Sunday, May 31, 2009

a princess' dream

Molly got married last night, with two of her favorite young ladies beside her to celebrate.
It was a wonderful evening and the bride really did look like a princess. So did her flower girls!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

dressing up

Okay, HELP!

I’m heading to Chicago in July for Pampered Chef’s annual national conference. Each year my executive director hosts a banquet for her team, and this year she is mixing it up a little (I love it when there’s a twist on the usual action!).

The invitation to the banquet invites us to come as our favorite movie character or movie star. Here’s my challenge: I don’t think trying to look like Meryl Streep will work out terribly well, so a movie character sounds more creative. But what character?

I don't know that I have a favorite movie character, and even if I did the challenge would be to dress in a way that made it clear who the character is. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz.

Thoughts? Ideas? I need some serious help here!
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Friday, May 29, 2009

friday five: the big "to do"

Kathryn at Revgals writes:
It seems like every year I enter into the summer with a growing list of HUGE projects/events/trips that seem to have a permanent place on the 'to do' list.This year I have a huge move pending so that takes up an entire list all on its own, but it doesn't take a big event like that for me to make plans bigger than my summer can hold!How about you?

Is this the third summer in a row you have made a pledge involving your garage and actually getting a car into it?
Did you once again miss the registration deadline for the continuing education event of your dreams ?
Are you starting to think you couldn't even find the tents, let alone get it together to pull off a camping trip?

Here is your chance to get it out into the open and OWN your Big To-Do! Who knows? Maybe making the list will help you move the Big To-Do to the Big Ta-Da!

1) What home fix-it project is on your Big To-Do?
You name it! Only moments ago as my husband and I pulled into the driveway returning from Dunkin Donuts he remarked, "we need to paint the house." We've been debating this for a while. The house is a dark brown brick, a sort of veneer over pale yellow that seems to crumble much too easily. The challenge will be, what color to paint? The shutters also need to be replaced, soffits repaired from water damage, railing and stairs put on the deck, shed needs to be painted... and that's just outside. Indoors we plan to paint the living room, and would love to get rid of the nasty carpet and replace it with hardwood flooring. It was filthy to begin with when we moved in, and three dogs, and now a puppy being housebroken have added to the horror. For visual relief I am including pictures of one of my projects from last year, painting the adirondack chairs! (before and after for your viewing pleasure)

2) What event (fun or work) is on your Big To-Do?
To tell you the truth, there aren't any events on tap for the summer. We take our vacation in the spring and fall to Melrose, and summer we are usually just at home hanging about.

3) What trip is on your Big To-Do?
See number 2! Although I might try to get to St. Louis for a few days (where I lived for four years) to visit friends there.

4) What do you wish was on someone ELSE's (partner, family member, celebrity, etc...) Big To-Do?
When it comes to home improvement my husband takes care of that without issue. It's his profession, so we save a lot of money when he does the work. And, since he has recently closed his business and is now unemployed he has plenty of time to get to some of our projects! On my son's to-do list is popping the question to his girlfriend. I'm privvy to how he plans to do it, and she needs to get something scheduled in order for it to happen!

5) Getting inspired? What may end this summer having moved from the Big To-Do to the Big Ta-da?
On my perpetual "to do" is getting my office ship-shape. I have inspiration, just lack the funds to purchase the necessary equipment to make it happen. Maybe, just maybe we'll find a way to make that the big "Ta Da" this summer. Crossing fingers, toes, and everything else!

Thursday, May 28, 2009

blank slate

There are days when so many myriad thoughts swim through my mind that I want to hasten to the computer and begin a blog entry for future use. Alas, I rarely yield to that temptation, which is a pity on mornings like this when my mind is blank and I have nothing of substance to say. It's been that kind of week.

I didn't end up going to The Mountain because of a pulled muscle in my back. I shouldn't be surprised--there's been plenty of tension and little opportunity of late for relief. For two days I essentially sat in the recliner with pillows under my knees for added comfort, and got caught up on some tivo. Watched a movie called The Painted Veil. I had never heard of it, but it had three stars and featured Naomi Watts and Edward Norton. It moved slowly, but in the end was worth the time. It's based on a Somerset Maughn book, and having read something of Maughn's way back in high school it felt like a worthy risk. The third Pirates of the Carribbean, on the other hand, was so strange 40 minutes in that I abandoned ship and deleted it.

I would like to have read, but the light at the recliner is out of commission, and it seemed wise to stay comfortable. As my back improves over these subsequent days I might be ready to switch to a chair more suitable for reading.

And that's life this week. Tentative. I can deal with that.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

time off

I'm off to The Mountain today. Around these parts people understand that phrase to mean Sewanee, a.k.a. the University of the South, the Holy Mountain, the seminary... I lived in Sewanee (or what I liked to refer to as "Metro Sewanee") for nearly three years, and although it's true that it's a beautiful place when you can get to an edge for one of these views, when you're driving arounds its roads it's just like any other rural place. Most of the views up on the Cumberland Plateau are from private homes in gated communities, which strikes me as a cruel injustice since the county adjacent to the one in which Sewanee is situated is one of the poorest in the state. That's a topic for another day. (The other view below is taken from the deck at St. Mary's Convent. Now there's a group of women who totally deserve a private view!)

