31 December 2010

Moving On

The year is coming to a close.  I'm feeling a bit nostalgic.  These past twelve months have been quite a trek.  I have aged.  My firstborn left for college.  (Surely I have not yet lived long enough for this to have happened.  Seriously?)  Yet when I begin to feel a bit geriatric, I am (without exception) somehow recalled to today.  My middle child is a ten year-old in body, a fifteen year-old in spirit.  She does not allow me to rest my bones for long.  My poor mother.  With this child of mine, I am understanding what she endured throughout my own teen years.  And then there is my youngest who has not yet turned the ripe old age of five...  She will grace the doors of a kindergarten classroom this upcoming school year, and this transition will either aid in keeping me very young or help to accelerate the aging process.  I anticipate the former will ring true.  There is something to be said for attitude:  Despite the busy-ness of my life, I could not alter the actuality of turning 40...and I don't regret it.  I have embraced this new decade.  I am uncertain what I thought forty looked like once upon a time.  I do know, though, that today I am still smiling.  I have no gray hair (thank you, Gail), can still spend my days in a sweet pair of heels without killing my back, and am able to stay awake at night past 10:00 p.m. 
I have a few new wrinkles framing the eyes, but honestly, I could not care less (for now).  I've earned each and every one of them.  They serve as reminders of a life spent in action...and of lessons learned.  Some unknown person spoke wisely once and I was fortunate enough to capture the words. “One day at a time--this is enough. Do not look back and grieve over the past for it is gone; and do not be troubled about the future, for it has not yet come. Live in the present, and make it so beautiful it will be worth remembering.”  Powerful words.  A worthy aspiration. 

A significant part of the past year's journey included the development of a close relationship with an oncologist/ hematologist.  Every 42 days I graced his office ~ lest he miss me otherwise.  (Insert smile here.)  With each appointment I sat in awe, looking around at fellow patients and silently, without fail, counted my blessings.  I was there wearing my own hair.  I was not waiting for infusions of chemotherapy.  I was not counting the days until my last. I was young at 39, then 40, and my presence in the waiting room seemed a curiosity to those around me.  The answers to my medical mysteries have come subtly although, to some degree, they still baffle Dr. K.  Regardless, my symptoms have lessened and I now gladly stock my medicine cabinet with supplements to keep them at bay.  More than anything, I have a new and profound appreciation for my health.  I no longer take it for granted.  Tomorrow I may again become suddenly ill, but for now, the doctor has decided he can wait until March to see me. Don't miss me too much, Dr. K.  I'll be back to say hello...and I'll be healthy.  I insist on it.

In that vein, I am determined to step up my exercise program.  I've neglected it a bit throughout the holidays.  Indulgence has a price.  I'm plotting my own revenge and have found some incredible inspiration.  I hope these new friends will inspire you as well. This first stop is one girl's testament to ingenuity.  I'm stealing her idea.  I am an admitted shoe addict and love love love Sherron's plan:  A new pair of shoes per each ten pounds lost.  Whether you adjust this per 2 or 5 or 20 pounds, just do it.  Buy the shoes...and wear the skinny jeans!

Next, meet Jen.  Her blog is a present I'm giving to myself.  Good health.  Encouragement.  Please visit her at Prior Fat Girl - Sugar Coating Not Included.  This is a treat you won't regret, and it is [virtually] calorie-free.

I also have some incredible plans for my heart health.  Not the physiological heart.  The sentimental one...the one that becomes easily bruised if you so allow.    Above all else, guard your heart, for it is the wellspring of life. ~Proverbs 4:23  It is possible to carry things...people...along with you for far too long.  I am accepting this unfortunate tendency in myself and decidedly moving forward. I am amazingly strong, even if I am fragile.  Letting go of the things you know (in exchange for the unknown) is the frightening part.  Living free, is not“Never let go of hope. One day you will see that it all has finally come together. What you have always wished for has finally come to be. You will look back and laugh at what has passed and you will ask yourself... 'How did I get through all of that'?” The author of these words knows that of which I speak.  Ultimately, I'm coming to terms with acceptance of certain aspects of my life.  It is what it is.  “No one can change straw into gold. Some things are just straw, and some things are just gold, and sometimes you just have to know which is which.” ~Della in Straw into Gold from Tales of the Brothers Grimm and the Sisters Weird   ...And all the wishing in the world won't make a difference.  Yes, sometimes you just have to know which is which.  I'm holding out for the gold.

I commented recently to someone dear that no distance is too great for the love of a friend.  That sentiment has since been challenged but I do still believe it holds true.  Sometimes it's the shortest distance that is the most difficult to span.  Sometimes, the person who needs your friendship the most, quite simply, is you"Looking back you realize that a very special person passed briefly through your life- and it was you. It is not too late to find that person again.” ~Robert Brault    I am going to be good to me.  I am, I am.

To live in hearts we leave behind
Is not to die.
~Thomas Campbell, Hallowed Ground

So as 2011 nears, I am happily awaiting new opportunities and saying goodbye to much that needs to go.
Auld Lang Syne, my dear.  Auld Lang Syne.  ~S.

