Showing posts with label memories. Show all posts
Showing posts with label memories. Show all posts

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

I'm Back!

Hello friends!  Did you miss me as much as I missed you?

I can't believe I went this long without posting, but I was out of town (Santa, please bring me a laptop!) and dealing with other pressing issues so I hope you have forgiven my absence.  I missed sitting down every day and sharing heart and especially the feedback from my dear readers but was thrilled when I opened my inbox to discover that you have been reading and leaving me little notes and comments even while I've been gone.  I love hearing from you.

My sister and I went on a road trip.  Our decision spur of the moment and we left our children with our very capable husbands.  We hit the highway last Wednesday and headed due north to visit the town of our misspent youth.  We could hardly remember the last time we went as far as the grocery store alone together, so this trip was definitely way overdue.  We debated a real early morning start for about a minute an a half, until we concluded we are not early morning start kind of people, so at 6:30 we stumbled away with our thermos of coffee and Kathy's homemade banana chip muffins.


This is Kathy saying, "Really, you're taking a picture of me in the car now?  This isn't going in your blog is it?"   And I'm saying to her.  "No.  I'll take a better picture of you later."  But I never did, because I was too relaxed and not blogging and having a good time, so I didn't take lots of pictures.  Here is my sister.  She looks cute all the time anyway.

This is the beginning of our trip, driving through LA, where we expected to hit tons of commuter traffic because we were too lazy to leave earlier, but God smiled down upon us (or everyone else decided to stay home that day) and we sailed through The City of Angels and over the Grapevine, where we stopped at Starbucks (the first of many on this trip), before we headed up the Central Valley.

It was a balmy 102 degrees that first day and hovered around that mark for the next couple of days.  There's nothing like September in California!

Our family moved to the Golden State when I was 14,  Kathy was 12 and our brother Karl was 16.  Our dad was pastoring a church in Modesto, right in the heart of the Central Valley.  It has been over 25 years since we lived in the Central Valley but it still holds a special place in my heart.  The people who live there, live off the land - ranchers, farmers and cattlemen.   They are straightforward people.  If they like you, you're family.  If they don't like you, God help you.

As you come over the Grapevine, the whole Central Valley spreads out before you, stretching in the distance as far as the eye can see.  I love the beauty of the California landscape as rolling hills give way to the flat valley covered with endless varieties of vineyards, rows of corn, tall stalks of artichokes, fields of strawberries and garlic, orchards of apricots, almonds and pistachios and pastures of grazing cattle.  These people make food for the world to eat.

As we drove through the valley, we were scanning through the radio stations and at one time we found no less than eight Christian radio stations in one location.  They don't call this the Bible belt for nothin'!

We finally arrived in Modesto and checked into our hotel room, where they gave us our warm chocolate chip cookies to welcome us.  We put our feet up on the beds and now I'm going to tell on my sister.  I saw it with my own two eyes.  She ate that chocolate chip cookie.  She got chocolate on her fingers and she wiped those dirty fingers on those clean, white sheets.  Next time you are in a hotel room, think about that.  My usually fastidious sister, who would have a fit if her own children did such a thing, was too lazy to get up and go to the sink to wash her hands, so she just dragged her greasy chocolatey fingers right across those crisp sheets and thought, "I'll just sleep on the other side of the bed and let somebody else clean up my mess!"

Our trip to Modesto wasn't all fun and games.  Our parents were already there, working hard cleaning out the contents of a house and we had arrived to give them a hand.  Let me tell you, our parents are in their seventies and they work harder and have more energy than most people half their age.  I don't know how they do it.  Their daughters have a hard time keeping up with them.  Between the working, we enjoyed eating out and reminiscing, thinking back on earlier years and some of the great friends we made way back when.

We were able to connect with a few old friends, some that we hadn't seen since we were in our late teens.  I don't think any of us have aged a bit (that's my story and I'm sticking with it!).  We had a great time catching up, chatting about our families, our kids and life in general.  Where have the years gone?  Here we are with Stephanie and Lance Lemings and Cyndi Sordo McDaniel after a delicious Mexican meal.

The highlight of this trip was reconnecting with my sister.  We have not spent a concentrated amount of time together like this since...I don't remember when we last spent time together like this.  When we were kids, I tormented her (yes - I have apologized - repeatedly!).  When we were teenagers, we hung out together occasionally, but I was seventeen when I left home to go to college and nineteen (gulp!) when I left home for good and got married.  Family, children, husbands, households and life, have kept us pretty busy and when we have been together there has usually been someone else along for the ride.

This time it was just the two of us, alone in the car, driving through the beautiful California landscape with all the time in the world to talk, to laugh and to just be together.  We watched a lame movie in the hotel room, ate beef at Harris Ranch,

stopped to pick "fresh from the farm" produce on the way home and had a real "Jesus Take the Wheel" moment that kept us laughing for a good 45 minutes - actually, we're still laughing about it.

