The most glorious messes

Al, Carla and me on Christmas morning, sometime in the mid-1960s.

Al, Carla and me on Christmas morning, sometime in the mid-1960s.

“One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas day. Don’t clean it up too quickly.”Andy Rooney

I don’t know whether they should get credit or blame, but Mama and Daddy made all their kids into adults who love Christmas. I guess there’s a part of me that never really grew up when it comes to that holiday.  And for us, the delightful disarray starts long before Christmas morning.  Now, as then, our homes become glorious messes of wrapping paper, ribbons, colorful decorations that haven’t yet been put where they belong, and gifts hidden so well they might not be discovered again until June.  It all adds up to the year’s happiest chaos.

I started this year’s Christmas mess several weeks ago, knowing Jeff would be in the hospital over Thanksgiving weekend, by which time I normally have at least the York Christmas tree done.  As I write this, just the tree itself is up, not even adorned with the 3000-4000 lights I usually string on it before adding ridiculous numbers of ornaments.  Given everything that’s gone on this year, the Christmas mess is likely to be around awhile. No worries that it will get cleaned up too soon this year!

During this December, I wish you the happy sort of disorganization that suggests more festivity than frustration.  Cue up the holiday music, sip some spiced tea or coffee or eggnog, and enjoy the excitement!

One year ago today:

To lead a simple life

Hmm, do I sense conflicting themes here? 🙂

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Joy is what happens

Joy to your world

“Joy is what happens to us when we allow ourselves to recognize how good things really are.”Marianne Williamson

We don’t tend to think of airports as comfortable or happy places, but this video might change your mind.  During my years with USAir, I often thought how the airport gates were a setting that displayed the entire gamut of human emotions, especially during those days when people were allowed to go to the gate to meet or say farewell with those who were traveling.  Every day, I would see tearful reunions and farewells, people en route to weddings and funerals, anxious friends and families awaiting a stranded or delayed loved one, travelers dealing with cancelled plans or smooth sailing, customers venting frustration and anger, or bubbling over with excitement, happiness and  humor.

I feel obliged to issue a disclaimer: the folks at the Northern Ireland Tourist Board are not even aware I’m sharing this video, let alone paying me to do it. But when watched this video for the first time sitting beside Jeff’s bed in the early evening at the hospital, despite it being a rather sedate and sobering milieu, this clip had me literally clapping in time to the music with a big grin on my face.  I hope it does the same for you.

One year ago today:

Cheerfulness breaking in

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Consolation brought me joy

Grady meets Father Christmas at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, November 29, 2013

Grady meets Father Christmas at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, November 29, 2013

“When anxiety was great within me, your consolation brought me joy.”Psalm 94:19

Here in the northern hemisphere, December is the month of consolation, when the cold and decay of nature’s landscape are offset by the joys of celebration and gratitude.  Today we thank you for the cheer and solace of your kind thoughts, prayers and visits here.  We wish you a month of happiness, filled with “tidings of comfort and joy,” in festive gatherings, or quiet contemplation, or both.

One year ago today:

A great revolution

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Home is not where

This long road began at Ft. Belvoir hospital, with the emegency removal of a ruptured and cancerous appendix and surrounding tissues.  Here, Jeff takes a stroll with Drew and Matt while recuperating from his first-ever of what would turn out to be many, many surgeries.  September, 2007

It started at Ft. Belvoir hospital, with a ruptured and cancerous appendix.
Here, Jeff gets some fresh air with our sons while recuperating from his first-ever surgery.
We didn’t know then that there would be many, many more.   September, 2012

“Home is not where, it is whom.” -Christianne Dettmann

As most readers have figured out by now, I’m no longer posting two weeks in advance, but taking it day by day as I am able.  Since my days are mostly spent in hospitals lately, I have a bit of a one-track mind.  In any case, this quote seemed appropriate for this week.  For the first time in many years, in fact, so many I can’t remember exactly how many, Jeff and I have been able to spend some part of Thanksgiving and our shared birthday with both of our sons.  Not in our home, but as Dettman says, home can be anywhere.  I hope this finds you feeling at home wherever you may be today!

One year ago today:

Bounty enough

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Out of suffering

Jeff at Dachau, Germany, August 2005

Jeff at Dachau, Germany, August 2005

“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.”Kahlil Gibran

This photo is rather odd, but it seems fitting as a symbol for where Jeff is now, on his 55th birthday. He’s in a place of past nightmares and trauma, somehow surviving (thus far) life-threatening complications and tremendous pain, holding on in a position where his strength is likely to fade quickly.  His stamina and endurance are unbelievable, but insofar as any human has limits, we have to fear that he is surely approaching his.  We continue to need and appreciate your kind thoughts and prayers.

