Seven Favorites

November 11, 2018 | My Jottings

I really enjoy when blogging or Instagram friends share their favorites. One of my online friends who lives near Atlanta always has the neatest list of what she’s reading, watching, eating, decorating with, wearing… her information is always good and I look forward to her Sunday night posts a lot.

I have a few favorites of late and thought I’d share them with you.

I have a thing about the soap I wash my hands with. I like a milled bar soap when I’m taking a bath, do not like body washes at all, and prefer a watered down liquid soap dispensed in a foamer for use by the sink. I’m not a fan of the liquid hand soap that comes out of the bottle thick and gloopy — I just want a little foam to wash with. The bottles with foamers don’t always last, so I decided to look for one on Amazon and found this one below. It fits on any mason jar, and comes with labels. I have this aqua colored one in my master bathroom and love it. I put about 20-25% liquid soap in the jar (plain castile is good), then fill it with water, slosh it a bit to mix it up, and then fasten this foamer lid to it. It lasts and lasts and it doesn’t take me a full minute to rinse my hands now.

I just finished reading Becoming Mrs. Lewis and loved it. If you’re a fan of C.S. Lewis you must read it. It’s well-researched fiction based on Joy Davidman Gresham’s life, and how she met Lewis, became pen pals with him, then the best of friends, then his legal in-name-only wife, then the love of his life. I couldn’t put it down.

Anything with curry, vegetables and coconut milk gets my vote, and this Indian Curry with Potatoes, Peas, Cauliflower and Chickpeas is scrumptious and comforting. It’s by Cooks Illustrated and I’ve made it several times. Now that we’ve had our first snowfall here by Lake Superior, soups and stews are on my mind, and I think a pot of this might be what I’ll make sometime this coming week.

I bought these black shoes recently and they’re super comfortable. They’re Born brand, and the style is called Sylvia. I think they’re really called booties, but I just can’t manage that. I’m 61 years old and cannot picture myself saying, “Okay, just let me put on my booties and I’ll join you in a minute.” These are shoes to me. You can’t beat Zappos for free shipping both ways.

I’ve been diffusing essential oils instead of lighting candles in my house for almost two years now. I am a Young Living distributor only so I can get my own oils, and I don’t sell to anyone. My favorite blend right now is seven drops of Cedarwood, five drops of Lemon, three drops of Thieves and five drops of Peppermint. I have this smaller diffuser in my room, on top of my electric fireplace, and I probably run it at least three hours a day. People ask all the time what makes my house smell so good, and that is a good thing. I have this irrational fear that as I get older, my house will begin to smell like old lady pee, gravy, stale grease, White Shoulders cologne and mold. And because I only have about 50% of my smelling capacity, I might never know if those did become the dominant aromas. If you ever come over to my house and you smell any of those things, please tell me. I would want to know.

I have been trying to keep clutter to a minimum (or non-existent) for a long time, so I don’t subscribe to many magazines. I know two people who say Magnolia is their favorite and worth the subscription, so I treated myself. I got my first issue a couple of days ago and love it. It’s not too much information, it’s thoughtful, it’s helpful, and gave me ideas I hadn’t thought of before. Have you read it?

Do any of you floss your teeth every single day without fail? I have been blessed with healthy teeth, but I confess for years I was one of those people who began flossing about a week before my twice-yearly dental checkups. And then the hygienist would floss my teeth as part of the cleaning, and I was sure she was using steel wire. When I got Invisalign two years ago to straighten my bite (which was off due to my CPAP, which is another story), I knew I was going to have to floss every single day, after each and every meal or snack. So I went from flossing a few times a year to flossing 3-5 times a day. That’s about 1,400 times a year. I quickly learned which floss was going to work the best for me, after trying every brand known to mankind, and here’s my recommendation. I have used Plackers daily for years now, and will never go back. My dental appointments have the dentist and his staff standing in a semi-circle around my reclining body and singing The Hallelujah Chorus, and it really is amazing what these flossers bring out of the hidden places. Have you read that cardiac health is very dependent on whether or not you floss? You could Google that if you’re interested.

