Wednesday, January 18, 2017


She says it several times each day as she wanders the hall or enters the dining room. "Oh, Virginia! I don't know what to do." 

I'd thought it was just she, talking in the third person like any of us might in a moment of confusion, but she was on my mind as I drove home in the dark the other night. As I approached our driveway I said it out loud. "Oh, Virginia! I don't know what to do," and the thought struck me that perhaps she was repeating what a former caretaker may have repeated over and over himself. After all, wasn't that how I so often felt while taking care of my own aging and forgetful mother?

Virginia's husband died last year. I didn't know him. I don't know if he was sick. I don't know if he was her caretaker. I only know that her words echo the sad desperation of someone who loved her very much. Someone who didn't "know what to do." And I can relate, even if it's just a little bit.

She's a sweet woman whose gone backward in life and is once again a child. I've asked her about her family. She had three brothers, but even if I mention their names she provides no recollection, and yet she remains sweet and beautiful. She is not combative. She smiles and is friendly. She loves to have her back scratched. She will sit, hold your hand, and be happy. She has good table manners and likes to eat dessert first. At least sometimes, especially if it's chocolate pudding.

Her daughter came the other day. "Has she always been so sweet?" I asked her. And she told me she had. Her disease had only confirmed the sweetness in her soul. "I would have like to have known her five years ago," I said. And it was true. I'm sure this lady had a wealth of wisdom, love, and patience. I hope one day, if I live to lose my memories, that there will be a sweet soul left to encourage someone, even if my words and wisdom are lost.

"Oh, Virginia!"

(PS. That is my own mom in the photo.)

Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Mulling It Over

For I know the plans I have for you," declares the Lord, "plans to prosper you and not harm you, plans to give you hope and a future." Jeremiah 29:11

Same verse twice in a week again. When they show up in multiples, my ears perk up. The mug came from my friend Karen on Thursday evening, January 12, and the same verse was the subject in the next morning's devotional. (I still love when that happens.) And that's just random.

The subject of Monday night's CoDA meeting was "recovering (or maybe discovering) intimacy." I find it to be another recurring theme. Hadn't I just posted two quotes from the book I'm reading to my Facebook wall?

"The soul craves more than only communication, it seeks communion."
"The measure of your willingness to be given- is the measure of your capacity for communion." 

We all crave deep connection and it is sadly elusive. I've been mulling over the connections between honesty, vulnerability, authenticity, and now intimacy (or communion). They're all connected and all something God asks of us. Hard stuff.

If you can stand it, and because I've been known to look backward at old blogs, a third recurring theme- The Apostle Peter climbing out of the boat to walk to Jesus in the midst of the storm. I'm all too often afraid to get in the boat, and once I'm in I certainly don't want to rock it. But Peter did something absolutely incredible! He gets out of the boat to walk to Jesus on the water, in the dark, in the middle of a storm. Apparently he suddenly has second thoughts and takes his eyes off Jesus, and that is when he starts to go down, recomposes himself and cries out, "Lord, save me!"

Those are my mulling spices this week. Maybe I'll turn into a spicy cup of hot cider yet.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Nine and Ten!

A first picture together. Ha ha! Aren't those little cousins adorable?

Nine looks huge next to tiny little Ten. I'd asked Hannah how much Idris weighs and she said he was 12 something at his last appointment (He's probably 14 pounds by now...) and Wesley weighed in at 4# 8 oz at birth (he's 12 days old here so we'll give him 5 pounds maybe...) . What a size difference! I'm thinking Wes will probably catch up and one day be taller than his cousin, but only time will tell.

They're just too cute.

Thursday, January 12, 2017

Soul Surgery

12 Steps of Co-Dependents Anonymous

Step 4- Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
Step 5- Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.
Step 6- Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

Step four is a tough one, especially without a sponsor. It's been nine months of hearing the steps and being almost too numb to put them into practice... although, in some ways Step 4 is what this adventure in blogging has always been about; looking deep within and seeing my own imperfections in relationships with others (neighbors, friends, siblings, husband, children...). Sometimes I pass the test and other times I fail. Sometimes I fail miserably. Sometimes I can look back and immediately feel good about the exchange, and other times I need to re-evaluate and decide again whether or not my response was right. A right response doesn't always make me or the other party happy. I wish it always did.

Am I ready to have God remove all my defects of character? That is a good question. It's a life long battle this art of letting go. I've had to ask Him in the past to pry my fingers back just so I could see what I was holding onto... Perhaps some things never change.

