Tuesday, December 30, 2008
All is quiet now--the last guests left this morning--but echoes of rich family times are ringing throughout the house and in my heart. The unexpected visit of so many family members was delightful. After cooking for 15, I'm looking at leftovers for a few meals.
My sister teases me that I get the laundry started before she even gets out the door. But she understands.
Not always a good idea though, I've had people come back--car breakdowns, or canceled flights ... and the linens not yet out of the dryer!
The highchair seems particularly silent.
Sunday, December 28, 2008
Here are some of my favorite blog photos over the past year or 18 months. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words! Click on for a better view. Cindy, whose blog I enjoy, suggested a year in review photo collage. What a fun idea. Check on her blog, My Romantic Home, for many more!
Happy New Year!
When these two little sisters visited their great-grandmother's house, they went straight for this dollie. They had a little supervised visit with her before she, the doll, needed a nap desperately. The doll was their great-great-grandmother's, and has been to the doll hospital once in her life. She has a new (35 years new?) set of clothes handmade by one of the girls' great aunties (not me).
Friday, December 26, 2008
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Seven, 4, 3, 2, 6 months, and 2 months. A half-dozen little girls all here at our house! Sometimes impromptu is the most fun, as we just found out our quiet Christmas will not be so quiet after all. More family members are joining us beginning Christmas evening. Our little granddaughter will already be here in town, but she will get to meet again, and for the first time, five little girl cousins, among other relatives. We will have some fun!
Photos: Some glimpses of our house this Christmas.
Monday, December 22, 2008
I told some friends who were over the other night that I was going to do a post about the ornaments at "the back of the tree." Some of the wise guys immediately got up and began to check out the ornaments on the back side of our tree, looking to see if I had put any that they'd given me back there--teasing me for sure. We don't have a tree that would grace the covers of any home or decorating magazines. Our ornaments, except for some generic "fillers" are important to us because they have history. The ones hung at the back may have the most history, and are very special, and ones I would never give up, but I don't necessarily want them centered in the front. There are rough plastic Santa boots and peeling antique ornaments from the Gardener's and his mother's childhood, the years when they had a tree. Or ones we handmade with clothespins the Christmas in Africa when the Gardener was so very ill. And some vintage crocheted ones I made in the 70s. We probably all have such ornaments.
But wait a minute. I just realized something. These back of the tree guys are really front and center, for our tree is at a window at the front of the house. They join the merry lights and shine out to anyone heading to our front door. So ... depending how you look at it ....
And the stories they could tell ...
Sunday, December 21, 2008
Part One: Just what is this feeling you get in December, like something good is going to happen? There is an anticipation in the air, and the twinkling lights on Christmas trees and front doors just add to the magical feeling. The bustle in the shops, the traffic, the smell of baking, the decorations at the mall--all herald something that's coming. Every year I think about this. And what is the actual apex or peak of the holiday experience? For me, Christmas Eve is the very best of it all while Christmas morning seems a bit paler, and by the time the presents are opened, there seems to be less sparkle to the tree lights.
Part Two: Often I pull back and look at it all through a different lens. The evergreen trees, the wreaths, the candy canes, the colors of red, green, white, and even blue ... are all rich in symbolism. When I look at everything while keeping that symbolism in mind, there is much more to the whole holiday thing. The Christ story is beloved and familiar, so amazing, and with that focus you see it everywhere.
It is the advent after all ... it's all readying and looking forward to His birth. Of course we feel the excitement; it's built in us. All the stuff that goes on--it's just a big celebration about the Christ Child's birth so long ago. I know it, but what amazes me is that the secular world is caught up in it too--and probably many of them are so centered in tinsel that they either don't realize what they are celebrating, or they simply forget the true focus. If I regroup with the Advent front and center, then there is no pondering any more. Anticipation, yes, and, wonder of wonders, the whole deal, all for puny me and you..
