spiritual life, women

The cure for fretting

“Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow, it empties today of its strength.” Corrie ten Boom, Dutch writer and Nazi-resisting firebrand

It’s not so much that life comes at you fast, it’s that it comes in bursts. That’s what happened over the weekend — a sudden storm of quiet desperation that came from just everywhere.

There were three ladies at the farmer’s market. All mid-life. All at the point of tight-lipped, wrinkled-brow anxiety. There were the magazine articles. So many articles and all about the same thing. American women — the younger and the richer, the more so — are apparently drinking themselves into zombie states to simply cope.

There was the letter. Not that big of a deal, but enough to make me a bit fearful. I fretted about it through a lunch outing with my mom. I fretted about it on the road home. I fretted about it past the parking lot of yet another restaurant, until I saw yet another woman. This one was so burdened with food addiction that her feet couldn’t get close enough to each other to walk properly.

“What are you seeing?” I immediately heard in my heart. My response and a supernatural calm was just as immediate. “I am seeing the absence of hope,” I thought back. And, I kept thinking about it all the way home.

It’s true. Those who hope in government are disappointed and then some. Those who hope in religious organizations are disappointed or worse. Hope placed elsewhere is just as iffy. Careers can fail us. Parents can fail us. Spouses can fail us. Children can fail us. Our strength can fail us. Even the weather cannot be relied upon.

Hopeless? A lot of people must think so. That is surely what is at the root of most of humanity’s problems. Opioid addiction. Gun violence. Alcoholism. Eating disorders. Suicide. It all goes back to an absence of hope.

So, what do we do? Worry? Numb our despair with something? Make a better picket sign? Or, throw ourselves into the arms of a savior the Apostle Paul called, “the God of all hope?”

I vote for the latter. The cure for fretting isn’t a different world or different circumstances. It’s the One who can make us shimmer with hope and joy smack in the middle of right here, right now.

P.S. Dune Girl, my first e-book, is a romance on the surface, but the root story is about the God of all hope. If you enjoy uplifting fiction, it is on an Amazon Countdown Deal that begins 8 a.m. PDT (California time) Sunday, Aug. 12. The price drops to 99 cents that first day and goes up $1 a day until normal prices resume on Wednesday, Aug. 15. Details are under BOOKS on my menu bar. 🙂

family life, women

How to find a decent man

“Everything I buy is vintage and smells funny. Maybe that’s why I don’t have a boyfriend.” Lucy Liu, American actress

Where can you find a decent man? In aisle 2 of your local grocery store around dinner time on a Saturday night. Seriously.

I came to this conclusion when a rash of summer eating and entertaining caused the food supply that should have lasted until Monday to fizzle out by — you guessed it — around dinner time on Saturday night. I headed to the grocery store — where I wound up getting more insight into the male mind than I did gap food.

It all started in the produce section. “Hello,” said a young man standing near the broccoli that I was after. It took a couple of seconds to realize he was talking to me, a mid-life woman who hadn’t heard that kind of “hello” for quite some time. “Um, hello,” I said back.

Then, I got my broccoli and fled, running my fingers over my chin to make sure I didn’t have food residue or anything else that could elicit a “you poor soul” hello. I did not. But, it happened again, and again, and again. “You pour souls,” I was now the one thinking. “You’ve been staring into those tiny phone screens so long your distance vision is completely shot.”

It wasn’t until I hit the coffee display that I figured out what was going on. “Good evening,” a man of about 30 drawled. He had exactly the same wistful look on his face that our dog does when I’m making Italian. Yep. That was it. I was wearing a dress with a strong 1950s apron vibe. My cart was full of real food. I wasn’t a vision of loveliness. I was Betty Crocker come to life.

“It was pure reflex,” my husband said when I reported my findings later on the front porch. Then we went on to nearly laugh ourselves sick over how domestically inclined young women could use this phenomena to their own advantage. (This is the kind of Saturday night fun you, too, could be having 25 years from now if you visit aisle 2.)

We discussed the potential eligibility of the men — hey, we have daughters. 1. Men who shop for groceries on Saturday night are grown up enough to want real food instead of drive-thru. That is good. 2. “She’d know they’re not living with mama,” he pointed out. That is very good. 3. Grocery stores are very low on the stranger-danger scale. That is a necessity.

We discussed strategy. 1. The young woman has to “shop” alone. It exudes confidence and makes a “good evening” much more likely. 2. She has to have the right stuff in her cart. She may be planning to eat a jumbo bag of chips and an entire tub of dip with her girlfriends later (ah, good times), but this kind of “shopping” requires real food. “A box of brownie mix would probably help,” my husband added. 3. “And, she can’t just run in and out of the store,” he suggested, really into it by now. “She has to really cruise those aisles.”

So, there you have it, ladies. Happily ever after if it works. The makings of a fine dinner if it does not.

