Park Benches of America

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We were in for a fun time. Well my mother-in-law and I anyway. Maybe not so for my husband Dave. But he’s a good man.

Our destination was central Missouri, specifically a quilt shop. Mom, we were close enough that I considered her my mom too, were both fabriholics. Dave would always enter the shop with me to size it up as to how long I might be. A big shop=a long time, small shop=only a short time.

Before he exited, he always said the same thing, “Take as long as you like, there is a park bench outside calling my name. I’m conducting a study on the park benches of America. I’m thinking of writing a book that I know husbands would appreciate. I’ll include the GPS stats of where the best ones are located.”

Inside, Mom and I were finishing up our purchase when the alarm went off at the fire station across the street. It was deafening and encouraged us to stay in the store a little longer.

As we chatted with the shopkeeper we learned the fire department was made up of volunteers. The alarm raged on for what felt like hours instead of minutes. Dave, being the trooper that he is, remained manning the bench getting a front row seat to the action.

A pick-up roared up from out of nowhere parking at the fire station. The driver leaped out running inside the station. The garage doors flew up revealing the red engine ready to go. But it stayed there.

Soon after, a second pick-up rumbled to the scene and thundered to a stop… The first arrival stuck his head out of the window of the fire truck, “Have you got the keys?”

Apparently he did. The shrieking alarm was turned off which made the silence as deafening as the alarm had been. The fire truck came to life and lumbered off to the emergency. We were relieved to know this small town had same day service.

To date, my dearly beloved hasn’t written a single word of his book. Such a shame as so many men would find it a valuable resource.

Remembering Grandma

20200209_154330“A stainless steel colander? Don’t you think that’s asking too much?

So said Grandma Andrews. She had a way of letting me know how she felt.

Our conversation revolved around the requests in my bridal registry shortly after my engagement. For starters, JL Hudson was the only store that offered a registry for soon-to-be couples. Secondly, it was a high end department store. They didn’t sell junk.                                        © jb katke

My husbands’ grandmother claimed I didn’t ask enough on my registry. Some grandmas you just can’t please.

This time every year I think of my grandma. Her birthday was on Valentine’s Day. I think of her whenever I use my colander too.

Grandma Andrews was a practical lady. She lived through the Depression and knew how to make do. She had a plastic colander from the early days of plastic. Hers got a little too close to the heat from the stove and bore a melted souvenir from the experience. But it still worked.

Her home was always meticulous. She even washed her walls. I recall she had a coal furnace when I was very little, and over the long Michigan winters it would leave a residue on the walls. Hence, spring cleaning.

After I was married she asked me, “Do you get on your hands and knees when washing the floor?”

“No Grandma I don’t.”

I considered myself more modern than that. There are mops that make that unnecessary. But I learned getting down on hands and knees does a better job. Likewise when I clean the woodwork. Grandma would be proud. However I do wait to make the effort worthwhile.

I wish I had gotten to know grandma better, I think I could have learned much from her. She wasn’t the talkative sort and I never questioned her past. Too bad for me. You can understand why people are the way they are if you have a sense of what they experienced.

I do know she loved baseball. And she had what I call a British sense of humor. During the Christmas season a popular song, Jingle Bells, came out sung by a clucking chicken. Grandma said it was a fowl song. Her favorite was The Little Drummer Boy.

All this is a distant memory now, my colander is going on fifty years old.  Grandma would probably flip if she knew my kitchen now sports a second smaller colander. Yep, it’s stainless steel too.

Keynote Speaker

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“Do any of you ladies have an open morning to chat with a few college girls?”

Our missionary sponsor had entered the Belarussian hotel lobby where we were basking in the warm sun shining through the window. We were part of a group of business people attending a Business Conference in Belarus, the former USSR.

I volunteered and Boris, a national, was escorting me to the college.  “How is this person we are to meet going to know us,” I asked. It seemed a legitimate concern as neither of us knew this individual.

Had I given it a moment’s thought would have realized I looked very American.

Upon arrival I was hustled into the Dean’s office. “What is it you intend to speak on?” Speak on? I just came to for a short visit with your students. She seemed to approve of my explanation that my husband and I have a small home business and would be sharing how that came about.

I was lead into the front of the classroom and offered a cup of tea I never had time to drink. I should have noticed the podium a few feet from me.

Eager young women were pouring into the room until eventually it was standing room only. I could feel excitement in the air.

The light dawned. Suddenly ‘the visit’ began with an introduction of their guest speaker and invited me up. Oh no, my speaking notes are back at the hotel!

Taking a deep breath, I dove in. Giving a brief history of our business. A venture that grew with time. Immediately a hand shot up from one of the instructors, “Is this going to take very long?”

My warm welcome plummeted. Except for the girls, they seemed to soak up every word I spoke. I mentioned that we hadn’t planned on becoming a business. But the skills of my husband were passed on by word of mouth as one construction opportunity led to another. The business evolved and God was blessing us.

The students listened intently because back in 2005 self-employed businesses were unheard of in this third world country. They wanted to know more, about our home, family and about my quilting hobby. They were enthralled by the pictures I showed them.

To my amazement I recalled everything my notes had and was able to give these young women a vision of life in America.

We came to offer encouragement and hope to a people that have limited opportunities. We came home with a deeper appreciation for what God has done in our life, the country we call home, and the freedom we take for granted.

I highly recommend traveling to another country, not the vacation areas, but where the people live. I guarantee it will be an eye-opening experience.

A Day of Celebration

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Have you ever accomplished something out of your realm? It gives you that Wow feeling of celebrating.  Happy anniversary to me.

I’m sharing with you the biggest balloon I could find. (This big boy landed in my front yard)

My blog posts are one year old this month. For a person that had no desire to blog, and isn’t fond of computers, this is remarkable.  Just for the record it wasn’t my idea.

Have you been following me? If you haven’t read my Intro , let me explain with a little background. For years I have been learning to love Jesus. I’ve been reading his book, it’s been on the best seller list for almost ever.

But it’s a process that takes some time. At least it did for me. There comes a point in what do you do with this stuff you’ve learned? It was suggested I tell others about it.

Don’t be thinking I’m gonna give you this big ole sermon. Instead, let me paint a few word pictures for you. Some of these scenarios may not take too much imagination.

