Friday, March 30, 2012

Gift Moment

Friday Five, together with others inspired by Write for five minutes, free to think quickly and simply. Just write. The word this week:


Begin. The obvious gift, a present, beautifully wrapped and bowed and tagged and given, handed to you, or you handing it to another.

A gift, though, goes to the heart, from the heart. Why we give. To whom we give. Not really what we give, but the why - that is so much more important. From a heart of caring, loving, enjoying, appreciating, wanting to share something we have with someone else.

A gift, wrapped up. The thrill, maybe of surprise. Not an expected gift, but an unexpected that catches us off guard. Makes us catch our breath with the happy thrill.

And, the gifts that aren't always happy. Sitting in a hospital room with a son, realizing the gift moment, even in that. He is alive. He is being cared for by people who care and know how to care. His unique needs, also a gift, a gift that says, "Hey. Pay attention. Be alert. Be aware. Be awake."

 A gift moment, laughter even in the middle of pain. A smile, in the middle of a tough situation.

Gift Moment.

Time is up. Done.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

My Dream Garden

This painting is my dream garden. It hangs across from my desk, and when I stare off into space, my mind wandering, it is either gazing out the window at the trees and the hills, or into this garden, sitting on an adirondack chair in that grassy spot, sipping lemonade, reading a book and listening to the doves coo.

I've always wondered what the front of that house looks like.

A page from one of the home decorating picture books I picked up at the library, the type I love to browse through for ideas and inspiration in our home, caught my attention. On the wall, hung this photo:
It is a little blurry because it's a photo of the page in the book. Doesn't it look exactly like the front of the house would look? It even has the big tree. I can "see" the walkway down the side of the house, leading to the garden in back. Pretty cool.

My dream garden becomes even more real imagining the lawn in front, the split rail fence, the shrubs and the dark shutters around the white windows. Ahh, a peaceful place to be.

In case you're wondering the book was Coastal Living's Beach House Style.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Last Tuesday I wrote about sunrises and sunsets. Accepting the sunset as it falls. 

I did not see the sunset that day. An afternoon trip to the Emergency Room with our son, a rapid decline in his condition, a need for specialist evaluation. By the time he was stabilized enough for transport, it was two o’clock in the morning. Dark, the sunset long past.

Sunrise came through the hospital window, muted by the shade, but enough to cast shadows of the tree leaves outside in the courtyard. A huge hospital, downtown Los Angeles, with a morning parade of specialists. Evaluate. Consult. Watch. Ask questions. Probe. Test. Puzzle. Analyze.

One more sunset, one more sunrise watched through that screened window. The tree branches blew in the breeze, tapping, fluttering. The sun moved across the courtyard, illuminating the windows on the other side. We waited, watched. Hospital time. It moves slowly.

A hospital. A place where everyone has a story. You hear them in the elevator, in the halls, in the cafeteria. I don’t think about it in the grocery store, though of course it is true there, too. Everyone has a story. But hospital stories tend to the dramatic. Life changing. Affecting families and friends. Like day and night. One day, then a different day. Everything different, just like that.

My story, from this hospital stay, has changed, too. Focused. Clarified. Prioritized. On Tuesday’s post, I used the word, “tethered.” But it’s not like that, really. It is a choice, a choice I gladly make. Freely make. A choice to live for these people, this family I have, here and now. To appreciate all that fills our home, now, today and tomorrow and the coming days. A calendar of hope. To be grateful, awake, alive, now.

Today.  To not miss today, working toward some dream of tomorrow.

I will never tire of sunrises and sunsets. The unique and the ordinary joys of today. Brilliant or subtle, light and dark, happy and sad, health and pain, strength and weakness. Cycles.
If you happen to compare this post with last Tuesday’s, there are many similarities. What I wrote then has new, deeper, fresh meaning to me. I repeat:

For now, today,
  • ·         Pay attention
  • ·         Listen
  • ·         Breathe
  • ·         Be here
  • ·         Watch the sunrise lighten the day
  • ·         Accept the darkness as it falls

Yes, our son will heal with careful care, and without surgery (yeah!). Time, patience, quiet waiting. His kitty was very glad to get him home and doesn’t mind at all that he will be spending more time on the bed next to her.

