Friday, December 6, 2013
I've found myself reflecting quite a bit this week. After an overdue and three-hour long visit with a friend's mom, my heart was troubled as I reflected on what is - trouble and tears and strife and broken relationship - versus what was and what ought to be - love and joy and peacemaking and stability. As I left, I felt overwhelmed by the brokenness that seems to be omnipresent right now.
We have another ongoing situation that has yet to reach any sort of reasonable resolution and weariness abounds. The pain and grief and the need to make hard decisions are exacerbated by the holiday season.
Monday was hard, Tuesday wasn't so great, but somewhere in the midst of all of it, I was struck with the realization that Christmas is about joy and peace and hope, and that is what I am going to choose. I am going to choose joy. I am, I am, I am.
We put up our Christmas tree on Monday night. Most of the ornaments we use on the tree have meaning and significance to us. We have an ornament for each year we've been married and many of those are from destinations we've visited. There is an ornament from my sister-in-law's trip to Italy and one from our daughter's mission trip to Mali. There is the set of 12 bride's ornaments we received our first married Christmas, and we played our annual guessing game of what each ornament represents. One would think after playing for 13 years, we'd have it figured out, but no.
The time we spent decorating the tree was a needed time to reflect and remember amidst the craziness. To remember that we love and are loved and that's what this season truly celebrates.
On a completely different note, I discovered the website http://awkwardfamilyphotos.com/ today and laughed until I cried. There is some seriously hilarious reflection going on there as people reflect on awkward family photos.
Friday, November 29, 2013
Every year, the calendar seems to speed up. I don't mean that time seems to be passing more quickly and how have we already reached December? I mean the media and retailers' efforts to rush every.single.holiday. I found candy corn in the store in July, for goodness' sake. Candy for trick-or-treaters followed not long after. And then, whoosh! November 1 - no more candy corn to be found; Christmas candy crowded the shelves.
And Thanksgiving? I've always thought Thanksgiving gets a raw deal. People think roasting a turkey is terribly difficult. It's not. There are very few Thanksgiving hymns in the hymnals. Oh, wait. Does anyone still use a hymnal?
This year, I began to wonder when our country was going to stop acknowledging Thanksgiving completely. "Black Friday" sales started a week (or longer) before Thanksgiving. One retailer opened at 6 a.m. and other stores opened mid-afternoon and in the evening on Thanksgiving Day. No more waiting until midnight. No, sir. Someone even said that Thanksgiving was being referred to as Brown Thursday. Followed by Black Friday. I had the television on as I cleaned my kitchen floor this morning and actually heard a commercial that "Black Friday specials aren't over yet." It wasn't even 8 a.m.! Shouldn't Black Friday specials last until the end of business on Friday? Or at least until noon?
And the morning news report contained the mandatory report on the mobs at various stores in the region. My question is this: Is it worth it? Is it worth the $20 you save to stand in the freezing cold and risk being pushed and shoved (at the very least; trampled to death at the worst) when you likely could get the same deal or close online or tomorrow or some other time before Christmas?
Next up is Small Business Saturday (this one I can actually get behind) and then Cyber Monday. (Cybershopping is the way to go, in my opinion.) I haven't heard a retail-related moniker for Sunday yet. Maybe crazy shoppers still need a day of rest.
What's heartbreaking most of all is the fact that all of this retail insanity is all about getting more stuff that we don't need. Instead of taking one day of respite from the crazy, our culture ramps up the ridiculous.
As for me, I'm going to try hard to focus more every day -- not just on Thanksgiving - on what I've been given, the blessings I have, how well I am provided for, and how to share those blessings with others.
And no, I won't be buying Valentine's candy when it hits the shelves December 26.
Friday, November 22, 2013
Words. They fly so fast out of my mouth sometimes. Sometimes that's a good thing, like when I'm cheering on a nephew at a soccer/football/basketball/baseball game or yelling "STOP!" to a little girl so furious with her father that she's blindly running away from him and directly into the path of an oncoming car in the parking lot.
But too often, when the words fly, it's in anger or judgment. It's me quickly expressing my opinion, offering an unsolicited opinion or giving unnecessary commentary. Controlling what I verbalize will be a lifelong effort for me. I've made some progress, but I'll likely be winging my way to heaven still working on using my words well.
Last night, we sat at the same table having the same discussion about the same challenge. Again. One more time. It probably won't be the last. At the heart of the issue is an individual's words and the corresponding heart attitude from which the words come. And as usual, we were sorting through our words and our heart attitudes and reactions to this situation. Anger, disappointment, frustration, grief.
This time, the words didn't fly as fast as they usually do. They still flew, but at a more measured pace and more succinctly. I think I'm tired of hearing my self say the same words that come from the same heart attitude. I don't have a solution to this challenge and it's something that could last as far into the future as I can imagine.
As I sat there last night, listening us to vent the familiar emotions, I came to the same conclusion that I need to continue working to surrender this situation, along with my words and my reactions to it, once again to the only One who can bring about the change we seek. I need to measure my words that are spoken into the situation and about the situation. I need to shut down the words I think or speak or write when they are not helpful or pleasing or encouraging. I must learn to apply Solomon's words:
Friday, November 15, 2013
My mother is working on her family tree. It's my family tree, too, but she's the one doing the exploring, the legwork, the climbing. I feel a disconnect from the tree, since I have only vague recollections of my mother's sisters and mother, and I don't remember her father at all as he died when I was an infant. Beyond those generations, the names and faces are just people from another time and place.
My mother's interested in connecting the branches between family members, recording births and deaths, and putting siblings with the right parents. More interesting to me are the story tidbits that sometimes come out when I ask about her progress or when we teach her how to scan another unsmiling face from a 100-year-old photograph. It's the stories that help these ancestors of mine come to life and become more than a photograph. Stories of families not visiting or communicating, husbands keeping their wives sequestered from their families, sons moving back to the farm when their fathers died, losing the farm in the Great Depression, moving families to where the work was ... Some stories are true, some are rumored to be true like the story a great-uncle and his buddy (who later married my great-aunt) who supposedly got two girls pregnant and then shirked their responsibility by vanishing to Nebraska.
While I'm really not interested in who begat who or who is my seventh cousin twice removed, I do enjoy the stories that make the people. I'm always up for a good story and when one emerges from my family tree, all the better.
Wednesday, November 13, 2013
Friday, November 8, 2013
We only have two small trees in our yard, yet when the autumn winds blow, our yard is quickly covered by leaves from the neighbors' yards. That seems to be a theme for us; it was the same way in our last house. While I don't relish the thought of spending Saturday afternoon cleaning up leaves, the truth is that I love living in a neighborhood with mature trees that we can enjoy spring, summer and fall.
One of the tasks on my to-do list that is oft-neglected is cleaning the shower. I detest cleaning our shower (for a number of reasons) so I usually only do what's necessary to keep it in moderately good shape. It's time for a full-on scrub-down, including scrubbing the tile grout. The truth is, I love the finished result when I put in the elbow grease, so I should just stop procrastinating and get to it.
