Friday, August 29, 2008

Life in My World--Nostalgia Nonsense

I was bit by nostalgia earlier in the week to the point of being sad, but it seems to have passed. I don’t know why, but the beginning of Fall seems to trigger longing memories more than any other time of year. When I see nine year old boys with slicked hair I get sad. When I see nervous high school girls I get sad. When I see college kids buying laundry baskets I get sad. When I see kids running on the soccer field or wearing a football helmet or see corn stalks drying out in the field, you guessed it, I get sad. Argh. I have so much to be happy about and so much to look forward to that I’m embarrassed when I lose focus. Pathetically enough, this is a repeat problem. I remember my first semester of college. I was in Hawaii, but missed Idaho. (Hard to imagine wishing for gray sagebrush when surrounded by blue oceans and green foliage isn’t it? But thus it was.) My older sister, Chris, wrote me a letter that said, “I hear you’re homesick. Well, don’t be. The garden is full of weeds. Dad is cross. Mom is sick in bed. The little kids are fighting. I’m canning peaches. The floor is sticky. The flies haven’t died. I repeat, DON’T MISS HOME . . . enjoy Hawaii while you can.” Amazing the power that letter gave me to refocus.

Here are a few great things I have to look forward to. You’ll see why it’s embarrassing for me to get hung up looking backwards when forwards has so much in it.

1. I got my menagerie of supplies organized so I can work on some projects this fall. This is a huge improvement over the antique washtub and assortment of boxes and bags I have been using. Now I’ll be able to work on projects without taking over the kitchen table for a week at a time because I can work from the cart and then wheel it away. I have several scrapbook projects that need finished and two Christmas advents. I’ll post the ideas as I finish (or give) them.

Cali-me-Ande at West Point 2007

2. In two weeks we head back to New York for Abe’s “ring week-end” at West Point. Ring weekend celebrates Firsties, or seniors. There will be an official ceremony as well as a formal banquet and dinner. Abe also has a football game that weekend in New Jersey. He is the quarterback for the Sprint Football team and it’s always fun to watch him play. I love the spirit of West Point. It is on a bend of the Hudson River that was strategic during the Revolutionary War. The granite buildings are solemn and sturdy and it’s an honor to be able to walk among America’s history. It’s also inspiring to associate with the young men and women who are preparing to serve our country and lead our military.

3. I read an article on Alaska Governor Sarah Palin a few months ago after she’d just given birth to their fifth child. I was impressed with her story and admired her values, confidence, influence and vision. After being announced as Senator John McCain’s running mate today, it will be interesting watching this presidential race, especially because of the passion people feel for their candidate.

4. I came home from work today and Ande had dusted and vacuumed everything as well as cleaned the kitchen. She said, “I thought you’d enjoy a Saturday with everything already done.” So I have a tomorrow to look forward to that doesn’t include dusting, vacuuming or cleaning. (And I thought I missed pigtails.)

5. A friend called tonight and wants to go yard-saling tomorrow. We haven’t gone together in a few years and we’re a perfect pair-she likes glass, I like baskets. We’ve only wanted the same thing once.

6. We have a trip to Utah, a trip to Idaho and a trip to Philadelphia this Fall. Add the Scrapbook Retreat in November and that’s a lot of times to get to eat out.

See what I mean? Longing for people in the past makes no sense when I have such opportunities with those same people in the future does it?

Do you get nostalgic? For what?

What is something you look forward to this Fall?

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Gift Idea--Sympathy Tokens

It all started at our first retreat at Mountain River Lodge. Thirty plus scrapbooking ladies minding their own business (there’s a lot of business to mind at those retreats and everybody stays busy), when the owners of the lodge had a crisis. One of their brothers, who lived less than a mile away, had suddenly died of a heart attack. Thirty of us were feeling sadly for a family in mourning and wishing we could do something to help. Michelle, an organized and quick-thinking scrapper, suggested we make a memory book for the owners. Each of us made a 4” x 6” layout without a picture and put it in a small album. The family added their favorite pictures and had a instant and valuable memento.

