Saturday, January 31, 2009

Is It Saturday Yet?

Rachel: What does disgruntled mean?

Me: Unhappy.

Rachel: Does gruntled mean happy?

Me: [*sigh* I need a cup of tea.]

Friday, January 30, 2009

A Friday Funny

Each night as the children retire to bed they take their latest book-friend with them and read a spell before turning out the lights. Many a childhood classic has shared the pillow with one who drifts off in the midst of a good tale.

Of late, Rachel has taken to reading the American Medical Association's Encyclopedia of Medicine. Daily we receive assurances that in the event of an emergency situation she stands at the ready -- the latest offer being to perform the delivery of a baby here at home. I smiled warmly and assured her that we would surely have no need for that. (She seemed unconvinced and remains vigilant.)

Last night as our family engaged in a rousing game of Phase 10, I made mention of a cauliflower ear and Rachel immediately piped up to inform me of the intricate process of developing just such an ailment. Smiling again, I thanked her for the detailed information and continued to play the game (albeit with an added bit of queasiness).

As the play intensified, Gary continually amused us with the furrowing of his brow as he studied his handful of cards and dithered over potential moves.

"Dad," gasped Elizabeth, "Don't do that, you're gonna need Botox if you keep it up."

I chimed in, "Your forehead may stick that way!"

The furrowing continued, as did the Botox banter.

"You're gonna have a Botox problem if you keep it up . . ."

Finally Lydia shouted out, "What's Botox?"

To which Rachel quietly murmured, "It's your bottom."

Laughter erupted and Rachel said, "What? I read about it . . . "

"That's buttocks, not Botox," we all chimed in amidst hearty laughter and a blush from our budding physician.

* * *
I believe it is time to get an updated medical encyclopedia . . . ours is from '89 and doesn't contain a single reference to Botox.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Without Regret

She has always heard her own special tune . . . and it has been a beautiful one. She hopped and skipped over developmental milestones to join others in their journey, caring not whether she earned accolades or honors, but rather feeling the call to be by a struggler’s side to encourage them to seek the heights. Her first step at 7-1/2 months did not elicit cries of “Genius!” but instead started a Herculean effort on one older brother’s part to walk with her. Pride likely flowed heavily through his autistic view of the world (laced with the obstacles posed by cerebral palsy) as he fought to keep from being left behind, but she merely followed an instinctive call to her feet. When she heeded her natural call he received a gift of motivation – we discovered her gift of helping others long before she even knew she had gifts.

Bible clubs found her aiding a slower member at the expense of her own ribbon count. Backyard drama fests offered no starring roles for her as she directed others in their quest for applause. Though a gifted musician, she always chooses a group over solo performance. She just prefers it that way
. . . always has. “Shy?” One may ask. Nay. Reclusive? Never. Merely tuned to the call of a drum fewer hear.

As a youngster raised with two handicapped brothers and later the addition of two much younger sisters, she naturally found opportunity to lead, teach, encourage, and provide that special touch that removes the competition from a game and reveals a celebration. How much more fun to clap and cheer as your brother completes a simple puzzle than to easily beat him at a relay race. Awards come in all forms, hers seemed most often to include the holding of hands rather than the clapping thereof.

All too quickly the homeschooling roared toward graduation and decisions. Many paths, many options, but for the first time the need to “prove something” took the reins and drove her life toward the well-trodden path. SAT tests, college apps, requisites, transcripts, interviews, and auditions all mounded up before her. She climbed to the top in victory. Each college offered entrance with honor. She prayed, she chose high-caliber, and then she embarked on a journey toward the academic goals she had held in her heart from early on. She smiled through the tears as we drove away leaving precious daughter, eager musician, deep thinker, hard worker on the steps of an institution that knew her by merit, but not by heart.

In a whir and a blur the days, weeks, months, even years flew by. Big changes, strong challenges, bitter disappointments, honored achievements. Her worries melted away as her discernment grew, and along with the discernment grew a nagging doubt that this path would lead to the fulfillment of her dreams. Reading excerpts of works and hearing a professor place it au courant contradicted her core education. At home we read whole books, we examined other cultures, we saw ourselves as a part of a whole not The Center. We engaged in discussions, seemingly endless discussions, as we reached further and deeper to answer the questions spilling from our hearts and minds. All ages participated; all ideas received respect. In a quiet classroom with only one voice droning, she wondered, “How can one read a snippet of Thoreau and claim to have “read” Thoreau?”