Life is hard and it's easy to become overwhelmed by bad news on the radio, political arguments, family concerns, fear of the unknown. In some seasons, wave after wave after wave crashes on the shores of life. The truth is, there's something to be grateful for in each wave and looking for the blessings can redirect my heart and mind away from the waves and onto the hidden treasures.
Every day in November, I'm posting something I'm grateful for on my FB page. I know some people may think it's trite and probably I should write a gratitude post every day of the year, not just during the month when our country celebrates Thanksgiving. The truth is, sometimes I need to rejuvenate an attitude of gratitude and daily FB postings for a month seem like a good way to hold myself accountable.
The truth is, there is much in life to be grateful for and when my focus is on gratitude versus complaint, my outlook is more positive, my joy is more complete and the journey of life is sweeter.
Friday, November 1, 2013
If I ever had the opportunity to name a daughter, her middle name would have been Grace. Grace is more than a beautiful, classic name. That name would serve as a reminder of the grace I've been given, the grace I continually need, and the grace I am perpetually learning to offer. (It's extremely unlikely that I'll ever have that naming opportunity, but I do have a niece named Grace and she makes me smile.)
This is a season of life when I feel I'm confronted on the topic of grace at every turn (even on Five Minute Friday). I'm doing a Bible study on grace and while the intention of the study is to live fully in God's grace, I find myself challenged on how little grace I show others, how sparingly I give grace, how challenging it is for me to offer grace fully and completely - no strings attached.
Sometimes grace is easy to give, but other times my judgments, impatience, or pride find me struggling or failing to give grace - either in person or in my mind (my mind really is a battlefield). And just when I need another reminder, someone shows me grace and, when I take time to realize I have been given the gift of grace, I am surprised and reminded once again that no one deserves grace. It's not earned, it's offered.
So what happens when I (or you or anyone else) fail to show grace? We may have a momentary sense of superiority, but I also find a check in my spirit that I've failed. And what happens when I (or you or anyone else) reach beyond myself, lay myself down and successfully offer grace to someone? I don't know what it's like for you, but for me, I feel a sense of "wow, I'm getting it. It's still hard and I didn't necessarily want to do it, but I did. Baby steps."
There are opportunities to show grace everyday. To my family, to fellow drivers, to an e-mail correspondent, to a FB poster, to the person ahead of me in line, to myself. Really to anyone I encounter or even think about. Because grace was today's topic, I have no doubt God has lined up some special opportunities for me to show grace today. It's like praying for patience. Wish me luck!
Friday, October 25, 2013
People can exhaust me. Oh, not in the short term, but put me in a large group of people for an extended period of time ... say in JFK terminal 2 where throngs of people gather like cattle to be moved from one gate to another as they wait for a flight that is likely running behind schedule ... and I'm inevitable ready for some quiet time. I work from home, with only the company of my two dogs and I enjoy solitude, maybe a little too much. But here are some ways I've found together to be better.
- Together, many hands make a quick job of unloading pallets and restocking shelves at the food pantry.
- Together, marriages become stronger as couples in a small group share challenges and victories and learn from one another.
- Together, friends gain additional insight when studying the Bible.
- Together, burdens feel lighter when shared with one who knows your heart and loves you anyway.
- Together, it's easier to find things to laugh about, even when the road is long.
- Together, there's camaraderie when addressing issues with aging parents.
- Together, decades-long friendships grow deeper and stronger when intentionally nourished.
- Together, celebrating children's achievements is a little sweeter.
Friday, October 18, 2013
I spent October 11 in anything but an ordinary way. I woke on a boat in a foreign country. (The only thing ordinary about the morning was my husband by my side. Always a good thing.) After bagging and tagging our luggage, we set out on a bus (usually my morning mode of transportation is my feet as I walk to my home office or walk the dogs around the neighborhood). Then we pulled up at a most extraordinary house, certainly not the 40-something house I live in. No, this one has seen more than 300 birthdays (I think I have the math right), is painted green and houses a lot of valuable artwork. A lot. From watercolors to oil paintings to sculptures to gold discovered a thousand years ago, the contents of this house were pretty amazing. (In comparison, my house is decorated with family photos and prints from the likes of Pier One and Kirklands.)
We were at the Hermitage in St. Petersburg, once the winter palace of the czars and czarinas of Russia. It hasn't been a home for people for nearly 100 years, but home it is to one of the world's most valuable art collections.
The other out of the ordinary aspect of the Hermitage (and I realize there are hundreds) compared to my humble abode is that there is a bored (or sleeping! yes, I think I saw one snoozing!) middle aged or older lady sitting in every room. Many of them were clutching their purses primly in their laps as they sat guard in the corner. I'm not sure what powers these art-sitters have or what they would do should there be an incident, but they wield enough power that no one tries find out very often. My brother gave me a video that includes a behind-the-scenes look at the people who work at the Hermitage, so I'm interested to learn the back story.
The Hermitage is big, bright, extraordinary. But now I'm back in my comparatively small, somber, ordinary house. Just the way I like it.
Confession: I have broken every rule of Five Minute Friday. (I just did it again. I cannot help hitting the backspace key and editing myself.) No self-editing is one of the rules and I do it consistently. I've done it at least three times already. I'm afraid I can't help it.
The next rule I break is the foundational rule of writing for five minutes flat. Sometimes I have nothing to say and take fewer than the five allotted minutes; other times I have plenty to say or feel compelled to edit just one more time. In reality, I just don't pay attention to the time. The third rule I've only broken occasionally and that is to leave a comment on a fellow writer's blog. Sometimes it's all I can do to squeeze in Five Minute Friday and I never go back to comment; other times, I look at a blog or two and can't find anything to say. I like my comments to be positive, and sometimes I'm just flat uninspired.
I wonder how many fellow rule-breakers are out there? I'm guessing there are probably pretty many because few of the blogs I have read are filled with typos or end abruptly. (What are the chances, really, of reaching five minutes simultaneous to the end of a sentence?) Nevertheless, I and hundreds of others show up to write pretty regularly and well, here's to the rule breakers. When I set this resolution for myself, it was a way of forcing myself to write on some sort of consistent basis. I've achieved that, but it hasn't propelled me to get much of the real writing done that I think I should be doing.
But I'll keep working at it. One backspace, one Friday, one keystroke at a time.
I did 12 loads of laundry this week. An even dozen. A crazy amount for two people, but I hadn't done laundry for two weeks since we were traveling. Not even the in-between-wash-in-the-sink laundry that's a necessity when you're on a trip of some length. B took care of that. I guess I could get credit for a little laundry action since I dried my socks with the hair dryer.
Ah, I won't take any credit since I made up for it upon arriving home. From morning to night, I kept the washer and dryer humming along, thankful for the quiet day to keep things moving and accomplishing the task so we wouldn't be bothered by the clutter of it lingering. It amazed even me how I had that many loads to do since we tried to pack relatively conservatively, but when you throw in delicates, linens from the dog nanny, well-used dog blankets, coats ... it adds up. It's a good thing I don't mind doing laundry. I appreciate the sense of completion when it's nicely folded and put away, and the laundry baskets are empty -- a fact that usually lasts no longer than three hours, but still.
