Friday, January 31, 2014

Waste Not, Want Not

I've been reading a fictional account of life in the south during The Great Depression and how communities cared for each other during such difficult times.  My parents both grew up during the Depression.  Living in such desperate times as young people shaped them as adults.  They were among a generation that grew up reducing, reusing and recycling.  The phrase attributed to Ben Franklin, "Waste not, want not," was a way of life for people who lived through that era.  As late as the 1960s, my paternal grandmother saved aluminum foil, wiping it clean and reusing it. She also hung paper towels over her towel bar and reused them.  My dad saved pieces of wood from previous projects, often being able to find just what he needed from his stash. My mother remade some of her clothes for me, including her nurses cape that eventually became one that I wore.  In today's throw-away world, it's good to be reminded that our wants need not trump our needs, that doing without isn't always a bad thing, and that reducing, reusing and recycling are good legacies to pass on to future generations.

Thursday, January 30, 2014

The Power of Symbols

I am coordinating the publicity for the free tour of historic downtown Baraboo churches, taking place on Sunday afternoon, April 6, 2014. This year's tour, featuring five churches within walking distance of each other, plus a movie shown at Circus World Museum, will focus on the theme of symbols in the Christian faith.  As part of my research, my pastor loaned me a book about symbols of the church.  I've found the book fascinating and the meaning behind some of the symbols interesting.  As I wandered through our church's sanctuary recently, I looked at the symbols, particularly in the stained glass, with new eyes.  Just in one window, I saw a shock of wheat symbolizing the Bread of Life, lilies symbolizing Easter and immortality, and a dove with an olive sprig, denoting peace, forgiveness and a new life.  Symbols hold tremendous power in cultures and faith traditions.  I'm enjoying the experience of gaining a better understanding of them in our community's downtown historic churches.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Just As I Am

With both of my parents now deceased, my closeness to them has taken on a different, but equally meaningful perspective.  One recent Sunday, I was feeling a particular closeness to my dad, wishing I could have just one more conversation with him.  Then, as if sending me a message that he was as close to me as I felt to him, our spectacular church pianist played the old hymn "Just As I Am" while we took the offering.   "Just As I Am" was my dad's favorite hymn.  I first became familiar with it during Billy Graham's television programs when I was growing up.  Since then, whenever I hear "Just As I Am," I can hear my dad humming along (Dad didn't think of himself as a singer, but he was a great, great hummer).  I'm not sure if Dad favored the lyrics or the music, but I particularly like the third verse:  "Just as I am, though tossed about with many a conflict, many a doubt, fightings and fears within, without, O Lamb of God, I come, I come."  

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Mounds of White

The wind whipped around and across the highway, making everything pristine, white and a bit white-knuckled as I drove along.  Instead of being afraid, however, that I'd be blown off of the highway, I quickly became fixated by the mounds of white all around me, on land and in the sky.  It was as if I was tucked into a cloud, with all puffy, white surfaces looking the same, regardless of whether I looked up or down or sideways.  Winter can be inconvenient and even treacherous, but on that little bit of highway at that given moment, winter was enchanting and mysterious.  

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Strange Collection

Olympic figure skating champion Scott Hamilton was quoted in a recent Parade newspaper supplement article as saying that he had a "unique hobby of collecting life-threatening illnesses."  His words resonated with me, for I have such a strange collection myself.  According to the article, Hamilton has survived testicular cancer and a recurrent benign brain tumor.  My history includes two bouts with breast cancer, a melanoma, a benign brain tumor and a benign tumor in my spine that caused me to become temporarily paralyzed until surgery relieved my paralysis.  I've also had some benign reactive lymph nodes that pop up every now and again, needing to be excised, some benign issues with an ovary and a bladder lining condition. While other people tend to choose hobbies such as knitting, reading, fishing or painting, or collecting salt and pepper shakers, record albums or old books, I've got this rather strange hobby, just like Scott Hamilton stated, of collecting life-threatening illnesses.  What I liked most about Hamilton's comments in the Parade article was that he could look at his illnesses through the lens of humor and a light heart, recognizing that his illnesses don't define him.  He's still an Olympic figure skating champion, still a father, still an author and still a human being with hopes and dreams and the faith to go on.  We could all learn such lessons from him.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Following Your Call

Last Sunday, our pastor spoke about following your call.  Using the Swiss Army Knife as metaphor, she spoke about the need to listen to the call and to heed it, even when it doesn't follow what we had intended or planned for our lives.  Her words made me think of the twists and turns that have come into my life and how often I thought I knew where the path was taking me, only to find that it wasn't where I was supposed to be at all. Such a call may not be about a career path, choice of life partner or city in which to live.  It might be as simple (and sometimes, difficult) as being a source of love and light for others, bringing words of hope to the lives of others during ordinary and extraordinary days.  The more I stop what I'm doing, quiet my mind and listen deeply, the more I hear the true words for my calling.  Then, and only then, do I know the path to follow.

