Archive for the ‘Family’ Category

A New Year’s Wish and A Talking Fish

January 1, 2009

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(Our Christmas tree)

So…here I am again apologizing for being such a slackard with my blogging.  Truth is, I haven’t felt much like writing lately.  An old injury came back to haunt me again (this happened last Christmas too), and I’ve been in a fair amount of pain for the last month.  Plus, for some reason, I’ve been a bit more melancholy than usual this holiday season—and felt more keenly the pain of my estrangement from some of my extended family.  Lord knows,  I have good reason to be estranged, but still…I feel sad about it.

Nevertheless, as always, I’ve enjoyed having my children home from college.  It’s a wonderful thing to witness their growth—both intellectual and spiritual—and the emergence of their fine adult selves.  And they make me laugh—a lot.  And laughter really is such good medicine.

And like my children, I love to make people laugh.  So I thought I’d share a story with you that I wrote eight years ago—one of my stories that was published.  I’m pretty sure that I retained the rights on it, but I may end up taking it off the blog pretty quickly if I find out otherwise, so you might want to read it soon if you’re interested.

It’s not high-brow literature, but then, you wouldn’t expect that from me anyway, would you?  :-)   I take the advice to “write what you know” very seriously, and the people in my story are the people I grew up with down east, in the country churches my Daddy pastored.  I loved those people and still miss them, so they show up in my writing a lot.  It’s my way of keeping them around.

Anyway, you can find the story on my sidebar under Pages.  Just click on A Fish Story.  It’s not long.  Dostoyevsky it’s not…but, at least maybe it will make you laugh.  And, in my opinion, making people laugh is one of the higher forms of art.  Especially these days.

Oh…and Happy New Year.  May yours be filled with plentiful blessings and wonders.  And lots and lots of laughter.

My Pear Paradise

December 4, 2008

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Golly, has it really been over a week since I last posted?  I do apologize—you know how it is this time of year.  Truth is, I barely even touched the computer when my favorite people in the world were home (that would be my children, of course).  It was lovely having them here, though the time passed all too quickly.   Besides the usual Thanksgiving turkey, dressing, green beans, mashed potatoes, etc., we had a Thanksgiving kitten

Well, not for dinner, of course…ha,ha.  It was a stray (probably feral) kitten who wandered up to our doublewide.  We fed her and made her a soft little bed outside, but she would have none of that.  When she heard us laughing inside, she climbed up the window screen repeatedly to peer in, clinging to the screen and meowing indignantly all the while!  In fact, we’re going to have to replace all three screens now—they are so damaged from the kitty’s claws.  She was both amusing and entertaining (if a little destructive), but we’re really dog people, so we took her to the Humane Society where I feel quite sure she’ll win someone’s heart. 

Besides kids and kittens, we’ve had a most bountiful yield of pears to keep us busy.  In fact, we just harvested our last ones three weeks ago.  As you can see from the picture above (taken back in October) showing the pear windfall, the trees produced a bumper crop this year, with some pears as big as softballs!  And the three big tubs of pears you see below are but a drop in the bucket (no pun intended) compared to overall pear production.  We’ve been eating and sharing and cooking and baking…and still, we have pears.  We put them in our pseudo-cellar (which is to say…in the crawlspace) hoping that we might be able to preserve them for a little longer. 

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The sweetest and juiciest pears were the ones that fell naturally from the trees, so every day (before the groundhog could get them!), I picked up pears, a pleasant task in the warm autumn sun.  I was fascinated by all the winged creatures feasting on the fallen pears.  Yellow jackets, wasps, hornets, and honeybees dined side by side, buzzing drowsily, not seeming to care when I stumbled over them.  I was able to watch them up close as they moved across the yellow pear globes, like little winged astronauts exploring new planets.  There were so many, in fact, that I had to pick up each pear gingerly, lest I disturb one of the explorers.

