Nine Horses


“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

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Rabbit Trailing


 

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!)

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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.

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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.

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And my very own daughter, Taite, is making these really clever animals:

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Zebra Start to Finish


 

Start to finish watercolor I painted today.
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         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.
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                                                  I limited my palette to just three colors so even the darkest mix stays bright not muddy. My watercolors are Daniel Smith. For this I used Quinacridone Gold, French Ultramarine Blue and Quinacridone Rose. Buy the best paint, best paper and best brushes you can afford.
photo-23     Then I happily continued painting stripes, blending colors on the paper. My brushes for 25 years have been Winsor & Newton Series 233.
photo-24 I decided the piece was too white so I added a border- using the same three colors. But it was too light…
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I did an overlay of Quinacridone Gold to deepen and brighten the stripes.

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For His Eye Is On The Sparrow and I Know He Watches Me


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.

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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!!

AND he stood there and got a photo!!

 

An Angel Named “Tank”


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.

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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.

Ragamuffin Gospel


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.

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Artwalk This Friday!


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.

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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.

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 ”Five Eggs.” Watercolor will always be my first love media-wise.

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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.

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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.)

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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.

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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.

A Fun Activity For Kids


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.

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To get ready for the event you could read Linnea in Monet’s Garden or Katie Meets the Impressionists.

Sissy Bar Bag


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.

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Simmering Sadness


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.

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A Simple Fire Pit


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.

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After pouring through Pinterest and then heading off on rabbit trails and then back to the fire pit ideas; we landed on simplicity.

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The bottom of the cast iron is open for drainage.

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A layer of cloth to keep out the pesky weeds.

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Kept in place with a ring of fiberglass edging

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And then rock for the stray embers.

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Celebrating Easter


                   (All photos pilfered from Meghan @ blue filter photo)

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Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life


‘Art washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life’   Pablo Picasso

The creamy luscious forgiveness of oils is really making me fall in love with them.

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Watercolor is nice and it is my first love, but… oils take me to depths I’ve never been with watercolor.

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Negative Painting


Negative painting messes with the brain. I don’t even know what I’m doing to explain it, but it’s the opposite of how I normally paint. It’s weird. And when you see a negative painting, you know something is different about it. This was my first attempt; I used an image from the internet to copy.

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Merciful Impasse


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.

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Inauspicious Beginnings


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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

 

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My Little Studio


This is a just finished painting. I have a stash of favorite wine bottles in my studio cabinet. This one DuBrul Vineyards Côte Bonneville is a fantastic wine. You would be very very fortunate to have a glass of this one sometime.

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Still life with lime and purple ribbon

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I have a “thing” for the striped towel; it’s been appearing in my paintings way back to living in Miami, though it’s not in the set up; I added it in. Artistic license.

Aoife Muse at 4 Months


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Full Ride


Full ride. Stipend. Research Assistantship.

Times like this I wish my dad were alive. He grew up in a very blue collar family and he was heading that way too which was obviously fine, but when a kid he’d known in high school came back from college for Christmas break and had done well; my dad thought, “if that kid could do such a thing; he could dare to dream.”

So he applied and was accepted to college. And became a health physicist. He discovered he didn’t really like academia so he was done at a four year degree; but was always called Dr. Jarrett in his field. They assumed. And he traveled the world for work, packing his golf clubs when he could.

When I made the hair-brained decision to home-school ( “what the heck are you thinking!?”) He was on a positive note; not hopeful.

And then at the ages of 16 and 17, Meghan and Erin graduated summa cum laude from community college. He was there in the bleachers with the program, scanning the names, looking at the symbols that preceded few names; the *, the #, the ∆ and my dad realized Meghan and Erin had those noted achievements lined up next to their names. And they had earned the right to wear the elite tassel cords. And he sobbed.

Soon after he had a massive stroke that took his life. But he’d seen the beginning to the end of the first two’s education. I was glad.

When Aileen received a full ride, stipend and research assistantship I knew he would have loved to listen to all she knew, all she is doing in the molecular biology field.

