Entering Advent and a line from a Ray Wylie Hubbard song jumps into my mind, “Patience is a virtue that I don’t possess.”
I can relate. I live in a world where, “Just Do It,” is the mantra. Waiting in line at a fast-food joint for 5 minutes can send me over the edge, I expect information in seconds from my smart devices whether accurate or not.
Advent … a time of waiting, reflection, a pause from decorating, cooking, shopping, entertaining, and holiday preparations seems like a contradiction. Is Advent even relevant? It’s been thousands of years since the prophet Isaiah told of the coming of the Christ child. That event has come and gone, what then or we waiting for?
The answer is in three words. “Come, Lord Jesus.”
Not just a prophecy but an invocation that transcends millennium. It doesn’t end at Christmas. As Christians, it envelopes us through every phase of our life. We are praying that he comes not just into the world but enters every part of our lives.
“Come, Lord Jesus.” Is a prayer for us, our families, our friends, our nation, and the world, through all seasons.
My humble little blog started as “Poppy Cooks.” I love to putz around in the kitchen, experimenting, a dash of this, a pinch of that, but I rarely follow recipes and tend to wing it … perhaps not the best formula for a cooking blog.
A dear and respected friend candidly told me that my musings were much better than my recipes. This took me back for about two seconds, then I had to agree. I love to cook, but that space is filled, and I had little new to contribute.
Then “poppywalks.com” was born and it was a much better fit. When I scroll through my posts there, I am pleased with some, others I thought were good but got no recognition, some I wondered why I even bothered posting them at all. Probably a microcosm of any crative endeavor.
And now we turn the page on a new chapter. I am recently retired, we moved, purchased a new house, Mrs. Poppy and I decided to collaborate on this blog celebrating another chapter in our lives. If you have followed poppycooks.com or poppywalks.com we invite to continue the journey on https://fouracrewood.com
As mentioned in the “About Us” page … we invite you to join us on this journey, this chapter turning of; retirement, remodeling, resale shops, cooking, gardening, decorating, family, fashion, dogs (see I didn’t forget about Mimsy), and life musings … not because we have any great wisdom or expertise in any of those areas, but because life is best shared. If the pandemic has taught us anything, it has taught us that we are not designed to live in solitude.
Today the wind chime on our front porch gained a new member … let me explain.
It’s been about a year since we purchased this house. We are the second owners. During our initial open house visit I noticed and remarked to the real estate agent about the wheelchair ramp from the garage to the main floor. He told us that the wife of the couple that had this house built had contracted ALS (Lou Gehrig’s Disease) and that the ramp was constructed for her. If you are not familiar with ALS, it is not like cancer where you might be given a 20%, 80%, or 50% chance of survival. If you are diagnosed with ALS, there is no “Get well soon,” it is a death sentence. But in my experience it is also a testament to the strength of character to those who have contracted it and a testament of their faith.
It was some time later that I noticed the wind chime at the end of our front porch contained a tag with the inscription, “In Loving Memory, Nancy, 1948-2016.
I have lost two dear friends to ALS; Marvin, a former boss (but more importantly a dear friend), and Aaron, also a dear friend and co-worker at Concordia Publishing House. One of my daughter’s mused that the wind chime was rather melancholy, I disagreed, though I wondered why the prior owner had left something so personal behind. Was it just forgotten, was it just too painful to take, or did he believe it belonged to the house? I’m am going to go with the latter.
If houses can be attributed to being masculine or feminine, this house would be feminine, not in a froo-froo sort of way but rather; traditional, warm, inviting, and comforting. The plans came from a southern architect, William Poole. The front porch runs the width of the house supported by white columns The wind chime plays it’s 6-note symphonies at the end of that porch. I never met Nancy, but I can imagine her picking out those house plans and insisting that this was the way it was to be built.
A stiff breeze sets the wind chime in motion. I can hear it at night, lying in bed. It makes me smile because I think of Nancy, who I never knew, but will always be connected to through this home, and I think of Marvin and Aaron who I knew well and will continue to treasure their friendship and love. It’s melodies are not melancholy, but warm reminders that our relationships are the stuff of real importance.
Today there is another name added to that list when the wind chime sings it’s song of memories of those friends whom ALS has ushered into heaven.
So I’ve got these funky eyes, one is nearsighted, one is farsighted. This is a mixed bag. They tend to balance each other out in most situations. The good news is that I can function pretty well without glasses or contacts … but not perfectly. The bad news is that when each eye is required to look through a separate set of lenses, like binoculars or the vision test device at the DMV, it tends to scramble my brain (and vision).
My drivers license expired on my birthday. Back in the day, it was the thing to get your driver’s license on the day you turned 16, but that was back in the day.
The polite postcard I received from the state of Missouri informed me that I needed to renew my drivers license, and that there were two options, one was the basic version which allowed me to drive around with my funky vision, or I could opt for the “Real ID” version. The “Real ID” option required more paperwork, but promised special privilege’s like a secret handshake and the ability to fly to exotic locations like Afghanistan. Being the overachiever that I am, of course I opted the the “Real ID” because seriously, who wants the “Fake ID.”