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Of all the things I make with pears, our favorite is pear nut bread, preferably warm right out of the oven with a glass of milk.  In fact, it’s probably the reason Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man and I have gained…ahem…several pounds lately.   After all, pears are good for you.  Right?

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Anyway, I took a picture of a couple of pears that I had peeled and I was going to post it with the caption “A Pair of Pared Pears.”  Because, as you may recall, I really like puns.  But I am aware that not everyone shares my affinity for wordplay, and, sadly, some people are actually quite annoyed by it.  So I shall refrain.

I’ll just eat my pair of pared pears, with the sweet juice running down my chin, as I sit in the sun on my porch, thankful for another day…in Pearadise. :-)

The Joys and Pleasures of Foolishness

November 18, 2008

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When we decided to follow our hearts and move to our true home in the mountains from Raleigh five years ago, not a single person in our extended families supported us or, for that matter, even seemed to wish us well.  Yes, we had our own personal Prophets of Doom, who issued all manner of dire predictions, including the certainty of financial ruin—because our moving was not “financially prudent.”

And I had not a single word to offer in our defense (except that our spirits were weary and we yearned to go home).  Because, the truth is, they were right.  Leaving a good job and a decent home for an uncertain future was indeed not “financially prudent.” And, just as they predicted, we did experience financial hardship, though we’ve always had plenty to eat and a warm place to lay our heads.

And, now, five years later, Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man is making $12.17 an hour, whereas five years ago in Raleigh, he made $17.00 an hour.  So, still, I have no rational argument to offer my still critical extended family.  How do you make a case for riches of the spirit?  Is there really a rationale for choosing a full heart over a full wallet?

Probably not, at least from a logical viewpoint.  But perhaps instead I could offer these photographs.  They were all taken in a 48-hour period this past weekend from our front yard.  Yes, in just two day’s time, we saw: a double rainbow arcing over the valley, snow that frosted the peaks and made the Appalachians look like the Alps, and a sunrise over the mountains that took my breath away. 

So, we count our blessings instead of our cash.  And we’ll show our relatives in the flatlands these pictures and congratulate them for their financial prudence.  And we’ll try not to mind that they think we’re foolish, irrational, and a little crazy for what we did.  Because, really, maybe we are. 

But if we are mad, we are content in our madness.  And if we are fools, we are joyful—and most grateful—fools.  

“They deem me mad because I will not sell my days for gold; and I deem them mad because they think my days have a price.”  ~Kahlil Gibran

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The Coexistence of Joy and Sorrow

November 13, 2008

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What makes me happy:

That my beloved North Carolina transformed from red to blue in this election,  when my fellow North Carolinians expressed their faith in Barack Obama by a margin of 13,693 souls.

What makes me sad:

The spite, malice, and ill will I hear in the voices of some of those in this state who didn’t vote for Obama and refuse to support him now, many of whom call themselves Christians.  I offer the words of Jesus in Matthew 12:25 and 36, 37:

“Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand…I say unto you that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account of it in the day of judgment.  For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words, thou shalt be condemned.”

What makes me sad:

That our persimmons this year are just slightly larger than grapes (likely because of the drought) but they have huge seeds, which means that the persimmon pulp I get from one persimmon is about the size of a grain of rice, which means that I won’t be able to make my Grandma’s persimmon pudding this year.

What makes me happy:

That my bird friends don’t mind that the persimmons are small.  They dine daily in our persimmon trees and their chirps and chatter cheer me, so my heart is full, even if my stomach isn’t.

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What makes me sad:

That most of my flowers are gone now.  I especially miss the happy, bright Crayola colors of my zinnias. 

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What makes me happy:

The amazing seed heads of some spent flowers, like Queen Anne’s Lace, and the seed pods of the morning glory.

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And now…what makes me happiest:

When my sweet babies are home.

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The Audacity of Hope

November 4, 2008

(Can we fix it?  YES, WE CAN!)

Well, Election Day is here at last.  But Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man and I won’t be going to the polls.  Why?  Because we already did.  Last week at our local branch library. 