Friday, December 19, 2008
Seems that pain shows its face at Christmas time. There are for many what we could call the awkward "family complications." And then, also, the memories of those gone before us rise right up into our faces and pull at our hearts. I think of my mom and the many family members and friends who have moved on ahead of her, and how lonely it must feel even as she focuses on a new generation of children. There have been colleagues and friends who have gone on to Glory this year--relatively young husbands snatched away by cancer, young mothers whose children still needed them, grandfathers and grandmothers who had grandchildren to love, a co-worker who added shine to my publication, and, a wee babe whose life God tenderly planned to last only a week on this earth. Such sadness sears our souls, but is tempered by the wonderful hope of seeing loved ones alongside our Savior some day, and a deep and abiding awe and joy when we are able to wipe our tears and see God's design in it all.
Wednesday, December 17, 2008
We aren't really "doing" Christmas presents this year, except for the "little ones." (It's incredibly freeing, and we are giving, instead, money to some needy families and also to a container going to Haiti.) And I'm not baking many cookies either. Rather than running to stores (though the half-off sales are very enticing) I find myself dropping by thrift shops. There is such charm there. They are usually crowded with people, obviously affected by hard times, looking for just the right things to clothe their families, to decorate their homes, or to place under their trees.
Maybe finding a treasure there endears the places to me as well. At the back of a shelf at GW I found something I have always wanted. I already have enough teapots to serve tea to a roomful of people, so I didn't need another. But this teapot shouted my name. I brought it home. And it's moved up front and center to my favorite every day teapot. To justify the 2.99 purchase, I mentally noted I may give it away someday. But for now, I love the shape and the fact that it's in my favorite house color.
Monday, December 15, 2008
Sunday afternoon, after the lunch with visiting Little One and her parents, and after a nap, my mom and I lit the Christmas lights and settled into the couch with blankets to watch L*ttle Women. We were waiting to go to a Christmas concert in the evening.
I hadn't watched the (at least) ten-year old movie version in awhile. Funny how a beloved, familiar tale can be just so cozy to enter into again, no matter how well you know the story. I read the book many times as a child and fancied myself Jo March. Similar personalities, the desire to write, a bit of a tomboy, and a love of old attics, I guess. In 6th grade, our tight-knit group of the ten girls in our class decided while huddled together against the Chicago chill one day at recess, to take names of boys. Well I guess it was names that could be either for a boy or a girl. Who knows why we came up with this idea, but I was "Jo," and my name stuck throughout the year and even into junior high. My mother and I enjoyed the movie so much, and I think we made a memory I will long cherish. I count her among the blessings in my life.
Sunday, December 14, 2008
A fear of mine has come to pass: "What if I repeat a blog?"
After my recent post on soup (and yes, that tells you what happened: it was my latest on several blogs about my love of soup), a couple of younger readers with sharp, alert minds asked me, "Didn't you do that post on soup before?"
I do remember one or two on the subject, but, now very curious, I went back to the archives and did a little reading. To my chagrin I found an almost identical post. Well, beloved readers, I guess we all know for sure how much I love soup. I'll try to move away from the subject, now that you know.
Photo: Yummy taco soup at Barbarino's house. I'm not the only one who has this love of soup.
Saturday, December 13, 2008
Note to self: If your shoes are going to be featured so near Miss Adorable, try some polish next time. And maybe not your oldest pair of pants, as cozy as they may feel. The shoes are my very most favorite, comfortable old shoes. I've replaced them with a better pair, but I just can't let go of these-- for they are as "comfortable as an old shoe." But I could try a little more polish, though it truly doesn't do too much for them, they are so tired.
But that's an aside. The main thing is this photo of Little One. She sat quite nicely there between my feet, as she learns to sit up. I think this little girl and I are going to have lots of fun together in the coming years!
Photo by clc.
Thursday, December 11, 2008
I should add that today is what I call a "soup day" and not because of what's on the stove, but because of the weather. December should know better. Beautiful Christmas tree lights peek out of steamed up, rain-soaked windows. It's so warm and humid I don't care for a jacket or a sweater. We've had torrential rains, some thunder, and tornado watches. I call it a big pot of soup outside, and look forward to winter returning soon, I hope!
It's no secret that soup is my favorite food. There is such variety and potential in it, and it's so forgiving. A pot of soup accepts just about anything thrown into it. When I start to make soup I always check the frig just to see what in there might want to join in. Great use of leftovers.
