I didn’t notice this gang of hangers-on when we first moved here. I don’t quite know how long ago I started paying attention. There is joy in giving gifts to others — and I have regularly greeted them with words, often telling them that their daily meal is compliments of my dear husband and inspired by my father’s example.
The little birds are very skittish. They make a lot of noise, but as I near them, they instantly become silent. I buy two 18 pound bags of birdseed every ten days or so. I also stockpile carrots for the visiting bunnies.
Thank you, Lord, for the visiting rabbits, these delightful birds, as well as their increasingly chubby squirrel friends. I am cheered!
I don’t know about you — but I can’t remember a Christmas that seemed as full of stress as the one coming in less than a week. This morning there were more ornaments on the floor around my tree. Despite having cut the tree trunk at the big box store where I bought it, it has steadfastly refused to drink water.
Decades ago, when I sent a gazillion Christmas cards, I would write them in September. I left the envelopes unsealed because sometimes a card needed to be changed due to some event:
birth or death
sickness or healing
promotion or retirement
children or grandchildren
Today, December 21st, I am still answering the cards that friends and family sent me. I hope they have a sense of humor, as it seems highly likely my card will arrive after the fact. Thinking of Charlie Brown’s Christmas seems appropriate somehow. But all the things worrying my frazzled brain need to calm down.
Advent comes to a close in less than a week. Saturday is Christmas. Saturday, we celebrate.
This from the King James Version of the Gospel of Luke, 2:8-14:
And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.
In second grade, I started taking piano lessons with my aunt, my Dad’s older sister. It wasn’t negotiable. My three brothers had done this as well. I was a mediocre student at best, my aunt had little interest in allowing me to try some song that I liked, from a musical perhaps, and so I trudged on as best I could.
Finally, when I had finished 6th grade, I quit and went on to take organ lessons from a remarkable organist at a Methodist church not far from my home. It was the only way I could figure out how to get out from under piano lessons with my aunt.
I took organ lessons for a couple of years, then left that behind. I often received requests to play the organ for funerals during my high school years. Many good musicians had day jobs — I was a kid who wasn’t in the workforce yet, so I was available to play for funerals. I only played for one or two weddings and swore I would never do that again. But funerals were reasonably straightforward. Much of the service was spoken, not sung, and the hymns were generally well known.
Currently, I fill in for the regular organist at our church every third week or so. I no longer feel confident in playing the organ, so when I pinch-hit for Isaac, I do so on the piano. Even so, I generally screw up. A younger skilled musician has shared some tips to make the task easier. I will attempt that this coming Sunday. I am grateful, beyond measure, for the pay; and nervous, in equal measure, for the job. Musically trained people are kind and withhold their comments while the congregation pays me for my attempt.
Long ago, I earned a Master of Divinity degree after training to be a Lutheran Pastor. I was approved for ordination, but life intervened, and I have never been ordained a pastor. Looking back, I think I did that task rather well, while musicianship I regularly fail. Such is life. Sometimes we are asked to tackle jobs beyond our comfort zones.
Lord have mercy. Christ have mercy. Lord have mercy.
I have mentioned in the last two blog posts that my refrigerator with freezer, along with my washing machine, had died. I called and scheduled two appliance wizards to come and tend to these appliances. The washing machine was easily repaired and has been employed ever since catching up with mounds of laundry. The cost of repairing the refrigerator was comparable to a brand new one. So, after church this last Sunday, I went shopping for a new refrigerator. I was successful in that mission.
On my drive home, I realized that I was famished. Except for the Eucharist that morning, I hadn’t had a thing to eat, and it was close to 3:00. Instead of driving home, I went straight to our local Bob Evan’s Restaurant. My excellent waitress, Jessica, listened to my appliance tale of woe in addition to serving me a delicious meal and keeping my coffee replenished. It appeared that things were looking up.
I got home and decided I had had enough and decided to chill in our home’s Rialto Theatre. Unfortunately, at some point in the proceedings, I tripped with a bottle of Coke and, unfortunately, saturated an elderly, historical, stuffed pig.
Once upon a time, while they were courting, my father confessed to my mother that he wanted to raise pigs. So my dear mother made him a stuffed pig who was wearing overalls.
Before laundering Mr. Pig, I took out all of his stuffing, but even so, it took four rides in the washing machine to get him close to clean. So, I am now repairing him with some new filling and replacing the lost handkerchief as well.
