Thursday, December 31, 2009

Ending the Year with a Good Dance

Another year draws to a close. Another year passes from reality to memory . . . the sweet, the savory, and the bitter all wrapped up in one calendar and stored away for the sake of remembering. As always, I sit by my twinkling tree, sip slowly of my morning’s tea, and chat with my Lord about all that has come upon me and all that waits.

Inevitably I ask myself, Was this a good year?”

Hmmmm . . . even in the early years as my writing gift began to blossom I learned (quite sternly from a teacher’s red pen) to strike “good” “nice” and “fun” from my vocabulary. These overused and vapid expressions carry no flavor, he argued. Better left unused . . . or so the grading one emphatically stated. BUT . . . I wonder as I recall:

Whatever is good . . .

It is good.

Could my long-ago mentor have been mistaken?
Does GOOD still mean something good?

Today, I retrieve “good” from my writer’s discard pile and venture to savor the flavor of the good in this past year. Memories of birthdays and holidays, achievements and acquisitions, losses and sorrows, changes and more changes fill my heart and mind to overflowing with all that the year contained. And so I wade back through . . .

Like Mary, my heart brims with material for pondering.

Why, just yesterday I received one of the truly “GOOD” gifts, surely one of those memorably great gifts one treasures the rest of their life – the kind of gift that overcomes us so completely we can only nod, choked with emotion, as we murmur, “It is good.”

Yesterday I received just such a gift as I stood by and observed my 11-year-old daughter falling in love.

Yesterday, quite unexpectedly and without warning her eyes danced as she began a relationship I hope will last a lifetime . . . she found HER piano.

After much research and a few trips to showrooms for introductions and debutant dances on the keyboard, she found Mr. Right. It turned out that the 100+ year-old Steinways beautifully restored with a richness of tone that we drove nearly three hours to meet did not hold the key to this 11-year-old pianists musical heart. Instead, a new Mason-Hamlin grandly sitting nearby in all its 6-foot 4-inch ebonied beauty would steal her heart. But we did not know that as we drove and arrived to meet three hand-selected Steinway & Sons pianos of impeccable reputation.

As she approached each piano formally, attired in a rich green velvet gown for the special meeting, she sat and set about the business of “small talk” with each potential mate. Scales and chords, Habanera dances and lyrical impressions laughed out from the two seated together while the rest of us busied ourselves in giving the shy musician her private space in this delicate minuet. Some pianos received but a mere glance, others a simple introduction followed by a polite “Thank you, but no . . .” Tears gathered in this mother’s eyes as I heard such beauty emanating from this pairing or that – the rich result of those hands upon those keys.

Style, age, and price mattered not to this child in search as she played a variety of pianos beyond the three that we had arranged to “meet.” She quickly discarded some fine suitors in favor of two contenders: a 103-year-old restored Hamburg Steinway and Sons, and a brand new Mason and Hamlin AA. Equally prestigious in the world of pianos, equally decorated amongst musicians, she danced back and forth between the two. The lingering dance paused for refreshment as we made our way to a small Italian restaurant to assuage our hunger and discuss the dancing partners. The impish pianist wistfully recounted how she loved one piano more than the other, but would settle for the second choice if that proved to be the necessary option. Both played beautifully, she noted with a smile.

[I must interject here that while the #2 choice had stretched the allotted funds to the limit, it rested within the budget, unlike the #1 choice which stood far-afield, considerably beyond the monetary maximum Dad felt the budget could accommodate.]

As we finished up a very satisfying lunch we all agreed that Rachel should meet still more partners. A quick flight to San Diego in the upcoming weeks and yet another Steinway specialist would greet the musical child with a host of new potential partners. And so we paid the trattoria tab and returned to thank the generous host at the current piano ball.

As we walked to the car from the restaurant I casually inquired of Rachel whether the “weathered” elements of piano #2 had influenced her feelings. She stopped, thought, and replied, “I hadn’t noticed any difference in appearance in the pianos. They all looked fine to me.” Puzzled, I wondered how she could have missed the scrolled beauty of this one, the deep ebony sheen of that one, and on and on my surface assessments rolled. She hadn’t even noticed color difference, it seemed! How could that be? Simple, she stated quite plainly, it is all about the sound and the feel – it’s the music . . . and no more.

We entered the piano shop wherein her father deftly engaged in small talk regarding the “to be continued” storyline in this quest for The right piano. As the men talked the young girl sat to play her favorites upon the favored ones just once more, storing up those melodious memories in her heart for future ponderings and comparisons when the inevitable choosing must take place. With her mother at her side she approached #2. Her mother queried about the differences in the two instruments and the child paused . . . “Well, I can’t exactly say, one just gives me what I want more than the other. When I play it answers just a bit clearer, sharper, brighter.” She shrugged, like a child, and began to play one of her favorite pieces entitled “Happy Heart.”

