Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Triple-Digit Trials

This rose cluster pretty aptly illustrates my life right now:

Beautiful in part
Promising in spots
Ragged in others places
Badly in need of pruning

The temps reach into the realm of triple digits . . . again. The flurry of parties and gatherings and delightful moments all run together in a blur of rapid hoovering and hasty restocking of beach towels at the poolside. Life hums along like the bees in steady attendance at the banks of lavender running hither and yon throughout my gardens, but I cannot pause to enjoy the heady fragrance as my To Do list cries out to me even in the gardens. Of late I run like Florence Nightingale with a hose to revive the droopy leaves and parched vines that refuse to drink sustaining drafts during the automatic daily sprinkling routine in the cool hours of the morn.

Along with the outdoor duties, I cook, tidy, set tables, greet guests, clear glasses, hug new arrivals, hug farewelling ones, and even find the time to hug those who hang around here day in day out at Wisteria Cottage.

Summer has arrived and with it a host of hosting opportunities. Also on this torrent of activity rushes a raft of birthdays and anniversaries (that I manage to mix up and forget to my own detriment with those whose very self-esteem seems to rest on receiving an e-greeting with my name attached . . . oh please do forgive . . . please). Let us not forget the orthodontic appointments that we pushed beyond the party dates (which seemed SO far away several months ago) and the odd doctor’s appointment (like my annual physical – yuck!) which arrived and caught us off guard.

Did I mention the major nosebleed Matthew developed as Gary and Rachel exited one door and I made for the other to go in opposite directions for different appointments? You probably guessed that one of us arrived on the tardy list.


And does it really have to top 100 again today? I mean it . . . can we discuss this . . . take a vote . . . flip a cosmic switch . . . pass some sort of two-foot-high referendum without reading a word of it . . . ?????

(Oh pardon my rant . . . I believe I just snapped!)

Eventually, despite my best efforts to maintain Super-Woman status I falter, stumble, and then C*R*A*S*H completely.

I sit here in my favorite chair, positioned in the stream of coolness emanating from the cooler, of course – though the jet stream of AAAAAHHHHHH that caught me up as I stood before the open fridge did a nice job of lowering my temps, as well. I ramble, babble, and generally type without a roadmap of any sort. There will be no fancy tales or taut observations today – nope, nothing pithy or weighty; not even a quotable quote to be found as far as I can tell amongst this blather of consciousness that streams between my ears like a sirocco wind and pours out onto the captive keyboard.

I stop.

I retreat.

I find a peaceful moment and wallow in it.

I find the loving embrace of my Father.

I rest.

I read a devotional clip missed in the flurry of recent entertaining.

Like water from a rock it rushes out to me, catches me up, and cools me off.

Thank you, Lord, that You have set aside places,
Special trysting places where we can meet with You.

Alistair Eberst

How Wonderful it is to talk with God
When cares sweep o’er my spirit like a flood;
How wonderful it is to hear his voice,
For when He speaks the desert lands rejoice.

Theodore H. Kitching

We’ve all got little cells in our hearts, little hermitages that God wants to fill. For some there’s a place of silence. It’s hard to be silent. It’s hard to stop. To know God in the quiet is worth a lot – it’s there we’ll get our vision and our peace to come through whatever hits us.
Celtic Daily Prayer (7/23)

As I finish reading the snippet of devotional text and the accompanying verses of enrichment I look up and find myself in a deserted room. All alone. This one has scurried off to tidy her room; that one retreated to tackle French; the little one reluctantly left the gathering with a fresh new Math book under her arm. Gary and Matthew made off for the office some time ago, so I sit here with only the Lord to hear my thoughts.

Peace . . .

A true gift.

My external whining has ceased. My internal gnawing has quieted. This moment floats gently into the next as I sip the final drops of tea and thank the Lord, once again, for steadfastly holding my elbow as I maneuver the daily path.

A few winks of rest refresh me as a gentle birdsong-laced cd of instrumental sweetness lulls me.

I reach into my chair-side basket of goodies and pluck out the delightful read, Clementine in the Kitchen, by Phineas Beck (aka Samuel Chamberlain) published in 1943.

This entertaining (and true) look at an American writer and family living just North of Paris in a stone cottage with a French cook, "Clementine," makes my tummy growl and my laugh lines sprout each time I delve into its pages. The pre-WWII opening takes a decided (and humorous) turn when the publisher of Gourmet magazine (the author’s employer) calls the entire family home for their own safety in 1939. Loathe to leave Clementine behind, the family pleads and succeeds in returning to the Boston area with Clementine in tow.

Though I have scarcely taken in 65 pages I am smitten and eager to read on. The lighthearted prose and drippingly delicious culinary descriptions (even the escargot recipe sounds fabulous – but oh that prep step ~~ ICK!!) serve as the perfect antidote for my weariness these days. Laughter truly lifts the whole body-soul-outlook combo, doesn’t it?

