Monday, May 31, 2010

I can bake a cherry pie . . .

An easy version of a cherry pie for this Memorial Day. Thanks for the idea, Judi!

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Remembering Sunday

When I was a child, Sunday was a different type of day, set apart from the others, and seemed to begin on Saturday evening before bed when I prepared for Sunday School by reading the lesson that was in my quarterly. While I did not have strict or overly “religious” parents, we did follow the protocol that the Christian culture set. Dinner was served after church, the kitchen was cleaned, and in the evening was a light supper requiring little work. In the afternoon, we played and socialized, visited with neighbors or friends, played Scrabble, or read, and enjoyed the day. Shopping was not an option since the stores were closed, allowing the employees to observe the day of rest, and if we wanted to do something, we always first considered how it would affect others. Over the years, Sunday has gone from the Sabbath, a holy day and time of mental and physical refreshment, to Sunday, to a weekend day that we hardly differentiate from the other six. I remember when my mother and I, guiltily first went to a movie on Sunday. Change can happen so slowly that we hardly notice. We just look back and wonder what happened.

Friday, May 28, 2010

The Results Show

Last night the group of us who trekked around downtown Greenville earlier this month photographing churches met at the studio of the professional artist-photographer who led us. (By the way…I really loved looking at the studios of the three artists who work there.)
We were each supposed to bring five or six enlargements of our best shots to be critiqued. The first person who showed his was a fellow who looks like Santa Claus and plays one at Christmas. His photographs were gorgeous, masterful…and intimidating. He was tossing out photographic terms that I felt I should know, and I picked up on the fact that he had done some artistic changes on them in Photoshop. A close second was his co-worker, friend, and hobby photographer buddy who had almost equally as wonderful work. The last to show was one of the women, whose photos I am glad to say were worse than mine. As we were sharing our pictures, Diane, the teacher, pointed out which photos she really liked and why and whether they were “documentary” or leaned toward art. It was not intended for competition, just fun and learning, but I couldn’t help but feel that there was a resemblance to this season’s Dancing With the Stars. Santa was Nicole, and I was like Niecy. It was obvious that we six were at different places in interest and abilities, and it was fun to see what the others had done.

Thursday, May 27, 2010


The landscaper and his helper accepted my open invitation to come back anytime as there is so much work that needs to be done. Yesterday after finishing the front yard, they started on the messy back yard, a potentially lovely place that has overwhelmed me. Though I had a vision for it, I did not have the knowledge or strength to make it what I believed it could be. After only one day in the hands of someone who knows what he is doing, it is starting to look better already. Earlier this year a co-worker recommended a contractor who could "do anything" around the house. How right he was! Not only are they the ones who fixed the chimney but they also placed new vapor barrier under the house, hung a large light fixture, and have done some odds and ends. And there was the guy who showed up to pressure wash the driveway and then paint and repair the upstairs room. I am keeping his number.

I will give the man who lives here with me credit for putting in a new faucet last month and moving the sprinkler around to different places in the yard yesterday, but he is not interested in being a handyman or a gardener. (Bless his heart.) Knowing what to expect makes it easier. The work has been done more precisely and safely by professionals, and is cheaper in the long run. It works better that way.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

My Art Linkletter Story

Today's news reported the death of Art Linkletter, a celebrity who seemed to me like an old friend. Forty plus years ago I was a new mother, and for several years, Art kept me company via daytime television as I ironed and otherwise adjusted to my new life as an adult. Then, perhaps in 1988, I actually met him in person. He was in town to speak at an educational thing that my hospital was sponsoring that evening, but earlier in the day, he paid us an unexpected visit. Was I surprised to walk in the day room and see Art Linkletter standing there! He was smiling and shaking hands and interacting comfortably with the patients, looking as if he hadn't changed a bit. By that time, I had been through the wringer. How did he do it! One thing was clear though; he really cared about the people. Maybe being "other-centered" was a key reason he lived to be ninety-seven.

Healthy Addition to the Diet

The more I eat from a healthy diet, the less of a taste I have for those foods that really don't do a body any favors. Being a good American, I of course still eat and enjoy spaghetti with white noodles, tuna salad, sausage, brownies and the rest of what I call "fifties food," but as I do, sometimes I feel that I am just prolonging old bad habits. For many years, my favorite "cuisine" has been living, organic vegetarian, and in a perfect world, that is what I would eat. This hearty Ezekiel bread from Whole Foods is made with "live grains," tastes delicious, and gives the body what it needs. For breakfast, I have been spreading it with something from the fifties like PB&J. To update it? Almond butter and raw local honey.

