“I wondered about you
when you told me never to leave
a box of wooden, strike-anywhere matches
lying around the house because the mice
might get into them and start a fire.
But your face was absolutely straight
when you twisted the lid down on the round tin
where the matches, you said, are always stowed.
Who could sleep that night?
Who could whisk away the thought
of the one unlikely mouse
padding along a cold water pipe
behind the floral wallpaper
gripping a single wooden match
between the needles of his teeth?
Who could not see him rounding a corner,
the blue tip scratching against a rough-hewn beam,
the sudden flare, and the creature
for one bright, shining moment
suddenly thrust ahead of his time-
now a fire starter, now a torch bearer
in a forgotten ritual, little brown druid
illuminating some ancient night.
Who could fail to notice,
lit up in the blazing insulation,
the tiny looks of wonderment on the faces
of his fellow mice, onetime inhabitants
of what once was your house in the country.”
Billy Collins will make you fall in love again with poetry; if you have never enjoyed poetry, you will love it for the first time. Collins is witty, insightful, poignant, and most of all readable.
In 2001-2003 he was appointed, for good reason, Poet Laureate of the United States.
You will not want to borrow this book you will want to own it and if like me, you find that your son-in-law owns two copies- he loves it that much- then simply, quietly, deftly, slip it into your overnight bag and make it your own, but by all means, have a copy to keep and reread. Nine Horses by Billy Collins
Rabbit trailing stuff:
Our decades long tradition has been to make pizza on Friday nights and watch a movie. So this small pizza oven at only $299 is beckoning. It heats to 840˚F (not a typo!) and cooks a pizza in 2 minutes (also not a typo!)
And to go along with the pizza making, if you are in the market for a great garlic press that won’t break the bank; I highly recommend this one. Erin reviewed this other one a long time ago, and I’m just gonna say; this is the same at 1/5th the price.
This, I almost hate to share because I want it and it’s probably a limited. A fire engine red iron sling chair a.k.a butterfly chair. The great thing about this one is that the legs do not fold up. I will reluctantly give you the link if you ask… I want two of these on my back porch.
And my very own daughter, Taite, is making these really clever animals:
Of course the summer includes good books.
“The work that God has given me to do is helping people to enter the existential experience of being loved in their brokenness.” Have I mentioned that Brennan Manning senses the presence of Christ? An alcoholic and self-hater to the level of idolatry, in short, his admission of his failings makes him a relevant, Christ-like example of strength through weakness. Ragamuffin Gospel is excellent.
I am a sucker for a food memoir that ends each chapter with a recipe: Ruth Reichl’s Tender at the Bone, Shauna Neiquist’s Bittersweet, Susan Loomis’s On Rue Tatin, so I also liked Delancey by Molly Wizenberg.
Reading for fun! Author of Chocolat, Joanne Harris has written Peaches for Father Francis which isn’t exactly about food but it’s always wafting into the story. But dang if the ending didn’t drop into disappointment. We are also listening to this same author’s Five Quarters to the Orange.
Start to finish watercolor I painted today.
I start with a light pencil sketch of the subject. My favorite watercolor paper is made in France with 100% rag content D’Arches 140 lb. cold press.
That means I can even soak the paper in the bathtub and will not fall apart.
Then I happily continued painting stripes, blending colors on the paper. My brushes for 25 years have been Winsor & Newton Series 233
I decided the piece was too white so I added a border- using the same three colors. But it was too light…
I did an overlay of Quinacridone Gold to deepen and brighten the stripes.
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I finally felt like I had a right to go see;
“She’s gone,” Andrew declared, “And her babies.”
Everyone had seen the mama and her two little squabs. I’d only seen the phone and iPad photos; they were a short walk from my back porch, but I just could not interrupt this little feathered mother to peek. Interrupting a mother and her newborn? No. Solidarity.
Watering the tree or mowing the grass, Andrew would peer into her nest. The mother would stay a daringly long time and then fly suddenly and low to the field where she pathetically mimed a broken wing or leg or worse, floundering about on the desert dirt, begging for you to grab her, please; leave them be.
She had trained her birdy babies well; they were still as stone; “please do not notice us; we are not here.” And the mother dove, flailing and feigning weakness, willing to sacrifice her life for two ugly barely feathered fowl.
So returning one evening from a little walk, and Andrew told me, “They’re gone.”
I finally could run out and see what everyone else had already. Her nest was silly and so low in the branches that even I could see in without a hint of tiptoe, in fact; I had to look down to see in. That’s rare.
There it was a mere mishmash of paltry twig and needles hardly big enough for a single mother, let alone her fledglings too.
