Monday, August 31, 2009


Today's gratitude is brought to you by a litter of orphaned pups. But I am also grateful for...

Puppies * Physicians * Photography * Priests/pastors * Pets * Pizza * Prayer * Passion * Pansies * Petunias * People * Playfulness * Parents * Presents * Popcorn * Pillows * Painting * Pancakes * Pastimes * Parks * Pasta * Paper * Pajamas * Picnics * Parentheses * Pampered Chef * Process

Today it is all about puppies. These puppies.
Yesterday after lunch I received a phone call from our local canine rescue asking if I'd be willing to foster a litter of pups who were orphaned. I won't tell you how they were found, because it would tear you up! We're guessing that they're about two and a half weeks-old, eyes newly opened and ears still to come.
I fostered half a litter last year at Christmas time, and it was the best Christmas present! Those were two weeks old and I had them for a couple of weeks. The litter of ten all found homes, and just before they shipped out I went to visit them and say goodbye. They were sooo cute! I have pictures of several of them that I cherish. If they had stayed still for just a moment I would have gotten even more pictures!
The present litter consists of six pups, two male and four female, two brown and four mostly black with white or tan. They are, of course, cute. I've named the two brown ones Boris and Natasha, then Zoe (two syllables, thank you very much), Libby, Mr. Blackwell, and the last one remains unnamed at this time. She's all black, and I'm taking suggestions!
Fostering puppies at this age is somewhat labor intensive. They are bottle fed every three hours (though they can go through the night!), and they pee and poop according to their own schedule. It never fails that as soon as I clean up their area and smile appreciatively at the pristine quarters, one will poop. I've got them strategically placed in the laundry area! The blessing at this age is that they pretty much eat and sleep. Once they get mobile it's another story!
Gratitude for puppies? You bet! I am a nurturer. Caring for these little guys exercises my maternal instincts and opens a direction for the love in my heart to pour out. And out it goes! I fuss, I cuddle, I clean and feed, and each one gets time for personal attention and affection. I am denied the opportunity to dote on my grandson, so there's lots of accumulated doting just ripe for dispensing. There are so many times when I am not in a position to help someone in need, that when an opportunity like this comes around, I don't really have to think twice.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

man's best friend x 2

This seems an appropriate Sunday post. Enjoy!

(and thanks to my friend Yolande for sending this to me!)

Saturday, August 29, 2009

missing ted

I'm late posting this tribute to Ted Kennedy. When I heard the news of his death I felt a deep sadness that has lingered with me throughout the week. It's a sadness for his family, the people he served, the political process he shaped and the lives he touched, and for me.

I confess that I was among those under the spell of Camelot. I had the privilege of spending summer vacations in Hyannisport, and early memories of watching Marine One fly into the Kennedy Compound are a part of my Kennedy consciousness. My sadness has roots in those memories that are woven of pieces of my own story with that of the world in which I grew up. I cannot seperate pictures in my mind of days on the beach and the influence of Camelot less than a mile down the shoreline. In an adulthood complicated by the sometimes unhappy mix of circumstances and personal choices, days of sailing in that harbor with my brothers and my father's unrelenting efforts to keep a path to the water free of seaweed beckon me from my difficult reality.

The gospel passion for justice championed by Ted Kennedy was a staple of my idealogical diet in those early years (and since), and it seems that fewer and fewer hearts in our modern world are willing or able to carry the banner that Ted raised high. He didn't do it alone. Like Moses raising the staff over his head, there were other arms lending support to keep visible and active the effort to look out for those who could not make do in the world to which their circumstances delivered them. But Ted was uniquely qualified to be the one who held that banner and bellowed for its victory. The loss of that voice is a tragedy for all people, including those with whom he disagreed. John Donne's famous words ring true this week: "Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."

One of my favorite places in Scotland is the ruin of a castle that sits snug against the top of a hill in Perthshire. On either side of Castle Campell are streams of water, burns, as they are called, that carve a path in that hillside as they tumble down their separate ways to join as a single stream in the valley below. The poetic description of this topography is that the Burn of Care and the Burn of Sorrow come together to form the Waters of Grief. That description speaks to the loss this country is experiencing, even as it mirrors my own peculiar journey and life right now.

The loss is real. The sadness is real. The good news is that redemption is born of such grief. For us as a nation. For me as a sojourner. For any and all who seek to push past the crud of the day to reach for the mountaintop. The legacy of Ted Kennedy may well be that in spite of privilege, personal weaknesses, tragedy and victory, the effort to perservere and to seek justice trumps the obstacles in that path. The Waters of Grief as they flow away from care and sorrow are transformed into the glory of what is possible, and echo the words of the prophet Amos: "Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream (5:14)."

Farewell, good and faithful servant. Well done.
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Friday, August 28, 2009

friday five: that's what I like!

At RevGails Singing Owl writes: Lately I seem to be encountering many people who have a very difficult time finding anything good to say about themselves. They are able to extend grace and forgiveness's to others but find it difficult to extend that same grace to themselves.

With that in mind, let's share some healthy affirmation today! Tell us five things you like about yourself!

1) I like that I am more like my mother than not. She is a woman of integrity, strength, compassion, insight, thoughtfulness, hospitality and generosity, to name but a few of her attributes. I am blessed to be her daughter and to know her confidence in me.

2) I like that I love animals. It offers me an opportunity to exercise my maternal instincts.

3) I like that I appreciate the heritage of my gene pool and value the tangible gifts, like Melrose, that are the fruits of my family.

4) I like that I am passionate about creating. This passion is most expansive when creating for others in my life. Win-win!

5) I like that I am a good listener. Hearing another's story connects me to them in places of commonality, and expands the world I come to know and understand through the experiences and perspectives of others. It makes every day interesting and meaningful.
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Wednesday, August 26, 2009

on the fly

A quick good morning as I am on the run this morning. Early hospital visit for a pre-surgery prayer and time with the family. Later this morning we begin loading up furniture and other goodies for Trisha and Junior. Full day! It's been so buy the last two days that I haven't even taken a single picture! I'll have to rectify that today.

So I am wishing good things for one and all until I can report in later. As my cousin-in-law Teresa would say, "Peace, out!"

