Friday, July 31, 2009

friday update

We head out shortly for our weekend in Augusta to celebrate Junior and Trisha. A bonus is that we will also enjoy some time with our friends Jimmy and Barbara, two of my favorite people in the world! Before I go, however, I need to share some other news.

I had a call from Mom yesterday afternoon to let me know that she had been displaced from her apartment at the retirement community where she lives in Connecticut! A fire broke out in the roof of the natatorium (I'm never exactly sure how a pool qualifies as a natatorium, but that's a reflection for another time), which is one floor below and probably 100 feet down the hall from her apartment. The fire appears to have been well contained to the pool and fitness area, but there is considerable damage from water elsewhere. An atrium (see bottom picture) across the hall from the pool/fitness center entrance was completely destroyed by the collapse of the roof above it, as well as from water. Forty-six residents were evacuated to temporary quarters, Mom being one of them. Most of the apartments were not affected by the fire, but some suffered water damage, and of course the sprinkler system got engaged throughout this section of the complex. It will be several days, Mom said, before they are able to get into their apartments to see what damage, if any, is done. I cringe thinking about her lovely apartment (top picture) getting soaked, or suffering smoke damage. I worry especially about several paintings she has, two of which are portraits of ancestors.

Fortunately no one was hurt in this episode, and Mom says that the staff of Seabury (the retirement community, and for you astute observers, yes, it was built by the diocese!) was incredible in their assistance to the residents. The critical next phase of life, however, will be living through reconstruction. Access to the wing where Mom lives is by an elevator or stairs adjacent to the atrium. With the roof collapse I don't know how the residents, especially on her floor, will be able to live there during the rebuilding. We'll get details soon enough.

I suggested to Mom that this would be a great time for her to come for a visit! Alas, she reminded me that she is undergoing physical therapy because a week ago she had rotator cuff surgery! Depending on the damage report it may make more sense for us to make a visit there to help, but we'll see.

In any event, please keep Mom (Kiki) in your prayers through this time of upheaval and adjustment. She's a trooper, but it's still a trauma to the system to undergo something like this.

See you Monday!
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Thursday, July 30, 2009

woohooooo, part 2

Woohooo, indeed! As my sister-in-law likes to say, we're so excited we could just plottz! (or however you spell that).

We tried to reach Junior and Trisha yesterday to find out if the plan for the proposal unfolded as designed, and to get some details filled in. Alas, the word was out and I suspect they were pretty busy fielding phone calls, questions and congratulations since we weren't able to reach either one of them. And Trisha is no doubt still a-flutter with the reality of being newly engaged! Minus the details we can at least tell you what was planned, though sharing the intended itinerary alone has much less drama!

Junior arranged for a limosine to pick Trisha up at work at 4:00 PM. In the limo were three dozen red roses and a dress and shoes to wear to dinner. The limo then delivered her to a spa where she had a massage, manicure and pedicure, then an appointment with a hairdresser (who had been given a picture of Trisha in a particular 'do). I'm assuming that makeup came with the hair.

Ken and I have different recollections of where Trisha was going to change into her dinner clothes, but let's just take it for granted that her clothes did, indeed, get changed!

Next stop, dinner at a very nice restaurant. I think I'm missing part of the story about dinner, because Junior was in cahoots with the restaurant about something, but to my knowledge they didn't do anything there except eat and enjoy a bit of animated conversation! I'm also imagining that Trisha might be thinking that the pampering prelude was setting the stage for a dinner proposal. What a shock it must have been when that didn't happen!

From dinner the next stop was an airport. I don't know which one and Ken doesn't know which one, but it really doesn't matter (it only occurs to my brain to wonder so that I have all the facts). The destination at the airport was a helicopter that would take them for an evening ride over the city of Atlanta. It was there, in the air, that the proposal was to take place.

Back here on the homefront we were a bit giddy with anticipation. We'd look at the clock and say, "the plan is underway!" or "dinner!" Once the helicopter appointment time came and went we couldn't be separated from the phone, but in due time, sleep overtook us. At 11:00 our time my phone, by the side of the bed, woke me up and Junior responded to my groggy hello with the news that he was an engaged man! Woohoo!!

What's next? The first order of business is that there is a party happening in Augusta. Trisha just completed the final requirements for her degree in Business Administration and will be starting work soon. To celebrate that transition in life the party was planned as a graduation and moving party. With this latest change in status, the party now celebrates an engagement as well. Prior to the prposal we had debated going to the party. We adore Trisha and wanted to be there to celebrate her achievements. The kicker was that it is at 6:00 PM on Saturday, six and a half hours away. Too tight to be back for Sunday morning. The engagement, however, makes this a family affair, so tomorrow morning we will head to Augusta for the hoopla, returning Sunday.

As for the when and where of getting married, there are no details yet, though I image we'll be talking about that this weekend. Junior is slated to deploy sometime next year (I'm cringing--unless he goes back to his old unit with the Rangers he will not be nearly as safe), so it is probably safe to say that they will get married prior to that. But who knows? When we get back from the weekend I'll have lots more information to share.

Today I am grateful for love. For Junior and Trisha, especially, and the joy they bring to my heart as part of my family. These are my favorite pictures of them. I'm so delighted to share the joy!
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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

woohoooooo! part 1

I love a good story. I love it even better when I get to be part of it! Let me set the scene for you.

