Monday, November 13, 2017

Happiness Is Rubber Boots and Incredibles Suits

     Having grandchildren who live far away is made more bearable by modern technology. These two photos are a very small example of the many that brighten our day.
     As I was falling asleep the other night, these images popped into my mind. I went on to have a wide range of thoughts and emotions as I thought about our grandchildren and prayed for all of them and their parents. At some point I must have fallen asleep, but these images have remained with me and have continued to make me smile through the following days. The locations are almost eight hundred miles apart but the children they represent all reside in the same tender spot in my heart.
  



Saturday, November 4, 2017

Maples

There can never be too many maples. I think Virginia needs more maples. Even on this rainy day the maples in the front yard are bright. 


Earlier in the week, it was sunny and mild. Here are things around the yard from those sunnier days. 

Oh those maples! This is the maple in the side yard with the sun filtering through the leaves. : ) 

 The begonias and ivy geranium are still happily blooming. We did have a hard frost, but these are close to the house, so they weren't touched by it yet. I'm sure they won't be with us much longer.



     I have my usual reading chair in the corner of the dining area. There's a window next to it with a view of the maples. Besides reading, I daydream and nap in that chair. Recently, when I looked out the window at everything colorful and growing, I pictured all the cells that make up each leaf and blade of grass grass and bark; the cells in the dahlias, the birds and the insects that are hidden from sight. I imagined the dirt under the grass and how it teems with organisms, worms and bugs. All of these things our eyes scan every day and we glance over all of it without a second thought. I thought about how every type of cell is different, every one unique in its function, yet all working together. Maple leaf cells, earthworm cells, geranium flower cells, brain cells, how complex yet beautifully simple and perfect.
     I look out the window at the mind boggling, smallness and bigness of it all and it's impossible not to see God. Whatever more proof could man need. If life, simple or complex, can spontaneously create itself, then I seriously need to see that happen. I am confident it can never be. All of the patterns in nature are bound by the laws of nature to follow a pattern. Physics and chemistry and math allow us to see a stability and order to the universe. A leaf cell will never grow a pig's heart and an earthworm will never grow a human brain. It's thoughtful and planned and very much under control. Just for grins, I read some discussion boards on quantum mechanics and the subject of randomness. ("Randomness" is slightly off subject, but I couldn't help it.) It's like hanging out with Spock and Sheldon at the same time.
"Randomness is just a word to compensate our lack of proper understanding. It's logical that actions cause reaction. Everywhere and always." 

     And this is why the house isn't dusted... I need to stop looking at the maple trees.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Flying High With Mixed Emotions

     It was such glorious weather again today! After I got home from work, I ate a quick lunch, changed into work clothes and went outside to clean up the garden. I collected the last bowlful of cherry tomatoes, then began pulling up the dead vines and doing a general cleaning up. I towed the lawn cart behind the mower up the hill to the gully behind the tree with the fort and swing. This is where we dump our yard waste and it composts down nicely. The big tree's leaves had fallen, but the branches provided a little shade so I sat there for a while, taking a break and enjoying the view. None of the neighbors were around this afternoon and the whole area was very quiet. It was just me and the breeze and a couple of crows off in the distance.
     Before long, I heard the sound of a small engine plane approaching from the northeast. I spotted it in the sky and noticed it was a biplane. It's not often we see these and I eagerly watched it approach. For some reason I expected to see an old looking plane. It was actually painted a bright shiny blue and yellow and it looked right smart in its shininess. On the underside it was marked, "Army" with a star on the under wing. It was very pretty and it was flying fairly low. As it passed overhead and went behind the tree line, it made a gentle turn to head back the way from which it came, over the vineyard. I stood up and walked out into the open to watch it depart. maybe the pilot saw me because he turned and came back around. What a treat! I was happy to watch this pretty plane circle around again. When he left for the second time, I gave him a big wave. Surprisingly, he turned and came around a third time and tipped his wings at me. Then climbed vertically for a few seconds before dipping back down right over our house. I was thrilled at this little show, yet perplexed at this exchange between total strangers. I felt solitary, standing in the open on the hill with no one to share this experience with, not even a phone with which to capture an image. It was a completely random occurrence but my mind was filled with its own interpretations of the exchange.
     My father came immediately to mind when I saw the Army insignia on the plane. I have been debating with myself between keeping my father's army memories alive with requests for information and forms to complete on his behalf vs. letting it all be buried and put to final rest and closing that chapter of our lives. Just this morning, I was filling out another form and struggling with myself on this topic. Emotions of grief are still fresh even after all these years and each time I revisit my parents' past, it's like reopening a wound. I want to honor my father but it comes at an emotional expense. It's difficult to keep the past alive and still live in the present and future. So, when this plane came from the northeast, the direction of my parents' home, and performed for me with "Army" written on the underside, I took it as a sign for something. Who knows what. I'm sure I'm being overly emotional about it, so I'll let the topic rest and it will sort itself out. I'll never forget that pretty plane, though. Whoever the pilot was, "Thank you!"



