March 31, 2009

Gardening and Blog

I found a great gardening blog. They garden for a restaurant. I was googling growing potatoes in a pot, which is what I'm going to do this year - and found this site. You've gotta see what she plants in the hole before putting in the tomato plant (like fish head, 2 aspirin ... :)

We've been getting more snow, which is a good thing, and more to come. I'm starting my seeds in the greenhouse now.

Heather sent me a picture of the little garden I started for her that first week of February while I was in Texas. I don't know if this picture shows them, but I'd started some tomatoes in an aerogarden she has, before I left, and she says she's given some of them away, some are in pots and she put some in this garden. I don't know how much longer lettuce will grow in Texas heat, but she's been eating salads everyday. Heather sounds good. She'll find out next Monday if her pneumonia is all gone.

Wendell Berry Prose

"Do not think me gentle because I speak in praise of gentleness,
or elegant because I honor the grace that keeps this world.
I am a man crude as any, gross of speech,
intolerant, stubborn, angry, full of fits and furies.
That I may have spoken well at times, is not natural.
A wonder is what it is."
- Wendell Berry

I love Wendell Berry's gentleness and grace in his story-telling. My favorite of his books is Hannah Coulter. They all take place in rural Kentucky depression/WWII era lives. I love his philosophical farmer full of meaning phraseology.

Art's Eternal Value

Beth, an Artist friend of mine, who had to move to Wyoming, sent me this speech. I read it yesterday morning and it's message has so touched me ... I was thinking I'd quote parts of it, but it's so good in it's entirety. I read it to Monte yesterday as we ate lunch (he ate, while my leftover spaghetti got cold :) and he so liked it he asked me to email it to him, and he's passed it on, like to our son Travis.

There's so many favorite thoughts, like ... art having a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us ... in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities ... Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive, and my life has meaning”... And then the day after 9/11 - The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on ... art is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds...If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists ... who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives
Welcome address to freshman parents at Boston Conservatory, given by Karl Paulnack, pianist and director of music division at Boston Conservatory.

One of my parents’ deepest fears, I suspect, is that society would not properly value me as a musician, that I wouldn’t be appreciated. I had very good grades in high school, I was good in science and math, and they imagined that as a doctor or a research chemist or an engineer, I might be more appreciated than I would be as a musician. I still remember my mother’s remark when I announced my decision to apply to music school—she said, “You’re WASTING your SAT scores.” On some level, I think, my parents were not sure themselves what the value of music was, what its purpose was. And they LOVED music, they listened to classical music all the time. They just weren’t really clear about its function. So let me talk about that a little bit, because we live in a society that puts music in the “arts and entertainment” section of the newspaper, and serious music, the kind your kids are about to engage in, has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with entertainment, in fact it’s the opposite of entertainment. Let me talk a little bit about music, and how it works.

The first people to understand how music really works were the ancient Greeks. And this is going to fascinate you: the Greeks said that music and astronomy were two sides of the same coin. Astronomy was seen as the study of relationships between observable, permanent, external objects, and music was seen as the study of relationships between invisible, internal, hidden objects. Music has a way of finding the big, invisible moving pieces inside our hearts and souls and helping us figure out the position of things inside us. Let me give you some examples of how this works.

One of the most profound musical compositions of all time is the “Quartet for the End of Time” written by French composer Olivier Messiaen in 1940. Messiaen was 31 years old when France entered the war against Nazi Germany. He was captured by the Germans in June of 1940, sent across Germany in a cattle car and imprisoned in a concentration camp.

He was fortunate to find a sympathetic prison guard who gave him paper and a place to compose. There were three other musicians in the camp, a cellist, a violinist, and a clarinetist, and Messiaen wrote his quartet with these specific players in mind. It was performed in January 1941 for four thousand prisoners and guards in the prison camp. Today it is one of the most famous masterworks in the repertoire.

Given what we have since learned about life in the concentration camps, why would anyone in his right mind waste time and energy writing or playing music? There was barely enough energy on a good day to find food and water, to avoid a beating, to stay warm, to escape torture—why would anyone bother with music? And yet—from the camps, we have poetry, we have music, we have visual art. It wasn’t just this one fanatic Messiaen; many, many people created art. Why? Well,
in a place where people are only focused on survival, on the bare necessities, the obvious conclusion is that art must be, somehow, essential for life. The camps were without money, without hope, without commerce, without recreation, without basic respect, but they were not without art. Art is part of survival; art is part of the human spirit, an unquenchable expression of who we are. Art is one of the ways in which we say, “I am alive, and my life has meaning.”

On September 12, 2001, I was a resident of Manhattan. That morning I reached a new understanding of my art and its relationship to the world. I sat down at the piano that morning at 10 AM to practice as was my daily routine; I did it by force of habit, without thinking about it. I lifted the cover on the keyboard, and opened my music, and put my hands on the keys and took my hands off the keys. And I sat there and thought, does this even matter? Isn’t this completely irrelevant? Playing the piano right now, given what happened in this city yesterday, seems silly, absurd, irreverent, pointless. Why am I here? What place has a musician in this moment in time? Who needs a piano player right now? I was completely lost.

And then I, along with the rest of New York, went through the journey of getting through that week. I did not play the piano that day, and in fact I contemplated briefly whether I would ever want to play the piano again. And then I observed how we got through the day.

At least in my neighborhood, we didn’t shoot hoops or play Scrabble. We didn’t play cards to pass the time, we didn’t watch TV, we didn’t shop, we most certainly did not go to the mall. The first organized activity that I saw in New York, that same day, was singing. People sang. People sang around fire houses, people sang “We Shall Overcome.” Lots of people sang “America, the Beautiful.” The first organized public event that I remember was the Brahms Requiem, later that week, at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic. The first organized public expression of grief, our first communal response to that historic event, was a concert. That was the beginning of a sense that life might go on. The US Military secured the airspace, but recovery was led by the arts, and by music in particular, that very night.

