Wednesday, April 29, 2009

a collection

Friend Susi always sends a L*ng Christmas card (love 'em), surrounding a letter filled with vivid details about the lives of her six children. One year she sent a different kind of card, and I mentioned it to her. We were friends years ago back in high school, but have always kept in touch because we are "kindred spirits."  We are both baby nurses and love to crochet, write, do other crafts ... plus the years we were together were filled with lots of memorable adventures and momentous events in our lives. 

Since my comment, she makes sure I get a L*ng card each year. Even if others on her list don't. I always save them and when cleaning out recently looked at them all again. Treasures! As well as her friendship. A couple of years ago a square box arrived in the mail. Inside: a Lang MUG from Susi.  Just thinking of me! I'm rich because of her friendship. And what is most dear to me, is that she prays for us every day. That is priceless.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

note to gardener

My friend the Gardener:

Thank you for moving little Charlie Brown Dogwood to his new spot. He looks so at home there; he is flourishing! (Just like our love ...)  You are so kind to bend to my wish. I love you.


Monday, April 27, 2009

They're Back!

The girls are back, by popular demand. They seem a little late this year, and with our sudden heat wave, they may not last as long. The Gardener surprised me and  transplanted some so we have new colors to gaze upon. They are lovely in the morning sun!
Why I assume these are ladies I'm not sure, as these could be bearded men--gentlemen, if so.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

The Early Morning

There is just nothing quite like a warm spring morning. It's a reason to get out of bed. Today is especially gorgeous here in the sunny south. The dew is fresh, all is quiet except for the bird symphony. It's my favorite time of the day. Today reminds me of why I've always been a morning person. I remember 30 years ago how I'd get up early and ride my bike to nearby Lake Michigan to watch the sun rise. And I wrote:

The freshness and beauty 
of early morn,
when all is new and clean and bright.
Quiet prevails in all grace and power 
like a queen 
in rich majesty on her throne.

The rising sun bathes my face
while an oratorio of birds is
to my ears.
I am mesmerized by water lapping 
on the shore, the
vastness of the deep, blue sea.

Friday, April 24, 2009

burning libraries

During the 20th century we added almost three decades to the average human life expectancy. An editorial by Henry Alf*rd in the L.A. T*mes (Jan. 30, 2009) talked about the gift we have today of people living longer. The author spoke of being over 70 as a time of self-fulfillment and  self-mastery (if medical maladies can be avoided), a time to be more at home with yourself than ever before. The oldest woman in the world (114), a daughter of former slaves,  proclaims that the hallmarks of old age are "wit and acceptance." It is common knowledge that old people are wise. What do we do with all that wisdom that is available to us? That's a question especially for the younger generation to consider. 

It seems people die more in the winter than other times of the year. I know, because the publication I write for includes obituaries, and there are always more in the winter months than any other time of the year. I love the African proverb the article closes with: "The death of an older person is like the burning of a library."

Photo: My father during the last year of his life. He was a pastor for many years, and when he could no longer put it all together to preach, he continued to minister to people through his piano playing. A gift to all of us.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

tuesday impromptu

After my full day of continuing education classes, the Gardener and I grabbed a bite of (delicious) supper at a brand new New York style diner a walk from our house. Then we headed to the art museum where admission is free on Tuesdays after five. We had a lovely walk along the gardens from our car parked almost near the main road. (In other words, we weren't the only ones taking advantage of free admission; the parking lot was full.) We were there to see a traveling exhibit. Feasting for the eyes and enrichment for the soul! Restful! Of course I especially was thrilled to see a Mary C*ssatt. But this is the one that took my breath away the most. It was as though I could feel her cool hands, and the hem of her skirt rustled against me in a slight breeze.

It's not often we do something so impromptu, but it was such a fun evening.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Dinner Invite

Finally got some spring/summer flowers in.  It's not my favorite thing to do. I mentioned to the Gardener that if I had a "potting shed" or even a "potting table" the job would be more enjoyable. As it is, kneeling in the grass, carting soil and tools here and there, etc. ... well I am much relieved when the job is over and things are looking pretty and tidy again.

Then begins what I call the "Spring Dinner Dance." It's as if I've opened wide the gate to invite all rabbits, birds, squirrels, and whomever*, to come nibble at my new flowers. I've seen them come, I know they do, and I see evidence of their feasting. I am almost so sure that even the day I did this, I turned my back for five minutes and a flower was already half eaten.

Eventually they get used to it and aren't as eager to nibble. Over the years I've found that moth balls, while not making the plants all that attractive to humans, do deter the little creature diners. The only problem with moth balls is that the birds love to dive for them, and transfer them to other places that don't need their protective nature.