Only as high as I reach can I grow, only as far as I seek can I go, only as deep as I look can I see, only as much as I dream can I be.” ~Karen Ravn

28 December 2010


"Even though we've changed and we're all finding our own place in the world, we all know that when the tears fall or the smile spreads across our faces, we'll come to each other because no matter where this crazy world takes us, nothing will ever change so much to the point where we're not all still friends." ~Unknown

What we remember from childhood we remember forever - permanent ghosts, stamped, inked, imprinted, eternally seen. ~Cynthia Ozick

20 December 2010

My Symphony

My little sis called Saturday morning.  Early.  Sort of.  I was still in bed at 8:30 a.m.  Late?  Perhaps, but I had an excellent excuse.  I was poring over a book...always a favorite companion.  Someday when I look back on my life, I don't think I'll lament the postponement of laundry for the love of a few incredible words.  Ultimately, I'm hoping to become better at living my life without regrets.  Taking time to embrace the moment is a part of that effort.  This weekend, I found success.  As for discoveries, I found something else this weekend, too.  I'm reading Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov.  It's a gift I've given myself upon the recommendation of a friend...To Stephanie, from Russia. With love.  *sigh*

And so I now I return to my sister's call...  She stumbled upon an incredible blog and was confident I'd develop an immediate affinity for it.  She knows me well.  Meet Deserae.  You'll find her Peeking Thru The Sunflowers  in Kansas.  Her post of December 7th captivates me.  It highlights scenes from Midwest Living Magazine's holiday showcase of her home.  I am ready to find my old house and mimic the ambiance ~ and her  kitchen, as well.  Incredible, truly it is. 

The end caps to the weekend were noteworthy too.  Friday evening my home was filled with family for dinner and a birthday celebration. 
  • The food?  Chili (dad's recipe) with cheddar cheese melting atop, pumpernickel rye bread served with dill dip, Cuban salsa cheeseball with tortilla chips (red and green, of course), tiny peppermint cupcakes, and the list continues...but I will not.  Two words: hunger pangs.
  • The atmosphere?  Christmas trees with tiny white lights in several rooms, my eldest daughter's boyfriend enduring a shock treatment of children laughing and running through the house, and four generations of people who matter ~ together, under my roof.
Sunday: church.  A few of the most insightful words I heard during the sermon regarded a story of a man's epitaph.  It read:

"A man of unquestioned integrity." 

integrity (ĭn-tĕg'rĭ-tē) noun 
  1. Steadfast adherence to a strict moral or ethical code.
  2. The state of being unimpaired; soundness.
  3. The quality or condition of being whole or undivided; completeness.
Integrity.  Living a life undivided, unquestionably so.  What a powerful epitaph.  What will people someday say about me?  Maybe I shouldn't care.  I do, though.  I care.

My Symphony

To live content with small means.... To seek elegance rather than luxury, and refinement rather than fashion.... To be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not rich.... To study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly.... To listen to stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart.... To bear all cheerfully, do all bravely, await occasions, hurry never.... In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.... This is to be my symphony. 

~William Henry Channing

And now for Monday ~ It is a short work week as school will soon be out for Christmas break.  The students are ready, as am I.  Tonight I will celebrate the holidays with friends, significant friends.  Friends from childhood, from adolescence, with shared history, shared laughter, shared memories from then, making memories for now.   I am excited to see them, to be with them again.

“We plan our lives according to a dream that came to us in our childhood, and we find that life alters our plans. And yet, at the end, from a rare height, we also see that our dream was our fate. It's just that providence had other ideas as to how we would get there. Destiny plans a different route, or turns the dream around, as if it were a riddle, and fulfills the dream in ways we couldn't have expected.” ~Ben Okri 

12 December 2010

Good Tidings

Initially, my agenda was to blog about a local tradition in my town... Journey to Bethlehem is an unforgettable re-enactment of Mary and Joseph's trek to the place where, ultimately, our Savior was born.  The church where I grew up hosts this walk-through event each year, and thousands upon thousands ~ bundled to brave the weather ~ hear, sometimes for the very first time, of God's gift to us:  His Son.  I did not attend Friday evening and because the air turned blustery (dropping to wind chills of negative 15 degrees), I kept the little ones indoors Saturday night.  I'm still upset with myself for not taking advantage of Friday's temperatures.  In my heart I feel I've let my children down a bit, even though they were unaware of  my intentions to take them to Journey this weekend anyway.  We will, however, be spending some extra time this season in the Gospel of Luke....the best account of the Christmas story.  Not to do so would be the ultimate cheat afterall.  The true meaning of the season is what matters most, and my children will know the truth.

And so instead, my thoughts have turned to a different journey... 

I spent yesterday afternoon with my grandmother.  She is ninety-one years old.  She does not remember my name.  She does not remember me

As a child, I loved to visit her home in the country.  I loved her oatmeal (cooked on the stove the proper way) and the delicate white bowls in which it was served.  I loved her homemade gravy.  Tan.  Always tan in color from the drippings.  And peppered.  Just right.  I remember how she stuck a fork into the top of the pressure cooker as she prepared a roast for Sunday dinner.  I remember her singing voice.  She sang hymns.  That's all I ever heard her sing.  Hymns.  I remember her Bible, the picture of the praying man that hung behind her chair, and the family picnic-style meals we'd share out in the yard (following a blessing).  Every childhood should be so blessed with memories of a grandmother who lived in a sweet place called Spring Garden. 

