At Least

“But the days passed, and expectations gave way to resignation—the hopeless resignation of the old, sometimes miscalled apathy.”
― W.W. Jacobs

Granny Hat has heard 2020 frequently described as these “unprecedented and uncertain times”.  While she concedes that they may be uncertain, she isn’t sure they are unprecedented.  The villains and heroes change in each tale but history repeats itself over and over again. As we approach the “most wonderful time of the year” Granny would like to point out that once again,

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us, we were all going direct to Heaven, we were all going direct the other way–in short, the period was so far like the present period that some of its noisiest authorities insisted on its being received, for good or for evil, in the superlative degree of comparison only.”  Tales of Two Cities, Charles Dickens

The first Christmas was one of “these times”. A despotic empire was raping and pillaging its way across the known world, conquering smaller kingdoms and exacting exorbitant taxes from them.  The Caesar forced his subjects in Palestine to travel to their place of birth for a census; the poor had to camp out in the open on this pilgrimage. The baby Jesus was born in poverty to one of these transient families in Bethlehem.  Then a small-town dictator with a Napoleon complex  tried to have him killed and his family had to flee across the desert to Egypt.  Talk about “unprecedented and uncertain times”!

Not to change the subject, Granny Hat loves her Christmas music. It is such a magical mix of silly celebration and grave reckoning.  This year, Granny has listened more carefully to the familiar lyrics.  Mixed up in the joy and wonder, is the stark reality of that first Christmas.  The lyrics sound all too familiar to Granny.  Here are some of her favorites:

“Then in despair I bowed my head, ‘There is no peace on earth’, I said.  For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good will to men.”   

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

No more let sin and sorrow grow,  Nor thorns infest the ground.                 He comes to make His mercies flow  far as the curse is found.

Joy to the World

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load, whose forms are bending low,   who toil along the climbing way, with painful steps and slow,”

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here……”  

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

“Long lay the world in sin and error pining…..
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices.”    

O Holy Night

Our world is indeed weary, caught in the net and endlessly chanting “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”.  In this 2020 holiday season we don’t know whether to call out Merry Christmas! Or throw in the towel and grumble Bah Humbug…  Granny thinks a revolution may be on the National New Year’s Resolution list but she would rather see some revolution than the resignation that is so prevalent right now.. 

See, Granny Hat wishes she had a nickel for every time she has heard someone say the two deafening words “AT LEAST”.  

“My kids are so tired from staring at a screen all day and they are depressed and miss their friends but AT LEAST they can still “go” to school”.

“My friend lost her business but AT LEAST she will be getting a stimulus check”.

“We are so sad that we will be all alone at Christmas time but AT LEAST we can still eat our favorite food and watch the Hallmark channel”.

Even the latest holiday advertisements and commercials seem obsessed with AT LEAST some virtual happiness. A few of Granny’s favorites:

 KOHLS: while a nostalgic Rainbow Connection plays in the background, kids with their faces pressed to the frosty windowpanes hold up sweet messages to the elderly couple across the street. Kohls promises to bring everyone “together” with beautiful holiday gifts. AT LEAST we can still shop and we can wave at the neighbors.

X-FINITY: Santa and Mrs. Claus are planning and plotting to “give togetherness” this Christmas but they say “it’s been a nightmare”, as the elves inject “smell of Grandma’s cooking” into a wrapped gift.  Tucked into their cozy bed with their nightcaps Santa worriedly admits “I’m not sure it’s gonna work”.  Mrs. Santa confidently replies “Oh, it’s going to work!” as the virtual sleigh drives off into the star studded night. AT LEAST our presents will still come, thanks to Amazon.com and thanks to Xfinity, we can blow grateful kisses to Grandma over the phone and imagine the smell of her cooking.

MCCORMICK: lovely jazz version of Winter Wonderland plays softly while we view warm, holiday kitchens and the narrator softly says, “Gigi’s mashed potatoes, Aunt Steff’s famous apple pie, dad’s turkey;  even if your loved ones won’t be with you this season, their dishes can still make it to your table”. The holiday will be merry and bright with McCormick by your side. AT LEAST there will be yummy food.

CALIFORNIA LOTTERY:  To these tuneful lyrics, “It’s all about the little things, the joys of simple little things” festive, masked, holiday folks happily slide California Lottery scratchers under people’s doors or behind their windshield wipers to spread cheer, not viruses.  Hope they wear gloves while handing the scratchers.  Even a cute delivery dog gets involved with a festively wrapped box of scratchers tied around his neck. AT LEAST there are some Covid Response strategies to help us stay in touch.

The advertisements are sweet and nostalgic, designed to make us smile. They were made with the best of intentions, of course.  In spite of efforts to make life as normal as possible however, many people are extremely unhappy, fearful, distressed and alone.  Granny Hat has no idea who Francoise Sagan is, but he said:

“For unhappiness has nothing to teach and resignation is ugly.” 

Resignation just doesn’t get the job done.  For example, it couldn’t have defeated King George. Resignation isn’t brave; it is the lowest common denominator. Last Granny Hat checked she still lives in the land of the free and the home of the brave but true courage seems to belong to a mere handful of folks that refuse to resign. Granny has it on good authority that freedom isn’t free; it might involve a battle or two.  Maybe we should fight resignation with RESOLVE! Just a thought!

Some 300 years after Christ was born, the Roman Empire declared that all its citizens would celebrate and worship the Sun at the annual festival in December. Christians had a dilemma; their monotheistic views didn’t allow for celebrating Roman gods.  So they resolved to covertly celebrate the SON instead, giving birth to the tradition of Christmas in early winter, even though Jesus Christ was most probably born in the spring. It was risky but they took a chance to find a way to celebrate their only hope.  Granny Hat is so glad they did.  Resolution can bring about a quiet, peaceful, (perhaps even a bit sneaky) revolution.  Today, we face a different set of hurdles, uncertain but not unprecedented.  While we still have freedom of speech, freedom of assembly, freedom to worship our God we must exercise those freedoms or we will have no choice but resignation.

That child in the manger, born to be our Savior in poverty and slavery, did not give us the spirit of fear but of strength and a sound mind. The wise men from the east that came to worship Him defied the decree of the King, and went home another way.  Many of our brothers and sisters who came before us lived in hard times, circumstances that required bravery, sacrifice and determination.

As Abraham Lincoln said,

“The fiery trial through which we pass will light us, in honor or in dishonor, down to the latest generation.”

As the Apostle Paul wrote:

“ Now as to the times and the epochs, brethren, you have no need of anything to be written to you. For you yourselves know full well that the day of the Lord will come just like a thief in the night. While they are saying, “Peace and safety!” then destruction will come upon them suddenly like labor pains upon a woman with child, and they will not escape. But you, brethren, are not in darkness, that the day would overtake you like a thief; for you are all sons of light and sons of day. We are not of night, nor of darkness; so then let us not sleep as others do, but let us be alert and sober. For those who sleep do their sleeping at night, and those who get drunk get drunk at night. But since we are of the day, let us be sober, having put on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet, the hope of salvation. For God has not destined us for wrath, but for obtaining salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us, so that whether we are awake or asleep, we will live together with Him. Therefore encourage one another and build up one another, just as you also are doing”.  I Thessalonians 5: 1-11

Jesus Christ bought our freedom, redeemed us from the pit and set our feet on solid ground!  Not to cower, not to placate or pander, but to be a light on a hill, a city that never sleeps, a beacon of hope for the world to wonder at.

No more AT LEAST, this Christmas we can celebrate and look forward to THE MOST that God offers. It is all we will ever need and beyond our wildest dreams.

Granny is encouraged by these words of hope that follow the more somber lyrics from above:

Then in despair I bowed my head. “There is no peace on earth”, I said.     For hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth good will to men.”  

Then pealed the bells more loud and deep, God is not dead nor doth He sleep.  The wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, goodwill to men.  

I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day

And ye, beneath life’s crushing load,  whose forms are bending low, who toil along the climbing way with painful steps and slow,      

When peace shall over all the earth its ancient splendors fling and the whole world give back the song which now the angels sing.   

It Came Upon a Midnight Clear

No more let sin and sorrow grow nor thorns infest the ground.  He comes to make His mercies flow far as the curse is found.

He rules the world with truth and grace,  and makes the nations prove the glories of His righteousness, and wonders of His love.

Joy to the World

O come, O come Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel, that mourns in lonely exile here until the Son of God appear.    Rejoice!  Rejoice!  Emmanuel shall come to thee, O Israel!   

O Come, O Come Emmanuel

Long lay the world in sin and error pining…..
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices
for yonder breaks a new and glorious morn. Fall on your knees, oh hear the angel voices   Oh, night divine, oh night, when Christ was born!    