I knew this before but I discovered it all over again.  There is nothing like a sister - someone who has known you forever - who knows the good, the bad and the ugly and loves you in spite of, or because of it.  Someone who you can call in the middle of the day or the middle of the night, who will recognize your voice even when you are a sobbing, blubbering mess.  Someone who thinks of the same stupid 70's songs at the same time you do.  Someone who your kids can go to when they don't want to talk to mom.

I have been blessed with an incredible sister and even thought I missed writing my little posts, I wouldn't trade my time away for anything!  I did learn one more important lesson.  Kathy is really bossy and thinks she knows everything, but I can love her enough to nod and agree.

I must be the best sister ever!

Friday, August 20, 2010

What I Like Doing Best Is Nothing

"How do you do Nothing?" asked Pooh,  after he has wondered for a long time.
"Well, it's when people call out at you just as you're gong off to do it, What are you going to do, Christopher Robin, and you say, Oh, nothing, and then you go and do it."
"O, I see," said Pooh.
"This is a nothing sort of thing that we're doing now."
"Oh, I see," said Pooh again.
"It means just going along, listening to all the things you can't hear, and not bothering."

I'm feeling nostalgic.

My two youngest are heading off to junior  high and high school next week.  The years of doing Nothing are behind us, even our summers are filled with doing Something, now.    It seems like yesterday that summers stretched out endlessly with lazy days spent doing...well, Nothing.

I'm not one to get caught up in sentimentality, but Winnie the Pooh was my son's favorite character from the time he was an infant and "The House At Pooh Corner" is, in my mind one of the sweetest pieces of literature ever written.  There is something about summer drawing to a close and school beginning that always reminds me of the tender words between Pooh and Christopher Robin at the end of this heartwarming book.

Christopher has spent his childhood deeply absorbed in the world of Pooh, Tigger, Piglet and his other friends in the Hundred Acre Wood.  Now the time has come for him to leave for school and enter the world of "Kings and Queens and something called Factors, and a place called Europe, and an island in the middle of the sea where no ships came, and how you make a Suction Pump (if you want to), and when Knights were Knighted, and what comes from Brazil."

Pooh Bear begins to feel left out, being a Bear of Very Little Brain, as he realizes that Christopher Robin will eventually leave him behind to enter this strange new world where he does not belong.

Every time I read this, my heart beats a little faster and I feel like shouting, "Don't go, Christopher Robin!  Stay.  Live in the Hundred Acre Wood forever."  But I know that he can't - and he shouldn't.    This is the tug and pull of growing up.

We have already been through this with our oldest child.  We survived and so did she, the growing pains of adolescence.  She is now an  adult and a beautiful young lady.  She is excited about the future looking to get married next year and start her own family.  If our children never left the Hundred Acre Wood, if they stayed with Tigger and Pooh forever, they would never grow to be mature, healthy adults.

Yet, there is something so sweet, so innocent about those days of childhood, that we long for our children to cling to them as long as they can, knowing that they will grow up soon enough.  Those early years of childhood have now passed for my precious three and oh, how I cherished every minute.  I glance back with a smile but look forward with great hope, knowing their future is bright as they place it in the Lord's hands.

The final paragraphs of Pooh and Christopher Robin's story expresses the tug of a child's heart but I think we hear more the heart of the parent/author A.A. Milne, as Christopher's childhood wanes and adolescence begins.

Then, suddenly again, Christopher Robin, who was still looking at the world, with his chin in his hands, called out "Pooh!"
"Yes?" said Pooh.
"When I'm-when--Pooh!"
"Yes, Christopher Robin?"
"I'm not going to do Nothing any  more."
"Never again?"
"Well, not so much.  They don't let you."
Pooh waited for him to go  on, but he was silent again.
"Yes, Christopher Robin?"said Pooh Helpfully.
"Pooh, when I'm-you know-when I'm not doing Nothing, will you come up here sometimes?"
"Just Me?"
"Yes, Pooh."
"Will you be here too?"
"Yes, Pooh, I will be really. I promise I will be, Pooh."
"That's good," said Pooh.
"Pooh, promise you won't forget about me, ever.  Not even when I'm a hundred."
Pooh thought for a little.
"How old shall I be then?"
Pooh nodded.
"I promise," he said.
Still with his eyes on the world Christopher Robin put out a hand and felt for Pooh's paw.
"Pooh," said Christopher Robin earnestly, "if I-if I'm not quite--"he stopped and tried again-"Pooh, whatever happens, you will understand, won't you?"
"Understand what?"
"Oh, nothing."  He laughed and jumped to his feet.  "Come on!"
"Where?" said Pooh.
"Anywhere," said Christopher Robin.
So they went off together. But wherever they go, and whatever happens to them on the way,  in that enchanted place on the top of the Forest, a little boy and his Bear will always be playing.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Curdled Cream, Nick Nacks and Lemon Meringue Pie

This post was, by far, the most time-consuming post I have ever composed.  In fact, I am fairly certain that it is the most time-consuming post in the history of the blogosphere.  I meant to post yesterday but I couldn't get it completed in time.  Everything that could go wrong, did go wrong.  The lighting was bad.  I didn't follow directions.  The cream for my coffee was curdled.  I could go on, but I will spare you all the ugly details.