A few weeks ago, one of our scrappers from the Mountain River Lodge Retreat passed away unexpectedly. Again, many of us were feeling sadly for a family in mourning so Alyson, a creative genius, offered to put a tag book together for Cynthia's family. Whoever wanted to make a tag in Cynthia's memory was encouraged to do so. I don’t have a copy of the completed book, but here is my tag. (The folder opens out to a small picture of Cynthia and the reasons why I love her.) Alyson will take all of the completed tags and compile them into a momento for the family.

Just a couple of sympathy token ideas and one reason I love scrapbooking and scrapbookers.

Do you have a token of sympathy idea? I would love to hear it.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Homemaking Tip--Cake and Soap

We made cake pops for the better part of the afternoon. Cali instigated the project and made a double batch while Ande was the tester. I thought the cutest ones were the chocolate cake balls dipped in white chocolate and then sprinkled with little black and orange ghosts. However, the plain white one did look pretty in the cupcake paper set on a pale pink, Depression glass plate.

Homemaking tip for the day: I get mildly disgusted with myself when I find something that I eschew as costly and consequently don't purchase, only to find it really could have saved me money in the long run. My discovery this year was shower gel. I thought the price of a bar of soap could not be beat until I included the cleaning supplies it takes to get the soap scum off the shower walls; this increases the price of the bar significantly. Shower gel, on the other hand, does not leave the soap scum build-up, and comparatively saves money and time because I don’t have to scrub the shower as often. Oh . . . I hate it when the cheap side gets the best of me.

What? You already knew this tip and have been using shower gel for years?

Does the cheap side ever get the best of you? Please, please tell me I'm not alone.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

SPT-- Citius. Altius. Fortius.

Today is my last day of summer break and the end of uncomplicated mornings. No more sunning my legs in the porch rocking chairs while talking on the phone, reading a book or eating fresh peaches (or berries) and toast. No more morning walks. No more “no worries, I’ll do it in the morning.” No more morning blogging. No more sleeping in till 6:00. No more showering at 10:00.

Summer is a time of refortification. Here’s to a stronger nine months ahead because of a slower, lower-obligation summer.

How about you, does summer make you stronger or weaker?

Monday, August 25, 2008

Monday Memories--School List

Hollister Grade School built in the early 1900's
(my grandfather went to school here as well as me and all of my siblings and Cali, Abe, Ty and Ande)

I stopped at Wal-Mart with a list. I needed milk and dental floss. I came out with a bag of tortilla chips, 2 cantaloupe, 10 plums, 6 bananas, 2 boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats and 2 gallons of milk and dental floss. That store just does it to me, even with the best written list I come out with more.

The man in front of me in the check-out line was buying school supplies for his little girl. He kept checking the brightly colored school list as he unloaded his cart. A few things that didn't appear to be on his list or in his cart that I remembered taking to school were

1. Oil cloths. In first grade oil cloths were on our list. We each took an 18” square of tablecloth material so that we could roll our clay out without getting our desks dirty. Come clay time our classroom was a colorful quilt of mismatched oilcloths.

2. White paste. We also took crayons, Big Chief tablets, #2 pencils, watercolor paints and white school paste to school. Markers, colored pencils and glue weren’t allowed in first grade, but by third grade the teachers thought we could handle a tube of glue. We quickly proved our maturity by making fake fingernails with it. I think Starla taught us how. We turned our paints over so that we had a long, smooth surface and then spread a thin layer of glue across it. We slid the paints carefully back into our desks and let the glue dry for a day or two. When there were no white spots left we cut it into ten little oblongs to fit over our fingernails. We cut a few terrifically long ones as well as shorter ones. This kept us busy many recesses and sometimes the boys even helped us cut them out, too.

3. Nestle's Quick. Another thing we kept in our desk was a little baby food jar (most of us had baby brothers or sisters) full of Nestle's Quick and a broken plastic spoon. Every afternoon before the last recess we had to drink a carton of milk. Gag. We couldn’t go outside until the teacher shook our carton and said it was empty. I dreaded milk time until someone (again, I think it was Starla) brought some Nestle's Quick and put a couple of spoonfuls in her milk carton and shook it before drinking it. Best grade school fad we had, next to rollerskates at recess.

Did you make glue fingernails or was that a Starla thing?

Did you like the smell of paste as much as I did?

What was your favorite school supply?

