Category Archives: Stories

Scent of spring

Early in the morning on the warm spring air, scent drifts through the garden chores and speaks to me of Mom.

And I remember the bottle with the French name that sat on her dressing table tray. She taught us to take the tiniest bit on a finger and daintily apply it to wrist and neck. Muguet Des Bois Eau de Toilette.

 

Lily of the valley

I only pick a few Lily of the Valley blooms but they are enough to bring back her smile and her laughter this spring morning.

Mom

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Another story

Ada came again after I heard that Clark wasn’t at all well. She wanted to tell me what I didn’t want to hear, she would get to meet him soon. And so she did. So again, I’m telling myself a story, if you’d like to listen in… Ada is speaking.

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Hi Mom. I know you, crying your eyes out, but blow your noes nose, dry your eyes and try to listen up. I want to let you in on what’s happening here, there has been so much kittie chatting! I’m sure I’m going to like Clark. he seems like such a cozy, gentle friend.

IMG_4618Sasha wanted to meet Clark, she thought it would be best. I think The Best Cat Ever just wants to be in charge here. ha-ha! She really hasn’t been here very long so we all just love on her. What stories she has had to tell! Well, you might imagine, we are ready for an update on Our Girl!

Here they come now…go on Maggie, don’t be shy, your brother Clark is here now! Max – just chill – no herding Clark just yet! Isn’t it great, Merlin, to see all your housemates together again? Oh, yes, I forgot about Phoenix for the moment (although how could I?) Yes, yes, you remember I told you about meeting him at Mom’s house. I’m sure I will recognize him… Hello, Coal! Strawberry! Haven’t seen you in some time, welcome!

Now, we’ll all be in a down/stay/tuck in paws until Sasha finishes introductions; I’ll wait till last.

Hello, Clark! So glad to meet you! I know we are going to be best friends! You just wait and see! What’s that Sasha? He’s bringing news, well of course he is! Mabel? You left Our Girl in Mabel’s paws? Well now, that is excellent news! How delightful that there is a new pet in the house. Long-hair, you say? Wonderful! Not that you short-hairs are not attractive, no, no,  not at all! But we long-haired girls and guys do have our good points. (You may not know that Ada was a bit vain about her wonderfully curly topknot and tail.) I’m distracted – what’s that? What’s that! A ring! Bling! (Ada is jumping and twirling) How exciting! I’m so fond of a little bling for a girl!

Ok, sorry Clark, I’ll settle down. We want to hear everything, almost 14 years with Our Girl – remarkable from what I’ve heard about your eating habits…plastic bags, blankets, sheets, my, my…

But we want to know more about the ring. Sasha told us about “him”; plays the guitar, let her nap in its case, let you stick yourself to his leg…

Her happy voice fades from me and the curtain slides back into place on the peaceable kingdom.

Ada

A story of Christmas old and yet to come

A tale told by tree light and candle glow

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Somewhere I came across the thought that life is a play and we come onto the stage not knowing what has gone before or who the other players are and we are left to improvise our way into the story. It does seem like that, doesn’t it?

Recently I began reading Becoming Myself. Stasi Eldredge writes, “As a woman, your mother is your most potent role model. How she felt, what she thought, and what she believed had a direct effect on you… including… how happy [you] can be…”

I’ve written before that Christmas in our house was full of happy – gifts, family, food, Mama baking, cleaning, shopping, card writing, decorating… all these wonderful things I learned. But there was also Mama crying which left me full of sad and empty too. And I learned Christmas came with tear stains. It was many years before I heard a little part of her story and gained understanding which did clear some of the mist of Christmas Past that swirled around the holiday, but I had long since learned tears and sadness. My emotions at Christmas became a hazard to me; carols and songs carried the threat of sobs hidden among the lyrics like sad, malevolent goblins just waiting to overwhelm me. Knowledge and prayer brought a slow healing from those learned emotions.

JoyA few days before Christmas I was busy baking cookies and Bing Crosby crooned “I’ll be home for Christmas” into my kitchen space. Like many other families, we have a number in ours who come for Christmas to this place of their birth, ‘only in their dreams’. And I thought of them as I slipped the pan into the oven. Then, as I waited on the oven timer, I was transported back into a dream I had a while ago.