About the photo: when we visited Dachau with our friends in August 2005, we drove around searching for the parking and main entrance.  It was quite obvious from the walls and barbed wire that we were at the camp, but we weren’t sure where to start touring.  Steve and Aaron got out to inquire, going through a gate that looked too small to be an entrance, and when they did not return after a few minutes, Amy and I convinced Jeff to see if he could find them.

We didn’t mean “look over the wall” but that’s what Jeff did.  Instead of going through the same gate Aaron and Steve had entered, he walked over to the wall and somehow jumped to a position where he could pull himself up to look over.  Amy and I were in the car cracking up. I don’t remember how long Jeff was up there, but naturally I went for my camera and got a shot of him scanning the grounds of Dachau, looking for Steve and Aaron.  Our visit to Dachau was sobering and unforgettable, but this photo survives as the only note of levity of a day spent in a heartrendingly tragic setting; a flash of laughter in a day devoted to the remembrance of seemingly endless tears.

I am comforted today by this reminder of strength and humor in a desolate landscape. Like those who survived Dachau, Jeff will bear forever on his body the marks of what he has endured.  May he live many years to reflect on blessings and joy that lie on the other side of his pain.

One year ago today:

Two things stand

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

I am grateful

Pasha stands looking out the window as we prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, 2007

Pasha stands looking out the window as we prepare for Thanksgiving dinner, 2007

“I am grateful for the beauty in the midst of suffering. I am grateful for the treasure hunt through the minefield of life.  Dangerous or not, I don’t want out of the minefield.  Because truth, and beauty , and God are there.”Glennon Doyle Melton

As I write this, the day before Thanksgiving, Jeff has not yet awakened from the 14+ hours of surgery he endured yesterday.  They had to keep him anesthetized overnight because they knew he would be in the OR again for an emergency procedure this morning (a stent placed to drain a bile leakage from the liver that could result in infection if left untreated).  One of the doctors woke me up in the waiting room this morning, after about 6 hours of sleeping for the first time in two days, to sign a consent form for the procedure.  I am grateful I was there to sign the form.  I am grateful there was a way to solve the immediate problem. I am grateful that this morning’s procedure went “as well as it possibly could have gone,” as the surgeons have just informed me, and grateful for the prayers that will join mine, asking for this complication to heal without further setbacks.

I’m grateful for the many, many doctors from various specialty fields, whose names and cards I can hardly keep track of.  I am grateful for the compassionate nurse who gave me kind and reassuring words, along with much-needed blankets and a pillow so that I could sleep last night on chairs that were pulled together in a waiting room.  I am grateful both my sons are near, sharing my love and anguish for a man we always knew to be remarkable, but had no idea, until now, how truly amazing his strength and endurance are.

Yesterday’s surgery was far more difficult and long than anyone anticipated, due in part to massive scarring from the first liver resection.  Jeff ended up getting seven units of blood (so far) and four units of blood products, and has a long, tough road to recovery ahead.  The surgeons were exhausted and disappointed at the setbacks, but were nonetheless pleased to believe that Jeff is now rid of the cancer and very likely to be among the 8% who survive his particular diagnosis, if he is able to survive the post-surgical risks of the coming days and weeks.

Today, on this day we set aside for the gratitude we can rightly feel every minute of every day, I pray your life is filled with the best kinds of abundance.  As with those who shared the first Thanksgiving meal on which our celebration is based, we all come to the table with a mixed bag of blessings and sorrows, many disappointments, hurts and griefs, but also countless reasons to rejoice.  May we all open our eyes to the providence that surrounds us, making our existence possible.   Happy Thanksgiving!

“I remain confident of this: I will see the goodness of the LORD in the land of the living.”  Psalm 27:13

One year ago today:

Vibrantly alive

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Nevertheless

Thanksgiving display in a North Carolina shop, September 2013

Thanksgiving display in a North Carolina shop, September 2013

“The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts.  No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving.” — H.U. Westermayer

I was unable to find out anything about who H. U. Westermayer was, though I did find others asking the same question. While they were similarly unsuccessful at learning about the person who originated this oft-quoted thought, many did verify the historical accuracy of the quote.  Sometimes our quaint stories about the first Thanksgiving tend to obscure the harsh reality of the context in which it took place.  Perhaps our greatest lesson to be drawn from that celebration is the example of people who were able to find reason to be thankful amid circumstances more adverse than most of us can imagine.  Whatever you may be facing today, I hope the difficulties will not obscure the blessings.