Tuesday, August 25, 2009


is for one in a million

Oceans * Order * The outdoors * Home office * Onions * Olives * The Olympics * Open minds * Orchards * Opportunity *
Opposites * Oatmeal cookies * Old things * Oak * Orchids * Olive oil

This morning I am deeply grateful for a new member of the family who demonstrates the value of having an open heart.

Trisha and Junior are here for a few days before loading out Junior's storage unit and moving kit and kaboodle to Charlotte, NC. While the menfolk did manly things yesterday afternoon outdoors, Trisha and I huddled around her laptop and talked wedding plans. In the process the conversation veered into the family dynamics arena. Without tumbling into a verbatim of our conversation how do I distill what I learned about her and have affirmed, again, the extraordinary young woman she is? I had to fight back tears on a number of occasions for the blessing of her observations, her clarity of situations and the chutzpah of stating the truth.

Let me share, at least briefly, a particularly meaningful chunk of wisdom that she revealed. Troubled by the behavior and ensuing consequences of a person to whom she is close, and desiring for that relationship to find right footing for both of their sakes, she came to understand that for the relationship to find footing to move toward health and stability she had to change the way she saw the other person. In her words, "I had to forgive them and accept them for where they are." It is a perspective that I learned long ago while trying to find a way through difficulty with my father, and I know it takes some serious inner work to get beyond the "me" to value the other enough to honor the wholeness of who they are. It doesn't wash away the past, but it does help to heal it and open new opportunities for the future. It is relationship-changing and life-changing. And Trisha, before she was 23-years old, had come to this wisdom.

I almost have to pinch myself to apprehend the gift that Trisha is and will be to this family. I am also grateful for the companionship she offers to me as another woman in this mix. I thank God for answering a prayer that it never occurred to me to utter because I didn't think it could ever be answered. I needed that.

Monday, August 24, 2009

n begins the second half

is for

Nephews * Nature * Nurturing * Networks of friends * Naps * Novels * Night * Names * Nova Scotia * Needlework * New York City * Newspapers * New England

That's my nephew, Jesse. He's an amazing guy, rising sophomore at Middlebury College in Vermont. Bright, sensitive, creative, insightful, funny. Oh, the Places you'll Go! to quote Dr. Seuss. Love this guy. Don't see him nearly enough and it's time I did the Anne McKinne thing and sent him a brownie care package to start the new semester off right. Love you Jess!

Three out of four seasons I really miss New England. Okay, I miss it even in that fourth season, but not for seasonal reasons. In the fall, well, you just can't beat the fall foliage of the northeast. And yes, there really are towns, and a good number of them, that have the quaint churches on the greens surrounded by wooded areas or hillsides and old cemeteries. Just get off the well-traveled roads and you'll find them. And people think I'm crazy but I really miss the snow! My last year in seminary was brutal with snow, and since I parked on the street I had to move the car (or it would be towed) or it would get plowed in at the curb. I'm willing to live with that kind of inconvenience for snow! I warned you about crazy. And summer. Sure, New England gets 90-degree days and humidity just like everyone else, but the season is shorter and the nights are generally cooler and it is just far more comfortable for a hot weather-wimp like me to be there in the summer. Not to mention that NE is rich with all kinds of festivals. But it's not just the seasons. I love the history, the colonial architecture and the fife and drum corps that march in parades. I love the rolling hills and shorelines, the old stone walls and the character of maple forests. I love access to the water, to sailing, to the smell and breeze of the ocean. I love the towns that were home to my ancestors, and my own genealogical connection to the stories that shaped people, places, and a nation. I miss the cradle of my own story, and the proximity of my family.

Lest this sound like a post of regret I suppose I should state that I don't regret being in middle Tennessee. I love this place, too. I am near ancestral haunts here, too, and I feel connected to the land. I just love NE more.

And PS. I know I said this yesterday, but I want to repeat it after a couple of conversations with my mother. I have the best Mom!

Sunday, August 23, 2009


A couple of weeks ago on one of the hottest days this summer has recorded we headed outdoors in the heat of the day. Ah, but we were wise in choosing our destination! Canoeing the Caney Fork River was pleasant and diverting in the midst, literally, of a challenging summer. The stretch of river that we and a multitude of others enjoyed flows from the cool bottom water of Center Hill Lake, released at the dam of the same name just above where we put in. It attracts fisherfolk galore in hopes of snagging one of the stocked trout, and others of us enjoy the float past cow pastures and steep hillsides. On this day an intermittent breeze across of the cool water wafted over us and brushed away the heat of the day. It was glorious to be on the water, glorious to enjoy the river, and fully fun to be with our friends.

This weekend is mysteriously cool for what typically passes as the brutality of August, but I'll take it. Revel in it, in fact, and perhaps take advantage of its gift to do some desperately needed weeding in the garden after church. That would be worth skipping a nap! Wherever your day finds you, I pray you are able to revel in whatever gift it offers.

Saturday, August 22, 2009


is for many things...

Mothers * Music *Memories * Magazines * Message boards * Money * Marriage * Movement * Medicine * Month of May * Mountains * Mull * Meditation * Mysteries * Moments * m&m’s * Movies * Mail * Mornings * Massages *

Lots of great M words today. I mean, seriously. Music! Powerful for everyone, unifier of the masses. It transports, soothes, encourages, inspires. One of God's greatest gifts is our capacity to make music.

Memories. For better or worse they connect us to our past, and when they're good they are balm for what ails us. Whether poignant or bitter, they tell our story (and are occasionally revised and edited!), and everyone's story has power. (That word keeps popping up. Hmm, the Ps are coming, I should make a note to self...)


Mystery. Keeps you guessing, whether it's the whodunit type, or has a spiritual flavor. Anything unexplained is an avenue for exploration, and with an open and discerning mind the journey in pursuit of a mystery can be quite the adventure. Life-changing at times.

Mail. Who doesn't love to get personal mail? Does it not make our day? An unexpected card, or a cheerful hello from a voice from the past. Good news, invitations, announcements, sales... Okay, sometimes less than good news arrives via the mail, but we'll overlook that for the moment...

