Tuesday, September 30, 2014

take two

I was lost today.
At first I just didn't know where I was going.
But I knew where I was.
That isn't really lost but it feels so awful it may as well be.
Then, after I had hurtled past my freeway exit and the three that followed, and had pulled off the highway into a busy truck stop and had found someone local who knew the lay of the land.......
I found myself headed back from whence I had come with that dizzying feeling you get just as you slide over the cliff....
"We're going to be late," I said, hopelessly.
"Will anyone care?" my mother asked.
Well, I cared....but really, probably no one else would....
I was able to talk myself calm.
I heard once that if you are lost, just change your destination.
I've actually done that once with wonderful results. I'll tell that story another day.
I've also heard that if you are late, just change your arrival time.
I was skeptical but it actually worked.
'You aren't late,' I firmly told myself. 'You won't be late til it's past eleven.'
It was a bald faced lie but amazingly, the knot in my stomache untied and I felt myself depressurize. Yes, eleven, I could do that.
And I did.
It was later going home that I got lost.
Sort of Anguish/Take Two.
For a few brief moments, in an unfamiliar place, I not only didn't know where I was going, but I didn't know where I was.
And I had consulted a Google map that very morning too.
My afternoon at home had more frustration waiting in the wings.
Now why does life do that to us.
When we are teetering on the brink, it huffs and puffs us over the edge.
When I was younger, I spent a lot of time falling over the cliff.
I spent way too much time picking my bruised self up off the rocks.
I've come to recognize that honesty is the best policy.

When I asked myself, kindly, that is important.... the kindly part....when I asked my self why I was feeling distressed, the answer came in a heartbeat.
I am afraid.
I am afraid that I will end up as my mother has, unable to remember all the things I need to remember, the important and unimportant things that make up a life.
I'm afraid of losing my way......

Monday, September 29, 2014

rudbekia rules

These flowers say September to me more than any other flower. I started with one little plant, but following the advice in my Lazy Gardening book: reward plants that flourish with more of the same, I now have three large clumps. I'm not sure what I love most about them.
  • look like daisies 
  • have wonderful brown centers that rise out of the center into great, prickly cones
  • multiply and flourish through benign neglect
  • add a sizzle of yellow that's probably visible from space
  • age gracefully, oh so gracefully
Rudbekia rules the autumn garden.

month of wonders

Isn't a parcel in the mail a thing of delight?
Last week I received box number one from The Well Seasoned Kitchen.
Box number one with five more to go.
Each month for six months, I will be plucking a nice big package filled to the brim with kitcheny goodness from my mail box.
Winning a contest is heady stuff.

My September box contained-
1. Marich Premium Chocolates- Natural Coconut Curry Cashews
Roasted cashews coated with a blend of white chocolate, curry and coconut. Haven't opened the package yet but they look intriguing.
2. Glazed Maple Oat Scones dry mix by Sticky Fingers Bakeries. Just add water to recreate their ultra-popular scones at home.What a brilliant idea. I'm really looking forward to trying them out.
3. Sea Salt with Red Wine grinder. My sister has been enjoying salt from a grinder. She says it adds a little crunch. Just the perfect bit of crunch. I'm pretty excited about trying this too. Perhaps it will be as big a revelation as freshly cracked black pepper.
4.Garlic and Rosemary Infused Oil. I love fresh dressing for salad. Just a dash of oil and vinegar and maple syrup. That is the destiny of this lovely oil.
5. Bengali Panch Phoron by Monsoon Coast.
A blend of five seeds; cumin, black mustard, fennel,fenugreek, and nigella. I love East Indian flavours and will bravely attempt the included recipes.
6. PapaJohn Dolmadakia. Tender grape leaves wrapped around rice in a seasoned oil. Now this I opened right away. So addictive. They would be a wondrous addition to a platter of smoked meats and cheeses and pickles. They were pretty wondrous on their own.
Oh, and I got recipes and tips too.

I absolutely loved my September box.
So many new things to try.
A month of wonders.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

never does

I cropped my siblings out of this picture. Isn't that just the sort of thing a 'youngest' would do?
I must be barely four in this one. Barely four and finding life rather heavy going. Couldn't anyone see that I needed a nap for goodness sake. Or a snack. Or a hug. Sheesh. Look at that little face. Zero spark of joy.
I love that my feet barely reach the floor.
And that I am wearing leather shoes with buckles and little holes punched in a design that I could likely still draw.
And leotards.
Saggy leotards as almost all tights are at some point in the day.
They act as a sort of barometer of mood.
My plaid skirt was a nod to my Celtic last name. Might even have been the right colors.
My hair was swept to the side and clipped with a metal hair clip that looked like a bow. It seems to me that I just had the one clip from birth to grade six when I seized control of my own destiny briefly and parted my hair in the middle.
Dear little girl.
I must tell you that my sister who was sitting beside me, whom I so ruthlessly cropped out, was smiling. And not just any smile. A perfectly joyous, happy smile.
It just didn't seem right.
So now I am all alone.
But it hasn't made me any happier.
Never does.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

still like to

My grandson suddenly appeared at my elbow, his small face sober. "Great Grandma just told me I should go outside," he confided in a whisper, glancing warily towards the living room.
"Oh, let me tell you about when I was your age," I laughed.
"Great Grandma didn't like us to make noise in the house when we played. She called that 'horsing around.'