Sometimes I start with a store-bought soup. Then the fun begins. The other day I bought a broccoli and cheese soup (a dry mix). After cooking the suggested 10 minutes I added chopped up potatoes, some left over bacon (turkey bacon in this house), a can of chopped chicken, a can of white corn, some white pepper, and a touch of wine. With a salad on the side, it became a hearty meal. Trouble is, I can never make the same exact soup twice. If it's a winner, I should really write down what all I did.
Making soup, to me, is art. Just as a painter pulls together different colors off his palate of paints, so I pull together different ingredients and spices, blending until it tastes just right.
All the liquid in the soup makes soup a sort of diet food ... sort of ...
(The photo above is of a different soup.)
Tuesday, December 09, 2008
All the members of our family, living here or not, have their own personal attics in this house. How cool is that! Our cape cod has lots of storage tucked under the eaves. We have a common attic and our "individual" ones. A couple of weeks ago I did a major cleaning of one of the rooms in our house, arranged so that the little door to the Gardener's attic had all but been occluded. I freed up the door and crawled in to have a look (Did I mention the downer to this expanse of storage? The doors require one to crawl into the attics and all but one have no source of light).
Back to the Gardener's attic. During my look-around, I discovered an old mirror--an antique I imagined, that we must have bought at some antique shop or garage sale, and put there until we decided where to hang it. Apparently we had forgotten about it. I loved it and wondered why I didn't have a clearer memory of purchasing it. I pulled it out, dusted it off, and brought it downstairs, looking around for the perfect spot to hang it. Did I mention how much I loved it? And what a find it must have been. It's hard to believe I hid it away in the attic.
It was heavy so I knew I could not hang this one myself. The Gardener was invited into the conversation and we determined the right spot. I tried to exercise patience, wondering just when he would find the time to hang it.
Imagine my surprise to come home one day and find it hanging in all its glory. The Gardener, thinking to surprise me by getting it hung, now looked a bit chagrin, fearing he had hung it too high. I was gracious. "It's level with that picture, and furthermore, YOU can see yourself in it! No problem." (About time that this gentle giant had a mirror he could see into without stooping.)
After I admired it for a few days, one day Eldest Son was hanging out in the den for a full five minutes. "By the way, what's my mirror doing hanging on your wall?"
"Yours? I thought it was an old mirror I bought a long time ago."
"Sorry, Mom, I put that in the attic when I moved out of that apartment. It's no antique, I bought it at (-- oh no--do you hear a bubble bursting?---) I bought it at ... Walm*rt."
No wonder my memory was dim. There was nothing to remember. I think he may let me keep it.
Monday, December 08, 2008
Saturday, December 06, 2008
Kind of a big birthday for the Gardener this year, so we celebrated all week long. Rather than a party (he'd rather not, he said), I mentioned to some of his favorite friends that this birthday was occurring and they cooperated with wonderful cards, jokes, cartoons, and emails. One even took us out for dinner the other night. We had a special meal with the family (the pounded chicken marsala) with cake and trimmings at the beginning of the week and ended with a Christmas home tour and lunch with some pretty special friends. Quite a week! Oh yes, and his big request was a college basketball game, and that happens next week, taking up one of those "prime Christmas weekend potential party nights." Wow, he really is being celebrated.
One friend sent us a quote which I thought was kinda cool: "On our birthdays we celebrate being alive. People can say to us, 'Thank you for being!' Birthday presents are signs of our families' and friends' joy that we are part of their lives ... Birthdays ... remind us that what is important is ... that we are, here and now. On birthdays let us be grateful for the gift of life." (Henri J.M. Nowen in Bread for the Journey.)
Thursday, December 04, 2008
Little One was sitting on my lap during part of Thanksgiving Dinner. I noticed that she, a very observant child, was really into watching us eat our meal. Her eyes would follow our hands to our mouths and then look at what was on our plates. I picked up a spoon--maybe it was the silvery shine that attracted Little One, but she started to reach for it. Since she has already started a little cereal, I thought an ever so tiny taste of mashed potatoes would be OK to try. (A tale in our family is how our grandfather used to "feed the babies watermelon and the mothers would screech.")
