Saturday, December 31, 2011

2011 in review, part 2

(it cannot be just one photograph!)

A full and relaxing month at our cabin.
Sunsets. Wind and water. Ice cream.
Fun photography.

Time together

Visits from friends

Being fine with just being


33 years on August 10


Photo shoot for baby girl Haller!
She's beautiful, don't you agree? You'd better agree.

My sister and I visited our dad in Nashville - sweet time.


I adore October.
The air, the colors, the warm turning to cool, the bike
rides with my hubby!


Late-October visit to Charlotte

Love my pizza pie kitchen!
I'll always remember the morning Bill asked me what I was doing that day and I said,
"paint the kitchen!"

My son David's guest post on the brothers' N.C. mountain adventure was popular.
I love that the brothers went adventuring.


My family: love 'em like crazy!
Christmas 2011

I made it: this is the 200th post of the year! Thanks to those who read and encouraged me as I plodded along.
I'll be doing some magazine writing in 2012,
but will continue to blog.
A safe and healthy new year to all!

Friday, December 30, 2011

2011 in review, part 1

With permission, I'm borrowing this idea from Donna Boucher, a blogger and photographer I admire ... especially since she's closer to my age than many photographers I know, and a grandma, too! Check her out at

Today, some favorites from the first half of 2011.


Ari turned one on New Year's Day ... and I celebrated being a grandmother for one year!

Snow ...

and ice. Lots of it.


Favorite little girl, favorite book.


Uncovering long-forgotten images.
My daughter, age 11.


A mother's day treat: two days with our oldest, David.
He makes Cleveland a beautiful place!

I love being a mom. I think it's made me a better person.


Ashlyn Claire. June 24, 2011.
We're blessed again.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

pastor, martyr, prophet, spy

I was crazy over books as a young girl. In elementary school, my favorite shelves of the school library held the biographies. I devoured books about Clara Barton, Helen Keller, and others. Why this came about, I don't know. But I've always preferred nonfiction over fiction.

I received two books for Christmas and I'm excited about reading them in the coming year. One is Eric Metaxas' biography on Dietrich Bonhoeffer. I know little more about Bonhoeffer other than he took his faith seriously and was part of a plot to assassinate Adolph Hitler. He was executed just two weeks before the liberation in 1945. I'm quite sure his biography will be fascinating.

My son had some trouble finding a copy of the book, so it's obviously in high demand. Are you planning any reading for 2012?

Tuesday, December 27, 2011


Story time with Ari and Ashlyn.

I sense how it's going to get harder to say good-bye
to my granddaughters after a visit.
I fall in love with their little developing personalities ...
all the things they say and do.
Ashlyn is happy, happy and grins and wiggles like crazy.
Ari's beginning to string together sentences, like
"Katie go?" (Where did Katie go?)
"Baba house." (Baba's house)
"Ari muff." (I want a muffin.)
Papa go. Ari go. Yes! (I'm going with Papa!)
Totally precious.

Christmas at our house

We still have family here ... it's been wonderful, chaotic, noisy, delicious, hilarious. A whole year has passed since we were all together, and granddaughter Ashlyn joined us in June. I just want to bottle up these days to last a few months; to treasure the rich love and laughter of siblings, children and grandchildren.

I know a few friends are wondering about our Christmas card. It's not in the mail yet since we only took the photo today. I had a grand idea to go to a park or hiking trail, but orchestration isn't simple with a two-year-old and 6-month-old. How I remember those days. So here's a sneak peek, snapped on our front porch. (Thank you to our neighbor, Sammy Arnett, for assisting!)

Saturday, December 24, 2011

soon enough you'll save the day

This post first appeared two years ago. The song "Joseph's Lullaby" always brings me to tears, so I'm sharing it again.

As we await await the arrival of our first grandchild, I remember the profound changes in my heart as I had our children. [2011 update ... third grandchild due in a few weeks!]

With it being Christmas week, I think of Joseph. He, too, welcomed his baby into the world. While Joseph's son was destined to be the Savior of the world, for all people, for all time, Joseph was a man, a humble carpenter. I can't imagine his divided emotions over the arrival of this little boy. The group MercyMe expresses Joseph's situation beautifully. Take a listen. I hope it brings your heart closer to the heart of Christmas.

Go to sleep my Son
This manger for your bed
You have a long road before You
Rest Your little head
Can You feel the weight of Your glory?
Do You understand the price?
Does the Father guard Your heart for now
So You can sleep tonight?

