A Cottage Repose

November 30, 2009 | My Jottings

Last summer Michael and I went away for a much needed weekend of rest and play in Bayfield, Wisconsin. I wrote about it and posted a lot of strange photos here. We enjoyed ourselves so much we vowed to start taking more weekend trips whenever possible. We aren’t taking as much time off as some people in our profession do, but recently we went away for a quiet weekend to Grand Marais, MN and once again it was just what we had hoped: restorative, restful and fun.

Grand Marais is a sleepy little town on the north shore of Lake Superior, and through an internet search I found a place with three tiny cottages right on the edge of the big Lake. We stayed at Croftville Road Cottages, and we loved it so much we plan to return someday. Our little two-bedroom cottage was clean and bright, and the owners were friendly and helpful.

Here’s Cottage #2, the one we stayed in. It actually was much larger inside than it looks on the outside.

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It had a great kitchen, a living room with a wolf theme, a spotless bathroom, and the main bedroom had a small stove for heat. Through the sliding glass door was an up close and personal view of the Lake. So yes, one can lay in bed and read while the cozy fire literally warms your feet, and the waves of Lake Superior pound rhythmically just yards away. The wooden muscles in my neck seemed to loosen within minutes.

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We didn’t do any cooking, but I can definitely picture us coming back for a longer stay and bringing some groceries to make simple meals.

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The stove in the living room heated up the cottage in minutes, and we sat in companionable silence and read, watched the Lake, and listened to a CD I bought in a gift shop downtown.

Celtic Loon was the incongruous name of the CD – are there loons in Ireland? Loons are the Minnesota state bird and I love their haunting call, but pairing the softly yodeling sound of loons with instrumental Celtic music and the sound of lapping waves seemed a little odd. Nonetheless, the music was soothing and we listened to it a lot while playing cribbage, reading and resting. There was a television in the cottage, but no TV reception (thank you God) and we didn’t bring a movie to watch, so in my opinion this just added to the peace.

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As a matter of habit Michael always tries out the bed first thing, anywhere we go. So don’t invite us over to your house anytime soon, or he might just quietly disappear from view and be found minutes later testing the comfort of your bed. Take a close look at this photo. Here you find a dependable equation: Michael + comfy bed + warm fire + pounding Lake outside = smiling face.

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Here’s the back of our cottage – there’s a picnic table, a BBQ and several chairs to pull up around the fire-pit. The nice folks at Croftville Road Cottages replenish the firewood on your porch anytime they see it’s needed. It was too late in the year to spend a lot of time outside, but we did have a wonderful fire late the first night we were there.

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The leaves had fallen and the low gray clouds were a portent of winter, but we still ventured outside several times to sit at the edge of Lake Superior in this swing a little ways from our cottage. When was the last time you bundled up and sat on an old swing on the edge of a huge lake in the waning days of autumn? I highly recommend it.

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We woke on Saturday morning to this view. The gray skies gave way to blue, and the sunrise over the Lake was lovely. We decided to drive into town for breakfast. We visited so late in the season that many of the eateries were closed down for the winter. We ended up going to the most crowded place, which can sometimes be a good sign. I’m not sure it was in this case. :) I had an okay wild rice omelet and Michael had the meal he would live on three times a day if he had no wife to cook for him: two eggs over-easy, hash browns, link sausage and whole wheat toast with peanut butter.

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One of the landmarks of tiny Grand Marais is the Ben Franklin store, which is cram-packed with almost every item you would ever need for life in the great north woods. I remember when I moved from Southern California to Northern Minnesota in 1981. Michael brought me to Grand Marais and this store completely reinforced the culture shock I’d experienced over and over. Woolrich, Pendleton, Sorrell, Minnetonka, Carhartt, Acorn, Hudson Bay – these were all brands that I’d never heard about before moving to American Siberia.

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The aisles in the Ben Franklin are overflowing not only with shoes, boots and suitable clothing for the bitter cold, but if you need a Lefse, venison or wild rice cookbook, a hula hoop, some Wigwam socks, some art supplies and a pound box of chocolates, this is the store for you.