As a bonus, I finished the ironing the next day. That's really the accomplishment, since ironing does nothing to inspire satisfaction in my life. Call it post-trip momentum, because in reality the ironing could have sat neglected for a week or longer.
And so now you know about my laundry activity this week. Ha. Monday starts all over again. Let's hope I fall short of a dozen loads.
Monday, October 14, 2013
Today is our 13th wedding anniversary and as this publishes, we're somewhere between St. Petersburg and Philadelphia, via Paris and NYC. We'll be in three countries and five cities on our anniversary, something I doubt we'll repeat very many times.
The last 13 years have been an amazing journey with you by my side. Oh, the places we've been, the laughs we've shared, the tears we've cried. Since this anniversary is a travel day, I thought it would be fun to take a quick look at 13 of my favorite places that we've been together. I'm looking forward to adding many more to the list and continuing to work on our goal of visiting all 50 states together.
Mechanicsburg, the town where you grew up, where I lived when we were dating and where we got married. I love hearing stories of your childhood escapades as we walk the familiar streets and make our annual trek to Rakestraw's for ice cream.
Washington, D.C., the site of our first kiss as a flock of squawking birds flew overhead. Unforgettable.
St. Maarten, honeymoon destination. Beautiful beaches, entertaining bingo callers, a rickety rental car that barely made it around the island, fresh squeezed orange juice that we've yet to find again ... what an awesome time together. Since our honeymoon was a gift, we weren't sure where we'd end up based on time-share availability, but I think we won the honeymoon lottery.
Stone Castle Motel, our very own Bates Motel that deserves a post of its own. Let's just say we don't ever need to repeat this adventure, although I now laugh every time I remember that long, creepy night. Clearly, this proves I'll go anywhere with you.
Hershey, where we now live. I love this stage of our life and the life we have in this town. I know we were brought here for a reason (or 10) and I'm thankful for that. We survived a year of renovating this house together and I'm thankful we've agreed never to do that again! Surely the basement reno won't be as taxing.
The Cabin, where we've created so many memories. One of my favorites was getting snowed in over New Year's 2013. Peaceful, relaxing, it's a blessing.
Aruba, where we parasailed on your 50th birthday. I still can't believe I did it, but I'm glad we did it together!
Banff, one of the most beautiful parts of Canada we've seen. Mixed memories from this trip, since it ended with you coming down with shingles.
Virginia Beach, where we spent my 40th birthday. Special surprise to have the Brennemans join us. Little did we know how special that time together would be in light of the events to come. I also finished this birthday a lot more sparkly than I started it!
Cape May, our favorite beach getaway. The first time we went was for our second anniversary. We've been back several times, including for my birthday this year. It's always a fun time putting our toes in the sand, pedaling around town and enjoying a wonderful meal.
Russia, our most recent adventure. I can't say too much about this trip since I'm writing this before we leave, but I have a sense that this trip should be on the Top 13 list. I'm glad we experienced this country together.
Here's to all the adventure yet to come. Happy Anniversary!
Friday, September 27, 2013
In the book of Philippians, Paul encourages the church in this way:
Finally, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable -- if anything is excellent or praiseworthy -- think about such things. (Philippians 4:8)
I have a note in my Bible next to this passage that says "Focus on Jesus." In a world with little truth -- or for that matter, many of those other characteristics -- this note gleaned from a Bible study or sermon somewhere along the way is an excellent reminder of where my focus needs to be: on the Truth.
People in our lives may tell us half-truths, what we want to hear or what they want us to hear.
Media outlets can frame stories in a way to catch our attention or garner Web traffic, leaving the truth somewhere in a corner.
One political party adamantly insists their way is right and true; and then the opposing party does the same, but our nation's trust in them has been so eroded, most of us have trouble discerning who is telling the truth and often we doubt anyone is.
Manufacturers and retailers make great promises about what their products can do to improve my life, but in reality, very little of it is true.
So much of life is filtered through the lenses of others -- family, friends, reporters, authors, speakers, preachers, teachers, leaders. In a noisy world, we are constantly bombarded with what is touted as "truth." But Truth is best discovered when we slow down, tune out the noise, are still, and turn our focus to where it belongs.
Friday, September 20, 2013
She was barely 21 when she went the first time. Young, intrigued and excited to visit a country loosening itself slowly from the chains of communism. In a way, she thought this experience would be like living out an adventure from one of the many novels she'd read.
The first time, she went with 50-some other college students, all of them too young to fully appreciate the experience. They were chaperoned, but an ocean away from parental input in a time before cell phones, e-mail, texting and minute-by-minute social media updates. Communication was snail mail delivered a few times a week when the mail caught up to wherever they were.
That time, her hair was poufy, her face young, her physique slender with youth. She made new friendships and cemented existing ones that would stand the test of time.
She was still growing up, that first time.
This time, she's lived nearly another quarter of a century and knows she'll appreciate the journey in new and different ways. Some of the sights will be the same, but the perspective will be wiser. The country is no longer bound by communism, but it's still not on great terms with her own country.
This time, she'll go with her husband and other family instead of her peers. Together, they'll explore, laugh, experience, get on one another's nerves a bit, and take photographs to capture moments in time. This time, she'll have limited access to an Internet connection, so constant communication still won't be a reality and she's OK with that. Taking a break from connectivity is good and will free her focus.
This time, her hair is shorter and not 80s'-big, her face graced with crow's feet and laugh lines. She's lost one of those friends who went with her the first time, she's made more friends, she's married her best friend.
She's older and maybe a bit wiser now, but she's still growing up a little, this time.
Tuesday, September 17, 2013
When my mother was my age, she had just sent her oldest to college, she butted heads with a strong-willed teenage daughter multiple times a day (if I'm honest, it was constantly) and her baby was 11 years old. She was (mostly) a stay-at-home mom and I remember wondering what she did all day long while we were at school, obviously having no clue at that point what it takes to run a household.
At my age, she hadn't yet gone back to college for her nursing degree, a pursuit she started when she was 48, the same time I went off to college. She attended college classes with students who graduated with me, students she taught when she served as a substitute teacher at our school. She had long-ago buried both of her parents and two of her sisters. She had children to finish raising and a marriage loosely held together.
There's a 30-year age difference between me and my mom, and I think about what she's experienced in the span between 45 and 75. She successfully navigated nursing school, a grueling endurance test for an 18-year old, much less someone looking at 50. She had yet to anticipate graduations (including her own), weddings, grandchildren and divorce. She lost her oldest sister and nieces and nephews. She pursued a career in public health nursing and a second career working in a crisis pregnancy center. She downsized not once, but twice, each time starting over in a new community. She's read an untold number of books and enjoyed countless concerts and theater productions. A few years ago, she rekindled her love of singing and joined two community choirs and the church choir. Except for a few minor hiccups, she has enjoyed good health. She's watched her children succeed and fail, make decisions she supported and others where she probably thought we'd lost our ever-loving minds.
