This blog is where I can pour out my heart with my longing for God.

Archive for the ‘autumn’ Category

The Old Paths: Is Your Heat Running?

**This was originally published on Thursday, October 25, 2012, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

heat--freeze before turning onSometimes you feel as lonely as a salmon in Belews Lake. You think you’re the only one who feels the way you do. You wonder if perhaps you are an oddball—a square peg trying to fit into a round-holed world.

Then something happens to prove you are not alone. Yes, you may be in the minority, but rejoice—there are others like you!

For example, I once thought I must be really weird to always reach past the first few slices of bread in the bag to get some middle pieces for my sandwich. When I confessed my idiosyncrasy on Facebook, numbers of folks chimed in excitedly that they did the same thing and had thought they were the only ones.

In my relatively new mode of admitting potentially embarrassing things (I don’t care as much what people think as I get older), I decided a couple of weeks ago to confess another oddity of my existence. I told my friends on Facebook that I find it challenging to see how long I can wait to turn on my heat in the autumn. (Mind you, I typed that post with hands that felt like ice on a colder-than-normal October morning!)heat--waiting to use it

I like to tell myself that it’s because I am thrifty, but I wonder if it doesn’t go deeper than that. Perhaps it is indeed the challenge of the ordeal which makes me freeze for a while before turning that dial from AC to heat. (Disclaimer: I do not torture my children with the cold. They use a portable quartz infrared heater and stay cozy.)

I imagine that some of you are nodding right now or grinning as you think, “So it’s not just me!” No, I found out from Facebook comments that we are part of a large company.

My hubster—a thrifty, somewhat oddball soul like me—was the first to chime in. He said, “Let’s see if we can make it until November.”

Before long, a friend agreed, “We are covered to our eyeballs but no heat till November.” My cousin’s wife said she was determined not to turn on her heat just yet. A friend much farther north commented that she picks a specific time to turn on her heat and tries to stick to it. It might mean wearing socks to bed or throwing on another blanket, but doggone it, we’re going to hold out!

Three different friends told me it was “the principle of the thing,” leaving me to ponder just what the principle is. I have some ideas. Bear with me as I psychoanalyze you heat-postponers.

For some of us, like Angela, it’s a matter of conserving fossil fuels—a worthy principle indeed. If we all held out a little longer turning on the heat (or AC in the spring), we would save huge amounts of the fossil fuels we don’t want to use up.

Another principle also involves conservation—of our money! Don’t you love the lower power bills that come in spring and fall? There were times in my past that money was so tight it might mean buying fewer groceries if we ran the heat any more than was absolutely necessary. Even now with better financial conditions, my decision to once more be a stay-at-home mom means we must be very thrifty.

My daddy clings to yet another principle—that it’s a matter of building toughness of character. This is the man who would, in fun, make me bear him tickling my foot when I was a kid—telling me to set my mind that I could take it, that it would make me tough. It worked, and I’m grateful. Try tickling my foot; I won’t budge.

You say, “How silly.” No, not really. Such principles in seemingly “silly” things carry over into more important things. That “I can take it” stamina that Daddy helped build into my character propelled me through the births of my last three children with no medicine at all—a healthier situation for all involved.

It has helped me be able to go for 18 years (this coming December) without taking a pain reliever—yes, not even one Tylenol or Advil. This has to be good for my liver and overall health. America has become such a nation of convenience that we self-medicate at the merest hint of pain.

Daddy preaches that we have become a country of spoiled people who “can’t take it anymore.” He tells me how people on the old paths used to function just fine without AC. Now we virtually melt without it. It’s a matter of how we condition ourselves.

Some of my Facebook friends agree. A pastor friend of mine commented that she hasn’t used the heat yet either and tells her family that their bodies just need to make the adjustment to cold weather. My pal Jill believes the first cold spell “hits you the most, like a jolt, then your body starts adjusting.”

Conservation of fossil fuels, money savings, character training—have I named the principle that describes why YOU don’t run the heat until the last minute? (Yes, I know there are many of you like Tonya who says she doesn’t want to be uncomfortable in her own home or Chris who declares she isn’t interested in freezing to death! But bear with me as I address my minority group.)

I believe there is another principle at work here—the need to prove our toughness, not to be bested by the elements. This rationale is similar to my daddy’s principle of building character but is perhaps rooted more in pride. Yes, it was possibly my stubborn pride which made me suffer in a house where the thermostat has registered as low as 54 degrees several mornings recently.

This is the principle that comes into play when we turn the issue into a contest. Angela has a friend in Colorado who takes part in a delay-of-heat contest called “Freeze Your Buns OFF.” Holly tells how she and her boyfriend would have a competition “to see who could go the longest without turning on the heat.” (Once she won because she went to his house and turned on the heat. Talk about fierce competition!)

Whatever the reason, many of us in Stokes County have been uncomfortable here in mid-October as autumn hit us with the first cold temperatures of the season. And although warmer weather may resurface, don’t be fooled into thinking it will last.

