Odds and ends

Today marks the first day back to the ol’ routine after about an ten-day “stay-cation.” My oldest son’s birthday is in August and he usually takes a week’s vacation then to come and visit. My birthday is 6 days after his, and this is only the second time in six years that he has been able to be here for mine as well. My husband took off a week and two days while Jeremy was here, Jesse was laid off a few weeks back, so he was home, and though Jason had only one day off besides weekends, he and Mittu and Timothy were able to be here quite a bit. It was a great time with a good blend of activities and outings as well as quiet times at home. We went to the Ripley’s Aquarium one day, bowling another day, to Jason and Mittu’s house for lunch another day, and the kids went out out various times on their own. We talked and played games napped and read and ate. In fact, I had to laugh when the auto-correct on my phone kept trying to convert “stay-cation” to “starvation.” Nope, we definitely didn’t starve.

I seem to operate best with a certain amount of structure, so in that vein it’s nice to get back to the regular routine, but it’s sad as well, especially with Jeremy leaving to go back to RI until Christmas.

Timothy seemed to do well with the change in routine. He hasn’t seen Jeremy except in FaceTime since last Christmas but didn’t seem shy around him at all. If any of the family wasn’t in the room he was in, he asked where they were or looked for them – Jeremy noted he was like a little sheepdog trying to herd his people into one room.:) I think he might be going through a little bit of people withdrawal now.

When people are here, even family, I have a hard time knowing how much to be available to them and how much to give them time to themselves. I’d hate for a hostess to feel like she needed to be with me 100% or have activities scheduled all day – in fact, a little down time and solitude are welcome when staying with people for a day or more. So I try to be generally available and not off doing my own projects, and if everyone seems content I don’t try to conjure up things to do. But we do try to have an activity or two scheduled out of the house just for fun and variety.

Is it odd that in the middle of middle age I still get excited about my birthday?:) I get excited for all the family’s birthdays. My family does a great job in making those days special for me. The day after Mother’s Day or my birthday always feels a little like Cinderella the day after the ball, though.:)

When I first told people I was going to be a grandmother, many of them asked me what I wanted my grandchildren to call me. I wasn’t sure: I knew there were a couple of names I didn’t like and didn’t want, but nothing really stood out to me. I kind of just wanted to see what Timothy came up with himself. Lately he’s been calling us Mom and Dad (his parents are Mommy and Daddy), I guess because that’s what he hears everyone else call us. We figured we’d just work on the “grand” part later. But just recently he’s been saying Mom-mom. I like that.:) We’ll see if it sticks.

In other news….we have a hummingbird feeder just outside the kitchen window. It seemed to take them a while to find it this year, but once they did, we started seeing them often. Recently, though, a wasp has claimed the feeder, and several times we have actually seen him shoo the hummingbird off, flying at it until it flew away, one of the oddest things I have ever seen. Jason remarked that if a wasp sting hurts us so much, it would probably prove fatal to a creature the size of a hummingbird. Lately they seem to have called a truce, though, and have occupied opposite sides of the feeder at the same time.

Some time back I saw my cardiologist just for a routine visit to discuss how my heart rhythm issues were going, and after listing several options (do nothing; increase medicine; try a different medicine; investigate other procedures), he said what I am sure meant something like “The decision is in yours” or “The ball is in your court.” But he is Indian, and the metaphor he used was, “The trigger is in your hands.”😀

I enjoyed watching a bit of the Olympics most evenings, but I wish there had been more variety in the prime time coverage. Some nights it seemed like it was just race after race, and there were a multitude of sports we never saw in the evenings. I know there’s too much going on to cover everything, and they try to show the events that are happening live. If we turned the TV on during other times of day, we’d see a few different events. But it’s impossible to  watch all day. I didn’t really investigate the viewing options on NBC’s site – might look into that next time.

I thought the closing ceremony was a little underwhelming – too many segments taking a very long time with no changes. But my favorite parts were the film segment after the hand-off of the Olympic flag to Tokyo, especially the prime minister as Mario, and then the montage of highlight clips at the very end.

