Thursday, December 26, 2013


Gift-giving, for a lot of folks, is a huge concern at Christmas time. The shopping, the agony of choice, the wrapping--anticipation by the recipient, as well as the giver--and then the moment of the big reveal.

Been there, done that. With four children--who had four more of their own--and now seven little guys in the fourth generation--I've had years of opportunities for the anticipation and the reality.

And this year I became aware of an insight into my past. When I was a teenager, a young mom, and an empty nester, I thought the idea was giving gifts to other folks. Finding the right thing for that person. Matching up the personality with the gift.

Throughout my life I came up against people like my dad, or grandparents, or in-laws, who said, "I don't want anything." Or, "You save your money for yourself." Or, nicest of all, "Your coming all this way to visit us is the best gift we could get."

I didn't really understand all that, but I tucked it away in my mental attic for later cogitation.

The time came--decades later--when I figured it out. Exciting stuff!

The best gift of all arrived--a visit from my children who live far away and whom I seldom see in person. We connect through email, snail mail, telephone, and text. But face time? Less and less often as time goes by. I cherish the times we meet, but I know each of them is living and enjoying a good life that benefits others. What parent could ask for more?

This Christmas, I get the ultimate gift--today I'll see all of my children at the same time. We'll gather at my daughter's house in Ohio, for food and visiting and gifts. But mostly visiting. All but one grandson will be there (he's in the Army, stationed in Texas), and all but one of the greatgrands. We'll stretch the walls of that house and indulge in laughter and chatter and love.

We may not all be together again for years--that doesn't dim my enjoyment of this time, this is the day of the best gift I could ever get.

I hope you had a wonderful Christmas Day, and that you received special gifts that money can't buy. And I wish you a healthy, happy, and prosperous new year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013


This week our family celebrates two birthdays for my greatgrandsons. The other five greats are scattered throughout the year: January, July, September, November.

My four grandchildren are bunched in the first half of the year: January, April, and May.

The rest of us fill in around them, except for August and October. My fullest month for birthday cards is January--six of us!

Life's like that--bunched up, scattered out, filling in around the rest of life.

Geographically we're widespread:
  • I'm from Illinois, currently living in Indiana.
  • One daughter in Arizona.
  • One daughter, son-in-law, two grandsons and their families, in Ohio.
  • My son, daughter-in-law, and one grandson in Indiana.
  • His other son and family in Texas.
  • One daughter in Minnesota.
We have three blended families--which apparently makes us a truly American family!
But not a close family, you say? True, in geographical terms. But in ways that count--we're very close.

I've been thinking of all the ways we keep in touch.

Some of us are Dinosaurs--we still like to write by hand with pen on paper, fold up the sheets and stuff them in an envelope, write the (correct) street address on the outside of the envelope, stick on a stamp, make sure the flap is stuck down, and put the end product in the drop box at the Post Office downtown.

Most of these missives are sent to other Dinosaurs, who love to pop open the mailbox and see a fat envelope with their name on it, written in the wonky hand of a child, best friend, or even an acquaintance. At my house, such letters or notes require a fresh cup of hot tea and a lamp shining on the pages while I curl up in the rocker to read. May take only three minutes. May take fifteen. But it's there for re-reading later. What did she say about her home ec club? What was that crazy thing her husband did the other day?

Dinosaurs may be dinosaurs, but they have a lot of fun.

Then there are the techno-geeks. Email, text, fax, scan, upload photos from your phone or digital camera (now nearly a dinosaur toy)--launch it out through the ether into the computer/phone/tablet/pod of your favorite geek. With Skype, we visit in living color and sound. (These innovations were science fiction in my earlier years. Now they're your everyday occurrence.)

That's all fun, too. Even for Dinosaurs.

Other new ways we can stay in touch: Facebook, Goodreads, LibraryThing; blogs, websites; or if you want to really go retro, pick up the phone and call--you know, hit speed dial number for Mom or enter the number with your personal digits (fingers). Mom probably won't answer if she's at Tai Chi that morning, but you can leave a voicemail message, and she'll return your call and leave a message on your machine. Believe me, texting is quicker.

Our family may not live in each other's pockets, or spend a lot of face time together. But we have our connections--interest in each other's lives, joy in watching the little 'uns grow, anticipation of get-togethers.