It's no surprise that I have a wheelbarrow full of memories of outside play.
Isn't it kind of funny that once upon a time, great big families lived in little tiny houses, and now little tiny families live in great big houses?
Just one of those cultural shifts.
But kids still like to horse around.

did you

'Did you ever stop to think, and forget to start again?'
A.A. Milne

breaks through

I write things down.
I jot random things on random scraps of paper.
Little pieces of my mind.
Things I think, or want to remember that I thought.
They tend to waft off, caught up in the swirling eddies of life in my house.
Then I come upon them some time later.
It is always an 'aha' moment.
Some time ago, I came upon a scrap of paper marking a place in a Sudoku book.
It contained one line.
A question.
Doesn't kindness break your heart?
I've thought about that ever since and have to agree that it does.
Kindness breaks the heart.
It breaks through the toughness.
It breaks through.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

reminds me

My grandson wanted to show me a science video, "Come," he said, patting the computer chair. "I want to sit on your lap." And as he got comfortable he added, "It reminds me of when I was young."

Monday, September 22, 2014

creature of habit

I am becoming a creature of habit. Every spring, I hasten to the Post, and mail a Wee Quilt off to McDougall Cottage for their annual Wee Quilt Challenge. And then, of course, every fall, I wait expectantly for my quilt to return to me like a homing pigeon.
This is the second year in a row that my little quilt has returned clutching a winners ribbon.
A nice big, satiny ribbon, all pleated and printed and purple.

The Challenge for 2014 was titled, Bards and Ballads and I named my Wee Quilt,
Bedtime Bards and Balladeers.
It was raw edge appliqued, and free motion quilted.

I sent along these words with my entry.

Bedtime Bards and Balladeers is a tribute to Robert Louis Stevenson and his A Child's Garden of Verses. It is a celebration of the magic of rhythm and rhyme and the power of oral history and tradition that we gladly pass down to our children and grandchildren.

Robert Louis Stevenson wrote, "Time which none can bind, while flowing fast away, leaves love behind." This portrait of my grandchildren was done in muted tones to suggest a faded photo. It reminds me that although time can't be bound, although the days of childhood are fleeting, the beauty and wonder and sweetness of love remain.

dabble away

Watercolor is perfect for quick sketches and experiments in color. And, watercolor cards are the perfect bite size.
Just pick what you love....birds, flowers, skies, trees.......and dabble away.

Saturday, September 13, 2014


"Shiffies," my baby granddaughter shouts, over the din of departure. "Shiffies food," she adds, by way of clarifying.
Children younger than two are sort of like foreign films. They need subtitles.
At least some of the time.
My little granddaughter may say shiffie, but she means fishie.
Being lifted up to gaze down into the deep, dark water barrel at the fish is something she loves to do.
And feeding them is even better.
A little handful of food tossed on the water's surface and up they zoom like torpedoes.
Up to the surface with eyes bulging in greed, mouths open.
Gunk, smack. Gunk, splash.
Its sort of like the Orca show at the aquarium but in miniature.
Nature on stage.
And the front row is still the best place to be.

Thursday, September 11, 2014


I love wind, especially the winds of Autumn. They sweep in, cool and giddily fresh after the heavy stillness of a long, hot summer. That swirling air always lifts my spirits.
Wind arrived yesterday morning out of a clear blue sky.
It howled and prowled around the corners of the house, sounding like a car trying to start. rrrr, rrrrrr, rrrRRR, rrRRRrrrRRRRR.
It blew all day and seemed to surround us with sounds; huffing and puffing, whining and wailing.
"It doesn't want to have to go around the house," my mother observed. "It wants to go through."
Sure enough, window blinds rattled and curtains blew into the room in frothy billows of lace.
Welcome Autumn. We're glad to see you again.

Monday, September 8, 2014


I love the man in the moon.
His face is so comfortingly unchanged by time.
Don't you think he looks like he is singing?

night sea

The moon sails the dark sea of night, silvered cloud its wake.


A perfect egg yolk moon.
Farm fresh.

almost seemed

It almost seemed like the moon was a giant balloon tonight. A great golden balloon rising slowly against the gray silken sky.


