Woodstove in the Kitchen

When I was young and still in my parents’ home, we would visit my grandmother, who had a wood stove in the kitchen. My grandmother’s place was most romantical to her grandchildren, being in the Minnesota  birch woods and, as she didn’t like us to broadcast, without electricity or running water. Or central heat, unless you count the woodstove in the living room.The lane to her house was the two track kind with grass in the middle and, in the winter, the snow laden branches would slap the car as we drove through. The kitchen was the warm place in the morning, and the smell of brewing coffee would wake us and we would crawl out from under our pile of comforters and head for the kitchen.

My sister is there in that place now, the wood stove still burning the birch wood and coffee still brewing , albeit in a modernized way. I think that those powerfully pungent memories shape us. We burn wood in our house, make the coffee, and the day is as upright as the sun rising. Yesterday I was at my son’s , and the Kitchen was the warm place in the house with the woodstove going and the coffee was delicious.


Garden Craft

A couple years ago, a co-worker of Joel’s took pleasure in making me a flower press and a leaf press. I’ve always wanted one and decided that it’s inclusion in my school curriculum warranted it. I’m not teaching right now, but I can still use it. I think I have found my craft.

The Friendship blog (2)

I think this is the hardest part. I really want to write the third part but this comes first. And I don’t think that I am able to resolve much. My mind likes to ‘have it done.’ I think I have somewhat trained myself that way because I will forget I was doing something and come back a considerable time later and it’s not done. But this continues to float around in the undone section of my brain.

One evening my DH and I were taking about this and how friendships happen and disso!ve. We think they usually spring up from something in common. You know what these things are without my listing all of them. One of my dearest friends I grew up with. Now we both live in the same state a thousand miles from where we grew up and it is a a gift. Years ago we had neighbors with kids the same ages. They were happy times. And the dad played the cello and I played the piano. More happy times. ☺ We lived and worked at a boarding school for five years and strong friendships were forged,, but that was intentional. I saw then that our work could be all we were about and you need friendship beyond work. I know that if I ran into any of these people on the planet Earth we would be thrilled to see each other and do all the catching up we could do with the amount of time we had.

But I am here, living in the same place for 10 years , the same area for 24, and it seems I have to work hard to find someone to have lunch with or coffee. It seems I am always the initiator. Before I whine too much, I want tell a story. When our inner city church closed at the end of last year, several people  went to another church in the same denomination on the edge of the city. We hadn’t been there in a long time and I suggested we visit, since there were people we knew. And, I added, I wanted someone to spontaneously invite us over for dinner. About 5 Sundays in, a young woman I introduced myself to after church said, “Would you like to come over for dinner?” The magic words! I said “Yes! ”

So here is my gripe. When I have made blanket invitations on Facebook for lunch at a public garden or tea by my fireside, I can think of about 5 people who have actually come and only 3 of them came out of response to that invitation. I even went through my contacts and made sure that I contacted people who aren’t on FB or aren’t on often enough to catch something like that regularly. I even added that if it was a bad time I can make different arrangements. I can only say that in this period of isolation, this has been discouraging and demoralizing.

The more I thought about it, the times I have been a bad friend have popped into my mind and I am not going into a full blown confessional here, just saying there are some I have let slide , some unwittingly and some I was aware but just let it slide. Sometimes we’re just tired. We aren’t getting younger…or even staying the same. It has been a catalyst for re-thinking friendship. How do I show friendship when I am aging? It was all well and good when I was young to be spontaneous, and I don’t want to lose that, but I can feel it is rather tempered! I have cooked for 50-100 people often, and now I tell myself 6-8 would be nice! And how do I think past the torn out kitchen and general weariness? Well, that is the stuff of another blog. I really wanted to write that blog before this one, but it would be leaving something out of the story…..

See you soon!

