Sunday, December 23, 2012

Peace On Earth

Tis Christmas Eve Eve, December 23rd and all through the house, there is the sound of last minute gifts being wrapped and gift tags secured.

There is something this holiday season that has managed to recapture child like appreciate in me and that is the Christmas card.  Holiday greetings, Christmas cards, call them what you will, in this digital age when we seldom put a stamp on anything anymore, receiving a real Christmas card has become special.

It seemed not very long ago, I took delight in selecting an online Ecard for the holidays and within a couple of minutes, it was attached to various email address and sent on it's way.  Not alot of thought went into that effort yet it was all the rage and the trendy thing to do.  After all, there was so much to do and I was busy with holiday details.

As with new and improved ways of doing things, we often have a chance to remember the old way of doing something as simple as wishing those we love and care about a happy holiday season.

This year I purchased a box of Christmas cards, took pen in hand and crafted each wish for designated recipients. I took my time, wrote out thank yous for acts of kindness and my wishes for a Merry Christmas.  Yes, by the 24th card, my writing was a little less festive but when I noticed fatigue, I simply slowed down and took my time.  It was not a race to finish these cards.  It was not a task that I wanted of which to be rid.  So, I steadied my hand, slowed my breathing and took a few moments to think as I wrote.

In the hustle and bustle of this time of year, we really have to make an effort to slow down, to savor moments and to keep that meaningful pace.  To hurry along as if we needed more hours in a day is to miss that cozy feeling we all longed for this time of year.  We waited an entire year for this magical season.  The warmth of lights and the beautiful colors.  Music that can make your feet dance or make your soul weep.  We waited and waited.  So don't hurry the days.  Don't hurry the cards and don't forget to look at each of them.  Read their words and let them be a part of the holiday landscape.  They have been a constant and the world needs more constants.

To each of you, I wish you Peace and .....

                                                                          Merry Christmas!!

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Just When You Thought No One Was Looking

 Oops, looks like I started this in April and never finished it.  Finally I wrapped it up and now it can be added to my memories.............As chance would have it our next gathering is tomorrow!

The past two weekends have been filled to the brim with the Unexpected.  I know that Life does that, tosses us a ball now and then..sometimes a curve ball, sometimes a meatball.  Sometimes we are simply handed so many blessings at one time that it feels surreal.

Two weekends ago, it was the neighborhood block party.  In my small town, everyone knows everyone for the most part.  On my street, we find ourselves too busy to spend much time together.  One neighbor organized a block party last year.  Everyone turned out with their lawn chairs, enjoyed grilled hot dogs and other items brought for the feast.  But it was a first and not very comfortable.  Chairs were placed in a large circle and it had the feel of an unwanted intervention instead of a friendly gathering of neighbors.

This year was different.  It was comfortable and the day couldn't have been more lovely.

My Son had the great fortune of working the grill, cooking hot dogs for the masses and greeting people as they came down the street, lawn chairs in hand.  There was great fellowship and many amazing things were created by this one event.  My Son, who still has trouble at school with kids constantly calling him names and telling him to "shut up" whenever he engages in conversation, had the good fortune of spending time with the across the street neighbor, who happens to be an Austin police officer.  This man had heard my son was having trouble at school and wanted to help.  He spent time with my son and the following weekend invited him to go to Austin to watch the Longhorns practice.

 My son also met a documentary film maker, a dream come true for him.  If you were to ask My Son what he wanted to do when he grows up, he will consistently tell you..."I want to make movies".  I mean, he really wants me to buy him one of those big green screens for a movie set!  I can hardly squash the passion and dream this child carries inside him.  But I keep it "real" and let him learn that there is no fast track to success in that endeavor.  As with all passions, perfection comes with time, trial and error.

One memory I took from this day was a little baby girl,sitting in the grass on this lovely day.  The sun was shining low in the sky and someone was blowing bubbles for her.  It was a Kodak moment indeed.  There are simple quiet moments that occur each and every day.  Moments of perfection and peace.  This was one such moment.  With all the people around, all the conversations and laughter, there sat this tiny little girl, happy and content, smiling at the bubbles.

What a nice day this turned out to be.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

My Personal Problem With Pinterest

Pinterest.  I love it.  I look at it every day.  I pin, pin, pin and then I pin some more.  I see things that I love and I pin it.  I see things I want to try and I pin them.  I am a big time pinner. 

Before Pinterest, I used the Internet to search for the many answers to the even more questions I might have at any given time.  I often think before the Internet when I needed to know how to do something or solve a problem, I had to go to the library or book store and spend time searching through many books looking for the end result I sought.  Not anymore.  The Internet has brought the world to my fingertips and all the answers are out there and I never have to leave the comfort of my home.

Pinterest goes a step beyond that.  I no longer have to wait for the questions.  Recipes, ideas, crafts, fashion and how to do it yourself projects are right there for me to see.  Sometimes I don't even have the thought in my mind til I see someones pin and then its like "Oh my gosh, that's a great idea!".  And I pin it.

The real problem I have with Pinterest is that I have about a million pins but so far I have only completed one project.  I have so many "to dos" that I need several lifetimes to complete them.  Being a full time working mom means time is limited.  I have so many pins I don't even remember what I have pinned but I know they are something I really wanted to make or do.

Now if that wasn't frustrating enough, there is a second element to this problem and that is the overwhelming need to find more pins.  Let me explain.  The time that I should be using actually using and trying some of the many pins I already have is overshadowed by the need to find more pins.  I go to my beloved Pinterest site and begin searching knowing full well that I don't even have time to use the pins I already have.  But, in my mind I'm saying "If I don't look at the current pins, I might miss something really great and obviously, I have surrendered my independent thinking to the bounty that is the current round of posted pins".  See the problem?

So my goal is to actually manage my time between home, work, pin and create.  I wonder how I can possibly do that.  Perhaps someone has already pinned that.  I will go look and see whats there.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Tis the Morn of Thanksgiving

And we are here.  That uniquely American tradition of celebrating Thanksgiving.  All around this great country of ours, friends and family are waking up to Thanksgiving morning.

