November 30, 2012

"Merry Christmas, little daughters! I'm glad you began at once, and hope you will keep on. But I want to say one word before we sit down. Not far away from here lies a poor woman with a little new-born baby. Six children are huddled into one bed to keep from freezing, for they have no fire. There is nothing to eat over there; and the oldest boy came to tell me they were suffering hunger and cold. My girls, will you give them your breakfast as a Christmas present?"

Yesterday was Louisa May Alcott's birthday, so I thought it fitting to honor her today.  The impact she has had on so many young girls' lives through her books is staggering, and Marmee, Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy have become quite real to so many people.  Little Women has been made into a movie three times, and each has its flaws and brilliant moments.  I particularly enjoyed watching Katherine Hepburn as the impetuous Jo, but the 1994 version captured my heart with the lovely interaction between Marmee and her little women. At Christmas time I like to remember how simple the March family celebration was, particularly after the girls gave away their Christmas breakfast to a needy family.  As we prepare our hearts and homes for Christmas may we all take a minute to remember those who have so little and that the best gift of all is the gift of love.


From The Short Story A Christmas Dream, And How It Came True

Louisa May Alcott

From our happy home
Through the world we roam
One week in all the year,
Making winter spring
With the joy we bring
For Christmas-tide is here.

Now the eastern star
Shines from afar
To light the poorest home;
Hearts warmer grow,
Gifts freely flow,
For Christmas-tide has come.

Now gay trees rise
Before young eyes,
Abloom with tempting cheer;
Blithe voices sing,
And blithe bells ring,
For Christmas-tide is here.

Oh, happy chime,
Oh, blessed time,
That draws us all so near!
"Welcome, dear day,"
All creatures say,
For Christmas-tide is here.

November 29, 2012

What draws people to be friends is that they see the same truth. They share it.”

--C.S. Lewis

Happy birthday, C.S. Lewis!  When the world turns cold and frosty, I recall the beautiful scenes in The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe where all of Narnia is covered in winter, awaiting the magic of Aslan and the Pevensie clan to release it from the spell of Jadis, the White Witch.  I have fond memories of reading the books to my younger siblings all across Montana and Wyoming in an un-airconditioned station wagon, and thinking how wonderful a world of ice would feel during that hot August trip!  My first car in college (a hand-me-down station wagon from my grandfather that was perfect for lcramming many girls in for late night bakery runs) was named the Dawn Treader, in honor of the mighty ship that bore Prince Caspian, Lucy, Edmund and nasty Eustace past the Lone Islands and on to the Easternmost Ocean.

Later, I had the joy of re-discovering Aslan and Mr. Tumnis all over again when my own little ones clamored to hear the stories of magical kingdoms filled with talking animals, including dashing little mice with deadly swords.  One of my favorite parts of the first book was the lovely friendship that blossomed between Lucy and Mr. Tumnis.  From two different worlds, these two were able to form a strong bond of trust and friendship and loyalty.  While The Chronicles of Narnia are labeled as children's literature, the underlying message is certainly for adults as well, and during this advent season of preparation it might be nice to revisit these perennial favorites as a way of preparing our hearts for the light of Christmas Day.  Thank you, C.S. Lewis, for sharing your beautiful stories with our world, which needs a little thawing also.

The Nativity C. S. Lewis

Among the oxen (like an ox I'm slow)
I see a glory in the stable grow
Which, with an ox's dullness might at length
Give me an ox's strength.

Among the asses (stubborn I as they)
I see my Saviour where I looked for hay;
So may my beastlike folly learn at least
The patience of a beast.

Among the sheep (I like a sheep have strayed)
I watch the manger where my Lord is laid;
Oh that my baa-ing nature would win thence
Some wooly innocence!

November 28, 2012

A dollar for daring to dream....

After all the hub-bub at my home over Thanksgiving, with relatives visiting, my daughter getting engaged, attending a holiday concert that my husband was helping produce, putting up the Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving so the kids could get their ornaments on it before heading back to college, and then celebrating my thirtieth anniversary yesterday....I hadn't given much thought to what I was going to write for today's post.  I am not quite ready to start talking about Christmas yet, but when I went to the convenience store for a cup of coffee this morning on my way to work, inspiration hit.  I had to stand in a rather long line and watched while person after person bought a cup of coffee and put a few dollars down for a dream.  A five hundred million dollar dream, to be exact.  Is that crazy money or what??!! 

