Saturday, September 27, 2008

Jane Austen and Me

Photo taken somewhere in England.

I think the biggest reason I love Jane Austen's novels is that her characters' worlds are usually small.  They live out their lives in small villages with a small circle of intimate friends. They have dinner parties, walk to the village together, and do their shopping with baskets hanging from the crooks of their arms.

 I would love to move to a small village somewhere in the British Isles and immerse myself in its daily life.  There's comfort in knowing a small group of people very well.

The place where I spent my first eighteen years was like that; Turtletown, Tennessee.  Everybody knew each other and who did what, when, and to whom.  Sometimes it was annoying as a teen.  I couldn't get away with much!  But as an adult, I like it.  It's comforting when I go back to hear Mama and Daddy talking about all the doing of the community folk.  They've both grown up and lived all their adult lives in the same place; unusual in this day and time.

 In some ways the small town view is stifling and narrow.  My parents have managed to avoid this outlook though.  Daddy is very well-read, and Mama teaches quilting at a nearby college. They've done some traveling too.  In some ways I like their life better than mine. 

So, the hard question can I make my life, where I am, better?  One way for sure is to see fewer people.  This past week I had intimate contact with around one hundred people.  That doesn't count all the people I normally see in the course of a day while shopping or driving. Two days this week I've had to miss events I wanted to go to, because I felt like I needed to have some alone time to decompress from all the "people time".  

I'll tell you, having a sensitive nature is a curse sometimes.  I frequently get "that look" from even my own family members when I say that I can't go here or there because I need to be alone.  I guess if you're not that way it's really hard to understand.

So, pray for me as I make changes in my life that will keep me more centered and less stretched to breaking.  

Wednesday, September 24, 2008


There's a movement at this time to simplify, get rid of, live with less, etc.  I'm always decluttering myself.  When I typed that last statement, I meant in my household; as in getting rid of stuff.  But rereading it, it sounds like I'm decluttering me.  And I am.  I'm always trying to be calmer. I'm always trying to go fewer places and stay home more.  That helps me stay calm.  Frantic activity doesn't agree with me anymore.  Maybe it never did, but I just know myself better now and know what gets me frazzled.

I'm reading Walking with Kathleen Norris-A Contemplative Journey by Robert Waldron.  A friend recommended her book, The Cloister Walk, years ago, and I immediately fell in love with her writing.  It's one of those books that I read every year or so.  I love it that much.

Asceticism has often been linked with self-flagellation; a misunderstanding of God's Word about the self and sin.  Therefore, the very word asceticism conjures up negativity.  But this is what Norris says about asceticism:  "It is a way of surrendering to reduced circumstances in a manner that enhances the whole person.  Modern asceticism should be a matter of simplification or a reduction of matters interfering with developing a deeper relationship with God."

Waldron says, "How much food, alcohol, sleep, work, TV, radio, and talk do we need? "  I don't think it's sinful to have more than we need.  Things are gifts from God, but the line has to be drawn somewhere.  And everyone has to draw their own line.  We need to pray for wisdom to know where that point is in our own lives.  

I am extremely visual, so I like looking at 'things'.  I think that's why I have more stuff in my house than some people.  I like going into other people's homes and looking at their books.  I like seeing sewing or art projects laid out and ready to be worked on again.  I find that interesting.

Laurel is on the opposite end of the spectrum.  She likes the Spartan approach to decorating.  She's always showing me pictures of almost white rooms with a few wooden pieces added for warmth.  Some I find too cold but others are very restful.  I think I could get a lot of thinking done in a room like that.  But when it comes to my own home, I can't do it.  I don't know why.  I like a warm, cozy home that's visually restful and stimulating at the same time.  Does that make sense?

So we both keep trying to get to the place where we say, "That's it!  I've found the perfect blend of interest and restfulness."  Thing is, I keep getting there, and six months later I'm dissastified again.  Maybe it'll always be a journey.  I'm always changing, so it makes sense that my house will always keep changing too.  So Laurel, maybe we should just enjoy the journey and quit longing for the destination?

Sunday, September 21, 2008


This is an old baptismal font at Jamestown, Virginia.

Today in Sunday School, a friend of mine was talking, so I could stare at him without being rude.   As I continued looking at him, he ceased looking like himself and became like a stranger.  I've known this person for almost thirty years.  It made me feel like I didn't know him at all.  Isn't that weird?

Have you ever had this to happen?  It's not the first time it's happened to me.

A Little Birdie

I sat down at the piano at dusk tonight to play my troubles away.  As I was playing Bach, I heard this little bird outside the front porch window just singing its little heart out.  It was perched on the top of the porch swing with its head thrown back just singing away.