“Ah”, people would say in a sort of ‘haha you’re in for it now’ way, “Girls are easy, wait ’til your sons gets older.” (Do not say this to parents; it is wholly unhelpful. And downright evil. Parents find these things out on their own without the snide jab.)

So when Jarrett called me and said he had received the official offer to grad school with a full ride, stipend and research assistantship; when we hung up, I just sat and stared ahead. It did not occur to me to call Andrew or anyone; I got off the phone and just sat. When Andrew walked in the door from work, I asked,

“Did you get a text?”

“Yah.”

That was it; I think we both felt a little like we were standing on holy ground. We were speechless.

Because, well, teaching boys is different than teaching girls. Girls tend to be intent on getting their schoolwork done, on time and well. Boys tend to go through a sort of let’s see what we can let slide, see what mom won’t catch not being done, how far can I push her, shall we say, “phase.” And there might be for extended periods of his youth a bleak looking into a son’s future of possibly panhandling or sorting garbage. I think we were maybe in a bit of shock. It was over. All the raising and handling and threatening and cajoling and loving and admiring and respecting had culminated in a really terrific young man.

Godspeed in your next adventure, Jarrett
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Glorious Mayhem


Perhaps you’ve heard of Karl Ove Knausgaard? He’s written a six-volume, 3,5000 page autobiography. That’s a lot to say and he’s only 45. I read about him in my new subscription to The Economist  which Matthias talked me into over WSJ assuring me that it’s way hipper to get. Knausgaard’s book has been translated from Swedish into English, if you’re interested. In a way, though, I can see how easy it would be for almost anyone to cover that many pages if they were so inclined…

I did not need to check, we are not out of town on Thursdays, we do not have house guests on Thursdays; that would be perfect. Weeks ago my sister-in-law wondered if she, my niece and her baby (grand nephew? first nephew once removed? second nephew?) could spend a Thursday night with us. Days or more later, I did check the calendar and discovered that the stranger guests for whom Matthias had purged his room would be here that night. And the night before and for two nights following. But hey.

Wednesday night, late, our stranger guests arrived.

Thursday morning I boiled a corned beef and invited Meghan’s family for dinner too and then left to judge a speech and debate tournament for which I have no skills nor experience.

Two other judges were judging with me so at least someone with skills could make a right choice. But the debate? I was the ONLY judge! These two poor debaters in their future lawyer attire were hoping I had the sense to make a knowledgeable choice. Ensconced behind me were spectators who would be able to look over my shoulder and see that my “notes” were mere willy nilly nonsense. They would call me out as a charlatan judge and the ruse would be up. I judged carefully, and left.

I had two missed calls from Jarrett. If you have kids, you know that a text will always suffice when corresponding with a parent so to have missed two calls in quick succession means something. I responded via text just before beginning.

“Can’t talk. judging. whts up?”

“Flunk them and call me.” (obviously he has NOT taken the judges’ crash course; you do not flunk people)

I called between events and he relayed some stupendous news that I wanted to announce with a megaphone. And then a text tells me:

“Don’t say anything to anyone.”

Squelched.

Done with that little bit of judging humility, I called Doris to find out when they’d arrive,

“We are sitting in your driveway, Gretchen is trying to break into your house.”

“Try the doorbell, Taite’s home.”

Soon I was making rueben sandwiches for the army we were and then a few neighbors came to visit and had a few too. I just kept popping ruebens into my faithful panini maker and handing them round.  While our raucous dinner is going on, Erin calls and wonders,

“Did you know the two of us are heading to a foreign tropical paradise tomorrow.”

“No, I did not.”

And then I receive an email with photos from Aileen,

“We just bought a house.”

“I did not know.”