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After breakfast and browsing we strolled down the the lake shore and breathed in and breathed out. What a luxury to have nothing special to do for an entire weekend! We knew how blessed we were and said so many times.

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Here’s Michael, who is a true north woods man at heart. See the longing expression on his face as he looks out across the morning horizon and the fish lake calls his name?

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I have no idea what this little flower is, but they were blooming in abundance even though I thought blooming season was finished.

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Yet another swing to sit on. This was right at the edge of Lake Superior.

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The morning sun was bright and we were so aware of the blessings God has given us. Each other. Our family. His presence. Short trips away. Peace in our home. And of course, so much more.

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I personally think this sign is a blatant example of false advertising. Why would the world’s best donuts be available in Grand Marais, MN? We weren’t able to ascertain this for ourselves, because like eighty per cent of the other restaurants, the donut stand was closed for the season.

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Most people in Minnesota have heard of Sven and Ole’s Pizza. It stays open all year and is the place where people hang out during the long dark winters when the moose come out of the woods and stroll around downtown. As Dave Barry says, I am not making this up. Grand Marais claims to be the Moose Capital of Minnesota.

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This is a giant walleye (I think) stuck in the corner of a building.

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After breakfast and some shopping and strolling, we headed back to our cottage for a nap. I ended up not being able to sleep -  I have never been a napper even though I’d earnestly like to take up this hobby soon – so I read. It started to get cloudy and windy again, so it was time for another fire in the stove. After Michael woke up we walked down to the Lake and sat together in the swing.

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We found that a rustic but well-maintained swing on the rocky shore of Lake Superior is a perfect place to hold hands and to praise God out loud together, and to pray for our children.

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When did my handsome groom (whom I’d met only once before marrying) turn so gray? When did my face become an epidermal grid? It must have happened while we were busy living these past twenty-eight years. *Sigh*

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There were still a few fall colors left, even though most of the trees were bare by this time.

Later that evening, we were fortunate to find a nice restaurant still open and we dined at Chez Jude. I use the word “dine,” because it was a fancy enough establishment to preclude the use of the word “ate.” No one eats at Chez Jude. People dine at Chez Jude.

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This was the crusty bread, whipped butter and different kinds of olives that were brought to our table after we were seated. Not being an olive fan, I thought the best thing to do was take their picture.

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This was one of the most delicious salads I have ever eaten. It had spring greens, ripe pear slices, spiced pecans, pickled ginger, crumbled Roquefort cheese, and a lemon/thyme vinaigrette that made one involuntarily close one’s eyes when tasted. There was also a wedge of ripe fig on the plate – a first for me. I had to drive to Grand Marais, MN to have my first taste of fig.

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Michael’s French onion soup was so delicious we both thought we could eat it every day for a month and be quite content.

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Ever the fish lover in every way imaginable, Michael ordered the walleye cooked in parchment, with some kind of mouthwatering sauce and delicately sliced vegetables that spilled out once the paper was torn open.

I ordered a French chicken and potato dish, but forgot all about taking a photo until halfway through enjoying it. Somehow a half-eaten plate of food doesn’t look very appetizing on a blog. You’ll have to take my word for how exquisite it was in taste and presentation.

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We returned to our cottage after our wonderful meal, cranked up the fire and played cribbage. We read, we laughed, we exhaled. We knew we’d have to leave in the morning and it seemed like only hours since we’d arrived, but we were both rested and refreshed.

The next morning we had some fruit for breakfast and slowly packed things up before driving away from our little cottage. We decided to stop for lunch at the Lutsen (pronounced LOOT-sen) Resort, nineteen miles south of Grand Marais.

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I’ve always loved this place on the Lake. It was another cloudy day with a brisk wind, so the beach was empty. If you look closely at the photo below you can see the covered bridge and the Adirondack chairs lined up by the water’s edge.

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After the Cream of Chicken and Wild Rice Soup the Lutsen folks are famous for, we headed back for the van and drove south toward home. We loved our time up the shore, short as it was, and we hope to be able to take a little trip like this every couple of months.

We are still talking about our little cottage of repose.

