Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Reprise...by Popular Requests.

Thirty years ago as a new wife, awaiting her first baby in her new home, I was attracted to a "Twelve Days Of Christmas" wall hanging I saw in a magazine ( Better Homes and Gardens?) Anyway, with all kinds of time on my hands I made one for our new home.
I didn't realize what a fond, childhood memory it had become before my now grown children, looking through the small mountain of Christmas Past photos I put out every year commented on how they loved it and "Where is it now?" There were howls when I said I had long ago sold it in a garage sale or donated it to Goodwill. I made a mental note that this might be a good idea for future Christmas gifting for the kids. ( These creative thoughts most often burst brightly in my noggin and then evaporate or common sense and reality remind me to "GET REAL!")
But...four weeks of THE flu and couch recovery time late this fall gave me plenty of time on my hands to take the plunge. I found an old photo of the original hanging on the wall in our first home and Steve blew it up and made a copy. I hand drew patterns for all the figures and details along with some of my own embellishments not in the original. Becky took my order for "a project for the kids" and picked out a variety of felt from Field's and I began cutting. ....and cutting...and cutting!
Thirty years causes one to forget painful circumstances...like labor and delivery. (We called it "natural" and did it totally drug free for our children in those days.) OR cutting 70 gazillion pieces of felt for three wall hangings ( The prerequisite for a child to get one of these is attaching themselves to a spouse...so I still have one on the drawing board. I borrowed my neighbor,Kathy's FIVE Harry Potter videos and along with other television, watched all five TWICE while I worked on these.) I did recall that the original had a felt backing which torqued and didn't hang correctly. I corrected that by gluing the felt pieces to a stiff canvas type fabric AND by inserting 3/4" oak dowels ( thanks, Steve!)in casings top and bottom.
These are big...36" wide by 42" long.
...and...all worth it on Christmas Day when Steve brought them from their hiding place and presented them to the Becky and Derek, Megan and Avery, and Adam and his Caity. Merry Christmas from Mom and Dad!
P.S. MY favorites are the "Eleven Lords A'Leaping"...blue with their little bright red vests and golden crowns akimbo.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Once upon a time,in God's perfect timing, there was a young Jewish girl named, Mary. Mary was engaged to be married to a young carpenter from Nazareth named, Joseph. Mary and Joseph didn't have lots of money. They weren't important people, as the world looked at them, but they were both devoted to God and willing to be obedient to whatever God told them to do, no matter how difficult being obedient might be for them. When an angel came to Mary and told her that she was going to have a baby, THE ONE, God's own Son, the Rescuer of all people,Mary trusted God and said, "I am God's servant. Whatever God says, I will do!"

The angel was right! Joseph and Mary were on a trip to Bethlehem when the time came for Mary's baby boy to be born. There was no place for them to stay and they ended up in the only available place,an old stable. That's exactly the place God chose for His son to be born! Mary and Joseph wrapped him in cloths to keep Him warm and laid him in the soft straw of the animals' feed box. They named Him, Jesus, just as the angel had told them.
That same night, shepherds were camping in the dark, peaceful hills. The only sounds were the crackling of the campfire and the snoring sheep.ALL OF A SUDDEN!!!...the sky lit up like never before and an ANGEL appeared! Understandably, the first thing the angel said was, "Don't be afraid! I bring you the most joyful news EVER announced and it's for EVERYONE!" Then the sky filled with angels all singing so beautifully, "Glory to God in the highest and Peace on earth for all those pleasing Him!" The angel told the shepherds that they could find God's promised Son in, of all places, a manger in Bethlehem; that they should follow the bright star in the sky and run to find Him...and so they did. And so they found Him with Mary and Joseph, just as the angel had told them! They knelt down in the straw and dirt of the stable and worshipped the Baby because they knew He was The Light of the whole world... a Light to put an end to darkness forever!

There were, far, far, far away, kings, called Magi or "wise men" who studied the skies and when they saw the same star as the shepherds. They knew the star was a promised sign that a King had been born. They had been waiting for this sign and quickly packed special, precious gifts, gifts a king would give a great King, like frankincense, gold and myrrh on their camels and started out on the long, long trip to worship The baby King. Imagine their surprise when the great star in the sky unmistakably led them to a rundown stable in a shabby little town named, Bethlehem! But when they saw the Baby Jesus, they KNEW there was no mistake, and they took off their glittering, jeweled crowns and knelt in their beautiful robes in the same dirt and straw as the shepherds before them.
What an adventure Mary was on! The Bible says "Mary treasured all these things, and pondered them in her heart"

and for us, for ANYONE who seeks God's greatest Gift for us, His Son, our Rescuer. For us, for ANYONE who trusts God and responds to Him, "I am God's servant. Whatever God says, I will do."
For Anyone who will reach out to take it God will give them this wonderful ETERNAL Gift!...reborn to be the person God always intended us to be from before the beginning of time...OURSELVES, just as He created us!
Every other gift pales in comparison!

Friday, December 11, 2009


"Re-Set" was a word thrown out by one of the kids this year. Originally it was an exclamation used just after the grand babies were put down here for naps to signal a rapid effort scramble to pick up and put away the twisted mass of pulled out toys and books affording the adults the optimal quiet, organized, oasis of peace that oh so precious nap time provides.
But lately, I have found myself appropriating the term for many other areas in my life. For example,the never ending,irresistible "re-set" of interior design; of putting away all the pumpkins, Indian corn, and colored leaves and pulling all the Christmas decorations from under window seats and staircases, from stacked basement storage, closet shelves and drawers to transform our living spaces to a Christmas "RESET"
After our vacation to Nashville we returned to Avery's meticulous handiwork...our lower level "re-set" in Benjamin Moore Sandy Hook Grey. It was worth the eight years of indecision to have the area, as Becky so well put it, "the way it was always meant to be." It was so rewarding to gather pieces of furniture and accessories from around the house to complete the metamorphosis.
In the midst of Christmas cookie baking mania this week, "reset" was a welcome intermission period of washing all the bowls and utensils, cleaning off the kitchen counters and putting away all the ingredients and clutter to afford a renewed enthusiasm to pull out another recipe and plunge back into the sweet smelling fray.
"Re-sets" can be physical and emotional, too. Two days after our return from Tennessee I came down with THE flu, and was down for four weeks before I returned to "life". Three weeks on the couch. Three weeks of wondering if I was really ever going to feel better. Three weeks realizing that for people with chronic and terminal conditions, there is little or no hope for the day they will wake without their symptoms. When my day of finally feeling better arrived it came with a much deeper sense of gratitude and appreciation.
Finally, but certainly most primarily (essentially, chiefly, principally!) I am noting the strong work of the Holy Spirit in a "re-setting" of spiritual aspects of my life. Last year I felt the clear, familiar sense of God "calling me out of Bible Study Fellowship" involvement for this year. As has always been the case in these "sabbatical years", God has filled my time with a variety of "Independent Studies". He is powerfully "re-setting" my spiritual frame of mind in a wonderful variety of ways, providing continual, profound instruction through my quiet times in His Word as well as through a stack of potent books, among them, "Let Go" by Francoise Fenelon,"Seeking Him" and "Choosing Forgiveness" by Nancy Leigh DeMoss, "God's Plan To Protect His People In The Coming Depression" by David Wilkerson,"Boundaries" by Henry Cloud and John Townsend, "Speaking The Truth In Love" by Ruth Koch and Kenneth Haugk, "The Love Dare" by Stephen and Alex Kendrick, and "The Practice Of the Presence of God" by Brother Lawrence. My journal has been filled this fall in an effort to record and remind myself of Him speaking to me through outstanding sermons and conferences and seminars on applying what I am learning in LIVING with a growing focus on Christ; filtering my challenges through His model for living, not the worlds'. Perhaps sweetest, in the past year, He has brought, one after another, no less than twelve old friends back into my life. The times spent with these special people have taught, encouraged, challenged and healed me. I am MOST in awe of this precious method of "re-set" in my life and reminded that God knows us better than we know ourselves and always knows the "key" needed to unlock the closed doors in our souls. I am so very thankful for the great gift God has given me in these interactions...these INTERVENTIONS in my life!
The concept is simple and exciting...just push that RE-SET button, but EVERYTHING is a choice and most correct choices in life are NOT easy or painless....just essential since acquiring knowledge without applying it is useless without hitting "RE-SET" in my life.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

A Yankee Enjoying Southern Culture OR "I can't grow lemons on MY deck!"

