Friday, January 30, 2009

on a cold and frosty morning ...

The Gardener decided to walk to the store.  On one of the coldest days of the year (here). He bundled well but I wondered about his ears. He reminded me this would be considered mild during a Chicago winter. We lived through quite a few of those. I remember well the two weeks it never rose above 25 below. But today I decided to walk inside at the gym of a local church where we "work out." 

The parking lot was full but quiet when I arrived. Sports.  Mini (I call it) basketball and cheerleading on a Saturday morning. Walking the upper track around the busy gym, I had plenty of time to observe all the goings on. I could not help but feel sorry for these little kids--maybe 4 to 6 years old at the most. Dragged from their warm beds at an early hour on the only day they could have a morning at home ... just to fiddle around on a basketball court, "keeping up with the Joneses" I suppose. It's a mystery to me. I suppose if they wait til they're age seven to start, alas, they may be a bit behind. Entire families were there to watch--grandparents, siblings--all wishing, I'm guessing, that they could be somewhere else. If I could only impart to these young parents that, in the long run, sports at four and five doesn't make any difference in your kid getting into college.

But what really sort of saddened me was the fully decked-out cheerleaders. From outfits, to pom-poms, to megaphones, to perky pigtails in big bows, and hands on hips. Barely five years old. (No wonder kids are bored in high school.) At least these little ones were fairly conservative in their routines. At some recent college games we've seen half-time "entertainment" where the mini dancers wear make up and swing their hips so hard I fear for the future of those hips (read: arthritis, early onset). 

It is a shame little kids don't get much down time these days--time just to be kids. I remember the huge temptation to busy our kids with many activities. But that's enough on that. The Gardener enjoyed his walk to the shops and returned with his ears intact.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

just in

A good friend in town loves to write letters. Receiving one is a gift. What would we have to write, you might ask, since we have blogs, email, and attend the same church and book club? She always has something gracious to say (and has a delightful habit of showing appreciation, in pen, for even the simplest thing), a quote to share, and a musing that is worth chewing on. Each one is worth reading more than once, and I save them all in a corner of my little office.  Her notes are charming both inside and out as the envelopes are often embellished with something to delight my fancy. Such as these blue and white dishes, decorating the envelope that arrived today. I have a tradition of brewing a cup of tea on the occurrence of such an arrival. Can you guess why?

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

nothing in my hand

"When I have nothing in my hand 
Wherewith to serve my King,
When thy commandment finds me weak
And wanting everything,
My soul, upon thy greatness cast,
Shall rise divinely free;
Then will I serve with what Thou hast,
And gird myself with Thee."
                             -Anna Waring

It's amazing the ways God chooses to speak to us. I have an old devotional book I read (Joy and Strength) that often has a nugget that pops out and knocks on my mind and heart. This little poem, for today's date, I have marked with the words, "Romania, 2000." I can visualize the day nine years ago as I sat reading this with the sun streaming in the window. I had to make a decision about leading a team of teenage girls to work in orphanages in Romania. I didn't feel like I had what I needed to handle such an assignment.  God used this simple poem to help me realize I needed to take my weaknesses and turn them into a larger trust in Him. And so I did, and so I went, and so it all worked out amazingly well. God helped me to have good friendships with the girls, to love the orphans (who could not?) and to safely get our little group from one country to another via a terrifying ride with a clueless driver ... but that's a story for another day. For sure, He gives us what we need for the tasks He asks us to do!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Chicken and the Sneeze that Didn't Happen

"Oh no! I'm gonna sneeze!" I was rushing across our living room floor with a pan nearly overflowing with hot chicken and red sauce. I chose this route as our dining room was filled with friends and this seemed the best path to the head of the table where The Gardener sat, ready to serve. Panic set in. A sneeze right now, no matter how controlled, would definitely spill at least some of the red sauce on our carpet, with a worst case scenario of everything splashed everywhere.  I, albeit a bit dramatically, let the guests know what was happening as they jumped up to prepare lots of room for the landing.

The sneeze never occurred; I guess I scared it away. The chicken dish landed fairly smoothly. "This could have been a post" someone commented. It has become a bit of a joke among friends who read my blog. We all are beginning to discern what might be something to blog about. It's not uncommon to hear, "I feel a blog coming!"

That's a small corner of culture that has developed into my life because of this thing called blogging.  I'm just thankful this particular post didn't develop any further than it did, and that our carpet did not end up needing to be cleaned. 

Photo: putting it all away

Monday, January 26, 2009

SLiver Moon Shuttle

We waited a very long time for the Long Term 2 shuttle to show up and take us to airport parking section X. There was a crowd waiting with us--probably because it was Sunday evening. Buses passed filled to the brim. Finally an empty one arrived and we piled on. The driver was wary of overloading and kept stopping folks from getting on before she needed to. As we pulled away from the curb she began a rant to a friend on the phone about how she felt liable for any people standing on her bus and therefore would not allow it. The irony was that she was driving one-handed while talking on the phone. Not all that safe either.

