Sunday, April 23, 2017

Thankful Sunday, April 23, 2017

I am thankful for small surprises.

Last week, I was chatting with a coworker about how her Passover and my Easter went. During the course of the conversation, we talked about Easter Candy that was on sale. I hadn't gotten any and she had brought in a bag of chocolates to share. I mentioned how I liked the large candy coated, marshmallow filled Easter eggs but don't always see them in the stores. Most people don't like them because they are so sweet, but I do.

The next morning, there was a bag of these eggs on my desk. What a nice surprise to start the day. For this totally unexpected gesture of kindness, I am thankful.

Also, I'm thankful that you can only find them once a year because I don't need to be eating these things very often.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

A Trip Across the Mountains

We took a long drive across the Allegheny Mountains to visit my mother for Easter. We got back last night and, as usual, my emotions are a jumble. Some of them are:

I am thinking about how happy I was that my whole family got to spend Easter together and that my sons got to see their grandmother on this trip.

I am reflecting on who I was when I left my hometown decades ago and who I am now after I visited with a classmate I haven't seen since high school. He and his wife put on a concert at the nursing home one evening.  He hasn't changed and he said that I haven't changed except I have a shorter haircut. That must be why I had to tell him who I was. :)

I am thinking about how my town has changed. Because of hard times and high unemployment, much of the area around my childhood house is pretty run down. I keep telling my kids that it wasn't like that when I was growing up there. It was still a modest area, but had well kept houses.

I am grieving for the mother I once knew. As time goes on, it is getting harder and harder for her to communicate.

I am smiling as I think about how the other residents faces lit up with just a smile or a wave from me.

I am thanking God about the good care all are getting at the nursing home where my mother is.

I am singing old time gospel songs in my head. There were three concert/sing-alongs I attended with my mother during this visit. While the singing was fun, the focus on the after life has my thoughts landing on this topic often. Especially since I just spent the last several days around people who are near the end of their life.

I am thinking about where I am in my life and where my mother was in her life at the same age.

I am remembering all of the beautiful scenery we saw on our drive. The woods are full now of blooming redbud and dogwood trees reaffirming the circle of life and new beginnings.

And amongst all of these meaning-of-life thoughts, I am thinking I should get some laundry started and more things unpacked before I head off to work.

Yes, my thoughts are all a jumble as they always are after these visits. And that's a good thing. Even if it's uncomfortable, we all need to spend time then and again thinking about how we are living our life.

Here are a few pictures from our trip across the mountains. (Two qualifiers. It's hard to capture just how beautiful the scenery was from a moving car and I'm not showing many faces to protect everyone's privacy. I wish I could because the faces really tell the story.)

There was abundant redbud along most of the trip. It was only when we were in the higher elevations that we didn't see any. 

Along with the redbud, wild mustard was lining the roadside.

My classmate setting up for his concert. He is somewhat of a local celebrity and has several CD's. The residents love him and they know most of his songs. 

They have a nice walking path next to the nursing home.
We took my mother out several times a day for a walk on this. Here's Theo with her now.

The Easter Bunny was quite good to my mother.

Vegetables no longer grow in these barrels at my parents house, but I found them with some very pretty violets.

We usually stop on the drive back and take a short hike to this scenic overlook.

We were welcomed home by dogwoods that bloomed while we were gone. 

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

A Second Look--April 12, 2017

Spring officially delivered us our first hot day yesterday when the temperatures reached low 80's. Fortunately, cooler temperatures have returned today with a little rain. Most of the trees are in some stage of bloom right now and it's very pretty outside. I can only imagine how beautiful they will look next year when they haven't just had a severe pruning.

Here are some things I saw this week 
during a Second Look.

Another couple of daffodils bloomed. Because I am not seeing them en mass. I get a chance to appreciate the individual blooms. 

Feed them and they will come. Compared to our old yard, I've seen very few squirrels here. However, it was only a matter of time until we started waging our battle against them at the bird feeders. That war began this week. But so far, we're only mildly discouraging them as they are providing a lot of entertainment for us and the cats.

Grape hyacinths and periwinkle are blooming together for a nice splash of purple color.

In the same bed, I've counted at least 6 different kinds of invasive plants. I'm going to spend this season seeing what I can get under control as far as these weeds go.

There are two crab apple trees in bloom now. Or that's what I think. I know one of them is a crab apple and think that's what the other one is. Time will tell.

Two regular apple trees are starting to bloom, also. Since we pruned the trees up so we could mow under them, I'm not tall enough to take very good pictures of their blossoms. However, this tree obliged with a stray bloom down low.

The lilac blooms are budding and should be in full bloom soon.

We haven't gotten a chance to thin this shrub yet, but it starting to bloom. I'm not sure what it is. There's not good perspective on this picture, but it's about 5 feet tall if that helps anyone identity it.

We have a large ornamental pear tree in the front yard that is also starting to bloom.

