Monday, December 31, 2012

This Was Christmas

Today is New Year's Eve and I am still thinking of Christmas. I had a lovely Christmas, beginning with Christmas Eve. I made a dinner that was easy to prepare ahead of time, leaving the main dish simmering in the oven while Chad, Megan, and I went to the Christmas Eve service at church. Anne Marie was still in too much post-surgery discomfort to go out. The service was great--I love Christmas Eve services--and we had a full house.
Megan on Christmas Eve wearing a hat and
scarf she made.

A church project was to take plates of cookies to places around town where people were having to work on the holiday--hospital, hospice, nursing homes, mini-marts, the ambulance (EMS) base, etc. I had signed up to bake some of the cookies, which made a nice project for Megan and me. I don't know how many cookies were donated altogether, but there were a lot. A team prepared individual containers of cookies for the list of places that had been suggested as recipients. After the Christmas Eve service, volunteers took the cookies to assigned locations. I know Chad got a big hug at Hospice when he dropped the cookies off there, and I am sure they were appreciated in all the other places they were delivered.

We came home after cookie delivery to eat our Christmas dinner, joined by friend Gwen. A most satisfying day.

Megan modeling her new Angry Birds
footy pajamas
Christmas day was relaxed and slow, as we did nothing in a hurry. Anne Marie baked a brunch casserole, then she and Chad joined Megan and I upstairs in my house. (My home is the designated site for the Christmas tree and gifts--I have a corner it fits in and I don't have five dogs and two cats!) We had a good time opening gifts. We do it by Stockings first (yes, everybody gets a stocking), then we take turns opening our individual gifts. That way we enjoy seeing what everyone got, with thank-yous along the way. Megan stopped now and again to try on various garments she received!

It was almost 1 p.m. by the time we got to our breakfast/brunch casserole and were hungry enough to really enjoy it! After Birdies went home, I relaxed and played Christmas music. What a lovely day!
Megan slicing the casserole, known in their family as "Breakfast Bricks." She is wearing another Christmas gift--
her Captain America T-shirt.

The only downer to me about Christmas being over is that I wasn't tired of playing my Christmas music yet! So I was tickled yesterday when I looked at the church bulletin and saw that all the hymns for the day were Christmas songs. I love that Christmas wasn't just swept away as soon as December 25 was past.

And, now, I wish you all the best as we move forward into 2013. Whatever it brings, it joys and its difficulties, we will walk through it with the knowledge that Immanuel, God With Us, still lives and is still with us.

Friday, December 21, 2012

The Shortest Day of the Year

Hooray! Today is the shortest day of the year!

Why am I so happy about it. you ask?

Do I, like the ancients, give some special religious significance to it?

Do I like short, dimly-lighted days and long, dark nights?

No, no, no.

I love knowing that for the next six months every day will have a little more sunshine and little less night.

I love the light!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Remembering Mother

My mother, who never wanted to impose on or be a bother to other people, passed from this life quietly and with minimum fuss and bother two years ago. I will always miss her, but realize how blessed I was to have my mother in my life for 69.5 years. I still have those instant impulses to tell her something, ask her something, or show her something. Then, as quickly, comes the realization that I can't.

The Apostle Paul, in his first letter to the Corinthians, trying to explain the reality of resurrection, wrote that our body is "sown in corruption, it is raised in incorruption. It is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory. It is sown in weakness, it is raised in power. It is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body."

By the time of her death, our mother's tall, strong body had become shrunken, weak, and painful. But her spirit never faltered, her personality and mind remained strong. Up until the last day of her life she worked the Cryptoquote and Crossword puzzles in the daily newspaper. She was an avid follower of the news on television. Though she wondered why God had let her live so long, she still looked forward, thought about what she would like planted in her yard, and was making a list of who she thought might be good candidates in the next election. She was working on her Christmas cards up until the last day, and had sent many out. Even though her body was giving out, she lived life and did not just fold her hands and wait to die.

So, though I do not know the form of the spiritual body, I know our mother has one. I know it is strong and glorious as the Scripture promises. I know she is still herself. I know I will see her again.

My personal memories of my mother cover her life from age 25 to almost 95 (well, the first two years of that I "remember" from photos, being in my infancy). I see her in my mind most often in the strength of her prime.

I've started going through my personal photo books and scanning some of the photos with Mother. The old color photos lack a good deal in quality, and some have faded, so I'm doing what I can to save them. Some of them apparently were printed in sub-quality inks and have faded to purple. Those I have changed to black and white. I have a long way to go on this project, but will share some of what I have with you, hoping that you who are family will see some photos you haven't seen before.

Here are a few photos of her life.
Rose and her sister Elsie, 1967
1976-Rose at the Scottsbuff zoo
1976-Rose and Red at Holberts with 40th Anniversary cake (David Holbert in foregraound)

1981-Rose and Red with 45th Anniversary cake

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

He's Coming

On the first Sunday of the Advent season, pieces of purple ribbon were distributed to the congregation at the end of the worship service. They were to serve as reminders of the coming of Jesus. We were asked to use the ribbons in some way that we would be frequently reminded of the Advent.

I tied my ribbon around the knob on one of my kitchen cupboard doors. I am in that area many times a day, so I am reminded many times a day.

When I look at that little piece of ribbon, I say to myself, "Jesus is coming." This phrase reminds me not only of the first advent of Jesus, which we are celebrating in this season, but of an advent promised but which we are still waiting for.

And that reminds me of a little piece of Christian humor  hanging over the worktable in my son-in-law's garage.

Yes, Christians usually have great senses of humor!

