Saturday, June 24, 2017

Kid Gifts

I've been saving some of these photos for a very long time. As our kids move into adulthood, they have begun giving us presents. I posted about some of the Christmas gifts, which were so lovely. Here are some other presents we've received from our kids recently.
 Anna enjoys shipping things to us from Japan. I know it must be a lot of trouble, but that doesn't slow her down! This is a package I received several months ago.
Cute paper:
 Very cute box ...

And inside, a fresh pile of letters, written lovingly, by hand, on individual sheets, for me to read day-by-day. An account of her first year teaching, how she felt, how she struggled, how she missed us. It's not easy reading at times! A mama's heart seizes up a bit, but it's good to know it's all last year, and she's adapted so well. Sweet, sweet letters.
Julia gave me art. I look at this Every Single Day. She knows I love the ocean.
Philip and I share a love of music, and he enjoys getting me CDs.
 These are all excellent, but of course Chopin is my favorite :) Or maybe Brahms.
 While in Massachusetts for Peter and Shani's wedding, I told Kara how much I liked her sandals. And then ...! A pair arrived in the mail for me for my birthday! Yippee! Isn't that the best?
 Anna also sent a fun package for my birthday. She found a shop in Japan called "Afternoon Tea." Sigh!!!!!!!!!! A shop made just for me! Look at this tea strainer:
 The base is a mini cup and saucer!
And she sent two dish cloths that are absolutely the BEST. Perfect fabric, cute design. 
Anna, I give you permission to give me MORE of these for Christmas, okay?
On to Father's Day! 
Here's Anna's package:
 Both these ties are a lovely blue, not gray. Blame the camera :( But Anna has impeccable taste in ties, and all Adam's new favorite ties are gifts from her.
 More cute packaging there.
Okay, then we move on to the adorableness in a little bag within. She sent her daddy a bag full of Japanese candy!! Squeeeeal!
Aren't they cute!!??

I tried this one first. It's a chewy candy that's supposed to taste like Coca-Cola. Not bad!
 And now for some of the others. I can't tell you how they taste because I didn't try them, but they sure are fun to look at! It was hilarious to study them all.

Adam says the Hello Kitty was a combo of white and dark chocolate .. yummy.
Philip and Kara called our favorite restaurant in New Bern and had a gift certificate waiting for us there on Sunday evening, for Father's Day. Goodness!!! You would have thought we were the World's Best Parents ... which I can assure we were NOT. But we have the sweetest kids ever. And what did Peter give us recently, you ask? The best gift of all ... a new daughter :) Is there any better gift to your parents than choosing a lovely spouse? They are busy, busy, busy in Boston trying to settle in, do new jobs well, adjust to married life, and plot a course for the future. That's a tall order, and I think they are very brave and adventurous.

I must say, I'm so proud of all our kids. They are not perfect, and neither are we. But we love them all so dearly, and we know they love us. I hope you enjoyed the fun presents they've thought up lately.

Friday, June 23, 2017

Book Review: "A Lady's Life in the Rocky Mountains"

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I bought this used book at Christmas as a present to myself. This is now the fourth Christmas-present book I've read this year. (The others were: "The Singing Line," "Home Fires," and "Idyll Banter.")

This book may well be the best of the batch thus far. Isabella Bird has a lovely, engaging writing style, and the subject matter is very interesting. In the autumn of 1873 she spent time traveling alone in the Rocky Mountains, in the middle of a lengthy trip from the Sandwich Islands (Hawaii) on her way home to England. The book's text is her letters written to her sister back home.

Daniel Boorstin, who wrote the Introduction, was the Librarian of Congress from 1975-1987 and a noted historian, so this is no third-rate book. Each evening I regret leaving its reading until bedtime, when I've trained my brain to succumb to slumber upon opening the pages. I'll read this one during daytime when I can enjoy it longer.