Two years ago while we were camping in Door County, we spent one memorable night under the stars at the American Folklore Theater in Peninsula State Park, attending its premiere of Cheeseheads The Musical.  It is a rolicking story, based on the true events of a group of Sargento Cheese production workers in Fond du Lac, WI, who won $208 million in a 2006 lottery drawing.  There is a really cute song in the musical about daring to dream by purchasing a lottery ticket, a song that must be playing in millions of American heads today. 

Over the weekend my husband kept finding a quarter and a dime, everywhere he turned.  Pocket of his bathrobe...quarter and a dime.  Opened the kitchen pantry...quarter and a dime fell out onto the floor (from my pantry, what the heck?!).  Coat pocket...quarter and a dime.  So, needless to say, we succumbed to today's frenzy as well, and 25 and 10 are two of the numbers we used! 

Dashing to the store
To purchase just one more
Maybe I will win
Thinking with a grin

Lottery tickets, lottery tickets
Numbers one two three
Oh what fun it is to play
No need for a money tree

(it shouldn't come as a surprise that lottery poems were hard to find....!)

Cheeseheads The Musical

If someone does win the jackpot today, I hope the money brings happiness.  While it is fun to dream of such wealth, I feel blessed with my life right now, just the way it is....

November 27, 2012

A One in a Million You

It feels a bit surreal, but today marks my 100th post!  What started as a 'creative outlet' this summer has turned into an important part of my day--planning what to write, hunting through poems and pictures to share something meaningful with you, and in the process rediscovering how much I love to write.  Thank you for sharing this journey with me.

And speaking of is my husband and my thirtieth wedding anniversary!  I'm really not sure where the time went, but I know it has encompassed a lot of memories and adventures, plus mountains of laundry, house projects (advice for my young get to thirty years of marriage by NOT hanging wallpaper together!), and Tuesday night 'what's for supper?" conundrums.  It has spanned weddings, births, the loss of loved ones, family celebrations, camping trips, cross-country vacations in mini-vans, trips to the ER, health scares, and a staggering amount of soccer games, basketball games, baseball games, football games, ballet recitals, orchestra concerts, plays and piano recitals.  And lucky me, because through all of it I have had the best partner and friend one could hope for right by my side, through thick and thin, for better and for worse.  Happy anniversary to my amazing husband, and I'm looking forward to the next thirty!  Hopefully there will be even more fun and less laundry....

Wise men say only fools rush in
But I can't help falling in love with you
Shall I stay
Would it be a sin
If I can't help falling in love with you

Engagement Photo

Like a river flows surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
Some things are meant to be
Take my hand, take my whole life too
For I can't help falling in love with you

November 27, 1982

I can't remember when you weren't there
When I didn't care for anyone but you
I swear we've been through everything there is
Can't imagine anything we've missed
Can't imagine anything the two of us can't do

Honeymoon, Cancun, Mexico
Through the years, you've never let me down
You turned my life around, the sweetest days I've found
I've found with you ... Through the years
I've never been afraid, I've loved the life we've made
And I'm so glad I've stayed, right here with you
Through the years

25th anniversary, Santorini, Greece

Have I told you lately that I love you
Have I told you there's no one else above you
Fill my heart with gladness
Take away all my sadness
Ease my troubles that's what you do

For the morning sun in all it's glory
Greets the day with hope and comfort too
You fill my life with laughter
And somehow you make it better
Ease my troubles that's what you do
There's a love that's divine
And it's yours and it's mine like the sun
And at the end of the day
We should give thanks and pray
To the one, to the one

November 26, 2012

All the precious time
Like the wind the years go by
Precious butterfly
Spread your wings and fly

Good morning!  I hope you had a wonderful time over Thanksgiving--that your heart was filled with joy and love and gratitude.  My holiday was filled with hellos and goodbyes.  My mother, my sister and brother-in-law, their two children and their exchange student from Sardinia arrived Wednesday evening and filled my home with happy laughter.  It was so wonderful to have them visit and so hard to say goodbye yesterday.  It's difficult when loved ones live so far away and visits are limited to a few times a year.  But along with the bittersweet arrival and departure of my family, my husband and I also welcomed into our family....our daughter's fiance!  Oh my! 

