And because it is…..(another new year, continued)

I can’t say I really make resolutions any longer, because let’s face it, I am always me, better some days than others, more or less productive, always with the best intent. (At least, that is better than not caring at all if I ever amount to much….MAYBE.)

But these are things I intend to do, as best I can, in this new year.

 MINE!One of my Christmas gifts was this beautiful baby. I’ve always wanted a guitar of my own, and it used to belong to one of the best musicians (not to mention best men) I know; I know it was well-loved and properly cared for. A couple of years ago we spent one of the best weekends ever at the lake house owned by some friends; there was an evening there when Scott and Andrea, family of those friends and mutual friends of ours, of course, sat in the living room with their guitars and played and sang incredible music. While they are not married any longer, in those moments you could see what they had once been, and it made the music all the sweeter for a sentimental heart such as mine.

I made up my mind then that I really, really wanted to learn to play the guitar; I’d given one to my husband for a Christmas gift many years before…..which he has yet to learn to play. (He’s been busy. Life, you know. Job. Kid. All that jazz.) I actually considered learning to play his, since he wasn’t, but that didn’t seem such a cool thing to do. So when he gave me this one, my own! I asked him if he would consider taking the lessons WITH me. We have a DVD/book combo for starters, and there are lots of lessons available on YouTube. I don’t know, it’s just that I really want that moment, such as I saw at the lake, where we could be sitting close, facing each other, playing and singing together–even if no one else ever hears it.

He said he would. We haven’t, yet, but I will not give up on this one! 

I am determined to finish my cookbook before I return to camp. So many have asked for it, it’s money just waiting to be made (money, I might add, that I very much need to earn.) 

I am determined to complete the switching out of several rooms in this house, so my husband has a bigger ‘mancave,’ so I have a different writing room, so our bedroom makes better use of its space and layout. Those, too, are all things that can and should be accomplished before I return to camp, because I’d love to see a simple, will-do-for-now renovation of our bathroom done while I’m gone. 

As most of us do, I am determined to keep losing weight, to continue adding more steps and more exercise to my day.

See what I mean? So much of this–too much of this–is the same list I come up with each year. How much time do I think I have?

Well, I don’t know, do I. Who does? But I lost two friends in the last couple of weeks; both were much, much too young to go. The one I said goodbye to yesterday packed so much into her life, though! more even than I had known since first meeting her at college. She earned two degrees, teaching school for years before earning her law degree, and throughout most of her life she was deeply, joyously, passionately involved in theatre.  That is just a fraction of her accomplishments; if her life was cut short, it was at least full and rich in every way. 

And I looked at my own life, thought about so many things on the drive home.

I seem to do everything way way later than most of my friends. Still haven’t finished college (and yes, that’s another one of the things on my list–I’m looking into it with all determination.) We were married ten years before we could buy a house, fifteen years before we were given our only child. There are so many things I want to do, and so many things have kept them from happening; some by my own choice, some by luck (or lack of it.)

If there are those we know whose lives are, as someone said yesterday, golden…..the same could never be said of us. And I am not saying that with any sense of jealousy or self-pity; there is luck, and some of us are more lucky than others. (Yes, I know, we make our own luck, have heard it before, but it still comes down to various shades of golden.) 

And yet we’re still here, right where we want to be, still together. There’s one thing to be said for not having much: you appreciate every single thing you do have, and you value it all the more for it not having just fallen into your lap! Waiting so many years for a house, a child, means we treasured them, still treasure them, because we know what it was like all those years without.

Still working, still trying, with more realization that nothing will ever happen if we don’t make the changes we need.  Look at money and career choices differently? On it. Have better health? All over it. Longing to travel? No longer wishing to, but planning to. 

“Our indiscretion sometimes serves us well
When our deep plots do pall, and that should teach us
There’s a divinity that shapes our ends,
Rough-hew them how we will—”

“That is most certain.”

Shakespeare said it best, didn’t he?

I am saying it again.

Enough of I wish and if only. This is my life, the only one I get, and if my friend could recreate herself over and over again, enjoying ever-widening circles of accomplishments and friends….then I can, too. I’m never too old to learn, to try. I am never bored. Bring on that to-do list! It’s a new year….let’s burn it down.

Another New Year….

Don’t look so sad,
It’s not so bad you know.
It’s just another night,
That’s all it is.

First time I heard this, my love was in Japan, and I’d been trying to tell myself that this was just another night, and so what if I was alone. Surely he was thinking of me, missing me, too…..That was more years ago than I care to remember, but whenever I hear these words I’m right back there again. Music always does that to me.

