My Downton Abbey Predictions

December 29, 2015 | My Jottings

I have enjoyed Downton Abbey on television ever since it debuted, and I’m looking forward to seeing the sixth and final season which begins here in early January. Sara and I have been watching the episodes straight through on DVD, and we’re almost done with the fifth season.

She and I were talking about it this morning as she was taking down the tree and other Christmas decorations for me, and we each guessed what might happen to the regular characters. I haven’t read any spoilers and don’t plan to, so if you know something about season six please don’t give anything away!

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Here are my guesses:

Robert and Cora Crawley: I’m not sure what I think might happen to them, but my guess is that they’ll be happy and stable, enjoying two of their grandchildren (George and Marigold), and accepting of the new ways coming to Downton.

Mary Crawley: Contrary to probability because Mary seems to have so many suitors, I think as season six closes she will remain unmarried. I don’t think anyone can satisfactorily take Matthew’s place. She will transition toward being the Countess of Grantham and she and George will face the future together as she learns how to keep Downton running and hopefully prosperous.

Edith Crawley: I think Michael Gregson will come back from the dead, so to speak, and return to Edith and Marigold. I don’t think his alleged death at the hands of Hitler’s “thugs in brown shirts” really happened, although he was probably severely injured, and I think Edith is going to get her happy ending. If she doesn’t, I might throw a shoe.

Tom Branson: Tom will take his little daughter Sybbie and sail for America, as was mentioned in season five. Hopefully without Miss Bunting.

Bates and Anna: I predict a happy future and a much wanted pregnancy for this couple we’ve all come to care about.

Barrow: I think Thomas will be one of the characters who will walk into the future with sorrow. I’m betting the writers don’t put him in a relationship and will instead focus on the loneliness of his homosexuality, with him having a “well, of course this is the way my life would go” sort of outlook.

Mrs. Patmore: I think she will retire to her newly-purchased little cottage and be a surrogate mother/encourager to Daisy.

Daisy: I think Daisy’s pursuit of education to better herself will pay off and she will be a success, perhaps running the Mason farm and spending time with Mrs. Patmore there.

Carson and Mrs. Hughes: These two will get married and I will cheer.

Rose and her husband: I’m not sure about these two because I never really got into her character. Ho-hum.

Isobel Crawley: She won’t marry Lord Merton and will instead become closer to Dr. Clarkson. She and Mary will have a close relationship due to their deep love for Matthew.

Molesley and Baxter: I think there’s something to their friendship that will deepen as season six draws to a close. I love his kindness toward her, and how she has never failed to take humble responsibility for her former actions.

Violet, the Dowager Countess: I think Violet will die at the end of the series, deeply loved and grieved, especially by Isobel, whose friendship with her was an unexpected blessing to them both.

How about you? If you’re a Downton watcher, what are some of your predictions? No spoilers though! Gahh!  🙂

The Day After Christmas

December 26, 2015 | My Jottings

I love December the 26th. If Christmas has been a particular happy one, then the day after Christmas is a good time for basking in the memories we’ve made the day before. If Christmas has been difficult (and I’ve had a few, as I’ll bet most have), the 26th feels like a new start, a return to the blessed ordinary, even before January 1st arrives.

Our house is in wild disarray this morning, but it’s because we had a blessed Christmas yesterday. We had eighteen of my favorite people on earth in our relatively small living room/dining room space. Because this was our first Christmas without Michael, I’m keenly aware that things can change in an instant, and today I want to replay all the snapshots of yesterday’s joy in my mind and write them all down in my gratitude journal to tell the Lord I saw. And received. And marveled.

I took a few pictures yesterday before everyone arrived, and will post more in a few days. Today I’ll share a picture of the additions to the front deck planters Sara did this week. Usually all the large ornaments are on the outside of the planter so they can be seen from the street. This year Sara decided we needed to enjoy the beauty more from inside the house as well, so she drove up to Menard’s and bought more outdoor ornaments and affixed them to the side of the planters we see from the the dining room. Since I have a lot of dark blue, deep red, and some robins egg blue decor, she chose those colors.

You can click to enlarge if you would like to see more detail.

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I have this CD playing softly right now and the snow has begun to fall outside. A little while ago I stood out on the front deck in the dark as Edith and Millie were sniffing around in the yard, and I could see how thickly the flakes were falling in the glow of the street light. A winter storm warning has been issued for our area and we could get seven inches of snow. An inch an hour at times is what the weather man says, with very gusty winds. Of course that means it will be a blessed day at home, puttering, putting things back to normal, doing laundry and paperwork and my Community Bible Study lesson, making tea.