This sunset view predates the notion of that kind of exclusion. It's taken from the small area of grounds that surround what is known as the Sewanee Cross (second picture). The valley below is called Hawkins Cove, settled ages ago by a family named, of all things, Hawkins. It is a wonderful view, and I was grateful when I lived there to have the opportunity to visit it.

Today I am heading to the mountain for a small gathering of clergy for an overnight visit with our bishop at St. Mary's Center. He began these gatherings last spring, and this is the second iteration of such an event. Eight of us meet informally for conversation around questions that the bishop has determined in advance. It's "guided sharing" along the lines of guided imagery, except that our eyes are open. Or so one hopes, at least in the figurative sense. It was fruitful time the last time I attended, and I expect it will be again.

Except for two things against which I need to caution myself not to have expectations. I know of two other colleagues that will be there. One of them is a person who really pushes my buttons. This is one of those opportunities to practice all manner of Christian charity, tolerance, patience, and a "love thy neighbor" approach. I will endeavor to do so. This isn't God's humor at work so much as a potential opportunity for the relationship, such as it is, to experience transformation. Or not. We shall see.

The other person will be a challenge for entirely different reasons that have nothing to do with him personally. I won't go into the circumstances of that here, but there are some boundary issues (my perception, I own that) that may interfere with feeling free to share what I might choose to say otherwise. Cryptic, I know, and for that I apologize. I am hoping that the presence of these two colleagues won't mitigate what can otherwise be a healthy and needed time away. I will pray for that, and for whatever surprises of the delightful kind that God might have in store for me. I've got enough challenges right now to warrant wanting only delightful surprises.

So off I go, with a stop along the way to look for something to wear to the wedding this weekend, and with a little additional time, with camera in hand, to see what sorts of other surprises await me on the journey of these two days. Blessings, all, until I can greet you again.
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Sunday, May 24, 2009

the next generation

This picture is of a group of friends about to head to their senior prom. Notice anything missing? Like, guys, for instance? Yes, there were guys at the prom, but the dates of these young women are each other. Yes, that's right. The girls went with each other to the prom instead of going with male dates.

They made this decision last summer. Noting that some among them were not part of a couple, and recognizing that coupling was a changeable thing among their peer group, they made the bold determination to attend their prom dateless. For some of them this was less of a hardship than for others. Some would meet their boyfriends at the prom and laugh and dance the night away. Others had beaux that weren't members of this school's senior class, and they would not see their sweeties. But the statement was made: sisterhood is powerful. It gives me hope for the future of our land that such wisdom is in evidence among our youth. You go, girls!

The other evening I had dinner with a young couple who will marry next weekend. I have known the bride, a member of my church, for close to ten years. The groom I had only met in passing when he visited our church with his honey. The wedding will be at his church, and as a guest co-officiant I have not had the kind of contact with the couple that I would have under other circumstances. I wanted to know something of the young man whose marriage I would have a hand in solemnifying.

I don't know where he came by his maturity and wisdom, but this young man is every mother's dream of the kind of guy she wants her daughter to marry. He is level-headed, gracious, sensitive, patient, compassionate, selfless and bright. He's 26 going on 50. I asked the bride to describe him in one word and she chose genuine. It fits.

In a short span of days I witnessed the reality that the generation that will grow into leaders at a critical time for our world is populated with bright, thoughtful individuals who have demonstrated that life is about more than them. How we treat other people matters to them, and the recognition that our behavior has an impact on others is made manifest in their decisions. Yes, there will be idiots among their peers as well, but these young people are banner bearers of hope. I wish them well in the lives they are beginning to carve out as adults. In their hands I can sleep a little better at night.
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Saturday, May 23, 2009

Friday, May 22, 2009

friday five: vacations

Mary Beth at revgals is getting us thinking about vacations!
1) What did your family do for vacations when you were a child? Or did you have stay-cations at home?
In the summer we spent a couple of weeks in Hyannisport, where an elderly cousin had a house. Yes, it was on the water!! There were times when we stayed there while JFK was in office and we would watch Marine One fly in to the Kennedy Compound with the family on board (or at least some members of the family--we couldn't see them disembark). In spite of that excitement Hyannisport was just another place to spend time. We swam, learned to sail, walked down to the general store and post office to pick up mail, newspapers and licorice. There was a place in a nearby town that had homemade ice cream, and going there was always a treat. I have some wonderful memories from those vacations!