Her conversation continued--loudly. We learned she had spent $200 on her daughter's dental bill even without cavities.  She talked about going back to school bus driving. At this point everyone sitting on the bus was in stitches about "too much information." Following that we heard about discipline in schools today and particularly the trouble keeping kids in line on a bus. She seemed oblivious that her conversation was being broadcast over the loud speaker.

The moon was waned about all it could so the night was dark. Our bus driver was not particularly helpful at announcing the parking areas. People got confused, some buddied up to help each other out. In less than ten minutes a bond of sorts had formed with those of us on the bus--through the long wait, a mix-up of parking areas, and particularly the humor of the overhead phone conversation. A young, friendly bunch (and we were the only ones over 35) on a chilly southern night, just trying to get home. A nice moment in spite of frustration. 

Our car was at the end of the line. When we parked it had been pouring rain and we scurried to the bus, not paying a lot of attention to where we parked. So––a moonless night with a ton of neutral looking hondas––we wandered a bit. Our kind bus driver hovered, concerned for our safety. She finally came by and suggested trying the panic button.  Thankfully we had one, in this new-to-us car we were driving.  Amazing! There our car was, just on the other side of the bus, beeping loudly. Feeling very much our technically-challenged age, and thankful for her watching out for us, we silenced our car, jumped in, and headed to home-sweet-home. 

Note: I wrote this awhile ago and just found it quietly waiting to be posted. I hate to waste anything so ...

Not my photo.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Full Cap

Each morning I ask God to "ordain" my day. Bring into it what He wants and to use me, always. Today I took my mother to an early morning eye doc appointment.  As we entered our third hour there I began to get restless, thinking about all I had planned "to do" at home today. Cleaning and other projects (I, being a "Type A" always plan way too much, and thrive on "missions accomplished.") 

I caught myself. Wasn't this God's plan for the day? Am I not supposed to live the moment as it comes to me, not wishing it away for something I think might be better. I began to be thankful that I could be there, helping my mother. Just being. Nearly four hours after arriving (and a few tests later) we left and headed for the grocery store. After dropping mom off, unpacking her groceries, and checking on things there, I headed to the grocery store for myself. With my head and heart straight for a change, and feeling rather peaceful.

And I did get a full baby cap crocheted while I sat at the doctor's. "Type A" pleasure!

Photo: My sweet mom is with her three girls in the photo at the top of this photo. You can probably figure out which one I am.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

the past and the present

I wish I could have expressed this as well as Helen Thames Raley does:  "Deep are these roots, inescapable, restorative. I thought about how life had gone on, generation after generation. Perhaps the past is really never gone, but always a part of the present. Lingering here in the quietness, I gather up the people, the places, the little fragments of another time."   (thanks lulu)

Photo: My grandparents, aged 20,  with their first baby. See the water pump, the washing machine, and other evidence of living around them? How I would love to spend a day with my grandmother as a young mother!

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

all is bright

Stepping outside today with the full sun on shining snow is as bright as a day at the beach. Calling all sunglasses. Normally here in the south the snow usually melts by the end of the day so no digging out is needed.  This time our temperatures were low enough to keep some of the white stuff around. It's been a long time since I've seen so many icicles either. They are still glistening bright as they hang daintily like socks drying on a clothesline, just waiting for their chance to come crashing to the ground.

We used to grab those up and pretend they were ice pops (as well as eat snow) during my childhood Chicago winters.
Our December was so
warm here, the trees, 
 barely stripped of their fall leaves, have begun to bud. Craziness.

Because all is so glorious outside, I had to pull my laptop from my tiny windowless office and work here today.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

bread and milk ... and corn

Anyone who lives in the south knows what "bread and milk" means. Whenever snow is predicted, the stores are quickly emptied of bread and milk. Last night a newscaster actually explained why. If you get snowed in, you want lots of milk for cereal, soups, mashed potatoes, etc., and the bread for sandwiches and french toast. When the Gardener went out for some groceries yesterday, I reminded him to get a can of corn, for it's our tradition to have corn chowder on snow days. We've done that for years--a recipe I got from a friend in Minnesota. Not that we have many "snow days"--nor am I always home when we do have one, but we are having one today, and we both happen to be home and are settling in for a cozy day.  As we watch parts of the events today, across the bottom of the tv are all the closings in the area, including all the schools. The kids will have some fun today.

Here's the corn chowder.  Of course any alterations usually make it even better!