How was your Christmas? Did you have a joyous day of family and food and fun? Or did you spend it alone and weighted with sorrow? Was there strife or loneliness or disappointment in your celebration, or lack of one? I pray for all of us that Psalm 16:11 will guide us through the coming year:

You make known to me the path of life;
in your presence there is fullness of joy;
at your right hand are pleasures forevermore.

Lord, I pray that you will lead us on the paths you have set out for us, and give us all grace to truly follow you. I ask for your comforting presence to be with us in personal ways we can recognize, and that we will experience the fullness of your joy, which we know doesn’t depend on our circumstances, but only on you. And I thank you in faith for the pleasures you give, not as the world gives, but gifts that last forever and keep us close to you, dearest heavenly Father. I pray this for every soul reading, and for all those we love…in the name of Jesus, Amen.

“God and sinners reconciled”

December 23, 2015 | My Jottings

Last week as Pat, Gail and Lorna sat in my living room after dinner (we had homemade pizza and panzanella salad), we spoke briefly about how meaningful the lyrics of so many Christmas carols can be when we’re paying attention. Just that very day I had been thinking about the words to “Hark the Herald Angels Sing,” particularly the line “God and sinners reconciled!” and how miraculous and comforting that truth is. Lorna said the same line aloud and how much it meant to her, and I said, “Lorna, today those very words were what touched my heart so deeply too!”

When estrangement is your family’s norm, then the word reconciled grows to mean so much.

DSCN1204By the time I was thirteen years old, I’d seen some estrangement. My oldest brother had moved out of our house years before and his relationship with my dad was strained at the very least. My dad had wonderful traits, but could be a volatile man and it never brought about good things when he was challenged. Then the summer of my thirteenth year, my dad and other brother became completely estranged and my brother actually changed his last name because of it. Not long after that my parents’ marriage of thirty-one years ended in divorce, and aside from the destruction that brought, my maternal grandparents became bitterly estranged from my dad, a son-in-law they had deeply loved and trusted who had betrayed their daughter. By the time I was in my mid-twenties, one of my brothers and his wife estranged themselves from me and my family and he began sending cruel, sick things to me in the mail. He did the same thing to my older brother. My two brothers are still estranged. Around this time my older brother broke off contact with my ailing mother because she loved his little boy (her first grandson) and wanted to reach out to him, as he’d been estranged from his daddy at a young age due to his parents’ bitter divorce. My oldest brother resisted the contact his only son tried to make with him for almost forty years, and his son died suddenly last year, never having been reconciled to his father as he so desperately wished. When my father died in 2007, the estrangement between him and my youngest brother continued in a form, as he refused to attend his father’s funeral. My older brother (whose relationship with my dad was never very good) did attend the funeral in California, as did I. Now in his seventies, one might think that as the end of his life draws near, my older brother might want to end the estrangement with his only brother, but sadly, that isn’t the case. My niece and nephew are estranged from their father, who is ten years older than I, because of the way he has treated his family. My other niece is estranged from her father (the one who wouldn’t respond to his adult son after almost forty years), who is fifteen years older than I, because of the way he has treated their family. And while I do have contact with my older brother, he would cut me out of his life in an instant if I did or said the wrong thing (and indeed has threatened to do so). And I do not have a relationship with my other brother, because as much as I want the best for him, he has proven he cannot be trusted time and time again, and this is the way it must be.

So I know a little about dysfunctional estrangement.

But here’s the saddest thing of all: every single person mentioned in this tragic narrative above is a Christian.

And I have no answer for this.

So when I think of reconciliation between God and sinners as the Christmas carol says, tears well up and my heart wrenches in gratitude and hope. Because it seems like estrangement in one form or another is all I’ve ever known. It was in the air that I breathed.

I do not deserve reconciliation with God, but He has reconciled me to Himself through the blood of His Son. This is what Christmas is all about, why Jesus came to earth. God is still with us (Emmanuel) in the midst of our messes, and He bridged that horrible chasm between us and Him, because of His great love.

You might be able to understand why this passage from the third chapter of Titus means so much to me:

At one time we too were foolish, disobedient, deceived and enslaved by all kinds of passions and pleasures. We lived in malice and envy, being hated and hating one another. But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, He saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of His mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom He poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by His grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.

This wasn’t exactly a bright and cheery Christmas post, but I do wish you and yours a peaceful Christmas and a wonderful 2016.

