9/11

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,  for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own. Matthew 6:34

For our generation, 9/11 is probably the defining event of our lives, at least in the sense of a tragedy that touched an entire nation, even an entire world. Because of 9/11, I think I have a better understanding of what people felt when President Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were assassinated.

It was always interesting to hear people talk about how they remembered exactly where they were when the president was shot. But I felt somewhat detached from the true emotion of that event, because I was experiencing it second hand. I got a small taste of that type of sadness when John Lennon was murdered and then again when the Challenger exploded. I do remember where I was when the Challenger was lost, and I did mourn for those aboard as well as for their families.  In trying to suss out my true feelings, I think that though the Challenger explosion was horrifying, there is also some truth in the idea that space travel carries with it an inherent risk.

And it could be argued that anything we do carries risk. But for everyday folks going off to work , the risks they felt they were facing were much smaller.  The possibility of tripping on the curb; having a fender bender; missing a bus; etc. I have to believe that very few of them, if any, walked out their doors that day thinking it could be their last day on earth. And the events of that morning are crystal clear in my mind.  At that time I was co-owner of a sales repping firm.  My business partner had our office in her basement.  I got up that morning and as I was getting ready to drive over to her house I had the news on.  I remember sort of half listening to it and then I realized they were talking about a small plane hitting a building in New York.  I wasn’t really too familiar with the twin towers; and I remember feeling bad for the pilot, and assuming he or she had maybe suffered a heart attack or stroke.  And then, in what seemed like a very short time later,  another plane hit the second tower.  Now the television had my full attention.  No one really understood at first what was actually happening.  I was listening to the Today Show and they had a reporter at the Pentagon.  They had him on the phone and were discussing what was happening when suddenly he got very excited and told us that there had been an explosion in the Pentagon.

At this point I couldn’t bear to be alone, so I quickly drove to the office only to find that my business partner had gone to the health club that morning.  I sat in her living room  alone with the televison and sobbed as I watched the people fall and jump from the crumbling towers.  The enormity of what was happening was so overwhelming.  All those people, all those people. To have to make a choice to either burn to death, die from smoke inhalation, or jump to your death – how?  How would you make that choice?  And what if it was the wrong choice?  And then I thought of all the husbands and wives and children who would see this footage and suffer again and again.  As I write this I am crying. I have never been able to fully wrap my mind around the abomination of 9/11. 

When my business partner finally arrived, she had no idea what had been happening.  She’d been listening to her CD player at the health club, and hadn’t turned the radio on in her car.  I couldn’t begin to really explain what a terrible thing had happened.  All I could do was have her watch it unfold over and over again on t.v.

And as we all know, in the midst of this immense heartbreak, wonderful stories of heroism and kindness arose. And we needed them.  It gave us something to hang on to. Something to show us that the world wasn’t completely upside down, in spite of the evidence.  It gave us hope.  I remember how eerie it was to not hear any airplanes flying over – I think that lasted about a week.  So much has changed since then, but so much has stayed the same.

I just read a book by Randy Alcorn called If God Is Good.  This is a book that takes a Biblical view of suffering and why we suffer. I had a difficult time putting this book down because it affected me in such a positive way. It shed some light on questions I had (and even on many things I hadn’t thought of). I think in particular it helped me to understand that our suffering in this world is so small in comparison to the wonder of the next world we will live in. And that gives me more hope than I can possibly desire. Life can and does change in an instant, but it goes on. 

Oh Boy, We’re Finally BOTH Fifty!

What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it. C.S. Lewis

Or will be shortly.  Some of my very best friends and I celebrate our birthdays together three times a year –  in February (me), April (Nae) and September (Pooh).  In September we’ll celebrate Pooh’s birthday.  Now as you may have guessed, her name isn’t really Pooh, but it was one of her nicknames.  I’ve known Pooh since 1973.  Yes, that’s correct. I said 1973.  And birthdays have always been the bane of her existence.  I remember turning 18 and feeling like I had a tiger by the tail – but not Pooh – she felt old even then!  And of course now that’s she turning 50 It gives me some great fodder for teasing her. Lovingly of course (hah!).

