A Hiding Place

June 30, 2016 | My Jottings

Every summer for the past 13 years I have hosted a women’s Bible Study in my home. I take that back…. there was one summer I just couldn’t get it together for 12 Tuesday meetings. It was when Michael’s Parkinson’s Disease really started to dominate our lives, and I was entering the stage of being perpetually overwhelmed. But somehow, by the grace of God, a group of dear friends have been meeting on Tuesday summer mornings now for a long time. It has become the highlight of my summers.

If you stop by here now and then you know that this summer we’re doing something different. Instead of the video-driven Beth Moore or Priscilla Shirer studies we’ve most often done, we are studying the book The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom. And rather than make our Tuesday meetings a book club where we just discuss the chapters we’ve read the previous week, I wanted our group of ten women to have some homework to do.

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So I put together a pseudo-workbook, and we have some questions to discuss when we meet. At the end of each meeting, we watch a 20 minute segment of the film by the same name. We have different prayer partners each week, and we lift our needs up to the Lord and ask Him to invade and change our lives for His purposes and our joy.

So far, even though what we’re doing is quite different, I like it. The Hiding Place speaks of several hiding places, the most renowned being the tiny spot behind a bedroom wall where Jews were hidden in the Ten Boom house in Haarlem, Holland during World War 2. Another hiding place often inferred is the place we are hidden in Christ when we give our lives to Him.

I think of my living room as another hiding place, where ten of us carve out two hours a week to come and seek the Lord and hope we’ll encounter Him in personal, lasting ways. So while my living room isn’t the Hiding Place, it’s a hiding place to me. I would guess that many of you have “hiding places” in your home and lives where you can go to meet with the Lord in prayer and to read His Word.

I bought a new iPhone recently after I’d been trying for a while to continue using my shattered old one, and I noticed that its camera has a panoramic feature. I finally tried it out, standing in each of the four corners of my living room. I was surprised at how well the pictures turned out, considering I just swiped the camera in a slow circle without paying much attention to how steady my hands were.

You can click to enlarge these if you like:

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The wall color varies a little from shot to shot, depending on where the sunlight was coming in, I guess. I would call the paint color robin’s egg blue.

And on Tuesdays I bring in some dining room chairs wherever they fit, so we can sit in a circle for our time together.

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Just a little more than a stone’s throw from that front window behind the two chairs, is beautiful and vast Lake Superior. I don’t take for granted that I get to look out on that blue treasure every single day.

And a lovely quilt has a spot of honor in the room, folded on the ottoman you see below. In the evenings, I use the quilt that my friend Helen made and sent to me from Switzerland, but I don’t put it on the back of the couch anymore when it’s not in use, because Millie liked it too much and I don’t want little Schnauzer paws to break the threads.

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In the photo below, you can see into our dining room and beyond that, the kitchen. The paned doors right behind the blue floral chair lead to the front door of the house.

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This is just one of countless hiding places the Lord has provided for His people. Most days I just think my smallish living room is a pleasant and comfortable place. On Tuesday mornings before Deb, Kristi, Kay, Dawn, Connie, Laurel, Fiona, Sharla and Sue arrive, a sense of awe and anticipation surrounds me, and I get down on my knees and ask God to come and be with us in whatever special ways we each so desperately need.

Have you read The Hiding Place yet?

And where is one of your “hiding places?”

Divine Appointments

June 23, 2016 | My Jottings

I’ve been thinking about the ways that God must have been pursuing me from the time I was a very little girl. What a comforting thought that is. When I have come to a time in my life when my company is not often sought out, it brings tears to my eyes to slowly scan back over my life and see that He wanted to make Himself known to me, and was scheduling divine appointments before I could even speak.

When I was born my parents and two older brothers lived on DeLay Avenue in Covina, California. We lived in that house until I was three years old. Our next door neighbor was a woman named Ruby Greener, and she was a Sunday School teacher at the First Baptist Church of Covina. My parents never told me this, but I believe she must have invited them to church. I know that Ruby used to chat with my mother over the wooden fence when they were in their back yards hanging laundry out to dry, and decades later Ruby told me that my mother confided many sad things to her. My parents never became regular attenders, but they began to take me to church every Sunday, from the time I was about two or three years old. Most Sundays my dad dropped me off, and then returned two hours later to pick me up and take me home. Living next door to Ruby Greener was a divine connection, I believe, a mercy of God who knew there was a little girl whose heart would begin to respond to Him at a young age. He knew what was ahead for me, and knew I would need Him early on.

