Got leaves?

September 30, 2010 | My Jottings

Our daughter Sara came by a couple of days ago and I saw her strolling around in the front yard while talking on her cell phone. The next thing I knew she was standing at the kitchen sink filling a square vase with a little water. Then she began to quickly and deftly arrange a few leaves and bits of nature she had gathered from outside. It took her about five minutes, and when she was satisfied with her fall creation, she put it on a console table we have in our living room.

Isn’t it lovely? I wish I could think of things like that.

When I went grocery shopping yesterday I took my camera with me to take a few pictures of things around our house, and of the neon trees in our neighborhood. A couple of people saw me stop my car and photograph their trees and I could see the suspicion puzzlement in their eyes. 🙂

Got leaves? Got apples? Got flowers? Got weeds? Maybe you can make a gathering of autumn’s beauty from things you find outside too. If you do, please send a photo and I’ll post it on the blog!

How do you decorate for fall? What things do you bring into your home to highlight the season?

Edition 46-Wednesday’s Word

September 29, 2010 | My Jottings

“Kindness is in our power, even when fondness is not.”

Samuel Johnson

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Fall Musings

September 27, 2010 | My Jottings

This is the time of year I feel most like myself. The air is cool and crisp, the trees are flaming with color, the sunlight is low and slants into the windows making everything look golden. Thicker covers are needed at night, simmering soups are called for, and adding warm and cushy SmartWool socks to my Birkenstocks is just around the corner. Life is a harmonious and swelling symphony of the most breathtaking sights, delicious smells, invigorating tactile experiences, and familiar and soothing sounds.

In the winter, I know I’m me, but I don’t feel as much like me as I do when autumn arrives. Once the joys of the Christmas season are fading, when it’s twenty degrees below zero outside and I can almost see the icicle-y fingers of bitter cold scritching and scratching to gain access around our windows and doors, I feel like I’m the slightly anxious, on-guard me.

In the spring, I know I’m me, but I don’t feel as much like myself as I do in the fall. Spring in northeastern Minnesota doesn’t ever quite know what it’s doing. Some days spring just snows and spits ice pellets from the sky, other days spring warms and brings lime-green buds out from the trees, still other days spring just rains and makes mud and drear part of every morning. I’m always happy for winter’s passing, but spring feels like Minnesota’s limbo season to me, bringing us out of the long, dark frigid months, yet propelling us toward our short, therefore often frenetic summer.

In the summer I’m still me, but I don’t as much like the me I am in the summer if it’s hot and muggy. A muggy, sluggish me is not the best me I can be. When the air is so moist it’s a labor to draw a full breath, and when it’s so hot outside I’m checking the weather reports seven times a day for hopeful news of possibly cooling temps, and when the local world is wearing shorts and tank tops, I don’t feel fully like me. People this far north often try to fit in as much activity as they can in the summer, because there might only be three months of warmth. Barbecues, swimming, beach bonfires, fireworks, fishing, camping, gatherings at lake cabins, gardening, crowds, grad parties, sailing. The older I get the more contemplative I become, so the running to and fro and the head-spinning activities of summer don’t feel as nurturing and soothing as I would like things to be.

It’s silly, I know, to give all this mental effort to what I feel like, with the approach of each different season. Every day is a gift from God. Winter, spring, summer and fall are all His wondrous making, and they each bring their own kind of beauty and glimpses of His glory. I love living where a dramatic change of seasons happens each year. It’s not productive to give so much thought to how much I love fall and how I don’t feel as much myself in the other three seasons. But I am what I am and it is what it is. I love every part of fall and wish it lasted longer. It always seems like the trees glow, change, blaze, and then drop their leaves in almost no time at all.

So this morning it was cool enough to turn on the newly installed furnace.

It is time to remove the toile quilt from our bed and get out the thick toile comforter.

It’s time to take out my navy blue wool pea coat.

It’s time to take the screens off the windows and carry them down to store in the basement.

It’s time to make sure everyone’s mittens, hats and boots are at the ready.

It’s time to dig through my recipes and make a grocery list so soups and homemade breads once again give a heartening aroma to our home and warmth to our bodies.