We had to wait about half an hour, but we didn’t mind.  I’ve always enjoyed waiting in line to vote, studying the faces around me, wondering what their stories are, and pondering who they might be voting for and why.   Everyone was quite somber—it seemed we were all aware of just how important this election is and how much is at stake.  I was very nervous as I began to fill in the little ovals with the provided pen.  And so afraid of making a mistake that, of course…I made a mistake. 

I didn’t think it was a serious blunder, but I had to make sure, so before I fed it into the machine, I showed my ballot to the nice man standing beside the machine and asked him if my mistake would affect my votes.  He took my ballot in hand and studied it.

“So…I see…you voted a straight Democratic ticket?” he said in a booming voice that seemed to echo throughout the small library conference room.  The low hum of conversation in the room stopped.  People looked up from their voting booths.  Faces turned in my direction.  And from the look on some of those faces, you’d think he had said, “So…you and your husband are flesh-eating zombies from Hell, are you?” 

I felt my face turn red and whispered, “Yes…yes, I did.”  He studied the ballot further, then handed it back to me with a smile and told me it was fine. My hands were shaking as I fed it to the machine and fled. 

Not that I was surprised to see those hostile faces.  We live in a very rural and very conservative community.  There are McCain/Palin signs everywhere, but almost no Obama/Biden posters.  Not that the Obama supporters aren’t out there…they are…but we all know that a campaign sign for Obama would last about five minutes here.   And most of the people who live here are truly fine people—very earnest and sincere in both their spiritual and political beliefs. 

Anyway, I don’t generally write political posts (because others do it so much better), but I just wanted to stand up and say that I am proud to have voted for Barack Obama.  I am proud to have voted for change, for hope, and for the possibility of the healing of our country.

I read two news items in the paper a few days ago.  One of them said that Sarah Palin was seriously considering a run for the Presidency in 2012.  The other said that “Joe the Plumber” had hired a publicity team and that a book would be forthcoming.   Dear God. 

I suddenly envisioned a horrible scenario:  Sarah Palin running for President with “Joe the Plumber” as her running mate.  Yikes.  You may say it couldn’t happen and I pray you’re right, but with the circus that politics has become, it would seem that nothing is out of the question.  By Golly, you betcha. 

I do pray that “Joe the Plumber” will soon fade back into his well-deserved earlier obscurity.  I find his ubiquity more annoying than Paris Hilton’s, and that’s saying a lot.

I mean, really, is he seriously the best the Republicans could offer for an example of “the common man?”  Well, I’ll grant…he does seem common.  But let me offer for your consideration my husband, “Tom the Carpenter.”  He works hard for his $12.00 an hour, he pays his taxes, and if he ever made over $250,000 a year, he would be happy to “spread the wealth.”  Because that’s what Jesus told us to do and that’s what Jesus Himself would do.  You know how McCain and Palin keep belittling the idea of spreading the wealth?  You wouldn’t find Jesus ridiculing the notion of sharing.  He spoke frequently of our responsibility to help the poor.

Or, instead of “Joe the Plumber,” how about “Bob the Builder?”  For any that might not know, he’s the little cartoon hero contractor/fix-it man who, when there is a problem says, “Can we fix it?”  And all his friends and co-workers shout, “YES WE CAN!”   And, yes, I know it’s not that simple and that our problems are so daunting as to seem almost hopeless.  But we must start somewhere.

So let me add my one small voice to the growing chorus of hope.  And let us all raise our voices for change.  For healing.  For our children’s and grandchildren’s futures….

Can we fix it?  YES WE CAN!

Yes, oh yes…we can.

Wide-Eyed Wonder at the Wii We Won

October 23, 2008

 

If you want to see this better, click on it to enlarge it.