A postscript might be appropriate. Although there was evidence in our home of pigs, our dad became an attorney.
As I mentioned in my last blog post, my daughter and son-in-law and their children celebrated an early Thanksgiving with me. They came bearing gifts, and in addition to eating a Thanksgiving feast together, which they prepared, we celebrated Christmas by opening our gifts to each other.
One of the things they bought me was a Halloween vinyl tablecloth to protect the table from spills by little people and their occasionally klutzy Nana. It worked like a champ and quickly was wiped clean.
But then I realized that Advent begins the fourth Sunday before Christmas, which was November 28th this year. Not to put too fine a point upon it, but I did not think the Halloween table cloth was quite suitable to cover the table for Advent.
So I did my best to adorn it with a beautiful tablecloth my grandmother embroidered decades ago. That linen seemed appropriate while we await the arrival of Our Lord.
My daughter and son-in-law, and grandchildren live some states away from me. Bless them, they made the drive, and we celebrated Thanksgiving together a tad bit early. It was extraordinary! It was so much fun to be together.
One day my daughter and I splurged and had pedicures while her fabulous husband took their two children to a nearby playground. We opened all of our Christmas presents together– because we won’t be able to be together at Christmas. What fun!
My daughter & son-in-law prepared a feast for our Thanksgiving dinner. But after all the work they put into that feast, I thought it might be fun to go out to eat the next day — which we did, to what I consider the best restaurant in town — Don Tomasso’s. We had a fabulous time, and the little ones loved it too!Now perhaps you should sit down. My daughter and son-in-law worked hard to get their vehicle packed so they could head home, where they will celebrate Thanksgiving with my son-in-law’s family. Before they left, however, we discovered that everything in the refrigerator and freezer had come to room temperature. Timing is everything!
The Good Lord blessed them with safe travel and all of us with a beautiful visit and outstanding food. As to the refrigerator and freezer, I had to throw most everything away. All of the meat and frozen food had thawed and was at room temperature. I called and got a service person to repair the fridge, but it won’t happen for nine more days.
It has been quite an adventure, which ended with me getting to empty these bottles and jars yesterday. In the bigger picture, this was merely a bump in the road.
After that depressing discovery, I needed a change of pace. I went upstairs to watch a show while I tackled the laundry. You’ll never guess. I think after the initial shock, I exclaimed with an expletive.
My washing machine, filled with my clothes, started to run, but rather than turning, it just made a grinding sound. I had to get a step stool to reach the plug on the wall behind the machine to stop it. The door is locked shut, and I can’t retrieve those clothes until I locate a repair person. I know who had serviced it before, but I could not reach that company and had to leave a message.
On this Thanksgiving, I will remember the wonderful visit of my daughter and son-in-law’s family with great love and pleasure. I will savor the memory of the delicious Thanksgiving meal my son-in-law and daughter prepared. I remember the phenomenal wine they gave me and the exquisitely tasty peach pie my daughter made. I will remember the gleeful joy of our early Christmas celebration and the fun we all had opening our gifts. I will especially treasure the spectacular Christmas gift that my four-year-old granddaughter embroidered for me with a Saguaro Cactus.
My wish for you this Thanksgiving is that you have a wonderfully festive day spent in the company of friends and family and that you save room for some pie!
Today, July 5th, 2021, was a delightful day — you may not hear about it right away; however, I would like to write about it while everything is still fresh in my mind.
Last week I made plans to visit a dear friend I have not seen in ages who has been dealing with an exceedingly rare health issue. As our homes are over a hundred miles from each other, we planned to meet at a restaurant halfway.
We shared a wonderful meal, talked about everything that we could think of, and then it seemed time to head home. We hugged goodbye and got into our cars to leave — vowing we would do this again before so much time had passed.
I got in my car, ready to pull out of the parking lot and head home. Instead, I decided I wasn’t in the mood to go home. My parents always liked to escape to the hills in Ohio, where many Amish and Mennonite people live. They loved the hills, the pies, and truth be told — my Dad loved a store there. We always needed to stop at Lehman’s. I decided perhaps I needed to stop at Lehman’s as well.
Here are a few pictures of Lehman’s, in Kidron, Ohio — and then perhaps you would like to see the two items that I bought.
This is Jay Lehman, the Founder
There isn’t much you can’t find at Lehman’s!
Do you need a lantern?
Amish people don’t use electricity — so perhaps you need a mixer.
