Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Merry Christmas

I wish you the most wonderful Christmas Day!


Saturday, December 22, 2012

Christmas Ponderings

Well here it is...Christmas is upon us.
This last week has been a sad and difficult one.
Many turned off the twinkling lights, took down the decorations and put them away.
Others, though no less heartbroken, chose to to continue with
holiday celebrations.  There is no right or wrong.

My own first reaction, a week ago, was to turn out the lights.  I couldn't think of lighting
 the Christmas tree when so many innocent lives were taken; so many families grieving.  Late in the evening I stood in my doorway and looked up and down my street.  Mine was the only house darkened.   The lights sparkling around each door and woven among the branches of shrubs didn't ease my aching heart, but it brought a warmth of hope I can't explain.

Saturday as I ran a few errands and prepared for a small dinner party,  I found myself humming "We Need a Little Christmas".   Each time it popped into my head I would try to silence it, feeling guilty for singing such a little ditty.  However, the song continued to  loop through my brain all day and into the new week.

Tuesday while doing a bit of running around a neighbor called to alert me that our street was blocked off.  She broke the news a neighbor's home was on fire.  I felt everything beginning to spin around me.  We had watched this young couple move in late in the summer and work on their home, doing much of it themselves.   M. and I continued to brainstorm what we could do immediately; it was decided, while I was out I would gather somethings they would need for the night.  As I roamed around the store frantically "We Need a Little Christmas" once again began streaming through my head.  When  I returned home there were police cars and firetrucks lining the street; it was now dark.  Small groups of neighbors huddled together, several in my front yard.   Everyone was asking the same thing...what can I do?

This year the holidays will be a somber one.    We will take time to be quiet and think of those who are suffering and heartbroken.  Here at "Living Life" we will listen a little closer, embrace a little tighter and look toward the light.

It  is the light atop the lighthouse that warns the seafarer.  A candle in the window welcomes home the wayward traveler.  And, it is the lights of Christmas which bring us together and give us hope and promise of a new tomorrow.

I will never understand the carnage that took place in Newtown, why ten young Afghan girls were killed while gathering wood in easter Afghanistan, or why my neighbor's home was destroyed.  I do know I believe in humanity.  I believe we are more alike than different.  And, I most certainly believe we will rise.

Yes I've
"Grown a little colder,
Grown a little sadder,
Grown a little older,
And I need a little angel
Sitting on my shoulder,
Need a little Christmas now

May you find strength and hope this holiday season.
Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The Company of Friends

I don't do it often enough, but I love to entertain.  I enjoy everything about it.
I enjoy designing the table,

planning the menu,

polishing the silver,

and opening my door to welcome dear friends and family.

I hope you are enjoying the company of those dear to you during this holiday
season.  I believe it is especially important now 
that we seek joy and peace in the company of others.

Friday, December 14, 2012

From the Island...Without Words

When my daughter was young, while waiting in carpool line at her school, I would place a kiss in the palm of her hand folding her fingers over it.  I told her it was for "just in case" she needed a kiss.  Many times I gave her more than one.  Just before she jumped out of the car she would give me a kiss to get me through my day.

It was never even in the furthest corner of my mind it would be my last kiss to receive, or my last kiss I would ever give my child.

I did not hear of the unimaginable horror that unfolded in a small Connecticut town this morning until late this afternoon.   It was in fact in the carpool line of the school where I teach I first heard of this tragedy.

As I drove home listening to accounts of all that transpired at the Connecticut elementary school memories of hand kisses and last minute I love yours came flooding over me and tears fell.  The first thing I did when I got home
was to send my daughter, now grown, a text
 "I love you".

 as a mother...
as a teacher...
My heart aches

 twenty children were lost today,
but I hurt because
 of each single child and adult that was lost.

Will we ever have the answers we are all so desperately asking?

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


To acquire the habit of reading 
is to construct for yourself a refuge 
from almost all the miseries of life.
                                                                 W. Somerset Maugham

There are no miseries in my life.  I am blessed.  And yet like everyone
this time of year there is more to do than minutes in the day.  