No doubt millions of homes already have the scent of turkeys in the oven or freshly baked pies.  There is a bustle to every one's step today.  It is a day we look forward to every year.  Not only are we blessed with a bounty of tastes and sounds but it is a chance to step away from our normal work lives and just exhale for a few days.  We trade the routines of the Monday through Friday workload for many things that require attention at home.  We work but it is working for ourselves and for our families.  Our efforts benefit both home and heart.

As the years have progressed, I have seen an ever-changing Thanksgiving scene.  Once a child watching the dinning room table for signs of progress and some signal that soon smell would become taste to fending off my own children and answering the never ending question of 'how much longer?".  The scene changes again to traveling to family for this celebratory meal and then again to my own family going their separate ways for Thanksgiving.  And yet, with this change and all the changes before it, Thanksgiving has a way of happening.

I've learned that it matters not with whom you share a meal or conversation on this day.  What is important is that you give Thanks.  Being thankful for the people who have been placed in your life and for the blessings of an abundance of food.  Being thankful that family is still connected to you even when you might not be breaking bread with them this year.  Being thankful that your children are healthy and that you  have enough money to pay your bills.  Being thankful for the big and small things alike.  It all matters in the big scheme of things, doesn't it?

While my family will be away from me this year, I shall not be alone for Thanksgiving.  And this is the part I really wanted to write about today.  Life simply has a way of guiding you in the right directions.  It closes doors and opens windows for you to crawl through and since I don't believe in coincidences, I see it much as walking through an unfamiliar room in the dark.....blindfolded.  You bump into this, change direction and then bump into that.  But in the end, you find your way through, the blindfold comes off and the light is turned on.  Then you see the journey as well as the destination and purpose.

Well, doors closed and windows opened this year.  The ever gracious human spirit that on this day and in this season, finds people reaching out in many directions, gathering up humans souls the way those on that first Thanksgiving gathered the harvest.  On this day, we reach out and find those that might be alone and pull them into our families and groups of friends making the day all the more special.  On this day, we see the best in ourselves as we open our homes to those that need the company or simply to be part of something bigger than a lone plate of food set at an empty table.

While I certainly would not be alone on this day, my small family cluster will be absorbed by another family's cluster creating a hodge podge of shared moments of giving Thanks.  My thoughts will be with my larger family today and while I can't be with them, I will be thinking about that crowded house full of people and laughter and Thanks. Like so many people on this day that are separated from family, I will find comfort in friends.  As the sign over my front door says:  "Friends Are The Family We Find Along The Way."

So to each of you, wherever you are and with whomever you share your day, I wish you a simply fine Thanksgiving.  May your turkey be tender and your pies delightful.  May you have plenty of help in the kitchen and find time for a nap after dinner. 

Sunday, November 11, 2012

My Pashmina

It has been awhile since I posted on my blog.  Don't even ask where they days have gone as each went far too quickly.

Since my last post, we have had an election, changed the time and raced to another holiday season.  The weather has turned cool and darkness comes early these days.  Soon we will be tasting turkey and stringing Christmas lights.  Its a good time of year.  It makes the house feel cozy and warm even when its chilly.  It is indeed the best of atmospheres.

The cool weather has brought me to write about a lovely gift I received from my neighbor.  On one of my many coffee visits to her, I was surprised with a most glorious of gifts.  She handed me my very own Pashmina scarf.  I must admit, I did not know what made this scarf so special aside from the fact it was given by a dear friend.  Here is a purple version of what I received.

The day she gave it to me was damp and chilly.  One of those days that makes it hard to get warm.  I opened the packaging and pulled out a very wide powder blue scarf.  It was light weight to the touch and oh so soft.  As I wrapped the Pashmina around my shoulders, I was surprised at how quickly I warmed.  How could this light weight thin piece of material be warming me on this chilly day?

When I came home, I went to work on learning about this scarf and the material from which it came.  Thank you Wikipedia for some clarification and explanation of what made this scarf so special.

 To my surprise, I learned that my scarf came from mountain goats, specifically pashmina goats. The goat sheds its winter coat every spring. One goat sheds approximately 80-170g (3-6 ounces) of the fiber.

 The tag on the scarf said "made in India".  It appears my scarf came from pashmina goats raised at the higher elevations of the region between India and China.  To survive the freezing environment at 14,000 feet altitude, these goats grow a unique, incredibly soft pashm (inner coat) six times finer than human hair.  Because it is only 14-19 microns in diameter, it cannot be spun by machines, so the wool is hand-woven into cashmere products including shawls, scarves, wraps, throws, stoles etc. for export worldwide.  Pashmina is the name given to it as Iranians came to Kashmir via the routes of Drass Ladakh, and found it very soft and tough in quality.

Pashmina is the Persian (Farsi) word "pashm" meaning soft and silky, so we can compare the Ladakhi pashmina with original Nepali pashmina. Kashmir pashmina has been famous for centuries due to its quality and products like plain pashmina, woven jamawars, embroided pashmina, ladies and gents 6 & 7 yards. It is history that Mogul emperor king Akbar presented a gift of Kashmir jamawar to the Queen of England.  Now I have no idea what jamawars are but I'm sure if they were made of pashmina fibers, they were exceptional.

So now I know from where my scarf originated.  I understand why such a thin piece of material can be so warm and comforting.  From goat to my shoulders, I am grateful of each step and each contribution along the way.

If you do not own a Pashmina scarf, I highly recommend them.  As the chill of Fall and Winter set in, you will be glad you invested in this piece of material.  They can be found online from $6 on up.  Take time to shop around and get the best deal.  There are plenty out there.

Happy Fall Everyone!

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11, 2012

Eleven years ago today, everything changed including the way we saw the world and ourselves.

I work at a high school and have for eleven years now.  Each year, on this day we gather before school and take a moment to remember and reflect.  We take time to recognize the men and women of service, home and abroad.   In the past, we have had large crowds, police and fire truck sirens sounding. Its good to remember this day.  Its part of who we are now.  Part of our country's fabric.