    

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Making Connections

     When you care for a place, as in physically take care of a place, you become intimately familiar with it and connected to it. When we were young, we knew the details and nuances of our toys. I knew my Barbie's bad knee, each grass stain on her party dress (from throwing her in the air), the dent in my bicycle fender where I hit it with a hammer, and the place where my baby doll lacked proper stuffing. Touching and playing with our toys each day made us intimate with them. Later, in our first apartments or homes, we knew the few belongings we owned very intimately. We were too familiar with the one and only saucepan we had to cook with, we knew which chair wasn't safe for guests, and which floor boards creaked when we walked a fussy baby back and forth at night. By dusting and carefully handling our few knick knacks, we were reminded of their origins and gently placed them just so in order to enjoy them in our home. There was the porcelain bird from grandmother and the pottery from summer vacation. We cleaned and handled them week after week, every time we dusted, over and over again, year after year until we knew them with our eyes closed. Even in the nightly routine of absentmindedly washing our dishes, we connected with these inanimate plates and cups by handling them just so every day. It's easy to own "stuff". It's the caring for it that makes or breaks the relationship we have with our stuff.
     I find this same thing to be true of our yards and outdoor property. We've owned a few houses over the course of our marriage. Some have had small yards and others had acres and we always cared for them ourselves.  We landscaped them and groomed them, season after season. I learned each swell and contour of the lawns, each dip and tree root, each soggy or rocky area, and what would or wouldn't grow in any given spot. I've connected with each property but one and enjoyed making improvements on most. I love planting and growing things even when challenged by failure. I also enjoy the regular maintenance and grooming of the gardens. (Except when it's hot and muggy.) We are fortunate to live in a geography where we have four seasons. The changing landscape makes it new and beautiful with each changing season and we get to know and appreciate its beauty all over again.
     I was happy to have the time and good weather to mow the lawn today. I decided to mow not only the yard but the front and side field as well. We usually leave it uncut for the farmer to make hay but, in the fall I like to mow the field grass short in case we have snow later on. The short grass makes for better snow cover. and there's a nice gentle slope on the field that makes a good sledding hill. So, on this beautiful fall day, I connected with our yard and land by mowing up one side of it and down the other, around and around. I felt the dips and gullies, the rocks and soggy spots. With each turn of the mower, a new vista opened before me and I fell in love with this land all over again. I felt like I had been apart from it for a while and I was greeting it anew. I took in the aromas of cut grass and dried leaves. I felt the sun on my face and watched sun patches light up the distant mountains. I loved our property today and it loved me back. I groomed it and cared for it and in return it renewed my spirit. I recalled the day we bought it and how I felt it was a generous gift from God, much more than I deserved. It belongs to us only for a short while, and today, for this moment, I was so glad.

 The Maple and Viburnum
      
         In April...















...and October 







Across the field toward the neighbor's

The sky was amazing today. All photos are unaltered and naturally beautiful : ).

Monday, October 23, 2017

An Autumn Visit in New England

     I'm disappointed in myself for not writing more. I don't know what happened. I'm also disappointed in myself for not keeping up with my housecleaning. I keep trying to figure out what's wrong and why I've let these things go but, I have no answers. I need to spend less time trying to figure out why I'm not writing and cleaning the house and just do it.
     We were away for a week up north, so there's one excuse for neglecting things at home. Steve helped his brothers install hardwood floors in their parents' house. I visited with his mom and my sister. We also stopped in NH for a little visit with Chelsea and her family. The weather was amazingly mild for October and the entire week was a real treat. I spent every day outside, taking walks. Everyone said the colors were not vivid this year, but for this Virginian, they were spectacular.




