Sunday, October 13, 2019

No nonsense just a crock

Indeed it is! A crock, I mean. For all of my growing up years, stoneware was just a part of life. Pickling crocks, jugs, animal feeding bowls, bean pots, the list goes on and on. It wasn't until I was older that I learned that these were considered stoneware. So what is stoneware?

According to Wikipedia, stoneware is a broad term for pottery and other ceramics fired at high temperatures. Stoneware has been made since people found that pottery and fire came together to make some great vessels for most any purpose. Crock ovens were buried when an oven wasn't yet invented. Crocks stored salt and foods that were fermented. Sauerkraut was made in crocks.

The Loxley girls grew up with stoneware in that house back the lane, but, truly, we never paid much attention to it. We had big crocks for brining, little crocks for the rabbit feeding bowls, bean pots with nifty little stoneware lids and somewhere along the way, I'm sure there was a butter churner in my grandparent's home. Crocks were just part of a way of life similar to having canning jars in the pantry.

I was excited a few years ago when we went to Arcanum Hardware where I found a medium-sized crock. I found an old stoneware jug in our farmhouse barn not long after I was married. And when I moved out here, I walked into an estate sale where the living room was full of crocks ranging from small to gigantic. Yep, one went home with me. A stoneware bean pot was a wedding gift. Over time, I have accumulated a stoneware pie plate, a second bean pot and a casserole dish accompanied by two little matching ramekins. Hm. Perhaps my children grew up with stoneware, too. My crocks are now a part of our home decor. One holds a plant and has in the past been an umbrella stand. Stoneware bowls hold the dog food.

There is this old friendship with crocks that reminds me of aprons, baked beans (and Cousin Betty), bunnies in the rabbit hutch and maybe even moonshine. Indeed, this is story is a crock. A crock of memories.

Thursday, October 3, 2019

We are the difference

First of all, this is not about me. It is about our society. 
Yesterday I went to the store. In front of me as I was waiting to check out, a young mother was struggling with her three children. The most trouble was the two-year-old in the back of the cart. I started paying attention to his firetruck socks. Soon he was focused on me and not dropping groceries from the cart. The couple behind me started talking to me about their grandkids. It became a little community all its own. 

As I left the store, I came upon a woman in a wheelchair struggling with her keys. I asked if I could help her and did. We hugged and said we loved each other as surely we did. I had three opportunities in less than ten minutes. I had no agenda. I had no message. I had looked around me and seen what was needed. 

We all should be doing this. It isn't about praise or accolades. It is about being a tool to serve others and in turn serve ourselves. It is about being aware of what is around us and how we can make a difference. So help me. Keep your eyes and hearts open. 

We are the difference.

Monday, September 30, 2019

Smell of pies and noodles

My sister June sent a picture of a woman feeding sheep. Of course, she sent it knowing how much I loved our lambs. The picture resides in an old frame that is a lovely setting for the scene. Reminders of the farm. And, most of all, the smell of the sheep and the shed.

Memory is a wonderful thing. It comes with scent and with vision. Recall of my grandpa's octagonal barn immediately makes me think of the dust and straw in the mow. Stories of my grandmother falling through the floor of the mow into the herd of cattle mingling below come to mind. Her fall was always thought to be the beginnings of her cancer. A sadness hangs in that barn for me.

When I walked into that barn back the lane, I was assailed by the memories of kids flying across the barn on the swing, kittens hidden behind the bales and cattle milling below. A smell of hay, straw and cattle is alive the same as it was when we lived there. I am once more a child swinging on the swing Dad made and the one playing pirates with neighbor kids.

A place. A smell. A memory. Last week we were at the ocean for three days. Most of it was spent walking the Pacific beach or just watching the waves rise and fall. I was mesmerized. Memories captured me and pulled me to and fro with each wave. Dad was the first to introduce me to the ocean. How could I not call that to mind? The sound of the waves at night reminded me of that nighttime introduction that terrified me with the thunder of the waves and a body of water that was dark and endless. The ocean held an ocean full of moments with family, of children exploring, of sand between my toes. I looked at it wondering if the only thing my grandchildren would know is a barren span of water full of plastic. A place where our planet cried for what it lost.

I talk often of memories. We are memories in the making. What will be the things our families remember? What opportunities are there that we ignore by just the task of living day to day. My son James often talks of the smell of the house on Neff Road. It was the smell of pies in the oven, the fire in the fireplace and that of his grandparents. Dad always smelled of the field, of hay. Mom always smelled like pies and noodles. I probably smell like plant soil and topical pain relievers.