Imagine your car breaking down on the highway in the middle of nowhere. A tow truck comes along and the driver says, “I know who could fix your car, but I’m not helping you get there.”

Perhaps your basement has flooded. A cleaning service comes to access the situation but tells you, “This place is a mess, but there is nothing I can do about it.”

Or your doctor’s diagnosis is cancer, but refuses you treatment.

You get the idea. Frustration, helplessness and anger can be the recipe for stress levels and blood pressure to skyrocket.

That is why someone broaches the name of Jesus to you. I’m your gal to do that. He works in ways that can astound you.  A friendship with this guy can make such a difference in life.

So I blog to tell you how Jesus has been involved in my life. Sometimes it’s funny, sometimes it hurts big time. But bottom line, I know he is aware of my situation. It’s a mystery how he always works things out, but it’s always good. It can take time, but it gives me the opportunity to trust.

Stuff will still happen. There have been occasions that I got put out with circumstances that aren’t going my way. But then I remember Jesus’ dad isn’t Santa Claus. He’s God. Usually my heart hasn’t been in the right place, so he waits for me to catch up to his perfect plan.

He wasn’t dragging his heels, I was. Eventually I come around and I hope you do too. If my words mean something to you, I invite you to follow me on this journey.

Better yet, invite Jesus into your life, I promise it will be a ride!

Those 9-9 Girls

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Looking in my daughter’s eyes, I could feel her heart sink. She supposed her teacher and I would be rehashing the good old days. That was not to be.

We were at her junior high open house. Lo and behold, she had the same Home Economics teacher I had so many years ago. As I re-introduced myself, Mrs. Tada rolled her eyes. “Oh, those 9-9 girls.”

Turning to Cindy, she explained, “That was my first year teaching.” I could hear what she didn’t say. I never want to relive that year.                                                                                                                                                                                               © JB Katke

 

When I was in school, back in the dark ages, students met in homeroom. It was there that we listened to announcements over the PA, attendance was taken, then dispersed to our various classes. We were numbered by grade and group, hence my 9-9 status.

My Home Ec class was a little on the rowdy side. Not me of course, I considered my sewing class as recess. It was the only subject I excelled in. But poor Mrs. Tada had trouble keeping order in the classroom.

My friend Belinda got into a heated disagreement with one of our tablemates. Belinda picked up a seam ripper and as if shooting a dart, took aim at the girls face. I freaked out, fearing the girl was about to lose an eye. Thankfully nothing happened.

Cindy feared comparison with the sewing skills of her mother. Instead she learned Mom was young once and part of a class filled with immaturity. My school days were challenging too. .

Home Ec didn’t ‘click’ with either of my girls. But that’s okay. Both of them has excelled in areas I could never have imagined. I think it’s interesting how they have grown up in the same home, with the same parents, but blossomed individually. My children make me proud.

At birth, each of us are given differing gifts and talents. Sometimes it just takes a long time to realize them, like myself. I’m finding life is a giant learning process.

Barry and Sharon

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Disclaimer: The pictured gun was not the weapon used in this story. Additionally, names have been changed to protect the innocent.

Sharon didn’t wake up until she sat bolt upright in bed.

“Barry! Are you alright?”

The stillness of night returned.

It couldn’t have been a dream, the shot was too real. “Barry, answer me, are you okay?”

All was quiet. As she sat pondering what to do, a second shot rang out.

Never again would Sharon hear her brother’s voice. Or her father’s.

The reality was Sharon and Barry lived a nightmare life. Their dad was mentally unstable. The siblings learned at an early age to look after each other.

Their paternal grandparents were well-known and influential in the community. The stigma of their son in a mental institution would have been more than they could bear.

Instead they live with this.

It was the Viet Nam era and Barry was in his senior year of high school. His dad was under doctor’s care and doing quite well. But as father’s do, got thinking…

Soon Barry would be eligible for the draft. The thought of his son going to war was too much for this dad to handle. There was only one way he could see to spare him of that horror.

Now reality set in. What he did was reprehensible and the remaining family will suffer from his action.

The next morning I learned what had taken place down the street. There are no words for that kind of pain and loss. At the funeral I merely held Sharon’s hand. The following year Sharon and I graduated high school and we lost contact with each other.

After all these years, I still pray for the family. I’ve heard there is a reason for everything. Maybe that is why we have established interventions now? Perhaps our world needed a wake-up call to learn better treatments for mental illness.

Or should we just depend upon God for all the things that we don’t understand, because he does?

Humble Pie

20191227_110826© JB Katke

A lady I know will go on and on about apples. In her opinion McIntosh are the only apples worth eating. I can’t believe how opinionated she is. As if she were some kind of apple expert or something.

Do you know anyone like that? Who cares about her opinion anyway? The best one can do, is smile, let them vent, then walk away. Don’t bother trying discuss the pros or cons, she has a deaf ear.

This year though, she experienced a comeuppance. It was hilarious, I wish you could have been there. It was Christmas day and this lady was in full-blown praise of her precious apple pie. “The only apple pie I’ll eat is my own.”

Her son-in-law made note to never bake her an apple pie because she wouldn’t eat it.

As she is slicing her pie to serve, she notices it’s really juicy. “Darn, I wonder why? That’s never happened before.”

Okay, it’s me.

I have my reasons for being so apple biased. What many people look upon as desirable apples to bake with I find lacking. Other apples hold their shape and don’t cook down. I like cooked down.

McIntosh apples could easily be on a grocers list of unwanted produce because they are fragile and bruise easily. That makes them hard to find. So when I found a local grocer that carried them, I praised the managers in charge. It was important to me that they keep on coming while in season.

Too late, I realize why this pie bombed. My pie plates are deep dish. Normally one would think that’s a good thing because it holds more filling. And fill it I did.

Because McIntosh are soft and moist, made for a very juicy product. Humble pie. Note to self: Don’t use so many apples.

Isn’t that typical in life though? We think if a little does a little good, a lot will do a lot of good? Or bigger is always better, right? Wrong on both counts.

Good golly, now I must exercise food discipline in the kitchen as well as at the table. Life sure can get complicated. But if I’m not mindful the outcome may be undesirable, like being overweight or juicy.

I bet that’s why the good Lord gave us a conscience. The mind and heart are not always in agreement, best to let a wise conscience prevail.