One year ago today:

Absolutely, positively, certainly

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

A hope

Point Pinos Lighthouse, Pacific Grove, California   December 2002

Point Pinos Lighthouse, Pacific Grove, California, December 2002

“Grieve in places the world does not forgive.  Rejoice in places the world does not notice.  Live with a patience that the culture cannot sustain, and a hope that the world cannot imagine.”Krista Tippett

Thanks to all who visit this site, and  especially to all of you who have grieved, rejoiced, and hoped with us on this journey!

In the brief time I’ve been linking to the blog entries from a year ago, I am often struck by how appropriate they seem on the first anniversary of their online publication.  Today is one such time.  It’s one of my personal favorites.

One year ago today

Open to the day

Happy Thanksgiving! Since I did not began re-posting earlier posts until 2020, the post linked just above (“Open to the day”) which was written in November 2012 has not yet been re-posted. It remains one of my very favorites and is perfect for Thanksgiving. I hope you will visit the post (again, if you’ve been with me since 2012, or for the first time, if you were not with us then). I love it all the more now that my amazing Mama is no longer with us on earth.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Following the paths

Mission San Juan Bautista, California, June 2003

Mission San Juan Bautista, California, June 2003

“If you are ill or facing adversity, you can begin to heal yourself by following the paths others have followed. Forgive yourself and others, live with hope, faith and love and watch the results in your life and in the lives you touch. Remember that success and healing refer to what you do with your life, not to how long you avoid death.”
Bernie Siegel 

One year ago today:

Nothing so easy

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Not destroyed

Precarious, but breathtaking: hikers pause to enjoy the Blue Ridge vistas, November 2011

Precarious, but breathtaking: hikers pause to enjoy the Blue Ridge vistas, November 2011

“We are hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not abandoned; struck down, but not destroyed.”
2 Corinthians 4:8-9 (NIV)

It’s a bit frightening, being this close to the edge of suffering and death.  It’s not territory we chose to explore, but even from here, the view is sometimes more beautiful than seems reasonable.   I imagine that you, too, have been (or will be) in places you never sought, or situations you hadn’t planned.  I hope you are able to hang on– perhaps gaining a new perspective that will illuminate your less dramatic pathways, and underscore your joy in happier times that surely lie in your future.

One year ago today:

It’s the heart

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

A blissful perfection

George, Jeff and Matt take a ride on George's Gator. Russellville, Alabama, November 2011

George, Jeff and Matt take a ride on George’s Gator. Russellville, Alabama, November 2011

“There is a blissful perfection in even the smallest, most mundane facets of everyday life, and appreciating this is an important source of happiness…Humans adapt to any type of experience, but scholars suggest that we’re less likely to adapt to tiny pleasures because, by their nature, they are unexpected and different each time they occur.” -– Tammy Strobel

So that explains it!  I always knew small pleasures were magical, but I didn’t realize that part of their perfection lies in their seeming insignificance.  To put it another way, when we’re not expecting anything, we are often pleasantly surprised.  I wish you a season of the most blissfully mundane moments of everyday life, along with the recognition of their hidden riches.

One year ago today:

The true measure of our thanksgiving

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

No shortcuts

At the Montreal Botanical Garden, May 2009

At the Montreal Botanical Garden, May 2009

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.”Beverly Sills

It may be a long and winding road, but it’s filled with beauty, discovery and enchantment.
Enjoy the journey!

One year ago today:

Unlock the Fullness of Life

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Children and dogs

Kevin and Molly: two of my favorites. O'Fallon, Illinois, April 2008

Kevin and Molly: two of my favorites. O’Fallon, Illinois, April 2008

“Children and dogs are as necessary to the welfare of the country as Wall Street and the railroads.”Harry S Truman

In fact, I’d say they are even more necessary. I’m so grateful for them!

One year ago today:

Unknown blessings

Pasha, this will be our first Thanksgiving without you.
Now and always, we miss you, but we’re thankful for your time with us!

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Peculiar and inexhaustible influence

It's just too nice to stay indoors. Join me for a stroll!

It’s just too nice outside today to stay indoors. Join me for a stroll!

“Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn–that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence…” Jane Austen

Monday, the day before yesterday, was a hard one for us.  We had a long discussion with the liver surgeon, and the full reality of what Jeff is facing was sobering.  He had to stay at Bethesda for extensive cardiac testing– a precaution due to the risky nature of his upcoming all-day surgery– and Matt and I went on home, picking Jeff up at the metro station at the end of the day.  Despite our worries, it was impossible not to notice what a gloriously beautiful day it was, unseasonably warm and sunny.