On December 26 quite a few of our clan will gather at the Ohio daughter's house--no traditional meal this time (that was Thanksgiving), just everybody's foodie contribution, with plenty of conversation, gifts for one and all, and the satisfaction of four generations meeting to celebrate Christmas.

Our way isn't everybody's cup of tea--it's just the way we do it.

Hope you celebrate your way...and enjoy every moment.

Merry Christmas from our houses to yours.

Thursday, December 12, 2013


“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it's the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead

Whenever I get discouraged about the know, little things, like hunger, and homelessness, and unclean water to drink, and no medicine for children and adults who need it...little things like that discourage me. So...whenever I get discouraged, I try to remember what Margaret Mead wrote.

I'll tell you a secret: there are hundreds and thousands  of "small groups of thoughtful, committed citizens" out there, changing the world every day.

What we have to remember is that change takes time. Change can be very, very small, so minute it's hard to see or hear. Change can be far away, or as close as your neighbor.

Years ago a church choir I directed sang "Let There Be Peace on Earth," and the line that meant so much to us was this: "And let it begin with me."

Change is like that. It begins with me. With you. With our neighbor across the road or down the street. With people we don't know, will never meet, but who have the same desire to make the world a better place.


This fall a group of women at my church devoted several Friday mornings to sewing lap quilts. Four of the quilts will soon be delivered, by the rector and any of the folks who visit the shut-ins, to those who will receive the little covers.

The whole project was about abundance and caring...fabrics stored in a closet (who knows how long ago?) were found, washed, sorted, pressed, and stitched together. Coordinating fabrics were found to finish the center of the quilts. Border fabrics and backings (most were flannel) were donated.

The women who did the washing, pressing, and sewing used time they could have been making gifts for their family members. Or shopping. Or drinking coffee with friends. Or sleeping. Four recipients of the little quilts will be warm and comfortable because of a sacrificial gift.

This is a small example of a committed group of caring folks making a difference.

So, we call this the season of giving.

My church has a food bank. It opens for two and one-half hours, Wednesdays and Fridays. The only exceptions to the Wed./Fri. schedule are holidays. Only a handful of people donate their time to operate the food bank; but they are committed to helping folks who don't have enough food to feed their families, or themselves. They show up every week to enroll new folks in the bank or help regulars choose among the foods, some of which are donated by church members.

Our choir is small in number, but big in commitment. They help lead worship every Sunday and other special times, such as Ash Wednesday, Maundy Thursday, Christmas Eve. They sing an anthem as an Offertory. They sing "with one voice" and everyone is gifted, singer and listener alike.

Some groups are practically invisible and inaudible. The altar guild is like that--they come during the week to prepare for Sunday, or a special service; they stay after the service is over to put away and rearrange and check things out. The only way I know they're busy as bees is last summer when I played the organ and saw them doing their thing.

I call this the Snowflake Method--if you live where it snows in winter (or other seasons as well!) you'll know how snowflakes, almost unremarkable as to size, can add up, and up, and up! We see photos on the news about the effects on travel, whole sections of the country without power, towns seemingly buried in snow. All our efforts for change are like those snowflakes. They add up, even when we can't see the accumulation on the news at six.

The key word in all this is committed. The group may be small, but when each member has dedicated time and talents--no matter how small--to a project, big things can happen. I've seen it with my own eyes. And, folks, it's awesome!



Thursday, December 5, 2013


Along about Thanksgiving, when the weather starts nudging me to stay in and make hot drinks, work on knitting projects for gift-giving, and enjoy an autumn well-spent raking leaves, trimming back bushes, and putting away yard tools--along about the end of November I find myself scanning bookshelves for old favorites to re-read.

My first choices often are the mystery series I've collected over the years--say, oh, about fifty years--Rex Stout's corporeal detective Nero Wolfe and the dashing man-about-town assistant Archie Goodwin; Harold Adams' Great Depression novels starring Carl Wilcox; Agatha Christie's inquisitive Miss Jane Marple; Josephine Tey's much-too-short list of eight mysteries; the police procedurals of W. J. Burley, set in Cornwall; R. D. Wingfield's Inspector Frost books; Stephanie Plum mysteries, dreamed up by the agile brain of Janet Evanovich.

Other re-reads include what is now called women's fiction by Rosamund Pilcher, who always makes me smile; Liz Flaherty's novels that make me wish I could write what reads so well (fortunately she's a good friend, so we can talk about writing at the drop of an email); romances by Betty Neels, an Englishwoman who lived for a number of years in The Netherlands, and by Caroline Anderson who has a way with hot medical romances.