From these two experiences, I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.

Some of you may know Samuel Barber’s heart wrenchingly beautiful piece “Adagio for Strings.” If you don’t know it by that name, then some of you may know it as the background music which accompanied the Oliver Stone movie “Platoon,” a film about the Vietnam War. If you know that piece of music either way, you know it has the ability to crack your heart open like a walnut; it can make you cry over sadness you didn’t know you had. Music can slip beneath our conscious reality to get at what’s really going on inside us the way a good therapist does.

I bet that you have never been to a wedding where there was absolutely no music. There might have been only a little music, there might have been some really bad music, but I bet you there was some music. And something very predictable happens at weddings —people get all pent up with all kinds of emotions, and then there’s some musical moment where the action of the wedding stops and someone sings or plays the flute or something. And even if the music is lame, even if the quality isn’t good, predictably 30 or 40 percent of the people who are going to cry at a wedding cry a couple of moments after the music starts. Why? The Greeks. Music allows us to move around those big invisible pieces of ourselves and rearrange our insides so that we can express what we feel even when we can’t talk about it. Can you imagine watching “Indiana Jones” or “Superman” or “Star Wars” with the dialogue but no music? What is it about the music swelling up at just the right moment in “ET” so that all the softies in the audience start crying at exactly the same moment? I guarantee you if you showed the movie with the music stripped out, it wouldn’t happen that way. The Greeks: Music is the understanding of the relationship between invisible internal objects.

I’ll give you one more example, the story of the most important concert of my life. I must tell you I have played a little less than a thousand concerts in my life so far. I have played in places that I thought were important. I like playing in Carnegie Hall; I enjoyed playing in Paris; it made me very happy to please the critics in St. Petersburg. I have played for people I thought were important: music critics of major newspapers, foreign heads of state. The most important concert of my entire life took place in a nursing home in Fargo, ND, about 4 years ago. I was playing with a very dear friend of mine who is a violinist. We began, as we often do, with Aaron Copland’s Sonata, which was written during World War II and dedicated to a young friend of Copland, a young pilot who was shot down during the war. Now we often talk to our audiences about the pieces we are going to play rather than providing them with written program notes. But in this case, because we began the concert with this piece, we decided to talk about the piece later in the program and to just come out and play the music without explanation.

Midway through the piece, an elderly man seated in a wheelchair near the front of the concert hall began to weep. This man, whom I later met, was clearly a soldier—even in his 70’s, it was clear from his buzz-cut hair, square jaw and general demeanor that he had spent a good deal of his life in the military. I thought it a little bit odd that someone would be moved to tears by that particular movement of that particular piece, but it wasn’t the first time I’ve heard crying in a concert and we went on with the concert and finished the piece.

When we came out to play the next piece on the program, we decided to talk about both the first and second pieces, and we described the circumstances in which the Copland Sonata was written and mentioned its dedication to a downed pilot. The man in the front of the audience became so disturbed that he had to leave the auditorium. I honestly figured that we would not see him again, but he did come backstage afterward, tears and all, to explain himself.

What he told us was this: “During World War II, I was a pilot, and I was in an aerial combat situation where one of my team’s planes was hit. I watched my friend bail out, and watched his parachute open, but the Japanese planes which had engaged us returned and machine gunned across the parachute chords so as to separate the parachute from the pilot, and I watched my friend drop away into the ocean, realizing that he was lost. I have not thought about this for many years, but during that first piece of music you played, this memory returned to me so vividly that it was as though I was reliving it. I didn’t understand why this was happening, why now, but then when you came out to explain that this piece of music was written to commemorate a lost pilot, it was a little more than I could handle. How does the music do that? How did it find those feelings and those memories in me?” Remember the Greeks: music is the study of invisible relationships between internal objects. This concert in Fargo was the most important work I have ever done. For me to play for this old soldier and help him connect, somehow, with Aaron Copland, and to connect their memories of their lost friends, to help him remember and mourn his friend, this is my work. This is why music matters.

What follows is part of the talk I will give to this year’s freshman class when I welcome them a few days from now. The responsibility I will charge your sons and daughters with is this: “If we were a medical school, and you were here as a med student practicing appendectomies, you’d take your work very seriously because you would imagine that some night at two AM someone is going to waltz into your emergency room and you’re going to have to save their life. Well, my friends, someday at 8 PM someone is going to walk into your concert hall and bring you a mind that is confused, a heart that is overwhelmed, a soul that is weary. Whether they go out whole again will depend partly on how well you do your craft.

You’re not here to become an entertainer, and you don’t have to sell yourself. The truth is you don’t have anything to sell; being a musician isn’t about dispensing a product, like selling used Chevies. I’m not an entertainer; I’m a lot closer to a paramedic, a firefighter, a rescue worker. You’re here to become a sort of therapist for the human soul, a spiritual version of a chiropractor, physical therapist, someone who works with our insides to see if they get things to line up, to see if we can come into harmony with ourselves and be healthy and happy and well.

Frankly, ladies and gentlemen, I expect you not only to master music; I expect you to save the planet. If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do. As in the concentration camp and the evening of 9/11, the artists are the ones who might be able to help us with our internal, invisible lives.”

When we watched movies as a family, I used to always make comments about the music's importance in making the scene. "And think of the persons who KNOW music so, to pick the fitting pieces!

And the nursing home story almost undid me, I've seen similar scenes. Heather worked in nursing homes and did some in-home eldercare before she nannied and married. And I'd gone to nursing homes with Monte's mom, watching the people as she played the piano and hymns were sung.

