Sunday, September 7, 2008

The Trash Can Story

Free Picture of Three Metal Garbage Cans. Click Here to Get Free Images at Clipart Guide.comAt church today a woman gave an analogy that was very powerful for me. She spoke of cleaning out a shed and then having a bunch of household garbage to add to all she wanted to throw away. The end result was her garbage can was overflowing with messy, stinking gunk. Cantaloupe rinds drizzled all over discarded papers that were already soggy with dead dirty was this incredible pile of stinking mess. As she was working out in her garden she saw the garbage truck come to haul it away and was feeling very glad to have it all gone.

Then it hit her. It would be down right foolish for her to jump in her car and go chasing down to the local landfill to bring that garbage back. She was just grateful to be rid of the mess and wanted to let it stay gone.

That image became an object lesson for her for how too many times in life when we have personal messes we need to clean up, areas of poor judgment or sin, we have a tougher time letting it stay gone. We may initially go through the motions of changing directions, clearing up some bad communication with someone we care about, or apologizing for some act that may have hurt someone we love. We try to move on, learn from our mistakes, repent. But sometimes (especially when we know the things we've done have hurt others and all the "I'm sorry" in the world can't take that hurt back) there is that ONE certain thing that we just don't stop feeling bad about. We may continue to berate ourselves or to feel unworthy because of something in our past, something that feels just too horrible to be forgiven for.

The woman spoke of the power of the atonement and how this gift of grace takes away ALL our sins, even the really gross and stinky ones, just as surely as the garbage man hauled away her trash. She said she hoped she could have more trust and confidence in that healing power of forgiveness and stop calling up to mind errors from the past.

I could totally relate to this story. Next time I fall into this trap I hope I can stop and think about the trash can story and let my dirty rot stay where it belongs.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Cat Scratches

A teacher friend of mine once told me a story about his cats, two precious felines named Jake and Missy. They had an unfortunate habit of climbing inside dresser drawers and wreaking a bit of havoc. Their intent was not malicious. They merely like to curl up and cuddle into a ball in that cozy space. In some drawers it was no big deal, other than shedding hair all over clean folded clothes. But if they got into his wife's drawer it was not so good, because that's where she had all her elegant silk nighties and such. Cat claws and lacy penoir sets and lingerie are not a good combination.

The wife got hopping mad at those cats.

The reason my friend was telling me this story is because we were having a discussion about how anger gets such a bad rap. It is not "nice" to be angry, or so our culture seems to say. It is not kind or polite or ladylike to let fly with that emotion - even when it is utterly justified. For me, it's even more complicated than that. As a kid I learned to believe that it was not safe to express outrage. It was not entirely acceptable to show any discontent. From disappointment to annoyance to hurt feelings to seething resentment...none of those were welcome fare. I was expected to put a smile on my face and act like all was copacetic even when it was very clearly not.

So, not having any opportunity to practice with a bit of trial and error, I did not learn to modulate anger well. I did not learn to paint it in gentle pastels of being miffed. Instead of establishing a tool box of a whole range of feelings in various octaves to go with each situation, all too often I went from zero to sixty in 30 seconds flat, rushing from smile to tantrum with no thought in between.

As an adult I no longer throw tantrums. But I still stuff my anger as "not necessary", "out of line" or "inappropriate" to often and too long. Then, when it blows (usually over something relatively minor) I feel horrified, chagrined, humiliated, ashamed to have let fly at someone I care about with such a nasty outburst.

I honestly haven't a clue about how to appropriately experience, let alone express, my anger.

It's just fine to be torrid with rage over social issues or incidents of injustice. But when I get mad at someone I care about, I am very ill equipped with how to proceed.

There is no "Anger for Dummies" book like there is for so much else.

How do people learn this skill? I think about it, I discuss it, I watch how others act and react. I've not yet found any models who I truly want to emulate.

When is it ok to be really mad? When is it not? How do I seek forgiveness for my BEHAVIOR if I have spoken or acted harshly out of anger without capitulating on my displeasure about what made me so mad?