My grandma lives nearer to me now, and yet I see her less than before.  I have no excuse.  To write this makes me sad.  I vow to be better about visiting.  This is not so much for her sake, but for mine.  She does not remember me.  But I still remember her, and I know that it is far better to give than to receive.  Time with my grandmother, in her nursing home not so far away, is the gift I'll give to myself. 

*     *     *
The first graders from "my" school chose grandma's nursing home as the recipient of their service project.  Students across the district and surrounding areas have embarked on a new character education journey, if you will.  How befitting that December's focus trait is Kindness and Compassion.  Yesterday before my visit, I delivered 65 wreaths.  They were made from many, many small green construction paper hands, finished off with red bows and berries.  Our hope is that these wreaths, which will don each and every resident's door, will bring a bit of Christmas cheer to our elderly friends.

As I entered Grandma's room, I was excited to see her awake and sitting up.  I hugged her and told her, "You look so pretty today!"  (Imagine: snow white hair and a fresh perm.) Her response: "Why, so do you, kid!"  Kid.  She hadn't forgotten this pet name.  Beyond that, our conversation waned.  Together we watched the Army-Navy football game.  Aside from some front yard games with friends in my youth, I have little experience with the sport.  I know my grandmother hasn't much of a clue about football either.  It didn't matter.  We watched, and watched, and watched until we saw the Navy Midshipmen become victorious yet again.  I pointed to my grandfather's Navy picture on her bedstand. "Remember?  Johnnie was in the Navy too."  Her reply?  A giggle, a smile, and a "shhhh."  Why?  "Because he's a boy," she said.  At that moment, I'm guessing she was far younger than 91, at some age and circumstance when a boy should not be found in a young girl's room. 

“Every day is a journey, and the journey itself is home." ~ Matsuo Basho

She asked me about her mother.  Undoubtedly, I'd misunderstood.  "Where is my mother?" she wondered.  A man travels the world over in search of what he needs and returns home to find it. ~George Moore   I never met this great-grandmother of mine, but if my grandmother was asking for her, then surely, surely, Sarah was worthy of her child's memory.  But my answer...what to say?  And so I simply said this:  "She is with your Father."  She smiled and nodded, and then asked me to take her home.  What she will never know is how she ~ her example, her influence, her well-lived life ~ has helped to bring me back home...to the place I need to be.  There is nothing like returning to a place that remains unchanged to find the ways in which you yourself have altered. ~Nelson Mandela

  • My grandmother.  A teacher.  A writer.  We're a lot alike.
  • My grandmother.  A godly woman.  A saint.  The similarities begin to fade.  I fall short.
Driving down the wrong road and knowing it,
The fork years behind, how many have thought
To pull up on the shoulder and leave the car
Empty, strike out across the fields; and how many
Are still mazed among dock and thistle,
Seeking the road they should have taken?
~Damon Knight, The Man in the Tree, 1984

My grandmother. My daughter's namesake. Know that today, it is for you that I write. I love you, and I will see you again soon.
xoxo, Stephanie

09 December 2010

All in a Name

While sipping a hot cup of raspberry tea, I googled my name ~ for no apparent reason.  I was not trying to "find" myself.  (I already  know who I am.)  I just developed a sudden curiosity about those with shared nomenclature.  (And I confess, it was more enticing than doing a mountain of laundry.)  I found many of us, as my name is not so uncommon.  Interestingly, quite a few seem to be writers too.  Here are several blogs I'll be perusing a bit over the weekend.  I hope you'll click on the pictures to visit their links.

One of us from Edinburgh, Scotland...

This Stephanie strikes me as fascinatingly creative.
 Another of us, a staff writer and columnist for the Washington Post...

And some children's authors, too.  (I'm a mom to 3 and teacher/mom to 20 more.  What's not to love?)

*     *     *
"Books:  Read 'em and weep...or laugh...or...you get the idea."

Scenes from a Small Town

The Christmas Parade came to town last weekend.  Finally, finally I've thawed.  Frozen.  I was completely frozen.  In anticipation of the chill, my daughter, nephew, and I stopped in at Chez Monet, a quaint French bakery.  The Russian Teacakes and hot chocolate with marshmallows were superb.  Magnifique.

We then moved down the street a bit to one of my favorite haunts ~ Southbank, a Gift Company.  The shoppe is sweet (and the Amaretto Cheesball samples with cinnamon crackers...well, I brought home several boxes to make and serve during the holidays).  The view of the parade from their doorstep was perfect as well!

I like the town in which I live.  Really like it.  Can you tell? 

The Facades

  The marching bands...

  And where else can you see these sights in a Christmas Parade?

Elvis...blurry, but captured in photograph.  Proof that he IS alive.

A tractor...presumably to aid Santa and his reindeer in the rural areas of the Midwest.

