Wednesday, November 13, 2019

mountain lodge wedding

Some time ago we attended a wedding in an old mountain lodge overlooking a river.
I wasn't so enthusiastic about the wedding since I wouldn't know anyone there.
The bride's father, who I've only met once, is a friend and colleague of the Gardener's.
The Gardener was keen to go, so we made a little get away of it,
traveling two hours south for the wedding, spending the night near there,
 and exploring the city in that area the next morning before returning home.

The wedding venue was a state park and the weather was on the verge of
a storm so the ceremony was held inside the park's rustic lodge with a
 beautiful view. It was perfectly fitting for what
I would call a throw-back to the 60s wedding.

The young minister was neatly dressed in jeans and rolled up shirt sleeves.
A guitar played old folk songs as the bride and her attendants walked up an aisle
strewn with wildflowers. The girls, dressed in different off-white dresses and sandals,
 carried freshly picked sprigs of green, with wreaths of flowers adorning their heads.
The couple planted a tree together to signify their new unity
while we sang "This Is My Father's World."

Some guests picked flowers from vases at the lodge entrance,
and tucked them in their hair. 
We snacked on grapes and listened to John Denver while we waited for
the wedding pictures to be taken. The bride and groom had their first dance
as raindrops began to fall. Then they served barbecue.
The bride and her groom were so in love, smiling their joy constantly,
and seemed very at home with themselves and their wedding.
The were surrounded by 18 attendants, family and
many college friends there to observe and to help.

It was such a relaxed wedding.
For us it was like stepping back into the 60s and felt oh so familiar.

Saturday, October 12, 2019

collecting rent

       "...if we don't take the meaning of these stories literally, 
if we treat these tales as simply entertainment, we miss the deepest, 
most life-changing aspects of ... stories. We miss the entire reason they exist. 
... They carry messages that are older than the words themselves, 
messages that reach beyond the page."
At first I joined in reading The Rent Collector because it was the book 
we were reading for book club. I wasn't so keen on reading about about 
life on a Cambodian municipal dump.

From my cross cultural experiences I knew that a lot of life would be lived out even in a dump, 
and indeed it was, in all of its complexity. 
It didn't take long to get totally engaged in the story, 
and to fall in love with the characters.

It's a story much beyond life in the dump; it is filled with redemption, 
the power of the written word, and knowing how to read it.

I won't say more, but I do recommend the book. 
We had a smaller group for this gathering, but it was due to busy women, not the book. 
Our fare was simpler, and we took delight in our discussion.
"Whether we like it or not, hope is written so deeply into our hearts 
that we just can't help ourselves, no matter how hard we try otherwise."

All quotes from The Rent Collector.

Tuesday, September 24, 2019

because of a sweater

I may be the only female who has nodded off watching the newly-released Downton Abbey.
And it's all because of a sweater. 
In spite of the blistering heat we still are enduring 
(yes, that's the best word--enduring), the contrasting air conditioning inside 
buildings can actually feel too cold for me. Thus a sweater comes along to church, 
movies, and other places where I may sit awhile. 

We viewed the film with a group of my sister's and her hubby's friends while 
we were visiting them.  I never dreamed I'd fall asleep, as I often am known to do, 
since I was sitting next to people I don't know that well. 
And certainly not at the long-awaited Downton Abbey.

I tried leaning forward in my seat. But eventually I sat back for more comfort 
and tossed my sweater over my front like a blanket since I was cold. 
I started to get warm and cozy. That's all it took.

I don't think I missed much, but I did miss the royals' arrival. 
I can't believe it.  (I hope I'll see it again.)

It was so enjoyable, for the most part. And, my, "how the children have grown." 
It nicely tidied up a few story lines, but left us with some new questions.  
So maybe ....

Note to self: next time leave sweater home and plan to chill.

(Photo: Jefferson Davis' last home.)

Monday, July 22, 2019

a perfect setting

Our summer book club was simple: a children's classic that
some of us had read to our children:  The Wind in the Willows.
I wasn't crazy about the book the first time I tried to read it, but this time
I enjoyed it more and gained a new appreciation for it, though it is still
not my favorite book by any means.
But we had a wonderful "picnic" breakfast down in 
Bonnie's "Little Book Room."
The treats were carefully chosen to go along with the story
and we enjoyed such tastiness while we discussed.
Bonnie's daughter had just returned from Malaysia where she bought her 
mom a beautiful copy of the book (centerpiece top photo.)

It was lovely to visit B's private children's library--the perfect setting to discuss such a book.
Some of us had contributed volumes to it, some of us had watched it become a book room.
A beautiful morning with good friends. 
So inviting to linger in the coolness of the library on such a hot day.