The rich “Hamburg” sound of this German-made Steinway from 1906 filled the room with a romantic beauty that stung my eyes to tears. The melody faded into a reverberating memory. I couldn’t speak for the lump that had developed in my throat. The pianist knew it was beautiful. She knew it was a beautiful instrument. She knew it would work well for a lifetime. She knew . . . but . . .

She then picked up her books and casually carried them to the Mason-Hamlin beauty, a full 6 inches bigger wearing a new set of keys held a mere ½ inch higher than the competition. The pianist had remarked about the height difference in the keyboards when explaining one of the “better” attributes of the first-place choice – astonished, her father verified her find, but wondered how it mattered, as the piano dealer offered casters to elevate the other to match. She didn’t need it changed for her sake, she shrugged, simply noting it in her playing and finding that ½-inch difference a noticeable benefit.

Close by her side, with closed eyes, her mom listened as the Happy Heart danced upon the keys of the first-choice piano. Beautiful, simply beautiful . . . and then she heard it! The rambling dance across the keys in a middle stanza floated high above with a clarity and brightness that wasn’t there a minute ago when she played the Steinway. Everyone in the presence of this shy little pianist heard it. The dance was flawless. She had met her piano.

As she gathered her books and prepared to walk back to the car, drive the long way home, and ready herself for yet another round of dances in yet another town with yet another set of potential suitors, her father looked at her mother and nodded . . . “It’s the one,” He said quietly. Mom held back the tears and nodded. The financial barrier crumbled as that father thanked the Lord for an unexpected financial dividend newly received and plunked into the bank for future security, which (need I add) bridged the gap with little to spare. It was done. It was good.

With the check passed across the desk and the delivery date secured for early January, I turned to the little pianist and saw my baby girl yawning and ready to go home after a long afternoon of dancing. The pianist with her faraway look and lovely dancing hands had retreated to await the arrival of her very special partner sometime in the freshness of the new year. Truly a good way to end the old year and an equally good way to begin the new one. My heart spilled over from all the goodness of the day as I tucked my child back in to the car, settled in next to her wonderful father, and raised my eyes to thank the Lord for going before it all. It was a very good day for dancing.

Happy New Year, Sweet Friends.

May 2010 bring you Good things to dance about.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

From Our Home to Yours . . .

Merry Christmas!

With Love From,

Gary and Debbie


Elizabeth, Rachel, Lydia

* * *

But the angel said to them,
"Do not be afraid;
for behold, I bring you good news of great joy
which will be for all the people;
for today in the city of David
there has been born for you a Savior,
who is Christ the Lord.

Luke 2:10-11

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Let Christmas Come!

Christmas time is here . . .” croons the Peanuts gang, entreating us to take note of the “Beauty everywhere.” I smile and gaze at the sparkling tree that dances merrily before a picture window overlooking acres of gardens blanketed with pristine drifts of white. We don’t have to “dream” of a white Christmas here in Grass Valley . . . it has arrived in abundance this year.

Though we enjoy some measure of a white Christmas every year now, we have never become complacent about those first dancing flakes, for there was once a time when we only dreamed of it.

And then the dream came true . . .

I sit by the window and watch the sunlight dance across the brilliant landscape and fondly recall a time in years gone by when three-year-old Lydia, living in snow-free Felton, Ca, remarked with certainty that “Christmas cannot come until it snows.” We tried to educate her regarding the local weather patterns, which excluded any hope of snow for Christmas in our little coastal town. She staunchly refused to change her mind, declaring that it must snow before Christmas could arrive.

We racked our brains for a solution . . . maybe a dusting of snow would christen the distant mountains, as it does on occasion, and we could drive an hour or two to experience the wintry gift. Alas, no snow fell nearby; yet, Lydia’s snow queen dancing continued. Tension mounted as we hopelessly observed our fairy-like daughter clinging to her hopes of snow for Christmas.

A new baby served as our only Christmas present this particular year. Our glittering Christmas tree stood gift-free but beautiful nonetheless, swathed in a “snow-like” sheet at the base. It had been a HARD year . . . but we rejoiced in celebrating Jesus’ birthday with the arrival of our own baby born so near to Jesus’ birthday. Nobody requested anything more . . . except for Lydia who entertained newborn baby Rachel with enchanted notions of snowfall.

I quietly fretted . . . and prayed that there be no further disappointment in a year of incredible challenge. It had not been an easy year to endure and I felt unable to muster the strength to spend Christmas Eve consoling a weeping little one intent on seeing snow fall in a temperate beachside locale.

Christmas drew near. We baked the cookies, mulled the cider, and set the festive table many times as friends and family joined us in celebration. Smiles wreathed faces; hearts danced in merriment; all the while Lydia eagerly anticipated the coming snowfall so Christmas could really arrive.

In difficult times I have often clung to the hope set forth in 1 Peter 3:12:

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous,
and his ears are open unto their prayers.