There are the things you want to do.
There are things you need to do.
And, are things everyone expects you to do.

I have a friend at school who continually tells me I am good
with setting boundaries.  Maybe I am.  I don't really know.
I do know I begin to feel out of sorts, and I know you may find this hard
to believe...I can make others pretty miserable when I am feeling overloaded.

After a morning at school, lunch with my sweet husband, running errands here and there,
 wrapping a few Christmas presents and taking Willie out for a play
the evening is now mine.

The candles are lit.
The fire is blazing 
and the wine is poured.
This is my plan for the remainder of the evening.


Enjoy your evening!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Books for Christmas

Thank you for all your well wishes.  The scrapes are healing and the bruises...as my sweet adoring husband tells me, are turning into lovely yellow areas.  Seriously, I know I am so fortunate.  Again thank you!

Now it is time to get on with the important stuff!  
Have you completed your Christmas list?  I haven't.  
I did spend some time this past weekend aiding the economy, 
but I still have a few things left on the list.

I'm a last minute kind of girl.  There is just something about
the rush of adrenaline when you are on the prowl for the perfect gift.  It is all about the hunt!

Would it surprise you to learn my favorite gifts to give are books?
I spend weeks browsing bookstores and reading reviews trying to match up the
perfect title with the perfect person on my list.

I thought you might be interested in a sampling of the books I've discovered as possibilities.  Some of these titles are on my own list to Santa.

Marmee and Louisa is on the top of my list.
If you know someone who loved Little Women, this dual biography might be a wonderful gift.  Eve LaPlante having the advantage of being a descendant of the Alcott family, takes us into this fascinating mother/daughter relationship.  We learn Louisa's mother was a gifted writer in her own right.  It is throughout Abigail's story we discover Louisa.

In Junior High I loved Agatha Christie.  I often imagined Miss Marple as my aunt,  and who wasn't a just bit intrigued (if not frighted) by the working mind of Hercule Periot?  I'll tell you a secret... I once played sick to stay home so I could finish Death on the Orient Express.   Using Christi's own archives, photos and post cards, The Grand Tour allows the reader and fan of Agatha Christi to accompany her on a year long voyage around the British Empire in 1922.   

For the lover of a good thriller on your list.  
 The Art Forger  looks perfect to me.  Shapiro takes us to the underbelly of the art world where a talented artist finds herself involved with art forgery.    We are promised a 
multi-layered story of "love, betrayal, and authenticity".

If you find this in your stocking I may want to borrow it.  Sounds perfect for a snow day.
(If we are so lucky)

 For your favorite history buff?   What about
Jon Meacham's Thomas Jefferson, The Art of Power?

I am dying to buy this for someone!  In Meacham's words, "He endures because we can see in him all the varied and wondrous possibilities of the human experience -- the thirst for knowledge, the capacity to create, the love of family and friends, the hunger for accomplishment, the applause of the world, the marshaling of power, the bending of others to one's own image."  One reviewer called this a "masterpiece".

For your favorite child?
How about 

Susan Jeffers does a beautiful job illustrating and retelling this Christmas favorite and
I adore it.   Susan Jeffers intentionally wrote this book for the younger child using fewer words and gorgeous illustrations.  For so many years "The Nutcracker" was a major part of our holiday.  This book took me back to the Christmas's when Heather and I attended this Christmas tradition, and the following years when she danced several different parts in the Nutcracker.  This would be a wonderful gift to give a child along with tickets to The Nutcracker.

Jan Brett is a favorite who never disappoints me.  
Home for Christmas follows an impish wild troll, tired of his family's demands,  as he leaves his family to be out on his own.  Just before Christmas he finds a family of moose and through unforeseen circumstances is unexpectantly returned home.  Like our friend Dorothy Gale, in another story, he finds out there "is no place like home".   I read this to my children this morning, and everyone was captivated by Rollo's adventure.

Do you enjoy giving books as Christmas gifts?
I hope I have given you a few ideas.
If you have read any of these titles I would love to hear your thoughts.