I think about that red headed lady who was furious at her kitties. She was not mean or ugly or evil or bad. She did not want to destroy them. She was just mad. She did not stay angry for long. But for that little while, she was very, very upset. Yet, according to my friend, apparently it IS possible to be angry and be a nice person at the very same time.

Go figure. Who would have thought?

I'm not suggesting I change all the rules to start going out lambasting everyone right and left indiscriminately because suddenly anger has been declared as permisable. . But maybe it would be more helpful, more healthy, to practice addressing my anger when it first appears rather than bottling it up till I can no longer stand it.

Easy to say, hard to do.

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Alphabet Soup - Letter "Z"

*NOTE - Index to full alphabet of my list of blessings can be found HERE.

Finally I draw this exercise to a close, so I can get back to my other ponderous postings on this silly little blog.

For me, the exercise has been worth while. Counting my blessings this way has been a good thing, giving me rich ammunition to reflect back on during dark days when trouble and struggle threaten to overtake.

For this last letter, I'm a bit stumped. Z is little used in the English language. For that matter, it was Z was abolished in Icelandic in 1974.

I love going to Zoos and have seen many: San Diego, St. Louis, Chicago, Grand Rapids, Phoenix, and Cleveland to name just a few.

Zip Codes are quite useful, whether for posting a letter or searching for geocache.

Zygotes are the beginning of all of us, our biological acorn.

ZEST for Life is something I seek every day.

There. I'm DONE.

So what are YOU grateful for?

Alphabet Soup - Letter "Y"

Yaks and Yurts and Yellowsubmarines are all Y letters that have tickled my fancy at one time or another. Yogurt is yummy and yarn can be fun. Yardsticks help me to measure and yo-yos can amuse. Yams are a staple at my table and yawning is something I do all together too much of in my current sleep deprived state.

But perhaps the Y word that is most meaningful to me is YEARS.

By this I mean that I value the perspective that comes with the passing of years. Back in the day I could not even have begun to imagine what my life would be like at the ripe old age of 50. I've come a long way to get where I am now. There have been many changes and challenges along the past 12 months. I suspect there will be more to come. But now because I've had enough years piled one on top of another I've learned a thing or two about patience and takeing events in stride. I've learned how to work some and play some and love some each and every day. I've learned a lot, with the passing of years. Perhaps most of all I've learned that I still have more questions than answers and that each year, each day, each moment is a gift to be savored.

I don't know how many years I have left on this crazy old planet, but I'll say thanks for however many I get, in whatever circumstances they may find me. So far some have been playful, some have been painful. But ALL have been worth every minute.

I don't believe in that glass half empty or half full dichotomy. Rather, I believe every person's glass is TOTALLY FULL - just some with fluid and some with air, just as every life as a range of different experiences. I'll take it as it comes and learn what I can from it.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Alphabet Soup - Letter "X"

When I first started this challenge of writing out blessings for every letter of the alphabet I knew that some letters would be tougher than others. But isn't that the whole point? Doing this project has prompted me to ponder deeper what things I really AM grateful for that perhaps normally I take too much for granted. As I wind up with these last few letters of the alphabet I look back over all I have listed so far and feel pretty good about the things it has caused me to notice.

So now here I am at the letter X. What can I say? I have no special affinity for Xylophones.

But I am DEEPLY grateful for Xenotransplants - the transplantation of organs, tissues or cells between different animal species. My 12 year old grandson, Austin, has a cow valve in his chest keeping his heart beating. Without that modern miracle of science he probably would not be alive.

I am also grateful for X-Rays, and all the many accoutrement's of modern medicine.

I am grateful for XEROX, (even though the copy machine I have in my house was made by HP. It's is one of those one-size-fits-all printer/copier/fax machines that are so common today.) It was still Xerox machines that set the standard early on and made it possible for us to easily copy so many useful resources.

There is a park in Walla Walla called Xeriscape Park that I have much enjoyed - a small niche of ground carefully planted with succulents, shrubs and flowers that can survive well with very little water. As a child of the desert who grew up in Arizona I have deep respect for landscaping that can survive well on it's own without constant tending. Besides, there is a geocache treasure hidden there that was great fun to find!