Is There a Good Mad?

 

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The question is can I hold the mad…for a year?

The house is officially dedecked from Christmas. Except for the few items that got overlooked in the packing.  Unintentional tradition reigns.

What I don’t understand is why I had so much trouble packing things away. I had bought nothing extra, but somehow couldn’t get things packed back into the box they came from. What’s with that?

Each year I enjoy hauling the décor out that I haven’t seen in a year. It’s fun to transition the house to be festive. Memories are relived. The ornaments family members have made, the ones grandpa used to painstakingly place over lights so they would spin.

Packing the stuff away again finds me in the no fun zone. The box I thought I had for my nutcracker was missing. I like for him to be protected in storage. This year my little guy is going to fend for himself to stay presentable for next year.

I had boxes and bins everywhere and nothing seemed to fit in them. Frustration led me to anger. This should not be happening. My husband wisely kept his distance from me until it was time to stow the goods away.

“Look, they fit in the space just fine.”

That is not the point. I’m supposed to be getting rid of stuff.

“How come it’s taking more boxes than ever to get them put away?”

I’m furious. Next year I must be ruthless. Somehow ruthless doesn’t blend with a season of celebrating Jesus’ birth.

Some people can hold onto a good mad for a lifetime. I can’t recommend that, it’s wearing a perpetual chip on your shoulder that permeates everything and everyone around you. That is a real no fun zone.

Instead I aim to learn from this experience, like decorating with large objects. It’s too easy to overlook small things hanging here and there around the house. I’m not going to ask why God brought all this stuff under my roof either. He didn’t, he just allowed it.

That puts the ball back in my court to graciously let go of stuff that adds nothing but stress. I prefer my life not have room for anger, but to be filled with Jesus’ positive energy. With his help I can do this

Happy New Year!

 

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© of JB Katke

 

The New Year is upon us…ready or not

.As a rule I don’t make New Year’s resolutions.  Why set myself up for disappointment? Unless it’s reasonable. Like promising myself I absolutely will not eat artichoke heart or sushi. That I can pull off. It isn’t my intent to hurt anyone’s feelings if you like them. It’s just far be it from me to take your pleasure away.

I’m hoping this year will be different though. Recently my doctor has been casually mentioning some weight loss for me. Easy to say, hard to do. For me anyway. You may know the verse that says little girls are made of sugar and spice and everything nice? I am here to tell you years of that stuff turns into Velcro that adheres to waist and hips. I am living proof.

But it’s not just weight I’d like to change. There is exercise (that should actually be a four letter word). Stressing my body is not pleasurable. Some people like it which boggles my mind. Just thinking about it wears me out.

Writing too. Does that surprise you? While I have never been at a loss for words, writing doesn’t come naturally to me. Its work. Blogging exposes me and that’s not comfortable. I’m an introvert. Likewise being with a group of people wears me out as well. My husband doesn’t agree, just because I’m able to carry on a conversation.

All that being said, here’s what I’m hoping for in 2020. I’d like to see Jesus better. I’m well aware he is with me all the time. He knows what is going on in my life. But I feel a little like our relationship is lopsided. He blesses me, but do I give him enough credit?

Here’s my plan, and I expect you to hold me accountable. I feel the need to be quiet as I meditate on his presence more often. It takes time and discipline. But he has made himself known to me on several occasions and it was an amazing experience. I want more of that.

Seeing more clearly in 2020 is wordplay I know, but this might be well worth the effort.

Stolen Christmases

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Today I’m burying the Grinch. May he never rear his ugly head again.

He has stolen too many of my Christmases and I’ve had enough.

I’m not speaking of the beloved Grinch we love to hate each Christmas season. I’m speaking of my own personal demon Grinch. Like the famous Grinch, mine is green too, I suspect envy.

Dr Seuss wrote the book, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and I am amazed how much the two Grinches have in common. My Grinch also hates Christmas, doing everything he can to make mine miserable. But it doesn’t end there. Like the Grinch in the book, he can’t tolerate happiness of any sort, only my Grinch has no heart at all.

Each miserable Christmas I would come to realize my poor attitude and feel shame. Too late I would reach the point of what Christmas is truly about.

The sad fact is I gave my Grinch permission to be a demon in my life. It was so unnecessary. For no reason I allowed this Grinch to ruin my disposition. Our home wore the décor, but it was a façade. My heart wasn’t there.

The holiday season can be painful if a beloved family member has died, but that wasn’t my case. I don’t have the fear of a family member in the military serving overseas in a dangerous country.

I believe my situation is shared by many. The season of celebration isn’t what it used to be. Through the years our family has spread across the country and now reside far from each other. Through no fault of our own, life just takes us places. Now there is no one to ‘do’ for.

Our children are no longer children. All of them are living responsible adult lives as they were taught. I’m proud of them. Even the grandchildren are adults, more pride added. We have been promoted to great-grandparenthood, but again, distance comes between us…I’m not alone. There are others.

It’s inexcusable to be distraught over not having to fight the maddening crowds Christmas shopping. We no longer exchange gifts, so are spared the concerns. Would she like this, or does he need that? I confess it’s hard not to buy for those I love. Likewise I shouldn’t miss baking Christmas cookies. We don’t need all the calories.

The time for a wake up call is now. Are we not celebrating the birth of our Savior? He’s the ideal gift. He’s needed, one size fits all, plus he doesn’t require wrapping. No shipping costs either. Didn’t he come to take away all the hurt this world dishes out?                        A gift doesn’t get more perfect than that.

This year I’m looking forward, not back. I can recall past Christmases with fond memories as long as I return my gaze to what Jesus will be doing in the future. Both in my own life and those around me. I’m convinced that is why God placed eyes on the front of our head, not the back.

Merry Christmas!

Too Many Toys

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My husband had enough.

Begging was wasted breath. Rewards meant nothing. Bribery didn’t work, and neither did grounding. Grounding I learned, is never a good idea. It punishes the stay-at-home parent. AKA me.

Clearly our children’s concept of a clean room differed from ours. They threw things in the closet and stowed as much as possible under the bed. Leftovers were designated to line the walls. On the plus side, we never worried about a bed collapsing. Their ‘cleaning’ took all day. As buried treasures surfaced, they played.