Tuesday morning fairly early Ken’s phone rings. It’s Junior. It appears that he is looking for his suit, which he thinks is hanging in the closet in our guest room. I’m blogging, so Ken heads down the hall to the guest room for a look. There’s silence for a moment, and then I hear him say, “If you could see this room you’d understand that I don’t know how to answer your question.” I burst out laughing, because once again, the guest room is doubling as a staging area while my office approaches the final stages of its overhaul. But I digress.

Why is Junior looking for his suit? Apparently he plans to take Trisha out to dinner that evening. Since his suit is here and he is there (outside of Atlanta) we suggest that he make a trip to the local Men’s Wearhouse to buy one. A quick Internet search tells us that there is one five miles from him. We disconnect, and then Ken tells me, “You know why he wants the suit…this is the night.” “He’s proposing?” “He’s proposing to Trisha!”

Several conversations more with Junior take place. The store isn’t open until ten. He’s worried that he won’t find a suit that will fit him (he’s 6’5, lean, with broad shoulders…). He’s got a lot of things to take care of for the evening. The three of us are all thinking the same thing—meet him halfway and get the suit to him. He’s three and a half hours away.

The suit has fallen off its hanger and is crumpled in the bottom of the garment bag in which it was stored and needs to be steamed. We finish our breakfast, get dressed, and by 9:00 we are out the door and headed to the cleaners.

We are in touch with Junior regularly on the phone, trying to calculate where the “halfway” place will be. Between Nashville and Chattanooga the interstate takes a dip into Georgia, and there is an exit along that small stretch where we often get gas on road trips that take us along that route (GA gas can be cheaper than TN). We estimate that this is the exit where we’ll meet.

And then, about twenty miles shy of that exit we hit traffic. We’re pretty sure it’s an accident: this stretch of road, familiar to both of us, appears deceptively safe. With long, straight stretches between otherwise mountainous curves, drivers often relax their attentiveness and pick up speed. On the phone with Junior, we let him know we’ve hit a slow-down, but up ahead we can see traffic moving, helping us pinpoint the location of the accident. We should be clear of it and on our way in a couple of minutes.

Not! Ten car lengths from the accident site we come to a dead stop. More conversations with Junior. A sheriff’s patrol car goes by. A fire truck arrives on the scene. We wait. We wait some more. Eventually people start getting out of their cars and walking up to the accident to see what’s going on. Four cars are involved, but there are no fatalities. Everyone becomes friendly. Junior is anxious. We’re three miles from the next exit, and we encourage him to come to that point where there is a shopping plaza, gas stations and fast-food. We hope that by the time he reaches the exit we’ll be on our way again.

No such luck. He needs to buy flowers for the evening so he pops into a store at the designated exit to pick up roses. When he's completed that mission we’re still stuck in traffic. The last resort has presented itself: he drives the three miles farther up the highway until he reaches our location, we cross the median with the garment bag and freshly pressed suit in tow, pass the bag through the window, exchanged hugs and best wishes, and direct him to an alternate route that he can take to get headed back toward Atlanta without getting caught in our traffic. Phew!

Ten minutes later we are finally moving again. The holdup meant that we missed a chance to grab a quick lunch with Junior (we were stopped more than an hour for the accident), but our mission was accomplished and he was on his way to finish putting his plans for the evening in place.

Ah, what we do for love. Of all kinds! Tune in tomorrow for the rest of the story.
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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

fondness for things "f"

is for

Friends * Family * Faith * Flowers * Fun * Fathers * Flavor * Freedom * Fog * Fragrance * Fudge * Fridays * Fairs and Festivals * French fries * Fall * Forgiveness * Fruit * Fireplaces * Food * Film * Family traditions

I am my mother's daughter in many ways (that's a GOOD thing!), and sharing a love for flowers is one of them. I love to be welcomed by their color in the garden when pulling into the driveway, or have my gaze backoned to the soft array they offer as I pass them while riding in the car. My camera can't resist them, and they are my favorite subject to photograph. Flowers have a way of lifting a mood or brightening a dreary day by their presence. They decorate joyful occasions and amplify existing beauty. They are the kiss of God in any moment.

Gratitude also runs deep for forgiveness. I had an experience some years ago of coming to terms with a situation that had caused me a lot of pain. In the process of reconciling myself to reality I made a choice for health and wholeness. In an extended moment of clarity touched by holiness--what is known as a kairos moment, suspended from the experience of ordinary time--I received the gift of understanding forgiveness in a way that surpasses words or explanation. I felt it in my soul, my pain was put to rest, and the torment of my conscience abated. I was touched by a kind of transcendant peace and freed of a burden I had carried for several years. It wasn't simply the awareness that I was forgiveness, but of understanding forgiveness itself. I have never been a person who carries grudges, and letting go of hurts is something I have learned to do with time and grace. This brush with spiritual renewal and its invitation to sacred wisdom (which, by the way, took place at the fireplace) had a profound impact on me. I wondered then, and wonder still, how the gift of this transformation could be put to use for the sake of God's kingdom, and to this day I have no answer for that. I have preached and taught about forgiveness, but I have not recognized any particular opportunity for such an amazing moment to have been for a purpose beyond my own healing. I accept that it is not for me to know, but still wonder. Perhaps time will tell.

**A late PS to this note is gratitude for fragrance, which is calling me to the kitchen even as I type. Breakfast by Ken is smelling fabulous!!!

Monday, July 27, 2009

distant echoes of an education

is for ...

