Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Tiny Toes and Fingers

Today I am flying to Iowa to greet our new grandson, due any day now.

I'll be in and out of blogging for a week or two, as time (and my organization) permits.

A photo of cute baby toes and fingers, coming soon. Can't get enough of those little hands and feet, their little coos and burbles (and their not so little squalls and screams). The feeling of that tiny little fist closing snugly around one of my fingers - doesn't get much better than that!

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

These are our backyard trees, trimmed high to keep the view of the valley below and mountains beyond. My friend calls them asparagus trees.

After two days of rain and wind, the clouds cleared, leaving everything clean and crisp.

Sometimes, the trees seem to take on personalities.
This is a really bad hair day.
This guy developed horns, like friendly Mr. Tumnus
This is the one with the always perfect hair
 Wicked Maleficent's hat

 More silliness:
At dinner, I shared that I read the brain is 85% water.
B: "Does that mean we are all brainwashed?"
J: "If we could put soap in our ears, we'd all have a clean mind."

Monday, January 23, 2012


Some days I am frozen. Stiff, immobilized, inflexible. Cold, rigid, hard. Numb.

I am not referring to winter weather.

This is a state of mind. Unable to think. Overwhelmed. Afraid to move forward, not willing to turn back. Stuck. Right where I am. Unwilling. A statue, with nothing to say or think.

Picture an ice sculpture on a well laden table at a high-end banquet. The carved ice is there, an elaborate decoration, not really for a purpose. Just there. Some days, that statue is me. No creativity. No imagination. No excitement at the joy of life.
Don't have a photo of a fancy ice sculpture. Will a snowman do?

How to melt my frozen heart and mind?

These are ways I have found to shovel the snow, begin the thaw and conceive  growth.

  • Exercise. Some (most!) mornings I do not want to get up early. I know, though, that it always feels worth it after the exercise session. I have to think ahead while I put on my exercise clothes and push play on the DVD. Go through the motions - the motion will create warmth to melt the stiffness.
  • Read. My morning Bible and devotional reading (Valley of Vision, now),  sparks life and reminds me of the Lord's love and care. Later in the day, time to read, alternating fiction and non-fiction inspires me, challenges me, offers plenty to think about. 
  • Prayer. Reaching outside of my narrow short-sighted world, alert, aware of the needs of others.
  • Reach Out. When I would rather hide, connect with others: make a phone call to distant family, write a letter, send an e-mail, play a game with the kids, reach beyond myself, extend a hand to others.
  • Organize. I know, this is strange to include in this list. I am learning (a long process), that less stuff is liberating and that empty space breathes life and energy and creativity into my days. I have been dreading a project, cleaning out our floor to ceiling linen closet. I would open the doors, stand there and look, unable to move. Overwhelmed. For weeks. Finally, I took a deep breath, carried armloads to the table, sorted into piles, got rid of at least half of each pile, some much more. The momentum carried me on. Took me about an hour, a task I'd been procrastinating way too long. Motivates me to liberate the next area.
  • Music. I miss having a piano and hearing the kids play for hours each day. But, I have CD's downloaded on my computer, a wide variety of styles, depending on the mood. Our son has picked up his mandolin again. I like hearing him pick at the strings, feeling his way through a song.
  • Write. Journal, characters, scenes, free-writing, like limbering exercises. Just start, that's the hardest part. Pick up the pen, plink on the keyboard.
  • Lighten Up. Laugh, smile, throw a snowball. Don't be so serious. Seriously!

The frozen ground yields to the warm breeze, the sun, dappled through the trees melts away the ice. The hard dirt loosens, allowing growth to spring up, new life to stir and produce. Fresh ideas take root and come alive. Unfrozen.
Are there are other (maybe better) ways you become unfrozen?