Sunday, August 24, 2008

52 Blessings-Sounds

two sounds I love—Ty laughing and ocean waves

One of my favorite days to post is Sunday. I enjoy blessings, I guess. This week I’m grateful I can hear and am posting twenty specific sounds that I like:

the dishwasher hum (it’s a loaded sound because it means every one is full and the kitchen is clean)
Calvin’s soft snore (not to be confused with his loud snore)
whisperings of the Spirit
a little child’s lisp or r’s that are w’s
people singing hymns (it doesn’t matter if the voices are good or not)
a quiver in a voice that is saying something important
birds—especially morning doves, quail, kill-deer, hens and a rooster’s crow
the wind
Calvin and our kids’ voices talking, laughing, singing, whispering. (I’m not fond if arguing)
the fiddle
the dull thud of a tapped lid when a canning jar has sealed
pencil lead writing on paper
the computer ding signaling an e-mail has come in
the sprinklers
the mantel clock’s tick and chime
ocean whooshes
popcorn popping

What are three of your favorite sounds?

Friday, August 22, 2008

Life in My World

Yesterday when I pulled in to get a chocolate ice cream cone I noticed that Dairy Queen has my favorite thing, the Peanut Buster Parfait, on sale for $2.49. I argued, “Just because it’s on sale does not mean you need it. Sale price or no it still has the same amount of calories. Make the smarter choice and stick with the ice cream.” The girl asked for my order and I gave it: “One small chocolate ice cream cone please” and she answered, “That will be $1.94 at the window.” I’m no mathematician, but I know that $1.94 is only 55 cents away from $2.49 and that a cup, spoon, peanuts, hot fudge and a bigger swirl of ice cream are included in that 55 cents, so I said, “Please scratch that for a Peanut Buster Parfait.” I can't out argue a 55 cent peanut protein, dairy product and chocolate anti-oxidant bargain.

My scrapbooking friend, Donna who lives in Bigger Town, spent last night with us so she could attend Cynthia’s funeral today. I never think about how lumpy our beds are or how loud and early the roosters crow until we have company. Donna is a gracious guest and acts like she enjoys them both. Speaking of Cynthia’s funeral, her husband, Matt, spoke at it and did such a good job. All the speakers prior to him had told how much Cynthia loved to have fun. Matt said Cynthia never wanted a somber funeral, no matter what, so he told us all to feel under our pews because someone was going to be the lucky recipient of a prize. Sure enough. There was an envelope under one of the seats that contained a gift of fun on Cynthia—a certificate to her favorite restaurant. I’m adding that idea to my funeral plans.

Sur-prize, sur-prize, sur-prize! I was in the kitchen this evening and guess who came to the back door? One of the greatest missionaries with the best grin, laugh and heart. What a happy and impressive guy. He finished serving his mission here for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints six weeks ago and came back for a quick visit before his college classes begin on Monday. Oh, it is great to see him and was such a wonderful and unexpected surprise. In fact, just a couple of days ago I was thinking of him and thought, “Awww. It’s too bad we’ll probably never get to see him again.” He visited with Calvin and me while I fixed him a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches (he's easy to please) then he went to see other friends while we went to a wedding reception. He’ll be back later to spend the night. I just wish a grin, attitude and laugh like his was available at Dairy Queen.

Have you had a good surprise lately and what, praytell, would you order at DQ if I were buying?

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Gift Idea-Chinese Style

I shared this idea in a newsletter two weeks ago, but liked it so well I’m sharing it twice. Besides, time is running out to use it!

1. Decorate a Chinese take-out box with the Five Olympic Rings

2. Fill the box with candy or caramel/flavored popcorn (country’s colors) and a Fortune cookie

3. Print the Olympic creed on a tag and attach to the take-out box handle. The Olympic Creed: “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not to win but to take part, just as the most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well.”

4. Give as a gift to friends, co-workers, teachers, students, visiting teachers, visiting teachees . . . anybody.

I read these Official Guidelines to gift-giving in China and thought they were interesting and well worth sharing, because you never know when you might have the opportunity to give someone in China a gift and you don't want to make the mistake of giving a clock or fan or green hat.

  • Lavish gift-giving was once an important part of Chinese culture. Today, official policy forbids gift-giving as it can be considered bribery.

  • The Chinese do not usually accept a gift, invitation or favor when it is first presented, but will politely refuse two or three times to reflect modesty and humility. Accepting something in haste makes a person look aggressive and greedy, as does opening it in front of the giver.

