Monday, December 26, 2011

I remember

Ghosts of Christmas past--

* Snow. My brother and I would walk with our dad on quiet snowy mornings traveling into the piney depths of a nearby forest. Our loyal dog, Cissie, would get snowballs entangled in her hair because her belly dragged through the deep snow.

* more snow - we lived where there was lots of snow every winter. Luckily there also was a big hill made for every kid in the neighborhood and their sled. Cissie was there too and enjoyed riding the sled with us.

* Cookies. As a kid, I loved the Spritz cookie press. Nothing like green food coloring and a few sprinkles of sugar to make you feel like a kid again.

* Feeding the birds - stringing popcorn, orange slices and cranberries to offer as a gift to our woodland friends was something we did with our daughter in our first home one Christmas Eve. The next morning, every morsel was gone.

* Showing off your "stuff" - It was common in our neighborhood, to visit our friends Christmas afternoon prounding wearing a new sweater, coat, etc.

* Lights - remember those large colored bulbs on the live tree? I would turn off all the lights in the room, turn on the music and just stare at the tree.

So many more memories of course. Share some.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Retreat to Quiet

For 26 hours I had the pleasure of taking part in a retreat with four other women.  We tried to keep the time as unorganized as 5 organized women can allow, but the idea behind the retreat was "to be" and raise our awareness of gratitude in our lives. 

I am grateful

*  for friendships - new and older that grant an intense level of respect for one another.  Like these trees that have swallowed a barbed wire fence as they grew, we all have scars. Trust helps us to allow a level of vulnerability to show those scars and know that your friend won't flinch.

I am grateful

* for time and an aging body that has stuck with me and taken me through every day of my life, no matter how I treated it.  In this photo, trees have grown thru the roof of this tiny out building along the road where I took a morning walk. The building still stands just as we do through life's highs and lows.

I am grateful

* for the differences in this world that make it such an interesting place to roam.  Language, culture, history, government, dress, expectations, money---the list is long. I enjoy learning about our differences and I marvel how in the end, we are all the same.

I am grateful

* for a peaceful place where I can walk, pray, read, meditate, take photographs, and just be to the sounds of birds and the breeze.

I am grateful for all these things and much more. Family, good health, a loving church community, and good neighbors are just some of the reasons I am one fortunate and humble woman.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Home is where your vote is

Today is a special day--a day when as American citizens we have the right to vote for our leaders and representatives.   Last night I imagined how the various candidates for Sheriff, Board of Supervisors, Senate etc. in our county and across this nation were feeling.  I'm guessing they were exhausted yet excited,  and most certainly glad the day has finally arrived.  The big decision to run, the fund-raising, the volunteers, the meetings, the hand shaking and my favorite part (ugh!)--the advertising---have done their work and now the voters just need to show up and do theirs.

Unfortunately, Americans aren't very good at the voting part. That is a proven fact.  We have so much. Why do we let others decide who is going to run our cities, counties, townships, boroughs and our country? Why don't we get involved? Just asking...

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Just Be

We have friendly cat neighbors. "Izzie" the cat likes to wander out of the confines of her fenced-in yard next door to our backyard with its squirrels and birds. My husband is hoping she has a special talent for finding the moles that continue to invade the garden.

Izzie is teaching me to accept cats for who they are. As a person who grew up with dogs, I became accustomed to a furry domesticated animal who wanted to participate in every aspect of my life. "We're eating?--where's my bowl?  Playing in the yard--where's my ball?  Watching TV---I'll lay at your feet, or maybe on your feet.  Taking a shower? I'll lick you dry if you let me."  I didn't say it was all good!  But I did learn that dogs are eager to please, love unconditionally and generally want to be with their owners as much as possible. Dogs seek attention, even from strangers.

And there is the big difference isn't it?   Izzie knows me. I visit her house and she will allow me to pet her for at least 5 seconds.

Visiting our yard this week, the lovely Izzie stayed perched for an time on a log amongst the fallen brown leaves.  I wanted to capture the Kodak moment.  Izzie didn't really think it was a good idea.  First she hid behind a tree and couldn't resist peeking out at me.

Then she found a tiny tree that was perfect for rubbing all over her face.

Finally, I got the hint. This posing for the camera stuff, this need to connect with another living creature was only my desire. It had nothing to do with what she wanted and the best way Izzie could explain that was to walk away.