In spite of two moves last year I was able to locate my Birth Certificate and all the required paperwork to achieve a “Real ID.”
I arrived strategically Monday morning about 10:30, thinking the initial rush of early birds would be over, but before the lunch hour rush. I was wrong. I signed in at the computer station upon entering and gave my phone number to receive text updates on my position in line. I suppose the whole computer entry thing was to avoid any human interaction, though we were all using the same keyboard and mouse … whatever. Each station at the DMV was protected by a 30″ by 18″ piece of plexiglass. Apparently the Covid virus knows not to go around that bit of plexiglass.
A few minutes later, my phone dinged to informed me that my projected wait time was 58 minutes. My coffee intake that morning was minimal, 58 minutes seemed doable without a bio-break. I settled in and did a brief inventory of my fellow license re-newies (is that a word?). Most appeared older than me, was there a sort of “happy-hour” for seniors on Monday morning at the Imperial DMV?
To be fair every employee at this location seemed to be competent and maybe most importantly patient. The young African-American woman at the drivers license renewal station maintained a pleasant disposition and cheerful attitude as she helped a variety of seniors navigate the different touch-screen stations.
It was finally my turn. Asked if I had ever blacked out, had seizures, daydreamed, had impure thoughts, or fallen asleep at the wheel, I responded, “No.” Then it was on to the vision test. The moment of truth.
I pressed my forehead against the bar that illuminated the vision test. When asked to read the lines from left to right, I paused for a moment, then realized that by alternately closing my left and right eye I could could read across the whole section. Was that cheating? I don’t think so, and besides, I plan on getting glasses in the near future.
I have an appointment to see an old friend tomorrow at 2:00 pm. The appointment was set up by my friends wife. This may seem a little strange until you understand he has just weeks to live. Every week, day, hour, minute suddenly becomes priceless. I am honored that they have carved out a little block of time for me. That simple act may be one of the highest compliments I’ve received.
If you are paying attention at all through life you will have learned to separate the wheat from the chaff, to discern what is happening with the Kardashian’s is not near as important as what’s happening with your friends. (Seriously, someone needs to explain to me why the Kardashian’s are even a thing).
I am a slow learner, but I eventually get there. I’ve learned that the few extra bucks spent on a quality chef’s knife is better than a bunch of useless kitchen gadgets. I’ve learned that a handful of true friends are worth more than hundreds of Facebook friends.
Regrets. Yeah I should have never sold that Apple stock at $50, but that pales to the regrets that I failed to maintain some relationships. That I was too lazy, too self-centered to pick up the phone, email, and keep in touch. I’ve learned that the quality of my life is not determined by the logo on my shirt or car, by my zip code, but rather by relationships of; family, friends and co-workers.
A good friend will come and bail you out of jail, but a true friend will be sitting next to you saying, “Damn, that was fun.”
and a friend informs you they have an incurable disease. Not one of those 40-50-60 percent chance things, but one of those truly incurable diseases, the ones that no one has survived. Your heart sinks, you search for words, words that would normally be uplifting like; faith, prayers, miracle, support, love, etc. But no matter how heart-felt those words are expressed they seem to ring hollow, empty, and inadequate. You put yourself in their position. Then you get angry. You know your friend is sharing those same emotions as you, but a hundred times over.
Like a petulant child you want to stomp your feet, shake you fist at the heavens and scream, “It’s not fair, it’s not fair!’
Then a voice comes softly but clearly, “No, it’s not fair, fairness implies justice. I came not to bring justice, but mercy, love, and grace. I play the long game. You are my beloved, you are my beloved through all seasons, even this season of pain and suffering, it is but a moment. You are my child, I’ve got you … promise!”
They are called “The Greatest Generation” for a reason.
Let me tell you about the “Sappers.” Technically they were “Combat Engineers.” Combat Engineers has a nice ring to it, unless 77 years ago today you had that title. During the invasion of Omaha Beach on D-day, the sappers job after they landed was to charge up the hill to find the land mines and clear a path for their comrades.
Tom Brokaw, in his book, The Greatest Generation, recorded the stories of some veterans who came back years later to visit Omaha Beach, this is what they said.
” … that hillside was loaded with mines, and a unit of sappers had gone first, to find where the mines were. A number of those guys were lying on the hillside, their legs shattered by the explosions. They’d shot themselves up with morphine and they were telling where it was safe to step. They were about twenty-five yards apart, our guys, calmly telling us how to get up the hill. They were human markers.”
They described the scene as calmly as if they were remembering an egg-toss at a Sunday social back home. It was an instructive moment for me, one of many, and so characteristic. The war stories come reluctantly and they almost never reflect directly on the bravery of the storyteller. Almost always he or she is singling out someone else for praise.
2,500 American soldiers made the ultimate sacrifice that day. 2,500 brave individuals would never see their families and loved ones again. They would never again have the privilege of standing when they heard the line, “Oh, say can you see.” They charged up the beach, knowing the odds were not in their favor. They sacrificed themselves for God, country and comrades. They knew they were part of something greater than themselves. Respect does even begin to tell the story. As someone said, They died fighting Hitler and the Nazi’s so that today’s kids could call anyone they don’t like or agree with, “Hitler and Nazi’s.”