Eucharist * Education * Email * Each day * Early morning * Early birds * Evenings * Earlham College * Escaping * Emotion * Environment * England * Edinburgh, Scotland * The Episcopal Church * Embraces * Endurance * Egg rolls * Excitement * Eternity * Expressions * Eating * Electricity * Entertainment * Éclairs

This year marks 30 years since I graduated from Earlham College. I haven't been on campus since my 5th reunion, and there have been lots of changes in those intervening years. From what I can tell from the alumni magazine, they have been good changes. I haven't yet decided whether or not to go to the reunion. I have no doubt it would be good to catch up with former classmates. I'd love to walk the familiar paths and amble through the halls and spaces that stood firm while I got to know an emerging, autonomous self.

It was through Earlham that I first went to Scotland, another chapter of self-discovery. It was also at Earlham that I had the most exciting experience of learning: applying academic skills gleaned in the classroom out in the real world and discovering their relevancy. And there were plenty of other learnings. I remember the "aha!" of catching on to the fact that another person's behavior had more to do with them than with me. I had affirmed the belief that yielding to peer pressure wasn't worth the cost, and that whatever "friends" I might lose by standing firm in my convictions was more than compensated for through the friends I gained. I discovered the awe of the night sky through an astronomy class, memorized a poem in french (portions of which I still recall), and, I survived the terrifying thrill of remaining on a horse when it got stung by a bee, broke into a canter and took a jump in the riding ring.

Earlham gave me and my classmates the opportunity to test the known boundaries of who we were and to push those boundaries outward within a caring and supportive community. We were allowed to try and fail, and encouraged to spread our wings and take chances. I'm not sure how much of my academic education survived after I graduated and moved on to life's ongoing forum of post-graduate learning, but what I learned about myself and the complex world around me established a firm foundation for future growth and inner reward.

They were good years, and whether or not I attend my reunion my gratitude for the role that Earlham played in my life's formation runs deep and wide. The echoes of that learning reverberate in the the world that is today's classroom, and continue to shape the person I am becoming. For what it was then and continues to be for me now, I offer abundant thanks.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

forecast for the day


I have been diligent in my cleaning efforts in my office/craft space these last few days, and I am happy to report that there is finally some space to get busy creating!!! It's true there are still a few things that need to find homes, and they are taking up residence temporarily in the guest room (where else?), but my countertop is now free and clear for use, my desktop is, amazingly, clear, and the sewing machine is up and ready to go. I've even got some things up on the walls! Yes, yes, pictures will be forthcoming, but right now I'm too excited about the prospect of getting something done as opposed to just thinking about getting something done!

While going through drawers and such looking for items to put in last weekend's church yard sale (which, by the way, was a success) I came upon a pattern for a small project--the perfect way to reenter the creative realm. I'm going to do it with fabric I already have on hand, so it won't be necessary to spend any money. I'll also make a couple of these (I did say this was a small project, and it is, literally) using different color combinations to exercise the "color outside the lines" muscle of my soul.

While thinking about different color combos I also had a stroke of genius to help the church. We're anticipating a "fall bazaar" and need to have things to sell. This particular pattern has a center object--an apple--that can be changed to any other: think paw prints, a Christmas tree, pumpkin, heart, shamrock, flag... pick a symbol and there you go! We can whip up a bunch of these suckers for sale at the bazaar and make some cool cash. Peachy, huh?

So that's the exciting development in this corner of the world. I had to break in to the gratitude list to share, which I'll do on occasion. Tomorrow I'll be back with the e's. See you then!

Saturday, July 25, 2009

dancing in the light

is for...

Dogs * Dairy Queen * Dreams * Dancing * Doughnuts * Decorating * Diversity * Drama * Delight * Decisions * Daffodils

Today's list feels sparse after yesterday's riches. Such is the nature of language! There is nothing sparse about my affection for dogs, however, and regular readers of this blog are well aware of that. Nor, for that matter, is it easy to contain the joy I receive from dancing, the Scottish country kind especially.

My Dad and I had been to a touring performance of the Black Watch, stirring up my love for things Scottish and prompting me to look for an opportunity to learn Highland dancing. Though instruction in Highland wasn't easy to find, right down the street, a mere three blocks away, was a local Scottish country dance group (and Clare, if you read this, the picture here is of the group in Auckland!). One night I trotted myself to the church hall where they gathered and was immediately hooked. I had a knack for it, and dove in. It wasn't long before I was dancing with the demonstration team, making ball gowns, and learning to teach.

The appeal of Scottish country dancing, to me, is layered. It involves precision: footwork, deportment and teamwork. It consists of patterns, a facet that appeals to engineers, mathematicians and musicians (and others). It's hard to keep still to the music (though there are some dreary renditions), especially when fiddles are involved. It connects me to my heritage, and the array of tartans as seen in kilts and ladies' sashes is colorful and rich. And, it's something I do well!

After getting to know the dances and learning the variety of steps I began to see possible combinations of these things, and it wasn't long before I was writing dances of my own, some of which have turned up on ball programs! An opportunity to participate in a local summer production of Brigadoon led to the experience of choreographing for the stage (was that ever fun!), and then...