In the retirement community where she lives, she is a youngster. It's not uncommon for her to be taking classes or volunteering beside 90-somethings or even those who have lived a century of life. She's still a mom with all the concerns that are inherent to that position in life because as I'm learning, you don't stop being a parent when the chicks fly the coop. She's still learning new things and remaining engaged in her community.
If I've done my math correctly, in those 30 years, she's lived 15.76 million moments of life. That's a lot of living.
I'm at a different place in life at 45 than my mother was. Not necessarily better or worse, just different. As I reflect on what I know about my mother's last 30 years, recognizing that I have just a glimpse of what her life has been like, it helps me to see her as a person, beyond a daughter's limited perspective. And I think that's important, to see the people in our lives with more of a bird's eye view. That view gives us a better chance to show love, empathy, patience, joy and understanding, instead of automatically reverting to the patterns developed due to the stations of life that put us into relationship.
I wonder what I'll see if I do this reflection exercise when I'm 75. Life holds twists and turns -- some you see coming, some surprise you around the next blind curve. As the story unfolds, I want to cherish each chapter, each page. I'd like to skip over the bumpy parts, but since that's impossible, I want to be open to learning and sharing the lessons I've learned because of the speed bumps. I want to experience joy more fully, be a little more daring, embrace each day and laugh often. I want to see people without the shades of life I may cast upon them. I want to live this life well.
Saturday, September 14, 2013
Mercy is not something that comes naturally or easily to me. Criticism? Check. Judgment? Fight it every day. High expectations? Well, what others may call "high," I call "realistic," but let's not split hairs. The fact is that I don't think "merciful" is the first adjective people would use to describe me. I'm working on it, I'm working on it and I have many examples of merciful people in my life.
The one that comes to mind right now is Fred. Fred runs a sporting goods store in the rural county where we have a cabin. The shop used to have gas pumps where we'd fill up our boat before heading to the lake, but it became too expensive for Fred and his parents so they shut them down. We started buying wood from Fred probably a decade ago and that's been our only interaction with Fred every year or two.
Earlier this year we ordered wood from Fred and guaranteed him that we'd meet him at the cabin with payment. Our schedules changed and we completely forgot about the wood delivery until we saw a missed call from Fred on the phone. Ugh. We felt terrible. We couldn't get Fred on the phone, but the next time we were at the cabin, we found the wood delivered as promised and I hightailed it to the store to pay Fred. Full of apologies, I handed over what we owed him and Fred? Fred showed us mercy. Because that's how Fred rolls. "That's OK," he said. "I knew you'd be up soon and stop by to pay me. It's no problem."
And while the price of a load of wood may not make or break most people's budget, it's likely pretty important to Fred. Business is slow in the area and at his little store. He looked gaunt when I paid him and we later found out he's battled leukemia. This weekend, we learned that he buried his father three weeks ago.
But his word and a handshake and a little bit of mercy is how Fred does business. No contract for a deal, no angry phone call or penalty when you're late for payment. Just peace and mercy.
We bought more wood from Fred this weekend. We weren't sure if our trailer was roadworthy because it had been sitting for a number of years, but we told Fred if it was, we'd be back for the wood. My husband was on his way when Fred called and said, "You know, I was thinking maybe you'd need air in your trailer's tires." My husband affirmed he was headed to the gas station before meeting Fred. "No problem," Fred said. "I can take care of it here. Just come on down." When our trailer was filled with wood and there was still half a load left, Fred shut his store early (despite my husband's protests) and delivered the wood to our cabin.
Thanks, Fred, for showing me what mercy looks like and how much the small mercies can mean. You inspire me.
Friday, September 6, 2013
It caught my eye as I rounded the corner behind the dogs. She stepped out of her minivan and turned to let her daughter out of the back seat. Gray shirt, denim skirt and a cute red purse. As we passed, I told her how much I loved the pop of color her purse provided and she smiled.
Red is my favorite color. I love it in my kitchen, bouquets and wardrobe. I carried red roses in my wedding. I put it on my lips, tips and toes. It took about seven coats, but I finally got the red right for the accent wall in my office. My Kindle cover is red and I had a red laptop that I loved. I was even able to convince B -- whose favorite color is black -- that a red(dish) sofa would look great in the living room.
While I'm a summer girl, I love the red leaves that autumn brings. I see more sunsets than sunrises, but red is part of what makes both beautiful. My first car was red and my current one would be, too, except the vehicle we purchased didn't come in the "right" red.
I'm not obnoxious about red ... I like bright colors in general. But red makes me happy. It can brighten up a dreary landscape, make me smile on a tough day, add just enough pop to pull a room or outfit together.
What's your red?
Friday, August 30, 2013
What does worship look/sound/feel like for you? The worship style of a church can draw people in, cause the old-timers to sit with crossed arms and a frown, or send someone running out of the building as if the roof is on fire. I feel compassion for worship leaders -- how do you keep the hymn lovers satisfied and the millenials engaged without losing all those who find them somewhere in between?
I think we too often, me included, distract ourselves from worship by focusing on the medium by which worship is encouraged in a church service. The music is too loud, too fast, too slow, too repetitive, too old, too new, too whatever. In our church, our worship style is well-balanced with the right (in my mind) mix of fast and slow, loud and contemplative, old and new. That could change and then what?
But worship isn't about the music or the style or the tempo or the volume. Worship isn't about sitting in the pew or folding chair or on the ground on Sunday morning. Worship is about focusing my heart on God. The rest is just wrapping paper. For me, worship is quieting my self and my non-stop mind. That can happen within the walls of a church building, in the early morning quiet on the beach with my toes in the sand, watching the sun set behind the mountains, sitting around the campfire, in the company of others or all alone.
I don't want to put worship in a box. I want it to be the underlying current of my being.
Friday, August 23, 2013
Today is the last day of summer vacation for our school district. It's been several years since we've done the back-to-school routine and usually I pay little attention to the start of school, aside from timing my morning walk to avoid the schedule of the school buses. But this year, I'm more attuned to it, most likely because this start of the school year means big changes in the lives of friends.
First there are the Four Next Door. How can K be ready to start high school? The first time I met her, she was nine and appeared on our doorstep bearing brownies mere days after we had moved in. She's grown into a beautiful young lady with a lovely heart and is a fabulous big sister. And now she's entering the crazy ride that is high school. With her that day, was J, who is now a seventh-grader who's growing into quite a young man, and E and Z, who were just babies in the stroller. Those babies start kindergarten on Monday. How can that can be? I fear that in a blink of an eye, they'll be starting high school! I will always remember the gift of those brownies and how special it made us feel.
Today, a friend takes her youngest to school in the Big City. She worries about daughter moving into the city but knows she needs to let her birdie spread her wings and pursue her dream. This mama will need lots of coffee dates and moral support in the coming weeks.
Another friend has a high schooler for the first time this year and will be spending every.Friday.night at high school football games watching her son in the marching band. Oh, I remember those days of Friday night football, living a little bit of Friday Night Lights in a small town.
The last day of summer vacation brings the anticipation of something new, a fresh start, new beginnings. My hope is that as the last chapter of summer vacation 2013 closes, the chapter of a new school year will be full of adventure and promise.