Monday, December 17, 2012


I am grateful today. My daughter, Anne Marie, had gall bladder surgery this morning. She is home and doing well. I am still amazed that a gall bladder can be removed and within two hours the patient is sent home! When I was young gall bladder removal would have involved a huge incision and a 10-day stay in the hospital. I am so glad for the improvements in surgical techniques that cause so much less damage to the body and make healing happen so much faster. It is still a big deal, but much easier on the patient than in the past.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Answers to the Christmas Quiz

The craft-set Nativity Scene finished by Megan several years ago.

If anyone reading this has not read yesterday's post, STOP READING.

Now go to yesterday's post and take the quick little quiz there. Then come back here for the answers.

Now, for the answers. The key to understanding the answers is that, as stated yesterday, this is a Bible quiz. Only the things that are clearly stated in the Bible will count as True answers.

1.  False. We all so clearly see in our mind's eye the picture of Mary riding on a donkey. There is no donkey mentioned in the Bible. In fact, Luke 2:4,5 simply says they "went" from Nazareth to Bethlehem. (My guess is they walked, which would probably be more comfortable for a pregnant girl than a donkey ride.)

2.  False.  The manger was Jesus' first bed, but not where he was born. (The Bible doesn't even mention a stable, barn, or cave--just the manger, which is a feed trough for animals.)

3 .False.  Luke 2:9-14. The first angel "said" his message, then a multitude of angels joined him "saying". . . . (Of course there could have been music, but it simply isn't mentioned.)

4.  False.  No date is mentioned in the Bible. In fact, there is no mention in the Bible of early Christians celebrating the birth of Jesus. The closest we can come is from the references to Caesar Augustus in Luke and to Herod the king in Matthew. From known dates of their rules, scholars have estimated the birth of Jesus to have fallen between 7 and 4 B.C. They guess his birth was probably in the spring due to the reference of the shepherds being out with the sheep at night.

5.  False.  All the Bible (in Matthew 2:1) tells us about the wise men is that they came from the East. Three gifts are mentioned, but not the number of wise men. The names come from fiction stories.

6.  False.  The Bible tells us the wise men "came" and they "departed." How they traveled is not stated; could have been camels, or horses, or wagons drawn by some animal, or donkeys, or on foot. But we will always associate the wise men with camels because of all the paintings we have seen with camels. And the wise men and shepherds could not have been together at the manger. The shepherds were sent there by the angel on the day Jesus was born. The wise men traveled from "the east," and by the time they reached Bethlehem Jesus was no longer referred to as a "babe" but as a "young child" and the family was living in a house (Matthew 2:9-11). But, I still put them all in my Nativity set, because it is representational of the whole advent story, not because it is historically accurate!

7.  False.  The little drummer boy is a figment of song and story, but not from the Bible. But we like him anyway!

All of these myths, misunderstandings, and misconceptions are deeply planted in our minds by the popular represetations we have seen and heard all our lives. They are harmless, not damaging to our faith, but it is good to know the reality of the Bible account .

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

A Christmas Pop Quiz

I sometimes use Pop Quizzes in teaching Sunday School. They work surprisingly well on both a fun and an instructional level. With Christmas coming up, last Sunday I used a quiz I have used a few times over the years. Maybe you will enjoy taking it too.

It is a simple True or False Bible quiz.

1.  Mary rode a donkey from Nazareth to Bethlehem.

2.  Jesus was born in a manger.

3.  A band of angels sang a song for the shepherds.

4.  Jesus was born December 25th in the year 0.

5.  There were three wise men, named Melchior, Caspar, and Balthazar.

6.  The wise men left their camels outside and joined the shepherds in the stable to 
     worship the newborn Jesus.
7.  The little drummer boy was crippled.
I'll give you the answers tomorrow. And remember, as I always tell my classes, you can't fail Sunday School!

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Christmas Through the Years

Just a bit of background. My home is located above an oversized three-car garage. The entrance to my home is an enclosed stairway consisting of seventeen steps. The walls and ceiling are painted white, the carpet is light brown. It is really very blah!

For a couple of Christmases my granddaughter and I decorated the stairway with some garland and ornaments. Two years ago I had a new idea. I went through my photo albums and found pictures from Christmases through the years, which I scanned into my computer. I enlarged and printed the photos. Then I took standard letter-size card stock and wrapped sheets of it with a variety of Christmas wrapping paper. I mounted the photos on these and added a loop of ribbon at the top. I used push pins to hang the photos down both sides of the stairway to add some Christmas brightness to that drab space.

After Christmas, I took down the photos and boxed them up until the next year. With the pictures gone, the stairway was once again totally blah.

Last year I again put up the Christmas photos. But after Christmas I just decided to leave them up until I decided what to do to make the stairway more pleasant and welcoming on a permanent basis. So the stairs were ready for Christmas this year, because I haven't yet come up with something better. (But I'm thinking about it!)

Saturday, December 8, 2012

A Cousin I Never Knew

A few days ago our local paper carried an obituary for a young man (38) named Jeremy Sleep. I did not know this young man. I had never met him. But his mother and grandmother were named in the obituary, and I did know them. His mother is my first cousin. Her father and my mother were siblings, but our families lived in different towns. My mother's family had numerous get-togethers over the years, so I knew all my first cousins, though there was not opportunity to become really close to most of them--I had 20 first cousins on that side of the family, plus some second and third cousins that were part of the family gatherings.

Age-wise I fell in the middle of this large group, and I was the only one. There was a group of older cousins, lots of younger cousins, and me in the middle. So I took on the role of watching over and entertaining the younger group. Some, though, were so much younger that I did not get to know them well before I grew up and left home. My cousin Doris, Jeremy's mother, was one of this younger group. It has been years since I have seen her, but, nonetheless, feel very saddened by her loss.