All these fiction choices have one thing in common--they are about characters I could call friends, if they existed in my current reality; or about a time or place I'd love to visit, if time travel and teleportation were possible.

Nonfiction faves are the journals of May Sarton and Henri Nouwen, Frederich Buechner and C. S. Lewis; books about quilting, knitting, crochet, cooking. These give me insights into other people's lives, and again I feel as if I visit with them. They don't see me nodding my head in agreement, smiling in joy at a new insight, or frowning when they say something I take exception to. The craft books show me how other people think, how they work out ways to make pretty--or delicious--things I might like to try.

When I've been through all my books, I scan the DVDs--old TV series like M*A*S*H and The Andy Griffith Show--newer series like Foyle's War and Inspector Lewis--movies: all the Miss Marple stories; White Christmas, The Christmas Card, Far from Home, Second-Hand Lions, even Grumpy Old Men. Fortunately the dog, Joy, likes movies, too, so I can play them to keep her company when I have to leave for shopping or church.

You can see my tastes run to British lit and film, with only a handful of US examples. That's probably because I've lived in the US all my life, traveled very little, and find some writers and filmmakers talented enough to urge me into their worlds for a little while. Whenever I need a vacation, I can read about Burley's Chief Superintendent Charles Wycliffe in Cornwall, or follow along with DCI Foyle in World War II England as he unravels home front crime.

I know the rebuttal to re-reading and re-watching: so I will say, yes, I do indeed watch new shows and search the library for new writers.  It all depends on what's occupying my mind--when I'm involved in detailed projects, making gifts for Christmas or preparing music for church services, I can't expend mental energy on a new book or movie.

After the holiday energy drain, I'm ready to sit down with a cup of hot tea and a new book--or a new movie--or even a new magazine. The well is ready to be filled once again. Makes me look forward to being snowed in come January.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Several years ago I visited my youngest daughter in Minneapolis. While she was at work, I spent time with her cat, Buddie, in a house much like my own: books, music, movies...all the things I enjoy. And since I was treating my time there as vacation, I dived in.
One book impressed me so much that I had to buy it for myself. Attitudes of Gratitude, by M. J. Ryan. I came home with a vow to spend some time every day expressing my gratitude--not necessarily to other people, just being grateful for the blessings and abundance of my life.
Now, before I get caught up in the hurley-burley of Christmas preparations, I want to take time to name some of the blessings of my life in the year 2013.
One that came to me in January was the fiber arts group at my church. We didn't have such a group when I joined the church in 2012, but apparently I started one by knitting a prayer shawl for one of the women who, I discovered, is waiting for a lung transplant. One of the church's leaders saw the shawl and said, "Oh, we used to make things like that! We could do that again." And so--we did. Our group meets once a week on Friday for about two hours to knit, crochet, or sew--depends on what the needs are at any given time.
This is one of our first projects, a prayer shawl for the church secretary who had surgery and was off work three weeks. Each of the members knitted several rows. It was a very colorful item!
Next we began on knitted hats and scarves, added crocheted baby afghans, and then we were blessed with an outreach program that included making items for the severe and profoundly handicapped pupils at an elementary school near us. One request was for lap quilts made from textured fabrics--these are used to develop tactile recognition by the pupils.
The quilt in the photo includes corduroy, velveteen, knit, and other textured fabrics. The quilts were backed with flannel to help them stay on the pupils' laps.
Over the months, our giant plastic storage tote gained weight. By mid-November we had over three dozen items to donate. Some went to the church's food bank for the clients who have children; some went to other charities supported by the congregation; and the baby afghans went to Project Linus.
Now we have an empty project tote--and several smaller totes full of yarn. We've bought almost none of the materials we use; all colors, types, and weights have been donated. We are deeply grateful for this abundance.
This Thanksgiving Day I am grateful for so many people: my family, friends, neighbors; church members who willingly give their time and talents to help others, especially folks in need. I give thanks for the gift of music, for books and movies. And there are so many people who contribute to quality of life: doctors and nurses; other medical personnel; teachers in all places; instructors who aid their students, especially seniors, by providing classes in yoga, tai chi, and other types of therapies; writers who share their stories and poems; quilters and sewists who keep us warm and covered. The list is endless, isn't it?
Before you sit down to a big dinner, why not make a list of your own gratitudes? It doesn't have to take long. Challenge yourself to list ten things you're thankful for. You may be surprised--ten might expand into twenty.
Last of all I'm thankful for the seasons that give us countless moments for peace and beauty in our lives.