Friday, August 16, 2013
Sometimes it's the small things that matter the most, isn't it?
Our days are made of up millions of small things that either make us celebrate or cause us to sigh in frustration. The small things can cause the biggest fights or the most exuberant joys. Embracing the joy that comes from the small, sometimes overlooked moments is how I want to live my days. Letting go of the minor irritants that can ruin my day is something I continue to strive for while living this amazing life I've been given.
What is a small thing that has made your day lately?
Friday, August 9, 2013
She stared out the polished window of the penthouse, watching the crowds below scurry like ants in a colony, going about their days, rushing from one place to another. On the coffee table, her smiling face stared up at her from the latest magazine spread. Haunting eyes betrayed the beauty of perfectly styled hair and a carefully chosen outfit. She'd come so far from her small-town roots, at least that's what the media would have you believe. She sighed and took another sip from her wineglass.
She pushed up the hill, struggling under the weight of the water jug, toward the steady beat of life in the village. It was his village, really. She'd moved here as a young bride, just months ago. Since he'd died, it was different. Every day required immense effort to put one foot in front of the other just to survive. Her place in the village was hard to define. The looks the others cast her way told the real story.
She slumped in the pew, idly reading through this week's bulletin as she waited for the service to begin. In a church this size, you'd think it would be easy to find a way to connect. Around her, families and groups of friends chatted about lunch plans, outreach activities, life in general. She longed to be part of one of the groups, but no one seemed to notice her and she didn't have the courage to interrupt. She had no husband, no kids, no easy way to transition into one of the many predefined groups in this community. She sighed.
Thursday, August 8, 2013
His question stems from surviving cancer. I believe any individual who has fought and survived a serious illness has a very different appreciation for life and time here on earth than the rest of us. As I read the resignation letter, the question stuck with me and a thought has been bouncing around my mind ever since: isn't that how we should all live on a daily basis?
How different would our lives look, would my life look, if we were fully living in the understanding that life is but a breath and there may be 40, 15, 5 or one year left? Would I be slower to speak and quicker to listen? Would I give more and take less? Would I invest in the lives of those around me with less thought to what I want or need? Would I take steps to heal relationships that need mending instead of putting it off or ignoring it because I don't want to open the emotional Pandora's box that could be waiting? Would I write a book?
A friend recently said, "Life is fragile." She spoke the truth.
In the past four years, I've lost three friends and an aunt to cancer. I hate cancer, but that's another topic altogether. Walking through cancer with people I love has changed my life in a thousand ways and multiplied my faith hundreds of times over. It has taught me two things: I don't fear death, at least not to the degree that I might have before, and I need to embrace the life I've been given because it can change with one phone call, with one careless driver, with one (fill in the blank).
I don't fear death because I know God has numbered my days and I believe that eternal glory awaits after this life is over. Some days I embrace life well; other days I waste more time than I should. Some days I listen well and intently; other days I'm impatient and careless with my words and forget that the person across from me is a gift.
B and I don't have a lot of big dreams and honestly, we are generally able to pursue the ones we do have. Last year, we went to Alaska for his 50th birthday. Why? Because he's always wanted to go and we know that we don't know what tomorrow holds. I'm not advocating reckless abandonment of common sense, but we realize that embracing life fully (which is different than selfishly) is paramount to how we want to live our lives. It's still far too easy for us to get caught up in the minutiae of the demands of daily life, but we strive to remember that we want to live our lives well.
Tim McGraw's song, "Live Like You Were Dying," is one that sticks with you. It particularly sticks with me because B dreams of going skydiving and my vote is still a pretty firm "no" because, well, that seems to fall in the aforementioned category of "reckless abandonment." But I digress. We should live like we are dying because we are. I don't mean that to be macabre, but we're not getting younger, time doesn't go backward. We should be looking to live in ways that fulfill our purpose here on earth, honoring God and loving others.
Ann Voskamp (www.aholyexperience.com) wrote about approaching a milestone birthday. She said, "Your choice is either receive your life or reject your one chance at living and you can ask all you want where does the time go, but it doesn’t get stuck under the couch. The point is that your life is meant to be spent. The point is that your life is meant to be used up and every wrinkle means you are wringing out the good of the wonder of this thing called life."
Let's go forth and embrace our lives. And create a few wrinkles while we're at it.
Wednesday, August 7, 2013
I opened the box. I don't remember why - looking for my tried and true zucchini bread recipe to use some of the season's bounty? Searching for inspiration for dinner? I suppose it doesn't matter why I opened the box, what matters is what I realized when I opened it like I'd done hundreds of times before.
I had recently finished reading bread & wine, and while I thoroughly enjoyed the book, I came away feeling a little inadequate, wishing I enjoyed throwing my doors wide open, scaring up innovative seating for spontaneous guests and being more innovative in the kitchen. It's a minor struggle ... learning to exercise the gift of hospitality that comes so easily to others in my life.
But as I flipped through the cards, I realized that there is a treasured legacy residing in my recipe box. A community of the heart built one relationship and one recipe at a time. The women who have shared recipes with me through the years each represent a special part of my heart and life around my family's table.
There are recipes from my childhood in my mom's handwriting, written on the back of data cards recycled from her stint at the U.S. Census Bureau. These recipes include molasses crinkles and raggedy robins. I remember making Japanese teacakes with her, most likely as part of earning a merit badge for GAs at church. The teacake recipe still resides in my recipe box, written in my elementary cursive.
And then there's the recipe for Aunt Rosie's coconut cake. We lost Aunt Rosie to pancreatic cancer just last month, but I will always be glad I have her cake recipe. Perhaps it's time to make it in her honor.
Two women who have probably had the most influence on me in the kitchen are Pam and Natalie. Their contributions to my life, my family and my recipe box are significant and many. Pam always went out of her way to make sure my husband had some combination of peanut butter and chocolate for dessert, so my recipe box contains a number of recipes for delightful concoctions. The most treasured recipes I have from her are e-mailed recipes dated November 07, 2000, just weeks after I became a Mrs. She e-mailed me her recipes for beef vegetable soup and chicken corn soup. I think that's when our almost-annual tradition of Soup Day began. She and I would cook soup all afternoon while the guys watched the game or worked on a project and then we'd share dinner together. Sometimes we'd try new soup recipes, but we always included one or both of these stand-bys. It's been several years since our last Soup Day and while she's no longer on this earth to live and laugh beside me, I'm so grateful for the memories we made and shared together in the kitchen.
Like Pam, Natalie is a gifted, gracious hostess. We have shared thousands of escapades during our friendship, and some of the best have been in the kitchen. I used to be her sous chef, but a few years ago, she told me I'd completed my apprenticeship. Ha. Nearly 20 years ago, after separate trips to New Orleans, we decided to throw a Mardi Gras party to help break up the long, dreary, Pennsylvania winter. That was our first attempt at making gumbo and it was gone so fast, we didn't get to have more than a taste ourselves. (That party was also the time we thought we'd seriously miscalculated how much food we needed and purchased extra frozen appetizers for back-up. Lesson learned: It's better to have too much food than too little.) Since then, we've perfected our version of gumbo and have deemed it Natalie and Elizabeth's Gourmet Gucci Gumbo, since it's our creative take on the traditional version you would find down Louisiana way. We've missed a few years, but try to make it together every February or March.
