Thursday, June 21, 2018

But Mousie...



But, Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain;
The best-laid schemes o' mice an' men
Gang aft agley,
An' lea'e us nought but grief an' pain,
For promis'd joy!

Still thou art blest, compar'd wi' me
The present only toucheth thee:
But, Och! I backward cast my e'e.
On prospects drear!
An' forward, tho' I canna see,
I guess an' fear!

These are the last two stanzas of " To a Mouse" by Robert Burns. I quote the third line often. Here's the modern English version:

But Mouse, you are not alone,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes of mice and men
Go often askew,
And leave us nothing but grief and pain,
For promised joy!

Still you are blessed, compared with me!
The present only touches you:
But oh! I backward cast my eye,
On prospects dreary!
And forward, though I cannot see,
I guess and fear!

     This week was to be my first week of vacation which would be free of commitments. I had a list in my mind of all the things I wanted to catch up on or enjoy. I had made my "best laid plans" and it was to be all about me. And then things began to "go often askew". Not one, not two, but all three of our cars had mechanical issues. On a Goldilocks scale of problems, one car's was minor, one was medium, and one was major. Behind that scene, some health issues were creeping up that could no longer be ignored. The final straw (and it only takes a tiny speck of straw to set one over one's limit) occurred when I had resigned myself to stay home because I had no car. I decided I might as well catch up on the ironing. I got everything all set up, ready to dig right into that mountain of ironing and... my iron conked out. As in permanently. A small thing indeed, but it did cause me to raise my face Heavenward and ask, "Really?"
     At this point I began to be just a little bit afraid to leave the house. We've been studying Job at church and images of Job's suffering were filling my mind. I knew my annoyances compared nothing to Job's suffering, but still, things were heaping up and "forward, though I cannot see. I guess and fear!".
     By Sunday morning I had reached a point of pure agitation. I was in constant pain from aforementioned health issue and I was angry at myself for feeling angry. At one point I firmly sat myself down on a chair and told Steve I was not going to church. Period. (I'm not actually eight years old but I'm good at acting that.) Of course we did go to church but I made up my mind I would not be fake smiling. As the singing began and as our guest speaker began to speak, I felt my heart slowly softening. By the end of church I was "real" smiling without being aware of it.. Our guest speakers that morning were the Bonilla family. Juan Carlos and his family are missionaries in Spain. I had spotted Juan Carlos at Fine Arts Camp the previous week. He was dancing and singing his way down the path between our buildings. His joy was so obvious. I thought a lot about that. We also had the wonderful privilege that Sunday morning of witnessing a family baptize their three children. Pastor Stephen lovingly held each child and reminded us all what it means to dedicate our lives to the Lord and to be called a child of God.
     Anyway, I knew my problems weren't about cars and health. They were all about attitude. I had been losing my focus. It was no longer on God, nor on what it is to walk this life with him. I was trying to handle all life's annoyances in my own strength and I was miserably failing. A friend took me kayaking on Monday and there were no calamitous accidents. I did end up tipped into the river and I did clunk my friend in the head with my kayak. But these were more hilarious than anything. The next evening, other friends invited us to swim in their pool and we had a great conversation about our faith and what it means to live with this faith in our world. And yesterday, I hooked, as I do every week, with my dear and wise friend of eighty-something years and again our conversation centered around our shared faith.  
     I am so glad God turned my face again toward him. I cannot be any kind of help to my family or others when I am consumed by my own problems. Evidently, my best laid schemes were not God's schemes for me this week and because of that, I have been blessed.