My personal favorite...the motorized, modern-day outhouse ~ also known as the Port-a-Pot, Johnny-on-the-Spot, and Workingman's Friend.  This thing pops wheelies and  "corners like it's on rails."

And just when I'd convinced myself that my fingers and toes were becoming acquainted with frostbite, I made my way to the ice arena to watch hockey:  Mizzou versus Southern Illinois University.  A fatality of a game, but sometimes the family time is all that really matters.  I like that, too.  Really really like it. 

a rare peaceful moment

05 December 2010


I found an inspiring blog today.  You cannot be much of a writer if you are not first a reader.  This much I know is true.  Lucky for me, I love both. It is particularly exciting when I stumble upon a fresh hitching post against which I can lean (and look) for awhile.  I hope you'll check out Lisa Leonard's blogShe's an 'ordinary' mom like me, but she's more than that, too.  She's phenomenal.  That's precisely what I mean by inspiring. 

On a less-than-happy-but-so-very-very-important-note ~ I'm fortunate to be friends with an extraordiary young man who lives on Cape Cod.   His name is Julian.  He speaks French.  And plays a bazillion instruments.  And hosts podcasts.  And is an honor student.  And creates fabulous pottery.  And is thirteen years old.  Only thirteen years old, thus far.  During one of our chats while I was a guest in his home, the topic of literature presented itself and Julian shared with me the title of one of his favorite books: The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, by novelist John Boyne.  I watched the movie today...and wept.  The subject of the book is the sad note. If you have an interest in Holocaust literature, please read this fictional story...or watch the movie.  Just do it.  You will be changed.  Thank you, Julian, for letting me know. What other words are there, honestly?  Let us never forget.

“Childhood is measured out by sounds and smells and sights, before the dark hour of reason grows.” ~John Betjeman

God Bless.

28 November 2010

My Pen

"Writing It Down"
~ Uncle Kracker ~

I was born on the cold side of the mountain
I wanna wake up on the warm side of the bed
How I start here
And how I end there
That is the part I ain't worked out yet

Every day I climb a little bit higher
Every night I learn something new
I'm writing it down
In case I forget
One day it'll be my story for you

24 November 2010


"Write something inspiring!"  That is what he said.  I am struggling to find adequate words under such a strong directive.  I'll humbly acquiesce to those who can do far better. 

The Pilgrims made seven times more graves than huts. No Americans have been more impoverished than these who, nevertheless, set aside a day of thanksgiving. ~H.U. Westermayer

 God gave you a gift of 86,400 seconds today. Have you used one to say "thank you?"
~William A. Ward

Not what we say about our blessings, but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving. ~W.T. Purkiser

I'll be heading to the grocery store soon in preparation of tomorrow's meals.  (Note the usage of the plural form.) There will be two feasts of the day, and one is literally over the river and through the woods, albeit NOT at grandmother's house.  And the anticipation of a wintry mix has me smiling!  I'm a cold weather girl and prefer to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with the furnace running. 

 There is one day that is ours. There is one day when all we Americans who are not self-made go back to the old home to eat saleratus biscuits and marvel how much nearer to the porch the old pump looks than it used to. Thanksgiving Day is the one day that is purely American.
~O. Henry  
I am a lucky girl. 
  • I have a family who loves me.  That, at times, is a difficult task.
  • I have children who, I know, will make a difference.  They've already made a difference to me
  • I have friends who somehow see my worth in spite of me.  A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you've forgotten the words.  Sometimes, sometimes you discover that truth in unexpected places...in unexpected faces.  I've been blessed. 
  • I have students who allow me to learn from them each day.  I earn my salary being inspired by 6 and 7 year-olds.  I am paid to spend time in their presence.  Such a gift. 
  • My bookshelves are lined with books.  Books filled with words.  Lots and lots of words.  My friends.
  • I have a direction, traveling shoes, and a purpose.  I've learned well how to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  I don't need a map.  Finally, finally, I think I know the way.  Thanksgiving, after all, is a word of action. ~W.J. Cameron
  • I have grace.  Thank God for that.
  • When I feel like hell, I remember these anchors...and hold on tightly:  
When peace, like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou has taught me to say,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.
~Horatio Spafford

I am a lucky girl...  If the only prayer you said in your whole life was, "thank you," that would suffice. ~Meister Eckhart  ...and I am thankful.  Please, God, don't let me ever again take this for granted.  Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

18 November 2010

auf Wiedersehen

Gone.  No goodbye hugs.  No farewell smile.
Just gone

The heartstrings of a teacher are tugged often.  It is those times when they are pulled tightly that ache with a pain that is palpable. This child of mine, a student, has moved to a new school ~ moved on...away...with no closure.  There are many children who have shared my classroom over the years.  All are so very special, yet some leave their marks a bit more indelibly than others.  For reasons I will not share, this child was one of those students.  I'll be thinking about this little one for a long, long time.  I'll wonder, and worry, and hope, and pray.  Oh, dear God, please take care of this child.  Please. 

