Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Growing, Changing, and Garage Sales

The last weekend of April brought a hoard of garage sale-ers to Saint Ansgar, Iowa. So this isn't a true May event, yet for some die-hards, the euphoria lasts into May. You take a walk one day in May's blossoming world, head down a certain alley, and think, "Oh yes. That's where I found that great pair of mittens for next winter."

Spring brings the longing for something new in your closet, and to get rid of some of the old. When you clean out behind certain pieces of furniture, you start to think, "Do we really need this?" 

The more order you see at a sale, the harder they have worked. I'm always amazed at the effort involved--you can sniff it as you walk toward the garage.

Or run. This year, our weekend boasted abysmal weather, cold, rainy, and generally awky. So when I took my granddaughter out after school on Friday, we sported an umbrella. We only used it once, though, because the excitement kicked in and we started running from the car to the garages without bothering with the umbrella.

Some people have a sale because they're moving, even if it's only across town, and they're already doing the dividing-into-piles labor At these homes, you spy an especially hungry look depicting a deep longing to sell. Please, please buy something, preferably something large, awkward, and heavy. 

See the plastic cover on the  nearest table? Taken during the nastiest rainy spell.
But inside another garage, people enjoyed the luxury of taking their time.

These sisters drove quite a distance to check out the sales and were happy to pose with their interesting finds. Thank you, girls!

Observe the neat, orderly presentation here. There was even a heater for shoppers' comfort, not to mention that of the poor sellers committed to minding the store for two or three long days.

We often resist change, but if it weren't for change, garage sales probably wouldn't exist. We grow out of clothes, shoes, and books, and humans get restless with the same old items. What better than a sale to deal with this never-ending cycle? One "provider" says, "Having this sale every spring helps justify my shopping the rest of the time."

And what better than a TOWN garage sale so you can exchange your items with your neighbors? In the process, we all get to see each other and chat, catch up on the news, and "hang out", as they say. It's plain, simple fun.

Maybe we ought to proclaim an annual weekend, too, for getting rid of worn-out or ill-fitting old attitudes and viewpoints. Now there's an idea, eh? Sometimes I seem more committed to Einstein's definition of insanity, doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results, than to actually making headway in certain areas.

AFTERGLOW . . . The first weekend in May, our town hosts "curb weekend". Actually, it begins right after the garage sales close down on Saturday. That night, my husband and I walked around town, and here's an example of what happens on curb week, otherwise known by another four-letter word starting with J and ending in K.

Junk weekend has extended to all week long. Those seeking free stuff keep driving along the streets, and as we clean out our garages and watch our offerings disappear, we get even more motivated to pitch what we haven't used in years. Works great. Sometimes you even get to meet the folks interested in your leavings.

They're happy and we're happy. It's a win-win. I wonder if it would be like this if we started discarding those old, debilitating attitudes? Maybe it'd be worth a try to toss one out. What do you think?

The only person who is educated is the one who has learned how to learn and change."-- Carl Rogers, American psychologist 

Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Fifth Season: Wingtruction

I just sat down to spend time with God when I wrote the date in my journal I realized the horrible truth - I hadn't yet written my May Barn Door post! With a quick prayer for forgiveness, I've set my Bible aside for a few minutes.

Let me explain my delay - no pictures.

One reason I kept putting off this post was pictures. I love to have beautiful photos to share (using more pictures than words). For the past few weeks, however, I haven't had any ideas for pictures, so the writing stalled.

"Why didn't you have any ideas for pictures?"

I'm glad you asked. Here's my excu ... er, reason. April became it's own fifth season in northern Michigan. It's an odd blend of winter, spring, and construction - Wingtruction. During Wingtruction I--and many other residents--struggle with our own blend of hope, despair, and anticipation. We've tasted spring. Winter refuses to leave. Orange and white barrels dot every fifth road.

Wingtruction reminds us of what has been, teases us with what will come, and traps us in the agonizing reality that regardless of the weather we will have to deal with road construction.

On days when it was warm and sunny enough for pictures, I had meetings and appointments that couldn't be missed. When I had an afternoon free, 36 degree temperatures and fluffy rain (it doesn't snow in April) kept me indoors. I considered photographing the construction sites, but while other drivers will endure 35 miles-an-hour speeds through work zones, they will not tolerate waiting for a crazy driver to take pictures of the equipment.

Hence, I'm blaming my tardiness and text-only post on Wingtruction - that fifth season that inspires, yet hinders. Motivates, yet restricts.