The ultimate Scottish danceaholic dream imaginable: two weeks touring Scotland to dance in castles, with our own musicians. I don't think another vacation will ever top this, and I am so grateful to have indulged in the trip of a lifetime when I did. The following year I was off to seminary, and dancing, not to mention the availability of it, has been hard to fit into my life. But I have wonderful memories, a closet full of ballgowns (not exactly something for which Goodwill has a use), great friendships, and the soul-satisfaction of experiencing the fullness of something that brought me utter joy and contment. It is this that is akin to dancing in the Light, literally and figuratively. It's a God thing, as my friend Nancy would say, to feel the presence of the Spirit as the music begins, I rise up on the balls of my feet and whirl through the patterns of dance and life.
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Thursday, July 23, 2009

and I thought the "B" list was good!

is for a collection of things for which I am grateful! It's probably the longest list (alphabetically speaking), and like its predecessor each word conjures up images, memories and deep thanksgivings for things that are or have been significant parts of my life. Let's just stipulate (to borrow a legal term) that this will be true for each letter's list!

Children * Change * Communication * Community * Coffee * Computers * Chocolate * Cookies * Cash * Corn on the cob * Culinary skills * Cooking * Christmas * College memories * Crafts * Cuddling * Curiosity * Companionship * Creativity * Church * Cars * Christ * Caring friends * Cabana Crew * Chocolate chip cookie dough * Compromise * Comfort * Camaraderie * Catalogs * Color * Cooling breezes * Cameras * Confidence * Cape Cod * Caller ID * Curry * Constancy * Celtic music * Celtic art * Candles * Choices * Celebrations * Crossword puzzles * Cinnamon

This morning I am mindful of creativity. I can remember an occasion when I was struggling to cope with a difficult and painful situation. Part of living with and honoring the pain as I worked through it and sought healing was engaging in a creative effort. I don't recall how it was that I chose this particular project, but I immersed myself in making a stole. I selected shades of purple fabric and assembled a common quilt pattern of small squares set on the diagonal. The lightest shade was in the center and the colors graduated toward darkness as they moved toward the edge. I suspect that creating a Lenten stole was unconscious, but in the end it became, and remains, my favorite stole. It reminds me of a time of pain and healing, and the connection of creativity to the process. It's also a beautiful stole (sorry I don't have a picture!)

I am a person who needs to create. Whether it's a meal, the generation of an idea, the solution to a problem or a crafted item, my being holds life and ideas, and that life and those ideas require expression. Creativity is a divine process for me (and, I think, for most people), an experience of connecting and finding inspiration from a source beyond ourselves that is about dwelling in the center of God. Creating is also restorative for me. As Ken and I live in and move through some difficult times, the challenge of coping with the difficult is wearying and depleting. I know that a large part of restoring balance and strength to my soul will come from creating. And so I will. I have not yet identified the project into which I will immerse myself to experience that restoration (not to mention the simple joy that creating IS), but an abundance of possibilities exist. The anticipation alone brings a certain peace, and with that peace, hope. What a blessing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

gratitude, b-style

is for beaches, brothers, breakfast and babies. Books and blooms, butterflies and beauty. Backyards and back rubs, barbecues and brownies. Bear hugs, breath, best friends and birthdays. Basil and blogs, blessings and beginnings. I love the "b" list. So many rich, soul-satisfying things begin with "b."

I am especially grateful for brownies. Yes, brownies. It's a family thing. It is my mother's first instinct of hospitality, I think, because she has been whipping up batches of brownies for more occasions than you can shake a stick at. She took them to Friends Meeting, to board meetings, to new friends in old neighbors and old friends in new neighborhoods. She made them for us at home for special occasions and no occasion, to celebrate accomplishments or bolster sagging spirits. She sent them in care packages and lunch boxes. She is the queen of brownies, in my opinion, and they are always made from scratch. Sometimes she ices them (oh, so good), and sometimes she adds nuts or chocolate chips. No matter they're rendering, they are divine.

The recipe came from my grandmother, who I believe cut it from a magazine. One fall Mom was visiting me in St. Louis. I was slated to preach on All Saints Sunday, and as it was the first Sunday of the month, at one of our services I would be doing a children's sermon. In anticipation of delivering a message about legacies, Mom and I whipped up a bunch of brownies, and iced and decorated them with colorful mini m&m's. Each was packaged in its own bag, and tied with a length of yarn and a copy of the recipe. Each child who came up for the sermon received a brownie to take home. Our project reflected a multi-layered message about what we inherit from those who come before us, whether it's an inheritance of recipes or faithful living (or both!), and as a communion of saints, as a matter of course we share the wealth of what is given to us.

I'm looking forward to the day when I can whip up batches of brownies with my grandchildren, and share with them the stories of family traditions and occasions that link the present with the past. And who knows, maybe they, in turn, will make brownies for board meetings and offer them to new neighbors.

"C" you tomorrow.
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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

we interrupt this blog...

This morning I find myself very tired, and the thought of composing a post for this blog is beyond my energy level. Consider this a good morning (good day) wish to those who came to visit, and a gentle wave to you all as I head off to catch a bit more sleep. Until tomorrow...

Monday, July 20, 2009

"a" is for

is for all kinds of things! This morning I start my journey of alphabetic gratitude. Each letter could be its own chapter (hmm, there's an idea), but I will endeavor to keep my reflection focused. The list will flow in no particular order. Today I am grateful for:

A natural starting place! Delicious, satisfying, healthy... especially with peanut butter spread on a crisp, cool slice. Apples also evoke thoughts and memories of fall in New England, and of young and energetic days climbing in the tree in our back yard.


