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Do we ever cease to learn or be surprised at things we discover about ourselves?

Those of you who know me well are aware of my great love for the ocean and the beach.  For years I have thought that if I could live anywhere that I wanted, it would be a house on the beach overlooking the ocean with a wide strip of white sand as my backyard.  I would do what I try to do always at the beach, or at least at my favorite South Carolina beaches – walk barefoot in the sand at the edge of the surf dancing with the waves often.

There are lots of places in the world that I have enjoyed visiting and that are beautiful.  Some people love the stillness of a lake, some the majesty of the mountains, others the babbling of a mountain brook.  All these speak to me also but the ocean speaks the loudest.

But this week I have discovered a new and delightful place.  We are in a condo on the central coast of California.  The ocean is just off to the right but our view is of the harbor.  It is interesting to watch the movement in and out for the various type of boats.  I told Jim that I think I would choose this view off my patio every day if I could.  A new discovery – a new love.  Here’s what I see from our patio and from the table as I eat breakfast and from the living area as I sip coffee and read the paper in the morning.

See what I mean?  I hope that I will never be too old to make new discoveries, to open myself to new possibilities and to learn.

Today is one of those days laced with mixed emotions.

Seventy-one years ago today two events happened which affected my life.

In different parts of the United States two young women were preparing to give birth.

One young Navy wife was at a hospital in Philadelphia looking forward to her first child.  Doctors were available and prepared.  Her Navy husband was not there.  He was on-board ship somewhere in the Pacific.

On a farm in Perry County, Tennessee another young woman (a teacher by profession) was also getting ready to give birth to her first child.  Her teacher husband was nearby and the local doctor in the nearest small town was summoned for the delivery.

On January 18, 1939 both of these young women gave birth to sons.  The young Navy wife, Anna, gave birth to a son and named him after his father, attaching a Jr. to the name.  He was a healthy baby boy.

The young Tennessee wife, Ruth, also gave birth to a son.  But her life was on the line.  The baby boy lived but a few hours – being born and dying on that same day.

The first baby boy grew up and is now my husband of 50 years; the second was buried in a country church cemetery nearby without ever having been given a name.  The first is my husband; the second, my brother whom I never knew.

So on January 18, I experience both joy at the gift of a wonderful husband and the grief of  being robbed by death of a brother.

Childhood Dreams

Another day – another book.  I’m trying to go through the pile of library books I have checked out to make sure that none are overdue.  But I had one novel still left in the stack and so I had to read it before I could let the book go back.

The Blue Bottle Club by Penelope Stokes is a wonderful story of four young teens who write out their dreams and with a dramatic ceremony and pledges of support place them  in a blue bottle which is carefully hidden in the rafters on the home of one of the girls.

Fast forward 65 years.  The historic house is being torn down.  A reporter is dispatched for a quick “on-the-street report” for the local news.  As she is preparing to leave a construction worker brings her the blue bottle found in the attic thinking she might want to feature it on the TV clip.  She is intrigued when she discovers the notes in the bottle.  Are they still alive? She wonders.  Did their dreams come true?

She sets off on a search to locate, if possible, the four and record their stories.

I won’t give away the ending but let’s just say that all of us can learn something about our youthful dreams by reading this novel.

So I’m happy to have discovered a new author.  I’ve just completed a search through my local library catalog to see what’s available and have entered requests for six other books by Stokes.  Yeah for the library!  I’ll have something to look forward to.

I do not like cold weather and we have had over a week of frigid temperatures.  I’m getting accustomed to seeing ZERO on my thermometer when I get up in the morning.  The ground is covered with snow.  We got about 4 or 5 inches last night with blowing winds.

But winter does have its benefits.  January is usually a quiet month for us.  Christmas is over, our social calendar (such as it is) is basically bare and we stay at home dressed in sweaters and wrapped in lap robes.  Late December and early January brings a plethora of bowl games – some we care about and others are just ho-hum to us.  College football is much more exciting to me than the pros.

We were excited to see Boise State pull another thrilling upset in the Fiesta Bowl.  We follow them since our daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter live in Boise, Idaho.  Jim even has his cap and sweatshirt from Boise State so he is properly attired.

Jim put out two bird feeders before the first of the year and the activity is virtually non-stop there.  I enjoy standing at the kitchen window and watching them.  The brightly colored male cardinals are my favorite.  Occasionally a blue jay figures into the mix but the perch is not really big enough for him.  Today, especially we had all kinds of birds.

Here’s a layout I did in December (one of my better photos):

One of the benefits of free time is that I can do some digital scrapping.  It’s my creative outlet and I have determined to  participate in four year-long challenges at various scrapping sites each requiring one layout per week.  Since each will have separate prompts, this will cause me to do more and different layouts  than my standards which are travel and holidays.

Here are some of the ones I’ve created this week:

And I have a few more fun ones in process.  I’m finding that often I can use the layouts to say what I want to say and then I’ll be able to have them printed into a Shutterfly book later in the year should I choose to.  The ink industry stocks are sure to fall as my HP Photosmart printer consumes ink like a drunk does alcohol so I’m planning to do less of my own printing.

Yesterday I finished a wonderfully funny book which was just right reading for this time of year.

Through the years we have tried to simplify Christmas and, like the author, have even thought of skipping the hurrah of the season –not Christmas itself (the celebration of the birth of the Christ child).

As for gift giving, I always ask my family to give me a wishlist around Thanksgiving so that I can get each one something he or she would really enjoy having.  Despite repeated attempts to get a list from our 14 year old grandson, I got no list.  Now as anyone who has a teen on their gift list knows, whatever an older person would buy on their own just isn’t what the teen would want.  Because Nathan had enjoyed playing Guitar Hero so much when we were at the beach this summer, I did have one small thing I purchased on my own – a pair of pajama bottoms in black with skulls and guitar hero written all over in white.