O Holy Night

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Jenga

Three loud cheers! Granny Hat is back to her neglected “feng shui” activities!  This week she has been sorting books, vinyl LP records and board games.  So many childhood games are keepers. They were a source of fun, laughter and family togetherness; OK, there were often angry tears too.  “Children” of all ages can learn valuable lessons while playing games.

Granny’s family often enjoyed National Geographic’s Global Pursuit, a game that made learning world geography, natural resources and map skills fun.

There was Chess, Checkers, Chinese Checkers or Battleship for lessons in strategy and if you wanted to add some brutal world domination to that, Risk was always a favorite (provided you had 24-48 hours to spare).

Monopoly teaches about commerce, property ownership and a little about taxes.  Granny says it fails in the work ethic department though, each player is simply handed $$ and then reimbursed $200 for every trip around the sun!  Sounds like entitlement to Granny but at least the principles of investment are strong with this game.

Pit promises some noisy stock market style trading complete with a bull and a bear. Tempers would sometimes run high when this game was played in Granny’s childhood days. Perhaps the most valuable lesson learned while playing was that you had to be really tricky, play it cool and wear your poker face to pass off that dratted bull card to your little brother or sister.

Candyland, Chutes & Ladders and Aggravation teach the players patience.  Scrabble, Boggle and Balderdash polish up spelling and word skills. Mastermind and Clue increase deduction skills. Memory stimulates the brain; Granny Hat needs to play it more often. Her five year old grandchildren are able to beat her fair and square.

Granny came across games that utilize EQ like Apples to Apples or Taboo. Others, like Dominoes and Mousetrap, teach elementary physics and powerful life lessons about how one thing can lead to another.

Then deep in the game closet, Granny Hat found Jenga.  She had forgotten all about this game.  She remembers the kids building the tower, measuring to see how tall it grew and then suddenly the crash and some disappointed cries.  A light bulb went off in her head!  Jenga makes a powerful 2020 statement!  Granny just sat there for a few minutes connecting the dots…..

Jenga is a Swahili word “Kujenga” meaning “to build”.  The jenga blocks are stacked in platforms of three going one way and then three the opposite direction.  The object of the game is for each player to remove a single block and place it on top of the tower.  As each player removes and replaces, the tower grows taller and taller but the foundation is left with holes here and there. 

Then it grows a bit taller and more holes appear. Soon, it is shot full of holes like Swiss cheese and the building begins to slightly sway. How high can the tower get before it completely crumbles?

Jenga is a game of risk but there is strategy involved also.  Blocks can be removed carefully and in an order that keeps plenty of bearing blocks left for stability. 

In order to continue building however, risk must be taken.  Each choice results in greater height but also greater weakness.  And one choice leads to another until the players can’t remember who pulled which block out. Eventually they will run out of moves and then have to throw caution to the wind and risk pulling the fatal block. When the tower falls it will really be everyone’s fault; each player had a hand in compromising the structure.  Unfortunately the loser is the player that chooses the fatal block …. the last straw…. and the house of cards falls.

and that’s how the cookie crumbles……….

Granny Hat remembers learning about the Tower of Babel in Sunday school, what a strange story!  She could barely believe that people could be so stupid as to try to build a tower to reach the gods. It’s easy to understand now that she is older.   Nations boast about their skyscrapers, kings want to rule the world. Our technology and higher education and enlightenment make us feel safe but we live in a precarious world, hanging on a thread, living on borrowed time.  Granny humbly realizes how fragile human accomplishments can be.  

Granny Hat asks her readers, “Is it possible to build something that will go the distance?  How can someone protect what they have built, defend it against those that would pull the rug out from under it?

Granny’s advice: Build carefully, don’t compromise something precious just to get ahead. Pay attention to every choice you make. Value your foundation, it is holding you up. Otherwise, gravity always wins in the end.

“Unless the LORD builds the house, They labor in vain who build it; Unless the LORD guards the city, The watchman keeps awake in vain.”  Psalm 127 : 1

Letters

letters mail box “To write is human, to get mail: Divine!”
― Susan Lendroth

Granny Hat thinks mailboxes are essential and oh so magical.  They are full of surprises; these days there is usually a package or two – thank you Amazon Prime!  But when one of those rare, personal letters is nestled in between the bills and junk mail then it is truly a good day.  Granny is old fashioned, well maybe just old (fashion was never high on her list) and a real letter (not one of those “you’ve got mail” electronic uploads, but one that involves paper and ink and a S.W.A.K. on the back of the envelope) can make her heart sing.

Anyone can send an email, even a robot in a cubicle half-way around the world.  But letters mark twain stampwhen a friend sits down (hopefully with some tea) and takes the time to put their letters youve got mailthoughts on paper, seal it all up with a stamp and walk out to the mailbox to post, a labor of love and commitment has taken place.  Granny thinks about this every time she texts, emails or posts on Facebook.  These are helpful innovations but quite frankly can’t compete with a real letter.  It is similar to the gulf between electronic and acoustic musical instruments.  The musician can make all the notes play on an electronic keyboard but he/she can feel the difference, the keys require no effort, the vibrations aren’t the same, the heartstrings are missing. You could argue that the electronic instrument just mimics sounds made by the real deal. Granny Hat realizes we are down to semantics here, but “writing” a letter implies something different than tapping, entering, clicking or “cutting and pasting”. (Uh oh, there’s another one………)letters charlie brown 2

“A love letter lost in the mail, forgotten, mis- delivered and then discovered years later and received by the intended is romantic. A love letter ending up in someone’s spam filter is just annoying.”          B.J. Neblett

letters boxesGranny Hat has beautiful boxes full of old letters but has put off opening them again for many years. Maybe it is because the double sided pages of long hand are hard to read and will take too much time, but mostly because she hasn’t been in the mood lately to take a walk down memory lane.  A loved one’s written words can remind you of what you lost and all you miss.

The other day, Granny sat down to read a few of the old letters. Some of the sentences Letters From Home 2leapt off the page; the phrases actually sound as if they were penned in the year of our Lord 2020!  Granny was comforted and encouraged by the words. Here is an example from a letter Granny received from her mom just months before she passed away:

May 15, 1991

Dear Becky,                                                                              Every time the irises come up, we think of you.  We haven’t taken them out of the ground for several years but they’re still pretty.

You are in our hearts constantly and in our prayers.  This is a very busy time of your life and we ask God to give you strength and wisdom and patience as you support Steve and work with your children. We know that the Lord God is able to keep you in this evil, confused world and to use your life to make sense in it. We continue to praise God for your life – for the good work Christ is doing in it.  We have never stopped thanking God for the gift you have been to us. 

As always, on your birthday, we think back to the first day we held you and the awesome feeling and joy that we felt.  You have become a close friend to us.  Happy 33rd Birthday!     Love, Dad and Mom

letters Mark Twain 2Granny’s mom was a list maker. It was impressive what she could accomplish in a day.  In addition to cooking, cleaning and sewing for five kids, she prepared Sunday School lessons, kept a garden, canned her harvest, talked to the neighbors over the fence, ran interference after school for homework and music practice, mended clothes, made all her own curtains, truly a super mom.  Somehow she still found time to keep in touch with her family and friends the only way you could those days besides an expensive long distance phone call – remember those? Mom’s letters weren’t just “thinking of you” note cards, they were long 4 – 6 page epistles written out in beautiful cursive with progress reports about the kids, prayer requests and always some encouragement about God’s love and mercy.  Sitting down to write a letter was like “taking tea” in the afternoon, an excuse for a quiet moment.

Maybe it’s just Granny Hat, but has anyone else noticed that letters tend to be gentler, more pleasant, even a tad trite when compared with the texts and emails of today where we all express without restraint in a stream of consciousness. These days everyone is empowered to blurt and complain without any dignity.  The process of writing provides a natural pause between thought and “written in stone” that tweet and twitter can’t offer.  It didn’t used to be socially acceptable to be too transparent, especially in a letter.  Granny knows from experience that if she puts her thoughts on paper and then reads them out loud to herself, 9 times out of 10 she will start over.  Think before you write is easier than think before you speak.  Also, once the words are on the page there is some commitment involved. Didn’t someone once say, “so let it be written, so let it be done”?

Letters from HomeAnyway, while Granny Hat was sorting through the boxes of old cards and letters she came across some real treasures, a few were the airmail kind with stamps from foreign countries on them. When Granny was little her family lived in Brazil for a few years doing missionary work at a children’s orphanage.  Before email and messaging the only way for news to travel across the ocean from continent to continent was AirMail.  These gossamer weighted envelopes (some were letter and envelope combined) took up to a month to get to their destination and by that time, the news was old.  So, Granny’s mom wrote a long letter once a week to her family back in the states; they could always expect that there was one on the way.  As Granny Hat read some of these old letters, she was instantly transported to the southern hemisphere and she learned some things about her childhood in a foreign country that she had forgotten.