I would feel marginally better if this post were about quantum physics or how to solve the HIV/AIDS pandemic but it is about pie.  That's it - pie.  It's really good pie, but it is just pie.  You can decide if it was worth all the effort.

This recipe is from one of my best friends ever.

I have known Lisa since we were both fifteen.  That is more than a few years ago, to put it mildly.

When I first met Lisa, she was like a human energy field.  She was the quintessential beautiful blond California girl.  Guys were drawn to her like moths to a flame.  Girls wanted to be around her because, well, we wanted to be like her.  She was cute and nice and fun and very funny.  Fun and funny were vital to me when I was fifteen.

Plus, Lisa was loud.

That was very important too because I needed somebody that could match my decibel level.  When we entered a room together, you knew we were there.  Lisa and I were generally in the company of our good friends Tam or Laurie or some combination thereof.  We were a force to be reckoned with.

Lisa and I were also really smart.  Let me tell you how smart we were.  Our youth group had a rent-a-kid auction where people in the church could rent some of the youth for the day, to do chores.  The money raised was going toward our upcoming trip.  Dennis, our youth pastor, was reading off the different chores available and mentioned the need for two people for "light housekeeping."  Lisa and I jumped up, eager to grab the easiest task on the list.  "See you later suckas!"  we yelled as we raced out the door. 

We came to a bungalow on a tidy street and met a sweet little lady who escorted us into her spotless home.  We grinned at each other, gloating over our good fortune.  We figured we would be in and out of there in no time and tanning by the pool while everyone else was slaving away painting or hauling trash.  She walked us into her living room and...there it was.  A wall-to-wall, floor-to-ceiling collection of every kind of figurine, ornament and tchotchke ever created.

Our task for the day was to remove them all, one by one, dust them, dust the shelf and return them to their exact location.  We slaved away for hours, carefully dusting and replacing every little nick nack.  Needless to say,  we were the last ones to arrive at the pool party and Lisa and I developed a terrible phobia of dusting.

A few years after we met, my cousin Steve came to live with us.  He met Lisa and...kapow!  Game over!  He fell head over heels for this California girl.  They've been married for quite some time now and have three gorgeous kids that (thankfully) take after Lisa.  They are good-looking, sweet, smart and funny, just like their mom - okay, just a bit like their dad too. 

Lisa is also a gracious hostess and a great cook.  Whenever we get together for family events we beg her to bring dessert - either her trifle or this amazing, sweet and tart lemon meringue pie, made with lemons from her own backyard.  I asked her to share the recipe and she kindly obliged.  If you aren't blessed with lemons growing in your backyard, you can buy them in your grocery store.  This is, I promise, the best lemon pie you have ever tasted, from one of the sweetest (and smartest) people I know!

"A sweet friendship refreshes the soul."
Proverbs 27:9 (MSG)

Lisa's Lemon Meringue Pie

8 tbsp corn starch
2 tbsp flour
1 3/4 c sugar
2 c boiling water
4 egg yolks beaten
2 lemon rinds grated
1 tbsp butter
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 c unstrained lemon juice

1. Combine the flour, corn starch and sugar.

2. Whisk in the water and sugar.  I like the word whisk, say it again, "whisk".  I think it's an onomatopoeia. - whisk.  It sounds like what we're doing, we're whisking.  Okay, I'm distracted, move along.

3. Stir until smooth.  Is this an onomatopoeia too?  Smooth.  Another good word.  I'm hung up on the sound of words today.  Smooth.  Say it with me.  Smooooooth.

4. Cook until it thickens.
Okay, I ignored Lisa here.  She said "Don't bother with a double boiler, just do it directly on the stovetop."  But, I know better because I have baked this pie exactly 0 times and Lisa has baked this pie 974 times.  Listen to Lisa and don't use a double boiler.

5. Beat 4 egg yolks.

6. Temper the yolks with the hot mixture so the eggs don't cook.  Temper means put in a little itty bit so you don't get cooked eggs.  Just drizzle a little in.   Stir,  drizzle a little more, stir, drizzle, get the idea.  Until it's all mixed together.

7. Stir in the lemon rinds, butter, salt and lemon juice.

8. Keep stirring until smooth and thick.  There's that word again.  Smoooth.  That sounds like a 70's word - bow-chicka-bow-wow - smoooth!