The photo in the obituary paints very clearly for me the kinship of family. The young man bears a very strong resemblance to his maternal grandfather, my uncle, and to my grandmother, his great-grandmother.

While I cannot grieve for young Jeremy as I would if I actually knew him, yet I know his family is grieving terribly. I feel sorrow for them. Such a loss is more than words can express.

It is not possible to keep up with and have close personal ties to all of a family that has spread out as large as the descendants of my grandparents has. But I look at the little photo in the newspaper and I feel the pull of that genetic tie--I see family in his face.

There is another thing that increases the sense of poignancy to me. I, too, have a son named Jeremy, who is 39 years old.

Although I never knew their Jeremy, I am so sad for his family.

Friday, December 7, 2012

Getting in the Mood for Christmas

As December approached I realized that my head was not at all in the Christmas season. It was just coming too fast! How could it be the holiday season already?

Thanksgiving came, and was a lovely day. OK, I was starting to feel the season a tiny bit.
2004--Megan with the Nativity mural she made for our house.

When I had young children, it was impossible to miss the anticipation and excitement of Christmas. Now, I sometimes need a little help. So, I made a plan of sorts to get me in the proper mood for Christmas. I did not want to be dragged kicking and whining into seasonal preparations. I did not want to miss the Spirit of it all. I did not want the blahs to own the day!

My plan was simple. I'd listen to Christmas music, which I have always loved and of which I have a fair collection. I would watch lots of those sweet and silly Christmas movies that proliferate each year (I've already seen several take-offs on Dickens' Christmas Carol). I'd bravely dive into gift buying, even though I hadn't a clue as to what to get for most of my list.

And you know what? It is beginning to feel more and more like Christmas. The tree is up, the gifts I ordered have begun to arrive, and, yes, I am still watching sappy movies. They make me feel good, even though those New York and Hollywood writers haven't the faintest notion what life is really like in a small town. I wonder if any of them have ever lived in a small town! Perhaps their versions of small town life is just what we would all wish it were like. Even so, they put me in a much better mood than the news shows I usually watch and which are definitely not full of holiday cheer. I don't deny reality--but there is more to reality than just the grim stuff. And right now, I am choosing to escape to the bright side!

Tonight I will get our old Nativity Scene figures down from the top of the closet and put them out. It won't be Christmas without them!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Lovely Lady at 95

My mother-in-law turned 95 years old this year. Her children wanted to celebrate the occasion, but could not all get together on September 6 (her son, Bud, lives in Washington state).

Emma Brisendine Russell Wales
So they had three separate celebrations! The first was in July when Bud and his wife, Karen, could come to Colorado. What family could do so gathered together at that time and had an early birthday party.

The second celebration was held on her actual birthday at the care facility where she now lives.

The third celebration was held on September 9 at the apartment complex where she lived until recently, so she could be with her friends there, and friends from the area and her church came to the reception and had such a good time that it ran much longer than the scheduled time!

It seems to me that attaining the age of 95 is definitely worth three celebrations. In addition to these events, her daughters planned a card shower for her. She received over 70 cards from friends and family. We are scattered over many states, and most of us could not visit her in person, so the card shower was a great idea for letting her know that she is remembered and loved by so many people whose lives she has touched.

My sister-in-law, Jeannie, recently sent me photos of the occasions.

We should all look so good at 95!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

What You Can Put In A Shoebox

This morning I am listening to wonderful Christmas music by Mannheim Steamroller, a long-time favorite of mine. While my Christmas spirit grows, I can report that I have at least half my Christmas shopping done.

My first gift completed was for the Shoebox program that many churches in our town participate in. In this program you choose to shop for a boy or girl within a specific age range. You fill a shoebox (or special shoebox-sized boxes that are supplied) with as many gifts as you can stuff in. The gifts are shipped to a central location, where they are distributed in many locations around the world and in the U.S. It is amazing how much can be crammed into a shoebox! The project recommends providing both practical and fun elements in the box. It is fun to shop for the shoebox, even though you don't know where it will go or who will receive it. I chose to shop for a girl in the 10-14 year age range. Here's what I managed to cram into one shoebox:
     a tee shirt
     four pairs of colorful socks
     four pairs of cotton colorful panties
     a package of ballpoint pens
     a package of mechanical pencils
     a package of colored pencils
     a small soft-cover diary-sized blank book
     a pad of unlined writing/drawing paper
     a 2-pack of glue sticks
     a sewing kit with needles and a variety of small spools of thread
     a package of Juicy Fruit gum
     a pack of candy of a type that doesn't melt
     a small paperback copy of the Gospel of John

Churches in our smalll town packed 1,458 shoeboxes, exceeding the goal set at the beginning of the project! These gifts are a witness of the love of God, the birth of Christ, and Christian sharing wherever they go in the world. We will never know what effect these gifts of love will have. We trust that God will see them to the right recipient. We rejoice that we are able to be part of this great project. I am in awe of the people who conceived the idea, did the hard work of organizing it, collecting the gifts, and shipping and distributing them. It is a massive undertaking that I am sure grows each year.

God is not outmoded. Christ is still alive. Christian people are still doing what govenments can't. Unselfish love and caring still bloom in the human heart.

Christmas reminds us of this each year.

Monday, December 3, 2012

It Was a Great Day

Occasionally a day comes along where everything just fits together in a way most satisfying mentally, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. Yesterday was such a day.

I don't mean that outwardly it would appear to anyone else that I was having a special day. It looked like any other Sunday. Went to church, came home, had lunch, spent time with my granddaughter; nice, but ordinary. However, to me, it was more than that.

I know it is not possible to really convey the emotional and spiritual impact of any event--these are highly personal and individual responses. But everything at church yesterday just clicked together for a most satisfying whole. On the first Sunday of each month we have a breakfast with a devotional from the pastor in what is usually the Sunday School hour. Good company, good food, and a good talk on the Vine and Branches from the Gospel of John.

