Friday, February 28, 2014

Quiet Center

Last Sunday, we sang a lovely hymn at church featuring lyrics that call the singer to find his or her quiet center, a peaceful place where one can let God in and feel the abundance of God's love.  I've found more and more lately the need to sit quietly, reflect, think and meditate.  Some of my meditative times are prayerful, my head and heart filled with words.  At other times, I can't form the words to express my feelings. Instead, I open myself up to the abundance of peace, coming to the occasion with no expectations, only with a desire to find that beautiful state that comes from centering and being quiet for a while. The everyday cacophony that fills my head and my world can only be mitigated by finding my quiet center.  I believe it was Marlene Dietrich (No, it was Greta Garbo!) who made the phrase famous, "I want to be alone."  Like her, I like the notion of being alone at times.  That is when I find the quiet center, and all of my wants and needs are filled.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

On the Air

I've been devoting some of my winter reading this year to books about life in the south during the Great Depression. Through their pages, I've learned what it was like to endure the hardships of a stock market crash and drought, only to be surpassed by enduring faith and community spirit.  In one of the books, it was noted that WLS Radio in Chicago received its call letters from the words "World's Largest Store." According to that same book, WLS was owned and started by the retail and catalogue giant, Sears-Roebuck and Company.  After having heard WLS for years, I was surprised to learn the story behind the airwaves.  So, I did a little online research to find out how a retail giant and a radio station would come together. According to WLS' website, Sears-Roebuck had started out exploring the power of the medium of radio by purchasing airtime to attract the Midwest's lucrative farm market in the early 1920s.  The experiment proved to be so successful that within a couple of years, the company decided to construct its own radio station. Several ideas for call letters were forwarded, but by the time they went on the air on April 12, 1924, they had selected WLS.  Today, we take airwaves in all forms pretty much for granted, but nearly a century ago when the medium was new and, a decade later, when the days were difficult due to the Depression, stations like WLS brought innovation and joy into the homes of many who could use a lightened spirit and an ear to a bigger world.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Closing Up Shop

It was announced just a few days ago that American TV & Appliance was going out of business.  A retail giant and staple in our area for decades, it came as a shock to me that this once-robust business would no longer have its doors open.  Living in another community from the nearest American TV store, I didn't get there very often, but the store was so well known that I couldn't possibly imagine that it might no longer exist. My most vivid memories of American TV are linked to the TV commercials done some 30 years ago for the business by a man who called himself Crazy TV Lenny.  Lenny's voice would yell and rant through our television into our living room, expounding at high pitch and pace on the many virtues of buying appliances, furniture and more from American. Crazy TV Lenny wasn't crazy at all.  In fact, he was quite brilliant. He was Len Mattioli, the man at the helm of American during those booming years.  He knew that by separating himself from the competition, even if it was in a feverish pace and ear-shattering volume, he'd get your attention.  And that he did.  In a day when retail competition is stiff, and online versus in-store sales are increasingly vying for our precious dollars, I fondly recall the day when Crazy TV Lenny would yell himself into our living room, urging us to contemplate our next big purchase.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

A Thin Coat of Icing

Just when I really wanted to complain one more time about the harsh winter we're enduring this year, Larry and I found ourselves on the highway recently, oohing and ahhing about the beautiful layer of hoarfrost that delicately covered every branch and blade of tall grass in our sight. It looked like a thin coat of icing or frosting on every surface. I am admittedly a spring sort of person. I can't wait for the snow to give way to grass and the gentle shades of green that will make themselves known, but I just couldn't get over the beauty of the hoarfrost that day. Everything has to be just right in order for hoarfrost to form, which seems to be a miracle unto itself.  According to the online Encyclopaedia Brittanica, hoarfrost are ice crystals deposited onto objects that are exposed to the air. Hoarfrost "is formed by direct condensation of water vapour to ice at temperatures below freezing and occurs when air is brought to its frost point by cooling."  Moisture is the key to the formation of hoarfrost, in that if you don't have enough moisture in the air, the hoarfrost can't form.  I'm still ready for spring, but in the meantime, I was reminded on that highway ride to stop, pause and take in the beauty that nature provides every day.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Parable, 50 Years Later