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Nightly News

I have nothing much to report. I was at work from 11 am until 7:30 pm yesterday. Today I sat from 11:30 am until 4:30. My "friend" slept through most of it, even meals.

The weather maker brought us a bit of freezing rain yesterday afternoon, but my view from the window to the courtyard was just gray and overcast. By the time I went out to leave, the icy glaze on my van was loose and fell easily to the pavement.

This morning the yard was encased in a thin layer of snow-topped ice. I almost made myself late by stopping to snap a few photos. Yard debris encased in ice... Sticks, dry, fallen leaves, and grass. On the other side of the driveway, on the road side of Barn 1, a "rock" rested between tufts of dry grass and bits of icy snow. It wasn't until I looked at the picture that I realized it was actually an old black walnut, still in its wrinkled old skin, and still waiting for a hungry squirrel.

Maybe I'll have a better photo opportunity with the next ice storm. Or maybe even the next snow fall, whenever that might be.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

30 Day Challenge

We started Monday. I'm just about through Day 2, only 28 more days to go.

No chips
No potatoes
No ice cream
No fast food
No fried food
No chocolate
No white breads
No soda or juice
No cakes or donuts
No cookies or candy

I'm stocked up on fresh fruit for this week and I have a decent supply of almonds and various other nuts. I'm drinking lots of water (or trying), and I can still have my morning coffee along with a cup of tea at night. Days at work are helpful as I am not surrounded by so many temptations. Perhaps I'll lose those few pounds I gained back over the holiday.

Sunday, January 08, 2017

The Barn Collective

There is nothing more wonderful than a little boy with a toy barn full of animals! Unless, of course, he is playing with his daddy.

"Daddy, will you play with me?" he asked. And his daddy was more than happy to oblige, even though he hadn't yet showered and was still dressed in his jammies.

Father and son proceeded to pull the farm animals, people, fences, and equipment out of the bucket of toys and set up the barnyard. Austin sang "Old McDonald" while they worked. It's his favorite song much to the dismay of his maternal grandfather who is also named McDonald.

Austin was pretty sure the farmer lived inside the barn with the animals. His daddy tried to explain that the farmer and his family lived in a farm house, but the child remained skeptical.

They don't sell toys quite like these anymore...

Once upon a time there were children in my house every day. Now most days my house is empty and the toys are silent and still. Though I appreciate floors and carpets free of toys, I also have a love for seeing playthings strewn throughout the house. I'm sure I'll be finding small treasures underneath ind inside of the furniture for weeks to come.

For more Barn Collective, visit Tom.

Saturday, January 07, 2017

Reading a Book

It was a lazy day. I got up later than ever and took a long nap this afternoon. Might have had something to do with the shivers and aches that have slowly invaded my body the past few days. A bit of rest, a cup or two of hot tea, some ibuprofen, and a good book were on the agenda. The book after I noticed a package waiting for me on the back steps.

I put in an order for Ann Voskamp's "The Broken Way" a few days ago and today it arrived...

"The same hand that unwraps the firmaments of winging stars wraps liniments around the wounded heart; the One whose breath births galaxies into being births healing into the heart of the broken."

This is a book that will leave me thinking, because Ann has a way of stirring up the heart and mind with her words. She comes with unrivaled authenticity, and her honesty sheds new light and fresh perspective on old truths.

Six years ago I bought a different book that started me on a journey which still effects me today. I started counting gifts, little gifts and big gifts. Gifts God gives in everyday life. Gifts I'd forgotten to notice in the distraction of living. Gifts that tell me He has not forgotten me even though I too often forget to notice He is there. Maybe I need a new notebook as well...

Friday, January 06, 2017

Bits and Pieces

* Our Minnesota family packed up and headed back toward home this evening. It's always hard to say goodbye, but it was a good visit. Austin is full of cuteness. Yesterday his mommy told him he was a little stinker and he replied, "I'm a lil dinker and you're a lil dinker. We ken be lil dinkers togedder." This afternoon he had fun playing rough and tumble with Uncle Ben even hiding Ben's hat under a couch pillow so he wouldn't be able to leave.

* Naughty One is ailing again. He's got a spot on his leg that is healing nicely, and a lump on his head, right between his eyes. It's looking frighteningly like an abscess. I'm not sure what happened, but he does occasionally like to scare the chickens... and he was outside with them just Sunday afternoon when I first noticed a sore by his right eye. I'm afraid a trip to the vet is in our future. I sure hope one day he learns to leave those chickens alone.