Monday, May 24, 2010

From the audience

Caroline, who has been studying for five years now, danced beautifully three times in the recital yesterday, but it was the three and four year olds who stole the show. Dressed in glitzy, colorful costumes with tutus or shimmy skirts, the ten or so perfectly darling little girls walked out past the curtains, formed somewhat of a line, and as the music started, their two minutes of charming the audience did also. They were not the Rockettes – not yet - and their individual personalities came through as they tried to show the results of what Mommy and Daddy have been sacrificing for in time and money. They were dressed alike but all quite different. One girl would be trying to follow the routine while another was twisting around watching what the girl beside her was doing. One scooted off the stage a couple of times and another ran to hold the hand of her instructor. I like to watch children and picture how they may be as adults. I think we pretty much remain the same throughout our lives. I am a big believer in learned behavior and believe our character is shaped over the years, but I think, barring some horrible trauma, our personalities are fairly well genetically fashioned by the time we arrive on Planet Earth as helpless infants. Will the tiny dancer who diligently followed the toe/tap movements become an uptight person who never wants to break a rule? Will the one who ran to her Mommy fail to follow through with anything?  Something for an observer to think about...

Saturday, May 22, 2010

We Can Still Vote

Not only is my yard in for some cleaning and revitalizing by pruning trees and pulling out old plants, it seems that our Senate and House of Representatives may be in for the same. Most Americans do not like the way things are going in Washington and are using the election process to "throw the bums out." It is slow going but not impossible. I believe that term limits are a good thing anyway, even in nursing, the profession I know about. I have witnessed nurses who after several years have become stale, complacent, or jaded and have lost empathy for the people they are supposed to be caring for. It is sometimes blamed on “burnout,” a lazy word for a situation that can be prevented. An intern I once worked with said she had done a research paper on this, and that not only in nursing but in other careers that involve caring for, protecting, or generally serving the public, employees often start seeing the “customer” as an enemy. They resent having to do anything for them and after seeing repetitive behaviors, cruelly make fun of them. I wonder how we are truly regarded by the ones we elected to oversee the management of our country. But we do not hire them to lifetime positions. We retain the option of pruning our elected bodies for the viability of America, and for uprooting those no longer useful individuals who wrongfully want to stay planted.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

From chaos, order

Today some much needed work is going on in my yard. David the landscaper came up with some plans, and now the project is being carried out. Quietly, except for an occasional whir of machinery, Alfredo and Fernando have been diligently and constantly working, stopping only for their lunch break. They have pulled up old and overgrown foundation plants, raked out piles of roots, trimmed branches from trees and carried them all to the trailer, dethatched the grass, raked and scraped and dug new holes, and spread bags of pine smelling mulch. David has shopped choosing plants and stones, has sawed cut limbs to make them easier to carry, and has hauled a ton of yard waste to the dump. They totally cleared a small triangular area in front that I had no idea how to tackle and have now planted some encore azaleas, day lilies, and a graceful seiryu Japanese maple. At the tip of that area they placed some Tennessee river stones and a smooth oblong "boulder." I was glad to turn the job over to an expert. That one messy area is going to look so pretty, neat and peaceful.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

A Fun Time

My drive up on Sunday to visit with the (temporary) Tenneseee branch of my family was unusually awesome - the sky and mountains were spectacularly beautiful. Even though Mother Nature was at her best, I managed to keep my eyes on the road enough to make it up the winding roads. Stuart and Paige and children have been staying at a roomy cabin in the country/woods near Lake Douglas for about a month and seem to be enjoying it. (Here is a view from their deck.)

Yesterday afternoon we were trying to keep the house quiet for a few minutes so Paige could try to rest before going to her nursing job, and the children, their big dog, and I checked out the wildflowers, bugs, what Jacob says in an old still and certainly looks like it could be, various trees, scads of different kinds of butterflies, and generally enjoyed the breezy sunny afternoon. And I took some pictures...of course.

It feels so normal to be with the ones I love, and sometimes I think the "normal" feeling eclipses the joy I also feel. I tried to explain this to the children last night, and I think they may have understood.