Oh, I finally finished the tree!
Book cover images 
via B&N and NPR.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Taking a Spill and Slightly Humbled

I had planned on posting last night.   I had an evening activity to attend.
I thought I would return home and
write about moving our evergreen into the living room
meshing memories of past years into my story.   I thought
I might share the story of the year the tree fell, fully decorated and I was left
holding it while Roger headed to the store to buy a new tree stand.

I would write about stringing the white lights.  I might have wrote we worked as a team,  Roger going one way and I go another.  The story would continue as I described the laughter that occured when we figured out we are working against one another;  Me, finally retiring to a chair to supervise and asking for more.

The final string is on the tree, we stand back to survey the work,  checking for clumps
and holes (I see a big hole, don't you?), wondering if we need to head to the nearest store to purchase one more string or if maybe just tweaking here and there will do the trick.

I would have told you we placed St. Nicholas on the top
of the tree just in time for the Feast of St Nicholas and how
he has topped our tree for more than two decades watching over
our Christmas celebrations.

But alas I did not have the opportunity to write last night. 
I met with my Christ Care group to put together food gifts for a
Christmas boutique to aid the St. Francis House, a mission that serves
those who are underserved.

We worked, shared and had a great time putting together beautiful containers filled with
mixes that could be turned into a meal, a beverage or a sweet treat.  
The three hours passed quickly.   When the last bottle was capped
and bow tied it was time to clean up and leave.

Everyone left.  I hung back to walk out with my friend.  She turned out all the lights.
I turned to make sure the kitchen door locked behind us.  She walked in front,
I followed chatting about this and that.  As she turned I stepped off what I thought was the last step.

My friend screamed my name, but it was too late, I was falling.  Thankfully I was holding
onto the rail.  I fell first on my knee putting out my hand to catch my fall.  I was falling down an incline and unable to stop the forward motion my face finally slid down the pavement.

She was scared...I was embarrassed and hurting.  I lay there for a moment face down.  
Finally I reached up to feel my face.  My hand hurt, my lower lip was numb and there was blood.  I thought possibly I would need to go to the hospital for stitches.  My friend began trying to call the others back to help.  I sat up with no trouble and told her I thought I was okay.  There was a little blood, a bump forming on the forehead, but no broken bones.

Needless to say when I finally made it home I was in no mood to
take out the computer and write about stringing Christmas lights.
I instead wanted to survey the damage, find the ice packs,
 and apply the neosporin.  

My friend checked on me last evening and tonight.  And as I told her,
I have a couple of scuff marks on my face
along with a little bump.  I lost a bit of skin on my hand
 and my knees and I am feeling a bit humbled.

Also, I am blessed there are no broken bones or teeth and that I had a caring
 and attentive friend who cared for me.

Moral of the story?
Watch out for the bottom step it plays hide and seek in the dark and you
might find yourself sliding face first down the cement.

Seriously friends, all is well that ends well.
Be careful out there friends.

Sorry, no time to edit...
Roger brought home more lights.  I must go supervise.


Monday, December 3, 2012


“Hope is the thing with feathers 
That perches in the soul 
And sings the tune without the words 
And never stops at all.”  
                                                            Emily Dickinson

I think more than any other decoration I love the Christmas wreath most.  It is so 
simple, and it is always the first sign Christmas is approaching at my own home.

Today the Christmas wreath is a welcoming symbol inviting friends and
loved ones into our home.  However, the symbolism of the wreath
has been around longer than Christianity.

Pre-Christian cultures used the evergreen wreath in the celebration of 
the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.  The wreath symbolized the end of
shortened days,  the promise of light and the hope of spring...rebirth.

In ancient times, the wreath became a symbol of strength and power.   
The Persian's wore headbands of wreaths to show their importance and success.  
Early Grecians crowned their champions with laurel wreaths after competitions.  To announce victories, Romans hung wreaths on their doors and place them upon the heads of royalty.  