I’m not sure if it was frustration or tired of hearing my ranting. But desperate times called for desperate measures in getting the kids to pick up their toys. Out came the leaf rake.

At the end of the day, so-called cleaning done, their dad raked what was left into the middle of the floor. It was deposited into a box. If the kids wanted them back it was going to cost them. Prices ranged from a penny to a nickel.

Who Is Learning A Lesson Here?

Eventually there were no more purchases. What’s with that? They didn’t care whether they got the rest back or not. The excess toys were unnecessary. By all appearances we all had something to learn.

Good Intentions Are Not Always Good

When Christmas or a birthday rolled around, we went overboard in gifts. The Grandparents hearts held more than their wallets, unable to give as much as they wanted. They lavished love for our children. It’s what money can’t buy, doesn’t need wrapping and takes up no space.

All we wanted to do was give our children good memories. Too many gifts multiplied by three children gave new meaning to a well-rounded Christmas tree. We have learned.

That’s the problem with parenting. By the time we learn how to do it right, the children are grown and the damage is done. We’ll do better with the grandchildren, we’ve got this.

Wait a minute, grandparent play by a different rule book, don’t they?

Tradition

“’What is your favorite Christmas tradition?” 20191208_154746

It was an icebreaker question for my tablemates at Bible study.  First off, getting-to-know you questions are dumb. We are women, nurturers at heart, compatible beings, user-friendly and capable of carrying on a conversation.  With or without cause. We have words and know how to use them.

Secondly, I don’t have a favorite Christmas tradition.  My mom did. When you got any clothes for Christmas, you couldn’t wear them until after the New Year. Where she came up with this I don’t know.

After I got married, this went out the window.  With gusto.

As far as Christmas shopping is concerned,  my husband is not prone to buy clothes.  Many Christmases ago, as I shopped for others, I kept seeing things I’d like for myself.

When my husband returned home from work I told him, “You have some clothes on hold at the store.  Pick through them and surprise me for Christmas.”

He did.  I got them all-and amazingly they all were the right size.  Not all husbands can do that.

When I was a child, Aunt Jane had the tradition of hiding a really large gift for me behind the chair.  I caught on quickly. Christmas Eve always found me peeking at it.

Apparently I did have one tradition albeit unintentional.  It seems every Thanksgiving for too many years I clogged the garbage disposal with potato peels.

“Mom, again? You do this every year.”

“I do?”

“Yes, it happened last year too. Don’t you remember?”

“Um, no. That was last year.”

But I’ve learned.  Now I make instant potatoes. Problem solved.

Grandma Andrews had the tradition of baking fruitcakes for everyone in the family.  I grew up with them, but my little family didn’t share the love. It was mine, all mine.

Grandma died, but Aunt Jane carried on her tradition. It wasn’t until my aunt passed away that I had access to their recipe collection.   I was shocked that neither of them followed the recipe. Both these women were sticklers for doing things by the book. While I haven’t made a fruitcake yet, if I did, I’d modify it too. It’s what I do. Then wonder why it didn’t turn out good.

One would think I would learn from my mistakes, especially in the cooking department. But why change a perfectly good tradition?

Salvation Army

SA Bucket

Many a Christmas season I refused to donate to the Salvation Army cause. But my heart had been touched as I gave it more thought. Both physical and spiritual help is offered year round to the less fortunate.

“Oh no, I didn’t mean to do that!”

I came unglued. What was I going to do now?

About to enter the grocery store, I scooped up all the loose change in my purse and deposited it into the red Salvation Army bucket. I watched helplessly as the coins fell in, along with my husband’s wedding ring.

A couple volunteers stood at the post ringing their bell.

The man spoke up. “That was really generous of you.”

“No it’s not, I’m not generous at all.”

I learned the couple belonged to each other, but neither of them had the key that belonged to the bucket. Sensing my anguish, the man pulled out his cell phone placing a call to his supervisor. There was nothing he could do to help me either.

The husband handed me his business card, in case I should need him. He was a lawyer.

I wagged my finger at him. “You better be honest, because I have your number now.” I can’t believe I said that. Clearly I must stop watching so much TV.

I was cold and in a hurry.

I had just left my husband’s bedside. He was still hospitalized recovering from his fourth back surgery. The wedding band was put in my change purse for safe keeping. Yeah, right.

Eventually I was given a phone number I could call to retrieve the ring. The office of the Salvation Army was alerted to my error and were on the lookout for it. I was told it was found and waiting for me to pick it up.

It was one for the memory books.

That was several years ago, but it still brings up a vivid holiday memory. Today, I smile at it, not so at the time.

The following year, I again deposited some change in the red bucket. “You’re not getting any wedding rings this year.”

The young man’s bell stopped mid ring,  “That was you?”

A change of heart

The Salvation Army folk are a good group of people that make a positive difference in lives. Who couldn’t use a little encouragement now and then?

The Blue Season

 

 

We are fast approaching the blue season.

No one wants to be identified with what the world calls it. Depression. Down time or a case of the blahs doesn’t sound so bad. But it feels awful. I know.

We all have some form of heartache.

Too many of us have lost loved ones this time of year and the absence screams at you.

Why should this time of year be more painful than losing a loved one any other time?

In my case, it’s those Norman Rockwell scenes that appear. The pictures that depict what our family gathering will not be. The memories of what used to be

The holidays can look as bleak as this festive but hollow turkey.

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© of JB Katke

It’s all where you place the syllable.

My dear departed mother used to tell me about putting the emphasis on the other       syl-i-able. She meant for me to look on my situation differently.  The good Lord gives us enough opportunities to do just that, because nothing stays the same.

Not all change is bad…so I am told.

A few years back I inadvertently found the secret to overcoming the blues. It’s about taking my eyes off self and really seeing others.

A family from Great Britain were renting the house across the street. Being in the US meant back home there were going to be some empty seats at the table. We had some empty seats of our own and invited them over for Christmas dinner. It was a memorable evening for all of us.

The reality is not all Facebook lives are necessarily as they are portrayed.

Perspective changes, when you suddenly realize how much you have to offer and be grateful for.

Note to self

Joy comes when you lighten the load of a heavy heart.