And saving the best for last, Moms. My Mom. She is the absolute best. Smart, thoughtful, sensitive, humorous, compassionate, creative, hospitable, generous, communicative, did I mention thoughtful? She's one of the most thoughtful people I know. I think she's pretty self-less, too. And a bit of a stoic, as recent events have demonstrated. She's a great listener. She is the queen of brownies and birthday banners and so, so much more.

Friday, August 21, 2009

friday five: rules and expectations

Jan at RevGals writes: After a family vacation with our four children and three additional "partners," I am more aware of rules, spoken and unvoiced. Expectations are not always clearly expressed, but are still expected. . . . unbeknown to all unless one is not fulfilled! So how about writing about rules in your families and workplaces? Choose one or more for each category, especially if one seems odd or funny to you now.

I’m terrible at this, too intuitive for my own good! I usually need a memory trigger to release this kind of data!

1. Formal rules in family of origin
Hmmm. While eating: elbows off the table, napkin on your lap, chew with your mouth closed.

2. Unwritten and unspoken rules in family of origin. These are the kinds of things that you don’t realize until you encounter a behavior or action than is different from your own expectations. Some (many) seem to be related to etiquette. Others seem to be gender-related. For instance, when I clear my plate from the table after eating I will take with me to the sink anyone else’s plate that is ready to be cleared. Men don’t seem to practice what I consider to be a courtesy. At least in my experience! I’m not sure how much of this is rules or expectations as much as it is a family or cultural norm.

3. Formal rules in current family or workplace.
Don’t feed the dogs from the table. No people food for the dogs. (Until three years ago my family was me and the dogs, just so you have a context).

4. Unwritten rules in current family or workplace.
Don’t hit the dogs as a means of correction (or at all). Can’t think of any others at the moment. See above note about clearing plates!

5. When was a time that you became aware of different rules in different places/families than your own?
At a very early age my brothers and I became joined at the hip with another family with two boys and a girl. Our ages were close enough together that we could play together, and the two families (mostly The Mothers and the kids) practically lived in each other’s laps. It was clear that they had different rules/expectations than we had (one that I remember is that they got to eat TV dinners on trays in the living room on Sunday nights when everyone watched The Ed Sullivan Show, we didn’t), but at the moment I don’t remember what else. Maybe I was five?

I'm sure that my memory will be jogged by other posts!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

artist's date

In her book The Artist's Way one of the habits Julia Cameron encourages us to cultivate is "the artist's date." What this means, essentially, is that each week we treat ourselves to time set apart to nourish the artist within by going "without," as in get out of the house and away from the usual patterns and places so that the soul can be fed by the world beyond. For me this translates as getting to a place where my soul drinks deeply from the well of creative possibility.

The Cheekwood Botanical Garden in Nashville is such a place. Perhaps my favorite photographic subject is a garden, and cheekwood has wonderful layers of texture, grooming, wildness and color to satisfy just about anyone. Or so I think! Last week I had two appointments in Nashville, with time in between that offered proximity and the perfect opportunity to head to Cheekwood for a visit.

I hadn't been there in nearly three years (astonishing, considering how much I enjoy it), and I hadn't been there in the summer since, oh, 2000? Dreadful, I need to slap my own wrist! I confess that I hurried through the garden more quickly than I would have wanted, and didn't visit all the nooks and crannies that beckon the artist, but I did manage to enjoy pausing at a few places to drink in the glory that is this particular garden and to snap a few pictures.

The trellis area, pictured first, is one of my favorite as it changes color and character through the seasons. And I absolutely delighted in the mass of rudbeckia, the black-eyed Susan that is my favorite summer bloom (how I wish we had a sunny place in our own yard free from canine tampering to plant some!). The other pictures are near the original Cheek home, now a museum. Cheekwood was the home of the Cheek family (an absolutely amazing estate that sits atop a hill), and they were kind enough to leave the estate for the purpose of creating this wonderful place for the public.

Enjoy this departure from your own world.
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Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Which is what I am taking today. Lots of stuff on the "to do," plans B to put into effect, some critical research to do to help a person in need, blah blah blah. If only I hadn't asked what I thought was a simple question at breakfast I might have had more time this morning!

Wishing you all a good one!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

life lessons

is for lots of things!
Love * Laughter * Life * Light * Liberty * Lasagna * Leaves * Lily of the valley * Lilacs * Lavender * Lilies * Lemons * Luxuries * Layouts * Leisure * Longevity * Lunch * Language * Listening * Learning * Literature * Liturgy * Lazy days * Lighthouses * Lambs * Lakes * Lochs * Laps * Lanterns * Letters *

I have been thinking these last few days about my friend Sammy, who headed off to college over the weekend. I suppose that no matter the generation there is a lot about that first arrival that remains constant over time. The car loaded with belongings and the makings of a one-room home; unloading and schlepping boxes, lamps and more personal effects through corridors of chaos and nervous excitement; quick how-do-you-dos to roommates, dormmates, and parents of same; hands shoved into pockets to prevent nail-biting; tearful or grateful goodbyes, and then the thundering awareness that life will never be the same.

(did you know that July is national lasagna awareness month? I think we should all come up with an obscure occasion to honor and pick a month for it...)

I am remembering my own llife transition inaugurated by those college years. So much to learn, and most of it not academic. Or let me put it this way--I'm not sure the academic things have stuck, but other lessons have proven foundational. I learned a good deal about people, and a lot about myself. And I find that each episode of my life pretty much contains the same table of contents: things I learned about people, things I learned about myself.

The labels are misleading. Though the categories remain the same, the content varies. Through good times and bad the human character reveals its tendencies toward kindness and generosity, manipulation and deception, longing and inclusion. The darkness of betrayal begs for understanding and the heart seeks wholeness the way seedlings seek warmth and light. Paradoxically it was in good times that I learned most about my weaknesses, and in challenging times that I discovered my strengths. We tumble through the depth and breadth of life, sometimes nudged gently, sometimes catapulted with the kind of force that renders us feeling helpless. Rough edges have the opportunity to become polished, and cracks that become exposed lead either to healing or scarring that masks deeper damage.