3-4 medium potatoes chopped fine 
3-4 carrots chopped fine
3 stalks celery chopped fine
salt and pepper to taste

Cook in small amount of water until tender


1 large can of corn
1 can of cream of chicken soup
1 cup of milk

Heat and serve.

Enhancers:  grated cheese, onions, a little white wine, bits of chicken, bacon pieces, ETC ! 

Monday, January 19, 2009

answering a call

Looking through a emporium full of quaint little shops near my house, I came upon this sweet miniature teapot. "She" did more than catch my eye. She called my name. I went away and came back and she was calling even louder. She knew my weakness. You can guess the rest of the story. She's an old one too. And I love her unusual spout. She sings for me, "I'm  a little teapot, short and stout, here is my handle, here is my spout." 

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Down Spout Showers

Water was a continual challenge the years we lived in West Africa. Though it didn't seem like it to us, apparently we lived on an elevation, and when the city water was actually working, it had trouble making its way through the pipes up to our house. The supply tank, on our flat roof, frequently ran dry and we'd find the taps at the sinks spewing out air rather than water.  

I've never taken water for granted since that time. We learned to do many different things with just a single bucket of water, and took advantage of every rainfall. Usually than meant collecting water in containers, such as barrels or buckets, but occasionally we donned swimsuits and showered under the abundant flow from the downspouts (quite luxurious, mind you, compared to washing with half a bucket of water or less.)

Before I left for Africa, a wise older woman reminded me to pack "flexibility" in my suitcase. That was certainly needed there ... as we learned to flex with erratic electricity, poor water supply, unreliable food sources, and suddenly changing plans.  Her words remain with me as flexibility is needed in my life now as much as then.  It's all about holding things in an open hand and being willing to go with the flow of what life brings. There's a lot less whining that way, isn't there.

Photo: our house in Ghana. At the center, near all the plants, is the area where we had our "roof run-off" showers.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Breaking the Bank

Gentle Gardener wisely commented the other day, "You know, piggy banks used to be made so you couldn't get the money out (easily)."  That's the way it was supposed to be.  I remember. One had to actually  break the bank to get out the coins, unless you were really good at shaking it upside down while inserting a table knife. I remember being disappointed at the number of pennies, rather than larger coins, that fell out with that method. I'd hold it over my head and peek into the slot, seeing all those coins that would not fall out.

When our kids came along the banks had twister holes on the bottom, not always easy to open, but definitely more accessible than a piggy bank that actually had to be broken to get the cash out.  Now, as time marches on, I understand there are play atm machines where, with a toy plastic card, a child can get money out. Just like mommy or daddy. 

What's wrong with that picture?

... Photo: not mine, my piggy bank was broken long ago.

Monday, January 12, 2009

seeing double

I always look forward to visits from my mom's baby sisters and their spouses. When I was little we called them "Aunt Twinnies" and even though I can tell them apart, there still are those moments.... Today was one of them. Wandering around a tourist spot in our fair city I at times had to stop and think or remember what each was wearing to be sure I had them straight.

When they arrived at our house during our time of greeting, I noticed they were wearing almost identical 
scarves with similar outfits. " Did you plan this?" Of course I had to ask, while guessing the answer, which was "no." The scarves were free gifts obtained at separate times with purchases at the same store. 

"Look at this," they said next, thrusting forth their feet. Same exact argyle socks. Exactly the same. Bought unbeknown  to each other, and put on that morning with no idea the other twin even owned a pair.  Sharing the same genes, what can you expect?

We had a fun visit ... as always. They bring lots of energy and conversation. They are always interested in everything. That might be the secret to why they seem much younger than they actually are.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Needles and Threads

Old friends are like old shoes. I think the longer the friendship, the more comfortable you are with each other. I still remember the night I met my friend Susan, probably 22 years ago. We were at a church supper and sat by each other. We both had big hair and small kids, and hit it off right away. We ended up seeing a lot of each other as we home schooled our children, and shared in activities. I helped her come along in her new faith in Christ, but that seems like very little compared to the many blessings she has brought to my life.
Just one example is her gifts of quilts.  Susan is an extraordinary quilter and she has made several for me--from a tiny broach and a bookmark, to a book cover, a wonderful, frequently-coveted-by-others tote for my mother's walker, a gorgeous quilt for my granddaughter, and, my pride and joy--the teapot quilt seen on the sidebar.

Personally, I can't imagine making a quilt. Having patience, the eye for it, or the skill. Susan has it all, and shares her gift with others so creatively.
So I was thrilled to visit an art gallery in a neighboring town the other day to see some of her quilts on display. They were preparing things for the big opening reception, but even though they weren't yet tagged, I could pick out a few that "looked like" my friend.  And I was right. Congratulations, Susan, and, by the way, happy birthday today!