And the cherry tree is finally blooming this week, also,

We've had some very windy days recently. Enough so that the weather vane got totally blown off the top of the house. Wally came by for a visit, and he and Ward redesigned the whole thing and reinstalled it. My favorite part is they took a compass on the roof with them and oriented it correctly. :)

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Thankful Sunday--April 9, 2017

I'm still working on more regular posting here, but in the meantime, if I can only manage one post a week, I'm glad it's Thankful Sunday. It makes me slow down and appreciate things around me.

I am thankful for good, cooked food.

If you've known me very long, you know that cooking is not my favorite thing. If there's any other distraction around like another project, a migraine, etc., I struggle to prepare a meal. It's been like this forever. Which is okay. Not everyone has to like spending time in the kitchen. What is not okay is the anguish I cause myself over this. 

Well, relief has come in this area. Hurray! No, I didn't find the magic pill that made me like cooking any better, I found my son. When we moved into our new house, Theo set himself and his workshop up in our basement. When we invited him to do this, we told him part of his rent was cooking dinner for us during the week. When Ward had surgery last year, Theo came and did some cooking to help out. That worked out so well that we wanted to try it again.
Theo cooked beans in the slow cooker overnight to go
with the ribs we're having today.

He has totally embraced his responsibilities. He prepares a healthful dinner for us every night. He even does it on the weekends even though he doesn't have to. He reads the supermarket ads (Aldi's) and plans the meals around what's on sale. He makes an effort to add extra vegetables to every dish. He keeps track of what's in the fridge that needs to be used up before it goes bad. He's doing his job just the way I would like without prompting. I'm in seventh heaven.

And meal prep has become a bonding experience, also. He bounces dish ideas off me and sometimes I'm his helper. Occasionally, he asks me about cooking methods or techniques. (I may not like being in the kitchen, but I am skilled there.) We make grocery lists together. He often does the shopping and sometimes we do it together.

Theo asks for feedback on every dish he cooks as he is honing his skills because he sometimes consults recipes but rarely follows them. Presently, he's trying to prefect his fruit crisp with different fruits. Ward and I particularly like these tests. :) But most of the time, everything is darn good.

When he goes away to spend the weekend with his brother, he makes sure that we have food cooked for when he's gone. We didn't ask him to do this, he just does. One week, when he was sick and I didn't want him in the kitchen, he left written instructions for dinner with both menu suggestions and cooking methods to use. 

If you can't tell, I could gush on and on about this. This is the biggest improvement that has happened in my daily life in a long time. 

For all of you out there who do just what Theo does day in and day out, remember that you are doing a wonderful thing. Your efforts may be taken for granted because that's just what you do. And have always done. But let me tell you, you are doing an invaluable service. I know because I'm on the receiving end of it now and it's great.

So for Theo and everyone else who fixes dinner for their family, roommates, or whoever, I am thankful.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Thankful Monday, April 3, 2017

I am thankful for music.

Music is such a big topic that volumes and volumes have been written about it. But somewhere among all the things of what it is and what it can do is a very basic truth. Music can make you happy. Here are a couple of small examples where this has been true for me recently.
Image result for singing in the shower clipart

I like to sing. And if I do say so myself, I have a pretty good voice. Or at least it sounds that way to me when I sing in the shower.  The acoustics are especially good in our new shower, so I belt away sometimes and imagine myself performing for one sort of an audience or another. And it always makes me happy. (However these "audiences" often ask me for another song and I end up spending too long in the shower. I should learn to say no to my demanding "public".)

The other morning I was singing "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash as I washed my hair. This is a song I've always liked for its catchy tune and positive lyrics. However, like most songs, I don't know all the words. That evening, I decided it was time to learn them, so I went to YouTube. Do you know that there have been a lot of people who have covered that song? I listened to each version and sang along while I was in the kitchen baking a cake. And the whole time, I had a big smile on my face. There was really nothing very special going on, but I was very happy. However, I will say that after about the fourth version of the song, Ward asked if I had learned the lyrics yet. Actually, the answer was no. I still sing my version of them and am not sure what the correct ones are. What do they say? Old habits die hard.

The other example involves singing hymns. The first time was in the nursing home when I was visiting my mother. A local church came in and did a hymn sing-along for the residents. I sat beside my mother in her wheelchair holding the hymnal as we sang together. This was very special because as time goes on, it's harder to connect with my mother the way I used to. However, this time, we connected through the music. It was the highlight of my visit.

A week or so later, I was spending Sunday morning with my buddy, Sarah. We were with the youth Sunday School gathering where they eat breakfast, make announcements, and sing a few songs. The songs are usually accompanied by kids on guitars and drums. However, this morning most of the them weren't there, so the choir director led the youth in singing songs from the hymn book a capella. It took a song or two before the kids quieted down and stopped looking at their cell phones. But when they gave their full attention to the songs, it was beautiful. The room was filled with strong voices and good harmonies, and there was a connection among all who were there. I was teary eyed as I thought about the two very different groups singing hymns. On the surface they seemed different, but underneath, they were the same. They were connecting through music.

My stories could go on forever, and I'm sure everyone has stories of their own.

So for music and the happiness it brings, I am thankful.