Last week, I had the pleasure of joining a group of people to watch the movie, "Parable," which was filmed at our local Circus World Museum in the early 1960s. Produced for the Protestant Council of the City of New York, “Parable” uses the circus as metaphor to tell the Lenten story.  The 22-minute art film has a pantomime quality to it, with no dialogue or subtitles. The action is accompanied by a circus-inspired musical track. Now 50 years old, “Parable” was considered controversial in its day due to the way in which Jesus was represented in the film.  Although he was intended to be portrayed as a white-face, skull-capped mime, those who took issue with the film thought Jesus was being depicted as a circus clown. It is reported that “Parable” provided the inspiration for Jesus’ portrayal as a clown in “Godspell” less than a decade later. “Parable” received such initial criticism that it almost didn’t get shown at the 1964 World’s Fair. However, the show did go on. The film became one of the fair’s most popular attractions.  It later went on to receive the 1966 Religious Film Award of the National Catholic Theatre Conference, as well as honors at the 1966 Cannes, Venice and Edinburgh film festivals.  In 2012, “Parable” was inducted into the National Film Registry of The Library of Congress because of its history-making role in helping shape American culture. The film will be shown in Circus World's theater in Baraboo as part of a tour of historic downtown Baraboo churches on Sunday afternoon, April 6.  Showings will take place at 1:00 p.m. and 4:15 p.m..  It will be interesting to hear how people view the film some five decades after it made its mark.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

One's Best Friend

A friend on Facebook shared a post about intuition recently that I, in turn, shared with others. The post suggested that we consider intuition our best friend, believing it and embracing it for all its tremendous worth. I truly believe in my intuition.  It has gotten me through many an interesting moment, guiding me, nudging me, sometimes screaming at me to listen and heed its sound advice.  By allowing myself to embrace the messages of my intuition, I can live a life of greater ease. It will take me places I wouldn't have thought of before. It will take me down paths that may seem strange to others, but are inherently right for me. With my intuition guiding me, I can feel confident that I will know if I'm on the right path and what I'm to do next when the right time presents itself.  Although it may seem like a strange BFF, I'll go with my intuition every time, knowing that it will always be there, no matter what.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Dollars to Donuts

I've been reading a book that features two sayings that remind me of special people in my life.  The first, "betting dollars to donuts," was something my late mother always said, as in, "I'd bet dollar to donuts that she is Susie's mom because they look so much alike."  I looked up the saying's origin online, learning that it was made popular in 19th century America.  It doesn't refer to a true bet, but rather, suggests certainty.  The alliteration of it makes it rather pleasant to say, as well. The other saying is "You can't plow a field by turning it over in your mind."  Although the author appears unknown from my online research, the saying may have originated in Ireland.  This phrase reminds me of the late C.P. "Chappie" Fox, circus historian and author whose passion for antique circus wagons propelled him to amass an unparalleled collection for Circus World Museum.  One never to simply plow a field in his mind, Chappie used to say this phrase when emphasizing that you can't over-think an issue.  Sooner or later, you just have to do it.  I don't tend to use these sayings myself, but I just may start using them in honor of two people who influenced my life in ways for which I'll always be grateful.  And now to plow that field...

Friday, February 21, 2014

A Bit of a Tussle

It was supposed to be a quiet Saturday evening, no special plans, just time to relax.  Earlier in the week, I had started feeling signs of a quarrelsome kidney stone.  Although uncomfortable, I figured I could weather it out and it would pop out without much fanfare as the others have done, save one.  On Saturday evening, however, the little thing decided to make itself known.  Gone were the quarrels.  Now, it was an argument that quickly turned into a heated scuffle.  The hours ticked by and the thing kept throwing fits until it must have passed, for things quieted down just about as quickly as they had started.  I somehow had thought I could soldier through it, breathing deeply and continuing to write at my laptop.  I soon realized that the stone wanted my full attention and that trying to breathe deeply, write seriously or even read casually were not to be.  Strangely, I found solace looking out the bedroom window at the pink-cast sky and falling snow.  The rosy glow of the sky made me feel peaceful, even when in pain.  I was rather limp the next day, but that turned out to be a blessing, too.  I've been pushing myself quite a bit lately, trying to work on three writing projects at once after working a demanding, full-time job.  That Sunday, my pajamas were my day's attire and my pillow never looked so good.  A bit of a tussle turned out to be quite alright (though, hopefully, not one to be repeated!).