Sometimes my dreams seem like full-length movies. There is no time or space in the world of dream and this one was beyond place as well as I dreamed of William. William, whose absence became presence in my life every Christmas season. William, an older brother who became known to me only in this dream I share now.

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Frail and weary, William was carried by his dear friend and comrade from the battles. William felt heart-sick, having failed to overcome in the war. His friend comforted him, offering love and strength but he could hardly receive. His friend had some understanding; he had carried battle worn small ones home before, home to the loving embrace of their Father. Each tiny spirit reacted differently to the journey and he was concerned for William, so small and listless. He pressed the tiny one closer as the journey ended and carried him into the Glory.

William felt the change but could not seem to turn to its embrace. And then he heard, “William, dear son, welcome home! I am so proud of you. Well done!” William blinked and looked timidly into Eternal Love. “But, I failed to be born. I failed my mission to live earth life. I failed… “

“Dear William, you did not fail Me. You were brave and fought valiantly in your battles. You lived nine months in your mother’s womb. She and your earth father and your brother and sister loved you as they could and you will never be forgotten. My dear little child… “, welcomed Eternal Love. And William smiled into the radiance of his heavenly Father. He snuggled, resting in Love, growing stronger; aware of Father giving instructions to his comrade. His dear angel friend gathered William into his arms and bore him off to the chambers prepared for him where he would grow.

William came from the Glory and returned there December 23, 1942

As the dream memory passed, I thought, Oh! “I’ll be Home for Christmas” is actually my song and William waits for me to come home for Christmas! And in that moment, my simple kitchen became a ‘thin place’ and it was as if I could see through the veil and a robust and glowing man leaned through the portal, grinning – “You’ve got it, Sis! There’s no place like HOME for Christmas!”

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And the timer sounded and the ordinary was all around and I felt my smile and a few gentle tears too as I blew a kiss. I’ll be home for Christmas one day, William, and I know it will be far better than snow and mistletoe and holly!

This piece may not fit your theology or thoughts on dreams and visions and that’s ok. Even if it was only imagination, I believe the Lord Jesus has continued the healing process in my soul through it all and I am grateful.

The Lord used Pastor Jack Hayford’s I‘ll Hold You in Heaven – Healing and Hope for the Parent Who has Lost a Child through Miscarriage, Stillbirth, Abortion or Early Infant Death to do just that for my Mom. I offer this as a resource which could be a blessing to others like her who carry this pain of a lost child.

From Psalm 139 RSV – For it was you who formed my inward parts; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.(vs 13) Your eyes beheld my unformed substance, in your book were written all the days that were formed for me, when none of them as yet existed. (vs16)

Advent Gift

Bowl of Christmas balls

When I was 9, I left my local parish school. That fall I entered the thick grey walls of a girls’ school, a long streetcar ride from home. The halls that threaded the school where normally filled with the muted trampings of rubber soles and the rustling of black habits and long rosary beads. Those first months I felt the walls had eyes and ears that peered into my soul, weighed me and found me lacking in grace and whatever other qualities where expected in a student there. And I shrank into my introverted shell.

Then came late November and a gift was dropped into my soul. All the elementary students gathered at the beginning of the day in a strange wide place filled with windows in an otherwise enclosed hallway. The windows stretched from steamy radiators almost to the high ceilings. I remember that Monday filling the space with grey early light. There was a surprise as the heavy scent of Christmas hung in the air as we pressed in to be close to the large wreath of fresh greens somehow suspended above us. As a candle was lit, those several hundred voices sang out, “O come, O come, Emmanuel and ransom captive Israel…” I don’t know if I understood the words but enclosed in the sound was mystery and comfort.

I’ve sung and heard this hymn sung every year since and when I hug it close and let myself return to that dark place, I hear the echo of those voices down through time and touch again the mystery and the comfort.

I believe that God Himself touched that lonely little girl with His presence and began a game of hide and seek with her.  It would take many years but again in real time He would touch my soul with the mystery, wonder, and comfort of His presence and I would know His name – Emmanuel – God with us – God with me.

Ann Voskamp is sharing about Advent wreaths, Jesse trees and keeping Advent. Ann has such insight and grace to touch mystery and wonder; you might enjoy a visit with her at the farm.

