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.


Tuesday, November 15, 2011

three granddaughters

I haven't posted in quite awhile about my newest little granddaughter, coming our way in February.
The other day someone asked me how many grandchildren I have.
"Three," I answered. Then felt silly. Well, almost.
She's not here, but she's definitely there, kicking and waving and growing.
I wrote to her here in September and this might seem funny, it's really dawning on me
that we'll have a grandchild right here in town!
Drop in visits with Baba and Papa sound so very sweet.
And now with Ari and Ashlyn getting bigger, it's about time to dig around in those
boxes marked "toys for the grandchildren," packed up many years ago.
But that's for another post.

gratitude challenge day 15 - What grandmother isn't grateful for her grandchildren?
 I know I am.
Incredibly blessed to have a second one join us this year and a third one very soon!

Monday, November 14, 2011

different drummer

There are those who will call you a recluse -
but it is better to listen to your own different drummer
than to go through life with a ringing in your ears.
- William Safire

It's almost 11:30 p.m. and I'm yawning as I type.
I very nearly skipped today's post. Distressing!
My goal is every day in November. 
I just opened emails from two friends who said, "I love reading your blog!"
(Thank you, Kelsie and Kathleen.) 
We writers can be a pitiful lot. It isn't a matter of liking to write, or dabbling at writing.
Rather it is, for me at least, that we must write. Even when the hour is late and the eyes droop.
If there is a thought to express, it is akin to a caged animal and absolutely must get out. 
Writing is also like an old rusty pump. Once primed, the words flow with less and less resistance.
It would be a lot easier not to write, but writers must write.
When doubt creeps in and I begin to wonder what - and why - in the world I'm doing,
spending time pecking out little blog posts for a handful of people to read,
God prompts a friend to say, "thank you! I like your stuff."
And it spurs a weary writer on for another day.

gratitude challenge day 14 - Readers of my writing and words of encouragement:
for these I am thankful! 

Sunday, November 13, 2011


We spent part of this afternoon checking out the new offices of Lifeline Christian Mission in Westerville, Ohio. What a dynamic organization made up of people with a heart for ministering Christ's love to those in need.

For many years we have sponsored children in Haiti and two of our sons have joined Lifeline missions teams in Haiti and Honduras. Lifeline has also expanded their reach to El Salvador, Cuba, Canada and a Navajo reservation in Arizona.

gratitude challenge day 13 - I'm so thankful for Lifeline and to partner with them
in meeting some of the needs of a hurting world.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

a November Saturday

It's a Saturday with random things going on. After a chilly
couple of days, early autumn fights back and gives us a
mild afternoon. We raked the front yard even though the wind did its best to challenge us.

Almost forgot to share this photo from our bike ride
along the Olentangy River ten days ago. A magnificent 3-trunk sycamore! It's said that Indians could find water by spotting sycamore trees from a distance. They thrive beside rivers. Their shimmering white-ness reminds me of birch.

Bill and I enjoyed a Kiwanis pancake breakfast this morning, complete with music by different school groups. Oh, I love our small town!

Our son Mark came over to help move the Old Girl to her new spot. Neighbor Sammy came over to help, too. We didn't realize what we had til they were gone: strong sons!

I've some Bible study homework to do and a pot of soup to make. Have a lovely weekend.

Gratitude challenge day 12 - I'm thankful for the most ordinary of days, for leaves to rake and a pancake breakfast.

Friday, November 11, 2011

my favorite veteran

This is embarrassing, but I only recently learned exactly what my dad did while serving in the Army during World War II. I asked him a few weeks ago over the phone.

Since Dad graduated from high school in 1943, the war was winding down. Due to a minor heart issue, he was kept stateside, assigned to a base in Kansas and trained as a draftsman. He has a natural artistic ability anyway, so it seemed a good fit for him.

