Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Intentional Variety

When I plan, whether it is meals for the week, my monthly reading, tasks around the house, or writing projects, I attempt to make them all intentional. Not random, or scattered or winged, but designed, aimed, focused. Varied.

The weekly menu plan, which I have made the same way for years, back when we had a houseful, and now when we eat at a smaller table together, is based on a variety of meals: two chicken based, two ground beef, one vegetarian, and one meat (usually for barbeque). This week, our meals are chicken ole, chicken pizza, tacos, penne casserole, bean burritos, and meatball soup. Some weeks we end up with more Italian type meals, other weeks more Mexican, some weeks stir-fry Chinese style. Depends on my mood or how hungry I am when I plan the meals and the shopping list.

Each month, I plan my reading in a similar way. My goal is five books a month: one novel, one home/decorating/organizational, one biography, one related to writing skills, one motivational book, or one new or different style. For example, in February, I read Ray Bradbury's Classic Stories 1. Since I am writing short stories, it seemed good to read one of the masters. Normally, science fiction doesn't interest me, but I remember reading and enjoying some of his writing years ago. The stories were fascinating. Written in the forties and fifties, some of his futuristic ideas have already been exceeded. Some are still awaiting on the fringe. I am attempting to finish up Education of a Wandering Man, a memoir by Louis L'Amour by the end of the month. The guys have loved reading his prolific western fictions. I was excited to find this memoir, written by the author himself, at a library book sale. I read The Shell Seekers, a favorite re-read by Rosamunde Pilcher. Another novel, Veil of Roses, by Laura Fitzgerald, was an interesting story of cultural challenges as an Iranian young woman attempted to integrate and adjust into the culture here in the United States. Creative Journal Writing, the art and heart of reflection, by Stephanie Dowrick was my writing skills book. I also started Living Organized, by Sandra Felton. Seems after all these years I would have organizing down pat, but I'm afraid I still have plenty to learn. I picked up a couple of storage idea books at the library, too, but those are more picture books than reading, for the times when I don't have the concentration or ability to focus on reading.

Also, Bible reading, Old Testament and New Testament chapters and a devotional type book, most mornings. The goal is every morning, early, but sometimes I get sidetracked with random reading and lose my intentional focus. Working on that one by not turning on my computer until I have read the Bible and devotional book and journal first.

A wide variety of foods is the healthiest. For reading, learning and personal growth, I also try for a wide variety, for mental health and growth. As I put great ideas into my mind, hopefully I'll be able to produce writing that is intelligent, helpful, challenging and encouraging for readers, and also profitable for me (not just in a monetary sense).

What books are you reading now?

Monday, February 27, 2012

Arizona Weekend

We drove to Arizona this weekend to visit our son and his fiancee. Through miles and miles of this:

My husband asked, "How long has it been since we saw any civilization?"

Hiked around this beautiful blue desert oasis:

The guys, of course, had to hike to the highest point they could reach.

And, the drive home, seven hours through more of this:

Friday, February 24, 2012


Five minute Fridays: write for five minutes, no over-thinking, no editing, just write with the timer ticking.
Today's topic, Grit


Grit makes me think of sandwiches at the beach. No matter how hard you try, at least one grit of sand gets in your teeth, making an un-crunchy sandwich crunchy.

Like life. No matter how hard you try, at least one little tiny bit of grit will get into your life. And annoy, and make it hard to chew the meat of life. That one little piece of sand, ground up rock or shell or glass or whatever it is from the ocean depths, turned and tossed in the waves, moved by the tides, part of the Lord's creation, will make it into your life.

How we respond to that grit makes all the difference. Is eating that gritty sandwich part of the enjoyment, the experience of a wonderful day spent playing at the beach? I actually look forward to "sand"wiches.

And life. How we respond to the grittiness of our days - the interruptions, the inadequacies of others, the frustrations of things not going quite right, the messes that pile up everywhere, the on and on and on of all that must be done.