Today, I walked outside the building. The air was cool, the sun shining. I made my way through the students and found the shade of a tree under which to stand for this memorial.  It was not a large crowd, perhaps only 100 students, a handful of teachers and office staff.  I watched the ROTC students come to attention.  I glanced over and saw the fire truck parked there with emergency personnel standing reverently. 

It grew quiet and the ROTC student parted creating an aisle so that the cadets could present the flags.  In the silence I saw our beloved American flag pass with the Texas flag to follow.  In the silence I saw the cadets raise the flags and then lower them to half staff.

With hands over our hearts, we said the Pledge of Allegiance and then sang the national anthem.  There was a brief speech, a prayer and then Lee Greenwood's "I'm Proud To Be An American" began to play. It wasn't the normal rendition, this had audio clips from that day eleven years ago.   I stood there and remembered.  I stood in silence with my coworkers and recalled another day, another time when the world seemed to have gone insane. 

As Lee began to sing, I notice the students began to leave.  The song always brings a tear to my eyes and I couldn't understand why the students were leaving.  It was not a signal to leave.  I stood there and watched them gather their back packs and silently leave the area, heading off to class. 

I thought to myself, this generation was maybe five years old when September 11 meant more than the day between September 10 and September 12.  But they had grown up knowing of it, knowing what happened, knowing its horrors.  They might have been young on that day eleven years ago, but why would they not feel the pride Lee was singing about in his song.  I watched them go until it was just the ROTC cadets and the office staff still standing and just a couple of students.  The fire truck and emergency workers stayed.  Some teachers stayed as well.  But my heart was heavy on this day.  Not just for the obvious reasons though.  I felt sad that it didn't seem to matter.  I wondered if most of the students had assembled out of some morbid curiosity and then just lost interest.

I did see this one girl who stayed.  She stood there and sang right along with Lee Greenwood.  As I wiped the tear from my eye, I watched her.  She understood.  She got it.  She knew why we were all there. 

I have to wonder as the years go by, if there ever will be a time again when the young people are proud of their country.  Have we diluted our patriotism so much that it is now unrecognizable?

 If so, exactly how did we let that happen?

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Graceful Art Of Purging

I have begun the process of simplifying.  Purging from my world things I do not use on a regular basis.  This will not be easy.  If it were, they would already be long gone.

Today, I will begin gathering up things I no longer need or can no longer use.  These items will be taken to locations here in town for donation.  I have fully come to understand the beauty and elegance of giving what you don't need and finding what you do at a fraction of the retail price.  Call it frugality if you like, it all just makes sense as we live in a very costly world.  Food prices, energy prices, just life in general costs more.  Cutting corners just makes sense.  As parents, we teach valuable lessons to our children about financial responsibility and how to maneuver fiscally through life.  This is one way they can learn about resources available to them and how to help others in the process.

There is a delicate dance to be danced in the world of recycling.  The things I donate are readily made available to others who live their lives pinching pennies and counting dimes.  The charitable organizations themselves create jobs and opportunities for people in my community.  I can walk into any resale shop in town and always find something I need.  And the really cool thing is that I not only find something I need, I find something that has history.  It's history might never be known to me, but the fact that it is there adds value to the item.  Perhaps I'm just kooky that way, but it matters to me.  The unknown history adds a dimension that new items lack.  And I love the price tag to boot!

Freecycling is another great vehicle for moving items no longer needed or wanted.  I recall several Christmases that had me putting gently used toys on my porch for pick up by a family that needed toys for their children.  I loved knowing the family saved precious money and delighted their young ones with great toys.  Several weeks ago, I snagged a recliner for free from Freecycle. 

Sometimes the world just comes together easily, simply and affordably if you just know where to look for the pieces. I hope everyone will take time to donate to organizations in your town.  By doing so, you help complete the circle.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Rag Quilts and Old Singer Sewing Machines

This summer has been a one of a kind summer.  The children are old enough to not require constant supervision and I actually have time to get things accomplished.

I decided to dig out the portable sewing machine that I purchased when my daughter was little.  It would be about 30 yrs old now.  Low mileage and still in good working order.

Now to the project.  Over the years, Ive dabbled with small things, a few summer dresses, etc.  But with an abundance of time this summer, I really wanted to tackle a quilt.  I really don't have the patience to crazy measure and be so precise so I opted for the very forgiving Rag Quilt as my first attempt at creating a functional blanket.

I had various yards of material, purchased throughout the years when I aspired to create something on the sewing machine.  I gathered all those together and then purchased a few more yards just to make sure I'd have enough.

A link though Pinterest (Thank you God for this site) sent me to what seemed like a simple enough Rag Quilt.
I loved the colors and the texture created with this method.  Whoa, 260 squares of material?  Whoa, 130 squares of batting?  I began cutting.

Now, I'm not blessed with an abundance of handy sewing tools but after my mom passed, I was fortunate enough to get her old pedal sewing machine.  In one of the drawers was a very stout pair of scissors.  So heavy were they that they could easily be a weapon.  These were my weapon, I mean scissors of choice.

I cut for days.  Measuring, cutting, stacking.  My hands hurt from cutting.  At this point, I decided, should I survive this ordeal, I would buy something to cut material that didn't leave me crippled for life.

Finally, the process advanced to actually using the sewing machine.  Oh what joy.  But wait, I can barely see the needle and threading it was taking a long long time.  My next trip to the store took me to the sewing section and there I secured a needle threader.  Problem solved.  I spent a good amount of time sewing an X across each layered square.

What fun this part was....who knew quilting could be so easy!  Before I knew it I had 130 puffy squares.

Next came creating strips of squares.  Oh my, too simple.  I was already envisioning in my head what this magnificent quilt would look like when finished.  Even my crippled by scissors hand was working steady and quick.  I found myself sewing til midnight, one o' clock, two o' clock in the morning.  This became my favorite time of day.  Working on the quilt while the world slept was nearly magical.  The strips multiplied.

