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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Makeover--Phase 3

It is finished! Thanks to an eager sister-in-law who volunteered to help during their stay here. My kitchen redecorating project paused last Thursday after I painted the undercoat on the walls. My brother Merle, Edith, and Dallas arrived on Friday and (after four days of working on walls) I was ready for a break anyway.
Monday morning Edith volunteered to help paint the color coat on the walls. I didn't make her beg! She said she enjoys painting and I guess painting a wall is not a big deal for someone who is used to painting portraits. I helped a little but let her have most of the fun. I was satisfied to call the painting a day's work but she was itching to see some paper on the wall. I hated to disappoint her so after supper we papered the section of wall in the kitchen end of the room.
This morning we rolled out the paper again and papered the dining room end of the room. I was hoping to be finished by Thursday but this is even better. The paper went on quickly with two of us working at it and no matching. I think it looks lovely, but you be the judge. Compare the new look with the pictures in the previous posts.
Close up of the paper.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Made of Stories

Here is an interesting article that appeared in this morning's newspaper.

Universe is made of stories that keep us curious, human

"The universe is made up of stories, not atoms." - Muriel Rukheyser, American poet
The older I get the more convinced I am of the power of stories to heal or harm us. We may not remember dates or facts, but we store the stories of our lives deep within where they serve as barometers of our journeys through the days of our lives.
Stories last as long as we do or those who remember us. And if we really stretch our imaginations perhaps the narratives of our lives continue beyond the end of our last mortal chapter.
I don't believe our lives are full of sound and fury, signifying nothing, as Shakespeare said. To the contrary, I believe the very meaning of our lives can be found in the stories we compose along the way.
When students ask about what textbook I will use for a class, I tell them to bring themselves, fully awake. The only textbook that makes sense is the one on which each of us writes, as common and unique as a snowflake.
From my vantage point, I see every life as chapters in a book of life. A chapter roughly corresponds to seven years - from infancy through old age if you are fortunate enough to last the biblical length of three score years and 10. But it's not the length of your book that matters most, but rather how well it is written and how many others it has impacted.
Every person I have known has a story to tell. It is sad, though, that few have the opportunity to do so because not many people take the time to listen. One of the greatest gifts one person can give another is taking the time to listen. When another person tells his story most of us are thinking ahead to what we are going to respond rather than just paying close attention to them.
Stories not only help heal but they can sometimes harm us as well. I think especially of those whose early stories were full of shame and guilt and betrayal and whose lives are attempts to cover up what has happened. But what I have witnessed is the amazing power of recovery by people who bravely faced their pasts and found the courage to change the story line and write a new chapter. The past is not always prologue; sometimes it is simply the means to develop a better plot with a new cast of characters.
The human universe is made up of stories, our own, those of others and what I call the great story of the human family on this small, blue planet circling a dying sun somewhere in a dark and expanding cosmos. The great story comes in the form of the many myths of the world's wisdom traditions. A myth is not necessarily about facts, although it may contain facts; it is, rather, a means of expressing deep truths that language sometimes fails to convey.
Every great wisdom tradition has stories about the origins of the universe, about how we arrived on this planet and whether there is some bigger tale being told in which we are only a small portion. And although we are tempted to ask whether such a myth is true or false, we often neglect to ask a deeper question that might help us live better: What truth does the story or myth convey?
Take one story out of one world tradition, the story of creation in Genesis in the Jewish tradition. Some believe in a real Adam and Eve. Others scoff at such a notion and go no further. But others ask the more illuminating question: What truth does the story convey?
One truth this story helps me understand is why there is so much human suffering on this planet - the problem of blaming others for our own shortcomings. When God wants to know who ate the fruit of the tree of life, Adam blames Eve, Eve blames the snake and the poor snake has no one left to shoulder the responsibility.
And so human history unfolds as a great story of blaming others for our own mistakes, rather than accepting responsibility for them and writing a new chapter.
The universe is made up of stories - our own, for sure, but also those of the first cave dwellers who left behind their tales on the walls of caves. And as long as we inhabit this planet, our stories will continue to keep us curious, awake and human.
John C. Morgan is a former journalist and retired pastor who resides in Muhlenberg Township. He teaches ethics and philosophy at Reading Area Community College.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Makeover--Phase 2

Whew! I've been working on this kitchen four days in a row and I need a break. Monday I stripped the paper off one wall (as per previous post). Tuesday I did another wall and finally finished the last section on Wednesday morning. On Wednesday afternoon I painted all the trim. Today I put a coat of primer on the entire wall and a second coat on the upper half. Leroy thought maybe I should not paint the lower portion at all (which will be papered) because if anyone ever takes that paper off they won't be able to see what color it had been. That's the idea, my dear! I want to erase forever that decorating disaster! (For the record, he was kidding.)

This is how my vintage 70s kitchen looked this morning before I started painting the walls.

This is how it looks now. Notice anything?

