A Month of Thanks – Act 3

18 11 2020

Earlier this week, I took a cyber-stroll through an article titled 40 Home Décor Mistakes Everyone Over 45 Should Avoid. (From a social media share to my non-doom-scroll-feed –  www.alot.com.)

I am a recovering worry-what-other-people-think-of-my-style homeowner, so this is the kind of thing that used to set off all my “you’re not good enough” alarms. Now, it makes me wonder whether the writer of the list has any idea of what it means for a place to be home.

Okay, the popcorn ceilings and plastic furniture coverings are pretty bad; otherwise, I think the article must’ve been written by some insecure little wannabe-chic type. I sure wish I could see a rewrite by the same author when they get to be mature enough to live in a home decorated to please THEM, without giving a rat’s butt about whether or not the neighbors like it!

When they reach that ripe old age – or are lucky enough to mature before they get gray – I promise they will feel the same way as I do about “Dos and Don’ts” lists . . .

The only DO is DON’T read those silly lists!

So, thanks to this (misplaced and mistaken) advice, I am reminded how good it feels to be (way) over forty-five.

This week, I am thankful for making my house my home. May yours be as sweet.

Yes, I am using this fine artisan ceramic vase as a stand for a fine artisan-autographed baseball, Phillies fabulous 1970s batter: HOFer Lefty Steve Carlton and his catcher Tim McCarver.

A Month of Thanks – Act 2

11 11 2020

Veterans Day.

I am from a non-mililtary family. To be blunt, my father served in WWII, dutifully fulfilling his responsibility to the Army, but diligently avoiding, even refusing, any promotions during his long years in the South Pacific.

How funny that his civilian career led him to Carlisle, PA, the home of the US Army War College and a whole lot of military families. As school kids, we were amazed at the lives lived by our “army brat” friends, who came and went with dizzying regularity. As an adult, I am grateful for the cultural diversity the War College brings to my area.

On this Veterans Day, in addition to being humbly thankful for the sacrifices made by people like my dad, the reluctant warrior; my classmates, someof whom went to Viet Nam and did not come home; the legions of enlisted folks who leave their homes and families to keep mine safe; I would like to say thank you to a few very specific military folks. I met these people through my association with the Pennsylvania Guild of Craftsmen. I did not know them when they were active duty, but I am surely proud to know them now.

Thank you, Karen Anne. Your incredibly inquisitive, agile, and sharp mind make being your friend a wonderful and exciting experience.

Thank you, Kele. You are one of the kindest men I have ever met.

Thank you, Dan. Your wise counsel and your understanding are gifts to your friends – and you have a terrific wife.

Thank you, Mike. You were my best friend’s husband, then when we lost her, you became family.

Today, this second Wednesday of a month of Thanksgiving, I am thankful for my father’s bravery – that he survived WWII and that he moved his little family a thousand miles from his home to Carlisle. Because of that, I have a wonderful life, filled with wonderful friends.

A Month of Thanksgiving – Act I

4 11 2020

Wow, where do I start with this month this year? I guess I’ll just start with the basics.

I am thankful, period.

Sure, there are plenty of things to make life hard, weird, scary, and depressing; but there are still – always – more things to make me smile, laugh, have courage, and feel love.

I’ll get more specific in the next few weeks, but for now, I am simply thankful. Thank you.

My sister Phyllis is strong and brave. Brother John is witty and just the right size for bear-hugs. Yep, I am thankful.

What Would You Miss?

28 10 2020

We’ve been cooped up with our own stuff, physical and emotional, for a little too long not to start looking at some of it with contempt . . . or at least a little boredom. The siren call of Marie Kondo (in my opinion, one of the true masters of the long con) has many of us considering some reverse nesting, un-collecting, or just plain frenzied “change everything I can reach.” I’m certainly feeling it.

Since I had to have a little patch done in my kitchen ceiling, I figured it’s a good time to paint that room and the family room and the dining room, the living room and the foyer and the upstairs hall. Damn whoever thought open floor plans were a good idea! I got paint. I spent a few days removing switch plates, finding painting gear, and taking the art off the walls. 

I was ready – but I couldn’t do it. 

I stared at those empty walls and felt paralyzed by what I can only describe as sadness.  We’ve all had more than our share of hardships this year. Health, financial, and social upheaval has weighed heavy on all our shoulders.  I thought I was handling things pretty well, all things considered, until that moment when I could not bring myself to open a can of paint.

What was it that sucked that last bit of energy out of me?  Why was I suddenly sad? 

It was those barren walls!

I missed the art that has made my house my home!

The moment I realized the problem, my mood lifted and I got to work. I still have a lot to do, but I can restore a family room wall to its proper dress. My favorite Phil Singer giclee, a special Patty Marshall painting, and an inherited pen and ink will be back where they belong this evening. I’ll be able to look from my kitchen to that wall and see that all is right with my little world, at least part of it.

Not being able to see people we love is hard for all of us, but the art I’ve collected has the feel of old friends to me. Matter of fact, a lot has been made by artists who are my friends. Having art provides more than just superficial beauty; it reminds me of the enthusiasm, talent, and passion of the wonderful artists who created them. I feel close to them. It helps.


21 10 2020

Although it’s been beautifully unseasonably warm for the last few days, much of my garden is letting go. While the gardens themselves will return in the spring, the leaves and blooms of this year are dying and there is a strange sad beauty in their passing.

Yesterday, I found the remains of a little insect lying in the middle of my driveway. It was gone, but its beauty remained: a testament to its life. I was moved by the thought of its brief time aloft, sampling the nectar from my rapidly fading flowers. I felt honored to have hosted such a creature in my yard.