Some of my learning had "aha!" moments attached, other wisdom simply became evident:

  • When difficulty arises between myself and another I have learned to evaluate what part I contributed to the problem. I seek to take responsibility for my part and recognize that the rest belongs to the other.
  • I have learned to seek value hidden by disappointment, not denying a sense of loss, but not allowing myself to be stopped or limited by it.
  • I try to make the best of what I have rather than dwell on what I don't have.
  • My glass has shifted from a sense of being half empty to the reality that it is half full.
  • I honor pain and loss, my own and that of others

There are other lessons learned, but these are the ones that are riding in the front seat of my consciousness this morning. Sammy is at the edge of a life-shaping adventure. From the vantage point of a different generation I can smile thinking about what lies ahead for her and those whose steps follow that same path this fall. Academics have their A's and B's. Life, on the other hand, transcends pass/fail. It's all good.

Monday, August 17, 2009

gratitude for grace

As a pastor I know a lot about the woe of people's lives. Health issues, life and death matters, employment challenges, family dynamics, broken hearts and missed opportunities, to name a few, fill the pews of our churches from week to week. Most days the most I can do for someone is to listen, pray, comfort and encourage. I can occasionally direct someone to a resource that may be helpful, or connect them with a person whose gift can assist with facing a dilemma. Too often I feel like a band aid dispenser when what I want most to be is a healing and reconciling accomplice. I know that the work of God is accomplished through human hands and hearts, the results of which are generally unseen. But there are days when I long for evidence that the almighty is busy on our behalf, and for signs that the ground of my being is as firm as I believe it to be.

Imagine my joy, then, when yesterday I found myself in a position to be an actor in conveying this kind of grace. A woman whose life circumstances are forcing her to be uprooted and relocated is shedding her possessions. The overwhelming trauma of the last few months of her life has reduced her capacity to cope with the necessary details of her transition. She clings to the salvation that this change, painful as it is in many ways, means for her. Through tears, she told me she didn't know what to do.

But I knew what I could do. I visited her and photographed the items she wouldn't be taking with her to her new address. Mostly furniture, I came home and loaded the pictures into my computer and sent off some emails. A couple starting a life together, an organization that aids displaced persons in the transformation from despair to hope, a family that gets by with a hot-plate and a cooler can all benefit from this list of available items. By the time I got up this morning more than half of the inventory of which I am serving as broker has a place to go.

This is grace. This is the stuff that pumps my heart and puts me on my knees with gratitude for the opportunity to touch another life. On the phone last night one person kept telling me, "you won't believe this, this is exactly what we need." Yes, I do believe, because that is how grace reveals herself. Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.

If you catch me with a you-know-what eating grin this week, you'll know why.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

the bearable lightness of humor

Oddly enough Ken and I have been glued to coverage of the PGA Championship the last few days--sort of fun to watch from day one. One bonus of watching is seeing some commercials that I, at least, wouldn't see otherwise. Here is a great one that has aired during the tournament.

Even if you're not nuts about dogs this is pretty cute, and very clever. Enjoy!

PS. It is pretty obvious that I have changed the look of the blog. Love the border, not sure I'm crazy about having the narrower column again. For instance, the video appears cut off on one side. We can't have that!

We'll see how it goes. There must be something in the cyber air about changing blog looks because a whole bunch of people have made changes recently. Huh! Let me know what you think. Too busy? Perfectly punched with color? I thought I'd try something a bit out of my comfort zone...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

disclaimer and apology

It can be dangerous to single people out for recognition. Leading up to my "J" post I was aware that, with my hit-or-miss mid-life memory I would inadvertently leave someone out (which I did). I also knew that to use that post to talk about particular people in my life would open the door for some to wonder about their inclusion in posts, alphabet or no alphabet. The other day when I listed some of the people who inspire me I didn't include my friend Jayne (who is a major inspiration in many ways) and kicked myself for that. The balm for my error was that I knew she would be in the next day's post, and if she felt overlooked (and I'm not saying that she did or suggesting that she might have!), the next post would, I hope, alleviate any sense of feeling slighted.

I don't get myself in a wad stressing over hurt feelings, but I am very much aware of occasions that can lead to that. I've had my feelings hurt plenty of times when I wasn't included in something, inadvertently or by design, so I know how these things go. So let me say here and now to those who read this blog, please don't take it personally if you don't appear in a post, and don't read anything into those occasions when a post might include you, by virtue of its topic, but doesn't. There is no intended slight.

I do, this morning, owe an apology to my friend Jimmy for leaving him out of the Js this week. That list included people with whom I have regular contact (I know plenty more Js!) and with whom I have shared some particularly trying times. Each of them have demonstrated above and beyond friendship in one way or another, and it was through that lens, with help to my addled brain from my cell phone directory, that the J list was generated. Alas, Jimmy isn't in my cell phone (that will be rectified shortly!). Lots of people aren't in my cell phone directory because I'm not a big fan of cell phones, but I digress.

Jimmy (along with his wife, Barbara) is at the top of my list of favorite people in the world. He is a Melrosian, the term I devised some years ago to refer to people who love and have a connection to Melrose, just to offer a context. Self-less (he would chuckle at that), generous, thoughtful (he would chuckle at that, too) are just a few words to describe him. Jimmy is one of those people who remembers the events and people in your life and inquires about their wellbeing because he knows they matter to you. He's a gentleman (he is snorting now) with a disarming sense of humor and a genuine compassion for others. He has a great smile and wonderful laugh, cooks amazing meals and tends a stocked-for-you bar. His politics lean clearly in one direction, but he keeps an open mind, takes the time to listen to and consider the points of views of others, and is a model of what it means to be in respectful disagreement. His hospitality is unrivaled. He is a delightful friend.

And now, crap, I've just remembered someone else who should be on this list (again, not in my cell phone directory!), but I will desist and move on. I am grateful for all the people in my life, those who've known me since my birth and those whom I've come to know through this blog and other online forums. Each of you enrich my life in ways unique to who you are, and for the abundance you bring to my life I cannot thank God enough. Bless you, and may your day be glorious.
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Friday, August 14, 2009

k-k-k- ...

is a challenge! But there are certainly some contenders...