Saturday, January 25, 2014


On a bitter, cold winter's night, there's nothing so enjoyable to me as to read a good book.  Lately, I've been reading The Darling Dahlias and the Cucumber Tree by Susan Wittig Albert.  On page 30, the author referred to the "brassy heat of summer" and I had to laugh.  With the wind howling around our home and the wind chills dipping way below my comfort level, I could only imagine what the brassy heat of summer felt like.  I have had numerous conversations lately with people lucky enough to be vacationing or, better yet, snow-birding to the sunny south for a while and I must admit I'm a tad envious.  Pictures on Facebook of friends in short sleeves and shorts wandering the beach make me realize that January is dragging on just a bit too long for my taste. I could use a bit of brassy heat just about now.  Then again, after bravely enduring the winter this year, that brassy heat of next July will feel all the more delicious.  For now, I guess I'll simply read about it.

Friday, January 24, 2014

A Good Compass

Occasionally, I save little clippings from newspapers and magazines that feature quotes of interest.  I ran across one from July of 2011 that was actually my horoscope for the day:  "A difficult situation provides valuable new insight that reveals a new direction, previously invisible.  Pack lightly, and venture forward with a good compass."  I don't generally put much stock into my horoscope, but I did appreciate the message within that one.  I tend to like to pack lightly when traveling, but unloading our heavy burdens of worry, projection and fear can also be a way of packing lightly.  The human spirit is both invincible and fragile. At times, we will encounter difficult situations. What might we do with those difficult situations in order to create new directions, previously invisible?  What exciting things will unfold in this new year?  And where's my good compass?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Justice as a Storm or Sun

Our pastor always offers thought-provoking sermons.  One of her recent messages had to do with justice. Sometimes, justice is rendered like thunder and lightning.  At other times, it calls for gentleness and a peaceable countenance.  Both ways are valuable and both ways can get the desired results.  I think of local people I know who work for justice through kindness.  For instance, the warming shelter in this community has served many a grateful recipient during this raw winter weather.  People from our church have contributed by purchasing a refrigerator and a washing machine for the facility. Others have contributed donations of food for home-made, hot meals.  Still others have contributed financially toward a new initiative that will provide health kits for those staying there. Another person from our church collected toys for children served at the warming shelter. And others from our church run an outlet location to provide free clothing to those in need.  I believe that one of the ways to express our humanness is to identify needs and then find ways to fill them.  Such acts are not only kind; they display justice in a gentle, peaceable way. Whether one applies such principles as a storm or as the sun, the opportunities are endless for bringing light and goodness to those around us and raising others up to reach a better day.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Popped Culture

I must really be out of step with today's pop culture.  Larry and I watched four televised awards shows recently and I only found two of the four truly enjoyable.  I always love The Kennedy Center Honors. There is an elegance to the program as the story of each of the award recipients is told and the person's accomplishments are celebrated by a star-studded cast.  Then, we watched a delightful PBS show honoring Carol Burnett with the Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. By contrast, we next watched the People's Choice Awards.  I didn't know many of the people who presented or who were awarded, I thought their jokes were lame and I found the show's pacing strange.  I eventually turned away from the TV because it was unsettling to watch. Finally, we watched the Golden Globe Awards.  The show's hosts, format and winners were high-spirited and entertaining, but still somewhat lacking for me.  What I realized by watching these four disparate shows is how much I have moved away from needing to feel a part of pop culture.  As a young person, one can't help but be more in tune with the desires and trends of the masses.  As I get older, however, my sights are set differently and I focus my priorities.  So, who knows how I'll feel when we watch the Tony, Academy and Grammy award shows.  For now, as I assess it, I believe my focus on pop culture has popped.  