The "why write and enjoy music in a prison camp" reminded me of the movie Shawshank Redemption. The music scene, where one man dares to share the hope in his soul with all the inmates, is the heart of the movie - a great movie.
The art piece is "1st Cello" by my friend Melinda Morrison. I'd post art from my friend Beth too if I had access to a picture. I love her work as well.

"Beauty will save the world"
Fyodor Dostoyevsky

March 30, 2009

The Book of Acts

My son! Travis on the guitar at his church. He's the music minister, but I prefer to call him - "Minister of Fine Arts".

March 27, 2009

Ukrainian Eggs

I thought I'd post about Ukranian Eggs now with a link to where I purchase the stuff from. We often give this one kit as a wedding present. And you can read last year's post with more pictures, and then more pictures.

Last year's post tells the history of me starting to do these eggs in 1973. So it's been a long time, and the success grew exponentially when I started using these tools and dyes.

I have a box in the garage I can pull out whenever someone comes, or I want to do Ukrainian eggs. I don't think we're going to have any company coming this year to do eggs unless Travis brings a crew. His young married friends want to come again, but with him being a music minister, he wouldn't want to come till the busyness of Easter is over. We'll see.

And, as I said in last year's post, I would love to do these as Christmas ornaments to give away or sell. Monte made the shelf last year and from the same above link source I bought the egg stands.

And last summer I varnished them for the first time ever - a final step I've always skipped. So some of the varnished ones are older and already faded. These dyes are toxic, so no eating of the eggs, but are not run-proof, so make sure the varnish is not water-base.

March 26, 2009

March 25, 2009

Annunciation in Art

Today is the Calendar day for the Annunciation, when Gabriel came to Mary. (There is exactly nine months until Christmas.)

Isaiah 7:14 spoke of this event, "Behold a virgin ..." This is the day back in time God chose to enter our history. Mary in her "Yes" became the link between Heaven and Earth. We call this 'taking on flesh' the Incarnation.

I selected some works of art. There are probably over 100 done of this event. If you were to sit with this scripture and imagine a picture, what would yours look like? I imagine Mary during her day-to-day doings, like maybe carrying laundry, and in the excitement (fear!) of a visiting angel, throw up her hands, and dropping it all!

What does it mean "favored by God?" Does it mean Mary was perfect? Who else in scripture was favored by God? Abel was, and was killed by Cain. Sarah was favored at 90. Abraham was, and was asked to sacrifice his only son. Joseph was, and was sold into slavery. Moses was, and died, trying to get to the promised land. Tamar, Rahab, Ruth and Bathsheba found favor, yet suffered betrayal, deaths, scandals and isolation. Job lost everything. Naomi turned bitter. The Israelites wandered for 40 years.

What would Mary's "yes" mean? What the angel proposed went against the norm of Mary's expectations and dreams of what marriage, pregnancy, and then birth typically looked like. What if your daughter came home with such a story as hers, claiming she was pregnant with the Son of God, would you believe her, laugh? ... and wasn't that blasphemy?

I had to ask myself, considering that God does not coerce us, and gives us freedom, did Mary have a choice? Could Mary have refused? Would God have just gone to another maiden? "Yes" is a choice.

If Mary knew beforehand of Bethlehem, the stable...and then angelic hosts, shepherds, magi, flight into Egypt, children slaughtered, the visit to the temple ... even her Son's betrayal and death ... would she have said "Yes"?

Can I trust God with my life? enough to say "Yes"? Do I want to be impregnated by God's holy Word? I have said "Yes". Every time I say "Yes" the Holy Spirit impregnates me (overshadows me) and something new comes to birth in me. "Here I am, thy servant Lord. Let it be with me according to Your word."

The art is by El Greco, Andrea del Sarto, Caravaggio, Dante Gabriel Rosseti, or is there an Arthur Hacker piece (I'm confused)?

The last two pictures are more modern. HeQi did the fifth picture, in 2001. The last, by Jim Hasse is called The Incarnation - World Annunciation.

Mary's response to it all? A song.
The girl says "yes", and the angel left her. Our World is changed.

March 24, 2009

Heather update

Heather went to emergency last night. Her fever returned yesterday and she's been sounding awful. A church friend and then her new neighbor helped her with Will at the hospital all night. She was released this morning. It sounds like they checked everything from xrays to scans.

She's got the beginnings of pneumonia and she's begun treatment. So now we know. Now maybe she can start getting rest and heal and enjoy being a mother with a new baby more!

March 23, 2009


A post-it note I used to have on my old computer had the words "Alchemy of my soul". It was just a phrase to remind my mind to contemplate each day.

Years ago the kids and me were learning about the Periodic Table of Elements. One of our library books was more of a story of the table's formation. Alchemy was the impetus. The driving desire was to transform matter into gold, and basic elements were discovered.

So more contemplation coordinating with the season ... I was reading about "garbage into gold" - composting!! Monte, helping me shovel compost yesterday, always amazed and in awe, kept exclaiming, "All that stinky food waste - moldy leftovers from the fridge, rotten veggies from the cold storage in the garage - transformed into black gold!"

When you spread an inch or two of compost on your garden beds, there's no need for fertilizers.

I thank God for the transformation of my soul into the image of Him - that's true alchemy!

Perennial Potager

This week we're supposed to get snow. After an abnormally warm week of close to 70 degrees we'll only be close to 40 for the high this week. But as I posted earlier, this is the time we've been dumped on before (and it was more like 7 ft than 3, cuz the drifting did cover our truck). I think we're south of the dumping going on right now - close to the Wyoming border and out east on the prairie.