Happiness is for amateurs, anyone can be happy, let me tell you how to be truly bitter.
1- Never live in the moment. Embrace your past mistakes, hold onto them, coddle them, never let them go or learn from them. Remember injustices (real or imagined) you have received in the past. Project the worst-case scenarios for future events. Imagine conversations and scenarios where you will be treated unfairly. They haven’t happened yet, but they probably will.
2- Never be still. Always be busy with something that can’t wait, move from one crisis to another. Check your phone frequently, searching social media for articles that support your preconceived ideas. Maintain a level of constant outrage and W.I.N.E. (Wildly Indignant about Nearly Everything)
2- Never forgive. Nurture and fertilize every slight or insult you have ever received, someone must pay for this. If you forgive this may be forgotten and “they” will never learn their lesson.
2- Always believe you are owed something. Perhaps the most important point of all. Your current situation is not your fault! The… (government, community, business, job, society, church, political parties, etc.) have treated you unfairly and they owe you!
Tongue firmly in cheek, Poppy
Happiness is not dependent on wealth.
Contentment is not dependent on your social status.
It’s the middle of May and I just finished doing my taxes. As procrastinators say, “Never do today what you can put off until tomorrow.” Now to be fair (at least that’s my excuse) I knew I was going to have to shell out big time to Uncle Sam. 2020 was an eventful year on so many levels (and taxable events) selling a house, retiring, buying a house, etc, etc, etc. But at the end of the day (a terrible writing cliché) I can’t complain … well actually I can and do.
So Mimsy and I went for a walk. She had clear objectives (biological functions), I just wanted to put things into perspective. It was a good walk, the sun was low in the west and back lit the new springtime growth of trees, shrubs, and yes poison ivy, I was slapping mosquitoes, but the were birds were singing, all in all it was a great springtime stroll.
I thought of taxes, mosquitoes and poison ivy (which I can just look at and break out) and then I thought of trust. Trust is one of those lessons that I have to keep learning over and over again. I like to think I’m a pretty positive person, but there are times when doubts and fears come rolling in and I borrow troubles in the middle of the night that will never appear in the light of day.
Intellectually and theologically I think I have a decent grasp on my relationship with God as a Christian. I understand that I am promised His unending love and salvation by His sacrifice on the cross. I also understand as a Christian, I am not promised a life of ease, pink Cadillacs, freedom from mosquitoes, poison ivy, or taxes (and if you are listening to a prosperity preacher who promises you those things, it’s time to switch channels [editorial comment].
Since it’s a walk both philosophical and biological, I don’t mind asking Mimsy, “So why do I struggle trusting God?” She looks up at me, chuffs, hikes her leg, then turns toward home. I follow her lead.
You get to certain point when you can’t kid yourself. I know I will have periods of doubt, questions that I can’t answer, but I plan on keeping on walking toward home.
(Though I really want to ask God, poison ivy, seriously?)
If you don’t like watching sailboats at sunset because they move too slow, then “A Gentleman in Moscow” may not be the book for you. Not that it’s boring or moves slow, but like a well brewed cup of coffee or a 12 year old Scotch, it’s meant to be sipped, sniffed, swirled and savored, not gulped down.
The book opens shortly after the Russian Revolution. Our protagonist, count Alexander Rostov, is hauled before the Emergency Committee of the People’s Commissariat for Internal Affairs and accused of writing a counter-revolutionary poem. Only his connections keep him from being stood against a wall and shot. Instead, he’s declared a “Former Person” and sentenced to life imprisonment in Moscow’s Hotel Metropol in a tiny servants room at the top of the hotel.
From Ron Charles review in the Washington Post:
As prison sentences go, life in the Hotel Metropol sounds a lot harder on the novelist than on the count. After all, Alexander Rostov might be able to pretend that his little attic room can “provide the satisfactions of traveling by train,” but for the writer, the task of describing decades in a single building sounds frighteningly cramped. And yet, remarkably, in Towles’s hands, it’s a wonderfully spacious setting. As he creates it, the Hotel Metropol is transfixing, full of colorful characters: some transitory, others permanent; mostly fictional, some historical. Yes, the novel offers more high tea than high adventure, but this is a story designed to make you relax, to appreciate your surroundings, to be a person on whom nothing is lost. And don’t worry: There’s some gripping derring-do in the latter parts.
In yet another example of “Authors Who Intimidate the Heck out of Me,” the simple act of grinding coffee is transformed by Amor Towles’ prose.
“Even as he turned the little handle round and round, the room remained under the tenuous authority of sleep. As yet unchallenged, somnolence continued to cast its shadow over sights and sensations, over forms and formulations, over what has been said and what must be done, lending each the insubstantiality of its domain. But when the Count opened the small wooden drawer of the grinder, the world and all it contained were transformed by that envy of the alchemists – the aroma of freshly ground coffee.”
If you have read “A Gentleman in Moscow, ” let me know what you think.
If you haven’t read it, but appreciate a well crafted cup of coffee, 12-year-old Scotch, or sentences and paragraphs where every word is perfectly placed, then add this book to your must-read list.