The busy work, the tedium of quizzing to trip-up the lax readers in class, the politicking by professors as generals questing to capture the thoughts of the students and funnel them down a proscribed alleyway of thought, rather than as gatekeepers throwing wide the entrance to bigger thoughts/ideas/avenues caused a ripple of discontent. The education offered in a boxed-in classroom with prescribed notions failed to feed the soul itching to soar. Boredom took root, casting a longer shadow of doubt. Thoughts of pursuing a teaching career unraveled as she began to see the pitfalls for a dreamer in a profession much like a PR job designed to convince students to stay in school for yet another degree in hopes of securing a BIG job someday. The vain search for something other than knowledge caused her to wonder whether she had chosen the wrong pathway after all.

It would take no courage to stay. It would require great courage to pause and consider a different path. With continuous honor roll recognition and close relationships with professors, she confided and consulted with confidence. She prayed and followed her heart down a grassy lane not generally chosen.

Raised by parents who danced down unusual avenues -- having learned long ago that “boxed” offerings would not meet expectations -- she gathered herself together and set out for that less-traveled path, lush from disuse, toward a sharp bend along the way. No clear view of the destination may worry some, but hardly one of such questing stock. She set out with much wind beneath her wings and a plethora of open doorways offering respite and refuge should she choose to return to the comfort of college. Confidence ultimately financed her venture.

Today I smile as she packs her lunch and sets off for another day at massage therapy school. Her desire to help people coupled with her natural gifts of encouragement and empathy dovetail neatly into a therapeutic package. The stack of weighty books she has set by her bed (no excerpts will do) confirms that her quest for a literary education has not ceased, and her towering harp in the music room attests to her success in weaving her love of music, literature, and art with a strong thread of desire to touch another’s life for good. The less-trodden path offered the very nourishment her dreams hungered for. Her first day of therapy class brought her face-to-face with much-older students who had followed the standard path of trading dreams for school-job-$-depression-despair before they took a chance. Some needed the push of unemployment or the pain of breakdown before they acted. Thankfully, my daughter listened to her heart early enough to avoid regrets and pain.

Do I worry that without a piece of paper stating she has duly completed a college education she will somehow miss opportunities? Will I lose sleep fearing she will stand behind those with such a paper? Let me see . . . I have walked in the proscribed path of higher learning, attaching sanctioned letters to my name, eagerly reaching for the title of professor only to find the double birth of special boys shunting me off the widely-trod pavement and down a weedy and unrefined pathway to MUCH HIGHER EDUCATION (and pure joy laced with deep fulfillment) . . . I married a man who thinks so far outside the box that I don’t think he even remembers having a box (“everyone has to have a what?”) . . . I once answered the door to a cable salesman and when his product had been politely declined he volleyed, “What do you people do without TV?” (I chose to merely sweep my eyes across the bookcases larded with books, rather than defend our choice of a different path) . . . I think I can confidently encourage my daughter to follow her heart and dreams of a better way or count myself a hypocrite. As one grassy-lane traveler to another, I prefer to picnic with her along the way and celebrate without regret.


Two roads diverged in a yellow wood
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth

Then took the other as just as fair
And having perhaps the better claim
Because it was grassy and wanted wear
Though as for that, the passing there
Had worn them really about the same

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet, knowing how way leads onto way
I doubted if I should ever come back

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence
Two roads diverged in a wood
And I took the one less traveled by
And that has made all the difference

~~ Robert Frost ~~

*Dedicated to my dear daughter, Elizabeth*

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Respite Wednesday

Set up your heap of stones to the glory of your Lord,
So that all will see that He is indeed a God of Deliverances,
A splendid, loving, joy-giving Lord
Whom to serve is the greatest joy in all the world.

~~ Amy Carmichael ~~
Whispers of His Power

* * * * *
Photo: Serendipitous discovery along the walkways in the Japanese Tea Gardens
of Golden Gate Park, San Francisco, CA

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

In Praise of the Ordinary

Gentle music fills the air. My favorite CD Morning Mood mingles classical “hits” with the sounds of nature ~~ waterfalls, birdsong, raindrops . . . Assam tea fills my generous Blue Italian teacup. Books spill about as I linger in my favorite chair, feet atop ottoman, and gaze out onto the frosted landscape of my oh-so-familiar gardens.

Ordinary . . . Simple . . . Familiar . . . these words brings comfort to my soul like a well-worn quilt carried overland to a prairie dugout, working its way down a family tree to rest on one’s weary shoulders generations later. The faded fabric and frayed hems cloak with a peace in knowing exactly how you will feel as you snuggle into the “same old” thing.

