Posts Categorized: Joy

…By Any Other Name Would Smell as Sweet

Possibly there are folks out there who don’t recognize this partial quote. (The title of this post) It’s Shakespeare, from the play Romeo and Juliet. The longer quote is:
“What’s in a name? that which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet;”

The speaker is Juliet, and she’s unhappy that the young man with whom she’s recently fallen in love is from a family on the outs with her family. Her point being that his last name doesn’t matter; she loves him anyhow, in the way that the scent of a rose is going to smell just as nice, even if we called it, for example, “stench-plant.”

The name “Romeo” has come to mean a lover, a ladies’ man, etc. (you can look it up). I don’t know what Shakespeare meant by it; maybe it was just a common name in those days.

But … moving on. A while back, I kept reading in the newspaper’s television page about the program TURN, the story of George Washington’s spy ring during the Revolutionary War. Like: “Tonight on TURN, the spy ring finds a new ally.” That sort of thing. Finally, during season 4 (the final season), I got interested and discovered that the library had DVDs of the first three seasons. (Yes, I know. We’re archaic. My kids think we’re ridiculous because we don’t have Hulu.) I watched all those videos and then watched the fourth season on the AMC website.

Then I found, also at the library (how old-fashioned am I!), an audiobook edition of the book Valiant Ambition: George Washington, Benedict Arnold, and the Fate of the American Revolution. I’m listening to it. All 13 hours and 19 minutes of it. I’m a little more than halfway through it, but sometimes I have to go back and start a chapter anew. When I’m listening to an audiobook, I’m almost always doing something else, like working in the yard or doing housework, and, at some point, I realize that I’ve been thinking about herbs and not paying attention to patriots, and I have to skip backwards a little bit. And, for this one, a book of Revolutionary War maps would have helped. And a complete list of all the characters. And which side they were on.

Which brings me to Benedict Arnold. The only thing I knew, and pretty much still know, about Benedict Arnold is that he was a traitor during the American Revolution. I think that may be all that most of us know. And some of us probably don’t know that much. But the name means “traitor.” As in: “That which we call Benedict Arnold, by any other name would still be a traitor.” Even knowing more about him and the positive things he did during the Revolutionary War (before he changed his mind about us), he’s still famous/infamous for trying to sell us down the river, almost literally, and would have, if the plot hadn’t been discovered. And the British guy he was working most closely with, John Andre, got captured and hanged. Arnold slipped away and got himself to a British ship and fought with those guys until the end of the war. And then, afterward, in England, tried to stir up things anew! Give it up, Ben!

It’s interesting, at least to me, maybe you, too, that there are names out there, that, when bestowed at birth may just have been names that parents liked, but they’ve come to mean something that no one might have imagined. Like Benedict Arnold. Like Adolph Hitler. Like Benito Mussolini. Like Josef Stalin. Like Caligula.

And there were other names, that have come to mean something that the name-givers (or name-takers) might not have expected. Or, maybe they thought, all the time, that those named would become so significant. Like Mother Teresa. Mohandas Gandhi. Martin Luther. Marie Curie. Johann Sebastian Bach. Alexander Graham Bell. Anne Frank. Francis I.

A good name is more desirable than great riches; to be esteemed is better than silver or gold. (New International Version)

A good reputation and respect are worth much more than silver and gold. (Contemporary English Version)

Proverbs 22:1

 

I guess “a good reputation” is what scripture means by “a good name.” Our actions, our behavior, and our attitudes, are what make our “names” good.

 

 

Aay Bee Cee Dee

Even now, when I’m putting things in alphabetical order, or looking through a dictionary for a word, I find myself quietly singing in my head: “H, I, J, K …” or whatever alphabet string I’m needing at the time. It’s ubiquitous. At least for me.

Most little kids receive alphabet books when they’re preschoolers, and alphabet books are a standard in preschools and at library story hours. We want little kids to become familiar with the letters of the words that make up our language, both upper case and lower case letters. And not just the names of the letters, but also the sounds those letters make. We sing them, we say them, we use them, we explain them (as in: “Yes, honey, I know it looks like it should say ‘takee,’ but it says ‘tayk.'”)

So we read those alphabet books, and all the other books, and try our best to plow that language into little kids’ brains so they’ll be competent readers and learners even before they start school and “formal” education.