“The child must know that he is a miracle, that since the beginning of the world there hasn't been, and until the end of the world there will not be, another child like him.” ~Pablo Casals

“I've come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element in the classroom. It's my daily mood that makes the weather. As a teacher, I possess a tremendous power to make a child's life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration. I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis will be escalated or de-escalated and a child humanized or de-humanized.” ~Dr. Haim Ginott

May others in your little life echo these sentiments.

14 November 2010

State of Mind

Last night I dreamed, as always.  These dreams, though, were such that are primed for interpretation...the scenes, the characters.  Some I know quite well...have known since long ago.  Others, I've come to know but have never actually met.  Interesting ~ the stake even the latter may claim once you've closed your eyes.  I'll be thinking a bit about these night stories as I head east to St. Louis today.  Sometimes even these tales are significant.

Yesterday was a day of stories, too.  McKenzie went hunting with her dad, as did Ally later in the afternoon.  Early in the day, I made my annual jaunt to Lone Star Farm with mom and my younger girls.  Magical.  Won't you come along?

A world in which elves exist and magic works offers greater opportunities to digress and explore. ~Terry Brooks

Well over a century old, this little one-room cabin rests atop a cellar. I think I could happily write my novel within these walls.  Come, take a peek inside...

Christmas waves a magic wand over this world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. ~Norman Vincent Peale

The little shop near the barn is a delight as well.  Christmas carols, mulled cider, sugar cookies, a white chocolate cherry spread served with tiny crackers, and a bowl of spinach Parmesan dip married with a pretzel or two.  Yes, I lingered.

He who has not Christmas in his heart will never find it under a tree. ~Roy L. Smith

While I linnnggggggered, the girls enjoyed "the horse" referenced in a previous post.  They wanted so desperately to climb the fence and play, but this year, its owner was nowhere to be seen.  I wasn't complaining.  After a bout of carsickness from my youngest, I certainly didn't care to add equus to the list of messes to address.
Upon reminding the kids to keep their hands to themselves (and away from the horse's face), my Ally replied, "The only time he doesn't like it is when you're watching, mom."  A quick-witted response from a fearless child.

Christmas-themed towels and napkins, fruit preserves, jalapeno onion relish, appetizer mixes...and a snowman, too!
A sled and little red wagon bid welcome.

Old-fashioned dolls, like the ones resting on my camelback trunk ~ The ones I bought with my dad and grandfather in tow, using funds from a savings bond gifted to me at birth by my great-grandmother...a very, VERY long time ago.

It is Christmas in the heart that puts Christmas in the air. ~W.T. Ellis

Christmas renews our youth by stirring our wonder. ~Ralph Sockman
Dare I say it?  This...looks...like...me!

I'm hoping for dreams again tonight, a bit mysterious yet sweet too...the kind that taste like candy canes.  But for now I must go.  A little girl has climbed upon my lap and asked to see the "horsey" again.  That, that is even sweeter than candy canes.

Christmas, children, is not a date.  It is a state of mind.  ~Mary Ellen Chase 

13 November 2010

November's Chill

I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape - the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn't show.
~Andrew Wyeth

There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you.... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.
~Ruth Stout  

Winter must be cold for those with no warm memories.
~An Affair to Remember

*     *     *     *     *

Winter, how I long for thee.

12 November 2010

Love and a Weekend

I am in love...again.  The papers of Cavallini & Co. are simply to die for.  Please click on their link and enjoy. (It may also be found on the right side of this blog, under the heading "To Market").  Stunning.  Absolutely stunning.  And I mustn't forget to mention Primele, a sweet Etsy shoppe worth visiting.  The stamps found there remind me of items found on my grandfather's desk as a child.  I have a customized, personalized stamp from Primele and it was worth every penny spent. 

I want these stamps!
 Also under the "To Market" section of this blog is The White Flower Farmhouse, located on Long Island.  So impressive!  Click here to check out the blog.  I'm in a holiday mood and love, love, love (yes, it's love again!) these photos from the December entries.

Cloche of Vintage Appeal
Scientific Scene

by Elsie N. Brady
How silently they tumble down
And come to rest upon the ground
To lay a carpet, rich and rare,
Beneath the trees without a care,
Content to sleep, their work well done,
Colors gleaming in the sun.
At other times, they wildly fly
Until they nearly reach the sky.
Twisting, turning through the air
Till all the trees stand stark and bare.
Exhausted, drop to earth below
To wait, like children, for the snow.

photo by Tiago Cabral

This weekend I'm looking forward to enjyoing the vintage holiday inspiration of Jenni Bowlin...

...and the creativity of Rebecca SowerI made my own blog banner but wish, somehow, mine could look like hers.  Love it!  And there's that word again...

This morning's quote (from my little book, yes) said this:  "Life is like an onion; you peel it off one layer at a time and sometimes you weep."  ~Carl Sandburg  Maybe so, but any tears I shed today will be ones of joy.  The weekend is here!  Yes, I love that, too! I hope you enjoy yours as well.  ~S.

