Letters in the sand

April 30, 2009 | My Jottings

You are on a beautiful beach. The sea is turquoise, the sky is filled with giant, slow-moving clouds, and the rhythmic sound of the gentle surf is like a balm to your harried soul. The sun warms your shoulders as you walk, and you breathe in the brisk, salty air. For as far as your eyes can see, you are the only person on this slab of earth, and you revel in the peace. No phone calls or text messages interrupt the solitude, no paperwork calls your name, and you do not have to dash madly to any appointments. For a brief period of time you have no obligations, and you relax.

After you walk alone for over a mile, you come across this note written in the sand:  I LOVE YOU.

What would be your first thought upon seeing those words? Oh! I’m not alone after all. Someone was here before me. And you might hold your hand up over your eyes to scan the beach in all directions, to see if you’re not as alone as you thought you were. Whether or not you ever spot the person who wrote the message in the sand, you walk on, knowing someone was there first, and had something to say.

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Not once would you ever surmise that the waves and the wind formed the letters I LOVE YOU in the sand. Never would you come to the conclusion that the message appeared there as a random, fluky occurrence. Those three words are too complex to just materialize as the result of a happy accident. You would naturally (and rightly) assume that the letters in the sand were formed by design, by a being with enough intelligence to scrape them into the wet sand, perhaps with a finger or a piece of driftwood.

When I consider the world around me, when I see people and animals and plant life, and the unfathomable hugeness of the cosmic spheres and the smallness and intricacy of DNA, I can’t bring myself to believe that something so complex just happened, as a result of a lucky chemical event millions of years ago. Just as those letters on the sand (simple as they are) betray their intelligent design, so does the rest of creation, which in comparison is so much more complex than I LOVE YOU written on the beach.

I am not smart enough to debate anyone on this. I just know that when I see the magnitude and detail of every single thing that exists, it speaks to me of a very powerful and a very intelligent and purposeful creator.

I’m a Christian, and someday on the blog I will share why I think Jesus is who He says He is, and why He is worth living and dying for.

But even if I weren’t a Christian, I think I would look at the universe and say, “Someone made all this.” It’s too vast, too involved, too detailed, too specialized, too miraculous, to not have been created. Even if I didn’t name the name of Jesus, I would still believe in some kind of a God. Just like the letters in the sand, it seems very reasonable to deduce that this isn’t all an accident.

And I might just remark to myself, “I’m not as alone as I thought I was…”

Edition 2 – Wednesday Whimsy

April 29, 2009 | My Jottings

I love today’s quote of unknown origin. I have found it blessedly true. I pray that your life is graced with at least one good friend…

“A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”

Just because…

April 27, 2009 | My Jottings

I hope to eventually share about all the members of my family, and Vivienne Irene is no exception. But since she’s only three years old, I’m not in a hurry to post a long Grandma-essay about Vivie. There will be a lot to say about her, because the word dynamic doesn’t even begin to describe the personality of the third child of my dear daughter Carolyn and her husband Jeremy.

Vivie is a unique and whip-smart package of never-ending surprises and delights. For example: she will try any food if you ask her, and she will usually like it. Marinated vegetables, capers, sauces and foods that other children are repulsed by — you name it and Vivie will probably eat it. Grandmas like this trait in a child.

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Vivie

She also has a vivid imagination for such a young child. Vivid Vivie. Her right hand is her very own pet spider that she makes crawl across the table, and its name is Spidery. Her left hand is Spidery’s friend or cousin spider (I can’t remember which), named Spidericka, emphasis on the rick. Spidery and Spidericka have tremendously interesting conversations as they cavort together on our kitchen table.

Vivie has an achingly sweet little voice and can perfectly carry a tune. When she spends the night with us we lay in bed in our jammies and sing. When I sing, she stares at me somberly. When she sings, I wipe yearning tears.

Her daddy says her face is a portal into an amazing blend of enigma and accessibility, and I know exactly what he means.