In the pit of my exhausted heart I forgot this promise . . .

My stomach churned as my mind raced with tactics to meet the forthcoming disappointment and tears.

BUT . . . the faith of a child melted the icy fingers of fear that gripped my doubtful heart. Lydia helped me remember God’s faithfulness as she sat at the window on Christmas Eve Day and calmly announced,

“There it is. It’s snowing. Now Christmas can come.”

With that simple declaration she hopped down from the sofa and danced over to inform Baby Rachel that all was well in the world of Christmas.

Tears sprang from my eyes as I turned in disbelief to catch sight of a mere handful of fluffy snowflakes cascading down from Heaven. If Gary hadn’t been in view I might have suspected him of standing on the rooftop with an ice cube in one hand and a cheese grater in the other . . . but clearly that was not the case. I watched as Daddy scooped up Lydia and took her outside to dance in the faith-filled snowflakes that called Christmas to Felton that year.

The whole town buzzed with delight over the unexpected snowfall . . . well, unexpected by all except one little girl who would not be separated from her faithful dream.

Each year as the first flakes of snow dance down from the skies, I pause and thank the Lord for that wonderful gift so long ago. It has been 11 years and Lydia retains no recollection of her faithful snow wish, but our family gained a new tradition that day. We have never forgotten our first “White Christmas” – a gift from our faithful three-year-old.

* * * * *

Every year, as the first snowfall commences, we dance and cheer,

“Now Christmas can come!”

As headlines blare of the cold front that has gripped our town, paralyzing all but the necessary travel . . . as snow drifts block doorways and driveways . . . as trees bow down with the weight of the wintry wardrobe . . . I smile a knowing smile, pray a joyful prayer, and wish everyone a wonder-filled Christmas.

From our house to yours:

Let go your doubts . . .
Let go your fears . . .
Open your heart . . .

Let Christmas Come!

Rachel at Play

Friday, December 4, 2009

Pocketful of Posies; Heart Full of Stories

I chuckle as I write this, for I have received a “TAP!” on the shoulder from a dear sweet friend, Karen Deborah over at Fresh Fixin’s, who has reminded me that proper manners in friendship do not allow one to simple vanish without notice. That goes for proper blog etiquette as well, I see. She writes:

Where are you?- and what is going on? You can't just disappear and not say anything for weeks and weeks. Well, you can and you have. But your absence is getting conspicuous. When your playing and having fun you still have time for a "Hi- I am busy playing"! Geez girl, I am accustomed to a wee bit more connection than this. I no good at cold turkey.

How was Disney world? Did You like Mathew with a mustache? I bet he looked cute in it.

Just write me a line if your busy and say, "I am OK--or I am not OK -please pray," You know something of that sort. A missive is not necessary on my end just a simple southern HOWDY.

You can't get away this easy! You are loved and missed and I have had ENUF OF THIS! I miss my friend!!!!!!!!!

Well, let me tell you I laughed out loud when I read this and then tears gently gathered in my eyes. She’s not the first to wonder where I have been and if they should pray me out of something difficult. Wow! This bloggy world has heartstrings zigging and zagging all over the globe . . . and it feels so good to have stumbled into this magical community over the ridge, down in the valley, and behind the waterfall. It’s pure magic, in the best of senses. Thanks to all of you that “clapped” loudly so that this fairy does not fade from “site.”

I must confess that I did not intend to fade away, but after the trip to Hawaii and during the prepping for Disneyworld, I suffered a serious relapse from an elbow injury incurred during the “Pantry Building” days of last spring. A touch of tendinitis flared up into a truly stubborn beast of pain. Blogging, internet searching for books and news and information, along with letter writing via email literally blew my elbow out and affected the entire right arm from shoulder to fingertips. Feeling stupid that I had over-dosed on the internet, I kept it mum and figured the Disney vacation would work wonders. I returned home with an improved arm, but the pain in the elbow persisted and my certified massage therapist daughter informed me of the dangers embedded in this little cry from my body. And so I faced an extended period of no gardening, no washing dishes, no vacuuming, no lifting of anything, no reading (WHAT!!!! Even holding books brought on lightening bolts of pain), and positively NO computer time!!!

I pouted . . . I fumed . . . I prayed . . . I cheated (and paid for it dearly). Eventually, I resigned myself to a period of healing wrapped in a quiet space. I felt useless and old in the beginning, but when I let go and floated with the inevitable inactivity I found something wonderful, beautiful, and YES, even enjoyable about sitting with music (or pure silence) in those moments when all others had found quiet nooks in which to feed the need to read (they lovingly spared me the additional pain of watching them devour books in my presence). Eventually I found myself able to hold a book for a few moments, wherein I chose the meatiest books at hand and took a hefty bite in a few controlled moments and then made it last like a lozenge of sweet candy, savoring the memory and recalling it in pleasure. A dabbling of journal writing kept me from going truly insane – I must write and EVERYONE around here knows it! Most of all, I savored the chatting times around the fire with my family. We pause often for tea and chats throughout the day. These chats came in second only to prayer in preserving my joy (and sanity).