Any idea what story this is?
I imagine the big fish will be a big clue although seeing the little Playmobil man swallowed whole should be a pretty big help too.
Got it?
It's the story of Jonah.
It's one of my favorite stories from the days when I sat on tiny painted plywood chairs and listened with all the other fidgety four and five year olds in Sunday School. 
Back then, it was just a story about obeying. Or rather the danger of not obeying depending on where the teacher placed the emphasis.
To come to that conclusion though, the one about obedience, is to miss the amazing truth the story holds about who God is.
The truth that God will do anything He can to keep from punishing or judging us. That His love drives Him to take extreme measures, even supernatural ones at times, just to help us, His cherished creation.
A lot of people don't really think about God much.
They are in this story.
There are others that are sort of superstitious and afraid of God.
They are in this story too.
And there are some who know God, have even come to think of Him as a Father, but don't want to be like Him. Not if it means forgiving someone they think doesn't deserve to be forgiven.
That person is in this story too.
And God is in this story.
And He can't help giving away who He is in the telling of the tale either.

The story begins in the middle which is often the best place to begin.
Jonah knows that God wants him to travel to Nineveh and tell the people living there that God has seen their overwhelming wickedness. It was the sort of evil that would make the evening news and call for action from the UN if it happened today. And of course, it does happen today.
Jonah knew that God wanted him to offer them all His forgiveness.
Repent or else is kind of how I always thought the story went.
Repent is an old fashioned word, but it really just means to stop, and turn away.
To stop and change direction.
Being offered the chance to change and be forgiven is gracious.
Jonah did not share God's gracious outlook.
He bought a ticket on a ship heading in the opposite direction.
There could be no misunderstanding his intent.
He was NOT going to go to Nineveh.
And that was that.
Except it wasn't.
God had a job for Jonah to do.
He could have just asked someone else to go, but he graciously allowed Jonah to be part of the story.
The Master of the wind and waves sent a huge storm.
The ship was caught up in a terrifying gale with mountainous waves and howling winds.
The men on board could tell that this storm was not a normal storm, but had a supernatural horror about it.
They were terrified.
Jonah told the men to throw him overboard.
He figured that God was angry with him and was trying to kill him.
He figured that innocent sailors would pay with their lives too.
He figured wrong of course.
He misjudged God.
The storm wasn't sent to harm Jonah, but to get his attention.
I imagine that if Jonah had just repented, the storm would have died down and he could have gotten on the next ship heading to Nineveh....... and he could have spared himself the close encounter with nature that he experienced next.
The Bible says that God prepared a 'great fish.' And it swallowed Jonah when he was thrown into the sea.
God could just as well have provided Jonah with a nice big chunk of driftwood but I guess there is something about being swallowed whole by a 'great fish' that causes a person to reevaluate their choices in life.
Jonah did and it didn't take him long to repent.
And he really meant it.
And he was ready to listen.
And to do what God wanted him to do.
The fish burped Jonah out onto dry land and with that running start, Jonah traveled to Nineveh.
His words rang with authority when he told the people that God would not take no for an answer. His eyes likely flashed with passion as he spoke of God's power.
It doesn't surprise me at all that the entire city stopped in their tracks and listened just as Jonah had feared they would.
And they repented.
Grace can do that.

The story has a postscript.
Jonah was exhausted.
No surprise there.
The Bible says God provided him with shade from the desert heat.
A place of refreshment.
Ahhh, now that's more like it, you might think.
Except God wasn't finished.
Jonah's heart was not beating with the compassion of God yet.
And so, the storyteller tells us that God sent a worm to chew on the vine that sheltered Jonah from the heat and it shriveled and died.
Jonah was indignant and depressed and very, very hot.
I love how the story ends.
God Himself reasons with Jonah, like a parent with a moody child.
Nineveh was a huge city teaming with people.
The poetic language refers to the many children living there as those who couldn't yet tell their right hand from their left.
How could Jonah care more about a vine, about the fate of a plant, than the fate of an entire city of people?
How could he not feel pity for them and wish for them to experience grace?
I am guessing that Jonah came at last to understand the heart of God.
We have his story. 

When Jesus was trying to prepare his followers for His death, He spoke of the story of Jonah. He told them that just as Jonah had been in the belly of the fish for three days, so He would be in the grave for three days. His life was a story of grace. And of extreme, even supernatural measures. Remember Bethlehem?
Beginning with the story of the baby in the manger is the middle of the story, but its the best place to begin.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014


I want to make something perfectly clear.
If you enter a contest, and your name is drawn, you are a winner, but if your name isn't drawn, you aren't a loser.
You are a participant.
Being a participant is what makes a contest fun.
Mostly for the winner mind you.
And, of course, if almost no one participated, it would make winning even easier which would still be fun for the winner.
At any rate, I'm a winner!!!
I'm so excited.

