Wednesday, December 31, 2008

New Year's Eve

Happy New Year! The disc jockey on the radio station I listen to just said that he always makes a gratitude list at the end of the year. Here is mine.

I am grateful for
My family and the gift of digital photography that through Facebook allowed me to almost be with them this year. Seeing pictures in the same week made me feel so much more a part of Christmas.

Friends both near and far and for all the visitors that I have been blessed by this week--more to come.

Customers--several who at the last minute unexpectedly turned my Christmas cash flow positive.

Google for the opportunity to blog here and the great picture viewer, Picasa.

My DSL and that I figured it out for myself.

My garden which was work as well as blessing.

The memories I carry of my parents and family living in this house that I still live in and all the good times, festal and ferial that we had here.

The election that will return Democrats to the majority. Let's hope and help that they can actually get some of the things done that need doing.

Health, which is not the same as disability. I am a rather healthy disabled person.

For music and flowers and good food and rain and sunshiny days and so many other things that I can't think of right now. I'm sure the list could go on. I like this idea better than the resolutions list. So I am grateful to the radio announcer on KDFC who suggested it.

I am full of gratitude and hope for 2009. Good way to end and to begin. May you be blessed. Along with our to do lists in 2009, let's not forget to make gratitude lists.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christmas Pictures

Here are pictures of some of my Christmas decorations. The first one is my main tree in the living room. Some ornaments have been with me since I was a small child and all are cherished; all have stories.



The red bird is one of a flock that decorate the tree each year. I love the red and green colors of Christmas and the hope that the birds symbolize. Even while the earth is fallow, Spring will come and flowers will bloom again.



The next bird is the newest ornament, the one that my sister stitched this year. She has contributed to my joy at Christmas with her patient, generous hand-work. (Now if she can just find a little time for herself in 2009!)



The next picture is a small tree that is decorated simply with peace cranes that my friend, who is a communion minister from our local parish, and I made in 2007. They seem especially appropriate and graceful. The Christmas cactus, a gift from a friend, sits in front of it.



There are two more small trees that I usually decorate, one with angels (the "angel tree") in my bedroom and one with small paper ornaments made by printing some Dover Christmas designs and cutting them out.

Finally, I have an undecorated small tree in my office near the printer and another on my Mama's vanity along with family pictures. Maybe next year, if please God, all goes well, I will decorate them all.

The sameness and yet difference of each year's tree continues to fascinate me. (Some people have told me that I should just have someone cover the tree and then uncover it next Christmas. I think that is funny, but wouldn't be much fun!)

Gratitude is still a major theme for today.

Christmas Vacation

It is just as it should be. Christmas week has been a time of visiting with friends, reconnecting, baking and eating. Yesterday after baking gingersnaps, I spent the afternoon visiting with friends, sharing their good news and company. Then too full of caffeine and sugar I watched TV for a time, catching part of Sherlock Holmes and the Case of the Silk Stocking on one of my local PBS stations.

This is not an original Conan Doyle, and it didn't seem like it was. Too dark, not noir dark but macabre. It was creepy and seemed like Sherlock Holmes meets Law and Order Special Victims. I do not find psychopathology entertaining. I do not find sociopaths interesting characters. I have long thought that it is a major flaw of our culture that we have become obsessed with these things as entertainments. (I find the fact that people watch these things on TV and or watch the news and then can't sleep without "sleep aids" to be so obvious. We wouldn't need the sleep medicines if we'd turn off the TV!)

Anyway, no one but Jeremy Brett can be Sherlock Holmes as far as I am concerned. The original stories had the finesse of Victoriana. I won't look for more of these new ones. (But I did double check to make sure that I had locked the front door before I went to bed.)

My daffodils are starting to poke through the dirt. The older ones will remind me of a neighbor who died Christmas morning. She had organized caroling in the neighborhood for many years and for the last several, while she fought her fight against cancer, there were no carolers. She was a passionate gardener who generously shared her skills, knowledge and plants with the rest of us. One year she bought a bag of daffodil bulbs, one hundred King Alfred daffodils, from our local Costco and emailed our list that she had bulbs to share. I was the lucky one who bought the extras so as they bloom each year I will remember her. I had not known that daffodils where fragrant or that they are a symbol of the resurrection. I have her to thank for that for these daffodils are fragrant and having them led me to research on the web. She will be missed and remembered.

I hope there will be something similar for people to remember me by when the time comes. It is up to me to make sure that there is, another reason to practice kindness, generosity and gratitude--perhaps selfish, but it is those acts that will keep our memories alive to others.

Today I give thanks for the neighbor who shared her music and daffodil bulbs and for the friends who are making my holiday season busy and joyful.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Merry Christmas, 2008

A blessed and Merry Christmas to everyone. I need to clear the table for friends who are bringing me a share of their feast and their company later today. The Christmas tree and Creche are up in my living room, so I've been spending more time in there.

Nearly surfeited with eggnog and sentimental Christmas movies, too. I will be happy to hear Christmas music a little longer--although I think it will go away on my favorite radio station at midnight, so I will have to dig out tapes and CD's.

Gratitude is a big theme of this day. For the Christmas itself, I give thanks, for the kindness of friends, the sun shining now after rain and wind this morning and for the Pope's message, which I want to read in full and ponder. Thank you. I hope that 2009 will be a good year for all of us.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Fourth Sunday of Advent

For just a few nights all four candles will be lighted and then it will be Christmas. Some people place a plain white pillar candle in the center of the Advent wreath on Christmas to signify Christ. My family has never done that, but I think it would be a nice thing to do.

Today I had a delightful Christmas visit from one of my dearest friends whom I wish that I could see more often. And then a leisurely and fun tea with my friend who will all too soon return to sea.

It was minus one today in Toledo, my hometown. I think of returning there to grow old among family. It is tempting especially on days when things break down and need to be repaired. Less so when I see that weather forecast and hear that the wind is blowing on the ice-laden power lines. I pray and hope that they will be safe.

It is time to pray for safety for travelers too, for all the friends and family members who are going out into this cold winter and flying to be with others. In a way, since Christmas began with the journey to Bethlehem, perhaps it isn't so strange that so many travel so far at this coldest, darkest part of the year. I am happy to be staying home!

I was looking for material about St. Joseph earlier in the day and was reminded that we think a good deal about Mary's yes, her Magnificat, but that we do not give the same credit to Joseph. If he had not said yes, he would honor his proposal, who would have cared for the child who grew up to become the Savior of Humankind? Indeed, fathers are so important and do not recieve the honor they deserve in our culture. Let us honor them this Christmas.

Still, I suspect that had they had the choice to stay home and not travel, the Holy Family would have been glad to have the baby born in their hometown and not in a stable. Much food for thought on a cold winter night.

I am grateful for the friends for stopping by and for my life this fourth Sunday of Advent.

Friday, December 19, 2008

A Heartening Project

The other day, I think it was Wednesday, I was watching the News Hour on PBS while casting on the stitches for yet another hat. (This will be the third from this cache of yarn and by the time I run out of yarn, I think I may be able to knit the pattern in my sleep!). The News Hour featured a project in Denver, called the Women's Bean Project.

  • http://www.womensbeanproject.com/


  • This is a project that puts women who have never worked and have been in trouble into a working project where they learn skills and move on to bigger jobs in the "real world". They package bean soup and baking mixes that are available on their web site. I commend them to you for your consideration.

    Their gift baskets look especially nice. It was also so good to see something positive in the news. I think that if all of the news programs would emphasize whatever positive things they can find, we would turn the economy around so much faster.

    I am grateful to see good news among the bad.

    Tuesday, December 16, 2008

    More Christmas Preparations

    Yesterday as I was describing all of the ornaments I failed to enumerate some of the very best, the set of hand stitch3d ornaments that my sister has made, sending one each year. Here is a picture of an earlier tree that shows a fair number of them



    These have become my favorite ornaments for they are a true labor of love and gift of love. I just wish we could hang them together! More pictures will follow, since Christmas trees are like flowers! I haven't ever meant one that I haven't wanted to save and so I take endless pictures. I am always grateful for the beauty of the tree.

    Monday, December 15, 2008

    Monday, Monday

    Seems like the week and the winter is stretching interminably ahead at this point, but I know that it will soon be Friday! (Spring will take a little while longer, but that is probably good.)

    Three tomatoes ripen on the kitchen counter, which makes me wish that I had bagged them with labels so that I would know which ones are which! One has the deepest shade of red I have ever seen, so that may be Purple Cherokee. I thought that was a plum tomato, but I never saw any that were plum shaped.

    Yesterday I spent a frustrating time going through all the Christmas boxes for one small cache of musical instruments that are actually whistles that I have hung on my tree year after year. Part of both the magic and the comfort of the tree is the continuity of the ornaments. Some go back to my childhood, just after World War II and it is easy to tell by both their materials (plastic) and the colors (bright) that they belong to that era. I have tinsel garlands that belonged to my grandmother, that may be more than a century old and are still beautiful. Then there is a whole collection of lovely things that came from successive trips to Marshall Fields (along with Frango Mints, long gone now, of course)and from one memorable trip to the gift shop at the Oriental Museum at the University of Chicago when I was a graduate student. I remember the friends with whom I made these trips, including the time that we went to lunch in the Walnut Room and discovered that a person in a wheelchair was immediately moved to the head of the waiting line along with those who accompanied her! (We were so surprised!)