So much gets taken for granted: shelter, good weather, a shelf of books, pictures of loved ones, socks to keep my feet warm, gentle breezes, the Internet, the ability to read, basil, health, dogs that lick my face...


"What you see is what you get" is something I value highly, even if I don't like what I see. I have a low tolerance for falseness and deception.


Some of us have altars in our hearts, others in gardens, hiking trails, kitchen cutting boards... Others of us still revere altars consecrated by worshipping communities. Altars acknowledge significant moments in our lives that change who we are, how we look at the world and at ourselves. Whether or not one believes in a higher power, it is my contention that these are holy encounters, and that sacred infusion has everything to do with our transformation.

My Dad had a patient that knitted afghans and several of them kept us warm as children, and later as adults. She has no idea the gift she gave us. She was just saying "thank you."

Eucharistically speaking, recalling the last supper and its significance.
Philosophically speaking, well, I'll direct you to Plato.

See you tomorrow.
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Friday, July 17, 2009

friday five: games!

At RevGals Jan writes:

In less than three weeks, my family, including children and their partners, will be gathering in Seattle, WA for 12 days. After various days in Seattle sightseeing and in Bellingham seeing family, we will travel to the coast of Washington State to spend three nights in a large rented house. With nine adults (from almost 20 years old and up), I am thinking that we need to have some activities pre-planned--like GAMES! (Any ideas will be appreciated.)

So this Friday Five is about games, so play on ahead. . . .

My family has a handful of “game” traditions. We tend to play when we’re on vacation, but not generally otherwise. At Thanksgiving we play charades (we’ve never been followers of sports on holidays).

1. Childhood games?
When there were enough kids to play, duck-duck-goose was always a favorite, as was kick-ball/dodge-ball and any form of hide-and-go-seek.

2. Favorite and/or most hated board games?
I enjoy scrabble (I’m a word person), and in younger days, Candyland and Sorry were favorites, then as I got a bit older I enjoyed The Game of Life. When I visited my grandparents my grandfather and I played a board game that was a race track, and race horses were the pieces. We loved to play that game together (can’t think of the name of it at all). The game also included opportunities to bet on your horse (I learned then about win, place and show), though racing and gambling were not something in which anyone in my family was interested.

I’m not a big fan of monopoly. It can get very competitive and bring out a nasty side in people.

3. Card games?
My family had a staple favorite: Flinch. It uses a specially made deck of cards and few people seem to know about it. We also play multiple-hand solitaire. I also like Uno.

4. Travel/car games?
We traveled a lot in the car, but I don’t remember a lot of games (this says more about my memory than the games!). There was the usual license plate game, to see how many states we could spot, and the alphabet game using billboards and signs. That’s all I can come up with at the moment. One year while driving to Cape Cod I asked my dad how the Vietnam War started, and for the next hour and a half he told me!

5. Adult pastimes that are not video games?
Jigsaw puzzles! This is a great activity for rainy days or for those who, well, like puzzles! It can be left out over a period of days and can be worked on here and there. It also works well for multiple generations. I also love to play dictionary (pick a word from the dictionary that no one knows, the person who is “it” writes down the real definition, everybody else makes up a definition, then all are gathered by the person who is it and reads them aloud, and everyone votes on which they think is the real definition. This can get absolutely hysterical if you’ve got some clever people in the group!)

Bonus: Any ideas for family vacations or gatherings?
For a group activity, dialogue drawings. You need a table, drawing paper and either crayons or pastels. Each person begins with a blank piece of paper and draws something on it. You don’t spend a lot of time, maybe five minutes. Then the paper gets passed to the left (or the right, doesn’t matter). Everyone adds to the drawing passed to them, then after five minutes, they get passed again. Repeat until your first page returns to you. It’s absolutely amazing what gets created, and how different each drawing is. Some wonderful conversation can get generated in response to the results.

For those who may not always enjoy group things, crossword puzzle and sudodu books are useful.
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Thursday, July 16, 2009

it's a wonderful (online) world

My online life began seven years ago when I discovered a message board (MB) sponsored by a scrapbook magazine. I was unemployed at the time, recovering from the trauma of a broken engagement (my choice), and relationally isolated. I was working on a scrapbook for my friend Kathy, a record of our trip to California the year before, and in need of guidance related to a particular task I wanted to accomplish, I turned to the MB.

Life changed. I made some of my best friends through that experience, and though the MB is no longer there the friendships continue to thrive through blogs, facebook, and other MB's that have come to life. Best of all, many of us have met in person and several of us manage to get together as often as possible to enjoy each other's company "in real life."

Through another MB I met my friend Jayne, and through Jayne I met my husband. It was also Jayne who directed me to the RevGals blog, and through that blog I have connected with other kindred spirits and found sustenance for my soul. The network that comes to life through this online medium is an astounding thing.

Several years ago when the scrapbook MB was still active my friend Janet began a daily alphabetic post of gratitudes. It was fun to see what things people appreciated in their lives, and I made a copy of the final A-Z list to keep for future reference. I decided to put together my own scrapbook album of gratitude, alphabetically organized, and began work on it. I managed to finish the "b" page, and one of these days will get back to that album.