Perhaps our house smells of Play Doh and evergreen. Maybe the sight of a musical instrument or a painting will pull memories of our home and of us. Our senses are so attached to our memories that we cannot deny what they hold for us. Mine seem to always bring on a smile and a warm place in my heart. How about yours?

Monday, September 23, 2019

Favorite time of the year

Smell it? Huh? Breathe it in! It is the smell of fall. Everything around us knows the time of year. Animals are beginning that winter coat that sheds all over the place in the spring. Plants are struggling to open their last blooms while some others are enjoying the brisk feel of season. Yep, my favorite season. No, wait, I think I said that in the spring. Hm. Well, anyway, fall is here.

What is it that brings memories back in the fall? It is indeed a reflective time. Not just for the older generation. Nolan remembers the donkey at the pumpkin patch, and, of course, the cider donuts. Emma recalls Halloween costumes and the fun fall brings. My memories always pop back to the farm. The mulberry and maple trees covered the lawn with leaves. Even after all these years, I remember tossing them into the air and running through them. Fall on the farm was a wonderful time.

We spent a bit more time in the basement during fall. It was when Dad started building fires in the fireplace. It was when the church youth group showed up for hot dogs and potato salad. Neighbors were gearing down from a time of combining in the fields and canning the summer bounty. They had time to stop in for a morning of visiting. We dressed a bit warmer to walk to the bus. And, Brenda and I turned our attention from playing in the corncrib to playing with our paper dolls and doll babies.

Fall is a time of remembering. Yes, sometimes the darker days and rain remind us of those we love and have lost. I lost my dad and two uncles on September 17. I sent my kids to school in the fall, hence, my summer fun with them came to a halt. They would grow up more during their winter experiences at school and our play days would change. Somehow fall seemed to be more about endings than beginnings which spring held aplenty. Often the rain reflected the tears in my heart.

Fall is here with all of its color. The air is crisp and clear. We sit in our living room watching the seasons change outside our windows. Fall. My favorite time of the year.

Monday, September 16, 2019

Home is a feeling

What is home? The first home would have been around a fire or in a cave. Some people have many homes in their lives. It is a lovely noun, but so much more.

I was asked this week if I call Ohio or Oregon home. Now that is a tricky one. Home for me has always been Ohio, yet my house here in Oregon is my home. What is the difference? One is where I was born and raised. One is this place I reside. Each is equally important to me and each are my homes. This has become more home to me since my family is here and since I have lived most of my life here. Yet my heartstrings yearn for that Ohio home.

Recently, I read a piece stating that the home you were raised in is no longer home once all the loved ones are gone. It is only a place full of stuff. What made this a 'home' were the people who lived there together.

I did some research and came across this piece from The Smithsonian Magazine: "...our physical habitat is shaped by what you might call the magnetic property of home." I like that. It is magnetic.

Home is also people. A magnetism to that place where you took root and those people who take you right back to Neff Road where memories lie on the edge of conversations. Those that take us home again and again. Ah, yes, friends and family and home.

I do have to admit that I was a little concerned wondering what I was going to do with two women from back 'home' who were coming to Portland. They were not people I knew. In fact, I was taking Janet Rhoades' positive referral on these two. And, yes, she was completely right. For the last few days, we have been experiencing home. Jane Brown and Donna Stickley are pure delight. I'm not sure there was a moment when we needed to get acquainted. We shared home. In just a few days, we three have become best of friends, laughing and enjoying the company, and the sightseeing. Home. Not a building. Not a house back a lane. No, it has been in the joy of Jane and Donna in our lives.

Home is not a place....it is a feeling - Unknown

Monday, August 19, 2019

Skinny pages on the calendar

Cooler weather comes as birds revisit their migration maps, plants and trees pull their resources into the ground and the old brown bear chases critters out of her den. Getting close to nap time.

The birds seem to be swirling and grouping, practicing for travel to their sunny vacations in the south.    Even I find myself wearing warmer clothing in the mornings. I refuse to go inside with my morning coffee until the temperatures fall below 60. Yes, I have added socks to my morning attire. I adjust much like the animals that grow a winter coat.

Teachers are scurrying around classrooms, preparing for the next batch of students. Our twins will go to the school on Friday to see which teacher they belong to. In order to lure them in, donuts will be served. I suggested that Nolan might need warmer shirts, and was told, by his own authority, that boys are much warmer than girls. They don't need anything more than tank tops and shorts. I envision him turning blue as cold weather sets in.

We all prepare. We all set our lives to that yearly clock that goes around the calendar. "Is that Christmas music," Loren asked while the twins were over today. "Yep," I said." Not much use in saying more. It is what it is. The kids will know more words to the songs when they listen to them for months on end. Hibernating is beginning to sound good.