Ok. So who could conceive of it getting better? I don't think I am going to be able to leave here....Seriously. The beautiful colored leaves are on the trees and the sun is shining. All my fibromyalgia symptoms have subsided. And we are again reminded that IF we could convince our kids to move with us, we'd be here in a heartbeat!...Seriously....AGAIN!
It's everything, really. The charming homes with the rockers on long front porches and the twisting, narrow, grey rock bordered roads that weave up and down and around the hilly terrain. There are no shoulders on these two lane thoroughfares, only zig zagging cedar fences and in some places shallow stone walls built by slaves and former slaves long ago. The beauty on both sides distracts me from the fear I'd normally reserve for boarding a plane for a flight. People are used to the challenge of driving as though they are on a road rally. I mean, the two lanes are REALLY narrow, and there REALLY is no shoulder, just falls down into ditches or little ravines of brush, and when you approach the top of a hill, you hope, assume, pray that whoever is about to crest in the other lane is, in fact, IN the OTHER lane and not yours. Helen tells me that Eric sometimes terrifies her by turning his headlights off and speeding down the hills at night. That would be MY personal nightmare, but for today it is so unbelievably, glowingly gorgeous here that even I flip the "fear switch" to "off".
It's not only the leaves staying on the trees whose Michigan and Indiana cousins have lost theirs...it's the adventure of enjoying the more exotic Southern landscape. The impressive, glossy Magnolias and the storey and a half tall "nosegay's" of Crepe Myrtle. People here have taken their summer plantings out and entry gardens are now planted with pansies and kales and other hearty decorative vegetation to make winter not seem anywhere near as desperate as "up north".
Sleeping with the windows open here means waking to the sounds of unfamiliar birds. This morning there were two North Carolina Wrens on the deck railing. I've admired them in my bird books, but had never seen them. They are adorable with their little, perky, upturned tails and pretty, pretty song. The two of them sat together on the top of a deck post and sang at each other.
Last night we had the BEST adventure! Helen and Eric had been invited to their next door neighbor's home for Gumbo along with several other neighbors, and the hosts told them to bring us along. Oh, Oh, Oh! We are talking about AUTHENTIC Creole cooking...and two big pots of Gumbo File ( pronounced Fee-lay. A Creole spice made of powdered Sassafras leaves) rice, roast, collard or "glory" greens and an evening that was one of a kind in MY life to date. Our hostess, Lorraine is one of nine children, and three of her four sisters were in attendance. They'd all gathered in New Orleans for a reunion and then, with a car full of luggage and seafood, they headed north to Lorraine and Charles home in Hermitage. Having met these women, it had to be a WILD trip, and it is also hard to imagine what a house full of nine such animated siblings growing up must have been like! Hospitality and humor and vivaciousness to the max! There were two huge pots. One with Gumbo File with chicken, sausage, crab and shrimp....the other with all these PLUS okra and oysters. ?WHICH do YOU think I selected? Pearl, Lorraine's sister,( a 67 year old woman I feel obligated to mention had a body any 25year old would die for...REALLY) prepared my bowl for me and carefully explained the gumbo to me in her beautiful Louisiana drawl.
I will try to be succinct. You know that is not my style. I really don't know how to describe those hours, but must try because last night's "Gumbo Party" was something I will NEVER forget! More dreamlike than real to me since NOTHING in it looked like my life except, of course, Steve and Helen and Eric were there too. I sat in a room crammed with people of different colors and cultures, eating the most astoundingly "out of this world...there just aren't words" food, surrounded by people telling jokes and laughing to the point of tears. At one point I actually inhaled a piece of rice from my Gumbo File and was choking. I thought how embarassing it'd be to have to have someone to call an ambulance, but I looked around and everyone was howling at the joke and I thought the real trouble might be that I'd slip to the floor unconcious and no one would even notice as another, even more hilarious joke was shared!
What I really like is the civility of the Bible Belt South. The "Yessir" and "Nomaams"and the shaking of hands and the friendly waving on the street to strangers. The courtesy shown and expected. Extending a trusting friendliness, even to strangers as opposed to an aloof and defensive nature.
We're staying an extra day. Maybe we can use the time to come up with a plan to tempt our kids to move down here with us.....

Friday, November 6, 2009

Big Day In The Big City

We're back in Nashville with our dear friends, Helen and Eric and I am sharing a final cup of Teavana "Jasmine Dragon Pearls/Rooibos Tropica" with Helen and deprogramming from the day.
We didn't waste a minute this first full day in "Music City", deciding to start our vacation by trying something new. We traveled across town to see the newly released "A Christmas Carol" with Jim Carrey...in 3D...in an IMAX theatre!!!!!!All four of us were impressed to say the least.Although I am an exaggerator, it truly is more accurate to say we were "blown away" by the experience. Five minutes into it, I didn't want the movie ( and it's effect on me) to end. About two thirds of the way through I admit I started to close my eyes in flying scenes because my stomach was beginning to flip in ways it hasn't since my last Ferris Wheel or Tilt-a-Whirl experiences. REALLY. After the movie, Helen took me to most definitely "upscale" Green Hills shopping area of Nashville. We had a wonderful lunch at "The Cheesecake Factory" and spent time caressing books in a terrific bookstore on our way to J.Jill.
Yes,Megan and Avery and Adam and Caity, I finally used my carefully hoarded gift certificates! I got a wonderful grey corduroy jacket that was SO SO worth the wait. I loved it so much that I wore it out of the shop...along with a new pair of earrings that look terrific with it ( and my grey hair). So, THANKS AGAIN for the treat! After walking past shops I've only heard of (L'Occitane!!!) we drove to a newer shopping development to make my first visit to ( ...drum roll, please...) ANTHROPOLOGIE!!! I don't even know how to describe that, except I was not prepared for the resulting "creativity overload" to my system. Colors, textures, whimsy, retro ( I mean the thrill of seeing the inspiration coming from the "30's and '40's...not the 60's and '70's. I've been THERE, DONE THAT, and don't so highly recommend dredging all of that up!) This was just the most incredible exclamations of delight, one after another ricocheting between Helen and I. It made me realize that I have been on a starvation diet as far as creativity goes for too long! This one visit to this wonderful place just may have given me enough motivation to power through the coming dark months. OH MY!!!! On our way home, we stopped at Vanderbilt so Helen could retrieve something from her office in the psychiatry building. It was nice, after all these years of imagining her working in a place to actually SEE it. I am happy that when we talk in the future, I will know what her office looks like. We trekked home and I chatted via Skype with my Australian pal, Judy who is kicking off her summer with a garage sale tomorrow. After Helen's wonderful soup for dinner, we played back to back laptops on the kitchen table and talked and laughed until the energy plug was pulled on this day.
I know that despite the total stimulatory overload, I will sleep very well. And tomorrow is another day! It's Eric's birthday so we are preparing ourselves for those festivities, and who knows what other big adventures!(Please insert R.apid L.ittle H.andclap's here) Steve was right. This IS going to be a wonderful vacation!

POST SCRIPT: Okay. I COULD NOT sleep. The last time I looked at the clock it was going on 3:30am. Maybe the delicious Teavana was alittle too high octane for late night, or laughter to the point of tears is too stimulating. Guess we'll have to think about acting in a more sober manner later in the day.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Too Much Fun

