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