On spring vacations we visited Melrose, my family's tree farm in South Carolina. You've already heard about that place and seen some of its photos! Activities when we were kids were a little different than now. We did a lot more climbing around in trees, on huge rocks, had picnics by the creek at a favorite location, swung in the hammock, read books... We lived in Connecticut, so on many of our drives to and from (it's a good two-day drive) we detoured to places of historic significance: Valley Forge, Williamsburg, Monticello, Gettysburg. Those visits made our nation's history come alive for me in ways that might not have happened otherwise. The colonial and revolutionary war period continue to be favorites of mine.
2) Tell us about your favorite vacation ever:
Hands down, my best vacation was a two-week trip through Scotland to dance in castles. We were a fairly small group of country dancers (12), but we traveled with our own fiddler and pianist, which meant dancing to live music whenever and wherever! We danced at places like Blair Castle (pictured, in the ballroom) in Perthshire, Culzean Castle in Ayr, and smaller venues less well known. We also danced spontaneously--on the side of the road at Rest and be Thankful (the dance of that name), on the ferry, in an empty chamber at Castle Campbell. It was the most extraordinary trip, and twenty years later I am still in touch with some of my fellow dancers that I met on that trip (four of them came to my wedding three years ago!). There are not enough superlatives to describe it.

3) What do you do for a one-day or afternoon there a place nearby that you escape to on a Saturday afternoon/other day off?
I adore Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville. Middle Tennessee has lots of interesting places to go to within a relatively short distance. In fact, when my husband returns from his fishing trip I'm going to suggest we go strawberry picking at a place near a popular lake less than an hour from us.
4) What's your best recommendation for a full-on vacation near you...what would you suggest to someone coming to your area? (Near - may be defined any way you wish!)
Depending on what you like to do, there's lots to do in Nashville (and it's not all about country music!), or the Smokey Mountains are a few hours east. I have fallen in love with the Smokies. The mountain streams are clean and clear; the moutains are covered with rhododenron; there is history; music; shopping; horseback riding; hiking; fishing...

5) What's your DREAM VACATION?
There are a number of places that I'd like to visit: return to Scotland, head to Cantabria on the north coast of Spain, visit Italy, see Machu Picchu in Peru, and get to New Zealand where my friend Clare lives. But since we're talking about dreaming here and reality doesn't have to intrude, my dream vacation would be to spend a week or so anywhere with our kids and grandkids (so far there is one grandchild, with a second on the way). We aren't especially close these days with my step-daughter and her family, and step-son isn't married yet so the next generation from that branch of the tree is yet to come. But in some hopefully not distant day it would be a treat it we could all be together and enjoy being a family together. That is my dream.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

let your voice be heard!

Meet Rigel (pronounced like Nigel), our German short-haired pointer . He's really Ken's dog, but since I'm his Mama I get to claim him, too. And I really do love him. I do! Approaching two years of age he is still a big puppy, and I suspect he will be until the end of his days. He likes to nibble on your ears, is that not cute? And he loves to put anything in his mouth that will flop around, like underwear, or make noise, like an empty water bottle. These examples come from real life. Snap, crackle, pop, that's Rigel. Isn't he a handsome guy?

He's named for the brightest star in the constellation of Orion, and the sixth brightest star in the sky, in case you wondered. Orion is the hunter. See the solid white blotch on his forehead in the midst of the ticking? It looks starish, and since he's a hunting dog, well, it sort of worked. It took three days for that name to emerge, but once it did, it was golden, like the star God planted on his forehead. Rigel is also arabic for "left foot," its location in the constellation.

Anyway, I have a plan up my sleeve to do something for Ken's birthday and I can't decide which of these photos to use to execute my plan. They are really two photos, but cropped differently. He's a hard dog to photograph since he detests the camera and is probably ADD. The guy can't stay still for a moment unless he's sleeping or phasing into slumber. These two are the best of a bunch I shot the other day. I'd prefer that the shock collar not be so dominant, but what can I say. An expert (or even novice) in photoshop I am not!

I'd love your input on which view to use for my little project. You can "vote" in the comment section, or when I am able to place the "poll" on the sidebar you can make your opinion count there. The poll will stay open for another week or so, and then I will need to act on my plan. If you really feel strongly you can vote more than once!

One of these days I'll also post some pictures of Juliet, who never seems to get equal blog time. She is such a good girl that there are rarely antics to report. I'd like to have a portrait done of her (of all the dogs, eventually) now that I have found a wonderful painter who does dog portraits (thanks, Diane!!). Dooley (I miss you BooBoo!) will get first honors.

So what'll it be? Choice A, B, C or D? Vote early and often--it's allowed here!

PS. Does anyone know how to teach a dog to wipe his paws? I just cleaned the carpets and now there are lovely pawprints from where "a certain dog," as he has come to be known when the wind isn't blowing in his favor, has played in the dirt. Anyone?

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Wednesday, May 20, 2009

it's all about the chi

If you've been visiting this blog long enough you know that I struggle with clutter. This is not a life-long affliction--in fact, in many ways I am the organizational queen: got a closet that begs for transformation? I'm your girl. No more space to store the lastest gadget? Let me at it and I'll have you fixed up in no time. When I lived in a one bedroom cabin with a loft in the eave of the place, I rocked every square inch of that establishment.