Go to sleep my Son
Go and chase Your dreams
This world can wait for one more moment
Go and sleep in peace.

I believe the glory of Heaven
Is lying in my arms tonight
Lord, I ask that He for just this moment
Simply be my child.

Go to sleep my Son
Baby, close Your eyes
Soon enough You'll save the day
But for now, dear Child of mine
Oh my Jesus, Sleep tight

- MercyMe

Merry, beautiful Christmas, everyone. And if there are burdens on your heart,
look to the One who can lift them.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Dad's birthday

As I wrote earlier this week, I met my three siblings in Nashville last weekend and we celebrated our dad's birthday and Christmas. Dad turns 87 today. He continues to be a caring father, reassuring us that everything will turn out fine. 

Dad can't quit thinking about a new truck. Bless my brother's heart,
we went by a Toyota lot - again - so Dad could look around.
Mark has taken Dad to look at trucks countless times.
Dad, I'd love to give you a truck for your birthday.
Happy birthday, with love.

Thursday, December 22, 2011

close to Christmas!

Today I was a busy, busy elf. Wrapping's done. Baking's begun. Just some odds and ends tomorrow.

A white Christmas it shall be in Denver. But the forecast here in Ohio calls for sunny skies and mid-40's. It's really fine with me. I don't demand snow for Christmas.

While we won't have a white Christmas, we'll surely have one that's noisy, full of laughter, lots-of-good-food-and-dishes-filled, and  warm with the love of all of us being together again. I think we'll also eat a mountain of popcorn, as we Hallers do.

How do you like our tree?

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

an elf's life

Oooooo, I'm a busy elf. But blogging goes on because December 31 is looming and so is my 200-post goal!

A friend gave me a recipe for peppermint bark, which I love, so I'm going to try making it. With only three ingredients, what can go wrong?

All my chidren and granddaughters arrive this weekend ... we're going to have a hum-dinger happy Haller-days! I have the menus pretty well set, the groceries somewhat set, and the to-do list dwindling (but not fast enough). I'm even typing up a schedule for us, not that I'm all that organized, but things seem to flow better when 10 people aren't asking "what's next?"

And we're also going to have a baby shower! Hoooo-wheeee!

With as busy as I am, I haven't even done Christmas cards! Our family hasn't been together for a photo in a year, so it'll be a January card, friends.

I think we women must be the closest thing there is to Santa's elves. Last-minute frantic flurry of Christmas preparation, choosing just the right gifts and stocking-stuffers and getting them wrapped.

I'm super excited to welcome Christmas and all our family! And especially, to celebrate the birth of our Savior, the sweetest gift of all.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

weekend with dad

Our dad celebrating his 87th birthday with, left to right: Pat, Anne, me and Mark.
My dad has lived in assisted living for two years. Although my siblings and I have made a number of visits to see him in Nashville, Tennessee, it had been 12 years since all 5 of us were together: crazy, huh?

Dad's birthday is this week, so we decided to celebrate him all together. I think we wore Dad out! We laughed a lot, ate fattening southern food, went to Dad's huge church, and even took him to the mall. (Dad insisted he "needs a suit.")

This photo will serve to remind my siblings and me of the weekend we finally all gathered to visit our dad.

Make time for your loved ones!

Monday, December 19, 2011

a little celebration

Though I wrote this post on Friday, today I'm headed home from Nashville after a weekend visiting my dad. This time, thanks to my younger brother Mark's suggestion, all four of us siblings are visiting Dad together. This hasn't happened in 12 years!

Dad's birthday is December 23, so this weekend was to celebrate both his birthday and Christmas. I hope Dad enjoys our time together. I have a feeling we'll be very glad the four of us made the trip to Nashville.

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Ari and Ann

Love, LOVE this recent post by my daughter-in-love Jenny. It's so tenderly written, about Ari's (my first granddaughter) friendship with her new Raggedy Ann. Ari's Great-Grammy Claire made Ann by hand, and it looks like Ari has taken to her already.

I once made a Raggedy Ann and still have the pattern. Wonder if I could still manage one?

Ari will turn two on New Year's Day. I can't quite believe it.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Christmas dog

My good friend Karen Dawkins encouraged me to make it to 200 posts by making some great suggestions. Thanks for giving me the push, Karen!

Not sure there will be a theme, but here we go for today: our dog Ellie. She posed nicely for me on the back porch. Her Christmas scarf belonged to our next-door-dog, Callie, who passed away this year. Ellie misses her. Well, I think she does.