Either bring out the flannel sheets, fuzzy socks and fleece hoodies and grit your teeth a little longer or turn that heat on! It’s a long time ‘til spring. . .

heat--resist

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The Old Paths: Late Summer’s Lament

**This was originally published on Thursday, September 4, 2014, in my newspaper column, “The Old Paths,” in The Stokes News. Due to a website change a few years ago, the publishing company broke all links to our old articles which were archived online. This was a tragic mistake and resulted in the loss of thousands of newspaper articles. Little by little, I am putting my old columns on this blog so that they can be preserved. Each column may be updated to reflect present times when transferred to this blog.**

summer-wiped-out-by-waveIt was the red leaves in late August that got me. All around, the landscape screams, “SUMMER!” but there is something in the atmosphere that whispers, “Fall.” The green leaves that abound can’t quite screen out the occasional reds that are appearing. Golden flowers are flourishing on the roadside—a sure sign of summer’s last hurrah. In my yard, the sweet birdsong of spring and early summer has been replaced by the raucous cawing of crows.

I don’t like it.

Go ahead and tell me how much you love autumn. Try to convince me with the promise of community chicken stews and church Brunswick stews. Tempt me with the lure of vivid blue skies free of summer’s haze and a morning nip to the air. I’ll even agree that I love the fall foliage, football and hot spiced cider.

But I always miss summer once its swan song is sung.

i-miss-summer

Perhaps it’s that touch of claustrophobia that sometimes threatens me. It makes my toes cringe to think of surrendering their flip-flop freedom to the confined spaces of boots and tennis shoes. My skin does not want to give up the bareness of shorts and sleeveless shirts for the smothering enclosure of thick jeans and heavy sweaters.

I guess I just don’t like to be confined in any way—not even in my house. Due to my career as a writer, I’m already chained indoors to my computer too much. At least in late spring and summer, I can occasionally retire to the lawn chair on my deck, the trees providing me with shade as summer’s breeze brings relief on all but the hottest d
ays.

Although autumn in the South still provides enough nice weather for outdoor activities, the barefoot early mornings on my deck will soon be a memory. The late nights of lying on the trampoline to stargaze with my little boy will be relegated to the old paths as autumn’s chill gradually sneaks in. I start to see myself searching for a coat to wear even to the mailbox, my warm breath making “smoke” in the frosty air.summer-over-charlie-brown

I suppose one facet of why I hate to say goodbye to summer is that I know autumn is just a brief fling with cooler but still-comfortable weather before the harsh winter cold sets in. It’s hard to enjoy the good magazines in the dental waiting room when you know you’ll soon be called to the back for your root canal. What awaits us often mars the joy of what currently surrounds us.

“But the autumn leaves are so pretty!” you say to me, thinking this will convince me to welcome fall with open arms. Why, yes. Yes, they are. But they last all of two weeks before they litter the ground with what will become winter’s compost pile—their vibrant reds, oranges, yellows subdued into one monotonous brown to be trampled underfoot.

red-leaf-in-fall

Then we stare at bare trees for months….and months….and months.

Spare me your speeches and “Lion King” songs about the circle of life. I learned that in Mrs. Mildred Cromer’s first-grade classroom. I get it—I really do….not that there’s anything I could do about it if I didn’t. The cyclic seasons are as muchme-in-snow a part of this life as the gravity that possibly sent an apple hurtling down to Sir Isaac Newton’s head.

I accept that, and I honor my Creator’s marvelous plan. And contrary
to what you may think after reading this column thus far, I DO appreciate the beauty of every season and am thankful for it. My Facebook friends especially know how I love snow; when they are tiring of it, I am hoping for yet another snowstorm.

I realize that sometimes things must change for us to appreciate what we had/have. Even I would tire of a constant spring or an endless summer. “Variety is the spice of life,” they say. Well, THEY are certainly correct.

So I roll with the punches of the ever-fluid calendar and know that I will more richly revel in the resurrection of nature in the spring BECAUSE I have been through the barren winter. I will savor summer’s warmth in June BECAUSE I remember the frigid cold of January. Bare feet in newly-plowed garden soil, green shoots springing up from the ground, new leaves unfurling on hitherto bare branches—these pleasures are more poignant because of their long absence.

summer-where-did-it-goBut for now, please humor me in my lament for the passage of summer. As long as the calendar says August, I can still imagine that I’ll finally make it up to Hanging Rock to swim, that I’ll take that tubing trip down the Dan River, that I’ll head to the beach once more to sunbathe. But as soon as I turn the page to September, I sense the finality of those unmet goals. Summer’s slow, lazy pace lulled me through June, July and August, fooling me into thinking I’d have time to relax and do summertime things once my busy schedule calmed down.

I fell for it again. And now it’s time to get out the school supplies and put away the bathing suit that I didn’t swim in a single time this summer. Let me revamp Jimmy Buffett’s song and say, “It’s my own dang fault.”

I’m making the transition from Seals and Crofts to Sinatra—from “summer breeze makes me feel fine” to “my fickle friend, the summer wind.” Summer, you have less than three weeks left, so I bid you adieu and hope to see you next June 21. I will console myself with hot chocolate, steaming chicken stew and warm hoodies, but remember, you still have my heart.

summer-ending

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