It’s not the first,
It’s not the worst you know,
We’ve come through all the rest,
We’ll get through this.And we do, don’t we? No matter what the year that is ebbing away has been like–the best we’ve known, the worst–there is no way to freeze it so we can stay in that wonderful place, nor hasten it away a little faster. It comes in its own time, as they always do, no matter how we feel about it. 

We’ve made mistakes,
But we’ve made good friends too.
Remember all the nights we spent with them?

Oh! How I do remember those times; laughing over coffee or wine, firing lines from favorite plays or comedy routines at each other; walking in the snow on a starry night, dancing until the place closed down, whether a big party or just a couple of close friends having dinner together….I remember more than they would ever believe. 

And all our plans,
Who says they can’t come true?
Tonight’s another chance to start again.

I think that’s what I like best of all about the New Year. I am the eternal optimist, and I love new beginnings and fresh starts, a brand new journal and a beautiful blue pen. What will those pages hold? Why, that’s entirely up to me, isn’t it?

It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
Another night like all the rest.
It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
Let’s make it the best.
It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
It’s just another Auld Lang Syne,
But when we’re through this New Year
You’ll see, will be
Just fine.

Yes. Yes it will.

We’re not alone, we’ve got the world you know.
And it won’t let us down, just wait and see.
And we’ll grow old, but think how wise we’ll grow.
There’s more you know, it’s only New Year’s Eve.

It is impossible to feel bad about growing old. Looking at pictures of younger days, seeing a beauty I surely never knew or felt at the time, all I can think is it doesn’t matter that I don’t look like that now. All I can see are the friends  now frozen in time, those I have lost, lost much too soon. So there is the wisdom, as if I hear Julie and JoBeth telling me lately that life is short, don’t waste a moment. They’re right, aren’t they?

Yes. Yes they are.

It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
Another night like all the rest.
It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
Let’s make it the best.
It’s just another New Year’s Eve,
It’s just another Auld Lang Syne,
But when we’re through this New Year, you’ll see, will be
Just fine.

So, just as Christmas came for the Whos in Who-ville without presents, boxes or bags….the New Year came in this house without champagne, without loud music and rowdy friends, without music. It came in the faces of dear friends and little children, came with birthday cake and ice cream, puppy kisses and quiet thoughts and prayers. It came in the form of memories and prayers. It came in the form of renewed hope and new plans and dreams, old and new, in the form of poetry, in the silence when everyone slept but me.

Happy New Year, my friends. Here’s to us.


To touch what her hands once touched….

I was given a birthday gift today, a most precious and unexpected gift. It was a time capsule. I don’t know that anyone else would call it that, but that’s exactly what it was: a sewing box that once belonged to someone I loved dearly, someone whose opinion meant the world to me. Once upon an almost time, I very nearly became her daughter-in-law.

Old wood, lovingly cleaned and polished. I remember exactly where it used to stand in her house. I can still see every detail of that house where I spent so many Saturday nights, caring for a younger brother while missing, loving, and writing to the older brother who was so far away….and who was as close as my heart, where he lived.

It is filled with things she used, though I’ve no idea just how long it’s been since she last used it. I kind of doubt she did much sewing in the last years of her life. But there’s all these spools of thread, and packages of needles. A pin cushion, and jars of pins. Tape measures. Thimbles. Packets of seam binding and ribbon, including the wide satin ribbons used to bind blankets. I remember when every blanket had just such a binding. I remember falling asleep with that soft, smooth satin in my hands. (I was a tactile person before I knew the meaning of the word.) Packets of iron-on patching material.  A hand-held ‘sewing machine,’ I remember when those were the rage, and remember too that while touted as such an easy way to hem a skirt! they were really more bother than they were worth. I bet she found that true, too. A box of bobbins and another box of attachments for her sewing machine. I’ve no idea what happened to that, but I’m keeping them. Someone, somewhere, may have a use for them, and I’ll hand them over gladly. She would have liked that.

And a  pair of scissors that made me realize exactly what a time capsule this sewing box is: before everyone had the universal and ubiquitous orange-handled scissors (name brand or knock-off) there were bright shiny silver shears of all sizes. And most moms and grandmas had them in those several sizes. I know my mom did; the larger ones were dressmaker shears. I don’t know what the smaller size was–Mom’s had black-painted handles, and they were small and fine and sharp as could be and they were ‘MY SCISSORS!’ which meant we were never to touch or use them. In this box I found just such a pair, small and shining silver.