The cycle of days, the bright of each new day, the rhythm of light and dark, of life. Even when everything is not perfect or comfortable, each sunrise and  sunset comes with hope.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

The Greatest

", hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love."

1 Corinthians 13:13

a quiet Sunday with 

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Sunrise, Sunset

Pain, in its many forms, causes me to skid to a stop. To pay attention. To change plans.

When I want to be free to soar, I am tethered by pain. Sometimes mine. Sometimes another's.

Physical pain. Steps toward healing.

Emotional pain. Conflicts, poisoned words. A hope for healing.

Time. When I want my priorities to be chosen - by me. But they are chosen by others, with needs beyond mine.

Instead, I find a different path to soar. The time to slow down, to breathe, to set aside my agenda, my busy doing. To appreciate the guys gathered around the game table. To look at their faces, hear their laughs, be together, in this moment, here, now. To be grateful, awake, alive, now.


Sunrise, sunset. I never get tired of sunrises, sunsets. Each one is unique. The ordinary, the gradual wash of blue to gray to dark, or the cycle from dark to milky to pale blue. The brilliant, exploding colors, or a subtle change, each day, each night in its time. Time revolving, blending day into day, reminding us of light and dark, happy and sad, health and pain, strength and weakness. A cycle, day in, day out. Even in the days when it seems everything is all wrong.

For now, for today. Pay attention. Listen. Breathe. Be here. Watch the sunrise lighten the world, and accept the darkness as it falls.

Sunday, March 18, 2012


"Now it shall come about when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself a copy of this law on a scroll in the presence of the Levitical priests. And it shall be with him, and he shall read it all the days of his life, that he may learn to fear the Lord his God, by carefully observing all the words of this law and these statutes, that his heart may not be lifted up above his countrymen and that he may not turn aside from the commandment, to the right or the left; in order that he and his sons may continue long in his kingdom in the midst of Israel."

Deuteronomy 17: 18-20

Have you considered handwriting your own copy of the Word?
I started with Psalms, then Proverbs, then worked my way slowly through the New Testament, filling several spiral notebooks. The slow, methodical, word-by-word progress through the Word was worth the time, filled with new insights. Highly recommended!

joining others with for a quiet Sunday

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The Seeds You Plant

We went to an outdoor seminar on composting today, sponsored by our county at the local park.

Pouring rain, kind of fun to get all soaked and stand around with other gardeners, all of us drenched and motivated to compost and help our gardens to flourish, the natural way, using the processes that have been around since creation. He didn't say it that way, of course.
 This quote is in the April, Country Living Magazine.

"Don't judge each day by the harvest you reap, but by the seeds that you plant."

                                                                           -Robert Louis Stevenson

Friday, March 16, 2012


Five Minute Fridays with One word, write for five minutes, for fun and without lots of  over-thinking. This week,

Brave is a tough word. Images of soldiers and firemen and police and military come to mind. I am not of that category. Timid would describe me much more accurately. I am extremely grateful for those who do that type of work, grateful and amazed at their boldness and courage. Some in my family are that category: one son described it as, when something happens, they run toward the danger/event/crisis, while I would run the opposite direction, fast.

Yet, I have been called brave. For the choices I made with child rearing and home teaching and being a stay at home mom. Brave? Some days were terrifying. Some days still are. The relationships, the conflicts, the work involved are hard, challenging.

Those who run toward the danger, what are they thinking? Of helping, of coming to the aid, of rescue and giving hope and healing to someone in pain or danger. Perhaps what I do isn't all that different. Just not as dramatic. While I work quietly at home, working in these young people's lives, my goal is to help and heal and protect.

Time is up.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Putting Down Roots

Those of us who are gardeners at heart have trouble as roots-challenged renters.  The desire to put down roots – literally – is a bubbling, overflowing, cannot-be-contained fountain for some of us.  We have to be planting something. Have to. It is possible to have a gardener’s heart, put down roots and live in a rental. Especially now, with spring here, I need to have my fingers in the dirt, poking in little seeds, planning and dreaming and looking forward to blooms and fresh food to eat.