So I don't have any dramatic war stories from my dad, but he is an example of a man who willingly served his country when asked. As a teenager during the Vietnam War, I remember asking my mom about the attitudes of young men during World War II. She said, "They considered it their duty and honor to serve and it was an embarrassment if they didn't or couldn't." That was the mindset in that war.

And I can't not mention 11.11.11. We had these dates when I was growing up, but I don't remember! I know of a little girl born on 8.8.88. But once the 21st century arrived, I seemed to notice more. Once 12.12.12 passes, things will settle down, huh? 11.11.11. Pretty crazy.

Hey, I just realized. My birthday in 2013 will be 1.3.13!

gratitude challenge day 11 - How thankful I am for the veterans of this country. It's easy to forget that the freedom to worship, choose a job and place to live, where to be educated, and to be a part of a democracy are foreign to some people on this planet. Most of our veterans deliberately chose to protect and defend my freedoms. Thank you, God, for their decisions to serve.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

the old girl

This big girl joined our family in 1986.
We found her in a barn full of antiques in northwest Ohio.
For 25 years she's had a place in our dining room, alongside a 6-leaf oak table that seems to match her. She's collected an assortment of my Christmas dishes, my mother-in-love's
100-year-old Haviland china, candlesticks, baby spoons, and ceramic souvenirs. 
She is crafted of heavy, solid oak, and I imagine a woodworker or even a farmer
lovingly building her for his wife over a century ago.
She's seen my children grow up, and countless others, too, no doubt.
But because she holds so many treasures, she's become a bit of annoyance to me.
So today is the day. I emptied, dusted and cleaned her.
She'll be moving to the breakfast room,
filled with my favorite dishes and platters
and allowed to oversee the busier areas of our house.
Someday she might be passed on, but for now we'll keep the old girl.

Gratitude challenge day 10 - I'm thankful not for the "things" in my house,
but the memories they stir up:
of feeding babies and children's laughter and Thanksgiving dinners. 

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

the wind

Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.
- Mark Twain

Gratitude challenge day 9 - I am thankful for the wind that's whistling outside our house tonight. 
 It urges me to be extra-thankful for a warm, safe house. Though it carpets the yard with a new covering of leaves, I still love the wind!

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

I (heart) Ohio!

Quick, what does this sticker say?

Wow, an incredibly silly discussion ensued on facebook today over .... are you ready? The sticker offered to voters at Ohio polling locations. You read that right: a STICKER, like kids get at the doctor's or Wal-mart!

What does the sticker say? Don't over-think it.

"I Ohio Voting"?

"I Voting"?

Well, I first saw it before voting and immediately thought, "Oh, cool. They used the shape of Ohio as a HEART to say: I LOVE VOTING."

"Ohio, the Heart of it All" was a slogan on Ohio's license plates for a time. Ohio is in America's HEART-land. It's a prevalent theme, so why the stir over this sticker? I don't know. I think the sticker is clever.

I've always hoped that I'll be one of those people who grows mellow, less cantankerous with age. That I can keep quiet about things more than before, and be an agent for peace and grace in my old age. I think this is an easy chance to practice. Over a sticker.

Gratitude challenge day 8 - I'm thankful to live in the U.S.A. where voting is a right and duty.
I (heart) my country!
And I (heart) Ohio!

Monday, November 7, 2011

hope in a hole

What happens this time of year is that I plan my days completely around the weather.
I assume the worst about November: a dark, dreary month.
I hold no illusions: the cold and wet will move in soon.
But so far we've had seven pretty spectacular days.
And so, turning my back on my holidays-looming-to-do-list,
I go buy flower bulbs and get out in the yard. Half-price bulbs at that!
This afternoon I raked leaves and pulled the dead - sniff - hostas and planted
daffodils and iris to my heart's content.
With each bulb dropped in a hole in the flower beds,
I imagine a glorious show in April.
Hope's around the corner!

gratitude challenge day 7 - I'm thankful for stellar November days.
I take back my comments about nasty November-ness! 
Thank you God, for these warm, delicious days.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

day 6

Gratitude challenge day 6 - I'm so thankful that God gave me my daughter, Katie. I didn't think we'd ever have one, and she is one of the most loving young women I know. Her quiet nature belies a quick sense of humor that is delightful. Katie is as good-hearted as they come. If you like photography, you might enjoy her blog:

right: Katie and my good friend, Beth, at our cabin.
What fun we had!