My 'baby girl' arrived home from college late Wednesday night with a beautiful heirloom ring on her finger and a happy light in her eyes.  Her fiance is the kind of man parents dream of their daughters meeting--kind, steadfast, caring, and so in love with my daughter.  Welcome, Andrew, to our family!  But even the happy news of an engagement brings another type of goodbye, doesn't it?  Farewell to my sweet little girl, and hello to the lovely young woman that has taken her place.  Being a mother can really pull at the heartstrings....

Schoolbag in hand, she leaves home in the early morning
Waving goodbye with an absent-minded smile
I watch her go with a surge of that well-known sadness
And I have to sit down for a while
The feeling that I'm losing her forever
And without really entering her world
I'm glad whenever I can share her laughter
That funny little girl
(Slipping through my fingers, ABBA)

Where are you going, my little one, little one,
Where are you going, my baby, my own?
Turn around and you're two,
Turn around and you're four,
Turn around and you're a young girl going out of my door.
Turn around, turn around,
Turn around and you're a young girl going out of my door.

(Turn Around, Harry Belafonte)

You're beautiful baby from the outside in.
Chase your dreams but always know the road that'll lead you home again.
Go on, take on this whole world.
But to me you know you'll always be, my little girl.

(My Little Girl, Tim McGraw)

In my daughter's eyes I am a hero
I am strong and wise and I know no fear
But the truth is plain to see
She was sent to rescue me
I see who I wanna be
In my daughter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes everyone is equal
Darkness turns to light and the
world is at peace
This miracle God gave to me gives me
strength when I am weak
I find reason to believe
In my daughter's eyes

And when she wraps her hand
around my finger
Oh it puts a smile in my heart
Everything becomes a little clearer
I realize what life is all about

It's hangin' on when your heart
has had enough
It's giving more when you feel like giving up
I've seen the light
It's in my daugter's eyes

In my daughter's eyes I can see the future
A reflection of who I am and what will be
Though she'll grow and someday leave
Maybe raise a family
When I'm gone I hope you see how happy
she made me
For I'll be there
In my daughter's eyes

(In my Daughter's Eyes, Martina McBride)

Andrew and Caitlin

Someday, some boy will come and ask me for your hand
But I won't say "yes" to him unless I know, he's the half
That makes you whole, he has a poet's soul, and the heart of a man's man...

(My Little Girl, Tim McGraw)

May God richly bless both of you!

November 21, 2012

Many years ago at one of the Thanksgiving dinners we were hosting, my schoolteacher cousin arrived with a gem of a book in her hand, The Relatives Came by Cynthia Rylant.  It is a bouncy, exuberant book about bouncy, exuberant relatives who arrive for a long awaited visit.  It's filled with love and the simple joys of being family--doing chores together, squeezing way too many bodies into too few beds, and sharing the stories that become part of the family oral history.  My mother, my sister and her family will load up their car today (a very respectable mini-van my sister will want me to point out, and nothing at all like the car below!) and make their way from South Dakota to my front door tonight.  We'll cook together, we'll laugh together, we'll distribute kids and sleeping bags in various rooms, and we will definitely eat way too much pumpkin pie, but oh my, it will be so wonderful to share this weekend with them.  I wish all of you a Thanksgiving filled with love and gratitude, and I will be back next Monday....time to bring out the Christmas poems! 

"They had an old station wagon that smelled like a real car, and in it they put an ice chest full of soda pop and some boxes of crackers and some bologna sandwiches...they drove all day and they drove all night and while they traveled along they looked at the strange houses and different mountains and they thought about their almost purple grapes back home.  They thought about Virginia--but they thought about us too.  Waiting for them."


(Edgar Albert Guest, 1881-1959)

Gettin' together to smile an' rejoice,
An' eatin' an' laughin' with folks of your choice;
An' kissin' the girls an' declarin' that they
Are growin more beautiful day after day;
Chattin' an' braggin' a bit with the men,
Buildin' the old family circle again;
Livin' the wholesome an' old-fashioned cheer,
Just for awhile at the end of the year.

Greetings fly fast as we crowd through the door
And under the old roof we gather once more
Just as we did when the youngsters were small;
Mother's a little bit grayer, that's all.
Father's a little bit older, but still
Ready to romp an' to laugh with a will.
Here we are back at the table again
Tellin' our stories as women an men.