How  can we put our touch on plants that aren’t our own, or how can we fill a rental with plants that satisfy our gardening needs? Containers filled with plants are an obvious choice, but there are other options.  I like to think of plants as investments- this plant will be there, continuing to produce and share its beauty long after I have moved on. A hollyhock, for example, once established, will be there for years to come through its offspring, growing tall and blooming with very little care.

Each rental scenario is different.  Here, our landlord pays for blow-and-go gardeners. They storm through once a week, doing all the basics of mowing and trimming the edges of the ivy and blowing the dust and pine needles off the patio, keeping the basic maintenance under control. I am pretty much limited to pots because of their tromping feet and noisy cutting and blowing machines. In the few spots I have put roots in the dirt, I have to mark the spot and place pots around them for boundaries. By keeping plants in pots I can decorate our yard with color, and keep them out of the gardeners way. 
these pink wave petunias show up in the satellite photo of the house

At one rental, the owners loved to have me plant and grow.  The renters before us had destroyed the yard with hulks of old cars and broken machinery.  Even after we had been there a few years, weird pieces of metal would re-surface from the underworlds. I love these before and after photos – they remind me and encourage me to work with what I have, use what is available, and make the best of any yard or patio or ground space I have. My desire is to leave each house better than we found it.
when we moved in


Most of our houses have not had such dramatic changes.  Mostly, I have pots on the porch or patio, or narrow beds along the house stuffed with flowers or vegetables, or, in the houses with snowy, cold climates, potted plants in the house.  Each house has its unique opportunities of shade and sun, abundant or limited space, and at each house I have found something to plant, to satisfy my need to put down roots.

When it comes time to move, I can be quite emotional about leaving these living things behind for someone else to (hopefully) care for. I admit to shedding tears over plants that had to be left behind.  To this day, I wonder if the matilija poppies I started at that one house are growing or if they were mowed down.  Did the Mexican primrose spread along that driveway?  Did the flax seeds ever flourish on that hill? Did that baby Cottonwood tree ever start to grow? One previous neighbor we hear from occasionally.  They enjoy the hollyhocks that spread in to their yard and up a small slope, blooming for them each year. Encouraging news, and a challenge to continue investing in the beauty of plants, no matter where we live, even without roots of ownership. 

Because, really, we are all temporary travelers here.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Opportunity Cost

In an article I read, the term, "opportunity cost" was used. It sparked my interest. What does that mean?
It is a term from the confusing world of economics, a complex term that really evaluates a simple thing. It involves what is given up in order to follow a certain action. Or, what you could have gained by taking a different path. Opportunity cost evaluates what is given up or gained. used the example of a college education: the salary lost while in school, compensated by the possibly higher salary after the degree is earned. Or, a stock investment that earns a small percentage, compared with the higher percentage you could have earned in a bond, the difference being the opportunity cost.

Opportunity Cost is about choice. If we decide to grow carrots in our garden, rather than strawberries or chrysanthemums, the different result gives us the opportunity cost. A choice is required. Knowing the results would be helpful, but the option we choose will give us either benefit or loss.

Both Investopedia and Wikipedia discussed that opportunity cost goes beyond monetary or material values, which I was glad to see. This applies to anything of value: how we use our time, how we build relationships, how we use our creative energy, our efforts to build memories and establish foundations in our homes and families, all can be calculated with opportunity cost.

For those of you who are algebra fans, there is a formula (on Wikipedia) for calculating good y vs. good x relative to the good forgone. Or something like that. It was over my head, but their example of choosing between parties and a date and mathematically calculating the result was amusing.

Opportunity Cost: what is given up or what is gained. What does all this mean?

