Monday, October 31, 2011

November - A Month of Thanks

You know that I believe there is always, always something to be thankful for.  Most days, that's an easy one for me -- I'm a pretty blessed girl, and thankfulness doesn't take too much effort.

Some days, however, like today, it's tougher.
When things don't go quite right.
When loved ones are suffering.
When it's hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel.

But I know that light is there.  I know suffering ends.  I know things can and will be better.

So with that in mind, I'm going to try to blog something I'm thankful for each day in November.  OK, it's true that I am very bad at blogging every day, but I'm thankful that my friends understand that about me.


Thursday, October 20, 2011

This and That

 - Tuesday, during my little band's "set" at the Lutheran Home, my friend Susie brought me this card on the left.  How did she know it was just what I needed?

- In my last post, I referred to Chuck (Korean War veteran, candy maker, book writer and all around fantastic person) as a hero.  When we met yesterday, he asked me to remove the word "hero" from a sentence I had written.  I'll take it out of his book, but I'm not removing it from my post.  He masterminded (he'd hate that word, too) an escape from a North Korean prison camp and saved 36 men's lives.  Sorry buddy, that qualifies as a Hero on this blog.

 - This writing thing is playing havoc with my housekeeping skills.  OK, so I know I don't really have any housekeeping skills, but I've washed the same load of towels 3 days in a row because I keep forgetting to put them in the dryer.

- Writing's also playing havoc with my dog care skills.  I was hard at work the other night, and when eyelids tried to slam shut, I realized it was 1:00 AM and I hadn't let Zoe out.  She really had to go and launched herself off the front porch, but an abandoned cat who's been hanging around was annoying her, and she kept prancing farther and farther into the misty darkness to get away from him.  I called but she didn't come back -- I went inside for shoes and an umbrella, and called and searched all over the yard, but no sign of her.  I went in to wake up Will and tell him I was going to drive around the neighborhood to find her, and as we were headed out the door, up she bounced back onto the porch.  I was too relieved to scold her, but I sure would like to know where she was for half an hour!

 - After meeting with Chuck yesterday, I made a stop at the teacher store for Sharon then went to Jo-Ann Fabrics, just for a look-see.  I do believe it is the very first time I've left a Jo-Ann's without buying something.  Sort of proud of myself.

 - Knitting.  I whipped off a fluffy pink scarf on Monday for Jolene, a little sweetie in kindergarten who is moving back to Texas -- Bernat Boa in hot pink held together with some hot pink Red Heart on size 13 needles.  Jolene probably won't have too much need for a fluffy pink scarf to keep her warm, but I am guessing she'll use it for dress up, because she's just that kind of little girl.  I'll miss her.

I also have another Branching Out scarf on the needles.  This is one of my favorite patterns; I've knit it several times, and always recommend it to knitters wanting to try lace.  I visited a sweet little alpaca farm last week, and bought a skein of brown sport weight; it is working out beautifully in this pattern, and hope to take an hour or so today and knit a few more repeats.  Photo soon.

- Reading.  I'm not really reading anything but Chuck's book, over and over.  Oh, and a little Korean War history, too, but I think I'll go to the library today for a girly novel to give my brain a break.

- Last weekend, we had a visiting priest from Food for the Poor.  After noon mass at B'town, I told him a little bit about the plans for the Community Diner soup kitchen.  He said he was proud of the community for taking on the project and that he would pray for its success.  All I'm going to say is he must have some pretty powerful prayers, because things really took off this week.  Maybe not as I was hoping --I have lots and lots of questions -- but at least there's some sort of progress, and that's a great thing, right?

- I miss my husband.  

- And, because it is a dreary old day, and because my sister shared this with me on Pinterest, and because I have seen this very look on my own corgi's face, I send another little smile your way:


Tuesday, October 18, 2011

A Real Live Writer

I started the month of September with meeting a real live author.  As in an "I've-sold-17-million-books" author, Diana Gabaldon.

I ended September with meeting a real live war hero.  As in an "I-am-finally-writing-my-memoirs-and-want-you-to-help-me" hero, Chuck.

And I think the primary reason I am able to help Chuck write (and to finally make my own book a reality) is something Diana said at lunch that day:  "I always knew I had a book in me."