After the breakfast I went upstairs to the sanctuary, which was practically empty, as it was still twenty minutes or so before the worship service was to begin. The foyer and sanctuary had been decorated for Christmas. It was quiet and so beautiful! As people began to come in and take seats, a family sat down in the row behind me. I turned around to say hello, and met a lovely lady I had a nice visit with. She is quite elderly (which means she might be a few years older than me!), with white hair and a sweet face and expression you would imagine for Mrs. Santa Claus. I found out she had been writing devotions for The Secret Place devotional magazine for twenty years, and before that for another publication. I had just picked up this quarter's devotional, but she told me none of her pieces were in it. But from now on I'll be looking for her name. Because of health problems she doesn't get to church very often, but my day was enriched by meeting her.

The music was so good, and we got to sing Christmas songs. Usually we just have the piano, which I love. The church has a baby grand which sounds so good it soothes my soul. Yesterday the piano was accompanied by a violin and guitars, and there was a new sound system that improved greatly over the old and glitchy one. The band sang, the congregation sang, the instruments added depth to the music; the advent candle was lit after a short, appropriate reading, the sermon about what the discovery of Mary's pregnancy would have meant from Joseph's perspective and how it would have affected them in their society was thoughtful and interesting.

Sometimes going to church becomes a duty thing; it feels like you have done the very same experience a thousand times and the mind wanders all over the place. Yesterday everything felt fresh and new and revitalizing for me. A special time.

After I got home I was planning to have a simple lunch of soup, homemade bread, and a glass of milk. I had my soup bowl out, and was starting to pick up the soup can to open it, when my door burst open and my granddaughter cried out, "Don't cook anything for lunch!" She had been to the store with her dad and came back with a frozen pizza and cheese sticks and wanted to share lunch with me. So that is what we did.

After lunch Megan and I decorated the Christmas tree and living room together. This has become our annual tradition. Later, while Megan worked on a new jigsaw puzzle I read aloud from the book we are now working on.

A sweet and satisfying day.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Christmas is Coming!

I ordered my first Christmas gift yesterday. Last year by this time I had finished my shopping! (Though, I must admit, most years I am still looking for last minute gifts on Christmas Eve.) Somehow, this year my brain feels absolutely barren of ideas. I love to give Christmas gifts--the hard part is choosing them.

2011 -- Megan arranging the gifts. My camera was accidentally on the wrong setting
so I got some interesting motion effects.
This weekend my granddaughter and I will be putting up the Christmas tree. Maybe making the house a bit Christmas festive will inspire me, unlock my brain, and send me on a shopping spree. I certainly hope so. Nowadays I do most of my shopping via computer, which certainly de-stresses the process. I've never been a shopping fan; I start out enjoying looking at things, but in about ten minutes I just want out of there!

In trying to develop a sense of Christmas, I've been watching a lot of the sappy Hallmark Christmas movies, and now I have Christmas music playing.

You know what? I think it is starting to work. I may not have any good gift ideas yet, but I feel a stirring of Christmas Spirit!

By the time I prepare a few Christmas-themed Sunday School classes I think I'll be ready, both to appreciate the real meaning of Christmas and to enjoy the shopping, family time, gift giving, memory making, sharing, and celebrating. And then there is the Christmas Eve church service, which always is a special sweet, quiet, worshipful time. Hey, I might even bake some Christmas cookies with my granddaughter!

And I have a confession. I do like a good fruitcake! There, I said it.

Christmas is coming! Hooray!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Electronic Glitch; or, Why I Didn't Get Much Done

As I mentioned in a previous post, here, I've been listening to the book about George Washington on my Kindle Fire with the Audible app. This book takes 42 hours to listen to. My plan is to listen when I am doing something that requires hands but not brains, so I can concentrate on the book while getting something else, like folding laundry, done.

Yesterday I started listening while eating my breakfast. When I was ready to move on to something else, I tried to turn off the book and the Kindle. Oops! The Kindle goes into power saving mode while a recording is playing; the screen goes blank, but the recording still plays. The Kindle Fire has only one button on it, the On/Off power button. Everything else is touchscreen. To bring the picture back and manage the Fire, you tap the power button.

Well, I tapped. I pushed. I held it down. A lot. And the picture never came back. With a blank screen, you cannot do anything. So the narrator kept talking. I didn't want to just walk away and leave him talking while I was missing a lot of the book. That would mean that if I ever got the Fire working properly again I'd have to try to find where I last listened--not so easy on such a long book.

When electronic gadgets develop a glitch, the cure is often to turn it off, then turn it back on and it resets itself. But I couldn't turn the Fire off. My solution? Well, the battery had to run down eventually--automatic off!

I really didn't have anything terribly pressing to do, so I just kept listening. I printed out some photos, started some laundry, and played a lot of computer solitaire. I also was very drawn into the account of the early phases of the Revolutionary War. Then, in the middle of the story of the horrible winter in Valley Forge, which was helping me understand why it was so bad, the battery finally ran down. The Fire turned off. I recharged it and, sure enough, it now works fine.

What caused the problem? I have no idea. As far as I am concerned all electronic things work by magic anyway! And, now, it is magically working properly again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Moon over Wyoming

I seem to have finished sleeping very early this morning. Since I wasn't sleeping I got up and looked out my window to see what the weather was doing. This is what I saw:

Misty Moon (and Venus) over the city.

It's still dark at 4:42 A.M.  I'm glad I looked out.

(I notice that the Blogger dater seems to be in a different time zone. I am posting this a few minutes ater 5--not 4 A.M.)