This morning Jayne posted about kindness, inspired by another friend's post who made a reference to gratitude, and I got to thinking again about my list. Life has changed since I first compiled my gratitude list, and there are new things to add. This blog offers a new way to share them. So in the days to come, interspersed with other posts, I will work my way through the alphabet once again, mindful of the many blessings that decorate my life, some big and some small. It is a wonderful world.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

wednesday wobble

I've been meaning to do a thorough cleaning in my bathroom. You know, the mirror that extends the full length of the vanity, the countertop, sink, the tub and shower walls, floor, toilet, cobwebs, heck, maybe even clean the windows! I've already bleached the shower curtain and tub mat. But now I have no choice because The Skunk Strikes Again!

This time Rigel took the hit. This happened after I went to bed last night, and since Rigel went to bed without a bath, let's just say the house does not offer a welcoming fragrance this morning. At least it's better than Ken's office, which took the brunt of the effects of Rigel's overnight confinement. As I write we're preparing to load the dog into the tub and do our best to de-skunify him. Then it's cleanup time! I think it's time to call animal control and see if they can't root out the skunk den and improve our odds at domestic bliss.

Other activity this week includes preparing for a big church yard sale this weekend. We're having families take care of their own tables and sales, with either proceeds or portions of proceeds going to the church. We're also including a bake sale, and Gail, I'm making your biscotti! Note to self: beware when Ken volunteers for something, because much of what is involved in whatever he takes on translates as delegating a whole lot of tasks to me, especially if they involve the computer. So much for the ministry of the laity! Often I don't mind, but it is starting to feel as though this yard sale is the work of a few when we tried, diligently, to set it up to share the load. Ah well. Que sera, sera. But get this! The forecast for Saturday, here in middle Tennessee in the middle of July is a high of 78! I'm still pinching myself. No precipitation in sight, and with any luck, we'll have a breeze. There ARE days when I can say unequivocally that life is good. And I do believe that the day will come when I can echo Junior's phrase that I'm "livin' the dream!"

This morning I had intended to go over to the church early to weed the garden. It's visibility is somewhat front and center in terms of the yard sale set up. Alas, de-skunking has derailed that plan, so I will postpone the weed effort until tomorrow. No biggie.

Juliet got her walk this morning and she was a very good girl. Before long I'll head to church for bible study, then lunch, then a doctor appointment this afternoon (just maintenance). And now, breakfast and a shower. Hope your day is off to a stellar start.
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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

enough already!

You know I'm on overload when I get grouchy. The little things are what put me over the edge. Like a dog who, after eight ears of being so good and easy (this is evident by how seldom she appears on this blog!) has decided to act out. Juliet has been trained to the invisible fence since she was six months old, and has been obedient to it. Until recently.

The first few times she disregarded the collar correction she had merely ventured a few houses down the road, and it was always after dark. A few shouts of her name and she was home before worry could set in. Then she began to go farther. Then in the daylight. The last time I found her over on the next block, and this morning a drive through the neighborhood bore no sign of her. We've been careful to monitor her time outside, to keep an eye on her. This time she was out for mere minutes before she left the yard.

I don't know what's gotten into her. The collar works, but she doesn't seem to care. I can only think that it's McKinlee, which gives me pause. We can no longer trust Juliet to be out by herself at all. It looks like I will be returning to the pattern of pre-fence days at this house, when I walked her and Dooley twice a day. That was only three years ago, but I feel so much older than that now. Or do I have to make a choice between her and McKinlee? Juliet has little tolerance for the newest addition, which makes canine management a challenge.

Sigh. I don't need this. I need my energy for other things, like getting my Pampered Chef business going again so that I can bring some additional revenue into this house. (Ken does have a plan to work again, but he has had an awful spring and like me, lacks energy and motivation.)

Here's a thought: maybe this is Juliet's way to get me walking again. Hmm... now that is looking on the bright side.
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Monday, July 13, 2009

hopes and dreams

This colorful swirl of a quilt's center is a signpost of hope for me. I have been struggling lately with how to balance the reality of difficult and painful circumstances with the desire to focus on what is positive. I am fully aware of how attitude impacts behavior, and even decisions, and I have had one foot firmly planted on the ground of optimism for many months. That posture has served me well, kept me centered even in the midst of uncertainty and chaos. At the same time I am beginning to feel that the reserves of my strength, though substantial, are being drained to a point that is dangerously low.

As I evaluate how to care for myself I look to the things that restore and replenish me. Why am I not surprised that I am being drawn toward the world of creativity? Through the myriad threads of connectivity that facebook offers I saw a quilt created by a relative of my friend Genie. I was taken with it immediately, and began to search out sources whereby I might create one like it myself. Having tracked the source, I raided a stash of emergency cash to buy a book that details how to make this quilt, and others like it. The pattern and its creation are more difficult than the quilts I have made in the past, and I don't think I am yet up to taking on doing one of my own, but I now have the means to do so when that moment comes. In the meantime there are smaller projects that will serve as a vehicle through which my spirit can plunge into the creative process. Through those my experience tells me that the tears in my soul will begin to knit together toward healing, and strength will begin to accumulate once again in the vault that is my being.

The image here, then, serves two purposes. One is that is represents creative effort, a known balm to my hurting soul. The other is that the spiral, as shown here, has light at the center radiating out. That is where I find my hope. No matter how dark the days have become in the past, at the center there has always been light. It is that light, with its power to radiate out through the darkness, that holds me steady and serves to ground me in the spirit of peace and wholeness. Even when the best of days dissolve into tears of confusion or fold under the weight of burdens, the light holds fast, and hope, like the phoenix, rises from the ruin.