And while I am quietly contemplating squabs, Matthias sends me a photo from his day. Which pretty much freaked me out. Matthias was not sweetly gazing down into a bird nest. This was Matt’s little peak at the bedding choice FOR A BEAR! Matt was looking up and the bear was looking down. And I mean, I wanted Matthias to put in some hard labor this summer and come home with lots of stories to tell. But really.
I knew there was a God lesson in all that, in the nest, in the bear. But it didn’t become clear until it had come all the way round to the bear’s bed. It seemed so sweet and easy to look at that dove and her baby birds and wistfully think how God cares even for a silly dove who builds her nest too low, safely in the backyard of suburbia. But the bear, I was not have fretting for his safety. It came round to this mother- me- and my children, that I really have to trust that “His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches Matt.”
AND he stood there and got a photo!!
If ever you find yourself up against a brick wall, find someone in town who goes by the nickname of ”Tank,” ”Tank” because he is about 6 feet 12 inches tall and weighs a muscular 350 pounds; that’s it and your bacon is saved.
I was up against a brick wall literally (don’t you hate it when people say “literally” literally in every other sentence and obviously it is most assuredly not literally?) Well, in this case I was literally up against a brick wall- all my paintings had to hang somehow on a brick wall. I had no hardware. And that is what I was up against.
Andrew wasn’t with me because he was on call in some close radius to work and doing conference calls all weekend and literally saving the world from nuclear disasters. Because normally if I’d have been up against a brick wall like that, I’d have simply abdicated, abandoned, and rolled over and played dead about having to do a handyman sort of thing. And then he would have swooped in and saved the day.
But that wasn’t going to work this time so off I went to the local hardware store that sells everything in the world: wine making stuff, beer making stuff, kayak stuff, hunting elk stuff, building bridges stuff, and picture hanging stuff. And right on the teensy hook that should be holding those little four pronged thingies that would go into brick and hold a painting at the same time, that little hook was empty.
“Yah, those are all sold out,” the helpful helper told me.
I didn’t think I could use anything permanent so in the end I bought 5 different things, but the one I was putting my money on was something called “Extreme Duct Tape.” And the wrapper showed the tape holding up an Exit sign. Exit sign/picture, same thing. Up went the paintings with a little more generous strip of tape on the bigger paintings. And then I left to go visit and gad about.
And while I was sitting there lazing about visiting, all exhausted and unwinding, an alarming text arrives,
“All your paintings are falling off the wall.” (literally)
“And hitting the customers.” (unfortunately also literally)
Meanwhile (and I didn’t find this out until much, much later) Andrew and my son-in-law whom we shall call Jason are giddily texting each other about the fact that I might be able to paint but I sure am not an engineer. Or a scientist. Or anyone who would know that duct tape does not, in theory or reality, hold the world together. Ha, ha. ha.
In the end God sent an angel in the form of a big hulking guy about the size of John Henry and his hammer named “Tank;” he too had a hammer. So with one fell swoop he would whack each nail in the wall. And thus most of my painting survived unscathed.
And the really great thing is that now some of the painting are missing but it’s because people I don’t even know came in and loved them enough to buy them. That’s something.
See that little red roll of tape on the table? Yup, that’s Extreme duct tape! There they are- my paintings on the wall. Literally.
I sat across the table from a woman and fessed up that I occasionally struggle in my marriage, maybe it was a tiff I was admitting to, possibly full on battle with my husband. She countered with never ever having a problem in her marriage, ever; well, there was the one time when she thought she was mad at him but upon further reflection realized it had been a dream in which she had been mad, so, no, she actually never ever had had a marital problem. And I felt sorry for her. Not for the not fighting with her husband but rather that either
1. She could not be honest with herself about marriage, hers in particular (seriously? 24/7/365?) or
2. Her marriage was really that milquetoast blah, that nothing ever had impassioned her or her husband to react, maybe overreact to a word spoken, a slight felt, a begrudge-ment suspected, a reading too much into a spoken word. Nothing; like living a white noise marriage.
Reading Ragamufffin Gospel it all jelled for me; her halo was on too tight. It seemed she had never made peace with being flawed; she had not experienced what it means to be poor in spirit, to be sad in the knowing and admitting of sinful facets, “aware of her lack of wholeness, her brokenness, the simple fact she doesn’t have it all together… to not pretend to be anything but what she is: a sinner saved by grace.”
Having a halo on too tight means not being honest. She could not risk an imperfect marriage. The ugly result is an air of superiority, of looking down at the rabble- those who still have a fight.
“Our halo gets too tight and an attitude of moral superiority results. “And that attitude does not allow honesty; honesty would require admitting fault or failure, to admit the attachment or addictions that control our attention, dominate our consciousness, and function as false gods.”