This year my children decorated and cooked for Thanksgiving (I helped, of course, where hands were not needed). Great smiles of joy and gleeful giggles greeted the goodies spilling plentifully from the kitchen as I sat and fielded questions, filling the working moments with stories of Thanksgivings gone by. Next the girls exchanged the pilgrims for tinsel and baubles and Nativity Creche as we prepared our cottage for the Christ Child’s Birthday. Once again, I supplied the stories as the ornaments emerged to adorn our memory tree. We play this out every year, but somehow my limitations this time around made my stories more important to me . . . and to them.

“Please write this all down and save us the trouble of having to remember it all!” pleaded Elizabeth.

“Yes!” agreed Rachel.

Lydia, my poet child, simply smiled and nodded with the knowing twinkle of a storyteller in her eye.

And so I have promised to become The Story Girl and gift my children with the adventures and achievements, as well as foibles and fables of their rooted relatives along with the uprooted, unhinged, and otherwise unconnected save a chance encounter. I have chosen a binder to hold the stories which I will write out when the inspiration and occasion presents itself. Although a book may well come out of all this heartfelt overflow, for now it will merely be a storied lot safely stowed for all to share. My limitations at the computer will not allow me to pour out new things of a purely bloggy nature, but as I replied to Karen Deborah:

I haven't really fallen off the face of the earth . . . more like I have floated away for a time. And what a time it has been. God sends messages and when we fail to listen He captures our attention. Right? Lately I have been listening intently as I nurse tendinitis in my right elbow (from an injury back in the pantry-construction days) and seeking new direction for my blog (amongst other things). I will be back soon with an update and a shifting of the sails to go forth in a new direction. My kids are begging me to begin The Book so that they do not lose the stories that I tell so frequently about family members hanging off the family tree or delightful episodes filling the annals of family days, and even on into the tearful times that we cannot forget. Last year I set out to write a work of fiction long simmering in my heart, but life eclipsed it and I failed to complete the task. This year the novel will step aside and the family adventures that fill my memory bank and journals will step center stage for my children's sake. I thought I would toss a few onto the blog and see if my readers wanted to join the adventure. If so, Wisteria and Roses will fill with gifts from a storyteller. If nobody reads . . . my bloggy thing will slip into hibernation.

So there, my friends, I place the option before you. Would you like to read along? Do stories of immigrants and pioneers (because that defines both sides of the family) living, loving, laughing, crying, and even dying interest you? Are you curious to know what silly, sweet, or solemn story accompanies an ornament, tradition, or particular recipe that takes its special place in the history this storyteller has sprung from?

You decide . . .

I won’t be writing and publishing like a magazine, but rather my posts will pop up unexpectedly like a letter in the old-fashioned box. If you’d like to be on an email list to receive a copy directly please let me know, my techo-savvy husband promises to aid me in that service. I plan to stay right here on Blogger so any blog readers currently in use will let you know when I’ve popped in for storytime.

Oh, this really excites me now that I have written it all down for you to read. (Somehow the words become more alive to me when they take on the inscribed dimension.) I have stories galore that my children have enjoyed throughout the growing years, plus answers to lots of questions like what books would you take to a deserted island? When did you first keep a journal? Why haven’t you published a book? And so many more precious thoughts and moments that my children want preserved in a culture where families disintegrate and traditions dissolve without acknowledgement. I have promised to salvage what I remember.

Now comes the part wherein I dispel any notion that this is purely objective history. BEWARE! This exercise will be chock full of inaccuracies, stretched imaginations, misremembered facts, and all other manner of oopsies from a legal standpoint, but it will reflect my reflections, observations, memories, and conclusions stored away in my heart. (Just in case any distant relative wishes to latch onto something here for defense or more likely heated discussion – you’ve been warned. This remains a personal blog and thus filled to the brim with honest-to-goodness viewpoint. ‘nuf said.)

Okay, my elbow signals that this little chat session has come to an end. Gary has gone away on a day-long business trip and has made me promise to be GOOD and practice restraint. I intend to comply. So for now I bid you well and hope you will let me know via comment or email whether you’d like to sport a little pixie dust and fly away with me in a new direction. (I only ask so that I don’t spend time/effort uploading to blogger if nobody cares to read along.)

Until next time . . .