Thursday, June 14, 2018

Summertime: Water, Rocks, Swings, Popsicles, and Band-Aids

     The days have been non-stop since school let out. Right now, as I sit at my computer, there are two piles of "stuff" dumped on the floor beside me. I was frantically looking for two baskets with which to serve snacks at our church's Fine Arts Camp yesterday. I saw these two baskets in the office; one held wool and the other held baby toys. I dumped the contents and ran with them. I mention this only because this is what the days feel like right now. Dump and run.
     We've had so much rain that I haven't been able to mow the lawn. It's thick and lush...and ankle deep. Mr. B. was finally able to mow our field yesterday and the making of hay has commenced in the neighborhood. I should be able to take care of our lawn today.
     After our New York trip, we had Claire's three children come and stay for a week. It was the absolute prettiest week of weather we've had all season and we had a blast. We hiked and swam, went out for ice cream, swung on the tree swing, picked wildflowers in the field, invited a cousin for a sleepover, watched movies, ate lots of Popsicles, built Playmobil and Thomas train tracks, and ate some hearty dinners. I was amazed by the children's appetites! I flopped into bed each night and slept well. Now I know the secret for a good night's sleep: try and keep up with three active children all day : ) One of my favorite memories of the week was sitting on the porch one evening while the children played outside. The sound of their little voices out and about on the property was so sweet. Huddling together and reading books at bedtime was a close second favorite for me.
     The same morning the children went home, I drove three hours south to Boone and Blowing Rock, NC. I needed to swap cars back with Tess after Steve had done some repairs on hers. I spent the night at her apartment and we had a great time walking around the beautiful village of Blowing Rock and dining at Moon Thai and Sushi restaurant. I brought home an unusual antique table that Tess found for me in a Thrift Store. I placed it on the porch for now since it serves a good purpose out there for the summer.
     We are in "Fine Arts Camp" week at church now and Steve and I both go over each late afternoon/evening and help out with that. The views on our church's property are outstanding and I've enjoyed watching the children have fun and being outside each evening with that view. I think all the activity is catching up and I'm ready to spend some quiet time around the house, perhaps gardening and reading a good book.

Our hike to Roaring Run
 

Audrey and Violet hiked too!
We had the best time playing in the pools and seeing who could make the biggest splash with rocks.

We went through almost an entire box of Band-aids for Matthew by weeks' end : )
We collected a lot of rocks.
Frequent visits to the swing

Mari playing dress-up and picking flowers. Mari's aunts wore this dress when they were little.

We found this beauty in the field!
Mari made the boys' headdresses. She said she wanted them to be like a gymnasts' hair : )




Steve tosses pennies in the yard then gives the boys a metal detector wand. Jack LOVES hunting for pennies.

Sunset from Wellspring's parking lot.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Visiting Back Home

     Two days after school let out, Steve and I drove up to New York to see his family. The trip also gave me an opportunity to have breakfast with my sister and brother-in-law at their home. It was a whirlwind trip with two days spent driving and two days for visiting. We had a sweet time with Steve's dad and mom and it's always a good time with the brothers and sisters-in-law. Our daughter, Chelsea also drove over with her family from New Hampshire to see her grandparents. It was an extra treat to see her and Simon and the boys. I've been a part of Steve's family for thirty-nine years now, so we have a lot of history and we tend to reminisce a lot these days. We are entering a bittersweet time in the family: so much love and so much family and never enough time on this earth together.
     We had mainly rainy weather, but we hung out on the large back porch and the guys played instruments in the garage where Steve's brother keeps his drum set. Hugo, who is two years old, sat on the seat of that drum set and had a grand time. His little arms were all akimbo and he played those drums like a natural. He even thought to sing while he was drumming. (♫ Oh the life of a bear! ♪ Oh, for the expedition! ♫) He is a completely endearing little boy with no inhibitions.  His little brother, Charlie was all smiles and cuddles and a miracle of growth since his birth last year in May.
     Chelsea and I had a chance to take a walk with Hugo between rain showers. We walked to one of my favorite places, up to the Albany Rural Cemetery. It's stunningly beautiful and peaceful. There is a waterfall and bridges and beautiful landscaping along winging roads on 467 acres. I felt that I could sit down and never get up again and be perfectly happy here. I have decided it should be my perfect, final resting place.
     Back at the house, we continued visiting, eating good food, and listening to the brothers jam and goof around. Around 8:45pm on Sunday evening, Steve and his brother walked into the house and said the police asked them to shut it down. Oops! I bet the police expected that garage door to open onto some teens and not some (almost) over-the-hill brothers. Haha!
     We drove back home to more drenching rain and a humid, lush, green landscape. Next up, Claire's three children come for a stay with Nonni and Pop!

The tablet on the cushion goes with the mausoleum and tells the life story of the deceased.

Hugo expends some energy.

The sunflower detail would be pretty in a hooked rug.

Picking wildflowers. Hugo carries his digger and tractor everywhere : )

A drizzly day.

Beautiful sculpture

Heading back just in time for dinner.

I wonder what the cherub is writing on this young woman's tomb.
Hugo with his great uncle, Luke.