  • A choice to spend the time talking with the kids when I would rather be [whatever] is weighed by the benefits to our family relationships
  • A choice to browse through a magazine instead of cleaning the shower or organizing the shelves is evaluated by the loss of order and cleanliness in our home
  • A choice as to how I spend my time in the afternoons will result in good management of the resources I have, or wasted resources (thank you for this idea, Deidra)
  • Being aware of the long term value gained by time spent together, reading aloud, playing games, learning together, just doing stuff together
  • Choosing to eat smart and exercise rather than indulge my sweet tooth and idleness will yield a better opportunity cost, long-range
  • Money I spend on one thing will be money I cannot spend on something else, perhaps something more important
What opportunity cost choices do you think of? We all make choices every day. The results are seen in hindsight, but by thinking ahead and evaluating the value, the opportunity cost, of our choices, perhaps we will be able to make wiser decisions.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Great Intentions

I start the weeks with Great Intentions. Coffee mug full, my planner charted, my days rich in accomplished tasks. Productivity flourishes. Results guaranteed. Then--oops, reality hits.

The problem - my list this Monday looks pretty much like it did last Monday. With Great Intentions.
I would like to point a finger at interruptions and events beyond myself. The difficulty is me.

"I'm tired."
"I don't feel like sorting that file right now."
"I don't feel like exercising this morning."
"I don't want to scrub that shower."
Or, "I feel like eating that brownie."

Instead of doing what I plan, I go by feelings-of-the-moment. And at the end of the day, or the week, the lack of checked off accomplishments is discouraging. Part of the problem is being on idea overload. I read too many books or magazines or spend too much time on-line reading about cleaning, or organizing, or writing, or home teaching, or health, or nutrition; instead I miss the actual doing. The reality.

Have you heard the term, "Reverse Engineering?" Chalene Johnson, in her book, Push, explains reverse engineering as a way to achieve a goal. Think of the goal, accomplished. Then, work backward, through all the individual, small, steps that would be involved in meeting that goal. Begin the steps, one by one, in order to accomplish the goal. It is a helpful way to focus and clarify the needed tasks. (But you still have to do them.)

                   REVERSE ENGINEERING

One of my projects this week is sewing a dress for upcoming weddings. Last week  I set aside twenty minutes in my planner for three days. Small chunks of time. Twenty minutes doesn't seem like a major chunk out of my day. It seems quite do-able to fit in a mere twenty minutes. I might not have finished, but, I didn't even start.

Also, the file drawers I want to sort out. Condensing six file drawers down to three, part of my "get rid of half" mantra. Sounds monumental. Overwhelming. It is. But it won't get done by thinking about it or looking at it. Little chunks, set the timer, or do just a few files at a time, a little bit each day.

 Great Intentions can become more than targets. Shall I let you know on Friday how I do this week?

As a balance point, I realize the value of time is not in productivity alone. Time spent with the guys, time to study and learn, time to enjoy and thrive in all that is going on around here, time talking with distant, grown kids - these are the vital activities that do not go into my planner because they are already part of my days, part of life. It is the extra tasks, the in-addition jobs that I ignore far too easily. Without getting too philosophical, life is not about the doing, but about the living. Savoring, appreciating, thriving in each beautiful day.

Great Intentions. Reverse Engineering. The joy of life.
How do you balance the doing tasks with the living?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Out of the Desert

"For the Lord's portion in His people;
Jacob is the allotment of His inheritance.
He found him in a desert land,
And in the howling waste of a wilderness;
He encircled him, He cared for him,
He guarded him as the pupil of His eye.
Like an eagle that stirs up its nest,
That hovers over its young,
He spread His wings and caught them, 
He carried them on His pinions."

Deuteronomy 32: 9-11

Joining others with for a quiet Sunday

Friday, March 9, 2012

Empty with Possibilities

Five minute Friday, a word given by We write for five minutes, simply, no editing, quickly, without over-thinking. Link up to the others, then compare and enjoy the other interpretations. Join us.

1. Write for 5 minutes flat – no editing, no over thinking, no backtracking
2. Link back here and invite others to join in.


A negative word, or is it? Empty isn't necessarily a bad thing. Empty leaves lots of room for possibilities. For potential. For room to grow. An empty nest is space waiting to be filled. An empty time slot is time to enjoy, to relax, to rest. An empty shelf, the stuff cleared off and removed, is space to breathe and see, and maybe fill with something new.

Empty makes me think of the chance to explore new ideas rather than all my preconceived notions that I am so sure of. The chance to re-think, to look at something with new eyes and see the potential.

