2020 Vision

Sources of inspiration 
Write the vision, and make it plain upon tables, that he may run that readeth it. Habakkuk 2:2

Sometime between Christmas Day and New Year’s Day, I remove my annual list of goals from the inside of my desk door. I review two categories, Personal and Professional, and wonder again who suggested this beneficial ritual.
For twenty-some years I’ve attempted to visualize the woman’s face or recall her name. To do so would quell a nagging dread of dementia. I pray my brain is more like my grandmother’s than my mother’s.
Throughout the year, I scan what my goals want to accomplish and gauge my progress, or cross off those no longer viable due to decisions out of my control.
On occasion, I lose interest in a goal, such as practicing my dulcimer. It’s a harsh defeat to write NO next to #3 under the Personal heading of 2019. I adore Sweetheart, hoped I could justify the practice time to master her four strings and make her sing.
However, in January my back rebelled against lifting heavy boxes of books and claimed 2019 as The Year of Sciatica Pain. My first chiropractor visit in my life coincided with my seventieth birthday in February.
They say only a strong mind and spirit overcome sudden and chronic decrepitude, and those nights I collapse at the dinner table and crawl into bed at 8 p.m., I feel nothing like a winner.
Yet, God comforts us where we rest, lifts His cup from the fountain of everlasting joy to our lips. In the midst of another L4 and L5 relapse this past July, my Heavenly Muse whispered the title of my first novella.
Year after year, this is what I want most—to drink from the Lord’s hand and listen to His Muse—to write beautiful and wonderful words of life.
Without my bidding, the Muse came from the little ghost town of my birth, Matewan, West Virginia. She spoke in the voice I’ve come to know and trust, granted me sight to see the story about the folk in the Matewan Garden Club.
Her timing is impeccable for my 2020 vision. After five years’ work, I’ve accomplished #4 in my Professional category for 2019. This means I’ve completed my childhood food memoir titled Milk, Honey & Chocolate Gravy and am seeking an agent for representationMeanwhile, my Muse calls me to Matewan to walk with the characters and learn what they believe, the fears and desires of their hearts.
What do they want most for their precious coal town banked along Peter Creek? What do they suffer and overcome? Who, what opposes their dreams and visions?
Dear Reader, in this second decade of what is no longer a newborn millennium, there’s much goodness, hope, and truth to seek and find. The Muse awaits our ear and hand to submit to her voice.
I encourage you to consider and write what you want most in 2020. Begin with one list, five to ten goals. Post them in a place you frequent. Nurture them with your affection and time throughout the year.
See what you and the Muse can do.    

Fast food, lasting friends

Marilyn (right) and me in the Romeo Cafe three winters ago before she moved to Michigan's west side
In high school, my friend Debbie introduced me to Marilyn in the halls of Lincoln Senior High School, Nine Mile and Federal in Warren. Inseparable, Marilyn’s yellow and brown Fiat offered us an escape during lunch hour to the Golden Arches newly rooted two miles north.
Since my mother couldn’t believe “people paid good money for those cardboard hamburgers,” I’d order the Filet O’ Fish. The wimpy piece of fish and cheese, splat of tartar sauce, and bun satisfied my conscience rather than my appetite.
Nonetheless, I spent my babysitting wages on fast food for the fun, friendship, and independence it bought. We loved the French fries. Seldom did I have enough change for the sandwich too.
Van Dyke Avenue south of Martin Road became Warren’s hotspot Friday nights after football and basketball games. Cars cruised with radios blaring the likes of I Got You Babe and Help Me Rhonda.
However, when it came down to taste and value, I preferred Elias Brother’s Big Boy, the double-decker burger with sauce similar to Mom’s Thousand Island dressing.
Although the restaurant sat one block from school, it may as well have been in Wichita. Our threesome could seldom afford the larger and better burger. McDonald’s knew that.
When I married, Mom’s good food rules governed our family table and allowed few exceptions to homemade. Our budget didn’t include McDonald’s. Nor Big Boy.
I admit, out of the blue, that messy burger still intrudes upon my taste buds. Last Friday night, for instance, when Marilyn came into town for Christmas parties with numerous folk in Romeo, her home for thirty-three years. “Let’s meet in Papa Joe’s parking lot,” she said.
Oh, laying your eyes upon an old friend after a long separation is good medicine for memory recall.
“Get in. I’ll drive,” I said.
“I didn’t bring enough clothes for the weekend. Let’s go shopping at the Rochester outdoor mall first, then eat. What about that Big Boy for old times sake?”
I glanced to the southeast corner of Rochester Road and Tienken. “Believe me, I’d really like to, but it might shock my body.”
After eight o’clock, a young, sweet waitress seated us. Upon Marilyn’s recommendation, I broke Mom’s good food rules and ordered the Big Boy Classic. Well, Mom would’ve approved had she ever tasted one. That’s all it takes.
            “Do you remember when you and Debbie hid in my car in Lincoln’s parking lot at lunch hour and begged me to drive you to McDonald’s?” Marilyn asked.
            I shook my head.
Within the immutable bond between food and friend we reminisced the past fifty-two years and closed the restaurant.
“How was everything?” the manager asked when Marilyn paid the bill.
“The food and service were excellent,” we said.
“Oh yes! My staff is the greatest, all drug free high school students! Look at them sweeping and mopping the floor.”
Dear Reader, on the cusp of 2020, Marilyn and the Big Boy remain the same in this mercurial world. 

Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow

Our Christmas fairy returns!
Yesterday, Mel carried our Christmas tree box upstairs. We paid $75 for our 6 foot fresh Douglas fir, perfect size for our small living room. (My husband calls it the “front” room.)
            “Have we ever paid that price for a tree, even when we chopped them down with the girls?” I asked.
            He’d mentioned earlier that the inflation and unemployment rates are low. I didn’t believe his inflation report for prices rise each time I purchase the same product, with the exception of gasoline and phone service.
            When we built our home thirty years ago, our first propane bill reached $500. The builders didn’t break ground until October. Then they took several weeks off for deer hunting and the Christmas Holidays. We moved in mid-February with the furnace roaring.
            Our first phone bill shocked us at 500 bucks. We hadn’t considered our area code is Oakland County and our two younger girls attended Romeo Schools in Macomb County. Long-distance calls outnumbered the local.
            Thank God that’s long behind us. Consumers Power offered us a supply line, and competitors forced ATT to come to their senses. We sometimes wonder how we made ends meet back then.
            I plugged in my two trusty sets of vintage colored lights and discovered they’d given up the ghost while stored in the basement.
Okay, Plan B: use the surplus white lights I bought last year for my redbud tree and couldn’t use because the limit is 3 sets at 150 bulbs each, a mere 450 twinkle lights for a tree the breadth of twenty feet.
This part I’d forgotten yesterday as I merrily connected five strands to equal 750 bulbs to illuminate our yuletide season. Then began the toughest part of Christmas: unwrapping those ornaments our three little daughters created to hang on our tree, now wanting their blue and hazel eyes.
As Perry Como crooned Silent Night, I heard a click and all but the bottom set of lights went out. Crestfallen, I eventually recalled the 3 set limit and submitted to the dictates of the manufacturer. At last, with 450 twinkling lights, I arranged my favorite ornaments and climbed the steps for bed.
Today, Handel’s Messiah accompanied another repair to the wings of my Christmas fairy; a charming gnome I purchased in the former gift shop in downtown Romeo named Yesterday, Today, Tomorrow. The elf is over twenty years old with wings as arthritic as my back.
Tomorrow, I’ll dangle the pixie from the dining room chandelier to fly toward the ceramic Nativity my mother-in-law crafted for me when newlywed. In successive years, she added pieces until she completed the manger scene with donkey, cow, and sheep.
In all the Christmases of yesteryears, no one poured herself into decorating and giving to her children and grandchildren as my mother-in-law and mother.
Dear Reader, as a young mother, I couldn’t foresee a Christmas tree forlorn for children and grandchildren tearing open packages.
Praise God for the Nativity. Jesus, our salvation, hope, and joy. 
Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow.

Gift of the baby robin

Baby robin, photo by Melanie Dahn
Remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than receive.
Acts 20:35

I walked out my door for lunch with a dear friend empty handed. Not even a dozen of our girls’ fresh eggs, a garlic bulb, or jar of strawberry jam. Melanie would’ve opened wide her eyes to any or all of the above, but I hadn’t planned ahead. And it gnawed on me as I drove to Metamora’s White Horse Inn.
     Melanie sat in our usual spot for our annual reunion. “I’ve cleared my afternoon schedule, so no rush,” she said.
     “Good. Me too.”
     There’s no better gift than a girlfriend’s time.
     “I sowed half of my vegetable garden in wildflowers,” Melanie began. “It was beautiful and a lot less work, although we missed the food.”
     I nodded. “Mel and I have talked about laying the vegetable garden fallow next summer, or reducing it, but I don’t know how I can cook without my own vegetables. He can live without squash, but there’s nothing like butternut soup come winter.”
     After the waitress cleared our dishes, Melanie reached a little bag to me and triggered that gnawing feeling. “A little something from my gardens.”
     “Melanie, after all the time I’ve had to prepare you a gift, I didn’t bring you anything, and I feel awful.”
     “Please don’t.” She smiled and waited with anticipation.
     I found a box under crumpled tissue paper and recalled the beautiful greeting cards Melanie had gifted me a year ago, created from photos of the African Safari she and her husband had toured.
     The most remarkable little creature peered at me through the clear plastic lid. I’ve seen enough nested baby robins on our place to know one when I see it. But never had I beheld such a close-up that sharp and detailed. The little gold beak looked like it was smiling, and its black eyelids like sunglasses on a spiked, downy head.
     “Every spring, mother robins lay eggs in the wreath I keep on our front door window. Usually the babies fly away before I have a chance to take a photo. But this time, the baby turned its beak and posed when I shot the picture,” my friend said.
     Then, as wild birds do, the next morning all the babies had flown away.
    “I couldn’t believe the perfect timing,” Melanie said in awe. “If I hadn’t had my camera focused and my finger on the shutter button, I would’ve missed that sweet little face.”
     “This will make an ideal Thanksgiving Day card for my daughter and her family in California,” I said. “Perfect timing, again.”
     “There are more pictures in the box,” Melanie said.
      A luxurious golden moth, and gladiolus, Stargazer Lily, and wildflowers in bloom.
     Dear Reader, they’re all gifts to be given away upon some special occasion, perhaps words of cheer for what ails us, or a turn of thanks, in my case.
     It is more blessed to give than receive.