    Today my dear friend C found the ornaments for me and so the tree will soon be complete. I am waiting for my young friend M to come home from college to place the last ornaments for me, for she has been so instrumental in making my Christmases for the last six years. My tree is becoming a communal experience and that is good.

    For I am blessed now with friends who have the patience, and even encourage me, to tell the stories that go with the ornaments and that is part of what makes the tree so special. It is a memory tree, a ritual of recollection as much as a celebration of the season, which makes it even more special to me. One friend suggested that I should video-tape the stories and I may do that after Christmas, for I have a young friend in the neighborhood now who has the equipment and skills.

    Before I go to bed each night now until the tree is put back in its box--it was an Internet find the year that Papa died and I felt that he had led me to it for it had many years since we had a tree--I will go into the living room and turn on two lights, look at the tree and then turn out first one and then the other light and end the day.

    Christmas is one of my favorite times of year inspite of the fact that it is cold and there is no garden. It is the consolation for the cold and the short days. The light will shine again, but before it does in the changing seasons, the birthday of the Light of the World will be celebrated. In a few days the creche will be put up as well allowing me to think more of that great event, the Incarnation and the role that it plays in our lives.


    I will try to remember to take a picture of the tree after the last decorations are in place and post it here. Meanwhile, a blessed Tuesday of the Third Week of Advent to all of you.

    I am grateful.

    Saturday, December 13, 2008

    Cold Winter Blows my Way!

    North winds are indeed blowing and we are even going to have snow in central California! I am so grateful for modern plumbing and heating. The furnace has just come on as I began to type this and I have cozy space heaters along with fleece throws wrapped all around me. The space heaters take the place of fireplaces, which our ancestors would have had in every room. The new electric blanket is a very good one and a cozy fleece blanket in itself. I have that to look forward to shortly.

    I just finished watching an American Girl movie on Hallmark. I am always fascinated by period pieces, how everyone dressed, walked and talked in other times and the interior of houses. How they lived, warding off the elements in somewhat different ways, has intrigued me.

    One thing that they don't show is the long underwear. I can remember my Mama's descriptions of that and think that we could save considerable energy if we would not save our "long John's" and "long Jane's" for outdoor recreational activity, but bring them in and wear them regularly. After all we don't have to break ice on the water barrel, boil water and squeeze the clothes through a wringer to have clean laundry. Those machines worked well today too and earned their keep in my house.

    I am knitting hats for myself, so that I will have more than one and wearing a hat in the house saves a good bit of money for it allows me to turn the heat back substantially.

    In my Chicago days I learned to wear two pairs of socks in winter. That may be some of the best knowledge that I took away from the experience. A warm head and warm feet help a great deal.

    So while I do not cherish this cold spell, I am grateful for my blessings and trying to tell myself that it will be more like Christmas if it is cold.

    Thursday, December 11, 2008

    Then There are Days

    Then there are days when I can't seem to spell my own name. Days when McAfee won't even let me access my own blog! Today was one of those days. Somehow, it seems that I take one step forward and then two back.

    I think the McAfee thing is fixed. I hope it is and that others are not having trouble coming here. My name in the Etsy link to the right is now correct.

    The Christmas presents that are going to Toledo are wrapped and I just need to seal the box. Next will be to re-invent printing postage from the computer--big step forward.

    Soon it will be time to go fix dinner--frozen salmon patties from Costco combined with green beans (actually one salmon patti) and this incredible horseradish sauce (Heinz in a bottle) given to me by a friend.

    Last night I indulged in multiple episodes of NCIS while knitting a hat. Not too bad a way to while away some portion of a winter evening. In a week it will be the solstice and then the days will get longer. I can hardly wait and can hardly wait for the new flower bulbs to bloom. First, though, I don't want to lose Christmas. So I will go savor my Christmas tree for a few minutes and see if there is room to stuff the one last forgotten item into my sister's Christmas box--I don't think that there is. A second box may have to follow after all!

    I am grateful for the beauty of the winter day and that small things are being accomplished. Sometimes the small things add up to big things and sometimes they lay the foundation.

    Wednesday, December 10, 2008

    Christmas Preparations

    I am behind in blogging as I have taken advantage of the kindness of friends who have had time to come and help haul out all the decorations and begin putting them up. My goal is to have everything in place by the third Sunday in Advent and then have time to just enjoy them. The main tree is up in the living room, which is still littered with boxes.

    Monday I also baked pumpkin muffins, which are so yummy and healthy that I almost don't feel guilty eating the carbs--and I no longer put butter on them.

    Monday was also the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, one of the truly beautiful days of the Catholic Church year and so appropriate to Advent, which I always think of as Mary's time.

    After a year of struggling and limping along with just dial-up, today I completed the process of "re-inventing" my dsl. It was so easy, that I am almost ashamed to have put it off for so long! May all of our technological challenges be so simple.

    It is so good to sit comfortably at my desktop computer, in my office, instead of at the laptop on the dining room table. The sun shines in and the monitor screen is bigger and I have music and a space heater. And life is just good!

    More now that things can be done so much more quickly, I am sure. I am full of joy and gratitude. Now if I can set up the DVD/VCR-player/recorder--a much more complicated beast, I will be even more happy.

    Saturday, December 6, 2008

    Feast of St. Nicholas

    This is one of my favorite feast days of the whole year. As I wrote last year, when I was growing up we always had chocolate by our plates at breakfast following a custom that my mother grew up with. Decades later when I was doing family history research, I discovered that her German grandfather was named Nicholas. This clinched my love for this saint.

    In many European countries this is the day when children receive their presents. They put out their shoes or stockings to be filled with small toys and treats. If they have been good this is what they will receive. If they have been bad, Krankus, who accompanies St. Nicholas, leaves sticks and lumps of coal. I never heard of Krankus until I was well into middle-age.

    A great link for St. Nicholas lore and celebrations is the St. Nicholas Center (stnicholascenter.org) which for some reason I cannot make come up in a link today. It is in the links list of my Squidoo lens on St. Nicholas, however.

    Monday, December 1, 2008

    Feast of St. Edmund Campion

    Today is the feast of one of my all time favorite saints, St. Edmund Campion. Oxford scholar, English Jesuit and recusant martyr, he captured my imagination when I read Evelyn Waugh's biography over twenty years ago.

    The book was so riveting that when I finished it at some late hour of the night (or early morning depending on one's perspective), I looked up to find that my father had fallen asleep on the couch across the room and a section of the newspaper lay on the floor next to my footstool. I gathered that he had tried three times to get my attention and finally tossed the paper folded with an article he thought I would find interesting. His comment was, "That must be some book you were reading."

    It was. I had not known that Campion had been in Ireland for a time and written a history--that I still would like to read. His story reads like a terrific adventure complete with disguises and chase scenes and a passionate commitment to his religion. I wanted, at one point to write a screenplay but that will have to be taken up by someone who is younger.

    If you would like to read more, I commend Waugh's biography and this article on New Advent from the Catholic Encyclopedia, http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/05293c.htm I am grateful for his life and for his feast.

    Sunday, November 30, 2008

    First Sunday of Advent, 2008

    This is my Advent wreath which is set up now on my dining room table.



    I know that Advent will fly by and Christmas will come almost too quickly as it has every year of my life. In three weeks we will have the shortest day of the year and then the celebration of the return of the light in the celebration of the birth of the Christ child, the Light of the World.

    With the help of a friend a few weeks ago I moved my Liturgy of the Hours from a high shelf in my bedroom that I could no longer reach safely to the bookcase in the dining room. Yesterday I got out the "blue" volume the one marked 1 for the first season of the year, Advent. We will see if I can get back to the rhythm of using it daily.

    I also own the Divine Office in a three volume set with Latin and English. I should bring it out too and use them both. There is time for them and it is time to make time in my life.

    The Liturgy of the Hours is the post Vatican II version of the Office and it is usually thought to be most accessible to lay people who do not have a background in Latin. (Since most of the people whom I knew with whom I first shared the Office--the chanting of Mass, as well as Vespers and Compline--were scholars of Latin among other subjects, that wasn't an issue.) I found that I loved the Office of Readings though because of the excerpts from the writings of the Fathers of the Church.

    If I can find the materials on line, I will try to link here. I am grateful for this season and the readings.

    A blessed Advent to all who read this blog.

    Thursday, November 27, 2008

    Thanksgiving 2008

    There are so many things to be thankful for even though this has been such a difficult year for so many of us.

    One thing to be thankful for is that it is nearly over! The new year always brings a sense of hope and expectation and fresh start and I hope that will be so.

    I am thankful for my family; for friends near and far and for this marvelous communication technology that brings us all together even when we are far away. It is hard to believe that I have only had email for a little over ten years and that the grocery delivery service that Papa and I originally bought an Internet ready computer for, Peapod, has been long gone.