Where I live now the challenges are manifold. Closet space is pitiful. Our bedroom closet can't contain our collective clothing (and Ken is not a clotheshorse), so we spill over. My dresses share space in the hall closet with stacked drawers of craft supplies and vacuum cleaners. And oh, did I mention that there are ball gowns from an era of Scottish country dancing there as well? (They need to move on--not only am I not dancing these days, but they're also size 8's). The front hall closet hosts Ken's suit jackets and sports coats, his shoes, my winter coats, the slide projector, tablecothes, wrapping paper and gift bags for ordinary time (as opposed to Christmas). The guest room closet is filled with fabric and some of my skirts, as well as clothes that I have outgrown in the last year (another subject for another day). The closet in my office is, well, crammed with more things than one would think possible and still look organized. Really! Somewhere I have a picture to prove it!

Awhile back I posted that I was on the way to revamping the closet and the rest of the office to ban the clutter that has taken over this space. I made an auspicious start, emptying the closet of its contents so that I could redo the shelves and install some drawers that presently occupy space elsewhere. I was psyched. And then I got stalled.

While looking for an image for another post the other day I happened upon a web site featuring an article about feng shui. I've known about feng shui for several years, read up on it several years ago and sought to bring some of the principles of it into my abode to help bring balance to a sometimes chaotic life. But then I moved, and life became really, well, crappy, and survival crowded out feng shui principles. (As I look back at this I am hearing a letter being drafted: "My dear Wormwood...").

I welcome the rediscovery of feng shui and for the first time in a long time, feel the twinge of long-absent hope. Not spiritual hope, space hope! The sense of feeling overwhelmed by so much to do, of tending to details, of tackling mundane tasks that are, nonetheless, essential to a good credit rating could all be vanquished with a little office feng shui. Is it any wonder that I feel like my energy has been sapped when there are piles on my desk taller than I am when seated? How can I help but feel discouraged when there isn't a square inch of surface left to put down something that really does need attention like, now?

My mother gave me some money for my birthday, and I told Ken that I was going to use it to buy shelving accessories for the closet. He gave me a blank look. "Why don't you spend it on yourself--you deserve it?" he asked. That was sweet, but does he not get it? Being able to get my space organized makes this girl exceedingly happy! It's all about the chi. Stay tuned for updates. I'm thinking that this might just be my Memorial Day weekend project...
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Tuesday, May 19, 2009

two kinds

My newphew was born in the waning minutes of September 29 in a year long enough ago to put him in college now. The next morning my brother called me as daylight was breaking and announced, "he's heeeeeerrrrrrre!" It was Sunday, and I remember shifting gears to go to early church so that I could get to the hospital to see Jesse as soon as possible. My mother, then living in a suburb of the Big Apple, drove into the city to pick up my grandmother before heading our direction to meet her first grandchild. There was great excitement in the family.

I remember Elaine, Jesse's other grandmother, being moved by his arrival on "the holiest of days," Yom Kippur, the Jewish day of atonement. Whatever direction Jesse's spiritual life was to take, his inheritance was literally Judeo-Christian, and I noted to myself that on my own calendar of feast days Jesse's birth coincided with St. Michael and All Angels. It seemed to me a double blessing to him that these two celebrations undergird the days that would unfold as his life.

After a period of time of collective oohing and aahing and congratulating the new parents, my family headed to my brother's house for some time together, and to give the new mother a chance to rest. Leaving his car at the hospital Jamie rode back to the house with me. After clearing the center of town I turned left onto a side road, a short-cut to the house. In the seat beside me Jamie smiled and nodded his appreciation that I knew the route. "There are two kinds of people in the world," he said. "Those who do and those who don't."

I knew exactly what he meant. If our upbringing in the Quaker tradition did nothing else it condoned the right to non-conformity. It wasn't taking short cuts that my brother appreciated, but the willingness to break from the well-trod route of familiarity to go a different direction. His work as a home remodeler reveals that regularly as he designs and builds distinctive spaces that reflect the lives of the people who live in them. His imagination is never confined by what has been done before as he considers what could be.

It can be risky to consider possibility, and it has dawned on me that such risk lies at the heart of why the Church has failed in so many ways. My thinking along these lines began with the not uncommon question of why so many people want to be told what to think and believe rather than allowing their minds and their lives to draw their own conclusions. In spite of the biblical understatement that "it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God," (Heb 10:31) so many people who consider themselves faithful don't practice faith, but mimicry. It's easy. It doesn't require the wrestling of conscience or asking questions of conflicting texts, the answers to which might lead us into territory where while our belief might feel more grounded we are also more alone. To stand outside what is normative is to risk discovering a new way of thinking, feeling, acting; it reveals the unknown territory of what can be even as it promises us the fulfillment of arriving at a place that feels like home to our soul. The implications of this for the Church are manifold. Wait. Doesn't that sort of describe what Jesus was trying to tell us?

There are those who do and those who don't; those who seek and those who settle. And there are those who like nuts in their brownies and those who don't. What kind are you?
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Monday, May 18, 2009

just another day

Here are a few pictures from our progressive dinner yesterday.
The temperatures were a little too cool and breezy but it was an otherwise spectacular day. Great food, great fun, wonderful hospitality from our hosts.

