Monday, January 30, 2017

A Disney Princess in the Christmas Play

Keeping up with work and my blog is proving to be a challenge, but I have a few hours this morning to sit in the quiet before I head out into the wide, wide world once again.

The Christmas tree is long gone, tethered to a post outside my living room window. (I'm not feeding critters this year, but at least it won't be traveling to the drainage ditch in the next big wind.) However, the old nativity scene from my childhood remains on the end table, the shepherd and wise men gathered round to worship the infant king.

I glanced at the scene one evening earlier this week and noticed a stranger in the midst. Another worshiper of the the Christ child, gazing in awe...

I was reminded of a recent march in our nation's capitol, a Women's March, a march for I'm-not-exactly-sure-what where women dressed up as female body parts, wore hats to represent those parts, and danced in the street topless. One even held a sign suggesting if Mary had just had an abortion we wouldn't be in this mess... and then I saw the Disney princess standing in the nativity.

Jesus, he came to show us a way out of the mess, because if we're honest with ourselves, we've ALL messed up. There isn't a one of us who hasn't. And Jesus didn't come to strip women of their "rights," He came because we have value. We are precious in His sight. He loves us and He loves our children, planned or not, just as much as he loves the men in our world. In Him there are no preferential colors, genders, races, or classes. He loves us all and that is why He made a way. That is why He went to the cross. It wasn't because He had to, it was because He chose to. It was because we don't have any other way out of the mess we're in. He came to give us LIFE. God chose life.

Wednesday, January 25, 2017


Winter, in my childhood (and most adult) days meant snow, lots of it. Christmases were white and January deep and dark. We spent hours traipsing through snow up to our knees and drifts waist high. We walked around the block atop piles of snow created by the ever-passing snowplow. We tried, in vain, to shovel the driveway before Dad returned home from work, but found the task monumental. Dad, with shovel in hand, became a snow moving superhero.

We've had two, maybe three, good snowfalls this season and we're creeping up on February, so I was just a tad disappointed that I didn't have more than a few minutes to capture winter's glory yesterday morning. I took my camera with me just in case and was blessed to have time to drive down by Irondequoit Bay and over the outlet bridge on my way to Rochester.

 Traffic was mostly nonexistent on my way up toward Rt 590 and I stopped to catch the snow highlighting every branch and needle on an evergreen tree along the way.

My friend at work was anxious again today. Once she was tucked into bed for an hour and a half, I gazed out the window at the snow laden courtyard, read my books, and wrote in my notebook. The snow outside was heavy, the wet and sticky kind that turns an otherwise gray and dreary landscape into a winter wonderland. It was a snow fight/snowman building kind of day, but I did none of that. Instead I soaked in the beauty of winter as I walked out in the dark to clean off my vehicle and make the drive home. Even in the dark snow is magical.

Monday, January 23, 2017

Bits and Pieces

- Caught my sister online this morning, called her, and we went for a nice long walk this afternoon. Three miles. My feet are tired but only one is moaning. My right foot. It's the touchy one. From all those years of controlling my overactive childhood bladder by sitting on my heel.

- I came home with a "slightly stale" but beautiful bunch of flowers this afternoon, donated to a local office by Trader Joe's. A lady came in with two buckets full of bouquets and I was blessed to take one home when I left.

- My naughty chickens have taken to crossing the road into the neighbor's yard. I need to wrap a chain around Coq au Vin's leg. I think if he stays home the girls would stay home too. When I came home this afternoon that silly rooster was knocking on my front door.

 - Had a little bowl of chili yesterday afternoon. It's not off the challenge, but different from what I've been eating the past two weeks. I have to admit, it was pretty tasty, even without the chips.

Back to work tomorrow. My long weekend is almost over.

Sunday, January 22, 2017

30 Day Challenge (Are you nuts?)

By tomorrow evening I'll be halfway there, halfway through the 30 Day Challenge. Lots of apples, oranges, and bananas, and lots of nuts too. Fruit and nuts If I am what I eat, then... well, you'll have to be understanding..

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

It's been good. I'm drinking more water and not consuming anything that isn't good for me. I took off the pounds I put on over Christmas and my skin feels healthier. It remains to be seen whether or not I'll lose any more weight in the next two weeks, but either way I'm learning a new way of eating and building healthier habits. Now if I could only get that walking schedule in motion,

Thursday, January 19, 2017

On Being Remarkable.

The only way to live a truly remarkable life is not to get everyone to notice you, but to leave noticeable marks of His love everywhere you go." -Ann Voskamp, The Broken Way

Her books are deep, challenging, and thought provoking and her words reach deep into my soul. I have to take them in slowly, almost methodically. This is another book I will read twice, just like I did "1000 Gifts," pencil in hand, mulling over and chewing each paragraph.

What does it mean to love sacrificially? To live broken and given and filled to overflowing?

I can't help but recall my days as a young mother... broke wide open in the birthing, releasing nourishment in the dark of night, and giving time, energy, and pieces of my heart every day, all day, for years upon years. They still take a piece of my heart each and every day. I would and have laid my life down for them. Once upon a time I couldn't imagine being able to love a second child the same as the first, but when the second child arrived and broke off another little piece of my heart, I found my love had not diminished. It had, rather, grown and continued to increase with each precious child. That's just how love is.

"Real love is in the really small gestures- the way your hands, your feet, move to speak your heart." -Ann

Photo credit goes to my good friend Michelle Milliman (That's my daughter and first grandson in the picture.)

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 and 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.