3212323848_b4a38220791If I keep the God lenses on as I look back, I can see many divine appointments in that church of my childhood. I remember Mrs. Greener leading a group of four year-olds in singing “This Little Light of Mine,” and how vigorously I whipped that “bushel” away from my finger posing as a candle. I can still recall the happy, curious feeling I had in those small, upstairs Sunday School rooms, and how much I looked forward to going each week.

I also remember Mrs. Celeste Klee, my fourth grade Sunday School teacher, and how our class of about ten children sat around a table with her, in an alcove off of a larger area with chairs and a piano. I recall how Mrs. Klee taught us many Bible stories, and how she patiently helped us memorize the 23rd Psalm that year. I can still see the two college-age sisters, Lois and Gayle Graves, lead the fourth, fifth and sixth graders in songs like “He Arose” and “He Lives,” which was one of my favorites. He lives, He lives, Christ Jesus lives today… He walks with me and talks with me, along life’s narrow way… He lives, He lives, salvation to impart… You ask me how I know He lives, He lives within my heart!

Divine appointments.

I will never forget the weekly welcome and beaming smiles of two Sunday School co-teachers when I was in fifth grade. Mrs. Edgar and Mrs. Mount, with their 1960s beehive hairdos, their two piece outfits just like these, their nylons and high heels, and their love. I can still see Mrs. Edgar telling our class what the word testify meant in regards to sharing what Jesus had done in our lives, and I wish I could find if she is still alive today, and contact her to tell her I listened, and to thank her for teaching us and loving us week after week.

I think about how God must have seen to it that my parents bought the house on Eckerman Avenue right behind Tauni Booth’s house in 1960. He must have guided the people who organized the classes each year at Workman Avenue Elementary School to make sure that Denel Lupiani and I were placed together in Mrs. Lokken’s second grade class in 1964. God knew that Tauni and Denel would be lifelong friends of mine, and that He would schedule decades of divine appointments for them too, and they would come to love Jesus.

I remember the day two little girls wandered shyly into my back yard in the NCO housing area of Beale AFB, where my husband Glenn was stationed. I was only 18 and a new bride, and they were 9 and 7 years old. Celeste and Kathleen introduced me to their mom and dad who lived one street over, and that friendship would eventually pave the way for me to be exactly where I am today, in Duluth, Minnesota, the still grieving but deeply grateful widow of Celeste and Kathleen’s older cousin Michael. I would never have thought that two sweet little girls at my back door would lead to friendship with their parents Frank and Yvonne, who were originally from Duluth, MN (which I’d never heard of), and that years down the road when my marriage suddenly ended in Germany, the wheels would begin to turn toward me receiving a letter from Yvonne’s nephew Michael, whom I married after one meeting. And that marriage turned into almost 34 years of love and grace and learning and challenge and blessing. When I connect the dots backwards, it’s mind-boggling.

Another divine appointment was when I met my friend Su. I have plans to share about her on the blog someday, and indeed I already started the post long ago. Little did I know that the spark of friendly connection we felt for one another in Southern California would turn into so much and last so long — forever friendship, her move to Minnesota years after mine, the ease of two who accept each other just as they are, the deaths of husbands, some beautiful travels together, and more.

I have another friend named Sue, and she’s another treasure I’ve begun a blog post about, but haven’t published yet. When I think of the almost casual way she and I met in church, yet consider how profound her godly influence has been on me, I shake my head. Sue told me about Community Bible Study over twenty years ago, and after dragging my heels a few years, I finally showed up at CBS one morning in September and registered. Nothing has ever shaped my spiritual walk like CBS. As the years of CBS blessing continued, so did our friendship, and Sue is someone I love and trust implicitly.

I picked up a local Christian newspaper years ago and read an interview about a woman I didn’t know, but I never forgot her name. Later when I heard that her husband had Parkinson’s Disease like Michael did, I kept getting nudged over and over for almost a year, call Vicki S….call Vicki S….call her. I tried to find her a few times but her number wasn’t listed, so I couldn’t even get her address. Finally one day I saw her email address in a group email we received from a Parkinson’s support group leader, and I emailed her and introduced myself. Picking up that article to read lead me to Vicki years later, who then informed me about medical insurance that was available for no cost to me because my husband was 100% disabled due to his service as a Marine in Vietnam. Even though Vicki’s friendship has blessed me relationally, knowing her has saved me literally thousands of dollars, and provided for me in a way that makes me want to bow my head and sob.