As I cleaned up all my perennial beds this week: cutting back most everything (this is the first time I've cut all the raspberries to the ground, they're volunteers in two perennial beds with peonies, lilac, etc, because of Monte bringing the dirt up from the woods, but they're everbearing, meaning they fruit on new stalks ... I hope), shredding all and adding it to the compost bin, and tossing manure and compost on all the beds, I was reminiscing ... I don't know if I've ever been able to clean out the bed on the north side of the house, our front porch, this early. There's usually a snow bank. And some years! ... like when the guys shovel off the porch roof, and then Dawson decides he wants a snow cave, and ices everything ... it doesn't melt till mid May!

I think I'm thee compost queen (other than Martha Stewart, tho she doesn't do most of her own labor any more). It's a joke of ours: I don't want jewelry and such stuff for Mother's Day, just make me a nice compost bin! After going thru many that just weren't right, I'm now content. In our large lower 6ft fenced garden, the compost bin is working. And up by the house, where my gardening is enlarging, I've got a beautiful three-bin one - beautiful cuz Monte linseed oiled it.

I've read of other people's daffodils done blooming and even lilacs by now. I'm at 8,000 ft. Tho I grow most plants for zone 4, we still have only 90 frost-free-days give or take, which isn't long! In some areas I've created micro-climates and have gotten zone 5 plants to survive. So I'm just now seeing the green tips of flowering bulbs poking out and early flowers: snowdrops, crocus, and dwarf iris. And looking at my photos, I see that last year's did not poke out till mid April! So we're warmer this year and not much winter snow.

Of all the library books on kitchen and cottage gardens, my favorite, which I've decided to own, is Designing the New Kitchen Garden - An American Potager Handbook by Jennifer R Bartley. I was reminded of college classes - I started out with a nutrition major and switched to Landscape Architecture (I didn't finish either since Monte and me had married in the midst of my schooling and he was done with schooling and ready to start life, and the life I prefer is everything having to do with home and I didn't need to go to work elsewhere). This book starts with a brief history of kitchen gardens: monastic to the French ... It's a book I'm going to read every word of, with lots of colored pictures, many of them hand-drawn showing her landscape architecture background - like birds-eye views, isometric views, and cross-sections, along with lots of charts.

I've got a lot of work to do this spring. Since with Dawson's rock work last summer (I posted pictures of it last late summer)(and he just did some more yesterday) I've now established a bed strictly for herbs, I have a large old bed with a mixture of perennials I'm going to move. It's very sheltered by the house from the cool wind and is probably a zone 5. It's going to become the very warm summer veggie bed. But I think I'll leave the existing current, gooseberry, and jostaberry bushes there. As I've mentioned before, I was told I can't grow tomatoes here, but I do, very successfully. But I've always had to put them in the same spot and use walls-of-water. I'm thinking more of the need to rotate (yet tomatoes, peppers, and eggplants are in the same family ... hmmm).

I'm trying blueberries again. I called in on a local radio garden show and the "garden wise-guys" suggested I put 95% peat in the planting hole (I actually called to ask about using pine mulch in our area: pine needles). Good to know, I knew I needed to add some peat in our very alkaline soil, but I'd not have done that much. Our lower garden, is now going to be more berry, fruit (dwarf trees and bushes) oriented. I'm adding more this year. Chokecherries and rhubarb were already there from an old homestead planting maybe a hundred years ago.

But what fruit to put up by the house? I'm doing all the veggie growing at the house mixed in with the perennials from now on (I should say "most all", since I don't know what other years will bring. I may go back to doing my mass broccoli planting or winter squash down in the lower garden. Some years I freeze 30lbs of broccoli!). I already have two dolga crab apple trees up here, but am thinking of adding a honeycrisp apple. What I have to think thru is our late frosts. If things blossom too soon, no fruit ... My lower garden is on the edge of the woods with lots of aspen and might not be as warm earlier ... those are the mini-climate thoughts I have to deal with. And should I put strawberries up here too (I am putting some in hanging pots this week in my greenhouse).

Jennifer writes, "Potagers are places of restoration that provide food and nourishment. A deep and mysterious relationship exists between food and having our spirits lifted, and this relationship is profoundly and ultimately tied to the garden." I couldn't agree more. "Potager"? It's root is from French meaning a soup of broth with vegetables, but for Europeans  the word has come to mean a vegetable garden. 

A Alfred Austen wrote, "Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are". Well ... mine is very much a tapestry with informal clumps of color, form and height ... chaotic yet harmony ... romantically gentle, with not very straight lines, striving for more curving paths ... fragrant, and flowers to cut and adorn inside my home. My gardening is a huge source of nourishment for me, both the exercise it gives me, a quiet place to read, pray, and think, and feel in sync with nature (God's heart's other "book"). It's both a sensory and emotional pleasure - beauty out my windows, with even winter visual pleasure.

Years ago I had a bunch of books from the library on the history of art. I remember one talking about the cottage gardens and the practicality of growing fruit and vegetables amidst beautiful flowering perennials and annuals. Some artists walking the back country roads fell in love with these peasant gardens and we now have paintings of them.

In a blog I love, Wisteria and Roses, Debbie posted a picture of one of Monet's famous paintings. I have a book called Artist's Gardens (I think it's out of print) and it shows how artists have been inspired by gardens, even creating their own beautiful gardens. Monet created a water garden with a bridge. He also redid the front entrance garden, much to the classical formal gardeners of his time's disgust, full of nasturtiums - I love it! I always grow nasturtiums (their foliage and flowers are edible, with a peppery flavor, and their seeds can be pickled as capers).

I really need to end this post and get on with finishing my garden planning and scrapbook - my goal for this cold week. But I feel I need to add a bit more on Martha Stewart. I have her first books before she became famous. She did used to do most all her yard work herself along with her husband. I love her gardening book, and there's a cookbook that shows her yard with the mixture of perennials, veggies and fruit, and chickens. I had the same chickens as hers with the eggs that became her signature colors. I think Martha gave America something very needed. She put the heart back into the beauty of homemaking, attracting people back to home.