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Going Green

Green is one of my favorite colors.  I love all of the subtle shades of green as the trees, shrubs and flowers show signs of new spring life. I strive to live green by reducing, reusing and recycling. But, I draw the line when people's faces start turning green on our living room television. What started as a fluke has now become a more frequent occurrence where everything turns a strange, sickly shade of green. I'm struggling to part with the set, however.  I wish there were ways to repair, rather than simply recycle and buy new.  But, the set is probably about 20 years old and has served its years well, both for Mom (who first owned the TV) and us. The green scene doesn't last long, so Larry and I decided to let it go a while longer until it truly interferes with our viewing pleasure.  Then, it'll be time to join the rest of humanity and own a flat-screen television.  I believe the time is coming soon.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Ethical Dilemma

Larry and I attended a lecture about frac sand mining that was sponsored last week by the Baraboo Range Preservation Association.  The speaker, UW-Baraboo/Sauk County philosophy professor Dale Murray, explained the ethical dilemma around the controversial and growing practice of mining for silica that is used in the hydraulic fracturing "fracking" process in order to tap into natural gas reserves.  Wisconsin is one of the Midwestern states that have the ideal type of sand for the job.  The dilemma arises when you pit those who are trying to protect the environment and its fragile inhabitants, such as the Karner Blue Butterly, against those who sell the rights to silica mining on their land for economic reasons and those who benefit from the mining jobs.  The mining sites are growing in such numbers that they are closely encroaching on Sauk County and the Baraboo Hills, thus a topic of keen interest to the Baraboo Range Preservation Association and its members. When confronted with weighty issues, such as frac sand mining, it is sometimes difficult to look at them from all of the many perspectives.  Professor Murray did an excellent job of weighing the consequences of both sides and leaving the audience with much to think about.  I personally tend to lean toward the side that wishes to protect the Baraboo Hills and the diverse species that call the Hills home.  Then again, Professor Murray made a compelling case for the opposing viewpoint. So many issues in our world are not easy to solve. I believe that if one seeks a balanced approach, works diligently to keep communication lines open and makes every effort to find common ground, the world will be a better place and the weight of heavy issues may be lightened, if but a little.  

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Being Disagreeable

I've noticed more and more what poor manners people display on television.  Their raised voices and harsh words are steadily becoming the norm.  I wonder what the effect will be on our culture.  When people disagree, both on the screen and in person, there is an increasing tendency for them to raise their voices, as if upping the volume will ensure that others know that their opinions are right.  If we keep yelling at and over each other, what will the end result be, other than impaired hearing?  Disagreeing with each other shouldn't have to be a disagreeable experience.  Offering a contrasting viewpoint should be treated as a respectful experience that contributes to a broader perspective and an enhanced dialogue. I learn so much more when I listen carefully to another person's perspective without interrupting, without judging and, most certainly, without raising my voice.  What would happen if we all spoke softly and listened respectfully?  It might not make for entertaining television, but it would certainly make for a better world.

Monday, February 17, 2014

Viper Hunt

I stare into the black and white photo and see the face of a 27-year-old man who has seen things he never expected or wanted.  He was a medic during WWII.  He saw some of the worst of the battles in Europe. He was my dad.  A good family friend and his nonagenarian mother have been looking through old photo albums.  Recently, they spotted a picture that my father had sent to their husband/dad in 1945.  In the photo, Dad is shown squatting in tall grasses, his forearms resting on his thighs, his hands clasped casually.  His face is thin and tan, his brow furrowed, his eyes focused, his hair thick and perfectly groomed.  He appears to be dressed casually, but he might have been wearing his U.S. Army fatigues. On the front of the photo, Dad had written "'Chuck' Naidl - 7/10/45 Germany."   On the back, he wrote "10 July 45, Bad Sooden-Allendorf, Germany (viper hunt!). With regards to "Pete" from Chuck."  Underneath his signature was the cartoon rattlesnake that Dad often drew under his name when he sent letters to me. My father had a lifelong fascination with reptiles that caused him to study them in earnest and to spend his career lecturing about their virtues to students of all ages in school lyceum programs across the United States. Although the atrocities of war must have affected him deeply, Dad found a way to feed his passions by going on a "viper hunt" in war-torn Germany.  What a gift it was to receive this surprise photo and to be able to look deeply into the face of the young man who would some decade later become my dad and who would share the good news about reptiles for the rest of his life.