Two other X words that have been definite blessings to me are Xel-Ha and Xcaret, two of my favorite places I visited when my beloeved and I were in Mexico last Nov/Dec.
Our walk along the "Path of Consciousness" through the jungle of Xel-Ha was memorable indeed. It was also at Xel Ha that I had perhaps the most joyful snorkeling experience of my life. It was amazing. At Xcaret we spent a wonderful day in the company of Shep & Sue, two fellow travellers who were a delight to meet. From the butterfly house to snorkeling through caves to the show late that evening, everything about that day still brings a smile to my face.

So yes,even letter X brings me much to be grateful for.

Alphabet Soup - Letter "W" REVISITED!

I have some thoughts in mind for addressing that challenging letter X that comes next in my long list of alphabet blessings. But I am just not ready to go there yet.

Rather, I want to take a step back to W for one more spin. I have many things I am grateful that begin with the letter W.

WOODS - I love going on long hikes surrounded by trees.

WASHING MACHINE - Years ago I lived for a while in a two room cabin up in the mountains with no running water and just a wood stove for all cooking and heat. I'm grateful for that experience, but even MORE grateful that now I live with modern conveniences like a microwave, an electric toothbrush and a washing machine. In a lot of ways I still believe in living simply, but carrying water every day and using a wash board over a basin was not all that fun.

WARMTH - I love the feeling of being snuggled up safe in a warm cozy blanket or being outside feeling the warmth of the sun on my face. Inside or outside, I love to be warm! I hate to be cold. I am so glad that winter is ebbing away now and signs of spring are popping up all over the place. I look forward to flowers blooming and longer days, with comfortable temperatures. Call me a weenie if you will, but I am grateful for warmth!

WATER - This is a powerful blessing on so many levels. I love rivers, oceans, lakes and streams. After years of being quite scared of the water following some rather nasty near drowning episodes, I have overcome that old terror to truly appreciate being all wet. Beyond that, water is my drink of choice these days, Having spent time in several countries where it was not safe to drink the water I am deeply grateful to live in a land where all I need to do is turn on the tap for a clear, clean drink. Water is the medium of baptism, the ritual of forgiveness & making a sacred covenant with God that has been such a source of power in my life. Water is also what my faith uses for sacrament to symbolize the atoning blood of Christ. In so many ways my life is richer for having water. The earth is mostly water. My body is mostly water. Water is a very good thing.

WEIGHT TRAINING - This has been the year of me taking action to get myself as healthy as I feasably can manage. Part of that process has been a water aerobics class (ooh - I left that one out up above!) Another significant piece has been a weight training class I took for a while at the college where I work. It has since fallen by the wayside since my new job's schedule doesn't allow the pocket of time when I was going, but those several weeks I spent there definitely helped me tone and firm up some long ignored parts. I may not officially be in the class anymore, but I've learned the importance of resistance training to condition this middle aged body so I will find other ways to keep up the progress I've begun.

WAFFLES I've made some rather big changes in what and how much I eat in my determination to lose the lard that had accumulated around my carcass over the last decade. But every now and then I still love a good "pancake with tread". My husband has a very cool waffle machine given as a gift from our youngest son some years ago. On a few rare occassions we slow down enough to have a lazy morning together that includes a breakfast of waffles with real maple syrup or strawberries and whipcream. The food is quite yummy - but the time we take to savor it is even sweeter.

WARTS - NO! I am not grateful for those small rough bumps that grow on one's skin. (blessedly I have none.) But I think of this word when naming my blessings because of the expression I share with a couple special pals who are willing to love me "warts and all." It's just my way of saying that I have been gifted to know some fine friends with whom I can be completely authentic, not having to hide behind any pretense or false smile. It can feel very scary and difficult to allow one's self to be vulnerable with others - to expose the soft underbelly weaknesses of our lives. But I am blessed to have a couple of folks with whom it is totally safe to do just that. This reminds me of a passage from the book "A Life for A Life" by Dinah Craik that says:

Oh, the comfort --
The inexpressible comfort of feeling
safe with a person,
Having neither to weigh thoughts,
Nor measure words -- but pouring them
All right out -- just as they are --
Chaff and grain together --
Certain that a faithful hand will
Take and sift them --
Keep what is worth keeping --
and with the breath of kindness
Blow the rest away.