* Santa Claus made good on a 46 year old promise this week and delivered a gift that never arrived in 1970. I am now the proud owner of a brand new still-in-the-box Bedsie Beans. (Actually, I am the proud owner of two (so far) Bedsie Beans dolls as another one arrived outside of the original packaging as well. It's almost more fun getting one all these years later than it would have been when I was six or seven. (Thanks, Santa Claus, and your little elf too.)

Thursday, January 05, 2017

Starting the Year Right

Happy Birthday, Josiah! (yesterday)

Yesterday my Almost-Christmas-Baby turned 29. I had to work until supper time and so found myself incredibly grateful for my super hero daughter in law who not only got supper on the table, but baked a beautiful cookie cake as well. (Sometimes even moms appreciate a little help pulling the day together.)

Did I tell you I went to work this week? I'd already planned to take my weekend off while my son is in town, and then I missed last Wednesday as well for the funeral service for my cousin's son. I decided perhaps a few dollars in my checking account might be helpful during this holiday season...

It's been a busy few weeks. Not so busy physically as mentally and emotionally. I'm finding myself tired and probably in need of a long walk. The Christmas goodies are catching up with me and I'm not very happy with the bathroom scale today. Another good reason for regular long walks. In another few days I'll have a chance to take a good look at my day to day schedule and begin to work on adding/removing plans and activities. I am looking forward to setting goals and making progress in 2017.

 PS. Our littlest grandson was able to go home on Tuesday evening. His big brother has decided he is wonderful and wants to keep him.

Tuesday, January 03, 2017

I Gave Them Books

I gave them books, the grandchildren, and they didn't seem to mind. My own little kids loved books, just like I did when I was a little girl. I have many cherished childhood memories that include picture books or poetry books, my sisters, one of my parents, and the living room couch. When I was very small it was Mom reading to me (The Runaway Pancake, Five Beds for Bitsy, ... ), and later it was Dad reading to us before bed (Disney's Uncle Remus, The Storybook of River Bend, .... ) It's fun to see the tradition passed down to my grandchildren

Before I ordered the books for Christmas, I asked my kids for ideas. I love how they often choose the books they loved when they were kids themselves. Bill Peet is one of Dave's favorite author/illustrators and each of his three children received a book by Bill Peet (The Ant and the Elephant, Cyrus the Sea Serpent, and Jennifer and Josephine). Little Jilly got Gyo Fujikawa's wonderful board book entitled Babies. It was my favorite when I was one and a half.

I don't remember my parents reading us chapter books, but I read dozens of them to my own children. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Caddie Woodlawn, The Not-Just-Anybody Family, Beverly Cleary's books, and many others. So much fun! We have an entire library! Maybe one day I'll have a passel of kids surrounding me once again for another trip through the wonderful world of Mrs. Piggle-Wiggle.

Sunday, January 01, 2017

Welcome Number 10!

My phone, likely in a New Year's glitch, started delivering multiple identical messages last night. ("Have you been drinking?" and "Hey") I finally gave up on getting one from Nate, turned the pesky thing off, and went to bed. We found this beautiful message this morning...

"While you all were celebrating just another ordinary stroke of midnight, Wesley Robert Teal was making his grand entry. 

This latest tiny addition to the Teal family was baby #1 at Strong this year, and we are waiting to find out if he is baby #1 in Rochester altogether. Labor had to be induced 2 weeks early because he is so small, but he is healthy and has his momma's stout heart. 

4 lbs, 8.7 oz
1:51 am"

And so we have ten.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Toys Come Out.

Small children make saving an old collection of toys the best thing in all the world. Fisher Price Little People, puzzles, pretend ice cream cones... And the very best thing of all is watching my son get down on the floor and play with his son, just like my own dad used to do with Jim.

I've missed having a little person around. This small child is well behaved, even if he did cry and want to go home last night. He's fun to watch, and fun to listen to too. I was in the living room when he thumped his fist on the table and said, "I want some beer! I'm twenty-four!"

Friday, December 30, 2016

Minnesota Arrives

There were micro pellets covering the ground when I went to let the chickens out today. Tiny snowballs of varying sizes covering the ground and rolling about in the wind.

I cleaned somewhat frantically this morning. Somewhat... But Minnesota didn't come to see if my house was spotless. They came because they love us and want to spend a little bit of the holiday with their family.