Granny wishes her mother had written more about the scary events like the rabies outbreak when everyone had to stay indoors while the wild “mad dogs” stumbled letters from home 3through the village, the fox invasion at the pineapple plantation, the lice infestation down in the girls’ dorm, the infectious rashes the children got and the purple disinfectant baths she had to dip them in.  But mom mostly wrote sweet stories about her Brazilian friends, the kids’ accomplishments and thanked her parents for their care packages filled with Bibles, hymnbooks, school supplies and reel to reel tapes. She must have been lonely far from home with no Facetime or Email. These letters were her bridge to America and she didn’t want her parents to worry about her life in the tropical savannah with gigantic spiders and poisonous snakes.

It reminds Granny Hat of a snippet from Little Women:

“They all drew near the fire.  In a low voice, Mrs. March read the letter from Father.  Little was said of the hardships endured, the dangers faced or the homesickness conquered; it was a cheerful, hopeful letter, full of lively descriptions of camp life, marches and military news.   

‘Give them all my dear love and a kiss.  Tell them I think of them by day, pray for them by night and find my best comfort in their affection at all times.  I know that when I come back to them I may be fonder and prouder than ever of my little women.’”                                          Little Women, Louisa May Alcott

Getting a letter in the mail truly is one of life’s simple pleasures. After reading the excerpts below, Granny Hat urges her readers to think about corresponding the snail mail way again.  Make a pot of tea, sit yourself down and write some letters. What an affordable way to bless someone with gifts that keep on giving, fresh every time you read them. And they provide family history in your loved ones’ own words. Granny Hat’s letter boxes are her favorite “time capsules”.

Granny’s Mom to son Christopher:

January, 1980 

Dear Christopher,                                                                                                

You’ll have to forgive your Grandma.  I’m getting very forgetful. Here it is a week into February and I’m just writing you for January. You are the “wiggle-worm” of the month.  I hear your poor Great Grandma Grivey couldn’t even hold you because she feared she’d drop you. She did show you how to hold onto the playpen and walk around it and how to slide off the bed instead of falling off.  We think it’s a blessing you are so active even if you do wear your parents out….. Well, Christopher, I’ll finish this letter and give it to Nathan who will put it on your bed so it will be there when you come home from your trip.  Keep shining, little boy, we love you.

                                                            Love, Grandma Lewis

September 5,1984                          

Dear Christopher,                                                                                                                         How’s school going?  One of these days, you will be able to read our letters to you.  That will be great!  In fact, when you learn to read, there will be a whole new world for you to discover in books.  And more important than that, you will be able to read God’s letter to you, the Bible….Aunt Debbie was on channel 7, ABC news on Monday.  She got a VIP pass right behind the press in front of our President of the USA, Ronald Reagan.  Uncle Nathan was a few rows behind her!       Love, Grandma Lewisletters Reagan campaign

Granny’s Grandmother to the family:                                                                                      October 25, 1992

Dear Steve, Becky, Chris, Melody, Corrie & Candace,    Greetings from Oregon!  I’ve been meaning to write a “thank you” letter ever since you folks were here. Becky, your lasagna was delicious.  Grandpa and I enjoyed the leftovers and the bake goods – my! my!  Becky, your dear mother would be proud of you and Steve and your family.  I’m sure she is aware, aren’t you?  We will know someday!…….The weather here has been delightful, bright sunny Autumn days with leaves turning gold, red and brown.  I recite bits of verse I learned as a child:                                 

“Come, little leaves”, said the Wind one day.

 “Come over the meadows with me and play.”

  “Put on your garments of red and gold”

  “Summer has gone and the days grow cold”                                                                                       Robert Louis Stevenson  (I think)

God bless you all, we love you,  G and G Lloyd

Granny’s mom in Brazil to her family in Oregon:

Vila Lindo Lar April 6, 1965      Lewis Family Villa Lindo Lar BrazilDear Dad, Mom, Chris and Carol,                                                                                                   Greetings from the land of steam and sweat!  Two days ago Phil came beaming into the house with a very small package containing The Tape.  How happy we were!  It was so clear and your voices were sweet to our ears……    This week is carnival, the week of the “Devil” in Brazil.  The people drink, feast and sin until they are dead or at least worn out, then they confess all to the priests and live the lent season without sin (or so they say). We noticed the January Reader’s Digest has an article about carnival time in Rio, haven’t read it yet but am sure it doesn’t give the true, gory outlook……Thank you for all your remembrance of us and for the books and gifts for the kids.  Keep looking up.  E tempo para dormer, boa noite, passe bem – fica alegre e contente.                                                              Love, Phil, Pat, Becky, Jonathan, Nathan and Debbie

Granny’s daughter on a summer visit with Grandpa Lewis:

July, 1993 Dear Dad, Mom Corrie and Candace,                                                                                 Last night we were going to have taco salad, but it got too late.  So Grandpa made a contraption which he called “Fruit Salad Surprise”.  It was apples, bananas and pineapple, all chopped up.  It was mixed with sunflower seeds and raisins. On top was two scoops of strawberry ice cream.  It wasn’t that BAD, just interesting.  Here’s the animals we saw on the raft trip: deer, mother duck and ducklings, crawdads, osprey, great blue herons, a water snake and a glow worm……I guess that’s all.  I love you all.  Love, Melody

And from Pioneer Club Camp Cherith on June 28, 1993:

Dear Dad, Mom, Corrie and Candace,   How are all of you? I’m having a great time like I always do! April and I (I remembered) have a great cabin.  Our counselor is really nice but she’s not that “hang loose” like you thought.  Right now I’m in “horizontal hour” but April and I are sitting up writing letters.  Our counselor lets us sit up, whisper quietly or sit with other people on their beds during the second half hour.  We got the same daily activities – hiking in the morning and birdhousing in the afternoon, we make birdhouses! ………Have fun at the cabin.  Happy birthday, Candace!   I love you all, Love, Melody

Dad just walked in with letters in the mail from the grandsons, it made Granny’s day.  The notes were so thoughtful, informative and funny.  I know they were a labor of love because most boys their ages don’t sit down willingly to write anything.  That makes them a treasure; they go in the extra -special box. Granny says an extra thank you to her friends and family that do write letters from time to time, you know who you are.  Keep them coming, she is going to try to be better at answering them.

Sometimes, mail can be used for passive aggressive revenge too and that’s fun!

Every once in a while, someone will mail me a single popcorn kernel that didn’t pop. I’ll get out a fresh kernel, tape it to a piece of paper and mail it back to them.                                                                                            Orville Redenbacher

Mission, who inspired Granny Hat’s blog in the first place, has been happily adventuring in a new outdoors, Glacier National Park.  Spectacular!  He doesn’t send letters, just lovely photos!  Granny will take them.


It is clear that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts.  2 Corinthians 3:3

On the Road Again: Thru-roading with Boys

road trip going west in style

I’m going on a trip and I’m going to take an Armadillo, a Banana, a Cantaloupe and Duct Tape……   Granny Hat remembers playing that time-honored car game back in the day before Ipads, earphones, audio books and air conditioning. Granny’s mom had to get creative on long road trips with five kids. She always stashed a bag of lemon drops which she doled out every 100 miles or so.  She also had quite a few boredom buster ideas up her sleeve like Auto Bingo, memory activities, rhyming games, singing and going- on- a- trip, since, well, that’s what we were doing.  ROAD TRIP IN THE CARGranny and Dad played it recently on a Wild West road trip with their grandsons, Dakota, Caden and Blaze.  The boys had to give their grandpa hints because his memory is not what it used to be, we laughed a lot, the game is just as fun as it ever was.

See, the epidemics of 2020 had left Granny Hat & Dad with a colossal contagion of Cabin Fever and they had it on good authority that their grandsons from the prairie had a case of it too. What better way to treat the disease and remain isolated than a thru- roading trip with them into the sunset?  The plan was Nebraska to California with some stops in the Rocky Mountains, Great Basin National Park and the Nevada outback. Due to lock downs, some of Dad’s plans never materialized but other unexpected and simple pleasures surprised us.  As John Steinbeck said, “People don’t take a trip, a trip takes people!”

If it is true that a picture is worth a 1000 words then perhaps Granny can best capture this epic road trip with photos. To the best of her knowledge and now, experience, Granny Hat would say that really all you need for successful thru-roading from the Wide Missouri to the Pacific Ocean with three grandsons can be listed using “I’m Going On a Trip” but she changed the wording just a little.

I’M GOING ON A TRIP AND THERE WILL BE:

ANTELOPE: or is it Antelopes? Granny Hat wasn’t sure, dictionary says both work.

 

The Wild West is teeming with these beautiful creatures but they are hard to spot.  The boys were better at finding them than Granny and Dad.  And we had to be quick with our cameras because they run like the wind.

BURGERS: from Nebraska to the Golden State, burgers always hit the spot.  In n Out is truly a Pacific Coast treasure!   A&W still reigns supreme in Tonopah, Nevada!