We met in Mrs. Brownlee’s art class in junior high (7th grade).  Mrs. Brownlee’s voice was very shaky (I don’t know if Pooh remembers that – at first it drove me crazy) but I grew to love her.  She was a great teacher and we had a great time in her class! Pooh and I sat across from each other every day and cemented our friendship.

Pooh was friends with everyone – Brains, Smokers, Jocks – everyone. I was friends with the brains (now I think known as nerds or geeks).  And she was (and of course still is!) a brain – I think that’s what drew us together back then.  We both did well in school, but we also got away with a lot of stuff.  I was just thinking about it the other day.  I know my parents genuinely liked Pooh, and I think her parents liked me, but I don’t think any of them liked the two of us together.  We had a lot of good crazy ideas and there was never any hesitation to run with it. I can still remember my dad telling me that I wouldn’t keep the friends I had in high school.  For the most part, he was right. But not about Pooh. A little over three years after we graduated she was by my side at my dad’s funeral. And she’s been by my side whenever I needed her ever since. I have a feeling we’ll be raising heck in a nursing home some day.

Pooh was much braver than I was.  She’d take me to the jock’s beer parties and flit around talking to everyone, and I was just, well, terrified. Plus I never have really liked beer (although at one time I could drink an entire pitcher of the stuff in 7 seconds – it’s amazing what I’d do on a dare back then). I completely lacked social skills at that age. By the time we got to high school we had amassed a small group of friends – our own little clique. It was an odd little group – or maybe eclectic would be a better word. There were four girls (let’s call them Pooh, Bear, Sandi, and Renee) and two guys (let’s call them Jerome and Wayne) – and one of the guys went to a neighboring school (I know this is weird, but we used to skip school to go visit our friends at the other high schools in town).

So of course we decided that we would all share a locker.  It happened to be my locker, which was the most centrally located.  We actually kept all coats in another locker, and used my locker as a meeting place between classes.  We super glued shelves into the locker and decorated the inside for all the major holidays.  That was eventually our downfall because the shelves we glued in would sometimes keep the locker from closing securely. And there was an eagle-eyed english teacher who had an obvious dislike for our little band of misfits – she watched us constantly.

We came up with all sorts of goofy ideas.  One of the goofiest was stealing pencil sharpener lids.  Yep, you heard me correctly.  Remember those old fashioned pencil sharpeners that were screwed to the wall – and occasionally you had to take the lid off and empty it?  Remember the funny smell of lead and wood? And how the pencil shavings would end up absolutely everywhere? 

At our school the pencil sharpeners were located in each classroom in a closet. They were about chest high and you had to open two doors out to get to the sharpener.  The doors also afforded a bit of privacy if you had to pick your nose or scratch yourself while sharpening a pencil. And thus an idea was born.  I don’t know what it was back then, but the stupidest, most moronic things would send us all into fits of laughter that were literally uncontrollable. So one day at lunch we started talking about what kind of a prank we could play.  And we decided to see who could steal the most pencil sharpener lids.  The caveat was that you had to steal them from a class you weren’t in. 

This entailed going in and interrupting the teacher during a class and asking innocently if you could sharpen your pencil – you’d been at the library and the point broke off.  They never said no.  And I don’t think they ever put two and two together when they noticed the missing lids!  For us girls it was relatively easy.  After all, we carried those huge purses that were made by cutting the legs off of a pair of jeans and sewing the bottom closed. I’m not clear on how the guys did it. We had a score sheet with all our names and hash marks for the lids.  About a week into this little adventure we decided that we should up the ante. At that point we added several items to the list – fire extinguishers, chalk, lunch trays and forks. Again, amongst massive fits of hilarity.  Truthfully, I don’t think most of us were going to go for anything other than the lids and possibly a piece of chalk or two.

