Saturday, December 04, 2010

Seasoned Love

My friend Tim's heartfelt thoughts concerning his 13th anniversary to his beloved wife brought tears to my eyes. Lovely.
"Oh, the comfort, the inexpressible comfort of feeling safe with a person, having neither to weigh thoughts nor measure words, but pouring them all out, just as they are, chaff and grain together, certain that a faithful hand will take and sift them, keep what is worth keeping, and with a breath of kindness blow the rest away." ~~ George Eliot
Isn't that just beautiful! This kind of love is born from experience, from the struggles of life. It is not immature love, nor fairy tale love.

It's the real deal.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

November 30, 2010: Love Never Ceases

Here it is, the last day of NaBloPoMo, thirty days of blogging in November. I made it!

What can I say about the experience of pulling something out of my head or heart every day for a month? In looking back I see a marvelous reassurance, one certainly not expected. With four kids, each in a sort of transition, a husband busy and in need of a supportive wife, plus life such as it is for all of us, I find myself daily pulled in at least a dozen directions, most of which are not predictable. Most nights I lie down in bed deeply sighing with relief to have made it through and at the same time wondering how in the world I did.

Thirty posts. I ponder, noticing what? Noticing that a constant pulsing flame of me remains unharmed, unthreatened, creative, hopeful, faithful. Surprise, for I know that it is fed by something 'other'. If that flame lived and died by my own feeding and care I know it would long ago have been sacrificed to aid others, for I can use all the help I can muster, so draining is life.

Not only does this steady spirit-flame remain, but it does not ever flicker. As though completely independent of my control, its existence warms, supports, confirms. I often complain that while I take care of everyone else who takes care of me? It's a selfish complaint, and an unfounded one.

Examination of this blog-post experiment reveals reassurance that, yes, Someone constantly cares for me in unique and beautiful ways. The fire never goes out. Hope remains. Energy and creativity for another day. Stamina to walk while being bombarded with life's urgency and absurdity. Belief that all things happen for a reason. Trust that my Supply-Source is Good. Love abundant enough to care not only for those I cherish, but to maintain the soul of me.

My response? Delight and an outpouring of love for this Source, this God, this Creator of life who delicately, faithfully gives good gifts which are sometimes wrapped in scary-looking packages.

Thanks for reading! I'll be back again. Soon.

Monday, November 29, 2010

November 29, 2010: 29 Degrees

It's cold - for us - this morning.

It's also the last week of fall term classes at the Culinary Institute.

We're coming off a fun-filled holiday weekend.

Cassie: "Oh man. Talk about a crawl to the finish line."

Yep. It's that sort of morning.

We'll get there, where ever there is.

Have a great last Monday of November, 2010!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

November 28, 2010: Sunday Morning and All is Well

Train noises. Mournful horns. Chug-chug-chugging. Clinking clanking. Grandfather engines and cars autographed with proud hobo etchings move carefully through our community.

I hear the trains from my bed at night and in the morning. I like the sounds. They comfort and reassure.

With roots reaching back into our American past these friendly behemoths remind that hard times and good times come and go but the human spirit endures through all.

Trains settled the American West, built and destroyed towns and cities with their presence or lack thereof. Trains have seen us through wars, economic hardships, natural disasters, presidential elections, and glory days. Songs have always been written about trains, terrific songs which seem to strike a similar, almost primal chord in everyone.

When my dad was a little boy in Oklahoma during the Depression his brothers and he used to sneak down to the train tracks to the large hobo village where friendly men, down on their luck, would tell the little boys stories and offer them tasty hobo stew. Shoplifting techniques were discussed, music played, camaraderie abounded. Pennies were laid on the tracks for heavy train wheels to flatten. Dad still smiles a far-away smile when he recounts those hobo village excursions.

In this age of technology which renders daily tools ancient in a matter of months, keeps us scrambling to stay current while paying for constant updates and 'the latest thing', where personal automobiles are more about luxury than longevity, trains steadfastly roll on moving food and supplies here and there all over the country like stalwart sentries from the past, guarding, watching, reminding of simpler times, hardier people.

Soothing to me are the sounds I hear while lying in my bed or moving about during a quiet moment in the day. "We've been through it all," they seem to say. "You'll be okay. Americans find a way through good times and bad."

Got a hankering for hobo stew, a good story, and lively music tonight.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

November 27, 2010: Breathing Room

With the Thanksgiving Feast and Festivities behind, leftovers aplenty for a few days, house not a wreck, kids calm, and most of my Christmas shopping done, I find myself in a sweet spot. I can breathe.

Rather than churning chaotically, I find words settling in my mind like a downy blanket over a calmly sleeping body. Peace.

I'm not going to push it by trying to conjure up an interesting blog post today. Embracing the temporary stillness, the contentment seems the better path.

So, yeah, here's to you, readers, whatever your frame of mind. May this transition from one holiday to the next find you recovering from energy spent, hopeful for joy, love, and goodness in the weeks to come.

Orange juice, yogurt, cacao nibs, goji berries, and a partridge in a pear tree.


Friday, November 26, 2010

November 26, 2010: Get Your Chestnuts Out of the Fire

Jack Frost has been nipping at our noses lately so we'd thought we make some chestnuts roasting on an open fire.

