Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Swimming Pool

Monday we began the start of summer with a pool party at my daughter’s house. Kids and adults swam and splashed in the clean, refreshing water. It was nothing like the pool my friends and I dug one summer when I was about 10.

We lived next door to the Chizmars. They had a son, Terry, and a daughter, Diane, who were my friends and playmates. One hot summer day we decided it would be a good idea to dig ourselves a swimming pool. The Chizmars had a large empty back yard and we obtained permission from the parents to dig a pool. We spent several weeks digging. We began early and dug all day in the hot sun with dreams of our new swimming pool prodding us on. It would be wonderful. Finally we decided it was big enough. We had dug a hole about 3 feet deep and about 10 feet by 16 feet across. We all put on our swimsuits, unrolled the garden hose, and carried the hose out to edge of our pool. With great excitement we turned on the water. We learned a lot about mud that day. Our pool just sort of caved in around us as it filled with water. It was a great lesson in learning to deal with disappointment.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006


We drove to West Virginia and back this weekend. The trip was just over 700 miles, most of it on interstate highways. These are very good roads that almost level out the mountains. The curves are easy and well graded. You can usually make very good time driving on the interstate. The only problem is that you miss almost all the interesting things along the way. The quaint towns and historic sites are just a little off the beaten path. This weekend we decided to get off the interstate and see some of those places.

We saw small towns festooned with flags and decorations for Memorial Day. We saw a small village of artisans making beautiful things. We bought some flour from a mill where it had just been ground on the huge stone grinding wheels. We stopped and rested by a pretty creek and enjoyed the sunshine. We admired an old stone bridge that had been built to cross the C and O Canal.

The journey is much more interesting when you slow down a little and look around. Take time to enjoy the journey

Monday, May 29, 2006

Memorial Day

On a cold January evening in 1987 we took our 19-year-old son to the airport for a flight to Europe. He was going for semester of college in Germany. It was a wonderful opportunity for him and he was excited. I already missed him.

On the way home we decided on the spur of the moment to stop and visit the Vietnam Memorial. We had never seen it before. It was midnight. We were the only ones there. It was very cold and our breath froze in the night air. There was the wall – a long dark wall stretching out into the night. It appeared to go on forever. Names covered the wall. The names of those killed in a war far away were etched into the stone. I started reading name after name. One young man had the same name as my son. I started crying. I knew no one whose name was etched there on the wall, and yet I felt like I knew each one of them. These were the children of other mothers and fathers who loved them and cried for their lost children. What a tremendous price we pay for war.

I am thankful for this nation of ours. It is my home. I am thankful for great sacrifices so many have made to fight for this country and for the freedom we enjoy. I pray for peace and for the day when war will be no more.

God bless America.

Sunday, May 28, 2006


Why would anyone drive 350 miles across the Allegany Mountains and just turn around and come back the next day?

“Gramma! You came, you came for my recital!” This youngest grandchild of mine flew down the sidewalk and jumped into my arms, wrapping her arms around my neck. I hold her tight for a long moment.

Of course I came.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Nurses Health Study

I received a certificate in the mail today in recognition of 30 years participation in the Nurses’ Health Study. This is a research effort sponsored by Harvard Medical School and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. For the past 30 years I have answered questionnaires, sent in blood samples, and once even sent an envelope full of my toenail clippings. The study has been one of the biggest, longest lasting studies of women’s health. When it was begun there had been almost no research done using women because women had so many variables. We had these huge hormonal swings each month, we got pregnant and went through menopause. It was easier to just ignore all that variation. I am grateful and proud to have been able to contribute to this study of women’s health. The study has discovered, (I hope you are ready for this big discovery) that women are different than men.

When the study began only married women were asked to participate because it would have been inappropriate to ask single women about the use of birth control pills. Things have changed since then and the study has learned an enormous amount about women’s health. When I die my medical records are to be made available to this study to help understand women’s health

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Two wheeling

It is a beautiful day today. The sun is shining. The sky is blue. There is a pleasant breeze. It is perfect day for riding my bike. It is amazing how different familiar streets look from my bicycle than they do whizzing by in the car. There are flower boxes full of geraniums and rose bushes heavy with blooms. I ride by the house where my friend Ellen used to live. The shutters have been painted a perky purple. I smile thinking that Ellen would approve of these wonderfully purple shutters. I turn onto Keystone and notice the house where I used to stop and get a drink and a friendly hug. The flower box in front of the porch is full of lovely yellow flowers, well weeded. I miss the rocking chairs where I used to sit and visit. I turn and realize that this hill is steeper than I realized and pump hard. Then I coast down a hill and the wind blows through my hair. The little girl that lives inside of this grandma’s body smiles.