When Peter was last here, he’d gone out to ride his tricycle in the driveway, the morning I was taking him back to Fort Worth. After a couple of days of hurricane-generated rainfall, the sky was still cloudy, but the streets and sidewalks were dry. “Look, Mimi!” he called.  “Come take a picture.”

On Amazon, there are pages and pages of alphabet books, with about 20 books listed per page. And that’s just on Amazon. We really want kids to learn the building blocks of our system of reading.

I was particularly interested in The Icky Bug Alphabet Book. I looked at the pages that were available to preview, and took issue with the idea that dragonflies and fireflies are “icky.” Earwigs? Oh, yes. But they do include a disclaimer that only two of the “bugs” they describe are actually “true bugs.” A couple of spiders are included–arachnids. And the rest are different kinds of insects, which, even though we call them “bugs,” are not actually true “bugs.” So, alphabet and science!

Anyway, The Dead Worm Alphabet Book may never make it to publication. Or, April and Peter may need to resort to collecting some live worms and try to arrange them into a few pages of living worms alphabet illustrations. I’m hoping to get some photography credit for my contributions.

Your words are a flashlight to light the path ahead of me and keep me from stumbling.

Psalm 119:105 (The Living Bible)

 

Being a fluent reader means being able to read, for ourselves, all the important books and articles that can help us learn and become the people God planned for us to be. We can read, for ourselves, the Scripture, the commentaries, the sermons, and all the resources that are available for us. And for a lot of us, it all started with an alphabet book.

 

Scrub-a-dub-dub

Pretty much the only thing I miss from our previous house (built in 1912), where we lived for 28 years, is the old-fashioned claw-footed bathtub. And it’s not like it was a reproduction-style old-fashioned bathtub, it was just an old bathtub. One drawback was that it did become another place where things got mislaid, as in:

“Mom, I can find my shoes!”

“Look under the bathtub.” And there was a pretty good chance that that’s where they would be. Or, if not the shoes, something else that was lost might have ended up there. Like a soccer uniform.

I didn’t really use it all that often, until I started teaching at the community college. My first semester, I had a couple of day classes. For the other nine-and-a-half years, I had at least one, and sometimes two, night classes. They did meet only once a week, but they were 3 or 4 hours long, and I wouldn’t get back home until 9 or 10 o’clock. And adding in the hour or so that I spent, on my feet, getting ready for class, and sometimes that much time after class, putting away materials we’d used, and cleaning up, I was pretty worn out when I got home.

When I did get home, I couldn’t go to sleep. Another instructor put that problem in perspective. “People with day jobs,” he said, “work hard all day, come home, eat dinner, relax in front of the television or spend time on the computer or read until time for bed. We, on the other hand, work for three or more hours, often on our feet the whole time, then pack up our teaching things, and head home. We are wide awake, full of the energy of teaching, and we need a similar amount of time to unwind. Which means that we’re not able to relax until ‘way into nighttime.”

He was spot on. I developed a routine for relaxing. I would arrive home and immediately turn on the hot water in the big tub and let it run for a few minutes. Then I would go to the back of the house and listen to the hot water heater, to be sure it was heating up. (The large tub required quite a bit of hot water, first to warm up the chilly porcelain itself, then to fill the tub with hot water.) I would sit in the room next to the water heater and read and relax. When I heard the gas go off, I’d stop by the kitchen and make half a pimento cheese sandwich and pour a glass of cold tea or water, which I took to the bathroom. I had one of those nice trays that went across the tub. I could put my snacks there, as well as a book.

Bath beads and bath crystals were important, too, dissolving in the warm, warm water and making the whole bathroom smell wonderful. I would then ease myself into the hot water, an inch or so at a time. I could completely submerge myself, up to my neck. I would snack and read and relax. The perfect end to a busy, tiring day.

In our house now, I actually can submerge myself in the bathtub, but I’ve got to bend and contort to do it. And, the inner edge of the tub is too shallow to support one end of a bath tray. I only have hot baths now when I’ve been working in the yard and feel really sore. It’s . . . a C or C- experience.

So, I usually just shower, in the small master bedroom bathroom. I’m reduced to trying to find solace in good-smelling soaps.