Routine can become rut, but anyone who has endured nights at a sick child’s bedside, or made the rounds locking up in the absence of a husband who generally performs the nightly task, or traipsed through an airport in vain effort to catch the last flight (long since gone) only to receive a night’s stay in the strange airport knows the comfort and delight of “same old.”

Of late my life has settled into that squishy, easy routine of “same old.” Holiday happenings have ceased, exchanging heavy meals for simpler fair served under the same glowing candles. Busy mornings spent sorting through the tasks of the day at hand, taking into account those that have spilled over undone from yesterday, and evenings wrestled to the ground before dropping into bed for a few blinks of rest before the next round of activity begins have smoothed into a less-demanding cadence that allows me to walk, not run . . . sip not, slurp . . . linger, not hasten.

Last night I met a friend at a local coffeehouse and we whiled away two hours chatting over this and that and t’other. This summit of two moms, two friends, two sisters-of-the-heart nourished our lives with eye-contact and giggles and shared lives – necessities for joy in living that we neglect all too often in favor of folding laundry, scrubbing pans, and all the rest that we must do to make a house a home. We solved no problems (actually hardly mentioned our woes, though we both carry a hefty load of them), enacted no treaties, charted no course – save for securing a spot next month for more of the same; and yet, I know I walked in home’s door that night with a twinkle in my smile that I hadn’t walked out with. I fed that piece of me that needed to rest in an ordinary moment with a friend and laugh along this path we call life.

All over this globe people walk their own path. Our definition of ordinary varies wildly, but we all need that stasis, that peaceful place to unwind and relax. We dream of best, but often settle for far less. Many years ago I fell into despair over the overwhelming pressures of my daily load. I nearly gave up all hope that a “best” life existed for me. A dear, dear friend cupped my chin and gazed deeply into my tear-filled eyes as she spoke of seeking the best, despite the circumstances. My life changed, though not overnight, and I saw “best” grow and shade my daily life. I still struggle, I still toss the towel down in a huff, but I never give up. I bask in the shady refuge found under the branches of that dream called “best” rooted at the heart of my home. I’ve encountered enough extra-ordinary things in my life to take great pleasure in the ordinary, the calm, the gentle, the PLAIN AND BORING events that feel like paradise after the bumpy and unsettling.

Today my husband attends a conference in another town, the thermometer still registers brrrrrrrrr, the girls have already had a spat over a borrowed/missing ruler, my eldest girl has left for the day to attend class, and my son (who lately wrestles with temper issues which make for difficult exchanges, as his autism robs him of tools badly needed in the absence of adequate expressive language) sleeps a bit longer with my blessing as I sit here in my favorite chair sipping my favorite tea, enjoying a moment of utter joy suspended on the cusp of another day in the life . . .

I wish you peace as you find a moment to share this joy with me . . . this ordinary miracle of contentment in the midst of a world beyond our control.

It is well . . .

Monday, January 26, 2009

Something Special!

A package arrives . . .

. . . for Miss Rachel.

Words of encouragement pass from one artist to a younger

Bringing a glow of encouragement.

A treasure chest of possibility,

Fueled by a sprinkling of fairy dust,

Starts the creative wheels turning.

Thank you, Miss Suki-Poet.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Sunday Wonder


And this is the confidence that we have in him,
That, if we ask any thing according to his will,
He heareth us.

1 John 5:14

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Soup'r Saturday

I've got an idea!

Wouldn't a bowl of soup be nice on this wintry Saturday?

Hmmmm . . .

There's that broth from last night's poached chicken
(thrifty me reduced it and tucked it away for another day),
a few potatoes promising to sprout any minute,
that odd bit of sharp cheddar remaining from the last grating,
a sprinkle of herbs de provence . . .

Where's my trusty copper pot?

Let's boil the potatoes and broth 'til potatoes soften.
Gently mash.
Toss in the herbs ~~ ooh la la, such aroma!
Stir in the grated cheese.


In almost no time at all I've got a bowl of delicious soup
made with little more than this and that from the larder.

Need I say more?

* * *

Happy Saturday!

: D

Friday, January 23, 2009

Snow Hope

Gazing at the caravan of clouds passing overhead

Decorating with wintry wishes

Hoping for a snowcapped day

Offering a cozy excuse to lose herself in a book.

(One can hope for two lazy days in a row, can't one?)

* * *

Enjoy Your Wintry Day!