Needle and thread comfort

When I was quite young, I learned a few embroidery stitches. I think perhaps my older sister or a Scout leader taught me. In our community we had a five and dime type store where for a small expenditure a carefully chosen dresser scarf or doily type of piece, stamped with a design and some thread, were mine. I would walk home dreaming of the beauty soon to come but all too often I simply created knots and tangled thread made lumps inspiring the dreaded – “Let me see the back of your work.” tsk, tsk.

It was a terrible discouragement but there was something about the desire to make something beautiful which drew me. Eventually the soft wool and classic designs of crewel embroidery from Erica Wilson and Elsa Williams came to my attention. I made less mess and acquired a little skill. But in the business of life, unfinished projects sank to the bottom of a thread box.

Earlier this year I picked up a pattern and Perle cotton thread. In times of waiting, snow people took shape. Uneven and wobbly stitches aside, I enjoyed the very comfort of plying a needle again.

Snow people

The Snow Happens pattern can be found here along with other fun patterns and supplies.

A blogger of note,  Bronwyn Hayes of Red Brolly has some lovely stitching and photography tutorials, fun designs, quilting and recipes from life Down Under.

Childhood Days

Memories of childhood days long forgotten can be stirred to the surface sometimes by a simple thing. This one came from a brief exchange remembering the early days when Mom went back to work. A kind lady several houses down the street from ours watched our younger sister after kindergarten till we got home from our schools. I remembered that she sometimes had a simple treat to offer me – sugared butter bread!

As I thought about her house with its broad front porch complete with swing and its bright, cheery kitchen, a snatch of song came. As I waited on it, the song seemed to come from the old record player in her living room and I stepped back in time listening.

     Tra-la-la, tweedlee dee dee it gives me a thrill

     To wake up in the morning to the mockin’ bird’s trill

     Tra-la-la, tweedlee dee dee There’s peace and goodwill 

     You’re welcome as the flowers on Mockin’bird Hill

“Mockingbird Hill”. I loved that song and the cheerfulness of it all, imagining storybook cottages as I twirled about. Today, as I queued it up to play, I realized that I live that girlish dream!

It’s all different and yet the same and my heart is filled with gladness.

I wish you peace and goodwill from our hill in the country where Mockingbirds sing and nest outside our window.

swing

Talking Pets in the Peaceable Kingdom

telling myself a story today, just because I need to smile through the tears

a story  for “The Best grand-Cat Ever”

Sasha! Sasha! Hello! Hello!

I knew you were coming today!

Oh, you look so beautiful! Yes, you! Go on, do a stretch or two, shake yourself out and you’ll find you are better than you can remember!

I’m Ada! We met once…but that is all behind us!

Welcome! Welcome to your new home in the peaceable kingdom! You are going to love it here! Ada

I know! I know! I talk in exclamation points! The others just smile and ask me to settle down but I know they really like all my exuberance!!!

I can see that you are a most regal animal – Maine Coon is it? Or Norwegian Forest Cat?

Oh, let me just settle down here and tuck in a paw for a chat; hovering over you will never do.

You know, dear Sasha (and you are a dear!) it is a grand and important responsibility to have a person to look after and you did an excellent job, a very excellent job with Our Girl. Yes, Our Girl. I’ve called all her pet family to greet you.

{Now this is a slight thing, but here everyone is peaceable so a few things to remember in the early time in the kingdom:

  1. no biting
  2. let old stuff be forgotten
  3. control the urge for excessive sniffing

 That will do for now}

Well! Well! I see everyone is in a hurry to greet you!  Now, now, everyone, let’s wait and be honorable here –

Sasha, this is Coal. She is First Pet and while quite a large dog, she is very gentle and you will enjoy all her stories about Our Girl’s first years! We never tire of hearing them!

 Then, this is Strawberry (remember the rules now) Yes, she is a Guinea Pig. (Yes, a kind of rodent.)  She’s quite an inquisitive sort and always up for games. I know you are a playful animal yourself so you can know you will have fun together! Sasha bubbles

Oh, oh! Here he comes, you can always hear him…Max, Max, slow down now, quiet now!  Max was always a misunderstood animal in the house but he has quite forgiven all that and is so happy now that everyone understands that he is a sheepdog and needed to herd and nip heels. He has given up nipping and just loves to spend most of his time with the sheep; such interesting creatures!

Yes, yes, he has remarkable fur! Your fur is quite remarkable too, if I may say so Sasha… so beautiful, rather straight and with such variety of color. Lovely to pet, I’m sure.