Dinner anyone?

P.S.  *I've discovered one of the "whomevers" is our darling, much-loved by many, 15 year-old dog. She has taken to digging in my newly-planted bed of flowers. Never once has this happened before.  She has either dementia or Alz...  And I think I could pretty much now write a short book on living with such a pup.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

taking it literally

Coffee with friend Boniface and Robin the other day was enriching, as always. Boniface has talked about Candleford, the BBC series  that she and her daughter have been watching online. She had just gotten the autobiographical book at the library before we met, so toted it inside to our coffee table. She opened it randomly to a page that held this marvelous quote. It was one I needed to hear about casting cares, and how God loves to hear our concerns.

"It amused Laura and Edmund to hear Mr. Barker telling God it had not rained in a fortnight and that his carrot bed was getting 'mortal dry;' or that swine fever had broken out at a farm four miles away.... God must know already, as He knew everything. But these one-sided conversations with the Deity were conducted in a spirit of simple faith. 'Cast your care upon Him' was a text they loved and took literally. To them God was a loving Father who loved to listen to His children's confidences. No trouble was too small to bring to the Mercy Seat...."


From Larkrise to Candleford

Friday, April 17, 2009

mops and men

There's a great hormone rush that gets stirred up when a woman gives birth. There is so much for both her and baby to adjust to after the delivery. A lot for dad too, really. Yesterday at work I felt like I needed a mop. I went into three consecutive rooms to check on babies and in each room found the new mother in tears.  Each one overwhelmed with the challenges of feeding her baby. The empathetic, frustrated dads had a few tears as well. This is when I hope I do some of my finest work. Not just mopping up tears, but encouraging, teaching, figuring out new feeding plans, etc. 

Another random thought today regarding hormones, is about men giving reports. When I come home from a movie and tell the Gardener about it, or tell him about a book I read, he claims I give him such vivid details that he doesn't need to read the book  or see the movie.  On the other hand, when he comes home from something and I'm dying to hear details, it's like pulling teeth. I wear myself out asking questions (if I'm worn out, imagine the patience of the Gentle Gardener). 

Eventually I just give up and he mutters something about the difference between men and women. Big picture (in five or less words) versus minuscule, vivid, delightful details. And that's how it is. Men and women are, simply put, different.  And thankfully so.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Baby sister

My dad's baby sister died this week. Five boys and then along came a little baby girl. She was, in a sense, an only child for some of her years at home. I remember loving to peek into her feminine pink room at my grandmother's house, and her pink tiled bathroom. I remember her honey mellow voice. And her gift at the piano.  She studied at Jul*ard. There were many years that I did not see my aunt, but we connected again at a family reunion a couple of years back. It has been so sweet to be in touch these past years. Her brothers are all in heaven, and this week, she joined them. We miss her. She was always there. And now she's not.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009


I've discovered that I don't mind cleaning up after house guests leave. Before they arrive there can some haste to get things in order, but I usually can clean up in leisure. There's a mountain of laundry piled near the laundry room (so much it won't fit inside the little room) that is begging for attention, but little by little I'll get it done. It is nice to see order return to the house. A sort of good feeling to get organized and back to a regular schedule, as much fun as it was to have people here. As I clean up and put away, I remember the good times. Just as when I prepare, I anticipate what will be. It's all a wonderful process, this thing called hospitality. 

The house does get painfully quiet when little ones (and older ones) leave. Echoes fill the rooms--of giggles, running up and down the stairs, shouts of glee. I stumble upon an occasional toy piece left unnoticed in the big "pick up the toys sessions."  Soon we'll be accustomed again to the quiet, but until that time there seems to be a feeling of something (ones) missing ...

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

New memories just created

I don't usually make something new for guests--I like to try it out first. Not enough confidence I guess. But this was family, so I tried it...straight from a magazine!  My mom's old crystal added a lot, and is always so wonderful to use.

How can you go wrong with blueberries and strawberries?

We had a dollar game we played Easter evening. It actually was fun, and even more fun to see what else our creative nieces found to do with the little bunnies ... new games!

Monday, April 13, 2009

Lane Change

One of the great mysteries of our life is how the Gardener and I found each other on a hot September afternoon, a few short weeks after our wedding.