Black Friday

Black Friday is by far the biggest shopping day of the year. Daily, ads came pouring into my mailbox alerting me of sales I must not let pass. One in particular caught my eye, that I had every intention of taking advantage of.  Only it would have to be my deep, dark secret from the world.

20191112_080527© of JB Katke

A roll of quilt batting, normally costing $300.00 was discounted down to $99.00. A roll can make at least twenty-five quilts depending on their size. Ideal for the little quilt ministry I had.

Generally this store frustrates me enough to avoid shopping there, but I was willing to make this one exception. The doors opened at 8am and I was there early. Several other people were ahead of me. Time enough to strike up conversations.

Shopper #1 turning to the lady behind her. “What brings you here so early?”

Shopper #2: “I came to get that roll of quilt batting for only $99.00.”

Shopper #3: “I did too!”

Shopper #4: “So did I.”

On down the line it went.

Yet another piped up, “I’ve come all the way from Lawrence. I called the store to make sure they were stocked before I made the hour long drive to get here. They have twelve rolls.”

I counted down the line of shoppers. I was #15. This was not looking good. My heart began to sink. My hands began to sweat as the doors opened.

A mad rush whooshed inside. A display by the door held four rolls. They were scooped up instantly. Others charged down the aisle to the batting department to claim the rest. I was at the tail end of the crowd, and knew there was no hope for me.

A sales person called out, “Here are two more by the register.”

Shopper #14 and I grabbed them. Come to find out, there were only six rolls, not twelve. By 8:01am they were sold out.

My heart flew higher than a kite.

Who knew one could be euphoric without drugs?

But now my dilemma. I couldn’t tell anyone what God had done for me.

I don’t know the origin, but the saying, ‘A fool and his money are soon parted,’ stuck in my mind.

We were low on cash. In the eyes of others, this could look like a foolish expense.

Maybe the foolishness is worrying about what other people think.

My husband had no issue with my purchase, but the guilt was eating me alive. I could take it no longer and told to my missionary friend. Instead of criticism, she agreed that was a super deal.

Confession is good for the soul.

I realize the importaqnce of telling others what God does in your life and what he means to you. Letting people know what a positive difference he can make in their life isn’t a bad idea either. How else will they know his awesomeness?

Genuine Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving

A particular Thanksgiving comes to mind annually. The year was 1981,

I had just come home from the hospital, having given birth to our third child.

Being so close to the holiday made commitments to anyone’s invite to join them for dinner sketchy. I’ve yet to meet a little one that takes note of a holiday or their parents schedule before making an appearance.

Our friend Carrie thought of that. Of course she would, being the mother of four.

Our church made a point of delivering meals to new families. And Carrie delivered. On the Wednesday before Thanksgiving she brought us a meal with all the fixings. Even down to festive napkins.

I was incredulous at the time and effort she invested for our family. Not everyone would be open to preparing a meal like that to give away. Carrie wanted to make sure we didn’t spend a holiday in want. Mental pictures formed of her returning home and serving hotdogs to her own family.

Each year that memory comes back to life, humbling me every time. Except I can’t recall what we actually did for Thanksgiving that year. Whatever it was couldn’t top what Carrie had done for us. That sticks.

To me, that is a picture of sacrificial love. Unexpected, but appreciated annually.

My Plastic Career

The auditorium was full of ambitious women in a selling mood.  My endeavor was to become a representative for home sales in a plastics company. My manager and I took a seat in one of the rows of folding chairs in preparation for the presentation.  Nothing could have prepared me.

The meeting started off with the introduction of a new product line. Demonstrations took place on how to convince my hostess and her friends that the new item was essential to their kitchen.  

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“To the homemaker, storage and organization is key.  Remember to encourage the guests to invite you into their home.  Don’t listen to the first three ‘No’s.’ That’s how we stay in business girls, by continuous demonstrations.”

This reminded me of my high school pep rallies.

Then came a testimonial.  A manager stood before us heralding one of her newest recruits.

“Her husband is currently in the hospital and she has three children under five years of age. Her car broke down last week but still Veronica made it to her hostess’ home keeping her commitment.”  One could almost hear the violin playing.  Yes, I’m being sarcastic and I’m sorry. I find it distasteful to put a person on a pedestal.

No doubt my face reflected that deer in the headlights expression.  This was more than information overload. This was sell, sell, and sell.

Trying to take in all this pomp and circumstance was over the top.  My thoughts turned to Christians that have this same drive for sharing their love for Jesus.  This was a turning point in my life.  Passing on hope to someone for their benefit, not for my profit, deeply impacts me.

At one of my own demonstrations a guest challenged whether a container was water proof. Oh no, onfrontation!  I held my breath as we put a camera into the container; trying to submerge it in a sink full of water.  Thankfully it floated, but that was more stress than I needed.

Mine was a short-term business venture.  We took that experience as a business loss at income tax time.  I prefer not to force myself on others. Even the husband of my manager gave encouragement, but not in the sales realm. She didn’t care what he did as long as he didn’t bother her.

This was not for me. But it did a world of good for my spiritual growth.

It Just So Happens…

Who would have considered a trip to the grocery store as a divine encounter?

My purchases were made and I was in the process of loading them in the car. Likewise for the shopper parked next to me. I was oblivious of her until she spoke.

“Why is my car moving?”

 First she panicked, then leapt into action to stop the car. The young mother had put her daughter into the back of their SUV, then proceeded to load her groceries.  Apparently her little one clamored about the car, hitting the gear shift that set the car in motion.

The Memory Came Flooding In

thVE2CGGDEIt took me back to Clyde Smith, a local produce market that is now defunct. In its heyday, it was a thriving business, set far off the road with a huge parking lot in front. I let my toddler in the back hatch of our Chevrolet Vega and proceeded to load my purchases.

Just as I slammed the hatch down I became aware of the car moving in reverse. The keys were in my hand but I couldn’t side step fast enough to get them in the lock to open the door.

My daughter had climbed into the back seat, her eyes wide, as I watched her through the window passing by. The car getting ever nearer the heavily traveled main street.

I was screaming for help, but no one could hear me. Having to think fast, I darted behind the car and let it bump into me, not thinking of the dangerous consequences.  Eventually it stopped.

But here is the main thing. From where I was parked, the car came to a halt about fifty feet from the road.

No other cars were parked behind me that could have been in the path of mine.