So one day I was working in the school office (yes, I was one THOSE kids – I had three free hours during the day and they had to do something productive with me), when the school secretary approached me with a very stern look on her face.  I immediately assumed I had been caught giving out free passes for my friends to get back into class.  But all she told me was that I was to report to the principal’s office immediately, take a seat, don’t touch anything, and wait for the principal to arrive.  Our principal bore a striking resemblance to Omar Sharif, but he wasn’t nearly as romantic.  To say I was scared would be the understatement of the century.  It was the first time I had ever been in the principal’s office. Several minutes later the door opened, and in came Pooh.  She took a seat and asked me what the he** was going on? Couldn’t tell her.  Then in came Bear, followed shortly by Renee, and finally Jerome – the one guy that went to our school.  We were completely at a loss until the secretary came in and, very dramatically, placed the list of things we were “collecting” on the principal’s desk. We found out later that the mean english teacher had gone to shut our locker for us, discovered the list taped to the inside of the door, and subsequently found the box of nine pencil sharpener lids we had collected so far.  They couldn’t figure out where the ninth one had come from – Pooh had gotten it the county library the week before.

 Things became very clear at that moment, and suddenly Renee erupted in the most horrendous screeching scary laughter I have ever heard.  It started as a kind of snort, and grew louder and louder in a sort of hiccuping manner. Then it would stop for a second, and start again.  It sounded something like Snort then a screechy sort of HEE HEE HAW HEEEEE HAW HICCUP, quiet for just a second and then again SNORT HEE HEE HAW HEEEE HAW HICCUP!  Over and over. Turned out this kid had a problem with nervous laughter when she was in trouble.  And I think this was probably the most trouble Renee’d ever been in.  Of course, once we got over the initial shock we first tried shushing her, but it was so funny that by the time the principal came into his office the five of us were laughing so hard we were crying.  And we couldn’t stop  – because everytime we’d get ourselves under control, Renee would start in again. It was awful and wonderful all at the same time. I have never, before or since, been so disrespectful to an authority figure, and I have to say, it was kind of fun.  I couldn’t have done it alone though. I really think the principal realized too late he’d made a fatal mistake in confronting us as a group.  He  kept getting louder and madder, and we responded by not being able to sit still in our chairs because we were laughing so hard.  Finally he got up and told us we were going to look in each and everyone’s locker, one at at time.  Oddly, this announcement had a very sobering effect on Pooh and Bear. I didn’t notice it at first, and I wasn’t worried about what they would find in our lockers.

So off our little group went.  They had waited until everyone was in class to take us on our little journey. As we went from locker to locker I began to notice Pooh and Bear whispering to each other and looking really scared.  Turns out the two of them had lifted a fire extinguisher and stashed it in Bear’s locker.  While we were waitng in the principal’s office, all of our lockers had been searched for any other contraband.  They found nine lids, 2 pieces of chalk, a fork and the fire extinguisher.  By the time we got back to the principal’s office we become considerably more solemn.  I think at that point we were starting to wonder how much trouble we were going to be in.  The principal explained to us that because there were no lids on the pencil sharpeners, the lead and shavings had fallen on the floor and gotten ground into the tile, effectively ruining it.  Apparently we had caused $1500 worth of damage, and we had to pay for it. Of course, that was a massive bunch of baloney.  What we were really paying for was laughing when we shouldn’t have.  I know what we did was wrong, but, it really could have been handled better by the authorities.  Turns out my parents were the only ones who paid!  I think they had two reactions.  Total shock I had gotten in trouble, and trying really hard not to laugh.

I have great parents! In fact, during senior year Pooh and Bear and I would sneak out of our respective houses a few times a week after everyone had gone to bed, and we’d hang out at the smelting factory where our friend B was a security guard.  I was pretty sure my parents had no idea.  I would go down to the lower level of our split level house, through the workroom to the door that connected the house and the garage. Then I’d hightail it out the back garage door and meet my peeps down the street a ways.  Like I said, I thought I was pretty good at it until one day my dad said, “Hey Kimbo, can you do me a favor?” and I said, “What is it?” “Would you make sure and lock the door when you leave later tonight? You’ve been leaving it open”.