    So many ways to access the web and make it useful exist now that didn't exist then, that I can't help being grateful for them, too. (Even the game that I play compulsively on Facebook called Pathwords is something that I am grateful for.)

    The weather is mild and beautiful and that is a tremendous blessing. I spend the winter living in fear of my heating bills, mostly because I never know until I open them what they are going to be. It would be nice to know, to have some sort of inside meter on the furnace or thermostat that would show me how I am doing and then have the rates clearly stated on the web so that it would be possible to plan a little better.

    Since that isn't possible I am grateful for obsessive knitting in past years that has given me a wonderful pile of hats, scarves and mitts that keep me warm with lower thermostat settings. I am also grateful for polyester fleece and think it is cool that it is made out of recycled plastic bottles.

    I am grateful that I am still able to live in my own house and that I can even have a bit of garden thanks to friends who share in that.

    So even though I don't have a big Thanksgiving dinner in the works, I am grateful for my blessings and give thanks on this day of thanksgiving.

    Tuesday, November 25, 2008

    Counting Down to Christmas

    It is hard to believe that Christmas is only a month away. Time to clean up the living room to make way for the decorations. My house has a holiday smell to it thanks to three big bags of rosemary drying in the front hall.

    For the last few days I have been updating my Squidoo Christmas Countdown lens and bringing it up to date with fresh tips. It is now linked to the right. Advent starts on Sunday and this beautiful season should not be neglected in all the Christmas preparations.

    I won't bake very much this year. The teeth are getting too old for sugar and the net fiddling that I do every day takes time so that will keep me out of the kitchen and away from the calories. Probably a good thing, too!

    All the presents are ready to be wrapped and mailed. All that I have to do is do it.

    Christmas cards have been waiting for years. Maybe this will be the year that I actually write some. I do like to send them as Christmas cards though--during the twelve days of Christmas and not as a friend says, "as Advent cards".

    I have a Keep Advent design on Cafepress and would like to make a movement and see the recovery of Advent. I wouldn't mind selling some totes and buttons too(even sweatshirts and hoodies)--it gets cold in my house in December and January. So take a look at the links to the left, please and consider me for part of your Christmas shopping.

    I am grateful for this time of year.

    Friday, November 21, 2008

    Buckwheat Noodles

    The buckwheat noodles are fabulous! Time consuming but simple nonetheless. They are well worth the effort and I will definitely make them again. They are part of an Italian recipe that includes potatoes and cabbage. I see a recipe variation coming here because I would like to try the cabbage and mushrooms. Of course I added garlic to the dish. There can never be too much garlic.

    It would be an excellent meal served with pumpkin custard--I no longer make pie--and my favorite salad of butter lettuce, mandarin oranges and avocado with a light dressing.

    Thanksgiving is right around the corner and Advent is a week away. I hope to discipline myself to read the Advent readings this year, they are so beautiful, and to post about them, thus fulfilling the Catholic and spiritual part of this blog a little better than I have. It is a time of expectation and therefore of joy.

    Today the sun shines in and warms my house, which was quite chilly this morning and I am grateful for that as well as the good food and the company of my friend who shared it with me.

    Thursday, November 20, 2008

    Counting Blessings

    The stock market is dismal, the weather has turned chilly and grey and it would be so easy to lament and collapse into depression. (A five minute microwave chocolate mug cake comes to mind here.)

    On the other hand, the furnace is working and I thank God for it. The lights are on; the space I am working in is relatively cozy and warm so what are my blessings?

    To be alive in a warm dry place. To have food of my own choosing and to know that I am going to attempt to make homemade buckwheat noodles this afternoon for the first time. To know that I have so many projects I can pick one from the list and not be bored for a day or a week or a month or probably even a year.

    In the last week I have rediscovered the pleasure of writing, working on a story that had not been touched for so long that it seemed to have been abandoned. Why? I can work on figuring that out too!

    Thanksgiving is near and Christmas soon to follow. I love these holidays and I have everthing to celebrate Christmas without spending a cent. The tree lives in its box in the front hall closet for most of the year and the ornaments too. In fact, I have several Christmas trees with varying stories and of varying sizes. I am hoping to put them all up this year. So looking forward, anticipating celebration is part of my blessing counting.

    My friend who befriended my yard several years ago was over yesterday and we visited. After she finished in the yard, she went into the garage to look for something for me and found tons of cardboard which I had forgotten that I had saved. Off the premises it went. Thanks be to my friend.

    Sometime this weekend I will finally harvest the tomatoes and make fried green tomatoes for the first time. They sound delicious.

    All in all it is not a bad day and I am grateful and reminding myself of the blessings.

    Monday, November 17, 2008

    Catching Up

    I see that it has been almost a week since I have been here. It was a long week and threatening to be cold since the furnace quit twice. It seems to be running smoothly now, thank God and the young man who did such a great job of fixing it.

    It has been unusually warm, beautiful weather and I hope that the winter is mild and filled with gentle rain. Next week is Thanksgiving already and then quickly after that, Christmas. Many of us will be glad when this year is over, I think and we hope that next year will be better and dread that next year will be worse.

    It is up to us all really to take the dread out of it and make sure that it is better. It is a different kind of catching up; catching up to a more old-fashioned notion of community and economy that is built locally from the ground up or over the Internet by seeking out small businesses who are on the web because the local areas alone would not support them

    Over the past decade I have extended my community to include used booksellers that I have found through Advanced Book Exchange and found books from all over this country and from Ireland. I have found beautiful yarn, hand-dyed by women who have set up their shops on Ebay and I have begun my own endeavors, my Mary Kay business, Cafepress shop and Etsy shop to add my little bit.

    I like this idea of catching up to an older economy of small businesses and entrepreneurs by using modern technology--the Internet and long distance shipping companies to combine small with global. I could never have traveled to all of the places that I have purchased things from or that people are in who have purchased from me--my carbon footprint would have been enormous if I had done so.

    We can all catch up to the economy and rebuild prosperity if we stop being afraid. Let's not dread the New Year, but plan how we can circumvent corporate jumbo businesses and support one another.

    Tuesday, November 11, 2008

    Veteran's Day, 2008

    Honoring those who served makes me think particularly of my father, who served in the Navy in World War II and my Grandpa, who served in the Army in World War I. Neither told War stories while I was growing up. Both were good men who served their country because it was their duty to do so. Neither would have considered a career in the military, I am sure of that.

    On the other hand, I have dear friends who did make the military their careers, one in the Navy and one first in the Marine corps and then in the Army. Another dear friend is a Marine from World War II.

    The "greatest generation" tends to fill my thoughts when I think of Veteran's Day, but today's men and women deserve our prayers, gratitude and kindness too. Even though the war is unpopular, they should not be. The members of my generation who suffered through the war in Vietnam are a testment to that.

    Several years ago, I made a design with words for Peace in about forty languages to honor my father, Fred. As I was writing this tonight, I realized that was Grandpa's name as well. It was his father's and his father's uncle (my third great-uncle, I think that the relationship is) who was also named Fred. That man served in the Union Army in the Civil War. I wish he had left a journal--I do have all of his Veteran's records of application for disability from NARA (National Archive and Records Administration) and I have no doubt at all that he suffered from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. So my design does honor them as well.

    To all of the veterans and those serving I wish you peace and joy and the return to your families. My prayers and thoughts go with you tonight. I am so grateful to you all and for you all.

    Thursday, November 6, 2008

    It Happened, Obama Won!

    I went to bed on Tuesday night praying that it would not be a mistake in the morning! I don't trust projections. But Obama really and truly won! I am so glad. He even mentioned the disabled in his acceptance speech--now I hope that won't be the last time that we are mentioned, and that there will be more hope and help for us too.

    I haven't been thrilled by an election since I was thirteen and John Fitgerald Kennedy was elected. I remember thinking that I could hardly wait to be old enough to cast my first ballot.

    Eight years later when that day came, it was after bitter fighting in the primaries and the candidate I voted for, Hubert Humphrey, was a compromise candidate and he didn't win. I went away from my involvement in politics with a sense of loss: loss for the idealism that had led me to get involved in the first place and loss that all the hard work had been for nothing. Tuesday night I felt that loss healed for the first time in forty years.

    I hope that all the young people who got involved will stay involved. We need to have a record turnout for voting in every election and at every level.

    I think that president-elect Obama didn't just win the Presidency, he gave us back and gives us back our idealism and our pride in Democracy. I am so glad for him and for us.

    Now we all have to do it too--unite as a nation and build a strong and just economy. Unite as a nation to let the bitterness of the past fall away and heal.

    More about that in another post. For now, I am just glad and grateful.

    Monday, November 3, 2008

    One More Day!

    Only one more day and then we will see who is elected after all the hoopla and the longest campaign in history. I hope that the next campaign does not go on as long or cost as much.

    I voted several weeks ago, so there is an element of anti-climax to the real election day. Wednesday will tell who the new President is and I am looking forward to that day.

    I hope that we can all work together to bring about a saner, more stable and more just economy. I believe that we are all made in the image and likeness of God, and therefore that we all have talents, love, gifts and the ability to live productive and virtuous lives. We bring all of that to the table, so to speak; our economy should reflect that. If we think of the economy as the table, then it is a big table with room for all of us at the feast of prosperity and productivity that can be brought to it. There is room for sharing and caring at this table.