    
Simon grew many different kinds of peppers

Fall crops in the greenhouse. To stand in the doorway and breathe the moist, sweet earth brought intense memories of spring. Only to turn around and look outside to see fall.
Hugo loves to walk with sticks.
A view of the Hudson River Valley and Albany, NY from the Thatcher park overlook at the Helderberg escarpment. My sister and spent the day together visiting apple stands, and driving around the countryside. The city of Albany is a speck to the right of center in this photo.

We lunched at the Home Front Cafe in Altamont, NY. It was a time capsule of a place with good Americana type food. The place is filled to the brim with WWII memorabilia. We had no idea about this place. A girl at Altamont Orchards recommended it and we were pleasantly surprised. The waitresses were not friendly, but the place was large and bustling and the food was very good.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Welcome, Welcome Fall




     At last. Summer smothered and smouldered us long past her welcome. As if to make up for making us suffer, Autumn treated us to The Most Beautiful weekend. Fall is that perfect season in Virginia when the fields bloom with both asters and clover. There's a bit of Queen Anne's lace still blooming along with dandelion fluff balls. Summer and autumn intermingle as one passes on to the other. 
     There seems to be a bumper crop of black walnuts and hazelnuts falling from the trees. I can hear the large nuts hitting Mrs. Cahoon's barn and house roofs from over here. Inside her house, the sound of the drumming nuts onto her metal roof startle us while we visit, even though we know to expect them. Those black walnuts are so big that I worry about twisting an ankle when walking certain paths. I'll need to bring a rake up there and get them out of the way. The farmers cut their hay and the shorn fields now lay wide open to the sky. I invite Henri to walk more often than usual and he is happy to oblige. We aren't forced to follow a mowed path now that the fields are cut and we can explore more. Maybe wandering is a better word than explore. We wander. The air is certainly cooler and it's tempting to lie down on the grass where the breeze doesn't reach and soak up the sun's warmth. 
     We fed William's animals this weekend. This can either be a treat or a chore depending on the weather. This weekend it was a treat. The ducks are the most comical lot and it's easy to imagine Beatrix Potter's inspiration for writing her amusing animal stories just by watching those ducks. The sheep will follow anywhere for grain and the cows were behaving nicely, although the newest bull is a little stand offish. He looks like Ferdinand the Bull. He's black and his bony haunches are high and he carries himself the the Ferdinand character is drawn. He didn't want to follow the other bull and cows along the path to their dinner or breakfast so I suggested to Steve that he take the riding crop and shoo him in. Surprisingly, Steve did just that, except that the bull kept evading him and it turned into a chase game. Steve was having none of that nonsense and quickly gave up. How I wished I had my phone or camera to capture Steve chasing the bull around the field.
    Somehow the days flow busily along with work and chores and play... in that order. There's still more canning to be done, rug hooking continues, and we have a project Steve is working on in the basement, semi-finishing a space where the grandchildren can play indoors. It's a dusty, messy job that created a lot of fine cement dust all over everything, even with plastic put up. Thankfully we're past that part now and it's almost time to paint. We gave ourselves a Christmas deadline when we expect everyone to be here. I think we're on schedule, however keeping this perspective is challenging in light of the book I'm currently reading,  "Living Life Backwards" by David Gibson. (Thanks to a friend for the recommendation.) 

"The seasons and natural cycles of the world are content to come and go, but we sweat and toil to make believe that it will not be so with us."   