Reading about a French-speaking cook meeting up with an Alabama-born cook in a Connecticut Farmhouse brought a smile to my lips and growls from my tummy.

It’s 1:32 pm and I feel the need for a snack already. I just bought a wedge of Port Salud yesterday, along with some fresh blueberries. Mmmmmm! The day has definitely improved all the way around.

I shall bid farewell as I make my way to the kitchen and then settle down for an afternoon’s worth of delicious reading about Clementine’s delightful stateside adventures in the kitchen.

: D

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Swimming in Chocolate

For where two or three are gathered together in my name,
There am I in the midst of them.
Matthew 18:20

So softly wakes the morning. Some off to church . . . some stay behind . . . all hearts turn toward Him as we rest at the end of a long and lovely week. It has been so good . . .

The Lord promises to grace His presence upon our gatherings. Surely no week has personified that more than this week we have lately closed. With a sigh of sadness at saying goodbye (for now) and a sigh of relief that the waves of busy-ness will calm as the social tide ebbs – well, truly I feel the need to rest and reflect and reminisce in this life that the Lord has blessed me with.

Today I am far too tired to ramble on with stories of this and that and all the rest exchanged over teapots or beach balls or late night snacks, but I can assure you that the entire week spent with my dear, sweet sister Natalie from Ukraine reinforced my heart as it reaches out to embrace any and all friends that the Lord brings across my path.

Over four years ago I answered a call to bring goods and hugs to orphans in Ukraine. Nursing a broken heart at the recent loss of my own sweet son Andrew, I traveled to distant parts of a country filled with lonely, “special,” needy, and precious little ones and old ones and every “one” in-between. My journal from that trip cries out with queries and qualms about my role in this big place called earth.

Adopt a special infant and repeat what I had only recently laid to rest?

Teach and share with those hungry to know of my walk with Jesus?

Return home and merely finance another’s task?

Too many questions tumbled in my heart as I traversed the string of boarding schools and orphanages and group homes for those forgotten by most save a governmental supplement.

I saw love in the rawest form as whole warehouses of special boys and girls received the best care possible financed with the smallest budget imaginable. My life changed – my heart broke again . . . and yet the Lord offered me solace in the midst of so much sorrow.

A brief meeting in a crowded vestibule would prove the only opportunity for me to “meet” Natalya. A hastily worded introduction and a warm exchange of greetings planted a seed. Later an email invitation to join in prayer and support for this missionary to campus students sparked my thinking that this avenue into the hearts of the Ukrainians by a fellow Ukrainian filled in some of the blanks I carried home from my trip. I joined and began receiving regular updates.

Not content to merely read of events and gatherings, I began writing to Natalya personally. We began sharing more than just “work” progress – a friendship sprouted from that seed of a greeting many months before. She became so much more than “Natalya: Campus Crusade worker” and blossomed into the familiar “Natalie: friend and sister.”

In time I returned to Ukraine for another opportunity to share and give and love. This time we journeyed to Lviv, Natalie’s hometown.

To exit the plane, walk into the terminal (an old and quaint building predating Soviet history), and be met by a “friend’s” embrace set the “mission” on a very different plane. Though the trip involved the same format of traveling to meet the outlying in need, the off hours contained walks in the park arm-in-arm with Natalie as is the custom among girlfriends in Ukraine. Tea dates in cafes offered moments to laugh and share over fragrant tea and tasty cakes. Conversations covering politics, religion, history, literature, and family life peppered our times together. Sometimes others joined us, often times we met alone, but always, always we had so much to say and ask and wonder about.

The zenith of my visit came when she invited me home. I saw her life in a new light. A visit, a meal, a memory indelibly cast – the miracle of two hearts living so far apart geographically yet knitting so close spiritually. The miracle of friendship never ceases to amaze me!

I left Ukraine once again, and once again the experience had changed me forever.

Months later I received a delightful email containing news of Natalie’s pending trip to the US. I immediately invited her to extend her trip to include a West Coast leg. She accepted. We shared but a few days together as a family. My children, husband, and friends welcomed Natalie with all the regular festivities accorded a guest, but more than that we proffered the tiny moments shared within a family. Lingering over tea on the deck, staying up late in the night, sharing hopes and dreams – it all took place on that first trip. We bid farewell far too quickly. All too soon life carried on carrying us to new places in life.

Recently, while bemoaning the cancellation of an eagerly anticipated visit by someone dear to me, I received an email asking if I had room for a visitor. Natalie had booked another trip to the USA and this time a California visit figured prominently on the itinerary. Many hurdles had to be surmounted, many people had to work together to make it all possible, but like the gift of all visits with friends-who-become-sisters, Natalie and I enjoyed yet another wonderful holiday together.