    Social security disability needs to be overhauled so that we who are disabled have a place at the table; so that our talents and gifts and in some cases, as for people like me, our educations are not put on hold and wasted for a lifetime because of outmoded definitions of a bureaucracy that puts people into institutionalized poverty.

    Health care needs to be seriously reformed. I hope that it will be and that no one will be excluded from care, or excluded from economic productivity because of insurance company formulas about who can be included. At the same time, we need to recognize, I believe, that health care is not a right but a need. Like shelter, water, food and clothing care in illness and injury is a necessity to life. We should provide that care. We should also expect to pay something for it and a system that has a sliding scale that makes government's role supplemental and as the re-insurer for catastrophic accident and illness would make sense to me on every level.

    We need to put people back to work and we need to repair and rebuild much of our infrastructure, from levees in California and roads all over the country to bridges and perhaps airports as well. A new WPA would be timely and helpful.

    We need to carefully and seriously question the profit motive, corporate capitalism and the whole laissez faire idea of the totally free market. We have just seen this run rampant and we are suffering the consequences of it. Even Alan Greenspan recognized there was a flaw. Oh yes, this amateur historian (although I majored in History, I don't make my living as an Historian) can see that flaw and spotted it about thirty-five years ago. (And it doesn't really require that other degree that I hold, the M. Div., to know that the flaw is called greed.)

    We need, and I believe religious leaders have a role to play here, to bring the concept of justice to our economy. I have always believed in the motto, "If you want peace, work for justice". Let's make it happen. At the same time I have always believed that an economy based on community rather than competition would be one that was more just, less stressful and made room for every body.

    So I am grateful for the right to vote, that the election will take place tomorrow and that on Wednesday, praise God, it will finally be over. We have work ahead of us that cannot not be undertaken too soon. I am grateful and I hope that we will seize the opportunity to truly dig in and do it, making a better world for all of us.

    Saturday, November 1, 2008

    Beautiful Rain

    California has been suffering from a drought since March. So to hear the rain falling is like music. Much of yesterday, last night and today the rain fell gently, sweetly watering our parched land. Snow has most probably fallen in the Sierra's, to the delight of everyone there--especially those who rely on skiers to bring them their livelihood.

    We are dependent on the cycle of nature and as the days shorten and we draw within for winter activities, turning our clocks back tonight, it is a good time to reflect on how we are a part of that cycle.

    Tomorrow is the Feast of All Souls, one of my favorite days in the Church calendar. The choir will sing the special Requiem for All Souls and that is a reminder of the cycle too, for we are here for a short time and then gone.

    Today as I looked out at the light of a cloudy day in between the rain showers, I spotted a pair of hummingbirds dancing in air as they do from time to time. It is a thing of breathtaking beauty and I believe they are a mated pair, swooping towards each other, giving way to each other and circling, then flying off together. I have been watching them at the pineapple sage in the kitchen window too.

    Gratitude is a major theme today. For the snug, well-lighted house where I sit typing; for the quiet that allows me to think and reflect; for the occasional plinking still of rain on the kitchen exhaust fan over the stove and for the hummingbirds and their joyous dance in the air.

    Wednesday, October 29, 2008

    Rejoicing over Something Geeky

    Last night I went to bed happy, truly happy for the first time in a very long time. I actually got something geeky that I had been trying to make work for months to work! Hurrah! Wheelchair version of a happy dance! I can, I can, yes I can!

    So after all of that you may be wondering what it was. How to place a code in such a way that it will affiliate link to my cafepress shop so that someone can become an affiliate and ask all their family and friends to come see what I have to offer, thus bringing them income along with me. Hurrah!

    This is different from the link on the right which goes to my shop and just makes money for me--not enough traffic this way. So I am hoping, hoping and hoping and now I have to figure out the next steps.

    It was cold this morning and the only reason that I finally got up was that it wasn't even very warm in my bed, so I had to get up and turn up the heat. I am not looking forward to winter despite the fact that I basically like it. I like drawing in, having the privacy that comes with closing the windows and not hearing what everyone else is doing. I love the winter baking warmth and smells in my house and the smells of soups and chili cooking.

    I totally love Christmas and the preparation for it that is Advent. Valentine's day is fun too and of course, by then in my part of the country, spring will be on it's way.

    So having done my geeky thing, I am resting on my laurels today. I go to play with plants and to inventory pots for the bulbs that have been waiting to be potted. Over the weekend basil will be harvested and I hope that pumpkin muffins will be baked--if I can find my recipe.

    I am grateful.

    Saturday, October 25, 2008

    Gardening with the Best Assistance--Friends

    Yesterday and today I played with my plants. Yesterday I dug in the dirt--a big bag of potting soil, but it is real dirt nonetheless. I have dirt under the fingernails to prove it! A small bag is residing on the porch waiting to fill pots for various transplants and will be refilled so that I can pot up new bulbs that came from American Meadows two weeks ago--tulips, King Alfred Daffodils, the fragrant ones, white daffodils and a new Amaryllis bulb, big Amaryllis bulb. I can hardly wait.

    Today I messed about with moving pots and moving plants--at one point I was enmeshed or maybe ensnarled in potted rose bushes and trying to move a tomato plant by myself was a mistake. It did more damage to the plant than me, but there was a moment there when I wondered what I was going to next. Then I carefully grabbed one rose, between the thorns, and extricated it from me and the wheelchair. Next I did the same with the other. Then I admonished them to stay in their places. (Yes, I talk to my plants.)

    My friend L came and expertly, patiently staked the remaining tomato plants before moving them. They are nicely in a row farther down in the patio from where they had been, getting more sun. They have tomatoes growing on them, so now we are hoping for ripening--and they need more water than I have been giving them for the grow bags were so much lighter than I thought they would be.

    I smell of tomatoes and basil and dirt and wish my house could be equipped with a handicap accessible bathroom and shower. Someday, perhaps. I dream and dream also of the garden that will grow in the next season.

    I am grateful for the exercise and sunshine, the warmth of the Fall day and the friendship of L who is home, all too briefly, from the sea.

    Tuesday, October 21, 2008

    Hummingbirds

    Today I have had the exquisite pleasure of watching hummingbirds in both the back and front yards. I have become expectant each day now of seeing one or both of a pair who seem to be nesting in my pyracantha tree (yes, it really is) as they come to the pineapple sage in the backyard. Right outside the kitchen window, the show is framed for my perfect viewing as I wait for water to boil for my coffee or tea or as I wash dishes.

    Then I put "fluffy", who had become the indoor basil plant, back on the porch. The weather is mild and she needs a bit of sunshine on her leaves. After a bit, with the front door open, for I am waiting for someone, I waited for something slow on the internet and looked out that door. Motion in the basil plant attracted my attention. Sure enough, there was my favorite bird darting from basil branch to basil branch and then over to the blooming pineapple sage I can just see through the screen door. This is perfectly wonderful!

    Here are pictures of "Fluffy" while she was inside.





    It is a perfect day, one of those days when just being is a blessing and when I wish that I could bottle it to release on a cold winter day or a hot summer one. I am grateful for the day and for my dear friend and housekeeper who came and cleaned for me today.

    Sunday, October 19, 2008

    Sunday Blessings

    My house is perfumed with the smell of drying basil. One more bush has been cut out. Above the smell of the basil is the lovely smell of carrot bread cooling on the open oven door. This is a mix that a friend gave me for my birthday. It looks like it should be pumpkin and it is the time of the year for pumpkin. It definitely doesn't taste like pumpkin. I can hardly wait to cut a slice.

    Yesterday was a misspent day. I have a fabulous recipe for pumpkin muffins that I cannot find. I have looked everywhere. It is not there, or there or anywhere and yet it must be somewhere in my house! Thinking to reinvent it, I went to the web. Pumpkin muffins with chocolate chips; pumpkin muffins with raisins and currents; no plain, light, fluffy pumpkin muffins. Well, I will just have to keep looking.

    Being outdoors to survey and tend the plants was a decided blessing. Taking it for granted all summer has made it a blessing today, for it is clear by the weather that winter is coming. The tomato plants are gorgeous and even have a small number of tiny tomatoes. So far none have matured to the point where I could pick them and use them for green tomato pie--something I have been wanting to make for six years since I first found the recipe on the web.

    Baking is another blessing for a Sunday. It makes the routine different. Of course, I wish that I could go to Mass and hear the chant and chat with my friends afterward, but since I can't I want to make rituals that set Sunday apart from other days.

    Monday will come soon enough with all of its tasks. For now I am grateful for Sunday, for the basil and the pumpkin bread and for the sun shining in as I type.

    Wednesday, October 15, 2008

    Delicious Weather, Delicious Harvest

    The weather is perfect for this time of year, perfect for any time of the year. I love it and wish we could keep it for a very long time. Here are basil tops drying on the bed tray. This is, if I remember correctly, from one plant.