Those of you who know me probably would assume that I had lost my mind if you saw me purchasing them.  I don’t usually go for anything with band names, grunge, tears and skulls on it.  But what is a grandma to do?  At the same time I purchased fleece ones with skiers on them for a son-in-law who loves to ski and is accustomed to me giving him “off the wall” items.  I’ve learned to try to match a person’s interests with something I think they will actually use.

Anyway, back to the missing Christmas list.  I had threatened to just not get that grandson anything if he couldn’t take the time to talk to me and indicate what he would like.  Evidently, however, better judgment ruled and I got a brilliant idea.

The coupon brought a smile from Nathan (I suppose the part that said “that we can agree on”).  After he opened the gift (pj pants with coupon stuffed inside), we made a plan to go shopping the following day.  By this time I had already found out that he was (or thought he was) in need of a ski jacket (ouch to the wallet).  He and his mom had been at a ski shop the previous week to get his skis waxed and had seen a really “cool” one there.

So on Saturday morning, off we went with his older sister in tow as our fashion consultant.  One can’t have one’s younger brother looking like a nerd in inappropriate clothing you know.  When we arrived, Nathan went right to the “cool” one and fortunately, it fit.  So we were all set and in record time.

Or so I thought.  Actually it had dawned on me on the way over that Nathan also has a birthday coming up later in January and I, once again, was clueless as to what to buy.  However, Nathan & his mom had engaged in a conversation earlier about the fact that he needed ski goggles to protect his eyes since he wears contacts.  “Ah ha” I thought.  Here’s a good way to get that birthday present bought ahead of time and on the same trip.

If I thought ski jackets were expensive, I definitely had to catch my breath at the price of googles!  And then, of course, there was the fact that older sister had no googles either and needed some even though she doesn’t wear contacts.

Now her birthday is not until April but I’m nothing if not prepared.  Yep, you guessed it, our mastercard suffered major damage as I made the investment in not just one but TWO expensive ski googles along with a “cool” ski jacket.  Both now have a clear understanding with Nana that they have received very early birthday presents.  It’s what’s known as “paying forward!”  They will each get just cards from Nana & Papa to celebrate their birthdays.

The whole thing worked out very nicely, I think, and we are all happy.

Happy birthday to two very loved grandkids from your Nana & Papa.

One little word

In yesterday’s post, I mentioned that I am reflecting on which word to choose for 2010 as a daily reminder and guide toward whatever is a priority for me at the moment.

In 2009, I chose HOPE.  Two of my friends here picked up on the idea and shared their words with me:  one was Joy, the other Serve.  I’ve enjoyed reading comments on various blogs of other women who are also making choices of that one little word for the new year.

Here are some of those others have shared:

Acceptance  Alive

Beauty         Believe         Blessed

Charisma     Change        Cherish        Choice         Connect       Create

Explore

Family         Focus

Gather          Grace           Grateful

Intention

Listen           Lose

Nest

Optimism

Patience       Persist          Ponder         Possibilities            Productivity

Reach           Replace        Resource

Serenity       Slow            Stability       Story            Study

Wellness      Wholeheartedly

I can relate to all of these and find places in my life where they would be applicable and needed.  Yet none quite “grabs” me and urges me to make it my own.

So here’s my own list of possibilities:

Authentic     Appreciate

Content

Encourage   Enough

Faithful

Imagine       Immanuel

Learn

Memorize

Perseverance          Positive        Progress

Reflect         Risk

Simplicity    Share           Stretch

Thankful

Write

After much reflection, the finalists for 2010 are:

THANKFUL — daily being aware of the blessings and expressing gratitude   (Plan a Gratitude – 52 album)

IMMANUEL — my spiritual challenge to recognize “God with Me” in all circumstances and be aware of His constant presence.

PERSEVERANCE — keeping at it; starting over when I get stalled.  I especially need this word/action in my continuing journey of weight loss and exercise; in compiling and putting in order my genealogical findings; in completing the self-paced courses I haven’t completed  at Jessica Sprague.

WRITE — getting into a habit of journaling daily and getting those stories in my head onto paper.  I want to average at least 3 posts per week on my blog for thoughts and everyday ordinary happenings in my life as well as other writing projects.

I can see that these four words fall into spiritual, emotional and physical areas with some overlap.  I certainly need them all.  Who says you can’t have more than one?

An “R” week

The week after Christmas and through New Year’s Day is one of my favorites of the year.  We are home safely from our travels, the weather is cold and the schedule is empty.  It’s a time for reading, relaxing and reflecting.

Since I first learned to read in first grade, I have loved to lose myself in the magic world which opens up when I get a good book in my hands.  Usually I limit myself on the amount of time I spend lost in the world of fiction but this week is an exception.  As a belated Christmas present to myself, I have given myself permission to read and read and read.

I compiled a wish list from the library 10 days ago and put in 15 requests.  They have trickled in ever since that time providing me with endless hours of delight.  Here’s what I’ve read so far:

No, I do not knit but I think I want to learn after reading these last three books.

I’ve never kept a list of exactly which books I’ve read for a year.  That’s one of the things I think I will do in 2010.

And it’s a time of reflection – looking back (in my mind) over the year of 2009 and looking forward to 2010.  In a tradition, started I think by Ali Edwards, of selecting one word for the year as a daily reminder and guide, I have been considering what my 2010 word would be.  In 2009, it was HOPE.  And there are so many good possibilities for 2010.  More about this in another post.

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