On the way home, Jeff and I talked of how stunning the trees looked, despite many of them having lost their leaves.  He decided to take Matt to the gym while they still both felt able to go, and I took my walk while they were there, enjoying the perfect weather and breathtaking autumn beauty.  The sun was lighting up the colors to almost electric levels.  I took my camera so I could bring you along with me on my walk.  All these photos were taken within a mile of my home, along my usual routes for daily 2-mile walks.  None have been digitally enhanced to improve the color (partly because I don’t have time to fool with photo editing tonight).

Autumn trees 3 Nov 2013

The foliage is dazzling, and the sky is a beautiful blue!

Autumn tree 2 Nov 2013

The photo above is taken at the corner of our street.

Autumn walk 3, Nov 2013

Lots of neighbors and their dogs are out walking, but it’s spacious and quiet.

Autumn trees Nov 2013

Sometimes I just stop and stand there, looking up!

Autumn walk 5 Nov 2013

I think the leaves even look pretty on the ground.

Autumn walk 4 Nov 2013

Almost home!  You can see the roofs of our townhome row in the distance.

Autumn walk 9 Nov 2013

This trail runs right behind where we live.

Autumn walk 10 Nov 2013

Home again. Come inside for a cup of afternoon tea!

One year ago today:

An untroubled spirit

A year later, these are words we still need to keep in mind…

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Pleasure in the pathless woods

Our yard and lot in Yorktown, somewhere around 2007

“There is a pleasure in the pathless woods,
There is a rapture on the lonely shore,
There is society, where none intrudes,
By the deep sea, and music in its roar:
I love not man the less, but Nature more…”  —Lord Byron

There’s something very calming about nature that neutralizes the toxic overload of a cold-hearted, techno-crazy world.  I love the serenity of the mountains, the hypnotic motion of the sea, the dazzling colors of a flower garden.  But just as well, or even more, I love my own backyard and the wooded lot we own behind it.  I cannot go back there even briefly without feeling closer to God, as if He is telling me “I am still here, with you.”

This post was first published eight years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Only with gratitude

Janet and her daughters prepare yet another Christmas Eve dinner, 2002

Janet and her daughters prepare yet another Christmas Eve dinner, 2002

“In ordinary life we hardly realize that we receive a great deal more than we give, and that it is only with gratitude that life becomes rich.”Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Have you ever had a friend who seemed to give you much more than you gave her or him?  At times, we feel helpless ever to repay such friends for their many acts of love, and simply bask in the joy of their generosity.  Sometimes we’re uncomfortable with this kind of gratitude, because we don’t like to feel as if we “owe” anyone anything.  But in close friendship, such issues vanish into the steadfast understanding that keeps us connected no matter what.

Our friends Janet and C.W. are the friends I am thinking of as I write this.  While we lived in northern California, we spent every single Christmas Eve with them and their family, and many New Years Eves and other holidays as well.  But we never needed an occasion to be invited to their home for Janet’s amazing cooking, which is right up there with my mother’s and grandmother’s in terms of how delicious and well-prepared everything always was.  I often say that the nicest thing anyone can do for me is to cook for me.  Boy, has Janet done that more times than I could count!  And C. W. is no slouch in the kitchen himself!

Janet and C. W. busy in the kitchen, June 2004

Janet and C. W. busy in the kitchen, June 2004

The fifth Christmas Eve we spent with them, Drew said (a bit wistfully) “This is the closest I have ever come to knowing what it’s like to spend Christmas with an extended family every year.”  That first Christmas in Virginia was very hard for us, missing being with our friends for what had come to be a real tradition — to say nothing of going without Janet’s signature brisket that she slow-cooked all night, or her cheesy potatoes or delicious deserts or…

I would guess that Janet had us over at least ten times as often as we had her over, but she never seemed to be counting, so I didn’t.  We liked many of the same places, knew many of the same people, shared lots of joys and sorrows and never kept track of things that didn’t matter.  For that, I’m so grateful, and as Bonhoeffer says, very rich.

After such a feast, who wouldn't be happy?  June 2004

After such a feast, who wouldn’t be happy? June 2004

Who came to your mind as you read this post?  Some of us who are perpetual caregivers rely on people who give us more than we are able to give back to them, and they continue to give with enthusiastic, contagious joy.  I hope you have many such people in your life, filling your days with riches that have nothing to do with money.

One year ago today:

If only we tune in

Update: Prizes and party favors are in the mail!

For details, click on “Thank you!” above.

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

What is good

Jeff at Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, Manteo, North Carolina, September 2013

Jeff at Roanoke Marshes Lighthouse, Manteo, North Carolina, September 2013

He has shown you, O man, what is good.
    And what does the Lord require of you?
To act justly and to love mercy
    and to walk humbly with your God. 

Micah 6:8

One year ago today:

Even in Darkness

(written the day we received the most devastating diagnosis)

This post was first published seven years ago today. The verse featured is one of the few I chose to be read at Jeff’s graveside. It is an apt summary of the way he lived his 57 years.

