Thursday, November 29, 2012

Back to Reality

What can you say about a week that you scarcely believe happened? As I sit here writing the past seven days take on a dreamlike quality.

Just over a week ago two of my five sisters landed at Albany Airport at about one in the morning. All day I’d spun around like a white tornado getting the house ready, menus planned, and finishing up last minute plans for my book launch. And then – there they were – smiling, walking towards me and soon telling me about their flight.

Back at the ranch we got into our jammies and sat in the living room. We talked until three a.m. We reluctantly hauled ourselves to bed, knowing it would be mere hours until we talked again.

Next day, after a French toast casserole breakfast, the kids and grand kids swarmed in all excited to see the aunts from so far away. California. Laughing, hugging, cajoling the youngest to not be shy and join in the fun. That night I fixed loaded burgers for supper (caramelized onions, bacon and blue cheese) and then we played Bridge. Boy was I rusty!

Thanksgiving Day was a blur of baking, lunching on leek and potato soup, and then off to oldest son’s home for The Big Dinner. Which was wonderful, wonderful. Daughter-in-law, Kate, outdid herself. Her mushroom dressing was scrumptious. The house was packed with hungry thankful people. After dessert Wii came out – we found ourselves dancing to songs like Mashed Potato and some newer stuff I can’t remember the names of. Old (Wendy, Mimi and me) and young (Sam, Anna, and Natalie) alike gyrated away trying to pump up the scores. There are incriminating photos of many, myself included.


Friday it was funnel cakes with the grandkids. They came out beautiful and only lasted long enough for a few good photos. My sister, Wendy, took a tumble in the kitchen, but hopped up only slightly bruised. We have a family tradition of falling down in public places or on vacation.

Heather and Sam

Saturday was one of the biggest days of my life and the morning went by on a freight train. Sisters and I arrived at the bookstore at the appointed time (NO sooner than 10:45 I was told) and from 11:00 a.m.  – 12:30 p.m. book buyers flooded the store. I was overwhelmed and humbled to see so many good friends and family show up. Even online friends! Marion and Cindy surprised the life out of me. They drove all the way from Syracuse to meet me and have their books signed. Unbelievable!! The store sold out of the books they’d ordered and I had to supplement from my trunk. What a glorious day. That afternoon I took the sisters to Chatham and that evening we went to the Val Kin for supper, which was excellent.

My window

With Sam and Anna


Sunday, church. With my sisters – something I rarely experience. Then Sam’s soccer game and everyone back to our house for a spaghetti feed. Home canned sauce and garlic bread dripping with butter and cheese. I made biscuit tortoni for dessert. Later, more Bridge.

You’re just about ready to quit reading so I’ll simply say that Monday I was treated to lunch at Panera Bread and then sisters and I went to the matinee 3D showing of “The Life of Pi,” which I highly recommend.

And then a week was gone. Back to the airport on Tuesday and here I am – alone again wondering if it all happened.

Ever have a week like that? And then back to reality we go.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Thanksgiving and Thanking You

My cup has overflowed this year with love and support from friends, family and the occasional stranger. I am so thankful for every single one of you who faithfully reads my blog, stops me in passing to say how much you enjoyed a particular post, and have been excited for me with the release of my book.

My sincerest desire is that you and yours have an abundant and love-filled Thanksgiving. I won't be blogging much in the next week or so. My sisters are visiting from California and I have my book signing this upcoming weekend.

This morning while driving back from the grocery store with my two youngest granddaughters in the back seat, I asked Melodi about the pilgrims and what Thanksgiving meant. She's in  the four-year-old class in pre-school and must have paid attention. Here's the whole shebang in a nutshell.

"The mean king told everybody they had to go to the same church so they (pilgrims) got out of town."

I encourage you to count your blessings and to give thanks and praise to the One who blesses. Enjoy your turkey, kiss your spouse, laugh with your kids and grand kids and just generally enjoy this holiday; the one my oldest son loves the best because, "It's mostly about food."

God bless. And thank you.