I will bide my time with the spiral quilt. As I do so, however, I will move toward its future reality by warming up with other creative efforts. As a portion of St. Patrick's Breastplate proclaims:

I arise today
Through the strength of heaven:
Light of sun,
Radiance of moon,
Splendor of fire,
Speed of lightning,
Swiftness of wind,
Depth of sea,
Stability of earth,
Firmness of rock.
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Saturday, July 11, 2009

how do you solve a problem like McKinlee?

I've lived through many a puppyhood. I've endured the fascination with shoes and slippers, snatching socks, housebreaking, and chewing through just about anything in their path. But McKinlee has brought a new challenge to the fore: she is eating the couch. The new couch. The not-yet-a-year-old-and-not-at-all-cheap couch. The corner of the cushion where Ken sits. The minute she is alone with the couch it is hers.

This poses several problems that probably don't need to be elaborated here. I'm more interested in solutions. The ones that occur to me are:

1) Training. This goes without saying, and she needs it anyway. I know myself--I can and will do some, but I'm not sure I have the self-discipline to impose it on her accordingly. My mother will bear this out as a truth.

2) Confinement. Ouch. She's a social dog and isolation makes her sad. Me too.

3) Attach her to my person at all times when we're home so that she isn't left alone unsupervised.

4) ? (I had a thought a moment ago and it has evaporated. Such a reflection of the state of my mind these days...)

I'm leaning toward #3. She tends to follow me around anyway, it's just when she gets bored that she gets into trouble. It will also mandate some training and will no doubt aid the housebreaking. How to attach the leash to me is another matter, but I'm resourceful. Ideas? I'm open to suggestions.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I'm doing a long-distance wave to my Mom who is at Tanglewood this weekend with some friends (that's the summer home of the Boston Symphony, in the Berkshires of western Mass. Beautiful place). They've been going every year for so long that I can't remember. Back in the day some of them would ride their bikes from Hartford (the drive takes about 90 minutes) and camp out through the weekend. Now the group is rather gray, some have died, others are battling serious illness. But they're troopers, every one of them. Have a great weekend guys! Hope the weather holds!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

I'm also doing the long-distance wave to some friends who are in North Carolina for a girls weekend (is "girls" possessive in this use? I'm never sure...). I can imagine the fun and hoopla--wish I could join you!

* * * * * * * * * * * *

In other news I finally got our taxes done. We learned Tuesday that they had to be filed before Ken could take care of something, so the rush was on. It's not my best work, but the important thing is that they are done. I'm crossing my fingers that we won't owe anything, because then I'd probably be calling on my friend Maria to find bail money. And I'm already organizing this year's material so that next year I don't face such an overwhelming task.

* * * * * * * * * * * *

And finally. One of the joys of summer in the south is the crepe myrtle. Once it blooms (late June) it's glory shines until the cooling days of fall (think October). The blossoms are profuse and showy. I love the deep lavendar and rich fuscia colors, and can stare out the window at our neighbor's tree and sink in its beauty. We'd love to plant some in our own yard, but it's hard to find a place where there isn't rock when you dig down more than 3". In the meantime I enjoy the color in the neighborhood and the view from our windows.

Have a glorious weekend.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

friday five: exercise

Over at RevGals Sophia invites us to reflect on one of my least favorite things: exercise!

Let me just state the disclaimer right up front. I hate to sweat. Especially in the heat. So me and exercise? Like oil and water. Except for a couple of things. I will dance until my feet hurt, and I used to swim half a mile every day, and may yet again (you know, you can’t tell you’re sweating in the water).

Now here's the irony. When I was a freshman in high school I was on the girls field hockey, basketball and volleyball teams. Yes, me. It was about relationships, okay? Even more ironic? My BA is in Physical Education. Shhh.

1. What was your favorite sport or outdoor activity as a child?
I loved gymnastics, even though I was gawky and lacked the strength to do it well. That interest, however, led to an opportunity to coach while I was in college, and I loved that!

2. P.E. class--heaven or the other place?
I tolerated PE most of the time. It was the sweating thing…

3. What is your favorite form of exercise now?
Lifting my coffee mug to my lips. I do lots of reps of that.

4. Do you like to work out solo or with a partner?
It depends on what I’m doing. I used to walk the dogs twice a day and they were great partners. Wonderful listeners most of the time.

5. Inside or outside?
Climate control is a wonderful thing! But for walking, definitely outdoors.
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Thursday, July 09, 2009

what would tevye think?

This little graphic is from the web site I got curious about it when I saw this poster over at my daily chuckle, cake wrecks.

It's a timely discovery when you consider that the Episcopal Church is meeting at this very moment at its trienniel General Convention to consider timely and pressing matters before the body of Christ that tends to follow the leadership of men who wear long white gowns with bright red, sleeveless robes over them. This is tongue-in-cheek, of course. I love my church, and love means never having to say you're sorry for being able to laugh at yourself!

Tradition is one of the things that some people believe is at stake at our convention. This is true any time General Convention meets, because there are always resolutions that introduce a new way of looking at things, or understanding someone or something different from our experience. We pride ourselves in grounding who we are in a three-legged stool of scripture, reason, and tradition.