I hope that God will bring reconciliation to us all,

The Misadventures of Mildred

December 17, 2015 | My Jottings

It seems to me like the older one gets, the less resilient. Our nine year-old Miniature German Schnauzer Mildred Virginia Sizzlelorum (Millie) is one example.

When Millie came into our household, we already had Edith Elaine Bubbleloo, another Schnauzer four years Millie’s senior. But Millie wanted Alpha dog position and just took over, and Edith assumed a deferential demeanor and let her have her way to keep the poochie peace.

Millie still likes to be first and displays very jealous behavior when anyone is paying attention to Edith, but as she has gotten older, she seems to be more emotionally fragile. Millie is afraid of sounds. She hates the vacuum, while Edith watches languidly when I’m doing the carpets. Sharon came over to take the dogs’ pictures for us yesterday and we learned another sound Millie hates: the soft click of a camera’s shutter when a photograph is taken. Millie could barely bring herself to look Sharon’s direction because of the clicks. She had to be restrained from running out of the room.

If anyone ever makes a raspberry sound with their mouth against a baby’s belly, Millie slinks from the room in fear. When the microwave beeps its signal that a cup of water has heated, Millie looks up nervously from her own personal wingback chair in the living room, clearly considering whether or not she should run to the back of the house or brave it and stay put.

So you can imagine what might happen if one of the smoke/carbon monoxide detectors in the house has a battery that’s fading and begins to chirp loudly every minute. This happened recently and it took me a couple of minutes to find which one it was. We have one in each bedroom. By the time I had gotten the step stool and unscrewed the unit from the bedroom ceiling, my ears were ringing, and Millie was nowhere to be found. At least nowhere usual.

I finally found her in the corner of my office, vibrating pathetically. I felt so sorry for her.

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Later, she was clearly done in and needed a lot of rest. She spent most of the day recuperating on my unmade bed.

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Poor Mildred. She has such a hard life.

Wednesday’s Word-Edition 123

December 16, 2015 | My Jottings

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“One way to define spiritual life is getting so tired and fed up with yourself you go on to something better, which is following Jesus.”  — Eugene Peterson

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My Sweets

December 14, 2015 | My Jottings

Yesterday my three daughters and I had our third annual cookie exchange. It’s so nice to have a cookie exchange with family members, because if your Spicy Molasses Cookies spread out too much while baking and look like hexagons instead of discs, you’re still okay. You can make Mounds Balls the size of tennis balls instead of the daintier traditional ones. You can wind plastic cling wrap over and under and over and under and over and under the paper plates you put your sweets on, and no one cares that there’s not a lovely keepsake platter for each participant and elegant velvet bows affixed to the top of the artistically designed offerings. (Well, Sara did rescue my plates and put some pretty ribbons and bows on top, and her designer’s touch made a difference.)

We went out to an early lunch first, after learning that the Japanese restaurant we had planned on didn’t open until noon. We wanted to meet at 11:00. So then began the flurry of group texts between the four of us about where we would go (Lake Avenue Cafe? Belissio’s? J.J. Astor? Duluth Grill?), and I did more than one U-turn before I finally texted everyone: “Executive decision by your mother — we’ll meet at J.J. Astor.” So we did, and we had a really nice brunchy meal, while we sat on the 14th floor of a hotel that’s shaped like a cylinder, and slowly revolved almost 360 degrees while enjoying our time together.

After our meal we headed back to my house to pick up our sweets. Sharon made Toffee Bars and Dairy Bars, the latter a long-loved recipe I got from Michael’s first wife Barb many years ago. Carolyn made Peanut Butter Blossoms and Oreo Truffles. Sara made Mounds Balls and Pretzel-Candy-Bar-Bites. I made Spicy Molasses Cookies. Before we each headed to the rest of our day, we paused to take our mother/daughter selfies.

From left to right: me, Carolyn (my middle sweet), Sharon (my oldest sweet), and Sara (my youngest sweet).

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Sometimes a little silliness is just the ticket.

If you were invited to take part in a cookie exchange and you had to bring only one recipe, which one would you make?

Of carpet, children, cookies, and Christmas in the Alps

December 12, 2015 | My Jottings

I’ve been awake since about 5:10 this morning because of Edith. Now that she’s a post-menopausal Schnauzer, I’m pretty sure she has bladder control issues, and she noisily jumps off the bed every morning when it’s still blackdark, needing to go out. I dare not ignore her, because if I turn over and go back to sleep she could eventually just pick a place in my bedroom to go. I would never see it because I have an acre of thick, Swedish shag carpet, but in a few days I might detect a whiff in the air when I walk into my bedroom. I could search and search this big room, even enlisting grandchildren to crawl around on their hands and knees to see if they can find the offending invisible spot so I can scrub it, and might not ever find where Edith found her relief.

