New Year’s Versolutions

December 29, 2008 | My Jottings

I haven’t set New Year’s resolutions in years. I got tired of mustering up the resolve needed to make changes, only to feel that determination wane by the time February rolled around each year. So I try not to even think like that anymore, but instead concentrate on one day at a time, thankful for the new start that every morning brings.

I read recently that the most common New Year’s resolutions people set are to:

1. Lose weight/get fit.

2. Quit a habit (smoking, drinking, etc.)

3. Get into better financial shape (pay down debt, save more, eat at home more, etc.)

So in keeping with my long-held tradition, I am making zero New Year’s resolutions. But I have been thinking, and I have decided to make a few New Year’s Versolutions.

I believe that the Bible is God’s Word, full of His life and power. The more I read it, the more amazed I am. I take very seriously what Hebrews 4:12 states: For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.  So this year I am going to concentrate on making (at least) three scripture passages a reality in my life. These will be my New Year’s Versolutions.

1)  2 Corinthians 10:4-5 — The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.

These are the verses I’m working on memorizing (again) to deal with my thought life. Any emotional battle we face usually begins in the mind. I’m famous for filling my head with thoughts like this, “Ohhh nooo, I don’t think I can’t take this anymore” or “I will never be able to accomplish this” or “I just don’t fit in anywhere” or “I’ve ruined my children and there is no hope”.  Aren’t these pleasant thoughts to rehearse in my mind? Yet tell me you don’t relate on some level. Tell me there aren’t a few tapes playing over and over in your mind that you can’t seem to stop.

Well, 2009 is the year to silence the old, lying tapes. And the Bible tells us that divine power is available to His children, to demolish those arguments and pretensions that want us to believe them instead of God. We are told that we can take those lies captive, and replace them with truth. I have done this before, and have been astounded at how powerful this weapon is. But I have not wielded this weapon faithfully, and I want to make this a part of my daily life, no longer something sporadic. The thoughts I want playing inside my head are more like, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” and ”He has rescued me from a slimy pit – He has set my feet upon a rock and has given me a new song to sing!” and “He will make all grace abound to me so that in all things and at all times, I have everything I need and will abound in every good work!” and “With God all things are possible.”

2)  Job 23:12 — I have not departed from the commands of His lips; I have treasured the words of His mouth more than my daily bread. 

This is my life verse.  You see it at the top of this blog each time you visit. This is the verse I want to be a reality in my life more than anything. I know this verse by heart, but I don’t often “apply” it, or use it as the weapon that any part of God’s Word could be. I am asking God to help this beloved verse become a true New Year’s Versolution for me in 2009. I don’t want to love anything more than my heavenly Father, especially not a piece of pizza or a peanut butter cup. How tragic is that?

3) Ephesians 4:2 — Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. 

All of these traits seem so impossible, so far out of reach for me, that I know it will take an act of God to bring these to fruition in my life. If you asked anyone who knows me well how they would describe me, there might be a couple of complimentary words offered (hopefully), but humble, gentle and patient would probably not be the words most would use. I honestly desire for this to change. But who can get up in the morning and resolve on their own strength, “Today, I am going to be humble, gentle and patient!” Most people know that firm resolve isn’t what brings lasting change. I believe that only Jesus can really change a life from the inside out. I’m trusting that as I believe His Words and hide them in my heart, use them as the weapons they are against the lies that come surreptitiously tapping on the door of my mind, and daily rely on Him to provide the strength I need to walk closely with Him and to know His peace, change will slowly occur.

He has already brought so much welcome change in my life from the time I first trusted Him, I know I can trust Him to bring more.

So, are you making New Year’s Resolutions this year? Are you going to try to lose weight, quit a habit, do better with money? How about joining me and asking God to help you make a New Year’s Versolution or two…relying on His truth, power and grace to effect a change in us, instead of depending on our own weak and raggedy selves?

If you wonder what verse in the Bible could possibly relate to whatever you’re going through, please e-mail. I will confidentially help you find a verse from God’s Word that would apply to any area of your life. There’s bound to be someone reading this who doesn’t really believe that memorizing a Bible verse, then saying it and thinking it and meditating on it could really make a difference for them. Why not try it, if not to experience something wonderful, then to at least prove me wrong?  What do you have to lose?