Did she ever go for those potatoes! And lurched forward for more, opening her little mouth like a bird and swooping towards the spoon as I put on another teeny, tiny bit. No yucky, "what is this" look on her face. Pure delight. Big girl stuff. So she got a little more. Maybe it was all in the delivery––the shiny spoon was attracting, as was the cool steel against her teething gums. Or maybe it was the garlic! Anyway, it was definitely one of my favorite things about our Thanksgiving day!
Photo: Little One in her great-grandmother's arms.
Tuesday, December 02, 2008
My mother has a wonderful treasure in her closet. My grandmother apparently had saved many of the postcards she received from friends, and then a lot from her then fiancee, my grandfather. Mom put them all into an album and they are fun to look through. The other night my aunt, Mom's sister, was visiting and we had fun reading some of these 100 year-old postcards. My grandfather's were mostly sent from his stations during World War I. He certainly kept in touch well, and had short, but very sweet things to say to his young lady. I wonder if he knew we would be reading them some day?
My grandpa and his "wheels." In my mind, this is probably how he went calling on his sweetheart. His horse was named Beauty. The "wheels" I remember is his caddy that had windows that would go up and down with a little button. Very fun to play with, but of course we were only allowed one time up and one time down. :-)
Sunday, November 30, 2008
Friday, November 28, 2008
Some of you have read Corrie ten Boom's book The Hiding Place. If you haven't its worth a read once, if not twice. When Corrie and her sister, Betsey, were in a Nazi concentration camp (Ravensbruck), the conditions were dreadful, of course. Not only were they cold, hungry, dirty, and in way too overcrowded conditions, they were also infested by fleas. They had managed to snuggle in a Bible, and as they read it, they realized that they should be thankful for all things. When Betsey decided that meant to thank God for the fleas, Corrie had a problem with that.
Eventually she gave in and joined her sister in thanking God for this miserable part of their lives. But it was amazing to see what God had planned about the fleas. Apparently the guards didn't like fleas either. So they stayed away from the barracks the women were in. That meant a lot more freedom for the women---freedom from assault, and freedom to cluster together to study the Bible and to pray. Yes, in the heart of a Nazi concentration camp.
idea for post taken from this guy .
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
The day started in the wee hours as the Gardener had a 6 am medical procedure. Seemed the rest of the day filled up quickly, and late afternoon found us at the foot doctor's for another small procedure. I was rather tired, and wanting just to read my book. But I was very aware of my surroundings. I had never been to a foot doctor waiting room before and was amazed at the variety of people that had something going on with their feet. I made particular note of each one's feet as he or she walked out of the office.
A 70-something woman wheeled in her husband. He immediately lost himself in his news magazine while she registered at the window. She looked exhausted. I was thinking of her small size and how in the world she managed to care for him. A mother and sister brought in their son/brother, a 40 or so year old man with c*rebral palsy. My, they had him in line. Turns out the mother, also in her 70s, had had recent knee surgery.
But then the most amazing thing occurred. The door opened and it was as if a light filled the room. A beautiful woman in her 50s, well dressed with gorgeous shortly cropped silver hair, sailed into the room. She went right up to the office window and greeted everyone. Obviously she was a regular patient. She asked everyone intentionally about their Thanksgiving plans, and wished them all a happy holiday. I noticed she was wearing a long skirt with nice white sneakers. I looked again and noticed that she had a light limp. And then I looked again and realized she had a brace on one leg for support, and on the other---no leg at all, but an artificial, mechanical leg.
She finally sat down and started talking with the waiting mother-with-the-new-knees in conversation (remember, I had my nose in a book, but obviously wasn't terribly focused on my book.) She ask all about her Thanksgiving plans, down to the details of the menu and who would cook what. What an art she had in engaging others in conversation! Then the mother turned the conversation and asked the silver haired lady questions. "I can't help but notice you have only one leg, yet you are so happy. By watching you today, and how beautiful you are inside and out, I realize my problems are small, and how I need to count my blessings."