11 November 2010

Amor Patriae

He was young and quite small, wearing a striped t-shirt under a pair of overalls ~ and a small cowlick, too.  He sat near the fence, playing in the dirt with a stick at the side of the street. He heard the man's whistle before catching a glimpse of  him, walking along the sidewalk with a purposeful stride.   The stranger wore a soldier's uniform with a garrison cap.  Lord, bid war's trumpet cease; Fold the whole earth in peace." -Oliver Wendell Holmes  Yes, the man was a stranger.  But now, following the curtain's close on the European Theatre, he had left Germany forever...and returned home to the son who could not remember his father's face.  That is the story as it was told to me. 

Valor is stability, not of legs and arms, but of courage and the soul." -Michel de Montaigne

My grandfather carried a beautiful pocketwatch during much of the war.  It once belonged to an enemy soldier.  It's livelihood, however, ended with that of its previous owner.  Nevertheless, it was a beautiful piece and upon removing the guts from the broken mechanism, provided an apt frame for a picture of a little boy...a little boy who could not remember his father's face.  A little boy affectionately called, "Junior."  A little boy who grew up to become my dad.

Freedom is never more than one generation away from extinction. We didn't pass it to our children in the bloodstream. It must be fought for, protected, and handed on for them to do the same, or one day we will spend our sunset years telling our children and our children's children what it was once like in the United States where men were free." 
~Ronald Reagan

Today, and I everyday, I vow never to forget my father's face.  Like his father, he was a patriot of deeds.  Let me, then, be a patriot of words.  "When our perils are past, shall our gratitude sleep?" -George Canning 

And one final note...It is with pride that I intereacted with so many veterans at school this morning.  Our Veteran's Day Breakfast and assembly were incredible.  The many military uniforms were ~ as always ~  impressive, and I will forever smile when I remember one student's great-grandmother who, wearing her American Legion hat and scarf, pointed to her husband (a handsome 88 year-old man dressed to the nines) and proudly told me of his service in the European Theatre of World War II. 

I am proud of the fact that our school is working to support Veteran's activities within our community.  Recently we hosted "Hats for Heroes" Day.  Those wishing to wear a hat at school (otherwise forbidden) could donate $1 to the cause.  The goal?  To raise money for Christmas wreaths to be placed on the graves in our city's National Veteran's Cemetry.  During the assembly, our principal was able to present a check in the amount of $244.00 to a committee consisting of a former teacher, a veteran, and a trooper from the Missouri State Highway Patrol.  The veteran was moved to tears.  It is impressive to me that 244 children were excited to participate.  Although I am a bit sentimental today, I think the opinions of Nick Lampson, Congressman from Texas, are worth shouting...

But this Veterans Day, I believe we should do more than sing the praises of the bravery and patriotism that our veterans have embodied in the past. We should take this opportunity to re-evaluate how we are treating our veterans in the present.

*     *     *     *     *

Congress should stop treating veterans like they're asking for a hand out when it comes to the benefits they were promised, and they should realize that, were it not for these veterans, there would be nothing to hand out.

~ Happy Veteran's Day ~

09 November 2010

Toasting Marshmallows

This morning I awoke at 1:00 a.m., again at 3:00 a.m., and for the final time when the alarm sounded at 5:45 a.m.  An angry chest cold was the culprit, but honestly, today I do not care.  I arrived at work early wearing curls and a smile.  Today is going to be a great day.  Why?  Because I said so, and that is reason enough.

Become a possibilitarian. No matter how dark things seem to be or actually are, raise your sights and see possibilities - always see them, for they're always there. ~Norman Vincent Peale

I've decided that the stuff falling through the cracks is confetti and I'm having a party! ~Betsy Cañas Garmon 

It's that time of year. ~ This weekend, McKenzie will come 'home' from college to hunt with her dad.  They have been sharing this autumnal ritual for nearly a decade now.  Venison.  Chili.  Sausage.  We shall see!  As for me, I'll be enjoying a jaunt to smalltown Belle, Missouri for a little "Christmas in the Cabin" at Lonestar Farm.  I love this annual excursion with my mom and daughters.  It's a holiday tradition and I am looking forward to it!  The scent of mulled cider, shortbread cookies, ornaments, greenery, shopping for Christmas goodies...and the horse.  I cannot forget the horse.  Lane and Ally love petting that beast!

The excursion is the same when you go looking for your sorrow as when you go looking for your joy. ~Eudora Welty

I have been organizing files in the classroom and came across one of my favorite poems.  It was written seven years ago by a former student.  She wrote it early in her second grade year, and given that fact, its beauty is even more astounding. 

November Fields
~ a poem ~
by Allison Mollenkamp
 A fall wind blows across the fields,
And makes the grasses sway.
The leaves are falling from the trees
That grow across the fence.
The corn is drying quickly;
It will soon be ripe.
The sun is high but getting dull,
The moon will soon rise high.
Little birds chirp their last,
And fly off to the South.
Little things are scampering off,
Into their little homes.
The air is getting cold for night.
The farmer has gone home.