 There they were, all the strips completed.  I laid them out on the bed to see which order I liked best.  Derby loved how soft they were and had to jump in the picture because he knew how photogenic he was and how he was only going to enhance the overall beauty of the quilt.  

The midnight sewing sessions continued.  I attached each strip and while the weight of the project grew and became more difficult to maneuver on the machine, I overcame the obstacles and managed to get them all joined.
There was a note to self about working on a quilt during the heat of summer.  Might be a Fall project from now on.

 Now I had spent little time agonizing over the order and patterns of my hodge podge of material squares.  I quickly abandoned that notion and reminded myself this was a quilt for me.  I didn't care that it wasn't perfect.  It mattered not that two blue squares might be touching.  I mean, seriously, its a quilt.  It's only purpose is to give warmth.  With those boundaries removed, I relaxed and just let the quilt have it's way.  I let it become what it was always meant to be.  I could have labored in the name of perfection, but to what end.  Its a quilt and as long as it does what it was meant to do, that being  to keep me warm this winter, I would be completely delighted.

And there she is.  My first quilt.  She has a border of my design using scrap pieces of material.  There is perfection in her imperfection.   She awaits the first cold night of the coming winter.  She will provide a cocoon around me to keep me warm on winter days.

My sewing journey did not end with my Rag Quilt.  I mentioned that I had my mom's old pedal sewing machine.  It is the machine I learned to sew upon.  I was sixteen years old that summer, the summer I learned how to thread a machine, load a bobbin, pedal with a steady rhythm and feel the magic of making something to wear or use.

After I finished the Rag Quilt, I decided to organize the drawers in that old Singer pedal machine.  I stumbled upon something quite special.  I opened a drawer, saw this and immediately knew it was old. 

Now Piggly Wiggly is hardly obsolete, but this little item was from a time long ago.  I opened the front to find this handly little case for storing sewing needles.  After some online research, I learned they were given out as customer gifts back in the 1950s.  

How cool was this....imagine a time when you walked into a store and they were so happy you were a customer they gave you something useful just for being there.  It reminded me of the time when you used to get a kitchen towel with your laundry detergent.  Thats when customers were special.  So were the corporations and stores that provided the goods.  Thats a time long past, isn't it?

I turned over this little gem and found this:

I remember S&H green stamps!  All those stamps, those books, all the licking of stamps, turning them in for something useful.  I loved that whole idea.  Again, an example of how much the customer was appreciated.
We need more of that in our world. 

Who knew the making of a quilt would yield so much.  I netted a great quilt made by my hands as well as time opening up drawers I used when I was a teenager some 40 yrs ago.  I can't imagine a better time or experience.

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Customer And The Cashier

Friday evening brings the much anticipated trip to the local Starbucks for my much beloved Mocha Frappachino Grande.  After a long long week of testing at school, way too many customers and no where near enough sleep to keep up with the demands of work, getting this delicious shot of caffeine so that I can enjoy my evening at home is something I look forward to at the end of the work week.  Its what I do, what I do for me.  Its my selfish trip and self indulgence.

Before I went to Starbucks, I needed a few things and figured I would stop at the local Dollar General here in town.  I entered the store and immediately saw how crowded it was.  Apparently, I wasn't the only one in need of a few items tonight.  My son and I made a quick trip through the store, securing things I had mentally listed in my head all week and then headed for the check out line.

Now there is something unique and special about My Town.  There is a kindness and a kinship that exists.  Perhaps it was inflated by the Fires of last fall when we all shared a common loss of possessions and security. Whatever the reason and when it began doesn't really matter as much as the fact it exists.  Everyone kind of knows everyone or of everyone and sometimes familiarity never even comes into play.  Tonight was an example.

As I stood in line, I wasn't really paying attention to the conversation going on ahead of me between the woman Customer and the female Cashier.  There was alot of activity and alot of hugging and greeting amongst friends.  That's kind of the way it goes in My Town.

As I stood there, I caught bits and pieces of the words exchanged between these two woman, the Customer and Cashier.  The Cashier had mentioned that she had had a harried trip in to work as she discovered she had a flat tire and had to quickly find a ride to the store.   I stood there with my small basket of things and waited patiently for the check out area to clear and as the lady ahead of me concluded her transaction and was preparing to leave, the Customer handed the Cashier some money and said "This is a little something towards your new tire".

Of course the Cashier hesitated to take the money but the Customer insisted and I watched as the Cashier put the extra money in her pocket.  I watched as she tried to process my purchases but that simple unexpected act of kindness had overwhelmed her.  She tried to focus but hard as she tried, her hands trembled and she apologized for her distraction.  I told her " You just never know when or where blessings will come from".  She said "That's so true, that was just the kindest thing.  I have a tire I need to replace and this will be the first Mother's Day I won't spend with my kids."

Her age told me that her kids were probably older, maybe grown and gone from home and for some reason, she was alone, alone with a flat tire and probably not enough money to handle life's hurdles.

She continued to struggle and I saw her fight the tears as she concluded tallying my purchases.  "That will be $16.34" she said.  I handed her a twenty and she gave me my change.  "Thank you and  Happy Mother's Day." she told me.  I took my change and then reached into my wallet and pulled out another twenty, put it down on the counter and said "I hear you need a new tire, put this towards it."

She just looked at me and I just smiled.  The line of customers erupted into joyous laughter at her amazement of what was happening.  Their sound was as unique as the moment. We all knew we were making something special happen.  My Son and I grabbed our bags and as we headed for the door,  I turned to the Cashier and said "This is what its all about" and with that we left.

I  have no idea what happened when I left the store but I think there was a line of people who were not finished surprising this unsuspecting Cashier who had come to work with frayed nerves and worries of unexpected expenses this day had laid upon her shoulders.

