Sunday, July 7, 2019

The Taming of the Screw

I don’t know if it’s a common occurrence or I'm just special, but ANY home repair or improvement project I’ve ever attempted has NEVER followed standard procedures. There is ALWAYS a complication that isn’t addressed in the easy-to-follow instructions. Given this pathetic history, I don’t know why I thought I could take down an old set of drapes and replace them with sheer panels. But in a moment of weakness—or delusion—I decided I was up to the task. I mean, what could be so hard about removing a few screws and pieces of curtain hardware and putting up a simple rod? Right? 

Did I say a “few” screws? Those drapes were professionally installed, and I contend that had this house been flattened
The old drapes had been installed in 1985.
It was time for a change.
by a tornado or earthquake, those drapes would’ve still been attached to the wall. I removed no fewer than twenty-eight screws, most of them with a three-inch screwdriver because anything larger wouldn’t fit in the space between the rods and the wall. 

I took my time, constantly reminding myself there was no hurry and that calm persistence would eventually pay off. My progress was slow but going smoothly, and I was thinking of hosting my own HGTV show when I came to that #*&!@ twenty-eighth screw. The one in a very hard-to-reach space.The one with the stripped head.

The culprit.
I should insert here that the tools at my disposal are limited. Early on, Bill and I learned that we should never attempt home repairs or projects together if we intended to stay
married. We also determined attempting them as individuals

wasn’t such a good idea, either, so we’ve never invested in
Every tool in my arsenal was
was employed in my war against the screw.
anything more than your basic tools: screwdrivers (lots of screwdrivers), pliers, drill, duct tape, and toilet plunger. In any normal situation, those should get the job done. But, as previously stated, normal never occurs for me, and this project was no exception.

This is why Spackling is my best
friend when it comes to
doing home projects.
For hours, I tried every size and type of screwdriver we owned, succeeding only in mangling the head more. I ran next door to my neighbor to borrow a mini-hacksaw, thinking I could saw off the head. That resulted in scraping a huge chunk of plaster from the sheetrock. At that point, I was hours into this project, dripping with sweat and seriously considering knocking down the whole dang wall with a sledge hammer. 

Had I been thinking straight, I would’ve given up and called the handyman we keep on speed dial. But I didn’t do that. I didn’t do it because this battle had become personal. Now it was Dee Dee versus the screw. It was Dee Dee against that one-and-a-half inch piece of metal that weighed a tenth of an ounce. I told myself, “ You is bigger, you is stronger, and you is smarter than that screw.” 

The screw was small and not very smart, but it was still
a formidable opponent. I'm thinking of having it bronzed.
I headed to Lowe’s in search of some magical solution. I explained my problem to a man in the tool section. Not a salesman, mind you, but a burly guy with lots of tattoos and a cart full of caulking tubes. He explained to me that I could drill a hole in the center of that screw and it would come right out. I was skeptical, but who was I to argue with a man who knew how to caulk?

Back at home, I dusted off our forty-something-year-old drill and proceeded to attack the screw head. It was slow going—probably because the drill bit was also forty years old. I gave up on that tactic after seeing no sign of progress. But I did not give up on my project.

I stood on my step stool and studied that screw, determined more than ever it would not defeat me. That was when another idea came to me. I grabbed the hacksaw, but this time instead of attempting to saw off the head, I slid the blade back and forth across the top of it, deepening the groove. I measured the depth with my thumbnail and realized I was making progress. I sawed some more. Before long I was able to fit the edge of the slot screwdriver into the wedge. I pressed hard and twisted and … the screw turned! Only a millionth of an inch, but that was enough to encourage my flagging spirit. Again I pressed hard and gave the screwdriver another twist. The screw turned a little more. With new found hope and energy, I continued: press, twist, press, twist … and with one final twist, the screw released its death grip on the wall. Victory has never tasted so sweet.

As I was writing this post, UPS delivered the new curtain rod to my front door. We’ll see if this one goes up easier than the old one came down. Given my history, I’m betting it won’t.

The rest of the story...

To my surprise and delight, the new rod and sheers went up with relatively few problems and with a total of six screws. So to borrow another title from The Bard--All's Well That Ends Well!

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Mindful Walking Post 3: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

My neighborhood is small-ish (forty houses, two streets, two cul de sacs). I’ve lived in it for almost thirty years, plenty of time to become familiar with the houses and the terrain. Usually when I walk here, it is with the singular intent to exercise, to reach my goal of daily steps. I might occasionally stop to talk with a neighbor, but I seldom take the time to notice or appreciate the surroundings. However, one of the challenges Bonnie Smith Whitehouse presents in  Afoot and Lighthearted is to walk in your own neighborhood and see it as a tourist or newcomer might--to make discoveries in a place you thought you knew. Yesterday, with that thought in mind, I set out.