Kisses * Kids * Kin * Kindness * Kitchens * Knitting * Knowledge

Way, way, way back in the rough draft of time I was asked an interview question that I no longer remember. What I do remember is the answer: I wanted the kind of life where friends dropped by on a Sunday afternoon and we sat around the kitchen table and talked, nibbled at some food, made a meal, poured some wine--you get the idea. The interviewer nodded knowingly and summed it up like this: "soup and therapy."

In that good conversations with friends can certainly be therapeutic I suppose she was right, but the idea of people who enjoy each other's company gathered around the table just feels like home to me. It's no secret that kitchens are gathering places. Food and fellowship offer comfort to the soul, and all souls benefit from comfort (just not too much food!). I suppose it was that idea of home that appealed to me. I can also recall spending several days with a friend at her parents' home, and waking up the first morning I was there to hear voices coming from the kitchen. There was joy in that experience as well, since, as a single person living alone, my waking moments were always to silence. Companionship, the company of another, the assurance that we are not on this journey alone is something I think we all too often take for granted.

That awareness makes it all the more important that I have a kitchen in which others find comfort, that I show kindness to all that I meet, and that kisses, like the kiss of peace that St. Paul encourages, be part of the way I let people know that they matter to me. To that end, I blow a virtual kiss you to you all today, with my love and appreciation for your company on the journey.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

jumpin' jehosophat, part 2

continues today with part two of my hat tip to the special "Js" in my life!

Jill, friend with enthusiasm: When I find that I have some unexpected free time—sitting in traffic, for instance, or having an extended wait to board a plane—certain people come to mind and I pull out the phone and give them a ringy-dingy. Jill is one of those people. When she answers the phone and hears my voice her enthusiasm breaks barriers across cellular lines: “ANNE! (it takes her two full seconds to say my name) Hello, lovely one!” She may say that to everyone who calls her, but I don’t care. I love hearing the warmth and love in her voice when she says that to me. I consider Jill to be something of a free-spirit. She has spent years in theater-related work: acting, teaching acting, consulting in acting; coaching dialect; singing (she sang at our wedding, what a blessing!)… Whatever her mood or whatever cross she is bearing, she is never far from a smile and a positive word. She is fun and funny, creative and generous, hosts parties for any occasion or none. She is the only person I know who actually goes caroling through the neighborhood at Christmas (and on a couple of occasions I have joined her). She enjoys an eclectic set of friends and has a gift for making everyone feel as though they are the center of the universe. What’s not to love? She is a gem, sometimes with a cockney accent and sometimes drawling deeply southern. To think of her makes me feel good, to be with her does my heart good. Everyone should have a friend who offers that to others.

Jill, Juliet and Judy

Johanna, goddaughter: There are many blessings in my relationship with Johanna, the daughter I never had. She was six when our relationship began as members of the same church, but unlike other adult/child relationships that often wane and become warm reconnections, Johanna and I kept our bond intact and vital. One of the wonderful ways she affirms her affection is through her own initiation. She has come to visit me on a number of occasions, and one lovely October we shared a few days of vacation together in New England while she was there on business and I was there for continuing education. When she married I was honored with a corsage as her second mother. Of particular delight to me is the friendship we have. When she graduated from college she took time out from her celebratory party to take a walk with me so that we would have time together to get caught up. She listens, has compassion, prays, and is full of centered wisdom and counsel. She is my joy.

Judy, matron of honor: I met Judy in the fourth grade when we moved to a new house in a new town, which meant a new school. We’ve been friends ever since. We’ve shared vacations, weekends away, season tickets to the ballet, lots of letters, and a lot of dinners. We’ve laughed, cried, confessed our secrets and absolved each other’s sins. In our teen years when life at home felt empty and chaotic her family absorbed me as one of their own. It is through them that I fell in love with hockey, was introduced to the Episcopal Church, and got my first taste of sisterhood. We share a love of language and art, food and family, and though distance and time may separate us, the roots of our friendship are deep and strong.

Johanna, Jules and Junior

Jules, scrapping buddy: One of my first online friends through scrapbooking, Jules refreshes me with a lighthearted look at life. She never fails to offer an encouraging word when my chips are down, and she is a faithful and frequent supplier of sheep for my collection. She pays attention to the details of my life, evidence that she listens, and is constant with her invitation to visit and take refuge in her home when I need escape. She, too, is fun and funny, creative and generous, and she encourages and inspires my creative streak. She is sensitive to my sensitivities and knows that I need a hug before I ask.

Juliet, beloved dog: I had two dogs when I met Juliet, with no intention of expanding my canine household. But when this wee stray puppy appeared at an event produced by Jill (above!) and attended with Johanna (above!), I found her irresistible. Part Akita, part greyhound, Juliet is graceful, beautiful and soulful. She is affectionate on her own terms, yet in spite of that is such a love that she would make ice melt with a turn of her head and a glance in your direction. Her tail thumps loudly, and at the vet she earned the nickname of “Happy Girl.” She is that, and to me, so much more.

Junior, son (I dispense with the “step” reference): I give abundant thanks for the opportunity to be Mom to Junior. We have little in common, but a love that is strong and penetrating. We began to bond while we waited together through a surgical procedure that Ken was having. I knew I was a goner when, after my second visit with him he got in his car to drive home to be deployed to Iraq, the tears stung my eyes, my throat tightened and my heart grew heavy with missing him. He has given me a sense of family that I never had the joy of experiencing, and he and Trisha together deepen that blessing. Our Christmas together last year was one of the richest times I have known, and the bond of our hearts is responsible for that. I posted this video last winter after we had seen Cherryholmes at the Opry, and it continues to reflect my heart.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

time out

Alas, I ran out of time yesterday to do some things in preparation for today, so guess who is playing catch up? I'm squeezed for blog time this morning, so will return tomorrow with part two of my J list.

Sending good wishes to one and all for a glorious Wednesday!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

jumpin' jehosophat! part 1

it's "J" day! I've been waiting for this day. It turns out, you see, that there are a lot of "J" people in my life, and I'm not talkin' Meyers-Briggs (although there are those kind of Js, too!). What fun, today, to pay tribute to them! I wish I could write at length about each of them and do justice to the places they hold in my heart, but for purposes of this blog I will try, at the least, to tip my hat in some meaningful way. It turns out that it takes a fair amount of time to do this, so I have broken up my "J" list into two parts.