Maybe you need a rocking chair or oil lamp?
Perhaps you need a little help with your laundry. . .
Way back in 1982, when I got married, one of my college history professors & his wife gave us a gift of a hand-turned ceramic pot to hold honey. It had a long and happy life with us until, alas, it broke. Decades later, July 5th, 2021 — I found a new one at Lehman’s that seemed to want to come home with me.
The second thing I bought at Lehman’s was something I’ll enjoy hanging either above the stove in the kitchen or above the window in the room behind the kitchen, which leads to the back yard.
On my way home from Lehman’s, I saw three boys — relatively young, alone in a buggy pulled by a single pony. The road we were on had no special lane for buggies, and it was a very hilly road, and hard to see what was ahead. So I slowed way down, until I knew it was safe to pass. The boys waved at me. I didn’t get a picture of the boys I passed, but the children in the picture below are about the same age.
That isn’t out of the ordinary in that part of Ohio. One of the reasons that people in cars need to be especially careful.
This trip cheered me enormously. My friend and I decided that the next time we got together, instead of meeting at a restaurant, we would meet at Lehman’s and then go in search of some delicious Amish-made pie!
Every time I think about Amish made pies — I think of my Dad. I think I have inherited my Dad’s love of pies and his love of the rolling hills in Ohio.
My parents bought their first and only home in the early 1950s. It was to that house I was taken as a newborn baby, and it was from that house I moved out in the early 1980s when I married.
My dear Mom planted all kinds of things — but usually, the ordinary garden must-haves: geraniums, tulips, and I suspect she may have been the one who planted crocus. I especially remember the crocus that were some of the earliest bloomers, sometimes up through a dusting of snow. Here she is doing a little gardening with her youngest granddaughter.
My Dad loved wildflowers — he made a rock garden along the side of our neighbor’s garage. He filled it with wildflowers: Bloodroot, Trillium, Jack-in-the-Pulpit, Lily of the Valley, ferns, and hostas. In addition, we had a patch of rhubarb that he would occasionally cut for me, which I thought a great treat. As the picture demonstrates — he also loved feeding the birds.
But like Ron, Dad loved Roses. One time at a rather scary cost. We had some beautiful yellow roses at the side of our house. Dad was cutting some to bring inside when he had a run-in with something, we suspected a spider. We first noticed it after he came into the house and rolled up his shirt sleeves. There was a nasty red line running from a cut in his hand clear up his arm. We took him to the hospital, where a doctor dealt with the venom. I suspect he was a little more careful after that.
But despite the occasional mishap, it is wonderful to have a little taste of heaven on earth. It is lovely to have a home filled with flowers. When you have planted and tended them, it is even sweeter. Thank you, Mom, Dad, and my dear Ronnie, for all the beauty you brought into my life.
My husband died over a year ago, and the date of his burial is about a month away. I’ve had to go back to work after being out of the workforce since 2016, but thankfully, only part-time. That has allowed me the leeway to make some plans.
My husband loved roses. He used to tell me that his dream job, after his death, would be to plant roses in heaven. We lived in a variety of places together. He spent the majority of his life in Arizona. I was an Ohio girl who had lived the bulk of my adult life in South Carolina. Eventually, Ron and I met and corresponded long-distance. He lived in Arizona, and I lived in South Carolina. He flew out to join the celebration for a milestone birthday and brought with him an original painting of his as a gift to me. It was unframed. He told me if I wanted the frame, I would have to fly to Arizona to collect it. In time, I did just that. We corresponded for several years, during which I learned much about the man, his character, his faith, and his passion for roses.
Over the years, Ron told me quite a few times, that his idea of a dream job would be to be allowed to plant roses in heaven. Since his death, there have been two massive excavations of our yard. A water line burst and backed up into our basement. Our yard needed to be landscaped to slope down, away from our house. An overgrown, weedy garden in the back needed to be bulldozed and have grass seed put there. Now I have a blank canvas to paint!
I get to play gardener for a while. I’m not the expert my husband was, but I have some imagination. The tall wooden fence behind our patio blocks our backyard from view. It is going to be cut in a sloping curve and painted, then the backyard will be visible. In the center of the the very back of the yard, I want to plant a white Dogwood tree.
There was a beautiful one in front of my parents’ home, the home where I grew up. I want a Dogwood behind Ronnie’s and my home. But we have to have Roses!