Monday, November 26, 2012


The calendar may say it's Fall, but this is what we woke up to this morning:

Winter Wonderland

It rained gently through Saturday night and through Sunday we had a misty moistness with occasional flurries of snow. It was wonderful for this dry country. Now the snow will help seal in the moisture. The snow may not last very long, but it is a beautiful blessing for now.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Our Nontraditional Traditional Thanksgiving

Turkey has become such a part of the Thanksgiving tradition that many people refer to the holiday as simply "Turkey Day." I understand why that is, but it makes me a little sad. Just as Christ's birth has, to many people, been lost as the meaning of Christmas, is giving thanks for our many blessings being lost from Thanksgiving?

Hmmm. I did not intend to start out with a sermon! I just meant to tell you that the traditional turkey was missing from our family's Thanksgiving this year. My daughter has written about this in her blog here. So I'll just add my two cents' worth.

Family and our friend Gwen gathered around the Thanksgiving table.
My son-in-law's parents were part of our celebration and we really enjoyed having them with us.
In keeping with tradition we gathered together, family and friends, for a meal and remembering how blessed we are. We had pumpkin, apple, and pecan pie for dessert, as well as cherry crisp.

Nontraditionally, we had lasagna for the main dish. We thoroughly enjoyed the change!

While I like turkey, dressing, and all that goes with it, it was a relief to simplify things. Anne Marie and I divided the meal; the lasagna and cherry dessert fell to her. I did the pies (mostly by baking ready made pies), the veggie plate (again, I bought the veggies already cleaned and cut up), and the fresh bread (gotta love that bread machine). As you see, the "real" cooking was done by Anne Marie. We gathered in my home for the meal--it works better because I have a little more table space and I don't have five dogs! The cleanup was also simpler than in years past. While certainly there was some, it was considerably reduced in volume and most of the dishes went right into the dishwasher.

It was a great meal, good company, and low stress. Perfect!

And I am thankful.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Puzzle Time

Granddaughter Megan is a jigsaw puzzle whiz. Winter has become our puzzle time. When we first decided to put together a puzzle, a few winters ago, we put the puzzle on the coffee table. Then, after several puzzles, I got a puzzle board that is made so that it can be closed up and stored with a puzzle in progress so that the table did not have to be out of commission for other uses. Now, we have moved up to a puzzle table. When we don't have a puzzle in progress, the table folds up flat and fits neatly under my bed.
The Champion Puzzler

The weekend before this one just past, Megan fetched out the puzzle table. We had one new puzzle from last Christmas that we had not yet done (we had several new ones last Christmas), so that was first on the table. We also have a new puzzle from our Yellowstone vacation (Kissing Moose) that will be up next.

While we both work on the puzzles, Megan is much better and faster at jigsaw puzzling than I am!

(In case you wonder why there is a spatula on the puzzle table, it is because the texture on the table holds the pieces where you put them. And when a section needs adjusted, the spatula is just the thing to keep the pieces together.)

Finished--From Sea to Shining Sea

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Just Because It Amuses Me

This picture was taken during the The Great Dinosaur Hunt.  I just think it is funny. Megan looks all long legs, like some kind of mechanical spider! (Forgive me, grandaughter dear!)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Another Kind of Country Club

Country Clubs have come to imply an exclusive, members-only place for the elite to gather, dine, socialize, golf, etc.

This is not about that kind of Country Club.

My grandparents lived 60 miles from the nearest town. Their nearest neighbors in the ranching/farming region were three miles away. It was quite an isolated life for the families living miles apart in the area. At some time, the women organized a club to provide some social life. It was called the Teckla Ladies Club, since that was known as the Teckla community, named after Teckla Putnam, the postmistress. You can read a little more about that here. I believe the club met once a quarter, though I am relying on a child's memory for that.

Some of the people gathered for the Teckla Ladies Cub c. 1944. The two little girls in the matching dresses are my sisters, Terry and Grace. I am the little girl in my grandmother's arms in the center of the group. The dog is our Boston terrier, Popeye. Teckla Putnam is the white-haired lady in the back row; her grandchildren, Forest and Lois, are in front of her.
One of the Club meetings my family attended took place during the time my mother was teaching the Teckla School. There were a few times when we happened to be visiting my grandparents at club meeting time. Club day was a big deal. The women cooked their favorite company dishes and brought them to whichever home was hosting. What a feast! Although it was called the Ladies Club, the whole family came. The men visited together. The children ran and played and waited impatiently for the great food they knew was coming. The women cooked and served the feast, then cleaned up, with lots of visiting as they did the work. It seems a little unfair that it was their club, but they were doing all the work! However, work shared becomes a social event in itself. I think there was sharing or working on fancy work, needle work, and such projects amongst the women. I am a little vague on this, because I was one of the kids running around playing and not paying any attention to what the "boring" adults were doing.

The children at the 1944 club meeting.

This photo is from a later club meeting; probably 1949 or '50. The girls present are standing beside my grandparents' sheepherder's wagon--the old time version of a mobile home. Shown are: Michelle, Grace, JoAnn, Lois, Terry.
Club Day was a great day in that isolated community!

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Visit to the Vampire

Well, OK, it wasn't really a vampire--just a phlebotomist. I had to go in today to have blood drawn to check my funky thyroid's function once again. I've been feeling all right, so hope the results are such that the doctor doesn't want me to go back on synthroid. I did NOT feel good on that stuff. On the other hand, humans cannot live without thyroid hormones, so if I have to take it I will. I'm just hoping I don't have to.

I have nothing but praise for the skill of the phlebotomist--quick, easy, painless. But having this procedure again reminded me of the first time I had to have it done. I was in my early twenties and not fond of needles. The idea of having a hollow needle stuck in my vein and pulling out a vial of blood scared me. I was sure it would be very painful. I worried and fretted until the time I was scheduled to have it done.

