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Summer in Ohio

Yesterday, June 21, I sat outside on my deck surrounded by potted herbs and flowers enjoying the 80 degree temperature.  In our corner of the world, the U.S. state of Ohio, it was the first official day of summer, having more daylight than any other 24 hour period of 2017.  Sunrise was just before 6:00 a.m. and sunset didn’t occur until 8:56 p.m., giving us more than sixteen hours of daylight.

I have lived in the state of North Dakota where the sun did not set until 9:49 p.m. yesterday.  Having daylight until 11:00 p.m. was fun, but caused me to experience some summer insomnia, having wakeful energy well into the night and needing to get up with kids shortly after the 6:00 a.m. sunrise. I did prefer this, nevertheless, to the December days that had as little as eight and a half hours of sunlight.

More daylight means more time to enjoy the sounds, sights, and activity of Summer in Ohio. The sound of our summer day begins well before sunrise. Our early bird, a robin soon joined by friends, begins singing around 4:00 a.m. and continues until after dark. There are more bird songs in the air than I can identify. The robins’ and cardinals’ tunes are blended with chirps and trills of song sparrows, finches, and mourning doves with occasional blue jay and crow calls. Most days I forgo turning on music, content to listen to nature’s song. Yesterday’s breeze stirred the leaves of our backyard trees, creating a swelling and subsiding soft percussive sound.

I also enjoy seeing a variety of birds and other wildlife visit our yard throughout the summer days.  We recently installed a bird feeder near our bird bath. The menu is limited.  Today’s feature is black sunflower seeds. Tomorrow’s feature will be the same. Our patrons don’t complain. Many varieties of birds frequent the feeder, but often find it empty due to the hoarding instincts of our chipmunk and the persistent squirrels who scurry up and down the pole for a bite to eat.

We are blessed in our neighborhood to have a melanistic subgroup of the Eastern Gray Squirrel who also likes black sunflower seeds.

The bird bath is popular for more than washing up, and serves as a  watering hole for birds, squirrels, and occasionally a white-tailed deer.

I had the great pleasure of watching a days-old fawn from our dining room window for a couple of weeks this year and expect him to be back for snacks throughout the months to come.

While summer in Ohio has its rather laid-back  warm hours, it is not void of activity. Both my husband and I were born in the Buckeye State and enjoy traveling a few hours to our family reunions – a Lake Erie Fish Fry for the Frisch side and an August Sweet Corn Roast for the Vent/Pfeiffer side. Celebrations of Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, as well as the patriotic holiday weekends often find us driving two hours to spend time with our sons and daughter-in-law in Columbus. I enjoy the lighter packing and freedom from fear of snowy or icy roads.

During this stage of my life, I have several volunteer commitments that follow our nine month school schedule. That frees up time during the summer to accomplish some practical projects at home. This year I am sorting through closets, cupboards, drawers and boxes for items to include in a summer garage sale. My husband and I are working together on some home improvement projects including reupholstering dining room chairs (complete) and remodeling our upstairs bathroom (in progress).

I have come to anticipate the weeks of summer as a time for personal renewal and spiritual growth. I seem to find more time for lunch with a friend. I feel free to take the time to sit on the deck and read a book, not wanting to waste the season by remaining in the air conditioning. It has become important to me, also, to spend some hours considering what God’s current assignment is for me. Are there things I’ve been doing that can be considered finished? Is there something He would like me to start doing? It was  during this prayerful openness to His plan for my life last summer that I heard the words “begin a blog.”  There are some stirrings in my heart this summer that need more definition and I joyfully anticipate the unfolding of new things.

As the afternoon of the First Day of Summer gave way to our longest evening of the year, a dark cloud rolled in bringing the threat of rain and I heard our garage door going signaling my husband’s returned from a two-day work trip. Since I had not started our gas grill to prepare dinner yet, he took me to a Chinese restaurant where we chatted about our day as the shower passed. No matter that it was 8:30 p.m. until we began our evening neighborhood walk. There was still plenty of daylight as we took in the stunning summer sunset.

This is the day the Lord has made;
We will rejoice and be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

 

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This Father’s Day, Say It With Respect

What do you respect about your father? Does he make sacrifices to provide for his family? Is he great at solving a problem or fixing what is broken? Have you ever thought about what he would do to keep you safe? Is he the one who takes you on vacation or spends time outside with you? Do you call him when you need some advice?