Pooh and I went on to have many more adventures, and maybe someday I’ll share some more of fhem.  Suffice to say we were both given a great deal of freedom, and while we made some mistakes, none of them were huge and we’ve stuck by each other through thick and thin.  A few years ago I watched her fabulous oldest son become an eagle scout, and now he’s starting his second year of college.  I still see him with his little gap toothed grin running through the house in his diapers playing hide and seek. And now he’s all grown up.

So this is going to be a special birthday. Pooh will join the ranks of those of us who’ve lived half a century, and it’s so great to have a friend I’ve known for most of my life.  She knows me inside and out.  What great gift! I feel like it’s MY birthday!  Happy Birthday Pooh, and here’s to many many more.

A Dog’s Life

He is your friend, your partner, your defender, your dog. You are his life, his love, his leader.  He will be yours, faithful and true, to the last beat of his heart. You owe it to him to be worthy of such devotion. Unknown

I wasn’t blessed children, but I have always been blessed with dogs. To me, my house is not a home without a dog or two. Growing up, we had a succession of dogs.  A dachshund named Fritz von Upton, a poodle named Raisin, and a dachshund named Sander von Kitzel Koch. I have some sharp memories from my childhood, and the clearest of those revolve around the dogs we had.

My parents treated their pets with respect and love, and my brother and I grew up understanding that the friendship of our furry companions sometimes far outshone that of our two-legged pals. The silky warmth of an ear; the smoothness of glossy fur; the bright eyes focused on the ones they loved; the click click click of toenails; the squeak of the bed springs and the comforting warmth of a body settling next to you; the tentative and then confident face lick when they’re worried about something; the happiness and joy they show with whole body wags every time you come home (even if you’ve only been gone for a few minutes); and most of all knowing that no matter how bad you felt or how badly you acted, your dog loved you with all his being. In my mind, the love an animal has for his person parallels the love God has for us. I think the saying that “dog is God spelled backwards” has quite bit of truth to it.

Dad bought Fritz for my mom because he was a traveling salesman.  My mom was pregnant and, having grown up in a house with thirteen siblings, lonely, so my dad got her Fritz as a companion.  Apparently he was all of 3 pounds, and – in my mom’s words – “Full of beans”.  My mom used to get up on a chair when he would chase her broom because he scared her! But he made her laugh and kept her company. She’d never had a pet growing up.  She got used to him though, and grew to love having dogs in her life.  I was born about 9 months after her and dad got married, so Fritz and I were just about the same age.  Fritzie had disc trouble like so many weiner dogs, and we ended up having to put him to sleep when he was 5.  It was especially hard to see my daddy so sad. Oh, how I missed that little dog.  He was my bosom buddy.

My dad, me and Fritz Circa 1961

Then came Raisin, our little black poodle, and after that, Sandy – whose name was changed to Augie Doggie and then shortened to Aug because my mom’s name is also Sandy. Both Raisin and Sandy were, in a sense, rescue dogs. Raisin belonged to a single mom with twin girls and I suspect his owner gave him up because he was a biter, although she never came out and said that. Eventually we had to re-home Raisin with my uncle after he bit the neighbor boy.  That was a very sad day.  It’s testament to the love we feel for our animals that Raisin was given another chance. 

Augie was 7 when we got him, and his owner was going away to college. I was only 11 or 12 when we got Aug, but I remember being incensed that someone would give up a dog because it no longer fit into their lifestyle. I was also very glad we could love Aug and I think he was too.  Augie died while I was in college, and that year my boyfriend gifted me with a beautiful border collie/collie cross whom I named Beauregarde. Beau was all fur and softness and scared out of his wits about everything after being nearly beaten to death by his first owner.  He was about a year old and I worked so hard to gain his trust. What a great life lesson. The gentler I was with that beautiful dog, the more loving and compliant he became.  Beau’s extreme intelligence intrigued me and I started studying everything I could about border collies.