Most fascinating are Bird's descriptions of life in the rural, rough human landscape of California and Colorado at this time. She's a horsewoman, unafraid of bears or camp living. Her accounts of how woman are treated (with respect), of travel (very uncomfortable), of the bugs (a constant cloud in the air and film over all surfaces) of immigrants to Colorado (many were there to cure illnesses in the rarified air) are fascinating! Because she's writing to her sister who knows her well, her words are matter-of-fact and personal. She is not trying to impress or sell, and the stylistic effect is refreshing.

She has lovely description:
"The beauty is entrancing. The sinking sun is out of sight behind the western Sierras, and all the pine-hung promontories on this side of the water are rich indigo, just reddened with lake, deepening here and there into Tyrian purple. The peaks above, which still catch the sun, are bright rose-red, and all the mountains on the other side are pink; and pink, too, are the far-off summits on which the snow-drifts rest. Indigo, red, and orange tints stain the still water, which lies solemn and dark against the shore, under the shadow of stately pines. An hour later, and a moon nearly full -- not a pale, flat disc, but a radiant sphere -- has wheeled up into the flushed sky. The sunset has passed through every stage of beauty, through every glory of color, through riot and triumph, through pathos and tenderness, into a long, dreamy, painless rest, succeeded by the profound solemnity of the moonlight, and a stillness broken only by the night cries of beasts in the aromatic forests." (15)

All her appeals to color and visual delight, augmented by the sounds and smell of the woods, plus the movements of the sun and moon, make this passage a nearly heady experience for the reader. I hope you can see why she is worth the read!

Isabella Bird was a world traveler for most of her adult life, and I hope to find more accounts of her globe-trotting. You can read more about her adventurous life at her wikipedia page. I'll be looking for more of her books in future.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

The Twin Girlies!

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I just promised my mother on the phone that I would post photos of her new great-granddaughters. They were born last weekend (I think ... how quickly old brains forget!)
In the photo above, Ilana is on the left, and Leisa is on the right.
Below is a photo of Leisa when she was released from NICU, 
and just waiting for her sweet sister to join her, which happened quickly. 
We are all so thankful that they are HOME.
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I'm lifting these photos from Facebook, and the one below of Ilana by herself is the best I could find. This was right after her birth. She had a little trouble breathing for a bit, but is fine now.
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And here they are together, out of NICU.
Ilana on the left; Leisa on the right.
 I think Ilana really looks like her mama's side of the family.
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And speaking of the mama ... here she is!
Doesn't she look fabulous for having just birthed twins? 
The girls were (generally) about 6 lbs. each, a very good size.
Oh, to be young enough again to have two little boys, add twin girls, 
and still look so calm, rested and capable.
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I called my daddy for Father's Day, told him I loved him, sang him a Happy Daddy's Day song, and told him what a wonderful, dependable, reliable, steady father he has always been to me.
And he has. Not all daughters can say that.
I'm very thankful for him.
Then Philip called and told us that, for Father's Day, 
he got us gift money at our favorite local Mexican restaurant!!
What a wonderful boy! I must say, among Philip's many gifts is certainly
the gift of gift-giving. We are all often blessed by it.
Thank you, Philip and Kara!
Happy Father's Day to all the daddies out there!
Some are happy on this day --
and some are heart-broken.
May the happiness thrive, and may the heart-break be short-lived.

Thursday, June 15, 2017


 This little one is no longer little. She's nearly 18, and this week she's gone off to her university for Orientation. In a matter of weeks, she'll be gone for those interesting, magical, transformative four years that we call college.
 This isn't really a post about Julia, although I'd love to do one, but she'd hate that. Still, I'll just post photos of her :)
What's on my mind is this whole complicated concept of college. Why do we do it? Why do our children do it?
 My father was the first person in my family who went to college. None of my grandparents did. My mother would've flourished at college, but her first exposure to the setting was after she married; my dad was attending Ohio University on the G.I. Bill, and she got a secretarial job in the university English Department. She loved it. I can tell by conversations with her that she loved the setting, she loved the academics, she loved the professors. She would've loved to take classes, write papers, read (and read and read, which she's always done anyway). My mother's a learner. But before she knew it she was pregnant with Baby #1, followed in very rapid succession by Babies #2-5.