We hosted gatherings of many and few, we ate indoors and out, we talked late into the night and slept late in the day to make up for it. We shared deep and deeper. So many questions flowed from a young woman raised in a very different world than I, yet seeking the same treasure found in serving the Father, marrying, bearing children, making a home, celebrating life. My struggles and losses stacked up next to triumphs and blessings, serving to clarify my pathway and the journey to joy I travel. Natalie’s Soviet scars and difficult days gone by prove no less motivating as she reaches out to grasp freedom and fulfillment in life. We have walked in different worlds, yet our hearts cry out for the same love and life.

And so for a few precious days we floated without notice of clocks or calendars as we opened our hearts and lived together in harmony as a family.

The Ukrainians have a phrase to describe the luxurious life:

Swimming in Chocolate.

Truly, this past week we swam in the sweetest and best of life’s pleasures.

All too soon with bags packed and good-byes exchanged we ended this particular chapter in the book of our life as friends and sisters. Fortunately this book has many, many more blank pages for God to write upon. I have already received a preview of a future chapter entitled:

Nuptials for Natalie:
A Ukrainian Adventure for the Unruh Family

I can hardly wait for that installment!!!!

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Sunday Wonder

This is the day
Which the LORD hath made;
We will rejoice
And be glad in it.

Psalm 118:24

* * *

We are especially joyful as we prepare to welcome a dear friend from Ukraine. While Natalya visits with us I will likely not find much blogging time; but rest assured I will return at week's end (or thereabout) with many more tales to tell and photos to share from Wisteria Cottage.

Have a great week!

: D

Friday, July 17, 2009

Summertime, Teatime, Storytime

The heat has arrived and spread its wide mantle of HOT on every outdoor surface. Yesterday we swam and snacked in the afternoon, finding ourselves sapped of all energy throughout the rest of the day and evening, sleeping long and deep through to the next morn as the exertion took its toll. Today we rest indoors whilst the heat passes over, entertaining notions of a twilight supper and nighttime swim. Each season offers a delicious delight we eagerly anticipate throughout the year. The first snowfall causes celebration equal to the first late night swim and marshmallow roast. The time for daily swimming has arrived a bit late this year, but we welcome it warmly, nonetheless.

Our early summertime delight of spending afternoons out in the gardens has given way to siestas and reading nooks kept cool by the aid of shade and machinery most welcome. Late night playtimes curtail early morning tasks to only those most necessary (like watering the gardens and tending the animals) as we have traded “early to rise” for “late we must play.” Each summer we make this trade and live richer for the bargain.

Not surprisingly, our schoolwork hours continue without hiccup, and actually yield a greater pace than that of the early summer days when we ran afield without thought to regular bookishness. Music practice and mathematical tasks find ample space in a warm afternoon laced with greater access to lazy hours spent in cool pursuit with book in hand or journal for record of just this very life we live. Likewise, our storytelling from the family tree keeps pace with fairytales in books fed upon freely in this season of free time found in a hot summer’s afternoon pocket.

Each morning, regardless of the season, we gather round the teapot after chores have been tended and tummies growl for attention. Not given over to the tradition of big country breakfasts, each girl (or guy) finds a plateful or bowlful to suit their tastes. One may choose oatmeal topped with warm just-picked berries, while another crafts a half-moon omelet filled with cheese and sprouts nestled on a plateful of fresh and crunchy garden treats (that one would be me). The toaster pops, the teakettle bubbles, and the fridge swings to and fro in this mid-morning dance toward storytelling time.

The relaxed cadence of our life shines brightly around the tea table. Favorite cups find matching saucers, heaped plates or dainty nibbles serve to satisfy, and the madcap array of overstuffed furnishings beckon for one to sit and sip and share from the heart. Some days we share tears and teary paths that we have been called to; other times the hilarity of a morning’s foible at chores entertains one and all – easily found around this cottage filled with chickens, cats, kids, and the occasional skunk (whom we fear likes us enough to endure the rodent repeller recently introduced into his nesting spot). The reading of Scripture, the telling of a devotional thought, and the muffling of laughter or tears in a hug most sincere grace our daily gathering for tea. Quite often the conversation sparks a memory and the family tree blossoms with something to tell.

I come from a long line of storytellers. Having had the joy of knowing many of my great-grandparents, coupled with the gift of a writer’s ear and storage bank discovered very early on (yes, I truly do remember residing in a crib and being coaxed to use a potty, among other early memories most do not recall), I sat enraptured as elders shared the family treasure with me, generally the youngest in attendance. Without knowing it, I became one of the guardians of the family story rife with adventure, determination, disaster, and triumph all rolled into the memories of those who knew or did or remembered those who knew or did or remembered.

My Great-Grandma Ruth (affectionately known a “Mammy” to me) held a vault of memories that she shared freely as she poured out the tea. We took tea with breakfast, paused for tea midday, and always, ALWAYS had a cuppa tea and a little something before turning in for the night . . . at midnight. (I come by my night-owl roots honestly, you see.) A nibble of cheddar, a spiced cookie, and Lipton’s tea out of a china teacup and saucer always got the conversation flowing. I nibbled or sipped ever so quietly, eagerly anticipating the beginning of the stories . . .