So basically I’m saying my life revolves around the weakening bladder tone of a deaf and elderly Schnauzer.

This early morning jingle-jangle of the name tag on her collar, and her restless snuffling and pacing is about as active as she gets. It’s downhill from there as the day progresses, because Edith sleeps so much now. She’ll be fourteen in March.

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This is how Edith can be seen most any hour of the day.

I will be seeing four of my grandchildren today. Later this morning, Vivienne and Audrey will be performing in a play at our local community playhouse. They’re in Little Red Riding Hood and Vivie plays the lead. Audrey has a secondary part I never knew was in this story, but I’m sure they will both stun me with their acting debuts and I will probably sit in the audience and sob quietly. I do that a lot when observing the wonder I find in my grands. They overwhelm me with their lives and humor and tenderness and beauty.

Then I’ll come home and set to cookie baking. I’m trying to figure out if I want to lug the unwieldy but efficient Kitchen Aid mixer up from the basement to mix the dough for my Spicy Molasses Cookies. Tomorrow is our mother/daughter cookie exchange and my three daughters and I will all be having lunch at a local Japanese restaurant before exchanging what we baked.

Then later this afternoon, Li’l Gleegirl and Louiser will be coming to spend a couple of hours with Grandma. Their daddy is at a Lego Robotics conference with older sister Mrs. Nisky, and big brother Mr. McBoy is at a boy scout leadership weekend. Their mama has a photography session. I’m not sure what the girls and I will do, but I’m fairly sure it will involve books, peanuts and raisins, Magformers, lots of conversation and some good snuggles.

The Christmas CD we have playing almost non-stop in our dining room stereo right now is Rick Steves’ European Christmas. I also watched his TV special recently about Christmas in Europe and found it utterly transporting. My favorite was the segment on Christmas in Switzerland, and if you would like to see the short clip, click here. 

At the two minute mark, you can see them slide down the mountain toward Gimmelwald after having cut down their tree in the snowy forest. I don’t know what those bicycle/sled contraptions are called, but I want one, and I want to ride it down the mountain into Gimmelwald at dusk just like they did. I want the torches, I want the goats, I want the snow (for a month anyway), I want the Swiss cowbells, the fondue around small carved Swiss tables, and I want to feel a part of something ancient and traditional.

I’d love to know which of you reading this post would like to ride one of those dealy-bobs too?

Well, the sun is rising and it’s time to get dressed and start my day. I have a standing date with my gratitude journal, two devotionals, and my Bible and CBS lesson.

Have a blessed weekend!

A wreath fit for a good man’s grave

December 9, 2015 | My Jottings

Good Wednesday to you, friends. Or, as my foster residents like to say happily every Wednesday morning, “It’s hump day!” 😀

On Sunday, Sara and I drove to the cemetery to hang the wreath she made for her dad’s grave. Isn’t it stunning? You can click twice to enlarge the pictures to see details if you like.

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Here’s a view with one of the ponds in the background:

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You might be able to find two little dogs representing Edith and Mildred, nails and a ladder because Michael was a carpenter, birch rounds with his roles on them (brother, grandpa, friend, etc.), birds, and specifically cardinals, which have grown to mean so much to me. And of course, a cross for Michael’s faith in Christ.

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Here is a deer head and feathers (he was a hunter most of his life) and some tartan plaid as a nod to his Scottish ancestry. There’s also some camouflage for his time in Vietnam, but you can’t see it in these photos.

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Sara formed a heart out of snow…

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After we admired what a fitting tribute the wreath is for Michael’s grave, Sara and I drove past all the ducks and geese that live near the ponds in this cemetery. I don’t know why they don’t migrate, because they looked so depressed as the ponds are freezing over and they sit dejectedly in the snow. I’m not sure if ducks really can be depressed and dejected, but I was convinced of it enough to drive to the store a few miles away and come back with a loaf of bread to lift their spirits.

Sara and I tore the bread into pieces and fed it to the ducks and geese as they honked and quacked and waddle-ran to us. One goose kept hanging back because if I threw a scrap toward her, the other geese would rush at her and force her out of the circle. I hated that! So I kept tossing pieces in a high arc over the greedy geese’s heads so Miss Meek could have her share. The look we exchanged told me she was very grateful.

This will be a busy day for me, so I’ll wish you all a good week.