When I’m with her, I feel like I’ve been swept by a pure, cool, refreshing breeze. Her name suits her so well — she is full of life and quite strong-willed. Her parents have their hands full as they diligently train and guide her, but there’s no doubt in my mind that she’s the kind of child who will grow up to do great exploits for the Lord. (Daniel 11:32b)

Anyway, there is so much to tell about little Vivie. Someday I will write a long post about her.

But today I thought of her and wanted to share…

…just because…

Come away with me

April 25, 2009 | My Jottings

I saw this delightful photograph online a while back, and its title spoke to me almost as much as the beauty and uniqueness of the picture itself — it’s called “Come Away With Me.” Framed, I think it would make a nice wedding gift. I have a couple in mind, but they’re not getting married. They’re not even dating. But I might buy the photo and put it away, just in case…

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Cardinals are thought to mate for life, and of course this appeals to my old-fashioned, monogamous heart.

I am certain that this delicate pair are utterly devoted to each other and can’t abide even more than a few minutes apart. I think they listen raptly to each other sing, patiently encourage one another in their parenting duties, and provide warmth and comfort for each other during the dark and cold winter months. I’m positive they take turns at the bird feeders they frequent, call each other dearest with the tenderest tones of respect in their melodic voices, and are just generally some of the happiest and most contented birds alive.

I wonder if coming off of one week of high-dose steroids – cold turkey – has peculiarly affected me in some way…

Does the fact that my skin is crawling and all my inner organs are vibrating like a tuning fork contribute to the possibility that I might be reading just a smidgen too much into this charming little cardinal couple’s companionship?

Just a little kitchen renovation

April 23, 2009 | My Jottings

Before we moved into the house in which we currently live (built in 1925), we decided to renovate the kitchen and dining room. This way we could have the work done and not be forced to cook and live in the midst of the mess. Here are some photos of the remodel, which took a few months to complete.

Below is a view of the previous formal dining room (burgundy walls) taken from the old kitchen (yellow walls) – you can see on the ceiling where the wall dividing the two rooms was torn down, making one big room (29 x 13). We decided that a huge eat-in kitchen would serve us better than two smaller, darker rooms.

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Looking toward the same corner – this shot below was taken when the two rooms were completely gutted, so the new plumbing, heating, insulation, and flooring could be installed. Old plaster and lathe was stripped away, kitchen cupboards and counters removed and donated. I wish I had a picture to post of the mountain of debris that had to be literally shoveled away at the end of the demo. Also, the old windows were removed and new ones put in. The new sink went under the window on the right.

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All the heating, plumbing, wiring and insulating were finished, new windows had been installed, and the sheetrock had been hung. We still needed cabinets and counters, sink, light fixtures, flooring, appliances, a small island and more.pa250675

We learned that when you plan to paint your walls red, you should use pink primer first. This shows our Pepto-Bismol walls, and the floor underlayment that went in before the new flooring was installed.

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This photo was taken today. The room is almost complete – I’m still trying to decide on fabric for window valances.

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And here’s a view taken of the other half of the kitchen. The French doors lead out onto our back deck, which overlooks Birdinal Creek.

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We knew we needed a small island in the kitchen, so we bought a white one online, assembled it, and put our own touches on it. We painted it dark blue and put Delft knobs from Holland on it, to go with a lot of the blue and white things on the walls. Then we scuffed it up a little and painted it with a thin whitewash to give it a used, older look.

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Now….I would like to have you over for coffee, tea and something yummy. When are you free?

Edition 1 – Wednesday’s Word

April 22, 2009 | My Jottings

I received so many interesting ideas from readers (mostly by e-mail  – Tara was full of great suggestions) for this new weekly feature on the blog. Thank you for your ideas everyone! At first I was leaning toward calling the weekly feature “Wednesday’s Wisdom,” but then I thought better of automatically assuming that whatever I post on Wednesdays will be wise. Some of it might be wise – some of the sayings are centuries old and in my humble opinion have proven worthy and true. And some of the words I post will be merely warm fuzzy kinds of sayings, not necessarily weighty with wisdom. So scratch the word wisdom for the weekly feature.

