28 April 2010

Ooh La La

Today is splendid! The view outside my window is astounding. I am a child of the 1970's... I remember how my mother used to collect S&H Green Stamps from the grocery store and fill blank booklets with them. Perhaps you remember these too. I have never forgotten the vivid illustrations - now 'vintage' of course - of those Green Stamp books. In them, the sky was always technicolor blue and the trees were so very, very green. To this day, I think of days like today as "Green Stamp" days... The colors in my periphery are crayon-perfect.

On a similar note (vintage, that is) my sister sent me information about a blog I can't wait to investigate! Check out Vanessa Brantley-Newton's Ooh La La Design Studio by clicking on the name. The original illustrations on her blog header took me back to happy places in my childhood. She is also a writer, a mother, and in so many other ways a phenomenal American woman. I can't wait to get to know her better! I hope you'll visit her too. Vanessa also enjoys collecting vintage children's books. This, I can relate to. As a first grade teacher and archivist of memories, I was inspired to take down my own First Grade Reader from the shelf where I keep it in my classroom. It made me think of Mrs. Ailor and the days of Tip and Mitten. I'm glad these friends are never really too far away.

So once again my thoughts return to my dad...of days when I was young and he called me "Chicken Legs," of a time when I was older and he searched desperately to find an out-of-print copy of a favorite book, The Adventures of a Whale, just to make me smile. I am reminded of my mother and the endless stories shared while sitting on her lap. What a blessing!


Strickland Gillilan

I HAD A MOTHER who read to me
Sagas of pirates who scoured the sea,
Cutlasses clenched in their yellow teeth,
"Blackbirds" stowed in the hold beneath

I had a Mother who read me lays
Of ancient and gallant and golden days;
Stories of Marmion and Ivanhoe,
Which every boy has a right to know.

I had a Mother who read me tales
Of Celert the hound of the hills of Wales,
True to his trust till his tragic death,
Faithfulness blent with his final breath.

I had a Mother who read me the things
That wholesome life to the boy heart brings-
Stories that stir with an upward touch,
Oh, that each mother of boys were such.

You may have tangible wealth untold;
Caskets of jewels and coffers of gold.
Richer than I you can never be --
I had a mother who read to me.

Christina Rossetti said it is "Better by far you should forget and smile than that you should remember and be sad." Sometimes, though, that which makes us sad also makes us smile. I am thankful for the memories...

I hope you are blessed enough to enjoy sweet sentiments and create happy memories with your own family. Here's a recipe for comfort food that you simply MUST try. Thank you, Amy. I know this doesn't happen often, but even this big sister must admit she can learn a thing or two from you... This lesson is a delicious one!

Amy's Chicken Pot Pie
(the only one I'll eat)

Yields 2 pies

(one to eat, one to share...or freeze for later!)

  • 4 pie crusts (rolled variety works best, at least for the pie tops)
  • meat from 1 rotisserie chicken (or 4 cooked chicken breasts, plus 1/4 cup water and 2 bouillon cubes)
  • 2 cans mixed vegetables, drained (keep juice from one can if using rotisserie chicken)
  • 1 can cream of chicken soup
  • 8 oz. cream cheese
  • salt and pepper to taste

Mix ingredients. Divide and place into two pie shells. Top the pot pies with remaining shells. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Enjoy!

25 April 2010

Missing Alfalfa

Two years ago today. The call that I knew would someday come. The one that would make the goodbye permanent. April 25, 2008. I miss you, dad. Always. I have for so, so long.

This is the letter I received from my then sixteen year-old daughter at our time of loss. I love her beyond words. Who knew that it would be my own child who would have the words that spoke so dearly to my heart?


“Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune, fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good; that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there is always tomorrow.” ~Dorothy Thompson

This world promises sorrow and despair, longing and hopelessness. God promises that He will provide this journey with a safe landing.
Despondency and uncertainty, in the past led me to believe that I had no need, no purpose, and no reason. Because of many thoughts and prayers, I was reassured that God is good, and His promise is, well, a promise. He does not fail. I pray that you remember this as you grieve. Remember that there will be bumps on this roadway of life but there will be gold on the roadway of a life that is coming.

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; He is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations of those who love Him and keep his commands.” ~Deuteronomy 7:9

God is with you.

All my love,

She also sent the lyrics to the song Shoreline by Deas Vail (see track 27 of the playlist below). I cannot listen to it without tears.

So you say I’m better off here, as dry as the shoreline in an ocean of fear.
So you say I can’t be alive until there is nothing when we’re meeting eyes again...
Day by day I wander these halls, and you’re casting a shadow onto every wall.
And all the way you ring in my ear,
from the moment I knew you were leaving me here.
This give and take, this waiting on time…
It’s this twisted up memory that I can’t unwind.
These fragile words that fall from my mouth…
I’m crumbling and crowded, but I’ve figured you out.
The shoreline calls the sea for simple words and company,
but words go on and on, till they collide and all is gone.
I dive into the deep—into the sea inside of me to find another song,
to find a place where I belong.