 

And when the patty goes shooting out of your burger, throw your head back and laugh!

 

COUSINS: These cousins got along swimmingly, so much laughter and silly shenanigans.

 

DRAMATIC SKY:

 

 

road trip shopping

 

ENORMOUS APPETITES: Caden helped Granny Hat shop which was a good thing because they filled that Costco cart to the brim and she could barely push it.  It was a joy to have healthy appetites in the house again; one morning Granny served up 40 pieces of french toast!

 

 

FIRES, FROGS & FRISBEES: or is it a toad?

 

GOOFY: 

 

HISTORICAL LANDMARKS: Since National and State Parks remain closed, often- overlooked Historical Monuments (Dad’s favorites) are getting some well-deserved attention.  The Homestead National Monument on the banks of Cub Creek in central Nebraska commemorates the Homestead Act, the settling of “the west”. We explored beautiful forested trails and 100 acres of prairie grasses.

 

A local quilting club added historical patterns inspired by the homestead pioneers. This was interesting to Granny Hat, not so much to the boys.

 

ICE CREAM & CANDY: Grandpa loved having a daily excuse to indulge in ice cream – he kept insisting he was stopping for the boys. And Granny Hat found a legit, old-fashioned salt water taffy store in Estes Park, CO that lured us in with free samples.

 

JAVA:  No pictures for this one but Granny Hat was happy to learn that Dakota was with her on Team Java.  Any excuse for a coffee shop stop!

KOA KAMPGROUNDS: Private campgrounds were open for camping or cabins. We splurged on a deluxe cabin in Estes Park and tent camped in Utah and Nevada.

 

LUNAR CRATERS: Grandpa promised a lunar crater where Neil Armstrong and his cronies reportedly rehearsed for their epic moon landing.  We drove miles on dirt roads into the desert following arrows and very weather-beaten signs searching for this crater. Granny Hat hiked more than one giant leap and one small step. We never found the silly thing.  How can you hide a crater? Perhaps it’s a giant hoax just like the moon landing!?!

 

MR. BEAR: Mr. Bear has been traveling everywhere with Blaze for nine years, a gift from his Nana.  Poor Mr. Bear had a close shave, almost got left behind among the linens at the KOA in Colorado.  Granny Hat to the rescue! The relief was so profound that Mr. Bear got his own photo shoot.

 

NATURE:  Once the road brought everyone back to California, Grandpa took the boys on a Sierra Backpack in the Emigrant Wilderness, hiking to Bear Lake and Cherry Creek.

 

OPEN ROAD:

 

PLAYGROUNDS, PUMPKIN PIE & PIANO:

 

Playgrounds were a hit, piano lessons a success, pumpkin pie first try for Caden, a fail!

QUAD RIDES

 

ROCKS: Granny wishes she could adequately describe how the three boys burst out of the van at each stop, immediately commencing to running, climbing, leaping and yelling. If there was a mountain nearby, they were on their way! If there was water anywhere they were jumping over it or splashing in it. If the park had a playground swathed in neon yellow caution tape and notices about Covid 19 distancing, they were blind to all of it, swinging and sliding. It made Granny Hat feel young again….and a little nervous.

 

 

SAND:

 

TRAILS & TACOS: Granny Hat, Dad and the grandsons took trails in the grasslands of Nebraska, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and the high deserts of Utah and Nevada.

You can’t make a visit to Granny’s house in San Juan Bautista, California without tacos.

 

UTAH:

VIEWS:

WORK:  One of the things Dad misses the most during these empty nest years is having a passle of kids follow him around the farm, chatting to him and lending a hand with chores and projects.  He put the grandsons to work setting up for orchard irrigation and bird farm chores. They were so much help.  Granny Hat had them picking (well, mostly eating) boysenberries and she had some expert help shelling peas too!

 

XTREME  FUNroad trip back pack                                                                                                                                                                                     YOLO: It takes nerves of steel to run into the Pacific Ocean in Santa Cruz on a windy day. And Blaze creatively devised his own water park with a sprinkler and a swing!

ZOOM, better than….. We all learned way more than we would have in a Zoom geography class, America is a beautiful, sprawling, diverse country full of friendly people and majestic landscape. It had been many years since Granny Hat had traveled with a car full of arms and legs, backpacks and opinions. Add to that all the modern day devices, chargers and earphones.  There were plenty of adept navigators in the car to help Dad find his way, or get lost and take the scenic route, which he prefers anyway.  And there was a lot of good conversation, walks down memory lane and a few trying- to-make-sense–of- the-world sessions.

And some bonus Newsies sing-alongs with the cousins and aunties! The grandsons are growing up, Granny learned so much from them. 2020 won’t be such a bust after all, Granny Hat got to spend special time with three of her grandsons.

road trip going west

“On the road again, goin’ places that I’ve never been,
Seein’ things that I may never see again and I can’t wait to get on the road again.”               Willie Nelson

The North Wind & The Sun

North Wind and the Sun

In the year 2525
If man is still alive
If woman can survive
They may find…
In the year 3535
Ain’t gonna need to tell the truth, tell no lies
Everything you think, do, and say
Is in the pill you took today

In the year 5555
Your arms are hanging limp at your sides
Your legs got nothing to do
Some machine is doing that for you

In the year 6565
Ain’t gonna need no husband, won’t need no wife
You’ll pick your son, pick your daughter too
From the bottom of a long glass tube’ Whoooa

In the year 7510
If God’s a-comin’ he ought to make it by then
Maybe he’ll look around himself and say
Guess it’s time for the Judgement day

In the year 8510
God is gonna shake his mighty head then
He’ll either say I’m pleased where man has been
Or tear it down and start again

Now it’s been 10, 000 years
Man has cried a billion tears
For what he never knew
Now man’s reign is through
But through eternal night
The twinkling of starlight
So very far away
Maybe it’s only yesterday

“This song means something to me because I am the one who wrote it and sang lead on the RCA release, 1969. What I wanted to say is exactly what I wrote: beware of technology and use it well lest it runs out of control and dehumanizes all of us.”  Rick Evans 2015-01-29
Zager & Evans certainly wrote a “prophetic” ballad but their timeline might be a bit off.  It sounds to Granny Hat like some of the doom and gloom in the song is happening right now and it is only 2020!  Granny has been rocking in her chair and thinking very hard about how the world suddenly turned upside down. Topsy Turvy Town

Then this morning, she had an epiphany!   It wasn’t sudden at all! Slowly but surely, while we go about our lives trying to make a buck, have some fun and live the American Dream, an enemy has been lurking out by the garden gate, stealthily creeping into our sitting rooms, whispering sweet nothings in our ears and chipping away at our defenses.  The incense is burning, the green lady is strumming and thrumming by the fire until we are all in a deep sleep (The Silver Chair by C.S. Lewis), then BAM! We wake up to New  World Order for breakfast and we didn’t even get to see the menu!  The lights are on but they look different somehow, not quite clear and bright.  The jukebox keeps playing Bye Bye Miss American Pie over and over. We were just starting to get a handle on life, had our futures sort of mapped out and now the ecclesiastical futility of it all seems like the only reality.

But thankfully, there is one who never sleeps, never slumbers.   He is the same yesterday, today, forever.  His love is everlasting and His Word does not return void.  The world is groaning loudly, but Granny’s heart is strangely stirred with a fresh breeze, a new hope.  Old memories are coming back and they make more sense now than they ever did. The music did NOT die, it can’t.  Stay awake and sing a new song! Be sober and of strong mind!

Sit right back and let Granny Hat tell you a little story.  She won’t insult your intelligence by interpreting the fable for you.  Just enjoy it and draw whatever conclusions blow in on the breeze:

North Wind

THE NORTH WIND & THE SUN

The North Wind and the Sun had a quarrel about which of them was the stronger.  While they were disputing, with much heat and bluster, a traveler passed along the road wrapped in a cloak.

“Let us agree,” said the Sun, “that he is the stronger who can strip that traveler of his cloak.”

“Very well,” growled the North Wind and at once sent a cold, howling blast against the traveler.

With the first gust of wind the ends of the cloak whipped about the traveler’s body.  But he immediately wrapped it closely around him and the harder the Wind blew, the tighter he held it to him.  The North Wind tore angrily at the cloak but all his efforts were in vain.

Then the Sun began to shine.  At first his beams were gentle, and in the pleasant warmth The Sunafter the bitter cold of the North Wind, the Traveler unfastened his cloak and let it hang loosely from his shoulders.  The Sun’s rays grew warmer and warmer.  The man took off his cap and mopped his brow.  At last he became so heated that he pulled off his cloak, and, to escape the blazing sunshine, threw himself down in the welcome shade of a tree by the roadside.                                                                              Aesop for Children Checkerboard Press New York

road trip going west in style

 

Granny Hat was all set to post about her road trip with the grandsons; that will be next with plenty of lovely photos.  But the story of the North Wind and the Sun couldn’t wait.  “strength for today and bright hope for tomorrow!”