Let's start with the J gratitude list:

Jesus * Jobs * Justice * Jam * Jokes * Joy * Journeys * Journals * Jewelry * Jigsaw puzzles

and move on to (in alphabetical order) the first part of the Js:

Jamie, my brother: he's a bit of an enigma, a private person who holds more talent in his little finger than one might imagine is possible in a person. He's incredibly creative in a number of arenas: art, music, design, cooking, writing. He's a remodeling contractor whose work is distinctive and original. LOVE his stuff! He is quietly passionate about his work, his family, his world. He reads and studies and integrates what he learns and experiences. Sort of a renaissance man. I admire him a lot, and wish we were closer.

Janet, or Scrapping Janet, as she is known to Ken: Janet is a W: a wise, witty, welcoming woman who doubles as my personal assistant when I'm on a road trip. Before we had a GPS in the car Janet was our GPS by phone. Just one example: on our way to the Outer Banks for a wedding I realized that I needed an item to complete a gift. I got Janet on the phone, she went online and found the nearest Michael's to us as we were traveling through North Carolina, and gave us directions. Mission Accomplished (and I didn't have to wear a jump suit to proclaim it so!). One of the things I love about Janet is that she is there when I need her. Not just for directions to places, but to offer a hug, a listening ear, a funny thing to say to lift my spirits, or simply to hear her voice on the other end of the phone when I'm feeling alone. She is constant, hesed, to use a biblical word. My rock of a friend. And she sends me flowers when I'm really in a funk!

Janet, my spiritual director: wise, compassionate, understanding, affirming, encouraging. (She says "hi," Danielle, and congrats!). She is a really good fit for me, for my reverently irreverent, seeking spirit, and a gentle soul.

Jayne, yenta and so much more!: You'.ve heard about Jayne before on this blog. Dear, dear friend who introduced me to my husband, but that is just one thing that I love about her. Many of my friends are thoughtful. One of the ways that Jayne is thoughtful is that she sends me books! When I was stumbling through putting up a web site she sent me HTML for Dummies. Bingo! She has sent novels that she thinks I will enjoy, or other aids to some aspect of life where I am feeling the need of some literary support. She's insightful, caring, tells the truth, makes me laugh, and shares with me a slightly twisted theology. No, that's not right, but I'm not sure quite how to describe it. Let's just say we push the boundaries a lot, but we are firmly grounded in the heart of God. (Feel free to correct me, Jayne!). I really wish she lived closer, though she is always available in a crisis by phone or email.

Jesse, my nephew: I feel blessed to have what I consider a special relationship with Jesse. Before moving away from where my family lives I saw him pretty regularly, but even with less frequent visits subsequently I think it's safe to say we are close. When he was almost four (he is now a rising college sophomore), I was dealing with a very difficult time in my life. I was on the phone with his mother, and Jesse heard only her side of the conversation as she and I talked. After a while she said to me, "Want to talk to Jesse?" He came to the phone, and the first words out of his mouth were, "tell me your problem." Hear those words in a four-year old's voice! He is long on compassion.

Jenny, like a daughter: Silly, irreverent (hmm, there's a theme here), loveable and loving. Jenny is the younger daughter of friends from my home parish in Connecticut, and sister of my goddaughter Johanna. For several years when the girls were young I had the privilege of sharing lots of fun times with them. We shared church activities, but what was most special is that I got to borrow them to exercise my Mom gene. We went to craft fairs, pizza parlors, Christmas exhibits, movies. They came to my house for sleepovers, to bake cookies, play with the dogs, and in general just be kids. Jenny liked to push the buttons on the microwave as though she were imparting a secret message. She didn't then, nor does she now, suffer fools. She is a free spirit who values authenticity, too often has learned the hard way, and like one of those blow-up punching bags for kids that have sand in the bottom, she rights herself and carries on. She is now gaining on 30 and we aren't in touch often, but our love for each other runs deep and has staying power.

Part two tomorrow. In the meantime, here are some of today's Js. Left to right: Janet, Jesse, Jamie, (sister-in-law Barbara), Jayne and Jenny.

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Monday, August 10, 2009

there is no "i" in team

But there is an "i" in gratitude! And just breathe these babies in:

Identity * Imagination * Intelligence * Ideas * Innocence * Inclusiveness * Ingenuity * Information * Intimacy * Integrity * Ice cream * Iris * Internet * Income * Iona * Independence * Intuition * Inventiveness * Incense * Ivy * Illustrations * Inspiration * Icons * Inquisitiveness * Inver_____ (ary, ness, etc.) *

I recall my early days in seminary being aware of a sense of exile (not in a bad way, understand). I was removed from the external things that were a part of my identity, leaving me, in a sense, to form a new one. I was no longer: at my job, worshiping with my parish family, living in my home, caring for my dog, near my family, dancing with my local dance group, tending a garden, immersed in a quilting project ... You get the idea. Because I was in a new and pretty exciting (if not intimidating!) world it took a while for the losses of those things that were part of who I was to be felt at a penetrating level, but in time the accumulation of those losses hit me. Again, this was not a bad thing, and the awareness of my reshaping was an important part of my ongoing spiritual and personal formation. That awareness has helped me recognize and be sensitive to that type of transition in others.

Imagination and ideas help me to spin storylines in my head for potential novels (oh, if only I had the discipline!), fabric projects, theme parties (I don't generally have them but I DO imagine them!), landscaping possibilities, room makeovers...

I draw inspiration from so many of my friends, known and unknown (if you know what I mean): Kim, who quilts; Nancy, who writes; Janet, who is totally devoted to her family and still has her own life; Mom, who manages and thrives on a busy and fulfilling life at 81; a whole bunch of my scrapping friends who create amazing works of art; Jan, whose ministry is grounded in the arts; many of the RevGals who appear so tireless in their various ministires; Diane, who is amazingly insightful (ah, there's another "i"!)...

There is so much to say about so many of these "i"tems. I think sharing them for you to consider is of more valuable than for me to spin out what they mean to me, however, so I will simply leave you this rich list of "i"nner blessings. May your day be blessed.