(The cartoon above was created by my daughter Ariel aka Lucky Pennies in Microsoft Paint.  Now, in case you were thinking, Gosh, that seems kind of mean, well, let me explain.  The truth is—I have a large fanny.  (Or Gluteus Maximus, if you prefer, with emphasis on the Maximus).   That’s just the way it is, no ifs, ands, or…um…buts about it.   There’s no getting around it.  (I mean, reallythere’s no getting around it).  So, like Steve Martin making jokes about his huge nose (in one of my favorite movies, Roxanne, a hilarious retelling of Cyrano de Bergerac), I’ve always made jokes about my big rear end.  Might as well laugh, because there’s not a darn thing I can do about it.   So my family has always been given license to poke gentle and affectionate fun at my derriere.  And, yes, they’re laughing with me, not at me.  Really, they’ve always been the first ones to boost my confidence by telling me I’m pretty.  So, I really don’t mind being the…er…butt of their jokes.)

 

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Recently I heard yet another story about an Idaho man who won big, not just one—but three times—in the state lottery.  I always roll my eyes and sigh when I hear those stories because, although I’ve entered any number of contests in my life, I’ve rarely won a thing. 

 

Okay, there was that dozen eggs in the PTA raffle I won when I was six years old.  When they called my name, I was nearly beside myself with rapture.  I ran up to collect my dozen eggs, then in my excitement, almost tripped and dropped the eggs on the way back to my seat.   Yes, you read that right—I was practically apoplectic with ecstasy upon winning a dozen eggs.   Sad, but true.

 

So you can imagine my excitement recently when my daughter Ariel called me with some exciting news:   She had won a dozen eggs!    No, no…I’m just kidding.  Actually, she had won a prize for writing the best definition of “health” at a…what else…health fair at college.  She had won….drum roll, please…a Wii!  And a Wii Fit! 

 

Yes, it’s true!  She broke the family, never-win-anything curse!  Even better, she brought the Wii home for fall break.  I’d like to tell you that we spent her break communing in nature, discussing deep and profound philosophical insights, feeling one with the universe and all mankind.  I’d like to, but I can’t.  Because the truth is, when we weren’t out running errands or shopping for things she needed, we were one with our Wii.  (Now for any one that might not know, it’s pronounced  “wee” and don’t feel bad if you didn’t know because, a year ago, I didn’t either.  I pronounced it “why”).

 

And, oh my, this Wii is just way too much fun. To start with, it was a blast to make the little Beth Mii character (of course, pronounced “Me.”)  I could make my Mii as pretty and thin as I wanted to!  Never mind that later, after the Wii Fit had weighed me and done my “fitness evaluation,” that the Wii made my Mii fatter.  At least my Mii still had that gorgeous hair!  Yes, that’s right—the Wii Fit, after it weighs you, will actually change your Mii’s size to match reality.  That just amazes me.  Sure, it annoys me a little, too, but mostly…it amazes me.  Ariel and I made some more little Mii’s—she made Oprah Winfrey and Bill Clinton and I made an Obama Mii.   He was really cute.

 

Anyway, Ariel went back to college Sunday and took her Wii with her.   Good thing, too, because if she had left it here, you wouldn’t be reading this post because I wouldn’t have written it because I would still be playing that river bubble game where you float down the river in a giant bubble trying to get to the end, which only happens if you don’t burst your bubble on the rocks or if the bee doesn’t puncture your bubble with its stinger, thus drowning your little Mii.  Sadly, my Mii was drowned repeatedly, which, I can assure you, is most unpleasant. 

 

Yep, no doubt about it—I am a woman obsessed.   I have a wiikness for Wii, and the only cure is to get one myself or have counseling.  Or possibly I could exert my parental authority and tell Ariel of my grave concerns that the Wii might be too much of a distraction from her college coursework, so, regretfully, her father and I think it might be best if she left it here (I would say this, of course, with great gravitas, shaking my head sadly). Or perhaps I could rationalize buying a Wii for Mii—after all the Wii Fit provides obvious health benefits by encouraging people to exercise.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.  We need a Wii  ’cause it’s good for me!  Who knows… maybe it could do something for my big backside—tone my tush, give definition to my derriere…

 

Or…maybe not.  That’s probably just a little too much to ask.  :-)  

 

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(I sincerely apologize for the small print.  I have no idea why it came out that way.  I tried to change it, but it wouldn’t let me.  I’m sorry!)