     




Friday, September 15, 2017

My Father Never Talked About the War

     I was invited to speak about my father at the 6th Army Group Historical Seminar Commemorating WWII's forgotten D-Day and Operation Dragoon yesterday in DC. What a wonderful group of people, both army and civilian, who are keeping history alive. We learned so much during our day at the seminar. It was also an honor to meet two WWII veterans there, both in their 90's : )




Saturday, September 2, 2017

Summer Days Are Gone


     The calendar has turned to September and summer days are gone. The nights are cool, the A/C is turned off and we finally got some much needed rain. These are bittersweet days. I'm content to bid farewell to the heat and humidity that cause my body so much misery. I embrace the cooler days of autumn and I love the heightened activity it brings to our lives. However, I will miss the laid back feeling of summer, the lazy, barefoot days reading on the porch and the way life somehow just feels easier in the summer.
     My plans for today are bust. I was going to work out in the garden but, the rain continues. Henri-the-Schnoodle and I both have sleep issues lately so we came into the kitchen early this morning, made the coffee and sat by the window to work on my rug. This pattern is called New England Twist. It is destined for the floor in front of our kitchen sink. I put my Karen Kahle "Vermont" pattern on hold because I want to dye some wool in certain colors for it.
     I received a wonderful and generous gift of wool this week from two elderly ladies who can no longer work on their craft. They were prolific hookers and had amassed bins and bins of wool over the years. The method of distribution appears to be to offer it to the newer hookers first, those of us who are building a wool stash. After that, it's made available to other hookers in the group. It felt like Christmas morning when Nancy and I sat on Eleanor's living room floor and opened bin after bin of beautiful wool. There were several gradation sets (strips of wool dyed in six or seven grades of a particular color, from light to dark) of wool and one was pinned with a tag dated 9/23/1976. What a precious item! A lot of the wool is recycled from 100% wool garments gleaned from thrift stores. These are getting harder and harder to find as women don't wear beautiful wool skirts anymore or 100% wool in general. Eleanor knew I planned to dye my own wool, so she gave me the bin full of all white wool. Before it can be used, all the wool must be washed. We can't take any changes of introducing moths into our wool stash so even wool that has been properly stored and appears clean will need to be washed and dried before it can be brought into the house. I had it piled on the basement floor waiting for laundering. I'm excited to think of the projects ahead.

A hooker's dream

New England Twist in progress
    

Monday, August 28, 2017

A Connection With the Infinite




     Like millions of folks who stepped outside at the appointed hour last Monday to view the eclipse, I stepped outside with my special glasses and looked up. It was a marvel to see the moon pass in front of the sun. What I found more exciting, however, was the dimmed, eerie light of the landscape at that appointed moment in time. Maybe it was my imagination, but everything sounded hushed for about half an hour. The crickets were quieter, the cicadas toned it down, and the birds chirped only a little. When Tess, Ian, and I returned inside we looked down at the floor and saw little eclipse shadows filtering through the window. It was a pretty sight and we began to marvel all over again at this little unexpected surprise. Henri plopped down right in the midst of it because, well... he's just a little dog and he was oblivious to stellar occurrences like solar eclipses.
     The excitement and shared experience of the eclipse last week was something rare and wonderful. It was an event entirely out of the hands of man and I think we could all appreciate the beauty in that. Our pastor mentioned something Tim Keller said. He said, "There is a hunger for intimacy with the infinite."And this is true. There is another quote by Blaise Pascal,  a seventeenth century mathematician and theologian. “What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself.” I love this. Something to think about...
     Steve, Tess and Sky played the Revelation Song at church last week and this week the congregation all sang it together. The lyrics are going around in my head. "With all creation I sing, praise to the King of Kings." Whenever I see something beautiful or marvelous in nature, I think of God. Everything from the whorls on a tiny sea shell to a celestial occurrence like an eclipse points to our Creator.

 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Welcome, Violet!


   
 We welcomed Audrey and Jared's first baby into the family yesterday. Her name is Violet and she is the sweetest little thing. She is our sixth grandchild, but each one born feels like our first. Like our own children, each grandchild is unique and a pure joy to meet and to know. Holding a newborn baby is akin to holding a miracle. We marvel at each tiny feature and our emotions soar with joy. We wonder at the perfection of God's creation and think far ahead into the future about what He might have in store for this child's life. In our humanness we cradle their frailty with a protectiveness that startles even ourselves. It is no small thing to say they are loved. So, "Welcome Violet! Oh what fun we shall have!"