You might’ve seen the Facebook meme that suggests Oklahoma change its name to “Ark”lahoma. All spring and into summer Oklahomans have experienced torrential downpours of earth-altering, damn-breaching proportions. Since a creek winds behind my neighborhood and empties into a commons area, I figured much of what I’d "discover" yesterday would revolve around changes the recent rains have brought—erosion, uprooted trees, deposits of new dirt. But while there was some of that, there were also some very pleasant discoveries.

Okies are a tough, determined lot, and my neighbors are no exception. We don’t live in a gated community of McMansions or on manicured acreage. But we do take pride in our homes and in the small amount of ground we’ve been allotted. We work hard to make our space attractive for ourselves and for others. To my delight yesterday, I found that in between the recent deluges, my neighbors have continued to work in their yards and on their houses and have produced lush little gardens and photo-worthy vignettes. 

During my walk, I found ... 

 beds of brightly colored flowers and lush greenery ...

welcoming oases for birds (which abound) ...

and cheerful spots for humans to "sit a spell."

I’ve always thought we have a pretty neighborhood, but until I  took the time to notice, I never fully appreciated it. I think if I really were looking through the eyes of a newcomer, I would see it as a lovely and pleasant place to live.

"...explore the neighborhood, view the at least where it is that we have been so startlingly set down."
                                          -Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

My challenge is that you take Whitehouse's advice: Stroll through your neighborhood and see it for the first time! 

Wednesday, May 1, 2019

Mindful Walking Post 2: Poetry

In Afoot and Lighthearted, Bonnie Smith Whitehouse quotes Simon Armitrage: “…there’s a relationship between the poetic meter and the fall of your foot…. Often when I go for a walk I come back with a poem.”

I jumped right on this because I enjoy composing poetry, and I especially enjoy composing poetry with definite rhythm (meter) and rhyme. Free verse (no set pattern of rhythm or rhyme) is very popular these days. I’ve noticed that in many contests and literary publications, free verse is favored and rhyming, rhythmic poetry is considered rather old fashioned or trite. I don’t have a problem with free verse—actually enjoy a lot of it and have dabbled in writing some. But for me, when I determine to write a poem, rhythm and rhyme almost always take over. 

At the risk of being considered the ultimate nerd, I’ll confess to enjoying prosody (the science or study of poetic meters and versification) both as a student and as a former English teacher. I know, I know. I can hear the groans and grinding of teeth. There are many who contend that to analyze a poem’s form is to wrench the very life out of it. They feel—to borrow from E. B. White’s observation on humor—that analyzing a poem is like dissecting a frog. No one enjoys it, and the frog dies in the process. I’ve no desire to murder anyone’s poem, but prosody—like sentence diagramming—appeals to that strong left-brained side of me. 

I think rhythmic, rhyming poetry has fallen into disrepute lately because often it appears too forced, too artificial. But if done correctly,  rhythm and rhyme in poetry can be as natural as our heartbeats … or the fall of our footsteps. And after all, those are the elements that draw us us to poetry in the first place. I used to tell my English students that as far as I knew, no child ever listened to a Dr. Seuss poem and responded, “Wow, that message was deep.”

Sooo armed with these thoughts, 
I sat out on my morning walk in search of a poem.
I sat out on my mindful walk this morning in search of a poem … and maybe a few augers. As I walked, I noted the equally stressed thump-thump my feet made on the packed sand—a spondee! The augers eluded me, but amid the many sounds and sights on the beach, I managed to find this poem. (In case anyone is interested—the odds are, you’re not—it’s eight couplets of predominantly spondaic dimeter.)

                                          Beach Walk

                                       Breeze lags
Flag sags

Waves roll
Walkers stroll

Gulls shriek
Folks greet

Parents shout
Kids pout

Tide turns
Sand churns

Birds glide
Bouys guide

                                            Surf swells,
                                            deposits shells

                                            Sun blazes
                                            The sea amazes!

Try composing a poem on one (or more) of your mindful walks. It’s fun. Take inspiration from the sights and sounds around you and see if you detect a rhythmic pattern. Once you do, let it lead you to a poem! (And don’t worry—identifying the name of the meter isn’t necessary.) 

If you'd care to share the poem from your walk, I'd love to read it!

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Mindful Walking: Day 1 - Analogies

The choice for my first day of mindful walking was a no-brainer. I’d thumbed through Afoot and Lighthearted and chosen “Analogies” as my first point to ponder on my stroll along the beach. According to a study by Stanford Researchers in 2014, walking can lead to an increase in “analogical creativity.” And who doesn’t enjoy a clever and enlightening analogy? I mean, a good analogy is like the perfect word … when the perfect word eludes or doesn’t exist. 
When asked to describe heaven, Christ responded, “The Kingdom of Heaven is like a mustard seed … a merchant seeking fine pearls … a treasure ….” He knew there was no human word that would adequately capture the divine concept of it, so he relied on analogies.