Sunday was the first Sunday of Advent.
The Advent wreath, a ring of evergreen
with no beginning and no end symbolizes the anticipation of
  light conquering darkness and the hope of new life...rebirth.
It seems we are not so far removed from our earliest history.

Today, in my classroom we finished making our our advent wreaths, not from
boughs of evergreen but from construction paper.
We glued three purple candles and one pink then glued on the first flame.   
We talked about anticipation.  A big word for 4 and 5 year olds,
 but when you change anticipate to hope it is easier to understand.
At any age we all grasp the idea of having and needing hope.
No matter what we believe or what we hope for, it is always, 
in a manner of speaking, that of light and newness... rebirth.

We light the Advent wreath in anticipation of the coming of Christmas.
 We place the  Christmas wreath on our door in the hope of welcoming friends and family
into our home to celebrate generosity, giving and good cheer.

I think hanging a wreath is the perfect beginning of
this season.

Welcome, and 
Come in!

Wednesday, November 28, 2012


To see a World in a Grain of Sand

And a Heaven in a Wild Flower

Hold Infinity in the palm of your hand

And Eternity in an hour.

(Words from the first stanza of William Blake's poem "Auguries of Innocence".)

I wish I knew what William Blake was trying to say.  I've read the poem in completion; it seems to be a struggle between good and evil.  I do think the first stanza could stand alone.   Maybe it means we only need to break the bindings of time and space to find all that is beautiful.  Impossible?

I am a believer of all things good and impossible.
All I need do is look into the eyes of a loved one
or hold the hand of a child.

Several days ago one of my children ask me how much I loved her.
I replied, "I love you to the moon and back".
Remembering my daughter and I playing this game every night
when she was little, I stopped and said, "That's not true.
I love you to infinity and back and back again".
She looked up at me, paused and in a quiet voice said, "Wow!"

It is here where I find my grain of sand, my wildflower.  I hold this moment in the palm of my hand
and in it is my hour that is an eternity....

And with a happy heart and a smile,  I say

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Goodbye Autumn

When we arrived home last evening my backyard looked as if it were on fire.
The maples refusing to change color before I left town last week
had burst into flames while I was away.

We spent the Thanksgiving holiday with our daughter and son.  They
were the perfect hosts, catering to our every whim.   And as
always just spending time with them is such fun.

Saturday we tagged along with them to look for a wreath for their front door.
While we were at the nursery they browsed through the trees and found
their Christmas tree.   For so many years they have accompanied us the day after
Thanksgiving in search of the perfect tree, it was such fun watching them discussing,
comparing and making that final selection.  Traditions change while staying the same.
I suppose that is the way it is meant to be.

While the guys set up the tree, Heather and I continue on our adventure
of supporting the small shops around the neighborhood,
before I got the call it was time for us to leave.

Time is always precious and passes much too quickly.

Even though the maples are only just now putting on their autumn show
it is time to start preparing for Christmas.  I am not one to have everything finished
before the first of December.  I have to move into Christmas slowly.
One might say I enjoy the journey
more than the actual arrival.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

With Thanksgiving

    My favorite holiday is upon us.

It is time to stop, take a breath and remember what we have to be thankful for.

Many years ago I was invited to dine, a few times, in the home of an affluent woman in the small town where I was attending college.   We would gather in the parlor and await to be called into the dining room.  The butler would announce dinner and we were escorted in to be seated around a long banquet table.   Standing at the head of the table our hostess would ask everyone to be seated.   Servers stood behind us ready to answer our every need.

Before taking her seat she would ask everyone to join in giving thanks.
With a strong and clear voice she never hesitated to think of what to say next.  The prayer was always brief and to the point.  She first gave praise and then continued by giving thanks never asking for anything.  She always ended her prayer by giving thanks for "bread on her table and the roof over her head".

I was very young and thought how odd that this woman who was surrounded by so much would give thanks for things so simple, so trivial, as bread and the roof over her head.  It was later I learned these things  I had never needed to worry over,  food and having a home, were not always a certainty  for her.  I have never forgotten that prayer nor the sincerity with which it was offered.
It was a lesson of sincere gratitude so gently taught.