    Several times today, while I was puttering in my kitchen, I looked out the big windows over the sink to watch the hummingbird feeding at the pineapple sage, which has now blossomed all the way to the top. The tranquility and beauty of this scene helped me to be more at peace with myself over all the trials and tribulations of life. God has made these perfect creatures, the plant and the bird, which do not sell stock or make financial messes of others lives or for that matter demand anything. True if I had not provided water to the plant--through the kindness of friends who have been watering for me, because I cannot access the side and back yards of my property--the bird would not have found food. We are a food chain of three, a cooperative society.

    Then I tried to listen to the last presidential debate--since I have already voted, it was pointless, really. I do wish that Obama would simply counter McCain by agreeing about the mortgages, though. I hope that he hasn't lost ground because of this debate. I honestly couldn't tell who was ahead. So now we wait for three more weeks.

    In the meantime, I will enjoy the weather and my tiny harvest. Tonight dinner was buckwheat pasta and pesto. Very yummy, very gratifying and I am grateful. I like harvesting my dinner.

    Monday, October 13, 2008

    Harvesting the Basil

    Five basil plants are now reduced to four. The largest bush, the one in the grow bag, yielded about 8 oz of minced basil in oil produced by processing it in the blender. My wrists, arms and shoulders have had a workout.



    It is amazing to see a rather good sized bush, a fair pile as it sits on tissue paper on the floor to be photographed, reduced to such a small quantity. I have seen its precedent in apples. Many years ago a friend gave me a paper grocery sack of apples from her backyard tree. I peeled and chopped and boiled and canned and had--four pints of apple butter. It was amazing. Essence of apple and I have never done it again, but am glad I did it that one time.

    The basil is going to be like that. A small cinnamon basil, not part of the count of five, is drying on top of my dryer. I will attend to it tomorrow, stripping the leaves from the stems and placing them in a separate layer above the basil or the roses. (I am always drying roses, almost always drying something.)

    So now there are four. One is temporarily residing in the house as a house plant. One will be cut tomorrow and laid out to dry. The other two, outside, I hope to nurture along for a little while longer.

    It was cold over the weekend so the basil wasn't happy. That is why one is in the hall. The others, overgrown in their pots, were hooded with white plastic bags and kept warm. With warmer weather this week, I hope they will be fine.

    I am grateful for the plants, for the harvest and for the fact that I had the good sense to harvest only one and split the basil processing over two days--keeping the branches that I hadn't gotten to yet in the refrigerator.

    Saturday, October 11, 2008

    Too Much Volunteerism, Not Enough Time

    The week flew by in too much volunteer activity, which I truly need to curb. All communities need volunteers and all of my life I have "stepped up to the plate", usually to take on the quiet, behind the scenes and never ending boring jobs no one else wanted to do.

    It started in high school when I was involved in CCD (confraternity of Christian doctrine, or teaching catechism) at my local parish. Then for a number of years, I was too busy being a student to do much until the election campaign of 1968 when I poured my time, energy and heart and soul into Eugene McCarthy's unsuccesful bid for the Presidency and into the local Democratic club.

    My next stint of volunteerism was for my church again and lasted several years. It led to the discernment that I had a call to serve and the decision to go to Graduate school in a field that I now regret, religion.

    When I returned home after graduate school I volunteered again to serve on church committees and then in the last ten years in my local neighborhood.

    The biggest lesson that I have learned from all of this is that volunteering in an unseen way is asking to have one's time and energy used up and thrown away. If you are going to volunteer at least do it in a way that allows you to be seen; allows you to make real contacts with people so that friendships might be formed and support given.

    I have seen that the more people are given the less they give back. An entitlement mentality sets in. "It's free, so why can't I use it any way that I want" becomes the norm, rather than, "Thank you. This is such a great thing that you are doing." I have seen genuine rudeness set in where there should be gratitude.

    Maybe we need a thank a volunteer week. I know that for me I am going to try to strike a better balance in my own life. I am grateful for the experiences and for the lessons that I have learned and also for the fact that rather late on I am finally assessing them. For me it is going to be less is more--less volunteering and more time spent on activities that give back to me.

    Tuesday, October 7, 2008

    Tempus Fugit!

    It's hard to believe it is Tuesday already. The time is going by too fast and this is my favorite time of year. I love the low angle of light in the fall, the sense of a pause after the too long days of summer, the heat and the routines of survival I must go into when heat waves strike. Now it is neither too hot nor too cold. I know that I have survived the summer and I do not yet have to hunker down and worry about how I will manage during the winter.

    The house is still cleaned up and therefore friendlier than before I had company, so I am still benefiting from their visit. (The fact that my sister left my fridge and freezer well-stocked is a blessing too.)

    A month from today is the election that seems to have been going on forever. The bailout so much touted and so hurriedly passed, does not seem to be working. The stock that I need to sell to pay my way through the winter is down a frightening amount. At the same time, the worry about finances seems to hang like a heavy mist before a storm, casting a pall of doom over the beautiful fall day. I am determined not to watch the news, for it is all bad. I do hope that Obama is elected in a month and that he does bring the energy, intelligence, hope and common sense that he seems to carry to the actual job of leading this country.

    For the decline of the stock market is relative. We don't hold money in our hands that we have in our names on paper only--unless of course it is our savings accounts. I have believed for ten years that the value of our economy is inflated and for twenty years that supply side economics pays out only to the rich. It looks like I was right. (I just wish that I had a little more money in hand at the moment.)

    So back to work to see what I can do to earn some. Before I know it time will have flown to November and a new round of bills. I am grateful for the beautiful day, the lovely light and that at least for this month every thing is paid.

    Saturday, October 4, 2008

    We Ate Too Much!

    We ate too much, we really did! Last week at this time my house was filled with family and friends. I love all of them dearly starting with the tiny toddler, my grand-nephew who is just starting to walk. (Watch out world, he will soon be running--and climbing.) His Mama is a joy and treasure in my life, too. All the friends who came are dear to me and I felt loved and stuffed and exhilarated with excitement and exhaustion.

    Cake, three kinds of ice cream, delicious Champagne, Chinese food, lasagna, steak, cheesecake, blueberry muffins, an incredible, edible fruit arrangement, my sister's delicious tilipio dish with its yummy sauce, more kinds of chips than I knew existed and a wonderfully gooey Midwestern cheese dip that is pure fattening. Oh, and I almost forgot the French bread. (Why is bread almost always served with pasta? They are both carbs and may as well be applied directly to the hips, or the gut, or the seat--depending on where the fat settles on any particular person.) I think I ate a month's worth of calories in ten days.


    Watching the food flowing through this house accompanied by all the beverages and the coming and going to the airport, I thought, "How can there be a recession? This family is singlehandedly doing our bit to stave it off?" That may be the key actually to the whole thing of staving off recession. Turn off the television, forget the news and celebrate our lives; live and be happy.

    Today my sister and her husband are on the last leg of their journey home. It is time to settle down to work again. I will try to blog more regularly and there is plenty else to do. Cafepress designs need tending, Squidoo lenses need updating and making, and I still need to figure out how to find more ways to sell Mary Kay products to more customers. Anybody with any ideas please leave comments.

    Any good diet advice, I could use that too! (Of course, if somebody could just do it for me...) I am happy and grateful.

    Wednesday, September 24, 2008

    They are Here!

    My company is here--at least the first contingent! It is so exciting and so much fun! The time will fly by too quickly, I am sure and so much will be going on especially Saturday when the youngest member of the family and his parents join us. The house will be overflowing and this is good. Nine years ago, the last time we did this we gathered for a funeral. This time we gather for a birthday celebration. Except for the fact that I am tired, it is good.

    In the meantime the plants have been growing apace. The basils now fill the space and the tomatoes are growing so fast that they seem to be making up for lost time.


    Saturday, September 20, 2008

    Saturday--traditionally chore day

    When I was growing up, Saturday was chore day. Today because I am getting the house ready for guests, the day became one of seemingly endless chores! Laundry is satisfying when it is done--somewhat forboding at the outset. There are now clean sheets for the new air mattress that my guests will use. Blowing that up will be an adventure. More of the living room has emerged--it is amazing what one can do to a living room if one keeps using it as a general sorting space and forgets that it is supposed to be a gracious living area. It will be closer to its real purpose by Wednesday when my sister and her husband arrive.

    There is too much yarn in the living room--forget yard sale, maybe what I should do is a living room, yarn sale. (Laughing as she writes this.) Several years ago I combined red and green sport weight yarn that has since been discontinued and made a hat with a matching neck ring (the turtleneck without the sweater) and small mitts. I found the neck ring the other day and have been wearing it. One mitt surfaced today. Where is the other?

    The kitchen sink has been the repository of jars and bottles that I have been cleaning out of the refrigerator as well as things that have just been left there. Wash, wash, wash, peel, scrape, scrub. They are quite pretty and will give me goodies to photograph for my squidoo lenses and I am glad--now I just have to find some place to put them. The sink is going to need either Zud or the Barkeeper's Friend to come clean.

    Speaking of Squidoo lenses, I am nearing the point of 50 and am determined to bring two or three more up to speed in the next two days in between the scouring, scraping and sorting. A different kind of chore, but still necessary.