Out of all the blessings this day brought me, none is more special than the moment I was led to the Dollar General on the way to Starbucks because nothing means more than helping someone who never expected it. I experienced a Spontaneous Collective Random Act of Kindness.  I will never forget it and neither will those who either participated or were witnesses.

I think tomorrow Vera will have her new tire.


Friday, April 20, 2012

The Window's Tale

I finished the week with the continued notion of Moms.

Today at my window, where I care for hundreds of customers a day mostly high school students, a senior boy came to sign in.  He was late, very late and as he wrote his name and time of arrival, I asked him if he had a note to explain his delay.

He said "You wont believe this", to which I replied "I'm sure I wont" and smiled.

He said "No listen, I woke up late and when I went to the bathroom and looked at my face in the mirror, I saw this red ring on the side of my face.  I thought, oh my God, that looks like ringworm!  How could I have gotten ringworm?"

I listened as the story unfolded.  He continued and said "So I called my Mom who happens to work at a medical clinic.  I said Mom, I think I have ringworm on my face and I don't understand how this happened."

I began writing out his pass to class as he elaborated on this tale of his morning.

"So I drove to my Mom's office thinking all the while, how could I have gotten ringworm, I don't understand it". He described meeting his Mom there at the clinic and how she was looking at the red mark on his face.  He said "then she began wiping the red mark with alcohol and said, hmm, this red is coming off.  Dillon this is my lipstick from when I kissed you goodbye this morning!!!"

I couldn't help but laugh.  I looked at this tall young man, about six feet tall to be exact and saw his smiling face.  He was as amused as I was at the events of this bizarre morning.  I wrote his pass to class and he asked me if the absence would be excused.  I said "Are you kidding me?  How can I do anything else but excuse it." 

After he left, I once again thought about Moms.  Here was a case in point of a Mom sneaking into her grown son's room to kiss him goodbye before she left for work.  No doubt she had been kissing him all his life and that habit would never break as long as he slept in her home.

The whole story just made me smile.  It just goes to prove that a Mom's love never changes no matter how big their babies grow to be.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

A Mother's Heart

This week, my coworker lost her Mom.  It was not sudden or unexpected but that really didn't change anything.  After all, we are never ready to lose our Moms.

When we got the word that her Mom had passed, my heart sank for her. I, like most of us that have laid our Moms to rest, naturally thought back to the day we lost our own Mothers and what its like to live in a world without a Mom.

Love them or hate them, you know most Mothers love their children in a most unique way.  For the majority of us it was our Moms that rocked us and cared for us and hugged us and kissed us.  They took care of us when we were sick and made sure we had what we needed and sometimes what we wanted.  Right or wrong, they did their best for us.  No Mom is perfect, they are human.  They make mistakes.  Lots of them.  So do we.

But in our lives, we are given but one Mom at birth. We were paired up by some guiding force and when we were born, the life of our Moms changed.  For a time, she lived a selfless life, putting her child first and her own wants and needs secondary.  She made mistakes and more mistakes.  But she never gave up on her child.  She loved her child with uniqueness that is unmatched.

This week made me think about Moms.  All the Moms, the new ones and the old ones.  I thought about the bond that exists between Moms and their children.  How all their hopes and dreams were bundled up in a noisy, messy and very demanding package.  Yet, when it came to their babies, there was nothing more beautiful, more inspiring or more heaven sent in this entire world.

The journey a Mom travels is long and exhausting.  It is also filled with indescribable love.  There a moments of joy that make all the sleepless nights fade into some distant obscure memory that leaves barely a trace as the years go by.

Love them or hate them for all their faults, they are our Moms.  And when they die, a huge part of us dies with them.  That part is our childhood and the anchor which grounded us to this world.  We are left to pick up the pieces of a life that seems foreign in many respects.  If we are lucky to have aged gracefully before letting go of our Mom's hand for the last time, then the road our Mom's traveled seems clear and understandable. If we are lucky enough, we can forgive them for their mistakes and embrace the best part of what they gave us.

Without a doubt, Moms shape and mold us into who we are today.  We remember what they taught us and their mistakes taught us how to avoid pitfalls in our own lives.

The world has one less Mom this week and that is a sadness we can all share.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Answer Is Blowing In The Wind

The older I get, the more often I rely on what I learned as a child.  The way we lived when I was a child just seems to make more sense now in this fast paced, break neck speed, high technology, modern convenience world.

Over a month ago, my daughter and I stared at yet another ridiculously high electric bill.  We had made great effort to reduce our energy consumption.  We turned off lights when not needed, we only washed clothes in cold water, we ran fans instead of the air conditioner and other little modifications in hopes of bringing down this big monthly expense.  Naturally the increase in gas prices ( now at 3.72 per gallon as of this writing) spurred this need to cut corners where possible.

Despite our efforts, the electric bill was again 340 dollars.  Now I could see if this was the time of year when everyone was home and more energy was being used throughout the day but that was not the case.  The house was empty for 9 hours each day.  We could not figure out what was stealing our energy and thus our money.

Then I remembered what I had always heard, the dryer will use more energy than anything else in the house.  A family of four, that is us, required a minimum of 5 loads of laundry including towels and such. So we tried an experiment.  For one month, we would line dry our clothes.

Rainy days we hung our clothes on hangers in the laundry room or bathroom.  It took a little longer but if you don't procrastinate, you can keep up with the laundry.  When the weather turned sunny and warm, I strung a clothes line between two giving trees.  I chose a location which was not visually disturbing to neighbors and made sure that undergarments were hung up in the laundry room.  I found it odd that I should have to go to my neighbors and ask them if they minded me putting up a clothes line, but I did.  No one minded and when my sheets are out there blowing in the breeze, I know they envied the wonderful smell that filled the linens.

There really is nothing quite like the sight of a clothesline and its bounty dancing in the breeze.

I love hanging clothes.  I suppose when you get the chance to do it again, the way you did it as a child, you find yourself back long ago, hanging clothes in the yard you knew as a kid.  It brings back memories and more importantly the details of those memories.  As with the passage of time, only the best memories have clarity.