Whenever I read, I’m always on the lookout for the well-stated comparison that shows me what a character is seeing or feeling or experiencing. One of the best tools for helping me understand a complex problem is to begin with, “It’s like this …”

In her book, Whitehouse gives an excellent exercise to follow, which I might use at a later time. But for this walk, I followed only the first part of her instructions: Let your mind wander. For me, the quickest way to squelch creativity is to demand I come up with something: “On this walk, you WILL come up with an analogy.”  So I set out walking with the suggestion nestled comfortably in the back of my mind.

It didn’t take long to come upon two women carefully inspecting a pile of shells freshly washed ashore. Every so often, they’d pick up something and place it in their opposite palm for safekeeping. My curiosity was piqued because I could see absolutely nothing worth collecting in that pile of broken, garden-variety shells. 

But just in case I was missing out on something, I asked, “What are you looking for?”

“Augers,” one of the women said. She held out her hand to reveal the tiny tips of conical-shaped shells.

I was delighted. The aptly named tips did indeed resemble little drill bits. What fun to search for them! How cute would these tiny treasures be displayed in a tiny bottle next to my sea glass collection! They had a fantasy quality to them … like tiny unicorn horns. (An analogy!)

And so I was on a roll. I noticed people all up and down the beach, involved in hunts of one kind or another. I started asking what they were searching for. Answers varied and they’d show you the results of their searches—colorful shells, bits of glass or sand dollars, parts of sea animals.  

And that’s when another analogy came to me. 

Perhaps life is a treasure hunt and we are all treasure seekers. We go through our days searching for the good, the delightful, the beautiful—something that brings us joy. The fortunate find it; others give up too easily or search for the wrong things in the wrong places. But I think as long as we are intent in the pursuit of what is good, we’ll be be happy in our search and eventually rewarded. And in our search for the ultimate Truth, Jeremiah 29:13 promises us this: “You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” 

Do you have any favorite analogies? Any that are original to you? If not, lace up your shoes and start walking. And happy treasure hunting!

Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Mindful Walking

I’d accompanied my daughter into Parnassus bookstore in Nashville solely to “window shop.” With my TBR list resembling a library card catalog, the last thing I needed was another book. But on the Local Writers shelf, Afoot and Lighthearted by Bonnie Smith Whitehouse caught my attention. No way was I buying it, but a quick perusal couldn't hurt.  


This gem of a book is chock full of quotations about walking (who knew there were so many?) and ideas to inspire, motivate, and de-stress during those walks. Lately, my creativity had been flagging. Likewise my required daily number of steps has fallen well below the required daily number. But I would soon be headed to the beach. Maybe this little journal, combined with oceanside strolls, would jumpstart the creative juices and get them flowing again. And maybe it would provide motivation for walking other than offsetting the massive amount of seafood I’d be consuming. I needed this book. 

My resolve to buy no more books also flagging, I made the purchase. And what a wise and happy decision that proved to be! I couldn’t wait to hit the beach and put what I’d read into practice. 

The beauty of this book is that it applies to any walk, any place. It doesn’t have to be along an aqua blue ocean or verdant mountain trail. In fact, Whitehouse begins by challenging readers to make new discoveries right in their own neighborhoods. Can’t wait to try that when I return home.

I'll confess to ignoring one of Whitehouse's suggestions--digital detox. I'm so excited about my new source of inspiration I want to share some of the results via my blog--which involves technology. Be looking for them over the next few days. Until then, I’ll leave you with this quotation from the book: 

“Above all, do not lose your desire to walk: Every day I walk myself into a state of well-being and walk away from illness; I have walked myself into my best thoughts and I know of no thought so burdensome that one cannot walk away from it."
                                                     --Soren Kierkegaard

    Feeling tired, out of sorts, uninspired? Lace up those cross-trainers and hit the trail—or the pavement. Let me know how it works for you.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

Get to Work!

One of the tenets of Christianity is that belief in Jesus Christ, not works, secures our salvation. This comes as a big relief to me personally. Over my lifetime, the Oh, nos! have far outnumbered the Atta girls! If God were keeping score (which thank heavens He isn’t), I wouldn’t get a toe inside the Pearly Gates. I am all too happy to read Paul’s message in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For it is by grace you have been saved through faith … not of works …,” and breathe a huge sigh of relief.

BUT … there are those other verses that let me know, I can’t just claim this promise and go happily on my way. For example, if you read further in the second chapter of Ephesians, verse 10 to be exact, you’ll find there’s a proper response to accepting this incomparable gift: “For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works…” And in James 2:17, the author essentially tells us faith without accompanying good deeds “is dead.” 

