Sunday, August 30, 2020

Maintaining Sanity; Backing Away from Facebook

 Hi, friends. Some of you are much wiser than I am and have long ago backed away from Facebook. Perhaps not deleting your account, but just backing away. I find myself so stressed out lately about conversations there of all types, most of them on other people's pages, not my own. Some about politics, but others about various cultural topics. After yesterday, I just can't take the anxiety load anymore.

Part of the damage is that my anxious mind has difficulty relaxing enough to do things that I really want to do, like reading your blogs! Your nice, peaceful, happy, creative, beautiful blogs -- just the kind of social media that brings peace! Why has it taken me so long to have the courage to back away from Facebook? Well, there are people who I only see there, dear friends, family. So I'll try to check in with them, hope they will private message me. I'll still put my blog posts and watercolors there. But I have to get away from the actual text posts that go off-the-rails so fast.

Granny Marigold mentioned a youtube lady whose channel is called The Last Homely House. She's utterly delightful and creative, and makes many of the same kinds of things I like to make! Go give her a look. This morning I enjoyed watching how to hand-sew small Coptic-stitched books.

Now for a few photos of what's been happening here.

Two new baby chicks, with Henny Penny as their mama.

Four more eggs are being sat upon, but I don't think they're going to produce chicks.

Yesterday I wrapped some cured soap, tea tree bars and lavender bars.

I'll put their stickers and price tags on soon. Planning to return to the farmer's market in September when it's cooler ... if the crowds are manageable.

I've been looking at last year's autumn "Victoria" magazine for pleasure and inspiration.

Adam's still cooking yummy, healthy stuff. He must change his diet for better nutrition for his Pemphigus Vulgaris - lots of leafy greens and vegetables. He made a delicious eggplant dish called Spetzofai, on his homemade bread.

Eggplant, onion, red bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic, balsamic vinegar, wine, a bit of sugar

Summer is coming to a close, and with the cooler mornings and evenings, Adam and I want to develop a habit of walking with the dogs. We drove to Oriental to one of our favorite old walks: looking at boats on the docks at a marina.

Below is the "Blue Bayou," which used to be a very fast racing boat. It's in a sad state now. I blogged about it a few years ago. We were amazed that it's still floating. Adam laughed and said he realized while walking past it that the name is a lovely word-play. As a winning racing boat, it could also be spelled, "Blew By You"!
What a sky!

The pair of catamarans below have been anchored out in the Neuse in front of Oriental for a few days. Just chillin'.
Still painting a little. For months I've tried to figure out how to add a watermark to my photos of my watercolors. Finally! -- I found I could do it on my phone! Nothing techy is ever easy for me!
I painted a few pugs. This one looks friendly!
Sunset last night:

That's it for today! I hope you all are well and safe from storms, fire, and pandemics. What a world we are in! And for Facebook friends ... I may return, probably after November, or in the New Year.

Saturday, August 29, 2020

"To Autumn" by John Keats

Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
   Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
   With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
   And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
      To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
   With a sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
      For summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.

Who hath not seen thee oft amid thy store?
   Sometimes whoever seeks abroad may find
Thee sitting careless on a granary floor,
   Thy hair soft-lifted by the winnowing wind;
Or on a half-reap'd furrow sound asleep,
   Drows'd with the fume of poppies, while thy hook
      Spares the next swath and all its twined flowers:
And sometimes like a gleaner thou dost keep
   Steady thy laden head across a brook;
   Or by a cyder-press, with patient look,
      Thou watchest the last oozings hours by hours.

Where are the songs of spring? Ay, Where are they?
   Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—
While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day,
   And touch the stubble-plains with rosy hue;
Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn
   Among the river sallows, borne aloft
      Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies;
And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;
   Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft
   The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft;
      And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

I love this luscious poem. It is so thick and rich that one must read it slowly, carefully, attentively, like one would eat a very large, very ripe peach. 
Keats gives us a strange poem: iambic pentameter, but not a sonnet; 11 lines per stanza but not a roundel; close to a Spenserian stanza, but not quite.
Notice the poem's structure. First stanza: autumn's ripe bounty. Second stanza: autumn personified... what would he look like? Third stanza: the music of autumn.
I'm ready for autumn; are you? The greens are browning. Many leaves are down. I feel the plants are whispering, "May we rest now?" Nature has given over her rich bounty to us to keep, and soon she'll ask for sleep. 
I gauge the seasons by my fig tree. Today it is thin, each long branch topped by a tuft of green. The fruit is gone to my freezer and the birds.
On the ground you see what has died and fallen already, enriching its own soil.

Thursday, August 27, 2020

I've Been Living the Christian Life the Wrong Way

 How hard is it to turn lemons into lemonade, as they say?