  • When or if a gift is given, it should be offered with two hands. Any gift offered with two hands should always be received with two hands.

  • It's traditional to bring a gift when invited to someone's home. Fresh flowers or fruit are your best bet, and it is a good idea to bring eight, rather than the typical Western dozen. Eight is a lucky number.
  • Never give a clock as a gift. Traditional superstitions regard this as counting the seconds to the recipient's death. Another interpretation of this is that the phrase "to give clock" in Chinese is song zhong, which is a homophone of a phrase for attending a funeral.

  • Also avoid giving fans. The word fan (shan) sounds like san, meaning scatter or to loose. San kai means to split up. Traditionally, the bride gives her parents a fan, symbolizing that she is leaving them for her husband.

  • Never give a man a green hat. The Chinese saying "wearing a green hat" means someone's wife is unfaithful.

  • If possible, have your gifts wrapped in red paper, which is considered a lucky color. Pink, gold and silver are also acceptable colors for gift wrap. Gifts wrapped in yellow paper with black writing are given only to the dead. Also, check on the regional variations of color meanings - a safe color in Beijing could get you in trouble in Shenzhen. Your safest option is to entrust the task of gift-wrapping to a store or hotel that offers this service.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Homemaking Tip--Pies

Cali didn’t like to work in the kitchen; Ande didn’t like to work outside. Both had to learn each, but if we were choosing chores you could bet Ande would cook while Cali pulled weeds.

Ande quickly learned the better she got in the kitchen the higher her chances of getting to stay inside were. She became an expert pie maker.

Cali was good outside which ensured her chances of getting those chores. I worried a little that she wasn’t more proficient in the kitchen, but a good friend told me to relax. She said as long as I had taught her to read a recipe and the importance of good food for a family she’d get it when she needed it. I relaxed and I’m glad I did.

Last week Ande made a couple of peach pies. Yesterday she made two blackberry pies. Today she’s helping Cali make a blackberry and a peach pie for a company dinner Cali's attending with a friend. Here’s a snippet of the conversation going on in the kitchen:

Cali: “What are you doing?”
Ande: “I’m getting cold, cold, cold water.”
Cali: “What for?”
Ande: “Because the dough does funky stuff if you don’t.”

Ande starts measuring the flour out of the bin . . .

Ande: “Okay Cali, this is what you do with the flour. You make it very fluffy.”

Cali begins to help . . .

Cali: “I’m making a mess. . . . Mom, you are on clean-up duty.”
Pause . . . “Mom, you’re not doing a very good job.”

(Of course I’m not, I’m too busy recording their conversation . . .)

Cali: “I need help!”
Ande: “Cali, what do you think I’m doing.”
Cali: “You’re doing a great job, honey. It’s mom. . . . Mom! Help! Getting a husband is NOT easy.”

A few minutes later . . . Ande is mixing dough, Cali is peeling peaches.

Ande: “Half the Crisco, Cali, and smoosh it with the giant fork.”
Cali “Why half?”
Ande: “‘Cause it works. Come look at my mixture.”
Cali: “Come see my peaches.”

Cali continues to peel peaches, Ande continues to make the dough.

Ande: “Cali, come watch the tricky part.
Cali: “Um hum . . . nice little ball.”
Ande: “Lots of flour and always use the marble rolling pin.”

Ande begins to direct Cali on how to mix the peach pie filling. She tells her where the things are in the cupboards: cornstarch, nutmeg, tapioca, etc . . . .

Ande: “Get the cornstarch, Cali. It’s in a container up above the bread.”
Cali: “Mom, you’ve been buying this in bulk these days? When did you start buying cornstarch in bulk?”
Ande: “Cali, how long has it been since you’ve been in the kitchen?”
Me: “I’ve been buying cornstarch in bulk since you wore diapers and I used it for your diaper rash.”
Cali: “Oh. I guess I hadn’t noticed.”

Cali begins mixing sugar, thickening agents and spices in with peaches.

Cali: “Ande, you do know these peaches are dry don’t you? Should I smash them?”
Ande: “Just stir Cali.”

Cali stirs and stirs and stirs.

Cali: “Well, I’ll be a monkey’s uncle.”