I think having a bag of these in the car is a good idea too. Your children could floss on the way to school, you could floss on the way to your appointment, and your gums would thank you.

Well, I must be back to my Sunday afternoon activities now. I’m working on my Community Bible Study lesson, and I will be taking one of my foster gals out for her birthday tonight. She chose the restaurant and we’ll pick up her boyfriend on the way.

What are some of your favorites?

My Lighthouse

November 2, 2018 | My Jottings

I was walking alone in the cemetery this morning, watching the mallard couples swim around in the ponds. I looked at the Canada geese flying overhead, honking as they flapped, and wondered where their energy comes from for them to do that. If I had to honk forcefully with each step I took, I think I’d get tired pretty quickly. Yet they fly miles and miles and miles, doing just that.

I watched a gaggle of white and grey geese I call “The Ladies” bathe themselves in one of the ponds, literally turning themselves upside down in the water while orange feet paddled the air. And it made me laugh out loud and brought such delight.

As I approached a group of sitting mallards, they all rose slowly to their feet and waded into the pond, away from me. I had never noticed that each one of them, emerald-headed males and plainly-colored females, quickly swished or wagged their tail feathers from side to side for a couple of seconds as soon as they hit the water. Every single one I saw did this. I got tears in my eyes because I thought of the design behind such things. And I thought how wondrous it is that God thought up and tended to so many details in this world and universe that would delight us. Gave most of us eyes to see the beauty and intricacy, and the capacity to appreciate it.

Then, after walking only one mile, I played this song in my car on the way home, and my soul and spirit elevated into the sky and I pondered the truth of these words, and praised the Lord out loud, amazed at His mercy toward me.

Do you know this song by Rend Collective? In case you didn’t, I wanted to find the video with the lyrics…

Is there a song you’ve listened to lately that lifts you? Helps you to marvel, or to trust God a little more, or to go on for one more day? There are too many of these songs for me to list, but today this is the one God used to calibrate my thoughts and remind me that He will see me safely to shore.

May you feel His care and see His light today,

I love October, and other news

October 8, 2018 | My Jottings

It’s my favorite time of the year, even my favorite month, I would say. October is everything I love. Cool and brisk but not bitterly cold. Drier air after a record-breaking sauna of a summer in our “air-conditioned city of the north.” Colorful leaves everywhere and not the bare starkness that tends to dominate our landscape at the end of the month. The furnace hums, the soup simmers, the SmartWool socks are a daily thing again. Chickadees and juncos and blue jays swoop to my bird feeder and empty it every couple of days. Squirrels scurry around our front deck, gathering the fallen seeds and making Mildred the Schnauzer pounce at the French door and bark shrilly when they come too close for her liking.

Here are a few photos I’ve had on my phone for a while. I’ve never seen leaves like these below — usually when I see maples turn, the whole surface of their leaves uniformly fades to yellow or red or orange. These leaves are turning red in odd blotches and they give me a queasy feeling. Do you have the same reaction to seeing them or am I a weirdo? If I think of the red as paint spatters, I’m good. If I think of it as disease, it’s a problem. You can click to enlarge if you like.

Even though it has been 1,337 days since Michael moved to heaven, the senior grief support group I’ve been a part of still meets for lunch twice a month. Here are a couple of shots from a recent lunch:

These people are so precious to me. We have picnicked and lunched and Timber Twistered and cried and listened and encouraged and assisted and hung out.