Bowed are our heads for a moment in prayer;
Oh, but we're grateful an' glad to be there.
Home from the east land an' home from the west,
Home with the folks that are dearest an' best.
Out of the sham of the cities afar
We've come for a time to be just what we are.
Here we can talk of ourselves an' be frank,
Forgettin' position an' station an' rank.

Give me the end of the year an' its fun
When most of the plannin' an' toilin' is done;
Bring all the wanderers home to the nest,
Let me sit down with the ones I love best,
Hear the old voices still ringin' with song,
See the old faces unblemished by wrong,
See the old table with all of its chairs
An I'll put soul in my Thanksgivin' prayers.

November 20, 2012

A touching Thanksgiving painting, that of a soldier home for a while from the war, sitting with his mother in the kitchen. This was the Thanksgiving 1945 cover for Saturday Evening Post. 
In 1945 the Saturday Evening Post depicted a Norman Rockwell painting of a soldier home on leave, enjoying Thanksgiving preparations with his mother.  And while many of us are busy preparing our homes for the arrival of relatives and friends for this wonderful American holiday, there are so very many men and women deployed around the world who will be celebrating with their loved ones in spirit only.  On Thursday, when we gather around the table I hope all of us will take a moment to remember our patriots who defend our freedoms each and every day.  I am filled with gratitude to live in America, and so very thankful for those who keep our loved ones safe from harm.  Thank you, troops, and God bless each and every one of you.

For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, For love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.

Read more:
For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, For love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.

Read more:
For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, For love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.

Read more:

For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, For love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.

Read more:
Thanksgiving Prayer
For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, For love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.

Read more:

For each new morning with it's light,
For rest and shelter of the night,
For health and food,
For love and friends,
For everything thy goodness sends.

                   --Ralph Waldo Emerson

Norman Rockwell's The Four Freedoms
For each new morning with its light, For rest and shelter of the night, For health and food, For love and friends, For everything Thy goodness sends.

Read more:

November 19, 2012

There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old  pump looks than it used to. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.            

---O. Henry

I have always loved Thanksgiving.  When I still lived near my family in South Dakota my husband and I welcomed my parents, my siblings and their families, their in-laws, aunts, uncles, cousins and friends to our home.  We'd borrow extra banquet tables and folding chairs from the church and set up 'children's tables' in the family room.  We still use the turkey napkin holders my children made so many years ago--it's part and parcel of all the lovely traditions that families develop over the years.  Now that my son is married, he and his wife are starting new traditions that involve both our family and her family, a beautiful blending of people who come together to celebrate life and love and the union of our children.  

Perhaps because my ancestors were Pilgrims the day has always held a special meaning for me, and I have tried through the years to incorporate as much history as possible, along with the mashed potatoes, turkey and pumpkin pies.  I serve George Washington's ragout of onions and Thomas Jefferson's special apple pudding.  After the movie I saw this weekend, I'm thinking I need to find a recipe that Abe Lincoln would have enjoyed to add to the menu.  My husband and I watched one of the world's finest actors, Daniel Day Lewis, become Abraham Lincoln in an Oscar-worthy performance.  The movies centers on the last four months of the Civil War, as Lincoln and his Secretary of State, William Seward, fight to bring the 13th Amendment, the Abolition of Slavery, to a vote in Congress.  It is a stirring and emotional movie, and I loved every minute of it.  Did you know Lincoln established the last Thursday of November as a national day of thanksgiving in 1863?  So today I leave you with his proclamation, hoping that all of us can join together in a spirit of 'peace, harmony, tranquility and Union.'

By the President of the United States of America.
A Proclamation.

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequaled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union. Needful diversions of wealth and of strength from the fields of peaceful industry to the national defence, have not arrested the plough, the shuttle or the ship; the axe has enlarged the borders of our settlements, and the mines, as well of iron and coal as of the precious metals, have yielded even more abundantly than heretofore. Population has steadily increased, notwithstanding the waste that has been made in the camp, the siege and the battle-field; and the country, rejoicing in the consiousness of augmented strength and vigor, is permitted to expect continuance of years with large increase of freedom. No human counsel hath devised nor hath any mortal hand worked out these great things. They are the gracious gifts of the Most High God, who, while dealing with us in anger for our sins, hath nevertheless remembered mercy. It has seemed to me fit and proper that they should be solemnly, reverently and gratefully acknowledged as with one heart and one voice by the whole American People. I do therefore invite my fellow citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next, as a day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the Heavens. And I recommend to them that while offering up the ascriptions justly due to Him for such singular deliverances and blessings, they do also, with humble penitence for our national perverseness and disobedience, commend to His tender care all those who have become widows, orphans, mourners or sufferers in the lamentable civil strife in which we are unavoidably engaged, and fervently implore the interposition of the Almighty Hand to heal the wounds of the nation and to restore it as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquillity and Union.
In testimony whereof, I have hereunto set my hand and caused the Seal of the United States to be affixed.