That's what I mean when I say that I am deeply grateful for friends who accept me, warts and all.

So YES, my life is much richer for all those W blessings. I'm sure there would be more if I gave it more thought. But these will suffice. So now on to the neXt!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Alphabet Soup - Letter "W"

For the letter W I want to write a few words about WORK.

I've changed jobs recently at the college where I work. I've moved from a position of supportive coordination and data analysis for program evaluation to being the director of a different department - sitting in the hotseat as the Grand Poobah with supervisory authority over 65 people. YIKES.

However, rather than let it go to my head, I am reminded of some of the best bosses I have known over the years, those who have set fine examples of servant leadership. I've had a few arrogant idiots show me what NOT to do. But I've also had a few fine men and women as bosses in the past who taught me well. Hopefully I can model my own style of leadership in the fashion I've been shown by some of them as I approach this new responsibility.

I've had A LOT of different kinds of work over the years.

My very first job as an adult was as sign carrier outside a health spa in Phoenix. From there I moved on to phone solicitor. Later I worked in a factory making CB antennas. I was an office assistant. I was a dishwasher. I worked as a nanny. And then I began climbing the education mountain which led me to a whole different scope of jobs - juvenile probation officer, mental health worker, HIV/AIDS prevention educator, adjunct instructor of sociology, executive director of a non-profit, marketing director of a retirement community, and at least half a dozen other jobs with varying degrees of authority/responsibility.

I've spent a lot of time thinking about what work means to what extent it defines me and to what extent it is merely the necessary activity I do to pay for the rest of my life.

I've learned so much about myself in the pursuing of work.

Every job I've every had has had elements that I disliked. All but one of my jobs have had things about them that I deeply appreciated (the cb factory was horrid with no redeeming value other than the paycheck, and that was scarecely worth the mind numbing drudgery. I THANKED the president of the company when he fired me for spending too much time reading the want ads looking for a new job when I was supposed to be at my post - it was a deplorable job that I truly despised.)

I've also thought a lot about how we pick what it is we do. I've thought about the role models I've had that have shown me the range of what is possible. I've thought about the mentors who have helped teach me key life lessons to help me along the way.

Work gives meaning and diection to my life in so many significant ways.

So many people spend their lives dreading Monday morning returns to the workplace. They live for vacation and count the days till retirment. But I choose to take a different view. I spend most my waking hours working. It just makes sense to me to embrace it rather than curse it. I love my vacations, but I also feel deeply grateful for the work I have had come my way. Work is not a necessary evil to me. It has been my joy, my opportunity, my gift, my blessing in so many ways.

I hope I can honorably meet the challenge of this new job I've taken on. I'm certain I'll make my share of mistakes. But when it is all said and done I hope I can bring vision and direction to the department in a way that will guide the team I will be working with so we can all bring our best gifts and abilities forward. I hope to set a tone where we can trust each other and have fun in doing what we do.

I know there will be days when I will hate my job. I will get exasperated by the endless meetings, all the required paperwork, the politics, and the inevitable dysfunctions of the bureaucracy. But through it all, I want to remember that I have a chance with this job to make a difference in some ways that I truly believe in, despite the chaos I will have to sometimes wrestle with. I don't know how long I'll do this job. I suspect it will be no more than a couple years at most. But whether I'm in in 30 days or ten long years...I aim to give it my best shot. And I really am gratefuly for the blessing of work.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Alphabet Soup - Letter "V"


There are so many things the word Valentine means to me.

The most obvious is the holiday of Valentine's Day celebrated each February 14. From Pagan rites to American greeting card associations, this day has created no small stir among mortals.

Here are a view links about all that..

History of Valentine's Day
Valentine's Day Crafts
Valentine's Day Recipies

St. Valentine
Cross Cultural notions of love & gifts

So there's plenty there to ponder about.