"until smooth and thick."  I have no idea exactly how long that will take because, again, I ignored Lisa's advice and used a double boiler, takes somewhere between 5 minutes and 5 hours.  I'm really not sure.   But the picture above shows the color and thickness before and the below picture shows the color and thickness after.

9. Pour into prepared crust.

You are welcome to get all Martha Stewart on me and bake your own crust.  I just bought the freezer crust, popped that baby in the oven and- voila!  Martha would freak!


Let me just say here - I just L-O-V-E meringue.  Meringue is divine.  It looks like little angel clouds.

5 egg whites
5 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp cream of tartar (may substitute 1/4 tsp lemon juice)
pinch of salt

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

2. Beat egg whites until stiff.  It is best if they are at room temperature.

Beat these little puppies until they have peaks.  Nice light peaks but not dry.

Don't skimp on this part.  You can use an electric mixer or, if you need to relieve some aggression, do it by hand and think about that guy that cut you off in traffic yesterday or the lady in line at Starbucks who couldn't make up her flipping mind and pretend you're beating the every-living daylights out of them.  It's way better than therapy.

3. Add sugar, cream of tartar and salt.  Mix but do not over-beat.  Now it should look nice and glossy.
Whoa!  Okay, back off now.  The beating part is over.  If you still feel like beating something or someone you may need therapy.  That's okay.  We all need it eventually.

4. Cover filled pie while warm but not hot.

5. Bake for 20 minutes at 300 degrees or until top is golden brown.  

Do not, I repeat, do not walk away and go into the office chitty-chatting on Facebook for an hour and a half, uploading pictures and working on your blog until you hear the smoke alarm in your kitchen screeching, only to return to your smoke-filled kitchen where you find a burnt meringue, which you scrape off and replace with another meringue, leaving the pie tasting a little bit charred but edible nonetheless.

That would be stupid.

6. Allow to cool before cutting.
 Dang!  That looks good.

Or, if you are reckless and impatient like me, cut it the minute you are done and let the chips fall where they may!

If you have ever wondered what that expression means, "Let the chips fall where they may", it means, if you cut into your pie before Lisa says you should, you will be eating lemon meringue soup instead of lemon meringue pie.

It was so good, we went back for seconds!

I learned a lot from this post.

1.  I am not becoming a food blogger at any point in the foreseeable future.

2.  I really hate being in the kitchen.

3.  I am impatient and don't follow directions well.

4.  I'm glad I have a husband that cooks.  I wish he liked to bake.

5.  I love homemade pie.

6.  I love people who bake me pie.

If you want a copy of this recipe, without all my inane chatter (it's really good if you follow the directions) click on the link at the right......

Thursday, August 12, 2010

I Wanna Be On Soul Train!

What did you want to be when you grew up?  Or, for that matter, what do you want to be when you grow up?

I had a list of things I wanted to do and be. Yesterday, driving in the car with Steve I mentioned the fact that I had never learned to whistle - LOUD!  My mom had a friend who could split your ears when she whistled and I vowed that when I was a grown up, I would whistle just like Elsie.  I can barely get a tweet out.  It's really quite disappointing.

Following, is a list of things I really wanted to do.  I don't know if they were the typical dreams of suburban California girls in the 70's, but they were my dreams.

~ I really wanted to be a race car driver.  My first car was a stick shift.  My dad taught me how to drive it.  He even taught me how to burn rubber, then had the nerve to get mad at me after I peeled out of the church parking lot in front of the whole congregation following church one Sunday morning.

Parents are so inconsistent!

~ I wanted to, no I needed to meet Peter Frampton,

because, I knew, once he got a look at me in my sweet ride...

it would be game over.  He would be happy with nobody else but me.  I was not deterred by the fact that he was four inches shorter than me.  After all, this was the 70's.  He could wear platform shoes!

~ This leads to my next big dream - being the lead singer in a girl band.  I had the hair.  I had the Chemin de Fer bell bottom jeans.  I have no idea why this never happened.

~ Now, don't laugh out loud when you read this one.  When I was in high school I really wanted to be a Soul Train dancer.  Forget American Bandstand.  On Saturday mornings, my friend Tamara and I would race to the television to watch the Soul Train dancers and try to imitate their moves.  Remember, Sharon?  Plus, nobody was cooler than Don Cornelius.  I lived in the Central Valley at the time and we plotted ways we could get to LA for our big chance at Soul Train fame.

For those of you who didn't have the pleasure of growing up with this epic show, here's a short clip.

Now that you have had a taste of this amazing program that shaped my youth, you may be asking these questions.  "Who did she think she was back then - the girl with the big 'fro or the styling lady in pink doing the splits?"

Yes, I'm afraid I was clearly suffering from delusions of funk.

Okay, so it is a little embarrassing that none of my dreams involved solving the world hunger crisis, meeting Mother Theresa or obtaining a PhD, but I'm just keeping it real here.