A posse of good friends celebrated birthdays this summer with a day in the mountains.
We got more than a few looks, and mostly smiles, 
as we--older, hatted women--sailed into a parking spot in downtown Blowing Rock! 

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

recently rediscovered

  I'm so thankful my parents encouraged me to start working at a young age. 
First it was babysitting jobs, and only one of my regular jobs was easy.
 The others involved cooking supper, cleaning up the kitchen, reading stories, and Saturday night baths. Often I cared for large families. But I am so grateful for all the experiences and the training I received from such work. 
And then came the day when I took my SS card and went down to the local nursing home to apply for a job as a nurse's aid. Then the experiences really began. Caring for elderly patients in ways I never anticipated was tough, but stood me in good stead in life experiences and for nursing school. 

(I see so many young people today who don't work in the summers 
and think of all they are missing that might help them as they mature in life.)

But I digress. The main point is to share a poem I recently rediscovered. A good friend showed me a journal I had given her a few years ago, and inside I had copied this poem. The poet is approaching 90 now but still so active and just signed with a publisher for her next poetry volume. She is the connection to the babysitting discourse above. I babysat often for her five kids and it was one of those all encompassing jobs. Wow, a lot of responsibility and I was only 14.  
I sure learned a lot and am grateful. 

Wrong Turn
by Luci Shaw

I took a wrong turn the other day.
A mistake, but it led me to the shop where I found
the very thing I'd been searching for.

With my brother I opened a packet of old letters from my mother and saw a side of her
that sweetened what had been deeply sour.
Later that day the radio sang a song from
a time when I was discovering love,
and it folded me into itself again.

from What the Light was Like, WordFarm, 2006

Friday, May 24, 2019

Could Mere Loving Be Life's Work?

I pondered the thought of loving as life's work while reading The Dean's Watch by Elizabeth Goudge.
The pages of my reading journal filled with quotes from the book that I want to remember.
Once again E. Goudge used her descriptive skills to take us deep into the story about 
a clockmaker who develops a friendship with the formidable Dean of the cathedral. 
She writes so well we can't help but fall in love with her characters. 
It's hard to pick a favorite character, but mine might be Miss Montague. And here's a quote about her:
"Could mere loving be life's work? Could it be a career like marriage or nursing the sick or going on stage? Could it be adventure? ... So she took a vow to love ... she was different from the majority because she kept the vow, 
kept it even after she discovered the cost of simplicity."
"Until now she only read her Bible as a pious exercise, but now she read it as 
an engineer reads a blueprint and a traveller a map ... 
but with a profound concentration because her life depended on it."
Once again we enjoyed time around the table discussing the book on a Monday morning (when we find most of us can meet.) We are doing our best to simplify our meetings so had only tea, cookies, grapes, and nuts. 
A good time was had by all at Lydia Grace's lovely and cheerful table.

Tuesday, March 12, 2019


When a friend of the Gardener called to ask him to read a book, and then could they 
get together to talk about it, I took note and wondered what could be so good.
Little by little I heard bits and pieces of the book, and then the guys
asked if we girls would read it and discuss it together. So when we were planning
our next book club, we concluded this would be the book to read. It's easy to read, 
and this is true from the back cover: "...was written to shake up our expectations 
and priorities for what it means to live 'the good life.'"
The author is a minister in Aberdeen, Scotland. The book is a sort of
exposition on the book of Ecclesiastes. It's not a heavy tome, and it is
filled with practical wisdom. It probably is one of the most significant books
I have read in a very long time. I highly recommend it.

Our book club is meeting often in the morning as it seems to be when more are available. 
This time we kept the food very simple--nuts, chocolate, strawberries and cheese. 
Since my house is small and our group is large, we arranged chairs with small 
snack tables around the edge of our dining room and it worked really well.  
I loved using my grandmother's pink depression glass, 
and another friend's mother's teapot, 
and another friend's mother's gorgeous linen tablecloth (all gifts to me!)
It was a sweet time as we shared parts of the book that spoke to us.
Our next book is Elizabeth Goudge's The Dean's Watch.
Some of us are following an IG reading of this book.

One of our members happened to recently host a Scottish young man 
who is a mentee of the author of the book. So we took a group picture 
holding our books for Rev. Gibson--to encourage him!

"If you knew what would happen to you tomorrow, how would you live today?"

Tuesday, February 26, 2019

and the month whirled by

I keep thinking we'll settle into some sort of retirement routine. So far, almost two months into it, nothing is routine.  My plan is to spend some "blog time" and then something more comes along.