Empty is the pot, ready to be planted, willing to allow for growth and fruit and productivity. The seeds need space to sprout and stretch out their tiny shoots that will plow through the dirt and reach for the sun, opening up to two tiny new leaves, an elongated stem, more leaves, then blossoms and fruit.

No longer empty, but beautiful and productive.

Time's up.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

This week has felt a little out of kilter. Some weeks [days, months, years] are like that.

Perhaps it's the adjustment with a blind dog around the house. She is learning to navigate, making her way around with less confusion. Her diagnosis is diabetes. Another trip to the vet to learn to give the insulin shots, twice a day. It will be her boy's job, giving her the special care she needs. We are walking her every day, taking the familiar route, going farther each day. She enjoys getting out, learning new commands like "step," for curbs, "left" and "right,"  and listening for her boy's voice, feeling his nearness, using his eyes. He is enjoying the challenge, learning together with her.

He pulled out two of our favorite old dog books to read. Follow My Leader, by James Garfield, is about a young boy,  blinded in a firecracker accident. His trauma and adjustments are helped by a seeing eye dog, with the training involved for both of them. Another book our kids have read many times, is Inky, by Elizabeth Heppner. As a 4-H project, the boy raises a seeing eye puppy, adding lots of fun and action to their farm life, and the turn of events in his life.

I have been reading, browsing mostly, through three books I picked up at the library.
Real Simple, The Organized Home
Better Homes and Gardens Storage with Style
Restore, Recycle, Repurpose. (Create a Beautiful Home) by Randy Florke (A Country Living Book)

Lots of good, simple, "why didn't I think of that?" ideas.

An old, drawerless, useless dresser hung on a wall as a china hutch. Brilliant. (BHG Storage with Style)

Both of these home offices (BHG Storage with Style) are compact, efficient spaces. The top one shares a laundry room in a 6 x 9 foot space. Below, is in a 6 x 8 foot corner of a room. Love this inspiration. In this house, here,  I have the luxury of desk space in an open loft. When we move to a smaller house, these ideas will be useful and practical.
This is a little blurry, but can you see the plastic picture hanger on the wall and on the back of that frame? It looks like the frame would drop onto the piece on the wall. Any idea what this is? Have you seen it before? I can't find anything like it, or find a description of it.  (from Real Simple, The Organized Home)

Each week, I tackle an organization project. I start with the theme, "Get Rid of Half." I pull out the pile, empty the shelf, dump out the box, whatever it is. First, I separate it by half. Half of it goes. Not always easy to do. Then, I can take what is left and easily sort it where it belongs. The empty space, the order, the freedom of having less stuff is good. Traveling lighter.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Look Ahead

(This is a re-post from January 31, 2011, one of my frequently Googled posts. Since I have this book on my March list, it seemed appropriate to put it up again.)

Recently, while out driving, one of the kids pointed out a car that had a huge rear view mirror, probably 12 inches by 4 or 5 inches.  We'd never seen one so big.  Maybe she needed it to see the kids in the back seat, but it got us thinking about the difference between traveling through life with the rear view mirror in focus, or  focused forward through the windshield.  Seems much better to go through life looking ahead rather than behind.

One of the books I'm reading, The Slight Edge, by Jeff Olson, says

 "[successful people are] too busy moving toward the future to be staring into the rear view mirror....Review the past, but only for the purpose of making a better plan. Review it, understand and take responsibility for the errors you've made, and use it as a tool to do differently in the future."  

It was pretty cool to read that right after we saw such a good object lesson.

Are you living life through the rear view mirror, living by regrets or should have dones or could have beens?  Or, are you looking ahead, taking steps and pacing yourself to achieve your goals?

So, as we pull up to an intersection or a crossroads, we glance in the rear view mirror for safety, we check cross-traffic for those moving in other directions around us, then...

Green light, clear road ahead!

Sunday, March 4, 2012

The Solid Rock

"When He shall come with trumpet sound,
Oh, may I then in Him be found!
Dressed in His righteousness alone,
Faultless to stand before the throne!