What makes a pearl? Grit. The beauty of a pearl, the value of a pearl comes from grit. Enjoy the grit.

Stop, five minutes up.


Thursday, February 23, 2012


Do you know what this means?

To figure it out, you have to think outside the box.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


In a  favorite book of mine, two of the characters discuss how they define luxury. Not fur coats or fancy cars or showy jewels for either of them. Their lists were of qualities, characteristics, experiences, not things.

Her list of luxury integrated all five senses at the same time. Like digging your toes into the warm sand at the beach, looking out across the span of the ocean, smelling the seaweedy air, tasting the salt on your tongue, and hearing the waves pounding, the seagulls screeching. Or sitting on a slope of freshly mowed grass, clinking the ice in your cold glass, and gazing out across the distant hills.

His list was about contrast. Being out on a brisk, damp day and coming home chilled to the bone, to step into a hot, steamy bath. Or, being at the race track all day, hearing the cars rev and race, stopping at a cathedral on the way home and "listening to the silence."

"How awful it would be to crave for sables and Rolls-Royces and huge vulgar emeralds. Because I'm certain that once you got them, they would become diminished, simply because they were yours. And you wouldn't want them any more, and you wouldn't know what to do with them."
                                                                           -Penelope Keeling (character)
                                                                           -Rosamunde Pilcher, The Shell Seekers

This got me thinking. What are my luxuries? I have no desire for furs and jewels either. I'll take a sweatshirt over a fur coat any day. My luxuries would center on plants and books. But still things. It was more challenging than I thought to get away from the hold of things.

The afternoon sunlight streaming through the petals of my orchids. That is luxury. Time to read and learn and enjoy and listen to developing characters, sitting in a comfy chair, the sunlight shining through the window. That is luxury. An afternoon with the kids and grandkids, playing games, talking and laughing, together. That is luxury.

What are your luxuries? What do you think of? Does this make you think of ways you can travel lighter?

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Long Division

"Yes, it is complicated. Yes, the format of the process changes a little from what you have been doing and the steps get involved. But they are routine steps, taken in the same order each time. Each step, taken, in itself, is simple. No secrets, no surprises, just do the steps."

"Please, do not set your pencil down and stare out the window between each step. It drives me crazy! Keep moving, complete one step, move on to the next step, with the pencil in your hand."

Is there irritation, impatience in my voice? I try to be patient, I really do. If it just didn't take him so long.

He does concept math. Since he was little he understood the twenty-three"ness" of a number. To him, twenty-three plus eighteen is calculated in terms of the quantities, the values of those numbers. We "normal" people think, three plus eight, put down the one, carry the one, add one, two and one to get forty-one. He would see the twenty-three and the eighteen and "see" what they would be together. Actually, I have no idea how he sees it, but he figures it out. His process is difficult to transfer to the steps of long division, keeping the columns lined up and taking the steps in order.

How many times do I do the same thing? All the intentions in the world will not get the job done. I can visualize an end result, but how to get between here and there? That becomes a muddle. All I can see is the mess and the confusion and the random"ness" of it all. I have to stop, take each piece or each step or each day one at a time, and do what needs to be done. That is all. And stop staring out the window. Keep the pencil in my hand.

Take the steps, one after another. Don't get sidetracked, distracted. Then the job will get done.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Bread of Life

"But He answered and said, 'It is written, man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.'"
Matthew 4:4
This is a reference to Deuteronomy 8:3
"And He humbled you and let you be hungry, and fed you with manna which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that He might make you understand that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by everything that proceeds out of the mouth of the Lord." 

 joining others for a quiet Sunday together at www.jumptandem.net

Friday, February 17, 2012


This is my second try at the Five Minute Friday theme, this week: Delight. The first five minutes turned into a mere list of sights, smells, tastes, sounds and feelings I delight in. Temporal things, based on my senses.