Heavenly setups.

I could go on and on about the meanderings of my life that seemed like nothing at the time, but have turned out to bring about the richest gifts from God. Friendships. A faithful, loving husband. Another daughter. Fellowship around His Word. The daily awe of living a stone’s throw from Lake Superior. Provision.

A man’s mind plans his way [as he journeys through life],
But the Lord directs his steps and establishes them.
Proverbs 16:9 –– Amplified Version

I can see that God has directed my steps, even when I had no idea it was happening. Even during some of the saddest, darkest times, I believe He was guiding me in spite of my oblivion. He is so merciful and powerful — He directs our steps even when we pay no attention to Him, so we’ll look back one day and be floored by His kindness and mercy.

Well, it’s time to do something about dinner on this beautiful Thursday evening.

How has God directed your steps? I hope you’ll be willing to share one or two examples with us….

Thank you for stopping by,

489 Days

June 13, 2016 | My Jottings

I woke this morning around 4:00 a.m. to the sound of thunder and heavy rain. Stormy weather is a comfort to me, which hearkens back to my childhood in Southern California, where rain was a happy, special thing to be celebrated. At least that’s what my mom thought, and she instilled it in me.

I turned on the fire in the dining room and started to prepare breakfasts for my fosters. There’s nothing better than a cool, gray, blustery day at home with a heartening little fire in the center of one’s home, don’t you agree?

My sister-in-law Christy told me it’s 92 degrees where she is. Inside her house. Because her air conditioning stopped working. I almost swooned just reading about her plight, and am praying she’s able to have it repaired soon. I am deathly allergic to heat and humidity and I keep hearing other 50ish/60ish women say the same thing.

Today will be a blessed and busy day at home, because tomorrow is the first day of my annual summer Bible study. I think I’ve been hosting dear friends in my home for 12 or 13 years now, and it’s the highlight of my summer. We’ve done some Beth Moore studies, some Priscilla Shirer studies, one by Mary Kassian (one of my favorites, called Conversation Peace), and this year we’re doing something different. We’re reading The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom, and will use a homemade workbook I’ve put together for our study questions. What I wrote is nothing like a Beth Moore study, but it will give us something to record our thoughts and prayers in for these next eight weeks.

Yesterday I thought I would check elderly Edith’s nails because she is clickclickclicking with every step she takes all over our hardwood floors, and it finally occurred to me that her doggy Morse code might be saying, “helphelphelp — dot — dot — dash –checkmyfeet — helphelphelp!” I felt awful when I put her on my lap and inspected her furry old paws. Her black nails had grown in a circle and were almost pointing back toward her paw pads. I hate trimming my dogs’ nails because they hate it, but it had to be done. Sure enough, I made one of them bleed, and felt I almost couldn’t continue, but I kept on, very carefully. It turned out fine, but this morning I can tell I need to take a look at Edith’s feet again, because as she walks through the house I hear “puff, puff, puff, click.” Three soft paw sounds, one paw with nails still clicking away.

It has been 489 days since Michael died. I don’t watch the wonderful slideshow with music about his life as often as I did a year ago, but at least once a week I still watch, and smile. And cry. If you are new here and haven’t seen it, click here. I don’t think I’ll ever hear the songs “Turn, Turn, Turn,” “You Put This Love In My Heart,” or “Have I Told You Lately That I Love You” again without instantly going to a Michael place in my heart and mind.

I wish I could go to a real Michael place.

Here’s what an earthly Michael place used to look like:

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He loved the rugged beauty of northeastern Minnesota. He loved our lakes, our trees, our challenging seasons. He loved being outdoors, fishing and hunting and marveling in the wildlife, especially the birds.

The photo above was taken up the north shore of Lake Superior in 2011. Michael had been diagnosed with Parkinson’s for seven years and things had started to really change. When I saw this photo recently I was struck by the way he walked by himself on the uneven rocky terrain. It’s easy to forget how strong and capable he once was, because Parkinson’s and Lewy Body Dementia just sort of swallowed everything up and dictated how we would live every single minute of every single day, for over three years.

