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10-31-09: Happy Halloween, or not...

Saturday, October 31, 2009
I am going to be the resident 'face painter' at the Botanical Gardens' "Kids Fest" today. Debating about really getting into the proper mood by dressing up: I could put on a bandana and eyepatch, say 'arrggghh' a lot. Or put on the clown costume that I think everyone in the family except Paul has worn. Or put on Paul's shorts that come down past my knees, with some of his red suspenders to keep them from puddling up around my feet.

I've been to Decatur and South Carolina this week. Went up on Wednesday to spend the afternoon on a beautiful fall day planting pansies. Francina and I dug lots of sad, pitiful stuff out of planters on the patio where she works, and put in perennials and pansies. They are definitely more colorful, especially now that they are not full of cigarette butts, where people have used them for ashtrays. I don't know how well they will do over the winter. Maybe the 'upside' of global warming, will be mild weather that won't completely decimate our efforts.

Then, when she got off work, we went to see The Wild Things... based on the Maurice Sendak book that we memorized years ago, when we read it every night... along with being able to quote the first twenty pages of The Cat in the Hat. I tend to get so caught up in being amazed by the special effects (how do they do that?) that I usually leave with the feeling that I need to go right back in and see it again: to actually follow the plot that I missed entirely, due to being fascinated by the technology, instead of paying attention to the story-line.

On Thursday, I went up to SC to visit my penpal in Greenville, a man who served in the Army with my Dad. He had been on the Upstate 'Honor Flight' to DC back in early September, and had photo albums of the trip to Washington. This was not his first time to visit the WWII and other war memorials, but was his first time to fly. What a treat! He was delighted to meet the captain of their charter flight, (who was a female) and see the inside the cockpit.

I met Mr. Homer several years ago, when he called the house in Quitman, trying to find Capt. Fluker. He wanted to invite him to go with a group of vets who were planning to attend the dedication of the WWII memorial. Mr. Homer is in his mid-eighties. Listening to him makes me think about all the things we take for granted: When he went to war, and returned, they travelled on cramped troop ships that took about ten days to cross the Atlantic.

I went with a group of veterans on an Honor Flight from Columbus in late September. There are usually 100 vets per flight, plus medical team, and chaperones to assist the vets during their travels. I was the 'guardian' for a 93 year old man, who was actually born and raised here in Midland, in another century, when it was a farming community. We left Columbus about 8:00 a.m., flew into Baltimore, spent the day touring the mall area, and Arlington cemetery, got back to a huge, flag-waving, horn-tooting welcome about 10:30 p.m. Though we were all exhausted from our very long day, that was really overwhelming. When you think that most of these guys did not return home until all the celebrating at war's 'official' end and partying was over, long after the parades and dancing in the streets: this was their 'Welcome Home' party.

Still makes me a little weepy thinking about: dedication, sacrifice, honor, the price of 'freedom'. Feeling very thankful. And Blessed. I've already filled out the paperwork to go on the next trip, when they plan to take more veterans in April. Interested? http://www.honorflight.org/, connect with a local/regional group, get an application for 'guardian' and go! Or if you know a WWII vet, you better get them on the next flight... check the site for future trips.

Making an incremental difference in the world...

Thursday, October 22, 2009
I am walking for Alzheimer's' on Saturday, October 24. Having been a 'worker-bee'/volunteer for several years, behind the scenes useful with activities like 'professionally-trained, helium-filled balloon expert tye-er' and 'commemorative T-shirt hander-outer', I decided to be a Real Contributor. I actually wrote my donation check and left it at the St. Luke Respite Care, when I stopped by to visit and got 'recruited' several weeks ago. Choppy attended their three-day-a-week group for several years, originally under great duress, though I think that she eventually began to interact, enjoy socializing with other participants and staff. I know they found her to be occasionally witty, and amusing, as they all laugh when reminiscing of her time in their presence.

Then it occurred to me, the first of this week, that I should offer friends and relatives of Choppy the opportunity to support Alz. programs and research. So sent out email to people I thought would be interested, and possibly respond. (Thanks again to all who have said 'the check is inthe mail!') It's not too late, though I would have to mail your donation to St. Luke UMC, for them to funnel into the local chapter office, (or you can send: http://www.alzheimersassociation.org/ in memory of 'Choppy' Fluker). I'm usually opposed to supporting corporate type fund-raisers, but my family has been so impacted by this, I can't not do something.

Thought I could look forward to a pleasant jaunt walking in the fall sunshine on Saturday morning, casually meandering along arm in arm with the St. Luke Strollers, then find I have the 'opportunity' to work a day at Publix. Martin (co-worker, full time guy) is taking what will likely be the last of his vacation days this weekend, so my skills are in demand in the Floral Shoppe. I rarely find myself on the Publix schedule: worked nearly twenty hours several weeks ago, one day in produce/floral, but most of that time as a 'bagger-geezer', which I find physically very difficult. "Why", you are wondering, "do you keep doing that?" I wish I knew...