Celebrate a day of thanksgiving with your loved ones!

This is my neighbor's Japanese maple, which we all enjoy year round.


Thursday, November 21, 2013


                     GLUTEN-FREE TIPS
                                & IDEAS

Some of your best friends are herbs. My kitchen window houses rosemary, oregano, thyme, and on the counter is last year's basil, now replaced by a newer bushier plant.

Many people think Gluten-Free (GF) equals Blah. Not so. A touch of spice or a pinch of herbs can do wonders for the flavor of gluten-free foods--anything from salads, sauces, poultry/fish/meat, to vegetables and breads.

Here's a tip: Don't discard your regular cookbooks, you know the ones, they have all those wonderful recipes that feature wheat and other forbidden foods. Once you get the knack of substituting GF flour and xanthan gum for regular flour mixes, you'll be able to use those old recipes as guides and create more variety in your menu.

Here's a short list of commercially packaged flour and baking mixes:

Arrowhead Mills     Bob's Red Mill     Domata     Glutino    
       Hodgson Mill     Pamela's

Most have recipes on the package. Try some!

You can also get bread mixes--most can be baked in a bread machine, some only in a conventional oven. Try different brands to find the one you and your family like best.

Don't forget quick breads--fruit-flavored and cornbread especially.

All the above are available in chain grocery stores and discount stores here in the Midwest. Check your area to see what your stores carry. If you don't find much variety, seek out health food stores and co-operatives. They love folks with special diets.


Since the holidays are waiting in the wings, I’ll start with a few dishes you might want to use for dinners or entertaining.
* * *

If you’re stuffing a bird—or baking stuffing separately in a pan—here’s a tasty version.
BREAD STUFFING (for 12-lb. turkey)
¾ c. chopped onion
1 ½ c. chopped celery
1-3 T. butter
9 c. bread cubes (soft)
2 t. salt
1 ½ t. dried sage
1 t. dried thyme
½ t. pepper
2 c. chicken broth

Cook onion and celery in butter until tender. Stir in 1/3 of the bread cubes.  Turn into deep bowl. Add remaining 2/3 bread cubes.
Add herbs to chicken broth. Pour over bread cubes and mix.
Stuff turkey and cook using time and temperature for the bird.

 After stuffing is mixed, scoop out ½-cup portions and form into balls. Place in greased baking dish.
 Bake covered 25 minutes at 325 degrees.
 Uncover and bake 15 minutes longer.

 Makes about 10 stuffing balls.
We have Thanksgiving dinner at my daughter’s home. I bake gluten-free bread and she uses it to make stuffing. The stuffing balls are yummy with gravy poured over them. Gluten-free gravy, of course! She uses arrowroot powder to thicken--use just like cornstarch.

* * *
Bridget is my daughter’s stepdaughter-in-law—this gets complicated, so we just say she’s my granddaughter-in-law. Every year she brings Corn Casserole for Thanksgiving dinner. There’s neverany left.

BRIDGET’S CORN CASSEROLE (Gluten-free version)
½ c. margarine or butter
1 15-oz. can whole kernel corn, drained
1 15-oz. can creamed corn (if not gluten-free, buy another can of whole kernel corn and cream it yourself – instructions below)
8 oz. sour cream or plain yogurt
2 eggs or 3 egg whites
1 recipe dry cornbread mix (follows this recipe)

Mix together. Bake 1 hour 15 minutes at 350 degrees.

For DIY creamed corn, drain the liquid from whole kernel corn, add 1-2 tsp. cornstarch and heat till cornstarch thickens. If too thick, add a little water. Use just enough liquid in the recipe to simulate a can of creamed corn. (Use arrowroot powder if desired.)

     Use this dry mix in the recipe for BRIDGET'S CORN CASSEROLE.

1 ½ c. cornmeal
½ c. gluten-free flour
2 tsp. baking powder
¾ c. sugar
1 t. salt
½ tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. xanthan gum

To make a pan of cornbread, add the following liquids:
¼ c. melted shortening or oil
1 ½ c. milk with 2 tsp. vinegar added
2 eggs or 3 egg whites

Mix all ingredients and beat vigorously 30 seconds only. Pour into greased 8x8x2 pan.
Bake in preheated 375 degree oven 35-40 minutes. Serves 9-12.