Except we don't have an open fire.

An oven will do.


Thursday, November 25, 2010

November 25, 2010: Thanksgiving

Mixing it up a little bit by getting back to the beginning.

Pilgrims helping Indians. Indians helping pilgrims. Neighbors celebrating life with neighbors, the strong help the weak, the fortunate the unfortunate.

My family and I will be doing this today in lieu of our own feast and feet-up lazying about on this fine Thanksgiving Afternoon.

We'll feast tomorrow.

Let us remember that we are in this together, we need one another, we are blessed by one another, and life can always be enriched when helping hands are offered.

Whether you lend aid to your community or to the hardworking folks in your own kitchen who are preparing your holiday feast, your efforts are not wasted but are appreciated for the beautiful kindness they represent.

Happy Thanksgiving to All!

(Now, please pass the turkey, spuds, and cranberry sauce!)

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

November 24, 2010: Secrets and Surprises

I've posted here every day since November first, determined to keep it up until the 30th. This task is not new to me, having previously participated.

But it is so hard this time!

Difficult circumstances turned to blessedness, which could switch back to difficult at any moment, flow in and out of life these days.

Surprises await, fulfillment of dreams long-dreamed promise comfort and joy.

Good news and bad news and frightful news and silly news only a phone call away.

Up and down, laughter and tears, restorative sleeps, wrecked nights of tossing, turning anguish, too many words said, and not enough.

A blog is not the forum for sharing these particular evolving situations. In the past, yes. But not this time. Not these things.

Masking my life from you dear readers and from family squeezes and tears. You don't need to know, and they couldn't handle the things I would share. But, oh, how I want to share, feel the need to open up and pour myself onto my friendly blog pages for you, my steadfast friends, to read and thus know.

So trivia I write here, while my paper journals stack up, pages filled and puffed together, scribbled emotions and details trembling within their covers.

To learn to keep my fingers mute, as I'm learning to guard my blathery mouth, challenges.

To write and say nothing at all when I want to say everything is straight-jacket torturous.

Life overflows. I'm learning by heaps and gulps, my spirit now chastised, now held in protective embrace, confused to sobs, then enlightened to gentle, exhilerated whimpers. But self-hush, self-hush, self-hush.

I feel I am wasting your time, dear reader, and for that I am truly sorry.

Six more posts to go.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

November 23, 2010: Sanitation

Chef Clive teaches sanitation to aspiring chefs.

He's British, with a thick Cockney accent.

"After using the rest room what do you do? Ya wash yer 'ands of course. And really wash them. If there are paper towels, use them to dry yer 'ands, and then to open the door. If there's only an air dryer, and, if you're here at the college where we have handicap buttons to automatically open the door, use them. But don't touch them. You use yer ass. Either cheek will do."

And he demonstrates the moves with his own bum.

The class laughs in unison with him.

Sometimes college is very very fun.

And informative.

Monday, November 22, 2010

November 22, 2010: 'Sunny and WARM'

Heard from Ben's bosses just now via e-mail. In La Paz, Mexico, they report that, while there were some challenging seas everyone is still alive. (Whew...) The weather is '85 degrees and the water 76-78 degrees! Sunny and WARM!!'

I'll let the photos Sam and Nancy sent me of Ben speak for themselves. (In case you are new to my blog, Ben, my eldest, is crewing for Sam and Nancy on their 42' sailboat along the shores of Mexico. As you can see, it's a rough life.)

I think you can agree that Mexico agrees with my son.

Nothing like snagging a big fish out of the ocean...or so I'm told.

Twelve pound tuna and one happy fisherman.

Sam and Ben in the cabin of the Windfall.

Ben snorkeling somewhere off the Mexican coast. Since I adore swimming, I really turn green with envy when I look at this photo. And then I grin with delight. What an adventure!

Thanks, Sam and Nancy, for letting me use your photos of my son!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

November 21, 2010: Respite

In a meaning-full life one must create moments of respite here and there. Otherwise the meaningfulness turns into busyness turns into hecticness turns into resentment.

Tom and I grocery shopped early Saturday morning relieved to beat the mad stampeding crowds soon to overtake stores and shoppers everywhere.

Unpacking the groceries gratefully, rather than my usual habit of talking, unpacking, ordering the kids around, and feeling fatigued from my efforts, I found myself calm. Not just a nice switch, but a choice.

Carrying the radish leaves to the compost pile offered another wise choice; yoga and tai chi atop and beneath golden maple leaves, facing a cheery, low, noon sun. Cool, fresh air filled my lungs, tightened my face, relaxed my mind.

One of the postures implored me to look all around, above, below, behind. What a beautiful day! Gold, blue, white, green, brown, red, orange, black, beagle. Yes, Sammy came out to join me.

Stretch. Bend. Breathe.

Back inside for some yogurt with nuts and a cup of Jasmine tea.

And it was only noon!

I feel great inside and out.

The giving of thanks has begun!