Image: debspoons                                                                Free Digital Photos

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Place of Rest

Whenever I get upset about anything at all in my life, I need a place to go to settle myself and get back in touch with what's really important. That place is usually surrounded and infused with music. The Creator knew what he was doing when He introduced music into the world choosing to bestow that gift on certain souls who would bequeath to us music that uplifts and sustains us in our joys and sorrows. Such is the following. One of the most beautiful renderings of this poem can be heard here   Read the words as you listen.

               Be Still My Soul

               By Katharina Schlegel (1697 – 1768)
               Music by Jean Sebelius from his Finlandia
               Based on Psalm 46:10

               Be still, my soul: the Lord is on your side. 
               Bear patiently thy cross of grief or pain; 
               leave to thy God to order and provide; 
               in every change He faithful will remain. 
               Be still, my soul: thy best, thy heavenly friend 
               through thorny ways leads to a joyful end. 
               Be still, my soul: thy God will undertake 
               to guide the future, as in ages past. 
               Thy hope, your confidence let nothing shake; 
               all now mysterious shall be bright at last. 
               Be still, my soul: the waves and winds still know 
               the Christ who ruled them while He dwelt below. 
               Be still, my soul: the hour is hastening on 
               when we shall be forever with the Lord, 
               when disappointment, grief, and fear are gone, 
               sorrow forgot, love's purest joys restored. 
               Be still, my soul: when change and tears are past, 
               all safe and blessed we shall meet at last. 

We all have bad days. If today is one of those for you, I hope this helps. If not, I hope when you do have troubles, you're able to recall the balm of these words.

Image: Free Digital Photos

Monday, November 12, 2012

A Peek at What's Coming

Last night I let myself listen to a few Christmas songs. My very, very favorites are by John Rutter. Exquisite music and lyrics that set an idyllic mood for the coming season – and all about the birth of Christ. One in particular, Mary’s Lullaby, brought tears to my eyes for it’s tender reference to a mother’s love for her little one.

When each grandchild is about three, I set them on the counter in the kitchen and shake my finger in their little faces, scowling (but not for real).

“Now, I want you to make Grandma a promise.”

This gets me a grin and maybe a giggle. They can’t imagine what that promise could be.

“I want you to promise me you’ll stop growing.” Hands on my hips I wait for the answer, the one I always get.

“Grandma! I can’t do that!”

“I know,” I whisper as I hug them fiercely and kiss their noses. I lift them back down to the floor and  give them a cookie. I pat their little rear ends and tell them to go watch Dora. I think they understand how much I love them and how silly my request is, but they don’t know the whole of it.

The Rutter song puts me in mind of the times when I was a new mother. I can completely relate to the longing Mary must have had when she rocked our Jesus. Her world was not so wonderful. The trip to Bethlehem was fraught with danger – nine months pregnant on a donkey – come on! Besides being worried sick about the impending birth in a stinky stable, she knew what a few short years would bring for her precious child. Her desire to keep him small, and safe and unaware of the perils of living in this earthly realm was so real.  

I listen to the words of the tune. . .  lullaby, sing lullaby, my own dear child, my son . .  I have a vision of my own mother rocking me and her other  children – all nine of us. One by one, on her shoulder, stroking our silken hair and not wanting us to leave the protection of her arms. I wonder if, when my brother, David, forty years later, died in an old van in a dark lonely parking lot, she remembered the tender days when she stroked his pudgy cheek humming to him as he drifted off to sleep. Did her heart break at the thought of it? Could she think of it at all?

These are some of my thoughts when I ask my grandchildren to stop growing.

They won’t, of course. They’ll grow and leave and live and die.  Life will batter and change  them and the very few years of their real innocence will be woefully short.

But I won’t bother my little angels with the details of the promise I try to extract from them – for  now.  I won’t share the fears that haunt my vision of the more ugly things the world will throw their way. And I’ll wait a few  years yet to tell them what that world did to the baby who grew out of Mary’s arms and into the mess he loved enough to come down and save.

I’m going to make Christmas wait a bit, too. I'll try to replace my worries with the Joy I also know is coming. Last night was just a peek at it all and that’s good enough for now.  

Image: David Castillo                                                              Free Digital Photos

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

'Tis the Season - for Catalogs

They start coming right after school starts – sometimes by the boatload. One of my best writing buds and I comment on it to each other.