 

 

 

The Blue Ridge Blue Collar Family Goes to Church

October 5, 2008

Okay, I confess. Yes, we went yet again  to Craggy Gardens.  Which is, quite honestly, a little reckless of us considering the gas shortage around here.  And considering that the gas that is available costs a pretty penny.  Yep, a little reckless.

But maybe you could just think of it as going to church–to our place of worship.  Because that’s what it was.  That’s where we most often find God—in His wild and wondrous natural world.  Maybe you could think of my unrestrained exuberance at finding a new natural wonder as a transcendent, spiritual experience.  Because that’s what it is. 

I tell people we haven’t found a church home yet, but maybe we have, after all.  Maybe we could call our church The Restored-and-Renewed-by-the-Holy-and-Wondrous-Works-of-God Sanctuary Church. 

On the other hand—maybe that’s a little long.  :-)  

Really, I wish we could find a church like that.  It would be heavenly to worship in that way—a hike together, then maybe a potluck lunch back at the picnic grounds where we all share where we found God that week—whether in the symmetry and perfection of a tiny wildflower or in the kindness of a fellow pilgrim. 

Anyway, in case you’re interested in yet more Craggy Garden shots, here’s the latest from our sojourn at our sanctuary.  As you can see, there’s not a lot of color in the trees just yet.  But the wild blueberry bushes were a deep and lovely red.  And the sky was a deep and lovely blue.  And the autumn sun lent everything a divine and holy glow.

Finding Beauty in the Everyday, Everywhere

October 1, 2008

(Soapwort Gentian-autumn wildflower found at Craggy Gardens)

In an earlier post, I wrote about how my Mama loved Craggy Gardens and how she went there as often as possible before she was stricken with Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis.   So to celebrate and honor her birthday last week, Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man and I decided to head once more to Craggy.

Fact is, I feel drawn there lately.  It’s funny—I never even think about visiting Mama’s gravesite in Greensboro, NC.  I know that many find solace in visiting the place where their loved one’s body was laid to rest, but not me.  That grave holds only her earthly remains—the broken body that failed her.  Craggy Gardens is the place she loved while she was living and strong and healthy and able to hike its many trails.  Lately, I have a sense when I go there that I’m seeking something, though I’m not sure what.  I do know that I often feel her presence there, especially when our children are along. 

So, with my heart wide open, I go to Craggy.  Always seeking—and hoping that whatever I’m supposed to find there will reveal itself in due time.  And I did find a lovely treasure this visit—a wildflower I’d never seen before.   Fortunately, no one was around at the time but BRBCM, because I couldn’t contain my excitement and hollered like I’d found a bag of gold, instead of a common soapwort gentian.  As I’ve written before, despite being a very shy person, I have an inclination towards frequent and unbridled episodes of unrestrained exuberance over what others might regard as insignificant natural events.   And I’m afraid, in my case, there is no cure.  :-)  

I get that from my Mama.  Although she encountered a great deal of hardship and sadness in her life, she was as open to the world as a baby and prone to childlike enthusiasms when discovering some new natural treasure.  And though I too have had much hardship and sadness, I have that same huge capacity for finding joy in the ordinary and delight in the commonplace.  Praise be.

Mama taught me to see beauty everywhere, and I am so grateful. It was one of her many gifts to me and is so often the grace that saves me.  And I like to think that I (and Blue Ridge Blue Collar Man) have passed that on to our own children and that they, too, have the gift of seeing beauty everywhere and in the everyday.

So here is just a bit of the beauty I captured and the new (to us) wildflower we found on our pilgrimage to Craggy Gardens—on the birthday of Queen Winabel.