But even as I just typed that last sentence, I’m reminded again that while illness can certainly call the physical shots, it can never separate us from the love of Christ. (Romans 8:35-39). What a gift that our souls and spirits are protected from the ravages of this world and the devil. There is indeed a hiding place for Christians, and Michael knew how to take refuge there.

The north shore of Lake Superior was once a Michael place, but he has moved on. The new Michael place is heaven, which is so glorious we can’t even conjure up its wonders with our limited human minds. One of my fosters often says, “I’ll bet Michael is bowling in heaven right now.” Or “I think he’s four-wheeling today.” To her, that would be the ultimate for him, but while I smile and outwardly agree with her, I’m trying to imagine what wonders and joys he’s really experiencing.

I want to go there.

But I woke up today on this earth, so I will do some laundry, fluff some pillows, get books and workbooks ready for ten expectant women, shake rugs, shine sinks, wipe counters, and then sit down to pray. I hope God is making me ready for His place. Which is also Michael’s place now.

Wednesday’s Word — Edition 129

June 8, 2016 | My Jottings

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In ancient times, Christianity was widely recognized as having superior resources for facing evil, suffering, and death. In modern times – though it is not as publicly discussed – it continues to have assets for sufferers arguably far more powerful than anything secular culture can offer. Those assets, however, reside in robust, distinctive Christian beliefs.

The first relevant Christian belief is in a personal, wise, infinite, and therefore inscrutable God who controls the affairs of the world – and that is far more comforting than the belief that our lives are in the hands of fickle fate or random chance.

The second crucial tenet is that, in Jesus Christ, God came to earth and suffered with and for us sacrificially – and that is far more comforting than the idea that God is remote and uninvolved. The cross also proves that, despite all the inscrutability, God is for us.

The third doctrine is that through faith in Christ’s work on the cross, we can have assurance of our salvation – that is far more comforting than the karmic systems of thought. We are assured that the difficulties of life are not payment for our past sins, since Jesus has paid for them. As Luther taught, suffering is unbearable if you aren’t certain that God is for you and with you. Secularity cannot give you that, and religions that provide salvation through virtue and good works cannot give it, either.

The fourth great doctrine is that of the bodily resurrection from the dead for all who believe. This completes the spectrum of our joys and consolations. One of the deepest desires of the human heart is for love without parting. Needless to say, the prospect of the resurrection is far more comforting than the beliefs that death takes you into nothingness or into an impersonal spiritual substance. The resurrection goes beyond the promise of an ethereal, disembodied afterlife. We get our bodies back, in a state of beauty and power that we cannot today imagine. Jesus’ resurrection body was corporeal – it could be touched and embraced, and he ate food. And yet he passed through closed doors and could disappear. This is a material existence, but one beyond the bounds of our imagination. The idea of heaven can be a consolation for suffering, a compensation for the life we have lost. But resurrection is not just consolation – it is restoration. We get it all back – the love, the loved ones, the goods, the beauties of this life – but in new, unimaginable degrees of glory and joy and strength.     

~Tim Keller

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Salutes for Grandpa

June 1, 2016 | My Jottings

On Memorial Day I received this photo by text from my son-in-law Jeremy. Four of his and Carolyn’s five children were standing at Michael’s grave.

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It’s hard to believe they’re this tall, this far along in life already. It seems like last week when Clara was sitting in a highchair in our kitchen. She used to ask me to sing “Bick-tow-ee in Jesus” to her. She doesn’t ask me to sing any more. It seems like two days ago that Elijah enthusiastically explained to me that he and I had three main things in common, the big one being that we both had lamps! And it can’t be years ago that Vivienne sat in my lap and told me my perfume smelled like “Appley Glump.” Or that the days have long passed when Audrey called us Bocka and Backa. 🙂

Our memories are so precious.

Have a wonderful Wednesday, friends.

The times they are a changin’….

May 27, 2016 | My Jottings

Friday felicitations to you, my tens of readers! I hope you’re able to enjoy a long holiday weekend and make a delightful memory or two with your family.

