BE the friend she needs, instead of collecting friends. Be the adult in your friendships!

To Befriend or NOT to Befriend . . .

Okay, you know her name and that she has three children and came from Peoria, and she attends your church when she bothers with attending.

You even know what she and her husband argue about. She lives just down the street, after all.

You just do not feel very close. Oh, sure, you’ve given her a ride when her car was in the shop, you watched her children while she painted a room, and you took her some soup when they all had flu. She lives just down the street, after all.

She is what the ancient Hebrew called anesh-shalom and the ancient Greek called hetairos. These words referred to acquaintances that we work with, live with, even depend upon, but yet are not necessarily of our choosing. Examples are Jeremiah 38:22 and Matthew 20:13.

BE the friend she needs, instead of collecting friends!It would not yet be wise to trust her, but how do you befriend her?

You take food to her, help with her children, and give her rides; that’s how.

While you are at it, show interest. If you are only a helping hand, she will feel like a charity case. A person usually cannot open up to another unless there is a trade, a give and take, like a dance. If, over coffee or tea, you ask to see the paint job, ask her for a ride in return, or ask if her children would feed your cat while you are gone, you will deepen the relationship.

You will earn closeness that allows you to ask better questions than, “How are you today?”.

Questions like:

“You look tired—bad night?”

“So, how do you like the neighborhood? Are you meeting folks?”

“It was good to see you Sunday—Have you decided to join us, or are you still looking?”

Her answers will open doors for new conversations that are more meaningful. Conversations are the building blocks of true friendship. Slip in a hug, when appropriate, and you add the cherry on top: You add value to her person.

Realizing that each person on this earth is needy is the key to all relationships.

We once lived next door to the wealthiest family in town, totally out of our league. The wife one day asked my permission to help plant my rose bushes. The part she really wanted to do was pick the grass roots from the soil, so it would not grow back so quickly. Her daddy, she said, used to make her do that chore and she seldom got a chance to show her expertise at it, anymore.

When we got thirsty, I brought out ice water in my old jelly glass tumblers. We sat on the edge of the terrace, on a railroad tie, and chatted as if we were just a couple of women who liked playing in the dirt, in our grubby clothes. We talked about our mothers-in-law and about the neighbor’s cute grandson. You know, normal stuff.

She needed to feel normal.

And haven’t we all been there.


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Katharizing the Whole World . . .

I seldom use the suggestions for Postaday blogging but one recent topic has struck my fancy: explaining my name.

Katharine is a popular name, if you count all its variants, such as Ekaterina, Caitlin, Kate, Kitty, and even Karen. Chosen by Russia for its famous queen, by Shakespeare for his famous shrew, and by the parents of the famous actresses, Carlyle, Hepburn, Z-Jones, and Ross, it is now also the top hit on every search engine because of England’s recent joy.

Katharine is also a family name, for me, handed down from my mother’s side. According to her, the family, being Lutheran, chose the name of Martin Luther’s wife for one of their daughters. Eventually it came to me to bear the honor of sharing with this great woman who never really achieved fame, nor wanted it.

We go farther back than that, however, back to the foundations of language, itself.

Specifically, the First Century Greek language contains words like katharismos, meaning “purifying”, and katharos, meaning “pure”. With Greek being the dominant language of much of the western world for some time, it yielded the name, Katharine, a good choice for parents to name a daughter if they aspired to purity for her, and a popular choice if they were educated people.

In the early fifties, I discovered my name means “purity”. I wish I could say this discovery dominated my every act from then on. However, the thought of it did lend me a certain awareness of possessing a backbone, of wondering about purity. Although this awareness resided quietly in the back of my mind for many years, it would occasionally surface, especially when I learned a meaning of any other name. In fact, learning name meanings became a hobby I enjoyed from about age eight.

No kidding, at a young age, I read baby name books from cover to cover, comparing the names of my acquaintances to my perceptions of their personalities, and, later, comparing the names of various beaus and the implications of the meanings, to my future.

Even today, when a person introduces himself to me, I mentally scour the pages of names I memorized for clues to his personality. Fitting or not, it colors my first impression. Still, I also realize we cannot help the name our parents chose and not every “John” grows up to be “Baptist”, although I believe each one is “given of God”, which is what the name means.

This beginning made me a person who feels sorry for people whose names have no meaning. Chosen from thin air because they feel good in the mouth, like pablum does, these names often are misspelled by any definition of phonetics. Often they also imply absence of a daddy in the “family”, and sometimes the absence of even a granddad or great-granddad. It saddens me, for the bearers’ sakes, this having no definition or history, no foundation or instruction for the core of their beings.

Like candy, their names give only short-term gratification and leave behind no sustenance.

I would be unfair, though, if I did not tell you one more thing about those Greek kathar- rooted words: They also gave us our word “cathartic”, which word I will leave you to look up, and to chuckle about, to yourself.

Catch-Up Day

Ooh, am I tired!

Yesterday was a catch-up day. Several jobs that had waited long enough finally got my attention. It feels so good to have some of it done.

I started the day with the very last of the lavender harvest from last June. You have to realize I had to be 500 miles away for a couple weeks in June, and on the night before I left, I realized I just had to catch the lavender or it would be blown before I returned. So my husband and I spent probably an hour cutting it and dragging it, in baskets, into the house.

Then I disassembled the daybed in our sunroom and lay the lavender stems over both halves of it to dry. I told my husband he would have to turn it every day or two, so it could dry completely. Bless his heart, he already knew it, from harvesting hay as a boy. What a relief!

When I returned, the lavender was dry and the stripping began. It is not hard, just time-consuming and it bruises your thumb. Now I’ve finally finished that job . It made over two gallons of blossoms, the really good stuff. I’ve already sold thirty dollars worth of it and you can hardly tell it.