I'm happy to announce, however, that it's now May. The warmth, beauty, and opportunities for pictures increases. (If I forget to take pictures again this month, remind that I said that.) Here's to a short Wingtruction and a glorious Spring!

Back to my Bible study ... have a wonderful day!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Returning to Spring

Our world cruise of 108 days ends soon. It’s been a great experience and we’ve seen many wonderful and exiting places. The cruise started in Miami and ends in Miami in two days after circumnavigating the globe. Lots of places visited, new and old. The highlight for me though was an African safari in Kruger National Park.

Since the southern and northern hemispheres are reversed with their seasons, we experienced summer and the beginning of fall in the places we have visited. I didn’t miss the snow so much but as I knew winter was turning to spring back home I began to think about my daffodils.

In March those hardy critters poke their little green heads up on the first warm sunny days and even when covered in a late March snow, they continue to grow and rise above the melting whiteness. Depending on weather, they will bloom profusely in mid to late March and some into April.

I do miss tulips too but mine are always sacrificed to the deer as they nibble their way through my yard. Once on safari I started laughing as I was photographing impalas. “Here I am taking pictures of deer and back home I’d be chasing them away.” Someone said it was okay. They were really antelope not deer.

When I get home in a couple of days, I’ll be checking out my lilacs to see how close they are to blooming. I was happy to know that I would not miss my favorite fragrant flowers.

In many of the places we’ve been we have learned of many local festivals and celebrations and I got to wondering about our celebration of Mother’s Day. It’s almost here. While it is a celebration of mothers, it’s also a welcome to spring for us Midwesterners. A time to enjoy those flowers that are beginning to bloom and promise to bring new life to countrysides that have been cold and barren in the long winter months.

So, happy Mother’s Day! Happy Spring! Have a bloomin’ good celebration!

Friday, May 1, 2015

Fill 'er Up

by Connie Cortright

Some time ago, I went to the gas station to fill up my tank. I saw a strange sight. A man that was purchasing gas was trying to get in the door of the station to pay for his purchase. All the doors were locked. There was a sign on the door, “Be back in five minutes.” People were still pulling into the station, purchasing their gas with a credit card, and leaving again, but no one was in the store at all. The station attendant was almost unnecessary to the entire process.

That is completely different from going to a gas station in the 1930s. Back then you didn’t get out of your car when you went to a filling station. The station attendants came out to fill your tank and do whatever it took to make you a happy customer.

Gas attendants all wore uniforms, including ties on the earlier ones. Each company had a different colored uniform to distinguish them from the other companies. The uniforms had the company’s logo and attendant’s name emblazoned on their shirts.

The attendant came out to your car and asked how much gas you needed. He filled your gas tank with the specified amount, and then proceeded to wash your windows, including the rear window, headlights and license plate. He’d check the oil, water level in the radiator, and tire pressure. He might even check on your battery and fan belt if requested. Of course, this was all done in a matter of minutes so that your time wasn’t wasted.

The amazing thing was that all this was done when gas cost only 11 cents per gallon.  Sometimes they really were the “good ol’ days” especially when the temperature outside was 5 degrees or less!! 

Read more information about this in the book Fill 'er Up: The Great American Gas Station by Tim Russell.

Read more tidbits of history in my blog Through the Milk Door.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

I open my mouth and...

My little grandson skittered into the kitchen and stuck his right ear in my general direction.
“Granny! Look at my ear.”
He was so proud of the wad of tissue he’d stuck there. As proud as when he’d stuck peas up his nose.

Later, in the telling of the tale of the tissue to his parents, I confirmed that he’d been given the ‘Nothing Stuck in Orifices, Ever’ lecture. Again.

Then I opened my mouth and my mother came out.
“Be careful with him. I knew someone whose grandson found one of those little springs from a ball point pen. He stuck it in his ear and it burrowed into his eardrum. For all I know it is still there today.”

Which reminded me of a post I’d written several years ago titled, “My Mom Knew a Girl.”
It was dangerous to know my mom.
Young women of her acquaintance tended toward sad ends.
We could not play with balloons.
She knew a girl who inhaled a bit of popped balloon and died.
We were ordered not to pick pimples.
She knew a girl who picked a pimple on her nose and died.
Dishes had to be washed in water so hot our fingernails shriveled.
Mom knew a girl who ate off a dirty dish, got salmonella and died.

Guess what happened to the girl Mom knew who went on a hayride?