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

'Tis the Season and Back to School


     'Tis the season of red and green! Our little garden is producing exactly the right amount for our enjoyment. We didn't plant a lot of variety this year because I decided to cut back on canning and preserving. So, we either eat or give away what we harvest. I even gave away a box of canning jars to daughter #2. It's a tiny bit sad to let go of that chapter in life when I did so much vegetable gardening and preserving but, it's for a good exchange of time toward other projects that I enjoy for now.
     Every summer I look forward to four particular dishes that use tomatoes and basil- Panzanella, Tomato Pie, Ratatouille, and any variety of Stuffed Tomatoes. Another item I must add to this list, but one that is not exactly a recipe, is a tomato sandwich. A low-gluten diet during tomato season is rather difficult. A tomato sandwich can only be enjoyed when it's made with a good quality white bread. There's just no way around that. I slather both slices of bread with mayonnaise, top with freshly sliced tomatoes, and generously sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mmm mmm, good!
         

     Yes, we are back to school! Classes begin tomorrow and I have been back in the office since last week. The staff and teachers make our elementary school an enjoyable place to work and I don't mind having summer cut short at this point. We have a record number of four hundred and eleven students attending this year. I'm sure we'll be kept busy. The tag in the picture was tied to a little bag of Tootsie Rolls and left on my desk by the principal. : )

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Way We Were Is the Way We Are


I am swing. He is jazz.
I'm sweet white. He's dry red.
I am loud. He is quiet.
I am Felix. He is Oscar.
I am motion. He is rest.
I'm New England. He's Miami.
I run. He walks.
I like mild. He likes hot.
He imbibes. I rarely do.
I am an early bird. He is a night owl.
I am words. He is numbers.
I am antique. He is modern.
I say, "Turn it off." He says, "Leave it on." 
He can remember. I can not.
Thirty-six years.
Not always easy, yet always perfection. 


 







Friday, July 28, 2017

Hooking Projects

     I finished two hooked rugs before we went on vacation. The first rug was a gift for Chelsea and her boys. Chelsea has had pet rabbits for many years, so I hooked the pattern, "Spring Delight" by Mary Johnson. I fell in love with all of Mary's whimsical patterns and the color palette of this rug. Hooked rugs are very soft and comfortable to walk on; they feel great underfoot. Our grandson Hugo discovered this as soon as we placed the rug on the floor. : )



     The next rug I hooked was a small 16" square from a pattern I saw in a library book titled, "Wool Rug Hooking" by Tara Darr. On this rug, I wanted to try a binding technique by wrapping cording with wool to form piping, then hand sewing it around the edge. I was pleased with the finished appearance of this binding. The only drawback is that it's a little thick around the edges.


     I signed up for a rug hooking class that took place the week we returned from vacation. Our local Roanoke rug hooking group collectively hired Lisanne Miller of W. Cushing & Co. in Wells, Maine to come for four days and provide us with a workshop. We each brought a rug of our choosing to work on. Lisanne provided assistance in technique and color planning. Lisanne was great and I learned a lot. This was the first class I ever took and I would love to take more some day. I especially enjoyed the quiet, social aspect of the days, sitting side by side with other women all working on our projects. Lunches were catered each day and this was also a nice treat.
     I decided to begin a pattern called, "Vermont" by Karen Kahle. For this pattern, I wanted to stretch my comfort zone and explore a more freestyle design, blending colors and creating a landscape that appears both like a primitive folk design and an impressionist painting. So... I took on quite the challenge. I find the most frustrating task for me is acquiring the right color wool. Unlike painting, I can't mix two paint colors to get the desired shade. I need to find wool that already exists in the colors I want to use. Karen Kahle, who designed this pattern, dyes her own wool to create the exact shades she wants. I'm inspired to try dyeing wool one day, but I'm still far from there. In the meantime, I have to hunt down, beg and buy my wool. Otherwise, I'm having a grand time working on this rug. Household chores have gone by the wayside because I'm so focused on this project and I want to make use of every minute that I'm able. I'm the only person bothered about the pile of ironing  and the unswept floor, so it's not a big deal for now.
     School (thus work) begins in ten short days. Sigh. I cannot believe how quickly summer break flew by. Here's a peek at the "Vermont" rug as of today. Hooked rugs look raggedy when they're first started with all the loose ends and no background color. But, we'll get there. Give it a couple more months. I'm feeling optimistic.