    And then there are the Halloween designs for my cafepress shop. Halloween is not a holiday that inspires me. It never has been. I love All Saints and All Souls the two days that it leads up to though so I have a design for it too. Guess who is going to be busy for the next two days?

    And then just as in the good old days when I was young, procrastination set in. As I dug through the contents of the red chair--a big old armchair that has been full of my stuff for the last several years--I turned on the tv and found the last half hour of Skylark, part of the Sarah Plain and Tall series. I love this series and sat enchanted through two hours of the last movie, the one that I did not know even existed.

    It has been a good day and I am glad and grateful. Now I am going to go to bed and read Mary Stewart. Hoping to finish the second book before my family arrives. There is something satisfying about reading an old familiar book for the repeat time, and this is one of those.

    Tuesday, September 16, 2008

    Tuesday Once Again

    Today I had the pleasure of playing with my plants. The basil smell of coffee grounds (which I sprinkled around them on Sunday) as well as of their own scent. It is a different combination. The roses have gotten leggy and suffered through the heat. I trimmed the dead flowers and dead leaves off the yellow one and was pleased to see two buds waiting in line to bloom. The red one is next and then the Mr. Lincoln. I also sprinkled chopped up banana peels around the base of the roses and the basils as this supplies potassium to the plants. It also feels good not to throw away the banana peels, but to put them to another use. (Eggshells are good for this too. They supply calcium.)

    The tomatoes have grown even though the weather is cooler and the days shorter. They smell wonderful. I can hardly wait to see if they flower and fruit and I am wondering if some of the growth is "suckers" that should be removed. Not knowing a whole lot about them I am sort of gardening in the dark here.

    Saturday my friend who brought lunch took this picture of my pineapple sage, also known as "Nature's Hummingbird Feeder".



    This is a beautiful plant that smells like a ripe pineapple. I highly recommend it to anyone who gardens. Once established it will grow well from cuttings so that you will always have a gift to share with another gardener, or friend who loves hummingbirds.

    I am grateful tonight for my garden and the friends who have been helping me with it.

    Saturday, September 13, 2008

    Fall is Here!

    It feels like fall is really here! The angle of the light has changed and it is fully dark much earlier now. I began the day watching a hummingbird sipping at the pineapple sage outside the kitchen window, went outside to play with plants and the Fed Ex man arrived with my Pampered Chef order--three new gadgets that are sturdily made tools.

    Then I was blessed with lunch from a friend. What I had thought would be a day of work has gone by quickly as a day of play and that is a blessing. Enough time later in the week for work, I am savoring my favorite season and a day to just be relaxed.

    This week a friend sent me what may be the most wicked and dangerous recipe ever invented. The 5 minute chocolate microwave mug cake. I thought, "naw this isn't going to work." My mind kept coming back to it until finally I had to try it. (You can google for a zillion variations of it.) I stirred it up in an extra large mug--one of my own designs from Cafepress--and put it in the microwave for three minutes.

    For the first minute or so nothing seemed to be happening and then a chocolate pouf rose above the mug and hovered. It extended to the point that I thought it was going to touch the ceiling--and make a mess. Just missing that point it began to collapse and stayed at a certain height above the mug until the microwave shut off and then it disappeared as though the mug had swallowed it up. I was disappointed that it didn't stay high, but grabbed a towel and removed it.

    I began eating it from the mug, but quickly realized it wasn't going to cool fast enough so put it out on a plate. It held it's shape quite well and was delicious. The mug took a really long time to cool, though and I find that scary from the standpoint of doing this at all regularly.

    The cake, about the size of two cupcakes, was really two portions and I was pleased that I could not eat it all in one sitting.

    Cooking and baking are two of the pleasures of cooler weather. I am feeling gratitude tonight. Think that I will make another one sometime this week.

    Wednesday, September 10, 2008

    Birthdays and Remembrance

    September has always been one of my most favorite times of the year, partly because I went to school for so long that it is etched in my being that Fall is a time of beginnings. It is also a month of family birthdays.


    The matriarch of Papa's family (even though she never married, she was the one who held everyone and everything together) was Rose Ellen Manor, known as "Aunt Dade" to all of us. Her birthday was September 6, and I believe the year was 1874.

    Today, September 10 was Mama's birthday. She was born in 1910. I wrote about her on February 19, this year on the anniversary of her death. She was born just as the Victorian era had ended and the Edwardian era began. I remember that she told us about the wood burning stove in the kitchen, the parlor and the Christmas customs. When she died, I thought that era truly went with her and a friend of mine agreed, then added sagely and kindly, "Peggy it will live on in you."

    The youngest member of our family joined us last year on September 17 and my first cousin and his wife also both have September birthdays.

    A cake with candles and flowers were part of birthday celebrations and they are still part of mine. September is completed for me with my own birthday at the end of the month. This year I am looking forward to family members visiting to celebrate it with me.

    I am looking forward even as I remember and I am grateful.

    Tuesday, September 9, 2008

    Blessings

    The fog has rolled back in and it is such a blessing. My stress level goes down markedly when the weather is not so hot. The shortening days are also signaling to all the plants that it is time to bloom. Red flowers on the pineapple sage under my kitchen window attract hummingbirds,for whom the plant has been tended all summer. The basils are producing flower stalks faster than I can cut them to keep up with them for potpourri and the smell of drying basil fills my dining room even as I sit here and type.

    There is a feeling of peacefulness because of the weather and the garden that I wish I could replicate and send world wide. Maybe a new fragrance or room air freshner! It could be sprayed in meeting rooms world wide whenever leaders gather to discuss rancorous issues.

    Planning the garden's next stage is also a blessing. Now that I know that the side yard will produce food I need to have someone turn the soil and then order the seeds. Kale and chard, turnips, parsnips, beets and carrots would be good for our fall into winter climate.

    It will be interesting and useful for future years to see if the late tomatoes actually do produce. I am thinking of tomatoes from my own plants as part of Thanksgiving dinner--and definitely will give thanks for them if there are some.

    Today my friend, who is my housekeeper, will come and make order out of my chaos and cleanliness out of my mess. She is a blessing of major proportion in my life, as are the friends who water for me.

    In two weeks my sister and her husband will be visiting. Truly a blessing and some real excitement for someone who feels like she is rapidly becoming an old lady.

    Blessings abound if only I look for them and I am grateful for them all.

    Saturday, September 6, 2008

    Will it Ever be Cool Again?

    It feels like it will never be cool again. The fog, which I love, seems to be sulking somewhere out to sea and our beautiful sea breeze along with it. Natural air conditioning is much nicer and less costly than artificial air, but for the last few days as the temperature soared to 97 degrees, I have wished that I could just flip a switch.

    I console myself with the knowledge that in two weeks it will be fall--except that fall is our warmest season, at least at the beginning.

    Of course, I love fall for the holidays and because it signals new beginnings, this year even more than usually because of the election.

    Meanwhile, the tomatoes and basil that I posted about on Tuesday have continued to grow. The tomatoes seem to be growing exponentially. One day, I thought they seemed bigger in the evening than they were in the morning. Unlike corn in the Midwest that can be heard growing, they aren't making any sound, just quietly filling their grow bags. The roses are thriving too. As long as they have plenty of water, they seem to like the heat.

    The days are getting shorter and we will be turning our attention to indoor activities. Soon it will be time for holiday preparations. Summer's heat will be a haze of the past. I will be glad for that, even as I dream of next summer's garden.

    Grateful that the fog is supposedly on the way and that the weather will moderate, I hope to post more regularly next week.

    Tuesday, September 2, 2008

    How Well my Garden Grows

    Sunday afternoon I took pictures of the basils as they are now. They have really grown, even confined to eight inch pots. They are clearly meant to be large plants. They are also the greenest and most delicious basil I have ever had. I love them and will be sad to see them go over the winter.





    The tomatoes are growing beautifully in the "grow bags", which look quite a bit like black plastic trash bags, but are not. It will be really interesting to see how these weather the shorter days and lower temperatures as fall comes on.


    Several years ago I had one basil plant that made it into November. It flowered and the bees crossed it with a mint so that in the following spring I had a unique, distinctive basil-mint plant that lost its basilness as the summer proceeded. Still it was a special plant to have on the porch leading into the house for basil is the herb of love and mint signifies hospitality--a welcoming combination for visitors to my home.

    Sunday, August 31, 2008

    Disaster Awareness and Disability

    Today the victims of hurricane Katrina are being remembered even as the residents of the same area so devastated by that storm get out of the way of nature's new menace, Gustav.

    I have always been glad that I do not live in that area, first for the heat and humidity, and then because of the preponderance of hurricanes. Wind and water are such a devastating combination. I wish the hurricane would fizzle out, but that isn't the way that they work over the warm water south of our southern coast.

    This area is so important to our economy because of the trade up and down the Mississippi and the oil rigs that sit in the hurricane's path. Oil prices may again rise to the stratosphere both in anticipation of this storm and it's actual aftermath.

    I am glad to see people fleeing this time. The image from three years ago that has never left my memory or my heart is that of a blanket thrown over the corpse of someone who died in his/her wheelchair in the Super Dome. I could so easily have been that person.