Thanksgiving 2009

November 27, 2009 | My Jottings

I love Thanksgiving. I love that it’s about the gathering of family, I love that it’s not about giving and receiving presents, and I love that it’s about intentionally setting apart a day to give thanks.

Our Thanksgiving celebrations are usually very traditional and predictable, but yesterday there were a few things out of the ordinary that I thought I’d chronicle and share on the blog. I also want our daughter Sharon and her family to be able to peek into our day (hi Sharon – we missed you all so much!), as they were celebrating at home in Maryland. Having them with us would have made the day perfect. But I think near-perfect is enough to shout over.

The first departure from our ordinary was a gorgeous centerpiece. Our youngest daughter Sara is a floral designer for a shop in town, and she arrived with a couple of bags and soon set up a workspace on the kitchen table. She laid out newspapers to work on, searched around for a suitable vase, and set to work on a Thanksgiving centerpiece to bring even more beauty to our day. As if warm November weather in Minnesota, grandchildren and abundance wasn’t beautiful enough.

So just use your imagination here for a minute or two. Picture all these items in your mind, all piled together on a table: a dark blue serving bowl, a peony, a turnip, some cedar branches, a persimmon, a giant radish, a drying, shriveled apple, a rose, two pomegranates, a large leek, a clementine, some unripened blackberries, an artichoke, some toothpicks, tape, and lots of other various greens and stems.

Put them all together with deft hands and a visionary, artistic imagination, and what do you get?

What I would get would be a pile of fruit and leaves that looked like nothing more than a pile of fruit and leaves.

What Sara got was our Thanksgiving centerpiece:

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Isn’t it wonderful and unique? I hope it lasts until the new year. If it does I might have to call the folks at Mayo to see if they’re running low on the ingredients to manufacture a potent new broad-spectrum antibiotic.

The next thing that was out of the ordinary for our Thanksgiving was an appetizer I made. It has all of two ingredients, and I’m very enthusiastic about two-ingredient baking and cooking these days. If any of you have any two-ingredient recipes, send them my way. (My oldest daughter Sharon told me that she actually made mouthwatering biscuits for their Thanksgiving dinner that had only two ingredients, so maybe we have the beginnings of a best-selling cookbook here.)

I made a cheese-filled pastry thingy that oozed cheese as it baked. It wasn’t as pretty to look at as the photograph in the recipe, but the taste? There are no words. The two ingredients were Brie cheese and puff pastry sheets. I thought about editing out the part of the picture that shows the leaking cheese, but decided to keep it in, because somehow there’s a deep and profound symbolism about my life in a stark photo of leaking cheese.

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We cut this thing into small wedges and served them on little plates about an hour or two before the turkey was done. I’ve never seen so many eyes roll back into their heads at one time.

Here’s a sweet photo of four year-old Vivienne. Does she look like she has something to say to the world, or what?

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She later sang for us her rendition of “Twinkle, Twinkle,” and showed us how sashaying by the fireplace is done.

Our dinner consisted of a 17-pound turkey filled with sage and onion bread stuffing, garlic mashed golden potatoes and gravy made by Carolyn, who makes the best of both I’ve ever tasted, a tangy marinated vegetable salad, rolls with butter, cranberry sauce, a relish tray with olives and various veggies, pumpkin pie with whipped cream, and chocolate peanut butter fudge. No one named Atkins is allowed in our house. Next year I plan to make Jeremy’s favorite sweet potato casserole, and no year do I plan to make green bean casserole.

Another new thing that happened on Thanksgiving was that our Christmas tree went up. Sara set up the tree, Michael brought up all the decorations from the basement, and soon the grans were happily placing the ornaments while carols played on the house intercom/stereo (yesterday’s selections were “The Mormon Tabernacle Choir Christmas,” Amy Grant’s “A Christmas to Remember,” an old favorite of Julie Andrews with the Andre Previn orchestra, and Fernando Ortega’s new “Christmas Songs.”)

Here are Sara and Vivie adding more ornaments to the crowded tree. I love an ornament-crowded tree.

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Elijah and Clara were very happy about being able to help decorate the tree too.