Sunday, January 22, 2012


"O Lord of the oceans,
My little boat sails on a restless sea,
Grant that Jesus may sit at the helm and steer me safely;
Suffer no adverse currents to divert my heavenward course;
Let not my faith be wrecked amid storms and shoals;
Bring me to harbor with flying penants, hull unbreached, cargo unspoiled.
I ask great things,
expect great things,
shall receive great things.
I venture on Thee wholly, fully,
my wind, sunshine, anchor, defence."

                                                                                                 -Valley of Vision

joining others for a quiet Sunday at

Saturday, January 21, 2012


"I think these difficult times have helped me to understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way and that so many things that one goes around worrying about are of no importance whatsoever."

                                                                                       - Isak Dinesen

This is quoted in Creative Journal Writing, one of the books I'm reading. I don't know the source, nor have I read Dinesen, but this jabs close to home. All these "many things" that I agonize over getting rid of, vacillate on the decision to eliminate, or hang regrets on their fate - they are of no importance whatsoever.

It's just stuff.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Mild Winter Blooms

We have had a mild winter, even for Southern California. With no frost, our sensitive plants are still blooming, and I think, smelling sweeter than usual. Thought you might enjoy this view from our patio.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Push It

After I dropped our son off at his meeting, I stopped at the grocery store to pick up a gallon of milk and a big bag of rice. By myself, unusual for me. We have a new law, no plastic bags, but I rarely remember to take in my re-usable shopping bags. No big deal, I was only buying two things.

After pushing the cart outside, I juggled the milk and big bag of rice in my arms. The older guy ahead of me (older than me, that is), picked up the two paper bags out of his cart, pushed his cart in to the line-up at an angle and left it there. What was I supposed to do? I am fanatical about taking the carts to the drop off point, not leaving them in the parking lot to roll into someone's car or be in the middle of a parking spot. I tucked the rice under my arm, took a hold of my cart, swung it an angle and shoved it into his cart, pushing them both into the long line of carts in one swift move.

He shrugged at me, and said, "Guess you know how to do it."

Not like it was rocket science. But I smiled.

I turned to walk away. He said, "How is your husband?"

Thinking he mistook me for someone else, I nodded and walked on. He repeated, louder, "How is your husband?" He held his hands up, the grocery sacks hanging, and pushed them forward. "Do you push him around like that?"

I laughed. "Oh no. My husband is not one to be pushed around. By anyone, especially not by me."

 I don't think he believed me.

We were out shopping, stocking up on a buggy full of groceries. After my husband loaded it all in the car, I walked the cart over to the pipe corral and shoved it in, pushing it and several others all the way into the row, inside the frame. Like I always do.

As I walked back toward our car, he laughed, "So, how is your husband?"

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Joy Dare for January

Many of you already read If not, highly recommended. Ann Voskamp's Joy Dare for January, 2012, includes a list of thirty-one idea generators for the one thousand gifts list. Ways to inspire and expand your thinking, opening a way to see things new, unfolded, unearthing the beauty of the simple, everyday around us. I printed it out to put in my 1,000 gifts journal for the times I sit there, unable to think, unaware, insensitive to the wealth of gifts around me.

These are jump-starts. When the spark is missing. When the connections aren't working. When the joy and the hope are overwhelmed by the weight of  burdens, this list can be like jumper cables to a new perspective, to the sound of turning back on course, connected to our power source, the motor humming, our tanks full for the journey.

#17 one gift that you made laugh, one gift that made you pray, one gift that made you quiet

  •  our youngest, this morning, making him giggle, attempting to wake him up
  • thinking of the grandson soon to be born, for his health and growth
  • this morning, the beautiful clouds, low over the mountains, like wrapped in a cozy quilt

Sunday, January 15, 2012

His Blueprint

"For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus."

Philippians 1:6

joining with for a quiet Sunday thought

Saturday, January 14, 2012

Zigs and Zags

A couple of days this week my emotions felt like the brain wave spikes on an EEG, or the heartbeats blipped out on an EKG. Sharp up, dive down.

Our son has this T-shirt:

I like to think that a "normal" day would look like that horizontal line _______.
But, of course, that is not realistic, or healthy. Or alive.