Monday, November 16, 2009

Debbie at Disney Land

Debbie in the 60's.
I was cleaning up my desktop today and stumbled across this scan in a sub folder.
I apologise for not properly informing of the girls vacation in yesterday's post. I didn't realize that Debbie was not able to mention her trip due to her inability to use the computer. Saturday morning the girls flew to Florida and met up with Debbie's sister and brother-in-law, Aunt Cindy and Uncle Cliff. They are spending a full week in the magic kingdom. Lydia, using her new cell phone called me again a little before 8pm Florida time. They had another great day, but are all "very tired" and turning in early tonight. I purchased an new chip for Debbie's camera before this trip and I am hopeful that they will take many pictures.
As Karen Deborah commented, yes I am holding up the fort, or more accurately, the farm. Since Debbie is not making me stay up late at night, I have my alarm set for 6:30am and I get up and let the chickens out, feed the fish and take care of the cats. Matthew is good company, but I am composing this during the 3rd showing this "vacation" of Star Wars I. I am going to lock it up next opportunity I get. At 21 Matthew has very fast growing facial hair, so we are trying out a mustache and goatee on him this week. When the girls are away, the boys will play. Time to go find Elmo in Grouch land.

Disney World

Lydia some years ago with her "Ears on".

Lydia called last night at 12:10am Florida time to let me know what a great time they are having at the Magic Kingdom. (I was rewarded for buying Lydia her own phone). The maximum waiting time to get on a ride has been 10 minutes, with most rides having no waiting time. I think Debbie and her sister Cindy truly transform into children when they enter Disney's creation.

Post by Gary

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Sorry, but the word verification is back.

This is Gary, temporary blog controller. The spambots have hit again, so I put the word verification on to prevent Debbie from giving in to the uncontrollable urge to remove the spam comments. Sorry for this inconvenience.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Riding the Wind

Recently I received a strange and unexpected gift: Pain.

Episodes of blogging, online newsreading, email composing, and even old-fashioned pen-to-paper journal writing result in shooting pains up my arm that settle as a dull ache in my elbow. The right hand fields the greater affliction, of course, but both arms carry the painful resonance at times.

A gift? You might question.

Yes, a gift.

Pain . . . that gift that nobody asks for, yet every time it enters my life I come away with some new understanding or acquisition that changes my life remarkably.

Pain: The motivator to change, accept, adapt as fits the situation.

I trust this episode will be no different.

For me writing is like breathing . . . I must do it. Copious journals and rambling blog posts attest to my natural inclination to put thoughts into words scrawled in a place that holds them for longer than the breath a voice carries them upon when they become conversation. The spoken word evaporates or changes into remembrance (sometimes incorrectly) over time, whereas words etch a thought (right or wrong) that lasts intact.

Alas, this delightful dalliance of blogging and soul-refreshing exercise in journaling must be laid aside for a time. Healing must happen.

What will I do? What new activity will fill the moments previously blogged?

Aha! Therein lies the adventure, and I eagerly await it!

In the act of creativity,
the artist lets go the self-control
which he normally clings to
and is open to ride the wind.

~~ Madeleine L’Engle ~~
Walking on Water (81)

And so, I unharness the strictures that cause pain this day, spread my arms wide, trust that wings of delight will sprout fully, and take off to ride the wind. I anticipate soaring over new territories and discovering new ways to create and share and enJOY it all.

When I return (and surely I will, though like a famous Hobbit drafted into service, I know not when I shall cross this bloggy home’s threshold once again), I shall come bearing gifts gleaned from the quest. More than pictures and retelling of tales, I hope to bring a fresh beacon of insight worthy of sharing.

As for today . . . I must be off this computer and about the business of relying on wings so that my arms can rest and rejuvenate.

Be well, sweet friends. I carry you in my heart and prayers until I return to sweep off the welcome mat and put on the kettle once again.

. . . and the wind gently blows . . .

. . . newly unfurled feathers ruffle . . .


Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Eddying Thoughts Tumbled Out on a Tuesday

Anuna’s mellifluous harmonies waft about the room. My diminutive blue willow teapot steeps with just enough tea for me. My devotional moments drift into prayers of the deepest nature reaching the depthless font. All stresses fade, all tensions melt . . . for just a brief moment I rest in complete peace. I am home.

My mountain-top moment begins to fade, even as I weep for it to stay. Phones jangle, appointments demand, dust settles . . . my feet touch earth with a thud.

I shy away from the computer, knowing that tidying tasks and planning details should devour these productive morning hours. Absently I pick up pen and journal and fall into another stream, swirling down a spout of tumbling thoughts and gushing feelings – a waterfall pouring forth from these moments set aside from the routine.

I came here to my little cozy spot on the web to share something . . . but the basket I carried here stands somehow strangely empty. Did it spill out? Did I fail to gather anything?

Maybe it is enough to simply say, “Hi” without a carefully orchestrated message or diligently uploaded pics. Maybe I can simply rest and fill teacups with friendly invite to send a simple “Hello” back my way.

Of late, my life has been sloshing high and low on waves of lurching activity outside the normal confines of cottage and gardens (and will continue to do so as we prepare for a trip to Disneyworld from the 14th through the 22nd), but for just this little moment I sit peacefully in my favorite cozy chair and gaze out at the brilliant foliage garlanding the gardens even as the roses blossom and bud relentlessly.