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And mama Carolyn is helping little Audrey (almost two years old) add to the beauty. Although I must say with a bit of motherly bias that if Carolyn and Audrey are in a room, there isn’t much need to add to the beauty. It’s already there. :)

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Daddy Jeremy lifted Clara high to put the dark red spire on top to complete the trimming of the tree.

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Clara had a feather in her hair and Elijah wore a black construction paper pilgrim hat to add to the historical roots of the day.

Here’s Jeremy sketching possibilities for a mantel/fireplace surround for our living room.

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He can always figure out how things work, how to make them work if they’re not working, or design something himself that works better. At least that’s my opinion of my dear son-in-law.

As the sun began to set we sat in the living room and played a fun game called Whoonu? where players choose cards and earn points based on what they know (or guess) to be a fellow player’s favorite and least favorite things. Of course we knew that Jeremy loves construction sites, Carolyn loves ballet and Sara loves broccoli, but Whoonu that Jeremy doesn’t like glitter, Carolyn doesn’t like the scenic route and Sara doesn’t like brownies with nuts?  :)

After everyone went home last night, Michael and I did a little cleanup. I decided to take one last photo of the tree before we went up to bed. Which, by the way, felt a little strange when we realized that he and I were alone in the house at night for the first time in almost a year.

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We wondered aloud what we were going to do with the unusual opportunity. (Due to the nature of our business, we are almost never alone.)

As Thanksgiving of 2009 drew to a close, it was just Michael and me, and Schnauzers Edith and Millie, rattling around in this big old house.  After a minute’s discussion, we both agreed.

We would try to sleep in really late until at least 6:30 the next morning.

What was new or out of the ordinary about your Thanksgiving? What new dish was served? What new person attended? What beloved person was missing? What old dish did you leave out? What one thing will you remember?

Here’s my list…how about yours?

November 26, 2009 | My Jottings

Michael. Sharon. Carolyn. Sara. Buffy. Daphne. Chris. Jeremy. Bob. Joe. Clara, Elijah, Vivienne, Audrey. Cullen, Eleanor, Margaret. Two big brothers, Larry and Steve. Two cherished sisters-in-law, Christy and Debbie. Savannah, Lauren, Spencer. Our Fosters. Sight. Mobility. Warmth. Plenty. Mercy. Music. Employment. The SAGs. Friends. Schnauzers. Books. Flavor. Water.

A home. Working vehicles. My own teeth. A good mattress. Two ovens. G.T. and the Halo Express. Community Bible Study. Parents who loved me. Unseasonably warm weather in November. Birdinal Creek. The gift of prayer. The promise of His presence. Scrapbooks. Hope. The security of faithfulness. Old hymns played on massive pipe organs. A beloved friendship that lasts 45 years.

Mere Christianity, At Home in Mitford, All Creatures Great and Small, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, A Severe Mercy, Miss Suzy, Peace Like a River, The Robe, Reaching for the Invisible God, The Goodnight Book, Les Miserables, The Hawk and the Dove, No Compromise, The God I Love, Anne of Green Gables, The Pink Motel, Expecting Adam, Knowing God, Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy and The Hiding Place.

Michael’s kind eyes. A neck massage. An ankle scratch. My grandchildren’s voices. Blogging, and the happiness of a handful of readers. Honeycrisp apples. W.W.G. Some sunshiny California memories. True fellowship with friends. Dead leaves. Huge snowflakes. Cardinals outside my window. Calligraphy. Hydrangeas. Kind neighbors. Acorn slippers. Drives up the north shore of Lake Superior.

A friend who will love me through thick and thin. Cabins in the woods. Green macaroni and cheese. Christmas Eve. The passing of January. The coming of autumn. A huge computer screen. A church to attend freely and expectantly. Hearty soup and crusty bread, together. Zero visits to the mall all year.

God’s love and faithfulness in the life of a fragile, sometimes unstable little girl…His intervention time and time again…His sparing of my life…His patience with my sin…His hope and blessing for 52 years…His lavish love poured over me…the constant awe and amazement that He would choose me to be one of His daughters…Jesus has truly made my life worth living.

These are some of the things I’m thankful for today.

How about you?