"What a man needs in gardening is a cast-iron back, with a hinge in it."  :-D
- Charles Dudley Warner, My Summer in a Garden

March 21, 2009


I'm so enjoying my new stereo. Gone is Dawson's yard sale receiver we've been using for years. I swear the tuning knob had invisible hands periodically turning it! Gone is the old cassette player that squealed. Travis will tell you cassettes are dead, but not for me. I listen to tons of audio books as I work. The car CD player we'd been using croaked too. I am getting an ipod dock, but I'm not in the ipod world yet. When library books download to an ipod, then I will. But you probably are asking, what about music?

I'm weird. Yes, I listen to music, but classical. I rarely listen to music with words. It's too busy for me. I have to focus so, to take in both - it exhausts me. Even in highschool, when my friends had all the songs memorized, I didn't, I couldn't. Something in my brain begins to get lost in the music and I don't hear the words. Most opera is not in english and the voices are other 'instruments' providing more varying harmony, so I don't mind opera. And I told Travis I liked rap in French, cuz there again, the words are just additional rhythm. 

So just classical music for me and audio books. I fell in love with audio books when Dawson was young. We always looked for audio story for our kids, and finally that market grew beyond Burl Ives and Little Marcy - Calvary Chapel in California, with their kid productions, and the Odyssey stories ... Dawson's education came primarily from audio. He was too busy to sit still and learn (he would have been drugged in school), so I found all I could in audio form for him. He drug his cassette player all over!

Well I'm off. Off to work outside, along with my cassette walkman, before this upcoming week of cold with snow (we better get moisture! we're SO dry).

March 19, 2009

Metallic Flora

Ah ... I've been waiting for Dawson to post the rose he welded/forged/? on his photoblog. He made this metal rose for his girlfriend Splarah Tuesday. It's beautiful!!!! What this kid, oh, I guess young man, is going to do for his lifework ... I have no clue! He's getting a degree in business ... but to apply to what?!

Reputation vs Identity Ponderings

Today the Church Calendar remembers Joseph. I'm glad for this calendar because it helps me stop in my everyday living and contemplate. I remember Joseph as the provider of shelter for Jesus and Mary. He was in the stable when Jesus was born. He took Mary and Jesus to the Jerusalem Temple to present Jesus to God. He shared Mary's anxieties when Jesus was presumed lost. After this, no more is heard of him in Scripture, but I imagine Joseph educating Jesus and training him in the carpentry business.

This painting is by Raphael.

Putting myself in Joseph's sandals helps me see that identity (who I really am) is more important than reputation (what others think of me). Joseph was not just a secular Jew, but was one who observed the Torah faithfully and completely, and his reputation was challenged with gossip of Mary's pregnancy. So what thoughts ran through his head as he poured over the Torah, consulting legal matters.

What to do with Mary? She says she wasn't seduced or raped, but instead "it was a miracle of God". If he marries Mary he'd lose his reputation. But what if Mary is right? Will he love God by obeying the Torah or will he love Mary? He's about to choose a private divorce when an Angel tells him not to fear (not to fear losing his reputation). I respect him for his attentiveness and listening to angels.

Joseph married Mary, the supposed adulteress. He gave Jesus a name, becoming the legal father of this 'illegitimate' child. He loved God and others - he surrendered his heart, soul, mind, strength and reputation to God. Joseph became 'less' in the eyes of the religious Jews to provide room for a baby boy who one day would give the 'lesser' (the outsiders) a better reputation than the religious establishment.

When we surrender ourselves to God - lose ourselves - we find ourselves - our real self - we discover our true identity.

March 18, 2009


Wonder about how recycling works when some places take everything all together? Watch this fun video.

We don't have trash pick-up. We go to the dump several times a year. But after being in Texas with Heather and seeing how their trash pick-up picks up things for recycling, I've been checking out how things are done around here and have gotten us set up. With all the composting we do, and I still burn some of our trash, recycling really cuts down on trash that goes to the dump.

Elk and Fencing

I know this isn't the greatest picture, but I'm in a hurry - off to do my MOPS Mentor Mom thing. But see the elk? They're meandering out of the woods across the way. This is why we have an electric fence. I now enjoy seeing them without worrying about my gardens.

March 17, 2009

St Patrick's Day

Everyone knows bits of the St Patrick story so I don't want to say much. Of all that's written, my favorites are How the Irish Saved Civilization (I like all of Cahill's books) and The Celtic Way of Evangelism. I came away from having read those books realizing my faith is more Celtic than Roman based. Celtic writings are much like the Hebrew Psalms and very inclusive of the Trinity. (My favorite book for exposure to this is The Celtic Way of Prayer [I like all of DaWaal's books too].)

What's written having overflowed from Patrick (born Succat) was the Celtic based monasteries that were very inclusive of the surrounding community, focusing on relationship and embracing the common people. They loved people into The Kingdom. The Europe they evangelized to life, kinda died again, returning to the Roman cold, exclusive (exclusion) monasteries and nitty-gritty detail focus and rules.

A Palladius or Pallagious was actually the first missionary to Ireland. His name was mentioned in the newest King Arthur movie, and because I know something of him, I made the connection in the movie. He preached that people can take the 1st step to salvation without the grace of God. Augustine took steps against his followers.

St Patrick, with a satchel full of books, including Augustine's writings, like City of God and his Confessions, returned to Ireland with its un-invaded tranquility by the barbarians who were ransacking Rome and all of Europe. Thus literature was preserved until Europe was ready to take them back.