I sigh . . . I smile . . . I count the gifts of a gentle life.

I thank Him.

Though the headlines bombard me with fearsome predictions and dire assessments, though advertisers attempt to shift my thinking away from simple living in favor of indebted complexities, though accepted practices crowd life with superfluous events, I linger in this moment of complete satisfaction – knowing His grace nourishes me sufficiently unto abundance. I thank Him for infusing me with so many gifts, seen and unseen, appreciated and challenging, popular or unusual . . . still and all, I thank Him.

Dancing off to a-typical drumbeats, I think of Madeleine L’Engle’s words from Walking on Water: Reflections on faith and art:

Often we forget that he has a special gift for each of us, because we tend to weigh and measure such gifts with the coin of the world’s marketplace. The widow’s mite was worth more than all the rich men’s gold because it represented the focus of her life. Her poverty was rich because all she had belonged to the living Lord. (p. 26)

She adds the thoughts of Emmanuel, Cardinal Suhard:

To be a witness does not consist in engaging in propaganda, nor even in stirring people up, but in being a living mystery. It means to live in such a way that one’s life would not make sense if God did not exist.

How aptly these words sum up my little life in this little town in such a little speck of time and yet how BIG it all feels when I awake each morning. Each decision, thought, and movement sparks a reaction somewhere, somehow, some way. May my mysterious ramblings and curious dances bring glory to God, I pray.

And now I have babbled on long enough and have yet to remember exactly why I decided to open up this window and jot down something to share . . .

Still and all, I have come to say “Hi” and for today I hope that be enough.

Happy Tuesday, my sweet friends.

: D

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Sunday Wonder

From the rising of the sun

Unto the going down of the same

The LORD's name is to be praised.
Psalm 113:3

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Finding Blue Hawaii

When Lily asked me to accompany her to Hawaii to say farewell to her sister, I immediately accepted. I packed with an eye to respectful attire while preparing my heart to support and encourage my friend through a potentially difficult moment. I concentrated on what I could give. But as I have found over and over again, the gift of friendship and love spills a bounty of blessing right back onto me.

In meeting Susan a year ago I gained access to a personal side of Lily that had been previously unknown. Though stricken with Alzheimer's that robber her of short-term memory, Susan had free reign of memories from long ago and shared them freely. We learned how Susan, the first-born, battled sickliness as a child, thus Lily (second-born) received instruction from mom to always, "Take care of your sister!" Setting off for places like the Catholic boarding school they both attended in Taiwan brought about the regular call to care for Susan. Throughout childhood and beyond Lily "Took Care" of Susan even to the final days and beyond.

Their bond deeply twined their hearts.

Lily's devotion and love shined brightly for all to see as she clutched a portrait of Susan and herself amongst the flowers of my gardens (formerly resting on the casket) and watched over the last details of Susan's burial.

Lily took care of her sister . . . and did it well.

After the ceremony, we gathered at an obscure looking restaurant in a typically-Hawaiian strip mall. All admonishments against "judging a book by its cover" applied to this unassuming little place that rolled out the most FABULOUS gourmet Chinese feast I have ever eaten!! Seriously! The taro duck ranked as my favorite, but the chicken, fish, scallops, beef and many many vegetables (like fried spinach -- Delish!) that poured forth in each new course caused me to gasp at the thought of dessert . . . until it arrived: A platter of delicacies including ice creams, puddings, chocolate decadence, and even red velvet cake (my favorite!).

We celebrated Susan's life with smiles, laughter, a few tears, and lots of good food. She may have been attending the wedding feast in Heaven without us, but Chef Raymond of Pah Ke's did his best to compete without a bit of complaint from us.

We left with smiles of satisfaction.
Susan would have loved to see this happy family portrait.

Now that the tasks had been completed, we bid farewell to the family and returned to our hotel to rest. The day had taken its toll. At day's end we slept soundly and awoke Wednesday with a full day on this Island Paradise stretching out before us, as we didn't leave until Thursday afternoon.

And so I entreated Lily to show me her "Blue Hawaii." She complied, and the stories and places came together wonderfully as Lily walked back to days long ago when she first came to the Island of Oahu, proudly clutching a fresh degree from Michigan State in Hotel Management (even today she has a school pennant hanging in her Grass Valley office). Well-acquainted with Elvis' film Blue Hawaii, Lily took a position at the elegant Ilikai Hotel (as seen on Hawaii Five-O, she always reminds me) in the heyday of Hawaiian tourism of the 1960's.

The Blue Hawaii of those days looked less like this . . .