I’ll bet at the end of 2009, we’ll be able to look back and see that New Year’s Versolutions were so much more effective than New Year’s Resolutions.

What Versolution are you going to make?  Someone reading might be encouraged by what you share…

Happy 2009 to you all!

Christmas thoughts and greetings

December 25, 2008 | My Jottings

Merry Christmas!  Happy Holidays!  Seasons Greetings!  I pray your Christmas is blessed in ways you will always remember.

This is the tiny little white tree we have in our master bedroom. I hope to someday be a better photographer, but at least you can get an idea of how it looks. The ornaments are black and gold, silver and bronze. The lights are red and white/clear.  Two of our grandchildren, Clara and Elijah, decorated this tree for us. Sometimes at night we leave the tree lights on and it serves as a soothing and beautiful nightlight. Since this photo was taken, the snow has piled up outside and is quite high on the window ledge, and it adds to the festive look.

And this is the woodsy wreath we have hanging on our front porch. Our youngest daughter Sara made it for us. It’s a Christmas wreath, of course, but because it also looks very wintry in general, we can leave it up for a while after the holidays are over. The ribbon matches the shutters on our house. :)  I love the blue spruce, balsam, dried pomegranates, seeded eucalyptus, blackberry privet, pink pepper-berries, fragrant cedar and curly willow she used. You can see more detail if you click on the photo to enlarge it.

When I watched my grandchildren decorate the little white tree in our bedroom, I thought about the long-celebrated tradition of placing lights on a tree. December is a very dark month in our part of the country, and there’s something about the beauty of lights twinkling in the darkness. Why are we so struck with the beauty of small lights in the dark? Why do we drive around our neighborhoods, oohing and aahing at strings of small bulbs that people have hung to shine in the dark? I think it might have to do with a deep truth already written on our hearts, but I just can’t seem to find the words to say it right. As Clara and Elijah delighted in the pretty tree they were decorating, I thought of the beautiful promises Isaiah wrote about, seven hundred years before the birth of Christ.

The people walking in darkness have seen a great light; on those living in the land of the shadow of death a light has dawned.  (Isaiah 9:2)

I will never forget the darkness I, myself, have walked in. And I will never stop marveling at the way Jesus continues to bring His light into those dark areas and opens my eyes to His love, mercy and power.

This is the time of year when two worlds call out for our attention. One side shouts and beckons us into the craziness of buying, debt, overindulgence and endless activity. This world makes all kinds of foolish promises to us that many of us believe, and on December 26th we find out that we were lied to yet again.  

The other world is a quiet, peaceable kingdom that doesn’t demand our allegiance but invites us beyond its gates and promises us things we can’t find anywhere else. Joy, peace, love, true riches, life, light and hope. 

This is my prayer for all of us this Christmas of 2008:

May the God of all hope fill you with joy and peace as you trust in Him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. (Romans 15:13)

How grateful I am for the hope God has brought into my life! I can remember many times when I had completely lost hope and felt certain that I would never know joy again. But the Bible says that He is the God of all hope, and He has been faithful to fill me with His hope time and again as I’ve learned to wait on Him.

Michael and I both want to wish you a Merry Christmas, and a 2009 filled with His joy and peace as you trust in Him. We hope that your celebrations are full of love and joy, and that the memories you make will sustain you for years to come.

No matter what awaits us, may we all overflow with hope, because we know and love Christ!

Peace,

Pride Cometh Before A Zip

December 23, 2008 | My Jottings

As promised yesterday, this is the article that my friend Diane Aro wrote about her recent zip-lining adventure in Alaska. She is my first guest blogger and I know you’ll love reading her work.  Feel free to leave your comments about what Diane has written too.  Thank you Diane!

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Pride Cometh Before A Zip by Diane Aro

“Whatever was I thinking?” The words weren’t mine, but the sentiments were. They came from a tall, pale faced attorney from Philadelphia whom I met in a tree last summer, on an unforgettable day doing something I hope never to do again in my life.