Stories of Uncle Yancy, who lost his nose while battling a bear, always sent shivers down my spine; and yet the giggles would erupt as Mammy would go on to tell how that poor man wrestled more with that false nose than he ever did with that shaggy bear. The doctor fashioned a false nose with a sort of modified eye-glass frame that spread ‘cross his cheeks. She then rifled in the top drawer of the bureau in the game room pulling out a sepia-toned photo clearly showing that phony nose and the brave pioneer grimacing at the camera.

“Why,” she laughed till she gasped for air, “He looked a sight in that thing! He struggled with it, tugging and adjusting for vanity’s sake, generally tossing it aside despite the odd looks. He was something . . .” she would say as her voice trailed off with a choke of emotion and pride.

I would flop back in my chair positively spellbound at the tale of this man’s bravery on multiple fronts. I chafed at wearing glasses and found the taunting miserable – how much worse to be sporting that nose? *Sigh* I would smile with an inner strength that comes from knowing your family has seen worse and survived to triumph.

Later, when I rushed to share this fantastic tale at school I reaped more jeers than cheers from the skeptical ones and found that the lack of the picture proof left me with little other than the knowledge that I knew it to be true. And so I stored up the tales but shared them with few; unlike Uncle Yancy I chose to avoid the public scrutiny.

Throughout the years I continued to sit at the feet of the storytellers in my family on both sides and absorb the beauty of our unique history. I heard the tales over and over again, never tiring of the details. Other family members would interrupt and add a new tidbit, and on occasion the bold few would contradict a memory, but generally I found the tales to pass from generation to generation without much change.

Sadly, the family has splintered and the tale tellers have passed away. I once overheard a great uncle snort in disdain at the “silly nonsense” about life on the prairie. He had moved away from the old-fashioned to the modern and had no time to look back. Even though I had enjoyed far fewer years of the tale telling, I knew them to be something special, if only to me. And so I carried as many as I could. Some became material for fictional stories that would go on to win acclaim for originality or ingenuity, while others earned tears of laughter or sorrow, but always I kept the veracity of the tales hidden. I spun the stories as fiction and enjoyed popularity without need to defend.

One day I tired of the world of fiction and began to reweave the true names and places in my family’s journey. Across oceans I met those who had been left behind in the “Old Country.” Through old letters and weighty tomes of historical compilations I learned the names of places that I had/would visit. Every time I visited my Grandpa Rudy (Mammy’s son) he would heed the pleading and pile us all in the Travel-all for a trip off the beaten path to places like Possum Trot and Moskee and all sorts of other magical little spots with little left standing save a rotting blacksmith’s shed, wherein I dug around and found lingering souvenirs of my Great-Grandpa Hans’ workmanship to treasure. Though my Grandpa Rudy laughed aloud with ribbing, wondering why I needed to grab garbage for souvenirs, I knew underneath that rough exterior his heart swelled with pride that I cared to remember that his father swung a hammer in a forge and kept an industry’s horsepower in shoes during the heyday of the Homestake mine in The Black Hills of South Dakota, that my other Great-Grandpa earned his nicknames “Bozy” for being the best bulldozer driver in The Hills, and that “Choppy” got his title from chopping trees with famous strength. Threads of this memory and that one fell freely in conversation as my Grandfather chauffeured this scrawny kid through the forests of his childhood.

These days all those storytellers have “Passed Over” as the family saying goes. I cannot clarify this detail or that, I can merely pass along what I know from years of absorbing teatime chatter or ramblings on a pathway through the old family lands lost long ago for lack of a successful homestead venture. As a storyteller, I lovingly remember the effort of those attempting to make a go of the pioneer dreams through nourishing the adventurous spirit that still courses through the veins of this limb of that family tree. Those self-same lands lay barren and empty to this day, but an arrowhead found or a rattler spotted fuels the pride I feel standing and staring at an expanse that once housed a soddy fashioned by the very hands of my Great-Grandfather. Herein he grasped the American dream with both Norwegian-born hands, managing to find time to woo and marry my “Mammy” and ensure that she would have stories to pass down to children taking tea with her . . . and grandchildren . . . and great grand children . . . and even have the opportunity to know she had great-great grandchildren (my boys) who arrived 5-1/2 months before she passed over into the presence of our Lord. She left the storytelling to those who saw fit to gather the stories she shared . . . she left a great legacy to me.