It’s time to decide what my Winter Read will be. I keep a book or two at hand every day, but I like to have a long Summer Read and a long Winter Read each year. Don’t laugh when I tell you I’m considering The Brothers Karamozov by Dostoyevsky. Too many people have said it’s the best book they’ve ever read in their lives for me not to give it a try.

Yesterday Sharon and Chris and their three little ones, Sara and I went on The Timber Twister and whooped and hollered as we whipped around the curves and reveled in the exhilaration of speed and breathtaking surroundings combined together. What a delightful fall memory we made.

Today I will have lunch with a dear friend. And tonight I will meet with my SAGgy buddies, as we have done once a month for the past eight years.

This is the time of year I feel most like me. I don’t know very well how to explain what that means, I just know it’s true. Fall makes me feel more alive, more able, more hopeful, more aware, more content, more settled.

What does fall mean to you? Or when do you most feel like you?

I would love to read your thoughts.

Lunch with Carey

September 20, 2010 | My Jottings

All three of my daughters love the new Japanese restaurant in our city. I’d heard them and others talk about it for a long time before I finally ventured in to try it, and now it’s one of my favorite lunch spots. So, a few weeks ago Carey and I had lunch together at Hanabi.

Hanabi is edgy, youngish and hip, so I’m not sure why I like it so much. Because I am not edgy, youngish or hip. Well, edgy maybe, but certainly at 53 I’m not youngish and I most definitely am not hip. Hippy? Perhaps. Hip? No.

Carey and I went to Hanabi to eat fantastic food, to celebrate my birthday, and to decide on the first book we’re going to read in our newly established Two Person Book Club.

I am not one who eats shellfish very often, but I ordered their shrimp tempura lunch special and it was beyond delicious. I tried not to roll my eyes and moan when I tasted the first cloud-like bite of sweet potato tempura. I didn’t want to embarrass Carey. She might never go to lunch with me again if I roll my eyes and moan at the table.

This was my plate. I did not take a picture of the miso soup that came as the first course. Clockwise from the top left: White rice with little seeds on it (what are those little seeds I wonder?), three little steamed shrimp dumplings called Shumai, four California rolls (avocado, cucumber, crab, seaweed and rice) with pickled ginger and green wasabi, shrimp and vegetable tempura. Once again, at Hanabi you take a bite of food you never thought you would eat and you say Oh. My. Gosh. In a good way.

Here’s my talented and loving friend of twenty-five years:

Carey’s meal was similar to mine, but her main item was called Beef Negimaki, which is basically broiled strips of beef marinated in teriyaki and rolled around scallions. It was delicious, but a little scalliony.

Anyway, for our first book to read together in our newly formed Two Person Book Club, we decided on Ben Hur. I’m on chapter eight and am loving it so far. The language is rich and it’s quite the transporting read.

For my birthday Carey gave me an authentic Irish Tin Whistle. Carey’s sister Gen plays the instrument beautifully and Carey has been learning through tutorials on youtube. I hope to be playing the music from The Lord of the Rings and/or Titanic by next week and I’ll be sure to alert you here on the blog. 🙂

Carey is one of the most gifted people I know. You can read what I originally wrote about her here. She has her own business, and makes absolutely gorgeous jewelry that she offers online. She’s detailed, precise, wonderfully artistic, and I’m always amazed at how reasonable her creations are priced.

Years ago Carey used to make dried floral arrangements and once in a while I would go to help her when she was doing a show. Dozens of people would line up at her booth before it even opened, and while other vendors were there at the show all day, Carey invariably sold out of everything before noon. I used to tell her that I thought she could sell her florals for more, but she was quite content making them so reasonably priced. Everything she makes is unique and eye-catching. If you’d like to see some of Carey’s amazing handiwork, click right here.

So if you live in my city, try Hanabi. If you’re not opposed to shellfish, have the shrimp tempura lunch special. If you’ve read Ben Hur, why don’t you leave a comment and share your opinion about the book? If you would like to schedule me for an exhilarating tin whistle concert, please contact my agent here.