Picture a busy network of expressways in the heart of Chicago. Rush hour. We were moving 1000 miles from home. We were 22. This was the first big road trip where I was the driver. The Gardener paved the way in the u-haul van, carrying all our worldly possessions. I followed in our yellow vw bug, keeping close tabs the whole long drive. No cell phones of course. We were nearing our destination when a sudden need for a lane change to exit onto another expressway caused us to part ways. I wasn't quick enough making the change--or maybe I couldn't with the traffic patterns. I remember the sick feeling in my stomach as I watched that van head up the ramp over me onto another expressway while I headed in a different direction. How would we ever connect again?

That's the end of the story. We both remember that time well, but our memories stop right at this point. We have no idea how we found each other, but we did (obviously) and we know we found each other that day. The Gardener told the story to someone the other day, labeling it "one of the great mysteries." A whole lot to remember has occurred in our lives since that time. Maybe when I'm 80 the rest of the story will come back to me. 

The photo: Heading out in that vw bug to one of my favorite jobs--public health nurse. That's my summer uniform.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

New Life

Our severe drought two summers ago made spring last year less than spectacular. This year is far different. Much better, and yes, spectacular. For instance, this white azalea in our yard barely bloomed last year. How thankful we are for all the rain we have had this year. See what it looks like this year!

I've been thinking about how we are privileged to celebrate Easter during Spring time in our part of the world. As I look at all the new life in nature around me, it brings to mind so much the new life we have in Christ because He overcame death on the cross. He is alive! Have a wonderful Resurrection Sunday,

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

a moment stood still

We were in a terrible traffic jam. Vehicles barely moved; our driver turned his van off again and again to save fuel. It was a good opportunity to view the sights around me, while trying not to breathe in too many toxic fumes. We were nearing the end of the worst of it when I noticed two mothers sitting on a bench across the way. One was feeding her baby, and the other one just sitting holding her baby. Her eyes reached across the rows of congested vehicles, and met mine. In a matter of seconds I saw a flash of her dress as she weaved through the cars, trucks, vans, and motorcycles. Just as our van moved forward she was at the window, holding her baby's hand out, her eyes locked on mine. I felt badly as the vehicle moved forward, leaving her in the dust. I had no Kenyan money, no food to give her, I felt helpless, while I knew I had great wealth compared to her. All I could do was look deeply into her eyes. I'm sure she has long forgotten me, but the image of mother and child, hands outstretched, remains in my mind.

(Lower photo not mine)

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

The Smallest Things of Life

"I have come more and more to watch for those minute touches of the love and forethought of our Father which are shown in the smallest things of life, such as the coming of a flower, a message, a picture, a letter, a book; the touch of a loving hand, the look in loving eyes, the tones in loving voices--things too small to tell, but making such a difference to our day."

~~~Amy Carmichael

Monday, April 06, 2009

tea farm paths

Sorry I have a little more to tell about Africa. Along the paths of my walks through the tea farms, I always loved meeting children. They like to talk to me, practicing their English. The first little girl, age seven, was carrying her four-month old baby brother on her back while her mama hung out the laundry at their little house, pictured below. I enjoyed greeting her mama, and talking about babies (she even asked for feeding advice when she learned I was a baby nurse!) Another time we met this family of children walking home from school. 

The littlest, age four, was in "nursery." What a very long walk that little, serious guy had to and from school.
 No school bus, no parents driving him to class.  They really touched my heart.

Friday, April 03, 2009

a day in the city

On our way home we enjoyed a brief day in the city. We drove around downtown looking for our airline's office.
And then a walk along the road to our company offices. It brought back clearly our life in Ghana so many years ago. We stayed at a Kenyan guest house. The hostess was up by four a.m. to give us our breakfast and send us off for a long day and a half of travel home.

It is no secret that one carries a small roll of TP when you travel around in Africa. I got to the airport and realized I probably no longer needed this, so took it from my purse and tossed it in the trash. Then I took a picture (I can't help myself with this photo-taking). Then I realized how weird that might look to security if they happened to be watching. "Woman removes item from purse, places in washroom waste, photographs it, and leaves..."

As it was, security was very tight coming back into the US. I was pulled aside to be searched, along with a young man who could have been suspicious looking. After the search, they combed through my carry-ons. How embarrassing. No one else had this happening. Except the young man. What was it about me? (I think this was before the bathroom photo). The Gardener had a pleasant thought: "Well, you notice they let older folks go through easily. Obviously they thought of you as a younger woman." So funny, he is.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

Grandmas Feed Grandbabies

Then and now photos. I found this picture of my mother feeding Youngest (top) and then staged the one of me feeding Youngest's Little One. Youngest Son said to me, "Mom it should be the other way around; you happen to have a photo of now and then discover a photo that matches, from then." Either way, it's fine with me to remember with fondness the past, and enjoy with delight the present.
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