So did I.  But I was always afraid to say it out loud.

Last week I went looking for my college transcript.  I didn't find it, but in the middle of my search, in the middle of my closet, in the middle of a box full of stuff from grad school, I found a book I had started writing way back when.  Like 1983.  And you know what?  It's not awful.  Kind of a Jodi Picoult-ish story, full of angst and tensiosity (it's a family word).  Although I'm not too interested in re-visiting that story, it gives me another reason to keep writing -- if I did it once, I can certainly do it again.  Plus, I'm a lot smarter than I was when I was 24, thank goodness.

I am also not as afraid of rejection as I was when I was 24.  My writing was rejected a lot back then, and it did take the wind right out of my sails.  (Perhaps it was because I used too many cliches. !)

Maybe all this blogging has also given me a boost.  Although I don't have a lot of followers, I know several people who actually look forward to my next post.

And maybe it's that my friends are standing behind me, giving me a firm push.  Last January, at her dad's funeral my college BFF Ann introduced me as her friend "the writer."  It shocked me a bit, because I didn't think I had mentioned my current ambitions to her.  I had, however, helped her through English 101 and 102, written her a short story as a Christmas gift one year, and written a song for her wedding.  I guess that qualifies.

Last Christmas, my pal Joannie gave me a journal for writers.

I think my friends are expecting big things from me.  And you know how I hate to let my friends down.

So, it's time to throw off my namby-pamby attitude about my skills and hang out my writing shingle.  (And quit using idiomatic expressions.)

I am a writer.

In that box in my closet I also found my thesis prospectus, all my notes and thesis research, a pretty boring but mostly well-written (did I just say that again?) 20-page linguistic analysis of politeness in Jane Austen novels, and a peer review of another grad assistant named James.  It's a pretty stellar review, and I wish I could remember James, because according to me, he sounds like a heck of a guy.  I think I will google him, or look him up on facebook.

But I might wait until we get Chuck's book published, so I can tell James that I am a Real Live Writer.


Saturday, October 8, 2011

Friday, October 7, 2011

Happy Birthday, James Whitcomb Riley

The Prayer Perfect

Dear Lord! kind Lord!
Gracious Lord! I pray
Thou wilt look on all I love
Tenderly to-day!

Weed their hearts of weariness;
Scatter every care
Down a wake of angel-wings
Winnowing the air.

Bring unto the sorrowing
All release from pain;
Let the lips of laughter
Overflow again;

And with all the needy
O divide, I pray
This vast treasure of contest
That is mine to-day!


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

I’m but a stranger here, Heaven is my home. 

There at my Savior’s side, Heaven is my home; 
I shall be glorified, Heaven is my home. 
There are the good and blest, 
those I loved most and best;
 There, too, I soon shall rest,
 Heaven is my home. 

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Thinking about Marriage . . .

This summer, my sister got married.  The long-anticipated wedding was sweet, the reception was sassy and I loved every minute of Sharon and Dave's celebration.

This summer, I participated in a Catholic Worker wedding.  Regina and John's ceremony itself was just a part of a large prayerful retreat, during which all who attended were challenged to examine their lives, how they lived on the Earth and what they could do for others.  I left a more thoughtful person, I know, and came home to re-read Dorothy Day.

This summer -- six weeks ago to be exact-- I was privileged to sing at the 50th Anniversary celebration for RV and Sarah, my dear friend Kelly's in-laws.  It didn't take me too long to fall in love with them, as they made all of Kelly's friends feel like family.  They did it up right, from the kick-off at French Lick to the IU string quartet at the renewal ceremony to fabulous meals to the fantastic band that played late into the night (yes, I did drink  too much and danced myself right out of my Spanx.  That's how much fun it was.)

Last Saturday, Sarah died.

In spite of our shock and sadness, we are supposed to celebrate, as Sarah was the queen of celebration; even her obituary touts her as a professional social chairman -- she was Queen of Mardi Gras, for pete's sake!

And so I'll celebrate.

I am pretty good at celebrating, having served as Social Director of Meredith Hall, 1979-80, and having thrown some outstanding parties over the years (if I do say so myself).  Planning events for my family brings me a lot of joy (and stress, true) and I love to have special times with my friends.