Me, I’m a curly girl as you can see and I can tell that we both like to put our best paw forward, carefully groomed! 

My own story is simple. Our Girl thought a poodle would be a wimpy kind of dog, but, I think I won her over! I was actually more the home dog, Mom & Dad’s, but I like to think she was My Girl until you came along, Sasha. What great timing! What adventures you will have to tell us – cross country travels, life with adopted kittens, moving about… oh yes, we’ve heard bits from sweet Maggie cat and Merlin too.  Here they are, your old housemates and so happy to see you! (So much happy meowing does a heart good!)

Now, we all want you to know that we love you and appreciate you as Our Girls’ dearly beloved Sasha, “The Best Cat Ever”. I hope we are not making you uncomfortable with our doggie creeping and everyone cuddling around…but well, you see, we all do want to sniff you a little. You still carry her scent you know and we like to remember.

Gosh, what a great life we had with Our Best Girl.

She’ll remember you forever; that’s what our people do.Sasha

 

And now Elaine from a master storyteller, Dr Seuss: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

(She always does that crying thing, Sasha. You should have seen her writing in the coffee shop, quite a sight…come on, Mom get a grip! Love ya! Ada)

 

April views and musings

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I found that blog conversion and learning this new thing felt a bit like I was pushing through my own darkness and into new light. But construction has begun and changes will come in time!

There is always much to do in the spring gardens. Picking up, raking, digging, pruning, planning, all wonderful activities for reflection.

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So much beauty and vibrant color after the dull of winter almost hurts the eye while it refreshes the soul.  It slowed my anxiousness and Cousin Cele came to mind. We met through the “magic” of internet research. Cele had a great deal of family history to share with me. At our first meeting she brought a book she had created from her mother’s family complete with photographs. I was rather amazed and told her I needed to take a class in the photo editing program she used. Her reply surprised me – “Classes are all well and good but sometimes you just have to get in there and do it.” Cele was 87 at that time. Whether for gardening or blogging or cleaning house, “sometimes you just have to get in there and do it” is good advice!

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A walk in the rain to drink in the fleeting wonder of spring blossoms. I never tire of it!

Tuesday breaking dawn

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I love the breaking open of a new day! Today was especially lovely to me and a wonderful morning for baking.

The coming of the Lenten season always brings up one of the few symbols of my German heritage that we enjoyed while growing up – donuts!

My Mom always made cake donuts covered with sugar or cinnamon sugar which I must confess we enjoyed well into Lent as her recipe made so many. My variation started last week when I mixed flour and water, added a little yeast, and set it to grow a lively sourdough starter. First there were pancakes and now donuts from its bubbling crock. A mere ten from my recipe, fragrant with nutmeg and covered with cinnamon and sugar will sustain me with thoughts of home.

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My mother-in-law made “kreppels” probably from “Krapfen”, deep fried dough sprinkled with powdered sugar, for her family. Although hers were plain, I remember the German bakery near home with rounds of fried dough filled with cream or marshmallow and dusted with sugar, a favorite for my Dad. I find myself smiling now remembering the explosion of cream in my mouth when I bit into the soft browned dough.

Donuts now in the freezer will satisfy us for some Sundays to come. And the mysterious fragrance of the starter will call forth more pancakes or perhaps some biscuits another morning.

Joyous Christmas Greetings!

Susan Branch did a lovely post on houses today in which she likens a house to a bank into which deposits are made with the life experiences that happen there. Today I did some baking and listened to old Christmas music and thought about the immense comfort it brings, stirring memories of early home so deeply etched in my soul.

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As I worked along, I could see again a Christmas eve. I sat on the steps behind stockings lined down the banister and watched as Dad painstakingly hung silvery tinsel from every branch while A Christmas Carol played on the radio. Sometimes I would be called to come behind the closed bedroom door to choose paper and ribbon for a gift I was to give.

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I am grateful for the sweet spirit of Christmas past hovering near this cold, snowy Christmas Eve comforting in the loss of several friends who leave empty spaces in our lives this year.

My today house has many deposits in its walls. It is a quiet place this year but the laughter hidden in its walls makes me smile and decorate and enjoy living in this moment.

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This nativity from our family room is special to me with its collection of animals and angels  in great variety!

All are welcome at the manger.