We can food. We pull up dead plants that gave us their best throughout the summer. We trade in milkshakes for hot chocolate. "MeMe, don't forget to get four cans of whipped cream," Emma said today. "We can each have one and fill our mouths at the same time." Now there are some things that I have taught my grandchildren that might not be acceptable in many households....including their own. However, I remember sneaking to the refrigerator and tipping up the can of whipped cream when no one was looking. I'm looking forward to my can.

My mom would scrub the house, shake out the bedding and fill the coffers with canned and frozen foods. Dad had a calf butchered. There would be plenty to get us through the winter.

I don't mind the coming of another season. Perhaps I do get tired of the predictability. Shoes off in May. Shoes on in September. Plant in the spring. Tear out in the fall. You know how it goes. At least we don't hibernate or need to catch a flight south. (No wait! Forgot about the Snowbirds.) We move on with the seasons as we do the seasons of our lives. There is always much to learn and hope to gather. And perhaps a nap or two. The calendar is getting skinny.


Mommy, that means you will die

Sometimes, most times lately, I wonder what has happened to people who are supposed to have a heart, faith, belief in the good of people. Instead I see more and more people trying to justify how they feel, cold to the facts. They use God and their Bible to quote scriptures, while there are people dying of hunger, trapped in cages, begging in the street. I wonder then, where are you people of faith? Faith is an action word. Not a political battle.

faith (noun) 1. complete trust in someone or something. synonyms: trust, believe, confidence, conviction, credence, reliance, dependence; optimism, hope, expectation

This last week I asked my prayer warriors  to pray for a young woman who is dying. Only about 4 people listened. Over a year ago, Erika and her family moved across the country, so she could go to the Cleveland Clinic. She vomits blood, her appendages swell to the extent she feels she is carrying another person. Her skin peels. Her liver is dying. "Mommy can't do this much longer," she tells five-year-old Loie. "But Mommy, that means you will die."

Erika and her husband have been in an ongoing battle with insurance. She has been on the liver transplant list three times. Erika's liver was damaged during surgery. She was finally free of cancer but now needed a liver. Her first donor liver was available but too large for her. So they sent her to the end of the list. She was kicked off again. I won't get into the whole story here, but you can find it on CNN's site. The cancer tried to get her, but she conquered it.

What has happened to faith? It seems to have slipped through the cracks. Faith is not just in a church. Faith is a belief, a trust, a hope, an expectation that things can be better. It is a noun; however, I feel it is also a verb. Faith calls everyone to action.

The thousands came from all over, immigrants and all others. Christ fed them all. He didn't turn away from the sick or the sinner. Faith does not reside in a church. It resides in you and me. I have faith in people and am so hurt when they fall short. Faith is not based on truth. It is based on trust. Yes, this week I am saddened. People all over the world cry out, but few listen. What is worse is that people just don't care. They believe God will take care of them. It's not their problem. There is a song I love: We are His hands;  we are His feet; we are His children, people of the world.

I close this column asking you to pray for Erika Zak. She is beyond being able to help herself.

Monday, August 12, 2019

To sit upon a horse

Emma just started horseback riding lessons. She sits tall in her English saddle, looking as though she was always meant to be there. Our love of horses. June had it. I had it. We sat on sawhorses holding a rope and shouting, "giddyup!" Horses.

I asked June what it is that she liked about the fair. The carousel. I should have known. I, on the other hand, always got sick on the merry-go-round that went round and round and round and round. I think I'd better stop there.

A few years back June was researching carousels. She came out here where we tracked down merry-go-rounds. Then we had grandtwins (Yes, I make it one word. I'm a writer. It's my style.) We have a favorite place in Salem, Oregon, where a carousel waits for us. In the backroom of the building, the kids can actually watch the carousel creatures being carved. The last time it was a cow wearing rain boots. Their artistry is fascinating, and, to tell the truth, Loren and I are captivated with this adventure as well. We love to watch the kids go round and round on their horses. So where in the heck did carousels originate? Hm. Sounds like a column to me. June, this one is for you.

Let us start with the name. Of course, we know merry-go-round and carousel; however, there are a few more names: galloper, jumper, roundabout, horseabout and flying horses. (Hm. Bet you didn't know that little fact.) Carousels started in the days of jousting. Knights galloped in a circle as they tossed balls to one another. In fact, the word carousel comes from the Italian word garosello which means little battle. (You can find this all online.) In the 17th century the balls were tossed aside and the gold ring came into the picture. Shoot a spear through the small ring and hone your skills as a warrior. I personally think grabbing a ring is better than target practice. Of course, kids mimicked adults, as they do now, and this all became a game. An early carousel was set up in Paris where wooden horses sat for the children to play upon. You 'fair'ly well know the rest.