Monday, July 17, 2017

Traveling to Points North and Favorite Places

     I love my home, but it sure is hard to return from vacation. I've coined the term, PVFRS or "Peevers". It stands for, "Post Vacation Facing Reality Syndrome". We were away for two weeks in the upper parts of New Hampshire, Maine, and New York. It was perfect.
     We visited Chelsea and her family. Her newest baby, Charlie, who was born six weeks premature in May and weighed about 4 1/2 pounds, has since doubled his weight and is thriving. We sincerely thank you for all your thoughts and prayers! Big brother, Hugo is eighteen months old and he is lovable and entertaining. After ten days with Chelsea in New Hampshire and Maine, we spent time with Steve's family and my sister and her family in New York. There was much to consider in attempting to write about our trip, so here are some highlights in photos that I would particularly like to remember.

The Vegetable Ranch
The organic farm in New Hampshire that our son-in-law manages is called, The Vegetable Ranch. From farm to table, it is a labor of love. To say Simon is a meticulous organic farmer is an understatement. His work is simply beautiful. The entire family is involved and Chelsea and the boys are frequently at the farm. Even Steve helped out a little bit on two mornings.


Cherry Tomatoes








Off to the farmer's market on Saturday morning, Concord, NH 
Simon trucks their produce to the farmer's market as well as restaurants, the hospital, and individual farm shares.
There's Steve : )
 Warner, NH
     Warner, NH is a quintessential, small New England town. Everything one could need or want is within walking distance. I was surprised to learn that even includes a small lake and beach. Another fun highlight is the author series the town hosts. Chelsea and I attended one of these at the town hall featuring Anita Shreve, author of The Red Tent among other novels and non-fiction. On Friday nights, the town offers free concerts in the courtyard and amphitheater. We were lucky enough to catch the drum performance while we were there. Then we walked to the ice cream parlor and Hugo had his first ice cream cone. Steve walked over to the amphitheater one afternoon and played his saxophone. A few neighborhood children ran over to listen. Haha! 
     I can't say enough about how I have fallen in love with this little town. About fifteen miles straight up the road is Lake Sunapee. We spent one day there sailing with Chelsea and Simon's friends. When you gaze across this lake, you can see Sunapee Mountain and the ski slopes there. A ninety minute drive took us over and up the coast of Maine to Wells where we enjoyed the beach.This area seems to have it all.
Silver Lake Recreation Area, Warner, NH
 
I really enjoyed our evening walks. The town hall has spotlights and we had loads of fun playing in them.

A Friday night concert featured drums and plenty of percussion instruments so folks, young and old could join in.
Hugo's instruments of choice... plus a scarf.

Chelsea wears Charlie

Strawberry ice cream from the Velvet Moose. Mess? What mess?

Let me re-introduce Charlie. He's come a long way!
Wells, Maine.



When the tide goes out

Sailing on Lake Sunapee, NH
     Last, but not least, we drove west to New York to finish our vacation with a visit to parents and siblings. We managed to see everyone! It was great to sit and visit with Pete and Jane (Steve's parents) whom I have now known for thirty-eight years. Can that be?! We also had a blast with my sister and her husband and daughter on their boat on Lake George in the Adirondacks. The Adirondack State Park was our childhood playground. Every summer we picnicked and boated there. Steve lived at his family's summer camp on Brant Lake whenever school was out. It felt so good to be back. I am thankful for all the memories we made on this trip. May they carry us over until next time.

Opened in 1961. We rode our bikes here as kids, before there were strip malls, Walmart and tons of traffic. Summer time meant Gene's fish fry.
I'm still craving another fish fry. I sure missed my mom, dad, and sister, when I was sitting there, though.
Lake George, NY. Thirty-two miles long with beautiful mountain views.

John reserved an island for us! It was about halfway up the lake where it was private and quiet.

Rock ledges stretch out into the water. When I wasn't doing a happy dance, I was spending the day just like this : )

I'm having this picture printed along with one from Maine. I'll place them where we can longingly look at them every day.