Death. It’s a constant for us all, but we often avoid thinking about it, much less talking about it. As I drift through this season of diminishing daylight, falling leaves, and cornfields shorn to stubble and brown dirt, I will not be morbid; but I will be cognizant of the passing of things, animals, people, ideas, and dreams. I will honor the lost and keep my eyes, mind, and heart open for what is to come.

Peace to all our hearts wounded by loss, small and great. We will remember and respect but we will move forward.

Whine and Roses

14 10 2020

As the Twilight Zone that has been 2020 continues to what must surely be some kind of resolution and return to better times, I’ve come to realize just how special some people in my life are – some special good and some not so much.

There are the people who make things more bearable just by their presence. These are the folks who (still) smile warmly, laugh easily, and will share any little bit of goodness with others. Unfortunately, there are the others – the ones who insist on focusing their (and your, if you’re not careful) attention and energy on all the problems in their life and, when they run out of those, the greater (real and imagined) woes of the world.

I spent time yesterday and today with two women who fall firmly into the first category.  They are realistic, yet optimistic. They show concern for others, but don’t let them (me) wallow in whatever little pity party we’ve decided to throw. They do not allow someone else’s personal thunderstorm to rain out their picnic – they raise an umbrella and offer you shelter.

These are special people. They are the fires of comfort and safety. We need to let that warmth draw us in and soothe our wet-blanketed spirits. That’s the gift of these good angels – they keep their flame bright enough to share the light with those who find ours guttering weakly, about to go out.  When we have received their gift, we should remember to share it with another so we may continue to keep away the dark.

It Ain’t Oct-Over Yet!

7 10 2020

In the midst of everything that’s going haywire in the world – and there’s a whole lot that is – today was simply one of the most beautiful days ever. Sunshine, shirt-sleeve temperatures, and an energetic breeze acted as a balm to this garden geek’s dread of the c-c-c-c-cold to come. Even some of my should-be-done-blooming perennials seemed unable to resist this day’s power.

I’m sure this is, in the larger scheme of our planet, not altogether a good thing, but for just one day, for just one person, for just one garden, it’s been magic. Hopefully, these “family” photos will cast a happiness spell over you, even if it’s just for a moment.

It’s the Third Quarter

30 09 2020

Hey, 2020!  Whatever it is – this game we’re playing – it’s time for some innovative strategy, better teamwork, and a trick play or two, if we’re to turn around this (wish I could find a more polite word to describe it) clu$ter&uc% of a year. We only have three more months and NOBODY wants to end with a losing season.

After carefully studying the films and reviewing our roster of players (yes, we’re thin at a few positions) here are a few things I think we can try:

Top Ten Things to Help Win 2020

10. Talk to your family and friends – no texts – actually hear each other’s voices.

9. As often as you can afford it, get dinner to go from a locally owned restaurant.

8. When you get dinner to go, tip a ridiculously high amount.

7. Vote.

6. Find something pretty in nature every day – yes, this might require that you actually go outside and breathe actual un-conditioned air.

5. Stop arguing on social media. If it’s worth a fight, it’s worth a face-to-face, masks on and weapons holstered, of course.

4. Donate – money or time- to an organization that needs your help.

3. Wear a damn mask – it’s not political to be polite.

2. Not every situation is a 10 out of 10. Exercise some control over our emotions. Just because the dial goes to eleven doesn’t mean we have to blow out the speakers with every little tune.

and the Number One thing that will help us win 2020:

Just be nice. Really, it’s the one thing we can all do. It doesn’t take talent, wealth, strength, or any special power at all. Every one of us can just be nice. I’m going to try very hard to use this ability every day.  I think it could be habit-forming.

I’m not Falling for This

23 09 2020

Autumn, I’ll admit it – you are a looker. You wear the atmosphere like a tiara and your light has an indescribably beautiful golden quality.

You are breath-taking.

I am not, however, happy to see you.

What can I say?  I am not opposed to pumpkin pie or asters or football, but I am definitely not a fan of the season for which you are the opening act. I’ve already had to dig out my warm jammies, turn the heat on at night, and bid farewell to some of the tender annuals on my front porch. Melancholy is flirting with me.

Come one, Autumn.

Lie to me a little longer.

I know it won’t last, but the weather forecast promises a few more sunny days in the eighties. Let me bask for just a little longer in some late season warmth. Lull me into a false sense of security before you make way for the cold shoulder that is not far (enough) away.

Yes, you are beautiful, but I’m not falling for you.

Is There a(nother) Doctor in the Family?

16 09 2020

My brother-in-law has always been one of those people – you know, the kind of person who will ask you about the most mundane aspects of your life and listen to your answers as if you were spinning a tale as fascinating as any of Scheherazade’s. He’s a genuinely curious and interested fellow. It’s endearing and unnerving!

Just a little over twenty-four hours ago, his inquisitive nature and his powerhouse mind netted him a new prize:

a Ph.D.!

I’d love to tell you about his work, but I can’t begin to understand it. That does not mean I can’t respect it and respect him for all the work and courage it took to achieve this wonderful feat.

I can (a little) better understand the other two doctors in the family: M.D. father-in-law and J.D. husband. This afternoon, when they get together for a long-distance celebration, it’ll be Dr. Lewis and Dr. Lewis toasting Dr. Lewis. (Yes, I know that the Ph.D. and J.D. are only referred to as “Dr.” when in an academic setting, but I’ve declared an exception to that rule for raising a glass today!)

Marshall Lewis, Ph.D.
Ken Lewis, J.D.
The man and his Manhattan, M.J. Lewis, M.D.

NOTE: I considered calling this post “I Like Big Brains,” but I can not lie, I am no Sir Mix-a-Lot, although I did mix that fabulous Manhattan!