I think of my Mammy often as I sit down to tea with my children all around. I share the stories long held in the safety of my heart and it feels good. Though I once dreamed of being an author of wide acclaim, I have found that the telling of my stories to the next generation – my sweet children – will ensure that my family will not be forgotten, nor will we forget the precious gift of a few moments spent together over a relaxing beverage sipped within this bond we call family. Though my childhood erupted, sending fragments of family far and away, I have safeguarded those baskets of debris gathered in the aftermath of the storm, ensuring that my children would not be cheated of a family tree full of characters of all sorts and sizes. The legacy rests safely here at Wisteria Cottage.

Recently the girls and I sat chatting over tea about this memory and that, whiling away the time in joyful recollection. The morning faded and afternoon took its place.

I glanced at the clock and noted the time, remarking,
“I think we need to get going and doing, don’t you?”

To which Lydia sagely replied,
“We are doing something – we’re talking and that’s important.”

I think I have found the next storyteller.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Respite Wednesday

And they said one to another,
Behold, this dreamer cometh.

Genesis 37:19

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Sunflower Days and Lavender Nights as Summer Delights

What a blessing to have my busy (jam-packed week) wiped clean save for a few delightful activities like a swim party with dear long-time friends – three generations worth!

Sheer relief!

My loving Father above knows that even in the amusements of life one must exit the roller coaster with flushed cheeks and racing heart seeking a cool quiet spot to sip refreshment and repair the body before the next big plunge.

These moments here with teacup in hand and gentle tunes filling the air soothe me. The heady fragrance of luscious lavender fills the air, lingering from yesterday’s task of stripping the dried lavender buds and placing them in a jar

for use in teas and tubs and tasty stews throughout the coming year.

Elizabeth’s deft hands gathered and dried and “put up” a goodly amount of my favorite herb/spice/elixir in this busy life.

The diligence of my daughter sitting at the table tasking away filled our home with a fragrance of beauty akin to the finest of spas. I fairly floated through my vacuuming and dish-washing duties, smiling all the while.

These days of heat and bright and busy can overwhelm me if I choose to let them.

But . . . I don’t.

One advantage of living life with a “special” child or two lies nestled in the rough-and-tumble pace of the unexpected – I see beauty in the tiniest of things, because I tune into the mere hints of change. God has given our family the task of remaining lithe and deft toward the portend of change. Whereas another parent may not even hear the gentle sound of a strained breath, I know that signals the first stage of overload for my sensitive son.

The rest of our family hears it too, though our guests remain completely unaware of the communication that we receive loud and clear.

This well-developed sensitivity lends a depth to my gentle life here at Wisteria Cottage that allows me to rejoice though I cannot run free and wild along the World’s highways and by-ways tasting and seeing with abandon as so many may do. (I may add that once-upon-a-time I begged the Lord for “normal” in so many areas of my life in which I now thank Him that He did not erase the “special” at my request. Wisdom grows with time . . . sometimes.)

My battles with “The Way Things Are” versus "The Way I Wish They Were" will surely never abate entirely, as evidenced by the Baby Birdie event these past few days. I know that nature has its own rules and customs, but sometimes they clash so with the gentleness it has seemingly cloaked itself within as it slipped into my life in the bodies of loving kitties and gentle song-filled birdies.

What does one do when one finds that their two playful and oh-so loving kitties have discovered a feathered football? To and fro the frightened little ball of fluff flew, unable to fly or flee, caught in a game most natural for cats. Enter one princess to the rescue: Elizabeth scooped up the baby bird and brought it inside. Though it looked dead, she knew life still fluttered his feathers and she set about making a “nest” for him. We tried and discarded boxes of various sizes; since he had regained his vigor and flitted furiously, we knew the “nest” would require fortress-high walls. Thus I dove into the “gift bag” cupboard and emerged with just the right fit. A fleecy kitchen towel bunched just so completed the outfit. Now for some food and water . . . hmmmmmm . . .? The tiniest dropper from the chemistry set, a glass of water, and a mushy plum served via retractable pickle fork rounded out the menu. And so another “experiment” commenced here at The learning Kingdom.

I feared choking the tiny one with such uncontrolled portions of plum flesh, but Elizabeth’s steady hand and eye satisfied his gaping mouth and he finally settled down to sleep. A clothespin at the top of the gift sack prevented escape while allowing plenty of fresh air. His day ended, but our prayers continued.

Next morning, “peeping” and gaping mouth greeted the day as the little one had survived. Elizabeth returned him to the “wild” from whence he had come, but our playful kitties showed up for another game of toss across. NOT! The furred ones earned a time out (though they had no idea the offense) and the rescue mission continued as the frightened little bird sat mute and stunned. Slowly he opened his eyes and let out a “PEEP!” Instantly two parent birds swooped to the foot of the redwood, which housed the fragile nest, and began searching for Junior. “PEEP!” he cried again, and the family reunion commenced. The adult birds fluttered and flapped, imploring the youth to join them. He tried. He failed. Those baby-bird feathers just would not hold him aloft. And so they set about feeding him and coaxing him to a safe haven.