I am leaving for the cemetery soon…to stare at a stone on which my own name, STEPHANIE, is also engraved, just beneath the words “Father of”… He was more than that. He was my first love. He was, and always will be ~ my dad.
I love you, Alfalfa.

Once upon a time--
My father was a giant…and I, a small child whose hand was easily lost in his.
When I was a little girl, my father was a king…and I was his princess.
He was a character…a jovial man who played yo-yo, the fiddle, and enjoyed water fights. I was the little one who laughed.
Years ago my father was a chef. His chili warmed the cold evenings of winter. I remember this still.
When I was young, my father was a carpenter. He created treasures with his hands from blocks of wood. These gifts are with me even today.
A long time ago, my father was a teacher. I learned important things from him, like buying just one pair of shoes is never enough.
As a child my father was invincible, but as I grew older, I knew that someday I would have to say good-bye.
But once upon a time, my father was a giant and I was his child, and nothing will ever take that away.

(originally posted on 4.27.09)

24 April 2010

As the Stars

“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us; it's in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
~Marianne Williamson

Thank you to my friend who believed this first. You know who you are.
Love, me.

23 April 2010

A Few (more) of My Favorite Things

Okay, so maybe everything I'm about to enumerate doesn't qualify as a favorite. Maybe it's just today's springtime mood that has me alert...and appreciative...and in awe. The labels don't really matter much to me. Today's note is about the things that have made me happy thus far today. I wonder if you'll find something here that will make you smile too.

  • Moleskine lined journals from Barnes and Noble...I keep these with me always ~ in my purse, in my car, beside my bed.
  • the humor of a 4 year-old who has decided to rename her mother "Jim Bob"...(I don't understand it, but it's funny to her!)
  • rain that falls to give new opportunity to the Earth
  • colonial house plans by McKie Roth Designs
  • Abercrombie and Fitch Classic perfume
  • the dandelion that begs to thrive despite being repeatedly cut down...It returns, to be carried by the wind and experience rebirth in a neighbor's yard.
  • The Daily Book of Positive Quotations...the scent of pressed pages among the sentiments
  • Mothers and fathers who, above all else, put their children before themselves...who offer them as their legacy of hope to a world that is slowly but surely forgetting what hope is
  • the intentions of children who have not lost their belief in the power of their own potential
  • laughter...and the silence of smiles and thoughts shared with a good friend in a special place...That place has a name. You know it well.
  • the sounds of my heart...Pachebel's Canon in D...Yiruma's piano, speaking the unvoiced words of River Flows in You...the minor key of The Lonely Man Theme from childhood's episodes of The Incredible Hulk...These are all so powerful.

As the weekend begins in earnest, I look forward to my daughter's soccer tournament in Columbia. I don't particularly care for the town (no hills? no way!) but there is always sunshine where my Ally exists. I love that about her. She always makes me smile.

“Live in the sunshine, swim the sea, drink the wild air."

~Ralph Waldo Emerson

This one is for you, Ally. Play well, my sweet girl. I love you.

22 April 2010

Twilight and Mist

I love the sound of this music, the first song that plays each time I find this page. It is the theme song from a favorite story of mine, Legends of the Fall. The music speaks volumes even though it flows softly...gently. The hero of the story, Tristan, stirs something inside me too. It has nothing (seriously) to do with the fact that Brad Pitt plays the lead role. I have my own image of Tristan that surpasses even that.
"Some people hear their own inner voices with great clearness and they live by what they hear. Such people become crazy, or they become legends."
Anyway, today has been an emotional one and it drew me to the story of Tristan and Susannah. Today has been a day in which I needed a friend...more importantly, today was a day in which I needed to be one. I've spent too much time taking and not giving. 'Tis better to give than to receive...
"He was a rock they broke themselves against, however much he tried to protect them."
And so, I spent time in thought at the river...
...enjoyed my favorite beer-batter chicken sandwich from Ecco Lounge,
And I let go of some bitterness.
"Remember...To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."
~Lewis B. Smedes

"Tristan, I have nowhere to send this letter and no reason to believe you wish to receive it. I write it only for myself." ~Susannah

20 April 2010

Where Corn Don't Grow

So today's title is a bit interesting, true? There are several reasons for it, actually. I am finally receiving some recompense for my new mantra...positive thoughts bring positive results. In the classroom we have engaged in various author studies to examine the power of words. Kevin Henkes, Cynthia Rylant, and most recently Patricia Polacco, are a few of our famous friends who are helping us to develop our skills as young authors. I love WORDS and my students do too. Rich language has been our focus in an effort to write pieces that are more interesting to our audiences.

They can because they think they can. ~Voltaire
My students are such intelligent and creative children, and because I believe so strongly in their innate abilities they, in turn, believe in themselves. Let me show you what I mean:

"In the night sky the wind whispered,
the trees whooshed as the coyotes howled,
and the mountains grew high,
the stars twinkled,
and the owls whooed..."