I’ve settled on “Wednesday’s Word,” for the more serious or contemplative quotes, as you can see above. And then when I post a more lighthearted saying or quotation, I’m going to use Deb A.’s suggestion and call it “Wednesday Whimsy.” She said whimsy has always been one of her favorite words and I like it too.

I don’t think I’ll always bore you with introduction or commentary with each saying I put up because they stand on their own, but for today I’ve just decided to do what comes naturally and babble in print a bit before posting the first quote. :)

Oh, and if you have a favorite quote or saying of your own, please don’t hesitate to send it my way.

I have always loved C.S. Lewis, so it seemed right to give him the first slot. He would probably be turning over in his grave if he knew some of his writings had been reduced to occasional appearances on an inconsequential little blog, but oh well. I’m assuming that where he is right now will make up for any damage I’m doing.

So, this week I’ll be thinking on this:

“Christianity, if false, is of no importance, and if true, of infinite importance. The only thing it cannot be is moderately important.”

C.S. Lewis

Percussion in the woods

April 21, 2009 | My Jottings

All our snow has finally melted and it looks as if we really might have some spring weather on the way. We’ve been enjoying the songs of robins and chickadees before we get out of bed and go downstairs to start our very busy mornings.

A few minutes ago when I let our Schnauzers Edith and Mildred outside for their morning constitutionals, I stopped and searched as I heard the very loud, staccato tapping of a Pileated Woodpecker in the trees at the back of our yard. These beautiful birds (whose brilliant red and jauntily peaked head feathers bring back memories of my childhood and the Woody Woodpecker cartoons I watched on television) are easy to spot if we can hear them first – they’re almost as big as crows.

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We have no leaves on the trees yet and the grass is dry and brown; after a long winter signs of new life are hard to find. But today I was happy for the chance to hear that nature’s drummer is alive and well, doing just what he was created to do, rat-a-tat-tatting in our neck of the woods and reminding me to look up and listen.

Druthers 3

April 20, 2009 | My Jottings

…if I had my druthers…

 

…this would be the place where we spend the winter of 2010…

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…and we would leisurely stroll each morning to shop for the day’s groceries…

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…and in this simple kitchen I would prepare fresh and delicious meals 

while looking out over the blue Mediterranean…

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…and after lunch we would load up our reading and make our way down this path…

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…and after a nice stroll, a gratefully savored meal, a good read, and a peaceful nap in the sun, I would probably feel like doing this….

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 …but that’s only if I had my druthers…

 

Scents you’ve been gone…

April 17, 2009 | My Jottings

Okay, this might be one of those yawn-inspiring blog posts that isn’t asking for reader input, isn’t a tribute to a loved one (although I have one of those coming in the My Joys section very soon), and it isn’t about a book I’ve read and loved. It’s about my nose, and how it got sick. Why it got sick is another matter – I’m still thinking and praying about that one, because I don’t believe anything happens to us without a reason. No thing.

I’ll give you an out right here. If you’re the type who hates reading about others’ maladies, then try clicking on these links to (possibly) more interesting and lighthearted posts – about me wanting to swim a mile out to sea when I was little, about our two little dogs, about my cardinal collection, about why I love cardinals in the first place, perhaps a really terrific granola recipe, a wonderfully written piece on zip-lining by my friend Diane, a photo of the view I saw from my childhood backyard, or about an ongoing work God is doing in my heart, or maybe about the one post on this blog that is read more than any other.

But about two months ago, at the tail end of a cold, I got another sinus infection. In the last five-six years, I’ve gotten almost one sinus infection a year. From age 0-44, my sinuses never bothered me; they pretty much worked well in conjunction with my lungs to breathe in and breathe out, and filter air and produce moisture (can it really be one quart per day?!) and fill some of those large empty spaces sitting around in my head. I never had allergies, never knew of Neti pots, never felt sinus pressure, until sometime around the year 2002.

Well this last sinus infection was different, because it came to steal, kill and destroy. What it stole, killed and destroyed was my olfactory capacity. My sense of smell is gone. I don’t mean that I have difficulty perceiving smells, I mean I can no longer perceive them at all. If I hold the most pungent items to my nose and inhale deeply, it’s just a blank. Fresh ground coffee, my favorite perfume, bleach, sauteing onions, garlic, whatever. Nada. Zip.