Now a month has passed and the new electric bill has arrived.  What a difference.  The prior bill was 340 dollars.  The new bill a mere 199 dollars.

I saved money, enjoyed the wonderful smell of clothing and sheets dried on the line and even get to spend a few minutes moving back in time.

If you get the chance to try turning your back on the modern convenience that is called the electric dryer, I encourage you to do so.  You will enjoy the time as well as the money that stays in your pocketbook.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Signs Of Spring

The temperatures have become mild and the plants in my yard have been awakened.  We have had more rain this winter than we had all of last year.  The sound of rain is still music to our ears.  Rain has always been the promise of life.  It is no different now than millions of years ago.

A stroll around my backyard this middle of March gave the eye color and life and promise.

That old rickety fence is the annual home for these day flowers or cow lilies, Ive heard them called many things.  What they are is prolific!  They appear a month before Easter and die when the temperature goes up.
Its not easy to keep their spread in check but I don't much mind if they come up in random places.  Its what they do and that's just fine with me.

Miss Jane Magnolia is loving her new home in my yard.  I saw her at the local Lowe's store and could not leave her behind.  She will continue to produce those lovely purple flowers that come with an amazing scent.

One of Miss Jane Magnolia's gifts to us.  I have always named the plants in my yard.  I found it helpful to do so that way when I am working in the yard with my son or granddaughter and need something from another part of the yard, I simply say " its over there by Jane Magnolia" and they immediately know where to look.  I was fortunate that this tree came with a very distinguished name.

This is Grandma's rose bush. No, not my grandma but the long passed grandma of a friend.  This rose was in her yard for decades before she died.  Its very hardy and blooms many times during the winter as well.  She is apparently heat tolerant. She wont bloom as much, but she continues to thrive.

As I said, they are prolific!  Yet another patch of these wild flowers that require nothing of me but my acceptance and some dedicated space for them to spread and grow.  Their life is short so I give them time to just be.

Even the clover is giving my yard color.  This perennial returns every year with the fierce determination of a warrior.  This year, the fight was easy, plenty of rain and warm weather.

Those lovely clover blossoms up close.  Nature doing what it does best.

The rose bush I planted last fall has found its footing in my flower garden amidst the Lilly day flower plants.
It has produced a rose to let us know that she has survived the winter and will be productive this spring and summer.

All in all, a wonderful start to the growing season.  Of course, true to Texas springtime, we have thunderstorms and hail possible for the next two days.  Nature is full of beauty.  It is also full of destructive fury.  Lets hope Mother Nature gives me and my yard a pass this week.

Monday, March 12, 2012

The Possibility Of The Pineapple Top

It seems that in the blink of an eye, Spring has sprung.  Not only did it spring, but it came after a Winter of rains. Fall brought rainfall that restored our yard to the green of another season. 

Not long ago, I was writing several times a week about the relentless drought.  Now we have had life giving rains all winter and it was only around noon today that the sun made an appearance.  The back yard is soaked and the garden area unfit for planting.  Still I wait to plant the tomato plants and herbs I recently purchased.  Such is the life of a farmer girl in Central Texas. Its a waiting game. Waiting for the soil to dry, waiting for the temperatures to even out and waiting for more rain as the season progresses.

It wont be long and the hummingbirds will be back in my yard.  The Sun has already made it's move and no longer warms us where we sat on the back porch during the cold of Winter.

Its time to start thinking BBQ and long hot Summer days.  I dare say I do better in the Summer than the Winter.

Today I pondered the possibilities of growing the top of a Pineapple I purchased today from the store.  I did my homework, watched countless How To videos and read articles.  Once again, the depth of the Internet amazes me.  Is there nothing it can not show me how to do, how to build or how to manage?  I'm most grateful to have the resource at my fingertips.  I will be using a fresh Pineapple with my juicing today but what to do with that beautiful top?  The thought of tossing it in the trash seems harsh and cruel considering the fact that this piece of greenery can simply and easily be turned into a plant of great beauty.  They are very slow growing and they seem to be hearty, you just have to monitor watering and temperatures.  They will not do well in the Winters here in Central Texas so my Pineapple will need to be an indoor plant. 

I captured some pictures from the Internet of the lovely Pineapple both young and older.  They do get big but it doesn't seem to be something that happens overnight so I should have ample time to repot and prepare for the spread.  My thanks to those that shared their pictures with all of us as you have traveled a road I have not yet begun to walk.

This top appears to be at the one year mark and seems most manageable.  They recommended the Terra cotta planter to allow the soil to breathe and not become overly wet during waterings.

This top is obviously much older and MUCH bigger.  It is grown outdoors in a well mulched area but whether indoors or out, you can expect the plant to grow slowly.   Should you decide to tackle this lovely project, know that at some time it will grow to a size that needs to be managed and protected in Winter.

For some reason, I think we should all attempt to grow a Pineapple at some point.  To me its like celery or green onions as its yet another chance to take something we get from the store, normally discard and find a second life for it. 

I just love the idea of second lives.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Oh, The Times They Are A Changing

I have lived half a century.  Half of 100 years and with any luck, I will be able to say that at this point, I had only lived half my life.  I've been thinking lately of just how much the world as I see it has changed.

In every direction, life has changed and while I know that should I look back into history, I would see that perhaps this is repetitive change.  We have probably been here before, racing towards progress only to eventually find ourselves throwing rocks at our potential dinner.

Being a child of the 1950s, I recall a world without a lot of television, cell phones and most advanced modern technologies.  If I wanted to write to my Uncle Bill, I had to actually get a pencil or pen, find some writing paper, actually write the letter with my hand, address an envelop, fold up the letter, put the letter in an envelop, lick the envelop to seal, go to the Post Office, buy a stamp (which was 10 cents), lick the stamp, attach the stamp to the envelop and finally place the letter in the Outgoing slot, just to tell Uncle Bill I loved him.  Back then calling long distance was a luxury we simply couldn't afford.