On Christ, the solid Rock I stand;
All other ground is sinking sand,
All other ground is sinking sand."

Edward Mote,
William B.Bradbury

joining with for a quiet Sunday

Saturday, March 3, 2012

On Vision

Last weekend she jumped rocks, maneuvered the trails and played in the lake beside her boy.

On Wednesday night, we laughed at her as she stood at the sliding glass door, which was open, thinking it was closed. She has a reputation for being a "blonde."

On Thursday, she ran into some walls, a chair, and we started to think something was wrong, she was being unusually clumsy.

On Friday, we watched as her sight rapidly deteriorated, becoming worse as the day went on, until she seemed completely blind by the evening, her eyes dark, unseeing.

A Saturday trip to the vet, referral to an opthamologist specialist, tests taken, awaiting results.

What would it be like, to have sight taken away so suddenly? Not watching the light change, shadows move, sunlight filtering through the windows, bright and dark, gone. Not having perspective, like wandering in a dark room at night, except even then, there is some light mixed in with the shadows. For her, just dark.

She has been confused, disoriented, lost. We make sure furniture is in its place, shoes aren't left in the middle of the floor, the path across the patio to the yard is clear. She steps gingerly, feeling her way, stiff legged. The stairs are scary, but she seems to have learned to count them, one, two, three, floor. She stays close to her boy, relying on him for reassurance, the sound of his voice, his touch. Outside, she moves freely in the yard, comfortable with the grass, knowing her boundaries by the edges of the grass. On the patio, she gets confused by the chairs and tables, the leaves of plants. Today was warm and we could leave the door open all day to make it easier for her, during this crazy adjustment time. Actually, she is learning quickly, seems to be handling it well.

At this point, we don't know, but from what we researched, it looks permanent. She is eight, not terribly old, still with good years ahead of her.

I remember a pastor, who asked for about a dozen volunteers. He had each person look up a hymn in the hymnal (he gave the numbers) and had them look for a reference to sight, or vision, or seeing. Each person read their lines aloud. Then, he shared that all the hymns were written by Fanny Crosby, a woman blind from childhood. A woman who wrote hundreds of hymns in her lifetime, her spiritual vision undimmed, her sights set on heaven.

We take so much for granted. Tonight, as the sun was setting behind the hill, I watched the light move across the patio, changing as it shined through the windows, illuminating the leaves and blossoms, reflecting off the walls. To not be able to see that, ever again? Hard to comprehend.

For her, though, her comfort is in her boy, her people, the home that is familiar and safe. We will have to take extra steps to protect her, but there is still plenty for her to do, plenty for her to enjoy of life. Her boy found a website, games to play with blind dogs. Lots of possibilities, new things to learn and understand. For all of us, a new appreciation of vision, of love and care for others.

Friday, March 2, 2012


Five minute Fridays. A topic is given by, and we write for five minutes only, no editing, no over thinking, just writing as the thoughts flow. Then, we link up and compare. I wrote on yesterday's post about how different writers can come up with completely different results with the same topic.This is a perfect example of that happening. It is fun to read the other five minute posts and see how vastly different and creative we all are. The same with life. It seems two people can go through the same circumstances - one is bitter and the other grows stronger. It's all in how we see it. These five minute Fridays are fun, and a good reminder to take what we are given and run with it!


The first thought, of course, is pain. A toothache. A sore muscle.

Or, emotional pain. Loneliness. Disappointment. Discouragement.

But, I think, too, there is an ache as we see something beautiful. The sunset stops us in our tracks and we look, in awe, pausing in our busy steps to gaze at the sky. Spectacularity. Something hilarious becomes hilarity, right? So, something spectacular can have spectacularity. The water, cascading down the cliff in a thundering waterfall. The tree, the trunk so big you can't begin to reach around it, as you tilt back your head and look way, way up toward the tip, high above you. The stars, on a crystal clear, crisp cold night, alive and bright in the sky. The ocean waves crashing against the rocks, the spray arching into the sky. The bird, soaring, drifting. floating high above the earth.

All of these create in me a deep ache, a quiet of beauty.

Ooops, time's up.