Thursday, April 9, 2009

bright patches...

The Patchwork Quilt

Life isn't given to us all of a piece,
It's more like a patchwork quilt -
Each hour and minute a patch to fit in
To the pattern that's being built.

With some patches light - and some patches dark,
And some that seem ever so dull -
But if we were given to set some apart,
We'd hardly know which to cull.

For it takes the dark patches to set off the light,
And the dull to show up the gay -
And, somehow, the pattern just wouldn't be right
If we took any part away.

No, life isn't given us all of a piece,
But in patches of hours to use,
That each can work out his pattern of life
To whatever design he might choose.

-- Helen Lowrie Marshall

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Sure As Spring

Each year, just about the time it seems winter refuses to exit, a little gift appears in my back yard signaling that spring is a sure thing.

The blooms on this tree pop open, diverting my attention from the barren branches of other trees and plantings there.

One day soon, the wind will rise and a little blizzard of tiny pink petals will swirl to the ground in one corner of the yard. Although I'm always sad to see the petals fall, there is an eventual unveiling of rich green buds as leaves emerge from the branches, hinting that summer soon will follow.

My Staff

I am one of those very fortunate people whose employer is forward-thinking enough to allow me to work from my home.

My line of work requires that I have a staff -- a security guard and an assistant.

Allow me to introduce my fierce and loyal security guard, Snickerdoodle, on the left. He is always alert and wound like a spring, ready to take on the challenge of any threat.

My assistant, Didi, is pictured on the right. She is a little exotic, and her wardrobe is immaculate, but she tends to lack focus and frequently doesn't rise to the demanding detail of the job.

Oh, well ... as long as I don't catch her filing her nails ....

Saturday, August 2, 2008

Spittle, Popsicle Sticks and Mardi Gras Beads

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity.
-- General George S. Patton (1885 - 1945)

I think of General Patton's instruction when I think of the numerous ways my children demonstrated ingenuity over the years, and I learned from my son A.J. that it's a risky notion to doubt the ingenuity of a child.

Both of my boys loved to fish when they were young. Salt water fishing, fresh water fishing, fishing in mountain streams or large rivers, creeks, ponds...the setting didn't matter as long as the event involved a pole, a hook and a worm.

We also spent a lot of time camping and hiking -- just being in a natural, simple environment, and those camping trips nearly always lent themselves to a fishing expedition.

On one particular trip, we'd managed to get away without any bait, but A.J., age ten, with his sun-bleached hair and vivid, blue eyes had been fascinated by some magical lure he'd seen advertised on television at the time. Its properties were so astounding, that once dropped in the water and jiggled about, fish arrived in scores to attack it.

A.J. firmly believed he could create such a device to subsitute for the bait. So, he dug through a box of miscellaneous items kept in the camper for creative impulses, and pulled out a popsicle stick, a paper clip and some little purple Mardi Gras beads. I watched him methodically trim the popsickle stick into three oval-ended pieces, and then pierced the ends with an outstretched paperclip. He fastened the popscicle sticks into jiggling, hinged parts by looping the paper clips through holes and clipping them off. On one end, he attached a string of about six little purple mardi gras beads and a hook. He assured me that having no worms would not interfere with a successfull fishing expedition.

We packed up the essential gear (cookies, Koolaid and chips) and set down the path to the fishing pond. For some reason he wanted me to go along with him, and I was proud to be with this happy, gentle little boy, because I knew we were getting close to the time when he would prefer not to have Mom at his side. As I was considering this, I saw him smile at me, fishing pole slung up on his shoulder, whistling a little as we moved down an embankment to the pond.

All of a sudden I heard something entirely unfamiliar, so foreign to me that I couldn't for a moment conceive what had just happened. My little charmer, my baby boy had ... just churned up the most gutteral, spittle-producing throaty exercise I'd hoped never to witness. It landed on the ground, about a foot off the path, exactly where he intended it to go. I stood there in complete shock, temporarily forgetting the focus of our excursion. He was so darned practiced at it! Didn't it take some time to develop that skill? Didn't somebody have to demonstrate it? Hadn't I already explained to the primary SUSPECT (his brother, Nick) that spitting is unhealthy and inconsiderate?

To A.J., though, it was one of those cool, confident masculine mannerisms that announced he could handle the the fish, by gawd, so he was smiling and whistling well past the spot where I had stopped dead in my tracks.

He stopped at the edge of the water, tossed the line into the pond, and jiggled the pole a little bit, creating a little play on the hinged popsickle sticks and dangling mardi gras beads. I remember still being speechless at his confident transition from little boy to grown little boy, and watched with amazement when he reeled three bluegill from the pond that morning.

