn for a sip...
waiting to take our turn to look at the map....
waiting for supper instead of getting a snack...
waiting for the next rest stop to use the bathroom....
waiting for dad to come back with a can of oil...
waiting in line at the toll booth...
waiting for my turn to sit by the window and not be stuck in the middle...
waiting for my turn to play with the one Etch-A-Sketch...

It's good to wait when you are young. After all, that is when you have the time. 

While it is easy to forget all the rotten things about that time period and just reflect on the good, maybe that is the fun part about growing older. But I can't help when on the rare occasion I see a young neighbor and his father simply running through the sprinkler, and just like that, memories of my simple childhood pop up. 

It amazes me how something as simple as a road trip can change so drastically in as little as 40 years. Something as small as tinted windows, water bottles, GPS systems, and earbuds have drastically changed how we relate to our environment, to our family and to our society. We no longer even think to acknowledge the other driver, because we can't see them, nor want to. We no longer would even think of sharing a thermos with six people, we have our own bottles. That does nothing for sharing, conserving, or thinking of others. We have a mechanical voice telling us where to go and no longer even share our adventure with our family, as the mechanical voice tells us where to turn. But that doesn't really matter because the ear buds block out her voice in the first place. And because we are so rushed, and on a tight schedule, we rarely make our own food, and with the growth of fast food, we simply pull up to a window, order food and eat out of a paper bag while keeping our ear buds in place while letting the mechanical lady tell us where to turn next.

Driving down the road this time of year - summertime - I see so many huge SUV's with windows up, A/C blasting, young heads down, and a bright, florescent light reflecting on their little faces, from their electronics no doubt, and earbuds in their ears. When it was probably only just a handful of years ago those young heads were down, but their arms were up, crying for their parent's to carry them.  

And now? Little heads are still down and they are being carried....but do they really have any idea what they are missing on this ride?

And when I say they, I am not referring to the kids...

May you know that all rides are carried by The Father who loves us even when we don't have the best rides or memories. But we can start making the kinds of memories we wish we had for those around us who are too young to know what they might be missing.

from my house to your house,


Jul 20, 2012

Preserving Playtime


I was eating a fresh, whole carrot the other day. Fresh from a local farmer's market, and I held it up to show my barber husband and announced how I loved the core! The core? He looked up, puzzled, and examined my freshly chomped on carrot, and noticed that I had eaten my carrot like corn on the cob...he eyed it, then eyed me curiously...

He states how he never noticed that a carrot has a "core," but then again, he has never eaten a carrot like it was an ear of corn. He then said he has never seen someone eat food quite as creatively as I do.

I think my love for food started way back when I was a skinny little kid. Not so much a love for food as in eating, but a love for food as in playing with it. And I never really thought about it until this little adventure in taking photos of peaches and apples. 

As a little kid, I had more interest in playing than in eating. I remember hearing my mother at the dinner table always saying, "Eat, eat...your food will get cold..." I would eat hard-boiled eggs by eating the whites first, then the yoke. (Still do.) I eat all the toppings off the pizza first, then the crust. (Sometimes, still do.) I eat the filling out of key lime pie, then the crust.- all still do. I will eat meat sandwiches, but take it apart usually. I will ALWAYS eat my main course first, then my salad (if served together), and I have a good reason too...I like my hot food hot, and so I eat it while it is hot. 

I never noticed or gave second thought to how I "played" with my food or how I ate it...until my barber husband nudges me with "drink your coffee" when I always only take only two or three sips and I am done (my habit). Or, I tell a story with a piece of food on my fork, and my barber husband nods towards my fork and teases, "Are you ever going to take that bite?" Or, worse, he has cooked a great meal, all set up, and I have to take a photo of it, or him eating, and he finally sighs and says, "Reheating it will ruin it" and so I set my camera down. 

Yes, I finally did get around to making some peach preserves! And here I am, getting ready to wash a small second batch, and once I piled them in my antique graniteware colander getting ready to rinse them, I once again saw how the light was hitting the metal and peaches...and so...out came the camera....

And just had to play with my food just a little bit more...and I think playing with my food as I got older, never really changed, just my toys got more expensive...a camera, expensive kitchen tools, a new lens...except now, I end up with two results: food and photos!

My barber husband was so excited about the whole canning process and hearing the "pop" as the cans sealed, that an entire jar disappeared before I got a chance to get my camera out to show the results. I've been informed that we "must save" the preserves "for winter" and so I have to wait for now to take photos the contents. I believe I'm living with a budding homesteader...

So while I had fun out in the natural light away from the mess of the kitchen, I thought you would enjoy just a few photos that I did manage to snap while I was canning the apples. I made up spicy apple pie jam and while it is pretty difficult to take photos while canning, I did manage to take a few....

It does amaze me how today's generation seems to need electronics to be entertained. Computers, Iphones, texting and so on. Back when I was a kid? An Easy Bake Oven, my crayons, hopscotch, eating peanut butter and saltine crackers and riding my bike with my barbies in my basket was about as technical as it got. And for that I am grateful, because now as an adult, all it takes is a basket of apples to occupy my imagination. 

Straight from mother nature. No wiring needed or batteries.

Just some play time (note: NOT a play date) with me and my imagination - on the spur of the moment.

I hope you enjoyed my playtime with my imagination and yet, it wasn't wasted...not only was it relaxing, it also produced some tasty memories as well - just because I felt like it.

May you find some playtime and find a way to enjoy it without apology or guilt. Don't make a play date, just simply discover some time and play.

I mean, really, is it really playing if you have to schedule it???

From my house to your house,


Jul 10, 2012

Oh for Peach's Sake!