My daughter Sunny and I had planned our Alaskan cruise for several months. This was her second time in Alaska and my ninth or tenth. She expressed interest in seeing glaciers close-up, so I suggested a cruise of the Inland Passage, a route that meanders around pine-covered islands and deep into glacier territory. When the cruise brochures came, I looked through the optional list of shore excursions. My younger daughter, Lani, happened to be planning her own Alaskan cruise for her honeymoon later in the summer, so the two of us scrutinized the offerings together. “Helicopter to the top of a glacier and ride in a dog sled!” “Pan for gold at a real, working gold mine!” “Paddle a canoe on a pristine glacier lake” and then I read aloud, “Zipline over the forest canopy!’ What’s that mean?” Lani explained that it was just about the coolest thing a person could do. A zipline is a long cable to which a person is hooked, somehow, and they skim over the treetops, getting a bird’s eye view of the forest landscape. “Sunny would love it!” she said, and the more I thought about it, the more certain I was that I would, too.

I used to have a major fear of heights. I was nervous on elevators, shaky while climbing ladders, and terrified of airplane travel. This condition began in childhood and got gradually worse, until something scarier befell me – breast cancer. After successful surgery and radiation, the cancer went into remission, and so, mysteriously, did my fear of just about everything. Not only was I not afraid to fly – I loved it and craved the sensation. I could go up ski lifts, trams, any sort of contraption dangling high in the sky and relax completely. It was a mysterious blessing, connected with a newfound faith in the idea that certain things – my life, for instance – were out of my hands, and that I might just as well relax and enjoy the ride.

 

And not only did I relish this newfound freedom, I pursued opportunities to exercise it during my summer vacations in Alaska. I traveled the state in float planes that sliced through the trees to land on isolated lakes. I traveled in tiny Piper cubs, sitting next to the pilots (who often looked about 15 years old) as they took off from unpaved runways, barely cleared the trees, and flew over various extremely cold-looking bodies of water. Then I got a little bit – shall we say – cocky, believing that I had conquered my phobia so completely that I could do anything. A climb up Denali, dangling over crevasses on ropes and ice hooks, didn’t seem entirely unfeasible.

 

So - at last, the day of the Ziplining Adventure dawned. Our ship pulled into the port of Ketchikan and we, and about 15 others – passengers from the cruise ship, including a doctor and his 13 year old daughter, the aforementioned attorney, and an elementary school teacher, took a bus several miles inland, into thicker and thicker forest until we reached our destination. I was not nervous. I was excited, and so was Sunny, and so were most of the others on the bus, until we got out, and looked out into the distance. And there we saw an impossibly thin wire, impossibly high in the sky, with impossibly tiny people sliding. And screaming.

 

And still, I was not afraid. Sunny asked, “Are you going to be okay with this, Mom?” in an anxious tone of voice, and I reassured her that I was looking forward to it. “I’ll know just how an eagle feels, soaring over the treetops,” I told her. “What an experience!”

 

We were loaded onto a 4 wheel drive truck with the hugest tires I’ve ever seen on any vehicle, and were driven up a steep, steep hill to a small chalet at the very top. Here we met our guides and were taken inside to don our equipment – hard hats, thick gloves, and a complicated harness with many ropes and belts and latches. After checking to see that we were securely encased, we were lined up and told to follow our guides out the door, and then, standing upon a wooden deck, looking down, down, down an endless length of cable, we were given instructions. And that’s when I realized that this was going to be very, very frightening.

 

I am not good at following directions under the best of circumstances. I get easily confused and need lots of clarification and coaching, and still I make mistakes. So imagine my horror upon realizing that this was not going to be a matter of turning myself over to forces beyond my control and letting gravity take over – I would actually have to operate this thing. “Everyone pay close attention now,” the guide said. “We don’t want anyone losing their fingers, so when you brake (brake????) make absolutely sure you put your hand on the cable behind the wheel….not in front of the wheel….got it?” Oh my God No. I didn’t get it. And then he went on. “In order to get all the way across to each platform on the way down, you’ll need to keep your momentum up. You do that by holding your body in an sort of crouch. Lean WAY back in your halter….you won’t fall out! And then to slow down, stretch your legs out all the way, and put your hand up on your cable wire – behind the wheel, remember, not in front! Remember those fingers!”