As kids, we spent all our time outside.  Rain, shine, hot or cold, we were outside.  We played football, baseball, kickball, we rode our bikes all over the neighborhoods, walked on hot streets in the summer, drank tons of water and enjoyed nickle candies.  Daddy worked the huge garden that supplied our dinner table with delicious bounty and Mom transformed a second hand dress into a dress for me for a special occasion.  Both tasks done with patience and by hand.

I learned to sew on an old Singer sewing machine with a foot pedal that made the whole thing work. I learned to type on a manual typewriter that more often than not, found me pulling my fingers out from between the keys.  It seemed we did more and knew less.  If we didn't know how to do something, we either had to find someone with the experience and time to teach us or we had to go to a library and check out a book on the topic.  We may not have had as much and maybe we didn't have the world at our fingertips, but we had a most carefree existence.  We ate food that was nutritious and made our Barbie dollhouses out of cardboard boxes and scraps of carpet.  Nothing was instant and nothing was easy.  And yet, in many ways, that life had great value.  It was a time of conquering our wants and needs with what God gave us, two hands, two eyes and a creative brain.  We used the daylight to finish what had to be done and slept well thanks to the fatigue of being busy and active all day.

Its as if I blinked my eyes and now my birthday cakes require more candles than it has room.  I have become my parents except, life is different.  We have so much and except for what is most important, we have want for nothing.  We all have cell phones and I do mean all of us, yet we can't make enough money to save for college for our children.  We have a dependable car but not enough money to go anywhere other than to work and school.  We have health insurance but not enough for the deductible that takes us to our Primary for care.  We have all the food we could want but the food does little to provide nutrition for our bodies.  Some of these are priority choices, others are facts of life. 

Today, social media has turned our lives into open books.  Privacy is minimized and while you might not participate in social medias, everyone else does so whatever they know is spread exponentially.  Social media is nothing more than fancy wildfire gossiping for which I have no need at all.  Truly, I prefer to mind my own business.

Today, we are one with our technology.  There is no doubt, these advances have made our world more productive, more convenient and in some cases, more enjoyable.  I don't think I could do a fair comparison of the two worlds I have known in my life.  I know there is value in each and for very different reasons.

Could I say which I prefer most?  No.  Could I quickly adapt to the world I knew as a child?  Most definitely.  We must have experienced something in order to feel comfortable with it when it comes round again.  Perhaps this is why I feel so compelled to talk to my son about the way the world used to be and how things used to be done.  Should the patterns repeat themselves in the form of our ways of life, he might just have that taste of familiarity and feel more at ease. 

Nothing lasts forever, not people, not technology, not privacy, not freedom.  What does last forever are our comfort zones and if you have enough of them, you can ease through all the changes that life brings.

Ebb and flow, ebb and flow.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

You Are What You Eat

After a respectful time acknowledging the personal losses of January, I'm back to discuss my passion which happens to be nutrition.

If you had told me, at fifty something years of age, my life path would be dedicated to keeping myself nutritionally fit and sound, I most certainly would have laughed at you.  I was like so many people who select what they eat based either on their pocketbook or their taste buds.  It wasn't because I didn't care about how I felt or the way I looked or even how I would be as I entered the second half century of life.  I most certainly did.  I simply wasn't educated in the area of nutrition. Very few of us are, so don't even feel badly.  What I do want you to feel is curious.

Having had a run in with high blood pressure about 5 yrs ago, having been overweight and feeling as if I was slowing down in my life, I began the quest  to find out the connection between what I ate and how I felt.  Trust me, it did not take long to learn what I needed to know.  It take a bit longer to learn all I needed to know and as quickly as the prices change at  your local grocery store, the information about what is available to us in the forms of food changes.

My initial "eye opening" experience came after seeing the online video "Food Inc.".  There I learned how the food I saw in the grocery stores was mass produced.  I learned how many chemicals and preservatives were being added to those "shelf foods" and those cuts of meats in order to either ensure "quality" or shelf life.  As I learned about these facts, it became abundantly clear that the food we eat every day was not the food we were created to eat.  Our illusion of food has been manufactured right along with the food they sell us.

Another online video that changed the way I saw food was "Food Matters".  Then I viewed "King Corn" and once again, I found myself appalled at the manner in which our diets had been altered without knowledge or consent on the part of the consumer.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not one of those radical food people that hates big business or the magic of marketing.  I understand its a way of life and will never really go away.  What I do not like is that people are getting sick, getting fat and are surely dying because of their personal choices and sadly because they simply don't know any better.  I can say that because not very long ago, I was one of them.

With ever sharpening clarity, I began to see a better way to live and eat.  It all came down to my choices.  When I walked into the grocery store, I had two choices.  I could eat what tasted good (and ultimately would hurt me) or I could choose healthy foods that might cost a bit more but would be more in line with my body's nutritional needs.  The choice was life or die.  I had to pick.

In an effort to learn more of the foods available to me, I began using the Sparkpeople site to manage not only calories, carbs, proteins, fats and sodium but also a long list of vitamins and nutrients.  I was determined to get my weight down and what my body needed through food and not supplements.  I figured way way back when the body was made, we  had no processed foods, no supplements and no fast food.  At its beginning the body was sustained on what the Earth provided.  I wanted to see if I could achieve daily goals by making smart food choices.  It worked.  With the quick aide of the Sparkpeople site, I lost weight.  Alot of weight.  And I'm still losing weight and more importantly, I feel great. 

Just before the holidays, I happened upon a video on called "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead". When I finished that video, I knew what was next for me in my quest not only to improve my health but to offer that option to my family.  I began juicing.

I must admit, prior to the video, the mere thought of juicing was not appealing at all.  I mean, who can drink all that stuff.  Well I can and its not bad at all.  I invested a modest amount of money in a juicer and got my first taste and loved it.  As a bonus, I could see my vitamin and nutrient values soar on the Sparkpeople site where I charted my foods.  Sadly, my cheap juicer died.  You get what you pay for indeed.  But it had given me a chance to see if this was something I really wanted to do.  Had I not liked it, I would have not felt badly about the little money lost.  Now, I had to secure a better juicer, one that could go the distance with me.