And be sure to visit Carey’s site and tell her Julie sent you.

Thank you for reading my little blog, and have a blessed week.

Edition 45-Wednesday’s Word

September 15, 2010 | My Jottings

If you want to get warm you move near the fire. If you want joy, peace, eternal life, you must get close to what has them.

C.S. Lewis

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Hopefully drawing closer,

I’m sure glad I don’t have a fish on my car

September 13, 2010 | My Jottings

Well, well, well.

Isn’t it interesting that after a wonderful four days away with friends and family, at a beautiful and peaceful resort on a clear and sandy lake, that something would happen to remind me that human nature is still corrupt and sinful, and in dire need of rescue. To clarify, that would be my human nature I’m talking about today.

I will write later (and post photos) about our fantastic getaway into Paul Bunyan country, and the lavish gift it was to me. I had my family around me, there was laughter and games and kayaking, there were children’s giggles and s’mores and a night sky so clear we could see the milkiness of the Milky Way. There was sleeping in until 7:30 a.m. There was good food and memorable sharing, and I was happy and grateful.

Then today when we returned to real life, which is also a very blessed and wonderful real life, I was glad I didn’t have a fish on my car.

You know the little chrome-like emblems that some Christians put on their cars to quietly say to those who would understand: “I believe. I am a follower of Jesus.”

Like this one. I used to have one of these on our vehicle. I am not ashamed of identifying myself as one who has given my life to Jesus Christ. But I am chagrined at how I sometimes represent Him. Oh, to be that serene, optimistic, loving woman of fervent, effective prayer and unwavering faith! Ha.

Yes, today I am saying ha. It’s not a sarcastic ha. It’s a don’t-forget-what-can-happen-when-the-dragon-of-selfishness-rears-her-ugly-head kind of ha.

After we returned from our fall vacation, Michael and I had to pick up prescriptions for several folks, replenish our groceries, and pick our dogs up from the dog hotel. I sat in the car while he went into the drug store to get the meds. “Be sure to get all four — Smith, Jones, McGillicutty and Johnson,” I reminded him as he walked into the busy place we frequent at least once a week.

As if he didn’t know the names. Of course he knows the names. I knew there was really no need to tell him the four last names of the people we were picking up prescriptions for, but since Parkinson’s hasn’t been very kind to Michael, sometimes reminders or reiteration is helpful to him. I sat waiting for him and people-watched. I had the windows down in the car and said a thank you for the invigorating fall weather we’re having — a brilliant blue sky, crisp air, light breezes, golden sunshine. And we are blessed enough (although I have no idea why) to be able to take a little trip with our family and friends!

After a much longer wait than would usually be expected, I saw Michael come out of the building and walk toward the car. With only one bag in his hand. A bag not large enough for four people’s prescriptions. When he got in the car I asked him where the other three bags were and he wasn’t really able to tell me. Parkinson’s sometimes causes speech difficulties. He did answer me, but I wasn’t able to glean from him why he only had McGillicutty’s meds and he didn’t get anything for Smith, Jones and Johnson. I knew the meds were ready; we had gotten confirming e-mails and recorded telephone messages from the pharmacy. I looked through the bag and again asked him why he didn’t get Smith’s, Jones’s and Johnson’s prescriptions when he knew we needed them all, and minutes before I had reminded him that we needed them all. He said something about the meds not being ready and that the gal behind the counter was new.


By this time I was getting frustrated. We needed meds for Smith, Jones, McGillicutty and Johnson and all we had was McGillicutty’s. So I sighed loudly to make sure Michael knew I was tired and so put out. I knew what had probably happened — he hadn’t been able to make himself understood to the clerk. I asked if he thought that’s what happened and he wasn’t sure. Then I said a couple of things that I wish I had not said. And I said them loudly enough so that the older man sitting in the car next to ours with his window open, could certainly hear. Then I got out of the car, walked quickly into the drug store, obtained the prescriptions for Smith, Jones and Johnson with no trouble at all, and returned to the car. The man in the car next to us was still sitting there. He probably watched me go into the drug store and come out still miffed, and felt sorry for Michael.