My sweet Katie arrives home from college soon! Well done, Katie: one more semester to go! I am proud of you.

12 more posts to go.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

the process

Don't know if you noticed, but I've challenged myself to reach 200 blog posts this year. If my math is correct, I'll need 13 more posts after today. That'll be 59 more than in 2010. I'm not sure why I got it in my head to reach this goal: I'm not being paid and no one's checking up on me.

All I can say is that when I've gone a day or two without writing, I get antsy, like something's missing. Writing drives and pesters me, hangs around in my head constantly. I believe it's God's purpose for me, and over and over He points and prods me toward it. But what's the purpose - the destination ... or the journey?

Oswald Chambers put eloquent words to this journey of purpose.

We should never have the thought that our dreams of success are God's purpose for us. In fact, His purpose may be exactly the opposite. What is my vision of God's purpose for me? Whatever it may be, His purpose is for me to depend on Him now. If I can stay calm and faithful, the goal of the purpose of God is being accomplished in me. What He desires for me is that I see "Him walking on the sea" [see Mark 6:45-52] with no shore, no success, nor goal in sight, but simply having the absolute certainty that everything is all right because I see "Him walking on the sea." It is the process, not the outcome, that is glorifying to God.       
                     ~ My Utmost for His Highest, from July 28, by Oswald Chambers

Whether or not I reach 200 posts by December 31 is irrelevant. Ultimately, my real purpose is to see God and depend on Him for today.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Sisterhood of American Grandmas Shopping: SAGS!

OK, we love playing Balderdash ... so my SAGS acronym makes me laugh!

Just take your gray haired, middle-aged self to the baby section of any department store and you'll find them: a wonderful sisterhood! They are grandmothers like me, hunting for bargains, searching for cute - never gaudy - clothes for their grandchildren. The other day I struck up conversation with a couple of women in Penney's. Keep Old Navy and GAP kids, but Jacques Pen-ay still delivers! They had a-m-a-z-i-n-g deals on baby and toddler basics and it was like bees to honey for us grandmas.

We searched together for sizes and colors. We shared memories of how we used to double our own child's age to determine a proper size. One woman took a photo with her phone of an outfit: I've done the same! We laughed over being over-heated in our winter coats.

I wanted to invite these women for a cup of coffee: would that have been weird? Sometimes I feel kind of lonesome, shopping alone. But if I just look around, I'm part of SAGS and it's pretty darned fun!

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Secret Santa

"Secret Santa" conjures up some great memories.

First, way back when, Sears used to hold a special shopping "day" (actually two whole hours) FOR CHILDREN ONLY. My dad would take me down to Sears on a Saturday morning and the store personnel would escort dozens of children in to do their shopping ... while the parents stood outside drinking coffee. I thought I was some big stuff, shopping all by my 6-year-old self! Does anyone else remember this?

Then, when my first two boys were small, I was part of a Welcome Wagon group. We women made crafts to donate so that our children could "shop" for family. Santa made an appearance, naturally, as seen here with my son Dan, then 11 months old. He was none too happy with Santa! Think about it: a tiny child being plopped on the lap of a large man in a red suit and big white beard. Darn scary.

When my kids were in elementary school, their school put on a Secret Santa event every December. Moms and dads set up tables down the hallways, loaded with inexpensive merchandise on consignment from local stores. The children could do their shopping and wrapping on their own while parents ate hot dogs and popcorn in the gym. The kids absolutely loved it, and their school is still doing the event.

Got any secret Santa memories?

Thursday, December 8, 2011

a plan and a bag

I'm pretty good at setting goals, but not so good at reaching them. Actually horrible much of the time.

But as I looked over our calendar, I made a goal fueled not only by our schedule, but also by the experience of past Decembers ... frantic, lots-of-last-minute-shopping Decembers. No fun at all.

This year had to be different. For the first time in many years, my three sibs and I will be together with our dad in Nashville the weekend before Christmas. Then, the wonderful Haller-days begin when ALL my chickies and grand-chickies come back to roost for Christmas!

And so, I doggedly set out to finish most of my shopping by this weekend. And it looks like I will meet my goal. Folks, this is unprecedented! So much so, that I keep thinking Christmas is days away, rather than two and a half weeks from now.

My Christmas readiness took two simple steps.

1. A plan. I made a list of the gifts I intended to buy, grouped by recipients. I typed this up and PRINTED IT OFF, miracle of miracles. From that I could plan my targeted stores, or, best of all, late nights in jammies at the computer. Oh, thank you Lord, for giving someone the brain to create Amazon!