Saturday, November 20, 2010

November 20, 2010: Let It Be

"And when the night is cloudy there is still a light that shines on me. Shine until tomorrow, let it be." ~~ The Beatles
Driving busy streets as the storm boiled all around, I was cheered by a patch of blue holding out overhead in the southeastern sky. I told Cassie, "Look at it. For a long time. Say good-bye. It's supposed to disappear for quite a few days."

Black clouds poured rain. Wind lifted leaves, circling them chaotically. Darkness descended much too early.

The morning after, my sleepy eyes expected to see gray gray gray, wet wet wet.


A luminescent golden birch tree framed by a sunny blue sky filled my window. Arising from bed for a fuller view I was delighted to behold raindrop diamonds on every limb and leaf of every tree, shrub, and blade of grass.

A glorious, fresh, after-the-storm morning!

Let it Be.

Friday, November 19, 2010

November 19, 2010: Holly and Berries

In the midst of yet another busy day I stopped to walk myself and my pup before the skies opened up with their rain from a newly settling storm.

As if crunchy colorful leaves overhead and underfoot weren't gift enough, a shiny-leafed, plump-berried holly bush made itself known as it peeped out from amidst a hedge.

"Look Sammy! Christmas!"

Yes, I said it out loud. Yes, to a doggie. No, he didn't answer.

But my step was livelier for the duration of my most pleasant stroll.

Enthusiastic anticipation.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

November 18, 2010: Living the Dream

My son Ben is somewhere in the Sea of Cortez on a sailboat sailing, swimming, and texting his brother.

He emails that I should go there, that I'd love it.

Some places are private and you can't even find a restaurant for non-members, he tells me.

But other places are uncrowded and friendly.

Sigh, back into the car to run errands, to drive the kids around, to pick up farm produce, to mail the Oregon rain.

But you know, I'm living my dream, too. They come in all shapes, sizes, and colors, dreams do.

Happy Sailing, Ben! Happy Driving, Cherie! Happy Day, Reader!

Living the dream.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

November 17, 2010: Piles of Paper

"Fill out this form and send it back."

"Fill out this form and sign here and here and here."

"Fill this out and wait."

And wait and wait and wait.

Sometimes I am overwhelmed with the paperwork life shoves into my face.

And then I am glad I don't write in Chinese or hieroglyphics.

It can always be worse.

Name. Address. Phone number.

"All right. All right."

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

November 16, 2010: Skunkage

Mom and I beat Dad and Tom at pinochle on Sunday; two games to none.

We skunked 'em!

Just like old times. The boys put up a valiant fight, however. It was a rousing and fun tournament.

Dad winds the old family clock. It was a wedding gift to my grandmother and grandfather, Dad's parents. I think. I believe Dad told me that his mom carried that clock in her lap from Oklahoma to California during the Dust Bowl years. It meant an awful lot to her. I remember it chiming in her home. I always thought it was the most fantastic thing.

It still is.

Watching Dad wind the heirloom made me smile. Such careful hands, as though he felt his mother watching and approving his gentle touch.

'Twas a good day spent with my parents. Sure wish they lived closer so my entire family could enjoy them more often. They miss us as much as we miss them.

Maybe even more, for life is very quiet at the senior residence.

Monday, November 15, 2010

November 15, 2010: Sandy's Solution

My friend Sandy has a terrific idea. Christmas: Made in America.

I'm going to do my level best to find gifts for loved ones that are made right here in the United States. If I can't, I will take Sandy's advice, I'll make something.

What a great way to support our neighbors and friends!

Sunday, November 14, 2010

November 14, 2010: World Diabetes Day

At this point most everyone knows at least one person inflicted with diabetes. Today marks World Diabetes Day, the purpose of which is to educate and prevent. Diabetes can be avoided, controlled, or even reversed with medicines, diet, and exercise.
"In 1985, an estimated 30 million people worldwide had diabetes. A little over a decade later, the figure had risen to over 150 million. Today, according to International Diabetes Federation figures, it exceeds 285 million. Unless action is taken to implement effective prevention and control programmes, IDF predicts that the total number of people with diabetes will reach 435 million by 2030."
That's an expectation of 150 million people inflicted with this debilitating disease in thirty years for an average of 50 million every ten years (which is far less that the decade 1985-1995), or 5 million per year.

I know how hard it is to eat right, to lose weight, and to exercise in the midst of raising a family, playing, and working. I pledge to continue educating myself and taking steps to prevent diabetes from inflicting my family as best I can, especially during this Holiday Season so full of sugary delights and lethargy. Bring on the veggies and walks!

Won't you join me?

Saturday, November 13, 2010

November 13, 2010: Shortages

For over twenty years Tom and I have harvested and dehydrated Italian Prunes from our neighbor's decades-old tree. We've taken the lovely fruits for granted. Heavy spring rains knocked the blossoms right off the tree this year and not one single fruit grew. Not one.

On Monday we learned from our local farm market that the same rains greatly diminished the apple, hazelnut, and walnut crops as well. Though I didn't inquire about other crops, I'm sure most - if not all - were effected. Thankfully there are still plenty of apples, though diligence was required to ensure we had our large bag of unshelled walnuts for the year.