It is a perfect day to ride a bike.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

One of the songs we learned this year for the Senior Chorale was “Shadowland,” from the Broadway version of The Lion King. It immediately became a favorite of the entire group. This is a song of longing and reassurance sung by a lioness to her family when it becomes clear that she must leave. The place that has been her home is no longer able to sustain her. There has been a drought and she must leave in order to survive. I think it touched all of us because we all could identify with a time when we had to leave a place we had loved. There was no choice. We had to go. The leaving was still painful and the journey ahead was unknown.

I thought of my spiritual journey. It was so painful to leave the religious tradition that had been my home. That home, though, had become dry and barren. There was no choice but to go and walk into an unknown future. God led my family and me on that journey to a place that has restored our souls. God is good. We have found a place where we can rest and feel at home.

What places have you left? Where has your journey led you?

“The river’s dry, the ground is broken, so I must go, now I must go.

And where the journey may lead me, let your prayers be my guide.

I cannot stay here my family, but I’ll remember my pride.

I have no choice, I will find my way, Le a ha la le la

Prideland, my land, tear stained dry land

And where the journey my lead you, let this prayer be your guide. Though it may take you so far away, always remember your pride.”

Monday, May 22, 2006


My best buddy is Evelyn. We run around together, do silly things, go out for lunch a lot, and try not to act our age. We sing together, pray together, laugh together and travel together. She has accompanied us on several grand adventures. We have visited tattoo parlors in Dunedin, New Zealand, done a little wine tasting in Tasmania, and dug for cockles on a beach in Australia. We rode a New York City cab together and saw our first Broadway play together. Her family is my family, my family is her family. God knew I needed a good friend and sent me Evelyn. I am grateful for this true friend.

Today is Evelyn’s 75th birthday.

Happy Birthday, my friend!

Sunday, May 21, 2006


“Clinquant” is an obsolete French word which means to clink or tinkle, or glittering with gold. Clinquant is also the name of the bell choir in which I am a novice ringer.

For the past 17 years this group has been practicing under the capable, patient training of our director, Jon. This past month we have been getting ready for “Music Sunday,” and our last Sunday with Jon. He is retiring.

We pick up our golden bells with gloved hands and begin our rehearsal. “OK, guys we’ll go thru this once slowly and see how it goes,” says Jon. “Wait a minute, I can’t find my bell glasses.” “Which bells am I playing?” ”My bell is broken.” “We need new gloves.” We have an endless repertoire of excuses for our ill preparedness. Jon is patient, but it’s time to get this piece right. “Bells up. One and two and ready, begin.” We try. We try again. We are improving, but not yet good enough. ‘You guys have to count. Subdivide. Lets clap the rhythm. You have to do something about that page turn.” We try again. Still not right. We practice some more.

Sunday morning comes. Jon steps up to lead us. One, two, ready, begin. A glorious sound fills the sanctuary. Jon smiles. God is glorified. Hallelujah!

Friday, May 19, 2006


“Hey Gramma, you wanna take me to lunch?” The caller was my beautiful 19-year-old granddaughter. Of course I wanted to take her to lunch. I seize every opportunity to be with this almost grown grandchild of mine. She has just finished her sophomore year of college and is about to leave for a month in Europe with her humanities class. She is so excited and is bubbling over with plans and dreams. It is fun to listen to her.

My mind drifts back to another phone call, just over 19 years ago. It was her daddy who could hardly talk with the overflow of emotion. “Sue, I’m a daddy. We have a little girl. I’m in love. She’s beautiful!” He has been wrapped around her little finger ever since.

Being a grandmother is the most wonderful, awesome blessing in the world. I have 8 grandchildren, each of them intelligent, beautiful and far above average. Ashley is the first grandchild, the one who first called me gramma. She is a very special young lady.