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Remembering: Beyond all reason

The view from my parents’ room at the Banff Springs Hotel, 1999

“God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.”  Dag Hammarskjold

Update one year later, 11-16-13:

There I go again, letting the quote and photo speak for themselves.  I should probably do that more often – we get enough good editorial content in the comments and discussion! But since many of our regular readers may feel as if they have come to know something of my family over the past year, I thought I might take this opportunity to share some of the back story of the photo that went with this post.

In 1999, my parents celebrated their 50th anniversary, and most of the family were able to travel to Banff to help them celebrate.  My brother Al, his sons Aaron and Seth, my nieces April and Cami, and April’s husband Jeremiah were all unable to attend, but the rest of the motley crew had a great time being together and enjoying the stunning scenery.  I’ll now bore you with a few photos snapped on that very brief but memorable trip – if you’d like to see them, scroll on!  The original post with comments from one year ago can be seen here.

Mom and Dad at a garden in Banff

Mom and Dad at a garden in Banff

Jeff, Mom, Eric and Carla (in the front seat of the van) heading out to explore.

Jeff, Mom, Eric and Carla (in the front seat of the van) heading out to explore.

Mom and Dad enjoy an album of letters and cards from friends who wrote to congratulate them.

Mom and Dad enjoy an album of letters and cards from friends who wrote to congratulate them. Carla contacted people they had known over the past 50 years, and worked hard to put together the album. I learned some wonderful things about my parents from those letters, things I had never known!

Carla, Jeff, Andy, George, Sherry, Drew, Mama, Daddy and Ryan at the anniversary dinner. Eric and I are taking the photos; Matt is to Carla's left, not visible.

Carla, Jeff, Andy, George, Sherry, Drew, Mama, Daddy and Ryan at the anniversary dinner.
Eric and I are taking the photos; Matt is to Carla’s left, not visible in the photo.

This post was first published eight years ago today, and re-blogged seven years ago today at the close of my week-long blog anniversary celebration. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Remembering: Something in the autumn

Our Yorktown, Virginia neighborhood, November 2008

There is something in the autumn that is native to my blood —
Touch of manner, hint of mood;
And my heart is like a rhyme,
With the yellow and the purple and the crimson keeping time.  — Bliss Carman

Autumn reminds us of the brevity of life as the lush blossoms of summer fade and die away, replaced by the dazzling final act of foliage that will soon be gone.  The coming onset of winter can be depressing, yet somehow fall retains a unique splendor that makes it the favorite season for many of us.  That first snap of chill in the air after the summer heat breaks, followed by the excitement of the harvest holidays and winter merriment, help to take the sting out of the months of cold that will follow.

Update for 11-15-13, one year later:

Wow, I’ve sure gotten a lot chattier since I started this blog! I had forgotten how short I kept my comments. I’m thinking of borrowing the concept I saw on another blog – “Wordless Wednesdays” — and having a day for just a photo, no quote, no comments.  What do you think?  I love Carman’s poem — I say it to myself every fall, having learned it from the old Childcraft set I grew up reading — but really, does a photo such as the one above really need any words?  To see the original post with comments from one year ago today, look here.

This post was first published eight years ago today, and re-blogged seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Remembering: Little advantages

London street scene, 2005

“Human felicity is produced not so much by great pieces of good fortune that seldom happen, as by little advantages that occur every day.” Benjamin Franklin

Just as it’s often the minor irritations that distract us and wear us down, so too the power of small blessings can transform our lives.  The trick is becoming aware of them. Sunny weather, fragrant blooms, a cup of hot tea on a chilly morning, the delicious smell of food when we’re hungry…what little advantages are brightening your day today?

Update for 11-14-13, one year later:

Those who read this blog frequently will recognize a common theme in this post.  I do a lot of blogging about the small pleasures in life and the everyday things we tend to take for granted. I may seem slightly obsessive about it, but it would not be an exaggeration to say that I’ve often thought my sanity has been preserved by focusing on the small (or not-so-small) blessings that are present no matter how bad things get.

Many years ago, I heard a minister begin a sermon with a series of questions that he suggested we answer on paper, just for our own review.  He didn’t tell us where he was headed with it.  He asked things such as: what is a gadget you use every day? What is the first switch you turn on in the morning?  Who is one of your favorite relatives? What school teacher do you remember most fondly?  And so on.  When he finished, he told us to look over our lists and ask ourselves whether we had ever thought to be thankful for those things.  That sermon is one of the most memorable I have ever heard.  It made me aware that my Walkman, my lamp, my Aunt Peggy and my fourth grade teacher, among countless other people, memories and things, made me a very rich person indeed.