Another such time capsule moment: buttons, not just sewn on the cards as sold, but buttons cut off things and saved. Every woman I knew when I was a girl did that, and saved them in tins or jars, and used them so often that buying them on those cards was a rare thing indeed. I still do that, as raised to: cut the buttons off and save them, and use them.  Some of them are uniquely beautiful and have made a tremendous impact when I changed out ordinary ones for vintage on a blouse or blazer.

I have a lot of sewing supplies (though my life schedule hasn’t allowed much sewing in the last few years; I hope to change that. There are a lot of things I’d like to make!) Some I purchased when I started learning to sew, including my OWN silver shears which my Home Ec teacher engraved  with my name and the year, telling each of us students as she did so that these were good quality, a keepsake, and should be treated as such. Some I have purchased in later years at thrift shops or yard sales when I found them; I liked buying jars of buttons for a quarter, and finding a wooden darning egg that was very, very old. Scissors of several sizes, including the same black-handled style as ‘MY SCISSORS!’ that I found in the frame of an old chair I was re-covering. I liked knowing that someone else had used these, and valued them, and now I would do the same.

But I had nothing to compare to this.

And as I cleaned and sorted through this treasure box, arranging the spools by color and so on, I realized what a story it told about this beloved wife, mother, grandmother; mixed in with all the practical things were sentimental things. A crocheted Christmas stocking, and a grandchild’s Christmas ornament. A handful of patches from Boy Scout uniforms….and then patches from the military uniforms those boys grew up to wear. And the odd bits of this and that…. a handful of hair clips that every lady used to use to preserve her beauty-shop hairdo a little longer, and the kind of hairpins that pulled it together in the first place. A sparkling hair clip that I will clean and polish and wear when that look would be just right, and I know I will feel her presence when I do.

And I found a couple of sheets of paper….diet tips and recipes. The lovely lady never stopped trying to be slimmer. I don’t think she ever knew how beautiful she was.

Such ordinary things, but so precious, because, well, just because. They were hers. Now they are mine.

I pray that someday my daughter will cherish ordinary things…just because they were mine.


Always trying to see the good….

Remember Disney’s “Pollyanna,” back in the day? I was a little girl, just exactly the kind that film was made for and marketed to, and of course I loved it. I loved it again when my daughter was small and we watched it together, and now and then if I find it in progress on the tube, I’ll pick it up. It’s sweet. Some would say sappy, but it is sweet, and it has helped me try to ‘keep sweet,’ as I heard when I was living in the South. I happen to think that’s a better way of saying it than ‘be nice,’ if you know what I mean?

So I do try to keep sweet. There are a lot of people who blog happy day moments or count gifts or any number of other things that all mean the same thing: looking for something good in each day. Some days that’s harder than others, but if you look for good, you can usually find it. I don’t want to be Pollyanna, but I want to be as upbeat as I can, especially when, like now, I am fighting the blues.

And with that in mind, and this month nearly over, here, in no particular order, are the things I am ‘glad’ about.

First of all, I am glad I attempted the ‘Write 500 words a day’ challenge. It’s what brought me here. And, as expected, it has inspired other writing and other ideas for writing (not least of which is resurrecting another blog I started a while back, a kitchen blog, to tie in with the cookbook I’m writing.) I may not always know what I’m going to write when I come to this blog every day, but I haven’t missed a single day. It has, in that respect, been as good for me as NaNoWriMo was and is: a springboard, tapping into creativity and reminding me just how much I love to write.

Second, though I had a really rotten cold earlier this month, which has made me lazier than I should have been or intended to be–my energy has begun to return this week–I am glad that it was the first such respiratory ANYthing I’ve had in almost a year. That is a huge thing for someone with my health history, and it reinforces my decision to make a life change last spring. It was the right move, and I expect more good things will come of it, and pray that as it seems so far, a lot less illness goes along with it.

I am glad to be surrounded by people who love me, both here in this house and this town, and in the larger circle that is the Internet–friends from bygone days whose company I enjoy just as much as I did in those days (mostly school, several different schools) and friends from all around the world that I may never meet, but that are very precious to me. I reminded my Daddy the other night that when he had major heart surgery a year and a half ago, he had people praying for him–for all of us–from places as far away as Japan and England and South Africa and Australia. And I am equally glad to be able to pray in return when it is needed, to share in joys and sorrows for others. John Mellencamp sang it best, “everyone needs a hand to hold onto.”