Saturday, November 5, 2011

the hands-on house

My dear little girls,
it seems a little odd to say that
because I always had little boys and just one little girl.
Now the tables turn.
Girls, girls, girls!

You live in a wonderfully hands-on house.
Your mom and dad encourage you to be doing, not just watching.
There's coloring and cooking.

Oh, lots of cooking!

And carving (well, not yet) and creating.

At your house, it's ok to get a little messy
because real learning and growing is sometimes that way.

You have a mom and dad who are crazy about you
and who are hands-on with their love.
Someday you will know how blessed you are.

Loving to see you grow
and loving YOU,
your Baba

 Gratitude challenge day 5 -
How thankful I am to see my children being hands-on in raising their children well.

Friday, November 4, 2011


My good friend Patti emailed this photo yesterday and the memories came flooding back. It was summer 1979 at Girl Scout Camp Welaka in Jupiter, Florida. Patti (front and center) was camp director and I (right of Patti) served as her assistant. I think I have that right! We were both 24 and my mother had just died in May. I doubt I was totally focused on camp that summer.

It was my second summer at the camp ... I remember the sandy trails to the units, palmetto trees, mosquito nets draped over our cots, the extreme heat and midnight beach trips to watch the nesting sea turtles. And the squealing, giggling, energetic girls. I loved camp and spent six summers working at Girl Scout camps. 1979 would be my last.

Those were summers of discovering my strengths and weaknesses, forging friendships, and learning a lot about children and myself. Without a doubt, working at camp helped prepare me for motherhood.

Gratitude challenge day 4 - How grateful I am for friends like Patti, who befriended me so many years ago, taught me much, and took time to send this photo!

Thursday, November 3, 2011

shots on the New

For several years now we noticed it: an imposing stone fortress of sorts on a bluff overlooking the New River in southern Virginia, just off I-77.

"We should stop and see it," we'd agree as we sailed up and down the interstate. Commanding a view in both directions of the meandering, majestic New River, surely the shot tower played a part in the Civil War.

So coming home from Charlotte this week, we scooted off to see the tower. And were we surprised. A Mr. Thomas Jackson built the shot tower in the early 1800's. Seventy-five feet tall with a 75-foot shaft below, the 150-foot drop was used for producing lead shot for musket rifles. Molten lead was poured from a kettle at the top, which formed lead balls as they fell and landed in a kettle of water below. The shots were retrieved via a horizontal tunnel from the river's edge. Fascinating!
This meant solid lead and firewood had to be carried up the tower by hand and by the sweat of some determined men.

In googling more info on all this, I read that the New River is the second-oldest river in the world. You might want to go see it sometime.

Gratitude challenge day 3 - I'm thankful for the wonder of history and the men and women who built this amazing country.


                                                                                         Bill loves the mountains ... this is
                                                                                               a perfect photo of him!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

30-day gratitude challenge

My daughtr-in-love Jenny is challenging everyone to a gratitude challenge for the month of November. Check it out here.

I need to express gratitude a whole lot more. Everything good comes from God and the least I can do is thank Him. So ... seeing as how I'm starting on November 2, I'll catch up.

1. I'm incredibly thankful for Jenny and the girls' safety in a 3-car accident yesterday. No injuries at all. Wow.

2. I'm thankful for a husband who prompts me to get out on a bike ride on a beautiful autumn afternoon. And of course thankful for the weather to do so!
How about you? Care to join us this month for the gratitude challenge?