Cali snorts and laughs uncontrollably at herself.

Cali: “I can’t believe I just used that term.”

Cali continues to stir.

Cali: “Hey, Ande. Look at this SAUCE! Who’d have guessed? Sugar and fruit make juice.”

The girls' banter continues back and forth.

Cali occasionally says, “Wait! I need to learn how”
and Ande responds, “Don’t worry, Cali. Cali. Quit worrying. Cali. I see you are still worrying.”

Cali did not need to worry:

The homemaking tips today come from my friend and Ande:

1. “Relax. Teach her how to read a recipe and the importance of good food to a family and she’ll get it when she needs it.”

2. Ande always seals the inside of her pie crust with mixed egg whites. She brushes it on before adding her fruit filling and it keeps the fruit juice from soaking through and making the crust soggy.

3. Ande also adds 3 Tbs of quick tapioca and 3 Tbs of cornstarch to her berry pies. They gel so nicely and keep their shape when cut.

  • Are you more proficient inside or outside?
  • Did you like to learn to cook or did your mom have to relax and let you learn to cook when necessity prevailed?
  • Peach or blackberry?

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

SPT-Citius (faster)

Last night for Family Home Evening at the Singles’ Ward, we made homemade ice cream. Out of original boxes came new-ish cool blue and pretty pink ice cream freezers. Calvin and I plopped our rust bucket on the counter with the others. It was less than sleek, cool or pretty. In fact it didn’t even look sanitary. However,

darned if it didn’t get the ice cream frozen much faster than the other freezers. Evidently old is sometimes faster, just like the 38 year old Romanian woman who won the Olympic Marathon last week. I enjoyed watching her run the last few miles—she was hardly the sleekest, coolest or had the prettiest gait, but darned if she didn’t cross the line faster than everyone else. Citius anicula.
“Sometimes age succeeds, sometimes it fails. It depends on you.” ~Ravensara Noite

Sunday, August 17, 2008

52 Blessings--Oil

This morning we voted on how to cook the halibut for supper—deep-fried or grilled. My vote was grilled but I was outnumbered and deep-fried won. I dreaded the oiliness of the fish until . . . I thought of my friend, Emilie. Emilie was our neighbor in Southern Idaho who had immigrated to the United States from Germany. Emilie was a little girl under Hitler’s regime. She vividly recalled playing next door with her Jewish friend when the Gestapo barged in and dragged Emilie and her friend’s family to the backs of waiting trucks. Emilie’s mother saw the commotion and ran frantically across the yard waving her daughter’s birth certificate in the air and shouting, “She’s not a Jew! My little girl is German.” After checking the certificate the Gestapo unloaded Emilie, but hauled away her friend’s family. Emilie never saw them again. She told us many stories of foraging through the woods with her sister and mother for rabbits and greens to help their poor diets.

We used to have magnificent thunderstorms in Idaho and Emilie hated them. Though in her seventies, she hid in her closet with a pillow over her head and quivered during the flashes of lightning and the booms of thunder. One day a thunderstorm broke while she was visiting us. She nervously fussed at the kids to come to the center of the house, then begged us all to climb under the supper table with her for protection. The look of terror in her eyes at each streak of lightning and crash of thunder reflected a little girl quaking at exploding bombs in the night sky. She trembled with each rumble.

Emilie always made sure our children ate butter while they were at her house. She constantly warned me to keep plenty of oil in their diets. In her German accent, she’d say, “Honey, I vremember how sickly we got because we didn’t have any fats in our diets. The thin little vrabbits we ate didn’t offer much and we didn’t have any oil or butter. I vremember when we finally got oil after the Occupation, we fried our potatoes in it and it tasted soooo good.” She’d smack her lips and say, “Now, honey, it’s not the oil you’re thinking of—it was thick, green motor oil, but our bodies were so starved we ate it right up.”

Tonight the crisp, deep-fried halibut did indeed taste good and rather than curse the extra calories (thanks to Emilie's voice in my memory), I decided to be grateful for having plenty of nutrients that my family needs so that we are healthy instead. (Oh, and I’m also thankful for mineral oil. I would be one itching post if it weren’t for lotion and really appreciate Bath & Body Works Moonlit Path, Sweet Pea and Pear.)
Have you ever had to worry about not having enough oil in your diet? (Is it possible in today's fast-food society?) What is your favorite food cooked in oil? What's your favorite brand and smell of lotion?