2. A bag. Then I saved ads and coupons, slipping them, along with my list, in a large plastic zip-loc bag. (Thank you Lord, too, for zip-loc bags.) I never left home without that bag. Let the sales clerks chuckle. Believe me, my Christmas shopping bag is invaluable for this slightly (?) disorganized shopper. I included a calculator, pen and extra paper for notes. A portable desk!

Go ahead and laugh, you never-procrastinators! And especially you grandmas who hit the January sales in preparation for Christmas! I've nearly accomplished the impossible and look forward to really and truly taking time to appreciate the greatest gift of all: God's love given to us.

Bless you in your preparations!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Pearl Harbor

More than 2,000 Americans perished seventy years ago today when the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor. I remember it being a Sunday from the stories my mother told me. She was 16 years old, and the news came over the radio as Americans returned home from church and ate lunch. Television news was a decade or more in the future.

Growing up, I was curious about my mother's younger years. I cherish those conversations because Mom's been gone for many years. That December Sunday was horrific for the entire country and of course the world. Because of the events in Europe, most Americans knew that the bombing of Pearl Harbor signaled the beginning of full U.S. involvement in World War II.

Pear Harbor changed the lives of most of Mom's classmates, then juniors in high school. With few exceptions, the boys would become young soldiers upon graduation. They would be flung east and west: to the south Pacific or stationed in Europe, and many would die.

Viewing this time through the lens of the controversial Vietnam era, I couldn't comprehend how thousands of teenaged boys would risk their lives in war.

"It was a different time, with so much at stake. Nearly everyone understood that our country's survival hung in the balance. Young men - and women - saw it as their duty to serve their country," Mom said. "They just went."

Monday, December 5, 2011

simplify, simplify

I made a stop at Hobby Lobby today. Have you ever been? The name would imply that it's a place to buy hobby stuff. Art and craft stuff. But when I asked a clerk about some flower pots, she answered, "they're in the back of the store, in the craft section."

Humpf. I assumed Hobby Lobby is ALL "craft section." So I zigged and I zagged and wandered (I've a terrible tendency to wander) in search of my item. And this is when I discovered what Hobby Lobby is mostly about: bric-a-brac (my step-mother's term) or dust-catchers (my mother's term). Mom had very little use for decorative items that needed dusting.

Oh my land. Aisle upon aisle of fake flowers and greenery. Wreaths and all their embellishments. Vases big and small, fat and tall. Thousands of candles and holders to hold them. Mirrored bowls and frames. Wedding doo-dads by the thousands. Sample centerpieces too tacky to stomach. Plastic grapes and apples and pears. And finally, in the back of the store, crafts. Hobby stuff, if you will.

Positively dizzying. One woman passed me in an aisle and said, "my first time here and I love it!" You're kidding, right?

No blog post appeared on Saturday because I spent half the day in the basement with my daughter-in-love Jill. She is organizer extraordinaire and offered to help me get a handle on the basement monster. Oh what joy, what tidiness, what peace! One week ago I wrote this post.  On Saturday, we pared down a lot. Jill is learning it's ok to tell me what she thinks and offers lots of good suggestions. Just before she married my son Mark, she helped him clean out his room. It took all of two hours ... the girl is a genie!

All this to say, the bric-a-brac at Hobby Lobby doesn't tempt me in the least. I'm happy there's a source for people who love that stuff. As for me ...

Less is more. 
~ Robert Browning


Simplify, simplify.
~ Henry David Thoreau

Friday, December 2, 2011


Deference: a yielding in opinion, judgment. Courteous respect. - Webster's

In the middle of a mad shopping dash yesterday, I stopped at Wendy's for my new favorite burger, the "W". A woman approached the door just ahead of me, opened it, and allowed me to enter first. And I couldn't help myself.

"Thank you! Gray hair has its privileges!" I chirped.

She smiled. "Oh, nothing of the sort!"

I am noticing that people do tend to defer to people who are older. Not that I am older, mind you, but the little gray nest on my head might lead someone to that conclusion.

My husband had a similar experience at the grocery store. A mother with a young child approached the door and as Bill tried to open it for her, she opened it for him. "Oh, no, you first, sir!"

Being called "ma'am." Young clerks nodding and giving me that "oh, you cute Grandma" look. Being asked if I need help carrying my groceries out.

While my spirit feels as it did when I was twelve, my body looks pretty much, well, older. I'm a little shocked at photos like this: my hair is white! But I'm really ok with it. You can hold the door and carry out my groceries any time.

Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained by a righteous life.
Proverbs 16:31

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

boys to men

My three boys were born within five years of each other. They evolved into a noisy, rambunctious, eating machine. They bickered, teased their sister, thundered through the house, and bickered some more. The years spent under our roof helped them forge a brotherly bond. Two weeks ago, they took to the mountains. Today's post, by Dave Haller, recounts their adventure.

                                                         whoops - a little blurry ... cold hands?
(l to r: Mark, David, Dan)

This was the plan: the weekend before Thanksgiving, I’d fly from Tampa to Charlotte. Mark and Jill drive from Delaware to Charlotte. We’d meet up at Dan and Jenny’s house Thursday night. The next day, we would leave for Pisgah National Forest, a three-hour drive into the mountains near Asheville, North Carolina. We’d camp out two nights, with a 15-mile hike on Saturday to the top of Cold Mountain.

It was Dan’s idea, and we had to do it. The three of us are tightly knit, but separated by hundreds of miles and have three very different lives pulling us in a thousand different directions—even in our twenties. We hadn’t done anything together, just the three of us, in at least ten years, if ever. If not now, when?

So we packed as lightly as possible Thursday night. We waited for Dan to finish his half-day of work Friday, and we hit the road—two Eagle scouts and a dropout Webelo (me).

With dusk upon us Friday, we entered the gate to Pisgah. Not ten minutes in, we realized the car was running on empty. With 15 miles of steep uphill driving we had no choice but to soldier on to set up camp before dark.

We made it to the top—barely—with a nearly dry gas tank. We passed rivers and waterfalls, and later cliffs adorned with icicles. It was getting really cold. Mark pulled into a parking lot alongside the Blue Ridge Parkway, turned off the engine, and we stepped into a whipping wind. A small group of hikers with long beards emerged from a trail, heading to their car to go home. “Have you done this before?” they asked, casting funny looks as we rushed to unload our tent and backpacks.

Far below the parking lot, perhaps a half-mile away, was a stream 20 feet wide in a valley. We hauled the gear we needed for the night, left what we could in the car, and hustled down to the campsite as the daylight waned. We agreed camping near the stream would give us a scenic backdrop, despite the bear tracks we passed on the trail. Mark was on fire duty and started collecting wood while Dan and I set up the tent.

We didn’t see a soul for two hours after setting up camp. The stars were brilliant.
After foil dinners around the fire, we concealed all traces of food and went to bed early to rest up for the long hike the next day. My borrowed heavy-duty sleeping bag was made for temperatures as low as 30F. It wasn’t enough.

I wore several layers of clothes to bed, including flannel-lined jeans and a thick winter hat. We estimated the overnight temperature to be 20-25F, with fierce winds of 30-40 mph. I seemed to wake up every 10 minutes, as did Mark. Dan slept like a baby. It wasn’t so much the cold that kept me up—it was the flap-flap-flapping of the tent in the wind, my meager pillow (Mark’s extra sweatshirt), and a sleeping bag that fit like a straightjacket.

Saturday morning the car lurched two more miles uphill to the trailhead for Black Balsam Knob. It was 8:30. We left the heavy camping gear in the car and set out carrying daypacks with food and water. The terrain was very rugged and the wind continued to punish us amid a thick haze. Mark tested out a ski mask for a while. After a couple hours the haze lifted, it started to warm up and we were able to shed some layers. We were having a blast. We also realized before long that the terrain was too rugged to do the full 15-mile hike to the top of Cold Mountain and back, so we adjusted our goals to turn around sooner.

Other hikers were few and far between. By late morning, we reached a clearing in Shining Rock Wilderness and Dan pulled out the topographical map again. The trails thus far were not marked well, so we had to check our progress fairly often. We got our bearings and continued on the Art Loeb Trail in the direction of Cold Mountain.

Or so we thought.

The hike was beautiful and I was savoring the crisp mountain air, with plenty of brotherly banter along the way. But by around 12:30, I had a gut feeling that we were no longer on the Art Loeb Trail. Instead of climbing toward Cold Mountain, we were somewhere else—we had been descending, mostly, for two hours, without seeing another soul. There were peaks on either side of us, and we could hear a river getting closer.

We had to make a decision by 1:30—that was the latest we could turn around and still make it back to the car in daylight, and we’d forgotten a flashlight on the hike. But turning back would mean more uphill climbing.