Cassie's teacher at the culinary institute informed the class this week that worldwide grain crops suffered a similar fate. For one thing, the wheat harvest is 20% of normal. Yes, worldwide. According to Chef Chris, prices of flour will triple by February as will dairy, beef, and chicken prices. Triple. If full crops return next year, it will take at least two years for things to normalize. Because the U.S. will have less to share with other countries, hunger will increase for dependent nations.

Today I am thankful - most grateful! - for the blessings of food choices available. An already full freezer of grass-fed beef and organic, free-range chickens gives me pause. There were no grains involved in the raising of this meat. None. The prices for such 'elite meat' are higher than conventional meats - today. It will be interesting to watch whether feed-lot meat prices surpass grass-fed. I've read that currently there isn't enough 'elite meat' for everyone.

I hope and pray that it's not as bad as predicted. Judging from my aforementioned experiences, it seems lean years could very well be forthcoming. Human beings exhibit amazing resilience and creativity. Compassion wells up in hearts pulling together. So do greed and selfishness.

Responsibility is called for. The ability to respond. I shall make room in my freezer for a few extra bags of flour alongside the meat and vegetables currently resting in frozen slumber. A little extra everything will be squirreled away for those in need.

Should shortages occur here in the United States, let's be gracious, shall we?

Friday, November 12, 2010

November 12, 2010: Christmas Angel

The Christmas Spirit has gently and quietly crept into Caroline's heart. She cradles it with joy. Difficult years behind, years where Christmas seemed far away even in the midst of the holiday, the preciousness of the season returns to a grateful teen - and her mom.


Thursday, November 11, 2010

November 11, 2010: Bodies of Milk

Bought three gallons of milk at Dairy Mart yesterday. A deep, important conversation with Cassie ensued on the drive home.

Arrived home. Parked the car. Got out.

Forgot all about the milk.

Cassie left for work half an hour later. In the same car.

Evening rolled on. Cassie continued blissfully waitressing. Caroline and I were deep in studies and other evening-type activities, like throwing the dog his toy, eating corn chips, and sorting through Netflix Instant Streaming movies. Milk with the movie sounded good. Looked in the fridge.

Light bulb moment - for the fridge and me!


Caroline and I agreed that it was cold enough outside to protect the milk - probably. Cassie was due to come home within the hour. Four hours of car-milk.

Cassie came home and I merely said, "Milk," to her.

Cassie: "OH! That's what was rolling around back there. Whew. I thought it was a body."

Me: "What?!?"

Cassie: "Yeah, you know how it is. When you think it's a body you're too scared to look. So you just hope for the best."

Oh my.

(I'm happy to say the milk seems none the worse for the wear. It didn't leak, thank God! We'll drink it quickly, though. Just in case.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

November 10, 2010: Groggy Time

If you're a regular reader you know I've been getting up earlier in the morning than has been my norm for the past couple of decades. 'Before the sun' earlier.

Besides a different sky, I've noticed a couple other things about dawn. One is that people out in public look funny in the morning. Puffy faces, glazed eyes, slow, small movements. Lots of yawns! Another thing I notice is that this doesn't wear off until around 10:30 or 11:00 A.M. I thought that if I was out and about early I'd see energetic early risers zipping around stores, getting a jump on the day, full of Arnold's Action.

Nope. Well, if there are folks like that they are either not in the places I frequent, or they are out of the public eye.

It's okay. This lack of vim and vigor in others makes me feel superior (wink) because I actually feel pretty chipper by the time I leave the house. And I'm older than a lot of the people I greet.

One more thing I've noticed is that the bleary-eyed moms at the bus stop do not like my perkiness. They never answer my greetings, in fact, they've taken to pulling out their phones or reprimanding innocent children when I pull my car up next to the bus stop which is in front of my home. I just chuckle. Been there.

All in all, this early morning experiment is going quite well. My family is eating better, we all get to bed earlier, more is accomplished, and the free time during the day is enjoyed, for it is earned.

Hope your day is full of goodness and enlightenment - and Arnold's Action - whatever time your feet hit the floor!

Tuesday, November 09, 2010

November 9, 2010: To Stress or Not to Stress?

From the DVD Food Matters I've learned that when under stress from job, kids, running a home, or other sources, the human body breaks down Vitamin C as it's making adrenaline to combat the stress. This is why chronic stress is related to heart attacks. The body is making adrenaline and drawing down levels of Vitamin C which causes vulnerability to our cardiovascular and immunity systems and more. Vitamin C is a tool the body uses to maintain, repair, and restore our health.

It's cold and flu season here in the Northern Hemisphere, particularly in rainy Western Oregon. I'm taking this Food Matters information very seriously and have passed it on to my family. While I've always known stress to be a patient and quiet killer, I didn't know the specifics. Now I do. A certain amount of stress is normal. Our bodies have their routines, they take care of business in good order.

But when we, in this fast-paced, high-expectations world, run non-stop without evaluation or relaxation, we become the means by which nasty diseases are formed. We do this to ourselves. Over time. Granted not all illnesses and diseases are self-inflicted. But too many are.

The way to win against the diseases of civilization - and winter - is by not playing the high-stress, harm-yourself game. It requires education followed by a lifestyle change. One must take responsibility for oneself. Easier said than done. Baby-step by baby-step a lifestyle can be permanently altered.