The finish coat, called Blushing Tan, will add a bit more color than this white primer. At this point the walls look much like the white plaster we had when we built the house in 1968. I don't know when we will be able to move on to Phase 3 and finish the painting and papering. My brother and his family will arrive from Canada tomorrow and be staying here until July 2. At least I've gotten this far and we don't have to look at that screaming gold for a week.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Extreme Makeover--Phase 1

Since medication has gotten my rheumatoid arthritis under control and the weather remains comfortable, I decided to go ahead after all with my plans to redo the kitchen in June. Here is how it looked Monday morning before I began. (I should have closed the door to the laundry.)
My parents helped hang this paper in November 1982. I liked the design of ivy leaves on white bricks and did not get tired of looking at it. But after nearly 27 years it was time for replacement.
On Saturday I told Leroy paper is made dry strippable and comes off easier than it goes on. Those were famous last words! Shortly after I started yesterday I discovered this old paper is NOT dry strippable. It has to be soaked with warm water and scraped off the wall. Then I need to wash off all the old glue. I worked 4 1/2 hours to clean one wall. This is how it looks this morning.

Yes, that ugly gold is the color I painted it before it was papered. When you build your own house and live in it for 41 years you can't blame the decorating goofs on a former owner. I don't know what possessed me to paint it that color except that it was in the 70s when gold was an "in" color. I'm going to tackle the north wall today but I can see it is going to take me three days just to get the old paper off. Plans are to paper the lower portion of the wall with a pattern that looks like wainscoating with a border at chair rail height. The top portion will be painted the same neutral color as the hall and living room. I think the new look will be an improvement. It is going to take me a couple weeks to get there but now that I have started there is no turning back. I am certainly not going to revert to that ugly gold color!

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Father's Day Tribute

It is 22 years since my father passed away but he lives on in my memory. Somehow people had the impression that Daddy had a lot of money. He did not. We had all we needed but Mom kept the books and I know she struggled to make ends meet. I think the reason people thought Daddy had more money than he did was because he was so generous. When he saw or heard of a need, he was the first one to pitch in and help whether he had the money to spare or not.
When I was about nine years old, my parents struck up a deal with my sister and I to raise a batch of broilers. They would buy the peeps and feed; my sister and I would do the work of raising them. After they were sold our parents would deduct their expenses from the selling price and we could pocket the profit. My sister and I kept our end of the bargain and raised the chickens.
I'll never forget the day Mom and Daddy went in the little room where his desk was to go over the account. I waited with mounting excitement to see how much money I had made. I had no idea what to expect but had visions of a lot more than the 5-cent weekly allowance I was used to receiving. At last, my sister and I were called into the office individually to collect our share of the money. When my turn came Daddy explained how they had gone over the accounts and handed me $5 which was my share of the profit. Mom asked if I thought now it had been worth it to do all that work. I said "yes" because I knew that was what they wanted me to say but I was actually disappointed. I thought my profit would be more than $5.
Years later, I learned that the bottom had dropped out of the broiler market that year. Daddy had actually lost money on those chickens. He took the loss himself and simply gave me and my sister each $5--which increased his loss.
Every Father's Day I remember this favorite story about my dad because it so vividly portrays his true character. He took the loss himself and gave me a gift I had not earned. A father like that makes it easy for his child to grasp the concept of the Fatherhood of God.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Cave Woman

Greetings from my cave!
I am still chuckling over the phone call I had earlier today. A young man called with a great offer for cable TV. As soon as I could get a word in edgewise I told him that his offer will not do me any good because I do not have a TV.
After a moment of shocked silence he said, "You don't have a TV? Do you live in a cave? How do you live without a TV?"
I told the young man I had never needed or had a TV in my house. He, like the majority of our society, could not imagine life without TV. Television was forbidden in the church I grew up in and the one I am a member of today maintains that standard. Rather than feeling deprived, I am thankful. Living without a TV has spared me a lot of trouble and been a great benefit.
How do we live without TV? We listen to music, read books, garden, sew, develop hobbies, and visit friends. I'm so busy I don't know when I'd find time to watch TV. We had enough to regulate when we were raising children without adding the hassle of what and how much they could watch. They used their imaginations to invent their own games, rode bike, and read books to entertain themselves rather than wasting both their time and brains watching mindless shows. You can actually have an intelligent conversation with friends when you are not gathered around a TV watching some sports event or pointless show. You don't learn anything when the conversation goes no further than the play or score.
The main reason I do not have a TV is not because my church does not allow it but because I don't want one. I am quite comfortable in my cave and not missing a thing.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Summer Service

Gene and Amy were in the Dominican Republic last week to help with some work projects for This Little Light Ministries. I was surprised when they brought this cane and a mortar and pestle home for us.

Gene said he was afraid Leroy would be offended by the gift of a cane but the first thought that went through my head when I saw it was to wonder which of us it was intended for (given the state of affairs when they left). I soon realized the mortar and pestle was most likely intended for me and I am happy to have improved enough while they were gone that I have no need of a cane. Leroy is welcome to it, although I hope he won't need it either for a long time.

Daryl and Velma are the next ones planning to give a week of service this summer by being head cooks for a girls' camp. Gerald is planning to go to Haiti for a week in August to help his cousin in the medical clinic where she is serving with Christian Aid Ministries. It is good to see our children giving their time and talents to serve the Lord in other places.