Today looks to be another stellar spring offering. Deep blue sky, crisp light, and although chilly, the promise of the desire to close one's eyes and take many deep breaths. I don't even need to suggest smiling, I can tell you're already doing that at the very thought!

Ken has departed on what he anticipates being a ten-day fishing trip. The fishing and the change of scenery (and beautiful, at that) will do him good. It already feels strange that it's so quiet at home, but I suspect I will adjust!

There will be no rest for the weary while he's gone. I will need to cut the grass today or tomorrow, and for sure today I will bleach/shampoo the carpet. That probably sounds strange, but when we had to do a parvo clean last year we discovered that bleach is amazing as a rug cleaner (properly diluted, of course!)

And now I've got dogs to feed. One down, two to go! Blessings on your day!

Saturday, May 16, 2009

first light

It was "break of day in the neighborhood" when I took McKinlee out earlier for a little first-thing-in-the-morning relief. The neighbor across the street passed by as he completed another circuit around the block on his daily run; the child of another neighbor--who doubles as our newspaper deliverer--was inching along the road depositing papers in boxes; within earshot (a relative term) someone was revving up a motorized contraption for yardwork; birds offered a serenade of welcome to the day and the pinkish-orange glow of early light splashed across portions of the streetscape. There's something about taking in the rhythms of very local life at this time of day that is pleasing to the soul.

In search of an image to reflect this morning mood I came upon this shot of a camel, unaware that he appears to be basking in his very own spotlight. Now at Melrose we actually do have a camel in the neighborhood, but here, alas, the wildlife is more mundane. We lack the drama of these mountains as well. Nonetheless, this image spoke to me.

I appreciate the suggestion of solitude and what strikes me as a moment of personal revelry as the day begins. The photographer within me likes the composition, the simplicity of minimal color and the complexity of shadow layers. What I really love, however, is that it's all about the camel. For a moment in time and captured forever, this creature is the star. The light that explodes so tightly around his shape is almost surreal. Beam him up. Take him away.

But from where he stands he is unaware of the image he casts. Within his view is a panorama of his surroundings. This moment, this terrain, this journey is familiar and unremarkable. The ground beneath his feet is the same ground over which he trods day in, day out. One step is like any other, the burden on his back indistinguishable from those he has carried before and will carry again. This moment, to him, is so lacking in distinction that it is forgotten before it even arrives. It is invisible.

How odd that it should inspire in my imagination an opposite response. In this case the camera has offered me a glimpse into another reality. But every day there is something ordinary that signals my attention and gives me pause to consider another life, another angle, another perspective, a catch against my choices and preferences (I am avoiding the word "values").

Yesterday as I was heading into the funeral home to conduct a service I caught out of the corner of my eye a cluster of people conversing with one another. A young lady among them stood out: a pink top, a coordinating, patterned skirt, and leggings. Leggings. To a funeral? Internally I rolled my eyes, but the moment had channeled its way into my consciousness and I simultaneously looked down my nose at the wardrobe and chastised myself for the judgment.

Singular moments like these are essential to life, or at least to mine. They keep me honest, work to keep my mind open and to expand my heart to take in the burdens another person might carry. Like the world of the camel the terrain over which they travel is generally unremarkable and most moments invisible. Yet because some aspect of that world is different from mine it beckons to me to pay attention, to see it, to allow it to make an impression for whatever purpose it might serve to connect me to the world and the lives I encounter in it. Such moments shed light, literally and figuratively, and join the collective gallery of images and impressions that shape me. Like the stars in the sky they become part of the landscape that is familiar to me. And who knows, perhaps my ordinary, invisible moments open a world for someone else. Like the camel did for me.
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Friday, May 15, 2009

friday five: friends

Jan at Revgals writes:
Ever since I found out I could be the hostess for the third Friday Five of each month, I have not been able to get the thought of friends out of my mind. Being an only child (all growed up) who moved around a lot in my lifetime, friends have always been very important to me. As Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote: "The way to have a friend is to be a friend."So today let's write about the different kinds of friends we have, like childhood friends, lost friends, tennis friends, work friends, and the list goes on. List 5 different types of friends you have had in your life and what they were/are like.

I am blessed to have some amazing friends, and I am especially blessed that they put up with my less-than-stellar care of them sometimes. (So many things in my life need rehabilitation...)

Among my blessings are:

Cross-generation friends--

Jimmy and Barbara were friends of my grandmother, then my Mom, and for a good number of years now friends of mine as well. They have a unique place in my family's life, but the blessing is that beyond being family friends, I count them as personal friends as well. They are fun, witty, smart, compassionate, generous, selfless, hospitable, and the list goes on. I wish we lived closer, but at least I get to see them a couple of times at year.

Young friends--

This is Sammy, who fits the description "If I had a daughter of my own I would want her to be Sammy." Along with Johanna, my goddaughter, I have received the gift of being able to exercise the Mom gene with my young friends. They have come for sleepovers. I have attended their school functions. I have sewn for them, knitted for them, cooked for them, taken them shopping, listened to them, loved them. And more. They have no idea how incredibly important it has been for me to have them as "daughters." No idea. I'm crying as I write...