Done at the City of Washington, this Third day of October, in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, and of the Independence of the Unites States the Eighty-eighth.
By the President: Abraham Lincoln
William H. Seward,
Secretary of State

November 17, 2012

The Hunt for the Mouse

It's Saturday!  And although I need to tackle my rather daunting list of chores and errands, I want to first establish the tone of my day (a little fun, a little laughter) by posting my Favorite Thing.  The last few Saturdays I have  shared a favorite thing over on my friend Claudia's blog, Mockingbird Hill Cottage.  If you have time today you might enjoy heading over to her blog and checking out what others are sharing today; it is a great way to find wonderful women and interesting blogs, and it's so much fun to see what treasures other women cherish.

Today I am going to share a favorite story, titled The Hunt for the Mouse.   When my children were young, we decided to splurge (big-time!) and go to Disneyland.  In order to save enough money for this vacation, we asked the kids for their help in coming up with ideas on how we could make the trip to the happiest place on earth a reality.  Our oldest two boys proposed a year without cable tv.  Gulp.  My husband sacrificed Sunday football for a year, and we made a thermometer poster and every month the boys proudly colored in the savings, with our goal becoming more visible each month.  Finally, the day arrived and we packed the mini-van with books, a cooler filled with sandwiches and juice, and my husband's favorite cassette tapes (I'm really dating myself here, aren't I?)  No hand held games, no drop-down televisions in the back seat, nothing but lots of highway miles and plenty of laughter and sing-alongs all the way to California.  To this day all of us can instantly sing the lyrics from Boys to Men (and I swear by the moon and the stars in the sky) and Hall & Oates (I can't go for that, no can do), which my husband played over and over and over.....


On our arrival at the park we were barely in the gate when our daughter spied Mickey Mouse, surrounded by a swarm of little kids.  My husband assured her that we were going to be at Disney Land for FIVE DAYS, so we would have PLENTY of time to meet Mr. Mickey.  That seemed logical.  Little did we realize, it is a BIG park and there is only ONE Mickey.  Day one, plenty of fun.  Day two, more of the same.  Day three, hmmm....where is that mouse?  Day four--oldest son has his souvenir football jersey, second son has his Indiana Jones hat, third son has his souvenir and our daughter...has no mouse encounters.  We spent all Thursday afternoon looking for the jaunty fellow, but no luck.

Friday morning found us at the front gates of the park, my husband earnestly crouched down in front Team Micky, urging us on to victory.  The goal was clear and victory must be achieved.  Failure was not an option. Today was...THE HUNT FOR THE MOUSE. And finally, late that afternoon as we were trudging rather dispiritedly through Fantasy Land (and I was wishing that darned mouse had never been created) we turned a corner, and there he was.  Mickey in all his sartorial splendor!  And he saw my daughter's face....went down on one knee and opened his arms wide for a hug.  Day saved.  Vacation saved.  And a favorite family story was created.

May your day be filled with all sorts of favorite things!  You can also find me today at

November 16, 2012

My idea of housework is to sweep the room with a glance.

 —Erma Bombeck

Do you think if I print out the poster below and tape it to my chest this weekend it will help as I fly through that long to-do list I mentioned last week?  The list on which the only thing crossed off at this point is getting the dog bathed (and I didn't even do that, my son took her to the groomer!).  Let's see....count my blessings.  That's easy--I am blessed to have a home.  Even if it is currently rather messy.  Practice kindness...okay, I won't yell at the people who actually MADE the mess in my home.  Let go of what I can't control...I assume this means I can't control the fact that some people in my home (who will remain nameless, but hey, my son doesn't read my blog anyway...) consistently forget to put trash in the trash can and dirty dishes in the sink?  Listen to my productive yet calm.  Ask any of my children...the calm part tends to go out the window when I'm at the last stage of preparing for a holiday and the arrival of relatives.  Just breathe.  Hmmm, the last time my daughter told me that, I think I forgot the part about practicing kindness.... 