I regularly read the little environmental suggestions each day in the newspaper. A while back, it reminded readers that liquid bath/shower soap comes in plastic containers that are often not recycled, and put forth the idea of using bar soap, instead, since it gets all the way used up. So, I bought a package of several bars of Olay soap, packaged in individual recyclable lightweight boxes. And I bought some additional washcloths.

But, I’ve sort of fallen off, part way, the bar soap wagon.

 

Remove my sin, and I will be clean;
    wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

Psalm 51:7 (Good News Translation)

 

 

The best kind of clean.

Love Life

A while back, I had an opportunity to talk with a young man I don’t get to visit with very often. We were at a festive event, and there were lots of people milling around. There was music. There was dancing. And we were catching up, not having seen each other in months.

I heard about a new job and another, part-time job. I heard about a kind and appreciative boss. I saw photos of completed projects. I kept asking questions. I kept getting detailed and enthusiastic answers.

After a time, I asked, “Lovelife?”

He smiled broadly and said, “Oh, yes. I do love life. I love all parts of life. I have a great job. I love where I live …”

I laughed and patted his arm. “What I really meant was, How’s your love life? Do you have a girlfriend? But, I like your answer much, much better. You do seem to have a great life. And you have a wonderful life attitude. I love that you love life.”

 

As water reflects the face,
    so one’s life reflects the heart.

Proverbs 27:18 (New International Version)

Considering how my life reflects what my heart values can be a little sobering. Or a lot sobering. This week, I am doing things that I know reflect my heart, which is teaching little kids at church. It’s Fun with Friends time again, and we’re doing art, as we remember that one of the first words in the Bible is “create.” Thursday evening-drawing. Friday evening-painting. Saturday morning-collage and printing. And a reason this week’s blog is so short. I’ve been gathering supplies, setting up centers, that sort of thing. Loving life.

 

Dilemma: If I’m going to buy a new plant, should it be one I choose for beauty or for eating?

I’m a little unnerved at discovering a less-than-desirable trait. In myself. I like to think that I always make good choices, appropriate decisions, the best possible option. Would that it were so.

For example:

Last Sunday afternoon, I was driving home and saw, out of the corner of my eye, a nursery that I like to visit. The parking lot had several cars. “Hmmmm,” I thought. “Are they open today? I didn’t know they were open on Sundays. I wonder if they really are open on Sundays these days. Maybe there are just some cars in the parking lot.”

And I thought I should drive on over and just see if they’d begun to have open hours on Sundays.

I wasn’t going to park. And I certainly wasn’t going to go in. I was just going to see if they were open, in case, on some Sunday afternoon in the future, I might want to walk through and look at some plants.

So I turned the corner and drove into the parking lot … just to see if they were open. And, yes, indeed. They are open now, on Sunday afternoons. And I parked the car.

“I’m just going to go in and look around,” I said to myself. “I have plenty of plants and I’m keeping them all alive. So far. I’m not going to buy anything,” I said to myself, as I walked into the nursery.

I walked around. There were some big, beautiful Caladiums. But I have some nice Caladiums that are growing nicely. There weren’t any hostas, and just as well, as I’m working hard to keep the hostas I have alive. There were herbs and some vegetables, but I really have what I need and what I know I can keep green. There were some interesting things that I enjoyed seeing, but I didn’t want. Yes, it was going well. “I’m just going to look. I’m not going to buy anything.”

There were moss roses. Got ’em. Purslane. Don’t want it. There was a plant with the cutest little red flowers on it; they looked a little like roses, but weren’t. The label said, “sun to part shade.” They were really cute. Okay. They were cute. They looked like something I might could keep alive. “But this is IT! I’m just going to buy these and that’s all!”

The new plants

The new plants

There was a pot of something that looked similar, but had little purple flowers, and they looked so cute next to the little red flowers. And the little red flowers looked a little lonesome by themselves. So, I thought, “Yes, I should get these purple ones, too. But, that’s a container in each hand, and that’s enough.”

There was a little plant that’s supposed to produce yellow flowers (but didn’t have any at the time) and likes sun, and I have a sunny place with other yellow flowers, and it was easy to carry in one of the hands that had the other flowers.

And, I had this horrible epiphany (I know, we usually think of epiphanies as good things, but I did look it up, and one of the definitions applies).