As we drove away, both of us not saying much, I was glad I didn’t have a fish on my car. Not because I’m ashamed of letting others know I’m a Christian. No! Never!

But because I’m ashamed that when people all around me need a clearer picture of Jesus, sometimes all they get is me.

If you only read one thing today…

September 10, 2010 | My Jottings

Michael and I have sponsored some children through Compassion International for a long time now. We have often wondered if we would ever be able to take one of the Compassion sponsored trips to Uganda or Nicaragua or India to meet the children we help….or I should say Michael has wondered if we would ever travel to any of those countries. I haven’t been as anxious to go as he is, but I believe in the mission and the integrity of the organization and am open to God changing my mind about this someday.

We do so very little to help — we send less money per month to each child than it would take to have pizzas delivered to our door. Yet the letters we’ve received from our children and their families have always made us cry.

One year with the birthday money we sent to beautiful Najemba Violet in Uganda, her mother was able to buy a goat. The goat enabled them to sell a little milk, make some cheese, and that small difference helped Najemba go to school for a longer period of time, something she had wanted very much.

With the small amount of birthday money we sent to lovely Sanjana Ajitha in India, her family was able to put a new corrugated metal roof on their house, which is really a shack. They were so grateful and wrote back right away to tell us so. And they always ask us to pray that Sanjana’s daddy will return to the family someday.

The birthday money we sent to little Bayardo in Nicaragua bought a new (used) bed for him, and his mother sent us a photograph of her boy sitting on his new bed with a shy smile on his face.

I don’t share this because I’m so proud we send a small amount of money to some children in need. I actually feel rather ashamed, because we live in such abundance and what little we send each month makes me feel a tad less guilty about the plenty we have. That’s a little sick, I guess, but I’m just being honest. I actually think we should be doing more than we are. But we all know about that infamous road paved with good intentions…

Anyway, I have often looked forward to reading what various bloggers write about regarding their trips to meet the child/ren they sponsor through Compassion International, and today I was moved to tears by one woman’s account of meeting the little girl she has helped support.

If you only read one more thing today, please read this blog post by Ann Voskamp……..

I hope you sit back and read all of it.

I am going to read it again.

And again.

Taking a poll on Edith

September 7, 2010 | My Jottings

Please cast your vote and help us decide on something of profound importance! First, here are the details that may aid you in voting:

Anyone who reads this blog regularly knows that Michael and I have two Miniature German Schnauzers named Edith and Mildred. If you are interested in knowing how different they are from one another, click here for the details.

Our oldest Schnauzer, Edith, is pretty intelligent and a bit quirky. She can see herself in the mirror, and always thinks it’s another dog. She barks, whines and paws, and tries to get to the other dog so they can play together. She’s perplexed why the other dog doesn’t come into the room to join her, but instead just mimics everything Edith does. She gets frustrated with this.

Edith can also see herself in our oven door, and thinks another dog that looks just like her lives in the oven. No matter how hard she tries to make contact with the other Schnauzer, it never works. Poor Edith.

Edith thinks the other dog in the mirror/oven door/fireplace glass/French door is named Piggeth, and even if we barely whisper that name…”Piiiigetttthhhh?”…Edith springs up from her nap or whatever else she was doing and frantically looks in any mirror or the oven door to see if Piggeth is there. Piggeth (Edith’s evil twin) is always there, but Piggeth is not always accessible. Poor Edith.

Edith also loves to watch television. She has an attention span longer than a fifth-grader. If a show is interesting to her, Edith will sit alertly and quietly in front of the television in our den, watching intently for sometimes thirty minutes, slightly tilting her head as the scenes change, and waiting. Waiting for any sign of animal life.

If any animal appears on the TV, Edith immediately jumps to the screen and puts her nose against it so she can inspect the animal at close range. Consequently, we have to clean dog snot off our television screen more often than the average American family.

If Edith spots an animal of the four-legged variety on TV, she jumps as high as her two little hind Schnauzer legs will propel her, up and down, up and down, like a canine pogo stick, while snorting and trying to get at the four-legged animal she sees on the screen.