At first I just thought this was a temporary deal because my sinus infection was bad, and held on and held on for weeks. After my Neti pot failed me, I reluctantly went to the doctor who prescribed antibiotics, which I am always loathe to take, because I don’t want to become resistant to them, since I want antibiotics to work for me should the day ever come when I reaaalllly need them. I was sick enough to take them for ten days, however, and they didn’t stomp out the infection. They put a lid on it and I felt a little better, but I could still feel something simmering under that lid.

So after two months of not being able to smell anything, I returned to the doctor. He ordered a CT scan of my sinuses to make sure I didn’t have some sort of growth near the olfactory nerves. Talk about fast drive-up service: I saw the doctor in the afternoon, had the CT scan at 6:00 p.m. that evening, and he called me with the results by 8:00 a.m. the next morning. I’m pretty sure with socialized health care this would not have been my experience, but as my daughter was quick to point out, I also wouldn’t have to pay the bazillion dollars for it that I will when the bills start making appearances in our mailbox. And yes, we do have medical insurance.

So the CT scan showed nothing remarkable in my sinuses, except that I have a deviated septum. Always nice to know. The doctor was inclined to refer me to a specialist, so yesterday I saw an ear-nose-throat surgeon who spent a lot of time with me, listening, taking notes, asking good questions, and he told me I was “a compelling patient.” Because I am so witty and entertaining? Probably not.

I think I saw the light bulb go on over his head when he asked me if I’d ever had any immune system issues and I told him about the nasty bout with Sarcoidosis I had several years ago. “Aha!” his thoughtfully raised eyebrows said, and soon he was explaining to me why what I am going through now, and possibly all the sinus infections I’ve had over the past several years, could all be related to the Sarcoidosis (sar-koy-DOE-sis) I thought had gone into remission (or disappeared altogether) years ago.

I didn’t tell Dr. G. that I distinctly remember when the Evil Sarc Beast finally tucked its tail and left me, running off into the woods after almost a year of torment, never to return. I didn’t tell him that with stance wide, one hand on my hip and the other arm outstretched and raised shoulder-level, with finger pointing authoritatively toward those dark woods, that I yelled in my most stentorian tones, “And don’t come back!” The Evil Sarc Beast left its marks from his visit with me — extreme light-sensitivity in my eyes and some large cotton ball-sized lymph nodes in my brachial area, but the medley of perplexing symptoms involving my shins, saliva glands, ankles, lungs and eyes that were my constant companion for almost a year have departed. I think I could even remember dusting off my hands and squaring my shoulders after telling the beast good riddance, and then resuming my life.

But I didn’t tell the doctor any of this. I don’t think he would have thought I was so compelling for all the same reasons. :)

So now I’ve just returned from my second CT scan with injected contrast dye, this one of the whole brain (only took five minutes – ha). I should get the phone call with the results in about seven minutes if I judge by the lightning-speed service they’ve provided up until now. The reason for the second scan is because Dr. G. informed me that Sarcoidosis often causes sinusitis and that perhaps I shouldn’t have been prescribed antibiotics, but steroids. And that I should have taken them weeks ago. The cause of my lost sense of smell could have been a viral infection alone. Or it could be related to the Evil Sarc Beast that I thought was long gone. And the doctor also said I needed a brain scan to make sure that sarcoid lesions (I will not explain because really, no one wants to know details like these) had not popped up in my gray matter. Even though I have not had any recurrence of Sarc symptoms for years? He was emphatic with his yes.

I’m not worried about the CT scan results. I don’t have a presentiment of disaster or any feeling of dread. But I am really sad about something. And I’m feeling a little guilty that I’m so sad about it. Dr. G. told me kindly yesterday that I almost certainly will never regain my sense of smell. He said it usually just doesn’t happen. And he said my one hope (other than prayer, he agreed) was to begin taking high-dose steroids right away for one week. So I started taking the howitzer pills yesterday and now I will wait. And pray. And sniff. I will sniff in more ways than one, believe me.