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Some Convenient Thoughts about Convenience

Modern conveniences are so...convenient, until they're not. Recently, our eight-year-old washing machine, which has been so faithful, has been showing signs of wanting some attention or possibly even to retire.  How one takes such things for granted until they're not themselves any longer.  I had an interesting conversation with someone recently about the conveniences we enjoy today versus those we had in our households when we were children.  We both came from houses without garages, comprised of small square footage and featuring only one bathroom. Neither one of our homes had central air conditioning.  Color television was a luxury.  Microwaves were unheard of. Yet, without all of those conveniences, our lives seemed whole and complete.  We discussed the advantages and disadvantages of large homes, from heating bills and taxes to a sense of wasted space when, in reality, you end up living in only a couple of rooms.  In the end, we decided that for all of the so-called conveniences that streamline our lives, it's really love that makes our lives whole and complete.  So, while I might mutter about our washing machine showing signs of strain and the thought of possibly having to replace it, what really matters is that I have love in my life.  Whole. Complete. 

Monday, January 20, 2014

Skillet Creek Memories

There has been some discussion lately about the history of a building several miles outside of town.  It's now a single-family home, but at one time was a schoolhouse and later was a town hall where I used to attend 4-H meetings as a child.  I knew of children who were in Scouting, but it seemed that those of us who grew up in the country in that day were members of 4-H.  Ours was the Skillet Creek 4-H Club, which is still active today.  I recall little of our meetings, but I do recall the parties and projects, including a safety poster we were each to make.  Being of limited artistic talent, I recall my large sheet of white tag board primarily featuring a big red stop sign I had drawn and colored in.  I don't even remember the rest of the message on the poster, just the painstaking effort I had made to correctly draw the stop sign.  While in 4-H, I also participated in the Sauk County Fair by entering a decoration I made out of driftwood, on which I had glued a bird and some other natural elements.  I also created a table setting, complete with placemat, napkin, dinnerware and silverware.  I didn't receive a blue-ribbon for many of my entries, but I did have fun being part of the club and I found it applicable to the rest of my life when pledging the 4 H's:  My head to clearer thinking, my heart to greater loyalty, my hands to larger service and my health to better living for my club, my community, my country and my world.  

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Lightly Dancing

I stood in front of the window, teacup in hand, for the longest time yesterday, watching the dancing snowflakes swirling outside.  It was one of those perfect winter weekend afternoons when everything feels peaceful and quiet, and one can actually take time to rest and ponder.  I was in the midst of a big writing project, but needed a break.  What better way to quiet the mind and stir the imagination than to stand silently at the pane, mesmerized by the snowflakes dancing outside?  It wasn’t a raucous, wild dance with lots of flailing about, nor was it so stiffly synchronized to make me grow tired of the monotony.  Instead, it was a magical experience with gently falling flakes twirling about, softly landing to the earth, creating a fresh, new blanket just thick enough to shovel.  Although I’m a spring kind of gal, at that moment standing at the window watching the light snowfall, I was glad to know that winter would still be around for another couple of months.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Now, That's Harmony

I read a lovely piece on Facebook recently about the many benefits to taking part in music, what it does in harmonious ways to your mind and soul.  That same day, I also read a little news brief in the latest AARP Bulletin about how participating in music may also do much for your body, resulting in everything from fewer falls to fewer doctor appointments.  It made me think of the fun I have singing in our church choir, caroling with the Village Voices at Christmastime and doing a cappella duets with my friend Charlene.  Lately, in our church choir, I have been exercising my mind and my voice as I switch back and forth between singing soprano and alto, wherever my voice is needed on a particular Sunday.  It's quite fun to test myself to see how I can switch my brain back and forth to a different musical part, requiring concentration and adaptation. Whether one pursues music for vocation or avocation, there is harmony in mind, body and spirit by raising ourselves up in song.