 

 

                                                                             

“I will lift up my eyes to the mountain; from whence shall my help come?

My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.

He will not allow your foot to slip; He who keeps you will not slumber.

Behold, He who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

The Lord is your keeper; the Lord is your shade on your right hand.

The sun will not smite you by day, nor the moon by night.

The Lord will protect you from all evil; He will keep your soul.

The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in

 From this time forth and forever.  Psalm 121

Granny Hat & Mother Goose

Mother Goose Book“Old Mother Goose, when she wanted to wander,

Would ride through the air on a very fine gander.”

Granny Hat likes having her say just like the best of them.  And lately there is so much to talk about.  Talking can keep her from thinking, which is good because thinking these days can be dangerous.  And if she opens her mouth to speak or puts her thoughts down for people to read, that can be dangerous too! How many of Granny’s  readers have offered their opinions on social media only to realize they have lost a “friend” because of it?  How many of them have bumped their noggins on a wall built up between friends or family members because of politics?  Someone said something about their post being “taken down” the other day because they spoke too freely about their concerns!  If you have something to say that is opposed to the daily rhetoric or if you aren’t the type of American to goose step behind whoever is doling out the stipends and vaccinations, you may find that what you have to say is extremely unpopular.

More than any time in Granny’s life, she is beginning to suspect that censorship has invaded the land of the free and the home of the brave.  She remembers stories from history class that told about nations that inspired such fear in their people that they would actually tattle on their neighbors for actions that the King frowned upon!  Throughout the centuries, subjects of kingdoms all around the world have cowered in fear of offending their rulers and finding themselves punished with poverty or worse. But Granny never ever envisioned that the red, white and blue country she loves would actually stoop to fostering fear and subservience instead of confidence and independence.  Freedom of speech, of assembly, of religion, these are treasures!

Granny has an idea! Maybe it’s time to take a tip from her British ancestors who didn’t enjoy these freedoms and carefully “say what she needs to say” in rhymes and riddles.  She has heard that many of the Mother Goose Rhymes may sound like innocent children’s songs but were actually exposés of very scandalous stuff in the palace or protests against unjust social practices.  The Kings and Queens of Old England couldn’t handle criticism, they got their feathers ruffled at the slightest provocation. The penalty for speaking up against their rule was extreme. So if you had an opinion and couldn’t keep it to yourself you had to have an imagination and find a way to have your say AND keep your head on your shoulders. Granny Hat has always wondered what happened to the little child at the parade who declared “the Emperor has no clothes!” If the naked truth can get you in trouble, better to disguise the facts. It was brilliant to make little nursery rhymes that kids could chant as they played in the streets and ran through the woods.  What better way to spread the word?  Add a little humor and the rhymes were easier to swallow and usually sailed right over the heads of the rich and famous.

Granny Hat has collaborated with Mother Goose to come up with a list of favorite nursery rhymes followed with the real life stories they describe in code.  She would love to see if her readers can match them up. Perhaps they can inspire us to add some humor and rhythm to the things we need to say. Fair warning, conditions were brutal for our ancestors.  Mother Goose may be for kids, but the tales that inspired them were definitely for a more mature audience.

Matching Game: match the nursery rhymes to the historical legends below!

Three Blind Mice                Humpty Dumpty                  Jack and Jill

Mary, Mary Quite Contrary              Georgy Porgy                      Baa, Baa, Black Sheep

                           Peter Peter Pumpkin Eater                 Ring a Ring o’ Roses

 

1. Queen Mary I, known as Bloody Mary didn’t mess around.  See, she was Catholic and three of her noblemen were Protestant. When they refused to proselytize, she accused them of plotting to overthrow her rule and had them burned at the stake. Now to be fair she didn’t really dismember them or put out their eyes, just burned them, so no biggy.

2. Don’t even ask what these two unmarried royals were up to when they set out on a hike.  The man was injured in a fall down the hill and carried into town in ceremony and scandal. The woman ended up in the family way and the villagers couldn’t resist gossiping about the hanky-panky.

3. Bloody Mary, the Catholic Queen of England sure was an infamous lady. Her leadership was self-serving and her subjects lived in fear.  She rode through the streets with expensive ornaments dangling from her gowns, smiling and waving at her starving people. She was widely known for executing over 280 protestant dissenters. She had lost a string of infants at childbirth and the people mocked her for not being able to produce any living children to run and play in her extensive gardens.

4. It is said that King Richard III was fond of a 17th century drink made of brandy and ale. He had a bit too much, rode off to battle pretty tipsy and fell off his horse only to be chopped to bits by his enemies. No one could do anything for him. Pubs in England still serve the drink named after this rhyme.

5. George Villiers was the Duke of Buckingham in the 17th century.  He was rich, famous and very handsome.  If only he had used these things for goodness and influence.  But instead he was a social climber who slept his way to the top, breaking hearts and homes all over the kingdom.  He was the notorious tabloid face of the day, with paparazzi following him back and forth across the London Bridge.

6. There was no such thing as an amicable separation or a divorce in England in the early 1700’s.  There was one prominent duke whose wife kept wandering back to her former nightlife career.   He couldn’t divorce her without a scandal so he just had her knocked off and hid her body in the garden. Problem solved!

7. There is nothing new under the sun, certainly not taxes!  For centuries Kings, Rulers, Parliaments and Congress have leveraged heavy taxes on their citizens.  Apparently as early as the 13th century, shepherd boys barely profited from the sale of wool because the local tax collector would come to call as soon as the sheared sheep were running around in the cold naked. This was years before concerned citizens ever even thought of throwing crates of perfectly good tea into the harbor.  Guess when nursery rhymes didn’t work, people had to board ships and risk everything to repatriate.  When the taxes even followed them across the sea, they just had to get louder!

8. The Black Plague swept across Europe between 1347 and 1353, killing millions of people.  Symptoms included a rosy red rash in the shape of a ring, sneezing, and black sores.  The people places herbs and flower petals in their pockets to cut down on the putrid smell of the sores and the funeral pyres all around town.

 

There are many more Mother Goose rhymes that hint of mysterious historical events.  Do they sound familiar?  They say history repeats itself and that we rarely learn from it.  Granny Hat thinks that is very sad.  So while she can, she intends to keep saying what she needs to say, creatively!  Mother Goose has inspired her.  And next time there’s a parade and someone streaks, she will just keep her mouth shut!

 

“Take all of your wasted honor
Every little past frustration
Take all of your so-called problems,
Better put ’em in quotations

Say what you need to say……

Walking like a one man army
Fighting with the shadows in your head
Living out the same old moment
Knowing you’d be better off instead,
If you could only . . .

Say what you need to say …….

Have no fear for giving in
Have no fear for giving over
You’d better know that in the end
It’s better to say too much
Than never to say what you need to say again

Even if your hands are shaking
And your faith is broken
Even as the eyes are closing
Do it with a heart wide open (a wide heart)

Say what you need to say ……”

SAY by John Mayer

 

mother goose hey diddle diddle

So what was the cat?  The fiddle?

And who really jumped over the moon?

Who ran away with whom?

 

 

It’s the Bags!

Bag lady imageGranny Hat will admit it; she is a Bag Lady.  She has bags for books, bags for music, bags for sewing projects and bags for beauty products.  She also has shopping bags, quite a collection.  Back in the day, when the nice cashier at the supermarket would ask “paper or plastic?”,  Granny always answered “paper, please” for two reasons: first, groceries roll around and smoosh together in plastic bags and second, paper bags are very useful.

Indeed, for many years, paper grocery sacks were essential craft supplies to have on hand.  Granny’s kids made paper bag puppets, funny party hats, gift tags and wrapping Bag Puppetspaper out of those bags.  Some of Granny’s friends might remember when Nob Hill Supermarkets in central coast California issued bags printed with holiday themes for making Christmas paper chains.  Wadded up and burned around the edges, paper bags made great treasure maps for a Pirate Birthday Party.  Who remembers folding brown paper bags into text book covers in high school, decorating them with stickers and colored pencils drawings? Granny and her family re-purposed and recycled those bags.  They are completely sustainable.

bag recycleEveryone counted on brown paper bags being available and free, Granny Hat is pretty sure that in the Shoppers Bill of Rights each consumer has the right to a free paper bag!  But alas, they are BROWN, not GREEN!  It was suggested a couple years ago that we all stop carrying our paper bags home only to stuff them in the trash like the irresponsible consumers we are.  They even condescendingly made re-usable bags available, every fundraiser and local shop handing them out to trick us into being green.