I hope you will share some thoughts about your own “little advantages” with us today.  We might discover more blessings to add to our own lists!

To see the original post with comments, look here.

This post was first published eight years ago today, and re-blogged seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Remembering: Promises to keep

Muir Woods, Marin County, CA 2003

“The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
 But I have promises to keep,

 And miles to go before I sleep…”  — Robert Frost

It’s tempting to be drawn into our own ruminations. Trouble can be an isolating experience, and solitude is a seductive force, both healing and dangerous. If we withdraw too long or too often from others, we neglect our responsibility to ourselves as well as to them. Most of us really do have promises to keep and miles to go, no matter how exhausted or discouraged we become.

How can we find the balance between contemplative, wholesome solitude and the daily activities that maintain the connections to others that are so vital to our existence? How can we discern whether a suffering person needs our company, our words or our silence? What are some ways we can be open to the help that others can provide?

Update for 11-13-13, one year later:

Well, I see that I finally started writing some comments, though I’m still briefer and more restrained here than I became as I went along…maybe I should have kept things shorter!  Also, I note that the past year has answered my closing questions for me, at least in some ways.  Blogs, whether reading or writing them, can strike a nearly perfect balance between solitude and connection.

We normally sit at our computers alone, or at least focused more on cyberspace than on our immediate surroundings, yet we are connecting with others through words and photos.  In starting this blog, I was unaware I was opening the door to help, hope and friendship from so many I didn’t know, and facilitating re-connections with friends I’ve known and loved for years.  Compared to the quicker, more party-like climate on Facebook, blogs offer space for contemplative writing and discussion that goes beyond clever one-liners. In reading the blogs of others, I find much food for thought, identification with ideas and emotions I had held but never expressed myself, and sometimes just happy, light-hearted fun.  Not to mention craft ideas, handy hints, humor and many heartwarming or breathtakingly beautiful photos and artwork.

After the week of daily re-blogging my first posts ends on Saturday, I hope to be introducing you to some blog posts and other web offerings I’ve enjoyed, on the same eclectic range of topics as I’ve covered for the past year.  Do let me know what you’d like to see more of (or less of).  There is something for everyone in cyberspace, and I hope to keep using it as a means of defeating despair.  I hope you’ll continue to join us here to laugh, cry, talk and survive!To see the original post with comments from one year ago today, look here.

This post was first published eight years ago today, and then re-published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Remembering: How the light gets in

The Statue of Liberty as seen from the Staten Island Ferry, 2007

Ring the bells that still can ring
Forget your perfect offering
There is a crack in everything
That’s how the light gets in.  — Leonard Cohen

Update for 11-12-13:  After 365 different posts, this one remains one of my very favorites.  I have had that quote on my refrigerator for years.  And the photo of Lady Liberty at sunset brings back happy memories of the Staten Island Ferry.  I’m sure Edna St. Vincent Millay could identify, as her memories of that same ferry became one of my favorite poems when I was a young girl!  To see the original post with comments, click here.

Have you ever struggled with a “perfect offering” that just didn’t turn out as well as you planned?  Does it ever seem to you that pretty much everything in life is imperfect?  Although the connection between the photo and the quote isn’t as obvious as with many of my photos on this blog, perhaps you will understand why this seemed to me the perfect illustration for an unsettling but paradoxically comforting thought.

This post was first published seven years ago today, and was itself a re-post from eight years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

Remembering: If you can…

This is our older son, Drew, at Bodega Bay, CA, around 2002.

Lines from one of my favorite poems, If   by Rudyard Kipling:

If you can dream – and not make dreams your master;
If you can think – and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools…

Update on 11-11-13:
I see that I still wasn’t adding any comments to speak of.  I suppose Kipling’s words speak for themselves!  But I also remember that I was petrified of publishing anything online for the world to see. To see the original post with comments, look here.  I see more familiar gravatars on this one!  Does anyone identify with some of the situations Kipling describes here?  I know I do!  But the older I get, the more I know what he meant when he called “Triumph” and “Disaster” both imposters.  It’s just that they never seem so at the time…

This post was first published seven years ago today, and was itself a re-post of the second post I ever published on this blog, eight years ago today. That original post is linked above.

Also, the original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

The envelope, please

This post was first published seven years ago today, along with a re-posting of the very first message that ever appeared here. Those of you who remember that first anniversary may find yourself mentioned below! I was happy to see that several of you who won those first prizes are still with us today.

The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.

OK, the results are in!