We need brain waves. We need heart beats. We need our emotions.
Even when they zig zag across our days like lightning bolts.
from Joy of Nature

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Mapping My Path

Each year, usually in December, I read a time management type book. The reading inspires me toward the new year, toward goals and plans and direction. This year, because we were away from home for two and a half weeks over the holidays, I am just finishing up this year's (last year's?) book, Time Management for the Creative Person, by Lee Silber.

I've mentioned this book before, and have read it at least four times, judging by the different colored ink markings through the book. Normally I'm not a big fan of writing in books, but certain books, ones I want to be able to thumb through and glean quick ideas, inspire me to underline and circle and star and jot down ideas in the side bars. This is one of those.

His chapter on Power Tools, "A Sign of the Times," written in 1998, is out-dated, usurped now by i-pods and i-pads and smart phones and tools I don't even know about. But that's fine with me. I'm out-dated too. The rest of his ideas are current and right on target, helping me to sort through the wasted time and clutter of life. His appreciation of index cards and post-it notes assures me I'm not completely crazy in my love for them.

My main goal is not really to find more time, but to use the time I do have in the smartest, wisest, most efficient way. And that involves planning. Knowing ahead what I will be working on when I sit down at the computer. Not sitting down, thinking, hmmm, what to do now...or checking e-mail...or browsing an on-line catalogue...or...Too often, I find too much time has gone by and I haven't really accomplished anything. Focus. Using my weekly planner to plan ahead. Setting the timer to define a limited amount of time. His ideas to "slip the tasks you don't like between the ones you do," helps me work the writing time in during the day. Write (the tasks I like), take a break and switch laundry loads or clean something (the tasks I'd rather postpone), and both jobs get done.

In his chapter on goals, he says, "Goal setting is a creative form of time travel, a way of reaching into the future, your future...creatively design a future and map out a way to get there." I like that idea. Creating a map, a path to follow in the days ahead, a destination. To enjoy my journey, on my way toward traveling lighter.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012


What is "HOME?"

The realtors tell us, "Location, location, location."

We all know, though, that the most expensive house in the most wonderful location may not be a home.

A better phrase might be, "Connection, connection, connection."

The people: family, close friends, the ones who come through our doors and make us laugh and learn and love, all contribute to the connections that make the four walls of a house our home. (I would add pets to that list, too. The funny antics and even the annoying behaviors of our pets help fill our home with vital, living connections.)

Home is an intangible. A feeling. An atmosphere. Home is something we take with us, we do not leave it behind when we move to a new house.

Realtors, of course, are not going to be out there selling, "Connection, connection, connection." It is not a marketable asset. It is, though, makeable. Is that a word? Something we are able to make.

We make a home through our connections with others. Through our day in, day out efforts to connect. To provide. To shelter. To teach and learn. To share ourselves and our stuff.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately, as it looks like we are packing to move. Not absolutely for certain, yet, but soon. What I leave behind, or get rid of in the process of packing, will not be the intangible reality of our home. What goes with us will be our home, what is "us."

How would you define a home? What words come to mind when you think of home? I know there is still more to learn, more to think about on this. More to understand about this business of making a home, being a homemaker.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Quotes from 2011

Now that we are back home from our holiday travels, I am packing away the Christmas stuff and my wall calendar from 2011. The calendar, a freebie from my husband's work, had a company logo, advertising hardware or something I didn't want to look at for a year. Each month I taped a quote to hide the ad, something that was a theme song or a favorite from my current reading.

Here are the top four:

"Persistence is self-discipline in action."
Brian Tracy

"Great minds discuss ideas;
average minds discuss events;
small minds discuss people."
Eleanor Roosevelt

"Vision is the art of seeing
what is invisible to others."
Jonathan Swift

"Keep calm and
count on."
Ann Voskamp (in reference to her One Thousand Gifts list)

My reading list shows thirty-seven books read in 2011. Not too bad, but I want to read more this year. More variety, and more consistently. Four books a month would be forty-eight - I will shoot for fifty books this year  (not counting the ones we read aloud together). As I am reading six books right now, I guess I'm on track for January, with others in the line-up ready to go.