Not surprisingly, matters of human sexuality are center stage, and our collective diversity of opinion pretty much dictates that discussion will be lively, if not, at times, heated. A twist in the plot is introduced this year by changes in six state laws that allow same-sex couples to marry legally. Bear in mind that a marriage is created by two people who make pledges to each other, witnessed by a representative of the state and hence made legal and binding. The Church does not marry, but blesses that union. Period. It's nuance, I know, but it happens to be true. So now that five of the six New England states and Iowa (yes, Iowa!) have made it legal for same-sex couples to marry, the Church faces a quandary. It will be interesting to see how she (the Church) responds.

(As an aside: almost more interesting is that the seat of puritanism and a geographic region whose people are often described (undeservedly, in my opinion) as reserved and cold, those same New England states, are the first to shepherd in this cultural change. I guess Rhode Island is more concerned about changing its name this year. Next year perhaps they'll make it a unanimous block of states that allows same-sex couples to marry.)

Anyway, wherever on the spectrum one places tradition as a thing to be revered, its presence will not go unnoticed at General Convention. By sharing this “tradition” poster I am not suggesting that tradition is any way a stupid thing. I simply thought it was funny, and one thought led to another. I think even Tevye would laugh. Won't you join us?

Wednesday, July 08, 2009

open to suggestions

Around here we have made the shift from hard times to desperate, and I'm not only at my wit's end, but the idea pool is pretty dry as well. When you're living penny to penny and the bank swoops in and seizes your funds, what's a body to do? (Yes, we are planning to change banks, but we didn't have the money to open a new account, you see, and so here we are...). When I logged into our account last night to see what sort of balance we had, numbers in red provoked a small meltdown. We are now a cash only family, a new experience, and I've gotta say, friends, that living on this kind of edge isn't pretty, nor is it fun. What's one more layer of stress?

The church is hosting a yard sale in a couple of weeks, and we will have an opportunity to sell off the few goods that haven't gone forth in yard sales past. That will help a little. Ken is trying to sell some of his tools and equipment, but in this economy no one appears to be buying. I'm scratching my head trying to think of some ways to generate revenue. Ideas are welcome, prayers coveted, and cash accepted...
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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

morning flavor

Ken is beginning to show signs of wanting a healthier diet. Just last week he asked me to get some "healthy" breakfast meat when I went to the grocery store. Would turkey bacon do? An emphatic NO! I found some turkey sausage patties, which although tasty, were more money than he thought made sense.

"We should make our own," he declared.

No problem. I knew I had a recipe for turkey sausage in a cookbook for very healthy eating, and I would track it down. Additional mentions of making our own sausage over the last several days resulted in it being high on my radar when I went to the store yesterday and bought turkey.

We should have assembled the recipe the night before, but it wasn't on our minds then. This morning, however, breakfast beckoned and so we set about the task of making our sausage. It called for chopped apple (what you see here at the top), onion, and some spices. Before we knew it four patties were cooking in the pan and the rest had been packaged, labeled and found a home in the freezer.

It was a yummy breakfast, if I say so myself, and we've concluded that some garlic might give it a little bit more of a bite. But in the meantime we've got healthy breakfast meat and some encouragement toward a better diet all the way around.

Not a bad way to start the day.

(please forgive wonky formatting--blogger would simply not behave this morning)

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Monday, July 06, 2009

inching closer

When I moved to Sewanee back in 2004 I went from a 2200 square foot house to a 900 square foot cabin. It was clear that some things were going to have to be stored! I had too many craft interests for the space I was about to occupy, and some of those interests would need to be sacrificed. I made the difficult decision to part with my fabric, not because I didn't want access to it, but because there was too much of it.

In the fall of 2005 I came upon this quilt kit in a quilt shop. It was titled "country day," and I immediately thought of my friend Kathy. She was an alumna of a private girls school that had merged with its male counterpart, St. Louis Country Day School (conveniently right next door to one another). After a lifelong association with the school (her own alumni activities, as well as the school of both of her children) she went to work for the school in the Development Office. Of all the connections in her life, Kathy lived and breathed MICDS. The "country day" quilt seemed made for her.

Kathy had just been diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. Over the years of our friendship I had created several things for her, and she had suggested that my creations had found their way into every room in her house. The possibility loomed large that this might be the last thing I would make for her, and with Christmas creeping up quickly I decided to splurge on the quilt kit and make it for her for Christmas. I would tell her that since the house was already laden with Anne originals this one was intended for the office. It was a sound decision. Kathy died the following April.

Since moving to our present house there still hasn't been room to sew or quilt. Space is still limited and much of my fabric is still in boxes. But I have been missing it sorely, and since getting to know my quilting cyber friend Kim the yearning to quilt has increased. While working in my office (and craft space) to get it better organized and decluttered, having the sewing machine set up has been a priority.

I'm almost there! The office is in much better shape, piles of papers have been sorted, pitched and filed, and most things now have a place "to live." The closet needs shelves, and that is waiting on some available funds, but once I've got the shelves the overhaul will be on its way to completion.

Through Kim I have learned about Quilts of Valor, made for men and women serving in the military, and that is the first project I want to undertake. Yesterday I visited a quilting web site and downloaded some patterns of interest, bringing the prospect of creating closer and closer to reality. The table in my office on which the sewing machine will sit is almost clear of items that still need attention, and then...

I'm so excited I could just plotz! The return to quilting and sewing has been a long time coming, and I've got stashes of fabric calling to be transformed from yardage to usefulness. Soon, soon. Oh, what a lovely day that will be!


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