I had intended to video the entire drawing and post it here, but this is all I came up with:

Jeff and Matt had agreed to cooperate with helping me film the drawing, and since it’s a beautiful fall day here in York County, we thought it would be fun to film it outside in our back yard, where the bloom-again azaleas were in full celebration mode and our camellias were beginning to sneak out for a peep, too.

Jeff coached me to Be Sure My Camera Battery Is Charged (a frequent oversight of mine, but in this case it was, and I had backups too). I even checked the SD card to make sure it had plenty of space. Half empty; looked good to me. What I should have realized, but didn’t, is that videos eat up the megabytes VERY quickly. At least on a camera they do, and I don’t have a smart phone.

SO, when Jeff said “OK, that’s all!” just when we started to film, I couldn’t believe it. I was sure he must be reading it wrong. But no, the camera said “card full.” Since Jeff and Matt had other plans awaiting, and in any case have only so much patience with this computer nonsense, they wanted me to go with what I had. It then occurred to me that we have a S-L-O-W internet connection here in York County, so I reluctantly agreed to go on with the drawing OFF camera.

Which turned out to be a good thing, because even with a 37-second video, it took almost an hour to load, and longer than that for me to figure out how to get it posted correctly here, and it still looks a bit distorted to me, as if it didn’t download very well. During all that time, my computer was totally unavailable for anything else such as getting email, reading comments, etc., so I apologize if I kept anyone waiting!

I decided to go ahead and post the abbreviated video for comic value, since it cracked me up that Matt could NOT resist looking into the bin before he drew a name out, even though all the slips with names on them were folded over twice so he couldn’t possibly have seen whose he was picking. I am still wondering whether he has x-ray vision, because one of the second place winners is a definite favorite of his.

In any case, here are the winners, none of whom have asked to remain anonymous. If anyone listed here wants to change their minds on that, let me know and I’ll gladly edit you out! You still get the prizes.

Matt drew the names in reverse order, starting with the third prize winners:

Judy Walton
Pat Eastin
John Slingerland

And the second prize winners:

Carla Hutto
Ann Weldon

And the FIRST PRIZE WINNER is:

Jenelle Maloy!

Longtime readers with good memories may notice a coincidence here; in the only other time I awarded any prizes on this website, in an unannounced contest to send a $10 Amazon gift card to whoever could “find the mystery couple” in that day’s photo, Jenelle was the winner in that one too. Jenelle, if I ever announce a contest to give away a Jaguar or $10,000 here, I highly recommend you plan to show up for it!

OK, now for the Defeat Despair Community Activism Award:

For those who read the comments, it will come as no surprise that Sheila, Boomdeeadda, Eric, Michael, Amy Hill and Mary Ann were the six contestants (based on the statistics on the day the contest was announced, as described in that announcement). The WINNER is: BOOMDEADDA! I must say I am happy to have at least one international winner among the prizes I will send out.

Boomdee and Jenelle will need to let me know ASAP what kind of gift card they want (sorry, Boomdee, I could not find a gift card to Auntie’s Aqua Extravaganza Emporium).

Judy, Pat and John will need to let me know what kind of chocolate they like, or if they don’t like chocolate, let me arrange for psychotherapy to find out what is wrong with them tell me what kind of alternative treat they want. Carla, Ann, Sheila, Eric, Michael, Amy and Mary Ann will need to figure out how to use Amazon, or else figure out whom to give a $10 gift card to that won’t get insulted (maybe the mail carrier or paper delivery person?)

Everybody else, your party favors will be on the way to you within the week (I hope!) THANKS AGAIN for coming to my party! It was so much fun, and you wouldn’t believe how low the catering bill was.

A fork in the road

Just outside the tunnel, a fork in this Amalfi Coast road, with good views either way.  Italy, May 2008

Outside the tunnel, a fork in the road, with good views either way.
Driving the Amalfi Coast, Italy, May 2008

“When you come to a fork in the road, take it!”Yogi Berra

This post was first published seven years ago today, and it is a special post because it was my 365th consecutive daily post, marking my one year anniversary of the blog. In the post linked within the comments below (originally titled “You’re Invited!” and later updated to “Thank You!”) I invited readers to celebrate that first anniversary by leaving comments telling me about themselves, which would them into a prize drawing. The actual drawing, captured in a subsequent post that will be re-blogged tomorrow, took place after all the comments came in.

Including the comments from this post and the You’re Invited/Thank You post linked below, there are nearly 250 comments including my answers. Reading through those original comments was a real trip down memory lane. Sadly, many who commented are no longer present in my life, due to death, estrangement or simply drifting away to other things. But some of you are still with me, and will remember this. If you are in that number, I’d especially love to hear from you in today’s comments! What a long, strange trip it’s been, full of fun and sadness, woe and wonder. 