Friday, August 15, 2008


B12 I t Very faded letter S
Copper Uppercase Letter P I e copyright McElman_080417_6518_E S

For Life in My World, I think I’ll just share snippets of e-mails that I sent to family rather than create a new post:

~Dear Abe,
I’ve been working on Physical Science today and am headed out to the college to take my test. Wish me luck. No, wish won’t do it. Pray me luck.

~Dear Rachel,
Don’t ask me how I did on the test. I don’t trust my judgment. Most of it seemed familiar, but I thought that the last two times, too.

~Dear Rachel,
So much of my life this week seems un-writeable. The conversations I have with the girls aren’t stuff you publish. Calvin and I had a really interesting conversation the other night but that isn’t discussable either. Physical Science is not worth writing about.

By the way, Cali told me today (after tying to explain a concept so that I could get it) that she was amazed I would venture to take tests without knowing the material. She said, “It’s like you are dog paddling. You need to be taking big strokes and swimming not just trying to keep your head above water.”

I said, “Cali, I’ve never before studied like I am studying in this class. I’ve never just plowed through without understanding first. However, I realized a couple of weeks into this class that I had three choices:

1. Quit.
2. Take the classes from the college locally and then retake them on-line. Or, bag all of my old credits and start all over at another university because my credits are too old to transfer.
3. Dog paddle as best as I could to the other side.”

I continued, “There is NO WAY I am going to understand this stuff the way that it is written. The info goes in and comes out within 48 hours, so I just hurry and run take the test as fast as I can after I learn the material and hope it doesn’t fall out between here and there.”

On a side note, I’m quite fond of the librarian. She is so unique. She wears comfortable shoes with dresses. She’s conscientious and kind and always asks me if I need a drink, a pencil or to go to the bathroom before I begin my test. It makes me laugh she asks that every time. I think she’d give me a snack if I asked. Today when I called she told me the library was closed, but that she would meet me at the back door and let me in so I could take the test. And when I entered, she nervously smiled and told me she wouldn’t ask me for my identification because she knows me now. She makes test taking enjoyable.

~ Dear Rachel and Abe,
Yesterday Ande and I had a great, great day. We left here about 8:00 and drove to Big Town and went straight to the craft/scrapbook store. I told Ande that it had to be the first stop or we’d never do it because there is so much stimuli and enthusiasm in there it just sucks the life right out of you. It’s a store you have to go into fresh. We ended up spending a few hours there (not the plan)—probably because Ande got so much enthusiasm from the stimuli. She bought a piece of art and a frame for it and then stuff to make a couple of projects. I got stuff for Christmas present projects.

After the energy-sucking craft store we went to Kohl’s where we both found some clothes, then we went to P.F. Chang’s for lunch. It’s a new Chinese restaurant and we’ve wanted to go. It didn’t disappoint. It was clean and affordable.

After lunch we went to the mall and I went to the old lady clothes store while Ande went to the young people store. I found three dresses in the same pattern as two that I have now, but in different fabrics—all on sale for $20 each. B.A.R.G.A.I.N. (I know how to run a good thing into the ground.) I also found a jacket for $20. I was very excited about my deals. Ande, in the meantime was finding deals where she was, but still had more shopping to do so I went to Costco and WinCo (which was a merciful act) without her. Nothing noteworthy happened at either of those places other than I bought a year’s supply of toilet paper, yeast and a 25 pound bag of oats.

Then, Ande and I went to Target. I lost her one time and didn’t have my phone. Finally, I thought, “Shoes. I’ll bet she’s in the shoe department.” Sure enough. Both of the girls love shoes. Give me a good sturdy pair and I’m happy not to have to try anything on for years.

After Target we went back to Kohl’s so I could buy a vacuum. I did not want to spend the money on a vacuum. It’s much more fun to spend it on Christmas projects and new dresses. I finally took a dip and got a Dyson (if I’d have taken the plunge I’d have gotten a Kirby). It is pretty and yellow and has suction.