I know, I know!  I had poetical visions this week of blogging about loftier thoughts...thankfulness, gratitude, the love I feel for my family and friends.  And I am thankful, and filled with gratitude and love, and I am really looking forward to everyone coming home for Thanksgiving.  Who blogs about dirty bathrooms and messy linen closets?  Dusty living rooms and cluttered guest bedrooms?  Well, I guess I do.  Because that's a part of my real life, just as much as the part of my life that is full of books, music, poetry and delight in the outdoors.  It's all about balance, right?  In the meantime, wish me luck with all my unfinished projects and home preparations, and here's a poem written by someone with whom I obviously see eye to eye!

Dust if you must, but wouldn't it be better
To paint a picture, or write a letter,
Bake a cake, or plant a seed;
Ponder the difference between want and need?

Dust if you must, but there's not much time,
With rivers to swim, and mountains to climb;
Music to hear, and books to read;
Friends to cherish, and life to lead.

Dust if you must, but the world's out there
With the sun in your eyers, and the wind in your hair;
A flutter of snow, a shower of rain,
This day will not come around again.

Housekeeping ain't no joke. —Louisa May Alcott

November 15, 2012

“Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude.” 

from Winnie the Pooh, by A.A. Milne

One week to Thanksgiving!  Remember my to-do list from last week?  Status update....the dog is now bathed and looks great.  Other than that, well, let's just say I need to get in gear!  Thank goodness neither my sister or my mother own a pair of white gloves for checking dust.  Do you think it's rude to put 'do not open' signs on closets (and rooms!) where I am reasonably sure I'm going to be stuffing/hiding things at the last minute? (just kidding...well, maybe not kidding...!) 

Of course, Thanksgiving isn't about perfectly decorated homes (at this point, though, I'd settle for a picked-up home...I think clutter multiplies while I sleep).  Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays--a day to be deeply grateful for all the blessings bestowed upon my family.  I am keenly aware that this year even the simplest of things we take for granted should fill our hearts with gratitude--when thousands are still without power, I am grateful that I can shower when I wake up, turn on the lights to read, watch a television show or movie, cook a hot dinner for my family.  When so many have lost their homes and belongings, I am so grateful to have my home.  When so many of our fellow countrymen and women are struggling to find jobs, I am thankful that both my husband and I are employed.  I do not take these things lightly. 

Cultivating a spirit of gratitude starts early.  Like Piglet, my husband and I have always wanted our children to incorporate thankfulness into their daily lives.  It is no coincidence that my family starts each meal with a simple prayer/song of gratitude, the Swedenborgian Hymn, better known as the Johnny Appleseed Song.  The lyrics are simple and easy to learn, but the meaning is powerful...the Lord's been good to me.  Today, even though my heart is very small, like Piglet's, it holds a large amount of gratitude. 


Oh, the Lord's been good to me.
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me the things I need:
The sun, the rain and the appleseed;
Oh, the Lord's been good to me.

I wake up every day
As happy as can be,
Beacuse I know the Lord is there
Watchin' over all my friends and me
The Lord is good to me.

God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say thank you?                                                                                                                                          

November 14, 2012

A picture is a poem without words....(Horace)

Happy birthday, Claude Monet!  Thank you for sharing your artistic vision with the world and for making the world a more beautiful place.  In college I fell in love with the impressionists, Monet, Manet, Renoir, Degas and Cassatt, and made many trips to Kansas City's beautiful Nelson Art Museum to visit the Impressionist Gallery.  Now that I live fairly close to Chicago, my trips to the Windy City almost always include a visit to the renowned Art Institute, which houses one of the world's most famous Impressionist collections, including over 30 Monets (and six Haystacks!).  And it's not just the ethereal visual art that touches my soul...the music of Debussy, Ravel, Satie and Faure' explore delicate textures and a veiling of sonorities, capturing the movement of color and light in an opalescent and almost transparent fashion that takes my breath away.  Longfellow wrote this lovely poem, Sunrise on the Hills, in 1825, fifteen years before Monet was born, but I think they would have recognized in each other a true kindred spirit in their love of nature. 