Adrenaline began to flow through us. The Eagle scouts huddled over the topo map. All I could contribute was my iPhone compass. After 15 minutes of tracing their fingers over the peaks, rivers and trails on the map, they felt they had an idea of where we were.

In the heat of the moment, our personalities surfaced. I wanted to make sure we made an educated decision by 1:30, and I was leaning slightly towards playing it safe and turning around. Dan didn’t want to retrace his steps and wanted some new scenery, and analyzed every hill and dale—even the direction the river flowed. Mark wanted to risk it, forging ahead on the trail he thought he knew, so we could cross a couple rivers and take a shortcut to the Blue Ridge Parkway.

By this time we’d also decided we were too exhausted to camp out a second night. We would drive home once we reached the car. But if we didn’t want to spend Saturday night huddled in a lean-to, we had our work cut out for us.

At 1:15, we agreed to cross the river and forge ahead for another 15 minutes to see if we could verify our location by 1:30. If not, we would turn around. We weren’t certain that the trail crossed the river—Mark figured as much because there was a snapped metal cable indicating an old crossing. We hopped over rocks—some more gingerly than others—and I slipped and came two inches from falling in.

But on the other side, at first, it didn’t look like a trail. We had all but decided to turn around when I spotted a trail about 10 or 15 feet above us, running parallel to the river. We took it, rounded a bend, and saw the sign we needed to locate ourselves on the map: two rivers coming together. We paused for lunch and crossed the second river. No lean-to for us, thanks!

Within another hour, we had reached the Blue Ridge Parkway. We knew we’d reach the road four miles away from where we parked, so our plan was to hitchhike back if we could get a ride. We had walked a mile uphill on the Parkway, thumbs extended, when a young couple in a hatchback slowed down. The man, driving, made a large hand gesture as he slowed as if to say, “But there are three of them!” and sped off around a bend. A minute later, they had turned around and we rejoiced as they rounded the bend again.

They were friendly, from Asheville, modern-day hippie types with a Grateful Dead bumper sticker. We explained our wrong turn and our 10-mile hike. “But this,” I said with pride, “is our first time hitchhiking.”

“Well, you didn’t look too scary,” he replied.

By the way, our car miraculously made it out of the forest, going downhill in neutral the entire way in a scene reminiscent of Little Miss Sunshine.

No, things did not go as planned. We returned home after only one night in the wilderness, but Jenny and Jill, to their credit, did not taunt Dan and Mark for it. Jenny fixed us all burgers that night. And I thanked God for being alive, and for blessing me with two intrepid little brothers who push me to be more unpredictable.

gratitude challenge, day 30 - Thank you, God, for a gift I could never have imagined: three sons!
They are a source of pride, humor, inspiration, and fierce love.
And thank you for reminding me this month of your never-ending blessings.

(Huge thanks, David, for writing this post! And Dan & Jenny for sending the photos.)

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

love is

Men approach shopping differently than us women. If you are married, you get my drift. Men are hunters. They run in the store - or mall if you're lucky - find their prey, bag it, and go home.

Women are gatherers. They wander from store to store, considering carefully, comparing their options and enjoying the journey. And all the better if there's another woman along.

Oh, I'm sure there are exceptions to my generalization. I think maybe my dad is a gatherer of sorts. But usually, I find men have little patience with puttering in stores.

Take today for example. I had a specific list of gift items to find on our trip to Kohl's. We went our separate ways. After leaving the kitchen doo-dad area, (during which I took a phone call) I headed for the baby section. But on the way, I saw a display of women's slippers. My slippers are nearly worn out, so I thought, "oh! I'll grab some slippers for Bill to give me for Christmas!" Of course I had to try them on, and right then my phone rang. Bill was finished, waiting up front.

Geez, I'd hardly gotten started! So different, we are.

But all turned out well. I ended up spending less time and less money. Bill would have sat there the rest of the day, patiently waiting for me. That's how he is. That's how love is.

gratitude challenge, day 28 - God created men and women to be different,
to complete each other. I'm grateful for that!
day 29 - I'm so grateful for a patient, loving, easy-going husband! You're the best, honey!

Monday, November 28, 2011

treasures in heaven ... or the basement

"Mom, I count 14 chairs down here."

Somehow, I'd hoped my son David could wave a magic wand and turn our basement into a clear, tidy space. All I ask is the ping pong table be set up and ready for Christmas family fun!

There comes a time - is it universal among empty-nesters? - that the seams of a house nearly burst from years of a family's accumulation. We've lived in this house for 22 years. Raised four kids. And even though I instituted a policy of "you move, your stuff moves too," there is a LOT of stuff, especially in the basement, which, by the way, I've grown to despise with each passing year. It's a catch-all for our junk-all.