So, in Sarah's honor, I am going to make an effort to plan more parties and have more friends over.  Coca-Cola and french fries for everyone!

And as for celebrating marriage, in November, Clay and I will mark 29 years.  But in cheesey honesty, I think we celebrate every day.   We'll probably never be rich, or have famous friends or travel to 102 countries like Sarah and RV, but like them, we've learned to find a lot of joy in the everyday stuff ---  we read to each other, fold clothes together, bring each other coffee, sit on the couch together, talk and laugh and laugh and laugh.  Sort of like what  Dorothy Day wrote in The Long Loneliness"Most of our life is unimportant, filled with trivial things from morning till night.  But when it is transformed by love it is of interest even to the angels." 

And when we reach 50 years, we probably won't renew our vows; I think it's sweet when couples renew their vows each year at Mass, but we never participate, as we hardly ever sit next to each other, much less attend the same Mass.  Furthermore, I've come to like Clay's philosophy on renewal:  "Why do we need to renew our vows?  I meant it when I said it the first time."

Pragmatic, yet romantic, no?  And definitely worth celebrating.

God bless Sarah, and all the Stephens family.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Breast Cancer - A People Thing

So, if you read Saturday's post, you know that I'm a little wary of the Pinkification of October, and am re-focusing my efforts in the battle against breast cancer.

I've walked in the Race for the Cure many times.  I've organized events to fund mammogram machines at our local hospital.  I've given away baskets of pink stuff on my blog.  I've written a lot of checks.  But by far, the easiest things I've ever done in the war against cancer is to sign up for the Army of Women.  They can explain it better than I can, so here you go:

  A program of the Dr. Susan Love Research Foundation, the Army of Women initiative is dedicated to recruiting one million women of all ages, ethnicities, with or without breast cancer, to sign up and participate in innovative breast cancer research studies.  After signing up at, members are then contacted via email blast about new studies seeking volunteers. They can either sign-up for the studies online, or if they do not qualify, they are encouraged to forward the information to a friend or family member. Every woman over 18 is welcome to participate, whether a breast cancer survivor or someone never affected.   There are currently more than 20 breast cancer studies seeking volunteers through the Army of Women.   The full list of open studies seeking volunteers like you are listed at: 

Go sign up.  It's an easy thing we can do for each other.  And that's what it's all about.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Cakes, Fall Edition

Last Sunday, we had the BIG BIRTHDAY BASH at our house -- Tommy's 7th, Griffin's 5th and Paul's 3rd birthdays, celebrated on the same day.  We made Super Hero Capes for all the kids, broke a pinata and had a lot of fun (despite the fact that the rainy weather put the kabosh on the Bouncy House!)  I made one big cake, and three little cakes, so they would all have candles to blow out.  Note to self -- that was WAY too much cake!

This summer, I donated a decorated cake to a fund raiser for our friend, Brandon.  That donation came due today, and I made a cake for a baby shower, based on the new babe's nursery wallpaper.  

I don't love to cover cakes with fondant (because I stink at it!) but I do like to model little figures from tinted blobs of it; I guess it harkens back to my Play-doh days.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

October - Month of Pink, Month of Sorrow

If you've read this blog for long, you know how I feel about pink.  I love it.

You know how I feel about breast cancer.  I hate it.

OK, so these are not exactly astute observations, or singularly unique stands, especially during October.

But I really think I'm over all the pink=breast cancer stuff.  It just makes me sad that so many people/corporations/groups have taken the sweet pink ribbon and have turned it into a cash cow for themselves.  I wrote about that here two years ago; Marie Claire magazine published a great but sad article on the same thing just last month.  If you've had breast cancer, loved someone who had breast cancer, have breasts or know someone who does, read it at your own risk -- it will probably ruin your day.

So this October, I'm taking a new stand.

Instead of buying pink things, I'm going to try to do people things.
Instead of spending the month writing letters to corporations like Yoplait, KFC and Campbell's, I'm going to do a different kind of writing.
Instead of participating in the Race for the Cure (mainly because we have two other events that day), I'm going to do my own personal race.
I'll let you know how it goes; I promise to write an update here in November.

But I'm still going to wear a pink ribbon all month.  For mom.
As I've said before, I don't have breast cancer, but breast cancer changed my life forever.