Thankfully, I could turn to nature for comfort and connection.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Decorating Our Nests

Since families lived in caves we have felt the need to express ourselves by decorating our dwellings. In the 60s, avocado green and gold were THE hot colors whether you were buying new shag carpet or a new-fangled appliance such as a blender.  In the 70s I once lived in a furnished trailer for six months that included large appliances that were dusty rose pink. It was difficult to be creative in a muted pepto bismol bottle.

Today taste isn't just about color. Cottage, French country, modern and something called shabby chic are splashed throughout design magazines.

But at this time of year, we put all that aside and think ORANGE.

Go into into any store and you are guaranteed a wide selection of glittery, shiny, scary, funny, plastic and blow-up  decorations to make your lawn a festive canvas of Halloween gloom and doom.

For our home, I prefer a pile of different types of pumpkins with some straw and dry cornstalks. But I love the Americana of orange pumpkin lights, flying witches and ghostly webs hanging in the trees seen throughout the neighborhoods, particularly where children live. There you find the excitement of deciding what super hero or princess you will be on that one night of the year when it's acceptable to ask neighbors for candy.

It's time to put those tombstones in the yard, buy candy that you will try not to eat, and fall in love with orange all over again.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Reasons I Procrastinate

Top 10 reasons why I procrastinate.  

10.  Maybe "it" (whatever I have to do) will go away.  
This has never happened to my knowledge. Dust bunnies thrive, paperwork piles up on the desk, project deadlines loom large if I don't attend to them.

9. I'm not in the mood right now.
Why does my mood make any difference?  When am I ever in the mood to clean the bathtub?

8. I don't have time.
This one is viable, but I'm really just making excuses.  

7. It's not at the top of the priority list.
So I ask myself, why is the project on the list at all if it never gets to the top?

6. It doesn't appeal to me.
Poor baby.

5. I'd rather be ___________. (Fill in blank)
A startling revelation.

4. I don't think the end result will be good enough.
Now we're getting somewhere.

3. I'm bored with the project.
It happens.

2. I forgot.
Thanks goodness for post-it notes

1. I lost the post-it note on the desk I've been meaning to organize.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Art on the Highway of Life

Yesterday, hubbie and I were on a four lane by-pass in town that includes artists' outdoor sculptures scattered here and there. We've talked about them often, but this time, I said, "STOP!" (Luckily there was a ramp where he could pull off the road.) 

It was noon so the sun was high, but I grabbed my camera which had a 50mm lens attached. I wanted to take a closer look at what we call "whales' tails" for that is what they are.

Their graceful lines are surrounded by noise, power lines and humans rushing to their next destination.  Yet the tails' presence is powerful and peaceful at the same time.

This final view isn't very peaceful for it shows the hustle and bustle of life and how those tails fit into that.

It's my belief that creativity can be found in the everyday "stuff" and that art is not limited to something hanging in a gallery or featured in an outdoor sculpture. But as we rush through our days, it is so easy to rush by the beauty and art of life. Truly seeing life with a camera and words is one reason I first was attracted to blogs this summer. It is there I see cooking blogs highlighting flaky pie crusts or a steaming bowl of soup on the kitchen table. Photographers feature red berries dripping with autumn's rain, children concentrating on their finger paints, and dogs entertaining us all with their expressions. Bloggers give of themselves in their opinions, their crafts, children, etc.  Isn't all that and more the art of life?

Sometimes I have to remind myself to stop, to appreciate, to be grateful for art on the side of a highway, for my husband loving me for better or worse, for family and friendship, for my church community, for the wonder of nature, and for so much more.

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Saying Good Bye to Summer

With the flip of the calendar there is a shift in the wind and weather.  Fall has shown its face in Virginia. Although I welcome the joys of autumn--crisp air, sitting near a fire, a warm cup of tea, the change of colors from greens to oranges, golds and reds, I need to say my farewells to summer.

Farewell to tomatoes warm from the garden.  You have blessed me with juiciness and an acidity that nothing can match. You are the reason to make a farmers' market chopped salad. Your simplicity invites a touch of fresh basil or dill and a stroke of extra virgin olive oil all sprinkled with salt and pepper. You are my king of summer tastes.

And good-bye to the delicate leaves of basil. You've dressed our salads and created some lovely dishes with your pesto goodness.  Walking through the garden, just brushing against your leaves, you shared that delicious scent of summer.

As light fades, after-dinner strolls slip out of our schedule. It becomes too dark and too cold to stroll outside watching the children play or just visiting with neighbors. 