Besides mindful ingesting of foods and supplements, I am focusing on staying calm in the face of actual or assumed hostility and at the same time incorporating relaxation into my days. I realize that taking time for meditation, for reading inspirational texts, for stretching, exercising, and planning my time is not selfish or wasteful. In the practice of this, I find I am not only helping myself but the entire atmosphere of our home. My state of being has a direct effect on those around me, just as their moods effect me. When my family members are peaceful it helps me relax and function at optimal levels. And vice versa.

However, remaining calm while trapped in a state of attack - whether real or imagined - is difficult for me. Normally, I verbally stand my ground, my body rushes into fight mode. I can feel the physical change. Irritation manifests itself on my face, in my heartbeat, my fists clench, breathing quickens. It's not a good feeling. And I stay there seeking justice far too long. Usually it's wasted energy. Understanding that in order to sustain this negative state I'm flooding toxins into my blood-stream while depleting health-giving chemicals, it's easier to think myself calm again, to make the space to evaluate, to problem-solve, and then to let go. Most of these battles are not worth compromising my immunity and my overall health. And this anger/stress certainly isn't worth compromising the well-being of my family. It's a struggle, though. I forget what I know until after the damage is done. Thus the current determined focus. I'm in training.

It's always been easier for me to care for others more than for myself. A shame, that, because in allowing myself to atrophy I have actually reduced my ability to help my loved ones. In allowing myself to react rather than calmly respond I hurt those I care about, too, for careless words, unmeasured, usually inflict pain. These days retrieving my vitality has become as much about helping others as myself.

The motivation is strong.

Endurance is required. For this I pray.

Monday, November 08, 2010

November 8, 2010: Shhhh....

Being the mother of teenage daughters requires me to honor secrets. If I desire to be trusted, to be let into their inner sanctums, then I have to keep my tongue - and my bloggity fingers - silent.

"Now, Mom, none of this can show up on your blog or Facebook. Agree?"

This post is all about what Tom, Cassie, Caroline, and I did yesterday.

In invisible ink.

Sunday, November 07, 2010

November 7, 2010: A Little Yeast

One dark and stormy night.

One small pup sleeping in his bed.

One married couple sleeping in theirs.

One silent poof from under pup's tail.

Two people now semi-conscious, gasping for air, scrambling, diving under the covers, fanning the air, coughing, choking.

Just as a little yeast leaveneth the whole bunch, so does a little poof stinketh up the entire large, gable-ceilinged bedroom.

"He must've eaten the cat's food again."

"Uh huh."

Ugh, sigh, sleep. Repeat several times.

Weird dreams.

Saturday, November 06, 2010

November 6, 2010: Soup Plus

The air became crisp one day a few weeks ago. The Urge returned. Soup. I want soup. All different kinds and flavors of homemade soup made with the freshest, most natural ingredients I can find.

Cheddar Chicken Chowder.

Bean and Ham.

Pennsylvania Corn Chowder.

Split Pea and Ham Hock.

Lentil Soup.

Chicken and Homemade Noodle.

Today, Spicy Chili Con Carne for the football game, served with Cornbread, thank you very much. It will be the perfect complement to a morning of housework and yardwork.

Soup earned.

Is there any meal more satisfying?

Second urge noticed, the urge for my hour back, you know, the one that Old Lady Spring took away months ago? Spring forward, Fall back? Yeah, that one. I get it back tonight. It will be noticed, cherished, made to feel welcome for all the months that it is a guest in my life. Until the powers that be take it away again, like poor Persephone, entering and exiting Hades. Some deal with the devil was made and no one gave me a notice. I think it was because I wasn't born. Oh well. All I can do is celebrate the days of harmony when my sleep cycle and nature's are in tune.

So, slurp slurp and snooze. This day holds much promise!

Friday, November 05, 2010

November 5, 2010: Laughter

I laughed...and that was the end of the argument. He knows I am done, how can I continue my diatribe once my shell is cracked with his accidental humor. He swoops in for a hug. Then, a quick kiss. I punch at him, but still, I'm laughing. So is he.

"Oh you! You made me laugh. I'm not finished being angry."

Oh, but I am.

My brain stops producing the stress hormones it was pumping only a second ago. My breathing deepens. Muscles relax.

Crisis averted.

Fight. Or Flight. Or Laugh.

It really is the Best Medicine.

Thursday, November 04, 2010

November 4, 2010: Arnold's Action

Even though I stayed up much too late last evening, I did make an advantageous choice before I assumed the curled-up, nighttime sleep position. I shoved both bedroom windows wide open as the night air was warmish. Happily, the delicious fresh early-morning scent awakened me this morning before the alarm clock's diligent, but annoying, beeps. In the darkness I shut off the clock before its rudeness broke the silence.

Breathing deeply, my body and mind began to ponder the choices and opportunities before me. Early hours offer silent calm, the space to respond rather than react. The difference is enormous for someone like me who, more often than not, finds herself behind the eight ball every morning, hurrying against a stern time system that takes no prisoners. It just kills me off with unplanned minutia.