Sunday, February 16, 2014


One evening last week, I was at church surveying the stained glass windows when my tour took me to a conference room on the second floor.  The room was named after a woman who gave much energy, guidance and leadership to our church, Evelyn Pfaff.  A photo of Evelyn is displayed in the room, along with her full name.  Although I had seen it posted there many times before, I was struck this time by the fact that Evelyn's middle name was Delight.  Just reading it made me smile.  What a wonderful gift to bestow a child than to give her the middle name of Delight.  There may be reasons unknown to me as to why she received her middle name, but in my viewpoint, it would be nice if every child could have such a middle name and be treated as if he or she is one.  Although I have not had the opportunity to be a mother or grandmother, I do have opportunities to interact with the children and youth from our church.  Each one is filled with the exuberance for today and the hope for tomorrow.  They bring joy and good energy to our congregation, reminding us of what is important in life. May we see those children -- and all children -- for what they are, a delight. 

Saturday, February 15, 2014

The Story Inside Me

Our pastor quoted Maya Angelou in one of her recent sermons:  "There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you."  One could interpret these sage words in a variety of ways, but I heard them in the literal sense.  Last month, I took the plunge and submitted the initial entry to a memoir contest sponsored by AARP, Huffington Post and Simon & Schuster.  The deadline for the contest is today. After considerable urging by others to tell my untold story of everything from growing up with reptiles to my serpentine journey from illness to illness, I did just that. My story's on paper. The competition for this contest will be fierce and I have no expectations of my story reaching finalist status, but the action of putting the initial, 5,000-word entry of my personal story out there for the world to read propelled me to continue writing.  For the past several weekends, I have been adding to my story.  The work isn't done yet, but I'm making progress.  Should my book reach finalist status, I would need to have an additional 15,000 to 45,000 words written by the middle of June anyway.  So, we'll see what comes of it. For now, I have the satisfaction of knowing that the story inside me is no longer untold.

Friday, February 14, 2014

My Valentine Shell

In her "Gift From the Sea," Anne Morrow Lindbergh tells the story of her time alone on a beach-side vacation and the self-discoveries she made through the metaphor of the various types of seashells she collected while there.  Recently, I've had a yearning for a few seashells to decorate our home.  Perhaps it's the desire to move into a new season from the heaviness of pine cones and evergreens.  Whatever the reason, I bought a small bag of seashells at my favorite thrift store and placed them in a Blue Willow bowl that had been my mom's.  Mom loved seashells, so the combination of shells and bowl seemed appropriate.   While scouring through my thrift store find, I discovered that one of the shells was a sliver-thin, pale and small heart-shaped shell, hardly bigger around than a quarter  It seemed the perfect addition to the Valentine card I had gotten my husband.  I may not have the poetic words of Anne Morrow Lindbergh in my being, but I felt the poetic pull of the heart-shaped shell when I thought of my loving husband Larry. As I rolled the shell over and over in my hand, it reminded me that love is precious and beautiful and honed into its own shape over time and some adversity. However, like the shell, love may appear fragile, but it is actually strong and resilient and made to survive the test of time.  So, with the gift of a small shell, I send my love and best wishes to my favorite Valentine, my husband Larry. 

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Going All Moony

My 2014 calendar indicates that tomorrow is not only Valentine's Day; it's a full moon.  When I read that calendar entry, I smiled, for what better evening to have a full moon than on Valentine's Day? On that traditional day and evening of expressing love and affection for another, it seems appropriate to me that it also be one when we can "go all moony." We can daydream and moon over a special someone and consider it justified.  There is nothing so intoxicating than to be in love, especially when that love is new.  One's surroundings seem blurred, as if in a dream, making the sky seem brighter, the scents sweeter, the jokes funnier, the possibilities grander, the world better. But, there is something even more enchanting to me about love that is no longer new.  There is comfort in a love that has seen some seasons. When love has matured, it has been through some tumbles and still stands firm.  It is deeper and built on commitment and steadfastness. So, whether love is new or not so new anymore, tomorrow's Valentine's Day full moon will be a great opportunity to "go all moony" over the one you love.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

6:35 a.m.