Friday, January 17, 2014

Slick as a Whistle

As if the bone-chilling weather wasn't bad enough recently, as soon as the temperature rose, the freezing rain came, coating everything in a layer of ice.  There were reports of vehicles sliding off of roadways, semi-trucks overturned and people breaking bones from slipping on the slick surfaces.  Larry and I sat indoors during the recent freezing rain episode, listening to it pelt the windows.  The next day, we ventured out, temperatures still warm, our feet crunching on the sidewalks as the ice sheets cracked under the pressure of our feet. Several times over the past couple of weeks, I've wondered what makes me want to stay in such a rugged climate where the weather can seem downright mean sometimes.  Yet, in the winter, I get to move inward without guilt, allowing myself more time for rest, for thinking, for dreaming.  Perhaps ol' man winter isn't so mean after all.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Distance, But Not Long

I have a good friend who moved away several months ago.  As much as I hated to see her move away, I was happy that she would be closer to family.  We had known each other through our work and even more so through our church.  She is an elegant, gracious, intelligent lady who brought dignity and loveliness to every setting in which I had the pleasure to be with her.  Since her departure, we've been calling each other just to catch up on life.  Although the physical distance between us is long, it doesn't feel that way, thanks to our catch-up calls.  While it's fine to send a letter or an email, there is still nothing like hearing the other person's voice and sharing laughter from a funny story or even silence from sharing a sorrow.  Talking with her reminds me of the years during my childhood when my late father would be lecturing in schools in some faraway state.  It meant so much to talk with him during his Friday night phone calls to Mom and me. Although Dad was often in a different time zone and a thousand miles away, the act of catching up on the week's happenings was all it took to feel as if we were together again. And so it is with my lovely friend whose life has moved on, but whose calls keep us together.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Early Selfie

I ran across a photo the other day of my late father and my grandfather that would have been taken in about 1923.  My dad would have been about five years old, sporting a little Buster Brown haircut and a little, round smiling face.  My grandfather looked into the camera with gentle eyes and a sense of seriousness about him.  My grandfather had been a photographer.  Everyone in my family told me that he was respected for his skill and for his innovation and that he was ahead of his time with his use of the technology of the day. For the photo I was looking at, Grandpa had used a device, perhaps a timer, which allowed him to be in the picture with my dad.  My grandfather died of a brain aneurysm only a couple of years after that photo had been taken. Had he still been alive today, I wonder what he would have made of our photographic technology.  If he were transported through time, would he believe that you didn't have to have cumbersome equipment in order to take a photo? That instead, you could take a picture with a small hand-held camera, or even better yet, with your telephone that you carried on your person at all times?  As I looked more deeply at the photo of Dad and Grandpa, I realized that I was seeing an early "selfie."  Grandpa was truly ahead of his time.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Gathering Place

There is something comforting about living in a small community for a long time.  You get to really know your neighbors, you get to do business with trustworthy business people, and you feel a sense of security and safety (at least, hopefully, most of the time).  I had such an experience of the joys of small-town life last Saturday when my friends Judy and Deri and I gathered for a cup of tea at the Coffee Bean Connection. Every time one of us looked up from our conversation, we were smiling, waving and saying hello to someone who had walked in the door.  It reminded me of the old television show, "Cheers," featuring the theme song about how "everybody knows your name."  I can't imagine living in a large city where no one would know my name, where I didn't have a long history with other residents, and where I didn't know business people (or their parents or their children).  I just don't have that point of reference because I've lived in this small town for most of my life.  I left the coffee shop today, not only warmed by the hot chamomile tea but also by the feeling of the connection with a community and its people who mean so much to me.   

Monday, January 13, 2014

Mesmerized by Mystery

With all of the channels one can see on television these days, you'd think that I'd be overwhelmed by the choices, hardly knowing which to choose next.  Unfortunately, I tend to feel the opposite.  I can flip through channel after channel and still not find anything suitable to settle upon.  Consequently, I turn off the television and resort to a good book while Larry works at his computer.  We sit in companionable silence, each focusing on our own entertainment.  Last Saturday evening, however, I settled upon something scrumptious, a mystery program on public television called "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries."  From childhood on, I've been mesmerized by a good mystery.  It began with Nancy Drew.  From there, I ventured into a couple of mystery books that featured teen star Annette Funicello.  Then, I graduated to Agatha Christie.  From there, one could say that I was truly hooked on murder (of the fiction, hardcover variety).  When I head to the public library, I often have to check out the mystery section first.  "Miss Fisher's Murder Mysteries" take place in Australia in the 1920s flapper era. The protagonist Miss Fisher is smart, witty, independent and wealthy.  She's also curious and confident in her skills as a private detective.  The program I saw last Saturday was compact, completed in just one hour.  When it was done, I could have watched another episode, had one been on the schedule.  Instead, I'll wait until next Saturday night, knowing that for at least one hour, I'll have something indeed to watch.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Oh, Glorious Day!