For me, Valentine's has some other signficance as well. It is the day on which I made two key crossing over decisions that have had and will continue to have considerable impact on my life. The first was when I was fifteen and chose to let some absolutely forgetable boy "go all the way" with me, (after a church dance, no less) more out of curiosity than affection or passion. I remember thinking at the time, "That's IT? THAT is what all the movies and songs and poetry are about?? You have GOT to be kidding me! THAT is what reputations are won and lost over? THAT is what people wait for years saving themselves for? THAT is what this whole big deal is? You must be mistaken, world, because that was really not all that impressive." Thus began a rather dark and jaded season of my life when I stumbled through my world believing life was not special and there wasn't much to look forward to. It wasn't until several years later in the arms of man I truly cared about that the earth moved and I finally discovered HOLY TOMATOES ....THIS is what they were talking about, THIS is what the songs and the books and the poems are about. THIS is absolutely, mindblowing INCREDIBLE." Yeah, love really did make all the difference. Go figure.

So for me, Valentine's day is very much a symbol of the importance of Love.

Then there was this Valentine's day. A day when I made a choice to commit to a job that will be a complete change in direction for me that could well shape the next several years of of my life. (more to come on that soon.) I'm still astonished that I did it. What was I thinking? I guess I was thinking I was ready for a big challenge. So now ready or not, here I come.

Then, last but not least, is my dear pal Patty Valentine who is currently serving as a Peace Corp Volunteer in Ghana. My friendship with her loops around the past 3 moves I've made and several for her as well. We've laughed together, cried together, and built a bond of trust that is one of my dearest treasures. I've trusted her with things I tell no one. I know to my bones that she totallly accepts me just the way I am.

I miss her terribly having her half way across the world. But I remain confident our friendship will remain strong through occassional letters and care packages. She'll be back in the states in another year so we can pick up where we left off on sharing one another's lives.

So Valentine's Day means plenty to me. What's it to you?

Friday, February 1, 2008

Alphabet Soup - Letter "U"

U is for UNITY; I write this from the heart. UNITY is a choice I make in my marriage.

Unity does not mean I agree with everything my husband may say or think or believe. It means I openly acknowledge my bond with him and am committed to keeping that alliance strong in spite of our differences.

UNITY was put to the test in my household recently.

I have been on pins and needles waiting to hear if I might get a job that I had applied for. I live in Oregon and the job is in Michigan. I am ready to make that move. However, over the course of the last several days it has become ever more clear that my beloved husband is not. Up until now he was hedging on expressing his reservations about it. I guess he was hoping I simply would not get the job, thus avoiding him being in the hotseat of putting the kabosh on my dream. But as the preliminary interview went very well and I was ready to start showing our house to potential buyers, the jig was up and the cat out of the bag.

While he too appreciates the positives a move back to the Midwest could bring us, and would welcome the chance to be closer to family there, he is not ready to give up his job here to make that happen.

So we have very DIFFERENT ideas of what is important at this season of our lives. We have very DIFFERENT priorities of what matters most. There is no way to compromise on this. Either we live here and I am disappionted or we live there and he is disappointed or we live apart and we are both unhappy. Someone has to give. In this case, that will be me.

I have cried more tears than I can count about this. I really thought our agreement was that once he hit 62 and could take social security I would have the freedom to take any job I wanted - where ever that might lead. I knew it would mean some sacrifices. But I thought he would support the chance for me to find a career move that was right for me since I'll be working another 15 years. I've done cross country moves multiple times for him and made sacrifices every time. I thought this time it was my turn to lead us, and that I could lead us back to where our sons and grandchildren are. I really believed we were on the same page with this choice.

Apparently once we got away from the talking stage to the putting things in boxes and calling movers for estimates stage he had second thoughts (and third and fouth and fifth.) Bottom line - he would go if I was insistent, if I demanded, if I said I would be miserable if we stayed here. But he would not be happy about it. Sure, I could get my way. But that would simply open up a wound of another sort, one I am not willing to breach. So, although I've done my best to convince him why I believe it really would be best for ALL of our family - including him - to take this leap of faith and trust that we would land on our feet once we got back there, I will not throw a fit or issue ultimatums. Sadly, right now it seems he just can't get past his fears and reservations about the unknown factors. That frustrates me beyond words. Still, even if I'm convinced we are missing out on something we both would really value, I cannot, will not ask him to do it if he does not believe it is the right thing.