File:Claude Monet, Impression, soleil levant, 1872.jpg
Impression, Sunrise by Monet--this painting gave rise to the name of the Impressionist movement
Sunrise on the Hills
by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow
I stood upon the hills, when heaven's wide arch
Was glorious with the sun's returning march,
And woods were brightened, and soft gales
Went forth to kiss the sun-clad vales.
The clouds were far beneath me; bathed in light,
They gathered mid-way round the wooded height,
And, in their fading glory, shone
Like hosts in battle overthrown.
As many a pinnacle, with shifting glance.
Through the gray mist thrust up its shattered lance,
And rocking on the cliff was left
The dark pine blasted, bare, and cleft.
The veil of cloud was lifted, and below
Glowed the rich valley, and the river's flow
Was darkened by the forest's shade,
Or glistened in the white cascade;
Where upward, in the mellow blush of day,
The noisy bittern wheeled his spiral way.

I heard the distant waters dash,
I saw the current whirl and flash,
And richly, by the blue lake's silver beach,
The woods were bending with a silent reach.
Then o'er the vale, with gentle swell,
The music of the village bell
Came sweetly to the echo-giving hills;
And the wild horn, whose voice the woodland fills,
Was ringing to the merry shout,
That faint and far the glen sent out,
Where, answering to the sudden shot, thin smoke,
Through thick-leaved branches, from the dingle broke.

If thou art worn and hard beset
With sorrows, that thou wouldst forget,
If thou wouldst read a lesson, that will keep
Thy heart from fainting and thy soul from sleep,
Go to the woods and hills! No tears
Dim the sweet look that Nature wears.

Haystacks at Sunrise--one of my favorites!

November 13, 2012

For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her...

We live in an age of advanced entertainment technology, with HD televisions, 3-D movies, Wii's and PS3's and a host of hand-held game systems. And music has come along for the ride as well.  From tiny transistor radios and unwieldy boomboxes we have quickly graduated to MP3 players, I-pods, Bose sound systems, and even listening to music via you-tube on our computers.  But long before all of these shiny new toys, we had....record players.  The 'suitcase' record player like the one below, on which my cousin Brenda and I listened to Elvis Presley in the 60's.  We drank Coca-Cola in bottles, wearing our pedal-pushers, and sang along to In the Ghetto and Nothin' But a Hound Dog and listened in awe to the striking similarities between Kennedy and Lincoln's deaths in the 1966 hit History Repeats Itself, watching the 45 rpm records go round and round.


Then came the family stereo system, on which we listened to Mother's beloved Mario Lanza operatic arias and sang along to Christmas carols with Andy Williams and Bing Crosby.  We carried out our Saturday morning household chores to the strains of Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops.  To this day, every time I hear the Bacchanale from "Samson and Delilah" I have an urge to grab a dustcloth and start polishing furniture!

And then when I turned 13, I discovered Simon and Garfunkel.  Here's a copy of the first album I ever purchased, bought with babysitting money.  I was so excited, holding the album in my hands in the record store, feeling so very grown-up.  The simple beauty of poetry put to music held me in thrall then, and works its same magic now.  My mirror may say differently, but everytime I turn on my (ahem...stereo purchased thirty years!) and let the lovely melodies of Scarborough Fair and Sounds of Silence fill the air I'm a young girl again. 

Ode to the Vinyl Record
by Thomas R. Smith

The needle lowers into the groove
and I'm home. It could be any record
I've lived with and loved a long time: Springsteen
or Rodrigo, Ray Charles or Emmylou
Harris: Not only the music, but
the whirlpool shimmering on the turntable
funneling blackly down into the ocean
of the ear—even the background
pops and hisses a worn record
wraps the music in, creaturely
imperfections so hospitable to our own.
Since those first Beatles and Stones LPs
plopped down spindles on record players
we opened like tiny suitcases at sweaty
junior high parties while parents were out,
how many nights I've pulled around
my desires a vinyl record's cloak
of flaws and found it a perfect fit,
the crackling unclarity and turbulence
of the country's lo-fi basement heart
madly spinning, making its big dark sound.

What was your favorite album?  Do you still have it? I may have moved into the CD and I-pod age, but I still proudly own all of my early records--Chicago, James Taylor, Simon and Garfunkel, and the Fifth Dimension!  I hope you have a lovely day, in which you take time to listen to a favorite tune from way back when!