Further Along the Road to Trust

September 15, 2008

Our stop at St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope left us subdued and pensive, but, I think….cleansed.  But our road trip wasn’t over.  We left Trust, driving further into Madison County to find Max Patch, considered by many to be the most beautiful spot on the Appalachian Trail.  In fact, it is called the “crown jewel of the Appalachian Trail.” The last part of the journey there was on a curvy, rutted dirt road, made lovelier by the red bee balm, daisies, Queen Anne’s lace, and Turk’s Cap lilies blooming beside it.   The good thing about a road like that is that no one can go very fast on it, so it was easy to stop right in the road (there being no shoulder to speak of)  and take pictures.  (Until, to our astonishment, a UPS truck came careening around the curve, putting a quick stop to our picture-taking). 

In the spirit of our subdued and pensive mood that day, I’ll let my photos speak for themselves, though my camera is inadequate to convey the true and breathtaking beauty there.  Just one thing:  if you get a chance to go to Max Patch—go.  By all means, go.

It was well worth the long drive and the dust on our car and feeling a wee bit insignificant in the midst of the sweeping grandeur of Max Patch—to be that much closer to heaven.

The Long and Winding Road to Trust

September 9, 2008

A few weeks ago, before our children left for college, we set out on a journey up the mountain to find Trust.  Nothing unusual about that—seeking Trust has been a constant in my life, whether it’s trust in God or simply learning to trust other people.  But this time, we were looking for Trust, North Carolina.  Specifically, we were looking for St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope, appropriately located in Trust.

St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope is no ordinary church—it was built to thank God for a miracle.  In 1981, Beverly Barutio was diagnosed with advanced cancer.  She underwent many rounds of chemotherapy, but the cancer progressed rapidly.  So she stopped the chemotherapy and prayed for a miracle.  She prayed to God and St. Jude, the saint of hopeless and impossible causes.

Her prayer was answered.  Later checkups showed no signs of cancer.  In gratitude, after she and her husband moved to Trust, they built St. Jude’s Chapel of Hope, which is open to everyone 24 hours a day.  She wanted not only to thank God and St. Jude, but to provide a place where people could meditate and pray for their own miracles.  And, like most folks, I do have my own seemingly hopeless causes. 

After a long and winding journey up the mountain to Trust, we found the tiny, but lovely little cedar chapel.   We were pleased to have it to ourselves as we stepped inside.  The sunlight streaming through the stained glass windows lit the interior with an ethereal glow.   We sat down in front on one of the small pews and left the door open, so we could hear nothing but the sound of the rushing creek outside and birdsong. 

In the front were a cross, an open Bible, and a shrine to St. Jude.  Around the shrine, people had placed various items that obviously had meaning for them—seashells, rocks, pinecones, photographs, and even small toys.  As the four of us sat in silence, I was suddenly and unexpectedly overcome with emotion and began to cry.

It surprised me to be so overwhelmed, but I think it was because I could truly feel the power there…of so many prayers made, so many longings (expressed and unexpressed), so much hope, but so much sadness.   The very air inside felt holy, charged with the sacred spirit of all those who had made their hearts vulnerable there. We all felt it, I think, and sat there, without words, for at least a half hour, lost in thought, in memories, in grief, and in our own supplications to the Saint of Lost Causes and to God.

Perhaps you’re wondering if we’ve seen our own miracles since.  Well, just the usual everyday sort.  You  know, the moon rising over the mountain, the seven bluebirds sitting in a row on the fence, or the daisies that have bloomed nonstop in our fields since April.  But none of the hopeless-cause-variety miracles.  Not that we can see, anyway. 

But still I hope, still I trust, still I believe, and still I struggle to hope and trust and believe.   Like Beverly Barutio, I trust in something greater than myself, something more powerful than we can imagine.  I turn towards the narrow shaft of light streaming in the window and follow it, knowing there is a greater light beyond.  A light that illuminates my pilgrim path in the darkness as I seek and follow it.   A light that gives me hope in what I cannot see.

 

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.”

 Hebrews 11:1


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