Sunday, November 30, 2008

Bouncing Baby B

We had several visitors over the Thanksgiving weekend including this little one!

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

at the foot doc's

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

Roasting Pigs

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 insert
attached 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 of 
homing 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

the beginning

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

the ringing of the plate

"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

just yesterday

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

a coincidence of generosity

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

Bringer of Possibilities

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

Breathing Through Pain

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

Last Fruits

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

good will for all

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

seeing further

"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

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Monday, November 03, 2008

It's been ...

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!

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