I'm used to rising between 5:30 a.m. and 6:00 a.m.  For months now, I've awakened to darkness. However, last Saturday, I let myself sleep in until a little after 6:30 a.m.  As I opened my eyes, something miraculous struck me.  It was no longer dark!  Although it wasn't completely daylight yet, there were hints of it through our bedroom window, enough for me to be able to make the bed in a tidy fashion without having to turn on a single light.  As I arise each day, I immediately list three things for which I am thankful.  That day, early sunrises were among my three things.  The increased daylight is such a gift.  It may be cold, it may be snowing, but the incremental addition of minutes of daylight do much to lift the spirits.  I couldn't help but think of the foreboding bass aria from Handel's "Messiah," "For Behold, Darkness Shall Cover the Earth." Darkness has covered the earth for the past few months, but we are now experiencing the day-by-day gift of light!

Tuesday, February 11, 2014


Last Sunday at church, we responsively read text in our worship bulletins about the blessed, with such words as: "Blessed are the poor in spirit...Blessed are those who mourn...Blessed are the ones who seek justice.... Then, we heard the full words of Matthew 5:1-11, words that have come to be known as The Beatitudes. Using Inclusive Text, we heard that those who mourn, those who are gentle, those who are merciful, those who are peacemakers, we are all blessed. In our day-to-day living, it is sometimes hard to remember that we are blessed.  Two people at our church reminded me last Sunday of the meaning of the text we had all collectively read and heard.  One, who is facing the serious illness of an adult child, looked at me with the calm eyes of faith and said "Everything will be alright."  The other, a woman who is seeking some changes in her life, gave me the gifts of her kindness and generosity.  Even in the depths of our sorrow and our uncertainty, our fear and our anguish, there is reason to find blessing.  At times, we may have to dig a little deeper, but blessing is there all the same.  Each day this past week, I have continued my ritual of beginning and ending with three things for which to be grateful.  Such a check-in gives me focus to remember just how very much I am blessed indeed.

Monday, February 10, 2014

Un-revealed Until Its Season

It's mid-winter and our fickle weather vacillates between sub-zero wind chills and inches of snow.  Yet, when I look out of our kitchen window, I see the hope of spring.  There, I see a line of flowering ornamental shrubs, each holding spring in the buds that are forming on their limbs.  First in line is the French lilac. Farther down is an azalea, flanked by two weigelas.  I can't count the number of buds that they hold onto so dearly, for there are so many. Even the two small burning bushes look as if they're just counting the days until they can burst forth with leaves.  As I watch the scene out of our kitchen window, I am reminded of the "Hymn of Promise" by Natalie Sleeth:  "In the cold and snow of winter, there's a spring that waits to be."  These next winter weeks will be a test to our patience, but like the ornamental shrubs holding tight to their spring buds, some things are, as Ms. Sleeth wrote so beautifully, "un-revealed until its season."  

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Mop Tops and Moppets

When I was five years old, our nation was rocked by both horrific and hopeful news.  The first came in November 1963 when JFK was assassinated in Dallas.  My five-year-old mind could barely take in the profound sadness that stilled the soul of our country. Three months later, still in the shroud of our collective sorrow, something hopeful and fun happened.  On February 9, 1964, The Beatles appeared on "The Ed Sullivan Show," raising us, at least in part, out of the depths of our grief.  A new era of Beatlemania had begun. I was among the millions of "Ed Sullivan Show" viewers that Sunday evening when The Beatles made their first appearance. Although I was only five years old, I became an instant fan.  The next afternoon, The Beatles were the talk of the kindergarten class I attended.  We commented on their music and the shrieking teenage girls who swooned over them, but the biggest, most controversial topic was whether Paul, John, George and Ringo had really grown their hair that "long" or, more likely, whether their mop-top hairdos were really wigs!  Such commentary out of the mouths of five-year-olds!  Fifty years later, I am still a huge fan of The Beatles, particularly their early work. "Please Please Me," "From Me to You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Can't Buy Me Love" and "All My Loving" are among my long list of Beatles favorites. However, after such a long winter, I'm especially favoring "Here Comes the Sun" these days.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Creative Fire