Last evening, I had every intention of going to bed at my regular time, but one more little project led to one more to just one more, until my bedtime was much later than normal.  Thus, I allowed myself the luxury of getting up a little later on this Sunday morning. I opened one eye to see the clock and then closed it again, letting my mind slowly wake up with my regular routine of identifying three blessings in my life.  My blessing list was followed by a recollection of my day's to-do list.  I dozed for a few more minutes and then opened my eye again, this time in the direction of the window.  What I saw caused both of my eyes to suddenly open. There, before me was a magnificent rosy eastern sky.  What a glorious day!  I stared at the sight a bit and then let my eyelids grow heavy again.  When I awakened the next time, the eastern sky's rosy hues had given way to subtle gray, but the southern sky was striated with bands of light yellow and puffy clouds.  To the east were bright blue breaks in the gray.   My mother's favorite passage from the Psalms immediately came to mind, "This is the day that the Lord has made.  Let us rejoice and be glad in it."  How could I not find this to be a good day?  How could I not rejoice in it when my day was welcomed by such a glorious sky?!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

For Everything

When I was a girl, I loved The Byrds' rendition of "Turn, Turn, Turn," with lyrics based on the familiar passage from the book of Ecclesiastes in The Bible, "For everything there is a season...."  To this day, whenever I hear that song, I just have to sing along.  I noted recently that, with the beginning of the new year, I have been seeing countless references to time.  This Biblical passage reminds me, through a series of opposites, that there is indeed a time for everything, but such time may not be of my choosing.  It's made me think of those times when I have wanted something very badly.  On certain occasions, I have gotten my wish and on others, I have not.  It's made me think of how difficult it can seem when I am grieving that at another time I will dance.  I can't quite wrap my head around when it's time to hate or to be at war, but that perhaps requires more reflection on my part. It's made me think of how I use my time.  Do I use it wisely, gratefully, joyfully or do I squander it with worry, concern, unhappiness?  Perhaps the two phrases in the Ecclesiastes passage that resonate with me the most right now are the time to be quiet and the time to search. I believe I'm in my winter right now, quiet, searching, reflecting.  With time, the seasons will change, I will come out of my winter.  Turn, turn, turn....

Friday, January 10, 2014


I love Christmas lights, even when it's well after Christmas.  During this cold and dark time of the year, it warms me in every way to still see Christmas lights aglow in our community.  I'm just not ready for them to be extinguished yet.  When it's as cold as it's been recently and is still dark much of the time, Christmas lights uplift my spirits and bring me cheer.  I'm OK with letting out the air of the inflatable reindeer and removing the plastic Santas from rooftops, but I'd just like to see the Christmas lights in place and turned on for a little longer.  As a result, our indoor Christmas lights are staying lit through this month.  We have a large basket in our living room brimming with multi-colored ornaments interspersed with a string of colorful lights.  Although this little display has been in place for over a month now, I continue to feel content when I turn off the living room lights, save for that brightly lit basket.  Ah!  Comfort and joy!

Thursday, January 9, 2014


An insightful and thoughtful friend recently gave me a slim journal with a beautiful cover filled with inspirational messages and a magnetic closure on which was embossed the word "Dream."  Deb knows that I love to write and she suggested that this journal could be a place in which to gather my inspiration for my writing.  In addition to Deb's journal, a note card sits on my home office desk, featuring an intricate black and white sketch by Julie Sutter Blair of an amaryllis bulb "dreaming" of what it is destined to be. In another place of honor on my desk is a birthday card I received from my late mother, featuring a lush, green natural scene and the words, "In your heart, keep a safe and secret spot where dreams my go."  All of these items, along with other treasures, have been placed on my desk at home to encourage creativity and to focus my energies on those things that will direct me on the spiritual and tangible paths I am meant to follow.  It's so easy to become distracted, but these lovely items keep me energized, focused and at one with my authentic self.  I believe it is crucial that we dream, for it is out of our dreams that wonderful, new things are born.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Remembering Vanessa