Two days ago I heard an ABC interview with Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger. He mentioned his determination to teach his children the benefits of early rising. He told his daughter, "If you don't get up at 5:30, you can't get anything done."

He went on to explain to Diane Sawyer, "If you want to accomplish a lot, in the morning is the action, because you get your training done, you get your reading done, you get your preparation done."

I see his point. Because of Tom's swing-shift, I generally sleep later that 5:30 - much! Except when I had a job and ran before work or when babies graced our home, my norm has been to wake whenever my sleep cycle is finished. Sunrises are rare for me. That fact makes me sad. I adore watching the sun rise. My sleep cycle ends earlier in summer, the pleasant weather entices. However, the darkness and chill of autumn and winter are off-putting. But so is that rushed feeling that envelopes when the day has begun without me. I often feel like the football player desperately clutching a football under a dog pile of heavy men, only the heap on top of me is the demands of life.

Until recently I never genuinely attempted Arnold's discipline. But I'm giving it serious consideration. Especially after today. I greeted the morning, watched the day unfold from darkness, fog, and gloom, to mid-60's clear-blue sky. Errands were run when business employees were fresh from breakfast. Lunch was on time. School was more relaxed. When I think about all I've accomplished today I am relieved, happy. Ordered calmness with room leftover for serendipity.

I wonder if Arnold has been right all along? "In the morning is the action."

Fifty years of sleeping in. Maybe I'll spend the next half century discovering the action!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

November 3, 2010: Fungus Among Us

Seasonal delights. How I adore them!

All around me these days are beauties above, beauties below, beauties amidst. An ordinary walk finds familiar haunts transformed into fairy lands. Luminescent leaves, fire-colored, supple on the tree, in the air, underfoot slowing my steps.

Lingering and losing myself in the magical colors becomes my habit during autumnal strolls.

Routine is interrupted as I hurry along the front walkway to the car for a daily errand. "What is that reflection?" It is a mushroom or toadstool or some other such fungus the likes of which I've never seen in my front lawn of over twenty-two years. Rain water is cupped within its upward curves reflecting the leaves of the birches above. God's tiny water-mirror catches afternoon sunlight and my eye. A miniature bath for fanciful creatures. I get down on my knees to study the sculpture. It is fantastic. Gorgeous. Mystical. Very much appreciated.

Life is fantastic, gorgeous, mystical and can be very much appreciated if only our senses harmonize with its delights.

Tuesday, November 02, 2010

November 2, 2010: Election Day

First: Please VOTE.

Second: Please be a gracious winner and a gracious loser.

Third: Please enjoy your day, walking in the freedom you have. It cost many of my ancestors much to procure it for you.

Thank you!
To put the world right in order, we must first put the nation in order; to put the nation in order, we must first put the family in order; to put the family in order, we must first cultivate our personal life; we must first set our hearts right. ~~Confucius

Monday, November 01, 2010

NaBloPoMo - November 1

Should I publish a post a day for the month of November? Sandy and Cecily have committed to it. I wasn't going to but maybe I should. Maybe it would be fun.

I'll post today and give myself more time to think about it.

Let me tell you about the caramel apples we made yesterday. Oh my my...

I cooked up a pot of homemade caramel. No, not the little paper wrapped cubes of caramels melted. The real deal. We dipped freshly-harvested apples from a local farm into the goo.

Then we melted milk chocolate and dipped the hardened caramel apples.

Dark chocolate followed.

Cassie drizzled white chocolate on for some pizzaz and we let the apples harden more.

Then, we sliced two of these chocolatey orbs open so we could enjoy them as we watched Disturbia.

Again, oh my my...

Thankfully, we have the self-discipline to control our intake of these decadent treats.

For now.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Chef at Heart

Cassie begins culinary school next Monday. She is excited.

To watch a dream unfold causes reflection. This child of mine has been interested in food preparation all her life. Cassie has been curious and competent from her first moments standing on a chair watching dinner come together from my practiced hands, to helping me flip pancakes or roll cookies, to where she is following her own cookbook recipes and creating lavish meals for us, her willing family.

Late March of this year found Tom, the girls, and me exploring wine country for the first time. Exciting to discover what is essentially grape farming. Row upon row, acre upon acre, valley upon valley deliciously and decidedly planted and pruned. We vowed we'd return when the leafless grape vines hung heavy with grapes in the fall.

Yesterday we returned at Cassie's prompting. The same vineyards, transformed, welcomed us with aromas sweet and varied, sights magnificent.

But more met my attention, more than I anticipated. I'd hopped out of the car to snap a few photos. It wasn't but moments when a strolling figure entered my camera's viewfinder. It was college-bound daughter heading for the vines. Still curious. Still unstoppable. Still independent and competent. Staying in the background I watched, curious myself. Silently she inspected, breathed the aroma, tasted the fruit. She sighed. Pensive. This world of grapes and wine-making beckons her. She has to know.

Stirrings in my heart let me know this was the beginning of something great for Cassie. For all of us.

Culinary Arts. Blessed she is to know what she wants, to have a dream she is free to follow.