Have a great time in Europe, Ashley. Come home with wonderful memories. Thank you for all the wonderful memories of you that fill my heart.

Ashley and her daddy

Thursday, May 18, 2006


I am a volunteer for our local hospice. It is such an honor that people allow me to share such a sacred time in their life.

Today I was asked to go to the hospital and stay with a family as they said goodbye to their father. This father was a well loved 80 year old who had been able to speak with them just this morning. . I am always amazed at the amount of love I see at these moments. His children and grandchildren were at his bedside sharing his final journey.

Last week I stayed with a frail little lady who suffers from dementia. Her husband, who is her main caregiver, needed to see the doctor. When he returned home he went straight to her chair and kissed her and held her hand. He said, ”I’m home, Honey. Did you miss me? It is always so good to come back home to you.” She did not respond. That husband adores this woman who has been his wife for 60 years. Tears came to my eyes at this demonstration of true love.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Front Porch

I may never get to see all the beautiful, interesting places in the world, but I can sit on my front porch and dream about them. I love my front porch. In the morning I sit and drink my coffee and watch the world. I see the neighbors as they come and go and watch children at play. I enjoy the birds that eat from the bird feeder. I watch the azalea turn into a beautiful, intense pink. I try to see how many greens I can see. In the evening my husband joins me there and we talk about our day and about our plans. We talk of places we’ve been and places we’ll go. Sometimes friends join us on our porch and we talk about life. Conversation always seems easier on the front porch.

Sometimes we have great storms here, with wind and lightening and thunder. I like to sit in the safe shelter of my porch and watch as the mighty storms roll by. I feel safe on my front porch.

I hope all of you have a front porch in your life, a place where you can sit and just be.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Places to See

I bought a magazine today that lists the 100 must see destinations in the world. I’ve been to some of them and agree that these are magnificent places that deserve to be on the list. Included on the list of must sees are some of natures most magnificent places and places of great ancient architectural wonder. I’ve seen the Grand Canyon, Yosemite, Denali, and the Statue of Liberty. I’ve even seen the Sydney Harbor, Tasmania, and New Zealand. There are others on the list that are on my list of places to go, but then there are some I’m not so sure about. I’ve never even thought about visiting Guilin, Jigokudani, or Yamdrok Yumtso Lake.

I’m not sure there is any place prettier than the Shenandoah Mountains when they are ablaze with the colors of autumn. There can’t be anything grander than the vastness of the Rocky Mountains. These are not on the list.

This summer we are going to see Niagara Falls and the red rock country of Arizona. These are on my list, but not the list.

What is the most beautiful or awesome place you have been?

What places do want to see before you die?

Monday, May 15, 2006


Today is my 65th birthday. I was honored and celebrated yesterday by my wonderful, loving family. Today 65 just crept in very quietly. This morning I sorted out all my pills for the week. Then I called the doctor and scheduled a physical and a colonoscopy. Most of the day I was at the senior center where I had drawing classes for 5 hours. I tried to draw with a pen and nib – very hard and frustrating. Then I finished my colored pencil rendition of one of Vangough’s oils. That drawing turned out well. After my art classes I decided to go shopping for new clothes. I am much too short my weight. It just seems strange to realize I am a perfect size extra large petite. This evening my beloved took me for a lovely dinner. Coming home we discussed the beauty of the crepuscular rays in the evening sky. It has been a very nice day. If I were CG, I would say I am a Contented Granny.

Sunday, May 14, 2006


My mother’s name was Byrtle. She was my hero. She taught me what it means to love and to be loved. She showed me what God is like by always giving me total, unconditional love. She taught me how to laugh and enjoy life. She taught me how to accept responsibility and discipline. I am who I am because I am Byrtle’s girl.

Saturday, May 13, 2006

Bird watching

I am married to a bird watcher. Today is the day of Maryland spring bird count. That means that I got to spend the day on Gibson Island with other birdwatchers and look for birds. It was a wonderful day. The woods were green and fresh and alive with birds. We saw 36 different varieties. The bright yellow goldfinch, beautiful bluebirds, and red cardinals were abundant. Two regal looking blue herons were standing at the edge of the pond. We saw 6 ospreys. One had a large fish in his talons, which he delivered to the hungry little mouths in his huge nest. An important piece of advice would be to never stand directly under an osprey. It could be very messy. We even saw a bald eagle. He swooped down right over our heads. He was magnificent!