Julia and the boy cousins
My brothers and I grew up in a home where college was expected of us. These days, some say, "Well, it was easier back then; college was cheaper." And it was. But it was not easy for our family! There were five kids, and my dad, although always a very hard worker, served in Christian ministry. He didn't make enough money to "send his kids to college" and foot the bill. My brothers got their high school education at an inner-city school in Jackson, Mississippi, not a swanky college-prep academy. We were expected to get scholarships and grants. We are a smart bunch, an intelligent family. Expectations were high, not for prestige or privilege, but for sheer intellect. We were expected to be brainy, independent kids.
 My oldest brother attended a state university for his degree. I think we didn't really know what other path to take; even most of the Christian kids we knew were going to either Ole Miss or Miss. State, so this seemed normal.
But our family had also been involved with a Christian family camp in Georgia for decades -- Camp Westminster. The second boy in the family attended that camp the summer after high school, and it altered his life course significantly. It altered all our life courses significantly. In fact, you could say that my son Philip would not be married to his lovely bride Kara if my brother Mark had not worked at Camp Westminster that summer.
 Some friends he met there were attending Covenant College that fall, a small Presbyterian college just a few hours north on Lookout Mountain. Mark had no other set plans, as I recall. (I don't recall much; I was 12 years old.) He went to Covenant. Then the rest of us followed him there. My four years atop the mountain reached mythic proportions for me. So when I presented my oldest child with college options, Covenant was at the top of the list. (I just dug back into old blog posts about Philip's last days at home before departing for college. It feels like a lifetime ago. I struggled to let loose of my first born.)
 Now Adam and I are rather old hands at this college thing. He and I went to college, and we both got graduate degrees. In this way, we exceeded our parents academically. However, we have not been more successful than they, financially. College degrees don't automatically produce wealth. Still ... one does not want one's children to have less education, or worse education, than oneself. So Adam and I have steadily encouraged our children to go to college -- in spite of the cost, the debt, the time, the risks, the distance, the travel, the worry.
I know lots of families whose kids won't go to college. It's simply not the norm in those families, and those kids will do fine. They will go into the military, or they'll get a certification or a 2-year degree at a community college, or they'll do vo-tech work and find good jobs. College is not the magic bullet. Kids finish a 4-year degree at a residential university with tens of thousands of dollars of debt. So why-in-the-world have we still encouraged our kids to do it?
1. Philip and Peter met their spouses at the colleges they attended.
2. Anna would not be in Japan in the adventure of a lifetime, if she hadn't gone to her college.
3. Kids separate from their parents and mature at college, at least many do. Ours did. Since all our kids have been desperate to get away from us well before high school graduation, I'm glad to send them to campuses where there are rules, oversight, accountability.
4. College is work. It's not a 9-5 job, but it's still a lot of work and responsibility. It's a good transition for a teen when you want him to understand that he must begin to be responsible for himself, but that his time of learning is not over. In fact, if you want your children to continue to be life-long learners, attending school until they're 22 or 23 helps. If they close the book on learning as 17 year olds, they're more likely to think that "education is over." That's a generalization; some people are self-taught, and are that way no matter what they do.
5. For many people, a college degree still means a better job, or better pay.

College is still, in 2017, a wonderful experience for many kids. It takes courage for a young person and his family to embark on college admission, especially if it's not in their family history. Isn't it amazing to see a family send that first child off to college -- the first one in that family ever to go? Dozens of obstacles and hoops stretch before you. But you're giving your child a gift. As homeschooling parents, the immense effort we've put into Julia's transfer to university is part of our commitment to her education, and I know she knows that, she feels that, she absorbs that and takes it as her own.