: D

Would you like another helping of HOPE?
Visit Cielo and follow the pathway to many more hopeful ones.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

A Golden Afternoon and Evening

Upon leaving Golden Gate Park
we journeyed across town
in the shadow of a skyline familiar to me,
but offering a completely new sight for my girls:
Coit Tower (left) and The Transamerica Building
(it will always be that to me)
in an ocean of hillside housing.

We're not in Grass Valley anymore!

Pier 39 welcomed us with
a slight ocean breeze and warm balmy air
making it seem like a day in May
rather than January.

We stopped to gaze out at Alcatraz Island,
a uniquely beautiful prison,
while sea lions frolicked beneath us
(too swiftly disappearing for my slow camera skills).

The thrill of discovery in this special place
bid us continue on down the wharf
in search of more treasures.

We found unique transportation methods,

And colorful people of the most friendly sort . . .

Offering gifts to passing children.

A stop before the display window at The Boudin Bakery
confirmed that they still provide more than mere daily bread.

Finally we arrived at The Wharf
and all my childhood memories rushed back

Joined by new memories made today.

The fragrant siren's song of "today's catch"
caused our tummies to rumble
in the fresh sea air,

So we strolled into Nonna Rose's Cafe
and found a waterfront table
affording a delightful view of the sunset
as we dined on clam chowders and crab Louis'
and succulent shrimp salad sandwiches.

A waltz back up the avenue in the darkening eve
treated us to a festival of lights
and a musician (or two) on every corner.

We boarded our home-bound vehicle
and joined the throng of workers in exodus
as we drove under the Bay Bridge
and ended our magical day in The City
with a steady conversation
about all we will do on our next visit.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Respite Wednesday

I'm off on a flight of fancy . . .
. . . And an afternoon of musing . . .
. . . About the bareroot roses I just ordered:

10 Harlow Carr for a floriferous hedge to skirt the deck,

. . . 3 James Galways as pillars to adorn the deck,

. . . And a single perfumed Anne Boleyn to be potted on the deck.

When my sweet-scented daydreaming comes to an end,
I shall lie back in wickered comfort
and doze for just a bit.

* * * * *

T'is a life I love.


Come visit Jan over at "Rose Haven"
And follow her path to others celebrating
"Rose Wednesday"

Monday, January 19, 2009

Open Up Those Golden Gates . . .

. . . We've Arrived!!!
After going across the Golden Gate Bridge we paused to gaze back at
The City. We then crossed back over The Bridge and plunged into our day-long adventure of FUN!

The Academy of Sciences captured our first tourist dollar but clearly I found the Steinhart Aquarium and other exhibits so completely new and exciting, after the extensive remodel since my last visit, that I forgot to take any pics at all of the alligators, fish, African (stuffed) animals, South African (LIVE) penguins, not to mention the FABULOUS tropical rainforest exhibit complete with birds, butterflies, poison dart frogs, leaf cutter ants, and lush flora. The rainforest was my favorite exhibit . . . alas, no pics. : (

A nice young man at the souvenir concession
offered to take our photo
and *DING!*
I remembered I had a camera. : D (L to R: Me, Lydia, Rachel, Aunt Lisa)

We exited the Academy of Sciences
and ventured across the park to
The Japanese Tea Gardens.
(A little plastic tray that ferried our check to us at the Tea House -- so cute!)

This Friendship Gate ushered us into lush and tranquil gardens,
Offering breathtaking vistas,
Peaceful coves inviting personal reflection (*snicker*),
And quiet meandering walks among the well-tended woods.

Brilliantly-hued pagodas . . .
. . . And hillside beauty complete with waterfalls enchanted us.
The still pond waters doubled the beauty of the moment.
We enjoyed the few koi fish we could find,
learning from the gardener that raccoons fish regularly each night
thus depleting the stock.
We took the challenge and climbed high atop the streams for a fresh view. No trip to the Tea Garden would be complete without a pause for tea.
We chose Jasmine tea and a delightful assortment of cookies.
Aunt Lisa enjoyed Jasmine tea for the VERY FIRST TIME!
I recalled fond girlhood memories of tea dates
with my "Nonie" in this very spot.

We all felt very fortunate to be in such a beautiful place,
sharing such a peaceful moment together.
After a trip to the gift shop
(any guess what Miss Rachel purchased?)
we set off for the parking garage as we required transport
to the next exciting item on the agenda.
* * * * *
I'll return soon with photos from our jaunt down to
Fisherman's Wharf
where we dined upon deliciously fresh seafood
and watched with delight
as the sun set on our very special day in The City.