The silver haired lady replied in such a gracious manner, "Oh, I can handle this, because I am alive! I have had severe di*betes for years and needed a kidney replacement as dialysis did not work. Oh April Fool's Day some years ago I got a call at 2 am saying they had a kidney and a pancreas for me. My body accepted the transplant beautifully and all was well until I got a blood clot in my foot. They had to amputate my leg (di*betics have poor circulation in their feet, causing many problems, and potential for amputations). But I could so easily have died. Losing a leg is nothing. And it is all the Lord. He got me through it, and HE gives me joy each day."
This woman positively glowed. I felt like I was in the presence of the Lord. It was an experience I will probably never forget. At this Thanksgiving, though I may fret over some challenges in life, there is SO much to be thankful for. And I am. Happy Thanksgiving.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Boniface was contemplating our next book club. Soon after she read The Guernsey Literary and Sweet Potato Peel Pie Society, she came across a book in the trunk of a friend's car that was written by Charles Lamb, an author who is a major player in the Guernsey book. It happened to be the very book where Charles Lamb discusses how to roast a pig--in his handwriting, on a fold-out insertattached to the book! She concluded this was the book we should read, and we all agreed.
When we met for our book club at Boniface's house on a cold November night, we were warmed by friendship and had many favorite quotes to share. About Charles Lamb: "He could make any homely and familiar thing into something fresh and beautiful." Another: " ... it is families in sitting rooms or kitchens that thrill me. I can imagine their entire lives from a glimpse of bookshelves, or desks, or lit candles, or bright, soft cushions."
The book is a series of letters between a writer in England, and members of a book club (or "literary society") formed on the island of Guernsey during the German occupation in World War II. It all began through a common love of the author Charles Lamb. The Guernsey folks disobeyed the Germans' rules and roasted a pig, thinking of this very book by Charles Lamb. When they were discovered, they instantly formed a book club to cover their tracks, and had to scurry around collecting a semblance of books. "I wonder how the books got to Guernsey? Perhaps there is some sort ofhoming instinct in books that brings them to their perfect readers. How delightful if that were true." The makeshift book club transformed into a thing of beauty: people with little in common besides hard times, who grew to love and care for each other like family.
We in our little book club took time to pray together that night--for a wee baby we all know about who was going to his heavenly Father soon, and for Boniface, our dear friend and leader, on the cusp of orthopedic surgery. Another evening to remember.
Note: our long-distance member, or she seems like one, is also reading or waiting to read our "Potato Peel" book!
Saturday, November 22, 2008
This holiday season is catching up to us quickly. Suddenly Christmas is five weeks away and Thanksgiving is around the corner. I went to our local WM this morning stupidly thinking an early start would beat the crowds. Ha! First of all I felt a little of the grace of God in every day life as I actually got a shopping cart that had all four wheels working, and weren't squeaking so loudly that everyone knew I was coming around a corner, and didn't lean to one side or the other. So far so good.
But oh my the food aisles! Everyone seemed to have a very long list in their hand, and to hear some discussions, no one in the house had cooked for a long time. One family arrived about the time I did--a father, mother, and two not-so-big kids, but able to see over a shopping cart. Each family member took a cart, and I seemed to continually be on the same aisle as they were, so that was four shopping carts to move around since they would plant in front of the canned fruit, or the marshmallows, or something else interesting.
The canned vegetable aisle (and I never did find my jars of tiny, sweet onions) was loaded with a large group, each person with a shopping cart and identical 8 x 11 list. Men, women, children--obviously a group effort. I wondered if they were cooking for a homeless shelter or something like that.
Turkey, celery, and stuffing in hand, it was very good to be home, though finding room for all the extra stuff in my cupboards took more time than I'd like. Earlier this morning, the Gardener kindly helped me bring out the Christmas tree (yes, gone are the days of searching for just the right one each year), and I'm thankful that 104.7 is already 24/7 Christmas music. The--what I call-- definitive cold outside (18 last night) is welcome for this northerner, and helps to bring in the "holiday" spirit. It's nice to get some things done at home after a busy week. Next I'm going to try to clean some carpets for the first time on my own, with a do-it-yourself loaned from Susanna. Later I will write about the latest book club.