How hard is it to come out of the deep places of suffering, into hope and joy?

Really hard.

A friend recommended three videos from Paul Miller, whom I'd never heard of. He understands the pattern of the Christian's life in a way I'd never seen described before. He calls it the "J-Curve." In the first video, he describes the suffering he and his wife experienced, and how he learned to love her:

The next two videos were chapel messages given at Covenant College, my alma mater. I cried as I watched this next video. I've always struggled with this Bible verse: "That I may know Jesus, and the power of His resurrection, and join in the fellowship of His suffering, and be conformed to His death." I didn't understand how my suffering could mystically be joined with His suffering -- how did that work? But I felt certain that if I didn't understand how to do that, my own repeated sufferings in life were not going to have the effect God wanted them to -- that I would be left swirling in a repeated whirlwind of suffering and not understanding why.

Paul Miller seems like a humble man. Rather, he is a humbled man, who has lived this pattern of mini-deaths and recovering redemptions (or resurrections -- whatever you want to call the upward swing). He can tell me how to do it, because I want that. I have been pummeled by recurring suffering too often in life, and this last round in the boxing ring with Mr. Suffering during Adam's illness has nearly done me in.

This third video is excellent. He digs a bit more into how many Christians have zero understanding about the gift of suffering, so they live in the opposite, horrible pattern: the Failure/Boasting chart. If you've suffered, and also been beat up by the church when you are down in the pit of it, this video is for you. If you feel church leadership is more of a power structure, with hardly any compassion for the downhearted, this video is for you. 

My old self is wondering if I will have success implementing his message -- that would be thinking in the Failure/Boasting model. It's not about "success." I think it's more about prayer. As he says, the moment when you are weeping and begging God for help, pleading Him to hear and intervene in your deep suffering, that is the moment when you are in the Garden with Jesus, and understand a little piece of His suffering. I need more of that kind of prayer. I want to receive my past sufferings as gifts from God rather than painful history to be rehearsed and hated. I hope these messages are as encouraging to you as they've been to me. Much love, dear friends.

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Quiet Sunday Morning

That's Henny Penny. She's been a good mama before, so I'm letting her set a clutch of ten eggs. She has help from three other hens who noticed her being broody and thought, "Hey! That looks like fun! Let's all crowd in there and be broody together!" I have to lift them out each day so they leave her alone.

I found a pair of unfinished crocheted smittens and finished them. Nice tight stitch, warm, with high wrists.

We rearranged my studio to put a free-standing AC unit in there, which caused me to rearrange the furniture, which caused me to clean off a high shelf of all the absolutely-unneeded items up there gathering dust. It felt nice to give away ALL of my jigsaw puzzles (gifts from Adam years ago) and many books. I have more books to go through.
See that empty high shelf? Yippee!
I started painting whimsical cats. They are fun and not so detailed and time-consuming as some cards I do. Well ... I admit I have a way of eventually making all my cards time-consuming, haha. But these are fun to do.

The one below is my current favorite. The brown cat on the left reminds me so much of a Garth Williams animal, not sure which one.

Adam is trying to cook healthy food to help his body be as well as possible. Here's last night's dinner: a white wine vinegar cucumber salad atop greens, guacamole dip, fajitas with grilled steak, onions, and pineapple.
On Friday Adam planned a little date for us, which was just delightful. We've been rather blue and stuck-at-home, but any get-away needed to be very carefully socially distanced for the sake of his depleted immune system. We went to a local park we didn't know about -- took the doggies, lovely trails, hardly any people!

It's New Bern's Civil War Battlefield Park.

Then we went into New Bern and ate outside at a restaurant. Got there early and were the only ones outside. Masks worn by everyone, which just goes to prove that wait staff can wear masks if they are willing and encouraged to. It was delightful to be out and about again.

Another meal recently from Adam -- rice, veggies, spinach:
And homemade ricotta gnocchi!
 We also went to some friends' house and ate dinner with them on their patio outside, watching the big creek and waiting for the sunset. It was lovely and so thoughtful! They brought dinner out to us, and we sat around a big table in the evening breeze and got to talk. Such socializing usually seems like a luxury (at best) or an obligation (at worst) in normal times. But this pandemic has shown us that social gathering is truly essential for our emotional, mental, and physical health. The view of the sunset:
Even with a spouse, or family, being at home all the time becomes a heavy burden. We need community! It's good to admit that we are not all naturally a Pa Ingalls.
Trixie likes her daddy's knee :)
Last week I was running errands and I felt a need to be outside, to get away from home a bit. I went to a nearby waterfront park. No one was there. Here's a video of how peaceful it was, and showing the incoming storm that finally drove me back home in torrential rain.