I shopped around and decided that I would go with the brand from the "Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead" video.  I purchased my Breville Juice Fountain and off I went.  What I have found simply amazing is that when I talk about my juicing, people are interested, they want to try it.  I have referred this video to many people and it has taken them from the fear to the feast of nutrition.  I am honored to have been the guide on their journey.

What is quickly realized when one starts juicing is when your produce is on the counter ready to be converted to liquid is exactly how much food you would have to ingest in order to get the nutritional values we need.  Its a huge amount of food and an amount I could never take in during the course of a day.  But refine it down to juice and its more than doable.  Another thing I noticed is how much the body loves the juice.  By the third day of not juicing, my body begins to crave it.  It knows what it needs. 

I encourage each of my readers to at least view one of the videos I've mentioned in this blog.  Become hungry for knowledge not for food.  Learn.... then eat.  Be assured that those that stand to make money from either your current food cravings or from the illnesses that are sure to follow as a result of mindless eating, care not about your health.  You must be a champion for you.  You must be selfish in that department and once you have gotten your life on track, you must let others know there is a better way to live.

I wish each of you love and good health in this new year.  Remember, every new day is a new change waiting to be created.

Be well....

Monday, January 2, 2012

The Dead Of Winter

Freezing temperatures have settled over my small world once again.  Winter's little gift, I suppose.  This Winter and this month bring with it a mournful remembrance as well.  Yet another time of reflection and recognition of that which was lost last year at this time.

I woke up this morning in my own time warp, knowing it was today yet feeling the pull of last year early January.  Last year at this time, we were still in the fog of Logan's suicide even though it had been over 365 days since we got that horrible phone call.  For those of you reading, if you have never had to deal with the trauma of losing someone you love in such a horrible manner, consider yourself most fortunate.  It takes such a long long time to find your way back to your own life when someone you love takes theirs.  The fog of grief is thick and seems endless.  Even as it lifts, its memory is far too easy to recall.

Today, now two years since Logan's death, I reflect on last year's January and what that month took from me.

Last year in early January, a Thursday, having spent the day with my Logan's father,my brother, I returned home from a day of shopping and lunch and just spending time together.  I do that as much as I can because it is simply all I can do to help. I can not heal the wound made in his heart and soul made by his son's death but I tend to it daily.   I remember it was a very cold rainy day and a day that was filled with shopping and browsing and enjoying time talking over a wonderful lunch.  I returned home to my herd of felines only to find my beloved Bella had died.  I wont bother with the details of that discovery.  It is simply enough to know she was gone.  She was a little princess in every way and never a bother.  That nice day turned dark and the shopping and lunch was erased by the task of standing in the cold rain, digging a grave and burying my little sweetheart.

Four days later, I woke up that Sunday morning to a call that would once again change my world.  It had been a Sunday when Logan's call had come to me and here again, Sunday would bring life changing, heart wrenching news that somehow I was suppose to deal with, to cope with, to manage.

Word came that my friend Maria had died in the early morning hours of that day.  It was sudden and unimaginable.  Once again Fate came to steal someone important to me.  Once again, Fate had made a mess of everything and expected me to figure out how to keep going.

I suppose it is only proper to explain that Maria had been placed in my company by Fate, just as she had been taken.  Through a series of events at work, Maria was placed in my office to help me.  And that she did.  Maria and I were hired on the same day and walked into the building together on that first day.  I remember her introducing herself to me and we briefly talked.  After that we parted to various destinations within the campus but never had the chance to work together.   Two weeks after Logan's death, Maria took up residence in my office and in my heart.  Numb and disconnected, trying to work and grieve, I was struggling.  I was struggling to breathe each day.  I couldn't sleep at night and I was exhausted.  Every cell within my body struggled to grasp on to something, something to cling to as I weathered the crashing waves of an emotional storm.  Maria proved to be the rock and with her help every single day, I was able to cling and to hold on to my sanity.

It would be impossible to tell you the remarkable person I found in Maria.  Those that knew her understood.  When you were in her company,  you were in the company of someone special.  Her laughter and compassion was a great as her strength and determination.  We talked most of the day, every day for six month.  Her ability to nurture through strength and intuition was without measure.

Her friendship, her willingness to take my hand and guide me through the fog, helped to heal me.  Our moments talking during those months are prized possessions within my memory box.  Her smile and long black hair, the sound of her laugh and the sparkle in her eyes will never leave my mind.  I feel privileged that I was chosen to spend those months with this exceptional woman.  I always said, if everyone had a chance to spend time with Maria, the world would be a much better place.

Maria's death brought back the fog of grief, but the memory of the words she told me, the conversations we had, would not allow it to stay too long.  Even in death, she was thoughtful.  She left me memories that shine brighter than the darkness of grief.  The life lessons she taught me have become my guide stones and I am a better person for having been in her company.

This January marks loss and conjures up the confusion of all that has been lost throughout my life.  It becomes a ball of random energy that moves in every direction at it's own will.  I learned while moving through the early months as a suicide survivor that milestone and date markers will grab you by the hand and pull you back on to the roller coaster of  grief and emotion.  Even this writing is done through tears.  But I also know that as time goes by, the roller coaster ride, while intense, is short and that crashing wave will pass leaving the stillness of calm waters.  If there is any gift within grief, it is time.  It doesn't really heal all wounds, but it does leave a very strong, hard scab and if you remember not to bother it, it won't bleed.

As we begin this New Year with all it's hope and promise, let us not forget that our lives are fragile as is our love for it.  In as much as this Earthly world gives us, Fate sits in waiting to take the most valuable away.  So savour and treasure each moment, each touch, each kiss, each "I love you".  When its all said and done, they are all that really matter.

To my dear friend Maria, who I am sure was welcomed into Heaven with the words "well done", I love and miss you every single day.  Please take care of my Bella, hold her and kiss her for me and remember, she is a Princessa.