There is children's prayer we sang at the school where I taught in Nashville.

Oh the Lord is good to me
And so I thank the Lord
For giving me
The things I need
The sun and the rain
And the apple seed.
The Lord is good to me.

Yet another reminder of the simple blessings we so often take for granted.

And so as Thanksgiving Day approaches I give thanks for the many "things" with which I  have been blessed, but mostly for my precious family and simply for having bread on the table and a roof over my head.  And, I am always grateful to each of you who build me up with your visits and comments.

Happy Thanksgiving!
(I'll be back in a few days)

Miss Rose passed away shortly after I left that small town. 
 I have heard her home, the roof over her head,
 is now on  the Cane River Plantation tour.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Winter Book Talk

The last workman left my house Friday afternoon.  The floors are now finished.  
It is hard to believe the "water" saga began before Labor Day and the final curtain 
fell less than a week before Thanksgiving.  

Saturday, after moving the furniture back into the den,
arranging and rearranging, shifting lamps from table to table,
room to room, removing blinds and hanging curtains, I needed a bit of recreation.

What might I do for fun late on a Saturday afternoon?

via flicker
Browse a bookstore, of course.

I'm putting together my winter reading list.

"It is the early 1950s. A nameless man is found on the steps of the hospital in Iasi, Romania. He is deaf and mute, but a young nurse named Safta recognizes him from the past and brings him paper and pencils so that he might draw. Gradually, memories appear on the page: the man is Augustin, the cook's son at the manor house at Poiana, where Safta was the privileged daughter. Born six months apart, they had a connection that bypassed words, but while Augustin's world stayed the same size, Safta's expanded to embrace languages, society, and a fleeting love one long, hot summer. But then came war, and in its wake a brutal Stalinist regime, and nothing would remain the same."

"The year is 1921. Three women set out on the impressive Paris ocean liner on a journey from Paris to New York. Julie Vernet is a young French woman from a working class family who has just gotten her first job as a crew worker on the ship. Escaping her small town and the memory of war,
 she longs for adventure on the high seas...
Constance Stone is a young American wife and mother who has traveled to Paris to rescue her bohemian sister, Faith, who steadfastly refuses to return to America and settle down. Constance returns home to New York, having failed at the duty her father asked of her...
Vera Sinclair, a rich, ex-patriate American is leaving France after thirty-one years to live out her remaining time home in America. Over the course of the transatlantic voyage, she reflects on her colorful life and looks forward to a quiet retirement. While each of these women come from different walks of life, their paths cross while at sea in a series of chance encounters. The powerful impact these disparate lives have on one another make for a magnificent and unforgettable read."

Both of the above sound sound wonderful to me, but this is the one I wish
I had brought home with me.  First published in 1934 it sounds
lighthearted and deliciously funny.
Exactly what I need right now.

"Barbara Buncle is in a bind.  Times are harsh, and Barbara's bank account has seen better days.  Maybe she could sell a novel...if she knew any stories.  Stumped for ideas, Barbara draws inspiration from her fellow residents of Silverstream, the little English village she knows inside and out.

To her surprise, the novel is a smash.  It's a good thing she wrote under a pseudonym, because the folks of Silverstream are in an uproar.  But what really turns Miss Buncle's world around is this:  what happens to the characters in her book starts happening to their real-life counterparts."

Do any of these appeal to you?
I am certain all three will be making the short journey to my bookshelf.
Have you put together your winter reading list?

Between finishing Waldi's sweater and preparing for Thanksgiving I'm reading


It has been on my to read shelf for awhile.
I must admit I am a book addict.

Have a wonderful Monday!

book synopsis via Goodreads 
and Barnes and Noble.
Pictures taken  by me unless noted.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Pleasure of a Short Story

This is the time of year when days vanish in a blink of the eye.  There are more things on the "to do" list than minutes in the day.  November through December finds everyone rushing around taking care of family, preparing for the holidays or just trying to finish up end of the year obligations.  