Friday, January 09, 2009

music brings smiles

"Doe a deer, a female deer..."  I've never seen anything quite like it. Little One can be fussy or crying, but lean into her and begin to sing this wonderful little song and the crying stops, her eyes light up, and the hint of a smile begins. Apparently this is the favorite song her mommy and daddy sing to her.  The wonder of music! Good for the soul and good for crying babes!

EBC photo, used with permission. Little BKC has learned to give hugs!

Thursday, January 08, 2009

h o o p s

The Gardener, a.k.a. "Chief" for this post, has taken up following some college basketball the past few years. ("Chief" was the Gardener's nickname in college even before he was captain of the team.) 

Usually he goes with other guys, but this year I've joined him a couple of times and it has been wonderfully fun to be back in a college gym watching an exciting, close match. We especially follow two brothers from our city at different colleges, whose dad was an NBA star. For sure, they may be too someday, they are that good. Meanwhile they are fun to watch at this stage of their careers.

Squint ... and I can be back in our college gym. Not much really has changed from years ago. I see the same kind of students sprawled on the bleachers, some of the same cheers (though we never threw cheerleaders in the air like they do today), the same occasional injured player in a flannel shirt and on crutches, hanging around the bench. While the longish hair length is similar to our "era," the shorts these guys were wearing are extremely different ... baggy and more like long culottes than the shorts of our era (see the Gardener in sidebar, early 70s).  I wonder how they can get around and even play the game, but they manage and are as fast as any. I find myself screaming at the ref, cheering, and yelling as if it were my home team. It doesn't really matter that much to me if the team I root for wins or loses, but apparently it's just easy to catch the fever.

As we left the gym the other night, I grabbed the "Chief's" hand, looked up at him, and tried to get the sense of walking out of a game with him just as we used to years ago. His hair would be wet from showering and he'd be limping with sore muscles. We'd head with our friends out to the local diner for a sandwich. Man, that was just yesterday.

not my photo

Wednesday, January 07, 2009


There are some things that remain after Christmas is put away. It is hard to let go of the tablecloth my sister brought me when she visited, which she got at a sale of the household goods of an 80-something-year-old woman. I love it and it's so cheery-looking. The poinsettias will last a long while, the "veiled" lights will stay up until probably March, and the blue Christmas plate ... a little longer, please.  And who will eat all those candy canes?

Monday, January 05, 2009

story time

I love reading to children. Probably my very most favorite thing about the years we home schooled our boys was the time we had to read many books together. When we were young parents, an older, wiser parent told us that the three things a child needs are: balls, books, and blocks. Therefore I love to give books as baby shower presents. This photo, taken at Christmas of Little One being read to by her daddy, is already a favorite of mine. I bet you can guess why!

Saturday, January 03, 2009


I took this photo at a Christmas home tour we went to at a nearby small town. It reminds me of what I'd like to do a bit of ... rest!  And read! What a lovely spot for just doing that! 

Friday, January 02, 2009

An Empty Page

When I think over the past, event-filled four years, I am amazed at all the unanticipated things that came into our lives. In many ways those years are like a blur, fast-forwarded on a DVD player. Sometimes I notice changes around our city from these years, and feel like Rip Van Winkle just waking up. 

And now another year is here. Maybe things will slow down a bit. Maybe they won't. The year ahead is like a blank page, waiting to be filled. There is one certainty, the rest are only guesses. God is faithful, as He has been in the past, and promises to be in the future.

A  tangible  peace fills me because of this certainty. I carry it, mixed with a big dose of joy and hope, in my pocket as the year moves ahead, for whatever may come to be written on those pages. "Be strong and of good courage ... fear not, nor be dismayed; for the Lord God ... will be with you; He will not fail you nor forsake you." (I Chron. 28:20)

Thursday, January 01, 2009

shrimp a la new year

It was a busy day at the hospital and the thought of going to a proposed party was not too exciting on this chilly New Year's Eve. Rather, a warm fire and my feet up to a good book or dvd sounded better. But first, dinner. Shouldn't it be something rather special on this last night of the year? More Christmas leftovers didn't sound too great.

So I looked around. To start with I noticed some leftover toasted Ramon noodles from a previous salad. And half a bag of mini fully cooked shrimp in the freezer.  A box of pasta. A wee bit of asiago cheese.  A small can of mushroom pieces. Spinach leaves and salad fixings. And, to top it off, some tomato bruschetta.

The shrimp, mushrooms, bruschetta, and cheese joined pasta laced with olive oil. The ramon noodles topped it at the table.  A crisp salad and a tall glass of water rounded out what became a splendid 
meal, getting very near to gourmet.

It was sort of like a treasure hunt that happened to work out well. Oh yes, some candlelight only helped the tastebuds even more.

Happy New Year!

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