King's Hawaiian French Toast is one of my favorite breakfast recipes. The story goes that my cousin's husband cooked up a big batch and was boasting about it being a secret family recipe, not to be replicated. Some time later, my uncle picked up a loaf of King's Hawaiian bread and found the not-so-secret recipe right on the back of the bag. My family's been enjoying it ever since.
Cajun pretzels remain a crowd favorite nearly 20 years after a co-worker brought them into work. I've included the recipe below, but beware ... they have a bit of a kick and are addictive! Impossible to eat just one.
Refrigerator rolls from Great Aunt Helen, who was always dressed to the nines and in stiletto heels well into her 90s; chocolate trifle from June, who sets off on a cross-country motorcycle trip tomorrow; chicken enchiladas from Ellen; a "Gotta Try!" party food recipe from Dona handwritten on a scrap of a Pennsylvania map; Heidi's San Antonio quinoa; the list goes on.
I have a recipes board on Pinterest, but it's nothing compared to a few minutes flipping through the cards in my recipe box, remembering life, laughter and tears beside the women who have freely shared themselves, their hospitality and their culinary abilities with me and the ones I love.
2 lbs. broken beer pretzels
1.5 cups vegetable oil
2 tsp. cayenne red pepper
1 T broiled steak seasoning (or seasoned salt)
1/2 tsp. dillweed
1 T Creole seasoning
1 package Hidden Valley Ranch salad dressing mix (original)
Combine all ingredients except pretzels. Mix well. Put pretzels in large baking pan and pour mixture over pretzels. MIX PRETZELS WELL. (yes, this is written in all caps on my recipe card!) Bake at 225 for 1.5 hours, stirring every 15-20 minutes.
Friday, August 2, 2013
My grandpa was a storyteller. Lest you envision a grandpa on a rocking chair in front of the fire with a wee one on his lap, my grandpa would peck out his stories on the typewriter in his den. He had four grandchildren and for a number of our childhood years, he would create a story at the holidays, primarily Thanksgiving and Christmas with an odd Easter thrown in. The stories would feature some combination of the four of us and were a special delight to receive . They are packed away right now, but I'm inspired to pull them out and enjoy the priceless heirloom of his typed words.
My grandpa was born in Wales and grew up in a tight-knit mining community in Pennsylvania. He wrote a memoir about driving mules in the Nottingham coal mines. My brother served as coauthor on the memoir. I'm not sure it was ever published beyond family distribution, but it was a window into the early years of his life and important to understanding that part of our heritage. In his retirement, Grandpa would write and submit stories to Good Old Days magazine and to his joy, had some published.
You wouldn't necessarily expect my grandpa to be a storyteller. His career path included coal mining, restaurant management and retail sales. But he understood something I'm realizing more each day -- your life is your story and everyone has a story to tell. These stories, our lives, are the best stories ever and can be shared over a meal, on a walk, in a book or on a screen. Grandpa has been gone for close to 20 years, but I like to think that if he were around, he'd have his own blog. Or else he'd still be back in the den, pecking away.
Friday, July 26, 2013
Her heart was completely broken. It broke into a million tiny pieces the minute they placed him in her arms. It was the best kind of broken - propelled by the sheer force of joy at the safe arrival of her new son. The world had waited with her, and she'd have to share him with them soon enough, but at this moment it was her and her little family safely cocooned in the hospital suite.
She counted his fingers and toes and wondered which he would break just by boyhood shenanigans. She squeezed his chubby legs and envisioned keeping her fingers crossed that he wouldn't break a leg riding his horse or playing football. What young lady would break his heart for the first time?
His future lay ahead of him like a blank canvas. Not entirely blank, as his heritage prescribed the responsibilities he mantled simply by being born into this family. But as she held him close and felt the million pieces of her heart start to come back together, she purposed once again to protect him from the weight of his birthright even as he would learn to honor it and offer him a happy, bright upbringing filled with the opportunity to laugh with delight, run with joy and perhaps experience a bit of brokenness along the way.
There would be plenty of time for the inevitable brokenness of life in the years to come, but for now, right this moment, before the world even knew he had come, it was simply unbroken perfection.
Friday, July 19, 2013
All she ever wanted was to belong. She was skinny, unkempt, neglected. She had spent the first 14 months of her life crated, outside, 24/7 until the uniformed officer came and took her away. It was loud in the new place, very loud until the lights dimmed at nighttime.
She had a family come visit and decide to take her home, but then they changed their minds. She didn't know why. She was ready to belong. She wasn't sad, though. By nature, she was just a happy girl. All the time, even when things went wrong.
And then one night, on a whim, a couple came to where she lived. At first, they walked right past her. They went behind the closed doors and then came back out, looking disappointed. Then the man stopped by her crate and said to the woman, "Can we look at her?" She turned on what bedraggled charm she had and blinked her big brown eyes. "Sure," said the woman who was with the man.
She couldn't believe it. Was she finally going to belong? The couple disappeared behind the doors again and then one of the workers came to get her. She grabbed a ball and pushed exuberantly into the room. BAM! She ran hard and slid right into the man.
And then she heard the woman say, "Well, that pretty much settles it. She's your girl."
She couldn't believe her ears. She was going to belong! She was going to be a daddy's girl! She was getting a new name! There was some talk about having to meet a big brother to make sure they got along, but she wasn't going to let that stand in her way. She'd be sure to be on her best behavior when he came to visit. It took her about two days to convince him that she belonged to the family, too, and she quickly found her way into her brother's heart and became his best pal.
At last, she belonged. She was home.
Friday, July 12, 2013
I think one of the most significant gifts we can give one another is the gift of being present. That's not a new theory in this age of instant communication, chronic distraction that many of us find ourselves in. Since the advent of the smartphone, many have bemoaned the fact that is so easily allows us to avoid being present with the people we are with at any given moment. I recently got a new phone and I find myself intentionally leaving it on my desk or putting it aside. I even considered, gasp, not getting a smartphone at all. Many survive and even thrive without one.
But I think I realized the importance of the gift of being present when walking with Pam on her journey through cancer. Ironically, the motivation for getting a smartphone was to allow me to stay connected with clients and work when I was being present with her, sitting in waiting rooms waiting for her, spending the day with her while she napped, just spending time in the same place.
When someone you love is ill, it's hard sometimes to find your role, to know what you are to be doing. Many people love the one you love and all want to help and sometimes it can be frustrating when you want to serve in a way that someone else has already taken over. But one day, I had an epiphany. I said to Pam, "I've figured it out. My job, my gift, is to be ... to be present with you, to be in your home, to walk by your side. There are many doers, and I'm one of them, but my primary role is just to be." Not surprisingly, she'd come to the same realization, probably sooner than I had. This part of our story deserves a longer, more thought-through post than a Five Minute Friday entry, but it's what came to mind when I saw today's word prompt.