This might be what alcoholics say: “I’m not going in that bar. I’m just going to drive by. Well, I’ll park. But I’m not going in. Well, I can go in, but I’m not going to have a drink. Well, one drink. But that’s all.” And so on.

I’ve had that same conversation with myself in front of a yarn store. “I’m not going in. I’m just going to look in the window. I’ll go in, but I’m not going to touch any yarn. Oh, this feels so wonderful, but I’m not going to purchase it.” Followed by: “Let me write you a check for that.”

Which says something a little sobering about me. I have no self control. At least when it comes to plants. And yarn. And occasionally about some other things, like books for Peter. That sort of thing.

 If you had not helped me, Lord,
    I would soon have gone
    to the land of silence.
 When I felt my feet slipping,
    you came with your love
    and kept me steady.

Psalm 94:17-18 (Contemporary English Version)

Keep me steady, Lord. Help me make good decisions. About the large things and the small things. And all the things in between.

When I checked the definitions of “epiphany,” I saw a little link (Ollie, Mollie, Gollie–how many of those little interesting-looking links do you click on?) that said, “Do you know the word for the way the earth smells after the rain? I found that irresistible. I thought you’d be interested, too. Here it is.

[pe-trahy-kawr, ‐ker]
You know how it smells outside after a rainstorm? There’s a word for that, of course. Petrichor is the distinct scent of rain in the air. Or, to be more precise, it’s the name of an oil that’s released from the earth into the air before rain begins to fall.

Now, isn’t that interesting. I can’t wait for the next rain, which, given typical Texas summers, could be in October.

All’s Well That Ends, Um, Reasonably Well

Last week was pretty busy with company and holiday stuff, and Peter stayed on for a few days, and I took him back to Fort Worth last Monday. Tuesday I needed to take some food to church for a post-funeral meal, and I did that and went to the funeral, then came home to try to put things in order, sort of. I worked for an hour or so, and thought, maybe, I should have a nap. I napped, and then I never returned to the kitchen for the rest of the day.

walgreenslogoOn Wednesday, all I had to do was go to a retina appointment. We were almost out of milk, and I thought that I’d just go to Walgreen’s, after the appointment, instead of the hubbub of HEB. And, I like to get my Snapple in the large plastic containers, which Walgreen’s does have, and HEB does not. That was my plan, and I got all the way home from the retina place before I remembered about the milk/Snapple run, so I left the house again and went on over to Walgreen’s.

Having my eyes worked on by the retina folks, while not really painful, is a little unnerving, and I always feel a little rattled. But, really, all I had to do was go into Walgreen’s and get the milk and Snapple. I parked under a nice shady tree, and pretty quickly got what I wanted and put it in a cart (because three big plastic bottles of Snapple are too heavy to carry all at once). At the counter, I was writing a check, and and I didn’t have my nice Walgreen’s reward card, so I had to enter my phone number, and then write the check, and then follow the Walgreen’s check-writing procedure, which varies from every other business’ check-writing procedure (click here, click here, sign your name w/our stylus, sign your name with your finger, click here, click here—They are all different!). I got through all that. The friendly checker put each Snapple bottle in an individual bag and the milk in a bag, and then she returned my check to me (as they do at two of the local Wal-Marts, but not the third Wal-Mart). It was a pretty lengthy and complicated procedure, but at last, I was on my way out to the car. I pushed the cart to the back of the car and put everything into the trunk. I picked up my purse from the cart and … it was too light.

IMG_4488I recently got a new purse. It’s ‘way smaller that the previous one, but it holds what I need to carry. The large, central pocket is just the right size for my wallet and for the little bag that I use for medicines and Band-aids and hand lotion and lip gloss and tissues. That little bag doesn’t weigh much at all. The wallet is the thing that weighs as much as everything else in the purse put together. So, it wasn’t like I’d just left behind a pair of reading glasses or the pen I’d used to write my check. I’D LOST TRACK OF MY WALLET!!!

I went through every bag I’d put in the trunk (Snapple intact, milk in its bag, no wallet). I checked my purse a few times. No, the wallet had not magically re-appeared.

I went back into the store.

I had to get back in line at the check-out and wait for a turn to talk to the checker. When I finally got to her (and, fortunately, no one else was in line), I asked, “My wallet? I think I left my wallet when I walked out. Is it here?”