What is delight? The capacity to enjoy, to love, to be thrilled with a gift, a blessing. To recognize the awe, the beauty, the uniqueness of a gift, a moment of time, a feeling deep within.

To delight in a tiny thing that sparks an emotional response - a smile, a sigh, a pause, in the middle of a day's craziness. All through my day.

Delight is an emotion. A verb - to delight. A noun, the delight of the sight filled my soul. An adjective, the delightful smells drifted up the stairs. And I have reverted to lists again. A word that sounds a bit dated, like a Jane Austen character saying, "We had a delightful evening at the ball." My delightful five minutes are done.

I can't believe how fast five minutes goes by.
This scene is something I delighted in this week: pink snow across the valley!

My Current Favorite Breakfast

Chocolate Oatmeal, a recipe adapted from the Flat Belly Diet, is my current favorite breakfast. Those of you who know me at all know I am a huge fan of chocolate. What better way to start the day? And fortunately, chocolate is a wise food choice (not in the quantities I would prefer to eat, unfortunately) for its monounsaturated fat.

I don't make it exactly as the book's recipe, but I adapted it, adding a little bit of milk to add creaminess. Usually, I cook it in the microwave for quick-and-easy, but cooked it on the stove top for the photo.

1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup 2 % milk
1/8 tsp ground black pepper
pinch of salt

Cook, 1:25 in the microwave. Or simmer on the stove, 3 to 4 minutes.
Add 1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Stir in 2 tbsp dark chocolate chips.
The pepper gives it a unique rich flavor, and the chocolate - well, it's chocolate. What more can I say?

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Quiet Day

Hab a pugged nose dis week. Keeb the keenex handy. rest. drink. bow by nose. Try to breathe. Sit by the fire. Read.

Monday, February 13, 2012

A Question

At the table with our granddaughter during one of our happy conversations, I mentioned something about new leaves and blossoms coming out soon on the trees. She looked out the window at the gray brown barren branches.

"Where do the leaves come from?" she asked.

 It was hard to believe in an icy cold world with a blank, gray sky, that blossoms and new growth were just a few weeks away. How do you explain that within the dark, brittle, frozen stem are tiny green leaves, curled up, soon to unfurl and wave in the wind? That soon, those branches will be hidden in an explosion of leaves? How do you explain that new life and growth are part of the seasons of life? How do you explain that a tiny seed, planted in the dirt will become a red, juicy tomato? How do you explain that her new baby brother will be a six foot man someday?

She has seen five annual cycles in her life. She has smelled spring daffodils. She has splashed in a wading pool in the summer heat. She has played in piles of colorful leaves bigger than herself. She has watched snow drifting down, coloring the world in white.

And she asks, "Where do the leaves come from?"

The buds are there, already, hidden inside that lifeless looking branch. Remember in The Secret Garden, when Mary asked Dickon if the garden was all dead? He cut a branch to show her the green, the wick, he called it, the life hidden within. Waiting. Hibernating through the cold. Waiting.

The buds were formed last summer, part of the process that pushed the leaves to change color and fall off in the coming cold of winter. The life is already there. Waiting.

An answer for her is not the horticultural, scientific explanation. It is, "Wow! Amazing."

Her question made me stop and think. To be amazed by the beauty of simple things, things I take for granted, a process assumed, unnoticed, unless I pay attention, in awe, to simple questions, and listen to the beauty around me.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Joyful, Joyful

"Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee,
God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee,
Opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness,
Drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness,
Fill us with the light of day!"

Henry  Van Dyke
tune, Ode to Joy, Ludwig Van Beethoven, from the Ninth Symphony

sharing a quiet Sunday with others at www.jumptandem.net

Friday, February 10, 2012


I am trying something new today. The Gypsy Mama does a Five-Minute Friday. She gives a topic, bloggers write for five minutes flat, no editing, no backtracking, no over-thinking. Just write, get in there and get it done, five minutes only. Then, the writers link up, compare what they wrote and connect with others who have written the same topic. Sounds like fun, wanted to try it.