I have been dating a man who I know from this senior grief support group. He and I have been friends for 2 1/2 years now, but last year he began inviting me to go to lunch with him, on walks, to the symphony. Even though the thought of being in another relationship after being married to Michael for over three decades seemed absurd to me years ago, my friendship with Lloyd has developed into something easy, enjoyable and fun. He is very kind and gentlemanly, and we laugh together and have good conversations. I think I have grown more open to having a male companion because he is so different than Michael. I don’t have to compare them, because there is no comparison. And I don’t ever want to compare Michael to anyone, because he was one of a kind and will always be the love of my life. Lloyd was married for 51 years and cared for his wife a lot longer than I took care of Michael, and he has two fantastic children with her. She will always be the love of his life. But our common bonds of widowhood and faith have smoothed a pathway for us to enjoy each other’s company, and we have made some wonderful memories together.

Lloyd and his wife Rose raised their family in St. Paul, and they retired to the north woods of Minnesota almost twenty years ago. He lives an hour south of me in a log cabin he built himself, on eighty acres of forested land, with a long and winding driveway and two ponds. He sees bear, deer, and wild turkeys (he named one older, lone female Beatrice), and at night he can hear wolves howling in his woods. There’s a huge bull moose in his area right now that neighbors have seen.

Many of you have prayed for me during these past several years as my Michael’s battle with Parkinson’s grew more difficult. I will never forget the words of love and comfort I received from you when he died in early 2015. Grief’s crushing weight and stifling darkness does ease. I don’t think I’ll ever stop missing Michael, and I easily cry if I’m still for a while and begin replaying memories in my mind. There isn’t a day that passes that I don’t thank God for all that Michael did for me. He loved me with a pure heart and worked harder than anyone I’ve ever known to make a life for us. He taught me about praising the Lord and trusting Him. He never wavered in his faith in Jesus, and that is a legacy I treasure.

Lloyd and I are making plans for the future, but we are also taking one day at a time. Because we are senior citizens (how did I go from 15 years old to 61 in just a few short months?!) who lost our spouses, we are keenly aware of how important it is to savor the moments and take nothing for granted. We literally do stop to smell the roses. And we marvel at mushrooms that grow in hollow trees, like these:

We saw an old man with a bulbous nose and a bushy mustache there. Do you see him? The next time we walked, The Old Man in the Tree was gone, but we were happy to have caught sight of him.

Thank you for stopping in to this little blog. I pray for God’s love and peace to blanket you all today… no matter what.

Wednesday’s Word — Edition 138

September 12, 2018 | My Jottings

“Properly understood, Christianity is by no means the opiate of the people.

It’s more like the smelling salts.”

~~Pastor Tim Keller

*         *         *         *         *         *         *


August 28, 2018 | My Jottings

Have any of you eaten a Buddha Bowl? Some call them Big Bowls, or Grain Bowls….I don’t know what to call them myself, but I could eat one every day for the rest of my life and be happy.

I made Grain Bowls for company recently, and here’s a picture of what they looked like:

There are just layers of textures and flavors! Many recipes have a fried egg on top of all the rest of the ingredients, so maybe I’ll try that next time.

I started with cooked brown rice, spooned into the bottom of the bowl. You can see marinated chicken breast to the left, then above that some curry-toasted chickpeas I made. The dark green is sauteed kale with a bit of garlic, sliced tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms with sherry and garlic, roasted sweet potato strips, and the creamy dollop on the sweet potato is a tahini dressing I made.

It was so colorful and delicious I had to restrain myself from moaning at the table. The people I invited over wouldn’t have understood that. I have a couple of friends who would be fine with me rolling my eyes and moaning at a bite of something delicious, but I wasn’t so sure about these folks, so I forced myself to stay light and relaxed  and hostessy and conversational.

I would encourage you to look for Buddha Bowl or Grain Bowl recipes online — there are hundreds of them. There are even whole cookbooks devoted to them. I want to have about five or six favorites to keep rotating week after week.

I’m off to run some errands now that it’s 60-something degrees out instead of the hot and steamy weather we’ve had for literally months now.

Let me know if you’ve ever eaten or made a Buddha Bowl!