She looked at me a little strangely. “You left your wallet? What did it look like.” “It’s black. Sort of regular size.”
And she said, “The lady behind you . . .” “The one buying cigarettes?” I said, because I’d remembered that the checker had asked her and then held the cigarettes for a minute or so, while I was signing, clicking, etc. “Yes, that lady,” she said. “That lady picked up a wallet from the counter and left with it. The lady behind her said she thought that was her wallet, and she sent her kids out to ask, and when they came back, they said that the lady said no it was her wallet.” “I think that was probably my wallet,” I said. “I’ve looked in all the bags I had, in my car, in my purse. It’s not there.”

She called for a manager, who came right away, and she explained what had happened. They had security cameras, but that wasn’t going to help me right then, and I began to feel anxious about getting home and canceling the credit cards.

“I think there’s really nothing to be done,” I said. “I’m so, so sorry,” the young lady said. And I said, “It is not your fault that I walked away without my wallet. It would have been nice if you’d noticed, but it is not your responsibility to take care of my things. It’s my responsibility to take care of my things. It is not at all your fault.” She took my name and phone numbers, just in case it turned up. I thanked everyone again and said I needed to get home and start making phone calls.

Sometimes modern life is nice and efficient. The Bank of America card and the Discover card have websites that say “Lost or Stolen Card?” And you punch that and they immediately say they will cancel the card and send a new one and to be sure to check recent purchases, which I did, and there wasn’t anything. Of course, I did have to call David and tell him he couldn’t charge anything for 5 to 10 days because I’d lost the card he uses.

Dealing with the Target card was a little more difficult. On their website, it says “Lost or Stolen Card?” but then they ask for information to be sure I’m the card holder. For example: “What is the three-digit security code on the back of the card?” Hmmm. I don’t know the three-digit security code on the back of my card because I don’t have my card!! I guess I should have that written down somewhere, but, alas, I do not. So I had to search and search for an 800 number, which I finally found. I was on the phone with, um, Tyler, I think, when the doorbell rang. I kept talking while I went to answer it, and, TA-DAH!! A lady was standing on my porch, holding my wallet!!

Now, I didn’t get that good a look at the lady behind me at Walgreen’s who was buying cigarettes. The lady on the porch said that she had found the wallet in a cart at Walgreen’s, looked inside and found who I was and where I lived, and so she brought it back to me. I opened the wallet and all the cards were there and everything looked untouched/unmoved. I thanked her very much and she left. I told Tyler the Target guy (still politely on the phone) that my wallet had been returned and that I would not need to cancel my card, and I thanked him very much.

And then I thought to look in the zipper compartment, where the cash belongs. Empty. Maybe the cigarette lady walked out, opened the wallet and removed the cash and then left the wallet in a cart on the sidewalk. Maybe the lady on my porch found it there. Maybe she didn’t think about taking in the store and handing it to a manager. Maybe she was the woman who took the cash in the first place.  I had gotten more cash that I usually carry because we were going to have company, but I don’t know how much I had in the wallet on Wednesday. It probably wasn’t as much as $50.00, and probably not that much. I certainly wish I had it back, but, over all, it seems like a reasonable amount of money to lose if it helps me remember to keep track of my wallet.

I looked at the number on the check I had written to Walgreen’s and compared it with the checks in my wallet. None had been torn out/used.

All in all, it wasn’t as bad as it could have been. Everything but the cash seems to be there. I didn’t have to go and get a new Driver’s License. And, a lesson learned the hard way, but I will not likely leave my wallet lying on a counter any time soon.

 

   Jesus told the people another story:

What will a woman do if she has ten silver coins and loses one of them? Won’t she light a lamp, sweep the floor, and look carefully until she finds it? Then she will call in her friends and neighbors and say, “Let’s celebrate! I’ve found the coin I lost.”

Luke 15:8-9 (Contemporary English Version)

Come on over!! We’ll have a party and celebrate.

I did phone the Walgreen’s store and talked to the manager and told him that the wallet had been returned.  I thanked him for being interested and helpful and considerate, and to be sure to let the checker know that I had my wallet back, with everything intact. Well, I didn’t bring up the missing cash.

Tweaking Traditions

I’ve mentioned before how family traditions get started, continued, and sometimes, wrung dry and parched after a while. Our family pretty much embraces favorite traditions, as in the Fourth of July Flag Cake.