The phone rang, and while I was walking to answer it, I was fussing about our duet being interrupted and figuring that the bird probably wouldn't come back.  

Conversation over, I sat back down and began playing again.  After a minute or two, it again started singing to my accompaniment.  Another of life's grace notes; a gift from God.  

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Many Different Directions

I've discovered the fountain of youth.  It's called Floradix.  I got it at the health food store for Darcie to try and build her blood up after surgery.  It has herbs, fruit and vegetable juices, and iron.  

The first day I took it twice like the bottle said.  I finally went to bed at 3:00 a.m. Boy was I wired!  I got lots done; quickly.  The next day I only took it once early in the morning.  I mixed it with Monavie active, green tea, and prune juice.  I had to throw the prune juice in, because the iron gave me constipation.  I know.   TMI.  Sorry.

Boy, this stuff works.  I haven't had this much energy since 1980 B.C.   That's Before Children.  This is what I got done this morning before going to work at the gallery at 11:00.

Got up at 5:45.  From 6-7 I got dressed, did 35 push-ups, stripped my bed and remade it with clean sheets, washed a load of clothes, checked my e-mails, and put away a stack of papers.  My husband went dove hunting at 6:00, so that's why I could do my bed that early in the morning.

From 7-8 I deboned a chicken and made chicken salad, packed my lunch, did a 20-minute walk, peeled and stewed some pears, fed my chickens, fed the cats and dog,  and looked for some photos I'd misplaced in my studio.

From 8-9 I ate a bowl of cereal, made peanut brittle, copies a recipe for Victoria Sponge Cake, made vegetable beef stew in the crockpot, and cooked waffles for son #2.  (I had l/4 of one.)

From 9-10 I hung out a load of clothes, shuffled some paper piles, pulled a few weeds, watched a hawk to see if it was going to attack my chickens, and wrote out a chore list for son #2.

From 10-11 I changed clothes, fixed my face and hair, packed all my projects to be worked on at the gallery, talked to daughter #1 on the phone, and left to go to the gallery.  Not bad for a morning's work.  I have an even longer list that I accomplished from 11-7, but I won't bore you with that. 

Yessiree, Bob.  I LOVE this stuff.

Williamsburg, Virginia

It's final!  We're going to Williamsburg in one month.  I'm so excited I could just squeal.  I absolutely LOVE that place anytime but especially in the fall.  The weather will be so cool and crisp; perfect for sweaters.  I love sweater weather.  I might even need a light coat in the mornings.

I think this will be my sixth trip up there.  I never get tired of it.  We went last year for Darcie's birthday.  We rented a colonial dress and bought her a fan and bonnet.  She thought she was something.  She wanted to do it again this time, but I said, "Just wear your bonnet and you'll be fine."  It cost a lot to rent that dress.  Maybe I'll make her one before then so she can have the "full experience."  

We'll be there for five days and will swing by my parents in East Tennessee for three more.  Actually that's a big swing, but if we don't go now we won't go this fall.  And I have to go to Tennessee in the fall.  It's a tradition.  And another reason, it's my birthday; October 27.  I'll be 53 years old, and life has never been better.  In fact, it's great!  You can tell this cooler weather is really affecting me!
More on our trip later.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Annie Dillard

Excuse the crazy placement of this photo on the page.  The only thing I could manage to do was rotate it so you wouldn't have to stand on your head to see it!  I'm a slow learner.

Anyway, my bookgroup is reading The Maytrees by Annie Dillard for October.  I've tried three different times to begin this book.  I'll get a few pages into it, get mad, and throw it down.  "This book is stupid!" I said, the last time I tried reading it. 

I know there are lots of Dillard fans out there.  I've tried to be one too.  I read about half of Pilgrim's Creek and started An American Childhood.  But I admit defeat.  She's not for me.  

For one thing, her non-fiction is excruciatingly detailed; too much information about things I don't consider very important.  And her fiction!   She breaks all the rules of writing.   Not that I'm adverse to rule breaking; I'm a rebel myself in that way.  But I want spoken words to have quotation marks around the actual phrases.  I want a book to flow smoothly along and not jar me sideways every other sentence.  I don't want to have to keep re-reading a sentence until it makes sense. Sometimes it does; often it doesn't.  I get mad when I can't follow the story for having to re-read so much.

So there.  I'm not going to read Annie Dillard, and I'm not ashamed to say so.