The Final Flock

November 23, 2009 | My Jottings

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows we have had a difficult time with getting some bird prints framed recently. You can see photos, laugh, and read about the first part here and the next (apparently funnier) installment here.

My youngest daughter Sara suggested that we take the third goldfinch print (with the largest frame) to a local framing gallery and ask if they could cut down the mat and also make the frame the same size as the smaller cardinal and bluebird.

So I called a local framer and he said it would be an easy fix (imagine that! easy!), so I brought them in. He casually and confidently measured the two that are the correct size, took the enormous one, and said it would only take him a day to fix. It didn’t even take a day; he called within hours to say it was done.

So we finally have our little flock. I’m sure three birds don’t make up a flock, but as I’ve said, I like alliteration so that’s what I came up with: The Final Flock.

Here’s what they look like, hung side by side on a wall in our living room, over a deacon’s bench.

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All the same size, all looking like I had originally envisioned them and ordered them to look like…many goldfinch prints, phone calls, and FedEx deliveries ago.

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My friend Becky just reminded me that while I may not have all my ducks in a row, I now have all my birds in a row.  :)

Phew. Finally.

“…by the word of their testimony…”

November 19, 2009 | My Jottings

I would like to share a blog with you that I think is worth perusing. I became familiar with this young blogger because the same company that designed my blog designed hers. I spent some time reading through Sarah Markley’s writings one afternoon, and was struck by her candid sharing. She has taken a great risk to write about a very painful part of her marriage, and I’m including the link to her story below. I asked her permission to share it on my blog, and Sarah immediately granted it.

There are many parts to her blog, but I’m including a direct link to the part of her story I’m referring to.

I honestly believe there are parts of our stories we need to be courageous enough to tell, at the right time and in the right setting. I believe there is power in sharing our testimonies – we can experience a deeper level of freedom when we do, the hearer can take hope when they see that God really does reach in and pull people from their miry pits (and sometimes those pits are where we’ve been dwelling even as Christians), and the Lord can be given all the credit and praise for the impossible work that He alone has the power to do.

They overcame him
by the blood of the Lamb
and by the word of their testimony;
they did not love their lives so much
as to shrink from death.
Revelation 12:11

I think back on what I might have been and done without Jesus in my life. I think back to the things I have done, even with Jesus in my life, and marvel at His mercy and love through it all. Truly my life would have been one of the most destructive ever, had not my Savior intervened time and again.

Take some time soon and see how Sarah Markley and her husband Chad got through the circumstances that the devil certainly intended to use to destroy them.

(Once you click on the link below, you’ll see some one-word links on her site that tell the Markleys’ story in increments. If you want you can also see a video of them talking about the drastic steps they took to allow God to heal their marriage.)

http://www.sarahmarkley.com/story/

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Edition 25-Wednesday Whimsy

November 18, 2009 | My Jottings

Make a list of important things to do today.  At the top of your list, put “eat chocolate.”

Now, you’ll get at least one thing done today.

W. W. G.

November 14, 2009 | My Jottings

We’ve had a tradition in our family for almost two years now, and it has a name. We call it W. W. G., which stands for Wednesdays With Grandma.

Each Wednesday, I pick up seven year-old Clara and six year-old Elijah after school and bring them back to our house. Ever the germphobe, I first have them wash the gajillion elementary school micro-organisms from their hands when they come in the back door, then they have a snack at the kitchen table and tell me about their day. Typical snacks at Grandpa and Grandma’s house are: mozzarella cheese sticks, a handful of peanuts mixed with raisins, raw almonds and Carr’s whole wheat “cookie crackers,” bananas and baby carrots, or Greek gods honey yogurt. I also give them each a glass of water and a Flintstone’s vitamin. Elijah chooses orange and Clara grape.