What happens is this. We buy a new kitchen table and chairs. The old set goes to the basement JUST IN CASE one of the kids can use it. We move Bill's mom to assisted living. Her photo albums and "cool vintage stuff" (according to our daughter) go to our basement. The desks no longer used end up in the basement. The famous PINEAPPLE COUCH we bought in 1985 must stay, "for watching TV." And the 30 years of photos have made their home there, too.

Sometime between potty training and college graduations, it became an out-of-control, borderline-hoarding mess! "You need to have a yard sale," David advises.

"We have them - every year," I answer.

The older I get, the more I want to be rid of so much stuff, to simplify. There are some things I want to keep. But old yearbooks? Kids' books, toys, camping equipment, and Easter baskets? A pile of National Geographics, LP records from the 70's and four extra sewing machines? I certainly don't need it all; perhaps someone else does.

Jesus said, "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also." Matthew 6:19-21.

I wonder, the tighter we hold to the things in our lives, do we have less room in our hands and hearts for the things that matter to God?

We probably need to move.

gratitude challenge day 27 - I'm thankful for a place to call home, really I am!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

balmy Friday

No doubt about it, winter is fast approaching here in Ohio. But autumn hangs on just a little longer, and this weekend is proof. Sunny and 60 degrees yesterday - the day felt positively balmy.

Go shopping the day after Thanksgiving? Are you kidding me? Off to Gallant Woods we went: oldest son David, Ellie and me.

Gallant is a county preservation park just a few miles away, and it's a beautiful combination of woods and meadows. A native Ohio prairie is being created and we walked a trail right through it. One section is glorious golden grass, probably seven feet tall. It sways in the breeze, making a lovely swishing sound.

Of course Ellie's up for any adventure, especially those where she finds lots of exciting scents. She saw her first horses at Gallant a couple of years ago - that was super-exciting!

Best of all was spending time with David. He makes me laugh, makes me think, and makes me better. I am very proud of him.

gratitude challenge day 25 - I'm grateful for late-autumn days.

day 26 - I am humbled and so grateful that God gave me a son like David, whose wit, wisdom and intelligence shine through.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Mary's secret

Mary wasn't a huge presence in my life, but she most definitely made an impact. To a lanky girl of ten like me, Mary was a solid, robust woman with mahogany skin and a kind face. She cooked for my father's family for many years in Arkansas, then accepted occasional jobs from them when they moved to Memphis.

I once wandered into the kitchen to be with Mary. She looked into my face and asked, "You smart? You look so smart." I loved Mary from that moment on.

My mother spent time in Mary's kitchen, too. She learned to make cornbread dressing by watching Mary carefully on Thanksgiving. Southern cornbread, some stale white bread, cooked onions and celery, all saturated with chicken broth until it resembled a floating bog. Bake for an hour in a hot oven. Heaven!

But Mary had a secret which my mother discovered by observing the dressing-making from start to finish.

"Mr. Matlock doesn't like no egg in the dressing," she whispered to Mom. "But I always puts one in."

I think this delighted Mom, being privvy to Mary's little secret to making excellent dressing.

So today I remember Mary, a fabulous cook who also took time to build up an awkward girl. I'm making your dressing today, Mary. Including the egg.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Gratitude challenge day 24 - I'm grateful for family and God's provision and also people like Mary.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

feast - or famine 2

The wisdom teeth are out. Katie came through with flying colors, though she's not waving any flags. She's been in the recliner all day, having jello, water and noodles brought to her. Painful stuff, those wisdom teeth.

Bill and David ran to the store. David and I made cornbread for dressing, sweet potato casserole and two pies for tomorrow. It has seemed like a long day. I'm an attentive nurse when my kids need me, but it's tiring.

Goodnight everyone. Up in time for the Macy's parade!

gratitude challenge day 23 - Sleep. Wonderful sleep. Thanks for that one, God.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

feast - or famine?

Typically, I'd be gearing up in the kitchen by now: baking cornbread for the dressing (that I would almost die for) and chopping apples for pie. Today I whipped up jello and noodles. This is no typical Thanksgiving: daughter Katie gets her wisdom teeth removed tomorrow.

When my wisdom teeth came out at age 18, I spent a night in the hospital. For real! It's funny how medical procedures have become a lesser deal than years ago. My mother served me Gerber baby food which caused me to gag. Come on, chicken and rice dinner out of a jar? Pitiful. Beyond that, I don't really know what I ate.