Of late I've been missing my dad a lot.  This time of year is especially difficult for me in that way.  Sometimes those of us missing a father try to compensate in ways that hurt deeply.  I really must stop...Nil conscire sibi. Nevertheless, I have decided to make a concerted effort
  • to let the past lie where it will, 
I've got dreams in hidden places and extra smiles for when I'm blue. ~Author Unknown
  • to be present in the present,
We must be willing to get rid of the life we've planned, so as to have the life that is waiting for us. ~Joseph Campbell
  • and to focus on the blessings instead.
Sometimes life's Hell.  But hey!  Whatever gets the marshmallows toasty.  ~J. Andrew Helt

Comfort food, too, is delightful this time of year.  Here's a new favorite.  Enjoy. 

Baked Spaghetti Casserole
~ from my house to yours ~

1 pkg. (16 oz.) Angel Hair pasta
1.5 pounds ground beef
1 jar (32 oz.) spaghetti sauce
2 (8 oz.) cans tomato sauce
2 cans (10 3/4 oz.) undiluted cream of mushroom soup
1.5 cups (8 oz.) sour cream
4 cups (8 oz.) shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Meanwhile, brown beef.  Drain.  Stir in spaghetti sauce and tomato sauce.  Mix well.  Drain pasta, then add to beef and pasta sauce and stir well.  Mix soup and sour cream in a separate bowl.  Mix well.  Spray 9x13 pan or 2 8-inch pans.  Add 1/2 layer of beef and pasta mixture.  Add layer of 1/2 of soup mixture.  Add 1/2 of cheese.  Th4en repeat layers.  Bake 350 degr4ees for 55 or 65 minutes or until cheese is melted.  To bake frozen casserole:  Thaw in the refrigerator overnight.  Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before baking.  Bake as directed.  Can be kept frozen up to 3 months.

Your heart is a sun -
Joy its stars,
Faith a moon, shining in your darkness...
~Terri Guillemets

01 November 2010

My Heartbeat

What a weekend! 
Exhilaration.  Exhaustion.  Excedrin. 
And now the work week begins...

Thursday Evening

Lane's Fall Festival, my last as the mom of a preschooler ~ Games, treats, costumes, a bit of an attitude...She is four years old, but her new favorite number is FIVE.  That is how old you must be to begin kindergarten, so she says.  Nevertheless, sweet girl, you are still my Baby Lane.  Always.  I love you.


Road trip to St. Louis, another of many as the mom of a college freshman ~ Wasn't it just yesterday that we attended your Fall Festival at the same preschool, McKenzie?  It was so good to see you, to share your space, to breathe the same air.  I am wearing my new Fontbonne sweatshirt with pride.  I love you, Frotten.  P.S.  Lunch at the Boathouse in Forest Park was a fabulous idea!   Dining at the water's edge, ducks and a frog swimming by, the smell of the firepit in the backdrop, the company...delightful!


Day 1 of Ally's tournament, cheering for #20 as a soccer mom ~ Today your plays were stellar...the passes, the assists.  I am proud of you, Ally Cat, and I love you so.  I have no doubt you are bound for super stardom.  No doubt whatsoever.  Thank you for allowing me to spend the day with YOU!


Church, 8:30 a.m. service.  Soccer, Day 2 and a second place tournament medal.  Trick-or-treating.  A headache...of migraine proportions.  It was worth it.  The weekend was definitely worth it. Three days, three daughters.  What's not to love?

Suddenly, through birthing a daughter, a woman finds herself face to face not only with an infant, a little girl, a woman-to-be, but also with her own unresolved conflicts from the past and her hopes and dreams for the future.... As though experiencing an earthquake, mothers of daughters may find their lives shifted, their deep feelings unearthed, the balance struck in all relationships once again off kilter.
~Elizabeth Debold and Idelisse Malave

Ahh, the headache.  That's how my work week begins.  But there is a twinge of heartache too.  This morning as I searched my closet (on my knees) for my missing blue suede Bandolino heel, I looked up and there it was (not the shoe) ~ at eye level.  I did not open it.  I didn't have to.  The box has been there on my closet shelf now for two years, six months, and four days.  That's how long it has been since my father was laid to rest.  The box will remain there, in my closet, until my daughter ~ his eldest grandchild ~ takes it for her own.  The box is simply labeled,
"Sanders, Carl. Troop F. Size 7 1/8." 
It is his hat, the last one he wore as an employee of the Missouri State Highway Patrol.  Beside it lies his first MSHP hat, the one that came with his uniform when he was hired in 1965.  Those hats represent four decades of passion for law enforcement, and they remind me of how very much I still miss my dad. 

I carried a winter wardrobe to St. Louis this weekend for my daughter.  Along with it, I brought the picture she requested...the photo of her with her grandfather, my dad, the man who left us long before he was finally gone forever.  While the hurt never completely disappears, with time it seems to ebb and flow.  Today, however, the tide is high. 

Dear Dad,

This weekend was spent with my daughters, the grandchildren you do not know.  McKenzie misses you, Ally wonders who you really were, and Lane recognizes you as my father in photographs.  Last night while trick-or-treating, your little brother gave me some old family photos.  (I thought back to so many Halloweens ~ pots of your chili, your excitement at treating the little ones who came, costumed, to our door.)  It was good to see you captured that way...laughing, healthy, happy to be with your family, with us.  That was a long time ago.  I wish I could rewrite our ending.  I wish you could know my girls and share in our joy.  I suppose as long as they are thriving and continuing to shine, then your story really isn't finished.  They are still your girls too, as am I.  I hope the epilogue pleases you.