 

The platforms to which he referred were built around the tops of the trees at various intervals. Imagine a steep ski slope, with trees. And your job is to “ski” from one platform to the next. At each one, one of our two guides would go first and wait until the other guide sent us off across the great divide where guide number one would help us come in for a landing by making complicated hand signals meaning, “SLOW DOWN, for the love of God!” or “Faster! Faster!“ and then would reach out and haul us in when we got close. The worst worry was that we would not come in fast enough – that we’d lose momentum and end up stuck in between platforms….hanging by a wire. If that happened, the guides said, we’d have to turn ourselves around and pull hand over hand to the next station. This image truly horrified me. Would I have the presence of mind under such circumstances to do anything but cry? No.

 

So, we were on to our “practice run” – which was a short stretch of cable (not that I’m good at measurements, but I’d say about 50 feet) from the porch of the chalet to the first platform. Suddenly everyone in the group seemed calm, placid, and completely ready to go, and I wondered if I was the only one terrified. “How are you doing, Mom?” Sunny said, perhaps noting something in my demeanor that suggested I was on the brink of passing out. “Fine!” I said cheerfully. “Let’s do it!” Guide number one clipped himself to the cable and zipped across to the Practice platform. Guide number two began hooking us onto the cable, and then, one by one, we took turns stepping onto a little portable step, just about wide enough for both feet. It was right next to the edge of the porch. We were to stand there, balancing precariously on this tiny box, while our equipment was hooked and tightened and fastened in preparation for our practice run. “Now remember,” the guide said, “Make sure you look ahead to see what directions you’re getting as you zip to the next platform, so you’ll know whether to slow down or speed up.” I can’t remember who went first, but everyone ahead of me seemed to do marvelously….perfect crouch position….perfect landing as they reached the platform. And then it was my turn. First of all – it was terrifying stepping onto the tiny block. I was afraid of losing my balance and falling off before I was even fully hooked in, but the guide explained that I was (and would be the entire time) already hooked with an emergency cord, so if I fell, I’d just dangle there until someone came to get me. I did not find that reassuring. But I stared straight ahead, saw the guide ahead beckon for me to come, and I stepped off into nothingness. My only thought was to get across without stalling and, as a result, didn’t apply the “brake” with enough urgency, because somehow I shot past the frantically gesturing guide, and the tree, and found myself on a little side cable….probably known as “the idiot line” to professional zip liners. I was pulled back, and sent across a wooden bridge back to the chalet and told to try again – the only failure in the group. This did not do anything for my self-confidence. But the second time I did it right, managed to slow down, and was congratulated by my fellow adventurers who awaited me on the extremely small platform built around a very tall, but not terribly sturdy, tree. And this platform, as was the case with all to follow, had no railing. None. It was like something from a very bad dream…standing there, nothing to hold on to, and only one way down.


 

And then came a dreadful surprise. We were hooked to the cable in the order by which we had crossed. The first one across would be at the end of the line the next time, and the last one across would be the leader. That “leader” was me. I would be first for the next zip….the “real” one. And what a sight awaited me as I shakily mounted the tiny step (which I was beginning to think of as “the scaffold”.) The next length of cable went on and on and on, forever, and steeply. The next platform looked a mile away. Everyone in our previously cavalier group suddenly turned sober. The guide, onto whose shoulder I clung like a terrified cat, reassured me that I could do it….“Just remember how to brake.” he said, “because this time it’s straight into the tree if you forget.” I looked straight ahead. I said a tiny prayer. I thought about John Muir. I thought about eagles. And I stepped off the platform.

 

This time I felt a sort of “give” in the wire as my weight pulled it down, and off I went. I was scared, but only for a moment, and then, somehow, it became wonderful – fast and thrilling, and I smelled the trees and felt exhilarated and relieved and joyful. Then I started thinking about braking – stretched my legs out, placed my hand in the proper position, and, as the guide signaled to me, I slowed enough to alight on the platform without knocking either of us out. I heard cheering from the group far, far behind me….I heard Sunny shout “Wooohoooo, Mama!”