Did I mention Edith has a deviated septum? She makes loud noises when she breathes and she snores when she sleeps. When she thinks Piggeth has come to the oven door to say hello, or especially when she sees four-legged animals on TV, Edith jumps and snorts and gets so worked up we have to pull her away from the screen and 1) hold her on our laps to prevent her from engaging in this behavior for close to an hour, or 2) change the channel so no animals can be seen, and only then Edith will reluctantly go to the couch and lay back down. But she keeps her beady little brown eyes on the screen, and those silver schnauzery eyebrows twitch as she waits for the next beast to appear.

Edith also loves The Traveling Wilburys. Have you ever heard of them? They were a short-lived group composed of George Harrison, Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, Tom Petty and Roy Orbison. Long ago Edith heard their song “End of the Line” and started reacting to it, running around the house and acting very excited. We showed her the online music video on the computer, and she did the same thing at the computer desk that she does to the TV: jumped up and down and tried to connect with what she saw. Only this time it wasn’t with an animal – it was with the Traveling Wilburys. To this day if she hears that song she runs for the office and tries to see George and Bob and Tom up close. Not until the song is over does Edith return to her normal self and go lay down.

I took a few photos of Edith in action last night.

Edith attempting to interact with a lion

Edith trying to communicate with ostriches

Edith endeavoring to meet a mule

Edith jumping up and down to inspect a skunk under a porch

Here’s where the poll comes in. Edith is eight years old and has been doing this her whole canine life. We think it’s amusing and are used to it. Sometimes we laugh, sometimes we get annoyed and scold, “Edith! Go lay down! It’s just a hyena!”

But whenever we’ve had company and they happen to see Edith’s antics, everyone always says, “You should send a video of Edith doing this to America’s Funniest Home Videos!” We always smile and agree, knowing we never will. For one thing we don’t have a video camera, for another thing it’s just our little Edith watching television. Or watching Piggeth in the oven door. Or in the mirror. Or in the fireplace. This is just normal Edith behavior to us.

What do you think? Is it goofy enough to ask a friend to take a few minutes of video of Edith trying to make contact with Piggeth or a giraffe or The Traveling Wilburys, and then send it off to AFV? Or is it just something we should endure enjoy by ourselves and let it go at that?

Please help us decide! You can say yes or no by leaving a comment to this post. We will take the advice of my wise blog readers and let you know what the results are.

Thank you, my friends!

Better what you can

September 4, 2010 | My Jottings

Not long ago an encouraging reader named Shelley told me about an online site called The Rabbit Room. I have enjoyed visiting there but there’s so much to read and several contributors, and I haven’t plumbed the site yet. Two things I learned about at The Rabbit Room that I’ve absolutely loved — The Book of the Dun Cow by Walter Wangerin, Jr., and the music of Andrew Peterson.

I have a few CDs by Andrew now and am slowly listening to them and getting to know the music, none of which has disappointed me. He’s the one who does the amazing song I put on my blog recently — if you missed it click here. I get teary when I see the couples dancing and smiling at each other with the deep knowing that only long-marrieds seem to have.

Anyway, I read something that Andrew wrote and thought it was quite inspiring, so I’m going to quote it here so you can read it too:

“I know full well there’s sex-trafficking, slave trade, genocide, war, and starvation all over this broken, beautiful planet.  The Kingdom, God’s will done on earth, stabs into the wide blackness like a bright sword in the hands of missionaries, doctors, pastors, and Christians who die for love every day.

Michael Card told me there’s more persecution in the church now than ever before.  There are brothers and sisters in dank prisons right now.  I don’t know why the Lord tarries.  But until he comes, it is my job, in the words of George MacDonald, “to better what I can.”

Look around you.  See the sorrow and weariness in the world, in your own community and church, under your own roof – in your own heart, for Heaven’s sake – and better what you can.  Let Christ lead you; he’ll show you how.

If you’re wealthy, keep your job and fling the money at those who are bringing water to the thirsty.  If you’re not wealthy, better what you can.  Work your field.  Tend your family like a garden. Write a song about your story. Write a story. Better yet, live a story. Make something beautiful, and make something beautiful of your life.