Imagine my surprise to find this little vignette at the dogs' dishes following a visit by the little Pompettes and Hannekenites! Thirty year old Fisher-Price farm animals thoughtfully led to eat and drink by some little someone.To watch different styles and stages of play emerging in Eden(3), Ellis(2), and Judah(1) is more fun than I ever could have imagined. Even Norah is obviously eyeing up her sister and cousins and struggles to "engage" though at 6 months, sitting up and playing peek a boo are her biggest accomplishments.
Being a "YaYa" is more fun than I could have imagined, even with the over the top descriptions of grandparenting by friends who "passed this way" before me. What I missed in "participation" twenty five years ago as I struggled to keep up with four urchins, five years old and under, I am making up for now as I frequently answer the call to "healing" albeit through the strange doctoring methods of a toddler. (Best purchase of the last six months...a Target Dr's Kit. I figured before I purchased it that if I was the "patient" I would be able to spend some time laying on my back on the sofa as I was "cured"...I particularly enjoy these healing sessions later in the afternoons) The kids are all most fascinated by the hypodermic needle and often go for the plastic pharmaceuticals before doing any testing. Ellis will cycle once or twice through all the diagnostics, however,punctuating the examinations with," Now do this..."
We do lots of coloring, which I like so much that Steve bought me my very own,virginal,telescoping mongo Crayola set which sits safely encased in it's cellophane in "my room". It is fascinating to watch the little one's fine motor skills grow through coloring. Eden has moved into a phase of carefully drawing intricate small interlocking figures while Ellis has a more vibrant, Jackson Pollack style and requests that I "Draw Baby", at which time I am required to draw a circle after which Ms. Hanneken tells me the particular facial part I am to fill in next. It is clear in ALL these games, WHO is the boss and who is the "bossed".
Judah just goes for the (new) Fisher Price Nativity scene. It has EVERYTHING he admires in a good toy: Animals, music when you push a button, more animals, light on when you push the button, a monkey, building parts you must snap together at his direction, lots of dogs from several FP sets, Strawberry Shortcake character "pets, and finally...out come the Pretty Ponies ( he loves 'em).
Eden has recently taken to a fuzzy duck hand puppet my Mom made for the kids when they were ittle-bitty. She repeats his sad, sad story. He is "Duck-a-lor" and he is very lonesome because one night his Mom and Dad and sister and little brother all left him and flew "far far away to Old Mexico"....and it takes three days to get there. ( It is difficult not to guffaw at these gems, but you KNOW it'd break the spell. As it is, sometimes, when I start playing with Judah and make the donkey talk, he will stop and give me a look that ABSOLUTELY says, "You DO know you are making a fool of yourself, don't you? These are plastic animals, you know that, right, YaYa?"
We don't give Judah enough credit, though. He understands everything we say. Yesterday Steve mentioned that the Small Sesame Street finger puppet of Bert with the mangled black dread locks had been in mouths of innumerable children over the past thirty years...as we grimaced over the thought,he looked us straight in the eye and inserted the nasty thing in his mouth and gave it a good tongue bath.
I think I should do an ad for Fisher Price toys. I am so thankful I held onto the kids favorite toys for these three decades. It is so gratifying to watch these little ones enjoy the toys every bit as much as their Mom's did once upon a time. Of course I have to watch them more carefully as thirty year old "little people" are choking hazards. But to see Ellis pick up the FP camera with the rotating "FLASHCUBE"(remember those?) and say "Take a pitcha...Say cheeze...CUTE ONE!"...or to have Uncle Christian see his nephew, Judah enjoying a little Tomy gas pump and exclaim, "Hey, that's mine!" It's really almost TOO MUCH FUN...but I don't really think that is possible, do you?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

All Buttoned Up

Only complete color blindness could cause a person to miss the dazzling color reminders in the leaves. Every year I wish I could finally name the exquisitely dramatic color of the tree the Cardinals and Cedar Waxwings so love in our back yard... That and find some way to keep those breathtaking leaves on the tree to stare at for just alittle longer.
Just like a high school marching band after weeks of practice,the ragged, zig zag fluttering lines of honking geese are now sleek "V's" ready for the big trip south.
Steve's motorcycle is(safely) pinned into the nose of the garage by the golf cart which made it's way from Sandy Pines to hibernate in town for the winter.
Spring and summer birds have left, replaced by the Juncos, Chickadees and bossy Blue Jays. There are surprising new friends: male and female Rose-breasted Grosbeaks,a Yellow Shafted Flicker, and best of all a small colony of beautiful little Red-breasted Nuthatches.
The water is off at the lake. Three carloads of "stuff" that didn't get anywhere near enough use this summer have "come home" along with the contents of cupboards and refrigerators
Those brilliant Mercurochrome ( a good attempt at that perfect color name...)leaves are showcased by the grey skies. Time to begin early morning coffee "dates" with my little (life saving)S.A.D. Light Box.
All the shrubs and plants have been cut back. Following my Grandma's example, I am now enjoying my geraniums indoors on my sun porch. Best of all, my friend, Donna took what the marauding rabbits and moles left of my overgrown "cottage garden" and transformed it to a more Fibromyalgia friendly, minimum upkeep garden. Every time I look out the front door I see the new little flagstone path and bench. In the Spring, all kinds of new perennial "friends" will introduce themselves and finally, I will have DAFFODILS and new tulips that Donna has kept a "surprise".
The garage has been cleaned.The "flotsam and jetsam" left behind when Christian's Conestoga Wagon ( Ford Taurus) headed west to California has been absorbed into the basement leaving us ready to more effectively battle the trails of slush and dislodged ice chunks of the coming months.
The fall house cleaning has been done...even surprised the family with a turkey dinner with all the trimmings to further confirm it's "that time of year", and the huge bag of apples I "earned" in exchange for loving on Ellis and Norah while their Mom picked at Crane's Orchard has been turned into a stack of pies in the freezer to be parcelled out as comfort food as needed through the winter.
We are definitely "all buttoned up" for fall...and beyond.

Monday, September 28, 2009

"Now, an important message from our Sponsor"

I love Sundays! I love the way the hours in Sunday School class and then worship rescue me from the maelstrom of my spontaneous weekdays. One day of refreshing and refilling and spiritual readjusting for the coming six days of chasing my tail. Often it is difficult to slow down and be grateful for the gift of this day rather than guilty for resting...to remember that my Abba knows we NEED this respite so much that He COMMANDS us to rest on His Day each week.

During my first year in Bible Study Fellowship, a study of Moses which included God giving His Commandments to the Israelites, I was "blown away" by a fellow discussion group member's comment about the Sabbath. She told us that she had been raised to honor the Sabbath as a day of rest. When she went to Nursing School ,though it had been challenging, she had diligently rested, never studying or doing any school work on Sundays through her entire college career. I remember wondering if my face exposed the shock I felt internally as I juggled this example of obedience...with the realization of how MY Sabbath Day looked. MY day...that was obviously how I thought of it. My "catch up day"..."Get a jump start on the week."

I am still a work in progress...God continues to chip away at me.


Don't miss this video clip ...secure it firmly to the "refrigerator door" of your heart! (Thanks to Steve and Becky for enabling me, the technically challenged, to share this video played at our church service this past Sunday!)

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Don't tell anyone....but we've escaped!!!

Now this is alittle more like it!
This morning we got out of bed and before the phone could ring to call us to some important task....we escaped.

Since I was a little girl I was raised knowing that before you leave the house for longer than a day, you thoroughly clean the house, do all the laundry, empty your ironing baskets and water the plants. For me it was an OCD-ish habit but it was so gratifying to have Steve express such
appreciation when opening the door on a spotless, clean smelling home after a journey that...well, let's just say the habit was reinforced.

..Until this morning.

We escaped. We ran away from the summer that never or barely was. From the "unscripted", fly by the seat of your pants, spontaneous summer. It has been a month since we spent a night out here and that was a visit with the Nashville Hatfields squeezed tightly between Steve's trip to West Virginia and our trip to Wisconsin/Upper Michigan....followed rapid fire with Steve and Christian heading to So. California via Nashville, Midland, Texas, and Phoenix, Az.

But this morning, we grabbed the essentials; laptops, dogs,Bibles and journals and our travelors full of coffee...and took off for the lake. I'm telling you that if for some reason the police found their way into our condo right now, they'd label it "ransacked", no doubt about it. But for this one day it was so worth it. Spontaneity today was a surprise visit by Becky and the babies ( I wonder how long that big girl reading Cinderella on her Boppa's lap is going to allow us to call her a "baby"?) No schedules, just feeding little one's who tell us they're "Hun -geee" when they asked for it. And don't tell anyone, but we fed them what was here. ( I did tell you that we escaped with the basics) Those kiddos had all the nutrients one could scrounge from Goldfish crackers, lemon-poppyseed mini-muffins, Lucky Charms, Craisins, and applesauce. Because THIS is summer and THIS is YaYa and Boppa's place at Sandy Pines.

Tonight it is so quiet and beautiful...Many kids are already back in school. Traffic will pick up tomorrow as people arrive for the big, holiday weekend. The last fling of campfires, fireworks, cruising of pontoon boats and golf carts. But for tonight, it's just the tree frogs and crickets and an outstanding sunset in colors which really have no names. THE BEST.

Tomorrow we dash back into town for a funeral. Then Steve accompanies Becky on a road trip to Traverse City where she is photographing a wedding this weekend. I dive back into training materials and scheduling for programs beginning next weekend...and of course, redeem that "ransacked" condo...you get the picture.