When Beau got to be about 8 years old, I started worrying about what I would do when he died.  So I got a puppy – I said it was for Beau, but it was really for me.  And this time I got a purebred border collie – that was Jack.  Oh puppies!  Fat little bellies and they have that puppy smell that’s so enticing. I spent hours training Jack and he was an amazing dog. He could learn a trick in no time flat – sit, stay, say pretty please, crawl, back up, fall down and play dead, roll over…the list goes on.  I could tell him to go get the blue walrus and he’d bring back the blue walrus.  He’d put his toys in the toy basket when I asked him.  And he stalked Beau mercilessly (how could he resist that gorgeous plume of a tail waving languidly as Beau walked by) but Beau loved it.  They were great pals. 

By the time Beau died, I had been divorced and had met Jim, my second husband.  Sometimes I don’t know how Jim, Jack. and I got through losing Beau.  At the vet’s suggestion we took Jack with us when we had Beau put to sleep (he had cancer) and let him see Beau after he died. The vet seemed to think that Jack would grieve, but he wouldn’t pine because he would understand that Beau had died. That vet was a wonderful man.  He sat with us for quite awhile and explained that we were making the right choice in ending Beau’s suffering; and that Beau did not have a fear of death like humans do.  I don’t know if you ever had to put a dog down, but it’s extremely intense. And the thing that always strikes me is how you can quite literally feel the life leave.  A perfectly still live body has a presence that a dead body doesn’t.  I don’t quite know how explain it, except to say that it’s overwhelming.  It feels like God is in the room to me.

Me and Jack, early 80s (bet the hairstyle totally gave it away)

A few years later we got Keats, another little purebred border collie puppy – same breeder that sold us Jack – in fact, Jack was Keatsy’s uncle.  Jack bossed Keats around all the time and they had a great time, and when Jack got to be about 14, he had a stroke and died. As before, we took his pal Keats with us when we went to the vet. Keats was devastated and it took us a long time to heal. Each time I lose one of my precious companions I feel like I can’t possibly do it again.  And the thing is, we know. With pets, particularly dogs and cats, we have some expectation that we’re going to lose them someday, because their lives aren’t all that long. 

Keats as a pup – 1998

So the question to me is whether the joy and companionship and love they bring to our lives is worth having to go through the pain of losing them? And I think it is. If not, then what’s the use of having any relationship here on earth? And right now I’m struggling with that reality, because my little Keats is failing.  It starts with the realization that he’s got some gray hair.  Eventually the bright eyes start to dim a bit from cataracts. They get a little stiff and sleep a bit more.  And they sleep harder.  Hearing gets a bit iffy. He can still get around, but he’s slow. So analogous to humans.  I’m fairly certain this is our last summer with him. As I write this I can barely keep the tears back – but I try not to think about it because if I start crying, he’ll be over here licking my face and trying to show me that everything is okay, and that’ll make it harder.  This is the dog that goes to the vet and licks the vet’s face while getting a shot, just to show there’s no hard feelings. 

We have Lou, our latest addition, and he and Keats have been together for about 6 or 7 years.  I know he’s going to miss his pal. Jim and I have been delicately dancing around the issue.  Neither one of us wants to face it head on – that’ll come soon enough. But we’re both starting to brace for it.  I think one of the hardest things about losing a pet is seeing the pain it causes the other people in your life. So this summer is kind of bittersweet.  Time is passing by so quickly, it doesn’t seem possible that fall is almost here. Sometimes I wish I could turn time off, at least for a little while. But in the end, I continue to be amazed that we are given the care of these wondrous creatures.  And I take great comfort in knowing that the Bible tells us not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without our Father knowing. He will watch over all his creatures.

Near this spot are deposited the remains of one who possessed Beauty without Vanity, Strength without Insolence, Courage without Ferocity, and all the Virtues of  Man without his Vices. This Praise, which would be unmeaning Flattery inscribed over human ashes, is but a just tribute to the Memory of Boatswain, a Dog.  George Gordon, Lord Byron, “Inscription on the Monument of a Newfoundland Dog”.


WOW! WOWSER! Philadelphia Cream Cheese ROCKS!

From the fullness of His grace we have all received one blessing after another. John 1:16

Just had to share my good news.  I just won a prize in the Real Women of Philadelphia (RWoP) cooking contest and I’m over the moon. I entered the contest on a whim, after reading an article on their Website about recipe development. Basically the article gave some simple but great tips about how to use what you have on hand.  I had some fruit that was not going to be viable much longer, some buttermilk and sour cream that were getting closer to the “use by” dates, and of course, I had gone out and bought some Philadelphia Cooking Creme. 