But Granny Hat is like most Americans; we don’t follow codes, because they are reallybag Jack-Sparrow just guidelines. So we didn’t listen, consequently “going green” was a fail.   There was only one way to bring shoppers into compliance, charge them $$ for paper and plastic bags.  Well, Granny is as tight as the best of them and her last name is Miser, so she got on board, collecting a few free re-usable shopping bags from Trader Joes, Beverly Fabrics and Hazel Hawkins Hospital.  She even convinced herself that this was the environmentally sound thing to do and felt good about the new Green Granny Hat life.

bags germs 2Suddenly though, because of the Covid19 pandemic, we can no longer use personal shopping bags, Granny’s lie folded up in the back seat of her Prius Hybrid. See, they could potentially carry more than just groceries; hitchhiking Corona virus could easily travel back and forth from home to store.  Out came the awful, terrible, BROWN paper bags to the rescue. bag fresh-cooked-lobster-pot-5365782 But did they go back to being free?  Nope!  The store is now charging us for each bag and we don’t have a choice.  And yet, Granny is so very happy to have the brown bags back that she doesn’t even mind paying for them.  Does this make Granny a lobster soaking in the pot?  At least she can be a crafty lobster and make plenty of paper bag puppets and masks before the water starts to boil.

Bags Winnie the PoohSo all of this got Granny to thinking really hard, think think think.  Uncle Sam has finally found a way to herd the buffalo the way he wants them to go.  We now happily pay for our shopping bags.  We wear our homemade masks and spray sanitizer everywhere we go. We blow kisses and air hug our friends and ZOOM our Bible studies and dance classes.  What else will we find ourselves drifting into? Whatever it is could be worse than having to pay a few cents for each bag at the supermarket. Don’t get Granny wrong, she can understand the need to bring the paper bags back and the masks have their place and all.  And she in no way means to make light of any serious epidemics. But she does wonder what this “shelter in place” thing is really about.  Who is being protected from what?  Is home a place of safety or are we under house arrest?  And what are “they” busy doing while we are stuck in our houses at the mercy of the evening news?

Many Americans seem worried about their basic rights moving forward, the right to bear arms, the right to free speech, the right to assemble.  We are a celebration people and mark the passage of each year with seasonal activities, holidays and traditions.  Quite a few of Granny’s friends are pretty upset about their parades, concerts, birthday parties and weddings being cancelled.  In California, kids might not even be able to go to summer camp!  This is bad news for the kids, SUPER bad news for the parents!

bag camping

Granny hears people talking about the REAL REASONS we are under a mandated isolation procedure:

  1. Certain folks want to control election outcomes.
  2. Something sinister going down with homeschooling.
  3. Say bye bye to football; it is a gladiator sport that fuels misogyny.
  4. Socialists want to take down capitalism.
  5. Bill Gates and his cronies want a one world order.                                                               (Wait! Didn’t capitalism work for Microsoft?)
  6. We are all going to be vaccinated and given chips, not the Frito kind.
  7. The apocalypse is near and “I wish we’d all been ready”! Store plenty of TP, beans, rice, flour and don’t forget the butter!

These are all really complicated issues and Granny needs more than a “thotful spot” to figure them out.  She would really rather just think that IT’S THE BAGS!  She has heard that its always about the money, follow the money.

Meanwhile, Granny Hat has been trying to really enjoy “blooming where she is planted”.  She recently started the Super Bloom Seed Share Face Book Group.  This was born out of her own search for seeds and her post about Victory Gardens. Freedom from Fear, Plant a Victory Garden.  This has been such a fun way to connect with friends who are enjoying some sunshine (still free last time Granny checked), getting exercise digging in the dirt (also free), posting beautiful photos of their sprouts and blooms.  Granny is inspired by so many of her creative friends who are painting on their fences, doing crafts with their kids, playing music on Zoom and baking from scratch again. One of her friends, Kristy Burchard is building a darling Little Free Library book house for her front yard. Granny loves May Day and was happy to see that people had the time this year to leave posies on porches and cheer up their neighbors.  Granny Hat is thankful for these  blessings that don’t come from Amazon and prove that we can think outside the …….Bag!

Be thankful for those bags! (Be sure to save them, they might come in handy!) And be thankful for all the things we enjoy that money cannot buy.

rear window music noteSo, amid the conflict whether great or small,
Do not be discouraged, God is over all;
Count your many blessings, angels will attend,
Help and comfort give you to your journey’s end.rear window music note

Count Your Blessings, published in 1897 by Johnson Oatman Jr.

 

Granny’s favorite bag lady:

Bag Lady

 

 

 

Rear Window

Rear Window

One of Granny Hat’s friends told her the other day that her favorite silver lining to this awful pandemic is the sound of the neighbors laughing and playing in their back yards.  Everyone is sheltering in place and greeting one another over the back fence.  Just one month ago this Silicon bedroom community near Granny’s home would open daily before the crack of dawn to spit out the commuters with their lap tops and coffee mugs.  Away they would fly to beat the sun and traffic, leaving a ghost town behind.  A month ago they were just the career folks across the street, now they have voices, personalities, faces.

Granny’s favorite actor of all time would have to be Jimmy Stewart (Tom Hanks, she loves you too).  Maybe it is because Jimmy’s accent was so very like her Grandpa Lloyd’s, who hailed from Boston.  But also because Stewart played so many noble, endearing characters.  What could be more inspiring than Mr. Smith’s filibuster marathon on the Senate Floor or more thought- provoking than his courtly friendship with Harvey, the pookah?  And, of course, everyone loves the way Clarence got his wings!

But one of her very favorite Stewart characters is L. B. “Jeff” Jefferies in Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window, often ranked as one of the director’s best pieces and listed in the greatest films of all time.  Jeff is a professional photographer confined to a wheel chair in his second story Chelsea flat while he recovers from a broken leg.  Without Zoom or Netflix, the only relief in the man’s boring quarantine is to gaze out his rear window, across the courtyard below and observe his neighbors who have been driven out into the fresh air by a dreadful heat wave.  His curiosity gets the better of him as his eye for detail and an active imagination bring his neighbors to life.  There is the flamboyant dancer, a single sunbather he nicknames Miss Lonely-hearts, a talented composer-pianist, a married couple who lowers their little dog in a basket from their balcony to the courtyard to play and a sinister looking traveling salesman with an invalid wife.  As Jeff watches one evening he unwittingly witness what he thinks…….could be……a brutal murder!  Granny won’t give any more away than that.

rear window sherlock holmes Many of us have an inner sleuth just longing to be set free; we’d love to play Nancy Drew or Columbo.  Indeed, Granny Hat has been an arm chair detective for years, looking out her rear window.

It all started on “D” Street in Grants Pass, Oregon when she was very young.  Granny’s mom returned from the corner health food store (you remember, the type of shop that smelled strongly of Vitamin B12 and Brewer’s Yeast) talking about the “new carrot juicing trend”.

rear window carrot family“I mean, this juicing business makes sense”, she declared to Granny’s father, “but I did notice that the owner and his whole family are orange, literally Phil, they are ORANGE and I’ll bet it’s because of the carrot juice!”  Four year old Granny was horrified; she hadn’t heard rear window oompa loompasof Oompa Loompas yet but she really wanted to see the orange people!  She gazed out her window for weeks, hoping to catch a glimpse of the carrot family walking past.  She even tried the rear window in case they strolled home through the alley.

Then, as a teenager, in Orange County, CA Granny remembers the bad boys that lived behind, over the fence.  These hoodlums cussed and drank and smoked and loudly used the Lord’s name in vain.  When the family dog was poisoned and burglars broke into the rear window carpenters-close_to_you-frontalhouse, stealing mother’s wedding ring and the stereo with Granny’s Carpenters record in it, she was 100% positive that those bad boys were to blame.  Granny and her brothers and sister began spying through knot holes in the fence since they couldn’t get a good enough view from their rear window.

Even as an adult, Granny can look out her rear window and see things (mostly walnut trees). But every now and then the crazy neighbor emerges from his back door dragging a dining room chair into the field.  He sits for hours with a shotgun over his knees staring at the ground and waiting for a gopher to surface.  BLAM!!! goes the shotgun, then more waiting.  Granny can bake a whole batch of bread, clean house, teach a couple of piano students on FaceTime and sure enough, just a glance out her rear window and he’s still there!  On the surface of it, he seems harmless and straightforward enough, he has an American right to bear arms and kill vermin but what else is the guy up to?  Granny thinks anyone with that kind of time to kill has got something or other up his sleeve.