After a morning of bird watching, we went to the club for crab soup and conversation with good friends.

It was a very lovely morning.

Friday, May 12, 2006


While planting flowers today I was overcome with memories of Todd.

Todd is our foster son. He came to live with us when he was 15 years old and stayed for four years until he went off to college and the grown up world. We’ve lost contact with Todd, but the memories remain.

The summer after he graduated from high school, Todd worked for a landscaping company. He was the only non-Hispanic guy on the work crew, and by far the youngest. One night at dinner he said that sometimes lunch was hard because they all teased him about being the little gringo. I asked where all the other guys were from and Todd replied,” I think they’re all from Guacamole, or someplace like that.”

During that summer my beloved husband and I went away for the weekend. When we came home we found our flowerbeds freshly tended and a new little flowerbed next to the driveway. Todd thought we needed some flowers there. He was quite proud of his efforts. I was quite touched by his demonstration of affection.

Today I planted flowers in Todd’s little flowerbed.

Thanks for the sweet memories, Todd.

God bless you with joy.

Thursday, May 11, 2006


Today I went to my watercolor class. We are learning color theory. The assignment was to match the colors in a bouquet of iris and cornflowers.

I began by trying to make a color that matched the stems of the flowers. Obviously that would be green. So a squeezed out a little chrome oxide, a nice mid green. Then I looked again at the stems and saw there was a bit of warm yellow, so mixed in a little new gamboge. I looked at the stem a little longer and noted some touches of blue, so a dab of warm ultramarine was added. I just about had it then, making sure I had the paler and deeper shades of each green.

I’m pretty sure that green is God’s favorite color because there are so many different greens. There is yellow green, blue green, red green, deep green that is almost black, and the bright intense greens of spring. Go outside and notice how many different greens there are. Keep looking because I’m sure you missed one.

I am so thankful for the gift of sight that lets me enjoy the wonderful and varied palette of God’s colorful world.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006


Last night was yoga night. I love yoga. We stretch our muscles and get ourselves into some very uncomfortable positions and then try to relax into the pose. In the process the outside world goes away and it’s just me, “the exalted warrior.” My class is held in the sanctuary of our church. It’s a great place to have yoga, surrounded by symbols of my faith. We tried to get into “Eagle” last night. In this pose you are supposed to fold one arm over the other and raise them up in front of you like folded wings. Then you balance on one foot, squat back, and unfold your wings and soar and swoop downward. It’s a hard pose. While standing there in eagle pose my mind went back to a very dark and difficult time in my life. During that time I kept repeating the verse from Isaiah, ”Those that wait upon the Lord will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles.” The waiting had been hard, but look at me now. God has renewed my strength and here I am soaring like an eagle. God is good. I love yoga.

When are times that you have soared like an eagle?

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Older Lady

I worked in the yard today. It was a beautiful sunny day. I dug holes on my hillside and planted two hydrangeas. They are beautiful. I hope they will live. I pulled weeds till I was too tired to pull more. Then I went to the local hardware store to buy mulch. I wanted eight bags – it’s a big hillside. I got one of those big, flat carts that hardware stores have and went to the mulch display. They had just what I wanted. I went to put a bag on the cart and it didn’t move. I tried again and scooted it about an inch. So I went to the cute young cashier and asked if I could get some help. She smiled sweetly and said, ”Why I’d be delight to help you, Maam. I am always glad to help when folks are no longer hale and hearty. I’d feel bad if I didn’t help an older lady like you.” So she loaded my cart and then my car. I tipped her and said thank you.

I think its time for this older lady go sit on the porch in rocking chair for a while and rest a spell.

Monday, May 08, 2006

The Best Is Yet To Be

Robert Browning said,"Come grow old with me, the best is yet to be, the last of life for which the first was made." I wonder if that is true. The first part of my life has been pretty good.I am hoping it is true because I don't think I have any option about growing old.
I thought I would start this blog and leave a journal of random thoughts for those who come behind me. Hopefully it will be worth reading. Join me on the joutney