The Friendship Blog (1)

I have been wanting t write about friendship for a long time. The more I thought about it, I became concerned that I would offend someone who has shown friendship to me, and that is the last thing I want to do. What I do want to do is to clear my head a little, but also, if you need encouragement in this department, I want to encourage you. I know I do. And if I do say something that makes you feel pointed at…..please remember that I have three fingers pointing back at myself. I will do my best to not let myself off the hook, but I can’t guarantee that you won’t find anything prickly in my words. I am also happy to be responded to and challenged in what I say or think. That is part of my reason for writing.

Having made that caveat, I named this the first blog. I don’t like blogs a mile long, and I won’t write them. So this is the first ‘episode’. And I think that I will just make introductory remarks.

When I was young with three small children at home, we moved to a place about an hour from where we had been living. We went from a neighborhood to living in a house on greenhouse property. The house needed help and the greenhouses needed renovating. Needless, to say , my husband was shoulder deep at the greenhouses and loving it. As I watched him from the house, I always saw him moving about amid a huddle of workers. I didn’t have any kind of casual conversation outside of my husband and young children. I remember being in a long checkout line at the grocery store and I made some kind of remark and everyone got this alarmed look on their faces that said, “She talked! I can’t believe she talked!” We were not far from where we had been living, but we didn’t know where anything was. We didn’t know what was a mile in any direction. I went to a Women’s Bible Study and one time the teacher, who was a good teacher, spoke on friendship. At another time in my life, I would have thought it  a great study, but at that time, it stung. I cried all the way home and never went back. I really hadn’t thought of that until I was contemplating writing this blog, but I remember those emotions very keenly.

Zip through thirty years and I have found myself in another patch of comparative isolation, but it has come much more subtly. I had been teaching in a small school that a friend had started. And we had been going to an inner city church that we had played a part in planting. They had been works of delight to us and we felt a rhythm with the people with whom we worked . We shared just about everything. Due to structural changes in both of them that seemed unsustainable to us (my husband and me), we ended our relationships with said organizations… we thought. But it seemed that we ended any kind of friendship at all. I felt caught between my feelings and not really knowing exactly what we were doing. One day I said to Joel, “I just need someone to listen to me and tell me where I am crazy or not!” It soon came, dear friends showed up and told me I wasn’t crazy. That was a great encouragement to us, but it didn’t bring us into a community.

Some months later, my husband developed a herniated disc in his back. In this pain, it was all he could do to get to work and back. We didn’t make any evening engagements of any kind. Sometimes he couldn’t make it to church, but lots of times he would stand in the back for a while. Pain is isolating. Probably pain of any kind is isolating and maybe once in a while we need this reminding. But coming on the back of recent experiences, it was a lonely time. We were going to a church where we didn’t know anyone. The pastor had visited us with a listening ear. But I would think about stuff like. “What if I died? Would anyone I know notice? Would strangers bury me? Who would take care of Joel?”  Remember, I still live in the same area I have lived for practically 30 years. It might be absurd to have such thoughts, but that is the level of isolation I was feeling. I was beginning to think a lot about friendship and why I am in circles where it is tied to what I do and if I’m not doing it, why people in those circles don’t seem to have time for me.

Meanwhile, other things were going on. A few years ago, three houses on our short block went up for sale. It’s a small enough space that one nasty neighbor can make life difficult for everyone else on the block and here we were, faced with three changes. Well, as one neighbor puts it, we won the neighborhood lottery! In this time, we have had potlucks and game nights. They stacked our wood when Joel couldn’t. We have supported the local politician and the new mothers among us.

Well, this is about as long as I dare make a blog, so you will have to wait for Episode 2 . There is a lot more to be said.

Over and out.

So what happens if everything becomes unplugged?

Do you ever think about this? I do! I had a grandmother who lived without indoor plumbing and electricity. I have always been thankful for that. When I was young, it was like fancy camping out, which we left after a few days, and now that I am old, I know how it’s done. I know how to brush my teeth without a sink. I know the glow of lamplight in the evening hours, the smell of coffee and woodstove in the morning.

But…. we are ever so much more dependent today than in my childhood. How would you make coffee in the morming? How would you keep your food from spoiling? I read recently that people used to keep milk from spoiling by putting a silver coin in it. Who can find a silver coin??