I actually hadn’t heard of Cooking Creme until I stumbled onto the RWoP site. Let me tell you, it’s really good. I’ve always loved to use cream cheese, and their Cooking Creme has the same great cream cheese tang.  It also comes in lots of different flavors, plus original. I have a favorite old recipe from back in the early 1980s that my in-laws used to make for every event.  We called it pudding dessert.  It was basically a baked crust, then a layer of pudding mixed with cream cheese and I think maybe milk, then a layer of Cool Whip and some chopped nuts. Surprisingly simple and really good.  I may have to make that one again now that it’s popped into my brain! 

Anyway, the contest goes for about 8 weeks and there are several permutations, so you can submit in whatever category best fits your skills.  For instance, the current contest is for appetizers – here’s the link: http://www.realwomenofphiladelphia.com/.  You may remember the fruit soup recipe I posted a couple weeks ago – that’s the recipe that won! They announce the winners in a fun way.  There are  four hosts. Each host, I think, is in charge of two weeks of the contest. The host (isn’t this weird, I used to think I was a feminist when I was younger, and now I have a hard time saying “host” in lieu of “hostess” because it just doesn’t sound right!  Sorry, off topic again, what a surprise!) for the side dish contest is a cute lady named Moni and she did a darling video.

Let me set this up for you.  I got home from work, and went to check my email.  I saw that I had about six “Friend” requests from gals at the RWoP site.  Which possibly should have tipped me off but didn’t.  I did wonder about it, but then I saw an email from the site indicating that the picture of my dish had been uploaded to the gallery, so I clicked on it. And yes, indeed, there was my picture, looking a little sad amongst all the really awesome pictures.  There were about 25 or 30 pictures on the page, and 787 pages. So then I thought I got all the friend requests because my picture was newer or something.  Then I went and got a cookie and some milk.  You know, I still think it’s important to have cookies and milk after school (work).

Then I noticed an email from RWoP announcing the side dish winner.  So I clicked on that link, and there was a little video, which I started up and watched while I ate my cookie.  There was Moni, in a SWEET Tiki bar. She told her audience she was going to announce the first Side Dish Contest Winner, but first she was going to tell everyone a little bit about this person.

She started by saying “she has a raging sweet tooth”. This made me laugh and think, “Amen sister, me too!”.  Then she said, “She loves vintage things – glassware, tablecloth, anything vintage”. And I started to get a weird feeling.  Then she said, “She LOVES Jimmy Buffet”.  And I got an even weirder feeling, which I had no time to process, because then she said, “Congratulations Kim Sundermeyer” at which point my cookie fell out of my mouth, I started jumping around and screaming, and the dogs got scared and left the room. I just won $500 for cooking!! I am so excited!  If I could do a cart wheel, I would!  I’ve so been wanting a better camera and this will help me to achieve that goal.  Although, I do understand that it’s really how you operate your camera that makes the difference!  Here’s a link to the video: http://www.realwomenofphiladelphia.com/post/our-first-anything-goes-side-dish-winner-is.

Now, all you home cooks out there – get your tushies right over to the RWoP Website and enter the contest!  Seriously, it’s a lot of fun and you could win! 

 

Home Really Is Where Your Heart Is

Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house upon a rock. Matthew 7:24

When I was very young, I dreamed of owning a big beautiful house.  A house with lots of rooms, an attic, a huge kitchen, a big front porch – you get the picture.  My first house was a townhouse.  It had 2 bedrooms, a medium sized kitchen, a dining area, a nice sized living room, and an unfinished basement.  I think it was around 1100 square feet. 

I grew up in a house that was just slightly larger, maybe 1500 square feet. I don’t know what I thought the draw was to owning a large house, but oh, how I dreamed! In the meantime, life happened.  I got divorced and suddenly had to pay the house payment with my piddly paycheck.  I was definitely house poor!  I could’ve moved, but I was stubborn and I had two dogs, and no money for a new house. I didn’t think I could find a rental that would allow dogs. I worked two jobs, had roommates, did whatever I needed to do to hang on to the rock around my neck…then I met Jim. 