I’ve forgotten to take pictures of a few cards I made earlier in the summer, but these were for Jason and Mittu’s anniversary and Jeremy’s birthday:

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And finally, I just saw today that someone is thinking of making a new Anne of Green Gables TV series for Netflix that’s supposed to be “edgier,” and this article says it will “integrate new adventures into the beloved story, tackling issues of ‘identity, sexism, bullying, prejudice, and trusting one’s self.’” Seriously, can’t anybody write an original series without remaking an old one that was excellent? I don’t think anyone can improve on the Megan Follows’ Anne. And to “integrate new adventures” into a classic just shouldn’t be allowed. Go write your own story rather than hijacking someone else’s characters!

Well, I don’t want to end on a negative note, so I’ll share a couple of photos of Timothy with me on my birthday and Timothy’s first time bowling:

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I could look at his little face all day.:) For now I guess I better stop rambling and go finish the laundry.:)

 

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Friday’s Fave Five

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It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

It’s been a great week! You’ll understand why from the favorite parts of it listed below:

1. My oldest son is home! His flight was delayed due to weather, which caused him to miss his connection, which bumped him to a flight the following afternoon. But he finally got here last weekend, and we’ve so enjoyed having all the family together again. Lots of talking, eating, and a little bit of playing games. That’s also why I have been mostly absent from the blog this week, except for a post about bookcases.:)

2. His birthday was this week!

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3. A family outing. My husband had found a deal on tickets to the Ripley’s attractions in Gatlinburg, so we all went to the aquarium on Monday. The best part was following Timothy around and seeing his excitement. Then we stopped at a Mellow Mushroom in Pigeon Forge for lunch on the way back. It’s almost become a tradition to stop there since some years ago we got caught in non-moving traffic on the way to that area to look at Christmas lights and finally gave up and stopped to eat.

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4. Finding a frame. I’ve had this Karla Dornacher print for a long time, planning to pair it with a piece I had cross-stitched a couple of years ago. I just recently found a frame that goes in the family room perfectly and got it hung up.

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5. Rearranging. I don’t rearrange furniture much, but every now and then as I look at the decorating, I realize something would work much better in a different place. I had several such light bulb moments recently, and it helps me appreciate what I have all the more and see it in a new light.

Sometimes I can get into a “poor me” attitude when thinking that everyone else gets a vacation from their regular duties, but I don’t except in small doses. But, really, I do in some ways: one afternoon when thinking that I should be doing something productive, I thought, You know what? It’s vacation week: I can just relax until the next meal time. And we do tend to have a few more meals out when all the family is here, so there’s a break in that regard as well. Even though it’s been a busy week in some respects, there’s been time for relaxation, naps, and even curling up to read in the middle of the afternoon, a rarity.

Happy Friday!

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Bookcases

When I visit someone’s home and see an assortment of books, at some point during the visit I like to meander over and see what books my host has. I’ve been thinking for some time about sharing my own bookcases. Someone mentioned a long time ago that she thought it would be interesting to see blogging friends’ book collections, and then recently Melanie shared her own, which brought the idea to the forefront of my thinking again and spurred me on to share my own.

So these are the main two in the living room:

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My husband made one in the early years of our marriage, and then as my collection grew, he made a second one to match. But he says we don’t have any room for more.:) And we truly don’t, unless we get rid of something else which we’re not ready to do yet. He doesn’t quite understand my penchant for keeping books except for reference. He figures once you know the story, you don’t need the book any more.:) But he tolerates my obsession as much as he can. To me, most of my books are treasured friends, and some I do read over and over. Others I might not read as often, but I’m still not ready to let them go. But I have had to purge my collection when we moved here and have had to delete a few here and there as I have added others and needed a space.