Then they both settle in to their favorite things to do here. Elijah usually heads for the Legos and starts putting together swords, robots and Star Wars light sabers. Clara might take out a book that she’s read five times already but still enjoys. Last week it was Ellen Tebbits by Beverly Cleary. Elijah will sometimes take out a large illustrated version of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, lay on his stomach on the den carpet and slowly page through the drawings he’s seen a hundred times. Last time he pointed out the fox in the woods that he thought was a spy for the dark side, and the faces in some of the Narnian forest trees. Sometimes they both open the Grandchildren Drawer in the kitchen to take out their art supplies, and Elijah draws comics and Clara an illustrated game or journal. Once in a while they play checkers or Battleship while PBS kids TV is on. They like Curious George and Arthur.

After about an hour it’s time for Clara to change into her leotard and tights, and I drive her to dance class. Elijah stays with Grandpa and they have man time. Clara takes a backpack with her pink ballet shoes and her black tap shoes, and when I drop her off inside the studio, I then collect four year-old Vivienne, who is in the class right before Clara’s. I drive Vivienne home to her house, and remind her that when she is six it will be time for her to join W. W. G.  Then I return home and put the finishing touches on dinner.

Michael and I set the table and get everything ready. On Wednesday we have seven people at the table for dinner so we add a chair. Then I head out again, this time to pick Clara up from her dance lesson. She and I listen to a G.T. and the Halo Express CD in the van on the short ride home, and it brings a joy to my heart that I can’t describe, hearing her pure little voice singing many scripture passages set to music. “Grandma, maybe I should test you on the verses sometime soon, and help you with the ones you forgot!” she said recently, and I told her I thought that was a fantastic idea.

When we get home I serve everyone dinner and we eat together. Clara and Elijah always remind us to pray before we dig in, and everyone in our household enjoys the company of the little ones. They help us to laugh and chat about fun things while we enjoy eat one of my crockpot creations and a green salad.

Clara and Elijah are usually the first ones to finish eating (it doesn’t take long to eat two lettuce leaves and a tablespoon of chicken and rice casserole), and they know it’s time to pick up the toys and get ready for church. I take them to our church’s Wednesday night services, where something for every age is offered. It’s usually packed. Clara attends the little girls’ Prims class, and Elijah goes to Royal Rangers. They both love it. I sign them in and then go upstairs for prayer and worship, where I’m thankful for the darkened sanctuary and the music that leads me away from thoughts of things that weigh on my heart, and instead nudges me to thoughts of my God and His love and delivering power and willingness to help us as we walk out our puny lives. I take a purse-full of Kleenex and use it all up.

By the time church is over it’s already past the kids’ bedtime, but I figure W. W. G. is so special it’s okay if they miss an hour or two of sleep once a week. We leave church and as we drive home Clara and Elijah tell me about Royal Rangers and Prims and what they learned. And what candy they ate. When we arrive home they trot upstairs to get ready for a bath while I tend to things I need to do for those we care for in our home.

Upstairs when the huge tub is filled and ready, Clara and Elijah take a short bath and play with the small bin of toys I keep in our linen closet – there’s a tail-less brontosaurus named Bronto, a lime green tugboat, a plastic pirate, some large jacks, and a funnel, among other things. I put in a teeny bit of LOC from Amway (my favorite product by that company) and turn on the jets, and soon the bubbles are puffing up to their shoulders. They make hairstyles, beards, and bubble cakes while I read aloud to them. Right now we’re reading Stormy, Misty’s Foal by Marguerite Henry. Soon I wash their hair, drain the tub and go turn on the electric baseboard heater in our bedroom. I put two pairs of clean underwear and four socks on the top of the heater so after they dry off from their bath, they’ll put on something really toasty. They never fail to smile and remark about this. “Grandma, my socks are so warm on my feet!”

While they’re putting on their jammies, I prepare the pallet on the floor of our bedroom they like to sleep on. We have room in other bedrooms, but they prefer the pallet. I lay down a large blanket, doubled. I put two pillows down, one on each end, so they sleep foot to foot. Once they’re dressed they put on their slippers and we go back downstairs for a snack (because they usually don’t eat a lot of dinner due to the fact it had lettuce or tomatoes or wrinkle-your-nose “sauce” in it). They might have half a peanut butter sandwich, or a cheese stick with a handful of almonds. Then they brush their teeth at the kitchen sink, and give Grandpa a hug and a kiss goodnight.