I have plans for this weekend, but I’m not sure about the delightful memory part. If driving up to the Subaru dealer to have my lug nuts tightened, and then going to the Verizon store and hoping to replace my shattered iPhone without spending hundreds of dollars constitutes some delightful memories, then I’m in trouble. Nevertheless, those are my plans. And I might read, and I might eat something with blue cheese dressing on it, and I might finish up all the paperwork necessary for my foster care re-licensing that happens next week. And I will go to my husband’s grave on Memorial Day, and tell the Lord for the ten-thousandth time how blessed I am to have been married to Michael for almost 34 years.

DSCN1281Speaking of foster care, I drove to Minneapolis yesterday with one of my gals, who will be having some minor surgery in a University of Minnesota clinic next month. We listened to the Radio Theatre production of The Voyage of the Dawn Treader on the drive south, ate some fruit, and watched the outside thermometer go from 50 degrees to 82 in just 150 miles. Then when we drove home we watched it go from 82 to 54. I know not everyone appreciates the cool springs and summers we can have by Lake Superior, but I do.

I’ve never been to a medical facility like the one we visited yesterday. There was valet service, and when we drove in to the bustling driveway, uniformed young men gave us a numbered receipt and parked the car. When we stepped inside the huge, light-filled building, more uniformed young people approached us and asked if we needed help finding Clinic 4J, which we did. We rode the elevator to the fourth floor and when we stepped out, there were many waiting areas with modern, comfortable chairs very similar to this one.

We checked in with an employee who stood behind a tall podium/desk, piled with large iPad-like tablets in leather holders. She did all her info taking and recording on her own tablet attached to a long-necked stand. When we were done checking in we were given one of these tablets in leather, so we could answer questions on it, sort of like the clipboard and paper and pen of ancient days. Will our grandchildren someday ask us, “Grandma, did you ever ride in a Conestoga wagon and use paper and pencils when you were little?”

Before we sat down with our tablet, my foster resident was given a lime green, plastic rectangle with a button on it, to clip to her shirt, “So she could be tracked by satellite” while she was in the building. At this point I was agog. They want to track us by satellite when we’re in the doctor’s office now? Because we might do what? Or go where? Lastly, the employee checking us in lifted her own tablet out of its stand up to her eye level to take a quick photo of my gal, so that when it was her turn to go through the doors of 4J, the nurse coming to get her could recognize her from the photo and not have to break her privacy and call her first name out loud.

We had a great appointment and the three professionals who helped my gal were fantastic.

When we rode the elevator down to the main floor, we were met by a young uniformed man who asked if we had used the valet parking. He led us to a station with several iPad-like tablets on it, and showed us how to scan our ticket under the red light, and pay for our parking by swiping my Visa, which then alerted the valets to run and get the Outback, which was parked in the hinterlands. As we approached the exit doors, there was a lime green push-door in the wall, where we were instructed to remove the clip from my gal’s shirt and drop it in. When we stepped into the bright Minneapolis sunshine, we took our places in line as the valets pulled up in the various cars of the departing patients. It reminded me of Disneyland and what it’s like to get on a ride there, except you’re not waiting for a Matterhorn bobsled or a boat for Pirates of the Caribbean to board, you’re waiting to spot your own blue Outback slowly rolling in the line of vehicles, then stopping right at your feet with an attendant to help you in.

Do any of you have medical facilities like this? It felt a bit futuristic, but it was very efficient. The times they are a changin’…  (I thought I’d say that because it’s true, but also because it was Bob Dylan’s 75th birthday this week, and he was born and lived his first five years in my city, and that’s also the title to one of his songs. He’s a distant cousin of Michael’s, on the Zimmerman side, but I don’t think that means Bob wants me to call him up to say hey or anything.)

I guess it’s time to make a cup of tea, turn on some music (this is one of the songs on today’s CD), and get to my tasks.

May God bless you with His hope and help today,

More Monday Minutiae

May 23, 2016 | My Jottings

I wouldn’t say that rainy days and Mondays always get me down, but I would say that rainy days often bring a happy feeling to my heart, and Mondays make me feel tired before I even get out of bed. Today is supposed to be a rainy Monday, so that’s good, but it’s Monday, so that’s a bit of a challenge. I could probably rewrite Paul Williams’ song and sing, “Rainy days and Mondays always make me feel conflicted….” Except that I would sound nothing like Karen Carpenter, whose rendition of the song gives me the chills.