Tennessee Wildflowers

Saturday, May 15, 2010


Now that I have some leisure time, I have been reading. At first I delved into the treasured remaining books on my shelves (after so many purgings) and took time to enjoy them, then I started visiting the library. On my last visit I asked for a book that Connie has read and I think enjoyed, but there's no telling when I may get it as I am 42nd in line. Meanwhile there are other good ones to pluck from the shelves. From the new book section I got a book about an Emergency Room written by a young doctor and a cute story by Alexander McCall Smith. I also finally checked out the second book by the skilled writer Charles Frazier, Thirteen Moons, that I did not set time aside to enjoy when it came out three years ago. Now I can savor his fine similes and metaphors. I read the autobiography of Leiber and Stoller, and have a biographical novel about Jefferson on deck. I can tell I am learning how to relax because I am actually completing the reads, something my short attention span has had a hard time doing.  And that's a good thing.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Farm Fresh

To use one of those new words, it has now been six weeks since I started my "staycation." While I still have to try to halfway keep the house in decent shape for any prospective buyers and do the usual duties, the time in fact has had a distinct vacation flavor about it. Almost each day has included something fun that I would not have done if I had been working, some of which is directed by the hubby who seems to be happy to have me around. One of his fondest childhood memories is from dairy country in Vermont where he lived when he was a child, and he lapses into ecstasy when he talks about fresh cow's milk. So he found a place about twenty-five miles away that sells raw milk, and going there was today's outing. Of course that wasn't all we got! I love red/purple onions, and the farm store had some small ones that still had their long dark green leaves. We got good butter, red peppers, boiled peanuts, and some other stuff. No strawberries because, crazy woman that I am, I want to labor under a blazing sun to pick them luscious and sweet. While there I learned that we are in for a good supply of peaches this year that will start mid June. Something to look forward to. Meanwhile...the hubby gave the milk an A+. He shook it well, chugged it down, and pronounced it worth the drive.

Caroline is 9 today!

Happy Happy Birthday to my first granddaughter!

See you soon.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Stick a fork in me

Brilliant new words or precise phrases can enter our vocabulary, but often our language gets lazy and goes adrift.  Sometimes bad grammar becomes commonplace due to pop culture such as the preposition at ending questions as to where something is. Titles can be arbitrary. A wife carried her husband's name as Mrs. J. Whoever, and young unmarried girls were formally addressed as Miss. When my children were old enough to start calling me Mom - and I dearly love that beautiful name that I happily carry - I was still a mother. Now young women with children refer to themselves as a mom, single, or working, or stay at home, obviously feeling the need to further define themselves. Where did the mothers go! One word in particular has been more and more overused, as far as I am concerned, the universal substitution for completed, finished, over, ended. That word is done. I guess I think of it in terms of a verb in the conjugation of to do or as it relates to cooking and preparation, and less as an adjective, but it is everywhere, used as if it is the proper choice. When I cringe at such a use I have to remind myself of all the wrong words and phrases I have unwittingly slipped into saying.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Spring Visitors

I took my camera out this evening hoping to see a not too icky bug to photograph, but I found none. Instead...above and around and in my neighbor's pear tree was much carrying on by some gray feathered friends who at first glance looked like miniature cockatiels. I found out that they didn't much like it that my kitty and I were out there. Why? I discovered their secret home, which happens to be in my home. When it was quieter I heard little cheeps and bird songs coming from a small round hole left by a woodpecker that apparently the repair guys missed. Oh well...I can share. They will be here only for a season.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My favorite day to shop

Another Tuesday. Another shopping day. Though I don't think of myself as one who lives to shop, I sure do enjoy hitting the stores that reward me for having reached a certain age. And now that I have time, I can wait until Tuesday to get what I need. Malls give me a sense of dread, but these mini "discount" department stores in the strip shopping centers where parking is easy and carts are available make shopping easy. I enjoy walking the aisles and looking in the racks and feeling the fabrics and seeing the styles both in clothes and in household things. Occasionally I will have a short conversation with another shopper, but most women are like me, lost in their thoughts as they push their carts around the store, looking for something they can't live without. I think most of us love a bargain, and today I found one - two pretty sweaters that I must wait until fall to wear, but they were irresistible at less than ten percent of the original manufacturers price. I looked for something wrong with them, a snag or a gaping hole, but they were both pristine. How could I be so lucky! I tried them on, they were still perfect, and after reminding the cashier that it is Tuesday and I was eligible for a discount, checked out and brought my nice mostly cotton sweaters home. I never know what a Tuesday shopping trip may bring.

Sunday, May 9, 2010

A Mother's Prayer

There is no more important job than being a mother, and words of wisdom, such as those in this little poem that I learned years ago, can help us keep our priorities.