But for tonight, THIS is the life. THIS is our summer night to remember in the middle of February when we think summer will never return again.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Summer Unscripted: Same State, Different World

Near the end of the summer that never ended up looking like the summer I had planned for and imagined through the long, dark months of last winter, we made a pilgrimage to a land faraway, home to my clan. Although the same currency in your wallet buys you familiar meals at McDonald's (though they are counties away from the next rather than down the street...) and the same " Stars and Stripes" fly on flag poles, sometimes with a Green Bay Packer flag below it, you cannot shake the very real sense that you have entered another country..."da U.P."...and here is one of the first MAJOR clues to hit you on your first stop just over The Bridge. People talk differently.Your first restaurant or convenience store stop may result in a few "Excuse me's" as you attempt to understand what seems to be a different language. The dialect can be slight or so heavy that you worry you might be offending the locals as you acclimate yourself to the strange "tongue". SOME Yoopers have their own, distinctive pronoun usage. ( Examples: "What can I get for youse?" "How are youse guys?" "Thems good fish." The subject matter of conversations I found myself engaging in....'er listening to surprised me, too. Steve and I sat through a whole dinner as the conversation of the fourteen or so seated around the table centered...intensely, on fishing. Men AND women contributed to this conversation, sharing best spots on the river to catch certain fish they obviously prized. We kept our heads low and intently shovelled food into our mouths. IF we had somehow lost our "invisibility" and were asked, our only contribution to the conversation could have been...." Well....We EAT fish, sometimes...not often...none in our freezer...well, we WATCH people fish in the lake outside our summer place."

Nature plays a big part in it all. Nature is all around, controlling lifestyles more than it seems in metropolitan areas under The Bridge, in the land of the Trolls. The vegetation is lush and dense. The clumps of birch trees , expensive and temperamental in suburban landscapes, flourish for miles and miles along the sides of roads in the North. Rural buildings abandoned by once hopeful pioneers are rapidly swallowed up in vegetation as nature rushes to reclaim it's own. It's always impressed me as having such a sense of isolation. The Big Lake...Michigan, rolls in and briefly out of view, mile upon mile of breathtaking views, sans boats, sans people, sans anything but nature as it's always been there. It grabs your attention and humbles you somehow. The lake could be the ocean, deep and dark, beautiful and dangerous. We drove past the area my family always referred to as "Up on the shore". There, nature's harshness caused my great grandfather and his young sons recently emigrated from Sweden to throw their lot into commercial fishing with the neighboring Frenchmen when homesteading around the original sod home failed to support the family adequately.

And interestingly,"Cultural Diversity" takes on a new "complexion" when you drive over The Bridge, as well. It was never difficult for me to understand "Dutch Pride"and the tongue in cheek,"if you ain't dutch you ain't much" when we made the move to West Michigan because I grew up with pride in my Swedish heritage well blended with patriotism for America. But once over The Bridge, the sensitivities of anyone at all schooled in "political correctness" are quickly aroused. In the land of the Hiawatha National Forest, where roadways, lakes, and a multitude of town names point to Native American origin, there is grumbling about how the Indians ruined perch fishing with their indiscriminate use of nets, over fishing resulting in almost no perch left in the lake. Conversations with older people recounting some incident in the community will quite naturally add that a person is part Indian. Driving along a stretch of stunningly beautiful wilderness highway where signs warning motorists to watch for ELK pop up now and again also provides prime commercial frontage for "Honest Injun John's ReSale"... a rickety, hand painted sign in front of a rickety-er, unpainted house with heaps of all sorts of junk...'er "merchandise". Then there's the shock of contrast...encountering the offense of gaudy, blinged-up signs advertising the local Tribal Casino sitting in the middle of the stunningly untouched wilderness..the "forest primeval."

I'm not certain why this trip hit me in a more intense, emotional manner. Maybe it was the unsettling, totally "unscripted" nature of our IMPROMPTU summer leading up to the trip...or that I was attending my 40th High School Reunion ( how did THAT happen???). All I know is that a month later I feel as though I am still "processing" the powerful emotional dichotomy of being drawn to the incredible beauty and peace of the place ; hearing of old classmates retiring from careers around the country to return "home" ......with the sense that I needed to run as quickly as possible to escape the visceral pull of that undeniable peace and stunning beauty before I got somehow sucked back. It'd be so easy, maybe, really...to move to this very foreign land.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Don't Tell Me It Didn't Happen, I Was There!

There are no dishwashers other than one's hands in the "Oz" known as Sandy Pines. As I was doing clean up from our bacon and eggs breakfast this morning, I found myself thinking about washing dishes...the old fashioned way. And other things..."the old fashioned way".

I don't mind doing dishes and never have. I remember the special "sisterhood" shared by the Mom's, Aunties, and Grandmas growing up in the times before automatic dishwashers ; Of sitting on a kitchen chair, listening to the snippets of laughter and conversation whipping around the sink synchronized with the flapping of rapidly dampened, hand embroidered, flour sack dishtowels in the hands of the aunties. Out at the cottage, the water was first pumped into a big white porcelain pail, then brought in to heat on the wood stove before being poured into the huge metal dishpan sitting on the table. I can still hear and feel the ubiquitous sand at the bottom of the pan...and see my little 4'8" Grandma open the screen door to fling the pan's dirty water on her thriving grove of lilacs. It was no small task to feed and then clean up after 20 people eating my Grandmother's Sunday Smorgasbords or Thanksgiving dinners. The more I think of it, while I don't mind the few dishes in my Sandy Pines sink after breakfast for two, maybe I WOULD mind the dishes tackled by the womenfolk of my youth!

This morning, however, my thoughts were focused on Ruth Martin and June Cleaver...Timmy and Beaver's Moms. My addiction to television isn't a new thing. I had a weekly date to watch "Big Top" and "Circus Boy" at my Grandma's before we got our own "glowing rectangle" ( thanks, Adam!) I was a goner. I truly believe my love of blue willow dishes stems from all the blue willow dishes I watched Ruth Martin wash in her farm sink as Timmy's Dad, Paul drank another cup of coffee before heading out to the barn to help Gus. When I finally got my own set of Blue Willow in the early '80's I honestly felt I could finally emulate Ruth. What a role model. I mean, did June Lockhart ever play anyone not trustworthy, sweet and comforting? She's Mom, standing by her sink with her hands in the dishwater, always with an understanding smile on her face. "The Madonna of the Blue Willow".

June Cleaver wore rubber gloves. This was doubtlessly to spare her manicure. Anyone decked out in those neat as a pin shirtwaist dresses complete with earrings and pearls around the neck HAD to wear rubber gloves! How very CHIC!!! So Barbara Billingsley raised the bar for me. I decided that one day my children would drink their everyday milk in goblets, just like Wally and the Beav.....and there was formal dining room for DINNER. Not supper, DINNER. Now that was something.

Manners were NON NEGOTIABLE! We shared this basic tenet with Timmy, Wally and Theodore. White anklets with shoes. White gloves at the very least for Easter and often on Sunday's when your very best clothes were always worn, freshly washed and pressed. June and Ruth both in hats. I have not worn a hat since one was plopped atop my fresh, and most offensively Toni Home Permanented hair and while I certainly don't think the white socks, gloves and chapeaus are a "salvation issue" I confess to missing the underlying message of respect those trappings spoke to. This summer I have been to three beautiful weddings representing months of planning and expense. Wedding parties dressed in carefully selected gowns and formal wear, looking their very best for the "day of their lives"....only to be met by a handful of guests wearing ragged bottomed cargo shorts, wrinkled shirts and sandals.

And here's my point: I think people make a big thing these days of dragging down and disposing of the icons of the past as not necessary and a bother. The banner of "Whatever works for you is just fine" in the effort to legitimize poor behavior today. The Martin and Cleaver families are said to have never existed...just a stereotypical image foisted on the public. For those of you who weren't there to experience it, I must tell you that isn't true. It was a comfort to live in times when right was right and wrong was wrong...and everyone knew which was which. It never felt like the dark ages before "enlightenment." Rather, it felt secure and comfortable... without pharmaceutical support. There was nothing wrong with aspiring to be "the Cleavers" or "the Martins". Now, just as then, inherently sinful humans continually fall short, but how can striving to present yourselves in the most decent light be a bad thing? What is so noble about settling for the lowest common denominator in life? ...or worse, setting about to establish a lower low? We weren't oddballs, by the way. Everyone we knew was emulating the Cleavers. Dads and Moms, Aunts and Uncles, Grandmas and Grandpas , everyone at work and school and church...all worked hard to provide the best food and shelter and clothing they could afford for their families. I expect families were all functioning with a better sense of the difference between "need" and "want" and there was never a question that sacrificing for your family and those in need around you always trumped something that might bring personal gratification.

I mean, just as you KNEW Lassie was going to run into that dangerously unstable mine shaft to rescue Timmy, was there ever a question of Ruth or Paul or June or Ward not doing the right thing...usually the hard thing? In that same way you KNEW you could trust your family to do what was right and best if it was at all within their power to do so. Remember the sad look on Ruth's face when she had to send Timmy to his room without his dinner? She was standing there next to the sink full of dishes, dish towel in her hand as she placed Timmy's plate of food in the icebox....