Truly amazed, we watched in near disbelief as the parents worked long and hard to keep their baby safe. This parental dance erased that long-held notion that if we touched the baby it would be rejected by its parent. Instead, we saw otherwise. This baby birdie had slumbered in a gift bag in Elizabeth’s room, having been handled often and fed most unorthodoxly, and still the mamma came to reclaim her child. My heart stirred, tears welled. I watched in awe. Then I left the little family alone as I returned to care for my own.

Toward dusk Gary and I walked out to visit the chickens and toss in some gnawed cobs of corn (the #1 favorite snack in chickenland). All of a sudden Gary took off running! I called out for an explanation, but then saw Mr. Darcy cat engaging in toss-the-tot once again. Oh NO! That birdie babe had fallen under attack again. I scooped the athletic cat and remanded him to Rachel’s arms for depositing in the garage for the second time in a day. Gary scooped up the feathered tyke and removed him to a safe haven outside the confines of our designated gardens. I scanned the trees and much to my surprise I spotted Mr. and Mrs. Bird once again calling out and searching for Junior. AMAZING!

We left the feathered family to deal with the pressing matter and I set out to find Mr. Bingley, currently away at play elsewhere.

As twilight fell I danced in the gardens calling for the errant kitty. I marveled over the prodigious output of the gardens. I nibbled rosy orbs of tomato heaven (still warm from the newly set sun), I remarked on each new budding rose in the recurring flush of blossoms, and I danced with delight under one of my mimosa trees and its first flush of blossoms after nearly nine years of nurturing.

The once 3-inch-high sprig gifted to me as a housewarming present so long ago has finally attained maturity. What joy!

A familiar rustling in the leaves alongside our teahouse interrupted my dance and brought me ‘round the corner with a smile and a set of welcoming arms for Mr. Bingley.

“What Ho!” I stopped cold. “A striped coat of black and white Mr. Bingley does not own!”

I gently backed away from the flaring tail that now pointed precisely in my direction. On muted footfalls (hard to do when one has selected clippity flip-flops before entering the gardens for a stroll) I backed gingerly down the pathway, over the bridge, and onto the main lawns. Mr. Stinker decided I posed little threat this time, but scurried away under the Wendy House just to be sure. I ran the other direction without a polite farewell.

Whew! Close call! Once Gary received TWO DROPS of skunk spray on his jeans and I had to throw them away – unbelievable odor!!! I had chosen shorts for today's togs – bare legs cannot be merely tossed. Oooooh I shudder to think of testing the “tomato juice” cure.

Later when Mr. Bingley came to my second calling I shut him up in the garage post haste – stunned and confused, the poor guy had no idea why he deserved such abrupt treatment. But forgiveness flows freely from that perpetually purring one.

This morning we checked for the baby birdie and found no sign of him or his parents. I know God has his eye on the little guy and I need no longer worry.

As for the striped lodger . . . ? He will be treated to a blaring radio in the hopes that he will move along to another address elsewhere . . . far, far away, I pray.

Lastly, I must apologize to Mr. Squirrel for my recent dressing down over his gluttonous demeanor in my strawberry bed. I fear I have mistaken one bushy tale for another. *sigh*

And so it goes around here.

What summertime adventures have you to share?

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Sunday Wonder

So I saw that
There is nothing better for a man
Than to enjoy his work,
Because that is his lot . . .

Ecclesiastes 3:22a

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Finding Pause . . .

The celebrations have passed, the meals enjoyed, the stories shared, the candles blown. Now I must rest.

Sadly, this flurry of birthday joy floats in a wake of much that wears out the heart. I found myself stretching to opacity at times . . . needing to rest and refresh.

Living in a “special” world under the protective cover of a loving Heavenly Father makes it all possible . . . but not perfect.

The latest musical choice topping Matthew’s list: The Polar Express soundtrack blares through the airwaves in a seemingly incessant journey that ends right where it began – a plaintiff plea for “Music!” and that charming grin that sends me over to the remote once again to play the same selection. Why not just hit “repeat” you might ask? I refuse to believe that we lie stranded in a loop. Change will occur. New thoughts and ideas and flavors will enter and rescue us from the monotony that autism feeds upon. And so I find the remote and select it one more time.

The stereo equipment resides behind a barrier and must be remotely accessed – a skill Matthew has failed to fully master – safeguarding us from a non-stop ride over the same notes . . . for today, anyway. A once delightful Christmas cd has now joined the ranks of “UGH! Not again!” Like Disney’s Electrical Light Parade, Tarzan soundtrack, Lion King, and a host of other former favorites, The Polar Express has worn out its welcome for most of us . . . but not all.

Autism for us involves an ever-changing tableau of choices and needs mired in a sea of relentless repetition. We must be flexible as well as enduring, for what works beautifully one day (or many in succession) may not fit the bill the next. No warning, no hint, simply “No!” For a week or two solid Matthew may request a snack of toast each night before bed. The, one night – NOPE! The toast sits alone until tossed out. Foods, routines, sounds, and emotions come and go through an ever-evolving doorway between Matthew and the outside world.