My blog posts, while often having an inspirational message, aren’t usually quite this “preachy.” But an event this past weekend at my church inspired me to reflect on the relationship of faith and works. For the past three springs, New Covenant Methodist Church has organized an activity called Sent Out Saturday. Members devote a Saturday morning to helping with various needs around the community. Usually this involves performing a lot of manual labor—cleaning, repairing, painting, sprucing up—for organizations or persons incapable of getting it all done themselves. 

Just look at this impressive group!
And they're all smiling ... at eight in the
morning...on a Saturday!
When this program began, around thirty people gathered to be “sent out.” This year, over ninety showed up to help! What a thrill to see this growth—to see so many give up a Saturday morning to help people they didn’t even know. And what thrilled me even more was that many of these volunteers were families with children of all ages. By example, moms and dads taught their toddlers to teens that if faith is genuine, it will reveal itself in love and concern for others. 

No, task was too big...and no worker too small!
Okay, I’m just going to go with the preachy thing and make a suggestion. Even Christians can sometimes find themselves in the doldrums. I certainly do. If you find yourself in such a state, help someone. It doesn’t have to be in a big group or with a lot of fanfare. Just look around … in your family or at your workplace or in your neighborhood. A need, however small, will soon present itself. To steal an old milk slogan, helping others truly “does a body good.” And sharing the good news of Christ doesn’t get any more effective than this!

If you need proof that serving others can make you feel good, check out these smiles.

How many volunteers does it take
to open a bucket of paint?

A pretty mother/daughter duo!

More teamwork!

Some jobs are best tackled alone.

There's always a need for good organizers!

Men and tools--an unstoppable combo.

Taking a little time out for fitness.

Sprucing up the Exodus House courtyard for spring.

Getting ready for the summer campers at Shiloh Camp.

And mulching at Shiloh.  Volunteers also sent to
the homes of Meals on Wheels clients and helped
with cleaning and repair chores.


Wednesday, February 13, 2019

Nothin' Says Lovin' Like _____

I was scrolling through Facebook when a link posted by Southern Living Magazine caught my eye. The picture of a vintage recipe box tripped my memory button and brought to mind another such box—a bright yellow one with an apple painted on it. It had belonged to my mother-in-law. I guess the picture and recipe box put me in a vintage mood because as I searched through my own pantry for the little wooden box, I caught myself singing, “Nothin’ says lovin’ like something from the oven…”

I smiled because it’s a catchy little jingle. The person who came up with a tune and words that would stick in anyone’s mind for over fifty years is an advertising genius. Also, I smiled because it provided the inspiration I needed for a Valentine’s Day post. 
Pillsbury first aired this ad campaign in the 1950s. At that time it was assumed every young woman wanted to snag herself a man and the fastest route to capturing his heart was through his stomach. Once she accomplished that feat, she could continue to show her devotion—and show off her domestic skills at the same time—by baking  “a very special cake.” 

Of course, this kind of thinking has undergone some alterations through the years. First came the realization that while baking might have pleased your fella, it didn’t necessarily guarantee him a long and healthy life. In the seventies I worked with Dale, a lady from Mississippi. She’d been raised in the time-honored tradition of sending the man of the house off to work with a hearty meal under his belt. For years she’d risen early and fried bacon and eggs for her hubby and made him biscuits. Not ones from a (Pillsbury) can, mind you, but light and flaky, made-from-scratch biscuits. Dale had taken great pride in lovingly performing this duty every morning until … her husband developed an ulcer and heart problems. Crestfallen, she’d listened as the doctor explained to her the ill effects of too much fat and cholesterol in the diet. Adding insult to injury, the doctor had added, “Lady, you’re killing your husband.” After that, Dale lovingly sent her man off to work with a bowl of corn flakes under his belt. But somehow it just wasn’t the same.

Another change in thinking came when women’s goals became redirected. Those old Pillsbury ads were targeted at women, but today many ladies are more interested in landing a fulfilling career than a spouse. And in many marriages, the husband might be found in the kitchen as often as or maybe even more than the wife. That’s a good—no,  a GREAT  change! No rule says only women can experience the joy of preparing something good to eat for her loved ones.

But while traditions or ideas might undergo alterations over the years, some things never change. And one of those is the desire to be loved and have that love expressed either in words or actions. On the off-chance “something from the oven” doesn’t make your heart go all a-twitter, I want to know what does. What says or demonstrates “lovin’” to you? Whether in a friend, family, spiritual, or romantic relationship, what’s your favorite way to be told or shown “I love you”?  Please share either in the comments below or on Facebook. And from my heart to yours ...

Happy Valentine’s Day!!!