Temperatures will continue to drop and then the final good bye is to the screen porch.  Except on the warmest summer days, the porch is a great place to share a meal, read a book or listen to nature. There you can watch the birds and squirrels, hear the rapid sounds of rain falling from leaf to leaf, or wonder at the flight of a hummingbird.

We must say good-bye to summer so we can welcome the joys of fall. It is time to find those warm yoga pants, some socks, a cuddly blanket and a good book.  I can smell the soup simmering now. 

Please share your summer good byes. And your hellos!

Friday, September 30, 2011

A Game is More Than A Game

Have you ever noticed young children sitting in their Mom's grocery cart as they spot another child on the same aisle?  It's as if they create an immediate bond because of their stature.  They probably are thinking, "Hey, there's a little kid. I wonder if she wants to get out of this dumb cart as much as I do."   Children often stare and perhaps reach out with chubby little hands as if there is an unspoken kinship between them.

As we grow and mature,  we seldom reach out to strangers. Our greetings are reserved for friends and family. We sense a disconnect, but are not sure what to do about it.

The needs of the human heart have not changed even if technology has altered the many ways we communicate.   We still recognize the value of shared experiences and memories.  We respond to ritual and homecoming .  We appreciate the teamwork needed in the quest to compete and win. And so as the temperatures cool, we really are ready for some football.

Seated in a stadium with thousands of other fans, some of them painted with team colors and wearing bad wigs, we have a common goal---we want our team to win, no, we want them to annihilate the other team all in the name of healthy competition and good sportsmanship, of course.

Last weekend our family attended my first University of Virginia football game. The  energy of the students and fans was contagious. The band, the cheerleaders and the pageantry helped build the excitement.  Favorite cheers, "Let's go wahoos," (Don't ask me how a Cavalier mascot developed into a wahoo cheer, but I think it has a long and fabled history.) reverberated through the stadium and, at times, the team responded.  We didn't taste victory that day, but we did connect as the 12th man on the field. We booed questionable calls, we cheered 1st downs and touchdowns. It was a feast of compatibility.

So maybe our culture is not always so great about keeping the lines of communication open. Maybe we isolate ourselves with busyness. But we do know and understand the bonds developed because of a game called football.  

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Confession Time

Confession time--I did want the final result to be "perfect", whatever that means.  It all started with a batch of green tomatoes from our garden that were destined for my version of baked/fried green tomatoes.  The tomatoes were small and with temperatures dipping below 90 degrees (thank goodness!) they weren't going to get any larger. So I'm slicing the tomatoes and find this pleasing trick of nature, a smiley face on my tomato's bottom!

 So, naturally I had to create an image of it. (I know, call me crazy.) That's when that monster, Mr. Perfection,  reared his lovely head. 

 "You do know that you're posing a tomato, don't you?," he slyly mentions.  Or one of my favorites, "No one is going to care. They will think it's silly and won't take you seriously." There was more, but why give Mr. Perfection any attention he doesn't deserve.

 I pushed ahead and tossed a few different types of tomatoes together in a favorite pottery bowl keeping the camera handy.  By the way, the brown ones may look strange, but they are quite good.

 This simple kitchen experience got me thinking about how the yearning for perfection or the idea to "do it right or don't do it at all" thought process can be crippling.  It is important to do a good job, to be a friend and colleague who is reliable. But it is just as important to have fun, to try new things, to say what you want to say, to wear what you want to wear, to do what you want to do--as long as any of that isn't invading someone else's rights.  After all, why give Mr. Perfection or other people's opinions so much power?   It is important to fail and try again. I have learned my most valuable lessons when I've made mistakes.  I didn't enjoy the process, but I remember the lessons.

 All these thoughts are running through my head because I was (am) a little intimidated about starting a blog. Mr. Perfection has been hanging around. I just started reading blogs this summer and think it is a fabulous form of self expression, creativity and sharing.  Here's where my confession comes in as well as my conversations with Mr. Perfection.  I wondered if I had anything new to offer.   Right now I don't even know how to create a blog, load a photo or respond to comments.  I want the blog to be representative of me yet I don't know much about the process!  I could add more things, but you get the idea.

 Fortunately my tomato experience taught me that I do have something to offer and that something is me. My little green tomato is hard, green and quite small. But just like its juicy, red and plumb counterparts, this little fellow has different gifts that taste fabulous when dunked in some half & half,  coated with cornmeal and flour with a bit of cayenne pepper & salt, then baked in a hot oven. Hmmmm--tastes like the end of summer.