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Speed Bumps

I've often heard it said that the anticipation of something can be more stimulating and enjoyable than the actual event. Sometimes I think SUMMER is the greatest example of that in my life. Each year I spend the waning months of winter planning what summer is going to look like. I list in my mind all the things I want to accomplish; all the ways I want to enjoy "MY" summer. In those dark and monochromatic winter days "summer" looks like me, sitting on a chair in the 73 degree sunshine WITH a good book WITHOUT bugs or distractions.

Summer as a child stretched on and on in a seemingly never ending parade of empty days, hours, minutes it was my responsibility to fill with activities of my choice.

...Not so much summers these days. I admit to adopting a surly, completely anti-social attitude of late, frustrated by the constant egg timer ticking in my head reminding me that Michigan summer is short and slipping through my fingers and the plethora of obligations that drag me away from that winter dream of doing "nothing". Clearly I needed a change of attitude. I stood with a pout, arms crossed tightly across my chest until God threw afew "SPEED BUMPS" into my life to grab my attention.

The first "SPEED BUMP" came in the form of a large cherry tree outside our sunporch.On a calm, sunny day it was shaking as though weathering a wild wind storm. Closer examination revealed an amazing thing. The tree was FULL of Cedar Wax Wings plucking cherries from the tree branches as though competing in some sort of contest to see who could snatch and gulp most, fastest. I've only seen a couple of Cedar Wax Wings in my life. Here was a whole tree full of them right outside my window! A gift for nothing more than slowing myself long enough to wonder why the tree was shaking so...

But, we move on with all haste from these little "miracles" in our lives to the next tantrum over what seems to be an imperfection in our day. My next "SPEED BUMP" more effectively stopped me in my tracks.

Scooter, our sweet little dog very suddenly went from not being himself to obviously very ill. We were able to bring him to the clinic right away. The Dr. took Xrays and examined him but could not put his (very experienced finger) on what was happening. He sent us home with a couple of medications to treat the symptoms we had described. Scoot grew worse that night and I was truly surprised that he survived to morning. He stopped eating and drinking and a return Vet visit resulted in him spending a night and part of a day in the animal hospital to be re-hydrated and undergo more testing....which resulted in nothing...dog no better...still no diagnosis. We knew we would NOT go the route of a neurological consult at MSU. He is beloved but we are practical. So, he returned home on special food and four medications, still a very sick dog. The plan being that we would love him to pieces until his "quality of life" deteriorated to the point that we had to make THE difficult final decision. This episode stopped my life long enough to make me realize how I have been thinking of our two little dogs as something of a nuisance of late, and also how dear they truly are to us. We almost had to lose Scooter to appreciate how big a place Scooter and his fluffy sister, Idgie hold in our hearts. Which inevitably makes you realize HOW MUCH MORE IMPORTANT are the PEOPLE I am taking for granted in my life?

Slowly, day by day he has returned to his old, "normal" self. All the angst (and we won't mention the gobs of money spent at the Vet)... and we have no idea what the problem was....but we come away SO thankful that he is enjoying life with us and we with him again!

The third "SPEED BUMP" pinned me down for nearly two days in a row. Nasty, nasty storms went through our area . Violent thunder and lightning for a steady hour and a half the first night left people amazed at the amount of rain that fell ....until the second day when three storms "trained" their way through the area dumping "Once in a hundred year" amounts of rain which put "us" on the national news with washed out roadways, flooded basements and downed trees and power lines. We came through unscathed. Only a small amount of food pitched when power went out at the lake. A broken tree branch. A microwave oven zapped in the storm miraculously ( for one who is not technically inclined) reset itself.

"What I am trying to do here is to get you to relax, to not be so preoccupied with getting, so you can respond to God's giving." Matthew 6:32 ( The Message)

Relax and Rejoice in what God is giving....Respond in gratitude for all He gives!

The Holy Spirit is ALWAYS tapping me on the shoulder, trying to get my attention, opening my eyes to what it really important around me.When I insist on ignoring Him and forging ahead, His "tapping" gets ever more persistent. How thankful I am for His never ending patience with my stubborn spirit! How foolish of me to be irritated by these things that are in fact blessings in my life..opportunities He places in my life hour by hour, day by day for HIS purposes, not mine.I am resolved to pay attention to that "tap". I truly want to CHOOSE to live life spontaneously, more in the moment, watchful for His assignments to fill my days, hours, and minutes.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

......And We're Back!

I know that it was a harsh, long winter in Michigan. I know we broke snow records. I know Michigan summers are so short, but when I look out my window and see the diamonds sparkling on the lake it is already difficult to remember the cold and darkness that was.

Moving out here for the season is always such a process. But because of the relative shortness of summer here we are determined to be out on the lake as much as possible...to squeeze out every last bit of warmth and sunshine and blooming gardens and barefeet on the beach and sunsets that look JUST like the old-timey pastel-colored postcards from the 1920's and '30's. And so, we load up carload after carload of clothes, food, books, knitting, laptop computers, coffee,dog paraphernalia, grandbaby paraphernalia, food, TV's, new plants for garden, food, games, wine, food,clean bedding and towels, toiletries, food and food and head to Lake Monterey.

We are in the second year of adjusting to this new place and slowly making it "ours". The inspirations...the things we want to do to recreate this place are exciting and daunting. There is no lack of inspiration . I have all sorts of wonderful ideas to make this the cottage of my (modest) dreams. But more often than not, when I consider the energy or funding necessary to pull these dreams off, it is easier to sigh and be distracted watching the Great Blue Heron fish for his dinner from the dock just across the cove from us. (He is there right now, beautiful and huge!) Or to find the nesting tree for which the female Oriole is so feverishly collecting materials.

Lake life teeters between the real sense of lowered blood pressure .....and ANGST over all the work that needs doing around here. Life slows and "obligations" back in town take a back seat to enjoying a new sense of multi-tasking: simultaneously enjoying a sunset, a sudoku puzzle and a glass of wine.

"Summer is so short and we really need to sit back and enjoy it!"
"Summer is so short and we really need to get these projects completed around here!"

For this weekend though I WILL BE CONTENT to:

Marvel at how quickly my Autumn Clematis is reestablishing itself on the trellis ( which I want to paint a cheerful color...oh oh!).

Become acquainted with our new neighbors who earlier this week dashed over to help Christian who was trying to get the dock into the water by himself . We will accept their offer to join them at their campfire...NICE people.

Go through my old design magazines to cut out ideas of fun things we COULD do to "scratch" my interior design itch AND make this place even more wonderful.

Watch the robins and orioles so busy with nest-building. And the chipmunks and squirrels gathering acorns and the little seeds at the ends of the "helicopters" fallen from the trees, dashing back and forth in such haste, as though there weren't ample oak tree treats for every rodent in Allegan County x10!

I really should do something...but I think I'll just have another cup of coffee, enjoy being able to have the windows open to the cool breeze off the lake, and watch the Blue Flag Iris spears open in my garden . As Miss Scarlett always says, "Fiddle de dee. Tomorrow is another day."

Saturday, May 9, 2009

A Difference Of Day And Night

Over the course of our thirty three years ( this week) of marriage ,we have designed and built more homes than most. In all of those homes I have always had a vision for just how I planned to use each room, just what furnishings would occupy which corners, just where all my treasures ( "another man's junk") would reside, colors, patterns from the time the rooms were pencilled on my drafting board. Our present home held the one exception. The developer had a "sun room" area on the back of the house. We chose to enclose this and give it "four season" usage, but having had no space like this in any of our other homes, I really imagined maybe we'd look out into it from our great room to the views through the many windows out into the backyard fields and trees.

It wasn't until we moved into this home that we discovered that this "sun room" is in constant use. It is roomy and comfortable and the windows on three sides of it offer cooling breezes and the views we anticipated. Here resides the "Mecca"...the toy stash the grandbabies migrate to within minutes of entering our front door. The bird bath and feeder are situated on the deck not six feet from the fingers tapping this posting, and birds come to eat and sing and preen apparently aware that we won't harm them despite our closeness. This is the room that I virtually live in. The home of my sweet little, red, Dell laptop, always blinking it's cheery blue lights at me. It's where I do my Bible study and day dream. It has been a sweet surprise to realize how much of our days are spent in this space.

But I think the sweeter surprise may be it's transformation in Spring and Summer nights!