I applaud each newly acquired task, like helping arrange the pillows on his freshly made bed, or mastering the art of tissues in a nose-needy situation, or verbalizing a request for something. Unfortunately I wear thin when the requests become “dittos” and the failure to express a need becomes an issue of frustration (for all involved). Each day dawns bright and new, and yet the glare of the newness falls on weary eyes on more days than I care to share. Today finds me shielding my eyes from the piercing rays of a day full of unknowns in a world of endless choices.

Lest I fall to pity, I find the pause button and give myself some rest. Allowing myself to take a break has not come easy; in fact, the years have shown me to be one who runs smack into the brickwall of breakdown without applying the brakes in time to safeguard myself. My watchful eye keeps my children in sight and I know just when to offer one a bubbly bath, or a tea date away, or a drive through the hills (Matthew’s favorite unwind). Sadly, at times my dear husband and I fail to hear our own hearts beating furiously in overload. Thus, we fall . . . thankfully into the arms of the other.

For if they fall, the one will lift up his fellow:
But woe to him that is alone when he falleth;
For he hath not another to help him up.

Ecclesiastes 4:10

Today I rest in the arms of a very weary husband. A cancelled business trip, a house empty of guests, and a pantry well-stocked afford a day of rest for us.

Long ago my husband discovered that I had no eye for the fuel gauge in our vehicles. On several occasions I “drove home on fumes” and other times I waited by the roadside for his trusty rescue. In short order he adopted a routine for keeping our car fuel above the half-way mark. It worked. (But I still remain blind to the indicator – sigh!) I learned that he had no concept of “sorry we’re broke, don’t buy that.” I took over the financial duties after a few mishaps with lapsed due dates on necessary bills and ballooning debt. It worked. (But he still buys on emotion when the need presses – sigh!) We both had the wisdom to note that these seemingly simple oversights represented an Achilles heel which caused stumbles and bruises that didn’t need to be. Rather than harangue me about the gas level, he merely blessed me with a wing of protection. Rather than gripe about a late fee, I merely wrote the checks in a timely fashion. It works. We smile. Life continues along its bumpy path, “Business as usual” until . . .

Every now and again we blow a fuse and the reset button must be applied. Today we will push reset.

Our daily teatime at midmorning will linger a bit longer as more stories than usual fill the air. Laughter will come stiffly at first and then grow deep and full as the tight lines around the mouth relax. A second piece of cake or another cookie will sneak onto the plate. (With a plethora of leftover goodies to choose from and a bit of extra pause, who can resist?) I will even lie back and close my eyes, despite the soiled dishes stacked neatly nearly 24 hours ago. I will pause . . .

All too soon the tummies will growl for more than tea and cakes, the laundry chute will belch an overflow of play togs, and Matthew will come in with an eager request for “Music?” Yep, I’ll climb aboard the Polar Express AGAIN . . . but I’ll smile a refreshed smile as I dial in #164, thanking the Lord for this precious “Special” life that includes a “Reset” button that trumps the “Repeat” button every time.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Happy 21st Birthday Matthew!

How did you go from this . . .

. . . to THIS in such a short time?

I love you sweet boy man.

Monday, July 6, 2009

Sipping Summer Slowly With Delight

Last year summer vanished in a wildfire and a series of heat waves that thundered through my life and stole away my joy. (Okay, I admit I groused it away on many an occasion, but still . . .) This year I made a promise to myself to find the fountain of joy in the midst of my lesser-favored time of year. So far I have found a freshet that shows little sign of waning.

The coolness of our summer temps delights me no end. I can even be out in the gardens at midday without crisping in a flash. The damp dew-speckled pathways grow lush with pennyroyal and I celebrate the herbal “lawn” I have sought for years. Chamomile proved too delicate for my arid lands and thyme too rampant – though both still grow merrily here and there effusing the air with each crushing footfall. This minty-sweet pennyroyal carpet boasts deep purple flowers and happily spreads with abandon in the shady and sunny spots.

I do not court any of the traditional lawns as they prove too greedy for my rain-free locale in the cleft of the Sierras. So, when I discovered this patch of persistent purpleness I kept my eye on it, expecting it to curl up and vanish or grow leggy and unsightly. On the contrary, each mowing produced a renewed vigor and the driest of spots sported patches taking root with glee. Now, I am sure in some gardens this little runner would be despised, but I see it as a gift. Running across the damp leaflets in the early hours brings a tangy excitement into the air, and at dusk -- as I scurry around with secateurs and tidiness in mind -- the fragrance of after-dinner-mint brings a smile to my face.