Above the couch is most of my Boyd’s Bear figurine collection. I like having them behind glass where I can see them but they don’t get dusty, but they do seem a little farther removed than when they were out and around the room. But not having to dust wins.:) To the right you can see a bit of Timothy’s corner, where we keep toys for when he’s here.

On the bookcase on the left I have Christian fiction and classics and some assorted others along with some photo albums at the bottom:

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The carved wooden box was a gift from my middle son, Jason, from a mission trip he took with his youth group to Cameroon. The bears were gifts from my kids: Timothy plays with these sometimes now.

The one on the right holds biographies, assorted Christian nonfiction, and college yearbooks.

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This got cut off in the above picture, but on the left is a special Valentine from Timothy, and on the right is a special photo from Jason and Mittu of my husband and Timothy when he was in the NICU. My reflection is blurring it a little, but not the essential part.

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Some of you may remember that the book with the wedding photo was one our kids put together for our 35th anniversary, and it’s one of my treasures.:) I have a set of Matthew Henry commentaries on the bottom shelf that were given to me 35 or so years ago by my former youth pastor when he left that position to go to Mexico as a missionary. I used them some, but the commentary on each verse is quite long, so I just don’t dig them out often unless I am really puzzling over something. I keep thinking I should sell them online or give them to someone, but then I am reluctant to do so in case I just might want to use them again.:) I know you can find some of them online: they probably have the complete set online somewhere, but so far when I have looked, I’ve found condensed versions which were  a little easier to read but didn’t make quite as much sense with what was left out.

This one is in my sewing/ craft room and holds mainly craft-related books or Christian non-fiction relating specifically to women. I just got rid of a number of old “how to save money and live frugally” books because I figured they were out of date now, plus you can find a lot of that kind of thing online these days.:

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On top are several sets of cassette-taped messages, some from women’s conferences, some a few special sermon series.

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My mom gave me the little girl on the top left: she’s designed to hold thread and notions, but I don’t want to leave my thread out to get dusty. But I think she’s cute.:) The hearts in the vase on the right were leftover from a ladies’ luncheon a few years ago. The girl in the photos was me in college.:) I think my husband had those in his dorm room when we were dating, and I just rediscovered them recently and stuck them there for now. I have a few Dee Henderson and other books there partly because there was no room elsewhere and partly because this room doubles as a guest room, and someone might like to read them while visiting.

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The little pile there is cards, notes, mementos that I need to figure out what to do with.:)

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I admit I cleaned up this last one pretty extensively before taking a picture.:) It’s a small one in my bedroom, and I plop my purse there on top. When I go out again, I usually clean any receipts and papers from it and just leave it in a pile until I decide whether I need to keep them. Plus any new books or books I’ve just finished but haven’t decided whether or where to keep end up in piles here. So I sorted and organized all of that. This is kind of a hodgepodge, but it’s mostly humor, women’s books, child-rearing books, and writing books.

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The pile on top is To Be Read books (and this doesn’t include the bunch on my Kindle and a few in a drawer in my nightstand!

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In addition to these, I have, I think, three boxes in various closets. I do need to go through them and probably give most of them away: they’re not doing anyone any good in a closet. When we first moved here I just wasn’t ready to get rid of them yet, but it’s been 6 years now…so probably most of them can go.

I’m sorry some of these turned out a bit blurry – they looked clear when I took them, but enlarged they are not very crisp.

What’s on your bookshelves? I’d love to see!

Friday’s Fave Five

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It’s Friday, time to look back over the blessings of the week with Susanne at Living to Tell the Story and other friends.

How did it get it be two weeks into August already?!  Here are a few favorites from the last week:

1.My son and daughter-in-law’s 7th anniversary. Jesse and I had fun dropping in over at their house to deliver flowers, a card, and some chocolate.

2. Baby-sitting Timothy so his parents could go out for their anniversary. I wasn’t sure how he would do being away from them, but except for asking about them several times, he did fine. I’m glad he enjoys being here. They celebrated early on Saturday, going out for the morning and then out for lunch. Then they came to our house and made nachos for dinner. Trading baby-sitting for dinner sounds like a good deal to me!