I tell the story of our two older sons who got their wisdom teeth out on the SAME DAY. What, were we crazy? But it went fine, so I figure we can handle one patient.

I do have a turkey breast to roast and sweet potatoes to whip into a yummy casserole. But I know this will be a Thanksgiving Katie would like to forget. Bless her heart.

gratitude challenge day 22 - I'm thankful for modern medicine and skilled doctors and nurses!

Monday, November 21, 2011

goodbye green

Ok, so on Wednesday morning Bill casually asks, "now, what are you doing today?"

"Um, I thought I'd paint the kitchen."


If I locked the man in another room and asked him the color of the kitchen, he could not tell me. Seriously! We never have any discussions on whether to paint, and certainly not what color. I'm a lucky girl! Well, except for the fact that he'd rather have a root canal than pick up a paint brush ...

So off I go to Delaware Paint to haggle with the poor guys who must cringe when they see me coming: the lady with the poor eye for color. But she sure buys a lot of paint! After a good 30 minutes of discussion, they send me home with color swatches and tell me to come back tomorrow when I've decided.

In the end I did away with all the green, used the same Wheat Sheaf as in the breakfast room, and chose Pizza Pie for the rest.

See for yourself. From this:

To this:

We think it looks smashing, all warm, cozy and delicious! I guess that's all that counts.

gratitude challenge day 21 - I'm thankful for the small town I live in, where I nearly always see someone I know when I'm out on errands. Thankful for my paint store guys, too, where I get great service. Community is a great thing!

Sunday, November 20, 2011


I guess you could say I'm slogging through blogging this weekend. It's been an incredibly busy few days, so the blog's been on the back burner. But I will catch up on the gratitude challenge!

In about an hour, three of my kids will arrive home from North Carolina. Mark, Jill and David (who we haven't seen in six months!) spent the weekend with Dan and Jenny, Ari and Ashlyn. (Hoping to have a guest post about that.) Mark and Jill live here, but David doesn't get home often and he's spending the week with us: yippeee!

Years ago when four children thundered through this house, there were things I couldn't imagine:

- quickly straightening up the whole house in one afternoon,
- cleaning all the bathrooms in one afternoon,
- not having any thundering children around,
- and being super excited when any of them come home.

I've decided that if a mother does her job well, she'll find herself very happy to see her independent children when they walk through the door. How I miss them, but wouldn't have it any other way.

Gratitude challenge day 19 - I don't take lightly the blessing of children who are hard-working and independent. And how thankful I am that they find time to spend with us!

I mentioned that I just had to paint my kitchen .... again.
Here's a before photo ...
tomorrow the end result! 

gratitude challenge day 20 - So very thankful to have
this painting project done!

Friday, November 18, 2011

day 18

gratitude challenge day 18 -
In case you haven't noticed, I've been posting every day this month,
answering the gratitude challenge.
Tonight, I am just thankful I can walk after two days of painting
and climbing a ladder. Ow ... somehow the body doesn't work like it used to.
Our kitchen has undergone an enormous transformation. Pics soon! G'night all!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

paint, paint, paint

Somewhere inside me resides a teeny tiny artist. Of sorts. I think.
I like to doodle and sketch birds.
I like to shoot photos. This goes back to my college photography days.
I used to make decoupage purses, paint tiny scenes smooth stones, and sew.
So this slightly-artistic bent must manifest itself.
It seems to be color. Paint color.
I'm so bothered at the wrong color on walls, which I'm so good at selecting:
the WRONG color!
And so it went with the kitchen. First, a bright green on the soffit and backsplash.
Kind of cool.
Then I went crazy and covered the rest in a lighter shade of green.
Wrong, all wrong.
I put up with it for about two years.
Until today.
But you'll have to wait for some photos. Tired and off to bed!

gratitude challenge day 17 - I love color and cannot imagine a world without it.
 I'm thankful that God included colors on his to-do list! 

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

my daughters-in-love

gratitude challenge day 16 -

I love the conversations I have with my daughters-in-love.
They possess different personalities,
but share similar values.
I am thankful, oh so thankful
that they regard their children not as an inconvenience
but as a gift.
Jenny, mother of two little girls, is patient and consistent
in the hard work of training a toddler.
Jill is preparing and asking other mothers all those questions about new motherhood. 
Though the days were long and the tasks never-ending,
how I loved being at home with my babies!
And I'm thankful my daughters-in-love are choosing that, too.