Cyber friends--

My life is so rich with wonderful cyber friends. These relationships began through a scrapbooking message board, then others came through beliefnet, and now via the blog world. A cyberfriend in New Zealand is my confessor (she's a non-believing RC, perfect choice!) and my twin in so many ways. Others help me exercise my funny bone because they help me laugh, and laugh, and laugh some more. Others offer hugs and send flowers when I'm going through a rough patch (well, they all offer hugs, some have the "send flowers" gene). Still others inspire me with their creativity, and others live such amazing lives and rise to challenges that would leave me in a heap that they have my undying admiration and respect. And they're smart. I like smart. And creative. Did I mention that? And witty. Those three attributes top my list.

Local friends--

For a transplant like me this is a very important category! They're the ones with whom I go eat sushi, hold yard sales, call in emergencies, call just because (and it helps to know their schedule!), and who bail me out when I haven't yet recognized that I need bailing. They conspire to throw me birthday parties (thanks Yolande!) and pay attention to details that emerge at birthday parties (that would be you, Wendi, even though you don't read this). These friends ground me in a different way than some of my down-deep, there-in-the-crux friends. Couldn't do without 'em!

Through thick and thin friends--
There are fewer of these, and they hold a place of honor that I revere. They not only listen to me whine, but they catch my tears, scrape me off the floor, soar through the air with me, understand with silence too deep for words, emerge when I didn't know I needed them... Some are near and some are far, but when push comes to shove, they come through like no one else. They are heart heroes to me.

Okay I'm crying now, and I have a funeral this morning and still need to print bulletins, get dressed, figure out what I'm going to say... I want to ask my revgal friends if they vest when doing funeral home services. Do you? I'm not going to. (Wish there was a quick and easy way to be in touch when these things come up!). No bonus link today, but I want to give a nod to Kim and Diane as new cyber friends who help keep me centered. And I learned of them through the revgals!

Thanks for giving me some time for my inner being as I start my day. My soul needs my friends. I love you all!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

you may call me lady anne

... but before I tell you about that I want to tell you about my birthday evening.

A play in one act.

Act I, scene 1: dinner with friends last Friday at The Bull and Whistle, a new pub in town. A beautiful evening out on the patio, a breeze. Good food, good company.

Me: "Let's talk about plans for my birthday next week. I just want to grill out and have friends over."

Ken: "I'm taking you out to dinner" I look at Ken with a "how dare you be so bossy about my birthday" dagger in my eye. He continues... "It was supposed to be a surprise!"

I weigh my options. Tough call--taking care of and standing up for self, tending to the delicate marriage balance. I decide to choose my battles. I shut up.

Act I: scene 2: Mother's Day breakfast at church. I whine about my birthday to the women seated with me at the table.

Me: "Ken says he's taking me out for dinner. I just want to grill out and have friends over!" (note that my desire is singular. Give me points for consistency!). Conversation ensues that is predictable among women when talking about men. Commiseration, wise counsel...

Act I, scene 3: lunch on the day of my birthday with women from Bible Study and two others that joined us. I whine some more. Obviously I have not let go of what one friend describes as my need to be in control. (That's a discussion for another time.) Refer to scene 2.

Act I, scene 4: heading out to dinner the evening of my birthday

Me: "So where are we going for dinner?"

Ken: "It's a surprise!"

Me: "Okay" (true resignation). "You're turning left. That narrows down the choices," I am unnecessarily observant. Conversation ensues about efficient routes to various dining establishments in town, and that although we could get to any of them by "turning left," it would not be efficient to do so for most of them.

Ken: "You shouldn't be worrying about efficient routes to places, do you know why?"

Me: "Because you're driving"

Ken: "That's right!"

Me: "I can't help it, that's the way my brain works."

Shortly we turn right, and then into the parking lot of the Bull and Whistle. We get into the restaurant and the hostess asks,

"how many?" I hold up two fingers, but Ken walks past her and says, "we have reservations." I look at her and shrug. I follow Ken. We pass by a cluster of people at the bar and then I spy a group through the dim light of the pub just as they begin to sing,

"Happy Birthday to you!..." Ten women friends serenade me.

Ken: gives me a kiss. "Happy Birthday." Then to the group, "Someone see to it that she gets home." He departs. It was the best gift he could have given me.

My birthday rocked!

Now, about my title...

At dinner with the local sisterhood I received one of the most original gifts on record: notice of a Deed of Entitlement as the rightful proprietor of my very own square foot of Dunan Castle (grounds), Argyll, Scotland!

As rightful owner I am entitled to use the title Lady Anne of Dunans Castle. I have lifetime access to the grounds, the right to fish on the property, use the stationary and offical insignia, my own email address, and a tree planted in my honor, among other goodies.

Is this cool or what!!!

