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.