If I do not work at least once a month (even as little as a couple of hours - just long enough to clock in and out) I will get dropped from their computer payroll system. So I am still an employee, though hanging on by the thinnest thread. Sorry - I wish I knew why I continue to dangle.... all I can say is that I really, really enjoy the floral work, and am reluctant to completely let go.

I believe, with time, the economy will begin to recover, and that some of the people who work there, part-timers, will start getting more hours. I also believe there are places that have been forced to cut back on employees and will not re-hire, after seeing the workers they have kept, when forced to double up/take up the slack have shouldered the extra burdens 'adequately' for some jobs to be left unfilled. You can mantra the quotes like: 'tough times don't last, tough people do', but I feel like our society is making some permanent changes, in the same way you 'eat an elephant' or 'turn around a battleship'... is it for the good? Hmmm.....
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
'Soup' for the spirit to ponder...

I can't say I don't dream, because 'the experts' say Everyone does, but I can say that I have almost no memory of what goes on when I sleep. I willingly admit that one of my major concerns with this 'aging process' is sleeping poorly: having to get up multiple times in the night to wander around the house, check non-existant e-mail, make another cup of 'sleepytime' tea, read for hours, detour to the bathroom from all that tea!
I had a dream recently, and think it worth reporting. Actually wondering if I can find someone who might 'interpret' in the Old Testament sense. I am sure it means something, but haven't quite yet figured out what I am supposed to learn.
This was my dream as I remember it: except for my daughter, all the other people involved appeared to be from India or southeast asia, so we must have been in a foreign country. We were surrounded by masses of people who we struggled to communicate with, and I think part of our problem was due to language limitations....
We were in a large complex of buildings, trudged up stairs to an upper floor. Not a modern shopping mall, but more haphazardly built, where one corridor somehow leads you into another area overflowing with merchandise. In part of the building that was more like a stall in a market or bazaar, we were looking at items, handling things, perusing, and decided to make a purchase.
I started to take money out of my pocket to pay, but my daughter handed over cash first. I said: 'Let me pay', and tried to get them to return the folding money and change.The young worker had already put the cash in the box or drawer, and when she handed it back, only gave paper money. When I questioned her, she said she was not allowed to give back change, that as soon as it was handed to her, it became property of the shop-owner.
I was SO indignant.
The owner was standing close by, probably to observe her every move, (thinking his attentiveness would keep her honest?) and immeidately came over when he saw there was conversation and would likely be a problem.
I tried to make the owner understand that those young people he was employing and training to run a business were being taught how to be dishonest, they were using him as a model for cheating customers. I was convinced that they would take this business practice with them the rest of their lives, and eventually pocketing the change he thought he was keeping. I knew he was training them to be cheats and it made me so angry that he would deliberately demand his workers be untrustworthy. He kept telling me that since the money was in His possession, it was obviously His Money, unwilling to see the Big Picture. The fact that I was willing to replace 'his' money when he returned it to my daughter, with some that was mine would not persuade him to let go of what he already had in his till.
As I have pondered this, it reminds me of the fable about the monkey who put his hand down in the narrow-necked jar to retrive some food, made a fist around what he desired, and therefore had his hand stuck because he was so greedy he refused to let go of the prize within to free himself.
It made me think... about how kids learn as much (or more) from what they SEE parents, grandparents, teachers, other adults, their 'models' for behavior actually DOING, as they do from all their instructions, lessons, what all those people TALK about, and tell them is the 'right way'.
This is very much a generational thing: Emulating the Elders, and applies to me, you, kids a hundred years ago and a hundred years into the future - we all go through the process of looking to those older, and theoretically wiser, as models for how to speak, act, live...
If you can figure anything out about this, please let me know...

One of the things I get from this is that we are called to be faithful in little ways, to be consistently willing to tend to the small things in our lives. We all walk past pennies in the parking lot, won't pick up a nickle or dime someone else had dropped on the sidewalk as not being worth the effort, since you can't actually buy anything for that insignificant amount in our society.
But consider that most of the workers in the world get paid less than one dollar a day for their labor, and families all over our planet actually manage to subsist with such limited resources. Not with the frozen convenience foods, microwave ovens, and delivered pizza we enjoy, but they do provide for their families.
Do you know anything about micro-finance, and what a remarkable impact it is having in third world countries? Check out www.kiva.org.

A cold Sunday night: what happened to 'fall'?