Thursday, November 20, 2008
"I'll be listening for the sound of the ringing of the plate," the old man would tell me in his husky voice, as I discussed dinner plans with him before going down to the kitchen to prepare the meal.
We lived with "Mr. A" in his mansion on the shore of Lake Michigan, north of Chicago, for three years during graduate study. The very popular British series, Upstairs Downstairs, was still being shown on television at the time, and we felt we were living the part as we stayed in the servants' quarters off the large kitchen. I was chief nurse, cook, and Housekeeper in the historical sense (that is, I had someone clean for me and care for Mr. A--I just organized it all and cooked his main meal.)
Mr. A lived in his upstairs room, bedridden with Parkinson's in his later days. He was set in his ways--just a bit--and there were certain menus he required me to cook. One of these became my favorite: Veal a la Marsala, (mentioned as cooked with chicken in the post below). Baked Tongue, brains, kidneys, or stomach never become favorites!
My predecessor taught me how to prepare the veal for this dish. I used lots of flour and had to pound the veal with the edge of the beautiful old Sp*de plate (proof of age being the old stamp on the back), until it was paper thin. You definitely could hear the "ringing of the plate" throughout the house. This was quite a process, and somewhat exhausting, leaving me a floured mess. But the rewards of the mouthwatering veal, seared in wine (brought up from the real wine cellar in the basement), broth, and red pepper with mushrooms was "to die for."
No longer living in the "Big House," I now use a more economical meat to make this dish, also Eldest Son's favorite meal. And although I've tried manufactured meat pounders, none does the paper-thin job quite like the wavy edge of this little sp*de saucer (photo above). The Gardener usually comes by and says, "Ah, the ringing of the plate ... like music to my ears."
I ended up with two of these saucers after Mr. A died and his house was sold. What a thrill when his daughter-in-law, who had inherited his full set of Sp*de, sent me two cups to go with the saucers. Can you imagine the memories that flow when I sip tea out of this very old cup?
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Today my mother is 87. You wouldn't know it to see her. She is avidly interested in life, and especially now that many of her friends have left this earth, she finds her greatest joy in keeping up with her grandchildren and five great-grandchildren.
For most of my life, I did not think my mother could survive without my father. They had a classic marriage. She was his queen, and my mother loved to care for my dad. How could they ever make it apart? God gently prepared them, when Daddy had to move into a care center just down the hall and around the corner from my mother's little apartment. Gradually she became more independent and learned to do the money stuff. It was one of those long good-byes.
And l I learned just how strong my mother is when my father did go to heaven three years ago. My mother has done what she has to do, and God has given her much grace. She misses dad terribly, but has peace written on her countenance.
Since family members are scarce in our fair city these days, we'll just take Mom out to her favorite restaurant tonight (not a fancy one, mind you, she was a preacher's wife and I never knew my parents to spend much money on themselves.)
Happy Birthday, mom! I love you!
Photo: not mine of course: Mom at 20, with dad at the Jersey shore the summer before they married. I'm sure she thinks of this time as "just yesterday."
Saturday, November 15, 2008
The day started out warm and humid with rain and threatening clouds. By the time we were on the train headed uptown the clouds had changed to bright sun. But then, as if a gift withdrawn, the wind and dark clouds furled again across the skies ... only to be replaced once more by sunshine, this time bringing cooler temperatures. Friends were taking us out to dine on a gift card they had received. So generous of them--they could have used the card three times themselves rather than sharing it with friends.
The meal was lovely, and my entree--a favorite Chicken Marsala--was perfect. I boxed up the remains, thinking about the mouth-watering second meal it would make. And now my story splits.
Story One: Walking on the train platform, we were approached by our second panhandler of the day. A quarter for some fast food? That wouldn't buy anything. My box of food suddenly felt very heavy in my hands. Maybe I should give it to him. But I didn't, sitting it down on the bench next to me as we waited for our train. Once we hopped off the train back at our car, I suddenly realized the box wasn't with me. I had left it on the bench. Serves me right, I thought to myself. Quick lesson here ... and I breathed a silent prayer that panhandler friend would circle back and find the delicious meal and enjoy it for me, as he should have--if I'd been giving.