Clearly I did not achieve these childhood dreams, but I'm okay with that.  I dance around the house, sing loudly and often and have my Stephen instead of Peter.  I have been known to race now and then, but have curbed my inclinations in that area to a great degree.

There is one thing, however that still bugs me.  I want to learn to whistle!  I would love to be at the beach. see my kids half a mile away and just split the air with a noise that sends them running.  I don't know if it's possible to learn, but I'm going to try.  And when I succeed, you will be the first to know!

Last night we discovered a new dance show on Hulu called The LXD.  It's filmed in a narrative style with a story line from one episode to the next.  The dancing is off the hook.  The music is great and the production quality is top-notch.  We sat with the kids and watched all nine episodes.  If you love music or dancing I highly recommend it.  It's suitable for all ages. maybe a bit intense for younger kids.  Perhaps it will inspire your dream to dance! 

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

My Friends Are My Estate

Today's post is dedicated to three of the best friends a woman could have.  Kelly, Kathy and Cheryl (plus Madison) thanks for knowing exactly what I needed yesterday and being there for me!

"Friendship isn't a luxury, it's a necessity."
 - Karen Rutledge

To you and all the other dear friends that carry me through each day, may I be half the friend to you, that you are to me!

Here are some of the best quotes I have found, celebrating the gift of friendship - in all of it's beautiful forms - young and old, vintage and new!

"Never shall I forget the days I spent with you. 
Continue to be my friend, as you will always find me yours."
- Ludwig van Beethoven 

"It is one of the blessings of old friends that you can afford to be stupid with them."
- Ralph Waldo Emerson  

"My friends are my estate."
 - Emily Dickinson

"Ah, how good it feels...the hand of an old friend."
- Mary Englebright

"If you judge people, you have no time to love them."
- Mother Teresa 

"I count myself in nothing else so happy
As in a soul rememb'ring my good friends."
- William Shakespeare 

"Walking with a friend in the dark is better than 
walking alone in the light."
- Helen Keller
"Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them to become what they are capable of being."

Monday, July 12, 2010

Let Them Eat Cake

Well, I can safely say that I consumed more cake and pastries in the past four days than any other time in my life.  That is really saying something.

This represents just a portion of the goodies I have consumed.  I am SO not kidding!

The wedding is over, the bride and groom are in London, and life is returning to normal.  I am not even sure where to begin.  So much to do this week, to get caught up.  Taking pictures and listing product in my etsy shop, catching up on my writing, creating jewelry, cleaning the house.  I know it will eventually get done, so I need to relax and remember what a beautiful weekend we had.

Last night we got together with some of our dearest friends (if you weren't there it doesn't mean you're not dear).  We sat around reminiscing and laughing until our sides hurt.  Hard to believe we've known each other over twenty years.  Where has the time gone?  We gave that latte machine one more solid workout and I am not... I repeat... not... eating another dessert for at least a month week.

As we sat around, we were thinking back to when our kids were born and how time has flown. Now several of them are getting married and have children of their own.  We are in the midst of planning our own daughter's wedding next year (yeah!).

I have to admit, as a parent. that it is both exciting and terrifying to see your children become independent souls, as they make their own mistakes, achieve their personal victories and discover who they are.  I am comforted by the support of dear friends, as I tackle the challenge of parenting and am reassured by the knowledge that my children are ultimately in God's tender hands.

Our daughter R has discovered that one of her passions is horses, just like her cousin Megan!

She just packed her boots and left for a week of wrangling and counseling at Calicinto Ranch with her sweet friend Lauren.

I know they will have fun but also, that they will be blessed as they minister to the kids of prisoners.  These types of experiences are always life changing!

My challenge now is recovering from a major sugar/caffeine crash.  I need to get my energy back and figure out how to keep a Star Wars-obsessed,  energetic 12-year-old boy occupied this week.  Any suggestions?  Maybe just one more latte...

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Love Is In The Air

I mentioned before that my beautiful niece Natalie is getting married soon.  Well, tomorrow is the big day!

Family has arrived from out of town, dresses have received the final nip and tuck, the church is being decorated and there is a sense of excitement in the air.

I love weddings and usually need to bring a tissue. I think this will definitely be a two tissue event for me.  I can't imagine how many I will need at my own child's wedding!  I remember the day our sweet Nat was born.  We have watched her grow up to be a lovely young lady. She picked a guy that fits her like a hand in a glove and in the short time we've know Adrian, we have grown to love him as well.

Since weddings are on my mind, I took a peek through my pictures and have a few to share.

These pictures of my parents are great- so young and happy.  They were driven around town on the chassis of an old car.  I love the red roses and dad's white socks!

Here are their going away outfits.  So stylish. Mom and dad married on September 13, 1958 and are still having fun and in love!

This was the first wedding I ever attended.  I was the flower girl and I only remember a few things.  I loved my gold satin dress.   I loved everyone looking at me and I got very tired at the reception.