I am glad that a few problems I am dealing with right now are from an excess of things, not a lack of. It makes me grateful for so much, makes me know how lucky I am. (The thing to do is take that excess and share it, everywhere it’s needed, anywhere it’s wanted.)

I am glad for little things, too…..chocolate, good books, wonderful music….even things as simple as fresh cold water with lots of ice and a slice of lemon. Wool socks. Warm blankets and clean sheets. Blossoming African violets. Cuddly puppies. My daughter’s smile, and my husband’s laughter. Knitting, sewing, and the plans for more things to knit and sew.

And I am so glad that no matter how I feel….I always believe that tomorrow will be better.

And so it will. 

A giggle of teenage girls….

invaded my house tonight.

This is not unusual. It happens most Wednesday nights, and I like it, and I will miss it when it no longer happens. It’s part of the Epic program at church, and this is my daughter’s small group. They meet here most of the time because we are, literally, less than a block from the church. Usually I make a huge bowl of popcorn (we call it a silo) and some juice and they take over the living room, eating, drinking, spilling, giggling…and talking, sharing, encouraging and praying.

Not that I have ever listened to them. My husband and I are upstairs whenever they’re here, and my parents are in their room. The girls have privacy, as they should, so they can feel safe no matter what they’re doing. But I love making our home available to them. Their leaders are wonderful young women. The girls could not have better mentors and role models.

Tonight they were all  in their pajamas, having a little party; generally they are only here for an hour or so, because part of the evening takes place en masse (music and worship) before the small groups scatter. But every so often they have an all-small-group night, and they usually do something out of the ordinary, because they’re together for several hours.

So tonight I made homemade dough and sauce, and two dozen saucer sized shells, and the girls made their own mini pizzas, with tons of pepperoni and cheese (and a few veggies offered, because, after all, I am a mom, I have to push veggies). My daughter made lemonade, and I made a sheet of homemade brownies and I thought that should keep them from starvation, at least until they got home for a bedtime snack. And my daughter spread lots of blankets on the floor and gathered up all kinds of pillows and the kids came in their pajamas, including their leaders. How cute were they!

Much giggling ensued. And shrieking, and all kinds of silliness I didn’t even have to see. Some things you just KNOW.

And I remembered when I was the daughter, and my gang hung out at our house. (Although I don’t remember a pajama party….) My mom made popcorn for us, and we sat around the dining table and played cards or games, and listened to records, and talked, talked, talked. Whenever anyone would ask how she and Daddy could stand so much teenage noise, she said she liked it, because she knew where we were and she knew we were safe.

Yeah. That’s why I offered our house for these Wednesday night meetings. And I understand even more what Mom meant. I like hearing them laugh. I like knowing they are safe, that they can confide in each other, that they are happy to be here. And they are sweet kids; every time they leave, they yell up the stairs, as loud as they can, “THANK YOU!” interspersed with giggles.

I love it. I really do. I’m so very aware that my daughter is almost fifteen, and that there are only a few more years she’ll be home like this. Before I know it, she’ll be off to her own life, at college or a job or marriage or a combination of those things, and when she’s home, it won’t be the same. It’ll be wonderful, but it won’t be the same.

Fifteen. Already?

I am more aware of the passage of time than usual, because we’re coming up on her A-Day, and her birthday not long after. I waited twenty years for her; how can she be almost fifteen? She’s planning her high school courses and beginning to know what she might want to do for a career.

Yesterday I did some serious cleaning of closets; one of the tasks involved emptying several boxes and a trunk, sorting, folding and repacking everything back into the trunk. It is now filled with her baby clothes, from the newest newborn sizes to small toddler sizes.  Little socks the size of my thumb! The pale green nightgown she wore home from the hospital; the little pink coat she wore every Sunday to church.  Christmas dresses and the petticoats worn beneath them. Her patent leather slippers; her first Birkenstocks!

I could remember her in so many of the clothes. She was a beautiful baby, and it was fun to dress her. But it went far beyond that. I could remember how she felt in my arms, see her wiggling on her play quilt, rolling over, taking her first steps. I could feel little fingers curled around mine, and see her gorgeous smile break wide and bright when she saw one of us. I could remember rocking her in the Mommy chair, feeling her drift off to sleep against my shoulder, and wanting to just sit there and hold her all night.

And sometimes I did. Sometimes, I still would, if she wanted me to. That Mommy chair is still big enough for that.

Wasn’t it yesterday? And now she giggles with other teens. Before I know it, she’s going to be laughing in a dorm with her college roommate.