Since it's been written that Patrick used the three-leafed Shamrock to illustrate and talk about the Trinity, when I wanted to make a patchwork table centerpiece, I couldn't find a pattern for three leaves - only four leaves. So I created my own pattern, having to do more hand-stitching. I'm always changing out our table decor for the seasons and celebrations.

Another person remembered on this day in the church calendar is the man who offered his tomb for Jesus to be buried. March 17 is the Feast of Saint Joseph of Arimathea. According to a legend, Joseph was Jesus' wealthy uncle, and after his nephew's (did you ever think of Jesus as a nephew?) Resurrection and Ascension, Joseph accompanied Mary Magdalene to France. Then, alone, he made his way to Britain, bringing with him the chalice drunk from at the Last Supper, which became an ornament of the church he established at Glastonbury, Somerset. And that is how the Holy Grail ended up in England and why King Arthur was so concerned with it!

So from this legend we have so much literature - from the tales of King Arthur (and "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" movie - I'm grinning) and on to the more current The Da Vinci Code (I read that Novel and the book that followed. Good writer of a good story, but remind yourself - it's a novel). I think Dan Brown knew of this legend and extrapolated! All I'll say is, "He's an angry-at-the-church man, and doesn't know his history."

Hasn't Patrick's Breastplate prayer been put to music?
Make Irish Soda Bread!

March 16, 2009

Macaroni & Cheese (with Chiles)

Birthdays and Mac & Cheese

Today is Monte's birthday, but he's not here, he's somewhere in Nevada with some geologists planning April's field trip. So Dawson and me had the traditional Birthday meal. Since Dawson's usually gone for school and socialization, I do cook something we can share together when he's around.

I did a variation of Macaroni and Cheese and it was good. Growing up, home cooked macaroni and cheese was always my birthday meal choice. Whenever you ask Monte what he wants for supper, he'll always say, "Vegetables". That's always first in his thoughts. That's why he's so healthy!

I don't know where the recipe came from, cuz I usually write a source, but the 3x5 card is vague and titled Macaroni & Cheese with Chiles.

2 c dry macaroni (I used penne)
1/4 c butter
3 Tb Masa Harina or flour
1 tsp salt (I'm going to use less next time)
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp pepper
3 c milk
1/3 c grated onion (just fine chop)
4 oz diced green chilies
3 c jack cheese (I used colby-jack)

Cook the pasta till almost tender. I melted the butter in a 4c pyrex measuring bowl in the microwave and then added in the masa and seasoning, then added some powdered milk, and poured in 3 cups of the water the pasta cooked in. Microwave it to thicken - this is a 'white sauce'.

In a 2 1/2 qt casserole dish layer the pasta, onion, chilies, and cheese. Then pour over the white sauce, kinda mixing it a bit to make sure it pours thru to the bottom. 

Top with 1/2 c crushed tortilla chips and bake at 350 for about 30 minutes.

It's a keeper and I know Monte will like it.

March 15, 2009

Great Depression Cooking with Clara

I love watching and listening to Clara. If only all Grandmas could be captured for all generations like this.

1sts of Spring

I mentioned last year about our Firsts of Spring charts I used to always recreate every year. It's so ingrained that we all have eyes to see, without a chart. Sitting here, I just heard a flicker bird drumming his beak on our stove pipe. That's always a 'first' I look for - it's a mating thing.

I just walked around outside with my cup of breakfast tea looking for garden firsts. I'm seeing an inch of bulb greenery starting to poke through. No Glory of Snow, chionodoxa, in the grass yet. Yes, in the grass. I posted last fall about aerating my grass - I did it with a hand drill!! dropping the little bulbs in the holes (I had posted it on Facebook and my son Travis responded, "I hope you're not going to start cutting your grass with scissors!")

I had read about putting those flower bulbs in the grass, then there'd be a carpet of purple-blue first thing in the spring, and die back by the time to mow. I can't wait!

I need to walk around in the meadow and see if any wild crocus, pasque flowers, are up yet. That's another first. What else do we look for? The first robin and bluebird. In May the hummingbirds come and I love hearing them all summer, looking for the fiesty Rufous to show up early July. Hummingbirds leave Laborday weekend. We look for Aspen tree catkins, coming before the leaves. The kids would often run to me saying, "I smelled the first stink bug!"

Have you cleaned out your birdhouses? I told you to last month. Little bugs in old nests can kill this year's babies. We look for cow birds each spring, and the boys had permission to shoot them. I know that's not politically correct, but they are parasites (Audubon says, "promiscuous" - no pairing). They lay eggs in other bird nests and because their babies are bigger, growing faster, they starve out the other babies. Luckily we only have a couple that come around, my hope is, if the birdhouse hole size is specific to the bird, they usually can't get in. I do like their gurgling notes. Travis and me, and then Dawson and me, made lots of our birdhouses over the years.

Spring? I know it's not spring yet. I heard that Denver usually gets around 45" of snow each year, but only 18" this year. We are so dry, but we're probably not done yet. Unfortunately we often get dumped on in March - April (like 3 feet! Spring dumps melt fast, but not that one Christmas dump!). As the garden wise-guys I listen to on the radio have been saying, "don't let this beautiful spring-like weather we've been having fool you!" But with the warm weather predicted this week, I will go out and water again.

Monte and me already got a load of manure, the rancher filling both our trailer and the back of the pickup. That's the earliest we've ever gotten it. But with the nice weather ... and when I start needing it, we usually have snow and the ground around the manure pile is so mucky. So now we're prepared!

Dawson took the picture of my statue with snow on the back table in January when I was in Texas.

March 10, 2009

Smiling Will

Heather sent me another picture of Will. I need to call her. I haven't cuz I've been so sick with the flu since it hit hard last Wednesday night. My fever stopped Sunday night and today is the first day my body's not aching and not minding the feel of clothes. But my voice is weak, sometimes giving out, and I try not to cough, as much as I'm able. Still wondering if I should keep my dental appointment Thursday ...