I want some comfortable places to sit and this is the perfect place for adding roses. I found a picture I liked that I include here:
I think I would eventually like two of these in the back of our yard, mirror images of each other, on either side of the Dogwood. But instead of the pink roses, I want red roses. My favorite place for roses is Jackson Perkins, and they have beautiful red climbing roses. They are called Don Juan climbing roses, or, if you read Lord Byron — Don Jew-an roses. They will look beautiful covering those lovely arches. These are the ones for me!
I love and miss Ronnie very much. I think he would have enjoyed these choices, and I like to think that perhaps, God will allow him a glimpse and that Ron will smile down from heaven. Bless him for making the call to move us to Ohio. It is our last house. I mean to make our house and yard one that he would have enjoyed! Ron was an amazing gardener. I hope that I can create a little paradise in the yard of our last home.
I doubt that my male friends who work on cars would naturally think of a swingset as a possible engine hoist – but then ours was not an ordinary swing set. Anchored on one end by a substantial Pear Tree growing around the crossbar it wasn’t going anywhere.
It was in the summer of 1965 that it was first commandeered by my eldest brother to pull the motor and transmission from a ‘54 Olds and install them in his ‘36 Plymouth Coupe. Then in the summer of ‘68, he commandeered it again, this time to pull the same motor out of the same Plymouth, because by then he had decided to rebuild the ‘36. Unfortunately, he commandeered it one last time, to pull the motor out of a ‘56 Chevy in late ‘66, but that vehicle got towed during the night as he had parked it on the street without valid plates. To recover the car would have cost more money than it was worth – so he let it go. Sad that.
Families are all different. I have some friends who are the oldest in their families – and their growing up was entirely different from mine. They grew up liking different music, watching different movies, caring about different things. I’m the youngest in my family with three older brothers, and my two oldest brothers worked to make sure that I grew up appreciating rock & roll, and always gave me grief whenever I succumbed to bubblegum music.
All three of my brothers – despite wars or rumors of wars – are amazingly talented, each with varied educational backgrounds, job histories, musical tastes, and interests. Despite our differences, all three have come to my rescue on multiple occasions. My eldest brother moved out of the house when I was six, my second brother moved out when I was eight, and my youngest brother left home for college when I was in junior high. My youngest brother had the dubious honor of living a few blocks from the various places I used to live while away at college – and so he and his wife got to deal with my first-time-away-from-home years. Bless them all – they weathered their dealings with me – and I can still count on each of them.
It may be kind of weird given our ages, but my eldest brother and I have always been particularly close. Even when I was a kid he never seemed to mind me hanging around, he always kept in touch with me when I was away from home via snail mail or phone calls, and he always took me places. He took me to a few movies, and one or two rock concerts – I remember going to hear Chicago in the fall of 1972; and he had invited me to hear the Guess Who – but I backed out of that one when I got asked to my high school junior prom. He also took me for long rides all around northern Ohio on the back of his Norton motorcycle that he had made into a chopper.
He moved my possessions for me twice – once out of a college dorm, and decades later he rented a trailer, and we drove my inherited things from Ohio to South Carolina. He drove from Ohio to northern Alabama to look for a rust free ’69 Chevelle for me — I wanted that to be my first car, and he had pledged to rebuild one for me. He cheered me by sending me pictures of the progress (like this 455 Buick V8 engine he put in it). It would have been the best car anywhere! But I never even got to drive it. I had to sell it because I needed the money when I was about to be married. (Here is a picture of it with the new owner and a new paint job.)He had been a tool and die maker who spent much of his career working for GM. Before working for GM though, he took a break from tool and die making and went back to college at the same time that I was in college in another town. We ended up graduating the same year, and our wider family celebrated our graduations at a nifty dinner out together.
Every family is unique, some are dysfunctional, or at odds with one another, some are amazing and caring, loving and forgiving. I am so grateful for my family. My brothers and I are now the oldest generation in our family. We had terrific parents who were best friends with each other and very much in love. They loved each of us and tried their best to instill some values in us, raised us in church, taught us some history including family history, and they did their best to encourage us to care about things that matter.
All of us have weathered some hard times and dark days. But we are all still hanging on, we are all still colorful in unique ways, the four of us are all musical, which is a little weird, and we are all still proud of our roots and our family. Can’t ask for too much more than that.
So to D, E, and J – I say thank you – I’m honored to be your kid sister. To D – thanks for commandeering my swing set and for showing up at all the right times.