Before she judges the neighbor completely however, Granny remembers being on the other side of the fence when she and Dad first moved into the orchard house one spring in the 80’s.  The neighbors were far away and even more distant socially, they didn’t even wave when they drove by.  It wasn’t until fall when Granny’s family was out harvesting walnuts that the neighbors slowed down and rolled down their windows.

rear window nancy drew“Where is Clark?  Did Clark move?”  they asked.  Granny’s kids were all ears, what a cryptic question – Where is Clark?  Then they introduced themselves as the Pereiras, Joe, Lillian and the girls, the best neighbors a family could ask for.  Turns out, Clark was a scoundrel whose bar down the street went broke, so he moved his gaming and drinking onto the property.  There were shoot outs, drunken orgies, get away skids into the Pereira field at midnight only to sink in the mud and then honk the horn until rescue came in the form of a sleepy farmer on his tractor.  No wonder the neighbors shut their doors, turned away and only glanced out their rear window to keep their eye on Clark!  Granny’s kids and the neighbor girl played spy games for years using the nefarious Clark as their nemesis.  Clark was never found.

rear window black and white palms Granny Hat’s daughter has been living the rear window life for nearly 4 years in a very large city.  Her apartment flat is 3 stories up in a tall tower with front doors that open onto dark hallways.  Her only view is out the rear balcony window and across the street to yet another tower of identical apartments.  Granny has visited several times and has never ever spotted people on the balconies; there are potted plants, a bicycle or two, a lonely chair, but never even a face.  Most of the year it is too hot and the rest of the time the inhabitants are too busy.  This neighborhood that houses hundreds of people is very quiet; the only sounds are the parking garage gates going up and down. rear window miami

But these past few weeks, Granny’s daughter says the neighborhood has come alive, couples on the balconies, kids out walking the dog, folks waving and smiling. One elderly couple sits out on their balcony each day for about an hour of fresh air and sunshine, but in separate shifts – perhaps the secret to long-term marital bliss! She spied another elderly couple standing on their balcony to greet their grandkids below on the street; the old gentleman was teary eyed because he couldn’t hug them.  At the end of the road there is a grassy parkway lining a canal that separates the apartments from a silent, sprawling urban mall.  Granny Hat’s grand kids can spy children on the lawn blowing bubbles and Yogis out in the cool evenings.  (Not Yogi Bear, people doing Yoga, Granny had to clarify.  The only animals out at the canal are ducks and iguanas – Granny doesn’t go down to the canal when she visits.)  Check out the brilliant blog that had its beginnings at this rear window: Our Holistic Homeschool                                                     Day 11: How to have a HOPPING INDOOR EASTER that your family will never forget!

Granny Hat has been thinking that we become connected to our neighbors when we share a smile and a wave, when we look in their eyes and recognize who they really are.  A body can only watch the pundits and experts talk on the screen for so long and then it becomes imperative to bust out through the rear window and shout “Here I am!” and “Who are you?”  Finally, we NEED to know, it is what makes us human.

Granny Hat hopes her readers will never witness anything like a murder out the rear window, unless it’s just a gopher that bites the dust.  Don’t just watch from the rear window though, open it to the wind and the sun; Granny guarantees her readers will hear laughter, maybe some tears, and definitely see a way to offer help and hope to the neighbors. It is easy and very safe to sit by the rear window and peek out.  But if every front door opened wide, the hall would not be so dark.

rear window music noteAll around the neighborhood, I’m gonna let it shine!rear window music note

rear window movie Reader, if you haven’t seen this classic film, now is the time while you are sheltering in place! Make some popcorn, snuggle up with loved ones in case you get scared and let your imagination run away with you.

And to quote Elwood P. Dowd from Harvey:  “Very soon the faces of all the other people turn towards me and they smile. They say: ‘We don’t know your name, mister, but you’re a very nice fellow.’ Harvey and I warm ourselves in these golden moments. We came as strangers – soon we have friends. They come over. They sit with us. They drink with us. rear window Harvey poster 2They talk to us. They tell us about the great big terrible things they’ve done and the great big wonderful things they’re going to do. Their hopes, their regrets. Their loves, their hates. All very large, because nobody ever brings anything small into a bar.

 

Topsy Turvy Town

Granny has been feeling like everything is Topsy Turvy these days. She is sure her readers feel the same; we are social people, travel people, entertainment people, a commute- to- work people, team sports people, group education people.  All of those things have been turned upside down. And that can be a little scary.

Granny Hat has been afraid of many things in her life; Iguanas (she hates them because of a childhood incident in a very buggy, snake infested, tropical foreign country), Communists (comes from walking back and forth to school every day during the Cold War and wondering which house she could run to for help if the communists invaded), something in the garage at night etc. Reader, you get the idea, Granny has always been a scaredy cat with an imagination.  War, terrorists, flunking a test, getting fired; these are all common fears Americans face.  But it has been many generations since we have feared something so greatly that we fall into step with government mandates, actually stay away from our loved ones, stop meeting to worship, close sporting events and concerts. The Corona Virus has turned us upside down.  We the (independent) people who come and go as we please, with the right to choose and the right to work and the right to identify however we want, we are stuck at home waiting and watching behind the curtains.

Topsy Turvy Tuba Granny Hat and her siblings grew up listening to an old Happy Time vinyl record called Tubby the Tuba.  It had captivating songs on it like Toy Town Choo Choo, Slippity Slide, the Davey Crockett March and Topsy Turvy Town.  We were very easily entertained.  We didn’t have a TV. (Can we even imagine going through this “shelter in place” thing with no TV?) Granny can’t find anything about this old LP on google but guesses it was circulated in the mid 60’s. Here are the lyrics, Granny boldfaced the parts that seem to ring true right now.

When you look to the front, you see to the rear. (in Topsy Turvy Town)

When you open your eyes, that’s when you can hear. (in Topsy Turvy Town)

And things that look far away really are near in Topsy Turvy Town!

 

When you say “come on in” you mean “go away”!  (in Topsy Turvy Town)

When the sun starts to rise, that’s the end of the day! (in Topsy Turvy Town)

And Santa Claus comes in the middle of May in Topsy Turvy Town!

 

Everyone in Topsy Turvy Town wears shoes up on their head!

And when they rise to greet the day, they jump back into bed!

 

All the trees are so short and the grass is so tall. (in Topsy Turvy Town)

And when they run a race, they run at a crawl. (in Topsy Turvy Town)

They call it a crowd when there’s no one at all in Topsy Turvy Town!

 

Everyone in Topsy Turvy Town will laugh when they are sad,                                           

But you should see the teardrops fall whenever they are glad!

 

When the bells start to ring, the clock is run down. (in Topsy Turvy Town)

All the cows are true blue and the river is brown. (in Topsy Turvy Town)

The mayor wears rags and the beggar a crown in Topsy Turvy Town!

Granny wonders about that last line, surely a social 1960’s message there!  But then, our current problems know no caste, race or level of education.  Rich or poor, famous or humble, righteous or wicked, we all are at the mercy of a very small nemesis.  We are big and powerful; surely we should be able to take on the tiniest of enemies, a microscopic virus!  Elephants are afraid of mice and that is Topsy Turvy!

In the middle of all the confusion, Granny wonders what happened to some very common American things like:

The daily environmental report with concerns about plastic straws, global warming and fracking; Granny bought bamboo straws for Christmas stocking stuffers and found a bamboo toothbrush that Santa left in her sock. Are we still concerned about the turtles?  Granny hopes so!  These very important talking points have all but disappeared in the wake of Covid19. Of course, Americans ARE obsessed with Tiger King, keeping the provocative issues alive and well.

Topsy Turvy Santa And speaking of Santa, Granny wonders if the “jolly old elf” had anything at all to do with the spread of the virus, he was in and out of everyone’s homes at a very critical time. If we aren’t going to blame China, then Granny suggests Santa could be the culprit.

Granny Hat and dad also noticed the other day that boiler room ROBO calls have ceased, like suddenly ceased!  Were all those people just fired the minute we were told to stay home?  Seems Topsy Turvy to Granny; most of us have time to talk to random people on the phone now, take election surveys and hear about insurance estimates and they aren’t calling!

Shopping bags!  Granny felt guilted along with everyone else into starting a new habit Topsy Turvy Storeand added re-usable shopping totes to her bag lady collection. She actually believes in the campaign, Granny is very on board with re-purpose, re-use.  It has only been a few months since she stopped forgetting to take them to the store though and now, they are “verboten”.  Granny does love paper shopping bags, they feel vintage and make the best trash can liners and totes.

Education is all Topsy Turvy now too!  Granny remembers when homeschooling was pretty weird and outside the box. She was told that socialization was very important and kids couldn’t live without it; now they can’t live WITH it.  Teachers are reduced to tiny screens and are being very creative.  Granny knows a music teacher in Hollister, CA that has her students playing the Star Spangled Banner on their respective instruments every evening at 6:30.  The photos are so cute and encouraging.  Granny is convinced that even when we are upside down, we can grow and bloom.

How about the price of gas?  It is finally affordable to travel but we really shouldn’t.  That certainly is Topsy Turvy.  Dad had to make a trip for essential business supplies to Southern CA and he noticed some interesting things. Los Angeles is known for its smog, the traffic, its smog, those tall buildings, its smog, the entertainment industry and its smog.  Granny has it on good authority that the smog is nearly gone and there’s little – to – no traffic.  The buildings are still there, empty icons of power and success.