No balloons bobbed merrily through my childhood (not that my steam-sopped fingernails could have poked a hole in one anyway). 
I still believe touching a blemish on one’s face will lead to immediate blood poisoning and subsequent demise.
I spend every hayride with my head swiveling fore and aft, to and fro, on the alert for approaching danger.

I still daren’t stick my hand out the car window to enjoy fresh breezes in my fingers.
Because of The Girl who Stuck her Arm out the Train Window.
This story and the stupid girl who engendered it stole from my childhood the clean joy of air pressure suspending my arm out the window in a state of wobbling, wind-forced bliss.
Even now I picture the Girl waving her arm merrily out her window, oblivious of the train hurtling toward her on the next track. As it zips past– WHOOSH!– it takes her arm right along with it.
I picture the Girl, no longer able to wave because her arm is being borne in style by a fast-moving passenger train heading the opposite direction.
I picture the look of incredulity on her face.
I do not picture any blood. My mind’s eye never conjures up gore.
My mind’s eye never bothers to question how the heck long the girl’s arm was.

My mind’s eye simply does the job my mother always meant it to do.
It yells, “Don’t stick your arm out the window because Mom knew a girl who…”

Monday, April 27, 2015


By Robin Steinweg

The morning sun blinded me as I peered outside. 

“The garage door won’t come down.” My husband had tried the remote in the car several times.

“I’ll try from inside,” I said, and pushed the button for the garage door opener. Nope. It wasn’t budging.

He gestured for me to wait. “I have an idea,” he said. He got out of the car. Squinted over his shoulder into the sun. Stepped back and moved over a few inches until his shadow fell across the light sensor. Down came the garage door.

Go figure! Sunlight blinded the sensor so it couldn’t do its job.

Sometimes that sort of thing can happen to us, too. Something might look all bright and shiny, but it's the wrong thing for us.

For example, say I’m offered a job with a big paycheck. I quit my present job to leap into the new one. But it turns out to be sadly different than what it appeared. I was blinded by the bright, shiny dollar sign, and it detoured me from my real purpose.

Or maybe a person who seems to have it all together, looks successful and talks a big talk comes along. Say I jump into a relationship that turns quickly toxic. I may even neglect other true friends to follow this one. Blinded by her light, I cease to function as I was meant to.

When something that shines like the sun shows up unexpectedly, it could be a good thing for me. But it’d be wise to take a step or two back, pray for God’s wisdom, and shelter myself in His shadow till I can see my way clear to function again, no longer blinded.  

Friday, April 24, 2015

What’s Burning?

In the rural parts of America where the land rolls and the sky is a canopy that pegs directly to the ground we depend on teamwork and community. 

Here when a house is ablaze the siren sounds, and a network of volunteers rush to man fire trucks. They save people, animals, and as much of the burning structure as possible. This came home again to me recently when a friend’s house blazed in the frozen hours after midnight. Volunteers arrived quickly. My friends and the close neighbors’ houses were saved. 

Volunteer Fire Departments perform a wonderful service in rural America. I’m so glad that there are men and women who give of their time and energy to do this work. It’s not just an occasional thing.

Firefighting volunteers devote themselves to hours of training. Included in that are occasional training burns as in these photos.

 Abandoned houses scheduled for demolition are requested by the Fire Chief. Once permission is granted from the owner and the county, firefighters school in the classroom on how to enter, what they may find, and how to handle emergencies.

On the morning of the burn, the house is checked one final time, fires are set and the alarm calls the fire fighters to the drill.

National Fire Fighters Day is May 4th. The next time you see fire fighters, tell them you appreciate their service. We also can support local volunteer fire departments with donations or attending fundraisers.

Father God, we lift up the men and women who put themselves in harm’s way in order to save lives and property. Protect them from burns, injury, and debilitating mental stress. Give them strength to do the demanding physical chores involved. Impart wisdom and courage in danger. Bless each one and help realize their dependence on your Holy Spirit. Help them deal with loss and pain and accept that ultimately you are in control. Create close family relationships and friends to help make them better at their jobs and in their homes. We ask all this in Jesus name. Amen

Mary Allen authored numerous articles and three books of poetry, “Journey to Christmas”, "Ten Days to an Empty Tomb", and “Full Spectrum Living”. She also contributed stories of personal real life miracles to “Kernels of Hope”. Allen was named La Porte County Poet Laureate 2010-2011. Her first contemporary fiction, “A Love Most Gentle” is due soon for release.


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