Steve and I were married 29 (gasp!) years ago.  What a beautiful day.  Boy, we were young!  After all these years, I can't imagine being with anybody else, through thick and thin.

My brother married two years later. His beautiful bride Shelley looked amazing in her aunt's vintage wedding gown but it was a very hot day and she almost melted.  They  just celebrated their 27th wedding anniversary.  Congrats!

My sister wore our mother's gown on her own wedding day.  The gown had been sold (my parent's needed the money) and we tracked it down to return it to my mother on her 25th wedding anniversary.  In the end, that dress was worn by four different brides!

Tomorrow, my sister will be the mother-of-the-bride.  She and her husband Norb will welcome one more son into their family.  Can't wait for the festivities to begin!  I have my camera ready!

Let love and faithfulness never leave you; 
bind them around your neck, 
write them on the tablet of your heart.
Proverbs 3:3 

Couldn't resist one more picture.  My sweet sister and me with all that hair.  We were rockin' the 80's!  (Where did I put those hot rollers?)

Tuesday, July 6, 2010


I'm overwhelmed.

You may know the feeling.  No matter what I do, it's not enough.  If I'm working in my office, I'm picturing the mountain (I'm being literal here) of laundry piled by the washing machine.  When I'm doing the laundry, I am thinking about the housework that needs to be done (why does the dog still have hair on her body when there's soooo much everywhere else?).  When I'm doing housework, I'm thinking, I need to spend more time with the kid's this summer.  When I'm out with the kids, I am trying to focus, but keep being drawn back to all the other things I should be doing.  It is a vicious cycle.

There never seems to be enough time, money or energy for what I need to accomplish.  This is hard for me to admit.  I hemmed and hawed about whether or not I should write this.  I hate whiners and don't want to sound like one, but I have a feeling there are others of you out there who may relate to my predicament.

Yesterday, it all just became too much.  I was being pulled in so many directions that I just gave up, sat in my chair and cried.  I had myself a first-class pity party!  Now a pity party is not festive, and nobody wants to join you, so I had it all by myself, no cake no banners, no gifts, just a box of tissue.  After I was done (and my eyes were red and blotchy), I walked away from the computer, ignored the housework, the laundry and yes, even my kids and went to my room.

I sat on my bed and had a looong talk with the Lord.  I told him about my fears and my frustrations.  He is the one friend that I know for sure will listen.  Slowly, I felt a peace begin to settle over my spirit.  I recalled the words that Jesus spoke, "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid." John 14:27.  Slowly and sweetly I let those words calm my spirit and my mind.

Not wanting to leave my room, I picked up a box filled with unsorted, disorganized pictures and started going through them.  My first thought was to try and get them in order (must be doing!) but before long I got lost in the pictures and the memories and started focusing on how good life has been.

One thing about photographs, they capture a moment in time, but we tend to be selective, taking pictures of the good times and ignoring the bad.  I have never (and won't do it even for this blog) taken a picture of my mountain of dirty laundry.  I don't snap pictures of the bills piled on the desk and I don't have a single photograph of the dog poop in the backyard waiting to be picked up. 

I do, however, have pictures of my wedding day.  I have shot pictures madly of my children, from the day they were born, through their first steps, vacations, athletic events, academic awards, and the fun of watching them grow every day.  Their sweet faces fill my photo boxes.

I also have pictures of my own childhood, my beautiful parents and in-laws, my husband and me, young and in love and old(er) and still in love.  There are pictures of family - nieces and nephews, cousins and siblings, friends present and past and loved ones that are no longer with us.

After some time, poring over pictures, laughing at hairstyles and chubby cheeks, sharing memories with my husband, my daughter and her fiance, I felt my burden easing a bit more.  Nothing had actually changed since my pity party.  A magical fairy didn't fly in the window and do my laundry.  I didn't get a visit from Publisher's Clearing House with a check for $10,000,000 (or even $10!), but I did allow myself a fresh perspective.

It is true that my troubles cannot and should not be ignored, but I can change my primary focus.  I can choose which mental snapshot to keep and which ones to throw away.  With God's help, I am
committing to dwelling on "whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy"
Philippians 4:8.

I'll check back in and let you know how this new perspective works!

Tuesday, June 22, 2010


I love the website The Bright Side Project.  They highlight beautiful finds from around the web as well as artists and bloggers.  The best part is they give away something free every day.  How fun is that?  In order to win, you have to ask a question posed by the highlighted contributor.  Lately, it seems as though the questions have all been about summer memories, "What is your best childhood summer memory?" or "What smells and sounds remind you of summer?"  It got me thinking and reminiscing about my earliest childhood summer memories.