1. I have errands to do today. Doctor’s appointment, grocery shopping, foster care provider meeting.

2. I’ve been watching Dancing with the Stars this season and am rooting for two women I’d never heard of before. (Ginger Zee, chief meteorologist for ABC News/Good Morning America, which I don’t watch, so that might be why I’ve never heard of her, and Paige Vanzant, who apparently is some kind of fighter, which is weird that I would root for someone like that but you would just have to watch to understand why Sara and I like her, and then pray that I would start shortening my sentences.)

3. Our adorable, cheeky little parakeet Phoebe has grown quite comfortable with eating out of our hands now. Here’s a photo of Feebs (Phoebs?) sitting in Merida’s Sara’s hand, eating millet. You can click to enlarge the photos if you like. IMG_2807We have hopes that Feebles (Phoebles?) will someday feel fine about coming out of the cage, having her wings slightly clipped so she can’t fly into the wall, and will eventually sit on our shoulders. We had a cockatiel years ago named Rosie who did all that and more.

4. I am trying to decide if I can take a three week trip to England, Ireland and Scotland sometime this fall. If I lived alone, I’d have my tickets already, but there are details that must be ironed out, so I’m still on the fence.

5. I just finished my tenth book by Corrie ten Boom yesterday. Truly she was one of the most incredible people to ever live. I love this quote by her: “Look around you – be distressed, look within – be depressed, look at Jesus – be at rest!”

6. Do any of you like blue cheese dressing? It’s my favorite and we have a double batch of this made at all times. I have the best recipe for it, and if you’d like to try it, here’s the link.

7. Now that the grass is green and spring is really here in Northeastern Minnesota, we decided to buy our own grave flower basket instead of renting one from the cemetery. IMG_2814Sara put some flowers, greens and vines in it and we placed it on Michael’s grave Saturday.

8. I’m looking ahead to when I might retire in a few years, and have decided to start paring down bit by bit now. Yesterday I went through all the books in my bedroom and pulled out the ones I knew I’d never read again. Even so, they’re like old friends and I felt so sorry to have to part with them. Today after my doctor’s appointment I will take almost a car load to the Goodwill, and pray that whoever needs these wonderful reads will find them there.

9. The University for Seniors term is over for the summer, and will resume again in September. I will be participating again — what a great experience it was for me. If any of you are over 50, love to learn without being graded or pressured, and are in my area, I encourage you to look into going in the fall. You can take one class or ten, and the cost is only $140.

10. Each time I read the news I marvel that the race for President has come to this. For a few minutes yesterday the state of things sent me to a wonderful blog about an American woman who became an expat to Scotland, and she had a lot of advice for how to make the move. I know if my kids are giving me fits about entertaining a move to the mountains of North Carolina, I’d never hear the end of it if I moved to the Scottish Highlands, so it’s only a dream. But for a while, a simple cottage overlooking Loch Ness or on the Isle of Skye is much more pleasant to consider than a pompous, philandering, mocking person in the White House. A friend asked me recently if I would ever consider voting for Trump, and I told her never. I am not ashamed of any person I’ve ever voted for for President, even though a couple of them have been largely unpopular. I would be honestly ashamed to have to someday tell my grandchildren or great-grandchildren that I was a woman who voted for Donald Trump.

11.  Have you ever eaten a chocolate donut in a bowl with milk poured over it? Then cut it with a spoon into little mushy bites, and sat in a comfy chair in front of the TV while watching a travel show about Edinburgh? You should try it!

12. Do you have any Monday Minutiae?

It’s bird chirping weather.

May 17, 2016 | My Jottings

After the work of the day is done and the meal of the evening has been gratefully received, I often sit in Michael’s old, brown leather recliner. It’s near a large window on the west side of our house, and right outside that window is a bluish green juniper tree. The tree is at least 15 feet tall and needs trimming, as its former cone shape has fanned out into spikes of new growth, making it look wild and bushy. A couple of weeks ago I saw movement out of the corner of my left eye, and spied a robin flying into the interior of the juniper. Soon she was out again, flying up and over the three miniature crab apple trees that stand together at the edge of our small property. When she returned again with a mouthful of brown grass streaming from her beak, I knew she was probably building a nest.

This morning I sat in the recliner as I finished eating a Pink Lady apple, and there was that dark brown blur in my peripheral vision again. I retrieved the kitchen step stool, invited Sara to come with me to see what there was to see, and oh, what a wonder we witnessed!