Today's topic, Trust. Here is what I wrote.


Trust is like patience. Haven't I learned that already! We've been through this before. OK, how do I trust more, more deeply, more fully?

Like a child.

Not thinking about what is for dinner or where the money will come from or how I'll figure out this relationship problem.

A child. Plays. Enjoys. Fills the afternoon with trucks and mud and shovels and fresh air, and the only whining would be when he has to wash his hands and come in. Because it is getting dark and dinner will be on the table soon.

Not whining. That's the expression of trust. A happy peace, a complete calm, a full heart.

Confidence. That it is the right thing, in the right place, at the right time.


(This is a sketch my friend Jane did, years ago, when our backyard was covered with Tonka trucks, dirt and little boys.)

Thursday, February 9, 2012


"We do not write in order to be understood; we write in order to understand."

                                                                                                           -Cecil Lewis Day

Being understood is good. I know from life, though, that things I understand may not be understood in the same way by someone else. In fact, it may be interpreted quite differently.

I put the words together, working to convey my meaning as clearly as possible, as efficiently as possible. To make sense of muddled thoughts. To find the meaning. To learn.

I write to understand.

My Travel Bible

This small Bible goes with me on all my travels. It was a gift from an older woman, a friend from church, one of those beautiful women who are an example to follow. After her husband died, she had to move to a smaller home, clearing out much of the stuff they had accumulated over the years. She passed this Bible along to me.

It is thin, light, and perfect to tuck into my laptop bag. The New Testament and the Psalms, it provides the best reading, the encouragement I might need staying in unfamiliar places. This Bible has traveled thousands of miles with me over the years.

I love her penciled notes scattered through the pages. When I come across them, it is like she is traveling with me, there beside me to guide and befriend, a reminder of the conversations we had, the encouragement and guidance she gave me.

Normally, I'm not a big fan of writing in my Bible, but I am glad to have her touch, her handwriting on the pages of this Bible. She held this in her hands, she picked up the pencil and wrote notes of joy and comfort to herself, and now to me. Her legacy, her friendship, continues.

Thank you, Bess.

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Three Dimensional Life

Home. Two weeks. Two thousand miles, two time zones, two - two hour flights, and a drastic weather change. From snow blanketing the ground and icy cold, to green grass, flowers and shedding coats and scarves and gloves. Wearing flip-flops today instead of two pair of socks. Crazy differences.

Also, home to feeling inadequate. Like I'll never measure up. Never be able to help fix all their struggles and challenges. Never be able to conquer the piles of stuff here and travel lighter.

My wise son, said, "Mom, if you could fix everything, we'd all just be mommy's boys. 'Mommy, I need this...' and we wouldn't have any character. The character is more important."

Well, we have raised some characters!

My inadequacies are like the shadow of that tree. Not the real thing. Bigger than the real thing, maybe, but not reality. They may even look deceivingly beautiful. The snow, although my camera didn't catch it, was glowing with tiny daylight fireflies. Pretty. The shadow stretched across the pristine snow, smooth and even. Flat, not three dimensional.

The yard on the other side of this fence, the yard where we were, looked like an elephant brigade had passed through. Tromped by dogs and kids and adults as they played in the fresh, deep snow. An igloo, a snow fort and a huge snowman. Lots of snowballs. The same snowfall, yards divided by a wooden fence. The snow on our side was definitely three dimensional. Like a whipped up bowl of cream, churned and peaked.

I guess I'd like life to be smooth and even and glistening and predictable. Instead, it is churned and uneven and stomped on and thrown and cold and icy slippery. And I fall. But, if instead, I view my feelings of being inadequate as flat, shallow shadows, I can see what to do. Not what I can't do. Pray. Live my own story. Build my home here, with the boys still at home. Continue to thin out the stuff. Continue to work, creatively. View the churned up side of life as well-lived, well-used. Enjoyed. Three dimensional. Real.