In light of the problems and tragedies other people are facing, I know so well that losing my ability to smell anything is so minuscule in comparison. My own dear husband struggles with something each day that is so much more serious than my new diagnosis, which by the way is called anosmia (pronounced a-NOZZ-mee-a). A young man in our community severed his spinal column in a skiing accident recently and will likely never walk again. There are adulteries and divorces and cancers and heartaches that are so much more serious than this. I don’t want to lose sight of that fact.

But it’s shocking how much I need my nose. I used to be able to tell just by walking by a bathroom if it needed immediate attention. Not long ago I could smell a mouse in our garage, and when a trap was set, the proof was in the flattened pudding. I could tell when the vacuum bag needed changing, when the oven was set too high for the cake I was baking, when the comforter needed dry cleaning, etc. I miss smelling my husband’s neck, which has been a heavenly scent to me for twenty-eight years. I miss burying my nose in a grandbaby’s skin and inhaling that wonderful, heady fragrance. I miss smelling food. And I won’t know now if my house stinks. For those of you who visit my home, I’m seriously going to depend on you to tell me if I need to attend to something. I miss smelling the fresh air of night. I miss the smell of clean sheets pulled up around my nose when I get in bed. I miss the smell of coffee, even though I don’t drink it much. I miss so many scents already. Vanilla. Estee Lauder’s “Beautiful.” Soap. Flowers. Pine needles. It’s very disconcerting to inhale deeply and with anticipation, and get……nothing. And I won’t even start about how this has affected my ability to taste food. Also, in our part of the country we have the best tasting water in the world, but I can no longer taste it. Sigh…

So I called my friends Carey and Su. Carey promised to pray and was so compassionate. She had me laughing about all these physical things we’re dealing with now that we’ve reached our fifties. And Su reminded me that nothing is impossible with God, and said that she would go to battle for me in prayer. (Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but not with God; all things are possible with God.”  Mark 10:27) She has her own list of physical challenges, none of which she would ever dream of posting on a blog for the world to read about, and she is going to pray for my nose. I thank God for friends.

So if you can stop and smell the roses today, please do. If you can smell pee that needs cleaning up on the bathroom floor, I hope you can smile about that, because that’s a gift. Not the pee on the floor, but the ability to smell it so you can clean it up. :)

If I am never able to smell anything again, I will trust God with that. And if I am healed, He will probably be thanked and praised for the gift of smell more than He has ever been. At least that will be my intent…if I can ever smell again.

That, and to tell you all about it here on the blog…

(Note added on April 18 – Dr. G. called to report that my second CT scan revealed a “grossly unremarkable brain” (I could have told anyone that!) with no bad stuff taking up residence there, for which I am very thankful. So my anosmia has been caused by the viral sinus infection, which most likely damaged the olfactory nerves. Still hoping and praying, though….)

Blessings,

Name the new feature

April 15, 2009 | My Jottings

I have always loved a good, pithy quotation or saying. I like something that strikes at the heart or mind (or both) in power, but is short enough to mindfully carry around with me for the rest of the day so I can ponder it and make its truths my own.

Once a week I would like to share here on the blog some of these quotes I love, and I thought making it a weekly feature would be neat. But I would love some help from all of you in naming the feature.

Occasionally I write blog posts on “Thankful Thursday,” about things I’m grateful for, so that day of the week is already taken. And in observing a day of rest I don’t post things on Sundays.

But the rest of the week is open, and I would so welcome your ideas. These are the possibilities I thought of for a specific day/feature for quotes on the blog:

“Saturday Sayings”

“Wednesday’s Wisdom”

“Wisdom for Wednesday”

“Mindful Monday”

And now you can understand why I’m asking for ideas, because that’s all I’ve come up with so far.  Please help!

What do you think the weekly feature could be called? I want to know what your thoughts, and I thank you ahead of time for sharing any ideas you come up with. The title certainly does not have to have alliteration as the ones above do. If you have more than one suggestion that’s even better!

Put on your thinking caps, your pondering pants, your funny fedoras, your creative capes, or your wisdom wigs, (you can clearly see that I need your assistance) and help name the new feature on this little blog.

Thank you!

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