3. The Olympics. I don’t watch athletics much, but there is something about the Olympics! I just wish they wouldn’t show the parts I like best late at night.:)

4. Spray paint. In addition the the cart mentioned last week, I painted this button decoration for my sewing room. I’m getting better at it! I’ve had the blue and white/beige one for a while, trying to decide where to put them up. They only other color they had was red, which I didn’t want, so recently I got another of the white-ish ones and painted it pink. I may paint that white/beige one a purer white at some point, though I do like the shading. Once again, on sale 40% off and purchased with gift cards.

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By the way, I did have the opportunity to use both Cricut machines on their new cart this week, and the set-up worked great!

5. A preview of gluten-free Texas Sheet Cake. Texas Sheet Cake is probably my favorite cake. Last year for my birthday we got a Coca-Cola Cake from Cracker Barrel, which is pretty close to it, but it was humongous and my gluten-sensitive daughter-in-law couldn’t eat it. My birthday is coming up later this month, and I found a couple of GF TSC recipes to see if anyone wanted to try their hand at it for my birthday, and if not, the Cracker Barrel cake would be fine again. Mittu did a practice cake this past week to test it out, and they happened to have it the evening I dropped in, so I got to try a sample. It turned out really well! A lot of GF cakes are kind of heavy, but this turned out just right. I am looking forward to more later in the month!

And a bonus for this week: anticipation! My oldest son is coming to visit from RI soon!

Happy Friday!

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Book Review: Tuck Everlasting

TuckI hadn’t planned to read Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt until I saw Carrie’s review of it, and even then, it wasn’t high on the TBR list. But a couple of weeks ago I was looking for a quote about August and came across this one:

“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot.”

It’s the opening sentence from Tuck Everlasting, and it so arrested me that I had to read the book. Thankfully it was available for the Kindle for a good price.

Ten year old Winnie Foster is contemplating running away. As an only child of a fairly strict and controlling family, she’s restless to get out from under the constant watchfulness and longs to do “something interesting–something that’s all mine. Something that would make some kind of difference in the world.” She can’t quite muster the courage to run away, but she does venture out into the woods near her family’s home, something she has never done before. She is startled to come upon a teenage boy drinking from a stream, and they converse easily. But when she wants a drink from the stream, he tries to keep her from doing so, which raises her ire. When the boy’s mother and brother happen along, they whisk Winnie away to their home.

After Winnie simmers down from being kidnapped, the Tuck family explains that they had to do what they did, and after they explain, they’ll be very glad to take her back home the next day. They share that 87 years ago, they came across this same woods and spring and drank from it, as did their horse. They didn’t know at first that anything was different. But when different ones of them had serious accidents but didn’t die, and after a while they realized that none of them was aging (not even the horse), they tried to trace back the cause. When they came back to the spring years later, the tree near where they stopped had not grown at all, and the “T” the father had carved there looked freshly done. So they covered up the spring with rocks. They could not stay in one place for long because when people noticed they didn’t age, they accused them of witchcraft.

Winnie isn’t sure she believes the story, but she likes the Tucks. The father, Angus, explains why it is so important for her to keep their secret. But what neither of them realize is that the secret is already out: a nameless man in a yellow suit has been following, questioning, and has overheard. But he’s not inclined to keep any secrets: in fact, he wants to profit by them.

I’ll leave the story there so as not to spoil it for those who haven’t read it. As I read, I kept wondering what the author was trying to say about life and death. But according to one interview, she said:

People are always looking for a lesson in it, but I don’t think it has one. It presents dilemmas, and I think that’s what life does! I dealt with a lot of dilemmas before I even started school. I think a lot of adults would like to think that things are simple for kids, but that’s not so. I get a lot of letters from students and teachers saying they spend a lot of time debating the things that happen in Tuck.… I think the book doesn’t present any lessons about what’s right and what’s wrong, but it does point out how difficult these decisions are.