Back upstairs, Clara and Elijah choose a book from the children’s bookcases in our dressing room, and they settle in for the night on their pallets. I turn on some soft classical music. I make a big show of covering them first with “the applesauce blanket,” which is a pale yellow Vellux blanket they like. Then I cover them with a down-filled comforter and they smile as it settles down on them. They know they have about ten to fifteen minutes to look through their books. Elijah often chooses a children’s Bible with unique illustrations, and Clara last chose The Seven Silly Eaters.

When they start to get sleepy, which is in no time at all, they set their books aside and we recount the things we’ve done together that day. None of it is that momentous, but we recite aloud what we did anyway. It’s a way to try to hold on to the preciousness of ordinary things done with these children I adore, and they seem to grasp why we do it.

Sometimes I tell them what I think they might be when they grow up. Elijah, who is an amazing puzzle worker and Lego builder, hears from his grandma that he will be a problem solver when he is older. I take him on my lap and quietly tell him that God might use him to build up, either buildings or people, that he might be called to help others solve things they’re struggling with, to help make sense out of puzzling and difficult situations. He looks at me tenderly as I try to bless him with my feeble words, and he seems to be taking it all in like a sponge. Then he looks into my eyes and quietly says, “I don’t like your breath.”

I tell Clara that perhaps she will write and/or draw someday and people will want to read her thoughts and ideas. I tell her that she is so patient and loving with her little sisters and is such a fine example to them. I tell her that when she’s older, Elijah and Vivienne and Audrey will recall what a wonderful big sister they’ve had, and that the way she treats them now will pave the way for loving and beautiful relationships when they’re all grown up with families of their own. I tell Clara that God will use her to bring peace and joy into peoples’ lives, and that she’s already doing that, even though she may not fully understand what I mean.

Then I might sing a song or two to them. They like “Jesus Wants You For a Sunbeam” and “The Life of the Voyageur” and “Victory in Jesus.” When Clara was three she often requested the latter song by saying, “Gwamma, will you sing ‘Bic-ta-wee in Jesus?’ ”

I then pray briefly and ask God to give them deep sleep, good dreams, and for Him to keep His hands steady upon them their whole lives, to keep them close to Him and loving Him with their whole hearts. They might not know all that this entails, and I might not know it either, but God does. I’m so thankful He can read our hearts when our words fail.

Within minutes they’re fast asleep, and I slip back downstairs to take care of tasks still calling my name. I clean the kitchen, visit with others as I get medications ready, talk with them about what the next day might hold for them, ask them about what they’d like to do for the coming weekend, etc. My dear husband might rub my feet and scratch the grooves left in my ankles from my SmartWool socks, which is a little bit of heaven for me. Before we both head upstairs for the night, I make sure everyone in the house is fine and tucked in or has everything they need. I lock the doors, turn out the lights, turn down the furnace.

Each Thursday morning when we get up there’s a lot to do. I lay out clothes for Clara and Elijah, quietly wake them up and tell them I’ll see them downstairs when they’re dressed. Then I go down, still in my exceedingly attractive red plaid flannel nightgown, to turn up the heat, begin making lunches, setting out medications, making each person a different breakfast, feeding the dogs and making sure they go out, and more. I might even throw in a load of laundry right away. Clara and Elijah always come down with sleepy smiles on their faces. They like to have Maple Pecan Crunch cereal for breakfast, and I always put a small handful of fresh pecans on top.

Once they’re dressed in their school clothes, we turn on the television for a few minutes while I do Clara’s hair, which is very long. Mostly I put it in a French braid. They brush their teeth again, I give them each a small snack to take to school with them, and they make sure they have their backpacks before they put on their coats, gloves and shoes.

Clara and Elijah usually take the bus, but on W. W. G. I drive them the six blocks to their school. In the few minutes it takes, I remind them that it won’t be long before the next Wednesday With Grandma, and that I’ll be thinking of them and praying for them every single day. When we pull up in front of the school with many buses, cars, crossing guards and children bustling around, I hop out to slide open the van door for a last hug.

“I love you! Jesus is with you today!” I whisper in Clara’s ear and in Elijah’s ear as I kiss them goodbye and watch them both run off to the front door of the big brick building.