The idea of "Sleeping Porches"is thought to have it's origin on the plantations where children would sleep on the upper porch "galleries" to escape the steamy nights of Southern summers. In the late 1800's and early to mid 1900's, with the invention of screening , Doctors urged sleeping in fresh air as therapy for people suffering from TB and respiratory problems. People began to build homes with "sleeping porches"...screened in rooms with multiple windows to provide maximum cross ventilation. If you drive through old neighborhoods, you'll recognize these appendages to front or back upper floors of many vintage homes.

There is nothing more magical than sleeping in my sunporch turned "sleeping porch" on a moonlit night. The moonlight floods in the windows and everything outside is so clearly visible. I love laying there watching the clouds swim across the "midnight blue" ( that was a favorite Crayola color) skies. The moon hides behind them and then pops out like a giant flashlight being turned on my face. The breezes are cool and fresh and make sleeping in any other room seem so confining to me. I almost hate to fall asleep it is so beautiful and sometimes I cannot help myself. I get up and wander to the windows to get an even better view of it all. It seems as though it's just me and God....and all the little animals I have sometimes seen skittering along the back hill.!Rabbits play, a huge skunk waddles on the sideways slant of the back hill, the occasional possum and woodchuck scurry faster than their odoriferous friend.(We can always smell him before we see him out there!) One night I had the strong sense that someone was out on the back deck and turned on the light to find two HUMONGOUS raccoons feasting on black oil sunflower seeds at the bird feeder. I haven't seen them but I know there are deer out there as well. I hope to catch them, maybe on some full mooned, snowy night NEXT winter. And there are all the sounds of the night. The frogs singing in the wetter areas of the fields, and the crickets, and what causes those little sudden outbursts of bird squawks? Bird nightmares ? The reality of a predator stalking them in the night? As tired as I might have been when my head hits the pillow, the magic of the breezes and moonlight passing through the open windows always serves to refresh me enough to watch and smell and listen for alittle longer before closing my eyes. It gives such a strong sense of peace that I find I sleep better, more deeply....and sleep is a great gift.

I have a lovely little "vest pocket" garden below the sun/sleeping porch. It has my favorites, lilacs, Rose of Sharon, peonies, ferns....I think maybe I should plant some "Moon Flowers" down there this week.
"On my bed I remember You;
I think of You through the watches of the night.
Because YOU are my help,
I sing in the shadow of Your wings.
My soul clings to You;
Your right hand upholds me."
Psalm 63:6-8

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Down The Primrose Path......

How many people actually HAVE a primrose path? Have you ever seen a primrose path? Now you can say you have because here is mine in all it's May glory! I have always loved primroses...primulas actually. Each Spring I'd be astonished by their beauty and after much consideration as to which of the gorgeous blossom colors to choose I'd splurge, buying a potful at the grocery to enjoy for afew days before they'd invariably croak. Imagine the THRILL I had to discover that Reatha, the previous gardener at our place at the lake had nurtured this beautiful spring surprise! They are so happy in this shady spot where they are flourishing with no help from any human. They truly smile up at me in yellows, roses, orange, purples and fuchsia.

...and they are not alone. A week ago there were only hints that life was returning to the gardens. There was the most wonderful surprise...that the deer, despite an unusually harsh winter and their annual habit of using my shrubs as their personal salad buffet, had left everything UN nibbled. This means that I won't have to wait until sometime after the fourth of July for areas in my gardens to look more normal. My old fashioned Bridal Wreath bushes will sport beautiful, long, cascading branches of the peppery sweet miniature bridal bouquets.

It's all coming back...From the incredible Redbud tree whose breath taking blooming I often miss because it happens before we actually are out here to see it ( I'm enjoying it this weekend, YEAH!)....to the Autumn Clematis whose little beginnings of growth will result in a trellis bending with the weight of it's tendrils and multitudes of sweet smelling white star flowers always AFTER we've moved back to town in the fall.

Maybe most heartening is the return of all the shrubs and perennials we planted and transplanted last summer as we sought to make this new place more "ours" by transforming the back lawn into yet more perennial gardens with a curving pea gravel and stepping stone path from the parking area to the front porch. Beside the dollar investment in new plantings which I would be sick to lose, I will admit I played "musical plants" moving some favorite perennial "friends" and a lilac bush way too big to expect survival. Yet, there it stands, big enough that you'd think it'd been growing in front of our little house for many years and it's leafed out and is chock full of tight dark purple blossoms ready to stun me.

My greatest anticipation was to scurry out here after the snows to see how my two biggest investments had fared. Twin hydrangea bushes which , if they make it, promise to grow to a nine foot privacy feature between the yard and the road. They did, and I am now able to look forward to bowers of beautiful parchment, spring green and pink panicles ( that's your new word for the day from me)...maybe not so much this or next year, but you know what "they" say about the third year of a garden plant!

The Lily of The Valley is going bonkers! There are pips of it as well as stray daffodils spilling out of the garden bed into adjoining areas. In afew days the leaves of the two dogwood trees in the middle of the ocean of Lily of the Valley will complete their opening process and by the time the beautiful white stalks of flowers of the lilys appear they will be shaded by the baby dogwood leaves and pink flowers.

I'm looking out my window, down upon a small sea of Iris...packed in tightly in both front and back gardens they are sporting bulging, tightly wrapped flower buds...like so so many deep purple turbans! Next to them, grows a patch of short, slender green shoots; looking like a horticultural overgrown "crewcut", these will soon be a happy little plot of the teeniest, tiniest miniature irises in bright orange with yellow throats speckled with red!

I go through this every year, but as I mentioned, it has been a LONG LONG and harsh winter with record breaking snow fall. It only results in my (really) wanting to try to do a cartwheel to express what I feel seeing my bleeding heart plants already imitating shrubs, begging to have their picture taken....my new hosta plants poking their clans of pointed asparagus green tips out of the bark promising to soon fulfill their covenant to edge my walk each year.

Oh, and there are my coral bells...three different colors, golden green, deeper green and the beautiful red grapey colored ones. All will shortly send up stalks of tiny pink flowers to swing above their shiny leaf collars. Can there possibly be a better season than this?...a better time of this season that this week when we KNOW there can be no more snow? Don't you just KNOW that HEAVEN will be a garden? I cannot wait for that!

Monday, April 6, 2009

Beware Of The Crayola Nazi!

I remember gasping out loud the first time I saw the display of circular 150 count Crayola sets. I looked around...not to worry. I was in our local Kmart and quite alone in the back aisle. No need to worry about wary sidelong glances from strangers as I picked up and caressed a pound of waxy delight. Halfway into my cart I thought of Dave Ramsey. Do I need this (yes? NO! But I have never seen such a wonderful array of crayons. I think it might BE a NEED. ?. And I have felt cheated by the smaller packs I already have. I miss many of the green tones of my youth. What happened to them?) But I was strong. I put them back and walked away.

Within two weeks I stumbled upon them at Meijer and quickly placed them in my basket and headed for the checkout. Oh, the SMELL!!!!! The wonderful smell of Christmas mornings ! Brand, spanking new, perfectly tipped Crayola Crayons, ...but BETTER! This circular wonder telescopes upward into three tiers of waxy, Technicolor wonder. It has it's own demilune shaped sharpener ( ...but we don't tell the babies about that option.)

I couldn't wait for Eden's next visit to show her my new...."Precious" (are you seeing me as Golum hunched protectively over my treasure?) Let me tell you, at the very least, I have company in my OCD behavior with Crayolas. Eden immediately took charge of the situation. This was a two year old who could name and select her favorites: "Sky Blue" and "Periwinkle" and "Scarlet" out of the 150. We play interesting games atop gigantic drawing pads. Each crayon's color must be read and marvelled over. There are the crayons we stop and coo over for their "creamy" application to paper, and the less favorites which scrape across the pad, usually hindered by silvery glitter actually embedded in their wax! Sometimes we take them all out and arrange them in color order...OH, the Thrill of it!

Eden's OCD goes beyond mine. As a two, now three year old, she doesn't worry about how she will explain her sense of Crayon Etiquette to others....This is just how it is, do not question her. First off, white crayons are useless. They don't, afterall, show up on white paper. After putting up with my returning the three white crayons to the storage tower, she'd had it with me. She didn't make a fuss, though. Just walked the three offensive crayons into the living room and banished them to live in a dark drawer with the euchre cards. Also not allowed to co mingle with more favored "Caa-Yahrs" are the "Cornflower Blue", "Salmon", and "Spring Green" which somehow, perhaps in an escape attempt,found their way under the sun room sofa and were discovered and partially eaten by Idgie and Scooter. They no longer have a home with their WHOLE brother crayons. There appears to be no political correctness or compassion in Eden's crayon world. Only the best need apply!