Late that night the stranger guests slinked in. Friday morning a quickish breakfast and then Doris et al take off for the airport to pick up their long gone husbands. I throw their sheets into the washer thinking to offer the bedroom to the stranger guest dad so he can have his own room and the child (probably the boy) can sleep in a bed instead of on Matt’s floor.The phone rings and Caitlin wonders if I can get her some groceries before Jarrett and Matthias come her way. Andrew’s eyes absolutely sparkle at the thought. He loves buying groceries. I do not. I could learn from him. I really should be able to walk into a grocery store and fall on my knees in thanks to God for the amazing gloriously beautiful abundance of food that is laid out before me. Andrew could, if given the opportunity, spend days in a grocery store; he loves checking out the marbling on the meat, the freshness of the seafood; he dreams up fantastic feasts while wandering through anxious to try out his latest rubs and spices.

But first we visit our financial planner so he can tell us that we are in fact, no longer thirty-something, that we should in fact, be planning for retirement. I like going because I always get one of those individual choose the flavor cups of coffee. But neither of us get too excited about finances, so we are glad someone in the room does.

We get home, the guys leave with their grocery laden truck, Taite is gone to hang with friends. Andrew are we alone!?…

And Andrew makes us steaks with butter smothered mushrooms along with some potatoes that we have tried to duplicate ever since Pip made them when we visited her in Little Baddow, England, these thinly crispy encrusted potatoes the centers of which are almost fluffed mashed potatoes are a mystery to recreate. But we keep trying.

Afterwards we take the Netflix movie that has been on the counter for a month and pop it in. Twenty minutes into it we hear the front door open. The stranger guests are back. Out pops the movie. The two kids scurry to get in their jammies. I feel sorry for them away from home and all their fun stuff staying with two old people. I open the game closet and they choose Settlers of Catan. I do not play games. I am too competitive and it only always turns ugly so I don’t know the rules. Andrew texts Taite:

“Come play games with our guests.”

She does not respond. I resign myself to play while Andrew and the dad sip wine. We resort to reading the directions but I don’t think we are playing it right because it is boring. And I am losing. But thankfully I am not cranky about it. Around 11 pm the girl is getting more and more miffed with her brother because he might be winning. And she might just be plain exhausted. I suggest bed.

In the morning the stranger guests’ car will not start and they will be late. I offer to run the kids to their event while the dad watches his car not start. Andrew finds a charger or something and the car does start but they all run back in, pack all their stuff into the car incase when they are ready to leave the event and the car doesn’t start again, they will have someone jump start it and then just keep on going until they are home. Maybe. But they might be back too.

So we go about our day planning a fire pit for the back yard that we (I) want done by May 10 so I can host a great huge celebration in honor of Jarrett’s graduation as a newly formed Mechanical Engineer. I am so excited about this fire pit. Jarrett about sacrificed a finger for this 600 pound vessel when he and a friend were 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 and that morning in February I got a text with a photo that said, “Merry Christmas.”

For a brief moment I thought the text had come after a two month delay but then I realized he’d hauled it just the night before. And I ran out to take a look at the beauty. So we had that to get settled in the ground by graduation.

That evening we went to Meghan and Eric’s for dinner and to visit with their charming and generous guest. His car is a little like Mary Poppin’s satchel; Dave pops his trunk and from it emerges fine cigars, a myriad of spirits, and other delectables. We enjoy the company and then return home to see the stranger guests’ car quietly hiding in the dark,  plugged in to charge overnight.  The car had started earlier but using the headlights drained it. They would leave in daylight.

I know it’s not kosher on the Sabbath with the sun brightly shining to veg out in front of a movie but I was determined to see “Get Low” and get it returned. After that we were done. The house was quiet and just when we were thinking we were not having enough fun, thankfully the doorbell rang and our friends came to visit. I was hoping they would. I’d made baked macaroni to share if they came.

Monday as Andrew left for work he wondered,

“Anything going on tonight?”

“Nope.”

But I was wrong. I’d forgotten it was Saint Patrick’s Day for heaven’s sake! Jarrett and Matthias put on their kilts loaded up their bagpipes and snare drum to go bar hop all night long. Taite had her evening chemistry course, and I had a baby shower to go to.

But Tuesday. Tuesday really was free. I snuck up to my painting table and fell in love again with luscious Pompeii Red, Hansa Yellow, Quinacridone Gold. When mixed together they create a fiery beauty. And then I painted a single fig.

 

A single fig