Now is that a God thing, or what?

Back to the Present

Because of my experience, I was able to share with this mom how God had made himself known to me.

The Point is

In thinking back,  I hope she sees God in her experience as well, because he was most assuredly there.

Then She’s Gone

Do you know what your purpose in life is?

For the longest time I didn’t give it a thought. Not even wondering if there was a reason for my existence. Today I have a better grasp on it. But I find it changes with time.

Or maybe it’s just me changing, realizing there is more involved to living than just existing.

I’ve mentioned my cousin Diane in a previous post. We spent a lifetime separated. Not deliberately. The circumstances of our lives were worlds apart.

During those separated years, Diane made the family she never knew as a child.

“I made a good life. I have wonderful children and we are happy.”

Diane & Julie

Except she always wondered.

Through all those sixty plus years, she never stopped thinking of me or my brother. We did share the same grandmother, after all. We had that much in common.

Doing volunteer work in the library gave Diane access to a computer. My guess is that is where she conducted her search. Obviously my brother and I were found.

What I hadn’t realized when I met Diane, was this completed her life. Finally. She had extended family of which she also belonged. That brought her satisfaction and closure.

That dreaded C word

Soon after I learned she had cancer. This was not her first go round with it. Mentally she was prepared that this would take her. And that was okay. With her, but not me. To my way of thinking, we were just getting started.

We agreed about life after death. Only she was at peace with wherever she went. I hadn’t known her long enough to share her peace. Because I wanted her with our Creator. Life is better knowing he is by our side at all times. Whether we are on planet earth or face to face.

Lessons Learned

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Family has handed me a fistful of mysteries. Grandma’s anger at her sister-in-law went unexplained.

Curiosity made me wonder why Aunt Jane refused marriage proposals from three men. In time she became comfortable with her singleness. How did she know marriage would be a mistake for her?

Learning has no age barrier, the longer I live the more I learn. Soon I expect to know everything.

Too Late Now

A neighber insisted her children spend equal time between the TV and reading. Likewise, learning a musical instrument to listening to the latest rock songs. Why didn’t I think of that in my child-raising years?

I wish I had seized the opportunity to teach my granddaughters to sew when they lived nearby. Regardless of my busyness, I realized too late that children don’t stay little.

How Can This Be?

Is this (practically) an instant replay? I was dragged into grandparenthood before my time. Now great-grandparenthood too. How can this be? My daughter a grandmother at thirty-eight years of age. Is she old enough to qualify for this? Doesn’t anyone get married and have children after the wedding?

I have made too many blunders to point fingers at anyone. 

My Circle

My circle of family and friends have taught me much, but I am a slow learner. Patience was won by raising forgetful, rebellious, talkative children. The bloodline has become my launching pad. Kin has been a priceless experience bringing me where I am today.

Tolerance came when I realized others with a different background than my own; their words and actions made sense…if only to themselves.

I’ve found forgiveness is best learned on the receiving end. Then pay it forward to another undeserving soul.

God is patient with me. Past events have shown I’m no longer the person I used to be. That’s a good thing,

Friendships can move on, but family should never be cast away. There is too much to be learned from them. I wonder what my family has learned from me.

I may not want to know.

Many Octobers Ago

Fifty two Octobers ago I met my husband. It was a high school field trip to the Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan. In the automotive section, some of the students climbed over the barriers to clamor about in the antique cars. Security was on us in no time.

Henry Ford Museum

“Ok, that’s it. You were warned. Consider your tour over, exit immediately.”

We were shoved out a side door into a cramped courtyard. Some guy and I were shoved through the door, his broad shoulders crushing me.

Getting To Know You

We struck up a conversation. Both of us bummed at leaving such a neat place. A date came soon after, that grew into going steady. I can’t recall what we talked about, but spent hours on the phone with each other.

Often I stayed after school as he worked on a drafting assignment. I learned he couldn’t doodle without a straight edge. In turn, he learned I considered my sewing class as recess to play.

During football season, we attended every game. Completely ignoring it, as we were wrapped up in each other. Grandma called it puppy love.

A Questionable Proposal

Our recollections of his proposal don’t agree. I say we were on the phone, he says in the car. I just hope it’s acceptable, now that our children are grown, with their own kids. Us being great grandparents is no time to learn it wasn’t legit.

Take note though, the proposal came after his purchasing a radial arm saw. That should have waved a red flag, had I not had stars in my eyes. Today we continue to support and encourage the interests of each other.

The Best Part

The best part is we still like each other. Not that life has always been peachy keen. We’ve had our ups and downs, but we never outgrew that puppy love. It was what glued us together. Both of us are convinced that God brought us together and carries us through wherever life takes us.

Commercial Break

If you are a history buff, consider traveling to this wonderful museum. Next door is Greenfield Village. Both are owned by the Ford Motor Co. and well worth the trip. Give yourself several days, both are huge and you don’t want to miss a thing.

It Is Finished

How can I blithely spend a few minutes jotting down an accomplishment that has taken me years to complete? I am the only quilter I know that can make a brand new antique. But it is finished.

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This cathedral window quilt began in a workshop many years ago. My goal was three-fold, learn something new, use up scrap fabric piling up everywhere, and follow in our foremothers example of using the fabric on hand.

But Then…

For the mostpart I stayed true to my intent. But then I used up all my blue scraps and was far from done. So I begged scraps off fellow quilters. Eventually I used all my white fabric too. So I used off white colors. But then I was reduced to going out and purchasing more.

Life has interruptions. In the course of this project, I took on quilting for a lady that had inherited an unfinished quilt. She had everthing needed to complete it, all I had to do was put it together.

“You can keep all the white fabric left over, I’ll never use it.”

What a blessing! I was back at it, able to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Just The Stats M’am

 

If you’re not already sitting down, feel free to do so.

Keeping in mind one yard is 36 inches. Three forths of a yard will make one block. One row consists of 8 blocks, bringing the yardage up to 6 yards. To cover a queen size bed required 11 rows. All total, 66 yards of went into this. It weighs in at 9lbs.

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A Work Of Love

This helped fill my evenings with handwork to keep myself busy. I’m not good at sitting and doing nothing.  Things worth having are worth working for. This work of love filled my heart as I imagined my family enjoying the warmth it provides.