Well, for peach's sake... is she ever going to stop playing with these darn peaches and actually cook them or use them for something, other than props? I can almost hear that in the sigh of my patient barber husband as I tell him over the phone when he calls to ask me how the canning is going and I am tell that I "about to start." I am pretty sure he knows what "about to start" really means. It means...I'm about to start in Elizabeth's timeframe, not normal timeframe. 

In case you are a little lost, in my prior post, I shared some photos of some peaches that I am planning on making into preserves, but instead, I did a spontaneous photo gig with them as the light from my window hit them so nicely. My little gig, turned into quite a number of photos. I got caught up in the moment, playing with some settings on my camera, trying out some new things that I have been wanting to try out for some time now, and I ended up shooting a butt load of photos! So, I am breaking up my posts into a couple of sessions, to share with you. 

It was sort of like playing with paper dolls in a way. You cut out one doll, and then another, and then cut out a few dresses, and soon, you find yourself, cutting out hats, and boots and before you know it, you have all sorts of cut up paper all around you, (in my case, in my hair) gleefully cutting away with the little blunt safety scissors.  That is me and my stash of tarnished silver...pulling one out and then another...gleefully seeing what I come up with...

My antique ladle seemed to cradle this little peach so perfectly.  And of course, I fell in love with how the light (and lack of) was hitting the tarnished silver. When alone in the house, I tend to cook/shoot/write in silence. No music, no TV. But today, as I bumped the table, to get these shots, I was very aware of how the ladle gently rocked back and forth, and the faint sound it made on the old, cracked wooden table.

The rocking sound was very soothing actually. Sort of like a large marble slowly rolling across a wooden floor. The light flickering off the metal as it rocked and cradled the peach. I think how we grownups still like to be rocked: We rock slowly in a wicker rocking chair on a porch on a breezy afternoon. Or in a hammock on a lazy day. We rock ourselves in a metal glider until we are relaxed. A porch swing will sooth us, even on the most stressful days. It isn't just the young that get rocked. The difference is, the young are cradled and soothed by another human being, while we adults tend to sooth our own selves in our own ways.

And while we may find our own ways to sooth ourselves, we are never really alone. We have ways to refresh each others' soul. 

While we may not have the answers to all the troubles, we do have ourselves to offer. And sometimes, just offering ourselves, just as we are, is how we cradle another human being.

I accidentally flicked my wet hands over these peaches when I went to wiped them before I picked up my camera again. I was amazed at how a few perfect droplets formed. I could even see the reflection of my windows in one of them! As I peered closer, amazed at its beauty, I realized, I was merely peering at the reflection of myself and my surroundings - except it was through a simple water droplet. The beauty I was amazed at was right there in my own room - I just was viewing it differently. 

And it was then I realized if we just simply offer ourselves to another, we have the ability to cradle that person with a human touch. And let them sooth themselves in their own way in their own time. We don't have to have answers, we just need to offer our own beautiful selves to them. 

The key is, I think, is to believe we have something of beauty to  offer them in the first place. No matter how simple we may think we come across, from another perspective, it is extraordinary. 

May you realize just how soothing your simple words or touch can be to another person.  May you always know how extraordinary you truly are.

From my house to your house,


Jul 5, 2012

Feeling Fruity

Feeling a little fruity lately...

Maybe it is the heat? Or being stuck inside for two weeks trying to get things done, but finding so many other things to occupy my time rather than doing what needs to be done?

Well, nothing like getting a big batch of peaches, ripe in the season, to put off whatever chore is nagging at you, and use that as the excuse to delay it for yet another day.

When I brought these little peaches home, I sat them down in my wooden dough bowl, as I dug out my old canning and preserve book from the days when I used to can from my garden when I lived in Texas. My barber husband has never canned before, and so this is his first. I was going to get the first batch started and then when he came home, he could help with the second batch.

Well, I found my canning book and began reading it and as you can see by the light on in my kitchen, I was setting up for business, when I returned for my prized peaches.

I was excited to get started with the sterilizing of the jars, but as you can see, the sunlight was hitting the peaches just so...and so...I had to wipe my hands and get out the Canon and shoot "a few photos" of the peaches before I drop'em in boiling water so I can "skin'em" alive. Sounds a little evil now that I type that out.

If you think I can type out long blog posts, or those of you who have received "novel" emails from me, and those few "lucky" ones who endured marathon phone calls from me, you haven't seen anything when it comes to my picture taking. I get so caught up in the moment, taking so many photos, my hair could catch fire, and it wouldn't be until I noticed falling burnt hair, would I take note...and chances are I would "style" the burnt hair on the floor because I "have to get at least one shot while the light is good" before the ambulance took me away.

Of course, in the moment (can we say at least an hour?) I have no concept of time, or how many photos I am taking, or how I am lying on the table because a water droplet has the "light hitting it just so," or how I am grunting as I squat and curse because I squat again, and again, and again for the same shot because a cloud keeps moving, and I am fanatic about getting that light. Never mind that my knee is killing me...

But you see, I don't realize what a crazy fanatic I am until I download my photos and think, "I think I will share my 'few' peach photos with my readers," and suddenly I am staring at 158 photos! Now granted, many shots are exactly alike, just different settings that I am playing with, trying out, and testing.

So my point is, I have some more photos from this fruit cup to share to share with you. I played longer than I realized. You know how toddlers have their wooden blocks? Well, I have my peaches. And never mind about not playing with your food...

Remember, we don't stop playing because we get old. We get old because we stop playing. I am pretty sure my readers know all about that.

This little peach seems like she just wanted to come right up to  the computer screen and stare back at my readers and see what's all the fuss was about.  And the other peaches are hanging back waiting for her to report back to them. 

She is my kinda peach...just fruity enough not to be a sap.

More peach photos to come (not 158 though just a few more!). In the meantime, I hope you take some time to play too.

from my house to your house,

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