Let’s all take time each day to make room for Jesus….

A few Friday things…

December 4, 2015 | My Jottings

Hello friends….I hope you’re all finding some time to rest and experience the peace and wonder of this season.

Each year around Christmas, Sara fills our three outdoor flower boxes with assorted evergreens, branches, and large ornaments. This year she added some pampas grass too. These planters are each almost five feet long and they hang on our front deck. The ornaments nestled amongst the greenery are about the size of honeydew melons. Even though I love the flowers she plants in these boxes each spring, I think the winter arrangements are my favorite. Here’s a photo of one…you can click to enlarge if you like…clicking twice makes the photos large enough to see more details:

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We always say the various pine branches and the blue and silver ornaments look best with a lovely coating of fresh snow, so we’re waiting for a good storm. Apparently El Niño is going to bring us a mild winter in Minnesota; indeed everyone in our area is talking about how we haven’t had much snowfall this season, and how unseasonably warm our temperatures have been. Our balmy forecast for the coming week is for the low forties…in Decembers past we’ve expected below-zero temps at night and have had two feet of snow on the ground.

In a little over a week my three daughters and I will have our annual cookie exchange. We’ll go out to lunch together and then come back to my house to pick up the two dozen cookies each of us will have made, so we end up with six dozen, plus whatever we keep from our own batches. I just CANNOT figure out what I’m going to do with six dozen various Christmas cookies! Hahaha. I’m making my favorite Christmas recipe, Soft and Spicy Molasses Cookies. Michael used to love to dip these in his coffee.

I always wear slippers in the house from around September until April of each year, and I’ve come to appreciate certain characteristics in the ones I gravitate toward buying. They have to be slip-ons, they should have enclosed heels, and I prefer if they are loafer-like and don’t cover my ankles. I also like for them to have a rubber sole of some sort, since I often step out onto the front deck to call the dogs in, to fetch the mail, or to gaze at the stars at night before I go to bed. Even better are when my slippers are machine washable. Rarely do I care how they look.

Well, I was searching the Acorn slipper website last week, and lo and behold, here’s what I found:

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I’ve never added “must have many brightly appliqued cardinals” to my list of slipper prerequisites, but from now on I just might. When I opened these up and slipped them on my feet I had the fleeting thought that I may now be approaching Cardinal Overload. The second fleeting thought I had was… “I don’t care.” These make me smile and they keep my feet warm, so who am I to impose a cardinal limitation on myself?

This morning before driving to the mall area to look for a plaid scarf/shawl, I drove up to the cemetery. I live very close to Lake Superior, and that huge body of water has a warming effect on the weather close to its shores, hence our lack of snow. However, if I drive one mile away from the Lake, up over the hill that leads inland, there’s snow on the ground. There was close to three inches at the cemetery and I took a picture of Michael’s grave, looking toward the morning sun. The distant pond in the photo is where I saw two men on ice skates playing hockey last week.

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Sara will also be making a wreath this week to hang on the cross-shaped wreath hanger in front of his grave.

It has been 298 days since Michael went home to Jesus. It comforts me to think that when I go to the furthest reaches in my mind of what beauty, peace, grandeur and joy must be like in heaven, I can’t even come close to imagining what he’s experiencing. (But just as it is written, ‘Things that no eye has seen, or ear heard, or mind imagined, are the things God has prepared for those who love him.'” 1 Corinthians 2:9)

I spent some time today with my granddaughter Mrs. Nisky, Sharon and Chris’s second child. She has been coming over now and then so we can work on her math lessons together, and after those are finished she works on a project she’s making for her daddy for Christmas. I’ll show pictures of it here on the blog after he opens it. We also like to read out loud for a good long while before she goes home, and the book we’re enjoying now is a childhood favorite of mine called The Pink Motel by Carol Ryrie Brink.

As I sit here tonight with my (cardinal decorated) feet up on Michael’s recliner, the tree lights glow nearby and I can hear both Schnauzers breathing deeply as they doze stretched out on their sides. Dinner is done, Phoebe the parakeet’s cage has been covered, and in less than two hours I’ll be turning in for the night myself. I look forward to working tomorrow on the sharing I’ll do on Tuesday morning at Community Bible Study. I have a rough outline completed, but may have to just dive head-first into the mental oatmeal I always encounter when writing what I pray God puts on my heart. I’m planning a short PowerPoint slideshow to go with it, and that’s always a fun thing for me to do.

What are your plans for the weekend? I hope your sleep is deep and love abounds between you and all of your dears….

Blessings,

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