Want more crazy romance? My new fiction title Dune Girl is now available as an e- book for Kindles, smart phones and tablets at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DLC6K43. 🙂

 

 

family life, women

A license with a side of fries

“I sighed. I hated the maze of bureaucracy with a passion, but I’ve found the best way to deal with it is to smile and act stupid. That way, no one gets confused.” Kim Harrison, American author

Few situations threaten my Christian witness more than a visit to the Department of Motor Vehicles. It’s a layered problem. First, this is the DMV we’re talking about.

Second, my husband and I have moved a fair bit. Remembering each state’s way of doing things is difficult. There have been so many times one of us has had to drive the half hour home in defeat because of the lack of a document of some kind that I now prepare for a license renewal as if I were being called before Congress.

So, when my mom, who reads the news more vigilantly than I, said the DMV was opening a branch office at a local gas station, I was, well, skeptical. This particular gas station is one of those cool ones, with lots of shiny surfaces, more coffee varieties than Starbucks and a Krispy Kreme donut dispenser. It’s also so full of cars and people that it’s already difficult to do just about anything, let alone renew a license.

Remembering our struggles to get the paperwork right, however, I decided to give it a shot. The gas station’s only two blocks away and, this time, all we needed was a photo ID for my mom. She gave up driving when she moved to a place where there roads are so curvy and hilly it is sometimes actually true that you can’t get there from here. How difficult a simple ID possibly be?

Ho, ho, ho, I know you’re thinking. And, you’re right. I knew we were in trouble as soon as we got there. The “branch office” turned out to be a colorful, ATM-like kiosk, located  right across from where one can special order snack foods.

It took both of us plus my 12-year-old daughter to figure out the various screens. I’m not sure if that says something about our family or, well, the DMV, but how were we to know with any certainty whether an “X” or a check means “no?” How were we supposed to discuss the last four numbers of mom’s social without announcing them to the room?

At one point, I must have done something completely unacceptable. A “game over” sign popped up and the kiosk made that sound that old video-game machines used to make when Pac Man turned ghost. (My husband calls this kind of writing “lying.” I call it “color.”)

We ultimately succeeded. A second run through achieved our goal and we didn’t even need to take a government-approved selfie, which the machine is capable of doing. Can you imagine that — a license photo with a blurry image of some stranger eating nachos beyond your shoulder?

Whatever. Mom’s ID is in the mail, due any day now. As is a side of chili-cheese fries.

A reminder: My new fiction title Dune Girl is now available as an e- book for Kindles, smart phones and tablets at http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07DLC6K43. A summary and more details are under the Books On Kindle button on my menu. 🙂

 

 

women

A senior-discount moment

“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.” Robert Frost, American poet

The conversation went something like this… “Are you over 55?” the perky 20-something asked. Cue deer-in-the-headlights look on my part. “No,” I answered, more politely than I felt. “Well, we’ll just say you are,” she said, waving cheerfully toward my mother, who was the one who would actually be drinking the coffee in question.

It was clear I would have to wrestle the server to the ground to get the senior discount off the cash-register screen. I refrained — even though I know I could have taken her — which only goes to show the heart-sanctifying power of Jesus.

Then, mom and I, fortified with our cut-rate caffeine, made our way to the eye-glass store. There, in a nod to an impressive new decade of age, she purchased perhaps the jazziest pair of specs I have ever seen. Translucent royal-blue horn rims with thick ear pieces in a faux tortoise-shell pattern that includes more of the royal blue in addition to brown and cream.

The conversation went something like this… “Does she want holographic, laser-resistant coating with built-in Bluetooth and GPS … or plastic?” the perky 30-something optician asked me. “Well, now, I don’t know,” I said, turning to the person who was actually purchasing the specs. “Will you be posting selfies, tweeting or finding your way to the nearest American Eagle while wearing these things?”

Mom just smiled. Clearly, only one of us is getting testy in old age.

I laugh, sort of, but realizing that others perceive me as having reached a certain age — or beyond — is actually a bit of a relief.

It’s kind of like that point in pregnancy when the rubber-band-through-the-waist-button-hole trick is clearly no longer going to cut it and you are going to put on clothing that has odd elastic panels in odd places. That day, you walk out of the house knowing that everybody else now knows you are pregnant, with a capital “P,” not simply getting thick through the middle. And, you let your round little belly be as round as it wants to. Happy sigh.

So, look out world, if you want to give me cheap coffee because I have some smile crinkles, I’m in. I am also available to pontificate as to the best way to do just about anything. And, to ask children — young legs and all — to run up and down the stairs to get things I’ve forgotten. And, to wear outrageously bright glasses if I want to. And, I do.

Happy sigh.

 

 

 

 

 

 

spiritual life, women

Just breathe

“The time to relax is when you don’t have time for it.” Sydney J. Harris, Chicago journalist

It’s that time of year again. The time when, if I don’t concentrate, my breaths tend to come in short gasps. “Breathe, Nora,” I have told myself several times just this morning.

The cause of all this air monitoring? It’s the last couple of weeks of the school year, which any parent of school-age kids knows is the new Christmas. Every club, team, whatever has some sort of “spectacular.”