I was careful to place the step stool quietly, and as I pulled the branches gently apart in the vicinity where I thought I’d seen Rosemary (that’s the mother robin’s name) fly in, a fluttering flash shot by me, missing my shoulder by inches. She perched about 20 feet away in one of the crabapple trees and watched me. Here’s a blurry picture of her:

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I promised Rosemary I would not touch her children, and that I’d only look once. I would hate it if someone came into my house to nose around without my permission. I hope somehow she forgave my need to gaze upon the miraculous.

I took two quick photos with my iPhone (click to enlarge) and here’s the best one:

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Three baby robins! I think by what I could find online they must be about four days old right now. And their mom has apparently removed the beautiful light blue eggs. Look at the perfection of that nest. Do you see the little tufty feathers coming in? In about ten days they’ll be ready to leave their lovely home, which is hard to fathom. I wish major progress could be made in my life in ten days. 🙂

“My favorite weather is bird chirping weather.” 

~Terri Guillemets

The robins wake me up in the mornings now before my alarm does. The older I get the less I like throwing back the covers before 6:00 a.m., but my reluctance has faded a bit with the sun and the heartening birdsong that comes with spring.

Old Pickleson

May 13, 2016 | My Jottings

I’m just getting ready to take a bath, put on my warm plaid nightgown, and settle into a book or a massage or a facial for the night. But seeing how there is no masseuse or skincare specialist that I know of in my vicinity, I think the likelihood of the latter two choices is close to zero. So that leaves a bath and a book. And haven’t there been worse things in our lives than a bath and a book? Oh yes.

Some of you might remember that I’m delving into all the books written by or about Corrie ten Boom. I wish I could convey what is happening, but I think in a sense I’m being mentored (at age 58) by Corrie, even though she’s gone on to glory and we’ve never met. So, for Mother’s Day Sara gave me a canvas she painted, of a well-known quote of Corrie’s. I think Corrie’s sister Betsie said it too. Isn’t it beautiful? She found an example online and then just painted from the photo. I have it hung in my office and love it.

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My daughter Carolyn gave me a beautiful card with some very loving words she wrote inside, and that made me cry. And my daughter Sharon came over in the afternoon to give me a long hand and arm massage, and that made me moan. She found all kinds of knots and bad things which would explain my wrist pain and the way my arm muscles feel like oatmeal underneath my skin.

This morning I took my Subaru Outback for an oil change and tire rotation. I’ve had the car for almost a year and a half now, and the odometer just turned over 8000 miles. I’m a real ramblin’ gal these days. You’ve heard of the used cars driven slowly and carefully and infrequently by grandmas? That’s my scenario, and whoever buys my car when I’m done with it will get a deal.

After I came home I fixed myself the most delicious lunch. I tore up an entire romaine heart on a plate, topped it with a small handful of peanuts and a couple tablespoons of dried cranberries, then drizzled (“plopped” might be more accurate) some homemade blue cheese dressing on it. After I finished my salad I had some watermelon for dessert and felt so blessed to enjoy a peaceful meal at my table, looking out on the deep blue of Lake Superior as I ate.

Carolyn and baby Miriam stopped over a little before 2:00, and Miriam and I had a great time together, playing with all the little stuffed Audubon birds I have. I’ve collected these for over a decade and my grandchildren have had hours of enjoyment from them. Here’s a link if you’d like to see what I’m talking about. When you squeeze the birds, actual recordings of that bird’s vocalizations play, and Miriam was delighted when I helped her cup her chubby hands around each one and squeeze so she could hear the honks and twitters and peeps. We have a male and female cardinal (of course), a turkey, a loon, an eastern bluebird, an oriole, a chickadee, a Canada goose and a goldfinch.

A little while ago Sharon called to tell me something funny. lmFullSizeRenderShe said that while she and 3 1/2 year old Louisa were driving today, Louisa asked from her car seat behind Sharon, “What’s your mom’s name?”

“Julie,” Sharon answered.

“Oh, Balmer Julie!” Louisa said.

“Yes, Julie Balmer.”

“Does she have a nickname?” Louisa wanted to know.

“Not really. People call her either Julie, or Mom, or Grandma.”

Louisa thought about this and then asked, “Not Old Pickleson?”

Nope. Not Old Pickleson.

But I’m sort of a pushover where my grands are concerned, so if Louisa decides she wants to call me Old Pickleson instead of Grandma, I think that’s an acceptable choice.