Also, I worked at catching up ironing. No one likes when the ironing is behind, around here, but least of all me. I have devised a good way to catch up ironing and thought I’d share it with you, here. It’s not so hard and really works for me.

How to Catch Up on Your Ironing

  1. Hurry. That makes it go much faster.
  2. Set aside time to fire up your iron every day.
  3. Iron twice what your family would wear, every day.
  4. Continue until caught up.

That’s it—so easy. For me, since only my husband wears much ironed clothes, if I iron two shirts and a pair of pants for him each day, soon all is done. Now and then I insert something for someone else, but really, most of us wear no-iron clothing like t-shirts, sweats, and the softer denims. It may take a week or two, but it does work.

Another chore was making sure all the bed linens are clean, since we are expecting lots of company this weekend. Several will stay the night to worship with us. Lots of fun, and I cannot wait.

Lastly, I had a few outdoor chores to finish: mulching around newly-planted trees, bringing potted plants indoors because of a cold-snap, composting some waste vegetation, etc.

Here are a couple shots of our cat, Earl Grey, caught in the act of sampling the catnip. I’d been weeding it, and he caught the aroma. (It smells a lot like cat fur, to me.) Anyway, in the second photo, you can see his face better, in his irritated pose.

Earl Grey, eating

Earl Grey, Eating

Earl Grey, irritated

Earl Grey, Irritated

Well, I’m off to do some more laundry! Then have an art class today, with a delightful girl with real talent.

See ya’!


Do you ever feel strong, only to find out you’re weak? I sure do.

Today we face troubles with our chickens. A raccoon is eating one per day, starting yesterday. Soon we will have none.


Me? In your garbage? No!

Me? In your garbage? No! (Photo credit: jronaldlee)

We’ve set a trap where the coon can get in it but the cats cannot. It is smart though, ate the bait, and got out again.

We believe people should protect their penned or cooped animals, since they are at our mercy. What else can they do but die at the hands of this marauder? Sadness creeps in as we think of their terror and understand, now, their reluctance to trust.

Anyway, it falls on the one who is at home to check on the critters hourly, during the day. It’s almost time for the next check. Even if the trap should work, I will have to operate our small rifle because coons don’t die that easily and it would be wrong to make it suffer. Not even tempting.

Although I boasted of knowing how to aim and shoot, I forgot I don’t remember something: which way is off, for the safety button. So is the rifle sitting by the back door, loaded and ready to shoot, or is there one more step to prevent that disappointing “click” that means I forgot something? And will it hurt my shoulder, which has been acting up, lately? And will the creature be in the trap, or warily roaming around the coop? And will I miss? And if I miss, will I hit something else important, like a chicken? And how do I arrive at the chicken coop without our ever-curious cats following?

I was so ready, willing, and able. Now I’ve talked myself into being a wimp. Earlier, I even dreaded and second-guessed the idea of having fresh, organic eggs, at all.

It all reminds me of my curtains. The cost of one panel would buy fabric for the whole house. The test is in making them. Will I finish them?

It reminds me of the ironing. You’d never guess how many starched shirts wait for me to finish that ambitious project. But am I saving money!

It reminds me of refinishing the basement.

It reminds me of redecorating the guest house.

It reminds me of unpacking the last few boxes from moving.

It reminds me of weeding the flower beds.

It reminds me of me.

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Weekly Photo Challenge: Curiosity

I’d Like to Kill a Mockingbird!



We once had a house cat. He was amazing at first, the funniest kitten I’d ever seen, and I’m a connoisseur. A totally fluffy gray furball with longer white hair, he looked frosted. We named him Pussy Willow Catkin, Willy, for short.

As Willy grew, he developed issues with me, the discipline person who floated through the house in those wonderful reversible gauzy skirts, draped armloads of sheets to the laundry, and popped open trash bags, all of which activities scared him.

Not only that, but I often exchanged his raunchy litter box for one that smelled good, an activity he took as very personal rejection.

Eventually he learned which side of the bed was mine and occasionally he dumped on me. He knew which chair I would least like full of gray fuzz. He knew which floor was most problematic if peed on. He knew which windowsills had breakable brick-a-brack. He used all his information to pay me back for scaring him with my floaty, drapey, trashy ways.

I only did one thing right in his eyes: catnip. He loved it; I grew it.

The day came, though, when we weaned him to be an outdoor cat. After an initial wild exploration, he settled in to sleeping in the bird feeder. The birds frowned about that. He often fantasized that he could catch a bird, although all his forays into the wonderful world of the hunt were flops.

Especially the last one.

Around our property lived a mockingbird, which I don’t care what Jem’s Dad said, they do harm. They deliberately flaunt their senseless songs and seducing dances from atop the huge light pole that holds not only several wires and a yard light, but also the transformer for a few families. They do this only if a cat is in sight. Every time our cat would start up the tree near that pole, our mockingbird would keep up its cat-courting ritual just long enough to irritate the cat, then fly off.

One morning, Willy did not show up for breakfast. It wasn’t long before we discovered where he was: at the very top of the pole. At 5:00 a.m.

We decided he might learn a lesson if he had to wait until normal business hours to be rescued. We never dreamed what would happen next.

The skies opened up and dumped an inch of rain in 15 minutes. I’ve never seen anything like that and I’m also a connoisseur of rain. Love to watch it.

At this point, cat is drenched and bird is wherever birds go to survive downpours. Cat decides to take matters into his own hands and discovers that the perfectly safe props that got him up are now hot. Live. Murderous. In a moment, Pussy Willow Catkin lies at the base of the pole, basically dead.

We replanted the catnip bush over his grave.