Sunday, October 18, 2009
It's the middle of October... I know it's not winter, but I was so sure I would be miserable when I left the house early on Saturday morning to spend another day practicing my servant-ship in Hamilton: after I got dressed, I went back and put on another (under) layer and wool sox. Good move. Especially since I had decided I should stay until the last candle was blown out Sat. night, and it was both cold and dark when I finally got home at nearly 10:00. It was really touching, but also a very long day.

I felt obligated (and more than a little guilty) to do all I could to be a useful worker-bee on Sat. as I knew I had no intention of going back today. Being at church is very important to me feeling 'fed', and I felt like I had put in ample time behind-the-scenes in the kitchen. Especially after finding myself up to my soggy elbows in the dishwater following the spagetti supper. Pasta noodles floating around in the suds was pretty yuck. Like swimming in a farm pond when you can't see what else is in there with you :(>

A beautiful day here in middle GA: a little windy, but classically clear fall sky, with occasional hawks/raptors riding the thermals, searching for those lower down on the food chain. I had been sadly slacking on my usual daily walking, so put in some miles today, pondering and praying. Checking on my fall garden: the onions are up after all the rains in recent days, and the radishes are looking good. No sign of the beets or carrots, but I hope a few sunny days will provide some evidence of sprouts to go along with the cauliflower and broccoli starts I planted a month ago.

your second serving of a soupy substance...

Friday, October 16, 2009
I feel like I am performing, on a stage, under a spotlight (or magnifying glass), and not sure I am fully capable of coming up with words worthy of appearing in print, especially having gotten started on this so late in the day.

I've had people tell me I should consider 'writing', but somehow have the feeling it was because A) I keep corresponding whethere anyone responds or not, and B) obviously verbose.

Today: I set the alarm for 5 a.m., though not necessary because that unspeakably early hours is normal for me to be wide awake, thinking of what I could be doing if I would get up and going. I'd agreed to be back at a retreat center in Harris County, to be a 'worker bee' in the kitchen, to assist with preparing and serving meals. It obviously takes a lot of behind the scenes volunteers to make these things go smoothly. And likely compared to lots of other more worldly jobs where tedium is terrifyingly interrupted by periodic emergency/crisis/fire drills.

I've been trying to be really diligent and conscientious about what I put in my mouth, carefully keeping a food diary (which I threw out the window on the way home!) I have not been so badly influenced since raiding my kid's Halloween stash, one of whom would still have stale candycorn and lint-covered Snickers at Easter! Never knew such fine, sincere, upstanding, law-abiding Christians could be such a bad influence on my good intentions... but tomorrow is a new day, new opportunity to walk the straight and narrow way (which I could probably do a whole lot better if there were not so many homemade sweets calling my name, in urgent need of Quality Control Testing!)

I did not really want to go, though I made the commitment months ago. Tried to find someone who would graciously allow me to weasel out of the weekend, but no one would even return my calls, so I pretty much knew I was stuck. It has been good, sweet, a blessing to serve this group of men who are taking the time to seek, search, desiring to devote their lives to being living proof of saving grace and mercy. So I will set my alarm for 5, and go again....

your first serving of 'soup'

Thursday, October 15, 2009
I have enjoyed reading the news from Chattanooga, the blog of Stinky Sweet (mostly the ONLY way I get info. from TN that is not 'fowarded' from an un-named source), and have been badgering the author to: 'teach me, teach me!!!'
Well, here we are: me writing, and you reading. I am hoping to come up with some major (or minor) philosophic points for us to ponder, but they will likely not be particularly profound.
When the author of StinkySweet was here last weekend, I was pestering her about needing 'tech. support'. She said I first had to come up with a name/title for my blog. So: I am sure the book about 'Stone Soup' was required reading for eveyone who checked out books from their elementary school library.
When you think about the story, you realize it was a demonstration of how we can accomplish great things when we just put a little cooperative effort into reaching goals. You also might consider that the people in the village inadvertently, unintentionally, accidently provided for others when they made contributions to their own betterment (as in serving a Greater Good). And then you may even think: hmmmm, what they basically did was to 'make something out of nothing'.... which is actually what I am thinking may happen here...


I am writing mom step-by-step instructions on how to post, so I am doing it as I write to make sure I am seeing the same things she will see and telling her what she needs to know.
This is my sample...
we are working on it.
She is so good she might be posting by later today!
Check back!

analyze me!

I also put her blog in Google Analytics because I am so fascinated by who visits and I want to be able to report in to her on who is coming to see her site and how they got there. So please, share the address and check back often as we get this baby set up!

well hello there.

Hello everyone...this is Paula. I am such a famous blogger that I got my mom hooked too (kidding about the famous part, not kidding about the mom part.) This is her first entry - I am trying to set up her account and layout so I can then give her a tutorial on how to use this thing. Maybe once she gets it, she can post for me when I am in the woods next time. Check back with us soon and hopefully we will have this up and running with MOM posting, instead of me.