I spent the first 14 years of my life in Canada, living in and around the Toronto area.  Anyone that has ever lived in a cold-weather climate knows that summer is anticipated and celebrated with great gusto.  Living in southern California, summer is appreciated but not the way it is in the northern climes.  We would count down the days to the end of school (what kid doesn't?) and look forward to shedding sweaters, jackets, boots and shoes in favor of barefeet or flip-flops and a bathing suit or a pair of shorts.

We were fortunate to have a cottage outside the city that we could escape to every year.  It was located on the lake shore in a church camp community near the town of Cobourg.  We could count on seeing the same familiar faces there year in and year out.  When Kid's camp wasn't on, our days were spent riding our bikes down the gravel roads, playing with our summer friends, throwing rocks in the lake, betting who could make theirs skip the furthest and hanging out at the beach.  The campground was self-contained with only one road in and mom wouldn't expect to see us all day, unless we were hungry or wanted some money to buy a bag of candy at the tuck shop.

I remember how much more relaxed my mother was in this environment.  With most of the dads coming to the cottage when they could escape work in the city for a few days here and there, it was primarily kids and moms whiling away the lazy days.  I loved seeing my beautiful tanned mom, relaxing and laughing with her friends in the sunshine.  We would wander up and down the beach between the clusters of kids and women, begging money for a popsicle, building sand castles, and splashing in the waves.  Hours were spent on the swings, pumping our legs as hard as we could, trying to touch the sky and jumping into the hot sand.

Back in those days, we still dressed up for church, so after a long day running down tar-covered roads and rolling in the sand, we would clean up (or at least wash off our feet), brush out our hair and dress up in our bright cotton dresses.  I had a friend or two that I would meet along the way and we would skip our way to the evening kid's service.

There were always contests (boys against the girls) with puppets, songs, games and more.  The converted barn was set up for the children's services and we would sit on the old wooden folding chairs with the fans whirring above us in the musty air.  Sometimes we spied a mouse crawling along one of the rafters and would squeal with horror.  We fidgeted and squirmed, carving our names into the arms of the chairs and passing notes to each other, whispering about the cute boy two rows up.  After the sun set, nice and late in the summer, we would catch fireflies and roast marshmallows over bonfires in the backyard.  If you wandered around long enough you were sure to find a backyard party at somebody's cottage.

When the strawberries were in season, mom would pull out her jars and the big jam pot and spend a day, cutting, mashing, cooking and canning the delicious strawberry jam.  Our favorite part was the pink, foamy bubbles that would boil to the surface.  We would argue over who got the first taste of this creamy treat on a piece of bread.

The other summertime treat we anticipated was the first sweet corn of the season.  Mom would banish us to the back steps with a bag and a bowl where we would shuck the corn.  There was a big slab of butter on the middle of the picnic table and plenty of napkins to go around.  We slathered the corn with the creamy yellow butter, salted generously and gobbled up the delicious corn while the butter dripped off our chins.

When dad was around, he would fire up the backyard barbecue and, as master of the grill, perfect the art of the ultimate burger.  Up and down the backyards, the smell of charcoal and lighter fluid permeated the air.

The only hitch in our summer activities were rainy days, which I'm sure every mother dreaded.  Those were Monopoly days.  We would have friends over or, if mom managed to scoot us out of the house, knock on someone else's door and set up the board for an epic game, sometimes lasting for hours.  But eventually, even with the rain, we would make our way outside, splashing in the puddles with our  rubber rain boots, twirling around with our umbrellas and floating homemade boats down the streams that ran down the roadsides.  After the rain would stop, the humidity level would be high and we could smell the damp grass and earthworms.

It was one of the saddest days of the year when we would pack up our summer things, pile them into the car, close up the cottage and wave goodbye to our summer friends to head back into the city.  But we knew that next year they would be back, a little taller and ready for more summer adventures.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Personal Heroes - Chapter 3

I had another hero in mind for today, but in honor of Father's Day I have chosen to share with you a profile more dear to my heart.  

I called him Poppy.  The general population knew him as Pastor Eugene Vaters.  He was a circuit preacher, a spiritual pioneer, a gentleman, a poet, and my grandfather.  My dad, the eighth child in the family, was born on Poppy's 40th birthday.  He was and remains, my greatest hero.

To me, he was bigger than life, and time with him was a rare treat.  He lived on the Atlantic Coast on the rugged island of Newfoundland, much too far away from our home in Toronto.  My grandmother, who we called 'Mom Vaters' (she did not like to be called 'Grandma') is the Jenny of Jenny and Pearl.

There is one particular time together that I recall most fondly.  When I was just a little girl, about 7 years old, we went on vacation to visit my grandparents.  Our favorite cousins, Elizabeth and Sarah also lived there and my sister and I were so excited at the prospect of spending time with them.

"I have decided" Poppy pronounced one day.  "I am taking my girlies to the Cabin for an overnight stay."  We squealed with excitement at the prospect of a road-trip.  My Aunt Pauline objected.  She couldn't imagine how her 73 year old father could possibly manage four energetic tow-headed little girls, but she was overruled and we were on our way.