I am still learning about Dunans Castle, the site of which has a history that goes back about 500 years. Its active history is more recent (19th century), and several years ago a fire took out its roof. New owners are working to restore and expand the usefulness of the property, which boasts the tallest tree in the United Kingdom, a Stronardron Fir. My little patch of heaven is in the vicinity of this fir.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

happy birthday to me!

It's glorious number 52. The house number of the very first home I owned.
Fascinating trivia...

On today's agenda:
bible study;
lunch with the bs women (I hope they don't object to that reference);
work on a Pampered Chef flier to send out;
watch tivo;
go out to dinner with Ken;
end of day.

Just another day in the life!
(interspersed with lots of canine cuddles)
photo taken at Jimmy and Barbara's when we had an early birthday celebration!
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Monday, May 11, 2009

puppy love

Rigel is camera-shy. I think he has begun to channel Brenna, my beloved Border Collie who died four years ago (has it been that long?) and had a strong aversion to the camera. The sound of the camera focusing or the popping open of the flash apperatus sends Rigel running.

When McKinlee began to cuddle with Rigel after their play episodes I wanted desperately to capture the coziness. Not so! Rigel would hear the camera and beat a retreat, spoiling not only the pose but my intentions as well. When they fell into this pose the other night I took the camera into the other room, forced the flash open and moved the lens setting to manual focus. I returned to the living room and got in position. Low light. Not good. Poor eyesight. Another check in the debit column. I tried as best I could and snapped. I hear the delay of the shutter and knew I was in trouble with a longer than desired exposure.

This is the result. I'll take it. It captured the moment and makes me smile, and however imperfect the image I now have it.

Now to devise a way to help Rigel overcome his camera phobia.
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Sunday, May 10, 2009

happy mother's day!

This is a bittersweet day for me. I have no children of my own, a fact of circumstance, and the deepest sadness of my life. There is a part of me that will forever be empty, no matter how many children are part of my life and no matter how much love flows from my heart.

It is bittersweet because though I do, now, have a family by marriage, the joy of surrogate motherhood is shadowed by the neglect of my step-daughter. At one time she initiated calls and emails to me, and I thought we were building a relationship that would deepen through the years. For some reason she has shifted to a mode of painful silence. We have minimal contact with them, and are deprived the role of grandparents with her son and the child that is on the way.

And yet...

There is joy that shines brightly in my life, and that is the gift of my relationship with Junior (and now Trisha). On our way home from Melrose we were able to spend an afternoon with them, and they gifted me with the bucket pictured here, filled with specially chosen items.

The sheep in the bucket is from Build-a-Bear, and though you can't see it well in the picture, she is wearing pink cowboy boots with guitars on them. This is a nod to my affection for country music and to the evening we all spent at the Opry when they were here at Christmas. It is also evidence that Trisha and Junior pay attention to details: like my sheep collection. Tucked into the bear is a heart that they both kissed before it was sealed inside.

Last year for Mother's Day Junior put together a planter of flowers for me, and as soon as I remember to do so I will pick up some new flowers to replace the remnants of those. It is a perpetual reminder of our affection for each other, and particularly of his thoughtfulness.
I am a lucky Mom after all. And though I can be patient until the moment arrives, I can't wait until he has kids and I have the full blessing of being Nana.

Thank you Junior. I love you too.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

saturday morning meme

Courtesy of Kim at An oft-traveled Road.

What’s your current obsession?
Keeping up with certain blogs

What project or activity are you itching do start?
A Quilt of Valor

Last thing you bought?
Chinese food for dinner

What book is at the top of the stack on your bedside table?
Three Cups of Tea

Favorite kid’s movie?
It’s been a long time since I’ve seen it, but back in the day I couldn’t get enough of Thomasina

Favorite movies?
The American President, Chariots of Fire, Ladyhawke, Sleepless in Seattle, The Hunt for Red October

Favorite vacation spots?
Melrose, anywhere with the Cabana Crew

What are you listening to?
Thunder and rain. Lots of rain.

Four words to describe you:
Creative, insightful, compassionate, introvert

Guilty pleasures?

Who or what can make you laugh until you are weak?
the “Cake Wrecks” blog (see links on this page)

Where are you planning to travel next?
I know we’ll go back to Melrose in the fall. Beyond that--who knows?

Best thing you ate and/or drank recently?
Jimmy’s low country boil

When did you last get tipsy?
It’s been a long time—I really don’t remember

Care to share some wisdom?
This came from my nephew when he was about ten. “Don’t stay there.”

What smell makes you smile?
Cinnamon, curry, marigolds

Rules of the meme: Respond and rework. Change one question, delete one question and add one question. Tag people if you want. I’d love to know your answers if you want to share — either here in comments, or on your own blog, or in a private email.
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Friday, May 08, 2009

friday five: it's a bug's life

At Revgals Sophia writes:
As I was walking the beach today, I was surprised and delighted to find it swarming with ladybugs. .... This got me thinking about spiritual insect trivia:
---Did you know that medieval mystics and theologians esteemed the bee for its dedicated work and transformation of ordinary ingredients into sweetness?
---That Spider Woman is an important creator Goddess to many Native American tribes?
---Or that Francis of Assisi was reminded of Jesus not only by lambs being led to slaughter, but also by worms (think "I am a worm and no man" from the Psalms)-- so he picked them up and took them out of stomping-vulnerable spots?!