Or make 12 muffins—bake at 375 degrees for 15-18 minutes.

Here’s a holiday cookie, adapted by my daughter for the GF crowd.


1 c. butter, softened
½ c. powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
2 ¼ c. GF flour
2 tsp. xanthan gum
¼ t. salt
2/3 c. chopped nuts
Extra powdered sugar (for coating teacakes)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Mix butter, ½ c. powdered sugar, and vanilla.
Stir in flour,, xanthan gum, salt, and nuts. Mix until dough holds together.
Roll into 1-inch balls. Place about 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheet.
Bake until set but not brown, about 10-12 minutes. (Check first pan to see what works with your oven.)
Roll in powdered sugar while warm. Then cool completely. Roll in sugar again.
Makes about 4 dozen teacakes.

The following recipe--in a different incarnation--was featured in Parade magazine some years ago. We’ve adapted it for people who can’t eat nuts. My daughter learned about it from her friend Amy, whose mother makes these. I call them


Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Mix together:
        1 c. sunflower seed butter
        1 c. sugar
        1 egg
Don’t overmix.
Roll into 1-inch balls. Place on ungreased baking sheet.
Bake 9 minutes at 350 degrees. (Check after 5 minutes.)

Use peanut butter, almond butter, or other nut butter.
Insert chocolate chunks, M&Ms, Hershey’s Kisses, or dried fruit in center of ball before baking.


 Hope these give you some delicious ideas for your holiday celebrations!

Thursday, November 14, 2013


After the first rounds of allergy testing, my diet was bereft of wheat, eggs, milk, beef, pork, and a whole slew of fruits and veggies.
For a while, my 3-times-daily eating consisted of:
·         broiled chicken

·         steamed broccoli

·         fresh or frozen blueberries

·         steamed white rice

Sounds good, right? Healthful? Great for weight loss?
Yes, to all the above, but the weight loss was drastic.

Slowly I added back a few of the foods previously verboten by my allergist. Gained weight. Looked less like a third world refugee.
That went on for a few years, but eventually I wasn’t feeling well and couldn’t keep my weight down to a manageable number.

In the meantime—one of my daughters began reading about the effects of gluten, especially as it occurs in many of the grains and flours we use on a regular basis: wheat, barley, and rye being the major ones. She found recipes for gluten-free cooking and read a small library full of books.
I’m so grateful she shared them with me.

Gluten-free living isn’t the purgatory I thought it was going to be. And as more and more people are diagnosed with problems with gluten in their diets, doctors, nutritionists, nurses, and just plain old folks like us have a lot of information to share.
Somebody tipped off the food companies, and you can now buy brand-name cake mixes, cereals (hot and cold), ready-to-bake cookies, bread machine mixes, plus already prepared foods like cookies, breads, rolls, pizzas, and…well, just take a peek in your freezer and refrigerator sections.

Fortunately, a lot of foods are naturally gluten-free. Fresh fruits and vegetables, meats that are not marinated or cooked/canned/processed, fresh or frozen fish and seafood, and many canned items, such as pasta sauce, vegetables and fruits. Reading labels is a must.
For those of us who rely on Internet information, there are a ton of sites about gluten-free living, complete with recipes, also free.

And if you’re not online a lot, check your library—the late Bette Hagman wrote cookbooks in a series called The Gluten Free Gourmet. I have a book on baking by Rebecca Reilly, who was an experienced chef before she learned she would have to go gluten-free. You’ll be drooling while you scan the list of contents, or the index.
Next week I’ll post some of our family’s holiday recipes. If you’re part of the turkey-sweet potato casserole-pumpkin pie crowd, you can still eat the yummies and stay on your gluten-free diet. If you’re into other kinds of traditions, there’ll be something for you as well.

Don’t forget—you may be all right with gluten, but somebody in your family might appreciate having a chance to enjoy holiday treats without unpleasant consequences.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

When Joy Came In

What’s for dinner?

As the weather hurries on into winter mode, I think of the time Joy, the dog, finally decided life would be better inside. At least, probably not worse.
In piecing together her story, I believe Joy had several lives.