November 12, 2012

...and not to yield

My husband and I went to the new James Bond movie, Skyfall, on Sunday.  In the middle of the action, violence and obligatory sex scene all of a sudden there was a stirring moment where Dame Judy Dench, as M, delivers a quote from Tennyson.  It was not a poem I had heard before and it reminded me of my father and his generation, who fought the good fight to keep our freedom intact.  Since I don't blog on Sundays, I am using today's blog to honor my father, my uncles, my brother and brother-in-laws, my sister-in-law, my cousins and especially my nephew, Aaron, who gave his life for his country this past June.  All of you, strong of will and ready to do what was called upon you to carry out, moved heaven and earth to keep those of us at home free.  And for that, a simple thank you seems woefully insufficient.  Gratitude, day in and day out, is what we need to carry in our hearts for the lives you put on hold while serving our nation and keeping it strong.   Thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

Though much is taken, much abides; and though
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven; that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

--From Ulysses by Alfred, Lord Tennyson 

My dad, WWII Navy veteran

My beautiful sister and her husband, who we welcomed back from Afghanistan last year

My brother during Desert Storm

My nephew, who gave the ultimate sacrifice for his country


November 10, 2012

Happy Saturday!  I woke up this morning and started doing the math...11 days until company arrives for Thanksgiving!  That means 11 days to get the dog bathed and clipped, get the carpets scrubbed, whisk all the odds and ends around the house out of sight (thankfully I have a couple of large storage spaces!) and plan menus.  11 days to sew the rest of the family room curtains.  And, most time consuming of all, unpack and display all of my Dickens Village for the holidays. I'm not complaining, as I am so excited that my sister, her family and my mother are joining us for Thanksgiving and can't wait to see all of them.  I am wondering, though, how to squeeze a few extra hours into each of the next few days! 

Having my mother visit is always special, because we are incredibly close and literally finish each other's sentences.  We have a really special bond, forged when it was just the two of us for the first five years of my life.  I'm sure it was difficult for Mom to be a single mother and work so hard to support me, but I never knew it--I was surrounded in a cocoon of love and family. 

We had a series of little apartments, and I don't remember them very clearly, but I do remember two little guys that traveled with us from place to place, and even came along for our exciting journey when Mother married and moved to South Dakota.  They were happy to sit on Mom's bookshelves for many years, and then one day a box arrived at my house--and I happily discovered that Peter James and John had come to pay me a visit!  They now keep their vigil in my library, a treasured memento from the past.  And where did they get such spiffy names, you might ask?  From a Sunday School song I loved, although I didn't quite figure out that Peter and James were two different people, hence the larger owl is Peter James while the smaller one is only John. 

Fifty years ago.....
Peter, James, and John in a rowboat
Peter, James, and John in a rowboat
Peter, James, and John in a rowboat
Out on the deep blue sea!
Cast their nets and
caught no fishes,
Cast their nets and
caught no fishes,
Cast their nets and
caught no fishes,
Out on the deep blue sea!
Today...keeping watch over my Anne Perry books in the library

I'm sharing my favorite owls today over at Claudia's Mockingbird Hill Cottage blog.  You can find Peter James and John keeping company with many other treasured favorite things--please join us over at Claudia's!   
Have a wonderful weekend!

November 9, 2012

there's a bertha in the attic (Jane Eyre, Charlotte Bronte)


You don't have to be a 'romantic' to enjoy the Etsy literary about a blast from the past with your favorite girl sleuth, Trixie?  She can come along with you as you run errands or meet a friend for coffee:

Vintage book purse Trixie Belden - Retro VLV Fun

Or perhaps you'd like to curl up with your favorite Anne book some Saturday?  This charming pillow can keep you company:

Anne Of Green Gables Bookends - Shelf Pillows
Since I have Jane on the brain today, I'll leave you with a poem by Charlotte Brontë, who was intimately acquainted with the brooding, desolate landscape of northern England and a glimpse of our heroine, broken heartedly battling the windswept moors after she has fled Thornfield Hall (good thing we know there is a happy ending!). 


Speak of the North! A Lonely Moor

Speak of the North! A lonely moor
Silent and dark and tractless swells,
The waves of some wild streamlet pour
Hurriedly through its ferny dells.

Profoundly still the twilight air,
Lifeless the landscape; so we deem
Till like a phantom gliding near
A stag bends down to drink the stream.

And far away a mountain zone,
A cold, white waste of snow-drifts lies,
And one star, large and soft and lone,
Silently lights the unclouded skies.

Have a good Friday, and I'll be back tomorrow, linking up with Mockingbird Hill Cottage's Favorite Thing Saturday!