 

It wasn’t all wonderful after that. There were 4 or 5 more stretches of cable to conquer, and several suspension bridges that swayed above the treetops. I was nervous the whole time, but told myself that every new segment got me a little closer to the ground. Once I managed to get tangled up in the cables around a tree and the guide had to radio to hold back my fellow zippers until he untangled me. I was beginning to be fairly certain that they were going to be glad to see me go.

 

Finally we arrived at the very last platform and it was my turn to go last. I watched Sunny and the other zip liners as they shot down the cable. Sunny, who had loved every moment of the experience, held both hands over her head, as though she were on a roller coaster. I thanked the patient guide as he prepared to help me make the last crossing, and was surprised when he said, “You’ve been very brave. I know it wasn’t easy for you. So as a reward, look what you get to see.” He pointed below, to a fast moving river, and there on the banks was a black bear, fishing for salmon. I was the only one who saw it, and I felt that it really was a special gift for undergoing such an ordeal.

 

 

When I met Sunny at the bottom she asked me if my wish had come true and I’d felt like an eagle. I told her no. I felt more like a rodent in the talons of an eagle, thinking simultaneously “Let me go!” and “Please don’t drop me!” Yet I’m happy I did it. I learned that I do have limits – that I can still register a healthy amount of fear under the right circumstances, and that idea I had about climbing Denali on ropes? Forget it.

 

Diane

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Guest Blogger!

December 22, 2008 | My Jottings

I appreciate and sometimes marvel at good writing. Maybe it’s why I read so much. “How did they ever think of saying it like that?” I’ll muse when I read well-crafted books or articles. One of my dearest friends can write about any topic and make it interesting, funny, and/or deeply moving. I’ve asked her to be my first “Guest Blogger” at Just Julie and she readily agreed!

I have known and loved Diane Aro for many years – you can read a little bit about her here. She has written many poems and articles that have been published, and has finished her first novel. I keep telling her not to forget me when she makes it big, because I believe she’ll be famous for her writing someday. She also loves to travel, and on her last trip to Finland she kept a journal which included her own drawings and observations. She sent me a copy and I enjoyed it better than many books I’ve read. Before the days of e-mail she and I used to exchange letters (consisting of words written with ballpoint ink on folded pieces of paper, contained in paper envelopes and affixed with postal stamps – remember those?), and receiving one from Diane was like getting a small treasure in my mailbox; over thirty years later I still have most of what she’s written to me kept in a special file.

I recently asked Diane to write about anything she wanted for the blog here, and we’re in for a treat! She wrote about her most recent trip to Alaska, and her first experience on a zip-line there. Her words made me laugh and gasp and picture perfectly what it must have been like to go on such a zippy adventure.

So be watching! In a day or two you’ll be able to read what Diane graciously wrote for my little blog, and when you see her name on the cover of a book someday, you’ll be able to say, “I knew her when she was a guest blogger for JustJulieB.com!”

Book(s) Four in my Top Five

December 19, 2008 | My Jottings

It’s not easy to pick five books that you like best out of everything you’ve read in your life so far. In fact, I’m not sure it’s really possible for me. This post should really be titled, “Book Four in my Top Fifty”, but I don’t think I’ll do that.

There are so many books that have been worthy reads over the years. I will never forget The Robe by Lloyd C. Douglas, Treasures in the Snow by Patricia St. John, Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy by Marie Chapian, West With the Night by Beryl Markham, Disappointment with God by Philip Yancey, Peace Like a River by Leif Enger, Girl of the Limberlost by Gene Stratton Porter, Uncle Tom’s Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe, No Compromise by Melody Green, and The Hawk and the Dove by Penelope Wilcock.

But today I’m going to share about my fourth favorite book(s). Once again a series will count as one, and if you haven’t read these, I encourage you to get all of them and read them in order. This is the Mitford series.