Monday, September 15, 2008

The fellowship of the saints

I went to church yesterday for the first time in a month.  It was so good to be in the presence of God's people worshipping together.  Singing 'A Mighty Fortress is our God' gave me goosebumps.  If our combined voices here on Earth are so sweet, what will millions and millions of voices raised in praise sound like in heaven?  Unfathomable!

Our local church body really rallies around its members when comfort is needed.  Food, phone calls, e-mails, cards, prayers, and visits all came our way during and after Darcie's hospital visit.  I am so thankful for people who love me enough to drop what they're doing and minister to my family.  

 I'm not naturally given to thinking of others first.  I'm too involved in my own life to stop.  But by being blessed so richly during this time, I've been  gently exhorted, by my own conscience, to go and do likewise.  So I'll pray to love people more and myself less.  When a need arises, I'll try to make an effort to comfort remembering how it feels to be comforted.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Velveteen Rabbit Vs. Cleopatra

This photo is of Salisbury Cathedral in England.

Darcie and I still aren't strong enough to go to church, so I turned on the TV to see if I could find some decent preaching.  What I found was several tele-evangelist types sitting in pseudo living rooms chatting cozily with their wives.  

I'm sure we all remember Tammy Faye Baker, bless her heart, as the poster girl of how not to wear your hair and makeup.  What is it with the wives of TV preachers?  The ones I saw today looked like they were going straight from their tv show to an audition for a Cleopatra movie!  I'm talking dyed jet black hair (one was a honey blonde), bright blue eyeshadow sweeping all the way from lid to brow, and black eyeliner drawn on so thickly that any Egyptian woman would have swooned in admiration.

Their husbands, in comparison, were graying and wrinkling naturally.  They looked their ages, which in my opinion, is a good thing.  The women did too, actually.  They just tried to hide theirs under loads of paint and powder.  

But it never works to their advantage.  Why don't they see that they just look ridiculous? I've seen older women with gray hair and sweet smiles and they're beautiful.  Their beauty comes from within and not from paint cans. 

I want to be the kind of older woman with such a sweet spirit that people are naturally drawn to me.  I want the love of Christ to shine forth from the essence of my being.  I want His beauty to make me beautiful.

My hair is turning gray and has been for about twenty years.  The ONLY time I've been tempted to color it  is when Darcie cried because she thought I was going to die soon since I was getting old and grayheaded.  It must be hard for her to have a Mom that's ten-twenty years older than her friends' Moms.  But I read the Scripture to her that says that a gray head is a crown of glory and left it at that.  I keep up with her just fine, so she's just going to have to be reconciled to it.  I just make sure that Laurel is groomed to take my place when I kick the bucket!

I want to be like the Velveteen Rabbit who didn't become real until it was shabby and well-loved.  I feel like I'm becoming more real the longer I live.  I'm not hiding behind things as much and am content to let people see the "real" me. 

I've just had an "ah ha" moment.  That's why I don't want the summer to end!   I became more real this summer on our first beach trip.  We went to Fripp Island with Laurel and her family and another family from church.  We had a WONDERFUL time together, I think because we didn't have any expectations and were very relaxed all week.  None of us women wore any makeup the whole week.  Believe me when I say this--I am fifty-two years old, and as long as I have been wearing makeup, I have never gone a day without it; not even in the hospital after childbirth. I have a story about that which includes Laurel, but I'll tell it later.  I'll have to get her permission first.  I even used to wear mascara to bed!  Needless to say, vanity has been an idol for me.  I'm only now realizing it though.

So for me to NOT wear makeup for a whole week was very liberating.  I felt like a different person in a great way.  I'm learning that who I am isn't what I wear or the cute little house I live in.  All these things will fall away someday and I'll be left with just ME.  I like the person God is making me into, and just maybe, in small, baby steps, I'm becoming that sweet little old lady I so want to be.  If I live as long as my ancestors, He's got about thirty or forty more years to work on me.  I'm sure it'll take every one of those days to accomplish it!   "For I know Whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I've committed unto Him against that day....

Saturday, September 6, 2008

My Baby

I took Darcie to town today.  She wanted to get out of the house.  We went to Laurel's house for about an hour and a half and to the Gallery for an hour.  She was teary when we got home.  She immediately lay on the couch and fell asleep.  I woke her up two hours later, fed her some cereal, and put her to bed.  She wanted me to snuggle with her because she was cold.  She fell asleep again almost immediately.

I'm worried about her.  She is so skinny from the weight she lost while sick.  She takes two bites of something and says she's full.  It's been a week and a half since her surgery for a ruptured appendix.  Maybe I'm expecting her to bounce back too soon.  I was hoping to start school next week with her.  We won't be going to church tomorrow; again!  I haven't been in four Sundays.  Maybe I can go tomorrow night.