Give me patience when wee hands
Tug at me with small demands.
Give me gentle and smiling eyes
and keep my lips from hasty replies.
Let not life's confusion or noise
Obscure my vision of life's fleeting joys.
So when in years to come my house is still
No bitter memories its rooms may fill.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Garden Overload

I added to my garden this sultry May morning after a night that never seemed to cool. Yesterday I received some heirloom tomato plants, a leggy Abraham Lincoln and a brandywine. My compost was put to use, and I dug deep in the bin to find some great old decomposed stuff to place in the holes where they will live out their lives, hopefully producing some tasty fruit along the way. I also found room for a healthy bunch of savory oregano, two pots of cilantro and a flat leaf parsley. Maybe I will move to Wilmington before it is time to pick tomatoes, but right now it is not looking that way. I have a feeling I will be in Greenville long enough to enjoy some of summer's gifts.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A Time for Contentment

Advice given to beginning writers is "write what you know." Right now all I know is that I am still in the honeymoon phase of my retirement, and that is what I have to write about. At the risk of sounding disgustingly cheerful, I feel like I just want to bask here for a while. Life on earth has taught me that honeymoons end, everything changes, happiness is for seasons, so that gives me more reason to savor this happy time.

I was once a young mother who expected life to be smooth sailing, and when gusts blew my sails I was frustrated, overwhelmed. When I reached my middle fifties, I realized that life is not supposed to be easy, that in reality Life is Hard, but that is how we grow and learn and our character is built. When I adjusted my thinking and accepted that truth, my life actually became easier. (Life being in the head.) There is always something to work at or work toward or struggle with, and that is how it is. But once in a while, we hit a place where we can pause and enjoy, and I am enjoying that place as long as the season lasts.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


I’m sitting up here in my little room in front of my computer. The ceiling fan is humming and pushing a warm breeze down my way. The sky is having a perfect day, solid blue with the prettiest puffy white clouds, and the sun is a shimmery platinum. Out the window I see my neighbor's newly mown grass and pink and crimson roses against the brick on the side of their house. Birds are singing and occasionally fly past me unaware. My little garden area is waiting to show me how far the seeds have pushed through and how tall the resilient tomato plants have grown. I must find something to blog about today, but all I can think of is words from a song..."how wonderful life is while you're in the world."

Monday, May 3, 2010

Autograph Books

As I piddle and poke through stuff this morning I find an autograph book of my mother’s with the dates 1936 – 1937. My own light green autograph book that she gave me when I was maybe eleven is also around here stashed safely in a box. The autographs of famous people can be quite valuable but these small, carefully bound slim volumes that contain memories of friends and family also have great value. They are filled with tender and funny sayings and words of wisdom and well wishes, but most of all, there is that signature, sometimes the only memory on the well worn little page. The most classic entry to any autograph book was always “Roses are red, violets are blue, sugar is sweet, and so are you,” and that is what some lesser imaginations wrote. Other signers took more liberties.

My mother’s thin brown leather book that is held in place with matching ribbon reflects the time with this:
Bye Bye Baby. When you read this, don’t feel low. Just Sing Baby Sing.
And from her favorite cousin:
I love you once, I love you twice. I love you better than cats love mice.
Sage advice:
Love many, trust few. Always paddle your own canoe.
And this warning:
Long may you live. Long may you tarry. Court who you please, but mind who you marry.
And a forget me not:
In you chain of memory, always count me as a link.
I think it is really a good thing to hang on to some objects from childhood and remember stories of our lives and the characters in them.

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Downtown Hike

Trying to find something to do that suited my current interests, I signed up in April for what I thought was a photography "class" on May 1. I arrived at the museum by nine yesterday and met with the others. One was a cheerful sprite of a woman who was decked out in hiking gear and holding a walking stick that was lined with what she said were medallions from various trails she had been on. I knew I was in trouble. Oh well, she said...the older flyers had stated that this was to be a hike. She was the day's companion to a well known local photographer/artist, and the two led our excursion. Thankfully I had chosen comfy shoes and had packed a PB&J. We trekked around town for six hours in the mist and the heat, the energetic sprite in the lead, and snapped pictures of five churches inside and out, all built in the mid to late 1800s. Our first stop was the beautiful Episcopal church that I have been wanting to visit ever since I have lived here. Inside were rows of rich old heart pine pews and many fine stained glass windows such as the one here. The three men in our group carried big tripods on their shoulders and set up shop at each church. I believe they will have some marvelous shots. The other two women with their small digitals were less familiar with the technical aspects of photography and were in it more for fun as I was. Although I was exhausted when I got home, and found I did not have a really good one out of all the pictures I took, I still had a wonderful time.