Some people have smart phones to track such goings on. My phone possesses only a charming personality, to our daughters’ horror. So, I have a heavy metal clip on the side of the refrigerator instead. It’s full of paper directives as to who needs to be where, when and wearing what. In chronological order.

When we complete each event or task, I am tempted to slap the paper on a pointy stick and ding a bell with a spatula like cooks did in old-fashioned diners whenever an order was filled. (And, I have the bell to do it, too. A bright orange one I use to call in the troops at dinner time. I highly recommend it — much more civil than yelling or, worse, sending a mass text.)

But, I digress. My point is that the world’s desire to “bigger” just about everything, is not really worthy of anxiety on my part, or yours.

So, if you’re in the same busy little boat today, this week, this fortnight — breathe, just breathe. Some stuff will get done. Other stuff will just not. We’ll probably get to every place we’re supposed to be. But, if not, God’s world will continue to spin.

 

 

 

family life, women

Mothering fails

“A suburban mother’s role is to deliver children obstetrically once, and by car for ever after.” Peter DeVries, American satirist

Oh, for the days when I actually knew what I was doing as a mother. I would go into a grocery store, see a toddler with orange popsicle smeared on her face and give a silent tsk-tsk at the mother. Or, I would read a newspaper account about a toddler running off while mom or dad slept. “What is their problem?” I would wonder.

Then, I had children.

We actually had to install strings of bells on both the front and back doors of our house to keep one of our daughters corralled during her toddlerhood. Once, when my back was turned in the garden, she made an epic break for it. “She’s on the loose,” her older sister yelled. Fortunately for us all, the errant one’s little legs could only keep up Olympic-sprinter speed for so long. I caught up with her in a mere quarter of a mile. (This daughter now runs track…)

There were also not only dirty shirt fronts and faces that occasionally made it out into public view, I sent one daughter to kindergarten with her jeans on backwards. I didn’t notice until she came bouncing out on the playground at the end of the day with a zipper running up her backside.

Then, there was the trio of broken bones in just over a year. One broken arm acquired on a playground while I was about five feet away. One broken leg acquired dancing around on the hardwood floors of our own house. The last, another arm break, happened during a school gym class. Witnesses, thank God. People were probably starting to wonder.

“Is something wrong with them?” I asked our pediatrician. I was referring to the girls’ bones. Mostly. He smiled. He has four children, two of them twin boys. “They’re just … active,” he replied and smiled again. By “active,” we both knew he meant, “mountain wild.”

And, so it has gone. I’ve had some failures as a mom. We’ve had tears, raised voices — and moments of camaraderie I didn’t know could exist. By the grace of God, our daughters are not only still alive, they’re lovely young ladies who no longer go around with dirty faces, uncombed hair or backwards pants. I must have done something right.

For all you other moms, you have, too, no matter what today’s circumstances might try to tell you. An early Happy Mother’s Day to us all!

 

 

 

 

family life, women

Enough hoochie-mama

“What you wear is how you present yourself to the world, especially today, when human contacts are so quick. Fashion is instant language.” Miuccia Prada, Italian fashion designer

I have never thought about clothes more than since our daughters entered adolescence. It’s a mine field out there. If designers aren’t making something too short, too low-necked or with odd-yet-strategic pieces missing, you can see right through it.

We go through stores and I say, “no,” “no,” “over my dead body,” and so on to the point we’re practically baring our teeth at each other by the end of the day. I also say things like, “Stand up straight and smile. Every outfit looks better if you do that,” and “Don’t wear anything that would look ridiculous if you had an apple pie in your hands.” Cue the teen girl eye rolls.

But, hah, I have recently found an unlikely ally. Marilyn Monroe.

It’s true! According to Christopher Nickens and George Zeno, authors of Marilyn in Fashion: The Enduring Influence of Marilyn Monroe, Monroe was (and is) to the culture of beauty and clothing as Mark Zuckerberg is to social media.

The woman was a strategist. If she was performing for troops in Korea, she wore sky-high heels and a cocktail dress even though it was freezing simply because she knew that was what young soldiers wanted to see. When she attended a movie opening with a pre-adolescent boy co-star, she refused to take off her wrap for photographers, claiming the dress underneath was “too extreme.” She rarely wore jewelry off screen because she considered it visually distracting.

If her weight (and bustline) shrank a bit, she did creative things like wearing the shoulder straps draped in front of her body to create a more flattering silhouette. If she was practically bare on top, she wore opera gloves or demure shoes as a balance. She wore her hair loosely styled and shorter than what was considered “bomb shell” because that is what flattered her face. She wore jeans purchased in the boys’ department because that is what fit her high-waisted shape best.

While I love the way she rocked many dresses and jeans/sweater combos, I wouldn’t like to see my daughters (or anyone else, for that matter) in many of the outfits Monroe chose to fan the flames of superstardom. But, I sure wish all of us females would put that kind of thought into our clothing instead of drifting aimlessly along with the culture.

Monroe was deliberate. She knew exactly what she was wearing and why. So should we.