In that spirit, this week's Friday Five is a magical mystery tour through God's garden of creepy crawlies!

1. Ladybugs or ladybirds? Pillbugs or roly-polys? Jesus bugs or water skeeters? Any other interesting regional or familial name variations?
Ladybugs, roly-polys and water skeeters in this part of the world!

2. Stomp on spiders, carry them outside, or peacefully co-exist?
My mother may contradict me, but as far back as I can remember I have peacefully coexisted with spiders. They are, after all, a symbol of good fortune in Scotland!

3. Favorite insect?
I have never really considered this before this morning, but I would have to say anything that is transformed into a butterfly

4. Least favorite?
When I lived in a cabin in the woods crickets would find their way into the bathtub and onto the shower curtain. I eventually made my peace with them but it was a not a happy morning when I would push back the shower curtain to get out of the shower and have crickets jump on me. No. Not a good thing. (Addendum after reading other posts--how could I forget the mosquito?!?!?)

5. Got any good bug stories to share?
Not a bug story, but a cute "nature" story, told by one of my parishioners yesterday. She learned from watching Martha Stewart that braiding daffodil leaves when the blooms were past was an attractive way to tidy the fading greens. When her son and daughter-in-law stopped by shortly thereafter she pointed out her efforts to them, to which her son replied, "Mom always did want a girl."
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Thursday, May 07, 2009

river walk

A portion of the property at Melrose borders the Savannah River. We rarely trek to that boundary because until recently there has not been easy access to it. A roadway leads to a creek over which a bridge span had been built years ago, and which had been recently fortified. Traditionally that has been the end of the touring line, whether one arrives there by car or foot (roughly two and a half miles from the cottage--downhill all the way!). Tromping through the woods from the bridge to the river was always a possibility, but swarming and slithering critters populate the habitat--never my idea of fun companionship. I would not make it past the first round of any "Survivor" contest.

Because there IS access to the river now (that's a story and a half), Sunday morning we ventured there with Ken's sister Margaret, who visited with us for part of the family reunion weekend. We drove to the bridge and covered the rest of the distance on foot. An ATV would have worked nicely as well. Here are a few of the "views" on our walk...

The woods through which we passed

The Savannah River

Along our path we encountered evidence of woodpecker activity, as well as the mystery of five turtle shells missing most of their innards. They were near the confluence of the river and the creek that runs through the property, obviously having met their fate at the jaws of a predator that we were stumped to identify (turtles 'r' not us). We have no idea how long they had been there (likewise we don't read forensic evidence), but they appeared to serve as attractive landing pads for butterflies.

We saw, additionally, blue herons along the creek, and too many snake holes for my comfort, as well as what looked like frog "dens." The sound of birds was soothing, and in spite of increasing humidity through the day a constant breeze kept the walk pleasant.

To reach the creek, not to mention other portions of the property, we cross a railroad line, and while on our sojourn heard the warning whistle of scheduled trains as they approached that crossing. It was a journey of sights and sounds, of wind and water, spring growth and the decomposing evidence of seasons past. We saw life and encountered the signs of death, cycles all of the world in which we live. It is part of the joy of Melrose to witness and celebrate all that awaits discovery. We are a lucky family, indeed.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

in search of...

... a prayer or blessing to be included with a small goodie bag for women at a local nursing home/residence for elderly. The women of my church are putting this together and I offered to come up with something. Google is of little help... TIA.

just call me a foodie

I confess. I take pictures of food.

It's almost a compulsion, and on a regular basis last week I was grabbing my camera and saying, "wait!" to the hands that were either serving or about to dig into their meals. It didn't take long before my mother would beat me to the punch and inquire if I wanted to take a picture before my tell-tale dash for the camera.

I want you to know that I DID exercise restraint. I didn't photograph every meal or every plate, and even among the pictures I took the ones you see here are a sample. What? You're relieved? I won't take it personally.

What you see here:
Ken's Melrose McMuffin--poached egg (hey, we do things in style), swiss cheese, canadian bacon, tomato and dill pickle

The Meatloaf Sandwich--toasted rye bread, Mom's meatloaf, lettuce, tomato, pickle (he's consistent) and scallions

From the Governor's Cafe in Edgefield, South Carolina (a half-day trip)--your basic meat and three--creamed corn, turnip greens, mixed veg, grits, vegetable soup, rice and gravy, chicken and dumplins (with a twist on the dumplins--pastry in lattice across the top--VERY good!)

Jimmy's Low Country Boil, made for an early birthday celebration--corn on the cob, kielbasa, shrimp, new potatoes, onions and flavor to beat the band!
Trackside Grille in Kennesaw--fried chicken atop mashed potatoes with gravy, covered with cole slaw.
Pull up a chair, I'll set you a place...


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