I will continue to make pizza and bake brownies and vacuum up spilled popcorn as long as I can…..and remember the little girl in footy pajamas forever.


Everybody sing along…

Pete Seeger died today. 

My life flows on in endless song

Above earth’s lamentations,

I hear the real, though far-off hymn

That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife

I hear its music ringing,

It sounds an echo in my soul.

How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars,

I hear the truth, it liveth.

And though the darkness ’round me close,

Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,

While to that rock I’m clinging.

Since love is lord of heaven and earth

How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble sick with fear

And hear their death knell ringing,

When friends rejoice both far and near

How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile

Our thoughts to them are winging,

When friends by shame are undefiled

How can I keep from singing?

He didn’t have a particularly loud voice. You listened closer to this quiet man, because of it. But his voice was unforgettable and his message even more so. I can’t think of many artists that had such a varied repertoire, and he entertained small children as easily as he impassioned adults.

I knew his music before I knew him. My camp counselor and most of the staff were college students, and more than one of them had guitars. This was the folk music era, and I was falling in love with Peter, Paul and Mary, and Joan Baez, and Bob Dylan….and Pete Seeger. Some we sang at campfire, each night; others I heard when the staff had a break and they were enjoying some time together. It was the first time I was aware of wanting to grow up and work at camp, and when I grew old enough to do that, I remembered how important it was to be the kind of young adult that a child might want to emulate, might want to know more, to have what I had. And camp was where you could reach a child’s heart with a song, if you couldn’t reach them any other way. Pete Seeger knew how to reach hearts that way. He knew how to make you care about many things, not least of which was the injustice he’d seen so much of.

To everything (turn, turn, turn)

There is a season (turn, turn, turn)

And a time for every purpose under heaven.

A time to be born, a time to die

A time to plant, a time to reap

A time to kill, a time to heal

A time to laugh, a time to weep.

A time to build up, a time to break down

A time to dance, a time to mourn

A time to cast away stones

A time to gather stones together.

A time of war, a time of peace

A time of love, a time of hate

A time you may embrace

A time to refrain from embracing.

A time to gain, a time to lose

A time to rend, a time to sew

A time of love, a time of hate

A time of peace… I swear it’s not too late.

Taken straight from Ecclesiastes…the first time the staff taught us “Turn, Turn, Turn” at campfire, and told us its origin, I couldn’t wait to check my Bible when I got back to my cabin. And there were the words that made the Bible alive for me in a way it had never been–a book, the Book, that suddenly seemed right here, right now.

And it meant that folk music was suddenly ‘my’ music. It still is. Some of the lyrics were deceptively simple, but if you were paying attention to what was going on in the world around you–and I was–nothing was simple. 

 The water is wide, I cannot cross over,

And neither have I wings to fly,

Give me a boat that can carry two,

And both shall row – my love and I.

A ship there was, and she sails the sea,

She’s loaded deep as deep can be,

But not so deep as the love I’m in,

And I know not how, I sink or swim.

I leaned my back up against some young oak,

Thinking he was a trusty tree,

But first he bended and then he broke,

And thus did my false love to me.

I put my hand into some soft bush,

Thinking the sweetest flower to find.

I pricked my finger to the bone,

And left the sweetest flower alone.

Oh, love is handsome, love is fine,

Gay as a jewel, when first it is new,

But love grows old, and waxes cold,

And fades away, like summer dew.

The seagulls wheel, they turn and dive,

The mountain stands beside the sea.

This world we know turns round and round,

And all for them – and you and me.

My taste in music grew and changed as I did the same, but I never stopped loving folk music and I know now I never will. I had a lot of it on LPs, gradually replacing them with CDs when they were just not playable any longer. And just last year when Seeger’s wife, Toshi, died, I played Seeger for several weeks after, loving the quiet voice just as I always had.

He was 94, and surely saw a lot of dissension in his lifetime. I remember studying the transcripts of his testimony before the HUAC; I wish I could have heard it, as he remained calm and steadfast. He absolutely refused to play the game. He never did play games. He knew what he believed, and he lived it, taught it, sang it and spoke it and shared it.

Arlo Guthrie said it best: 

“Well, of course he passed away!” I’m telling everyone this morning. “But that doesn’t mean he’s gone.”

There are those who will disagree about Seeger’s legacy, about the good he did with his music. And they are entitled to that opinion. We don’t all have to agree. But I prefer to remember my hero singing that “We shall live in peace….someday.”

Rest in peace, gentle soul.