Saturday, August 08, 2009


Health * Home * Happiness * Hope * Hearts * Hydrangeas * Hugs * Hilarity * Heritage * Habits * Horses * Heaven * Hospitality * Harmony * Humor * Hostas * Hash browns * Hues * Hope * Hair * Harbors * History * Hobbies * Harvest * Holidays * Humility * Hammocks * Healing *

My thoughts these days are very much focused on my mother, and what her life has suddenly become as a person displaced from her home. Ten days ago a fire in the wing of the retirement community where she lives forced her and 45 others from their apartments. Most of the units escaped damage from the fire itself (which erupted in the roof of the pool area), but all of them were affected by water and some by smoke damage. Mom was lucky that only a few of her belongings were lost, and it is hoped that her antique dining table will be restored.

Gratitude for what was spared is abundant. In the meantime, however, the reconstruction phase of "what happens next" means that she is homeless for the next six months while the apartments affected by efforts to put out the fire have carpets torn out, drywall replaced and repainted, and who knows what else to restore them to liveability. She is fortunate that one of her very best friends lives in this same community and has an apartment with not only an extra bedroom, but a den and storage area. Mom and Sally can manage sharing space and being of assistance to one another. This is wonderful for the present time but it is not a long term solution.

Some have suggested that she head to Melrose, our tree farm in South Carolina. Although there is a furnished cottage there where one could certainly take refuge for a time, it is not the solution either. For one thing there is no insulation. The cottage began as two rooms with adjoining fireplaces, built sometime in the 19th century. Other rooms were added on over time. There is no HVAC system. Though cool temperatures can be countered by the fireplaces and adjunct space heaters there is no relief from the heat and humidity. Ken and I just experienced that firsthand last weekend while we were there. Perhaps more importantly, however, is that my mother's life is in Connecticut, more than 1000 miles away. That life includes regular visits to New York with a subscription to a theater group, and visits with cousins and former colleagues while she is there. It includes her book club, Friends Meeting and responsibilities she has there. It includes her consulting capacity as a retired social work executive, and the multiple committees on which she serves at Seabury, the community where she lives. It includes relationships and interaction with friends she has known most of her life, weekend trips to various places, and the semi-annual visit to Melrose in the spring and fall (to which she drives by herself). Oh, and my brothers are there! This is not your typical 81-year old.

What keeps her local most at the moment is that she had rotator cuff surgery two weeks ago. She is not yet driving and depends on others for transportation to physical therapy and follow-up appointments with the doctor.

In light of all of this, I am abundantly grateful on this "H" day for my home and my health. Home isn't just a roof over my head. It is a refuge and sanctuary where "I" live. It contains furnishings and posessions that reflect who I am, where I've been, and in some regards, where I am going. It is a place that contains my grounding, through my husband, my dogs, talismans of faith, beloved friends and family, and yes, fabric. It is a haven in which I am free to explore, discover, express and be renewed. Norman Rockwell's "Four Freedoms" includes an image of a child being tucked into his bed by his parents, the title of which is Freedom from Fear. Home is that for me, all encompassing. It is also the place where I find strength to hope for what can and may be. Restoration, transformation, healing, peace...

Among the things I have come to understand in life is that we all face challenges, are underminded by disappointments and brokenness, and seek a heart that is content and a life that comes close to resembling something whole. In light of that understanding it is my prayer this day for all of us that hope will undergird what we live this day, and that come what may, our hearts will be lead home.

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Friday, August 07, 2009

friday five: wind in my sails

At RevGals Sally writes about the family passion of sailing: "we love the water and the wind, and take delight in the fresh air and quiet, but also in the competition, striving to do our best!" How about you?

1. Is there a sport/hobby that is more of a passion than a past-time for you?
As noted previously on this blog, I hate to sweat. That pretty much rules out sports as something about which I'm passionate. I've also shared my former passion for Scottish country dancing, which I don't think is a sport as much as an "activity." Who knows? That truly was a passion. However, a constant in my life is a passion for creating. Whether it's with paper, fabric, yarn, a camera, food, I'm at my most content when I'm creating. Doing so for someone else is especially joyful, and brings an added dimension to the creative process. Of late scrapbooking and papercrafts have been my passion, but I'm turning my attention once again to sewing/quilting.

2. Outdoors or indoors?
I'm a weather-wimp (don't like the heat and HATE humidity), so you'll find me indoors more often than not.

3. Where do you find peace and quiet?
I used to enjoy a lot of peace and quiet before I got married, LOL!! It's harder to come by these days while my husband is out of work, and I've noticed that I'm a bit more edgy. If I could just steal some moments to head to the library I could accomplish two things at once! Like many, I find the water to be a peaceful place. It's mysterious and ever-changing, which is rather peaceful.

4. A competitive spirit; good or bad, discuss...
I don't think there's anything inherently wrong with competition. It inspires us to hone our skills and do our best. The notion of winning, however, is another matter. I changed my major in college after getting rather passionate about this whole subject, in fact. The idea that winning is everything and must be achieved at all costs ruins more people than we can possibly know.

5. Is there a song a picture or a poem that sums up your passion?
The picture I've included here is the back of my car filled with samples of decorator fabric that were destined for the dumpster. NO!! A good chunk of it is now neatly folded and in piles awaiting my creative hand. What will I do with it? Tote bags, purses, eyeglass cases, cell phone caddies, those fancy bulletin boards crisscrossed with ribbon under which you can stick cards and photos... I've got all sorts of ideas. I'm planning to give those goodies to the church to be sold at the fall bazaar, assuming we're still having one.

I don't know of a song about the passion of quilting or scrapbooking, but I'd be happy to learn of one!

Thursday, August 06, 2009

a grateful heart

is for gratitude--at all times and in all places! Today as I think about "G" I am grateful for

God * Grandparents * Garlic * Gene pool * Gospel * Getaways * Gingerbread * Godparents * Gardens * Genealogy * Gratitude * Generosity * Geraniums * Grits * Gentle men * Giggles * Gentleness * Glee * Good news * Graduate School * Grace * Giving * Guardian angels * Grills * Gladness * Grandchildren * Goddaughters * Grooms * GIs * Generosity

Just in case you wondered, my "happy place" comes with a warm piece of gingerbread with a spoonful of chocolate sauce poured over the top. Most people think this is an odd combination, but let me tell you, if you've never tried it you don't know what you're missing. And for the ultimate in gingerbread? Nobody makes it like the Scots!