She's in the kitchen right now - making big, soft pretzels for the first time - patiently waiting for me to accompany her in buying required college books. There's a strange lump in my throat. I don't quite understand why. I am happy for this child, eager for what is ahead, not at all sad or afraid. She'll be living here at home all year, going to school just as she did high school last year. Is it joy? Is it change?

I don't know. But it's good, whatever it is, and I embrace it.

The fullness of life.

(If you click on the last vineyard picture you can better see Cassie on the left, inspecting the grapes.)

Monday, September 13, 2010

Surprising Grace

An ominous storm blacks out the entire sky ahead as I drive the car to the repair shop early this morning. The Coastal Mountain Range in the far west - north to south - bears the weight of the dense disturbance.

Still embraced by the eastern morning blue that thus far cheers my drive, I grip my steering wheel in anticipation of encountering the looming darkness.

"The only way to receive the help I need for my car is to enter that blustery unknown. The solution lies there."

First instincts are to find a way around, to avoid, to wait out the storm. But the appointment is today. Now is the time. This I can do. This I will do.

Just like any unexpected ordeal in life, the obstacle must be confronted, for enlightenment lies therein - or beyond. Difficulty must be braved. Willingness to be taught or rescued or strengthened or rebuked motivates.

As is natural for my brain, an analogy is derived from my surroundings. The painful prayer of a recent crisis - a dark night of my soul - echos in my mind: "I trust you, God, though my legs feel boneless, my muscles merely rubber. I know you will make something beautiful out of this miserable situation. But, oh God, I need your help, need you to go before me. I cannot see a way out." In time, surprising grace rained down on my fragile courage, my frail trust, my on-the-brink brokenness. Peace that transcended comprehension.

The Master Creator sculpts beauty from life's debris. All he requires from me is a willing mind, a trusting heart, however small and weak.

While this morning's dark cloud situation is simple, my heart rejoices at its reminder of the innumerable shadow-lessons through which God escorts me, most of which are incredibly worse than a heavily-clouded dawn. His grace is evident through all. Grace that illuminates meaning. "There. There is the reason. There is the beauty. There is love, the greatest gift of all."

I am never alone.
Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. ~~Philippians 4: 6,7

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Sunday Mornings Then and Now

Sunday mornings. Unwinding. Freedom for listening, seeing, tasting, smelling, touching. Slowness. Harmony. Peace.

For decades I diligently attended Sunday School and church on Sunday mornings. After scurrying to get husband and kids fed and dressed, I'd snatch seven minutes to dress myself including the frustrated yanking of panty hose over toes and legs, my first Sunday prayer being, "Please don't let them snag or tear." Red-faced from all the effort of a wife and mom trying to do the right thing I'd grab purse, Bible, and Sunday School lesson. In self-imposed sensory deprivation I'd hot-foot it to the car, family in tow.

Not a pleasant ritual. Six of us, in the car, crabby, struggling to put on our Sunday Faces which normally amounted to smiling mouths, scowling eyes. I take full responsibility.

I gave it up. Surrendered to a creeping wisdom. Something was awry in that routine, that conditioning. Awry in my attitude. I attend church on Sunday evenings now, when I can, and leave the Sunday morning church thing to others.

In loosening my white-knuckled grip on tradition I discovered enchantment.

Presently, in the restfulness of Sunday mornings dwells an easy concentration which naturally leads to satisfying contemplation. No panty-hose wars, hurried breakfasts, temperamental hair tamings. Time agreeably meanders.

Sunday's serenity has been there all along. Quiet streets. Animal skitterings. The soothing cadence of shoes as leisurely walkers pass my secret patio. Vibrant foliage interpretively dancing with the breezes. Beloved beagle sunning himself, perfectly still but for his breathing and dreaming. Cherished husband puttering peacefully after morning tea and an hour of news shows. Precious children, restful spirits, stretching bodies enticed by a day of freedom and possibility. For me, awareness.

And happy surprise.

Just now as I type on this sunny Sunday morning I am interrupted by Tom and his latest possum, who plays dead. The opossum, not Tom. This nocturnal creature who was in our shed - the opossum, not Tom - has been freed to wildness for his own safety. Random acts of Tom-ness.

For the enchantment of Sunday morning which offers rejuvenation for the workweek, then faithfully returns me home once again, I smile...


...and contentedly thank God.

Tuesday, September 07, 2010


I miss blogging.

Compulsively sharing like I did in years past. Creating posts, spilling my thoughts, sharing comments with others whose blogs I adored.

Facebook and Twitter ate blogging. Like men on Thanksgiving. Never looking back. Just loosened their pants and ate some more.

Old posts still comfort me, remind me, make me laugh...and cry. I sometimes wonder where the creativity came from. And where it went. Is it still in me and coming out in different forms? Yes, I suppose that's the case. Gardening has increased, cooking and baking improved, soul-searching prioritized. Perhaps this is my season of reflection, of soaking up rather than spilling out.

Yes, I miss blogging. Visiting my old haunts feels like visiting ghost towns now; some of my favorite authors last posts are dated years ago. Many blogs have been deleted. Some remain and cherish them I do.

Makes me sad. Facebook isn't the same. It's fun and informative. But just not the same as a well formed post by a thoughtful friend.

Embracing the void, feeling the grief, refusing to move on.