I must admit it was rather anticlimactic (though pleasantly so). It did not hurt. It was over quickly. I did not miss the blood they took.

I have had many, many blood draws since then. Only about two times has it hurt, when a less experienced tech missed the vein and fished around under the skin for it. I even used to be a blood donor, but had to stop when my blood pressure began to be so high that they wouldn't accept me as a donor any more.

Today's blood draw took maybe a minute or two all told. The only time-consuming part of it was the check-in routine at the hospital. Now I wait for my doctor to notify me of the results.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

George and Martha

Quite some time ago I came across a review of the book Washington: A Life by Ron Chernow. I was interested, so ordered the book. The book arrived, all 817 narrative pages of it (plus many more pages of notes and references). I started reading the book, but soon gave up--not because it is dull. To the contrary, I was finding it very interesting. The probelem, for me is that it is 817 pages of very fine print. As I have mentioned previously, I have certain vision challenges. Because of that, reading this book was very difficult for me.

I should have ordered it in Kindle format, where I can control print size. I ordered the actual book, because I knew it had pages of illlustrations (photos of paintings of many of the important people of the time) and the illustrtions would not be good on my Kindle. (I do now have a Kindle Fire which does better on photos, etc., but the Fire had not come out yet when I ordered this book.)

Recently, I subscribed to One day I thought about my unread book about Washington and checked in Audible to see if they had it. To my delight, they did. So now I am working on listening to the book, which is very well read--and I can flip to the illustrations section in the actual book when someone's name comes up. The recording is almost 42 hours long, so I'll be working on it for quite a while!

Today a name came up of a person who is not in the book's illustrations, and I turned to the internet to see what I could find. Well, I found him and that led to looking up others. Soon I was reading an article about Martha Washington. There was a picture of her as a young woman that had been made with facial age regression software. It is the same technique used to age photos of missing children, only doing a regression. She was quite a lovely young woman. Records still exist of orders she placed for clothing. From them we know she was barely five feet tall and very slender in her youth. The idea of George marrying an older, stout, widow for her money is one conjured up much later (though she definitely was a wealthy widow). Martha and George were both 27 when they wed, though she was eight months older than George.

Thinking about George and Martha Washington reminded me of another George and Martha.  Many years ago my parents had a pair of geese that they named George and Martha. They got a lot of enjoyment out of watching those two. My parents' backyard was fenced and sheltered on two sides by thick poplars and on one side by the house. On only one side, by an alley, could anyone easily see though the fence into the backyard. Alas, some busybody, who could in no way have been bothered by George and Martha, reported to the city that my parents were harboring illegal livestock in the city. They were forced to find another home for their geese.

It's sort of ironic that the geese had to go--today deer frequently can be seen in that yard. All around town yards are visited by squirrels, rabbits, skunks, deer, and antelope. But George and Martha were illegal immigrants!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Civic Duty

Well, I've done it. My daughter and I just returned home from voting.

I feel this is a very important election. I have tried to be informed about the issues and the candidates. I have cast my votes for what I truly believe will be in the best interests of our beloved country and all its citizens. I also know that there are good citizens of this country who have voted exactly opposite of the way I voted today. Soon we will know who will be governing.

May God bless and help the United States of America.

Friday, November 2, 2012

A C+ Day

I woke up at 4:30 this morning, for the usual reason people in my age group are up in the night. I came back to bed hoping that I could go back to sleep, but knowing that at that time of morning it was not likely.

However, I did fall asleep again. And, as I was in that early stage where dreams begin but the brain still works a bit on the conscious level, I saw a peculiar thing. Drifting past my mind's eye was a book. The dust cover was bright yellow. The title was printed in large letters, in an uneven line with the letters tilting this way and that. And the title was:

I'm Having a C+ Day

The dream picture drifted off, but I was so struck by it that I ordered my brain to remember it. Surprisingly enough, I did still remember it when I awoke more than two hours later.

I think that most days in our lives are C+ days. After all, we learned in school that a C stood for average. And most of life is fairly average and routine. It has to be--how would we get anything done otherwise? There is comfort in these average days, a dependability that we count on.

If we were to draw a line graph of life, the line would run along rather evenly with just an occasional bump or dip. But then there would be those spots where the line soared up or plunged down. We love those soaring moments, the high spots in life that thrill and gratify us. We eagerly look forward to those times. The plunging spots, however, are life's struggles, hardships, and griefs. They are our moments of despair that we never want to experience, and, having experienced them, never want to go back to. Even after those dreadful plunges, the graph line gradually moves back the the center--the C+ days.

I never wanted to see a C on any school paper or report card. I considered anything below an A a personal failure. 

But in life I am happy to have a C+ day!

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Store It or Toss It

Three years or so ago I decided I needed to organize the excess stuff in my closet. I have limited storage space and the closet was really crammed. I went online and ordered a set of Space Bags. Guess what--they were having a two for one sale and I ended up with two sets of these vacuum packing bags.

After the bags arrived, I took myself in hand and decided that rather than storing a lot of stuff, I just needed to get rid of it. So I used the "have you worn it in the last year" rule and filled two or three big trash bags. The good stuff went to Good Will in Billings when my daughter and I were there. The less than great stuff went in the trash. Hooray! Closet space.

So, the Space Bag storage sets became, themselves, stored.

But, as you know, stuff accumulates. This time my problem was the stuff that was crammed onto the closet shelf and on the closet floor. Most of it is not stuff to discard, but stuff used only some of the time. Yesterday, having switched my bedding from summer to winter set, I decided to unearth the Space Bags and save some space in the closet.