Fathers have a unique and very special place in our lives. Father’s Day is a great time to express that to them, often with a card.  It takes some effort to find cards that honor men rather than make fun of them. Sure, he’ll laugh at the fart or beer joke, but doesn’t he deserve some heartfelt appreciation for who he is and what he means to you?

My husband and I have two grown sons who are terrific at selecting cards for us. The guys consider our family’s blessings and challenges and present us with printed cards or handwritten notes that come from the heart. When we read those messages, we both find ourselves tearing up a bit.

As the only female in our family, I’ve been quick to express my love to my husband and my sons. About six years ago, I began to understand that there are other sentiments and words that have special meaning to men – words that women can be more intentional about using. “I love you to the moon and back” may be how we feel, but a message that conveys respect reaches the hearts of our men and boys . My understanding of this difference between men and women has come from the Love and Respect teaching of Emerson Eggerichs that I first heard in 2011. As Father’s Day approached that year, I used Walmart’s website to make this custom card for my husband:

   

The Father’s Day cards I purchase are not for my dad since he passed away many years ago. I’ve taken some time to remember the eighteen years I had with him and to recognize the honorable man that he was. I would want my card for him to say “Thank you.” Thank you for building us a great house to live in, complete with my own chartreuse bedroom. Thank you for going to work every day to provide for our needs and to make it possible for Mom to stay home with us. Thank you for supporting me in my activities and goals. Thank you for the camping trips to Michigan. Thank you for the day trips to fun places like the Columbus Zoo, where I took photos for my 4-H project and realized after we had walked through the rain to our car that I had left my camera on a picnic table. You went back for the camera.

Dad has his hand on my head as Mom turns on the lights.

See how my sister’s bedroom in the background is elevated?

Mom designed our unique split level home and Dad made it happen.

It’s not always easy to tell the people who mean so much to us how we feel. Many of us have felt regret for not noticing and appreciating the day-to-day efforts and sacrifices of our parents. A card may be the way to tell your dad what it is that makes him special. You might do it by adding a personal note after the punchline of a funny card. I found a  list of meaningful Father’s Day messages for fathers, husbands, and grandfathers at LovePop if you need help getting started.

Grandchildren are the crown of the elderly, and the pride of sons is their fathers. Proverbs 17:6

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Wear Out Your Chairs

I was alarmed to recently discover that the fabric on one of our dining room chairs had worn out, revealing the foam padding underneath. In fact, I tried to deny the issue by stitching the hole together and moving that chair to a spot seldom occupied. When a second seat developed a hole, I had to face the facts.

As we moved into our home nearly twelve years ago, my husband and I selected a beautiful new table with six chairs and a china closet for our new dining room. While the construction remains solid, I admit that I only looked at the pretty pattern of the fabric in 2005 without considering its durability.

Years ago, when the vinyl seat covers of some of our chairs split open, we opted to purchase a replacement set.  This time, reupholstering was the answer, so I checked with friends about who to call and started browsing through fabrics. The two of us were still sitting on perfectly good cushions, though, and didn’t feel much urgency to get the work done. I ordered a few samples from on-line stores, but weeks went by until a deadline presented itself.  (Deadlines are often-needed motivators for us. Last year I decided that we would install a long-overdue handrail in our stairway just three days prior to my mom’s weekend visit. Dave was a good sport, enlisting a handy friend’s help to complete my hastily planned project.)

This time, I gave about six weeks’ notice, telling him that I wanted the chairs ready for my Bunco group’s gathering in June.  As he wondered aloud whether we could get someone to complete the work in that time frame, I shared that I would love it if we could do them ourselves. We decided that if he could figure out a way to remove a seat, we would attempt our first upholstery project. He rounded up the necessary tools and I ordered the fabric.

On the Saturday of Memorial Day Weekend, we worked together, with him removing seats while I measured and cut fabric. I then carefully stretched the pieces tightly over the old fabric for him to staple in place.

The first one was nerve wracking, mostly because I wanted them to look professionally done even though we were completely inexperienced! It turned out pretty well. (We went back later to fix one little thing.)

Old on the left – New on the right

Feeling more confident, we did another chair that day and the remaining four on Sunday. With the Monday holiday to spare, we successfully completed the project.

As I researched fabrics, I realized that a more heavy duty material would outlast the original quilting-style fabric. That made our task of achieving a smooth fit a little harder, but I hope that it will be decades before I notice any holes.