I feel so much sorrow and anguish over this. But what I do NOT feel is a wedge between me and him. I choose not to.

I adore this man I am married to. I honor him for his integrity, his work ethic, his righteousness. I love his quirky sense of humor and so appreciate the way he makes me groan & laugh with his kooky ways. I am inspired by his sense of adventure and ability to play...something I can definitely learn from when I am taking life oh-so-seriously. I am humbled by his commitment to service and kindness to others. I am grateful for how handy he is around the house and truly appreciate his willingness to take part in projects big and small to make our home better. Besides that, just in the day-to-day maintenance stuff he's more than willing to do his share of the cooking and cleaning and all that domestic stuff that otherwise could be overwhelming if I felt it was all mine to do. I love his passion for his music, his reliability and strength. He is one of the most decent human beings I know. He gives me room to be who I am in so many ways. Granted, in this one specific instance it does feel like he is holding me back and limiting my opportunity for growth. But in countless dozens of other ways that only the two of us know, he has given me the nurturing to flourish into the woman I am today. He truly has been my dearest friend for the past 26 years. I choose him, where ever that may leave me.

Do I wish he was supportive of this move? You betcha! Am I sad as sad can be that it will not work out as I had planned? Absolutely. But I refuse to allow this difference to become a seed of bitterness to tarnish the bond we have for each other.

Unity does not mean we have to be a reflection of each other. Unity means that we make the deliberate choice to honor and support and uphold each other in love.

I choose unity. Even when it is really, really hard. Even when my heart is breaking into a dozen splintered pieces, I choose love.

So often I hear people say things like "I can't help the way I feel."

I don't buy it. I say we CAN choose to overcome our passions. We can choose honor and love in circumstances when the world says we are justified to be angry, indignant, outraged. I feel pain. I feel sorrow. But I choose not to turn it to anger. I choose love.

When I need to be reminded of this, I can turn to the words of Gordon B. Hinkley whose recent talk "Slow to Anger" can be read here. Such powerful words! Tomorrow is Gordon Hinkley's funeral. He will be deeply missed. May his memory be eternal. And may I continually strive to remember his words.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Alphabet Soup - Letter "T"

Tantalizing Turkey Tetrazini tingles my tummy on Tuesdays.
Toes tangle tomato vines as I go trudging through my garden.
Tight fisted baby clutching my finger, dreaming of
tiddlywinks, tadpoles, tamarack trees, tangerines and torchlight,

Apart from that foolishness...

- My life has a sense of meaning and purpose because I have a testimony of the reality of God the Father, His son, Jesus Christ and the Holy Ghost. I know each member of the godhead is real and that they are aware of me in a very specific and personal way. I know that God lives and that He loves me. That counts for a lot!

- I adore trees. One of my criteria for living anywhere is that there have to be trees around. As much as I like the house I now live in, what really sold me on the place is that there are several BIG trees as well as a bunch of smaller ornamentals all around the yard. I love trees that bloom, trees that change color, trees that have needles and last all the year round. There's just something powerful and comforting about a good tree.

TEETH - I have been blessed with a healthy mouth. I know people who were not. I've had my share of fillings and a few crowns, but for the most part I have good strong teeth that can bite into apples or corn on the cob without any problem. That's a good thing!

TELEPHONE - I remember the days when a long distance call was a rare occasion, usually reserved for important news. Now days with my free Sprint-to-Sprint calling I can chat for hours at a time with family and friends living far away. I am so glad we are able to stay in touch that way.

TABLE - We have a lovely Oak dining table with three leaves that can come in or out depending on what size we want it to be. I love that thing! I enjoy having people over for dinner for an evening of playing board games or cards. Our table has provided the setting for much laughter and sharing that are dear to my heart.

TENT - we have a couple different tents for when we go camping. They haven't been used much over the last couple years, but I hope that will change soon. One is a small dome tent that sets up very quick and easy with shock-corded poles. The other is a huge 3 room tent for when we have more people and gear to give home to. I've had some grand adventures in these tents. Hope to have more! I enjoy camping. I love getting off the beaten track, away from other people to do some serious exploring. I like cooking over a campfire, telling stories & singing late into the night, listening to crickets and watching the stars.