I was a participant first.
And then I sort of forgot about it.
That happens because participating is only exciting for a short time.
Not like winning, whence you may be excited for some time.
In my case, six months apparently.
I must fill you in on the gaps in this story.
A few weeks back, I entered a contest hosted by our local paper, the Langley Times.
It was very easy to be a participant, and the prizes seemed appealing.
I remember reading that first prize was a dinner for ten prepared in your own kitchen by a chef.
I mentally counted on my fingers and my imaginary table was filled with smiling guests.
The first prize also included a hefty sum to spend on a Maid Service in case your kitchen wasn't chef worthy and your dining room was under an avalanche of debris.
There was also a hefty sum included for a Home Stager. You know, flowers, a bowl of lemons, plumped up sofa pillows........
The value of the prize defied imagination.
There were also fifty dollar gift certificates waiting in the wings for a generous handful of happy runner-ups.
I set my sights and that was that.
And then, I got the phone call.
Congratulations, she said.
I was the lucky winner of second place.
Second place?
I was told that I had won a six month subscription.
"Newsletter or magazine," I naively asked.
Oh goodness.
A six month subscription to The Missing Ingredient was much more. 
It meant that for six happy months, I would receive a big box of bounty delivered to my door.
Recipes, tips, specialty ingredients and marvelous kitchen goodness and gadgetry.
I'm a winner.
But I was a participant first.

down by the sea

I love standing where the ocean washes ashore. I especially love standing there when boats plow past and leave a rising swell in their wake. A swell that races up the shallows and crashes around my feet.
Water pushing water.
Today I watched a leaf crossing the street. If fluttered across, just like a butterfly.
And in the wake of passing cars, dry leaves race across the pavement.
Wind pushing wind.
I never really thought of it before, this sameness of wind and water, but the words we use to describe wind are watery words. There are currents of air, the Jet Stream.....
And the words we use to describe water could describe the wind just as well;
Torrents, billows, mighty, rushing.
Even the sounds are similar.
Our home backs onto a busy street. The constant sound of cars and the wind they create sounds to me like waves rushing over a pebbled beach. Back and forth, back and forth. Even more so on a rainy day.
Makes me feel like I live beside a rocky shore.
Down by the sea.

slow starting

There's a band of light along the eastern horizon. Even though the mountains below are almost lost in moody, broody cloud, the edges of the great circle of sky are lightening and brightening like time lapse.
Out on the highway the traffic is picking up for the day.
A boy is walking a dog.
A crow scolds.
It's a slow starting September morning.


My mother is a time traveler. Sometimes she is here, in the now, but ever more often, she is there, her memory in a distant time.
"Are you looking for something?" I ask.
"Yes, I'm wondering how to get home to the rest of my family," she says.
I know she is not thinking of her own children, her husband and home but of an even more distant time. The home of her girlhood.
She seems comforted by my words.
This is home.
We are family.
She is loved.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

just like an apple

I'm always surprised when it rains at last at the end of a long dry spell.
For weeks, heat has been the word of the day.
The garden has dried to a crisp.
The lawn crunches.
Even the weeds have succumbed to powdery decay.
But rain will change all that.
Sweet, cool rain.
It will wash the dust from the blackberries and they'll glisten black in the September sun.
Lawns will inhale and a flush of green will creep down to the sidewalks.
The buds of dahlia and chrysanthemum will swell and burst with colors rich; wine reds, russet, melon gold and coral.
And the air will be fresh and crisply sweet.
Just like an apple.


'It's raining it's pouring, the old man is snoring....'
Now isn't that a timeless piece of writing?

Monday, September 1, 2014

the three graces

There is often a crow or two perched on the street lamp across the street. I've grown accustomed to their dark silhouette against the sky. I suppose that is why I was so startled when I looked up from my work and found myself staring at a slim, white bird.
A Mourning Dove.
I'd been hearing them call for several days but nary a sighting.
And now, wonder of wonders, one was right across the street.
That's what I needed.
I sprang out of my chair and dashed for the door with one eye still fixed on the dove.
Still there.
Down the hall I dashed and into a darkened room.
I plunged my hands into a drawer, finding my binoculars by braille.
Back to the window I rushed.
Still there.
I fumbled with the lens covers.
I glanced out the window anxiously.
Still there.
I whipped the binoculars to my eyes.
Wrong way.
I turned the binoculars around and drew a bead on.......absolutely nothing.
The dove had sailed off out of view.
I dropped limply into my chair.
"Coo, coo, coo, coo."
My eyes followed the sound to the uppermost branches of our neighbors tree. There, in a patch of golden sunlight were three Mourning Doves. One was fanning its tail and preening enthusiastically.
I trained my binoculars on high and watched them riffling through feathers and smoothing them out again.
Three birds, creamy white and slender.
The sky, high and blue.
The leaves warmly lit by slanting afternoon sunlight.
The Three Graces.