(Hey, this feels really good. Maybe it's okay to blog in obscurity.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Laugh It Up

"Having fun is one of the most powerful antidotes to stress you will ever find. Many studies show that laughter releases an instant flood of feel-good chemicals that boost the immune system and almost instantly reduces levels of stress hormones. A really good belly laugh can make cortisol drop by 39% and adrenalin by 70%, while the 'feel-good hormone,' endorphin, increases by 29%. It can even make growth hormones skyrocket by 87%! Laughter boosts your immune system by increasing immunity levels and disease-fighting cells.

Laughter increases flexibility of thought and is as effective as aerobic exercise in boosting body-mind health. According to research, laughing 100 to 200 times a day is equal to 10 minutes of rowing or jogging! Laughter quite literally dissolves distressing toxic emotions because you can't feel mad or sad when you laugh: endorphins are released making you feel so great and at peace that toxic thoughts can't get out of your brain fast enough.

Fun protects your heart, because when you laugh and enjoy yourself, your body releases chemicals that improve the function of blood vessels and increase blood flow protecting against heart attack. Fun reduces damaging stress chemicals quickly, which, if they hang around in your body for too long, will make you mentally and physically sick. Fun and laughter also increase your energy levels.

Having fun through play and laughter rejuvenates the mind, body, and spirit and gets positive emotions flowing. Smile - this is the beginning of laughter. When you hear laughter, gravitate toward it and let it wash all over you.

God and science are both telling us that developing a playful point of view will enable us to live longer, happier, and healthier lives.

Can you afford not to laugh?" ~~ Dr. Caroline Leaf

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Just Thinking...

As you cannot have a sweet and wholesome abode unless you admit the air and sunshine freely into your rooms, so a strong body and a bright, happy, or serene countenance can only result from the free admittance into the mind of thoughts of joy and goodwill and serenity.
...whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things.~~Philippians 4:8
There is no physician like cheerful thought for dissipating the ills of the body; there is no comforter to compare with goodwill for dispersing the shadows of grief and sorrow. To live continually in thoughts of illwill, cynicism, suspicion, and envy, is to be confined in a self-made prison-hole. But to think well of all, to be cheerful with all, to patiently learn to find the good in all - such unselfish thoughts are the very portals of heaven; and to dwell day by day in thoughts of peace toward every creature will bring abounding peace to their possessor.
A cheerful heart is good medicine... ~~ Proverbs 17:22
(Except for Biblical references, the quotes are from James Allen)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Thankful Heart

It's easy to let life's ugliness spread out like an unwanted guest all over your mind and heart, seemingly crowding out beauty and joy. This, however, is merely perception.

Beauty remains. It needs only thought and senses to capture its reality.

Ugliness is a bully.

A simple contemplating of life's loveliness, however, lends perspective to the disagreeable. Merely shifting one's gaze from hostility to beauty immediately illuminates gleaming jewels of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, gentleness, goodness, grace, mercy, forgiveness, and hope. Ugliness takes a back seat, where it belongs.

There is always something for which to be thankful. Always.

--A kindhearted husband who works for his family and continues to learn, be amazed, laugh from deep within, and love

--Wise, loving children who support, understand, explore, make merry, and hug tightly

--Sisters - and their husbands and children - who let me be me and love with observable, unconditional, unshakeable love

--A safe, comfortable home thriving in summer's generosity

--Friends aplenty who offer newness, hilarity, understanding, compassion for my family and me - all the time

--Healthy pets - nature's balm


--Assurances that God is the Author of all Life, a Being in control who doesn't miss a thing

Yes, there is always something for which to be thankful.

Today, I am thankful. Very.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

To Run and Not Faint

Praying for strength. Praying for compassion. Praying for patience. Praying for a miracle. Praying. And waiting...

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Summer is Upon Us

Just a friendly reminder to do your part when enjoying the beauty of nature.

Take only photos.

Leave only footprints.

Happy Summer!

Saturday, June 19, 2010

Sgt. Pepper and Her Lonely Hearts Club Band

Cassie wanted to wear a Sgt. Pepper Jacket - pink like Ringo's - to graduation. She's had this in her mind for months and months.

I called my sister, Susie, who's better at sewing than I. Much.

She agreed to help out.

Between Cassie's vision, Susie's expertise, and my ability to spot star buttons we three managed to create a very feminine version of Ringo's jacket.

Cassie added bright pink high high heels and slim black slacks to complete her ensemble.

She looked fantastic.

The above photo made me chuckle today. In the midst of lining up for a group photo the kids were aligned as such. Looks like Sgt. Pepper and His Band, don't you think?

Sgt. Cassie Pepper.
Congratulations, Graduate!

You're a born leader. And you looked smashing on this auspicious day.

**Note: For those who may not know, if you click on the photo you can view a larger version.**

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Color Returns

Yes, color returns!

And with it Scent...


...and Joy!

Garden bursts with Life!

I could take and post pictures all day but I'd rather be out there caring for the life-giving treasures, rubbing my fingers on the herbs lifting to my nose those wonderful fragrances, nibbling the berries, admiring the flowers, smiling at the rapidly growing vegetable plants.

Happy June, everyone!