This may be different with the others....Ellis is just beginning to color, but she loves to put the round, plastic cover on her head and walk around the house quite proud to sport her clear, plastic "fez". Judah can now pull himself up to stand beside the coloring table. His eyes are BIG and he reaches out for crayons, when his big sister is preoccupied elsewhere...slowly he looks at the beautiful, wax stick in his pudgy hand....slowly he inserts it into his mouth and slimes it

...OH NO!!! To the Euchre Card drawer with you!


Mango Tango, Tumbleweed, Mauvelous, Manatee, Outer Space ( I love this one!), Sonic Silver, Wild Blue Yonder Asparagus, Blush, Fern, Big Dip O'Ruby, Tickle Me Pink, Purple Mountain's Majesty, Bittersweet, Shadow, Purple Pizzazz, Mountain Meadow, Razzmatazz, Shimmering, Wild Strawberry, Timberwolf, Razzle Dassle, Eggplant, Steel Blue, Cyber Grape, Illuminating Emerald, Magenta Electrasant, Shamrock, Sheen Green, Macaroni and Cheese, Fuzzy Wuzzy, Metallic Sunburst, Jazzberry Jam, Blast Off Bronze, Alloy Orange, Pink Sherbet, Razzmic Berry.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Silver and Gold or Feasting on the Word

I have been thinking that it's time for me to purchase a new Bible. I admit it, I have drooled over the stacks of sleek new Bibles at the Christian Book stores. They are slim and smart looking with cheerful covers of pink and seafoam and limey green leather . They ...smell..new!

When you open the cover of my old Ryrie Study Bible, New International Version to it's cover page you see my name and FIVE addresses; four of them with big "X's" through them. But this Bible is only 21years old.....

I still have my first Bible. When I located it in the basement I looked at it's crumbling, faded blue cloth cover and thought to myself,"Hmm, that hasn't worn well." That was before I opened it to it's "Presentation Page" and was reminded that it was a gift to me from Bethel Lutheran Sunday School...Christmas 1959. It is FIFTY YEARS OLD!!!!! I still remember what a milestone it was as an eight year old to receive my very own Bible. All of it's technicolor illustrations of "Lot's Choice", "Joseph Sold By His Brothers","Ruth", and "Jesus Teaching His Disciples To Pray" are still familiar to me.

Next stop. "Presented to Joanne Christine Edquist by Bethel Lutheran Congregation, Menominee, Michigan Rev. Donald L. Berg, Pastor. January 30, 1966 Ps. 119:105"

The Confirmand's Bible. Black leather cover, gold edged pages ( now a Mercurochrome pink). The illustrations have been replaced with washed out photographs of various sites in the Holy Land and a Concordance. This Bible travelled to Fortune Lake Bible Camp with me for many happy summer weeks and was then relegated to a dorm room drawer in the college days of my "falling away". It was brought into the light of day in 1979 when God grabbed my heart at St. Michael Lutheran Church in Canton, Michigan. The new me, "reborn" and feasting on the Word. I pored over this Bible carrying it everywhere along with my journals until one fateful Christmas Eve Service. That particular night, in my efforts to shepherd our four little ones through a rain storm out to our car in the church parking lot which, as I recall, always held rain water to a consistent one inch depth due to drainage issues. With a sickening "Plop" heard over the raindrops falling on the current Baby's snowsuit ( I recall this distinctly) my Bible fell , submerged in water. (!) Bad results.

Enter my Ryrie. Almost twice the physical size and at least four times the weight of my previous Bibles...and that was before I purchased a new option at the time...a zippered, purse strapped, multi pocketed, fashionable Bible cover. It has 248 pages of additonal maps, concordance, synopsis of Bible Doctrine, Bible Archaeology, Tabernacle layout, Messianic Prophecies, Parables....well, you get the idea...definitely UNabridged add ons. It has served me well, and travels with me everywhere I go. But it's so heavy...and not pink, or seafoam or limey leather, or slim.....

THIS is what is does have...that the flashy new Bible's wouldn't have:

Outrageous highlighting, underlining and even once in awhile my own little illustrations. There are multi color inks, some of which have separated over the decades as they wicked into the pages. And the pages themselves: dog earred and curling and slightly soiled from so much use. Some Books are so often used that their pages have turned to translucent parchment, while others...the Prophets and Revelation are clearly seeing less "visitation".

There are plastic tabs at each book for quick traveling from one place to another...these are reglued, taped and re-taped, so brittle that some have split...and afew are gone all together.

(This because I have always ALWAYS had a mental block against memorization and Lutheran children in the land of Lake Woebegon did not learn the cute Sunday School song reciting the names of books of the Bible in their order that the Reformed kids in Western Michigan did!)

And there are the notes I've written in the margins over the years. These are the most dear to me. They chronicle the "good the bad and the ugly" of these decades of my life...and my family's. There are notes that recall reading a particular Psalm as the sunrises over the lake at Sandy Pines...or "the first robin of the Spring sighted today" with a date. There are dates noted of weddings and funerals. There are little prayers I have written to God, all scrawled in the narrow margins.

Here and there are questions I want to ask God when I see Him in Heaven someday. Like why He couldn't have cut His faithful servant Moses who put up with all those wretched, complaining Israelites some slack and allowed him to enter the Promised land? There are powerful Biblical lessons on parenting and self discipline that are so pertinent to my life that I have placed big red stars beside them to catch my attention whenever I slide over the page.

There are the sweet and personal places God's Holy Spirit has spoken to me through the pages of this particular book...like the realization that GOD HIMSELF was the first and most wonderful Interior Designer. I see this over and over as He describes in such beautiful detail how He wanted every thread woven, every blue tassel attached, which exotic woods to carve, which precious stones and metals to use in His Tabernacle and later His Temple. HE created color and beauty for our enjoyment and gave me the wonderful gift to work with these things to make other's environment's pleasant.

With all this, how HOW can I possibly think of replacing this heavy, old, very used Bible of mine?

.......even if there are some major portions of Ephesians, Philipians and Colossians gone...literally eaten by our two little dogs, Idgie and Scooter many years ago. (They MIGHT not BOTH be guilty of "eating the Word"...but neither one has ever 'fessed up.)

Don't ask me why, but I Googled "Girl Scout Songs" one day and suddenly found myself recalling some favorite song sung by circles of little girls with gold Brownie pins proudly attached to their cardigan sweaters.

"...new friends are silver...old friends are gold."

Thursday, March 5, 2009

A Hug for Helen...Use As Needed.

This may be my favorite 2009 Resolution completion. I have long been in love with the concept of library shawls and decided it would be the perfect gift for my dear Helen. She is one of those people who often feel "chilly"...perfect candidates for something light and warm on the shoulders.
I'd optimistically purchased a book of beautiful "Folk Shawl" patterns to knit. When I received it and looked at the instructions I had to assess the likelihood of my successfully completing the shawl pattern without the potential of a visit to Pine Rest. I found myself asking, ALOUD ,"What was I thinking????" ....the answer to that is, the SAME thing you were thinking when you purchased "I Can't Believe I'm Knitting Lace!"....What I CAN believe is that I will NOT be knitting lace...at least anytime soon! But, as usual, I digress.
Chris to the rescue! My sister-in-law, a constant source of wonderful new inspirations in knitting, sent me a photo and instructions for "The Mistake Stitch". What an unfortunate name for such a lovely pattern. It is simple but has such a wonderful look to it. It is a perfect stitch because it graciously allows the shawl to expand as you wrap it around your shoulders. I loved working on it, loved folding it into the gift box, and most of all LOVED it on Helen.
It was alittle scary...it always is when even simple math is involved. But hey, it is basically a rectangle and I'm good at knitting rectangles of all sorts ( dishcloths, scarves, afghans of all sizes) I just started casting on stitches and soon I was on the road. When the shawl was what I deemed a suitable length, I picked up stitches one and a half inches from the bottom of both shawl edges and knit up to form the two pockets for eyeglasses, paperback books, kleenex or cold hands.
It makes ME feel warmed to have found a way to give my dear friend, Helen a "hug" even when I'm not able to visit her wonderful home in Tennessee!

Monday, February 16, 2009

French Fry Spam Casserole

I kid you not, "French Fry Spam Casserole" is the recipe d'jour posted above the email communications my cyber savvy laptop has clairvoyantly labelled as "spam". I usually click on "spam" once a day or so and give it no thought, trusting my Dell to decide who is friend and who is spam. But for those of you who lived in a household where this Hormel product in a small, garish blue can stretched into supper for four in the '50's and '60's...well, let's just say, I can STILL conjure up the taste of brown sugar and mustard glazed, baked spam.