The classic carousels we have today are rare. More than 4,000 carousels have been built in the United States. Today only 150 survive. So when you sit your child or grandchild onto the seat of a carved animal this year's fair, remember the rich past of this, the oldest carnival ride. And, of course, our historical love of horses. Giddyup.

Monday, August 5, 2019

Summer is not over yet

So I walk into the store looking for some fun summer things and am greeted with backpacks, folder, pencils, etc. Wait!!!! Summer isn't over yet. It is 92 degrees!

Our kids here in Oregon do not go back to school until after Labor Day. Yes, they are out the second week of June, so if they went back to school the beginning of August, they would have little summer to enjoy. In past years they had early release on Wednesdays to help alleviate some added expenses to schools during those few afternoon hours. The budget could use a little help, since we do not have sales tax to help out with some of the finances in this state.

I remember when summers looked long and lazy. We were out mid-May and back to school mid August. Of course, the weather in May was not always the best and August was always hot. But having all that time without shoes was worth it.

I saw where some schools in other states are actually going to a four-day school week. That draws out questions, such as: Will teachers be able to cope with a shortened week and smaller paychecks? Will parents be able to afford extra childcare? Will kids get all that they need in four days? Will this affect the length of the school year? Yep, lots of questions.

Computers have certainly changed the face of education. My granddaughter can contact her teacher online and ask questions when she is not in attendance. She can check on her assignments and even get help while sitting in her own home. She can check her grades and do homework online. I certainly wish we have had this opportunity. I recently heard that some kids have a computer day at home where class is held online. Not bad. Of course, they miss the banter at school and the socialization. Still, they no longer lug encyclopedias around, and can go to the library online. It is the future. Oh, and the present.

I rather miss not finding summer things in the stores. It is a bit unsettling to think that I am being forced into fall already. And.... if that is not enough, I just passed a woman putting out Halloween items. ARGH!!!

Sunday, July 14, 2019

A flag of red

What is it about water that calls us to it again and again? Why do the memories swarm around our heads like a whirlwind, waiting to pull us into its eye? I sit here by Flathead Lake in Montana remembering the days on Lake Hamlin in Michigan. Aunt Bessie, my mother's older sister, and Uncle Sam owned the store there. They sold everything from bait to hot dogs. First memories of the resort are of a white house on a hill wearing green shutters. It seemed large when I was a child. Now it is a little house tucked into the trees. We wear memories large in our childhoods. Trips that were long as a child are merely a whisper now. Adults that seemed so old were younger than we are now. Perhaps it is due to the shortness in height that we wore when small.

Boats pull in and out from the dock. Visitors, travelers from all over the world, are waiting to travel across the lake or gamble in the casino. I, for one, have never gambled in a Casino. That is, until today. So I sat in a chair next to some people who seemed determined to lose their cash. I thought to myself, "Looks like a good place to start." Much to my disappointment, there was neither an arm to pull nor a slot for my coins. Seems to me that I should get some exercise while I lose my money. I began with my lone dollar. Hm. Big spender. After that I worked myself up to five dollars. I won ten cents. Hm. Should have quit while I was ahead. Five dollars later I did, after winning an entire eighty cents. My gambling days are over. When I left, the losing couple were maintaining.

But why sit inside when shades of blue and green from lake to shore capture my imagination. The lake is 371 feet deep in the deepest part. I don't intend to wet my feet, so will trust it is so. My niece found fresh bear scat in the yard yesterday. Not sure it it was black or grizzly but not going to search for it. "We were sitting on the bed when a big bear lumbered past our window," my niece informed me. Informed me not long after she told me about her face off with a mountain lion. Seems not many people know that mountain lions and pumas are the same critter. (Just a tiny bit of info). I don't know much but like to share the tidbits that make me feel smart.

A red flag flies over me. It is the flag of an independent nation. A true American flag. In the beginning, no trumpets herald the Indians who lived free on the land here in Montana and across the nation. They needed no flag. This was all their land. They did not know that it would be taken away. The red flag now seems appropriate. A tepee, bow/arrow and symbols for hunting and fishing fly between the words Flathead and Nation. I would like to be part of this nation of beautiful people. I would like to live in this land that still rings of what this earth should be. I am impressed that recycling is a big thing here. We received our groceries in compostable bags. We should all be so advanced. This nation respects this earth that gave them life. They will protect it with their hearts, souls and bodies.

Today I write with the wind in my hair and the sun in my eyes. The blue water is so clear and true to what nature created before the white men came to destroy it. In the ocean, our sea life dies from plastic and hunters. Yes, I would like to be a Flathead. They have struggled. I get it. I wish I had helped them.