Recently, I walked past the room that my mom had occupied at our local skilled nursing care facility during the last year of her life, cancer robbing her of her energy and ability to live alone.  I stood at the doorway for quite a while, recalling my final evening with Mom in that very room. When it appeared that she was in the final stages of her disease and would only live a few more hours, I stayed the night with Mom, trying to get in as many precious last moments with her as possible.  By that point, she was in a deep sleeping state and the time for conversation was gone.  However, I talked to her, reminisced aloud with her, read to her.  The nursing home's staff turned on the television to a cable channel featuring easy-listening music in order to create a soothing environment for Mom's final hours.  In my alone time, I kept praying that my late father would somehow let me know that he was with us, that we weren't alone in this time of such a profound and wrenching goodbye.  I had just about given up that I would receive such a sign when a piece of music began to play on the television, a piece of music that my dad knew I would recognize. "Vanessa," composed by Bernie Wayne, was the signature piece of music on a television show on which my dad appeared for many years.  I had never heard the music played anywhere except in association with that television show nor did I know the name of the piece until I saw it written on the television screen that night with Mom.  Instantly, I was pulled from my grief to an overwhelming sense of peace, for I knew that the mysterious transition from life to death was underway for my mom and I knew deeply that dad was there to comfort us both.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Need a Breather

Winter has been making itself known in Wisconsin lately.  With off-and-on, sub-zero temperatures for lows, we've now been experiencing sub-zero temperatures for highs, as well, creating a dangerous situation.  One bright note is that we've managed to miss the snow that's been circling around us. Someone posted a photograph on Facebook of school buses mired in snow and dripping with icicles so that they were nearly unrecognizable.  I can recall my dad complaining about winter.  Like him, I now find that my bones get cold, my hands dry and my nose runny every time I come in from the outside. Just about now, I'd like to take a one-way trip to somewhere warm and lush and humid where everything is green and in bloom.  However, if I can't have that, I'd at least like us to have a breather from the harsh conditions, if just for a while.  I remind myself that when it's horrendously hot next summer, I won't complain, I won't complain, I won't complain.

Monday, January 6, 2014


Today is Epiphany, a day celebrated in the Christian tradition when the three kings were to have visited the infant Christ child.  I started out the day singing "We Three Kings" to myself. "O star of wonder, star of light, star with royal beauty bright, westward leading, still proceeding, guide us to thy perfect light."  I also used this day to reflect on the more secular concept of epiphany. Merriam-Webster lists several definitions for epiphany, including "a moment in which you suddenly see or understand something in a new or very clear way" and "an intuitive grasp of reality through something (as an event) usually simple and striking." I am a strong believer in intuition.  I listen to my inner voice for all things and find that it has been "spot on" over and over again.  I have learned through trial and error that it is well worth it for me to listen and heed its wise messages, even when they seem unclear or strange to someone else. More than ever, 2014 will be a year of listening to my inner voice and keeping watch for those epiphanies that are surely to come my way.  Those stars of wonder, stars of light are surely to serve as the guide. 

Sunday, January 5, 2014

The White Elephant in the Room

It seems only fitting living in a city that prides itself for its circus heritage that Larry and I would partake in a white elephant gift exchange last evening.  We joined colleagues from my workplace for a potluck appetizer dinner, followed by the gift exchange.  More of a burden than a boon, white elephant gifts are sometimes extravagant, often silly, perhaps even strange and barely useful things that most people would not put on their gotta-have gift list.  Larry and I selected our contributions to the game at our favorite thrift store, with one gift being a bristly little bunny figure with a metal rod growing out of its head to hold a place card or recipe or reminder note and a small, narrow ceramic vase decorated with a thermometer and the phrase, "When you're hot, your hot." It was fun to watch as the recipients accepted their gifts, with one person trading for another, so-called better gift. With these gifts, it wasn't so much the thought that counted, but the laughs that were generated.  In the end, there was nothing to be gained with our white elephant gift exchange except for some unwanted items, but we were certainly entertained.