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

The Bootlegger's Hole and Other Farm Mysteries

On Sunday Adam and I had a helpful conversation with a church lady regarding the mysterious hole in our yard, which you can read about here. Her information was quite intriguing!
We described the hole to her: 4' by 5' rectangle, about 5' deep, well-sealed with cement block walls, very dry, empty, unused. We told her that since there was no line or connection to the house it could not have been a septic system, which was her first assumption.
But she declared it could not be some kind of cold storage; nobody in Pamlico County that she'd ever heard of (and she's lived her all her 100 years), ever dug a root cellar like that in their yard. She also stated it's probably not an outhouse hole simply because it was never used. What kind of family would make such an expensive potty hole and never use it?
Then she stated her personal opinion from years ago living in the county: it's a bootlegger's hole. Yep! Some of you friends on Facebook who guessed that, were probably right.
Our friend Cricket (her nickname from childhood because she was so active) described rural Pamlico County in the early and mid-1900s as legally remote; everybody did what they wanted to do, minded their own business, and the "law" did not intervene much in small-time crime. Evidently such hidey-holes for stashing illegal alcohol and moonshine were not unusual. Ours is now covered up again:
 I'm standing in the driveway behind the house. This bootlegger's hole was in plain sight, right by the pasture gate, although if it is very old -- 1920s? 1930s? -- perhaps that was the back of the property. I'd like to uncover some old county maps to find out. I'm not sure when "whoever" decided to cover it with a flower bed. Was that to prevent anyone falling it? Or was it the ultimate disguise, to dissuade the revenue man from digging there? Hard to tell.
And that's not the only unusual finding on this farm - oh no!
A while back I was nosing around in the orchard-cum-chicken-yard, and I noticed in the corner beneath apple tree and posts ... several very large conch shells.
 What in the world were they doing there? They didn't drift in from the sea. Did someone put them there? Why? Because they're good for apple trees? But why not put them under more trees? It's a mystery, but now I know why my hens gravitated to that corner first; they were pecking at those shells. Seashells (I've read) provide a cheap source of grit and calcium for chickens.
I wish I could get a better photo of this object below. It's a big round coconut. In our orchard. Yeah ... I know! That's poison ivy all around it, so I did not delve in too vigorously.
 I first noticed it in the winter when nothing was growing there and it stood out. Thing is ... I'm sure it wasn't there the winter before. I trimmed all those apple trees and spent quite a bit of time in the orchard. Wouldn't I have noticed it? Well ... I think so. In our growing dotage, it's hard to be sure.
poison ivy on post with coconut at base
 The chickens came arunnin', as they do. "What's that crazy woman up to now?" they cackled.
 The dogs lifted their heads.
I gathered these unusual farm finds in one post because another one occurred yesterday. Twice, as I exited the kitchen door to the porch, my very-long, flowy farm skirt caught on something at the base of the door frame. The second time, I looked down to find out what it was. And it was a sharp piece of metal, slim, small and rectangular, sticking out of the wood at the base of the door jamb. "Adam!" I hollered, "Could you come check this out?" He pulled it out with some pliers. It was the tip end of a knife.

Really? How did that happen? When did it happen? Somebody stuck a sharp knife blade into the bottom of the door jamb, broke the blade off, and left the tip in there. I shivered thinking that none of us, in nearly two years, had sliced open a foot on that piece of metal. That would have been yet another trip to the Minor Emergency!