(Warning: The interview does contain vital plot points, so it might be best read after reading the book.)

Each of the Tucks has a different viewpoint about their situation. The mother, Mae, feels that there is nothing they can do about it so they may as well make the best of it. The father, Tuck, mourns the fact that in the normal course of things, they’re “stuck,” that everything and everyone else is “moving and growing and changing” except for them.

Your time’s not now. But dying’s part of the wheel, right there next to being born. You can’t pick out the pieces you like and leave the rest. Being part of the whole thing, that’s the blessing. But it’s passing us by, us Tucks. Living’s heavy work, but off to one side, the way we are, it’s useless, too. It don’t make sense. If I knowed how to climb back on the wheel, I’d do it in a minute. You can’t have living without dying. So you can’t call it living, what we got. We just are, we just be, like rocks beside the road.

Miles, the oldest son, has lost the most. He was married with two children when his wife noticed he wasn’t aging, and she took the children and left, fearing witchcraft. This was before they figured out what caused it, so he had no explanation. He tells Winnie, “It’s no good hiding yourself away, like Pa and lots of other people. And it’s no good just thinking of your own pleasure, either. People got to do something useful if they’re going to take up space in the world.”

And Jesse, forever seventeen, thinks life to be enjoyed to the hilt.

I’ve thought that if I had the option to stay forever at one certain age, which would I choose? I don’t know – they all have their advantages and disadvantages. But being stuck at one age, you would lose that anticipation of what’s around the next bend. Thankfully eternal life in heaven will be a different situation.

I thought the story was certainly interesting and thought-provoking, and the characters were well-drawn and likeable. But what stood out to me was Babbitt’s writing. Beside the quote at the beginning, these sentences or phrases stood out to me:

…A stationery cloud of hysterical gnats suspended in the heat above the road.

The toad…gave a heave of muscles and plopped its heavy mudball of a body a few inches farther away from her.

…An enormous tree thrust up, its thick roots rumpling the ground ten feet around in every direction.

The sun was dropping fast now, a soft red sliding egg yolk…

I have not seen the recent film, but I’d like to some day.

(Sharing at Semicolon‘s Saturday Review of Books)

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Communicating With God As a Person

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One of my passions is to encourage women to get into the Word of God for themselves. It’s not that I don’t think women read their Bibles, but we could all use the encouragement. Sometimes we struggle with making time for devotions either due to busy schedules or having small children at home; or, if we have a regular time, we can be tempted to go through the motions without really being “tuned in” and engaged.

It helps me to look at our having devotions from a communication or relationship angle. We’re told when we first become Christians that Christianity is not just a list of rules or a system of activities: it’s a relationship with God. But sometimes we can lose that focus and end up just doing things rotely. Remembering that we’re communicating with a Person can transform our viewpoint.

The Bible says that the marriage relationship pictures that of Christ and the church. So let’s compare the two in the realm of communication. Husbands understand if a wife has a super-busy day or if she is tired. But if that happens all the time, if he just wants to spend some time with her, and she is frantically running around taking care of children, housework, even outside ministries, and never has time to just sit down with him, he’s not going to feel loved and wanted. If she spends the time they do talk in losing focus, daydreaming, pondering what to put on her grocery list, he is not going to feel heard. If the only time she communicates with him is on the run while doing other things or when she needs him to do something, or if their only conversation is in the last few  minutes before sleep when they’re drifting off in mid-sentence, their relationship is going to suffer. Sometimes couple just need one on one time with each other.

There is nothing wrong with those types of communication in and of themselves — we are to pray without ceasing, all through the day, even while doing other things, and He wants us to come to Him with our needs, and ending the day talking with Him is lovely. But there needs to be some times of just pure focus on Him, on worship and learning from Him. Even though God doesn’t “need” us in the same sense a husband does, He wants to fellowship with us, and He knows we need to hear Him.