My good friend Carole Seid, who travels around the world teaching people how they can effectively homeschool their children with a good math program and a library card (“why drive a Pinto when you’ve got a Mercedes in the garage?” I’ve heard her say many times when referring to the numerable advantages of schooling at home compared to public or private schooling), recommended the first book in this series to me. At Home In Mitford was a gift from Carole and I was anxious to read anything she liked. She and I often have similar tastes in books, and she always steers me to a good read. So I started the book and was perplexed at why she had raved about it. I thought it was a little boring and slow. But so was Anna Karenina and I enjoyed that book – I can press through a book that isn’t a page-turner.

So I put the book on the shelf and didn’t go back to it for two years. I picked it up again when I wanted to start something new, and again couldn’t figure it out. By this time Jan Karon’s books were all the rage, and I did not understand why. I just couldn’t get interested, and set it down again.

About a year later I made a decision to read the entire book whether it ever got interesting or not, and about halfway through, the lights went on. Karon’s books are truly like no other books I’ve ever read. They are meandering, simple, and sweet. But they’re also heart-wrenching, addicting and profound, once the reader gets accustomed to their pace. I have vivid memories of sobbing through many passages, sensing that God was speaking deep truths into my heart through the words of the beloved fictional characters of Mitford.

The Mitford books made me want to be a better person. They made me want to pray without ceasing, and they made me believe I could learn how. They made me want to be a better wife, and call my husband “Dearest.” They made me want to walk my dogs more. And write more faithfully in a journal. They made me want to revel in my ordinary life, and to live more simply. They made me exult in the realization that one person can make an important difference. The Mitford books made me want to keep putting one foot in front of the other, trusting that God is sometimes best shown to the world by the faithful plodding of His flawed people.

I don’t ever remember being as exquisitely “transported” in a reading experience as I was by reading the nine Mitford books.

If you haven’t read them and you decide to give them a try, don’t stop if you wonder what all the hoopla is about when you first start turning pages. Keep going. Be open minded and prepare yourself for God’s voice to whisper clearly to you many times before you turn the last page of the ninth and final book, abundantly blessed but deeply disappointed because there are no more.

I have read this series twice (once for my annual “summer read”) and I will certainly read the Mitford books again. If you have read them, will you share your opinions with us here? What moved you the most about the series? Did anything surprise you about the books? Did you find yourself wanting to change in some way after reading them? Who were your favorite characters and why?

As I type this blog post, I am sitting in my many-windowed office, looking out on a beautiful yet bitterly cold winter wonderland. I am at home in Minnesota. I love it here, but I could easily leave today without a backward glance if it were possible for me to be at home in Mitford…

Poor Babes In The Woods

December 17, 2008 | My Jottings

My mother was a very nurturing and loving woman, and she was especially good with babies. She was also gifted musically, and often all these qualities blended together. Even toward the end of her life, Mom could take a fussy baby that no one else could calm, wrap him just right, put him over her shoulder while singing and slowly rocking, and in no time he would be asleep. She just had the knack.

These are the words to the lullaby my mother sang to me when I was very young. I distinctly remember her rocking me and softly singing this song in my ear, gently nuzzling me and patting my back…

Poor Babes In The Woods

My dear, do you know
How a long time ago
Two poor little children
Whose names I don’t know

Were stolen away
On a bright summer’s day
And left in the woods
I heard people say

And when it was night
So sad was their plight
The sun it went down
And the moon gave no light

They sobbed and they sighed
And they bitterly cried
Poor Babes in the Woods!
Poor Babes in the Woods!

And when they were dead
The robins so red
Took strawberry leaves 
And over them spread

And all the day long                                                                                              They sang their poor song
Poor Babes in the Woods!
Poor Babes in the Woods!

 

I’m beginning to think this explains everything.

Childhood views

December 15, 2008 | My Jottings

We are winding down from a pretty hefty blizzard here in Northern Minnesota. The snow has been pouring out of the sky and the fierce winds have been blowing it sideways. According to the National Weather Service in our area, travel isn’t advised because it’s “hazardous to impossible.” So we stayed home from church yesterday and were thankful for heat and electricity and a fully-stocked pantry. I made fudge and lamely decorated Christmas sugar cookies. I took some extra time to make Lebanese Chicken with Couscous for dinner, which made the house smell wonderful from the sauce mixture of allspice, honey, butter, cinnamon, onion and zested orange peel. While the carols played, I felt a bit nostalgic and thought about the differences between the climate I grew up in and the one I’ve lived in for almost 28 years.