Story Two: Generous gift card friends headed home, stopping on the way to try and find a pecan pie for a church Thanksgiving dinner the next day. No pies to be found. Then they passed a fruit stand with a "Pecan Pie Sale" sign. Alas, it had just closed. Cash register sales tallied, all in process of being locked up for the day.
They made an attempt anyway, but the answer was "no," even if cash was offered. Walking back to the car, our friend noticed that the pie seller was walking after her beckoning her to come back. "Here," she said,"Take a pie. No charge. Enjoy. They are to die for. You will love it."
Thursday, November 13, 2008
I loved it when our postman had squeaky brakes. I am usually in tune with the regular sounds in our house and around the neighborhood, but when those brakes squeaked loudly as he stopped at each mail box approaching our house, there was no doubt it was time to get the mail.
The summer I turned 16 we moved from the town I'd always lived in. That's when I began to love getting mail as I'd look for letters from the friends I'd grown up with. Since then I've moved many times, and keep up with a good number of friends I've "collected" over the years. Now, of course, many more "letters" come via email, but I still love the wonder of anticipation as I walk down to the mailbox.
"On days when I don't drive to the P.O. I'm glad to hear the tires of Mr. Dill's gray station wagon slow down as he approaches our box, then the crunch of gravel, the sound of the box opening and closing. Bruce is the bringer of possibilities--he bringeth and he taketh. He's quite calm about it, but we stop mid-sentence whenever he arrives. We might be working or catnapping, talking on the phone or having lunch, but one of us bolts to the box." (from Jan Kenyon's A Hundred White Daffodils)
I have a friend in town I correspond with on occasion. Usually notes of encouragement. She always sends me wonderful quotes (such as above) on a creative card, with an envelope usually made out of some page of a magazine she knows I would love to see. We share an appreciation for the written word sent through the post. A simple, rather innovative (these days) way of keeping in touch.
Yesterday The Gardener and I got some real mail: a letter telling about a mission trip, newsletters, bills, and three notes of encouragement. One from my boss, one from a woman in our church thanking The Gardener for his work as an elder, and one from my correspondence friend (see her creativity above). In thinking about all this, I'm challenging myself to hand-write one note of encouragement each week. It's a simple thing, yet powerful. It's amazing what a little missive like that can do in someone's life.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
It is good to have breaks from the intensity of sorrow. I don't think we can breathe unless we do. The grief can become suffocating so that we gasp for a deep cleansing breath, but its as if the pain of a broken rib holds us from inhaling deeply. We need mental breaks to survive.
They come. Minor distractions. Changing the subject, so to speak. Going for a walk, shopping, involving oneself in anything to forget for a few minutes. That's all that's needed. Then when we dig back into the grief again, it's ever so a tiny bit better. A little more bearable.
And so it goes--the pain goes, that is--very little by very little. It dulls one small bite at a time. Those little breaks of rest from our grief--that must be part of the grand scheme of coping and healing. I wonder Who designed that.
photo by lulu
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Here in the south you often get a second crop of tomatoes. By topping leggy plants and sticking the topped tops in the dirt, the roots grow and in time, a fall crop of tomatoes arrives. Since a frost is rumored, I went and harvested what was looking red on the vines, with even more showing a promise of ripening if the weather behaves. Thank you, Gentle Gardener, for your labors!
Friday, November 07, 2008
I saw a huge billboard yesterday "GOOD WILL ... Do not forget to give." Or something like that. I've read that giving to Good Will has dropped dramatically during these tough economic times, while at the same time, people are shopping there like never before. The other day I went to our local Good Will and had to wait to find a parking spot.
All that is happening right now in our country ... and around the world ... might be causing a hunkering down, staying around the house ... did I hear, "Mending socks?" It would be a welcome change, maybe helping us focus on the really important things in life, not the externals, or "keeping up with the Joneses (whoever they are.)