Our dining room chairs have always been well used. In each of our homes, we have set up a table near or in the kitchen for family meals and have not opted for a formal dining room. We are on our third table (fourth if you consider our kids’ table).

 

Son, Eric, on the right and friend, Jeff, on the left in 1988.

Our first table came from my grandma’s home in 1984.

Our first purchased set lasted until 2005 after these chairs were replaced.

Our current table with the newly re-upholstered chairs.

Gathering these photos, I was surprised at the sentimentality I felt about all of the times we’ve used our chairs.  Most of our family meals have been simple, but we have been nourished physically, relationally, and spiritually as we have made it a priority to eat together after bowing in thankful prayer. With our kids grown and on their own now, only two chairs get used these days, but I treasure the meals that Dave and I share at home and our evening games of Quiddler played at our table.

I’m convinced, and research backs it up, that families who eat together are more likely to flourish. A 2014 article from The Atlantic states, “children who do eat dinner with their parents five or more days a week have less trouble with drugs and alcohol, eat healthier, show better academic performance, and report being closer with their parents than children who eat dinner with their parents less often, according to a study conducted by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse at Columbia University.”

So, wear out your chairs! I’ll let you know if we hang out our upholstering shingle.

 

 

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NEED HELP? (at the dentist part 3)

An update: Last week’s dental check-up went PERFECTLY – no cavities, no tartar, no yelling (see Yelled At)

my hard work paid off.

As I return to my “at the dentist” series, I share the story of 4 little words overheard in the waiting room.  A while back, a friend of mine was dealing with a painful foot problem that necessitated her wearing a walking boot.  Even walking was difficult during that lengthy time, and she was unable to drive.  It was one of those times when problems seem to compound, and she also needed to see the dentist. As she explained her situation, I learned that we go to the same dentist and that I was available on the morning of her appointment to help her out.  I’m not sure whether she asked me to do it or I offered, but a plan was made for me to pick her up at home, take her to the office and come back for her when she was done.  We built in plenty of time since the cumbersome boot would slow her down.

She thanked me over and over for the help, while apologizing for needing it. When we had made our way into the building and up to the office window, I stood next to my friend as she explained to the  receptionist that she had to have me drive her because of an injury that put her in a boot and kept her from getting there on her own. She was understandably frustrated with the ongoing pain and inconvenience of her situation.

I can still see the kindness in the woman’s face and hear the compassion in her response, “Everybody needs help sometime.” Caring and true words.

For some of us, though, “everybody” means “everybody but me.” I know people who serve others with seemingly endless energy, who recognize and meet the needs they see, but are hesitant, even resistant, to ask for or accept help. I’ve witnessed this while volunteering in our church’s Meal Train program.  Last winter, my husband and I were able to take a simple meal to an elderly couple from our church while they were home-bound with a health issue.  The wife had been reluctant to receive meals, but now admitted that the help was needed and appreciated while she cared for her husband.  This saintly lady has labored for the hungry and disadvantaged of our community for many years. I first came to know her when I began taking a turn working in our local Food Pantry, and was impressed with her strength and energy.  Last winter was her “sometime”.

Our Food Pantry is a combined effort of area churches that serves people who meet residence and income qualifications – and who admit that they need help. I’ve seen first-time visitors to the Pantry tentatively enter and get in line and heard how the lovely woman who collects their information and helps them make out their food request makes them feel welcome and at ease.  She, too, expresses that sometimes we need a little help.

Asking for help isn’t easy for many of us.  I suspect that few people ask our church for meals during a difficult situation, so it is the church family’s job to notice the need and contact our Caring Cooks coordinators about a Meal Train. Sometimes the coordinators make and deliver the food themselves rather than asking us volunteers for help!

I’m not always quick to recognize and meet other people’s needs.  It’s partially because I feel inadequate or nervous about what might be required.  Taking a friend to see my dentist whose office is in my neighborhood was easy, but if someone needed a ride to Pittsburgh or Columbus…(see Many Dangers, Toils, and Snares). Being  part of a caring church gives me opportunities to join others in making a difference in our community in ways that fit my schedule and abilities.

And when the recipients’ needs are met, I find my own heart filling up with JOY.  As gratitude is expressed, I often reply, “It’s my pleasure!” Perhaps I’ll start adding, “Everybody needs help sometime.”

“Give us this day our daily bread.” Matthew 6:11