Here's some highlights:

1. I'm enjoying cooking more than ever, and I've concluded it's because I'm less stressed by the work I was doing, and have more time. So we've had lots of guests at our table, including two students studying at a nearby seminary staying a week with us. I've made a lot of apple pies (I can easily get in a rut). I decided one day to actually measure what three cups of apples looks like inside the crust and discovered I've been doing it right by guessing all these many years.
2. I've been playing with table settings. A friend gave me the idea of setting the table even if guests aren't coming, to experiment and enjoy various settings. It's been fun and I guess it's basically playing with big girl toys.  And then I decided to use the setting and had folks over for dinner. I'm going to do this again. It's like therapy!
3. Believe it or not, 22 of us friends had an old fashioned hymn sing and we had so much fun. Most of us had grown up singing hymns so knew many of them by heart. I had to refresh my rusty piano skills. And we all want to do it again.
4. The fun of valentine's week was helping the grands to make valentines. 
And these flowers lasted over two weeks!
5. Bread night with our mentor group was a big hit. We talked about making a house a home, and then went over to the church kitchen to learn the art of bread making (the most fun was kneading). The girls went home with a loaf of bread that needed to rise in the fridge over night. The next morning the photo texts flew in of the freshly baked bread their families were enjoying!
 6. Our church had "Cooking for a Cause" week where women gathered in homes to make four meals (the organizers had purchased and portioned out ingredients) to be placed in the freezer. They will be used when a family or sick person needs a meal. It was an interesting and fun time, working with older women who all have different ways of doing things! I did not know most of them, so it was nice to get to know some new women.
7. I've been exploring my grandfather's boxes of old movies that my uncle passed on to me and deciding what to do with all of them. Some of them are cartoons he bought for his children, there are newsreels from the 1940s, as well as old family movies. One is my mother's graduation from college.
These are a bit of a burden to me but I'm trying to work through it all sensibly, and not panic! 

8. Spring is definitely here a little early, brought to us by two weeks of rain and a few warm days. 
I've had to mow our grass twice now. Word has it winter is returning tomorrow. 
9. No matter how warm a day, evenings are always chilly and it's a great time to crochet.
The grands have requested more "blankies" even though they already have them. 
I think they wanted new colors. Crocheting in the evening helps to keep me awake!

Sunday, February 03, 2019

linen or not

We have used cloth napkins most of our married life.  Not the kind you have to iron, mind you. 
Once or twice a week they get thrown in the wash. 
We each have our own napkin rings that let us know which napkin is ours. 
I use cloth for company too--even if they need to be ironed, I don't mind. 
Ironing napkins is rather relaxing, compared to some ironing.

The other day I used some old, thin linen napkins of my mother's. They were at least 
76 years old. I can remember my mom washing them, then sprinkling them with water 
and wrapping them up in plastic. She kept them like that in the frig until she had 
the time to iron them (or one of her girls were tasked with the job.)
You can see how thin they look here. As I was contemplating how to get these napkins crisp and lovely again, I heard an idea. Very simply: clean your countertop (I think it would have to be some granite-type surface, but not sure). Get the napkin wet and stretch it out well on the countertop.
In the morning fold it, using your fingernail to press a crisp crease on the folds.
It seemed like magic to me. I was amazed at how nice they looked.
This is probably some old-school method, but new to 
me and certainly was easier than ironing.
In my opinion, cloth napkins add a touch of elegance even to the simplest 
table setting. And nice paper napkins are costly. 
I'm looking forward to using these again and hope they will last a bit longer! 

Wednesday, January 09, 2019

stress less

Do you ever feel chagrin about something in your past? When we were care givers for an elderly man, two seminary students lived with us and helped with things. I cooked for everyone each evening and requested that the guys let me know if they weren't going to be there for dinner so I could plan and cook accordingly. They weren't too good at complying with my request and it irritated me--even stressed me out a bit.

Looking back I ask, "Why?" Was it a desire to be in control? I didn't want to waste food, but, for goodness sake, we love left-overs anyway. What was the big deal? Years later I feel--maybe better words than chagrin--regret and remorse.

Over the years we've had houseguests that I don't know. "Strangers at our gate." 
Well-known religious statesmen, former criminals, college students, friends of friends 
passing through, and more. In my younger days I used to fuss and 
feel uncomfortable and stress about meals and how it would all work.
Needless worry. Lesson learned over and over. Scripture from Hebrews 2 talks about angels:
"Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for thereby some have entertained 
angels without knowing it."

Each and every stranger at our gate was a delight. 
Each one enriched our lives far more than the food and shelter we gave them. 
One man I actually thought might be a true "angel in disguise."
So next week when two seminary students from far-off knock at our door to live with us 
and attend a week-long concentrated course, I will welcome them with joy and cook for them 
with pleasure. And enjoy leftovers if there are any!

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