Before she was enticed into my daughter’s house with sliced bologna, she had clearly been living out in nature. Her coat was rough and her feet were sore. She was thin and patches of skin showed through. But it was autumn, and the weather was getting colder. A dog needs warmth, and food, and—even if she didn’t want to admit it—a human being to care for her.
We suspect she had a home and a family, at one time. As we got to know her better, it became clear Joy understood a lot of people words and didn’t like children or men. Had she run away from a home where she wasn’t happy? Had she been left by the side of the road by people who couldn’t keep her? Or, as we got to know her tendency to run off when she slipped her leash, had she merely gone adventuring and gotten lost?

We’ll probably never know.
We do know she had a home of some sort. That she had learned some commands and phrases. That she lived a rough life in the wild. And that she finally sought help at my daughter’s house in the country.

As an aside: Two of my daughters have lived in the country and somewhere on the premises of both places is an invisible sign, obviously erected by animals who’ve been fed there. The sign reads—GOOD FOOD AND LOVE HERE! Stray cats and dog, down on their luck, show up for a quick meal and a sleep before going on. Yet somehow, they never leave. The love gets them every time.
Back to the Odyssey of Joy.

Her third life began when she ate the bologna and came inside. That one lasted a good long nine years in the country. Dog house of her own, plenty of good food, veterinary care. Chickens squawking around the yard for entertainment. Cats who came and went.
In winter, Joy came inside—slept in the garage at night, spent days in the house with my son-in-law and the television. And cats.

If you’re not a cat person, you may not know some of a cat’s habits, such as:
  • Sleeping on the back of the sofa in the sun
  • Stealing food out of the other animals’ bowls
  • Lying on its back and sometimes sleeping in that position
  • Stretching—first the back legs, then the front legs
Joy observed all these and tried them out, liked them, except for stealing the other guys’ food, and became—yes, you guessed it. She became a cat. In all but appearance.

Dogs like window gazing, too.
 She still loves cats (though she disapproves of those who steal food). Some of her best friends are cats. They don’t know that, of course, and hiss and spit at her when she tries to play with them outside.

Joy’s fourth life began when she and her “mom” came to live with me in 2007, along with Abby the Cat. Then Joy had a big adjustment. Here were two adults, one cat. Where were the rest of the felines? Where were the chickens? Why were there so many roads? And houses? And…kids!

That fourth life, well-regulated by the aforesaid adults, has brought Joy to acceptance of city living. Lots of daily walks, backyard sunbathing in summer, kids to bark at as they run and bike down the alley, other dogs to bark at when they dare to walk by our picture window.
Recently I began to wonder if Joy was going to live to enjoy her old age. Three years ago she began having problems with vertigo—I thought she was having a seizure. Medication got her back on her paws. It happened again the next year, and we discovered she can’t tolerate steroids (for allergies). This fall she began ignoring her dry food, drank only water, peed whenever and wherever the spirit moved. Another traumatic trip to the vet for me;  Joy's blood tests showed she had kidney problems. Back on antibiotics, new food, and—ta-da! New Dog!

I count seven lives, so far. Did she assume the nine-lives-of-cathood when she learned to live with cats? And live like a cat? Was there some arcane ceremony, a bestowing of Honorary Cathood on this Friend of Felines? This reads like a science fiction synopsis, but really, what do we know about our animals?

If she is part cat—or honorary cat—Joy doesn’t shed like some cats do. She doesn’t meow. She doesn’t climb curtains or refuse to use her litter box. She doesn’t even have a litter box.

I don’t know…maybe the nine lives are a myth. Joy is 16 years and 8 months old. We celebrate her birthday on March 1 each year with little muffins and a lot of hugs. We talk to her as if she were an adult person, and by gum, we’re certain she understands.
Everyone who meets her likes her, and she mostly likes them. Even if they don’t offer treats. But if you really want to make her day, stick a few nibbles in your pocket when you visit. Talk to her about life and what a great dog she is. You won’t be forgotten.

Joy received her name because, as my daughter says, “Everybody needs a little joy in their life.”
Joy, at 25.3 pounds, is both a little joy and a great big joy in my life.


Thursday, October 31, 2013

Signs of Autumn

                                                 Celebrate Autumn                                                        


If I haven’t mentioned it before, Autumn is my favorite season—not only for its beauty, but for its cool nights and windy days, crisp new apples and cider that makes your lips pucker. And when I was a school child, it was the beginning of a New Year. I still have that sense of new beginnings in Autumn.  So I invite you to welcome Autumn. Yes, it officially arrived the end of September, but now is its true nature revealed. It’s also the season of holidays.