Jesus comes to my mind, as I consider his lifetime of love, example, provision for mankind, and his sacrificial death so that we might spend eternity with our Creator. He finished His task too.

I included an up close picture of the quilt to see what can’t be seen from a distance. If you keep too much distance from God, your going to miss knowing Him and what He has to offer. Its woth the time investment to see Him better.

 

Minimalist In The Making

Family pictures are precious, and displaying them made conversation when visitors came. The down side is dusting them. I generally save housework to make it worth all the effort. Memories have a way of accumulating like dust bunnies under the bed.

I needed to sort through them, and enlisted my husband to help in this decision-making nightmare. He was no help.

“Why are you asking me, I’m not the decorator here?”

Determination Spilled In

A memory came over me of my childhood closet. My parents home was circa 1920’s when storage was wanting. My closet doubled as a pint-size attic. It’s contents were listing into my clothes.

A fit of determination spilled over me as I proceeded to clean it out. How can a young girl determine to save or pitch what took her folks a lifetime to accumulate? It can’t be done. So it all went back.

This Stuff Was Our Stuff

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I was determined to flush something out.

“What should we do with this picture Aunt Vic painted, whom we have never met?”

One thing in my favor was our open floor plan that gave us few walls to work with. Did I love this picture enough to dust it forever? Nope.

One decision seems to hinge on another though. Is this the way I’m going to keep my furniture arrangement? Where is the dart board going to hang downstairs?

“I’d like a mantle size shelf over the bed so I can ….” You get the idea.

“I’d like to put my wood hanger collection in the bathroom. Where are they anyway? I wish we could locate the box they got packed in. What would be helpful is to have a large case on wheels that would house the keeper pictures that aren’t on display. Where could we keep that?”

Round and round she goes, where she ends, nobody knows.

 

 

Time is of the Essence

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Until now, my posts have consisted of past memories. Today is different.

A day can start out normal, then take an unexpected detour of events. Today I want to embrace the treasure time allows me. However, I know me too well. It’s only a matter of time (there’s that word again) when I will fall flat on my face, overwhelmed by whatever.

The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

Life is full of the good, the bad & the ugly. Each is well known. I will share a few of my own, but you have your own list.

During the summer I had the opportunity to meet a long lost cousin. She is at war with the C word. Now in hospice care, it appears cancer is winning.

This past week a friend went to the doctor, something wasn’t right. By nightfall she was sporting a pacemaker. If she had waited a few days, thinking time will heal what ails, her husband would be making funeral arrangements.

Control, Or the Lack Thereof

While we haven’t reached it yet, my dearly beloved and I can see our 50th wedding anniversary approaching. Our relationship is strong enough that I’m confident we’ll make it. Yay!

We have raised three wonderful, independant children that live wisely. Try as we did, we weren’t perfect parents. It had to be God intervening where we fell short.

For all those days in between, that went pretty much as I anticipated. Well, it enabled me to lay my head down at night in peace. I got the trash out on time.

Teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom 

Psalm 90:12 NIV

The Drive-by Incident

Drive-by shootings came to my attention in the 1980’s. They were in the news on a regular basis.

I got to experience one and lived to tell about it.

I was behind the wheel of Big Blue, our full-size van. The bulk of it gave me a false sense of security.

I was enroute to pick up my daughter at her friend’s home.The street was a pleasant drive, except for this particular day.

To my left was a line of trees, just beyond them, Westland Mall. The right side was a series of apartment buildings.

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The White Van

Out of nowhere a white van came racing up from behind, tailgating me. He stayed there for a few minutes.

Thinking he might want to pass, I slowed down. So did the white van.

I was beginning to feel uncomfortable.

Eventually it came up beside me, keeping pace with my speed.

When I sped up, so did this van. I slowed down, likewise did the van, staying right by my side.

Feeling Stalked

My discomfort grew into feeling stalked. In my mind I was certain if I acknowledged their presence, I would be looking down the barrel of a gun. So I refused to turn my head. I chose not to make that the last thing I saw before I was shot.

After what seemed like hours, the van raced ahead, disappearing just as suddenly as it appeared. I took a deep breathe. savoring life.

Hello Police?

Today, I might have done things differently. For starters, taken down the licence number.

But for what?

Hello Police? I want to report a van that scared me.

Nothing happened. It was over and the van was gone. There was nothing the police could do.

Looking back on this non event, I’m convinced God was with me. I will be forever grateful for how He looked after my safety, regardless of where I was at spiritually.

At that time, I wasn’t giving the Lord much thought.

Interesting, isn’t it, how 20/20 hindsight gives a better view of reality?

 

 

Lost and Found

Poor dear Mom. She lost the only granddaughter she had.

The children’s clothing department was a zoo and my daughter  Cindy got antsy. So Mom offered to take her for a walk. Along the way they encountered a friend and mom chatted for only a moment.

Ready to resume walking, Mom reached for Cindy’s hand. But she was nowhere to be seen.

Panic Reigned

We looked up and down every aisle, high and low. Each clothing rack, where little people like to hide, but no Cindy. Panic reigned.

Beyond the entry door was a vast shopping mall. I had visions of my little one abducted. A stranger blending in with shoppers, heading for the nearest exit. Would I ever see my baby girl again?

Where is security when you need them?

I never realized stores had a PA system. Until then.

“We have a lost child. Would the parents please report to the Customer Service Center?”

 Found!

Cindy knew the toy department was upstairs in the furthermost corner. She was found at the top of the escalator with a teddy bear. Really?

 She hadn’t learned to talk yet, to tell us of her intent. I am forever grateful for the person that accessed the situation and took her to Customer Service. In my eyes, that individual is an angel sent from God.  

Tale of Two Women

Outside world

Donna and Nora both loved Jesus . But how they expressed that love was worlds apart. Both women felt their lives reflected their faith.

I met them at a women’s Bible study. Donna’s attendance was sporadic, so I came to know Nora better.

Nora was the wife of a church leader. She attended every function the church had. 

Her words and actions spoke of her spiritual beliefs. “Never would I darken the door of a bar.”

On The Other Hand

On the other hand, Donna church attendance was as sporadic as her Bible study habit. When she came to church, she was minus her husband.

He felt no need of this church thing. But he was aware that she chose to submit to him.