Those three bags stacked on my bed contain the summer comforter, sheets, pillowcases, shams, throw pillows, and two quilts which are used sometimes, but infrequently. All of this now takes up less than one-third the space they previously used.

Hmmmmm--what else can I vacuum pack? 

Wednesday, October 31, 2012


I am simply stunned by the level of destruction caused by the Sandy superstorm. It is not possible to really process the level of devastation from wind, waves, floods, fire, and snow across a huge swath of the continent. And it is still going--somewhat diminished, but still a dangerous storm.

My son lives in Rhode Island. He reports that people on the coast lost houses to the storm surge, but where he and his wife live there was wind, a little rain, and a 90-minute power outage. By the next morning they had sunshine. I am grateful that they got off so easy, but can only imagine what those who were not so fortunate are going through.

Eleven years ago my daughter's family lost their home and everything in it to fire. It was traumatic, and the emotional effects lasted a long time. So to see whole neighborhoods wiped out by fire and flood is to know that same kind of emotional trauma is now afflicting thousands of Americans.

I am speechless.

Monday, October 29, 2012

Nesting in the Fort

One of the joys of grandparenting is being able to recall the fun of being a kid and remembering what it was like to be able to turn the imagination free.

My granddaughter is a teenager now, but she has not lost the ability to enjoy imaginary play. And she has always loved to build nests for sleeping. She will surround herself in her bed with stuffed animals and pillows, burrowing in for a cozy sleep.

This weekend she tossed a few pillows on the floor to lie on while watching a movie on TV. Then she needed a blanket. Then the nest began to grow, and finally took on the shape of a fort. It involved pillows, couch cushions, a low floor chair turned on its side, a comforter for the roof, and the area between a recliner, the sofa, and the coffee table.

Having created her fort, or cave, she chose to sleep there Saturday night, amidst all the spare pillows inside it.

I can remember creating forts or tents for play as a child, and, when I was a teenager, creating them for games to entertain my younger sisters and brother. It was a lot of fun!

Of course, eventually the fort must go back to being sofa cushions, bed and throw pillows, chairs, and such. It isn't nearly as much fun restoring the house to normal conditions as it is to build the fort! However, Megan did a good job of putting things back in order as the weekend came to an end.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Great Dinosaur Hunt

There's no telling where a dinosaur might be found. If you are three years old your Great-grandmother's spacious backyard seems like a good place to search.

Yesterday my sister Grace had a gathering of various family members, both from here and from out-of-town.  Little Cordelia wanted to play outdoors. The two teenagers present, Steven and Megan, kindly took her out to the backyard, where the Great Dinosaur Hunt took place. The two 15-year-olds and the three-year-old are cousins of various degrees. As they set about their adventure, it was a treat to see the teens letting their imaginations loose to play with their little cousin. At one point Steven slipped away and hid behind the playhouse, roaring like a dinosaur. Then he ran back around, caught up with Megan and Cordelia, saying, "I think it came from over there!"

On the hunt.
Aha! A turtle-dino!

Steven took his trumpet on the dinosaur search.

Some leaf hunting also took place--Cordelia brought a huge cottonwood leaf inside to her mother.

Although no big dinos were found, a good time was had by all!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Generation Passing

Tom Brokaw called them "The Greatest Generation." They grew up during the Great Depression and came of age just in time to face World War II. The young men fought in Europe and across the Pacific. The women filled the labor gap at home, kept families going, and joined the armed services as support personnel, nurses, and pilots who delivered planes to the war zones. So many died in the war. The survivors came home, went to college, built businesses, worked hard, raised families, and tried to give their children easier lives than they had had themselves.

The recent death of our uncle Leonard, who passed just a few days before his 92nd birthday, has me thinking about the greatest generation members of my family. Only two remain--two dear aunts, both in their 90s.

In our family we had members (both blood relatives and by-marriage relatives) in every branch of the military. Uncle Joseph Philip Mackey--Navy; Uncle William Boyce Mackey--SeaBees; Aunt Cornelia Elizabeth Mackey--Army Nurse; Uncle Leonard R. Sauble--Army Air Force; Father A.G. McLaughlin--Army; Uncle Lee Tyrrell--Marines.

Those left at home kept things going, raising families, teaching school, ranching and farming (providing meat, wool, and farm commodities), and sending love and encouragement to those in the military. Our family was one of the lucky ones--friends were lost, but all our family members survived the war.

Here are some of our Greatest Generation.

C. Elizabeth (Bess)  Mackey Sauble and Leonard Sauble

Willaim Boyce Mackey, with very young Me

A.G. "Red" Mclaughlin, Rose McLaughlin,
Elsie Tyrrell and Lee Tyrrell

Joe Mackey with his sisters and mother. The way his sisters all are touching Joe
tells me  that they are very aware of the dangers he would be going back to. Joe
was on a ship in the Pacific that was sunk by the Japanese. Though he spent some
time in the water, he was rescued and continued to serve throughout the war. He
stayed in the Navy for about 30 years.
As the generations that were my grandparents, parents, aunts, and uncles pass on, I realize that my sisters and I are now the elder generation. We have lived through many turbulent times, but nothing on the scale of the Great Depression and World War II. We have seen huge social changes in our country; some of these are very much for the good and should be celebrated, others seem to be undermining the moral and ethical fiber of our nation. What will our generation leave behind us?

Saturday, October 13, 2012


Patience is a virtue,
Develop it if you can;
Found seldom in a woman,
And never in a man!

I picked this little jingle up from somewhere when I was a teen and it has stuck in my mind all these years. It could be seen as politically incorrect and sexist ("never in a man"). It can be seen as amusing.

And it must be said that there is a good deal of truth in it. Patience is a virtue. It is hard enough to develop that we might, in fairness, regard it as a virtue seldom completely possessed by either men or women.