Levi Samuel

August 10, 2018 | My Jottings

We are all pretty tickled around here, because on Wednesday my middle daughter Carolyn gave birth to her seventh child. (Little Hannah was born and died last summer… we wait for the time when we’ll be able to see her again someday.)

Levi Samuel came into this world healthy, pink, and demonstrating how well his lungs were working. He weighed 8 pounds, 9 ounces, and is a long 23 inches. He has a bit of light colored hair, the blondest eyebrows, big feet, and as most grandmas like to say, a perfectly shaped head.

My oldest daughter Sharon took some pictures of their family yesterday, holding Levi and beaming their love at him.

Clara is 16 1/2 and told her mom how proud she was of her, and is attached to Levi already….

Elijah is 15 and is showing what a good dad he’ll be with the way he tenderly loves his littlest sister Miriam…

Vivienne is 12 1/2, and will be the big sister who piques Levi’s interest in the way things work in the universe…

Audrey is 10 1/2, and will shower him with hugs and kisses, and teach him how to have fun…

Miriam is almost 4, and believes that Jeremy and Carolyn had this baby for her and she keeps calling him “my baby”…

Daddy Jeremy is one of the best fathers I’ve ever known…

And my Carolyn is an amazing, strong, quietly tenacious, gifted, loving, brilliant, funny, and beautiful mother…

Truly, truly, God has been kind to us.

What do you think?

July 27, 2018 | My Jottings

I just purchased an electric fireplace for my bedroom. I got it on sale, plus with another discount and a rebate. I’m trying to decide how to arrange my bedroom chairs around it. Would you like to help me?

Below is a picture of part of my bedroom, which is pretty good-sized. The windows behind the bed face Lake Superior, so I am blessed to be able to look out and see that breathtaking, vast body of water every single day. You can click these photos to enlarge them if you like.

I put the fireplace on a blank wall. It has a fairly real looking flame with glowing embers and logs, and it will keep this room warm. It can also be used for just the flame with no heat. I love sitting in my bedroom chair (the biggest one with the darkest plaid fabric) to read, do my Bible study, write in my gratitude journal, and to have tea with friends.

Option #1: Below you can see the two chairs arranged in an L shape, close to the fireplace.

Another view of option #1: I like this arrangement because I can enjoy the fireplace, have some natural light behind me for reading, and can still look to my left and see Lake Superior through the windows.

Option #2: The chairs are facing each other near the fireplace, sharing the ottoman. I have some friends named John and Barb who have their chairs placed this way, and they have their coffee and morning devotions together like this. They like the face-to-face interaction this arrangement gives them, and I like that idea a lot too.

Option #2: Another view of the chairs facing each other.

Option #3: I arranged the chairs at an angle, both facing the fireplace. I had to put the little lamp that was on the round table somewhere else, since with this setting there’s no close outlet for the lamp. I also haven’t styled the mantel yet — I will be thinking about how to dress the space in the future. I need something large on the wall behind the fireplace too. And if I choose this arrangement I need to center it on the wall.

Option #3: Another view of the chairs angled toward the fireplace. I think this is homey feeling, but miss having my chair situated so I can see Lake Superior at the same time.

As you can see, there are advantages to all three chair placements.

Would you mind casting your vote in the comments? Let me know if you like #1, #2 or #3 better. Or maybe you have an even different idea — I’d love to know what you think.

Have a wonderful weekend!

In the blink of an eye

June 30, 2018 | My Jottings

Yesterday I drove about 45 minutes south to pick up three grandchildren from their church summer camp. They’ve been going for years and look forward to it so much. It was fun to listen to the three of them (and a friend who went with them) chatter in the back seat about their adventures there. It got me thinking once again about how quickly all my grands have grown.