All my love,

In the light of the sun
Is there anyone? Oh, it has begun
Oh dear, you look so lost
Your eyes are red, the tears are shed
This world you must have crossed, you said

You don't know me
And you don't even care, oh yeah
And you said, you don't know me
And you don't wear my chains, oh yeah

Essential yet appealed
You carry all your thoughts across an open field
Where flowers gaze at you
They're not the only ones who cry when they see you

"Boston" ~Augustana

27 October 2010

John 14:7

Today my thoughts are not so much about me.  This post is for a friend who needs a hug.  I hope these words help to bridge the miles between us.  Love you gobs, as always. xoxo
 Who, being loved, is poor?  ~Oscar Wilde 
Here are some thoughts which come, once again, from my sweet little book of positive quotations.  It was given to me by someone who knew I'd put it to good use.  I think today is the perfect time to pay it forward.
*     *     *    

How far you go in life depends on your being tender with the young, compassionate with the aged, sympathetic with the striving, and tolerant of the weak and strong ~ because someday in your life you will have been all of those.  ~George Washington Carver
~ ~ ~ 
It's not whether you get knocked down, it's whether you get back up. ~Vince Lombardi
*     *     *   
The truth is that our finest moments are most likely to occur when we are feeling deeply uncomfortable, unhappy, or unfulfilled.  For it is only in such moments, propelled by our discomfort, that we are likely to step out of our ruts and start searching for different ways or truer answers.  ~M. Scott Peck
~ ~ ~   
Give thanks for unknown blessings already on their way. 
~Native American Proverb
*     *     *   
A strong positive mental attitude will create more miracles than any wonder drug.  ~Patricia Neal
~ ~ ~   
May the stars carry your sadness away,
May the flowers fill your heart with beauty.
May hope forever wipe away your tears,
And, above all, may silence make you strong.
~Chief Dan George
*     *     *   
When a good man is hurt, all who would be good must suffer with him.  ~Euripedes
~ ~ ~
A good cry lightens the heart.  ~Yiddish Proverb
*     *     *   
I'm in love with the potential of miracles.  For me, the safest place is out on a limb.  ~Shirley MacLaine
~ ~ ~
The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn for the past, not to worry about the future, or not to anticipate troubles, but to live in the present moment wisely and earnestly.  ~Buddha
*     *     *   
We shall find peace.
We shall hear angels.
We shall see the sky sparkling with diamonds. 
~Anton Chekov 
~ ~ ~
When a friend is in trouble, don't annoy him by asking if there is anything you can do. Think up something appropriate and do it.
~E.W. Howe

The quote from Howe sums up the gift. Words. That is all I have tonight. "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid." John 14:27  And here, my favorite hymn...I'm not sure which strikes me more, the lyrics or the story of Mr. Horatio Spafford, the Chicago lawyer who penned the words.

Spafford was a successful lawyer in Chicago who maintained a keen interest in Christian activities, deeply spiritual and devoted to the scriptures.  Sometime in 1871, a fire in Chicago heavily devastated the city, and months before that, Spafford had invested hugely in real estate by the shore of Lake Michigan. The disaster greatly wiped out his holdings. Before the fire, Spafford also experienced the loss of his son. Two years after the fire, he planned a trip to Europe for his family. The day they were due to depart, Spafford had a last minute business transaction and had to stay behind in Chicago. Nevertheless, he still sent his wife and four daughters to travel as scheduled on the S.S. Ville du Havre, expecting to follow in a few days. On November 22, the ship laden with his wife and daughters was struck by the Lockhearn, an English vessel, and sank in few minutes.  After the survivors were finally landed somewhere at Cardiff, Wales, Spafford's wife cabled her husband with two simple words, "Saved alone." Shortly after, Spafford left by ship. Bertha Spafford (the fifth daughter of Horatio and Anna born later) explained that during her father's voyage, the captain of the ship had called him to the bridge. "A careful reckoning has been made", he said, "and believe we are now passing the place where the de Havre was wrecked. The water is three miles deep." Horatio then returned to his cabin and penned the lyrics of his great hymn.  The words which Spafford wrote that day come from 2 Kings 4:26. Spafford's song reveals a man whose trust in the Lord is unwavering. (Text courtesy of Suite101 and BibleCharts.) 

When peace like a river, attendeth my way,
When sorrows like sea billows roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
It is well, it is well with my soul.
Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate,
And hath shed His own blood for my soul!
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

My sin, oh, the bliss of this glorious thought!
My sin, not in part but the whole,
Is nailed to the cross, and I bear it no more,
Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!
And Lord, haste the day when my faith shall be sight,
The clouds be rolled back as a scroll;
The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend,
Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well, with my soul,
It is well, with my soul,
It is well, it is well, with my soul.

Be strong.  Have faith. 
Love, Stephanie xoxo