Friday, June 1, 2018

The Garden

     My definition of gardening is, "If at first you don't succeed, try, try again." Gardening might be a science but it's also a creative process that produces many fails. For a stubborn character like myself, those fails are all the more reason to replant, redesign, and make improvements. Each year I try to convince myself that the garden is finished and nothing more needs to be done, yet each year I cannot help but create something new. There is always room for improvement and creativity. I'm also a pushover at the nurseries where it is extremely difficult to turn away from all that beauty.
     I've been digging in the dirt since my earliest memories, helping my father plant his vegetable garden. It was a seasonal celebration for him, bordering on a religion. I also discovered, at a young age, that flowers could be dug up and replanted. This was genius to me! In my childhood neighborhood, a dear, elderly, Russian man and wife were having their house moved. Literally, the entire house was being lifted off it's foundation and moved up the road about a quarter of a mile to make room for an interstate highway. They were avid gardeners and their garden contained much more than the average marigold or petunia. They had berry patches (where I tasted my first gooseberry) and a myriad of perennials and rock gardens. The mister had an old claw foot bathtub in his backyard which was a great novelty to us children. We surmised and giggled that he must bathe out in his yard. They were kindly neighbors whom everyone loved but they never had children and they kept mainly to themselves in their lovely garden. After the house was moved, many of the smaller plants were left behind. It appeared that no one was bothering with all these lovely, orphaned plants. I was eight or nine years old at the time and I recall taking a spade and digging up lily-of-the-valley and bringing them home to my mother's garden. It was her first perennial aside from her irises, and it was my initiation into the world of transplanting. I was hooked. In later years, as my father continued with his vegetable gardening, I helped my mother create a few perennial beds. In Steve's and my first apartment in the city, I planted tomato plants in tin cans and subscribed to Mother Earth News with the dream that one day I would have a garden of my own. Eventually that dream became a reality and it has been a joy ever since.
     So here we are, fifty years after that first Lily-of-the-Valley. Last year I told myself the garden was enough as it stood. It was time to scale back. Alas, this year, we put in a new patio area with new planting beds. It was a vision I couldn't resist. I am hopeless. Steve is a wonderful help and everything we do is a team effort. I couldn't do any of this without him. This installation is a do-it-yourself project that will evolve over time, hence the fun and joy of it all. Plants are started- some will make it and some will not. Vegetable beds still need to be built and more stone needs to be spread.

Before: Raised vegetable beds near the unstained shed. Mowing around these was not fun.

After: Five tons of pea stone spread, raised beds still being built so tomatoes are in the lavender bed for this year. The border is planted with lavender and pink yarrow. I threw in some cosmos seeds and a few over-wintered dahlias to fill in for this season.

Dwarf variety of raspberries along the shed, white and pink astilbe and a hosta (found tossed in the woods) under a pink crabapple tree. I still need to set the bricks. (bricks were scavenged from an old demolished smoke house next door.)
  
I was in charge of hauling and off loading the dirt and the planting of stuff. Steve was in charge of the delivery and spreading of five tons of stone and building the raised beds. The old raised beds made with landscape ties lasted five years until rotting. We're trying 2x10's for the raised beds now.

Another garden that has evolved over the years (AKA Battle of the Wire Grass) is what we call the Step Garden. It's simply a scar on the hill where we can walk up to the back of the property. Steps are scavenged railroad ties. Stones were a gift of scavenging on our friend's family farm. Many of the plants are also gifts of division from friends and family.
    
The grass is tall! I keep a path mowed so Henri and I can easily walk.


The trumpet vine has been removed and we planted two Carolina Jessamine which are starting to twine up the pergola. I circled the bases with bricks. (we have a lot of bricks) Hydrangea gifted from B. several years ago. I think the hydrangea will eventually be moved to the back of the shed where it will have more shade. Gardens are ever evolving!
Nature's garden is always the most beautiful! God is the Master Gardener : ) Sitting on the swing watching the wind blow waves in waves. The Blue Ridge Mountains off in the distance.

Wild honeysuckle fills the air with its sweet aroma behind the swing.

Saturday, May 12, 2018

Ten Days of School Left... and Counting.

The view from the front office on the final days of school:

Everything comes to a frenzied head with testing, yearbooks, appreciation days, night of the arts, field day, class parties, and fifth grade graduation. And, we are already preparing for school to start up again in August.

Students forget stuff from home a lot. Most often it's the same ones over and over again. Lunches, glasses, homework, recorders, library books, field trip money... Out of four hundred students, we get to know these fifteen to twenty families quite well.