What did you call your grandpa and grandma? I called mine Grandpa and Grandma (Sooter or McInteer), but I know people who call theirs Pop and Nannie, and Papa and Nana.

If you’re a grandparent, what do your grands call you?

Not Old Pickleson, I hope.

Not ready to talk about the GOP results yet.

May 6, 2016 | My Jottings


And when I am ready to discuss the probable nominees, I might truly rant.

So I’ll just ramble a bit. Rambling vs. ranting — which would you prefer? 🙂

I’ve had a busy couple of days, and I’m looking forward to a day at home tomorrow. Most normal people make weekend plans; I make weekend lulls.

Yesterday was week six of my University for Seniors term, and I’m continuing to find it challenging and enjoyable. Our assignment for our Memory into Memoir class was to write an anecdote about an older person. I wrote about my Grandma Oma McInteer and how I took her on a surprise adventure when I was a teenager. I revised the post I originally wrote about our outing, but if you don’t know the story of how I blindfolded Grandma and took her someplace that shocked her, you can click here.

Then for my Great Books class, we discussed the short story “Tomorrow, Tomorrow and So Forth” by John Updike. I’m reading things in this class I would never pick up otherwise, and it has been good to be challenged. There are usually four questions at the end of each novella or short story, and after the first read-through I almost always answer those questions to myself, 1. I don’t know, 2. I don’t know, 3. I don’t know, and 4. What the heck are you talking about?  Then I read it again slowly, more critically, and shafts of light come to my understanding. Then on Thursday when I sit around the huge table with 25 other students (ranging in age from about 55 – 85) and listen to their comments and insights, it’s fascinating. The woman who led our discussion yesterday was a beautiful 83-year old retired teacher, and I could tell the questions she prompted us with came from a brilliant mind.

There is no summer term, but I’m already looking forward to seeing what they offer in the fall. If you’d like to see some of the quirky courses offered from this current term, you can click here.

This morning after getting several living beings fed and cared for in the individual ways they needed, I finished my last CBS lesson of the year, meditated on Psalm 6, wrote in my gratitude journal, took a few deep concerns to the Lord, and then plopped myself into my office chair to tackle a pile of foster care paperwork.  Jphoto

After my lunch of homemade curried chicken fingers on a bed of romaine with yummy vinaigrette, I went to Grandparents’ Day at two of my grandchildren’s school. Li’l Gleegirl sang two lovely solos (one of which was the Navy hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save”) and Louisa’s preschool class sang a song about the ocean. After the wonderful program, we left the church and went to see their classrooms in the school a couple blocks away. Li’l Gleegirl showed me the folktale she wrote and the coat of arms she’s working on, which includes a huge shamrock, a cross, a dog’s paw print and a magnifying glass. The latter is because of her new interest in Trixie Belden mystery books. Did any of you read Trixie Belden books when you were young? I did. I liked Nancy Drew mysteries best, but read all of the Trixie books when I was in fifth and sixth grade.

Then I visited Louisa’s classroom and she showed me a flower she planted in a pot for her mama’s Mother’s Day gift, along with her own thoughts about her mom, written out by her teacher on a sheet of paper: “What does your mother like to do?” (Take pictures). “How old is your mother?” (30 — haha!). “What does your mother fix you to eat?” (Ham sandwich with cheese.) And “What does your mother do to relax?” (Lays in her bed — *grin*.) Sharon is going to love this fine Mother’s Day gift.  🙂

By the time I drove home, the temperature in our famously cool city soared to 95 degrees. And a small town 20 minutes up the shore of Lake Superior, Two Harbors, was the hottest place in the nation today. So unexpected and unwelcome. I am deathly allergic to any temperature over 79 degrees.

Then around dinner time some black clouds gathered, thunder boomed and lightning flashed, and torrents of much needed rain poured for about an hour and lowered the temperature 15 degrees.

I dropped my ancient iPhone today and instead of having the glass replaced I might opt for a new phone. Mine has very little storage and seems obsolete compared to the newest ones. I’ve never had a Droid phone and know a couple people who really like them. I’d love to hear opinions from those of you who’ve had both a Droid and an iPhone — which do you prefer and why? Thank you in advance for your help.

And for those of you who are mothers, I hope your Mother’s Day this Sunday is a good one — may your offspring rise up and call you blessed.

Thank you for stopping in,

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