“Well, it’s catalog season.” LOL

And I know exactly what she means. Another friend swears that more often than not we get the same catalogs over and over, but with different covers. We feel a little deceived. Hey, this has the same stuff as last time we think. I throw most catalogs away, but some are put in the tonight-in-the-recliner pile. Here’s why.

I’m a creative person and love the creativity of others. The clothing catalogs are the ones I most frequently toss, but I almost always hang on to the toy catalogs and the ones for home d├ęcor / gifts. Some are combos. One has some of the funniest t-shirt lines you’ll ever read. Like this one.

Greco Roman columns on each side of the following words, splayed across ther front, and for whom several family members come to mind.

Behold Farticus!

And another.

My Indian Name is Runs With Beer.

I laughed out loud when I read those two. I’m also happy to report that some of my old favorites still merit attention. This on a sofa throw.

Wise Men Still Seek Him.

I think of the wonderful minds whose job it is to come up with new ideas that will please and inspire the buying public. There are also catalogs like the one from The Vermont Country Store that cater to the desire in us for all the old creative ideas - still going strong - that we can't find anywhere else. The MaKenzie- Childs catalog shows us what's new in the world of ceramics and glass. They're pricey, but I like to know what the other half is offered, too. I even bought something from them - once. The variety and scope of what's presented in catalogs boggles the mind. I love it.

And while it’s true most of us don’t need more stuff, we do, on occasion need change. We need to feel like we can buy a new thing-a-ma-jig once in a while just to show we have a choice about it. All of our money needn’t go for necessities. Sometimes you just want a little mood booster in the form of a pretty pillow or a truly innovative toy for a child or grandchild. We can sit comfortably and decide at our leisure, another benefit of having the merchant come to the door, so to speak.

It’s the American way, I guess. One creates and the other buys. Both are happy. It keeps the economy running. I tell my husband this all the time. I do my duty as often as I can to keep the wheels of commerce chugging. I gently incline my head and speak with solemnity. Calms him right down.  

No, I don’t keep every catalog but I hope they never go away. I want to know what creative minds are up to out there. Besides – I need reading material to keep in the basket just outside the bathroom door.

What do you think of Catalog Season?

Image: Vlado                                                                  Free Digital Photos

Friday, November 2, 2012

Moving on . . . to winter

One of my all time favorite seasonal songs is When October Goes as sung by Barry Manilow. It’s been around a while. It speaks to every one of my emotions about the beautiful days of autumn. In the first heady rush of the season there’s great anticipation of leaves turning, cheery fireplaces, blustery afternoons, and kids getting their last bursts of fun in before the onslaught of winter. Baseball ends and football begins. Something about cozying up indoors enchants.

The central theme of the song is that October is a place we want to stay. Linger there among the bright leaves that float lazily down to make a lush gold and red carpet at our feet. We take giddy delight in the abundance of bright orange pumpkins, rosy apples, corn stalks, and cinnamon sticks swirling in mugs of warm cider. It reminds us of the blessings of the previous season’s toil. I love it – never want to leave it. I could live quite happily in October.

Today, though, as I ran through a light rain on my way to the mailbox, some other emotion reared its head. The one that was wanting to pull me on towards another season; one I also love, but quite differently. Was it the sodden leaves, several trees worth, all clustered on the edges of the driveway, their brightness dimming as the days roll on? Was it the whisper of winter in the breeze that kissed my neck? Or maybe the shiny foil Christmas wrap I ordered from my granddaugher’s fund raising project a few days ago? Probably a little of each.

I can’t say I don’t know it’s coming. October roars in every year full of robust promise. A whole month of all the sights, sounds and experiences I look forward to as summer wanes. I never seem to be able to look at it all hard enough; to hold it in my heart, a prisoner.

But then I see a blurry figure poised at the end of October’s road, beckoning. A pilgrim, hat in hand, head bowed in thanks, a bountiful table set behind him. Then another harbinger of change came quickly to mind, a Christmas song playing in a store when I shopped with a friend last week. Deep down, I know what’s ahead but, like the last line of the song . . . it doesn’t matter much how old I grow, I hate to see October go. Yet  I know she will. I feel her gentle nudge towards that more brutal season, winter, and I sigh.

Goodbye October, I’ll miss you. 

Image: Vlado                                                                       Free Digital Photos