Today is All Hallow’s Eve, from which we derive Hallowe’en. (The apostrophe indicates we left out the “v” of Even, as in eventide or evening.)

Here in my small city kids can trick-or-treat from 4-5 PM uptown at the businesses. Then at 5:30 small ghosties and ghoulies descend en masse on the neighborhoods known for their generosity in providing treats to keep dentists in business for at least the following year, until the next generous outpouring of sweets.

Around the county there are corn mazes and a few haunted houses. I’m not big on getting lost in a cornfield after dark, nor do I like things jumping out at me and shrieking. An evil laugh lives on in my dreams for weeks.

Obviously Halloween, as observed in the 21st Century in my area, is a total loss for me.

I do like the idea of All Hallow’s Eve, though, a time to reflect on saints who have gone before us, and whose day will be celebrated tomorrow, November 1. Over the years I’ve learned that saints aren’t perfect people. Well, believe me, that was a relief. Pretty hard to live up to the example of perfect people, even if they are dead and gone.

Saints, I was told, are people like you and me. (Benefit of the doubt operates here.) They were folks who followed God’s calling, sometimes were martyred for it (not sure I want to do that one); and believe it or not, most of them weren’t special at the time they lived.

I always thought of Saints (capital S) as those writers of gospels, like Matthew, Mark, Luke, John. But saints (lowercase s) are those who have set an example for me, cared for me. Lovely people.  

So I celebrate the saints in my life: People like a woman I knew as Treva, who became a surrogate Mom to several of the young women in a little country church. Or Vira, my mother-in-law, who, having no daughters, accepted me as her true daughter (my own mother having died several years earlier). My Aunt Virginia, another surrogate Mom to her nieces—always had a smile, even when arthritis was so painful that she could barely move. And Hank and Steve, teachers who mentored me (and countless other students) as we desperately searched for our life’s path.

None of them had the word Saint before their name, capital or lowercase. None of them thought of herself/himself as special. But each one was special to me, and for me, and I celebrate them this eve of the day we honor saints.


Thursday, October 24, 2013


Remember the phrase that starts, "I'd rather be--"? I can't think of any thing I'd rather be doing, or any place I'd rather be.

My residence is in northern Indiana, where we're enjoying the transition into late autumn--color drifting down from the trees, rain spattering the windows, breezes finding the chinks in our sweatshirts with their near-icy fingers. The sun appears once in a while. The dog, Joy, thinks sunshine equals Nice Day. Once outside she's puzzled: today is nicer than the one before, but where did all the grass go?

The impatiens in the photo are the last vestige of summer--my mums are beginning to bloom, and there's a pumpkin on the patio. (In case you're wondering, the chicken-wire cage around the impatiens and a pot of herbs is to deter interested squirrels and cats. Very interested squirrels and cats.)

At this moment, I'm writing--my most rewarding, and frustrating, activity. That's what I prefer to do. Later on, I will prefer to knit, working on hats, mittens, and scarves for folks who need them with my knitter friends at church.

At meals I read. Caveat: This is only possible if you have a very forgiving housemate or live alone. My housemate, Joy, doesn't mind if I read. But I better remember her when I finish my cup of yogurt and allow her to get the very last vestige of yum-o out of the bowl. (That's Joy, 16.5 years old and still my good buddy.)

Segue to food. Not only a necessity in this life, but definitely one of Life's Little Pleasures. I love good food--interesting food--exotic food--making it, eating it, sharing it. Years ago I discovered I have gluten insensitivity, like so many people, and now I cook gluten free. When I don't buy GF foods readymade, I bake them myself: pizza, scones, cookies, brownies, breads of all kinds. I'll be posting favorite recipes from time to time.

Yesterday was yoga day. Fifteen of us showed up for therapeutic yoga with our instructor, Sharon. We meet twice a week for an hour each time--stretches and counter-stretches, end with meditation.

Today I worked with Emily, a young friend I taught to knit. Tomorrow I knit with the ladies at my church who started a fiber arts ministry last January. (More on this later.)

There's so much to celebrate in life! Always something to discover, to explore; something new to learn or teach; new books, new activities, new ideas. New friends, new neighbors to serve. New Day equals New Adventure.

Welcome to Thursday's Child: Together let's celebrate Life!