Do you keep a list of the books you read? It is encouraging to see them add up over time.

Sunday, January 8, 2012


"And now, Lord, for what do I wait?
My hope is in You."

Psalm 39:7

joining with others at for a quiet Sunday

Thursday, January 5, 2012


Do you have those times in life when it feels like you are looking at a pile of puzzle pieces, thinking there is no way those random shapes, sizes and colors will ever fit into a reasonable picture? Or, you have worked the puzzle part way through, and you are positive at least one piece is missing, that there will never be a completed picture, no matter how hard you try? You will never figure it out.

Puzzles are popular at our family gatherings. They will group around the mess of pieces scattered on the table, competing to fit in more pieces, or the one elusive piece. "That's the one I have been looking for!" Most frustrating is for one person to walk up, look for a few moments, find a piece, fit it in and walk off triumphant, the others glaring at them.

This puzzle, here, had pieces all almost exactly the same shape. The colors were similar, all blacks, grays and whites. It was a frustrating challenge for them. I neglected to take a photo of the completed puzzle - should have, just for the sense of accomplishment.

The pieces of our days, of events, of circumstances, of relationships, can look as puzzling as this random pile. Making sense of it all, finding the beauty of the finished picture, seems elusive and frustrating.

How do we turn this:
into this?
One piece at a time. Turning the shapes around until they fit, searching for similar colors, having the patience to look and watch and compare and seek and find. And it is most fun with others to help, a combined effort, not a solo task.

And for our lives? One day at a time. One random hour at a time. One colorful person at a time. Fitting the tasks together, patiently trying to understand and fit them into a completed whole. The best we can do is to keep trying, attempting to fit random pieces together as best as we can see or understand. And if they don't fit, try another one, or turn it a different way to see a new perspective. And, finding the fun in the combined effort, working together through life with family and friends, not a solo task.

The next time (maybe today? [it is for me]) you are puzzling over life's complexities, think of it as part of a puzzle, fitting the pieces, your days together one at a time. And, have fun with it.

Tuesday, January 3, 2012


Forward motion. Consistent movement.

A New Year. Lots of talk of New Year's resolutions, goals, plans, and purpose for the next twelve months. I enjoy setting goals, thinking of plans, what I want to accomplish. I am great at making lists. The problem comes when I realize someone (me) has to actually do all those great goals.
waiting our turn on the rink

For a family outing, our daughter's family treated us all to an afternoon at the roller rink. I haven't skated since high school in our church gym, thirty nine years ago (yikes!). After a slow start, gaining back the feel of being on wheels rather than solid ground, I picked up speed and began to enjoy the skating, not being afraid of falling. Although I never felt completely loose and fluid, moving around the rink was fun and comfortable. Until. Some of the skaters didn't have a clear picture of the pattern of everyone flowing in a circle around the rink. They would dart out at unexpected moments, interrupting my path. Usually, I could turn and avoid them. Only once, I lost my momentum and fell, laughing with the little girl who had plunked down in front of me. We both got up and went on our way, unhurt.

This made me think of New Year's goals. How long can we maintain the momentum to keep them? Sometimes the smallest things throw us off balance and knock us off the path of our greatest intentions. We catch a cold and don't keep up the exercise. It seems getting back on track takes more effort than it would to stay on the path, doing something, even little things to keep up the momentum. This year, I want to think of ways to keep up the momentum, to stay on track and keep a forward motion, working through the interruptions, to keep moving toward my goals.

What easily throws you off the path, derailing your forward motion, throwing you off kilter?

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Work of our Hands

"May the favor of the Lord our God rest upon us; and establish the work of our hands for us - yea, the work of our hands establish Thou it."

Psalm 90:17

Joining others for a quiet Sunday at