Obvious flaws are easy but
We “can be addicted to vodka or being liked, to marijuana or being loved, to cocaine or being right, to gambling or relationships, to golf or gossiping.” We can be addicted to being seen as nice, we can be addicted to being seen as having it all together, of being unflappable, of never saying the wrong thing. Those sweet little things can actually be SIN.
We can be addicted to being perfect- I thought I was wrong once, but I was mistaken. That is a heavy load to lug around.
“Maybe this is the heart of our hang-up, the root of our dilemma. We fluctuate between castigating ourselves and congratulating ourselves because we are deluded into thinking we save ourselves. We develop a false sense of security from our good works and scrupulous observance of the law.”
And that was that poor woman’s problem- she could not ever admit failure in her marriage; her salvation rested on it.
Brennan Manning, author of Ragamuffin Gospel, was a Franciscan priest who struggled with alcoholism, a man with a tilted halo able to encourage with spiritual reflection because he was a flawed man. Only people who know they’re flawed can really understand the wildness of grace. Some have criticized that he was too free, too liberal with God’s grace, radical grace, some might say but isn’t that precisely what makes it grace?
That crazy radical free flowing grace is what allows us to face the truth of who we are, “regardless of how threatening or unpleasant our perceptions may be. It means hanging in there with ourselves and with God. learning our mind tricks by experiencing how they defeat us, recognizing our avoidances, acknowledging our lapses, learning completely that we cannot handle it ourselves. This steady self-confrontation requires strength and courage. We cannot use failure as an excuse to quit trying.”
Hello, my name is Terri and I still occasionally fight with my husband after 34 years of marriage. Grace.
Moscow, Idaho Artwalk is happening and my work is in the event! If you are in Moscow THIS Friday evening- June 13- beginning at 5 PM, stop in at Bucer’s at 201 S Main Street and say, “Hello!”
And buy one of my paintings! and see what I’ve painted, but, I mean, buy a little something if you feel inclined. Really though pop in and say Hi.
I was pretty much thrilled to have one of my little pieces make it onto the poster too. Truth be told while Jarrett, Andrew and I were driving through hilly Pennsylvania, in fact, flying by Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater for which they refused, refused, to take a little detour so I could see the house, right then I received an email from an artwalk person about the onion for the advertisement poster and wondered what the title of the gourd was.
“Gourd!” What the!”
I didn’t want to offend by saying something like, “Excuse me, that is most definitely NOT a gourd; it is, in fact, an onion,”
And I didn’t think I should name it something obviously not gourd-ish like “Humble Now Exalted Onion” lest she nix the onion for the poster out of embarrassment. And when I showed my sister the onion while I was visiting her quickly in Washington D.C. a few weeks ago, she quietly, under her breath, almost as an aside said,
“It does look like a gourd…”
And then we both bust up laughing and couldn’t stop even though it was midnight and everyone in the house was sound asleep and, we assumed, hoped to remain that way.
So in the end I fell upon the Spanish word for onion, “Cebolla,” which is fitting because everyday while I paint, I listen to Despierta America to recall the Spanish I once spoke.
Gosh, it’s a little like getting my children dressed up to go impress the world to select which paintings make it into the show. This is a small sampling.
”Five Eggs.” Watercolor will always be my first love media-wise.
This was inspired from an ad for something in a magazine and I just loved the lighting, the sepia, the hairless softness of the great dane.
These little fruits and vegetables have been such fun to create. These will be soooo reasonably priced you will probably want to just buy them all. (And they can be whatever fruit or vegetable you want them to be.)
These too. I have a thing for birds, and the street we live on is named after a bird- the quail up there in the right corner.
This guy is done in oil and was told he needs to dry out before he gets to come to the show, so we will see if he can manage or if he’ll still be feeling sticky.
And there will be more too both serious and whimsical… until Bucer’s cries, “Uncle,” for the multitude.
What a great summer activity- plein air painting with the kids. Pack just a few essentials and your budding artist is ready for a plein air outing:
1. watercolor set (even the kid’s set sold anywhere would be a good start)
2. paper (a little bit heavier would be best) and a board or cardboard for a ‘table’
3. brushes (the ones that come in the cheap set or add a few)
4. a few paper towels
5. some water and cups for rinsing
Pick an outdoor spot- even your own backyard and let the creativity begin.
To get ready for the event you could read Linnea in Monet’s Garden or Katie Meets the Impressionists.
Vacation evokes a visceral need for me to purge; it happens every time, and it does not matter if the places I’ve been are neat and sparse or disastrous; it’s that I manage on vacation to get by with a very small pouch of toiletries and a couple good books. And lots of great people. Which makes me wonder, “why all the stuff in my life?”