~Yesterday one of my friends and very first NJP newsletter subscribers died. Cynthia was only 39 and died unexpectedly from surgery complications. I remember the first time I visited with Cynthia, her family had just moved here and we invited them over for a 4th of July picnic. She wore a cute patriotic sweater and I loved sitting on the back lawn visiting with her. Since that time, she’s gone to several of our scrapbook retreats and often written me kind e-mails. I’ve gotten to teach her kids, and Matt, her husband, is our doctor and takes good care of our family. Cynthia was always willing to share her insights and opinions, paper, camera, scissors, home, laugh, anything. She leaves a sweet family behind and I’m grateful to her for what she taught me.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Homemaking Tip--Earthquake

I keep thinking of the story of the little nine year old boy that accompanied Yao Ming as a flag bearer in the opening ceremony of the 2008 Summer Olympics. Lin Hao was in a school during the recent earthquake in China. He escaped, but went back into the collapsed buildings to save his schoolmates and suffered injuries in the rescue. When asked why he risked his life and went back in he said it was because it was his job . . . he was the hall monitor.

Isn’t that the sweetest story? “Because I’m the hall monitor . . .” How did he become so responsible?

Today’s homemaking tip is for those of us who live in an earthquake zone and want to be helpful , like Lin Hao, in an emergency: Keep an axe or hatchet safely hidden under your bed, along with a pair of old shoes and a flashlight. There’s a good chance your doors may shift during an earthquake making it impossible to get out of your bedroom and into the other rooms in your house. The shoes are to protect your feet in case of broken glass and the flashlight is so you don’t cut your bed down instead of the door.

Monday, August 11, 2008


me, Melanie, Lucy and Susan through the haze and ashes of the fire

I’ve written about imaginary friends before. Today I have one less than yesterday. Lucy is no longer an imaginary friend; she is now a berl (blogger encounter in real life) friend.

A few weeks ago Lucy wrote and said she was coming through our town at 5:00 on Sunday afternoon and wondered if it would be possible to meet. I don’t know which impressed me more: that she would take the initiative to meet fellow bloggers or that she knew precisely when she was coming through town three weeks in advance. It doesn’t really matter, for Lucy’s posts have long impressed me, and those two insights perfectly fit her character—she’s outgoing, courageous, knows where she's going and refreshing, and had I given her accurate directions she’d have been here exactly at 5:00.

Melanie, Susan and I have known each other for a long time. When we moved here ten years ago, Susan befriended me at a family church dance. Calvin was working in the harvest and I don’t remember where Terry (Susan’s husband) was (probably supporting his young men at a football game). Susan and I sat at a corner table, encouraged our kids to “dance some more”, laughed and talked for the whole three hours. It went so fast and I felt good about life at the end of the evening. Susan is easy to talk to and willing to share advice, thoughts and ideas. She’s very supportive to Terry and her kids, creative and I admire her.

I met Melanie at the hair salon. EVERYONE and their dog wanted her to cut their hair. Because she was so popular and respected I didn’t have the courage to request her, but I did watch her from my station in the mirror. She has the funnest laugh and engaged everyone who sat in her chair. Finally, after she’d married and was cutting hair from her home, I got the courage to ask her to do my hair. She works miracles, both in the chair and in the heart. I love to be around her. I admire and appreciate her.

Milo and Melanie, Susan and Terry and their families met Lucy and her boys here for supper. It was great to get together and hear each others’ perspectives on various topics. The kids seemed to fare fine running outside—Zoe (Susan’s daughter) kept them out of the canal—and quickly found alliances and friends; and our husbands were patient at letting us chatter about things that excluded them from the conversation. I’m quite humbled by Lucy’s efforts to connect with us and likewise the encouragement of our spouses and families that allow us the time to write and read blogs and make berl friends.

Note to Melanie, Lucy and Susan. Remember I was worried about the angle of Calvin’s shot? Ha. Joke’s on me. I should have been more worried about the smoke between us and him. If you have a good picture from the other side of the campfire (with a kind angle) would you forward it to me, please? Thanks.


Sunday, August 10, 2008

52 Blessings--It Takes a Village . . .

Abe, seated in yellow, sharing a PowerPoint presentation with friends and family

It bugs me when a good quote gets used in a context I don’t agree with. “It takes a village to raise a child” is one of those quotes. A few years ago it was used in the political arena pushing for more government programs. I’m taking the wordy way to preface my post so that it’s clear that that context is not how I interpret the quote. To me “it takes a village to raise a child” means that, though family is primary, it still takes a lot of caring and concerned people in a child’s life to help them thrive. It takes teachers who inspire, neighbors who provide places to discover, friends who keep a watchful eye, as well as librarians who recommend good books, policemen who enforce obedience to laws and mayors who lead effectively.