My Jim. He lived in a tiny little house – about 500 square feet.  It was a typical bachelor pad on the inside – everything was brown and gray.  There were boiled bear bones in the crisper drawer and pheasant feathers everywhere.  The head and foot of the bed were covered in circles of different colored leather that he had cut out and glued on.  The bedroom curtains were kelly green and black, and the bedding was cast off floral. In his tiny living room resided a cedar closet, a desk built out of an old door, a piano (I kid you not), a filing cabinet, a table and chairs, and a couch. And he was in the process of decorating the arch in the middle of the room with tongue and groove cedar.  There was grasscloth wallpaper (under which I later discovered another 8 layers of wallpaper dating back to the early 1900s).  And plants everywhere. Hung up by hangers he had macramed himself.  A perfect old hippie bachelor pad. To say it needed a bit of sprucing up would be the understatement of the century.

But oh the yard. Not much wider than the house, but so deep – about the length of a football field.  And in the back, his wonderful, magical garden.  Sunflowers and green beans, potatoes and beets, carrots and onions, lettuce and peppers, and the tomatoes!  Row after row of tomato cages bursting with bright red fruit. And all around the house a nimbus of morning glories creeping up the sides and glowing with color.  In the front the sidewalk was lined with huge hostas, and he had brought back two birch trees from his family’s cabin up north – one for the front yard and one for the back yard.  And there was a majestic elm tree in the back yard, perfectly placed to shade both the bedroom and an outdoor table. The piece de resistance were the lilacs lining one side of the yard.  In full bloom and smelling like heaven.  I think seeing the wonder of Jim’s yard may be the first time I realized I was falling in love. And when I first began to see the charm and loveliness of a small home.

Over the years, there have been many changes in the house.  It’s still tiny, and it needs lots of work, but what I love most about is that it’s cozy. It’s warm in the winter and cool in the summer.  My step brother-in-law is from Turkmanistan and he was over one day – I got such a kick out of his comment – he said, in his thick Russian accent, “You liff in a mini house!” And then he chuckled wryly.  Jim has done all the work in the house.  He completedly gutted the living room (which is also the dining room) at one point, and made it a beautiful room.  He milled the wood for the windows and millwork from black ash, which is actually a very light wood. 

My friend Leslie came over a couple of weeks ago and what a gift she gave me – she painted my living room for me with the yellow I’ve always wanted.  It’s just beautiful. After Jim redid the living room  I learned to sew –  making my curtains out of red gingham fabric with red rick rack trim. Over the years we’ve furnished it with good quality hand me down furniture and sale items; and a couple of really cool garage/rummage sale finds (including a coffe table with a top that pulls up and out, so you can sit on the couch and eat at a regular table; and a gorgeous and expensive Queen Anne wing chair we got for $7.50).  My mom’s gorgeous half round china cabinet fits perfectly in the corner and houses all my glass “treasures”

I have kitchen gadgets and machines coming out my ears, and Jim built me a wonderful cabinet over the stairs to store everything.  He’s the master at figuring out how to use space effectively. And although I still sometimes dream of a larger house, it wouldn’t be much larger.  As the years have gone by I’ve come to love this little house we live in.  I would miss my house.  It’s very dear to me.  And what I find really neat is that it seems the trend is going towards smaller homes – sometimes to the point of silliness (70 square feet is just a tad too small).  But what I have learned is that my home is in my heart.  It’s the people who gather with me for good and bad, and the laughter and  closeness that makes my house my home. I can have celebrations and dinner parties and the smallness seems to bring people closer together.  And I feel so blessed to be among those who have a place they can call home.  A spot to come to each night and rest a weary head and limb. A place that makes me feel safe and happy.  I thank God every single day for the blessings he has poured out on me. 

What do you love about your home?  What would you change if you could?  Would you rather live in big house or a small house? I’d love to hear your thoughts.