And more like this.
This romantic isle of swaying palm trees

Exotic Banyan Trees

And sweetly fragrant Plumeria

The islands attracted a host of celebrities and stars and Lily's job in management kept her in steady attendance to some of the greatest celebrities. She is quick to note that Jack Lord of Hawaii Five-O fame was soooo vain that he would only allow photos of his "best side." She recounted meeting Bob Newhart, Carol Burnett, and countless other delightful "stars" who were really just nice people. She mentioned that Don Ho drank too much, but entertained everyone with genuine enjoyment. Her greatest praises fell on Elvis Presley. "He really was nice . . . the nicest I met," she would recall. "He had to stay in his hotel room a lot, because the fans really gathered around and he signed autographs and gave kisses or took photos as much as they wanted. He was never rude." Lily also believed that his movie, Blue Hawaii, really captured the spirit of the Hawaii she came to in the 60s as tourism mushroomed.

In this Romantic Paradise, Lily met Chef Karl and they married (complete with a three-week honeymoon to romantic Kauai). Their careers took them to Hong Kong and on around the world to work in some of the finest hotels. Their high-profile careers brought them back to Hawaii, wherein Lily became a manager in the Halekulani Hotel's 5-star restaurant, La Mer.

The hotel resembles a rambling plantation from Hawaii's golden days of pineapples from Paradise. The beauty literally spills out unexpectedly from every place imaginable.

The rolling greens and open verandas invite one to step back in time and live with genteel grace and T-I-M-E to spare for drinking in the tropical splendor wafting on a balmy breeze. I happily played along with the magic . . . and it felt WONDERFUL!

Luxury waits around every corner. If the warm waves of Waikiki do not entice you, maybe this sparkling blue beachside-pool will do the trick. Such choices . . . I love choices.

I tried to convince Lily that a table at La Mer would suit the mood and it would be my pleasure to have her as my guest, but she wouldn't budge. Lily doesn't fancy French food with all its sauces and fats . . .

Instead, she directed me to the tropically-infused option of dining under the swaying palms and setting sun. The magic continued as we made our way to The House Without a Key. Smitten with the charming name, I followed her lead to another facet of Lily's Blue Hawaii.

A Blue Hawaii for Lily (naturally) and a Chi Chi for me (only our bartender knows for sure if we imbibed fully or not -- *snicker*), paired nicely with some Maui chips while we awaited the arrival of our Sashimi and Beef Satay.

The tradewind-swept stage hosted crooners in the traditional style, while a lovely Miss Hawaii of yesterday swayed gently in the telling of her Island's special beauty. More fairytale than ever, we sipped and sighed and enjoyed the sheer beauty of this tranquil moment.

The sun gently slipped low on the horizon, igniting the sky with that every-day event:
A Spectacular Sunset

As murmurs of "Ooh" and "Aah" floated amongst those gathered together, our attention focused on an announcement by the Hawaiian trio. By special request they would be reaching back to share two timeless favorites. As the intro to Tiny Bubbles floated our way we all smiled that silly smile associated with those little bubbles. But then a hush fell over the veranda as we heard the gentle singing of the words by a patron. Seated next to his long-life love, this romantic man sang every word into the tear-sparkled eyes of his darling wife. When he belted out "I'll love you 'til the end of time" I felt my cheeks glisten. (I missed Gary; I know Lily missed Karl.)

The next song caused everyone to grab a hankie, as the trio crooned The Hawaiian Wedding Song to the still-in-love couple. My writer's mind ran a jillion scenarios for this couple, but none matched the brilliance of his smiling face gazing into her deep pools of love as he promised all over again to love her to the end of time.

We breathed deeply, feeling so relaxed and happy to be enjoying a moment of such joy -- thankful that once upon a time Gary decided to celebrate one of our our anniversaries at a Swiss Restaurant in Grass Valley and that day has led to all of this . . . and more.

Oh thank you, Lily, for showing me your Blue Hawaii.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Respite Wednesday

Answering the Call

I avoid the phone. Solicitors and survey-takers forced a silenced ringer and an answering-machine sentinel long ago, whilst I juggled babies and laundry and bubbling pots. No time to be wasted. Thus, the unknown caller of today rarely receives a “Hello” but rather hears a signalling "BEEP." The lucky leave a message and possibly receive a “pick-up” mid-sentence or a “call back” promptly.

Yesterday, a friend called and commenced leaving a chatty message about a tablecloth for our upcoming Christmas Tea; when I picked up the call mid-stream I heard the chatty cadence melt as teardrops fell freely in the background of her voice. Though she sought to cover it, I heard exhaustion and stress.

I invited her for tea . . . and she said, “Yes!” brightly.

Two hours later we sat at my dining table with quiche-laden plates (Costco’s finest offering, frozen just for such an impromptu occasion), spinach salad, fresh fruit, and a just-baked pumpkin bread my friend had brought along. The teapot steeped gently, setting a mood ripe for relaxation and friendly sharing.

As the tea went down and warmed the hearts, the corners of the mouths drew up into smiles, eyebrows shot up in laughter, and tears gently sparkled in the eyes engaged in heart-to-heart outpourings.