    What has changed since then? A better emergency plan does seem to exist, but does it include the disabled? Will the poor, disabled simply be left behind?

    So far as I can see nothing has changed for the disabled per se. This is due, in large measure, in my opinion because we, the disabled, ourselves are never asked what our needs are. We are never included, except in kluge government programs that serve the originator of the programs as well as other bureaucrats and not those of us who need to be included in our nation's economy.

    Last week we had several days of excessive heat warning in our area. Nothing is said about checking on the disabled, it's always the elderly and pets. (Well, I nearly qualify in the first category, but not in the second.)

    While the heat was bearing down on me and making daily life difficult, I received a telemarketing call from the Social Security Administration about the "ticket to work". So far as I could tell when the program was inaugurated eight or so years ago, it was not going to do me any good. They are finally getting to me now--just before my 61st birthday and one year before I should be old enough to retire. Sigh.

    I am one of those millions of people who watched and listened to Obama accept the nomination for the Presidency of the United States. Just as in Kerry's speech four years earlier all kinds of people where mentioned as people who will be helped if he is elected. I hope that he will be elected, but just as four years ago one group was left out--Americans with disabilities. Where are we? When will we be included? When will our talents be recognized? When will we be able to bring our gifts to the table and join in the feast and the celebration?

    As I did four years ago, I cried while listening to the acceptance speech. What has changed? Not much. I hope that no people are being left behind in the evacuation of the Gulf region who will be found drowned in their wheelchairs after the disaster passes. I hope there will be no disabled missing because they were left waiting, as they were in the World Trade Center, until the able-bodied could be evacuated ahead of them.

    This country has miles to go before we meet the needs of all of our citizens. I have a dream, as Martin Luther King did, and I hope that I will live long enough to see it met, that disabled people will no longer be forced to live in poverty simply because we are disabled. That the disabled will no longer comprise a large percentage of the homeless population in our major cities. Let us eliminate poverty and make sure that the plans include the disabled. Please.

    Wednesday, August 27, 2008

    Tomatoes Like Heat

    The plants that have been transplanted into grow bags are thriving. They like heat much more than this old gardener does. Still it is rather thrilling to see what they can do when they are given good soil and sufficient room.

    Tomatoes seem to grow exponentially while other things take more time. Roses, for instance have a slower tempo and even the herbs are not exploding out of their pots right now (except for the basils).

    I am starting to plan a fall and winter garden--with only about three weeks of summer left. Carrots, radishes and green onions will grow in a long narrow container that a friend gave me last year. I need to find another like it, for I think that "cut and come again lettuces" would also grow in one of these at least for a short while. Those plants would greatly improve my diet.

    Monday I came in from an almost perfect afternoon in the garden with my friend and the hummingbird to discover ants in the kitchen. Clean up the ants with 409. Wait. They find another spot. Clean some more. Switch to vinegar in water. Keep cleaning. This morning, nary an ant. The upside is that I now have areas of counter that I haven't seen in years (well months). The downside is that wasn't the way that I was planning to spend my time. Oh well.

    Ordering vitamins and other things on line this morning was an eye-opener. The prices for the items aren't too bad but the shipping charges! I think that they are way higher than the actual and that what we really pay for is to get the package into queue fast enough to receive it in timely fashion. Note to self--plan ahead. This is part of the organizational skills of being independent without being able to drive.

    It occurred to me that in the interest of getting people out of their cars and saving more costly fuel, we might consider seeing if we could get Congress to legislate a tax deduction for shipping charges. Retailers would hate this. Shippers would love it. People like me would find it most useful

    Well, this is straying from the subject of tomatoes. Still I am grateful that my house is still comfortable, that the days are shorter than they were at the beginning of July when it was so hot in my house that I could smell the heat and that paint peeled and that the tomatoes are growing. The object is to have tomatoes in October and November.

    Monday, August 25, 2008

    Gardening with the Best Assistance--Friends

    Today my dear friend who has adopted my yard work came and moved piles of pavers around so that the plants can be put on top of them. I now have a sort of rose arbor going down my ramp and the big, Mr. Lincoln is spotted where it will get more sun. The tomatoes and one basil are in 9 gallon grow bags, which I bought from Plant-It-Earth a few weeks ago. These look like they are going to work. The basil was just transplanted three weeks ago and was already root-bound. I would like to have this basil again next year and plant it in something deep--an old trash can comes to mind--to see how big it would become. Basil tree, anyone?

    While my friend and I chatted a hummingbird came to my bower, sipping first on a rose and then a purple malva and finally on the blooming basil flowers. I was going to cut those off, but now I realize that I will need to be sparing so that I do not deprive this lovely creature of scarce food. She was so close that I could see her markings and her feet drawn up under her and hear the clicking of her wings; so close that I could nearly have touched her and so small that I could nearly hold her in the palm of my hand. Exquisite and beautiful, she reminded me to come sit outside just for the joy of it.

    My young friend who is going back to school tomorrow came by just long enough to tell me her plans and water my plants.

    Yesterday I ordered bulbs online with the hope of having more flowers to photograph in the spring. If the bulbs come, if I get them planted, if the squirrels don't dig them up and eat them!

    I can tell when I am playing in the dirt and even more when I am looking at gardening catalogs and web-sites that my ancestors where farmers! I can usually plan enough for at least an acre. I imagine what my ancestors with farms near Adrian, in Michigan and Huntington, in Indiana would make of the web with all the glorious pictures and too many choices, not to mention of me, gardening in the wheelchair with the help of friends.

    I am grateful today and looking forward to the evening when it will be cooler.

    Sunday, August 24, 2008

    Gardening with Assistive Technology--the Low-Tech Way

    Today I have been playing in the dirt with happiness that I was able too. My helpers are going back to college; the plants need transplanting and the potting soil is stacked up in the patio. I took a flat box and went to the soil with doubled trash bags to hold it and a small pot to scoop it up with. Then I pushed and pulled and tugged and went backwards up my ramp, sometimes with my foot in the box to pull it. It was a thorough workout. Officially, this probably doesn't count as assistive technology, but I have always have had the attitude, if it works, use it.

    Two tomato plants are transplanted into grow bags full of this wonderful dirt that looks and feels and smells like it would be absolutely yummy for plants--somewhere between steak and chocolate, or maybe a combination of both. It seemed to my eye that the tomatoes had grown between morning and early evening when I went outside to water them again.

    I have been watering by hauling refilled water bottles from the kitchen sink to the outdoors. As I was doing it, I was reminded of one of those movies about life on the prairie and how the women carefully hauled water and dolloped it out to their beloved flowers. A connection to my pioneer foremothers was established here.

    Tonight I am grateful for the physical work, the time outdoors and the dirt under my fingernails. Even more, I am grateful for Ibuprofen!

    Tomorrow I hope to take pictuers.

    Thursday, August 21, 2008

    Land Ho!

    My friend who is out sailing called today from her cell phone to say that land was in sight! It was so wonderful to hear her voice and then she was practically screaming with excitement as a dolphin surfaced nearby. What fun! Vicariously, I was there and could almost see the dolphin myself through her excitement. She has been sending "sail mails" and these are a cool, cool form of communication; technology that unites land and sea.

    I am hoping that I can keep my basil plants thriving until she returns and can share a meal of pesto with me. I also hope that the tomatoes will somehow get transplanted and that I will have fruit to share. I suspect that she will be headed to a Farmer's Market in Port Townsend this weekend after weeks of eating things from plastic bags and tins.

    She said that as they were sailing toward land, they were being passed by container ships going away. I said, "then commerce is thriving in spite of the economy." She answered, "It seems to be." I can hardly wait to see her blog posts once she has settled into a place that has a connection for her to upload them.

    It is good to know that they are safe--and by now ashore. Praise the Lord!

    Her blog is linked to the right.

    Tuesday, August 19, 2008

    Technology is Here to Stay!

    Watching the news last night and watching the buzz building about Barack Obama's choice to announce his running mate by text messages via cell phones left me amused, agog and a little left out since I am maybe the only person on the planet who doesn't own a cell phone! Well, I know that is an exaggeration.

    Still it brings up the issue of how the polls are going to be skewed unless they figure out some way to bring in all those people who don't have "land lines", not to mention all those who rarely answer those phones. Obviously, if the poll companies asked people to sign up for text messages that wouldn't mean all that much either since all the most eager supporters of each candidate would sign up. Of course, I have thought for decades that we ought to scrap polls all together and let the process take place. Reporting on it after it happens is news, shaping it by taking polls and reporting on them as though they were news that has always seemed to me to be influencing elections.

    Still the "smart phones" are here to stay. I watched someone Google, use a map finder for directions and take phone calls on her new phone last week and was amused by how much I want one just because it so cute! (I couldn't work the keyboard and I couldn't read the screen so this isn't a serious want. It's sort of like infatuation.)

    What I want is an automated house. They exist, I know. I already have a marvelous remote controlled honeycomb blind on one window. Now I would like to have the drapes in my bedroom wired so that I can open and close them with a remote. The blinds, unlike all the "instant on" appliances, are controlled by batteries. Now if the batteries could be solar rechargeable,I would be even happier.