Friday, June 2, 2017

Here We Go Again

Pardon if my typing is sub par. I'm only using 9 dingwrs. Oops. Fingers.
It was all going so well this morning, the soap making. I mixed up the oils and lye solution. I waited, played the piano. Then I mixed them with the wand blender, a vicious little device that apparently causes more injuries than any other piece of kitchen equipment. I'm not sure how it happened. One minute I was scraping out the extra liquid soap around the blades of the blender as I do every time. The next second ...
It was nearly comic to be walking quickly across the pasture to the garden to find Adam, just as he did with me about 6 weeks ago. Sigh. I know, I know. We need a caregiver, as one friend pointed out. I thought, clearly this injury is not as bad as Adam's fingers then, so let's just try the nearby Urgent Care. Urgent Cares are good, right? Their sole purpose, apparently, is to refer patients on to the E.R. after getting a co-pay out of them.
But I wasn't sent from the Urgent Care. I chose to go. After the P.A. hunted for and struggled into his unfamiliar gown, and had fumbled in several drawers hunting for the right syringe. After his assistant had nervously reminded min several times where various pieces of equipment were that he clearly hadn't used in months. After his nervousness and jesting about having never done the  procedure before. Yes, was this the man I was willing to allow to stitch up my index finger? I think not. Particularly after they couldn't find a pan to put the iodine solution in -- he told her to just find a urinal tray. Hmm.
I'm a pianist. You might not know it by how I treat my hands, but in fact I am concerned about their care. The P.A. was also rough; he hadn't given me any pain relief, but he handled my finger like he had. I imagined how clumsily he might do those very important stitches. I hesitated. Then I called for Adam, who was taking a nap in the waiting room.
I knew he would be my out. One cringing look at him behind the P.A.'s back, and he knew I wanted out of there. Nothing against the fellow. I'm certain he is good at informational medicine and diagnosis. But how often does he stitch up a deep laceration on a dearly treasured piano-playing finger? Once in a decade? I wanted a confident P.A. who did it several times a week.
The co-pay at the Urgent Care was $40.
The co-pay at the Minor Emergency was $600.
Gulp. But we went, and willingly. I will pay it off $25 a month, like millions of other Americans, and that's not a big deal. But that's an aside -- the point of healthcare should be the state of my finger, not the state of my bill, right?
It's not pretty, but I believe she did a very good job. Two lacerations. Eleven stitches. Antibiotics. No pain meds. Evidently it is not considered bad enough to need them? It's still quit numb.
 I have a splint to prevent my bending the finger and putting strain on the stitches.
As she stitched up my finger, I prayed a thanks to God for competent medical personnel who do this work day in and day out. Thankful that I didn't have this injury a few hundred years ago when it could have killed me. In spite of the cost and the worry, how fortunate we are to have access to care and the choice to be made well.

Thursday, June 1, 2017

All Things Bright and Beautiful

I'll start with the painting Julia did for me for my birthday. She knows I love the ocean, so she painted me a WAVE!
It's hanging in the guest room where I see it easily as I walk through the house. It's a very splashy wave, with lots of color.
She put some flecks of orange in there too. I love it.
Speaking of orange, this brightness showed up at the farmers' market on Saturday:
The farm is bursting with blooms and growth. I'm selling well at the market each week. The weather is warming and the tourists are dribbling in. My favorite thing on the farm right now is my gardenia bush. It's bursting with bloom, much more than last year!
Isn't she gorgeous?

I do miss lilacs from when I lived up north, but I would not trade my gardenia for them.
The four big pots of flowers from the "big dig" have survived! Now I just need to decide where to put them.
We have lots of shade and limited full sun. It's always a quandary deciding where new plants must live.
On Memorial Day Adam grilled chicken thighs on our new "grill." The bricks are simply stacked there. He will eventually build something more permanent, probably in that spot. He was experimenting with the location.
I was worried that our fig tree, which bore so heavily last year, would take a break this year. But no! It's now loaded with small green figs, and it looks like I'll spend yet another June canning fig preserves and selling fresh figs at the market.
Oh, the herb garden! Here is my "patch" of cilantro. I think I went overboard in my desire not to run out of cilantro. It's all going to seed now, but it will reseed in mid summer and grow again. I'll save the seed and start some periodically over the coming months.
Elephant ears!
I do love hostas, and I want to divide and conquer my yard with them. I have seven of them here in the shade next to the house.

Here's a little hosta slip that's taking off -- I'm so thankful. I found it lying in the driveway at Chez Linnea, the home in Massachusetts we visited for the wedding. Some car had mangled it out of the edging.
It was really just a leaf and a bit of root.
My oregano, with the very old basil, now leafing out yet again, in front.
It's almost tomato time! Can you believe it? I took this photo this morning, May 31. I promptly ate the ripest one :)

Already I'm finding random red leaves on the ground. Which tree is doing this? Why does it tease me with autumn, when we all know there are many months of grueling heat to endure before we feel fall's blessed breezes?