One of my blessings is good mentors for our children: men and women who take an active interest in our kids and are willing to spend their time (and sometimes resources) for our children’s benefit. For instance, one couple has routinely called before they choose a restaurant to eat at to see if our kids are waiting tables that night. If our kids are then the couple eats there so they can visit with them (as well as give them a generous tip). Another man patiently tells glory-day athletic reruns of our kids’ athletic accomplishments . . . reminding them someone remembers. Still others have provided employment for them and toted them to camp, super activities and high adventure outings.

Last week Abe went to visit one of his mentors, the man who served as his Young Men’s President. Abe feels a great kinship to this family because they have shown him such support through the years. Last Monday, Abe invited the family over for dinner and cooked three Filipino dishes and then shared a PowerPoint presentation he’d made of people he loved in the Philippines. I couldn’t help but be grateful for the influence and love this family has shown Abe. They are part of the village.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Celebrating 08-08-08

Life in My World

Eight is China’s lucky number. They believe it symbolizes wealth and prosperity. They’re celebrating today’s unique calendar date (8-08-08) by hosting and opening their very first Summer Olympic Games at 8:08:08 p.m.

Stacy Julian is celebrating today’s unique calendar date by offering a challenge to

Take 8 pictures that are evidence of your personal creativity. Anything that is flourishing because of your unique blend of spiritual gifts, skills and talent (yes, this includes children) and can be seen as the result of your creative process. Photograph these things today and use this opportunity to realize just what a difference you make. You, like today's date will NEVER happen again.

I’m taking them both up. I plan to watch more of the Olympics this round than ever before. I’m not a big TV watcher, but I’m feeling it my American duty and job as a fellow world citizen to better appreciate the talents of others.

Here is the 8 picture challenge:

Creative problem solving. Every year our garden has gotten away from me in August. Weeds galore. This year we tried something a little different, we put the first three rows into flowers and what a difference that makes. Not having to pick, wash and preserve those first three rows makes more weeding possible. And, the flowers are such a bright spot and invite hummingbirds (verses worms that broccoli invites).

Creative baking. No two loaves of my bread ever look the same. And though this peanut butter looks terribly anemic, I still love it.

Creative influence. Ande posted her very first blog today. Both Cali and Ande are good writers and it is very rewarding to see them record their lives.

Creative nurturing. Over a month ago, Maddie and Pal, my niece and nephew, put a message that said, "HI" in a root beer bottle and sent it floating down the canal to reach the ocean. A few days ago the girls and I saw it stuck in a grate about a mile from the house. Cali retrieved it and I’m sending it to a friend in Hawaii and asking her to stick a message in it and mail it back to them. Maddie and Pal still believe in fairies, so it shouldn’t concern them for a few more years how a bottle with no name or address could find them.

Creative sharing. A neighbor wrote last week and said she would love fresh vegetables the next time I had extra. I put them in a bright gift bag and suddenly they were a pretty bag of beans instead of a bag of beans.

Creative writing. Here is a piece of today’s NJP newsletter “China is home to 1.2 billion people. Last week while we were bicycle riding (I don’t think we qualified to use the Olympic term of cycling because we stopped every few hundred yards to read a sign, get a drink, take a picture or let someone catch up), I took a funny picture of Cali:

When I saw the photo, I thought 'She’s one in a million,' and Abe informed us later that if you’re one in a million that means there are 1,233 people just like you in China. Amazing. "

Creative organizing. The eggs are stored in an old sieve in the fridge instead of a styrofoam carton. It actually came out of desperation not a creative eye, but it works and looks good.

Creative loving. Marriage is a miracle to me; it is so fragile and yet so resilient. We’re headed on an overnight campout in a few minutes and today, I really wanted to nitpick at the mess it would make when Calvin decided to cook quail at the last minute, but I creatively bit my tongue until it passed. And do you know what? He brought corn on the cob home. Creative silence pays. Creative silence pays.

What a great 08-08-08.