It is a time when I see more of folks going than coming.
We certainly know how to spin ourselves into a frenzy.

With all the comings and goings of the holiday season it is difficult to find the time
 to just sit and enjoy my favorite pastime, reading.   My solution is

the short story.

I have accumulated a decent collection.   I never tire of opening or reopening these books.  There is always a story I missed, or one I've long ago forgotten and rediscovered remembering it to be a favorite.  I can get my literature "fix" in just a few pages.   Two or three pieces while walking on the treadmill.  I can begin and finish another before turning out the light at night.

If I was to pull my complete collection I think I would find it somewhat eclectic, maybe slightly heavy on the southern side.  I admit I am a southern girl with a love for the richness of southern literature.

Last week needing to lift my spirits, after finishing possibly the most depressing
book I have ever opened and felt obligated to finish, I pulled
Queen of the Turtle Derby and Other Southern Phenonomena, Julia Reed,
off the shelf to reread a few of the essays.

Ms Reed, a contributing editor for Newsweek, describes our unique culture as only a
southerner can.   She explains and defends the holiest of what is southern...church, guns, pearls and tiaras, while adding a few "bless your hearts" in for good measure.  Once finished reading the last delicious essay you will never want to wear white before Easter or after Labor Day again.

I did put down my book just long enough to begin a sweater for our little
Waldi.  I was told he was getting a little cold when needing to
go out.

Oh I do think he is going to be quite handsome in houndstooth.
Don't you?
Bless him!

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Roadblocks and Chocolate Chip Cookies

My morning was less than successful.  I left the house planning to attend the used book sale benefiting the public library system.  I love this event.  It is a treasure hunt.  Rows and rows and rows of dusty used books.  Sometimes you leave empty handed...sometimes you find an amazing first edition of something wonderful or that random title that is now out of print.  It is all about the search.

I should have suspected something was going on when I first saw the orange traffic cones down the middle of a major thoroughfare.  But remember I had fabulous treasures dancing in my thoughts.  It wasn't until I hit the roadblocks just at the edge of the library entrance I realized my plans were about to be altered.  There was a "fun run" taking place and the runners and spectators had filled the library parking lot long before the library patrons began to arrive.  

Not to be dissuaded I began driving around searching for parking in and around the neighborhood.  Little did I know the real treasure was going to be a place to park my car.  After 40 minutes of driving and turning around I finally stopped, once again, at the parking lot gate to ask the security guard if he had any suggestions.  I can't repeat what he said.  Disheartened I decided to return home, unsuccessful in my quest.

Feeling defeated and down heartened my evil brain began plotting revenge. I drove straight to the grocery store.  I know what you are thinking....

Before I could stop myself, after picking up the lettuce, tomatoes, avocado and grapes, I stealthily slipped a bag of chocolate chips into the shopping cart.   I hid it under the block of cheese and box of triscuits (my planned lunch).

Okay, you are right!

Once home I soothed my disappointment in the kitchen.

I'm still disappointed my day didn't go quite as I had planned, 
but a cup of tea and a warm cookie was  sweet salve on the wound.

I'm not for sure where I found this recipe over twenty years ago.

My Favorite Chocolate Chip Cookies

3 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1 cup dark brown sugar, packed
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 12 ounce package semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 325 F.  I line my cookie sheet with parchment paper.  You can spray it with vegetable spray if you wish. 

Whisk flour, baking soda, and salt in bowl to blend.  Using an electric mixer; beat butter  until light and fluffy.  Add both sugar and brown sugar, beat until well blended.  Add eggs one at a time and vanilla and beat until mixture is creamy and well blended.  Gradually add flour mixture, beating until blended.
Stir in chocolate chips.

Working in batches, drop dough by generously mounded tablespoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet, spacing about 3 inches apart.  Bake until pale brown, about 15 minutes.

Cool slightly on cookie sheet.  Transfer to racks; cook completely.

Bon Appetit'

I hope you don't encountered roadblocks this weekend;
if you do the back door is always open.