So, "French Fry Spam Casserole" twisted my stomach and held my attention long enough for me to become curious about my "spam friends". What if I have been automatically jettisoning something of value? I mean, I suppose it could happen.
Hoa Carin wants to inform me..."BUY a degree...a new way of "earning" a degree. Michael Vincent extends an invitation for something called, "Underground Cash" ( that ALMOST makes me want to click....but no!
Melva Yatta, my good friend, assures me she can hook me up with the cheapest Viagra, but I think she is wrong, because a better friend, Mina Malka claims ( her spelling, not mine) CHE4PEST 20 pills viagre+Cializ =Generic Cialix $73. 2.50....but I don't think I will click on either of them just to prove who would in fact offer me the BEST deal.
Russian Brides. HAVE YOU SEEN THE WOMEN IN RUSSIA? Click here and meet HOT Russian women who are look.... I guess if I am interested I HAVE to click , darn, not going there, although I have always thought a wife might come in real handy at times.
Fanny Milligan tells me that I can "Find Love NOW- locally, close to home"

DELETE FOREVER! That is the option I always select, condemning my spam friends to a never to be "refreshed" status.

Have you never tried Spam? You really should, just to say you HAVE. You can fry it which gives it a hot rubber taste as I recall....and you don't forget tastes like this. Or you can just cut it into fatty, thick slabs and eat it with alittle Miracle Whip between two slices of Bunny or Sunbeam Bread....actually the glazed, baked way probably IS the best.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Please pray hard for the chair lady.

About a year ago, in the dead of the last "bleak midwinter", I decided to combine housecleaning with exploring my computer world. I gathered my rather large hoarded horde of miniature chairs for a photo shoot and posted the collection FOR SALE on Craig's List. Like, who is even going to see this, and who wants these???

Surprise, instant hit! A woman was very interested and we began our negotiations. How could she get the chairs, was her question. Craig's list is locally based and I am thinking," well honey, you get in your car and drive over from Hudsonville and I'll be glad to box them up and help you to your car with them."

Imagine my surprise to find that my "CHAIR LADY" lived in AUSTRALIA!!! Over the next few days, our emails of negotiation grew warmer and I got past my initial thought that the shipping costs were easily going to be three times the price I was asking for the dear chairs. We began, slowly to reveal little bits of information about ourselves and one day I found myself telling Steve how much I was going to miss chatting with Rosalind when our business transaction was completed. The very next email from her ( she goes by "Judy". When she was born, behind her convalescing mother's back, her Dad signed the birth certificate naming her Rosalind after a movie star fav of his, Rosalind Russell...actually one of my favorites, too...but I digress) JUDY asked me if I would think it too strange or forward to suggest that we become email penpals!

For the last year we have become closer and closer as I marvel at how exotic Judy's ordinary is to me. Reading the melodious names of the former gold rush hamlets near her and Wal's home. Names that seem, to me, so well suited to a pet dog "Here BENDIGO, come here boy!" To think that when some people decide to go for a quick vacation in their "neighborhood" they think Figi, Tonga or Hong Kong...wild! But I have also learned about their daily anguish over living through the worst drought in 130 years. How all the trees are dying and there hasn't been grass for a long time. Judy has sent me pictures of a kangaroo caught in a rare swim in the ocean, and another of a koala bear that wandered into a nearby neighborhood looking for relief. There he is, sitting in a pail of water with his little elbows akimbo, resting on the sides of the pail as though he's relaxing at some swank koala resort complete with a darling little blond haired girl on her knees next to him, waiting for his order for a pina colata.

The BAD came when I checked my mail this morning and found a heartbreaking missive from Judy. Their worst fears are realized. Terrible fires, the worst in history have broken out. It truly sounds like hell on earth. Temperatures are 115 degrees ( thanks to Google I was able to convert from Celsius) with terrible winds. People are being burned alive in their cars attempting to escape. Judy and Wal have their car packed with important papers and photos, ready for them, and Clive their big, old, dignified cat to jump in and take off. Her email is heartbreaking and makes me feel, oddly guilty for the beautiful morning I awoke to here.

PLEASE PRAY!! Please Pray that God will stop the fires quickly and protect those in danger. Pray that He draws people closer to Himself in this and and all circumstances.

Saturday, January 31, 2009

An eighty year old lesson I hope never to forget.

All the participants in the tableau are long dead. What survives is a second hand memory of what happened; the testimony of the witness, my father, as told to me...and of course the sweet, sweet souvenir of the lesson taught some eighty years ago.

I could always imagine the scenario so clearly. I grew up in the house two doors down from my Grandma and Grandpa's house. The last house on 1oth Street, across the street from the slough of marsh and cattails and wild asparagus that lay between us and the Menominee River which ran into Green Bay, the "thumb" of Lake Michigan. Between our house and the river were the railroad tracks. I grew up exploring the same fields, climbing the same willow trees that my Dad had twenty years before me. I spent endless hours in my Grandma's kitchen watching her bake and cook. And although the early 50's addition of the shiny chrome legged, dinette set wouldn't have been a part of the story, I know what the light coming in the kitchen window over the sink looked like and how my Daddy as a young boy would have sat at the table with my grandparents and his three older brothers. I know the pattern of my Grandma's dear old dishes and I can smell the Swedish egg coffee...it would all be the same, as familiar to me now as it would have been if I was there on that day back in the Great Depression.

In those dark times of homelessness, and closed businesses, and massive unemployment and hunger, hordes of men took to the rails. "Hobos","Tramps" hitched rides on freight cars of trains. They formed loose squatter's villages, camping here and there surviving on handouts and maybe if they were lucky, a small job in exchange for something before hopping the next freight. The hobos even had a cryptic code, their own hieroglyphics which they would scrawl on fenceposts or foundations of homes informing members of their brotherhood passing that way in the future that a compassionate housewife likely to share a slab of bread lives here....or a bad tempered husband with a gun leaning in the corner of the back porch. The slough was a haven for the hobos, and my Grandparents must have been approached frequently.

Tap Tap Tap...Tap. The hobo standing at the bottom of the back stoop humbly and respectfully knocked at the base of the back door, providing some sense of security for the housewife, my Grandma as she opened the door above him. The hobo, so the story goes, asked my Grandmother if she could possibly spare a bar of soap for him. My Grandma agreed that Yes, she had a bar of soap for the man....but wouldn't he also join her family for a meal? My Dad remembered it all vividly, because he sat next to the man who carried on a conversation with him about how Palmolive Soap was the best because you could get a good shaving lather from the minty green bars. After the meal, the hobo and his new bar of Palmolive disappeared through the cattails in the direction of the river.

The story continued. The next day, standing in her kitchen Grandma heard, ...tap, tap, tap, and according to my Dad, wondered what her previous day's generosity might have brought upon her as she opened the back door to find yesterday's supper guest.

He offered up his gift.
He'd returned to the campfire between the river and the railroad tracks and had constructed a little table from the end piece of an old wooden apple crate and finger thick willow branches which he nailed together with nails probably pulled from old crate boards salvaged as firewood to warm the men as they slept on the damp ground . He'd even used a jack knife to carve decorative notches up and down the table legs. I know that man could never imagine how very sweet and beloved his table is to me.

Relegated to the family cottage along with other family castoff furnishings whose worth today, if appraised on Antique's Roadshow, would doubtlessly stun my Grandparents, the little table was used for imaginary tea parties by my cousins and me. The inevitable march of life brought fewer and fewer gatherings as little girls and boys became teenagers and moved on...the Grandparents passed away...then some of the sons who had sat around the kitchen table sharing the meal with the stranger. The dear cottage and it's contents were lost in the garish 60's. Forgotten.

Then, one day,with my parent's home as it's return address, a mystery in a large cardboard box arrived at our house. What could it be? As I opened it and pulled aside the protective packaging I peered down inside to see the familiar scars of the apple crate table top and gasped. How could I be so fortunate to possess this treasure? The treasure of the sweet little table, certainly. But it's the story, the ability now as an adult to have such insights into my Grandparent's moral compass, to realize how the generosity of their response to their unexpected guest shaped my Dad and his brothers' way of "doing life", THAT is the treasure. But it's also the unsolvable "sudoku" of what was behind this stranger's gift of gratitude..what was his life story...it's beginning and it's end?

So, I find myself the unworthy custodian of the little table and it's lesson.

"Keep on loving each other as brothers. Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

Hebrews 13:1-2