I've carried the lesson of being present with me ever since. In the big things - like going with a friend to the hospital/emergency room/test - I find it easier to be present than in the little things when I allow myself to be distracted by the day-to-day to-do lists that run through my mind non-stop. But I'll keep trying to improve my ability and desire to be present for it really is a gift.
Sunday, July 7, 2013
We were enjoying breakfast on the cabin porch, taking in the beautiful view, when she quietly poked her head through the foliage. Quietly, the doe looked to the left, to the right, up toward where we were sitting. Deciding the coast was clear, she emerged from the woods and began gently walking across the yard. Ever vigilant, ever alert, stealthy.
We froze and willed the dogs to stay still and oblivious to the scene unfolding below us.
Then one little fawn, and another and a third emerged behind her, following their mama on this adventure wherever it would lead. Another doe brought up the rear of this unanticipated parade of beauty on the Fourth of July. Gently, they crossed the yard in single file until they disappeared again in the brush.
Beautiful comes in many shapes and sizes. It can come when and where we least expect it.
Friday, June 28, 2013
Except for the first four years of my life, I've always been in between. In those earliest years, I was the little sister and the youngest child and grandchild. And then my brother came along. He arrived as Hurricane Agnes roared and swirled and danced angrily around us our little house on Halleck Street. I remember waiting with my older brother and our neighbor, "Aunt Al," for my dad to come home and reveal the arrival of a little sister or brother. I was terribly upset that I had another brother ... not because brothers were bad; more likely because I wanted a real life doll to put in my baby carriage with Raggedy Ann and Andy
Forty-some years later (how can that be?), I'm glad I grew up in between two brothers. If I'd had a sister, I fear that we would have been the fighting, mean kind of sisters, not the Hallmark ideal of sisters who share secrets and giggle over boys. God, thankfully, blessed me with friends who are my chosen sisters.
But back to the brothers. We each very different, but in some ways the same. I can see the indelible markings of our birth order and upbringing - either because of or in spite of - in our personalities and life choices. Our beliefs span the political spectrum (which can lead to lively interactions that give me a headache). Two of us live near one another, one is far away. One is single, one is married with two younger children, one is an empty nester after having helped raise step-kids. We majored in sociology, business and political science in college. We all love to read (thanks to our mother's commitment to taking us to the library). Our personalities are different, which can be very good and very challenging. We are not emotionally open with one another, we're not a touchy-feely, bare-your-emotions siblings.
But this I know. When the chips are down, I know my brothers have my back and I hope they know I have theirs. Sometimes it's the simple things like listening, sending an encouraging card or e-mail, or saying "I'm proud of you." Sometimes it's the bigger, tangible things like showing up at a funeral of a sibling's dearest friend or taking over a responsibility when one of us has a crisis in our immediate family.
During my growing up years, I wasn't thankful for growing up between two brothers. And while some of those frustrations still intermittently rear their childish heads, my perspective now shows me that in between is right where I'm supposed to be.
Friday, June 21, 2013
It all goes well until the rhythm is broken. Broken by a squirrel, a rabbit, a dog, a motorcycle, a bicycle or a person. So many opportunities for cadence to be disrupted.
When Shelby girl joined our family, the humane society trainer warned me that we may not be able to walk her together with Cooper. That lasted all of about three days. While walking is my primary form of exercise -- OK, only form of exercise -- I don't have all day to walk two big dogs separately. They quickly found their rhythm and walk together well.
Until a distraction appears. And then it's all I can do to wrangle Cooper in, attempt to open Shelby's locked jaw to remove whatever "treasure" she's determined to hold onto, call out an apology if needed to a fellow pedestrian. (My neighbor and I think we should have shirts that read, "Just wave. Don't speak. It'll disturb the dog.")
When our rhythm is broken, I am easily frustrated, just like when the routine of my days is unexpectedly disrupted and doesn't go the way I planned. This is one of the many life lessons I've learned while walking my dogs.
Be flexible. Do the best to keep the rhythm, but when life skips a beat, keep on walking until you're back in sync.
Friday, June 14, 2013
A few weeks ago, I received the above Pinterest pin from a dear friend. We've been friends for more than two decades, and for most of those years we've lived at some geographic distance. Initially, it was a manageable two hours, but then her family decided to move to an entirely different coast (!) so our time together is more infrequent than ever.
But when we are together, we pick up right where we left off. And that generally includes going out to dinner or to the beach or to the park and just being together ... while we listen to other people's conversations. I don't think of this as eavesdropping, exactly. It's more of story collecting. Our first year out of college, when we lived close enough to meet for dinner, Friday nights would usually find us enjoying dinner out ... and saying very few words to each other. Oh, the stories we've heard.
And while I find listening to strangers most delightful when she and I are together, I find myself listening to others fairly often. When I was out for a birthday dinner with my husband, we were in a charming restaurant with fabulous food and seated in close proximity to our fellow diners. It was impossible not to overhear the conversations taking place around us. We were seated beside a charming older couple, probably in their 80s, with New York accents. Their interactions intrigued me and I couldn't help but listen. (Note: My husband gets my listening issue and sometimes joins right in with me.) Their conversation turned toward the temperature debate that is present in so many marriages.
Wife: You have spent all of your married years turning off the heat and I have spent my married years turning it back on. I remember when we had a wee baby at home and you left for work and when you left, turned off all the heat which I found to be very inconsiderate of you ...
Wife: ... which may have been why I burned your shorts in the oven.
You cannot script dialogue that fabulous!
Thursday, June 13, 2013
And for a little Jeopardy humor, check this out. At :23, the contestant is a freelance copywriter (like I am) and I swear I had that hair, those glasses and a very similar high-necked blouse in 1984. I could probably find the yearbook photo to prove it!
Wednesday, June 12, 2013
I got a new bike for Mother's Day/my birthday this year. It's a real bike from a real bicycle shop. I feel a little special, although in reality, my height - not my skill - is the reason I got a real bike instead of another department store version. This bike just fits me better. I wouldn't have gotten a bike at all if I didn't refuse to ride the bike that broke on me last year, causing me to crash in front of the local medical center. Something about the handlebars completely falling apart caused a rift in my relationship with that bike. Trust? Gone.
So B bought me a new bike and once again, I started spring with high aspirations for riding my bike more this year. (Last year's bike crash occurred on the season's inaugural ride and happened in the last half of the summer, so clearly I have good intentions and less than stellar follow-through.) And so, while I haven't been riding as much as I'd like, primarily thanks to Seattle-like weather around here, I have been riding more. Today, my destination was the library, where I wanted to check Consumer Reports' ratings on smartphones because mine is dying a slow death and I'm unlikely to avoid a trip to the Verizon store much longer.
I learned a few things today on my ride to the library:
- Vehicles don’t consider bikers waiting at the crosswalk to be pedestrians. Technically, I suppose they’re correct; however, when an actual pedestrian is also waiting to cross the road, stop already, people! It's the law and those signs telling you to stop are more than a suggestion.