We fried the fish over an open fire for lunch, he and I, giggling, chatting, playing until the cooking had finished. He, pleased with the success of his invention and his well-spat spittle; and I, mystified and grateful that this pleasant child was one of the gifts in my life.

Friday, August 1, 2008

I Wish I Had Ninety-Six Car Seats

I never would have imagined receiving ninety-six entries for this item, particularly since it was buried somewhere after the eight hundred mark in the Bloggy Giveaway list.

I am truly grateful to each of you for the time spent in sharing your ideas and very well-thought out comments for improving this blog. They've been compiled into a list, and I can't wait to begin applying them. Many of you have excellent blogs of your own. I enjoyed visiting and becoming acquainted.

I wish I had ninety-six car seats. But, there is only one. Grandmas, aunts, moms and moms-to-be ... how in the world to select one winner from so many who need a car seat for a little person. And, did I mention that I have a Ph.D. in guilt? So, if I were to select one entry based on the substance of the comment, I'd feel guilty ninety-five times (yes, count them -- ninety five) for the entrants who weren't selected.

Finally, after agonizing over this conflict for a while, I decided to leave the decision to science and algorithms, even though the process will do little to soothe the desire to have ninety-six of these things to give away. So, after removing two comments from the list (i.e., one belonging to my daugther-in-law, Erin, and my response to her), I went to Research Randomizer to select a winner from ninety-six entries.

Now, without further fanfare, the winner of the car seat is comment number twenty-eight (28), "team chilton."

Congrats, I'll be sending you an email so that we can coordinate contact information!

I can't wait until the next giveaway . . .

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bloggy Giveaway!

Contest is now closed.

I'm late getting started, but decided on a whim to participate in the Bloggy Giveaways Carnival.

As a new blogger, I'd be delighted if you'd peek through my posts and leave a comment or suggestion for improvement!

The giveaway (for residents of the continental U.S. only) from this site is ...*drum roll*...

A brand name car seat for children 22-80 pounds and 34" to 52" in height. Purchased on July 4, 2008, the item will be shipped in its original wrapper ... was used about four times during a grandchild's visit.

Looking forward to your comments and suggestions!

Note: Deadline for giveaway entries will be midnight (12:00 a.m.) ET on Friday, August 1, 2008.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


There is a condition of life that is particularly poignant following marriage and childbirth. I call it OOM, also known as "out of money." This condition does not occur in varying degrees. It is never mild or moderate. It is the bottom of the pit. It is always severe. I was reminded of this as a result of my daughter-in-law's most recent blog on the topic.

I recall experiencing a similar episode of OOM when my three children were small. Spring had arrived and Easter was the following day, but the symptoms of OOM had settled in several days earlier. The mortgage on the farm was paid, the pantry was sufficiently stocked. BUT . . . there would be no chocolate bunnies, no cute coloring books, no bottles of bubbles, yo-yo's or jacks, no sugar-coated Peeps, not even a jelly bean. Pitiful. Just pitiful. I even managed to delude myself into thinking that if no one talked about Easter, maybe it would just pass by, and the kids would never know what they'd missed.

Easter morning came that year, trumpeting a sunny sky and warm air. Yet, that dull ache that accompanies OOM prevailed. There had to be a way to take the sting out of the day, but I was at a loss for a solution, until I decided it was time to focus on the good stuff.

We lived on fifty acres in the mountains. In fact, we had our own little mountain. Surely an adventure awaited somewhere up there. With that thought in mind, the kid's Dad packed a hatchet (for what, I could not imagine), I took a basket full of PB&J sandwiches and Kool Aid, somebody dragged along an old quilt, and we set out for the top of the hill.

The farther up the hill we hiked, the more I could feel layers of care peeling away. Paths worn into the hillside by white-tailed deer led us to a small flat just below the peak. Sunlight trickled through the canopy of tall maple and oak trees as they swayed in the breeze. The scent of wood and leaves sweetened the air. It was the perfect spot for a picnic. We spread out the quilt, munched on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and talked and giggled about nothing in particular.

Afterward, the kids' Dad began to meander around with that hatchet, sort of trimming the underbrush, and all three of the children trailed around behind him. Somebody noticed a thick vine stretched from the top of a tree and fastened to the earth. A few whacks of the hatchet freed the vine at the bottom, and suddenly all three of the kids were hanging on it, squealing with glee and swooping out over an embankment (a parent stationed above and below). For hours -- until they couldn't hang on any longer -- they took turns swinging like trapeze artists among the trees.

The sun settled to the top of the next ridge as we walked back to the house. I remember smiling, satisfied that there would be no grief that day for the absence of jelly beans.

Even now, the memory of that afternoon with my children brings me great comfort. And, when the bank account is drained and OOM looms near, it occurs to me there is another meaning for this intimidating acronym.

Once, On a Mountain . . . .