Most of my Christmas memories in Southern California are of mild sunny days with temperatures in the sixties and seventies. I have pictures of me on Christmas day, riding my new, pink Schwinn banana seat bicycle with a plastic flower-covered basket on the handlebars. There isn’t one Christmas photo from my childhood with anyone wearing a coat.

We had a fireplace in our house when I was young, but I used to have to beg my parents for our once-a-year fire on Christmas morning – they usually relented and we burned the wrapping paper for our fifteen minutes of ambience.

But now that I’m getting pretty close to receiving that annoying AARP stuff in my mailbox, a mild climate sounds extremely appealing. We know people who love living in the beauty and relative quiet of Minnesota, but leave for two winter months for warmer climes, to escape the brutal winters here. When I moved here in the early 1980s I never understood the snowbird mentality, but now I get it. Totally. How wonderful it would be to leave right after Christmas for a sunnier place, then return home to Northern Minnesota in March. It’s not unusual to have snow on the ground from early November until April, so a two or three month break in the monotonous white and cold would really help.

On a clear day in my home town, we had gorgeous views of Mount San Antonio (mostly known as Mt. Baldy) in the San Gabriel Mountain Range. In the winter, Baldy was always capped with snow, even if our valley was warm. 

Here is the actual view not far from my house, whenever we had a smogless day in Southern California (you can click on the photo to enlarge it):

You can see a bit of snow on Mt. Baldy’s summit. I climbed that mountain with my Earth Science class for an 8th grade field trip. The highest peak in the San Gabriel Mountains, Mt. Baldy is 10,064 feet high. 

So today as I dress, I will make sure I have two long-sleeved shirts on under my wool coat. I will put on my SmartWool Expedition socks, then pull on my Steger moose hide Mukluks. I will wear a good hat, a long and winding scarf, and mittens. And I will head outside to shovel. Our forecast for tomorrow, now that the snow-dumping cloud layer is gone, is for 23 degrees below zero. That is the kind of dreadful cold that hurts. As I work, I’ll bet some of my old childhood views come to mind. I might even think, “Climbing a mountain was much easier than shoveling one…”

Pet Names Survey

December 13, 2008 | My Jottings

My husband and I love dogs. We like the way they smile, the happy way they wag, the way they don’t expect much from their people but are willing to give their all anyway. Michael also loves birds. And strangely enough, birds seem to love Michael. He has a way with animals that our family teases him about, but it really is quite amazing to watch how creatures of all sorts just seem to sense that he’s someone they can trust.

Since Michael and I have been married, we’ve always given our creatures human names (no “Blackie”, “Snowball” or “Fluffy” for this family), preferably names of yesteryear. I’m not sure why, but I guess we just think the old-fashioned names add to their personalities. I would much prefer a poodle named Gladys over a Trixie. Or a black Lab named Griswold to one called Midnight.

I would like to know the names of the animals you’ve had in your lifetime (even if they were Trixie and Midnight!)  I always find it interesting what people choose to christen their pets, don’t you?

Here are the pets I’ve had, from very early childhood to present:

Medium-sized mutt (Shepherd and Retriever mix) – Dutchess – she was extremely overfed, had epilepsy, and chased and ate rocks.

Two finches – Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum – they sang one song over and over. And over.

Mynah bird – Ringo – he said, “Wanna cuppa coffee Joe?” and ate raw ground beef.

Cockapoo – Buffy- I was ten when we got her, and I adored this little buff-colored fluffball. I was devastated when a new home had to be found for her when my parents divorced, and we moved.

Miniature German Schnauzer – Prissy – I was in high school – this was my first exposure to the joys and quirks of Schnauzers.

Old English Sheepdog – Amy- she was such a clown - I owned her while living in a tiny trailer on the banks of the Yuba River, and had to find a home for her when I moved to Germany.