Lately, I've thought of the many people whose creative fires burn, bringing warmth and meaning to the world even in the depths of mid-winter's chill.  The flames of creative fires cause them to do great things: the actor who stretches himself to try comedy, the vocalist who learns a complicated musical piece, the painter who explores new media for self-expression, the photographer who sees things through a new lens, the dancer who is weary from practice but emboldened to perform, the writer who finds voice in a new way of experiencing words.  Without those creative fires, who would we be as people?  We all have gifts of creativity, talents that allow us to express ourselves in ways that are unique to us.  I think of my friend Kitty whose visits always include a sharing of her latest magnificent projects.  From quilting to looming to painting to constructing, Kitty's hands burn with a creative fire.  My fires might appear tepid to another's, but I feel them nonetheless.  Here's to the artist in us all, whether instrumentalist, textile artist, baker or composer.  In the still darkness of mid-winter, may we let our lights shine.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Fairy Dust

Larry and I frequently take turns standing in front of our bedroom window, looking out onto the tranquil scene below and the vast sky above.  One recent evening, when I would have openly admitted that I was growing tired of yet more cold and snow, I stood motionless for several minutes watching the light snow blow around the security lights on the back of our home.  The light caught each of the dry and delicate snowflakes, giving them the look of what I can only imagine resembles fairy dust. For those few moments, I forgot that it was dreadfully cold out and that the snow was piling up in the driveway.  For just those moments, I was transcended to a magical place where dry snow crystals are the stuff of fairies and enchantment, and all was right with my world.

Thursday, February 6, 2014

Wash Over Me

It had been a long week with many meetings and obligations.  I was ready that Friday night for a relaxing evening with friends, good music and not a lot of thinking.  It was the perfect evening to hear The Madison Bach Musicians, a group founded in 2004 that presents the music of Johann Sebastian Bach, as well as the works of other composers from the Baroque, Renaissance and Classical periods.  As we settled comfortably into our seats, I could feel my entire being relax, my breathing deepen.  The concert featured a vocal quartet, cello, violins, viola and one of my favorite instruments, the harpsichord.  From the time I was a child watching Lurch play the harpsichord on the old TV sitcom, "The Addams Family," I have loved the harpsichord. On Friday evening, from sonata to sonata, I let the music wash over me, filling me with such a sense of beauty and peace that I can barely recall when I last felt such total and utter contentment.  At the end of the concert, the group's founder and harpsichordist, Trevor Stephenson, invited the audience onto the stage to get a closer look and listen to the harpsichord that he had transported from Madison to the Baraboo stage.  And such an amazing instrument it was.  Mr. Stephenson was bombarded with questions and musical requests from the audience members crowding in around him, to which he gracefully responded.  Even after the experience was over, the benefits lingered. I slept well that evening after the blessing of a perfect way to end a busy week: sitting still for two hours, soaking in the delicate and intricate beauty of music, letting it wash over me again and again.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Elmwood 68231

I heard a couple of people answer their cell phones recently by simply saying, "Yeah?"  That got me to thinking about my maternal grandmother who always answered the telephone with a cheery "Woods' residence." That was back in the day when people didn't carry phones on their person, answering in the grocery aisle, the bathroom stall or across the restaurant table from you in the middle of a meal.  A telephone was a stationary device that required a certain decorum when answering it. There was usually only one telephone in the house.  If you were a teenager and wanted to talk with a friend, the length of your phone call was monitored because there was just the one phone, just the one line going into the house.  That was also in an era when party lines still existed but were quickly going away. As a child, I lived in the country in a home that was part of a party line.  In other words, several households shared the same line, each with its own telephone number, but still shared so that you could carefully pick up the phone and listen in on others' conversations, if you so desired.  That might have been the beginning of viral communication, now that I think about it. Our telephone number was a word followed by numerals: Elmwood 68231, which was abbreviated to EL68231.  It was later changed to 356-8231, with the letters being replaced by their associated numerals.  When the party line went away, our home number was changed to 356-3877, a number my mother had until the last year of her life. So, when I hear people answering their cell phones today in such casual ways and in such strange places, I can't help but think of Grandma Carrie, answering their telephone with grace and decorum, in a lovely voice that invited the very best of conversation.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Time for Spring Cleaning