I begin going through my mind all the closets and tucked away stuff that I could let go. Size 3 Toddler tuxedo came to mind. Matthias had worn it in Meghan and Eric’s wedding and hey, you just never know when you might need a 3T tuxedo again… and the size 10R, the size 7 and the size 16. (Plus three wedding dresses…)
I thought also to part with the Classic Motorcycle Sissy Bar Bag. That brand new beauty was too good to go to Goodwill, so I listed it on Craigslist. It was a popular little item, but the first person to call was a man who was ready to come that day but we were leaving town; how about Monday?
“The afternoon would work;” he thought, “Oh no, wait a minute,” yes, he had a doctor’s appointment in the afternoon, “what about the morning?”
“That would be fine.”
His name was Earl; who names their son Earl these days? So I knew he was older with a medical problem which made it easier to give him my address since I’d be home alone when the deal went down.
At 10:15 Earl calls, lost. Of course I am all pity and empathy what with my lack of directional and map skills and when he finally blurts out,
“Can you just meet me at the mall parking lot?”
I am a little put out but I think,
“Poor old Earl is driving around lost on his motorcycle with a medical condition,” so I agree. (Retelling this later Taite says, “That’s good, you should meet Craigslist people in public places.)
It was easy to spot old Earl when he drove up; I hauled out the sissy bar bag and then had to show him how to mount it on his bike. And then I had to show him how to attach the included roll bag. And how to further secure the whole deal to his bike. And then he wanted to pay less than agreed price “because,” he contended, “you can get the bag local for just $2 more.”
“Uh, No.” (And I’m wondering why then he didn’t.)
I wasn’t feeling sorry for him any longer. He paid in full and I drove off while he continued to futz with the bags.
So, if you’re in need of a few boys’ tuxedos, they’re available on ebay for another day.
Meghan’s first day. Kindergarten for Pete sake. Andrew called our friend the church secretary, a single woman who popped in almost nightly to see what we were having for dinner; to see if she’d stay once he’d left for work that first of firsts. Andrew knew I’d be a wreck, heck, I already was and we had days to go so he planned to take the morning off from work. And make sure Marcia would be available. I have never even remotely been excited for my kids to leave home. They leave a hole.
The years have rolled by and the simmering sadness of another one of our children leaving for college was nearing. I knew already how it would go; this was 5th time around. Kind of like giving birth, the first time ’round you can kid yourself into thinking you might sleep through the whole thing. So I was in a funk and I knew without a doubt it was going to be hard. Again.
But I also knew it was time and that God would steer me through yet another life altering change. So last minute dreading the good bye, I bought a return ticket from State College, Pennsylvania and squirreled away in a cubby hole in the car and did the road trip too. I quietly read, renewed my passion for sudoku, snapped pictures of the clouds. And gave the much appreciated back seat driver advice.
We joked about waiting until we’d driven 2700 miles across the country for Jarrett to find housing. In the end that’s what he did. Who does that!!!?? As we hoofed our way down the street to McDonald’s for their free WiFi so we could access Craigslist- housing- sublets, I muttered the names of every person I know who would never live life on the edge like that; how any sane person would have that sort of minor detail wrapped up before the cross country trek. Gosh.
At the McDonald’s table, it came down to:
1. searching for sublets that didn’t have photos of pink and purple bedrooms
2. a warm body willing to immediately answer the phone or email back of availability
3. buying a Reece’s Peanut Butter Cup McFlurry so McDonald’s wouldn’t throw us out the door.
The next day Andrew and I were flying home- separate planes- and Jarrett would be moving into the apartment of the person who called him back first, no helping Jarrett unload, no going for essentials and groceries, no helping to clean the place a little, take a little peek into his new home, nope, Jarrett just dropped us at the airport and off he drove to start the next chapter.
Those cords right there around his neck stand for smartness!
By this point in the talks, this was what we were all wishing we could do
Somehow we were supposed to take him seriously. The outfit reminded us a bit of a mullet, business on the tie, party on the shirt.
Congratulations, Jarrett! We are super proud of you.
to see some more pictures of Jarrett’s graduation, go here.
Oliver came to the Gem and Mineral Show on Saturday, too, dressed in stripes of course, he is a zebra after all. Fox asked what I thought Oliver ought to wear. ”Well, he does look pretty good in stripes,” I told Fox. He ran upstairs and rummaged around for a bit. I didn’t see Oliver till we got out of the car at the show. ”Wow, look what you dressed Oliver in.” ”No, mom Oliver got himself dressed.”