The last time I was this sick was when the Denver Broncos went to the Supper Bowl. I can't tell you when cuz sports isn't my thing and I don't hold those things in my brain. We had gone to a friend's house cuz we don't have a TV (no reception, cable or satellite)(only watch movies). I sat in the background knitting and coughing. Because I didn't slow down enough then, it went into a secondary infection, and I don't want that to happen this time.

Now if we had TV, all this sick time I could have watched the Food Network, History or Discovery Channel ... But instead, I've gone thru all the library books I had on Cottage/Kitchen Gardens, dreaming, and ordered my fruiting plants and veggie seeds. I also have been researching tapestry online and reading the books I have.

What I didn't tell you, is that when I was in Texas with Heather, Monte drove down past the heart of Denver on Supper Bowl Sunday and picked up my large tapestry loom I bought from craigslist the day after Thanksgiving, having sold my large Swedish Glimakra loom (I'm going to miss that loom for it's beauty, but I still have a smaller 8-harness one).

I'm the one who found out what my secondary infection was that last time. I have a history with illnesses (and our doctor's often call Monte "Doctor Monte", he's so analytical). They had done the typical-to-today swab of the throat with the quick strep test. I told them to also swab a petri dish and watch it. It wasn't until a week later that it showed up as positive!

I had strep a lot as a kid. If it wasn't for my Homeopathic Grandma making me continuously eat yogurt, my body would really be messed up today. Since antibiotics kill the good with the bad bacteria, yogurt helps us with the needed good bacteria the strengthens our system. My homemade yogurt is my favorite! I love eating it just plain.

In high school, because of strep, mono, and valley fever (a desert disease), antibiotics helped me graduate. But I couldn't have PE classes for two of my years - oh bummer - sure, remember me, the non-sport, hate exercise person?! But I had to take up the gap with something: so more hands-on classes! Since I already was taking my favorite art class, which I took every year, I took photography - roaming the campus with cameras and learning to work in the dark room; I took woodshop, and printing - learning movable type, block printing, etc.

Oh ... once Monte kissed me, I never had strep again except that one Supper Bowl year. Now what does that mean?!


Purim is a Jewish Festival and it began last night. Purim celebrates victory over enemies, like the redeemer in Esther. Mordecai self-sacrificed himself in raising and teaching Esther - passing on the Torah by educating the children. Purim's lesson is to not lose hope and continue to teach the generations.

In the story of Esther lots were cast ("pur" in Persian) and a day was chosen for the annihilation of the Jews. Persian law could not be changed, but the people were allowed to defend themselves - yet only because of Esther's intervention. She was called, and she obeyed, saying, "If I perish, I perish".

Purim is a carnival celebration full of hilarity. It's celebrated with costumes and the story of Esther is either read or dramatized. Every time the name 'Haman' is said, everyone noisily stomps their feet, hissing and booing. Lots of cheering with Mordecai's name.

It celebrates survival, asking the question, "How do we live with people who hate us?"

Some years I make Hamantaschen (Haman's pockets) cookies. Sweet dough is rolled and cut in circles. A filling is added in the center and the edges are folded over to make three corners. The filling is either a poppy seed filling or fruit (often prune, but any jam can be used).

Some years Purim and Good Friday fall together and my first thought is, "Oh great, such opposite emotions." But it's only seemingly opposite when Purim is a 'Hilarious' holi(y)day. But maybe Good Friday (it is called 'good') should be celebrated hilariously too. With hissing, booing, and stomping of feet (much as Jesus did to the snake in the Garden of Eden in the "Passion" movie) over Satan, and cheering for our Redeemer Jesus who sacrificed his life for us, that we might have life. God provided a redeemer in Esther.

Purim reminds me to ask myself, "Who am I for such a time as this?"

March 9, 2009


Barbie is 50 years old today. My aunt Recie gave me my first Barbie and it was identical to this picture - ponytail and dress. When I had heard awhile back how much that original Barbie was going for, I had to go look for my Barbie case. Yes, I still have it! And I thought I had saved that original head! But no. (That thought makes me think of all the doll heads I have around - all my bodyless felted heads. Am I weird? ....)

I saved a bunch of my Barbie paraphernalia. I had made lots of her clothes. My Grandma had knit a lot of her clothes. I made her a lot of dishes and pots and vases out of clay. I saved all the good CrackerJack prizes - like real books, to adorn her house. I braided her doll house rugs, sewed and wove curtains and pillows. I needlepointed things for her and embroidered. My mom taught a bunch of the neighbor girls to sew making Barbie clothes.

I never gave Heather a Barbie, but actually, Heather wasn't a doll girl. She used to have 'car families' and they'd talk and drive around with each other. (I'd bet you that Heather has the largest matchbox car collection! And she still has a lot of it. I found it when I was organizing her home!) But when we walked down a toy store aisle and little Heather saw "The Hart Family" (Barbie with a family) her eyes grew big and she looked up at me and breathlessly said, "Look Mommy, it's a FAMILY!"
We bought it!

My doll today sits on a shelf in our home on a velvet chair my Grandma made for me from an opened tunafish can.

March 7, 2009

Food for Thought Quote

The only reason some people get lost in thought is because it's unfamiliar territory.

March 5, 2009

Spiritual Birthdays and Tacos and stuff

Today is Travis's Spiritual Birthday and last thursday was Dawson's. When our kids were little there'd be God-talk-times, but there seems to be a definite time when children ask deeper questions and want to commit their life to God. Monte said he did it when he was eight, soon after realizing that his dad wasn't 'God' and in control of everything. He simply transferred that trust in his dad to trust in God.