I grew up in apartments and condos that offered little in the way of “gardens” to roam, but my steady flow of reading ignited a dream of one day having gardens to ramble with sights, sounds, and smells to feed all the senses. My “Secret Garden” dream spun so long ago while reading and lounging in the afternoon heat continues to grow and expand with each season. Just the other day I bought a trumpet vine of the most vibrant coral-red. Its two tubular blooms have called the hummingbirds to celebrate its arrival. One day I will have a splendiferous vine engulfing the remaining patio post (of most practical black metal, though rather un-beautiful for the moment . . .).

Even now I sit upon my deck, hearing a distant neighbor practice a real trumpet (he/she’s quite good actually), listening to the splash of the fountains, catching giggles from the surrounds as the girls run and discover newness since yesterday’s games. So many things I nearly missed as I mapped out my To Do list of chores and deeds that filled the day from end to end.

But then . . .

I stopped and remembered that I had vowed to enjoy this summer as never before. Dishes can be loaded or sudsed after sunset, or even later if I choose to stay out and watch the bat ballet that occurs each eve at twilight. Feeding the chickens their final snack before bedtime proves a most enjoyable game with many vying for the honor of being “popular” with the feathered-ones. Tonight’s fare includes melon rinds and seeds, tomato tops, eggplant remains, and mushy raspberries absent-mindedly forgotten in the bin – my loss, their gain.

I now refer to the chickens as feathered folk or happy ones, as we still cannot discern whether we have a rooster (or two) among the lot. All research and questioning of those chicken folk we know has resulted in the same answer: Just wait and see. So we wait and wonder and chat about ideas should we have one or more roosters. To date we plan to keep one rooster with the hopes of raising our own chickies next year; any additional cockerels will be offered as pets to others. So far they all act like hens . . . but what do we know?

Thus my days run one into another with a gentle read to fill any quiet moment.
Of late I am enjoying The Heart on the Right Side by Carolyn Jourdan – a true story involving a career girl who leaves her DC senate aid position to come home to rural Tennessee to help Dad run his country doctor practice while Mom recovers from a heart issue. So far it has proven a delight without the pitfalls of most books I have attempted this summer. I don’t care to read of someone else’s intimate antics, nor do I want a mouthful of cursing on each page. I began Blessed Are the Cheesemakers based on a recommendation and then quickly tossed it aside as the material simply annoyed me with its baseness. (Glad I borrowed the disappointment from the library.)

I have found as I gain in years that I love a good true-life adventure more than an orchestrated novel. Each has a place in a well-balanced diet of reads, but the truth of a life lived out in ordinary detail and drama fascinates me. To see how one handles life as it comes, not as it has been created for effect, grabs my heart every time. Thus blogs interest me so. This one cannot decide which house to buy (if any), that one has just finished her house and moved into a new phase, another travels to many delicious destinations, while yet another stays home with feet in boots to observe life with as much joy and wonder as those traipsing over new paths. Summertime fun in a houseful of kids spills laughter across the web, at the same moment that a quiet cottage shelters one who struggles to understand some facet of life. Somewhere out there a woman counts the days ‘til her beloved returns, and in an entirely different corner of the world another wipes away tears of great loss.

LIFE . . . living . . . lively . . . alive . . .

I see the blog as a farmer’s market of lives open for a visit, extending a hand of friendship, seeking more than just the passing bump of another in the checkout line at the market. Each Saturday I rise earlier than usual and hurry off with my woven baskets, a fistful of cash, and the eager anticipation of buying fresh fruits, vegetables, and eggs from the people who worked to bring in the crop. I shake hands that held the very produce that I will in turn prepare and serve to my family. I am learning them all by name and by crop and by personality.

"Yes, that man makes the best pesto, but his gruffy nature detracts from the quality. A smile would go a long way in boosting sales with me." (Do you hear the challenge in my voice? Will my smile game bring forth a flash of pearly white along with the pesto purchase next week? I’ll keep trying.)

"That Peach Guy has the sweetest disposition and his peaches sweeter still."

"Hurry, hurry I want to get to Jonette’s booth before her eggs disappear. Gone by 8:35? Bummer! Hey, those patty pan look fabulous – I’ll take four!"

And on it goes as I savor the summertime fun of shopping the farmer’s market, strolling the cool evening gardens, reading a light and fun book (keeping tissues at hand for those few “moments”), and wandering around the blog-o-sphere to peek in and see what each of you happens to be up to at the moment.

I sip. I savor. I soak it all in. And it is good.

Keeping a promise. Finding a new way. Reaping joy.

How’s your summer going?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Sunday Wonder

If my people,
Which are called by my name,
Shall humble themselves, and pray,
And seek my face,
And turn from their wicked ways;
Then will I hear from heaven,
And will forgive their sin,
And will heal their land.

2 Chronicles 7:14

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Happy Birthday U.S.A.!

We're Having a Party

And everyone's invited

. . . Absolutely EVERYONE!

Let the sounds of Freedom's celebration RING!