We can see this in other parallels, too: a hostess who prepares a sumptuous meal that no one shows up for, or, if they do, they rush through it; a parent whose child only wants “things” from him; a friend whose friend is drifting away because of a lack of time spent together.

Relationships are built on and maintained by communication. May we keep in mind that our time in prayer and the Word of God is not just one of the duties on out to-do list: it is communication with the One who loves us more than anyone else could and desires our fellowship and worship. May our desire and prayer be along the lines of Joe Zichterman’s hymn, “A passion for Thee, O Lord, set a fire in my soul and a thirst for my God. Hear Thou my prayer, Lord, Thy power impart. Not just to serve, but to love Thee with all of my heart.”

 O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is. Psalm 63:1

I will delight myself in thy statutes: I will not forget thy word. Psalm 119:16

In the secret of His Presence
How my soul delights to hide!
Oh, how precious are the lessons
Which I learn at Jesus’ side!
Earthly cares can never vex me,
Neither trials lay me low;
For when Satan comes to tempt me,
To the secret place I go,
To the secret place I go.

When my soul is faint and thirsty,
’Neath the shadow of His wing
There is cool and pleasant shelter,
And a fresh and crystal spring;
And my Savior rests beside me,
As we hold communion sweet:
If I tried, I could not utter
What He says when thus we meet,
What He says when thus we meet.

Only this I know: I tell Him
All my doubts, my griefs and fears;
Oh, how patiently He listens!
And my drooping soul He cheers:
Do you think He ne’er reproves me?
What a false friend He would be,
If He never, never told me
Of the sins which He must see,
Of the sins which He must see.

Would you like to know the sweetness
Of the secret of the Lord?
Go and hide beneath His shadow:
This shall then be your reward;
And whene’er you leave the silence
Of that happy meeting place,
You must mind and bear the image
Of the Master in your face,
Of the Master in your face.

 ~ Ellen L. Goreh, 1883

(I didn’t know until trying to find a video of this hymn that there was a new tune to it. The one I am familiar with is this one, only done a bit slower and more meditatively.)

(Sharing with Inspire Me Monday, Testimony Tuesday, Woman to Woman Word-Filled Wednesday, Works For Me Wednesday)

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Laudable Linkage

It’s been a couple of weeks since I’ve been able to share interesting reads I have come across, so here we go!

Do Not Grieve the Holy Spirit.

Michael J. Kruger has been posting a series called “Taking Back Christianese,” where he discusses common phrases in Christendom that may have some merit but may also be misinterpreted or misrepresented. I particularly enjoyed “God Is Always Pleased With You” and “The Christian Life Is All About Being Transparent and Vulnerable.” I think the HT for sending me to these goes to Challies – I forgot to note it.

Lay Aside the Weight of Irritability. Ouch! One of my besetting sins…

STOP! Read This Before You Post Another RIP on Social Media. It’s so easy to share news so quickly, but we have to stop and ask ourselves if it’s our news to share. It can cause problems and hurt deeply if something is whisked through social media before the family involved has even had time to contact the rest of the family and close friends.

How to Help Your Children Walk Away. It’s kind of a sad truth that part of our training of our children is training them to ultimately go away from us. It’s good and right that they will ultimately live on their own, and it’s exciting to see how God leads, but there is a wistfulness about it for moms as well. This is about some of those smaller times apart as training along the way.

Does a Husband Have the Authority? deals with taking a husband’s authority in the home way farther than the Bible instructs.

Rosaria Butterfield: No Free Passes. Interesting interview about life since the publication of her book, Secret Thoughts of an Unlikely Convert, particularly dealing with protesters when she speaks at colleges.

Self Publishing a Book? Read This Strong Warning.

And finally, I am not a big fan of the organ, though an occasional Bach suite on an old pipe organ that I can watch, and not just listen to, hits the spot. This isn’t a pipe organ, but it’s mesmerizing. As the Story Warren said, the organ is a ” full-body contact instrument.” I can’t fathom being coordinated enough to do this:

Happy Saturday!