The focus of my gratitude for a "G" item today is grandparents. I had three grandmothers and two grandfathers (the third grandfather died before my parents were even married). I knew my mother's mother and step-father the best of all of them. They lived in New York City and we, or they, were an easy drive or train trip away from Connecticut. My brothers and I each had our own vacation time with my grandparents, which allowed for individual attention and great bonding. We also shared holiday visits and "just because" times together. Whether baking with my grandmother, assembling jigsaw puzzles with my grandfather, or engrossed in animated conversation with them both at the dinner table, time with them served as a marinade of the rich and simple pleasures and schoolings of life.

There were some obvious contrasts between Boppy and Bampy. She was from the south and he grew up in New Jersey. Her hair was prematurely white, his never faded from black. She was a democrat, he a republican. His voice was naturally loud (though he wasn't a "loud" person) and hers more gently quiet. Contrasts notwithstanding, they loved each other deeply and were fiercely devoted to each other. Their particular attributes and gifts complemented one another and they were a good team, seamless in their grandparenthood as they nurtured and enjoyed another generation in the family.

My grandfather and I used to enjoy joking about the things we had in common as evidence that "we must be related!" Among those bonds was writing. He sent us postcards after visits we had made to them, and he wrote prayers to be read at the family table at the holidays. He also kept a daily diary for years. Of particular value to me is a letter he wrote to the newest addition of the family when I was two days old. I can't think of a better tribute to the place he holds in my heart than to share it here. It reads:

Dear Anne:

In as much as the people in charge will only allow a few well-chosen people to have the privilege of seeing and talking with you this week, I must necessarily take this method and opportunity of saying "Hello" and "Welcome to Our World."

First, I want to say I think you planned your entry very well. When you arrive early or on time people are not always quite ready With your delayed arrival the anticipation was terrific. You handled it just right.

Then I'd like to congratulate you on your graceful debut. None of this fumbling about but a nice easy direct approach. You will always find that people will like you for that. I'm sure you have your public right in the palm of your little hand.

Another thing is that you picked your sex with remarkable discretion. I'll grant you there wasn't a wide selection to choose from but your choice was the perfect one. We have been needing you for a long time and you are just right for all of us.

And I want you to know how glad we are to have you on our team. We need a shining new quarterback to direct our plays with some new ideas and brilliant ingenuity. Being your Father's daughter these qualities I am sure you have

Also, we need the new young approach that can only come from the world of ideas where you have been.

So glad you are aboard and we'll have lots of fun together if you'll just be a little patient with us as we learn all your new tricks and plays.

Hope you are getting plenty to eat and plenty of sleep. That always helps and is needed by anyone with the name of Anne Mckinne.*

Lots of love and good wishes from your admiring, GrandPa

(*I am the seventh Anne McKinne)

God bless grandparents, and all the other wonderful G-things for which we are grateful.

Wednesday, August 05, 2009

mid-week mish mash

I can't seem to get in gear this morning for a reason that defies me. Oh well. I think it's because I was anticipating this massive storm last night (looked pretty scary by all accounts of the local meterologists), and it just didn't materialize. We had candles lit and everything in anticipation of losing power. Did I say, "Oh well?" Let's move on...

It's news to no one that this is the middle of the week. In a little while we're heading over to the church to pick up the shoes that we intended to deliver yesterday. I'm going to try to stack them up on top of the altar for a picture. I'm sure someone somewhere will feel inclined to feel put out by the notion of shoes on the altar, but Jesus won't mind. I take my cue from him.

I really want to sew today. Those plans got derailed last week with all the excitement around here and I want to rerail them. I'm eager to see this little quilt project come together and then start playing with a few alterations to the design. I am reallllllllly needing to create. Like, NOW! I don't think that will actually happen today since I've got some other obligations, but I'll see what I can do.

The latest news from Mom is that she will be out of her apartment for at least 30 days! I haven't talked to her since she was supposed to have been able to get into the apartment to assess damages, losses, etc., so have no further news to report on that. Sigh. Wish she could come here for a breather!

And that's what's up at this end. Blessings on your day!

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

after the weekend report

We had a full and fun weekend in Augusta. The party to celebrate Trisha's graduation Saturday night was hosted by her great-aunt and -uncle. A beautifully landscaped yard, pool and a guest cottage to escape the humidity (which was wretched!) provided a wonderful setting for casual conversation. Trisha's Mom provided an amazing array of food, and the extended family were warm, welcoming, gracious and fun. We enjoyed getting to know them and look forward to future opportunities to build those relationships.

Sunday afternoon Trisha and Junior came out to Melrose for several hours, and we enjoyed that relaxed time with them. They've got a busy time ahead as they make a move to Charlotte, NC where Trisha will start work. They've found a potential place to live, but there are a number of decisions to make related to this option, and lots of what happens next depends somewhat on those decisions. Junior has three weeks of training at Ft. Benning at the end of the month, so that adds a wrinkle as well. Isn't life ever thus? It looks like a spring wedding will be planned, but further details at this time are still in the offing.

In between family time and events we were thrilled to have time with our friends and hosts for the weekend, Jimmy and Barbara. Not only did we have time just to hang out and enjoy their company, they also accommodated our varied schedule and seeminly constantly changing plans with grace and nonchalance. We are so grateful for their hospitality and friendship.

On our return we learned of the tragic death over the weekend of Ken's cousin Walter Lee, in a head-on collision in Missouri. It is disorienting for Ken, I think, on the heels of the death just a month ago of his last surviving aunt (same side of the family). The precise cause of the accident is still unknown, but it took five lives, including Walter Lee's wife of six weeks. Though I did not know Walter Lee well at all, I am filled with sadness for him, and all concerned.

Today we are tending to more details than I'd like to have on my list, but one of them is the happy task of delivering shoes for school children that were collected and offered at church yesterday for a local ministry. It is a blessed thing to be the conveyor of good tidings and meet some essential needs for the young in our community.

Blessings to one and all. I hope the week is off to a good start and brings good tidings your way as well.
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