There are children who come to school dirty, with no breakfast in their tummy, and having forgotten their backpack and school work. Teachers and staff will discreetly wash their faces, launder their clothes, and give them new school supplies. It breaks my heart every time. These parents are setting their children up for a hard road ahead.

Other random things I've been thinking about:

Our pastor came over one evening so Steve could troubleshoot a car wiring problem with him. He is the father of five school aged children with the youngest being twins. He sat down in our kitchen and said, "Wow. It's so quiet here. Y'all probably don't notice it." I had to admit that I guess I don't notice the silence anymore; we've gotten used to it. I don't particularly like it. I wish we had children making noise in the house more often.
    
Birds sound very different in the evening than they do in the morning.

The irises are particularly beautiful this year. They grow wild and abundant along the road banks.

I recently finished the Vermont rug. It measures 36" x 54". I still need to steam and bind it. I like how it depicts the mowed fields and rolling hills of where we live here in Virginia. We also have orchards and a covered bridge. We even had an albino deer hanging around a few years ago. : )














Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Color, Color Everywhere!

     I have no idea how these days can be so busy! The countdown is on for the end of the school year; only five more Mondays, that's how I'm counting it.
     We're experiencing what I call a real New England spring in Virginia this year. Mild days alternate with bitterly cold days. Flowers are budding only to be sprinkled with sleet the next day. On Monday I grilled hamburgers outside under a sky that was spitting ice pellets. Today was mild enough to go without a jacket. I'm glad spring is approaching slowly and tentatively. It will be over much too quickly as it is. This way draws it out a little more.
     I realized that I fall in love with spring over and over again, every year. I've lived through fifty-nine springs and I've fallen in love with each one that I can remember. Tomorrow, when the sun rises and I look at the daffodils along the driveway (again), I'll be falling in love with spring (again). Today I got excited over the crab apple trees. They are exceptionally full of blossoms this year. The cherry trees appear to have a good amount of blossoms, too.
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      We've begun a few outdoor projects, one of which was to take down all the horse fencing. We decided that it was a pretty sure thing we wouldn't keep horses anymore. Therefore, we preferred not to keep up fence repairs nor have to mow around all that fencing as well. Our friends came with their tractor and pulled out all the fence posts. Then Steve went around with a pick up load of gravel and filled in about one hundred post holes. Our friends will reuse the posts and fencing on their farm. It's the sad end of an era for us, but it's okay.
     We also tore out the raised bed gardens that we installed five years ago. Those railroad ties already rotted and they had to go. Their usefulness was much to short lived. We had the entire area scraped of sod and we'll install new beds with gravel all around them. I'll post photos of that project as it comes together.
     I've been happily hooking a lot : ) Last weekend I drove my friend and myself to Richmond for the Virginia Rugfest which took place at the Virginia Fine Arts Museum. We had a beautiful drive and loads of fun. I bought a lovely pattern called, "Art Deco" by Joanne Gerwig at woodcrestrugdesigns.com. Rebecca Erb had a great vendor booth set up featuring Joanne's patterns and loads of gorgeous wool. The guest speaker and featured artist was Michelle Micarelli. You can see many of the rugs she brought to the show on her website. The Shockoe Slip Rug Hookers Guild put on a great event.
"Field of Flowers" (large size) Joanne Gerwig Design

"Art Deco" (Joanne Gerwig Design) detail


"Cotton's Cabin" by Michelle Micarelli
    
Detail of mermaid's fin in "Guarding Marina" by Michelle Micarelli.

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

Violet's Bunny


     With school/work closed for Spring Break, I am using the week to finish up projects and to do some spring cleaning. Sadly, the weather is not cooperating for gardening.
     I call this "Violet's Bunny" because I hooked it for our youngest granddaughter for Easter. It's an old pattern given to me by an elderly lady who retired from hooking. It's really called, "Good Little Bunny" by Primco Patterns and is labeled as, "Sold exclusively by The House of Price, Inc." I hooked it in a #6 cut. I dyed the bunny's wool with Cushing's Seal Brown and I dyed the sky with a dye formula called Wooly Fox Blue (#67) from the book, "Antique Colors in Primitive Rugs" by Emma Lou Lais and Barbara Carroll. The other colors were bits and pieces from my stash. This was a joy to hook and I am pleased with how it came together.
     Now, if I can only finish the "Vermont" rug, all will feel aligned in my rug hooking universe.