Monday, June 15, 2009

The Host Church

A couple years ago I bought a book on the history of the Host Church (1727-1975) which is within sight of our house. The book is out of print so I paid a nice price for it. I decided to get a little more milage out of it by listing it on a Berks County website with an offer to do lookups from the cemetery record. I have been able to help a few people find missing ancestors but most of the requests I get are for names not found in my book. The record for the old cemetery on the south side of the church is online but the "new" one on the north side of the church (begun in 1858) is not.
When my ideas changed on what I might do this month, I decided this is a good time to get that new cemetery record online. I started last Monday and worked at it off and on all week. I finally finished it this morning. I walked down to the cemetery twice to verify some things in the book that were obviously incorrect (such as the 38th day of the month). There are now 1,554 burials at Host listed on the FindAGrave website. Whew! I don't think I will tackle another project like that any time soon.
There have been many more burials in that cemetery since the book was printed in 1975. Add to that number the burials in the older cemetery and there must be over 2000 people buried at Host. I knew it was a large cemetery but had no idea it contained that many graves. I was reminded of Leo Tolstoy's story, How Much Land Does a Man Need? A lot of people fit in an acre or two of land when they are laid side by side and each one uses only six feet!
Why did I go to all the trouble to put this cemetery list online? I figured it will be more profitable for people to look for their relatives themselves than for me to look for just one or two names in my book. From now on, when I get a lookup request I can simply send the person the link to the websites where the cemetery listings are found. It took me a week to do this, but it will save me time in the end and be more productive for the researchers.

Friday, June 12, 2009

It's Working!

I am not going to turn this blog into an "organ recital" of my physical condition, but I do want to report that the medications I have been taking for a week are doing the job. They are not a cure but are successfully treating the symptoms. I have seen great improvement in the past week. I can now alternate my feet when going stairs, turn the car key and hold a coffee cup with one hand, dress myself and get off a chair without assistance, and many other things I had taken for granted until I could not do them anymore. I am still not able to resume my daily walks or do streneous work with my hands but the strength is returning to them.
The pain has diminished enough that I can function normally but has not totally disappeared. I suppose that is a good thing because it is a reminder that I need to keep taking the pills. So far I have not forgotten to take them on schedule but if I was pain free I might be tempted to think I don't need them. Taking pills the rest of my life is a small price to pay for relief.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Garden Gremlins

Is there such a thing as Garden Gremlins? Well, something needs to take responsibility for the stillborn garden we planted the end of April. Due to a cool, wet spring, we did not get anything planted until April 27. When we left on vacation the middle of May a few potatoes were poking through the ground. The onions, tomato, and cabbage plants I set out were thriving. We came back at the end of May to find the garden covered with a carpet of green---weeds. Another week of wet weather served to make it impossible to attack the weeds which happily grew as if their lives depended upon it.
At last, after three sunny warm days, the ground was fit to till last evening. I went out to show Leroy where the rows of beans and corn are, and found none! About a dozen scattered corn stalks had come up in the two rows we planted and not a one beanstalk. He worked up the whole patch and we replanted the corn but I did not have any more bean seeds. We were just in time! By the time it got dark the rain had returned and more thunderstorms rumbled through this morning.
Gardening is always a gamble but this is the worst germination rate we have had in 42 years. Maybe the garden was trying to get revenge because we reduced it's size this year. Whatever the cause, it's not too late to plant more beans but (if the Garden Gremlins stay out) the corn and beans will be late in the season.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Cabin Weekend

After a rainy week, we had a lovely weekend at the cabin. Since it rained into Friday night the porches were too water logged to paint as we had planned. We'll try again on July 4. The warm sunny days were greatly appreciated. The Mountain Laurel is blooming just now and adding a touch of class to Penns Woods. We usually make our annual spring visit to the cabin when the dogwoods are blooming and don't always get to see the State Flower in bloom.

I was mostly an observer this year, watching my sisters do the cleaning. I did some dishes but that's about it. The doctor had said I should begin to see some improvement about 24-36 hours after beginning the medications. It was more like 48 hours and by then the work was done. I am thankful to be getting some relief from the symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis and looking forward to a more productive week ahead.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

I Gave Up

Yesterday I gave up and went to see the doctor. After nearly three months of trying to fight what I was sure is arthritis by myself, I am ready to concede and go for some help. I knew it had been awhile since I had been there but was surprised when they told me it had been six years since I had seen the inside of the office.
It turned out to be the right day to take action because I got an appointment for an hour after I called. I was hoping he would tell me I have the ordinary arthritis old people get and give me a prescription that would take care of the problem. But he gave me other news. He said he suspects it is rheumatoid arthritis, sent me for a slew of blood tests, and set up an appointment with a rheumotologist. Normally it takes 6-8 weeks to get in with a specialist but they had a cancellation for Thursday so I slipped right into that slot.
There is no cure for rheumatoid arthritis but there is medication which treats the symptoms. I am looking forward to getting some relief. It's unhandy to have to use both hands for such simple things as turning a spigot or holding a coffee pot. Although it is not cheap, I'm thankful I live where medical help is readily available and I do not need to suffer the rest of my life.