We solved no problems, really, but we did spread them thickly with a healthy dose of friendship and loving touch wrapped in prayerful cloaking. The friction died away as the lubrication of love preserved the smooth-running nature of a balanced walk between the needs of those we love and our personal needs.

A time-out for tea can make a world of difference.

I’m so glad I answered the call.

* * * * *

A Cup of Tea

When the world is all at odds and the mind is all at sea,
then cease the useless tedium and brew a cup of tea.

There is magic in it's fragrance, there is solace in it's taste;
and the laden moments vanish somehow into space.

And the world becomes a lovely thing!
There is beauty as you'll see.
All because you briefly stopped to brew a cup of tea.

~~ William Gladstone ~~

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Praising The Lord!

Some time ago I whispered a prayer request regarding a drop in my white blood cell count. So many of you came forward to pray for me and encourage me with all manner of personal touches. I felt as if you had come along side me to swim upstream through a bit of choppy water. (Even now I tear up at thoughts of your kindness.)

Well, I am delighted to report that my three-month bloodcount showed that my white cell count has returned to normal. (It hasn't been in the "normal" range in over four years!)

Thank you so much!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Shop, shop, shop

Get on your shopping shoes! We're going to Downtown Honolulu for some serious shopping in Chinatown and a few other places.

Naturally, I popped in to the famed "International Market Place" and picked up some earrings, purses, luau dresses for the girls, tasteful T's for the guys, and faux tropical flowers to tuck behind girlish ears . . .

BUT -- I really yearned to see the foods of Hawaii all splayed out for selection to be carried home for delection. I'm an a-typical shopper who prefers to view the food rather than the souvenirs.

So, Lily bid me grab comfy shoes and we set out.

We stopped in for a breakfast at this cafe

Wherein she had shared many a delightful breakfast with her mom and dad (obviously a family favorite eatery serving breakfast all day and within walking distance of their high-rise condo). It offered standard breakfast fare, with the exceptional jug of coconut syrup on the table (had to try it -- delicious!) and passionate fruit juices on the menu.

After paying the tab we hopped on The Bus

And made our way downtown.

We stopped off at The Palace for a tour, but I mentioned that earlier. Walking from the palace to the heart of China town brought me exactly what I sought:

Market Stalls brimming with Hawaiian Style.

Fresh Fish

Or just the parts . . .
Chicken feet
(hmmmmm . . . Dim Sum makings, I see) Pork items of various cut

Or maybe you prefer Goat?

Or Beef?

Or perhaps . . . NAH!
(This proved a bit much for even me,
quintessential hunter of unusual food.)

Stepping over to the exotic rainbow of fresh fruits and vegetables
refreshed me after the meat survey,
reviving my sense of sheer wonder at the choices.

I never did manage to get the name of the pink beauty
nestled next to the Star Fruit and persimmon

The Lotus Root got me to wondering how you would prepare it . . .
Boil? Bake? Steam? All of the above?
Avocados the size of my hand?
This may be a bit closer to Heaven than I originally thought!

Fabulously dressed Lychee Nuts

And NOODLES, Noodles, noodles!

Noodles? Precisely what we craved for luncheon.
So we slipped into a side door at the entrance of another grocery store.
(I thought it was a break room for employees,
Until I realized it was far TOO SMALL for even that.)

Lily beamed at her success
in finding this "special" noodle shop from memory.

She immediately set out to order lunch for the two of us.

Tea arrived, naturally

Followed by rice porridge
(and those peculiarly delicious 1000-year-old eggs)

With Noodles and Shrimp soon thereafter.
SCRUMPTIOUS doesn't even begin to cover the velvety smooth noodles,
paired with the sublime taste of shrimp cooked just so to perfection.
(Though the heads and shells tip off those around that I am not Chinese --
I carefully peel and remove all but what I choose to ingest,
while Lily removes head and chews out all the rest from the shell
removing a stripped shell at the end.)
We left and stopped off to take a peek
into the Japanese market at Ala Moana Shopping Plaza.

These pre-packaged and minutely managed meal items
proved quite a contrast to the Chinese markets . . .

Well, not completely different.

After all the luscious and unusual foods
I had little desire to look at Prada bags and Hermes scarves,
so we left the mall and came back for one more
Pai Family tradition:

Ice cream at Lappert's
in the Hawaiian Village,
our home base.

I lapped up an exotic coconut, macadamia, fudge swirl
while Lily selected her favorite: Chocolate.

We made our way up to the room to give our feet a rest
before setting out for the Halekulani Hotel -- Hawaii's finest.

Lily served as management in the 5-star restaurant La Mer,
But I will have to save our last adventure for another post
as it is dinner time around here and I'm needed elsewhere.

So, take a rest, freshen up a bit, and get ready for more beauty
and memory-making adventure as Lily takes me down memory lane
to the "Blue Hawaii" world she came to in the 60s.