Now, you have to understand that the Cabin, as it was called, was little more than a one-room wooden shack in the middle of a rocky outcrop in the remote little village of Victoria, where my grandmother was born.  There was no running water, one bed and a bare bulb hanging from the ceiling.  None of that mattered to us.  We escaped from our parents and the boys, the four girls together with our adored grandfather.  It was an adventure!

Our first meal at the Cabin was peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and Poppy made us all scream with disgust when he opened a can of sardines and plopped them in the middle of his.

Because it was their summer retreat, he had a garden planted at the side of the house.  He asked us all to come out and assist him for a while and we happily trooped outside.  The soil on the property was more rocks than earth, with a profusion of wild blueberries, but difficult growing conditions for any other crop.  The task slated for the afternoon was removing rocks that sprouted up every year, faster than weeds.

We set to work digging and raking while Poppy began removing some of the larger rocks.  The sun was shining brightly at first but was soon hidden behind a bank of low clouds.  The fog rolled in from the Atlantic, thick as pea soup and it wasn't long before the other girls begged to go inside, away from the damp and the cold.  They called to me to go inside and I hesitated at first.  It was cold and I was getting a bit tired, but I declined as I saw an opportunity to have my grandfather all to myself.

The fog settled around us like a misty curtain and our breath came out in cottony puffs.  I immediately set to work beside my grandfather, pulling out the biggest rocks I could find, determined to show him I was a big girl.  The only sounds were the muffled laughter from inside the Cabin and the chink of metal against the rocky soil.  I couldn't imagine anyplace I would rather be at that moment than in that tiny garden working side by side with the grandfather that I adored.

The air became colder and the mist fell like rain, dampening our skin.  The minutes turned into hours and time was suspended as my hands grew numb prying rocks from the stubborn soil.  Throughout the afternoon, my dear Poppy would encourage me, touch me gently on the shoulder and smile at me approvingly, spurring me on.  He was planting seeds of love in the stubborn soil of a hard-headed little girl.

Years later, a young lady received a letter from an old man.  "Do you know, Karen, I could see again those nice, little fingers following my digging fork at Victoria, hooking out the stones?"  he wrote.  "That is so vivid.  You were so determined and you stayed with me all the while the girls were warm and cozy in the Cabin."  He saw my determination and stubbornness as an attribute and not a great character flaw.  What an incredible gift.

Poppy has been gone for over 20 years now, but I often reflect on that precious time together, remembering it fondly.  Thanks Poppy, for believing in me .

'Rise in the presence of the aged, show respect for the elderly and revere your God. I am the LORD.'
Leviticus 19:32

P.S.  Dad, Happy Father's Day!  Thanks for being the best grandpa ever to my kids.  I love you.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Looking Forward, Looking Back

Today is my last day as the mother of a child in elementary school.  Our son was promoted from the 6th grade so next year it's on to junior high.

As well, our youngest daughter is being promoted from the 8th grade and going on to high school tomorrow.

To top things off, our oldest is engaged, so in approximately a year, I will be the mother of a married woman!  I'm feeling very sentimental.

Where did the time go?  It makes my head spin.  I remember when I first became a mom, with all the sleepless nights trying to settle a crying baby thinking "will I ever sleep again?"  "When will she sleep through the night?"  Then it was "when will she walk on her own?"  "When will..."

Now we have three, all walking, talking (a lot) and sleeping (sometimes).  They are all  beautiful individuals with their own unique personalities and gifts.  What a privilege and blessing to be their mom.  To take part in the molding of their characters, with God's help and grace.

I have certainly not done everything right.  I make my fair share of mistakes (and someone else's share too), but I know that after we have done our best, we leave them in our heavenly Father's care.  What a relief.

So, come with me on a trip down memory lane, as we send our children into the next exciting phases of their lives.  I'm taking a tissue with me on this trip.  I'm gonna need it!

 Our beautiful firstborn and only child for 13 years- what a delight!

 Our miracle baby - another beautiful blue-eyed girl - so sweet!

 "I have fathered a man-child!" Dad's words upon hearing we were having a boy.

Time passes and they are no longer toddlers!

Growing more beautiful with every passing year

A radiant Halloween gypsy

May the Force be with you, young Skywalker.

Truly my joy and delight, but we're not done yet!

Our baby went and fell in love - now they have a ring and a date!

We are truly blessed!

For I will pour water on the thirsty ground
   and send streams coursing through the parched earth.
I will pour my Spirit into your descendants
   and my blessing on your children.
They shall sprout like grass on the prairie,
   like willows alongside creeks.
This one will say, 'I am God's,'
   and another will go by the name Jacob;
That one will write on his hand 'God's property'—
   and be proud to be called Israel." 

Isaiah 44:3 NLT