It may sound kind of silly, but January and February are traditionally my months for spring cleaning.  I started this ritual a few years ago during a blizzard.  With nothing to do, I set to cleaning out cupboards, vacuuming behind the refrigerator, culling the closets of clothes and other belongings no longer worn or used, cleaning the insides of windows and basically getting our home gussied up for another year.  When April and May arrived, I was grateful to have done the big jobs while it was still sub-zero with feet of snow on the ground, for in the spring, I had only one thought in mind and it wasn't about cleaning.  When Daylight Savings Time rolls around again and the sun feels warmer and the sky looks bluer, I want to go outside and stay out there until the first frost.  So, in keeping with tradition, I enlisted the help of my husband Larry to clean the kitchen one recent Saturday.  Everything was wiped clean, even the tops of cupboards and light fixtures.  We, then, moved to the ceiling fan blades and the bathrooms where everything was dumped out of drawers, cleaned out and returned to their proper places.  It felt good to get such tiresome jobs done.  There's still more to do, but we have February for that. When spring really does arrive, I'll be able to march right outside, guilt free, and take in the season with joy, leaving my clean house behind.

Monday, February 3, 2014

Dashing Through the Snow

Yesterday afternoon was so lovely that while talking with a friend on the phone, I leaned against the windowsill, feeling the sun's warmth waft through the pane.  As Sara and I talked, I noticed in our backyard that there was evidence of little animals that have scurried lately around and on top of the snow.  Just then, one, then two, then tree, then four and finally five squirrels went dashing through the snow from the protection of a large evergreen tree to a nearby stand of arbor vitae.  They chased each other over and over, creating figure eights in the snow.  It was such a delightful display of jubilant playtime that I could barely keep from laughing while I was on the phone.   The squirrels' antics brought an entirely new interpretation for me of "dashing through the snow."

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Heartfelt Memories

I don't make it a practice to revisit previous posts to this blog, but here is one from February 2012 that continues to hold meaning for me:  I wasn't really in the mood to do any shopping that day but something drew me to our local St. Vincent de Paul Thrift Store on a recent Saturday morning.  I browsed all of the aisles and finally decided before exiting the store to look at a shoebox of Valentines.  I hadn't been thinking about buying any Valentines there but, still, I was drawn to the box.  It was strange.  I didn't just go through them once.  I felt compelled to look through them a second time.  It was during that second time that I discovered two identical Valentine postcards featuring two identical handwritten greetings -- in my late mom's handwriting.  I could barely contain myself.  I miss my mom so much and it was as if she was reaching out to me through those Valentines.  I bought both of the postcards, saving one for myself and sending the other to my aunt and uncle, my mom's sister and brother-in-law.  The postcards feature a delicate pastel design of a heart-shaped floral wreath.  Mom wrote her message to coincide with the card's design:  "Warm thoughts and wishes are flowers of the heart.  May you have a lovely Valentine's Day!"  I'm not sure if Mom recycled the cards back to the thrift store or if I was the one responsible for having done so when Larry and I cleaned out her apartment 1 1/2 years ago.  All I know is that their discovery on that recent Saturday morning was such an unexpected and precious find.  Truly, flowers of the heart from my wonderful, unforgettable mom.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Valentine Tree

It's February, time to put up the Valentine tree.  When I was a child, my mother made a Valentine tree out of an old lilac branch, painted white with her nurses' shoe polish, and decorated with construction paper hearts. I have a little white branch tucked into a flower pot in my home office that seems to change appearance with the season and my whims.  In celebration of my mom and those fun Valentine's Days gone by, I've made a Valentine tree out of my little white branch.  It's such a simple thing, but each time I look at it, it makes me smile.  I can see Mom carefully painting the lilac branch and cutting out the red construction paper hearts  to hang from the tree. I can see the finished product displayed on one of the antique chests in our living room.   It's been nearly 50 years since Mom made Valentine trees for our home, but each time I look at the one in my home office, I am a little girl all over again.