Another tradition that we continue is THE PHOTO. As in, “Wait, wait! Don’t cut the cake yet! We haven’t taken THE PHOTO!”

1980-Not everyone enjoys having their picture taken with the flag cake.

1980-Not everyone enjoys having their picture taken with the flag cake.

 

 

This was/is the original PHOTO. Jeremy, not even 3 years old, wasn’t a kid who enjoyed having his photo taken. He’s even decked out in the patriotic shirt, handed down from his older brother, that dated back to the bicentennial (1976). Kevin, age 7, was gamely trying to do his part. A few years later, as we were looking back at previous Independence Day photos, someone picked up the flag cake, before it got sliced and served, and suggested that it might be humorous to re-create the photo. And we did.

 

 

 

There was a photo every year and lots of interesting cakes. There was an ice cream roll cake, and cakes with fruit decorations, and many, many variations of red, white, and/or blue shirts. But this seemed like a representative selection. And I’m really happy with my leftover cake dilemma. And there was always leftover cake. So this year, I made some sugar cookie dough and cut long strips and a blue rectangle. I made strips with red glaze and sprinkles and white glaze and sprinkles and thirteen little white stars to go on the blue rectangle. (Not historically accurate, but I will be thrilled to hand over the job to anyone who asks for it!) Almost all of it got eaten up, right there at the lunchtime table.

And here are a couple of more photos that we’re happy about.

 

Six days before Passover Jesus went back to Bethany, where he had raised Lazarus from death.  A meal had been prepared for Jesus. Martha was doing the serving, and Lazarus himself was there.

John 12:1,2 (Contemporary English Version)

I used this a couple of years ago, for a July 4 blog. I like it. I like the idea of Jesus sharing meals with the people around him, with whom he had friendships. I like when we have meals together with friends and family, too.

 

 

 

 

growing

 

Sometimes, I sort of miss the baby. I miss being able to pick him up and nuzzle his cheeks and carry him around. I miss holding him while he slept. I miss being able to catch up to him, when he was toddling away and all I had to do was walk fast. Those days are long gone.

Instead, I get to listen to him read books. He can walk on the treadmill. I insist that I stand behind him, with my feet on the edges, while he walks, but he can hold on by himself. I get to paint with him, because he still would rather paint with company, instead of painting alone.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Train children in the right way,
    and when old, they will not stray.

Proverbs 22:6 (New Revised Standard Version)

I once heard Charles Swindoll talk about this verse. He said that adults often approach these words as meaning that they are the ones who decide a child’s “way.” Instead, he said, our job is to be with our children, study our children, appreciate our children’s abilities, and help them become the people that God means them to be. If a parent has always dreamed of having physician in the family, then it might be hard to accept a teacher or writer or businessperson. Between home and school and church, children need to have all sorts of experiences to help them discover what interests them, what challenges them, what intrigues them. It’s a joint effort.

IMG_3864Meanwhile, if the thunderstorms forecast for Friday morning don’t materialize, Peter and I are going to put on our overalls and do a little yard work (in case Peter decides on horticulture).

 

Ladybug! Ladybug!

Three years ago, I discovered that you can purchase ladybugs to strew about your yard, to eat up all your aphids. I bought a package of them, let the little bitty Peter play with some (they do fly away pretty quickly), and took most of them to church for the Sunday School preschoolers to take and release into our church’s neighborhood garden. It has become a yearly tradition.

I bought the most recent ladybug collection weeks ago, and rainy weather and chilly weather kept us indoors for several Sundays. And kept the ladybugs in my fridge. Finally, last Sunday was nice and sunny, so out we went.

After a couple of hours outside the refrigerator, the bugs were all awake and active. As soon as I opened up the container, they were ready to get to work. Or at least get out.

The first time I bought ladybugs, I asked the clerk at the nursery how many bugs were in the container (which was different than this one). She said, “About fifteen hundred.” This container says, “About 500.”  Still, it seemed like enough. And, the carton says, “New Look! Same great bugs!”

 

IMG_3792Later, I was in worship service, enjoying the choir-led, lots-of-music, service, and sitting in my favorite spot, up in the balcony. I felt a sort of tickling, down the back of my thigh. I was startled for a moment, and then thought, “Oh, of course.” And I reached back and carefully gathered up the ladybug, who had not flown away when she should have. I tried to wriggle my phone from my pocket, to photograph her, as I figured no one would believe that a ladybug had hung on for 45 minutes or so. But, before I could get the phone on and focused, she took flight.