So here we all are, the 365th daily post of the most eventful and difficult year Jeff and I have ever endured.  It’s time to celebrate survival, coping, and all the blessings woven into the pain and sorrow of the past year.  Thanks for being among the blessings!

While the future is still very uncertain for us, it feels considerably more promising than it did a year ago.  I started this blog before Jeff’s second cancer diagnosis and full extent of the metastasis was known, but before the end of November 2012, it felt as if our world had come crashing in.  Now the shock has worn off, Jeff has survived more than we would have wanted to know 2013 held in store, and we both feel more hopeful that the months ahead will bring us continuing improvements in our long-term outlook.

Matt, too, has had a rough year, with three hospitalizations in the past 13 months, and the stress of dealing with Jeff’s diagnosis and all the ways it has disrupted our “normal” lives. Matt faces his 5th open heart surgery early in 2014, and we still have not found a job or training program that’s a good fit for him.  While we prepare emotionally for what will definitely be a difficult year, we continue to hope and pray for happy endings to all these unresolved situations.

With all that lies in store, I’ve given a lot of thought to what I should do with this blog now that I’ve finished a year of daily posts.  From a purely logistical standpoint, it’s difficult and time-consuming to come up with new posts every day, and while I have thoroughly enjoyed and needed the distraction, the coming months are likely to be very busy ones as we anticipate at least two more surgeries for Jeff and one for Matt.  I’m so far behind on many of my responsibilities and interests that I wonder whether I can continue at the same pace.

But I can’t tell you how much I’ve enjoyed hearing from each and every person who has left comments or “likes” at this blog.  I’ve discovered so many wonderful people here.  I’ve been introduced to the blogosphere, a world where I’ve found support, creativity and encouragement beyond what I had ever imagined.  So I’m not going to make any quick decisions.

And here is where you can help me out.  Because I have shamelessly bribed everyone into leaving comments today, here’s your chance to tell me what you think I should do.  While I’m sure to get differing viewpoints, I will consider every suggestion even if I don’t ultimately take the advice.

For the next week, I have scheduled a daily re-post from the first week of entries from one year ago, as the relatively few of you who were with me that far back are unlikely to remember them.  Hopefully those who have been here for only a few days, weeks or months will enjoy seeing them for the first time.

Since I find it hard to keep my mouth shut or my keyboard still, I’ve added a few comments to each re-post, and I will enjoy responding to your comments each day as well.  I would miss you too much if I didn’t hear from you, and I want your input as I consider how often I should plan to blog in the future.  I’ll also plan to spend that week getting the prizes and party favors on their way via the U. S. mail!  So for me, the birthday celebration will stretch out into a week-long event.  Maybe longer, depending on how many party favors I have to send out!

After that, I’m not sure.  I do know I want to change things up a bit, to give myself freedom to include a wider variety of photos, videos and content.  I’d like to introduce some of the people I’ve met online, and to share some of the inspiring, fun and helpful things I’ve enjoyed via blogs, Pinterest and other social media.  I can’t stand to leave the vast riches of the internet totally untapped. So I plan to occasionally re-blog or feature others’ work, assuming I can secure permission.  Some days I may feature just a photo or quote, or something funny or inspiring, and some days I will post according to the usual format I’ve already used 365 times.

What do you think?  What topics, photos, quotes, or other fun stuff do you enjoy most? What would you most like to see here in the coming year?  Would you prefer that I post only 3-4 times weekly, once weekly (or even less), or would you prefer a daily post, even if it was just a brief quote and photo that didn’t necessarily include commentary or even go together?  What about book or movie reviews, craft ideas, handy hints (a.k.a life hacks) or other less abstract content?  There’s plenty to talk about, that’s for sure!

If you prefer your comments to be anonymous, let me know and I’ll honor that request; just let me know what (if anything) you are willing to have appear online.  Because I moderate all comments, and know many who are too shy to comment in a public forum such as this, I am willing and able to keep an entire comment private if you prefer.  You can still enter the contest even if you don’t want your comment posted.

Remember, everyone who posts a comment today will be entered into the drawing for prizes described in “You’re Invited!” (click on the link above – and be sure to read over it if you don’t remember the rules).  If you don’t really have any opinions to share with me about where this blog should go, just tell us a bit about yourself: what country or state you live in, how you found us, interesting stuff about your human or animal friends and family, links to any online sites or blogs you may want us to visit, or really anything else you’d like to share.  As ever, the only requirement is that your comments should be encouraging or at least neutral; this blog is, and will remain, a safe and hate-free zone.

Thanks again and again, to everyone here, for helping us weather a very difficult and eventful year.  Whatever lies ahead, you can be sure we do plan to take that fork in the road!