TULIPS - these are among my favorite flowers. We have all different kinds planted around our yard. After the long winter it feels so reaffirming to see them poke up through the ground in the spring. The blaze of color they add always cheers my soul.

THUNDER - I love big storms. There's just something about the way the ozone makes the air smell right before it rains, and then when thunder starts booming it leaves me all jittery with delight. I know that lightening can be dangerous, yet I can't help but like the way it feels so long as I am watching all safe and dry from my porch. The colors of the sky shift with the wind and my skin gets all tingly every time the thunder booms. Angels are bowling! There's another strike!

Alphabet Soup - Letter "S"

SNOW DAYS - During the years we lived in the Midwest on cold winter mornings we would lie in bed and listen to the radio, hoping for that magical announcement proclaiming that school would be closed on account of snow. When the word came we'd all shout YIPPEE!! It meant a whole day unrestricted by duty or schedule. I have a big hump back trunk that I picked up at an antique store years ago - it is a beauty. In that trunk are boxes of all sorts of precious family mementos - the silk flowers I wore in my hair the day my beloved & I were married, the boys' various awards, report cards, trophies, and art projects, my mothers old square dance skirt, all sorts of "stuff" of no value other than the memories they hold. On snow days we'd make piping hot cups of steaming chocolate to warm us as we opened up that old trunk and spread the contents all over the living room floor. We would tell each other stories of what we remembered from each thing.

"Hey Mom! Remember this one?!" the kids would cry out. Or, "Tell about the day I was born" (a tattered old receiving blanket) or "Tell about the time the truck broke and you prayed and God made it drive" (a knob off a gear shift) "Tell about ....

Those were the days when we preserved the oral history of our family. NO TV allowed, just us and our memories and imaginations.

Later on in the day we'd play marathon monopoly, read out loud to each other from classic books like Robinson Caruso or The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Sometimes we would bundle up and go outside to build snow forts and marvel at the giant icicles hanging from the eaves of our house.

Those were great days.

SANDY BEACHES - while I very much savored the season of my life when my sons growing up years was my main focus, I must say I have taken to the "empty nester" season with relish and delight. I have loved the freedom my Beloved and I now have for spontaneous travel. We have been blessed to be able to see some wonderful parts of the world. We've been to Fiji, Costa Rica, Egypt, Mexico and most of the United States. Some of our best trips have been the tropical ones (...although Alaska was fun too!) While I am not a diver like my husband, I do enjoy snorkeling, and love the powerful sense of energy I feel watching mighty waves crash. I have laughed at pelicans diving, squealed with delight at sea lions, and sat quietly in reflection watching many a sunset. I love the beach!

SOUP - split pea, lentil, clam chowder, chicken noodle, you name it - I love a good soup!

SABBATH - this day I will ponder much that I have to be grateful for, reflect on the areas where I need to repent, and draw closer to the most important S word of all:

SAVIOR - the relationship that makes all the rest of my life have meaning.

Alphabet Soup - Letter "R"

RETURNING to this much neglected blog after a long break

READING has brought me much joy - THESE are the books I read (or listened to) last year. I'm excited by the opportunity to find some good ones this time around. Any suggestions?

- as a child of the desert (I grew up in Arizona) I will always have a deep respect for much needed moisture. Even when I've lived places where it rained frequently I've continued to recognize it as a miraculous gift that brings life to parched earth.

REM SLEEP - that deep, restful sleep in which dreams may come. Many years of chronic insomnia have taught me to be very, very grateful for whatever snatches of sweet sleep I can claim.

RAILROADS - I've had a few train rides in my life and have loved them all. Trains are a great way to travel! I hope to do more.

ROOSTERS - I love the sound of cock-a-doodle-doo in the mornings!

RIPE FRUIT - I am a lover of most any kind of fruit, so long as it is ripe. I'm always disappointed when all the bananas in the store are hard and green. I hate store bought tomatoes because they are generally picked when they are still green and hard so they will fare better in shipping and transport. Eating one picked ripe straight from my garden is always a delight.