Saturday, January 4, 2014

Memories Like Glue

I am surrounded by many creative people in my office.  They do beautiful work with their hands.  Recently, one of my colleagues brought in some boards, as well as some boxes filled with a wide assortment of paints and adhesives.  We set up a table in our office so that everyone could use their breaks to make signs with messages of their choosing.  From family crests and mottos to single words that remind us to hope, each sign reflects the tastes and talents of the artist.  I really have no talent whatsoever with my hands, but I decided to give it a whirl.  With some coaching, my signs will remind me to take time to be and to measure my words so that they are always kind.  As Cathy started placing bottles of paint and liquids on the table for our projects, I nearly gasped, for I recognized the gold bottle with the white writing as Aleene's® Tacky Glue®.  Just seeing that bottle brought back a flood of happy memories from my childhood.  When I was a little girl, my dad appeared quite regularly on our local NBC television affiliate station  on a program called "Outdoors Calling," hosted by Stan Bran.  While Dad was on TV with Mr. Bran, Mom and I would wander the other program sets, including one for a woman named Fern Fowler who made clever craft projects that often involved a product in a gold bottle called Tacky Glue®. In my child's eyes, I felt that if anything was worth creating, it must involve Tacky Glue®.  So now, some 50 years later, I know in my heart of hearts that I will never live up to Mrs. Fowler's amazing creations, but somehow, I've attempted to make something that feels as if it has been worth creating -- because of Tacky Glue®.

Friday, January 3, 2014

Peas for Peace

There appears to be a host of superstitions about black-eyed peas being the stuff of good luck for the new year.  I've also read that eating greens on the first day of the year promotes prosperity. Even the label on the can of Eden® Organic black-eyed peas on our pantry shelf reads, "Rice for riches, peas for peace."  So, Larry and I decided to eat a rice and black-eyed pea dish on January 1 to help set us on the right path for the new year.  My family didn't have any particular food or meal traditions on new year's day, so I decided that 2014 is the year to start.  Less for their supposed  luck, I like black-eyed peas for their looks.  The so-called black eyes look more like happy little faces to me. A great source of potassium and magnesium, black-eyed peas are also a healthy choice when making a new year's day menu.  Our meal may not bring us riches or luck during this new year, but the opportunity to find peace is will be with and within us all year long.

Thursday, January 2, 2014


It couldn't possibly be January 1 without tuning in to the Vienna Philharmonic's new year's celebration on PBS.  This musical tradition ushers in the new year with a grace and elegance that make all things seem possible and all efforts beautiful.  This year's presentation, hosted by Julie Andrews, did not disappoint. Over the years, I've come to know the lavishly decorated music hall with its gold leaf-covered surfaces, celestial ceiling murals, bountiful arrangements of roses, and chandeliers each featuring a thousand crystal pieces.  Josef Strauss was the featured composer this time, with a dazzling array of polkas and waltzes on the program. Dancers from the Vienna Ballet brought the elegance of movement to the music, swirling, twirling and pirouetting to the strains of several of the pieces.  The women were particularly beautifully attired in dresses of subtle gold, ice gray-blue and white. One quick polka was illustrated by a couple of dancers in a sketch of black and white.  Another piece was whimsically brought to life by four dancers who livened up the stage with their humorous antics and their costumes that made them resemble kilted jesters, complete with plumed hats, grotesque makeup and argyle socks that went up to the tops of their thighs.  Several of the musical selections were accompanied by video of the Austrian countryside that made me feel as if, any second, I'd be twirling in the Alps alongside Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music."  The hall may have been glittering and grand, the dancers lithe and graceful, the costuming the stuff of fairy tales and the Austrian scenery majestic, but it was the music that took one's breath away.  From Johann Strauss II's lyrical "On the Beautiful Blue Danube" waltz to Johann Strauss, Sr.'s rousing "Radetzky March," this traditional concert was once again a wonderful way to ring in the new year.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

A New Leaf

There is an air of expectancy and anticipation as one turns over the calendar and sees not only a new month, but a new year.  What will the year bring?  What will I make of the new year?   I tend to take to heart the words of Robert Frost and find myself taking more and more the road less traveled, exploring my dreams and desires, and taking leaps of faith in order to fulfill them.  Might the new year contain yet another fork in the road or will it be a slow, steady slope without too many forks or hills?  A new year is a clean slate, an opportunity to start anew, a chance to turn over a new leaf.  In truth, every day is a clean slate, an opportunity to start a new, a chance to turn over a new leaf.  What will the new year hold?  I don't know. But, on this January 1st, I'll look at the newness of the year, recognizing that it will be made up of 365 opportunities to start over, find peace, harmony and joy, seek ways to serve others, and do so with a grateful heart.  May we all feel blessed. Happy New Year!