If you look closely, you can see lots of little lady bug-sized spots on the carpet. They are the drips left behind from the Lord’s Supper grape juice. I searched each one I could see, to be sure it wasn’t moving around. Nothing was. I’m hoping she got a ride out of there on someone else’s back, and made it to freedom.

Winter is past, the rain has stopped; flowers cover the earth; it’s time to sing.

The cooing of doves is heard in our land.

Song of Solomon 2:11-12 (Contemporary English Version)

Springtime. I wish it lasted a little longer.

When I’m driving Peter back and forth, to and from Waco, he sometimes likes to listen to Peter, Paul, and Mary recordings. One of the songs is “Rain, Rain, Go Away.” There are several verses, in between the “rain, rain, go away, come again some other day,” chorus. One of those verses says, “Ladybug, Ladybug! Fly away home! Your house is on fire, and your children-they will burn.” When that verse comes on, I sing, pretty loudly, “Your house is on fire! And the firemen-they will come!”

My favorite ladybug song is one I learned when the boys were little and watching Sesame Street. There were songs for every number up to twelve. The “twelve” song was  “The Ladybugs’ Picnic.” I still know all the words.

Geology Rocks

This is the view down my street, looking from south to north. Front yards all flat.

This is the view down my street, looking from south to north. Front yards all flat.

This is the backyard, looking towards the north.

This is my backyard, looking towards the north.

At our house (which is my childhood home), the front yard is flat. But the back yard has a slope. It always has. We used to roll down the hill. (We were much smaller then, and it seemed like a hill. It’s more of a slope.) The first summer my family was in the house, we, with our neighbors, played kickball in the backyard, from our yard and into the neighbors’. (Erase the hedges and fence and trees and grass.) Home base was about where I stood to take this photo. First and third bases were about at the lot line, and I cannot even remember where second base was. Far into the neighbor’s yard, I guess.

We didn’t really think about the hills in the yards. All the lots that backed up to ours were flat. Almost all the nearby streets were flat. Just a few blocks away, there were hills. When I went to ride down Wooded Acres, there was an amazing, glorious, steep hill; a wonderful speedy ride down. But, then, a tedious, strenuous ride back up, which usually ended in a walk back up. If I went the other direction from my house, from my flatish neighborhood, there were hills, too, but not as steep. And if I got a good fast ride down, I might be able to get enough speed to propel me back up, with just a little bit of pumping to get me to the top.

And we never really thought about the sloping backyards and flat backyards. That’s just the way the yards were.

 

 

JoAnne was a geology major at Baylor. For one semester. Doing some research for a class, she came across some interesting data. It seems there’s a fault running through our backyards. It shows up in some geological maps she was pouring over. Not a giant fault. Just a small, gently sloping, hill-rolling fault. The kind that most neighborhoods should have.

For more than a month, I’ve been working in the yard, almost every weekday. Trimming things, and pulling weeds, and planting things, and spreading mulch, and just sort of cleaning up. At my age, I need lots of time to do even the simplest kinds of yard work. But, as I walk up and down and up and down and up and down my sloping back yard, I’m beginning to feel the difference in my leg muscles. And as I clip and dig and haul, I think my arms are growing stronger.

Every valley shall be exalted
And every mountain and hill brought low;
The crooked places shall be made straight
And the rough places smooth;

Isaiah 40:4 (New King James Version)

Fill in the valleys,
    level off the hills,
Smooth out the ruts,
    clear out the rocks.

Isaiah 40:4 (The Message)

I love the King James Version of this verse because it’s part of Handel’s Messiah and I cannot just read it. I sing it in my head when I see or hear these words.

I love the Message version, because it communicates to me that I am the one who should be doing the work. So as I work physically, smoothing out the flower beds, clearing the rocks out of the garden, I can think also of the work I could and should be doing metaphorically, smoothing out rough places in people’s lives, making difficult situations easier, removing obstacles. Maybe it should be a change in attitude. I know the slope in the yard makes it more difficult to mow, but, it’s a great way to strengthen thigh muscles, and a perfect place for little kids to practice their rolling skills.