Ella just recently turned 7 but is already able to communicate vivid imagery of her world...that which is around her, and that which remains (for now) only in her imagination. Here she sits with her head in her hand, contemplating her next project. She is very serious about her work. This makes me smile. Someone special told me "The bigger the dreams, the bigger the accomplishments." I am thankful Ella sees the fruit of this already.

So now let's return to the place where the "corn don't grow." There are those close to me who are facing the inevitable goodbyes of children, the financial stresses associated with a disappointing economy, the heartbreak of loss, and the pain of sicknesses that always seem to stay... It is so tempting to chase the grass that is greener along someone else's road. Stop. Count your blessings...by 2's, 5's or even 10's. Just count them. Be childlike in your belief that potential has no boundaries. The green that lies along someone else's path could, quite frankly, be little more than weeds.

But hard times are real
There's dusty fields no matter where you go
You may change your mind
'Cause the weeds are high where corn don't grow.
lyrics by M. Springer and R. Murrah

19 April 2010


I'll admit it. I'm nearly 40. As a child I viewed this turning point as the dawn of old age. As an adult, I'm accepting my reality as the dawn of the rest of my life. I like the latter prospect so much better. It signifies that once again, I'm still early in the game. Attitude is everything!

Having acknowledged that, I'm feeling a little tug on the heartstrings today. These words are from The Grateful Dead's "Box of Rain" and go out to a friend...
Look out of any window
any morning, any evening, any day
Maybe the sun is shining
birds are winging or
rain is falling from a heavy sky -
What do you want me to do,
to do for you to see you through?
This is all a dream we dreamed
one afternoon long ago
Walk out of any doorway
feel your way, feel your way
like the day before
Maybe you'll find direction
around some corner
where it's been waiting to meet you -
What do you want me to do,
to watch for you while you're sleeping?
Well please don't be surprised
when you find me dreaming too

Look into any eyes
you find by you, you can see
clear through to another day
I know it's been seen before
through other eyes on other days
while going home --
What do you want me to do,
to do for you to see you through?
It's all a dream we dreamed
one afternoon long ago

Walk into splintered sunlight
Inch your way through dead dreams
to another land
Maybe you're tired and broken
Your tongue is twisted
with words half spoken
and thoughts unclear
What do you want me to do
to do for you to see you through
A box of rain will ease the pain
and love will see you through

Just a box of rain -
wind and water -
Believe it if you need it,
if you don't just pass it on
Sun and shower -
Wind and rain -
in and out the window
like a moth before a flame

It's just a box of rain
I don't know who put it there
Believe it if you need it
or leave it if you dare
But it's just a box of rain
or a ribbon for your hair
Such a long long time to be gone
and a short time to be there
And again, I'll date myself and confess that (shhh) I kind of enjoy a bit of John Denver now and then. Today I'm feeling these lyrics from his song, "Sunshine on My Shoulders"...

If I had a day that I could give you
I'd give to you a day just like today
If I had a song that I could sing for you
I'd sing a song to make you feel this way
If I had a tale that I could tell you
I'd tell a tale sure to make you smile
If I had a wish that I could wish for you
I'd make a wish for sunshine all the while

My dear friend told me recently that positive thoughts bring positive results. It is my new mantra... Let it be yours as well.

18 April 2010


I am back... It was August since I last visited this blog. I am unsure of where the months have gone, but time has a way of moving quickly along while we're busy with the business of living our lives. I reread my letter from the beginning of the school year and have been reflecting on the students who, very soon, will pass through my classroom door that one, final time. It has been a good year, a productive year of much growth, but at the end of it all I find myself wishing for just a few more moments...moments in which to learn and laugh together, to share the smiles and prolong the memories. And so as the school year faces its inevitable close, I am quickly storing pictures in my heart so that I might return to them often this summer and feel their hug.

Just yesterday I traveled with my eldest daughter to register her for college classes. On the way home, we passed by the river access where my husband and I went fishing on the evening we found out we were expecting our firstborn. It seems like yesterday, yet she is leaving the nest very soon. Emotionally, I am conflicted. Her entrance into my life completely altered it...and made all the difference. I am grateful for the gift. She is ready to go, and I am so ready for her to stay. I wonder if I will ever be able to reconcile the array of feelings in my heart. Such are the pangs of the mother I suppose. I love you, sweet McKenzie, with all my heart.

We journeyed home from St. Louis courtesy of Missouri Route 94. It is one of the most scenic byways in the state and with a bit of creativity, I could almost believe I was in Appalachia... my beloved Smoky Mountains. The views along the hills and curves were breathtaking, and Cardinals baseball provided the perfect backdrop. (Mike Shannon's radio voice is one of my favorite sounds in this world!) The wineries along the way were packed with motorcyclists who, too, were enjoying the weather and the views. We stopped at tiny Treloar and had dinner in the old bar there. I loved the atmosphere...time has stood still within its doors for decades. We enjoyed a burger, a bit of baseball, a game of pool, and hearty conversations with patrons whose names we'll never know. Sometimes you don't need the name to know the friend...

...and although I may not know yours, it's good to be with you again. I've missed you. Truly, I am back.