Austin fell asleep watching a movie in the recliner with his daddy this evening. He woke up just enough to decide he didn't want to pick up the Matchbox cars and he really want to stay here overnight. He wanted to go home. But "home" is seventeen hours away. Poor child. His grandpa says by the end of the week he won't want to go home. Aside from the tears before bed, it was a good day.

And in other news, Number 10 will make his arrival very soon. He is a tiny guy so there is some concern for his safety. Our sweet daughter in law is being induced due to his being so small. Prayers would be appreciated.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Baby Beans

I don't recall which one was the Year of Baby Beans, but I do recall the silly little bean filled dolls with smiling faces and bright colored pajamas. My sisters each found one under the Christmas tree that year, as did my five Plotzker cousins. Eight little girls and seven Baby Beans.

On our holiday visit to Aunt Barb's house, all eight of us girls lined the stairway to the upstairs bedrooms and the Baby Beans slid down the railing one after another while we handed them back up to the top fire brigade style, over and over again. It was a simple, yet wonderful, laughter-filled game.

When my sisters tore the wrapping paper off their Baby Beans gifts on Christmas Eve, it hadn't occurred to me that perhaps there should have been a similar package for me. I didn't feel left out until I found that every one of my cousins had also received one of the floppy little dolls. I was the only one without. Later Mom explained that they had ordered a doll for me too, a sleepy, yawning, orange clad baby, but the company had run out and mine never arrived. I think she felt bad, but needn't have. I managed okay and learned that I didn't have to have everything the others had in order to have fun.

I took it well as a child and only missed my nonexistent doll during our stairway game. As an adult I find myself looking him up on ebay after watching The Santa Claus 2 where Santa pulls all kinds of vintage gifts from his bag, and I smile at the memory of childhood games with my passel of girl cousins.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Christmas Eve

We were invited by my worship leader son to their church Christmas Eve service and were blessed to accept. I found myself watching him as we stood singing Christmas carols. I was suddenly struck by how much he reminded me of the brother my sister and I had just visited earlier in the day.

My brother bears the result of not only his handicap, but years of psych drugs as well. I got a lump in my throat as I watched my son sing and saw in him what my brother might have been... It was sad, but sweet at the same time. Perhaps a little glimpse of what heaven will one day do for my brother.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Stick Man

Nice dinner of leftover lasagna this evening. We convinced a couple of couples to come over and help us eat it and we're now down to a more manageable amount.

After the meal we settled down to watch a movie. "Stick Man" was the perfect choice. Spencer liked it, and we liked it. Even Naughty One was intrigued. He got up on the table to take a closer look, and even tried to catch a falling snowflake.

 I have eaten way too many heavy meals and way too many cookies/snacks these past four days. My stomach hurts. I'll have a few days to (hopefully) recover before the party gets started all over again on Sunday. Back to work tomorrow, and back to eating apples and almonds.

Thank You, Lord, For Chickens

I am thankful for the gift of chickens.

It was about 4:30 when I stepped out to lock the chickens in for the night. It wasn't quite dusk and a few fowl remained outside as I rounded the barn corner. Upon seeing me, several birds hopped back out of the cage, hoping for a treat of bread or fruit, of which I had none. I dumped another helping of pellets into their pan and they obediently went inside. Eleven birds. Ten hens and a rooster. I count them every so often. I checked for eggs, found none, and headed back to the house. I'd been gone five minutes at the most.

We had just been whipping up a couple batches of frosting and getting out the goodies for building graham cracker houses. The fun was about to begin, but instead some kind of altercation had erupted in my absence and our holiday happenings suddenly over. I had missed the entire ordeal. I found myself numb, which is an all too often occurrence recently. There wasn't a chance to take sides even if I would have. I heard nothing, saw nothing, and knew nothing other than the fact that a few family members were missing and another several were leaving as well.

Like my husband and my children, I miss my father's presence most of all at family gatherings, and especially at Christmas. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, "His was a steady, peaceful, calming presence." We miss him being here, we miss his intervention and words of wisdom, and most of all we miss his prayers over us. Nothing will bring him back, but I am seriously considering hanging a large portrait of him in a conspicuous place in the living room. Maybe that would make him feel just a little bit closer.

And to top it off, we get to try this all over again in another week when Minnesota comes to visit.

Sunday, December 25, 2016

Christmas 2016....

The dust, most of it, has settled and we are watching a Christmas movie. The room is dark and just slightly chilly. It was a different kind of Christmas...

There was church this morning, a lasagna dinner this afternoon, a bit of graham cracker house building and decorating, and finally the movie. We're full of sugar and there are a few untouched desserts to pop in the freezer for next week.