    A small flashlight that a friend gave me recharges by shaking it. It is a totally different mechanism than anything else I have seen. My father would have loved it! I would like the cordless phone to work this way. Wouldn't it also be lovely if the laptop battery could be rechargeable? (Maybe these already exist.)

    I am not really a survivalist, but I do like the idea of technologies that make us independent from monolithic companies and allow us to take better care of ourselves. My friend who is sailing will have a good deal to contribute to this discussion when she returns. Maybe the place to start looking for the kinds of technologies I am wanting are businesses that serve campers and sailors. I found MRE's on a website last fall from a company that specializes in disaster preparedness supplies.

    Maybe we should take some of the things that are designed for that use and integrate them into our daily lives. Hand-shaken flashlights, hand-cranked radios and solar-charged batteries.

    I'd like a cistern too and then of course, the disaster preparedness kit should have filters to make the water potable.

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    Power Outage and What to Do in One

    Friday night at a few minutes after 5:00 pm the power went out. Four hours and fifteen minutes later the power came back on.

    What to do with no power and a warm house getting darker?

    Cuss at the PG and E (our local utility). This does not bring the power back on but it lets off enough steam so that when the phone call is made the caller (me) can be polite.

    Call the utility company. 8000 households are affected. A large portion of my city. Wow! I am not alone, but that doesn't make it better. No word as to what is causing the outage. Should be back on in less than two hours. Do you want a call to let you know when power is restored? This is not as redundant as it sounds, since it includes the option to get more help if the power has not been restored. I say yes and then realize after hanging up that the answering machine is not going to pick up. It's electric.

    Wait. Wait some more. Water plants outside. Outside there are no clocks and time is irrelevant and I can enjoy the plants. Talk to my sister and listen to the ticking of the battery clock. Not even the refrigerator is running.

    Need batteries for the battery operated lantern to work and the thing is out of my reach anyway. Give it a better spot and buy batteries. In the meantime, it is getting dark outside. Close sliding screen doors, gather together flashlights and a few other things. It is better to go to the bathroom in the dusk than use flashlights in the dark. Crawl into bed and wait. Now it is too dark to see the clock--should have luminescent battery operated clock--so turn on flashlight to see what time it is. Notice that cordless phone does not work--it is connected to an electric power base. Solar rechargeable batteries would make so much more sense here.

    Want to fall asleep and wake up when small night stand lamp comes on and the thrum of the refrigerator running wakes me up. No such luck. No sleep. That is what I get for drinking four cups of coffee in one day--twice as much as usual. Wish I had bought a battery operated clip on light so that I could be reading the book I am reading, Mary Stewart's, The Hollow Hills, book two of her Arthurian saga.

    Toss and turn. Realize how boring the power outage is, but give thanks that it is not a heat wave or the middle of winter. Almost fall asleep when something changes and I realize the light is on and the refrigerator running.

    Do we take power for granted? Oh, my yes we do! Should we? NO. We should indeed be looking for energy independence, not only for our country, but for areas and individuals as well.

    The power outage lasted four and one-quarter hours, much longer than was necessary. I believe that first we waited for the crew to come through rush hour traffic. They should be empowered to use sirens and flashing lights just like other emergency vehicles--they are emergency vehicles. This would have cut the initial waiting time. I am sure the next segment of waiting was due to the fact that the new transformer had to be driven from Sacramento, a two and one-half hour drive, if they made good time. These things should be closer. Profit driven utility companies endanger public safety. Let's change this and take back the economy for the people.

    Neighbors posted on the list today that their solar panels give them nine hours of battery back-up. This is at the top of my want list. Next is a gas wall heater in my bedroom. I can dream.

    Tonight I am grateful for the lights and the power that allows me to sit here and type and blow of steam. I also hope that my desktop computer survived. I think the surge protector is old. The clock was wrong when I booted it up last night to see if everything was all right.

    All in all it was an adventure that I truly did not need and could have done without. I am still here though, so that is good. I guess.

    Friday, August 15, 2008

    Friday too soon

    This week has evaporated. I have had the magnificent blessing of helpers for hours at a time. My living room is starting to emerge from clutter. Soon it will no longer look like a gigantic sorting shed and will start to look and function like a living room again. I can hardly wait.

    Two closets were cleared in one day and more things are ready to give away or sell at a yard sale and some just plain junk is gone. The "big room", aka, master bedroom, is starting to take shape as the sewing/crafts space I imagined it would be at the end of last summer.

    The dining room table, a family heirloom that is at the heart of my home, is visible and clothed with a new albeit, plastic, tablecloth and stands ready for guests.

    A young friend, who is about to start her college years at UC Berkeley, has been helping me by translating part of my Cafepress site into Spanish. This is so exciting and I am eager to get to work on posting her translations into a separate section, "Nuevo, en Espanol". I took one semester of Spanish in college and wish that I had never stopped! Is sixty too old to learn a new language?

    I am also remembering a friend who died this week. A wonderful, beautiful woman with a voice like honey and the Tennessee accent to match it, who devoted her life to her family. She was intelligent, quick-witted, loving and full of common-sense and she lived to be ninety-seven. She will be missed by the entire community who knew her. Requiescat in Pace, dear friend. I hope that you are rejoicing in heaven.

    So it has been a full week without the number of blog posts I planned, but so much is being accomplished here. Earlier in the week my sister and I came up with this little ditty (and my friend who just died would have laughed with us at it, I think)

    Throw, throw, throw your junk, merrily out the door. Merrily, merrily, merrily keep on throwing more. The tune, I think, is obvious.

    I am grateful for the week that is past, the week that is ahead and the life of my friend, whom I will not forget.

    Sunday, August 10, 2008

    Sunday Silence

    As I face the blank screen I am aware of the blessing of silence so apt for a Sunday morning. No whine of air compressors, roar of leaf blowers (that is a week day activity)or even vroom vroom of my neighbors five vehicles being sequentially started and primed through some testing sequence that he knows, but I do not.

    Silence is a blessing. My friend who is sailing sent a sail-mail this week about how wonderful it was to be able to see a gazillion of stars, a phenomenon that is usually lost to us because of the artificial light all around us. That email prompted me to remember camping in the high Sierras when I was in my teens. My family went with another family and the silence that summer night was palpable, a quiet so deep that when I ponder it now, I can understand why people are called to be hermits, why they prize being able to move noiselessly through the woods almost as though they are not there.

    Big Sur and Point Lobos are two more places where the silence was like a cloak, a gentle presence of its own, inviting us to seek the Presence whom we look for in church. Once in a great while I have experienced that deep silence in church, but usually there is a bustle there as people come in and ready for a service or the sounds of the city impinge on the quiet interior of the church.

    Liturgists have argued fiercely about the role of silence in the services they arrange. Those arguments definitely broke the silence in a manner that argued for the silence in themselves! I have always been on the side of those seeking silence. The most sacred moments of the liturgy convey themselves best if we are not asked to "participate" by making some noise--or even gestures. But then, I am "old school"--keep silence in church, keep silence in the halls while passing from one class to the next, or risk detention, keep silent if you don't have anything good or kind to say about someone else. (Silence here can speak louder than words, too.)

    I give thanks today for silence and am blessed.

    Wednesday, August 6, 2008

    August 6, 2008

    It has been sixty-three years since the atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima. A terrible thing and a tragedy, truly. I grew up in the shadow of that bomb. If you are a baby boomer, like me, you probably remember dropping under your school desk when the air alert siren sounded. It was only a drill, but it scared us.

    Still, we are a long way from a world at peace. We still have to worry about weapons--nuclear and street--in our lives. We have not tempered our aggressive instincts or re-channeled them sufficiently and we have a long way to go. I remember reading that classic book, On Aggression, but I can't at the moment remember the author. (Google will tell me in a bit, I am sure.)(Two days later: Konrad Lorenz, and I probably still have a copy somewhere in the house.)

    Peace requires respect, I think, for others. It requires as well prosperity and a different way of organizing our economy in a global world so that no one is left out. It is more than time for that. It is overdue.

    I am glad to see that Americans have been driving less this summer and that oil prices are easing. We have a long way to go though before we get ourselves out of the oil trap. Some folks have become very wealthy while we drove and drove. The rest of us have been providing that wealth. There are probably other areas of our economy that would yield the same analysis if we scrutinized them a bit.

    Today is also the Feast of the Transfiguration, one of those lesser celebrated feasts that is worth noting because it is about the last things and the expectation of the after life. It means more to me today than it did twenty years ago. To be free of the body, transfigured or transmogrified, is something I am beginning to look forward to. Not ready yet, but thinking of not having to worry about weather or food, housekeeping or watering the plants; never to worry about money again. Not ready yet, but looking forward.

    In the mean time, I will pause to look at my little Peace banner hanging on the wall of my front entrance and take a few moments to get out the peace cranes that a friend and I made last year and ponder this anniversary, the need for peace and how friendship also enters into it.

    I am grateful today that we have not used the atomic bomb again since WWII. I am grateful to be alive today and hoping for real peace.