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Dear Neighbor-
    Last week I had a delightful eight hour conversation with a 77 year old woman. We were seat mates at a wrestling tournament that lasted forever. Her husband sat next to her quietly watching the matches so she gaily chatted and told me several stories. After an hour or two she apologized, "I'm sorry I've been talking so much. My husband says I talk too much." I told her I thought she was a wonderful conversationalist and that I appreciated her thoughts very much. She said, "Well, he's kind of quiet and sometimes he doesn't talk much." I laughed and told her my story:

    I have a little radio that constantly plays in my head. Usually one station comes in clear, but at other times two or three stations compete for the brainwaves and interfere with each other. The ideas, conversations, and opinions present a constant line-up of programming. The volume is stuck; it isn't drive-me-crazy loud, but it isn't background quality either. I assumed everyone has a little radio playing in their head.
    Once I asked Calvin what he was thinking (or in other words what his radio was playing). He simply said, "Nothing." Since we were only dating at the time I figured he was private and I was too forward. But after we were married and not near so private, I asked him again. Again he said, "Nothing." I told him that couldn't be and asked again. His answer was, "Really. Nothing." I explained to him that the brain has to be thinking of something. It's never blank, it's always thinking." Then I asked him again what he was thinking and he replied, "Well . . . I guess I'm thinking about driving and the road if my brain has to be thinking of something."
    That didn't make sense. My head radio NEVER thinks about just driving unless I'm in heavy traffic and even then other thoughts like, "I wonder where that woman is going?" and "He appears to think he is very important," still have time to play their tunes. But, peace loving soul that I am, I dropped it. For years, our silence was interrupted with, "What are you thinking?" "Nothing." (After a sideways glance from me) "I guess I was thinking about how good this pop tastes" or some other simple thought.
    Several years later when I was going on a walk, Ty (the son we were watching at the wrestling tournament) asked to join me. We began walking and visiting, but pretty soon it got quiet. I casually asked Ty what he was thinking. His answer? "Nothing."
    I couldn't believe it. I wondered when Calvin taught him to say that. I was fairly certain it wasn't a formal lesson, but I didn't think it was stamped in the genetic code either. Sure that my future daughter-in-law would someday thank me, I said, "Oh no. That's not possible, Ty. You see the brain is always thinking something. You might not recognize it as a thought, but it is always thinking. Let's try it again. What are you thinking?"
    "Mom, I'm really not thinking anything."
    Undaunted, I kept going, "Well, maybe you're thinking about the rocks on the road, or maybe you're wondering how long we'll walk, but you're thinking something and do you know what? It's really important you learn to tell people what you're thinking so that someday when your wife asks you what you're thinking you can make conversation with her so that she doesn't feel left out."
    He didn't argue so I assumed the lesson was taught successfully and filled the lull with conversation of my own. Occasionally, whenever we went on walks together I would ask him what he was thinking and each time he'd say, "Nothing really, but I know it's important I learn to make conversation with my wife, so I'll say something when I have a wife." I figured that would do until he had more finely tuned in to his radio.
    But the joke was on me. Last year I read a book by Dr. Laura. To prove her point that men can perfectly enjoy silence with no thoughts she quoted, John, one of her listeners:
    "I dated a woman for a few months, and whenever we drove anywhere, if there was a lull in the conversation, she would demand, 'What are you thinking?'
    'I'm not thinking anything, dear' was never good enough, and she would spend the rest of the date sulking and planning her retribution against male domination-or something or other.
    I told her that men aren't bright enough to drive and think at the same time, and that just added more fuel to the fire.
    We look at the birds, we look at the trees, we look far enough down the road to make sure someone doesn't plow through a red light and kill us all; but driving and plotting and manipulating at the same time takes far more hard drive than we were ever issued.
    If a man tells you he isn't thinking anything, he probably isn't. Can't see how that is so hard to understand."
(The Proper Care & Feeding of Husbands, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, pg. 94-95)

    When I finished the story, my new neighbor sighed, "Oh, thank you." She glanced at her husband and then whispered, "Sometimes I thought he didn't like me. I feel so much better knowing that he isn't thinking anything."

Tip of the Week

    Oh ho. This is funny. Looking for a tip of the week, I opened one of my favorite tip books (Tips from America's Best Innkeepers, by Gail Greco). Guess which page it opened to? Page 27:

    "Play a romantic game such as Enchanted Evening (World Wide Games). This romantic quiz provides a series of questions for you and your partner to answer, opening the door to loving communications. Set the mood by lighting scented candles and playing soft music. Prepare a small feast of your favorite wine, cheese, and chocolates. Men love this game as much as women do! -The Inn at 410"

    Do we dare trust it? If not, this tip was right across from it. You can try your hand at it:

    "Play strip poker, chess, or darts in front of the fire during winter. It can be fun!-The King's Cottage"

Recipe of the Week:

    This is a new recipe I tried last week and really liked. I didn't have pecans, so I substituted almonds and it was still good.

Pecan Pie Bars
3 cups flour
cup sugar
tsp salt
1 cup cold butter (no substitutes)

4 eggs
1 cups sugar
1 cups corn syrup
cup melted butter
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups chopped pecans

    In a large bowl, combine the flour, sugar and salt. Cut in butter until crumbly. Press onto the bottom and up the sides of two greased cookie sheets (15" x 10" x 1"). Bake at 350 degrees for 18-22 minutes until crust is lightly browned.
    For filling, combine the eggs, sugar, corn syrup, butter and vanilla in a large bowl; mix well. Stir in pecans. Pour over crust. Bake 25-30 minutes longer or until edges are firm and center is almost set. Cool on wire racks. Cut into bars.

Letters from the Trunk

Dear Rachel,

    The family canoed the Spokane River to Roosevelt Lake. We had two to a canoe-Calvin and I shared one. As we paddled along, Calvin said, "This is romantic." And it was, he romantically dreamed that he was Lewis or Clark and I was his load of furs; I romantically dreamed that I was in Venice, and he was rowing my gondola. It was great."
Love, Jane

Dear Jane,

    I am in a good mood today, therefore, the letter. You see Bert paid me a true compliment that he doesn't even realize he paid and that made it all the better. I can live for days on one little phrase of praise. It would be boasting to tell it to you, so I will just tuck it away in my little memory bank and only pull it out about a hundred times today. Not any more than that because we wouldn't want it to get lost.
Love, Rachel

Happy thinking till next Friday. Your neighbor-

P.S. Thanks for your support to the NJP forum. If you haven't checked it out, please do! Here are a few things neighbors have posted:

Jenny is looking for Cheap Date Ideas.
dpuhlman posted two great recipes.
spyle is looking for soup recipes that freeze well.
Rachel is looking for civil war costume ideas.

There are other ideas and thoughts posted. Your expertise, comments, and questions would be valuable! Please join the forum. We appreciate your thoughts and input.

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