We (meaning not me) got the fire pit ready for business. This is that 600 pound fire pit Jarrett about sacrificed his finger for while loading it into the truck and he misjudged the placement of the two-by-fours so that he just about set the behemoth straight down on his finger. But he didn’t. Thankfully. And now it is part way in the ground in its perfect location and we now have a place to gather ’round in our backyard for conversation, warmth in the cool evening, ‘smores, and hotdog roasting. Now if April, never even mind March, would act more like a lamb we would be out there even more.
After pouring through Pinterest and then heading off on rabbit trails and then back to the fire pit ideas; we landed on simplicity.
The bottom of the cast iron is open for drainage.
A layer of cloth to keep out the pesky weeds.
Kept in place with a ring of fiberglass edging
And then rock for the stray embers.
This is the outfit Fox came up with for the baseball game. It was so outlandish that I let him wear it. No one in the world would think that his mother had dressed him this way. But I did have to bribe him with gummy worms to get this photo. Fox is a bit of a private guy. Ha, just kidding. He was having too much fun with some kids he met at the game to be bothered with photos.
For a fleeting moment I was, in the eyes of someone, a college prof. I drove over to listen to Aileen present a paper and critique to faculty and grad students and just before Aileen introduced me to one person, this person assumed I was a visiting faculty member. I was pretty much amazed by my daughter and her presentation.
On the drive I listened to a lecture on a CD. Things on CD’s mean being stationary so the long drive was the perfect time. On a rabbit trail one morning I came upon this intriguing title:
The Merciful Impasse: The Sermon on the Mount for People Who’ve Crashed (and Burned). I popped it in, began listening, and then started fumbling for the case; and hit the middle of the road bumps swerving all over to grab the case which read “Paul F. M.Zahl” But I had a woman in my mind. I conjured reasons in my head, maybe Paul is like the name Michael- sometimes it’s a girls name. Or Terry. But then Paul began to refer to Mary, his wife. I have since googled him and he is.
So I listened to him and my mind wandered to thinking, maybe that is what heaven will be like- neither male nor female- and so for portions of the drive Paul was a woman and then if I tried really hard, he was a man.
But here’s the thing; he was absolutely in love with, adored, esteemed and smitten with his wife. It wasn’t the point at all of the lecture but it was this undeniable undercurrent that you just can’t fake. And I fell in love with this sweet couple.
The lecture is excellent too.
Here’s what’s hard to believe: “that God has freely granted not only to others but to me also, forgiveness of sins, eternal righteousness, and salvation.” (Lord’s Day 21 Heidelberg Catechism)
At church camp we sang Kumbaya and meant every word of it, afterwards celebrating communion with Kool Aid and graham crackers, a bread and wine stand-in. We set balloons free to demonstrate whirled peas or banning nuclear bombs or something; I can’t remember; I was too busy enjoying the colors of the balloons set against the cloudy blue, glad someone had thought to do such a thing. We also fasted to really feel scarcity of food, and then got together to talk about how awful it must be to go hungry everyday. I guess a lot of people would consider it a fairly liberal church. And it was; it was liberal with love.
When one girl who had spent all her life in that church came back from college pregnant (and without a degree), they had a baby shower for her unfortunately timed child. There wasn’t any talk of, “perhaps we are encouraging sinful behavior by celebrating this baby,” or “perhaps we’ll send the wrong message if we shower this little baby with gifts and love.” Abstract theology is religion rather, they understood that we are not made righteous by getting our lives cleaned up; we are made right by a Savior who comes alongside us; instead of judging us, he identifies with us. These women just threw a glorious baby shower and loved on her. And the young mother-to-be was humbled and thankful. She knew her sin. She had lost fellowship with God as a result of her sin. But the deeper truth was that she had sinned in order to lose fellowship with God.”
At Christmastime the church let that scraggly little excuse for a family make up the holy family in the Christmas tableau; the parents stood in for Mary and Joseph. And their little baby girl, Meghan, filled in as Jesus.
That pitiful girl married the father and their excuse for a marriage celebrates 34 years this month.
Andrew, you have my heart and you make me feel like a cherished jewel. The years have so flown and I am filled with the wonder of God from whom all blessings flow, His amazing kindness, love, care, abundant mercy. This rich, rich life has come to you and me from His hand.
Truly, “That at the age of twenty or so, with little knowledge of each other and a dangerous overdose of self-confidence, two human beings should undertake to commit themselves for life- and that the church and state should receive their vows with a straight face- all this is absurd indeed… A pox on all the neat explanations as to why it is reasonable that two teenagers should be bound to each other until death. It is not reasonable.”
Bed and Board – Robert Farrar Capon