So he insisted she come to the bar with him.

Donna, desiring to please her man, came. Armed.

As he sat at the bar chatting it up with the bartender, Donna instigated her own conversations. Going from table to table she visited with others and handed them information about Jesus.

Donna’s husband no longer felt the need for her to accompany him.

Following God

Both of these women were careful to follow God the best way they knew. One was concerned about not making God look bad. The other concentrated on loving people.

Regardless of where you are  in life, the hardest thing to comprehend is how God tells different people different things.

It’s all about how we interpret life and how we daily live it out. 

 

 

Back to School Shopping

Back to School Ad

Mothers with children in tow were milling everywhere.  The wails of the boy could be heard above the din of the shoppers.

“Momma, nooo!

Small children, too young to be involved in the clothing hunt ran amuck between display racks.

The young boys voice rose in volume, “But I don’t want to!”

Mom’s response was unintelligible.

Long lines to the fitting room ran out into the store as shoppers waited impatiently for their turn to try selections on.

By now the little guy is sobbing, “Please don’t make me!”

This time the mothers impatient voice could be heard, “I’ll stand right here blocking everyone from seeing you.” 

Surely, this mom wasn’t making her son undress out in public? What was she thinking?

My Heart Aches

Each new school year, this memory comes back to haunt me. My heart aches for this little guy who has now reached manhood.

I wonder what his relationship is with his mother now? How marred is his adulthood from this childhood experience? Home is the place of learning respect, in giving and receiving.

The Old Creed

Respect is a small word with huge implications. Sensitivity to others is key, in-home or out. An old creed from my past is worth keeping in mind.  Do unto others as you would have done to you. 

Sixty Years Later

Meet my cousin Diane. What a lady!

She is a modern day survivor. None of us would wish for the childhood she had.

Diane’s mom was a troubled soul. Back in the day she suffered mental issues that are now treatable. We owe my aunt much, due to the experimental treatments she endured.

Drama lived in Diane’s childhood home, leaving her bitter memories. My aunt was committed to a mental institution where she lived out her remaining years.

Diane was sent to an orphanage. Upon her return home, she and her father didn’t get along well.

Society didn’t make life easy for a single father. While still a minor, Diane left home. Society didn’t make life easy for a teenager on her own either.

New and Improved

Diane married, striving for the normal family she had never known.

The two of us had lost touch with each other long ago. But through my husband’s Ancestry page, she located me/us.

This summer we had made a return trip to Michigan, taking the opportunity to meet Diane.

Her first words reflected my own feelings, “I’m so nervous!”

We learned for seventeen years we lived forty-five minutes from each other, never knowing it. There is so much to catch up on.

A Mystery

It’s a mystery why life takes us places we never imagined. Maybe we wouldn’t have appreciated our family ties if they were normal. What is normal anyway, but a setting on our washer?

God’s reasons are beyond our way of thinking. Two things I can say with certainty:

The Lord carried Diane through tough times, and she came out fine. And both of us have been blessed with a restored relationship.

Restoration, that’s what He is all about. Okay, so three things.

Father is Watching

In my childhood our family didn’t take vacations, so I was eager to get to Burroughs Farms. It was beachfront park land owned by the company my dad worked for-only Burroughs employees were admitted in. Looking back, I don’t know why I was excited. Mom would secure the ties of my swimsuit so tight around my neck I couldn’t stand up straight. Besides I didn’t know how to swim. Most of the time I was at the waterfront making sand castles.

Burroughs Farms

But there was this slide in the water that all the kids loved. So I gave it try. However, once I got to the top of the ladder, my perspective changed. I was up high and from up there the water looked a lot deeper. So I was reconsidering my decision. But my brother wasn’t far from me. He told the kid behind me, “Go ahead and push her, it’s OK, she’s my sister.”

My arms and legs thrashed the water. Panic-stricken I couldn’t rise to the surface. Fortunately, Dad was watching and came to my rescue. I’m reminded our Heavenly Father also looks after us. Many a time he has saved me from what could have been a dangerous situation.

Moonwalk Memories

Do you recall where you were on the 20th of July, 1969?

Thunder Moon July 2019

If you need some help, that day went down in the history of mankind for the American astronauts landing and walking on the moon. The news stations talked of nothing else it seems.

Turning downhill

My grandmother came over to see it with us. That’s when this momentous day took a turn downhill. We had two televisions, both tuned in, so whichever room we were in, nothing would be missed. Unfortunately, when the landing took place, Mom, Dad, and myself happened to be in one room, leaving Grandma in the other room by herself. It wasn’t deliberate by any means.

But Grandma was offended. Big time. She marched into the room we were in, tossing her words< “If I wanted to watch this alone, I would have stayed home!: With that she stormed out of the house, making a beeline down the path to her home next door.

Needless to say, Dad went scrambling after her. Completely ruining the moment in my eyes. Every once in awhile Grandma showed us her drama queen tendencies.

There Comes a Time

But I guess I shouldn’t be so hard on her. There comes a time when we all need a little companionship. Grandma had lost her husband, seemingly lost her daughter due to mental issues, and considered her son (my dad) gone too. There was another woman (my mom). Even though she lived next door and could keep tabs on him. She was good at that. She was lonely, as though she had no one to live for. That can be an empty feeling. We never know what is going on in another persons life. But we can exercise our patience and mercy muscle-just as God does with each of us.

Am I Contented?

Magnolia bouquet

It’s been quite a while since I’ve gone shopping. Fun shopping I mean, groceries don’t count. Recently though the time was ripe for some retail therapy. 

My husband and I had the pleasure of a visit from his brother and wife. My sister-in-law is a good shopper. She buys  things. If they should not be quite right, she returns the merchandise. I have a tendency to collect items in my cart, but prior to checking out, I return them to the shelf. It’s economical, but needs don’t always get met that way.

As I said, the time was right. There was a sale going on because management wanted to clear merchandise for new incoming goods. Making a great deal for me. It couldn’t be anymore perfect, right? Only I couldn’t find anything I couldn’t live without.

What’s with that? Any other day I have to exercise self-control to keep from buying too much. Could it be I’m content? That’s never happened before. Kind of a new experience, actually.

God is so good to help me remember everything has to have a place to go. We are in downsize mode, so I am okay with what I already have.