When I was young I made everything I could ... our bread, granola, cookies ... cooked from scratch, gave home made gifts and cards ... it took a lot of energy, which I surely had back then. One of my favorite reads was The Tightwad Gazette. I was surprised to notice a new book about the subject of thrift the other day, which I gather discusses pros and cons (for if we are too thrifty, bottom line, people lose jobs), but not necessarily ideas for how to be thrifty. You can see a nod to this book in World Magazine's current issue.
It's good to always keep on our toes about how we live ... I don't want any complacency or living a particular way just because it's how it's always been. I desire to be constantly evaluating and discerning about how best to live in this ever-changing world (a good topic to discuss with your children if you have them).
And for me, having been recently gifted with some new, gently used clothes, I'm taking another look in my closet and around the house to see what I can drop by Good Will later today. A small way to make a difference in the lives of others.
G.E. photo: a very young friend showing off my home-made gift.
Wednesday, November 05, 2008
"God is too wise not to know all about us, and what is really best for us to be, and to have. And He is too good, not to desire our highest good; and too powerful, desiring, not to effect it. If then, what He has appointed for us does not seem to us the best, or even to be good, our true course is to remember that He sees further than we do, and that we shall understand Him in time, when His plans have unfolded themselves, meanwhile casting all our care upon Him since He cares for us." ~~H.P. Liddon
Monday, November 03, 2008
A new mom I know recently got a humorous "congratulations new baby" card with her baby gift that said why women over 50 don't have babies. Number one reason: they may forget where they left their babies. Or, forget to feed them, etc., etc.
So therefore it was totally intriguing to see this new gizmo for moms (in the "what will they think of next?" department). At first I thought it was a cell phone, or mini walkie talkie. No, it is an "Itzbeen." It tells you (look for yourself) when the baby was last changed, last fed, when the last nap was taken, and an extra slot for whatever else you may want to remember. (Since hormones do affect new moms' memories, maybe the inventor has something here.) It also tells the time, is a flashlight, lights up the screen for nighttime viewing, and tells you which side you need to start breastfeeding on next time.
OK, I guess that takes care of most things. Now if it could tell you where you left your baby, I think we over 50 moms could start all over again!
Friday, October 31, 2008
It has come to my attention that I am addicted to my camera. I've always loved taking photos and looking at pictures (you know, a "picture is worth a thousand words," etc.), but now with a digital camera, there is a whole new world of freedom and the ability to work on my photography skills, amateur-ish as they are.
The Gardener and I have been on a study retreat at the chilly beach the past few days, and I forgot to bring my camera. In a sense, it is a relief, as I tend to take too many photos (why not, I can always toss them I say) and sometimes I think I miss some of life by trying to "capture" it.
But I realize here, more than ever, that I do look at life as art, in a sense. I view things with a frame around them, and think of what a good picture that would make, and all could be done to alter or improve what is inside the frame in my photo-shop computer program. Also, as a blogger, I confess that I sometimes look at things happening as "bloggable." The Gardener loves to say, "Oh no! I feel a blog coming!"
I guess there could be worse addictions. At least this costs nothing, helps to record history, and brings me and a few others some enjoyment.
I thought it would be better if I left this post without a photo, but that has become hard to do. Since I have no image of here at the beach, I decided to post what we will be coming home to later today. Color!
Thursday, October 30, 2008
Clothes and more clothes! Shoes, toys, an occasional book ... can it be Christmas? It seems so. When seasons change, my dining room becomes a distribution center for a few days.
I have a dear friend who generously gives her kids' clothes (and some of her own) away as the prepares for a new season. She gives them to me to organize and distribute. Some go to my nieces, and some go to other kids I know. I wear some of the clothes, and others go to other friends, to a mission resale shop, or a local charity shop. I love that she gives me the privilege of sorting through and figuring out just who to bless with these garments ... most of them only gently worn and of wonderful quality. It gives me the thrill (yes, thrill) of giving, even though it's her things.
Cristiana and I worked together for many years at the hospital. Even though she is more than a decade younger than me, we have always hit it off well and share a lot of the same ideas and beliefs. She is beautiful inside and out, and not only are her looks striking with her long, dark, curly hair, but her generosity is striking as well. She has the gift of giving.