Does anyone have experience with a ruptured appendix and abdominal surgery with a five inch scar?  When can I expect for her to be "normal" again? 

Thursday, September 4, 2008

June Bugs & Jar Flys

Every time I go outside I see dead insects.  The cicadas' songs get thinner every day as they die off.  Growing up, we called cicadas 'jar flys'.  I didn't even know what a cicada was until I met my future husband.  He was getting his Masters in Entomology, so I became enlightened.  I also saw a dead june bug in the road this morning.  I don't know what their "official" name is.  We used to tie a string around one of their legs and let them fly around and around our heads.  We liked cheap entertainment in Turtletown!

Fall is coming.  The leaves on my cherry tree are beginning to yellow and fall.  The mornings are cooler now.  I almost need a sweater on my walk.  I'm beginning to want to make chili and pumpkin bread.

I'm feeling the tiniest bit of excitement about Fall coming.  Last post I said I was going to do things to get in the mood.  I took the white slipcover off the parlor couch.  I put away all my white shoes and clothes (except blouses).  I've been doing some deep cleaning in my house; dusting baseboards and sweeping down spider webs from the porch ceilings.  I'm going to clean the windows in the library and hang up the white lace panels again.  I take them down at the beginning of summer.  I laid out all Darcie's school books on the dining room table in preparation for making lesson plans.  Later this morning I'm going to go through my clothes and throw out anything I'm not crazy about and don't look great in.  Life's too short to wear mediocre clothes!  I probably won't be left with much after that.  Good.  I'm sick and tired of too much stuff.  

I was whining to Laurel yesterday about that.  I said I'd like to open my front door and start pitching stuff out.  She said, "Why don't you?"  Well, it's because I've decluttered to the point that what's left is sentimental to me.  I'm not ready to let go of it yet, but I'm tired of having too much stuff too.   What's a person to do?  I did tell her to take that quilt, but she didn't.  I think she likes arguing about it!

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Never-ending Summer (I wish)

I don't know what my problem is.  Usually I can't wait for Fall to get here.  Summer is my least favorite season.  But for some reason this year, I don't want summer to end.  I love lying around reading Janet Evanovich novels.  They're hilarious!  I like having my mind clear of schedules, busyness, grading papers, getting Darcie to her activities, etc.  I think that's part of it.   I've hauled around chilluns' for twenty seven years now, and I'm tired.  I want to learn to paint and such; things that take concentration and chunks of time.  

But I have a ten-year-old; at least I will tomorrow.  I have to do for her what I did for the other ones.  I can't in good conscience put her in school.  So I'm going to have to buck up and suck it up.  SO.................

How to get myself in the mood for Fall?  Finish the J. Evanovich book I'm reading and don't read her again until the next holiday.  Put away all my summer clothes and get out my fall ones.  I NEVER, repeat NEVER, wear white after Labor Day.  My Mama raised me right!  Make myself go through Darcie's school books and start planning.  Cook pumpkin bread, apple bread, and soups.  Any other ideas?

Monday Morning Walk

This photo is called The Way Home, because that's what it is; the dirt road that goes to my house.  After being cooped up for almost a week in the hospital, my walk this morning was especially meaningful.  I noticed everything more; my senses were heightened.

Here are some of my impressions this morning on my mile-long walk down this dirt road:  Sounds I heard were a bullfrog singing his bass song, tree frogs trilling an octave higher, doves cooing their mournful song, a car going by on the highway a mile away, our dogs barking because they couldn't go, bird songs too numerous to identify, my shoes crunching on the sand, an easterly breeze ruffling the pecan leaves, the pines whispering in that same gentle wind, and cicadas and crickets adding their shrill undertone to everything else.

Things I saw were a baby deer too far away to see if it still had its spots, mole tunnels, possum, dove, and deer tracks, a white, crackled piece of broken pottery, a field full of a bright yellow unidentified flower/weed that looks like a cross between a foxglove and a sweet pea, green pecan shells fallen from the trees too early, our pear tree loaded with ripe fruit, blue morning glories, smashed Coke cans, a cigarette butt, scattered corn kernels and cobs from a harvested field next to our house, grass turning yellow under the pecan trees from being sprayed with grass killer (it's almost time for pecans to start falling), and wild muscadines on the side of the road and in the ditch.

I feel so blessed to have these things surrounding me every day.  I flourish in the country and draw strength from the beauty of God's creation.