Now it's a quiet Sunday morning and we prepare for church, for worship. A pandemic is a long, drawn-out affair. Some people have the patience to wait it out; others do not. It's hard. What a trying year it has been! Here in the Southeast, this time of year, we shrug and note, "And now we get hurricane season!" But this morning, as I watch two hurricanes head to the same spot on the Louisiana coast, within a day or two of each other, I shake my head and wonder what God is trying to tell us about ourselves, with this year. Suffering brings need, and need brings community ... or it should. May we be a community that helps each other. That loves each other. Or, as Paul so simply reminds us, "Love is not self-seeking." And for this memorable year, these words: "Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails."

Much love to all you, dear friends.

Friday, August 7, 2020

The Worm King and Other Things

 All the photos I just selected loaded into the post in reverse order. Sigh ... do any of you still have trouble with this new blogger arrangement? I'll just go through them in this order!

I decided it's time to paint some autumnal cards. I was in the mood for ink with my watercolor.

Adam fried shrimp, squash, and dill pickles for dinner the other night. All delicious -- we dipped the shrimp in a remoulade sauce and the veggies in ranch dressing.
Do any of you remember little aprons on the dish soap bottles? I made this the other day. It needs a piece of elastic around the bottom, because it slips around too much when I pick up the bottle.
We found a lovely fabric store in New Bern! I was shocked; I thought it was just for upholstery, but they had everything, and at such good prices! The upholstery remnants were cheap. We found fabric for two more vests for Adam. This wool plaid excited him. The striped fabric will be the back and lining.
This fabric below is for the second vest. It's also wool, and is bluer than it looks in the photo, more the color of the thread.

At the thrift store this week, I found a box of silver plate flatware -- about 50 pieces. I do NOT need 50 pieces of flatware, esp. in patterns I'm not wild about. But I couldn't resist the two sugar spoons (one shown below), the butter/cheese knives, and a few spoons. We're always running out of spoons. They polished up very nicely!

The two patterns involved:
Before polishing:

Tuesday night after Bible study, the sky was this:
I have a fun story to tell. I'm part of a facebook group for beginner watercolor folks. A lady there (British, I thinkk) shared a little painting she did. Her daughter asked her to paint a picture of a worm, wearing a crown, in outer space. So she complied. It was adorable, and all of us liked and loved it, etc. Several people said, "Oh! Worm King looks like he needs to have a story to go along with that picture of him!" The artist said, "I don't have that kind of imagination." I looked at that painting and immediately thought, "I could write a story about that worm in an hour." The painting just BEGGED to have its story told; it was easy. So I told her, and then I wrote it, and then I sent it to her. She was excited about the story of Worm King in outer space (that makes me giggle!), and was inspired to keep painting pictures for the story, and her children love it! She's putting her paintings in a spiral book with the text I wrote along the side of each painting page. I don't know if it will ever become anything, but what's most exciting is that SHE is a truly gifted children's book illustrator (in my opinion -- it seems to come naturally to her), and I think my gifts are more in writing -- it seems to come naturally to me. But we both needed a prompt, a push. Perhaps more artistic folks need to push each other, ever so gently.
(This painting is by Lou Tom. I don't know her full name. But it's her intellectual property, so please do not copy. Isn't he cute?)

Monday, August 3, 2020

Prayer Cards

A familiar and beloved Episcopal prayer has been used before our family meals for years:
Bless, O Lord, this food to our use,
and us to thy service,
and keep us ever mindful of the needs of others.
In Christ's name, Amen.

Then Adam found a new meal prayer that I loved so  much, and he and I memorized it. While  we were learning it, I wrote little prayer cards to keep on the dinner table, to help us.

On Sunday, he put a new prayer in the church bulletin that I thought would make a lovely addition to our meal prayers, so I made some new cards.
Isn't that a lovely prayer? 

Hurricane Isaias comes through tonight. I wonder if our household will sleep much? Beau is staying pretty close to me.

We have moved Ned inside for the storm. He's scared of storms. Tricky is happy to have him for company. Beau is not much company for a silly girl dog.

We might lose our electricity, so I figured I should bake something ahead of time. I chose peach pandowdy.
I did a little hurricane painting this morning too, using a nice youtube tutorial as a guide. I'm not quite finished with it yet, but the flowers are a good start. It needs more dark/green on the bottom.
Adam is feeling a great deal of  relief from his P.V. symptoms lessening, although taking 60 mg of steroids daily is making him feel not-so-good in other ways. But it's such a relief to have a plan forward that could produce better health. He has an appointment on Thursday. By the next time you hear from me, we will have survived another hurricane!