We're saving the gifts for next week when we can get all the kids together. Our Minnesota family hopes to arrive Friday.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

The Christmas Pie

When Rachel and I visited our brother Tim last week, the subject of Christmas gifts came up and we reminisced on the story Mom would tell about one time when they were out shopping with Dan and Tim before the holiday. It was time to leave the toy store and Timmy, then maybe three or four years old, turned around and waved at the Hobby Horse he'd been admiring. "Bye, Haudie..." he said. Mom said it was the first,and maybe only, time he'd ever asked for a specific Christmas gift. Of course, they went back later and bought it.

It's harder to pick gifts for Tim now (Mom always got him a new shirt), but I got the idea of taking him an apple pie for Christmas. It became the topic of conversation while we took our drive. At one point Rachel leaned over, looked him straight in the face, and said, "Do you want an apple pie for Christmas?" and he answered with a faint, soft "yes."

So, this morning I baked another one of my frozen apple pies and while it was still warm, Rachel came to get me for another ride to Newark. We arrived shortly after lunch (11:30 am) and went out for our customary drive through the drumlins while he ate a few cookies and a glove compartment candy cane. Of course, we stopped at Wendys for that "one small chocolate Frosty, please" which he devoured in a minute flat.

 We had one of the aides take our picture before we went home today. Just one picture, because the first one turned out so good. Even Tim smiled when we showed it to him.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Cookies, Kind of...

Rachel and I made cookies today. Not the fancy cutout kind, but cookies plain and simple. Snickerdoodles and Snowballs. I think we had higher expectations than we were able to deliver today...

We were distracted by the heartbreaking news that my cousin lost her 27 year old son last night. Three deaths close to us since October; a 21 year old, a 26 year old, and now a 27 year old. The last one left behind a 10 year old daughter... When will it end?

So we measured, mixed, and baked, but our hearts were elsewhere. We were aching for our cousin and her family as Christmas grew another year sadder. And I practiced using my new camera lens and light scoop. How about that sleepy grandson of mine?  My sister's dog decided to hide after I took his picture. Literally took off into the other room. The snowmen on the shelf were more than happy to smile and cooperate. I think I like them.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Snow Globes!

Quite often Thursdays are the days I stay home. Last night I had a whole list of things to accomplish today, but now that today is here, I can't remember what they were. (Lucky me!)

So I've not done much. However, I did attempt to put together some stemware snowglobes. They turned out cute enough but need a little bit of "polishing" around the edges. Perhaps a better method for cutting the bases so as to clean them up a bit.

Potential. They have potential. If I find some ambition, which must be around here somewhere, I could likely make the snowmen myself. I know I have some Sculpy Clay. It's probably hiding out with the ambition... Now if only I could get the two of them together. We might actually accomplish something not only fun, but wonderful too!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

And So This is Christmas... and What have I done?

It's been a strange December. Most years I am totally stressed about finding ways to make sure that Christmas is special. I want so much to make it magical that it only ends up being burdensome instead.  I'm still stressed this December, but not about Christmas. In fact, it's probably the most "relaxed" holiday season I've had in decades. (Of course I could decide to stress tomorrow...)

I haven't gone shopping, I haven't baked cookies, and the decorations are minimal. I did buy a book for each of my ten grandchildren, and yes, I am counting Number 10, who has yet to make his official arrival. I bought a few shirts and sweaters for myself because I know 1. I like them, 2. I need them, and 3. I want them, and therefore have wasted no money on their purchase. It may sound selfish but it isn't feeling that way, at least not today.

I have been asked several times what I "want" for Christmas. I was asked again today and my answer was "nothing, I want absolutely nothing," and the truth is, if there is something I want, I couldn't tell you what it is. I might, perhaps, have that information on a shelf in the back of my mind, or maybe in an obsolete brain drawer, but for the moment that little bit of information is lost. No sweat, I'm set.

I do have plans to bake cookies with my sister and youngest daughter on Friday. Hannah doesn't get out much, so I invited her along. And on Saturday morning I will bake one of my frozen apple pies and deliver it to my sweet brother at the group home where he lives. Somewhere in the mix there is a plan to decorate graham cracker houses with the grandkids, but I'm not entirely sure whether that will be on Christmas Day or New Years. If we wait we can get everybody in on the fun.

On Saturday evening I hope to attend a Christmas Eve service at the church where my number four son is one of the worship leaders., and on Christmas morning go to our own church. That is my plan and I rather like it.