Clara (below) was my first grandchild, and she is almost six feet tall now, and is sixteen years old. I know this sounds like a trite thing for a grandmother to say, but I almost can’t handle this. I want to slow down time and stretch out the moments, but of course that never happens. Clara has had artistic talent since she was a toddler, and wants to someday be an animator. Her head is always tilted toward her portfolio and the thousands of truly astounding drawings she has done over the past years. She is a deep thinker, loves to watch favorite movies over and over, and gets along surprisingly well with her slightly younger brother. Clara and I have had many fun times together — WWG days, memorizing Bible verses together, and reading books out loud. When she was barely out of kindergarten she recorded the message on my voicemail, and to this day it brings a tear to hear that tiny voice say, “You’ve reached Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Please leave a message.” I will never, ever change it. Clara warms my heart.

Elijah (below) is sixteen months younger than Clara, and when they were little, people used to think they were twins. He has grown at least five inches in the last five months, and is pushing six feet himself, if he hasn’t already reached that mark last night while he slept. He turned fifteen years old yesterday. His smile lights up his whole face. Elijah excels in math and science, and has plans for big finance someday. He can draw too. He is a delight to talk to because he’s such a good conversationalist. How many fifteen year olds can we say that about? He’s a bit of a joker and I’ve heard he can be the class clown. Elijah also adores his youngest sister Miriam. They have a very special relationship, and he’s patient and tender with her. When I picked him up from church camp yesterday, one of the first things he said from the back seat was, “I missed Miri!” She apparently wanted to sit with him a long time after he got home, and her head was planted with many brotherly kisses. Elijah makes me smile.

Vivienne (below) will be thirteen in a few months and like her siblings, she is tall and lanky and all legs. She has been an observer since she was less than a year old. I remember watching her study the tip of a pencil eraser for a long period of time, pore over the science books I keep on the grandchildren’s bookshelves, and draw detailed dragons with hundreds of scales. When she was about seven, I picked her up from school one afternoon to give her a ride home. She has always been reserved and deep in her own thoughts, but from the silence in the back seat she piped up in her very feminine voice and asked, “Grandma, have you ever considered whether or not infinity has mass?” Uh, no. I took a stab and said I didn’t think it did, and she cheerfully agreed that it probably didn’t. She has always been more interested in facts than fancy. While other little girls chatter about nail polish and boys, Vivie ponders things like black holes in the universe, and the intriguing fact that snails can breathe through their skin. I look forward to seeing what kinds of things she accomplishes with that mind of hers. Vivie delights me.

Audrey (below) is 10 1/2 and has burned brightly since she was an infant. Her energy, laugh, vibrant expressions, friendliness and enthusiasm have heartened me countless times. She can draw too. Audrey is an includer — she loves her friends and wants to get to know everyone and draw them in. She is muscular and athletic and has been able to do impressive things the rest of us would be crippled by. She’s affectionate and open-hearted. She laughs easily and feels things deeply, and I believe her passionate temperament will be a magnetic force for God’s kingdom someday. She is others-focused and hangs her head out of the car when I pick her up from school, waving and calling out the names of school friends, boys and girls alike. As a toddler she called Michael and me “Bocka and Backa,” and it was a day of mourning when she grew out of that and started calling us Grandpa and Grandma. 🙂 Audrey is curious and loves animals, and created an adventure in her home years ago when she found a baby Canada goose near a pond in their neighborhood and decided he would make a good family pet. (He was successfully returned to his frantically honking parents.) Audrey brings me such happiness.

Miriam is 3 1/2 and is one of the most cheerful children I’ve ever known. She is content and talkative, loves her older siblings (Cwawa, Hijah, Veevie and Audwie), and is generally adored by all people on the earth. She associates two main things with me: scrambled eggs and fingernail clippers, asking for the former as soon as she sets foot in my house, and signalling it’s time for the latter by finding them in my bedroom drawer and planting herself in my lap and sticking out her hand. “Cwick, cwick!” she says as I cut her nails. She talks well and a lot for a child her age. Miri (pronounced MEER-y) loves her brother Elijah so much she runs to him when he comes home from school and reaches up for him to pick her up. She also had a very special relationship with her beloved great-grandmother Mary Lou, who recently went to heaven. Miri has so much love in her heart for such a little girl. You can actually feel that love when you’re with her, and it’s one of the most wonderful things I’ve ever known.