Sunday, February 5, 2012

"I will praise Thee, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are Thy works; and that my soul knoweth right well. My substance was not hid from Thee, when I was made in secret, and curiously wrought in the lowest parts of the earth. Thine eyes did see my substance, yet being unperfect; and in Thy book all my members were written, which in continuance were fashioned, when as yet there was none of them. How precious also are Thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand: when I awake, I am still with Thee."

                                         Psalm 139: 14-18

joining with others at www.jumptandem.net for a quiet Sunday

Saturday, February 4, 2012


At one of the houses we lived in in Colorado, I sat at our dining room table in the late afternoon, sketching the pine trees and the deck outside the window. Although I am not an artist (of the drawing or painting variety), sketching is a tool for seeing details, really looking at something in order to define it, a way to describe the details without words in order to find the words.

As I sketched the branches and pine needles hanging over the deck railing, I realized, saw, that tiny icicles had formed along the branches. Drips had frozen in mid-air, the drop suspended from the branch by an icy thread. As the sun settled lower over the mountains, the sunlight flickered through the icicles as the branch drifted in the wind, creating  a show of colors I could not reproduce with my pencil.

By that time, though, I was not drawing. I sat, struck by the beauty I would have missed if I hadn't been focusing on a small scene, just a small part of the beauty outside our bay window. I doubt I would have noticed the tiny icicles if I was busy around the house, as usual. Taking the time to stop and look, really look, opened a door to unseen beauty, a pause in the middle of life, a window to gratefulness.

In the last post, I said I try not to miss life by interpreting every event into a writing project or photo shoot. On the other side, the time taken to interpret what is going on in life, by words or a photo or a sketch helps me to see and discover the life that is around me. Seeing the details I might have missed completely as I raced by.

Balance. Sometimes one way, sometimes leaning another, sometimes writing and taking pictures, sometimes living in the simple things as I wander through the days.

Traveling Lighter, with balance.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Good for the Heart

The outdoor table, draped in a heavy layer of frost, reflected light like a veil of sequins and pearls. I didn't take a picture because I was enjoying a leisurely breakfast with our granddaughter, laughing and chatting about her five year old world. Didn't want to lose the moment.

The morning sun, beaming in through the window, bounced a giant shadow of the houseplant on to the wall. I saw the way the light glowed off the bananas, hung on their ripening hook. No photos, I regretted, and the next two mornings were cloudy and gray.
[These photos are from a few days later, when the sun came out again]

I was kicking myself (do you do that - the bad mouth lectures to yourself?) about not taking enough pictures, and I realized, a photo is just a piece of something I noticed, something that caught my eye, some little thing I saw from life around me, a representation of something I can share, wondering if others will see it, too. A record, a memory.

The heart of the matter, the important thing, is, did I see, really see, it?

The photo is an afterthought, a memory of something already seen or learned. On this trip, I haven't had time to journal or write or read (other than airport and plane time), or write in my 1,000 Gifts List either. We've been busy with the most important things.  Seeing, and being grateful are not dependent on writing them down. In my heart and head, I can see and appreciate and enjoy this time with children and grandchildren without leaving "hard copy."

The time here has been full. Back and forth to the hospital, mom home now and recovering well. Baby, at nine pounds, twelve ounces is strong and healthy, growing and adjusting. Reading books together, snuggled in the big chair, and listening to our granddaughter read (big sister, now). Playing kitchen (and actually cooking in the real kitchen). Drawing and writing cards together. Talking about life's choices and challenges. Playing games (Qwirkle is our new favorite). This is a reminder to take these jam-packed moments, to listen and look and absorb all I can. To not miss all there is in this moment. It is not about the picture taking or the writing. It is about the heart, my heart, seeing and learning and living and loving.

Did you see the sticker on the bananas?
"Bueno para el corazon."
"Good for the heart."