I drive the six blocks home, wiping tears and blowing my nose and praying for all seven of my grandchildren, not just for the two that are old enough and near enough to have W. W. G.

Wednesdays With Grandma.

Who knew a day in the middle of the week could mean so much?

Framed

November 12, 2009 | My Jottings

Recently I realized that it has been two and a half years since I’ve had my eyes checked. That’s too long if one is legally blind in one’s right eye and one is over fifty. Besides, my old glasses were looking pretty outdated and I thought it was time for a frame change along with a new prescription. My old specs were wire-rimmed and they sort of added to the whole grandma look that I seem to be headed toward, no matter how hard I dig in my heels.

Aren’t there so many unique frames to choose from these days? I like the smallish rectangular frames with the wider earpieces that often have designs on them, like these. I tried some of those on but then my peripheral vision was obstructed, and when one is legally blind in one eye, one doesn’t usually opt for eye-wear that obstructs what precious little vision one has. It’s sort of an optical rule of thumb.

So anyway, I decided to try something different. No wire-rims for me. I thought I’d go with something more trendy, something that doesn’t blend into my pale face quite so much.

I have a friend who wears some very cool retro cat-eye frames that resemble the ones I wore when I was a little girl, but they didn’t look right on me. (Just as they didn’t look right on me then – and my parents wondered why they had to nag me to wear my glasses.)

I tried on at least twenty frames and most of them looked pretty bad. After thinking that I might have to stick with wire-rims after all, I finally found two that were acceptable, but neither one was an aha sort of frame, as in “Aha! These are darling! I think I’ll take these! Wearing glasses every waking minute isn’t so bad after all!”  The two I chose were just okay, and I ended up opting for the darker ones.

So here are my new glasses. How would you describe them?

PB091671

A little severe looking? Clinical, perhaps? Or studious. Definitely a tad on the geeky side, which is fine with me. Harriet the Spy also comes to mind.

Hopefully I’m set in the eyewear department until early 2012.

Edition 24-Wednesday’s Word

November 11, 2009 | My Jottings

I long to accomplish a great and noble task, but it is my chief duty to accomplish small tasks as if they were great and noble.

~ Helen Keller

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Our Goldfinch Aviary

November 9, 2009 | My Jottings

Our home has now been declared an official sanctuary for goldfinches by the National Audubon Society.

That’s not really true, but it I think it should be.

You can read about our adventures with trying to buy three simple bird prints from a reputable and well-known online company if you click here.

Each time I called the company to explain that yet another goldfinch print was done wrong and had been shipped to me, they were very friendly and promised to get right on it to correct the order. Then another print would arrive by FedEx and it would be wrong too. I sent a photo to their returns department with every wrong bird print that arrived. Each time I called I spoke slowly and patiently, and I gave exact measurements and even talked to supervisors, but as you can see in the photo below, they still weren’t able to get it right. (I even asked my son-in-law Chris, who is a master in dealing with people in situations like this, to call the company for me.)

The two framed prints on the left (the Eastern Bluebird and the Northern Cardinal) are the correct size. The aviary of goldfinches to the right of those are all the wrong size; none of them match the size of the cardinal and bluebird.

On Saturday I received another nicely matted and framed print (the one on the far right), and not only is it again the wrong size, but this time they used the wrong frame. It might be hard to see in this photo, but it’s a different color and design than the others. **Sigh**

PB081649

When I called the company again and told them that we now have a small flock of goldfinches in our house, they were very friendly and extremely apologetic, and finally said they had lost confidence that they’d be able to get the order right, and stated they’d refund all my money. I was very relieved about that.

I guess I’ll be starting from scratch, and not using that well-known and reputable online art company again.

In the meantime, the reason I’m posting this photo is because apparently this interesting experience has made some of you laugh pretty hard. One friend said the whole “ornithological oddity ordeal” was my funniest post yet. I was rather surprised at that, because I wasn’t trying to be funny at all. But if this post and this photo will make any of you laugh again, I certainly want to foster and accommodate that!

Here’s to some hearty ha-ha-ing!

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