I was forty-four when I became a grandma for the first time. I’ll be sixty-one soon, and all these beautiful children have flown into my life and grown up around me in the blink of an eye. I can’t thank their parents (Jeremy and Carolyn) enough. I can’t thank God enough for His goodness to me through them. But I will make it my life’s goal to say thank you, thank you, thank you, for them, until the day I die.

How in the world did this happen?

May 16, 2018 | My Jottings

Sometimes I look at my grandchildren and wonder, how in the world did this happen? How did you all get to be so old, so tall, so beautiful, so handsome, so funny, so talented, so unique, so heartbreakingly priceless? My 10th living grandchild will be born later this summer, and one little granddaughter has gone on ahead of us to heaven.

Since Sharon and Chris take their kids on regular trips, she recently took photos for their passports.

This is Mr. McBoy. Almost 16. He’s 6′ 5″ tall. Plays sports. Loves to watch sports. Has his driver’s permit. His first girlfriend. (Gah.) And he called me on Sunday to tell me he loved me and to wish me a happy Mother’s Day. When I see him it seems like he was just yesterday tiptoeing past a dark room in our old house (in his diapers) and whispering to me that there was an ocelot in that room. I feel deeply bonded to him forever.

This is Mrs. Nisky. She’s almost 14. Has the most beautiful copper hair and such enviable freckles. She plays the cello. Keeps a bullet journal for her day planner. Is a talented artist. Will be in high school next year. (Gah.) It seems like just yesterday that she and I were sitting at the dining room table making Christmas garland together, a fire burning in the hearth, and reading chapters from Treasures in the Snow. She touches a place deep in my heart that no one else can.

This is Li’l Gleegirl. She just turned 11. She’s got her daddy’s hair color, and hasn’t hit her growth spurt yet. She plays the violin and piano, takes dance lessons, and just won a lead part in a local production of Peter Pan. She likes to do the Macarena every morning before school. (Gah.) Loves time with her friends. It seems like just yesterday that I was teaching her how to build a ball from some Magformers, and taking her to feed the ducks at the cemetery. I could squeeze this lovely girl so tight — she brings joy to my life.

This is Weezer. She is almost 6. Has her mama’s hair color and is basically her twin. She loves bugs. Likes to handle them and isn’t creeped out by them. She can climb a rope to the top of a gymnasium without much effort. She calls me Old Pickleson. (Gah.) Just learned to ride her bike without training wheels. Doesn’t like when her brother calls her Louis or when classmates mistakenly call her Lisa. It seems like only yesterday when I took her older siblings down to the hospital to meet her for the first time, and we all fell in love. She makes my heart wrench with an ache and a thrill.

How in the world did this happen?

Podcasts, anyone?

April 4, 2018 | My Jottings

I’ve been wondering for a long time why podcasts are all the rage. I know so many people who love podcasts and listen to them in the car, when they go to bed at night, while they’re working or cooking dinner. I love to listen to music and enjoy an audio book now and then, but I haven’t been able to get into even one podcast. I thought I’d jump on my blog and ask if any of you like podcasts, and why? 

The ones I’ve tried are the highly rated ones: S-Town, This American Life, Invisibilia, and Stuff You Should Know. To be fair, I’ve only listened to one episode of each one and found them pretty uninteresting, and I was scratching my head in puzzlement. Do I need to just keep going to understand the appeal? I have experienced this with various television series before (for example, Doc Martin, which took quite a while to understand but now I wouldn’t miss it), so maybe someone needs to tell me to keep at it.

What are your favorite podcasts? Did you have to keep listening to be interested? Am I just old now, and completely and permanently disconnected from modern culture? I would love to read everyone’s opinions on this.

And I hope it’s warmer where you are than it is where I am.

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