I wrote these times on the calendar for each of our kids. Then each year we'd celebrate that birthday with a special treasure hunt meal. The meal had lots of condiments so we could hide them around the house. Since curry (which makes a great treasure hunt meal) isn't a favorite of my kids, we tended to do a taco meal. We'd make up riddles as clues to be left with each food item, guiding them to the next. Eventually everything is at the table and we can eat. There's a final note at their plate reminding them of their treasure in Heaven.

I quick fry corn tortillas so they're soft. Then there's bowls of cooked ground meat, grated cheese, chopped tomatoes, lettuce, green onions, and sour cream, and sometimes guacamole, chips and salsa, and maybe beans. It's one of my favorite childhood meals I grew up with, and my family loves it too. I prefer the soft cooked shells to the traditional crisp shells because the first bite tends to crack the shell down the middle and everything falls out! If you travel to Mexico soft corn tacos is traditional.

I still remember the first time we did this - and we usually retell the story. Heather was just learning to read. Monte was out of town and my sister Kelli was living with us (and that's a powerful story!) so I wrote out very simple clues. Travis, not able to read yet, was practically hanging on to Heather's shirt tail waiting for her to sound out the clues so they could run and find the food. Like she'd be saying, "Look in the re-frig g g g ..." with a hard 'g' sound, as she was slowly walking upstairs. Finally I said, "The refrigerator is not upstairs!" And they'd take off running and laughing.
When Deuteronomy says several times, "teach the children diligently", "tell the children" - this is kinda like another commemoration as is the Lord's Supper and Passover. I'll tell you, our kids never grew up wondering if they were a Christian or not. And what great memories we have celebrating (partying) together around God's Truth and Presence in our lives.

Yesterday at MOPS I did the devotional. It was Tea and Testimony day, so the whole time was filled with five people's stories. Lots of laughter, tears and evoked memories. I combined two things I've posted: The Jar of my life and the Spouse story.

Monte and me thought of some new connections: each of us, so not just me, but Monte, my kids, our friends ... have jars of their lives. I see the larger items as relational, long lasting, for better health and living beyond maintenance, and
maybe even eternal. When I got to the part in the story where Sarah's mom felt an urging to pray for Sarah's future mate at the same timing as Travis' horrible illness (if you're lost you need to click on the above stories and read) - I really started crying this time! Through my tears as I put my hand over my beautiful jar of fruit (I took it as a visual aid) I told of the possibilities when other persons have a grapefruit in their jar that they've named "Heart Keeping" and have that relationship with God - that there's a depth in relationships between spouses, relations, friends and community.

I was given a glimpse, tho twenty-some years later, of what the power of prayer can be. And I bet paradise is going to be full of these stories!

Another twist Monte and me are still pondering, is what if two people marry and they seem compatible and their jars are just filled with sand? What might that say? I had quickly voiced the book title "Amusing Ourselves to Death" as a possibility.

March 3, 2009


Monte and Me have been trying to call Heather regularly. Sounds like Bill and her talk regularly too and see one another on their computers. Heather has both church and military wives, who's husbands are deployed in the same unit, getting together regularly with Heather too. She's not had to go to the grocery store, as others bring her her needs. Some come and clean. She's got gals to talk to and a new neighbor. She has gotten out on her own, walking and driving, getting used to the car seat, and stroller and all.

Other than learning everything new and getting used to one another, I think they're doing good. Heather tho is starting to feel some soreness and has a slight fever as of yesterday and will probably check into it tomorrow, if still the same or worse. So hopefully it's nothing much.

Heather has prayed very specifically since she was about 10 about her desires to marry and be a mother. I prayed too, that God would honor a little girl's prayers, who never gave up, tho she approached the age of 30 with neither. When she filled out her profile on eHarmony, initially, she had no matches. After talking with me about it she said, "Maybe I'm looking for Papa or Jesus." And then came Bill.

So more prayers please.

The Prodigal or Love of God Story

"For most of my life I have struggled to find God, to know God, to love God. I have tried hard to follow the guidelines of the spiritual life—pray always, work for others, read the Scriptures—and to avoid the many temptations to dissipate myself. I have failed many times but always tried again, even when I was close to despair.

Now I wonder whether I have sufficiently realized that during all this time God has been trying to find me, to know me, and to love me. The question is not 'How am I to find God?' but 'How am I to let myself be found by him?' The question is not 'How am I to know God?' but 'How am I to let myself be known by God?' And, finally, the question is not 'How am I to love God?' but 'How am I to let myself be loved by God?' God is looking into the distance for me, trying to find me, and longing to bring me home."

From The Return of the Prodigal Son: A Story of Homecoming by Henri J. M. Nouwen

Art: The Return of the Prodigal Son by Rembrandt

I love both the artist's work and the author's books. In my lifetime I have been the prodigal, the elder brother, and too, "I am my beloved's and He is mine".

March 2, 2009

Paul Harvey

This is going to be a day of hearing about Paul Harvey. I read about him dying at 90 this weekend and it hit me this morning. For probably over 30 years (tho he's been doing radio since he was 17) I've listened to Paul Harvey. In fact, since we've lived in Colorado since early 1983, every morning I wake and turn on the radio in the kitchen to 850 KOA and hear what's in the current news and every 7:30am, 11:45, and 3:15 is Paul Harvey, with his news perspective, icon voice, and his "rest of the story".

Lots of 'icons' have passed on. Can they be replaced? Not exactly. It seems it's been at least five years or so that people have been filling in for Paul Harvey occasionally, as he wrestled with this throat/voice problems ... It's his voice, besides his choices of news, and style in presentation that has made him iconic.

So for quite awhile 7:30's are going to feel a void.
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