For the first time in our history, Americans cannot lighten their burdens with live entertainment.  The World Wars birthed great comedy, musical theater, art and variety shows which lifted spirits across the fruited plains. Granny worries we might become even more addicted to our screens because of all this but loves the families posting their own living room musical performances on YouTube.  Creativity is a gift we were created with, good to see the silly smiles in photos and hear the laughter in the videos.

We really are Topsy Turvy!  And sometimes it looks good on us. Granny Hat is happy to report that in her community, she sees even more families biking, walking, planting gardens together and playing games.  After her last post about the Burpee Backorders and Victory Gardens, Granny had a friend offer her some organic seeds from another friend who had plenty.  Granny and her friends are sharing recipes and baking supplies.  It is like a long drawn out May Day though, where people leave something on the front porch, ring the doorbell and run away!

 

Granny Hat needs to admit that she has done her share of complaining about having to work and be responsible, faithful in little things.  If only we could stay home and sleep in!  If only I didn’t have to drive every day to go to work.  I need some “me time”, my plate is too full, and I need to learn how to say “no”, boundaries and all that!  Well, suddenly we have boundaries, enforced boundaries.  Suddenly work is a gift; a schedule keeps us productive and responsible. A job seems like a luxury now. And we truly miss the annoying people we had to put up with at work.

Granny’s campus pastor at SVVC church is always encouraging his parishioners to be faithful at church, to be excited about fellowshiping and worshiping together.  He’s going to get his wish; everyone is counting down the days until they can drag themselves out of bed on a Sunday morning and go to church!   And without Sunday – go – to – meeting on the calendar, Granny isn’t even sure what day of the week it is!  She needs a reminder of all these things and if being Topsy Turvy teaches us anything, let it be that we aren’t invincible and we need each other desperately.  And that freedom of worship is a tremendous gift.

We lost Bill Withers this week, his beloved song is perfect for our times:

Lean on me, when you’re not strong,

And I’ll be your friend, I’ll help you carry on,

For it won’t be long ‘til I’m gonna need somebody to lean on.

 

Please swallow your pride, if you have things you need to borrow….

 

You just call on me brother, when you need a hand,

We all need someone to lean on.

I just might have a problem that you’ll understand.

We all need someone to lean on.

 

 

 

Freedom from Fear, Plant a Victory Garden

Victory GardenGranny Hat and Dad sat down two days ago to place an online Burpee Seeds order, they do this every spring.  They started with green beans and their first choice, Desperado Bush Beans were back ordered until April, so they went to their next favorite, Contender Bush Beans, sold out!  So, they tried the Blue Lake 47, also back ordered!  As panic began to rise, they turned to the corn page, Kandy Corn sold out, Illini Extra Sweet, back ordered!   Oh dear, well Granny has heard you can survive on pumpkins!  Nope, pumpkins all sold out!  The light dawned!  In response to fear, uncertain future and crisis, Americans are yet again planting Victory Gardens! Granny is too young to fully reminisce about the famous gardens of World War II but Dad’s parents were all too happy to take a walk down memory lane…….

Grandpa grew up in a farming family and lived out in the country in the Imperial Valley so he remembers his mom growing rhubarb for pies. They also had grapefruit and Sailor Dadorange trees. But he was sailing the South Pacific in the Navy and eating galley food while the Victory Gardens were in full bloom back in the states. He tells stories of banana “raisin” bread when mice got into the flour or grinding coffee for the officers breakfast with extra “animal protein” thrown in (or at least not removed)!

Grandma, on the other hand, was much younger during WWII and remembers her grandmother, Martha Cooper “Nana” turning her Fort Worth backyard into a Victory Garden. She had her gardeners dig up the yard and till it and then she got busy planting corn, potatoes, green beans, and peas.  Grandma was put to work shelling peas and she didn’t like that very much.  But she loved being out in the garden popping sweet cherry tomatoes off the vine.  Grandma had peach trees and Granny can imagine the hot Texas sun turning the fruit sweet and juicy.

 

Secretary of Agriculture Claude R. Wickard came up with the idea of Victory Gardens soon after Pearl Harbor, even though American farms already were producing enough to feed half the world. Groceries were needed to feed the troops overseas and with blackouts on the coasts, stores closed early, so Americans were encouraged to grow their own food.  If you didn’t have a yard and lived in the big city, there were community Victory Gardens, some of the most notable being at the Portland Zoo, Chicago’s Arlington Racetrack and a downtown parking lot in New Orleans.  Gardeners near Chicago’s Cook County Jail were allowed to grow cabbages, radishes and beans but corn was forbidden because it might offer would-be escapees a place to hide! In 1943, Americans planted 20.5 million Victory Gardens! Americans found new vegetables they never knew existed. Kohlrabi, Swiss chard and kale were discovered to be easy to grow with a long season and plenty of nutritional benefits. American housewives began to be more health conscious and went back to canning and preserving food.  Indeed, one of the goals of the government at the time was that there would be “the creation of a healthy citizenry on the home front”. (The Home Front: USA Time Life world War II series, 1978)  And by the way, the humble pumpkin (which Burpee is sold out of- Granny is still quite put out) kept Japan alive in World War I.  Granny still has perfectly good pumpkins sitting on her front porch from last November, talk about shelf life!)

Granny admires the response her forebears had in times of crisis.   When life as they knew it came to a grinding halt, they found another path, got tough, sewed their own clothes, cultivated their own food, and wrote songs like Blue Birds over the White Cliffs of Dover, As Time Goes By and Happy Days Are Here Again. Churches sang hymns with words like:

“His banner over us is love, our sword the Word of God;

We tread the road the saints above with shouts of triumph trod.

By faith they, like a whirlwind’s breath, swept on o’er every field,

The faith by which they conquered death is still our shining shield.

Faith is the victory! Faith is the victory!

Oh, glorious victory, that overcomes the world.”  Ira D. Sankey, John H. Yates

Granny admits that the current health, political, and economic crisis is new, uncharted territory for this generation.  The responses she sees are similar though; get tough, find a new path, look with hope toward the future. But how can we face the future when there is so much uncertainty?  How do we get freedom from fear at a time like this?  Granny knows a bit about the current fear, her doctor son-in-law was very ill this past week and his tests for COVID 19 came back undetermined. There were days of uncertainty and despair over his high fever and other symptoms.  When he turned the corner and began to steadily improve, Granny remembered a favorite song from KLOVE,

Another In The Fire by Chris Davenport & Joel Houston, Hillsong

There’s a grace when the heart is under fire
Another way when the walls are closing in
And when I look at the space between
Where I used to be and this reckoning
I know I will never be alone

There was another in the fire
Standing next to me
There was another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
Of how I’ve been set free
There is a cross that bears the burden
Where another died for me

All my debt left for dead beneath the waters
I’m no longer a slave to my sin anymore
And should I fall in the space between
What remains of me and this reckoning
Either way I won’t bow
To the things of this world
And I know I will never be alone

There is another in the fire
Standing next to me
There is another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
What power set me free
There is a grave that holds no body
And now that power lives in me

And I can see the light in the darkness
As the darkness bows to Him
I can hear the roar in the heavens
As the space between wears thin
I can feel the ground shake beneath us
As the prison walls cave in
Nothing stands between us
Nothing stands between us

There is no other name
But the Name that is Jesus
He who was and still is
And will be through it all
So come what may in the space between
All the things unseen and this reckoning
I know I will never be alone

There’ll be another in the fire
Standing next to me
There’ll be another in the waters
Holding back the seas
And should I ever need reminding
How good You’ve been to me
I’ll count the joy come every battle
‘Cause I know that’s where You’ll be

Granny’s favorite Bible story is Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego, or as her Grandpa Lloyd used to say “Shadrach, Meshach and To Bed We Go after this story”!  She loves when the three men refuse to bow down to Nebuchadnezzar’s golden image, she loves Shadrach standing up to the king with that fire blazing nearby and saying “Our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the furnace of blazing fire; and He will deliver us out of your hand, O king.  BUT even if He does not, let it be known to you, O king, that we are not going to serve your gods or worship the golden image that you have set up.”     And then Granny can just picture the look on Nebuchadnezzar’s face when he “stood up in haste, asking ‘Was it not three men we cast bound into the midst of the fire?  Look! I see four men loosed and walking about in the midst of the fire without harm and the appearance of the fourth is like a son of the gods!’” Daniel 3:17, 18, 24, 25

Walmart Bibles

 

Yes, there is still another in the fire and that is why Granny can have freedom from fear.  A pastor friend from southern California posted this picture of the empty Bible shelves in the book section of Walmart last week.  Granny recommends we trade in fear of the world for the fear that is the beginning of wisdom.

Wise men (and women) still seek Him.