What actually made me think of writing this post was someone saying that penmanship is a moot point. It seems so, but I don’t  agree. There is more to it than legibility, although legibility is a worthy point, especially if things are unplugged.

I wonder how much my life would change if I had just lamps, fans, stove and refrigerator. Oh yes , and the water heater, can’t forget that.Oh, you might as well plug in the coffee maker if you have all that.. and the toaster.. and the mixer. Is the internet on? I think I’ll post this blog…. and go for a walk and listen to the birds


February Friday

I know I am in a writing mood when I think of a title before I think of anything to say!! By this point in February, I am counting the days till March. We have had mild temperatures this week and I have let the fire die out. This morning I just wanted to sit by the fire. Maybe that is what makes me in the mood to write. Sometimes it just makes me sleepy!

Blogs are great place for recording productivity, but I haven’t been productive!! So here goes a record for my boring life. In January we went to the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show. I went several years ago and was just amazed! Every manner of things having to do with the industry are represented. It’s way bigger now than then. It was at the convention center in downtown Baltimore. One can find Joel and his relatives at 4 different booths, unless they sent someone else to represent their business.


fter that we went on the Whole 30 diet.The No’s are simple if you remember the Yes’s. The Yes’s are all you can eat of meat, fruit and vegetables. We both lost a little weight. I felt my blood sugar balance in a way that it hasn’t in years. I can get hungry without feeling shaky, and I can get hungry a few times without eating. After a couple weeks I felt tired all the time from being hungry, so I started drinking a little milk and then I went back to eating my own granola for breakfast because I needed to have some energy. It taught us to watch the sugar and bread more closely than we do. Joel went a whole month without any kind of alcohol, and he felt pretty good! We learned spaghetti can be made with squash And taste pretty good, even without cheese! Mostly I modified my own recipes. We used squash for pasta and cauliflower for rice. We went through 15 lbs of potatoes and 10 lbs of carrots! We went through a couple heads of broccoli and cauliflower every week. We might garden a little differently this summer…

During the winter when I don’t have a job, it’s kind of a lonely time for me. I don’t have a car every day, either. I do have good neighbors, though. I’ve been trying to have a regular time to have ‘tea’ one afternoon a week. My neighbor who comes regularly is my coffee buddy. I don’t have many friends who drink coffee in the afternoon. My mom had a book called ‘The Coffee Train.’ It was a story about a Scandinavian community where the the train came through and whistled at 4:00 every afternoon and everyone knew it was coffee time! One time we were traveling on the Turnpike and there was a liquid truck that said COFFEE on the back. I took a picture so I know I wasn’t imagining things, but can it be? A truck loaded with coffee, like milk??

Well, this is enough prattling for a winter morning. It has gotten my brains going so I can think. It’s either that or listening to beautiful music.🎹

Keeping Christmas Our Way

That’s actually a title of a chapter from GSPorter’s book ‘Laddie’.  But this morning I was chatting with a friend whose children are also grown about how different Christmas is now. If we go into it with the same expectations, there will be disappointment. So, how do we adjust? The fact is , we don’t need to do so much and we can’t, so what will feel like Christmas that we can actually do? I flagged several songs in my Oxford Christmas book of carols that I have never learned or I never learned well and they’re a little complicated so it gives me something to practice. Yesterday when daughter and son-in-law and family were here, I pulled one out that I knew but could not play or sing. My 11 year old granddaughter jumped up and said, “oh we are learning that one” and sang it…..in Spanish! (Riu, riu chiu)😄 We also agreed to address a couple Christmas cards every evening after supper, after eating at the table (which we don’t always do) and do yoga! You can tell which ideas were whose but we’re both pretty agreeable with each other! There is also the regular Advent reading, Grand children’s programs and a couple annual parties. I got rid of a lot of Christmas ornaments I didn’t want a long time ago so I use dried flowers or whatever else I can Preserve and paper ornaments I make , plus a few keepsakes to decorate my tree. Then there is the outside decorating…….getting right on it! 

Sounds like Christmas keeping to me!