- There is a drainage/barrier pipe at the end of the bike path where it meets the highway. You cannot ride your bike across this barrier. You must stop and lift your bike over the barrier at the very busy intersection, unless you've already got it figured out and ride on the road instead of the bike path, like the cyclist who passed me.
- My bike tires are too big for the bike rack at the library.
- While sitting in the quiet section perusing Consumer Reports, I realized I have peanut butter from lunch smeared on my black shorts. Nice. Hand the girl a napkin.
- Consumer Reports didn’t really tell me much that I didn’t know/assume about smartphones, although it did rate the iPhone #10 in the 2013 buying guide, which just made me chuckle at all the Apple advocates I love. Haven't quite crossed over to the
- The bike lock won’t close unless the code is aligned. I guess this makes sense, but I'm not sure why, exactly, that's necessary.
- I had time to get home and write my dad’s Father’s Day card and get it in the mail since I can ride my bike through the neighborhood quicker than the mailman can drive his truck.
- I have about as much confidence (which isn’t much) riding my bike as I did when I was eight despite the fact that I was wearing a bright yellow cinch backpack that reads “Do more of what makes you awesome.” However, I only flinched a little when the dump truck passed me. Just a little.
- I’m glad I wear a helmet. All the cool kids do (as if I've ever been cool) and really, how can I not since I'm still sporting scars from that last year's incident?
Friday, June 7, 2013
I am a summer girl. 100 percent. I am perpetually cold, so I appreciate the heat of the summer months, even when others find it unbearable. Probably my second favorite season is fall, even though it means saying good-bye to summer, fighting the blues as the days grow shorter, and bracing myself against the winter to come.
Fall is back-to-school, something I never dreaded. New notebooks, new pens, a fresh start, reconnecting with friends. It's been many years since I prepared for back to school, but the season still brings with it the possibility of the months to come, before lessons become rote, teachers become challenging, and enough is enough.
The colors of fall are bright and crisp. Red is my favorite and seeing the brilliant crimson light up the landscape makes my heart happy. It's God's seasonal masterpiece before the leaves fall and color disappears for a few long months.
Fall is when I celebrate marrying my best friend. Our wedding day dawned bright and clear, photos attest to the beauty of the season. The temps were warm for Pennsylvania, but perfect for our special day. We've not always been so lucky with weather on our anniversaries, but God designed that perfect day just for us, I think.
I love going to the beach in the fall. Summer crowds have dissipated, the pace slows, the temperature still permits long walks on the beach and toes in the sand. It's like stealing a little bit of summer to store up for winter hibernation.
I love throwing on a sweatshirt with shorts for early morning jaunts with the dogs and lingering on the patio after dinner. A fire in the fireplace to cut the chill and warming up around a campfire with marshmallows and good conversation.
What's your favorite thing about fall?
Friday, May 31, 2013
The afternoon was cool and cloudy, not the weather I'd hoped for this May weekend we'd headed to the beach for a getaway and to celebrate my birthday. As we strolled along the promenade (which sounds much grander than it is), we stumbled across a bench with a Happy Birthday banner strung across the back, a flurry of bright colors popping through the day's grey.
My first thought was that a little girl was having a birthday at the beach and perhaps this was to mark the meeting place for her friends or maybe it was a stop on a scavenger hunt. Then we pretended it was just for me and snapped a photo.
The next day, we rode our bikes along the promenade and as we meandered along, I was reading the backs of some of the dedication plaques on the back. One of the plaques caught my attention because it was in memory of "Mustang" Sally B. As a Mustang convertible loving duo, we laughed and began to imagine who Mustang Sally was. Then I saw her life dates ... and her birthday was the day before. The day we saw the birthday bench. The birthday banner was nowhere to be seen this day, but I thought we had once again found the birthday bench.
Who was Mustang Sally? How much fun did she have at the beach? How much was she loved? So loved that someone took the time to commemorate the 98th anniversary of her birthday with a banner on a bench at a beach?
I had imagined a little girl's birthday celebration or a leftover banner someone just hung on a bench just for fun. I hadn't imagined the love of a husband, child or friend celebrating a life that wrote nearly a century of stories.
Who were you, Mustang Sally? I've been imagining your story ever since I saw your banner.
Note: Upon closer examination of the photo, it turns out that the birthday bench didn't belong to Mustang Sally after all. But it made me begin to imagine and wonder about the stories and lives of the ones whose names were on the bench plaques. So, thank you, birthday banner hangers, for providing some color on a dreary day and for sparking some imagination in this overwhelmed mind.
Friday, May 24, 2013
It really is. As much as I love to travel, I truly am a homebody. I work from home (mostly), which suits me well. When we moved into this house almost five years ago, we lived in a construction zone for nearly a year as we basically gutted the entire first floor (i.e., the main living area of our ranch house), so while the projects will never cease, I am grateful to enjoy the fruits of our labor.
But it's not the structure or the wood-burning fireplace or the beautiful kitchen that create the best part of the view; it's the ones I love. Looking in from my front porch, I see:
- My husband who makes me laugh, works beside me, is my partner in crazy capers, and provides a safe place for me to land. Every time.
- Our two four-legged loveys who keep me company during the day, provide joy (and challenge!) on a daily basis and never let me forget that sometimes it's important to just stop and show a little love.
- Girlfriends who come to share their lives and study the Bible together.
- Grown kids coming for dinner and a mad game of Royal Crowns.
- Relatives gathered around for Thanksgiving or birthdays or just because.
- Friends who come for dinner, stop by on a bike ride or come to keep our (almost) annual gumbo-making tradition.
Friday, May 17, 2013
Songs can evoke such powerful memories, can't they?
"So Noah, he built him, he built him an arky, arky": Singing this with my mother at a mother-daughter banquet dressed in identical dresses (mortified on various accounts)
"I'll fly away, oh glory, I'll fly away": The worship team sang a particularly peppy version of this one morning and a friend had the same comment as I did: I want them to sing this at my memorial service.
"I love rock and roll, put another dime in the juke box, baby": Secretly listening to the disallowed Top 10 at 10 on Q107 under the covers with the volume as low as it could go. A wanna-be Joan Jett.
"My brown-eyed girl, you my brown eyed girl": Forever when I hear this Van Morrison song, I will raise a glass to Pam, the brown-eyed girl, and remember how her favorite band played this live at her memorial service. PRICELESS.
"I had an El Camino and it got stuck": A completely fictitious song that has no other words, but cracked us up every time a friend's El Camino ... got stuck.
"How Great Thou Art": My childhood pastor closed every service having someone sing this. At the time, I thought it was repetitious. Now, I truly think "How Great Thou Art."
"Ring the bells, oh, ring the bells": The pastor's wife singing this in her vibrating voice every.single.Christmas.
"Friends are friends forever ...": Lands me right back in junior high every time. Thank you, Michael W. Smith.
"How beautiful the hands that served": A dear friend sang this Twila Paris song at our wedding while we took communion.
Pachabel's Canon in D: A classic favorite that our organist couldn't (wouldn't?) play for our wedding.
What song brings back memories for you?