There’s so much in the world that’s falling apart, so put something together.  Find a way.”

Andrew Peterson

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Sometimes life seems so overwhelming, and I get bogged down with the helpless feeling that all the piddly little things I’m doing really make no difference at all.

Then I read what Andrew Peterson said and decided that for today I’m not going to think like that. It may not be much, but I’m going to better what I can. And if I mess up today, maybe with God’s help, tomorrow I will better what I can.

Hoping someone is with me on this,

Sculpting with Clara

September 1, 2010 | My Jottings

A while back when I realized that my sense of smell was gradually returning, I started compulsively putting items to my nose and inhaling deeply. Being 100% anosmic for several months reminded me of how much I take for granted. Can you smell a flower? Gently touch a grain of sand and feel it beneath your finger? Pee without assistance? See color? Brush your own teeth? Kiss a loved one? Drink freely of cold, clean water? If you can, you have some major joys to thank God for today.

A couple of years ago when I lost my sense of smell from a sinus infection and was told by an ear, nose and throat surgeon that it would most certainly never return, I was bummed. No matter how pungent something was, I could put it right to my nose and still couldn’t smell it. Everything was different then. Water didn’t taste the same, I was always asking people if my house smelled funky, I constantly tried to smell flowers even though I knew I couldn’t, and I kept asking God to restore my sense of smell.

After almost a year of having no olfactory capacity, I was thrilled when I began to faintly perceive scents again. I still can’t smell things like I used to, but if I had to guess I’d say about 30-40% of my sense of smell has been restored to me. Yay! I can smell things that are very fragrant if I put them close enough to my nose. I can’t smell things if they’re just a mild odor in the air. So if your house smells like it needs a good cleaning, you can still have me over and I won’t know it.

When I realized that there were some things I could smell again, of course I went around holding things to my nose and inhaling, thanking God for fragrance and the ability to enjoy it. One of the things I smelled was the old cannisters of Play-Doh I had kept for years for our grandchildren. The Play-doh did not smell good. It was too old and probably had a zagrillion teeming bacteria in each lump from years of little hands playing with it. So I tossed the old Play-Doh and bought some new. And I took the colorful lids off and put the new blobs of Play-Doh to my nose and deeply inhaled…aaaaahhhh…that old familiar smell was faint, but just the same as I remember from when I was young. Isn’t it funny how smells are so tied to our memories? I love how our brains work. Most of the time.

So eight-year old Clara came over to spend some time with Grandma recently and I pulled out the new, cleaner smelling and less germy Play-Doh. I sat at the table with her and we chatted as she sculpted.

Clara has gotten a few of her permanent teeth in and she’s looking older each time I see her. She’s such a beautiful blend of her mama and her daddy.

Here’s one of Clara’s creations that I had to zip my lips about. I hate snakes or any representation of snakes. But who doesn’t roll out a length of Play-Doh to make a snake when they start to play? So I told Clara what a nice job she had done on the snake and then cheerily suggested that she make something else.

Clara decided to make a copy of a little stuffed Eastern Bluebird we have named Eddy. If you squeeze Eddy’s tummy he sings a real recording of an Eastern Bluebird.

Here’s Play-Doh Eddy next to the real singing Eddy:

When I asked Clara what she was going to make next she said casually, “I think I’ll make a skeleton of a Tyrannosaurus Rex.”

So she did.

Clara asked me if I would like to make something out of Play-Doh with her, and of course I jumped at the chance. I considered making a bust of Winston Churchill or a galloping wild pony on the shores of Chincoteague with the ocean wind lifting its mane and tail, but decided on something more meaningful, more evocative of what life is all about for me.

If you don’t know the story you can read about it by clicking here. The names and dates have been changed to protect the innocent, but it’s a true story.

Today I’m so thankful I can smell Play-Doh. And watch my grandchildren play. And experience their love. And that there’s a cool breeze blowing in my office window right now, instead of the hot, humid air that has been hanging around for so long.

What are you thankful for today?