Black Labrador Retriever – Myrtle – after Michael and I got married, she was our first family pet. She lived to be 14 and was the finest dog ever. She learned how to slowly climb our back fence, paw over paw, and daily go and visit an older couple in the neighborhood who gave her treats.

Miniature German Schnauzer – Winnie - our second family pet, she also lived to be 14 and sold us on Schnauzers forever. We used to attach a dishtowel to her collar and she would dash around being “Super Dog!”

Cockatiel – Rosie – hand-fed and tame, she used to love it when we would mist her yellow feathers with water on hot summer days. She tried to delicately pick food out of people’s teeth.

Cockatiel – Chester – soon dubbed “Chester the Molester” because he was mean to Rosie – the morning we saw that he had bloodied Rosie’s wing during the night, a new home was found for him post haste.

Cockatiel – Walter - Rosie’s second husband - he loved to be held and petted but he was insecure and didn’t treat Rosie well – he was banished eventually too.

Canary – Harriet - the bird with the bad toupee, she came to our home timid and naked, to recover from being in another house with a dozen circling cats, where the stress caused her to lose all her feathers.

Miniature German Schnauzer – Edith (click for photo) – our current six-year old Schnauzer who is very smart, but not well-trained. She lives to watch television, and will sit quietly and pay attention to certain shows for up to thirty minutes.

Miniature German Schnauzer – Mildred - our current two-year old Schnauzer who is not very smart and also not well-trained. Millie has self-esteem issues and would prefer it if her owners would spend most of their time gazing into her eyes and crooning words of love and affirmation to her.

We also give our animals middle and last names, very deliberately chosen, and that is a story in itself that will be the subject of another post.

What pets have you owned, and what were/are their names?

December winners

December 9, 2008 | My Jottings

Thank you all for sharing with us about some of your little-known facts! I thought it was fun reading and I had some good laughs. Now I have a jumbled up bunch of pictures in my head – of goats being castrated and kitties locked up in drawers, of flamingo tattoos, of my own very responsible daughters sniffing markers and driving with their knees, of women compulsively unloading their shopping carts in the neatest way possible, of a new product called nasal floss, and of squeaky cotton balls. 

I have prizes! Three of them. Someday maybe I will need to go to random.org like my daughter does to determine who, out of hundreds of her blog readers, gets a prize. But for now, I picked three of you in a very unbiased way. Eenie-meenie-miney-moe…no I didn’t really do that, but almost. 

Christy, Sharon and Savannah will be the recipients of December’s gift – they’ll each get the CD that I talked about here, the one that’s getting the most play in our car right now.  Especially track 10.

So here’s another question: what do you listen to when you drive? What CD is in your car stereo system right now? Is there a certain song you play over and over lately? If you listen to the radio, what station do you prefer? Also, what kind of music do you abhor and refuse to listen to for more than two seconds? (My answer to that is rap music. And I’ve never been too fond of Ravi Shankar, either – sitar music just doesn’t feed my soul).

Here are some posts that are coming up on the blog soon : Pecans in My Pocket, Julie’s Swiss Muesli Recipe, My Man-Part 2, Letters in the Sand, Book Four in My Top Five, Sara’s Wreath, and Guest Blog Posts. That means you! Be ready to be a guest writer on the blog – what’s on your mind? What would you like to say? Your chance is coming up.

Blessings…

Today’s Ten Things

December 8, 2008 | My Jottings

1.   We just had a beautiful snowfall in my neck of the woods.

2.   I just finished a thoughtful book by Marilynne Robinson called Home.

3.   Michael and I enjoyed tea and Scottish shortbread yesterday while having our devotional in our plaid bedroom chairs.

4.   We will have a new window and a new baseboard heater installed on the third floor this week.

5.   The dogs need their teeth cleaned.

6.   I am putting up three Christmas trees this year, even though I’m feeling a tad Scroogely.

7.   My daughter told me about online Pandora radio and I really like it.

8.   I sometimes long to live in an Alpine country.

9.   I am trying to focus on being loving, not on being right.

10. When I don’t know what else to do, counting my blessings out loud helps.

 

What are your ten things today?

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