The lesson I am to lead in the adult class at church this Sunday is looking at the "fruit of the spirit" Patience.

It would be lovely if we could develop the characteristic and have it forever a part of ourselves. However, my experience is that patience, like the other virtues, must be constantly practiced. The very moment I feel that I have successfully tamed my impatient spirit, that patience is now an essential part of myself, something will happen that brings out that quick flash of impatience faster than thought, faster than my control.

So, it takes continuing conscious effort to incorporate patience into my character, so that it becomes so ingrained that I don't have to consciously think about how to respond to a situation that would naturally bring out impatience. This seems contradictory. But it is true.

Practice makes perfect, we have been taught. When it comes to a virtue like Patience, practice makes me better--I haven't reached perfect yet!

By the way, have you ever prayed for God's help in developing patience?

Now I don't want to scare you away from working on the development of this virtue, but, if you expect God to miraculously relieve you of your impatience, you are in for a surprise.

He will answer your prayer.

He will answer by giving you a multitude of opportunities to practice your self-control for the development of patience!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fall Cleanup

Today I went out to the deck, armed with a big, black plastic yard bag, ready to start cleaning out my many flower pots.

Frosty morning--10-5-12. After a few days like this, I was sure everything was dead.
The recent days of sub-freezing nights, with some snow, had done damage to my potted plants, but, amazingly, not all had been killed. The tomato, geraniums and marigolds were dead. But petunias are more hardy. They were nipped here and there, but most stilled lived, as did the fluffy, white, draping plant I've forgotten the name of.

The flowers that remain are rather scraggly, the deck is messy with falling leaves and debris from the flowers, but it pleases me to see this bit of color still living outside my windows.

Wishing to keep some of summer's green for as long as possible, I cleaned out the dead and heavily damaged pots. I pruned back the living pots to remove scraggly stuff and frost-bitten parts. I completely filled the big trash bag. But I saved enough that I don't have to look out at winter-barren pots just yet.

There will be more fall cleanup to come, but I am happy with today's project.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Last Friday was Homecoming for our High School. It was a chilly cloudy day for the big parade down Main Street. It was a cold and snowy night for the football game (our team won). I went to the parade; not the game.

Here comes the band.

Anyway, it got me to thinking about Homecoming. It seemed such a strange tradition to me. Parades, ball games, a "Royal Court," a dance--how did this tradition start and what did it mean? So, of course, I went to Wikipedia. I learned that the tradition had its start in 1911. Kansas and Missouri had a big college football rivalry. A change was made in the location where their big game was to be held. "To renew excitement in the rivalry, ensure adequate attendance at the new location, and celebrate the first meeting of the two teams on the Mizzou campus in Columbia, Missouri, Mizzou Athletic Director Chester Brewer invited all alumni to "come home" for the game in 1911." (Wikipedia)

Megan wasn't issued a hat this year, since her leg
injury consigned her to the "Pit."
So there you have it. From that beginning the tradition grew. Many, many years ago someone tried to explain the meaning of Homecoming to me as the team coming home for a game after an away game. However, since this happens more than once during a season, it didn't make much sense to me. What was the big deal about that? "Homecoming" meaning a celebration to invite alumni and former residents to attend a big game makes much more sense. But, as happens to traditions, the original meaning and purpose can be lost. The tradition continues and develops new twists. Nobody knows what it means, but everyone has fun with it!

My granddaughter, Megan, was marching with the band in the Homecoming Parade, which is what got me out of the house that chilly day. It was a big deal because it was the only time she got to march with the band this year. Her stress-fractured leg is finally healing. The doctor said it was OK for her to walk on it--just no running, jumping, or carrying heavy objects yet. It's too late for her to get back in the marching band for the competitions (she plays the xylophone in the "pit" instead). And she couldn't carry or play a bass drum in the parade (which was supposed to be her instrument this year), but she could carry cymbals and march with the band. This was a big goal for her ever since her leg injury grounded her from marching.

So, cold and wind and the fact that she was not feeling well that day could not keep her from being really excited and marching with the band in the Homecoming Parade!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Sad and SAD

Today my niece Sue wrote in her blog here, "Autumn breaks my heart... ...because it is over all too soon."

I certainly agree with her. I feel sad because of the death of summer's rich beauty. I feel sad that the loveliness of fall is so very brief. I feel sad that the daylight hours are growing shorter and shorter. I feel sad that it will be a minimum of seven months before the life of spring returns. 

Winter has its own beauty, but I tend to experience a degree of SAD, that (for me) seasonal low underlying degree of depression that develops as the days grow shorter and darker, with the sun moving so far south that even at noontime the light is diffuse. After the shortest day of the year passes in December, and the sun begins its journey north, the days begin to be incrementally longer and brighter and I begin to feel better and better.

Now that I've cheered everyone up, here are a couple of photos that illustrate how quickly the weather can turn.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012--80 degrees F.

Friday, October 5, 2012--temperature in the 30s
I took the snow picture through the window at about 7:30 a.m. The snow is mostly melted now, and some of the flowers are still alive, but temperatures in the low 20s F. are predicted for tonight. I doubt that anything will survive that. On many years we've had flowers blooming until Halloween--I love that--but it is not to be for this year.

Now, I will say that despite my whining I am glad of the moisture. It has been such a dreadfully dry year, with so many grass and forest fires, that I will not regret the snow. And, though I do not tolerate cold very well anymore, I hope that we have lots of good wet snow this winter (but please wait till the leaves are off the trees to prevent breakage). 

Talking about the weather is joked about as the filler we use when we don't know what else to talk about. But the weather affects so many aspects of our lives that its fascination will always stay with us and we will always talk about it!